A Short Step Back

I put up this post yesterday that I was perhaps a bit intemperate but ended up forming the basis for a relatively good discussion.  Thanks to all who made it work out that way.  There are many interesting points raised in the comments and they’re really worth reading. 

I wanted to take a short step back from that to try to frame things in a better and less personalized perspective.   What I’m afraid was wrong with yesterday’s post is that it ended up being directed much too much at a specific person/case where, truth be told, I didn’t have enough facts.  I consistently criticize others for doing precisely this so it seems only right that I be called out on it.

There are important issues to discuss here.  Trent Arsenault and Bill Johnson are two people who’ve managed to make news that raises some of those issues.   But I don’t know either of them and I don’t know the whole story in either case.   Arsenault has, I think, more control over his portrayal in the media as he’s got an extensive website.  By contrast, Johnson has been dragged into a spotlight and we don’t really know his story.  Thus, the judgment I rendered about him–personally–is really baseless.   I’m sorry I wrote that the way I did.

So let me take a step back from the media tales and think about the underlying issues.   Arsentault and Johnson are both providing sperm to women outside the generally organized system of (mostly for-profit) sperm banks.   The larger sperm banks are, for the most part, tied into the general commercial system of ART.   So a primary question for me is whether there are reasons to believe that the larger commercial sperm banks do a better job of providing sperm, providing greater safety or other benefits to their users?   Should we therefore discourage people from going outside that system?

It’s worth nothing that outside the larger sperm bank “industry” there are at least a couple of paths.  There’s the purely private actor–who might be exemplified by Arsenault.  He’s a one man show attached to no larger structure or network.   Then there are organized sites that like FSDW, which is run by Emma Hartnell-Baker (who offered comments on yesterday’s post.)   FSDW promotes “safe, responsible, free sperm donations worldwide; prioritising the rights and needs of donor conceived children.”    I don’t think I’ll get down to thinking about the differences between these options, but I wanted to note that they, too, are worthy of thought.

Some of the most important questions center around the honesty and reliability of the sperm providers.     And here there is a subsidiary difference to note.   The providers of the commercial sperm banks–even the not-for-profit ones–are compensated, whether we call the money payment or reimbursement for inconvenience.   The providers of the alternative entities are not.

I’ve written (and thought) quite a bit about the role of money in ART and in the provision of gametes for ART.   I’m not prepared to say that money always corrupts.   Providing gametes, whether eggs or sperm, is a major commitment that requires a lot of the providers.   I don’t think offering compensation for this necessarily ensures that you get exclusively money-grubbing folks doing it.   But still, you can imagine that money might have some corrupting influence on some people, and if you’re thinking about overall reliability of a system, maybe this matters.

On the other hand, you also have to think about the unpaid/free system.   What motivates people to provide gametes for free?   Some, of course, are purely altruistic.  (And perhaps this is a moment when I should state a general assumption I make that motives are quite often mixed–a little of this combined with a little of that.)   But there’s at least one other motive–and this is part of what I was reacting to in the Johnson interview–that gives me pause just as the money motive does.

I’m thinking here about the desire to create biological offspring, which is part of the motive that is attributed to Johnson.   As is noted in the comments on the last post, there’s nothing per se terrible about this motive.   Indeed, many people who have and raise children share this motive.   But it does give me pause.   There’s a very gendered image of a man seeking to impregnate as many women as possible–it’s sort of a Darwinian trope–that comes to mind.  And that’s not a good thing.

I’m wandering here and so I’ll stop for now.   (Worse yet, I’m about to travel so I’m not sure when I’ll pick up.)   I just wanted to offer some more temperate thoughts on the serious issues that lie beneath my ill-tempered post of yesterday.






29 responses to “A Short Step Back

  1. I spoke once with a telephone staff person at a very active sperm bank; she informed me that their donors if they had the choice would keep donating forever because they love the idea of having so many offspring.

  2. I think the primary safeguard of accountability is no-anonymity. If people know that they can easily be discovered, they are less likely to lie. Of course nothing is foolproof.

    • To some degree this safeguard might exist already. If you go through a commerical sperm bank, it knows who the donor is and could potentially ensure accountability. There could be liability for mis-statements and such like. It’s problematic because the person most directly injured doesn’t have access to the identity information, of course. But this is a problem that I think the law might be able to solve.

