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'The Switch' Brings Idea of Donor Sperm into Better Focus

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Last week I finally got to the movies to see The Switch with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman. I thought it was very entertaining and also interesting.

The Plot

If you haven’t seen it, the basic plot is that Kassie, a single woman in NYC, decides that she is ready to have a child even though she hasn’t found a man to spend her life with and plans to use a known sperm donor. Her best friend, the neurotic Wally, is not a fan of this plan.

Kassie has a party the night of her insemination to celebrate when things get wacky. Wally “switches” the donor’s sperm sample with his own while very drunk. No one realizes what happens at the time. Kassie gets pregnant, moves away for six years, and then she and Wally drift a little.

Kassie returns to NYC and reconnects with Wally. While spending time with Kassie and her son Sebastian, Wally starts to remember that night and finally realizes what he did.

The movie was quirky, sweet and entertaining.

A Refreshing Portrayal of a Woman's Choice

What I found interesting were the relationships, the way lives were affected and how light and easy the idea of using a sperm donor was portrayed.

When Kassie tells Wally that she is going to use a sperm donor, he reacts like many people have reacted upon hearing this news: with questions and an unsettled feeling, but it wasn’t shocking. Her friends are incredibly supportive and even enthusiastic.

It was refreshing to see the decision portrayed in this manner. Her friend Debbie even cheers her on about doing it for herself, the power of women and how amazing it is that she was making her dream come true.

I think the portrayal was reflective of an overall more accepting societal response to the use of donor sperm. When a topic or issue becomes part of pop culture, it reflects society embracing the issue and movement toward acceptance.

There are organizations and groups that support and embrace single mothers, but there are still many who criticize the choice of a single woman to have a child without a partner. We at the sperm bank embrace a woman’s decision to have a child regardless of her relationship status. When a person has the desire to parent and the means to pursue that desire, no one should stand in the way.

I am glad that we had three movies come out this summer that brought the idea of donor sperm into better focus, even if the stories were sensationalized for Hollywood.

Comments (1)

I have to say I felt a sense of relief when I saw the movie previews and sensed that the subject was being treated matter-of-factly (vs a big scandal). For Hollywood, the story isn't in the decision itself, but in the comedy that follows the samples being switched. When you realize that every movie minute counts, it makes sense from a production point of view that they not go in that direction, and avoid the creation of a sub-plot that is useless to the main storyline.

That said, the few people I've told that I'm trying to conceive through artificial insemination (hoping that 3rd time is a charm) have responded pretty matter-of-factly as well. I live in a liberal community, and other than immediate family members haven't told anyone particularly conservative as of yet, but it has been reassuring not to be bombarded by too many ethical questions. One good (and very liberal) friend did strongly question the ethics of raising a child without a father, but I didn't sense any shame being projected onto me. All in all, so far, no one has been shocked.

That said, I did turn down an interview request from a journalist who had heard (through a mutual journalist friend) of my plans and was doing a series on alternative families. My 98 year old grandmother, a faithful reader of the paper, was still living and I didn't feel strong enough to tell her until an insemination had been successful. She's since passed, but I wonder how she would have reacted and do still dread what her daughters, my aunts, will have to say.

The reality is that some people are going to be shocked and disapproving. Movies like this will hopefully help make artificial insemination a more acceptable option for single women not only in liberal cities, but in the more conservative parts of the country. The bottom line is that ... hopefully ... it doesn't matter.

Best of luck to everyone out there taking control of their destiny.

.. and thanks for this blog. I think it's a great initiative.

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