Informal Sperm Donation in Russia
Rising infertility across the globe has created a growing demand for assisted reproductive technologies (ART). In recent years, apart from sperm donation in formal settings such as fertility clinics, informal donation practices have emerged and spread across Russia. These reproductive donation practices have become possible due to the development of social networks and private online platforms. We conducted a pilot study (eleven semi-structured interviews) of the informal sperm donation in Russia and analyzed donor-recipient interactions, donors’ expectations and experiences of finding recipients online. We focus on donors' motivations and on the meanings, which donors invest in this practice that consumes significant resources on their part (medical tests and artificial insemination costs, travel and accommodation expenses, sometimes mutually agreed financial support of future offspring). We interpreted the practices that coalesced around informal donation from the perspective of symbolic interactionism, because it allowed us to showcase how actors reflected on and formulated the meanings of their actions in the absence of externally imposed rules (legal regulations, established moral conventions). Since informal donation practices do not fit into the traditional schemes of interpretation, such research requires the actors involved in informal donation either to create their own schemes or to modify the existing conceptual frames in creative ways. The study shows that informal donors do not only provide their genetic material but also spend time and invested considerable resources to ensure their procreation, including eventual financial support of the child. At the same time, these men are not interested in marital relations or paternal relations with their offspring. Thus, the informal sperm donors do not associate the parental project with traditional family and its values. We conclude that ART engendered a new phenomenon, which might be described as extramarital reproduction. Assisted reproduction outside marriage gains footing in Russia and requires more detailed further study.