  3. “So a primary question for me is whether there are reasons to believe that the larger commercial sperm banks do a better job of providing sperm, providing greater safety or other benefits to their users? Should we therefore discourage people from going outside that system?”

    For the purpose of this discussion, we’re talking about perfectly fertile women here, not people who actually NEED a doctor to conceive – they are just lacking sperm. Lesbians, it’s important to remember, are NOT inherently infertile! Neither are women who’s male partners are infertile, or single women. So they are just a normal person, trying to find a way to have a baby.

    Deciding to have a child, and with whom, is a personal and private decision made (hopefully) by an adult. We all make this decision – whether it is by choosing a spouse that we can have children with, using a sperm donor, adopting, or choosing not to have children at all. How we go about this is up to us, and I think we can all agree that reproductive freedom is part of what we consider our fundamental human rights.

    Using the analogy of dating, which is another personal decision we adults make – let’s ask this question again. Do larger, commercial matchmaking services (see the likes of http://www.kelleher-international.com/) do a better job of providing potential life partners, providing greater safety and other benefits to their users? Should we therefore discourage people from going outside that system? Matchmaking services carefully screen potential partners, run background checks, look at health, financials and criminal records. They don’t accept just anyone.

    It is the same with sperm banks. Unless you NEED a cryobank, it is simply one of many options open to you. Do you want to pay the $$ for the extra service, or do you want to find it on your own? There will always be a healthy market of perfectly fertile women who prefer the greater safety and security (and anonymity) of a sperm bank. But that doesn’t in any way mean we should discourage people from doing it on their own. Any more than we would discourage people from finding their own dates.

    What we DO need to do is educate women on the risks, and how to minimize them. We need to set social standards for private sperm donation, and provide safe and legal ways for people to take this route. There are a few billion dollars a year in motivation for the fertility industry to support making private donation illegal, and I hope that makes you all as mad as it would if someone tried to make dating illegal.

    • This is a really interesting perspective, one I think I might agree with. I like the emphasis on education–essentially teaching people to be intelligent consumers.

      The process of insemination is pretty low tech when you get down to it. Unlike IVF there’s not doubt it can be done at home. Similarly, no special training is really need (and no specialized equipment) to gather sperm. So unlike all the really fancy ART stuff, it’s perfectly possible to do this outside the larger and more commericalized structure of ART. It’s obviously more profitable for the ART folks to keep hold of this aspect of the market, of course. And it isn’t entirely risk-free when you go the DIY route. But there is much to be said here. I wonder about how one could set social standards and make it safe and legal. Good to think about.

      • ” I wonder about how one could set social standards and make it safe and legal. Good to think about.”

        What I mean in this context is something similar to Power of Attorney, i.e giving “sperm donor” an official definition and status, and defining how people enter into the agreement. We can go print a form from the internet, check a few boxes, have it notarized and file it with the county recorder and viola – you can make end of life decisions for me, disperse my wealth, etc. I think something similar could and should be done for private sperm donation agreements, only it may have to be filed with the family court instead of a county recorder. Maybe it requires that both parties show up in court with recent STD tests or something, I don’t know, but it should be done.

        Basically – give people a framework in which to protect themselves legally without having to circumvent the courts through anonymity. If women know that the donor can never take her children and donors know they can’t ever be sued for child support, this people won’t feel “forced” to go underground with this and hide their identity. If we remove the roadblocks and set up a “right” way to do it, then we remove some of the element of desperation that drives people to do things that compromise their safety.

        • Again, really interesting ideas to think about. I think the worst is when the law operates in ways that people may or may not expect and doesn’t give people any way to change its operation. This is actually what happens in many US jurisdictions–the law determines whether a man who provides sperm is a father and agreements to change that outcome are unenforcable. I think what you are suggesting is essentially an easy way to make enforcable agreements, basically, with some safeguards around that process.

          The advantage of a system like that is that it would maximize individual autonomy–allow people the most room to set up what they’d actually like. You still need a default for people who don’t make any explicit agreements (there will always be some) and you still end up with cases where the agreements aren’t understood the same way all around, at least in hindsight. But the appeal of maximizing autonomy is apparent. (Of course, not everyone will like this autonomy. In particular, those who insist that the true parents are the genetic forebears will say that it should not be within the freedom of the adults to deprive the child of the linkages to the genetic forebears.)

