Notes on My Life Sentence of Self-Negation


Last week I participated in a panel discussion with three women who had, like me, exchanged some ova for cash. It was in a bar basement; everyone was drinking; and my co-panelists—Valerie Bronte, Diana Fleischman, and Marie Huber—happened to be insanely funny, smart people who changed my mind about a few aspects of the process.

I spent my allotted time explaining that my emotional response does not seem to conform to the acceptable cultural script. Reporters call and ask "How painful was it?" and "Do you regret it now?" It wasn't painful, I reply, I'm quite happy to have had the experience. Awkward silence. They ask whether I know someone else they can talk to. I'm never quoted. In conversation I generally feel pushed to say that I feel somehow traumatized, and I have at times felt ashamed for not feeling more seriously affected by the transaction. I've since come to recognize this as a kind of emotional bullying, a push to elicit expected emotional responses.

Melissa Lafsky of the Huffington Post was sitting directly in front of me, listening but perhaps not quite understanding. On cue, she has written a long post criticizing three of us for not engaging the experience with the appropriate frequency of conflicted emotional fraught-ness. All those egg jokes we were cracking? Woe are we three sad, ova-selling clowns:

But when it came to the messy internal aspects—whether or not it felt exploitative to sell a piece of their genetic material, whether or not it was humiliating, frightening, or painful to manipulate their bodies with constant drugs and surgeries, whether or not it bothered them to produce genetic offspring that they'd never know or raise—there was nary a word. Instead, glib comments ruled the day…One woman, when asked how she felt about a child (or two, or three) made from her eggs existing unknown to her, joked that she liked the idea of climbing a mountain in 18 years and "summoning my dark army."

We've reached a funny point in the whole feminism game. The new card to play is honesty, where taboos and dirty little secrets about sex, fertility, selling eggs, rape, abortion, etc. are no longer whispered behind closed doors…

I like the idea of "playing the honesty card." You didn't lie about being gang-raped? Stop playing the honesty card!

But somehow, all the cultural openness has taken an ironic twist. In this age of "oversharing,"… it's still somehow unacceptable to acknowledge the feelings and emotions that inevitably accompany these things. As with the "Thinking and Drinking" debacle, women are displaying an unrealistic and dangerous rush to stamp out all those pesky emotions, toss a few gallons of denial on top, and cover the whole thing up with a joke. We bring "issues" like rape and abortion to the forefront in a show of power, but then shield ourselves in deadpan nihilism to avoid looking weak, even when we're writing or speaking about how we were date raped, or sexually abused, or had our eggs sucked out through a needle.

It's true that there's no one way to react to these traumas — yes, having your eggs harvested counts as trauma, all rapier wit aside — and you can't slap a label on them classifying the damage. Having your body invaded, your sense of control and power eliminated, is traumatic regardless of gender…. there's a huge distinction between laughing at your abortion and laughing off your abortion, and the discrepancy can be the difference between regaining power versus a life sentence of buried self-negation.

There is nothing I can say here that won't contribute to my life sentence of buried self-negation, but it's worth noting that Lafsky is bounding the range of acceptable emotional responses available to half the population. (Of course you were traumatized! Don't you know how emotional women are?) I've no doubt that some women, perhaps many women, are distraught after their ova retrievals. But why on earth would we all have the same reaction? Why not allow women—most human beings—to individuate emotionally? And why does Lafsky want it to have been so troubling for each and every one of us?

…It sure would have been comforting if at least one of these brilliant, self-possessed women had admitted, "Yeah, I've been conflicted. I've had strong feelings, and sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing. But I chose it, and that was my choice, so if I burst into tears at the memory of the pain, or the thought that my child could be walking around the world never knowing me, well, I deal with it. And I find a way to laugh."

This isn't an accurate description of the panel, perhaps because the author stomped out in disgust partway through. Each of us did in fact give reasons why we felt conflicted about the experience; Bronte said that at times it felt cheapening, Huber that it was very physically painful. (See how it was painful for some of us and not for others? Almost like we're different people?) Fleischman and I said we would much prefer women to choose adoption, a point I mentioned in my reason piece, which Lafsky links to and draws a few facts from in order to establish her expertise in the whole ugly business.

It's worth pointing out that anyone who repeatedly lumps together rape, abortion, and IVF either thinks very little of the line between coercion and autonomy, or thinks very little, full stop. I would never dream of writing a Lafskian blog post telling women who have been raped how they all ought to feel about it. But I do understand that it will always be more subversive, more difficult, to admit a lack of emotion in these circumstances rather than an excess. To say: I had an abortion, and felt nothing; I sold my eggs, and enjoyed it; I was a sex worker, and loved it. Break taboos, and the world wants contrition. Didn't you receive your emotional marching orders?

