I’ve a bunch of little unrelated matters to comment on and I wanted to run back and finish off one little line of thought before going on those tangents. This post ties back to this thread and follows the one before last.
Remember that I’ve been working off that great new book by Rene Almeling–Sex Cells. (You can go back to the earlier posts to catch up.) She’s a sociologist writing about the gamete markets and gender.
I’m going to continue here with the assumption that the gamete markets are gendered. What I mean is that women and men have different experiences in those markets (as providers of gametes). Further, the differences aren’t entirely explained by biological differences with regard to how eggs and sperm are produced and harvested.
(I realize that not everyone will share this view and we’ve had a lot of discussion about that. Obviously if you disagree with the premise what follows from it won’t mean much to you, but on the off-chance that you are willing to at least agree for the purpose of further discussion, I’ll continue.)
So the nub of the difference I want to focus on is that the appeal to female providers is a more altruistic one while the appeal to male providers is a more commercial one. Remember that (in my view) it doesn’t have to be this way. You could make a more commercial appeal to women or you could make a more altruistic appeal to men.
My next question is whether we should care about which appeals get made. Is one better than the other? And I do not mean better for the vendors–from that point of view, the better approach is probably the one that produces the largest and cheapest supply. I mean better for society generally.
I’m inclined to think that the altruistic appeal is better, but I wonder a little whether this is just because I happen to approve of altruism. It’s fine to say that altruism is morally superior to the profit motive (and I do think it is) but I’m looking for something a bit more grounded in results or outcomes by way of a rational. All I have for the moment are some preliminary thoughts.
Remember that the altruism appeal is found in the pitch “you’re helping someone have a child.” That means that there is a focus on the idea that there’s a child being created. I think that’s important, particularly when you contrast it to the profit-centered appeal. (You could think of that as “you’re earning some money here.”)
Suppose you knew that a few of your genetic forebears had some genetically heritable disease. If you are only in it for the money, you might be inclined to lie–especially if the odds were small–or to put it more palatably, to provide a less than complete family history. If instead the appeal to you is to help someone to have a child, I think you might be a bit more inclined to reveal the information. It might be that the difference here is slight, but it seems to me that even a slight difference in how people respond is a positive thing.
Similarly, if the only pitch is money then it makes sense to provide material to various banks (and as frequently as possible) as this earns you more money. But this behavior also increases the chances that one provider ends up with dozens or scores of offspring–something I think we agree is not a great idea. By contrast, it might be that if you are actually thinking about helping people have kids, you might pause before having so many offspring you need a spread sheet.
Again, I’m not saying that emphasizing the altruistic approach will actually solve problems. But if we have a choice between the two approaches (and it seems to me that we could) then we should choose the one that is better, even if it is only a little better.
I guess the question is whether there is any downside to encouraging the altruistic approach? I realize, of course, that many will find both approaches unacceptable because they don’t like the whole idea of a gamete market. That’s a different discussion–one we’ve had here on other posts–for a different day. If you take that view, I’d ask you to entertain the idea here as a hypothetical one: If there is going to be a gamete market, what should it look like?