  4. It is worth to remember that for humans, male reproductive responsibility is a prerequisite for male reproductive fitness. Reproductive fitness is not to have many children, but many grandchildren. For most mammals this makes little difference, but for humans it does. They need to invest considerably resources, for their children to reach reproductive age.

    Sperm donation, sanctioned by Society, has opened the opportunity for males to revert to the general mammalian state of male reproductive responsibility which is none. Obviously, this would not work if it was used on a large scale, but at present it is confined to a small segment of the upper middle class.

    To limit the number of offspring, I see no other way, than to increase male responsibility and to take a few steps back from the mammalian to the human state of reproduction. This could be accomplished by requiring the donor to give some support to his offspring if they fell on hard times. After all, if he is proud of having given the “gift of life”, wouldn’t it make him even prouder to support it a little bit?

  5. Private donors skate further and further from the role of a sperm donor and closer and closer to the role of a father. Arsenault is known to the recipient families, quite possibly from an early age. Johnson wants to be involved if only partially, in their care and upbringing. Both of them may or may not be considered legal fathers depending on locale. This is legally messy and perhaps this is what Julie finds menacing? I would suggest therefore that we reconceive (haha) what is considered artificial/ assisted insemination and suggest that we only consider sperm that has been artificially preserved by a medical facility, and/or inserted via a medical procedure to be considered AI. There aint nothing artificial about a guy giving fresh sperm to a woman to insert in her own vagina. And their aint no assistance required either.
    This is similar to the California sperm donor law which requires the invovlement of a health professional. Of course, when it comes to determining parenthood, this is no more reasonable a line to draw than whether or not intercourse took place, but I think it makes for a much clearer law. Of course, clearest of all is my preferred position, that the difference hinges on whether or not the man is known and identifiable if he is he’s a parent, not a sperm donor.

    • I agree in part, and disagree in others. I don’t agree that further restricting private donation is the answer – this will only drive what people are doing underground. I also don’t agree that having a biological father known to the child is menacing – quite the opposite, I think that making it impossible for a person to know their biological history is horribly damaging, and a serious infringement on their rights to their own self-knowledge. It’s one of the reasons why I feel so strongly about advocating FOR private donation.

      Anonymity is not the only way to protect people from the legal complications – the right way to protect them is to establish a structure within which they can work legally and safely to define parental roles and rights.

      Example – you and I can walk down to any postal annex store with a Power of Attorney form we printed off the internet, pay $10 a piece and have a notary sign it. I’ve just given you INCREDIBLE power over my life – you can dispose of my wealth, make health choices for me, and even end of life decisions.

      Now, why in the world can’t we have a similar form and set of rules for sperm donors? Why can’t we have a form that both people sign that identifies and legalizes the status as a sperm donor, and severs parental rights and responsibilities? Why does it have to go through the hand of a doctor?

      The answer is fairly easy. Because the biggest voice in legislation on this issue is the multi-billion dollar a year fertility industry, and they don’t really want perfectly fertile people to have an easy way to establish their own sperm donor agreements. I’ll have to find the reference again, but I saw a statistic that 50%+ of customers for fertility banks are lesbians. If you remember that only 13% of women are infertile on average, this means that about 43% of their entire customer base does NOT have fertility problems. So yeah – drum up as much fear as you can, make it all seem SO dangerous to go procreate on your own, and get the social mindset to think that people who want to make their own babies are just, wow, crazy people. And certainly not to be trusted to do it without a doctor.

      • Beth wrote: “Now, why in the world can’t we have a similar form and set of rules for sperm donors? Why can’t we have a form that both people sign that identifies and legalizes the status as a sperm donor, and severs parental rights and responsibilities? Why does it have to go through the hand of a doctor?”

        Response: Because “sperm donor” in an entirely invented category; a legal fiction; so in order to be eligibile to play the game you gotta go according to the inventor’s definition.

        As for me I’d much rather it go through the hands of a lawyer, or better yet, a family court judge. These are human children we are talking about; they belong to the same species as the rest of us who were conceived the old fashioned way. Why have separate laws? (and while we’re at it, i wouldn’t object to stricter criteria for power of attorney too. there is lots of abuse in these situatons)

        • “Foster parent” and “Step-parent” are also “legal fiction” then, and the rules are what we make them. There is no law that says you have to “go by the inventor’s definition.” And who invented sperm donors, I wonder? Men were helping friends have babies long before ART came along, it just required getting a little closer to the source. 🙂

    • I think people can make any of a variety of arrangments and they can work out fine as long as everyone is on the same page and behaves honorably. Thus, you can have a known donor who is then known to the child as a person of some significance though not a parent. There are countless cases where this works fine.