But there I go playing the honesty card again! I'll try to stick to script from now on, and I look forward to future posts on how I feel about my childhood, ex-boyfriends, career prospects, etc.

NEXT: Elvis Needs Goats

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  1. Insert obligatory “Once you have children, Kerry” comment here…

  2. …”summoning my dark army.”

    Sounds like the kernel of a good plot for a Repairman Jack novel.


  3. Bravo!

  4. I guess Lafsky never read The Stranger. Oh, never mind, Meursault was a man.

  5. Does this mean us men should feel conflicted about killing civilizations in a sock?


  6. It’s not uncommon for a new experience to be narrativized in an old form. Here, it sounds like the selling of ova is getting appropriated into the old song-and-dance about prostitution, abortion, and giving babies up for adoption. All of which are more or less “okay” as long as you feel regret afterward.

    Since it’s unlikely a large number of people can successfully think and talk about this on its own terms, perhaps a more positive metaphor would help. Like donating blood?

    A question: is the stigma here attached to letting go of a part of your body that you have an obligation to protect and preserve, or is it this plus the sale of same? In other words, if you simply gave away ova, would that seem any better?

  7. Damn, you ripped her a new one.

  8. Um, how long have sperm banks been around? Is that any different? I know, no needles, but the emotional attachment I have to each and every one my little swimmers is… I guess about what Kerry has to her eggs. At the least the kids will have a 50% chance of being good looking and smart.

  9. This woman a first-rate dumbass.

    This and the Jezebel kerfuffle is a fine example of seriousness creep. Women can’t be funny, flip or glib because they HAVE to be a role model at all times.

    What do feminists call it when society pressures them to not be funny or have opinions or just plain be themselves, essentially to always be a perfect model of a artificially constructed “womanhood” based on external definitions? I swear it’s on the tip of my tongue… Starts with a “P” maybe?

  10. Having your body invaded, your sense of control and power eliminated, is traumatic regardless of gender

    Oh, for God’s sake. This is the same Dworkinesque stupidity which refuses to consider that concepts like “consent” and “lack of consent” even exist. It’s the attitude which says that for a woman there’s no meaningful difference between consensual sex versus forcible rape. For that matter, you may as well say that when I invite guests into my home, that’s no different from suffering a forcible home invasion.

    Kerry chose to sell some of her ova — and made a pretty penny, too, IIRC — yet these idiots pretend she should have the exact same attitude as a woman who’d been kidnapped by a black-market egg-stealing cabal.

  11. I participated in a panel discussion with three women who had, like me, exchanged some ova for cash. It was in a bar basement…

    You did that in a bar basement?!?! Sperm donations I could understand, but I always thought ova donations required a slightly more sanitary environment.

  12. Are people who have routine biopsies traumatized? If not, then why in the hell would egg harvesting be any more traumatic?

    By FSM Miss Lafsky needs to get a grip on her emotions if that sort of procedure would “traumatize” her, particularly when done willingly.

  13. This woman’s feminism is kinda like emo: absolute conformity is required to be this radical.

  14. Another thing I find interesting is how there isn’t (to my knowledge) such a complex vetting process for sperm donation. Do people not realize it contributes the same amount?

  15. On a more serious note, what’s the big deal aobut donating ova? Sure it’s a much more involved procedure than donating sperm, but in moral terms it’s the exact equivalent. Putting it on the same emotional level as rape and abortion is weird. I guess as sperm-wasting male, it’s something I’ll never understand.

  16. Nigel,

    Do people not realize it contributes the same amount?

    Not by volume/weight/etc.

  17. Are people who have routine biopsies traumatized? If not, then why in the hell would egg harvesting be any more traumatic?

    Exactly, beat me to it. This is absurd. You know why? Because it’s about the children. Nobody asks you if you’ve been traumatized when you have your tonsils removed, they just offer you ice cream. This woman’s attitude comes solely from the fact that what you had removed could one day become a child, and a lot of people just can’t get past that.

  18. “…changed my mind about a few aspects of the process.”

    If it’s not too personal, or indeed traumatic, what did you change your mind about? Compared to your previous writings on the process, that is.

    (Very enlightening stuff, BTW.)

  19. You need to take the whole guilt thing and turn it on its head. Clearly you were violated, Kerry, because you needed to be compensated for it. That’s how the reasoning goes. If the eggs were donated for perfectly altruistic reasons, you would no longer be a vicitim but a hero. You’d be giving the gift of motherhood to some less fortunate women. That’s how it works.

    So that’s what you need to focus on in the future: you (potentially) gave the gift of motherhood to somone less fortunate and were able to rip off a big evil soulless insurance cmopany in the process. Focus on the liberal/femminist thought process and take advantage of it.

