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The 1990s marked a new era in family formation. Increased access to donor sperm enabled single women and lesbian couples to create their families on their own terms, outside the bounds of heterosexual married relationships. However, emerging “alternative” families were not without social and political controversy. Women who chose to have children without male partners faced many challenges in their quest to have children. Despite current wider social acceptance of single people and same sex couples becoming parents, many of these challenges continue.
In Romancing the Sperm, Diane Tober explores the intersections between sperm donation and the broader social and political environment in which “modern families” are created and regulated. Through tangible and intimate stories, this book provides a captivating read for anyone interested in family and kinship, genetics and eugenics, and how ever-expanding assisted reproductive technologies continue to redefine what it means to be human.

What People Are Saying

“A fascinating and engaging book! It just gets more and more interesting as it goes and is never boring. The quotes from those interviewed are perfect and poignant—they give so much insight into the struggles undergone by those choosing some form of artificial conception. The book thoroughly dispels traditional notions of “family” and shows the multiple and highly creative ways in which families are currently being generated in this brave new world of assisted reproduction. For many, this book will be not only a fascinating, but also an empowering read.”

(Robbie Davis-Floyd author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage and Ways of Knowing about Birth: Mothers, Midwives, M)


“An exceptional ethnography of modern reproduction, Romancing the Sperm centers lesbian couples and single women as they engage with sperm donors and banks in a quest to become pregnant. Tober’s extensive research spans decades, from the 1990s to the present, documenting critical shifts over time in sperm banking institutional and modern family formation practices.  An accessible read, the book makes a tremendously valuable contribution to feminist writing on reproductive technologies and politics.”

(Rajani Bhatia author of Gender before Birth: Sex Selection in a Transnational Context)

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Murphy Brown and the Lesbian Baby Boom
Chapter 2: Technologies and Politics of Reproduction
Chapter 3: Semen to Go: Choosing Conception Alternatively
Chapter 4: Semen Transactions: Donor Screening and the Regulation of Sexuality
Chapter 5: Grass Roots Eugenics and the Fantasy Donor
Chapter 6: Semen as Gift, Semen as Goods: Reproductive Workers and the Market in Altruism
Chapter 7: From “Old Eggs” to “Odysseus’ Journey”—the Phenomenology of Infertility
Chapter 8: What’s Alternative About Family?
Chapter 9: From Murphy Brown to Modern Families
Chapter 10: Conclusion: Towards a New BioPoliTechs of Emerging Families

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