      One thing that worries me is instances where people don’t clearly think through and articulate their expectations in advance. Maybe I want a known donor with some relationship to the child but I don’t clearly say what that relationship is and (perhaps most important) what the limits of the relationship are. If the man who partipates also wants a relationship but has in mind a different sort of relationship with different sorts of responsibilities, then I think we’re potentially heading for trouble.

      And the law can make all this worse if it comports with some expectations but not others and if people don’t know it.

      All this is why the earlier suggestion about education appeals to me. If people know what the story is all around and know what they need to think about/talk about, it’s ever so much more likely it will all be clear.

      • One of the things we advocate for on our site (and I believe Emma does too on FSDW) is that people use signed agreements to spell out all of their expectations. There are two aspects to educating people on these agreements – advocating for using them (and therefore not keeping identity secret), and educating people on what they can and can’t do.

        Private donor agreements CAN outline both party’s expectations and understanding of the relationship, future contact, financial responsibility, facilitation of adoption after birth, etc. An agreement can establish *intent.*

        What they CANNOT do is release parental rights or responsibility. Only the family court can do that. But should either party contest custody or child support in court, the signed agreement that established intent up front will go a LONG way.

  6. Let me ask all of the women with children not born from sperm donors some questions:

    How many of you had your husbands genetically tested before you decided to have children? (These tests are available to everyone)

    How many of you saw multiple STD tests on the father of your child(ren) before you had sex with him? (I hope a few of you say yes to this!)

    How many of you *who do not have any fertility issues* had a doctor assist in your conception?

    How many of you could have afforded to pay $2000-$8000 for every pregnancy you have had, whether or not a child was born?

    Now consider this – why are lesbian’s (or single women, or women whose husbands are infertile) held to a different expectation? And if we find a men who meets our requirements, who we feel is a good match and someone we want to make a child with, would you seek to make that impossible by making it illegal for him to give us that gift?

    Consider also – it can easily cost anywhere from $500-$2000 PER MONTH to purchase sperm from a sperm bank. On average it takes 4 months to successfully conceive, bringing the average cost of conception for most perfectly fertile lesbians (or single women, or women whose husbands are infertile) to $2000-$8000. That’s a LOT of money for the privilege of conceiving, and is cost prohibitive for many women. Remember that women in the US still make 70% of what men make, so double-female households only make 82% of what the average heterosexual household makes.

    More food for thought?

    • “Now consider this – why are lesbian’s (or single women, or women whose husbands are infertile) held to a different expectation? And if we find a men who meets our requirements, who we feel is a good match and someone we want to make a child with, would you seek to make that impossible by making it illegal for him to give us that gift?”

      Oh your a regular piece of work. I agree it would be wrong to make it impossible for women to become pregnant from men who donate their sperm. We don’t need to legislate or restrict couples from conceiving children together. That would be wrong.

      We need to make it so that any human being with offspring is obligated to care for that child until that child reaches adulthood. No special exemptions or opt outs unless you go through the court and give the child up for adoption. Every single person with offspring needs to be recorded by name on all official records naming their offspring. People should not be allowed to not know the names of their offspring, not know their whereabouts or who is raising them, they should not be allowed to conceal their identities from their offspring or conceal the existence of their offspring from their immediate relatives either.

      When all people with offspring meet the same legal standard of care then all offspring regardless of age will have the same legal rights regardless of whoever happens to have raised them. I’m talking about ongoing communication with blood relatives regarding health issues and I’m talking inheritance rights and the right to be legally recognized as a sibling or neice nephew child grandchild of their genetic family not just their legal family.

      • I totally agree! (not sure why the comment about me being a piece of work was necessary?)

        Don’t confuse my stance on reproductive freedom with a lack of belief in the legal system!! It’s quite the opposite – I firmly believe that the best way to resolve almost all of the issues around private sperm donation is to have specific legal resources for establishing a sperm donor relationship. I also very much believe that secrecy and anonymity are horrible for the children born by donor insemination. Every person has the right to know where they come from. But before we eliminate donor anonymity, we have to first provide a safe legal way for people to go through the courts and address the legal issues.