  20. Though if I could get paid for sperm based on my SAT scores, that would be awesome. I’m an average-looking white guy with a 2300.

  21. Brandybuck,

    I imagine it’s a tangle of “women only have so many eggs,” “women should want children and they are giving away the only way they can do that,” and the fact that men already waste trillions of sperm of a lifetime by masturbating. (As if periods aren’t just a waste of good eggs.)

  22. Uh, Nigel, don’t SATs only go up to 1600? Or has that changed?

  23. Episiarch: They added a writing section; they now go up to 2400.

  24. This woman’s feminism is kinda like emo: absolute conformity is required to be this radical.

    No. I know what this is and it has nothing to do with that. This has everything to do with the expectation that those eggs will grow into children and women both HAVE to want children and HAVE to feel some kind of loss from not being able to raise the child their eggs produce. The concept that some of us (women) really have no attachment to our eggs or any real NEED to be a Mommy is completely foreign to the Lafsky’s of the world. They literally can not believe that is possible. So, it follows that they truly believe that women who give up children for adoption or give up their eggs are forced to because of their circumstances and that they must feel exploited. Men do not have this expectation thrust on them, and frankly, I am jealous. As a woman who has NEVER wanted kids, who has zero maternal leanings, I would dearly love to have been spared dealing with simpering from the Lafsky-like men and woman who think I am a sad case because I don’t have kids.

  25. I’d like to second (third?) the sentiment regarding this Huffington-Puffer’s conflation of ova extraction with rape. Her implied distinction between the act of a male donating sperm and a woman donating ova is evidence that she views the act simply on a symbolic level. Yes, there is a penetration involved, but apropos of what exactly? If women, modern as they hope to be at the Huffington Post and certainly here, mean to transcend the strictures of male dominated society, why must they confine their emotions to meaningless metaphysical allegories? To be penetrated by a needle is only seemingly more traumatizing for a woman than it is for a male because it is being used to penetrate her womb, and because the imagery is fraught with sexual metaphor. But without an assumed identity of weakness, insecurity, and inferiority, that imagery and that trauma has significantly less freight.

  26. Episarch:

    They added a third section to the SAT if I remember correctly. The big deal when I took the SAT was that they let you use a calculator.

    Oh, and two or three years after I took it they decided people weren’t scoring well enough, and added about 100 points to everyone’s score.


  27. Nigel,

    No one counts the writing section.

  28. The coercion of IVF is making someone else pay for it through a State health insurance mandate.

  29. Episiarch: They added a writing section; they now go up to 2400.

    This is good to know before I ever brag to anyone again about my SAT scores again, because it’ll sound like I take the short bus without that extra 800.

  30. Bluebook,

    I tend to assumed the insistence that donation is “all about altruism” is a ploy to bargain down the price of eggs. (As in, “can you lower your asking price? Because this is really about altruism, right?”) And indeed sometimes it is.

    But the other women had had open donations, meaning that they got to know the parents, and had more insight into this. One of the women at the panel had lowered her asking price because she’d formed a relationship with the mother. She’d had genuinely altruistic motivations and a more rewarding experience as a result. I’m not sure my previous assumptions–formed within the context of a closed donation–allowed for that sort of thing.

  31. Nephilium,

    I believe they have boosted the scores twice since I took it. I wonder what that pushes my 1450 up to? I know my 780 math goes to 800, damn you whatever 1 question it was that I missed – you can burn in hell!!

    BTW, Did anyone ever take the GRE. The basic (non-specialized subject) GRE math was no harder than the SAT math, as far as I could tell. After 4 years of calculus + higher level engineering math, that was the easier thing ever. I threw a perfect game on the logic section (whatever it was called) too.

    The GRE engineering test was frickin hard, however.

    /Is this a nerdy 20 year old standardized test bragging thread?

  32. But Kerry, would you have wanted to form a relationship with the mother, or do you prefer it having been a simple business transaction?

  33. Epsiarch,

    Because I was in it for the experience, I would have preferred an open donation. If I were to do it again I would insist on it.

  34. robc:

    When I took the test I only got a lowly 1330, at the earliest time they let you take the test (not sure if it was Sophomore or Junior year). Never took the GRE or any other standardized tests but the Mensa IQ one.


  35. Nephilium: There’s a program now (or at least there was when I was in middle school) where you take the SAT in 7th grade to gain admission to all sorts of programs that I never took advantage of. Could have, though.

  36. Not knowing or believing you have been traumatized by your experience is in fact, the surest sign that you have been traumatized by your experience.

  37. Kerry,

    So do it again, this time open. Then you’ll have had both experiences.

