Unregulated sperm donation services has been on the map for a while now. Local ads and internet forums preceded online companies, marketing themselves as the only ones who truly understood the needs of women wanting a child. ManNotIncluded was one of the first ones to capitalise on that message and that market, hiding a ruthless and highly unethical approach under a slick website using inflated numbers and made-up testimonials. A live BBC radio outburst between its founder and myself is one of my more memorable interviews not at least because I was asked to ‘take it easy’ after I called him a crook. Funnily enough, some years later he did end up in jail for 16 months for fraud and forgery so I was rather accurate in my assessment and dared to confront him with it.

There are plenty of other ones just as unsavoury. The owner of Fertility First was spared jail but has been convicted, the manager of Free Sperm Donations Worldwide threatened donors, patients and me in the vilest possible way, not quite fitting the term ‘Child Listener’ as she likes to see herself. A man on Donordaddy sent me videos ‘in the act of donating sperm’ (that’s masturbating for the less initiated. I will spare you that link.) I have gone online, I have engaged in conversations, I truly do know the dark dark side.

Professionals have been trying to warn users of the many dangers associated with going outside the clinic ever since the beginning. It’s not because we’re so hang up on HFEA clinics and can’t think outside the box. It’s because we deal with the fall out on a regular basis. And it’s much scarier than most people realise.

I speak to the women who feel violated. I had lunch with the woman sexually assaulted with the donor who was later convicted. I meet up with the women who are stalked by their ‘donor’. I had a toddler on my lap of which the mother said “I adore him with all my heart but sometimes he reminds me of the creep that is his father.” I’ve also met a donor who insisted I meet him as he, single-handedly in all his masculine glory, would make me change my mind. I remember needing a very long hot shower afterwards and that was by just standing in the same room!

Admittedly I have calmed down over the years. I do realise that not all donors offering themselves on the internet are creeps with either inflated egos or a massive inferiority complex. I do know that not all women wanting a baby are naive and/or vulnerable. In fact, I’ve gone on record as not being completely dismissive in Gaystarnews: “It often goes right and all parties are happy. But make sure you’re one of these because when it goes wrong it goes horribly wrong.’

But then I listened to this. A BBC radio 4 documentary ‘Out of the Ordinary – Desperately Seeking Sperm.‘ I  was interviewed some months ago but it wasn’t until the live broadcast that I heard the other stories.

And I was truly truly horrified…

The only good thing I can take from this is that people, women, who use unregulated services see the other side. THIS is what we also deal with. These are the men that offer themselves to vulnerable women. THESE are the men whose child ends up on my lap with a mother looking at him both with love and horror.

Please please please women, PLEASE! Think! This could be the father of your child. And don’t be mistaken.  He IS legally the father of your child. His 40-50-60 other children living in the same area are your child’s half sibling.

And for the record, although I will never be a big supporter of unregulated services, there are ethical ones who act with integrity and are open about everything. If you must….. use Prideangel.com, but even then, be informed. Ignoring the small print can have big consequences.

And now I’m going to have a long hot shower. Many years in this sector and it still scares me more than I can express.

 

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About the program on BBC Woman’s Hour