        In other words, women need a way to know that the donor isn’t going to be able to try to get custody of the child, and donors need to feel secure that the woman can not come after then for child support. The ONLY way this can happen is through the courts and adoption processes, as it should be. There just needs to be some clearer and more defined ways for people to do this without having to have a doctor involved. It’s the forcing fertile women into infertility system that I have a problem with, because it carries a hefty price tag.

        Right now, in most states it requires only that a doctor touch the sperm first. They generally don’t even have to sign a piece of paper, and I think they SHOULD. I think every recipient should have a notarized legal document with the real name of the donor, and ever donor should ALWAYS be notified when a child is born from his donation. I think this should be mandated by the state. You can’t imagine how many private donors donate to a couple once or twice and then never hear from them again, and have no idea if there was a child born or not. I think that is a huge disservice to to child.

        Anyway, I could talk about this forever, but just know that I agree with you. Just try not to confuse the two – endorsing private donation doesn’t mean someone disregards the need for the laws!

      • Please do keep the personal comments to a minimum. It doesn’t advance anything. I’m not into censorship as a general rule, but I will do what I can to keep things civil. And given that I run this blog, that’s quite a bit.

  7. foster parent and step parent are not legal categories. perhaps you are thinking of adoptive parent? that is indeed a legal fiction. and oh how legal- you can not just print a form off the internet and declare yourself someone’s parent.
    As for “men helping friends have babies” (i assume you mean men intentionally impregnating women with whom they are not sexually involved and with no intention to parent) since time immemorial- i’m sure you may have an anecdote (there are always wierd stories) or two but was there really a widespread social phenomenon before the ART industry came out? I highly doubt it. In fact do you have evidence of the use of the term “Sperm donor” before the ART industry?

    • Arguing with you about the value of anecdotal evidence and our respective definition of “sperm donor’ is rather moot. Here’s the point: just because a sperm bank thinks the terms sperm donor means someone who hands over spoerm to a doctor doesn’t prohibit or in any way restrict or confine legislative action to protect private sperm donors. Put plainly, the comment “you gotta go according to the inventor’s definition” has no bearing on the discussion of what should or shouldn’t be done legally. It’s opinion, not legal fact.

  8. Marilyn said “We need to make it so that any human being with offspring is obligated to care for that child until that child reaches adulthood”.

    I can’t think of any statement which so briefly and clearly defines what it means to be a human.

    The UN “convention on the rights of the child” (1989) went some way in this direction, but back in those days they didn’t dare to address explicitly artificial methods of conception. Since then, there has been some progress in acknowledging the child’s perspective. Some western countries now refer to the convention in their laws for ART. Also, the word “responsibility” is occurring more frequently in family law. In some countries you are now obligated to have contact with your child after a divorce.

    I remember what an uproar it caused in Canada some years ago, when a minister in the government said (on open TV) to parents: “Forget about your rights, you have no rights, you have responsibilities”. To everybody’s surprise the public supported him. The great tide of unlimited adult freedom at the expense of children’s rights, had started to turn.

    Still, there is not much cause for celebration. I think that the lack of the child’s perspective in ART should be seen in the greater perspective of the marginalization of children in modern society.

    • I think you might find wide agreement that parents have responsiblities first. (I actually think they have rights, too, but that’s not inconsistent with saying responsibilities first. To properly execute your responsibility to raise the child you need to have the right to make decisions for the child, say.) The question, which is really the focus of the blog, is WHO those people with the responsibilities are–that is, who is a parent?

      For some this is easy–it’s the person who provided the DNA. That’s the offspring thing, right? If it is your offspring then you have the responsibilities. On this point I think you do find disagreement. Not only from me, but from many others. And again, this whole blog is really centered around that–who does get to claim parenthood and the associated responsibilities?

      I don’t think the UN Convention is clear on this. It does talk about parents and children but it doesn’t talk about who parents are. If a newborn appears on a doorstep and is taken in by the family and raised for ten years as the child of those people, then to my mind those people are the parents and the UN Convention tells us we have to respect and honor that relationship. If a person came along and proved DNA relatedness, I wouldn’t say that gave them the right to disrupt the relationship. I wouldn’t say they are a parent because the child is their offspring. I don’t think the UN Convention compels otherwise.

      • Julie, you say “If a newborn appears on a doorstep and is taken in by the family and raised for ten years as the child of those people, then to my mind those people are the parents”

        This was what more or less what happened in Argentina. Parents were imprisoned and their children adopted away. This was an important part of the background for the international discussions which lead to the UN convention. You are right that the concept of ‘parents’ is not defined explicitly in the convention, but this was not because of forgetfullness, but rather because it was considered obvious. As far as I know most countries interpret the convention this way.