  38. Insert obligatory “Once you have children, Kerry …[you’ll feel differently]” comment here…

    Shouldn’t that be “once someone else has your children…” ?

  39. Epi-

    Go ahead and brag. Better than 1000? 1200? 1400?

    Don’t you find it rather bizarre that a test with a total of just 120 multiple choice questions looms so large in the academic futures of its takers?

  40. I guess I’m completely missing something. You are supposed to be traumatized by a completely voluntary procedure? Huh?

  41. Oh, I think I understand now (intellectually, anyway). As someone without even paternal instincts, I guess this is supposed to be one of those situations where you’re required to get all blubbery because “there’s a child out there that is mine!” I guess I put more value on the people that actually raise the child than the people that donated some genetic material..

  42. I guess I’m completely missing something. You are supposed to be traumatized by a completely voluntary procedure? Huh?

    Just like prostitution. This women doesn’t exist. All women must raect to their breeding parts the same way. Every authoritarian feminist and fundy knows that.

  43. Some posters mention that some people are outraged because women are not supposed to profit from selling her egss, or because women are genetically predetermined to want and protect her offspring, etc…

    For me, it is simply jealousy. You see, these women who sell their eggs are young, intelligent, good-looking and healthy, qualities any couple would want for their offspirng… what are the old, fat, sick and stupid women to do? NO one is gonna pay them for their ova.

  44. Thanks Kerry.

    This feels like one of those ‘welcome to the 21st century’ moments when you realize how far civilization has come. Still no flying cars or personal jet-packs but who, 50 years ago, would have imagined a group of women getting together for a few drinks and a friendly chat about their experiences with ova transplantation? The future may be more subtle than The Jetsons, but, perhaps, stranger and more interesting.

  45. Go ahead and brag. Better than 1000? 1200? 1400?

    1450, first time. Didn’t take it again.

  46. Bravo, Kerry. Bravo. (And I say that without lack of emotion)

    The feeling that one ought to feel is the very definition of cheap sentimentality, and every time someone resists the urge the world gets a little bit better.

  47. Kerry should tell people that she’s proud to be one of the few women who can say what guys say: “I have no children, at least none that I know about, hee hee.”

  48. robc, it makes me feel like a douche but my GRE (just the general) scores were as follows:

    800, 800, 720. A strange criterion for engineering grad school admission.

  49. Damn, the only appropriate term I can think of is “pwned.” Nice write-up, Kerry.

  50. But when it came to the messy internal aspects — whether or not it felt exploitative to sell a piece of their genetic material, whether or not it was humiliating, frightening, or painful to manipulate their bodies with constant drugs and surgeries, whether or not it bothered them to produce genetic offspring that they’d never know or raise — there was nary a word.

    Wow. Do I need to say it? Does one need to point out this attitude and bring in the controversial topic of abortion-on-demand? I’m perplexed.

  51. robc –

    I took the GRE too, and I’m pretty sure the math section was far easier than the SAT math. The explanation I’ve been told for this is that most people don’t take math in college and will thus have fewer math skills four years after taking the SATs. Anyone who majored in math/science/engineering shouldn’t have any trouble with it.

  52. What I’d like to know is what actually motivates this strange, kneejerk purity-concern over the sale of ova. Most people get the ick thinking about surgery, but why this operation in particular? Does the instinct to control others’ sexuality really run that deeply or pervasively that it’s able to reach out and fix someone’s opinion about a thing as abstract as egg donation?

  53. Well, of course you don’t get quoted, Kerry!

    Unless you cry your eyes out about how you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior and bitterly regret making a mockery of human life, (or how you got raped by the patriarchy into helping their “science” defile your life-giving goddess nature), getting a quote from you doesn’t help anybody!


  54. Fun story, and I read the original about your donations too. It’s been said before, but it deserves to be said again- Kerry is at her best when writing about this stuff, probably because she seems to be so comfortable presenting the unfortunately contrarian position (among women/feminists, not readers here i’m sure). Whatever you’re studying at grad school, keep sharp on this stuff if you can.

  55. Wow, the linked article on HuffPo has the tag “rape”, despite the fact nobody was raped.

    Put there out of habit, perhaps?

  56. Unless you cry your eyes out about how you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior and bitterly regret making a mockery of human life,

    But JCR, that’s what makes me preplexed. I don’t know, and I don’t have time to research, but I’m suspecting that the panelists who were most indignant at the indifference were on the pro-choice spectrum. Why the sudden reverence for the sacred ova? The shock at the glib treatment of human genetic material?

    Maybe I’m wrong? Maybe it was the pro-life wing that takes this view? If so, then ok, they’re being consistent. But if not?

