Un/familiar connections: On the relevance of a sociology of personal life for exploring egg and sperm donation

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In recent decades, reproductive medicine has become a widespread global phenomenon. Within the field, donor conception, and the use of donated eggs, sperm or embryos from a third party, plays a key role. Despite the importance of those individuals who donate, there has been scant research exploring their experiences. Seeking to contribute to the growing, albeit still small, body of research on donors, this paper advocates bringing the process of donating into dialogue with a sociology of personal life. It suggests that important new insights about the donor experience can be achieved by utilising this theoretical perspective. The paper applies a broad framework of a sociology of personal life to demonstrate that the decision to donate reverberates within donors’ everyday lives and relationships, and explores, primarily theoretically, how it is that acts of donation bring such issues into play. To this end, the paper examines in more detail three ways in which donating interacts with dimensions that are integral to personal life: ‘living’ genetic connectedness; relationality; and the intimate body. Ultimately, the paper shows that a sociology of personal life can reveal and begin to address new, unexplored questions for this field that demand greater scholarly attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-615
Number of pages15
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number3
Early online date22 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Donors
  • donating
  • egg
  • sperm
  • embryos
  • genetic connectedness
  • personal life
  • relationality
  • intimacy
  • sexuality


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