Fertility clinics often provide pornography for men who produce sperm for clinical assessment, storage, or in vitro fertilization (IVF) purposes. Despite its potential practical utility, some activist groups believe fertility clinics should cease from offering erotica materials because of their potential harmful effects on women.
In a paper published in Reproductive BioMedicine and Society Online, an argument is presented that the provision of pornography can be useful for men in settings where sperm is required, and the restriction of these materials in the fertility clinic would possibly have a negligible effect on the pornography industry as a whole.
The feminist and legal arguments against pornography, particularly images and videos featuring women, is that it results in the continuation of gender-based inequality. In addition, many activist groups believe pornography “preys on the diminished social status of women by drawing them into a line of work that exposes them to harm in sexual relationships.” Because of the adverse effects potentially linked to pornography, there is a growing agreement among some groups that this medium should be prohibited from the healthcare space, particularly fertility clinics, where they are primarily used on practical grounds.
There is conflicting research that demonstrates the superiority of pornography for collecting sperm vs other methods in terms of success or safety to the subject. In addition, moral issues come into play with pornography, particularly in regard to conception. Individuals who believe children should be conceived through sexual relationships only, for instance, are often opposed to pornography access in the healthcare setting. Some critics believe that instead of eliminating pornography altogether, only those materials that are more sensual in nature and those that place men and women in an equal sexually active role should be considered.
Eliminating erotic materials from the fertility clinic may not be fully possible, considering that anyone with a smartphone can access pornography on demand and would not require the clinic to provide these materials. In addition, considering that fertility clinics likely use only a small fraction of available pornography, it is likely that there will be little effect on the pornography industry if clinics divest themselves of the media.
“[S]o long as pornography is defensible as a matter of expression…it is hard to see that any particular moral significance should be attached to its use in fertility clinics,” concluded author Timothy F. Murphy, PhD, a professor of philosophy in the biomedical sciences at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago. He continued, “If access to pornography in clinics requires a moral justification over and above its immediate pleasure, helping people conceive children seems about as persuasive a justification as is necessary.”
Murphy TF. Should fertility clinics divest themselves of pornography? Reprod Biomed Soc Online. 2016;3:30-35.