  57. I have to be honest, I don’t know much about this subject. I’m thinking it’s more like when men sell their sperm.

    But,I guess the question I would ask Kerry, are you still able to have children after this? I know this may sound like a dumb question, but I really don’t know the answer.

  58. Paul-

    That part, at least, is almost certainly to do with the commercial nature of the transaction. Many on the left have absorbed the implicit value that anything done for money, whether voluntary or not, is a form of either exploitation (cf. trad-Marxism) or commodification (subsequent anti-consumerist moralities). In cases of the latter, then, someone will always be tempted to ask whether or not the thing in question “should” be commodified at all – that is to say, whether it is morally permissable to affix any price to it. Why anybody would put eggs into that category – I’m tempted to dismiss as anti-science superstition.

  59. I find much of IVF to be morally abhorrent.
    That said,I don’t think there should be any Federal support or bans on the procedures. I do object very strongly to anyone being compelled to support the practice involuntarily through taxes or insurance mandates.

    I agree with MS Howley that I would much prefer women choose adoption .

  60. I guess selling/donating eggs (or semen) for the purpose of allowing well-vetted prospective parents to bear and raise children in the love of a family (however you define “family) is one thing. But I think it would cross a line I hope we can refrain from crossing, to turn over one’s gametes or genetic material to researchers or commercial developers WITHOUT the guarantee that there would either be no offspring, or that the best interests of any offspring thus enabled would be pursued. That would basically be the sin of Frankenstein, which is wrongly held in the popular consciousness as daring to play God and delve into things “Man was never meant to know.” In reality, Dr. Frankenstein’s sin was sidestepping natural processes to put a “new” sentient life on the earth, which he then proceeded to neglect and even reject, once it did not live up to his expectations. The issue is not daring to challenge God, so much as trying to bury and avoid responsibility for the consequences of god-like acts. The latter approach tends to yield monsters, as far as I have seen. Who wants to think of themselves as being responsible for monsters? Conversely, what monster would feel no guilt or shame for visiting a life of suffering on someone else from the moment of birth onward? I don’t think we need a “cultural script” to ask such questions, just a little imagination and understanding of how tough it is to grow up and become a benign person, fit as company for other human beings, under even the best of circumstances.

  61. The start of this article reminds me of when the producers of the Jerry Springer show called me about possibly being on his show. Recall Jerry’s humble beginning in Cincinnati. (Where the Little Woman and I still reside.) He commuted between Cincinnati and Chicago for a while. Even then he was aiming for the sensational.
    Seems the producer thought that libertarians might have some sort of perverted interaction with their children. It didn’t take much telephone time to determine that I passed as semi-normal, therefore no face time for moi. Should I have made up something?
    I used to enjoy Jerry’s commentaries when he was the local news anchor.

  62. dbcooper,

    That may have been my exact scores. I dont remember the english score exactly but it began with a 7.

    Dave B,

    The math on the GRE led me to my rant about me taking 18 hours of humanities and 18 hours of social science as an engineering student (I didnt have a problem with either) so liberal arts majors should take 18 each of math and sciences. And not pussy “physics for poets” science either, calculus based science.

  63. I don’t know, and I don’t have time to research, but I’m suspecting that the panelists who were most indignant at the indifference were on the pro-choice spectrum. Why the sudden reverence for the sacred ova? The shock at the glib treatment of human genetic material?

    Mark me down as confused as well. Pro-lifers in general tend to view abortion as significantly worse than IVF which itself is worse than donating eggs. If you’re going to compare them, that seems like a fairly sensible ranking. (Leaving aside the prostitution issue that Kerry brought up.) I’m perplexed, OTOH, by those (lefties, I guess mostly) who are strongly pro-choice but really horrified by the idea of selling eggs. I suppose it has to be the money.

    Of course, I also tend to wonder what percentage of vegans, especially the hardcore animal rights vegans, are pro-life.

  64. It will be a shame to see Kerry go and be shuttered away somewhere in Iowa. Now that is something she should feel bad about. One less attractive, bright girl in DC and she leaves us with the likes of that dross windbag from Puffington Host.

    Regardless, it’s good to know that quality women do exist…thankfully they are not all like that Puffed-up Hostie. The existence of females like that makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

  65. Kerry, bravo. I think the reason you ended up goosing such an over-the-top reaction from Ms. Lafsky is….you didn’t treat the episode as having some great, fraught meaning in your life that changed it completely.

    As a feminist and a cynic, I find it amusing that selling your eggs is somehow a horrible, horrible thing, but there are tons of women out there who sell their hair and no one says a peep about THAT–even though the women who do so may be doing it for needy financial reasons even more than women who sell their eggs.