        You use the expression “For some this is easy–it’s the person who provided the DNA”. To me, this sounds a bit like a delivery from your local grocery store. I would rather say: “the person who brought the child into the world”.

        • I’ve written a bit on the blog about the Argentina situation and others akin to it. These are, to my mind, incredibly difficult cases. They are not exactly like the baby on the doorstep in that they involve deliberate wrong-doing–taking the children–that I do not think can be ignored. Further, there is often some complicity on the part of the people who recieved the children–again something that I do not think can be ignored. What about a case in which there is no wrong-doing, but in which one how or another a person ends up raising a child not genetically related to them. This might be because those who are genetically related abandon the baby, which is what I meant by the doorstep. Assuming that the people who do raise the child are good parents, would we really want to relocate the child if the genetic forebears reappear, ten years older and wiser, having changed their minds?

          Or you can think about the switched at birth in the hospital stories–again something I’ve written about here. In the most recent one of those (it arose in Russia and I wrote about it a bit ago but cannot link while I travel) the genetically related individuals decided to leave the girls where they were, but to form relationships with them going forward. This seems to me an outcome that respects both the lived reality that the girls have experienced (they have been raised by the people who everyone believed were parents) and the newly recognized information available from the genetic testing.

          Is there actually a record of the discussion around the use of the word parent in the UN Convention? I do not know and would love to learn.

          Finally, I am very reluctant to use the language you suggstion–the person who brought the child into the world. That seems to me terribly ambiguous. It could be the midwife. (She perhaps most literally brings the child into the world.) It could be the parents who commission a surrogate using purchased or donated genetic materials. (Their actions cause the child to be brought into the world.) And do you mean to say there is only one such person? If you change it to say “the people who brought the child into the world” then that might open up a whole range of possibilities.

    • I agree with the man who said forget your rights you have responsibilities to your children. If you’re responsible for creating a child you are responsible for that child’s life. The child is an extension of your own body – its you only with a different brain that has to learn everything you know all over again and its your job to teach your little self how to get by in the world. You have to feed your little you same as you feed yourself and if your little you breaks a window you pay for it same as if you broke it yourself until such time as the little you is ready to make their way in the world alone. If you can’t raise your own child find someone to do it for you but don’t go thinking your not still the parent because nobody will ever be as essential to that child’s existence as you. The only reason people raise other people’s offspring is because they have been granted permission by the child’s creator the child’s parent. If the parent of the child said no I don’t want to make a baby and then abandon it, then there would be no DI kids. They had the power to make that call because its their offspring. I don’t know it seems pretty logical to me. I can be too black and white though.

      • I’m happy to agree that parents have responsiblities to their children. The question, of course, is who the parents are–how do we identify the people with the responsibilities. And as always, there’s a “why” question too: Why do we use one test (DNA, say) over another (intention or function). These questions are really what we’ve all talked about here for several years now.

        I do not accept that a child is an extension of your own body–you only with a different brain. Maybe this goes back to our disagreement about DNA. I’m not sure. One of the miraculous things about children (to me) is the extent to which they seem to emerge as unique individuals.

        It doesn’t help me all that much to say look for the people who are responsible for creating the child because there’s so much play in that language.

  9. both phrases are unduly politicized. “provided the DNA” seeks to minimize the imporatnce of DNA, which is Julie’s actual positon, and “brought the child into the world” kind of misrepresents the action. the person who brings the child into the world is the pregnant woman.
    I suggeste the archaic word “sired.”

    • I wonder if it is possible to find language that isn’t politicized. I wanted “provided the DNA” in part to include people who have sex and also people who provide gametes for ART, people who have relationships with each other and/or the child and people who do not. Would genetic forebears be better or less political?

      Sired I think would suggest only the male line, wouldn’t it? Which leads me to another interesting thought–is there a female equivalent to “sired.” I believe the female counterpart to the sire is the dam, but of course there’s no verb form–“dammed” except when you are talking about blocking up rivers. You could suggest that the people who provide the DNA are all sires in that they all essentially take the role of sire, a traditionally male role, even if they are providing eggs. Again, an interesting line for discussion. Some of that is elsewhere on the blog, I think.

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