  66. I’d do whoever made the “dark army” comment.

  67. Funny, Lafsky doesn’t look old enough to be a second-wave feminist, but she has the sense of humor of one.

    Q: How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?

  68. I don’t know. Ms Howley’s defensiveness on the subject suggests she may be repressing some kind of emotional response. After all, libertarians hate emotions because emotions limit freedom by interfering with rational choice-making. I can see why that sort of thing is undesirable in the political realm, but when it comes to things like physical integrity or reproduction I’m not sure I see why it’s even desirable for emotion to be excluded. On an intuitive level it strikes me as inhumane. I mean, we live in bodies made by other bodies! We are not just a locus of particular consciousness weighing up costs and benefits. Perhaps that’s what the HuffPost writer is struggling with.

  69. Why is Ms. Howley “defensive”? Just because she’s being honest about not having the proper politically correct emotions might just mean she doesn’t have those same feelings. The attitude that she’s not allowed to feel like she obviously feels strikes me as ironically patriarchal.

  70. Sean, you’re repeating the fundamental error and absolutely disgusting presumption demonstrated by Lansky, namely: attempting to dictate to another the proper emotional response to an experience you haven’t even had.

    That’s the really contemptible thing here. Push to one side all the issues of feminism and reproduction for a moment, and consider the simple fact that Howley has had a particular experience that Lansky hasn’t, and Lansky feels entitled to:

    1. claim that only one emotional response is appropriate to that experience

    2. claim that Howley is not really experiencing the emotions she claims to experience, but is “in denial”.

    It’s just made even more comical by the fact that Howley telegraphed to Lansky that she’s aware of the fact that busybodies and emotional bullies often make exactly those claims – and Lansky ignored that and went ahead and made those claims anyway.

    It’s a little more comical in your case, since not only have you not had the experience in question, you can’t even potentially have it – so your reliability as an emotional witness is that much less even than Lansky’s.

  71. Seems to me that Kerry was at a panel discussion and she was explaining what happened. I also don’t see any “defensiveness” involved. And yeah, we libertarians “hate emotions because emotions limit freedom.” I will admit that that is one of the more creative ways I’ve heard to deride libertarians, even if it is still moronic.

  72. As someone who will likely donate her eggs (provided the fact that I’m adopted and don’t know much of my family medical history don’t get in the way), I’m pretty upset by Melissa Lafsky’s labeling of egg donation as a trauma. Since when is it traumatic to help another person have a child? And why is it a faux pas to not be emotional and upset about having done that?

    Selling your eggs is in many ways the opposite of having an abortion, and it isn’t even close to being a “traumatic sexual experience,” as Lafsky says. Perhaps she just doesn’t know the difference between “of one’s own volition” and “against one’s will.”

  73. Damn you, Episiarch! I only got a 1440 (800 verbal, 660 math – now you know why I went into law).

    And how scary is it that I can remember those scores nearly 30 years later? They are seared, seared, into my memory, I tells ya!

    Oh, and on topic – Ms. Lafsky comes off as a total tool, in so many ways.

  74. “As someone who will likely donate her eggs (provided the fact that I’m adopted and don’t know much of my family medical history don’t get in the way)…”

    Good luck Ellen. My sister and I looked into selling our ova a few years ago, and I can tell you that family medical history is very important.
    While I support a woman’s decision to sell her eggs, I decided not to sell my own because I thought the treatment would be too complicated and painful and, most importantly, I realized I didn’t like the idea of not knowing my offspring (I could just picture myself wondering about him or her from time to time).

    I know, I can be such a girly girl sometimes 😉

  75. If McCain wins, they will soon be building camps for the unashamed and defiant souls. You MUST feel what we tell you to feel.

    Otherwise, you must be lying about how you feel. A true catch-22. If you deny feeling ashamed, you are lying and must stop the disapproved of activity. And if you indicate you are ashamed, then you must stop the disapproved of activity. Therefore, whatever you say cannot overcome the holder’s belief that IVF and rape are really the same.

    Fools and their beliefs are never parted. So hit ’em up for a contribution. Rumor is that fools are not so good with their money. LOL

  76. I donated eggs four times in a year and a half, and let me tell you, it is physically painful, and it is not easy, and I did take it seriously. But it was 100% my choice; it was not forced upon me by anyone, nor by any outside circumstances. It was not a violation of my female body, and I don’t feel like I lost anything. I came to terms with any misgivings I might have had long before the eggs were retrieved. The fertility center screens very carefully to anticipate any possibility that the process could be traumatic for the donor. But yes, some of us do feel very strong emotions about donating our eggs. I gave my eggs because I love children, and because I want to have my own very badly, but it’s not time for me to be a mom yet. And I know that there are other women out there who want to have their own children too, but can’t. That would break my heart if it happened to me. So I helped other women get as close as they could to having their own babies. I gave life. That’s probably the biggest and best gift I will ever give in my lifetime, and I am proud of it. Is a kidney donor ever asked how sad they are about giving someone else their kidney so that person can live? Or a blood donor? As for my genetic material floating around out there in the world, I think of it like this: I have a sister and two brothers, and hundreds of cousins out there with as much as half the same genetic information as I have. So yes, there is someone out there who is genetically very much like me, but that does not make him or her “mine.” We are simply relatives. I have lots of relatives I know, and lots I don’t know. And let me just put this out there: the money is not worth it if you don’t already want to donate. The taxes alone on the payments I received are enough of a disincentive to screen financially desperate people out. Now, two years later, I don’t regret donating my eggs. I am happy for those women and their children. But I do wish they’d told me about the tax issue first. I might not have done it four times, knowing that I’d owe the IRS more than a third of what I received.

  77. Does Lafsky ever get to enjoy life as a woman?

    It may be physically painful for some, but so is elective surgery. What’s that got to do with anything?

  78. My ex “donated” her eggs several times. She would have done it earlier than she did, but when she first tried it turned out that she was already pregnant (ooops – I’m quite glad that happened fwiw). She wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for the money. There isn’t a giving bone in that woman’s body.

    What there is/was though was tons of the most implantable eggs you would ever hope to run across. The couples that hired her for the donation received an absolute boon of eggs. They probably got several children out of the process. My ex brought 5 children to the world in the usual manner. I can assure you that she has no qualms about the ones she gave to a needy couple.

    That’s the deal, despite all the hand-wringing by Lafsky and her ilk, A lot of women who really want children can’t have them. There are also women who could care less who can’t leave the house without getting knocked up.Egg donation puts children into the homes of people who want them. That’s a great thing.

    I look forward to seeing the “dark army” my ex produced wandering around Northern Virginia. She was a real character, my ex, but she was a fine looking woman.

  79. Another thing I find interesting is how there isn’t (to my knowledge) such a complex vetting process for sperm donation. Do people not realize it contributes the same amount?

    The better sperm banks actually do vet men extensively. If you’re not a healthy-weight, disease-free, chronic conditions-free, above-average height guy of proven above-average intelligence, they don’t want your sperm.

  80. “The world is so full of a number of things,….” It’s bigger than Ms Lafsky’s perceptions and models, and the author’s, and mine, and (I’d guess) yours.

    There are women in it who have, as I gather Ms Howley has done, donated eggs, been compensated for it financially or spiritually, and feel just fine with it and are not in the least in denial; after repeating the point, it is polite to assume they’re correct about themselves, and obnoxious to insist otherwise. But this is not to say that there aren’t in fact some who aren’t entirely happy with it and are in denial. It would have been reasonable for Ms Lafsky to question which is more prevalent, to admit to not having enough data, and to publicly guess that Ms Howley is in the minority. That she didn’t do so is not a particularly feminist mistake, but an human one.

    To believe that there’s a best way to think is to implicitly believe that a lot of other people are wrong; in this context, the Marxist and (in my experience) libertarian trope of false consciousness—“You don’t dislike {working for employers}/{living in a society that allows property-in-land}/{paying taxes}/{living with handgun-control/{drugs prohibition}} as much as I do, and you SHOULD dislike it as much as I do, but you’ve been deluded about it or have to be in denial about it to live in our terrible world.”—is actually a lot nicer than the alternatives, which are generally “You’re stupid,” or “You’re evil,”—and almost never, “Huh, you’ve got a point, maybe I should think again.”

    Libertarians do not “hate emotion” as a fellow-critic headlessly opined, but I do think they wave the magic words “choice” and “autonomy” around as if they were magic wands that made everything fine, or at least Pareto-optimal…and as if choices were made in isolation, and autonomy either absolute or not. People make the best choices they can, to the extent of their ability to choose (under assault from parents and peers and priests and governors and bosses from the moment we’re born), in the context of the world as it is and expectably might be (which might be tweakable).

  81. libertarians hate emotions because emotions limit freedom by interfering with rational choice-making


    What cracker-jack box did you open to get that armchair psych degree, sport?


  82. Don’t women lose those egs anyways around once a month? I honestly am not that up on how the whole period process works.
    But if that’s the case is that considered a biologically induced abortion of sorts?
    I dunno. I can understand if someone doesn’t want to do it painful or other reasons. Why, though, deride someone for doing it? Especially for doing it an not being appalled or worried.
    I guess it’s almost a matter of pre-determinism right? That is to say it’s about genetics vs. environment. We should feel guilty and wonder about our possible half children because we’re their biological parents and thus they must be like us.
    I always find the religious right to be oddly deterministic on issues like this. God has a plan etc etc. Things like that, I suppose, should induce guilt.
    I don’t see how you should view children you bore and gave up for adoption or eggs you donated as magically part of your existence. I can understand the wondering or even a sense of guilt, but to believe that they somehow should at some point be part of your life is odd to me.
    It’s similar to the reunion shows they do on the afternoon maurie stuff. To me your real mother or real father are he people who raised you. It’s just overly sentimental to me to want to know that biological part of your existence .
    I guess I can’t talk I wasn’t adopted (I don’t think). Though I’d like to think if I was eh whatever.
    Seems the guilt should come from the guilt you should feel over the fact that a child might one day have questions about the biology of their birth. Like almost saying “how can you not feel guilty that someone else you never met might bore and raise your child?” As far as I’m concerned if you didn’t raise that child it’s not your child.
    Guess I’m an environment over genetics kind of guy.

    Oh and I got an 1180 on my SAT’s (out of 1600) which was above average. Decent I thought for not having studied and drinking til 5am the night before. Probably could have done better had I cared at all. Oddly I got like 740 on the math but kind of half bombed the logic section. Whih was odd cus I was slightly sleep deprived and hung over I’d have figured the math would have been a bit harder. Still I think the SAT’s are silly and anyone with almost no intelligence can take a 2 week prep course and do well in. I know a lot of people who outscored me and are just stupid as hell but spent 80 bucks on that silly after school course.

  83. Ova are a limited resource, sperm isn’t so much. There is definitely a thesis in there somewhere.

    But what do I know. I didn’t even show up for my SAT test.

  84. “Having your body invaded, your sense of control and power eliminated, is traumatic regardless of gender.”

    By this logic, an appendectomy is traumatic. It’s certainly more painful. And you don’t even get paid.

  85. Kerry Howley- one step below superhero, thanks for all the entertaining columns.

  86. That’s a good article.

  87. Cool Cal:

    To be penetrated by a needle is only seemingly more traumatizing for a woman than it is for a male…it is being used to penetrate her womb, and because the imagery is fraught with sexual metaphor. But without an assumed identity of weakness, insecurity, and inferiority, that imagery and that trauma has significantly less freight.

    I think you nailed it. I think this has far more to do with the feminist motif of woman-as-rape-victim than just about anything else (the idea that their eggs were stolen from their wombs being a variation on it.)

  88. Oops! Forgot the quotation marks.

  89. If Kerry is interested in pursuing contact with the couple who received her eggs, she can register at, which allows all participants in the process to alert the others that they are open to further contact. As with donors like Kerry, many recipients never think to ask for more openness because the promise of anonymity seems so non-negotiable at the time they are pursuing DE. Many though certainly not all are willing to pursue some contact later on.

    My original post disappeared in the ether, but the general gist of it was thanks for blowing the dust out of Lafsky’s seriously cobweb ridden analysis. I have always been of the view that it’s a short distance between telling women how they must feel and telling them how they must act. This is clearly the case with abortion where it often seems that for many people legality hinges on the regret of those involved, but Lafsky’s comments regarding ova donation so strikingly echo the usual prattle about abortion that it seems clear there are still many women who simply cannot believe that incomplete use of one’s reproductive faculty does not always cause protracted mourning.

  90. “The coercion of IVF is making someone else pay for it through a State health insurance mandate.”

    Really? Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound? I’ll agree with you the day I don’t have to help out the folks that eat too much and get diabetes and have to have life-long drug therapy, dialysis etc, or the ones that drink or do drugs too much and end up in rehab with cirrhosis and Hep C, or the ones that smoke too much and get cancer of some sort or another. Infertility is a disease, and not even one of choice as so many are. Get a clue.

  91. Beth, when there are options available to people other than IVF, they shouldn’t be using MY and OTHER PEOPLE’S money to have children. The choice of the fat diabetic and liver-rotted drunk is the same as the couple who desperately wants children, they’re just a little more respectable. When you can adopt, be a godparent, or not have kids at other people’s expense, you’ve got plenty of options. You are not owed children, especially not on someone else’s dime.

  92. the rex –

    1) Yes, women do lose an egg when they get their periods. In a state of nature, a healthy woman’s ovaries pop out an egg every month, which hangs around for a few days waiting to be fertilized. If fertilization does not occur, the egg dies and the woman gets a period. (Birth control pills stop egg production by making the woman’s body think it’s already pregnant.)

    2)No, a standard menstrual period is not “a biologically induced abortion” of any sort, because the egg was not fertilized.

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