Feminist Philosophers

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Porn on the NHS? September 28, 2010

Filed under: medicine,pornography — cornsay @ 10:42 pm
Tags: ,

There’s been some recent attention directed to the news that the NHS provides pornography to men at IVF clinics when they’re required to produce some sperm. I say “news” — I thought this had been happening for ages. But a recent report has highlighted the practice, and the Sun and Telegraph have both published stories following up.

The two newspapers concentrate on the waste-of-public-money angle. The original report uses this argument, and also briefly gives some general anti-porn arguments, and a couple concerning how the NHS particularly is morally obliged to refrain from exposing its staff and patients to pornography (the “report” is a short and easy read).

Against this, Ben Goldacre points out in the Guardian that the average amount spent on porn is £21.32 a year per NHS trust. More seriously, he argues that there’s a reasonable amount of evidence suggesting that providing porn increases the quality of sperm produced, and thus the chances of successful IVF, and that this might be more important than moral scruples.

And against Goldacre, Kat Banyard writes to the Guardian to argue that all pornography is harmful — indeed, “a public health crisis” — and shouldn’t be provided in clinics, no matter what the benefits. She cites a Ministry of Justice report as evidence. I’m not sure which MoJ report she’s referring to, but I’m guessing it’s this one (direct link to pdf — not a short and easy read), which is concerned with extreme pornography. So it’s not clear to me that it or the meta-analyses it contains can support her general conclusion about all pornography (though I can only identify two of the three meta-analyses she mentions; is there a different report that I’ve missed?).

Anyway, some engaging to-and-fro, and some interesting issues — I’d never considered a possible increase in the motibilty of sperm as an argument in favour of pornography.

 

4 Responses to “Porn on the NHS?”

  1. Heg Says:

    I’m really glad you posted on this! Not being a Sun or Telegraph reader, I hadn’t seen those – but I’d come across it through BioNews (a great resource, for those who don’t know it) – see http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_71065.asp for an opinion piece by Dr Alan Thornhill, Scientific Director, The London Bridge Fertility, Gynaecology and Genetics Centre.

    (This paragraph of his is irritating: “The report seems to have an identity crisis – is it pushing a feminist agenda? Or does it represent an honest attempt to simultaneously improve medicine and safeguard society? In my opinion, it achieves neither and simply displays ignorance and a lack of compassion for infertility sufferers and patients.”)

  2. cornsay Says:

    No worries — for once, I found something interesting that nobody had yet posted on!

    Hadn’t seen the Bionews thing; thanks for that. I agree that paragraph and the tone of the piece are annoying, but I do share his concern to a degree. Given the background of the original report’s author, and the tone of the report, I do worry that some decent-enough arguments about pornography are being co-opted into an ideologically-driven anti-NHS campaign. Or maybe I’m just paranoid (and does it matter if arguments are ‘co-opted’ anyway? Hmm).

  3. dom Says:

    The featured male argument in favour of using pornography in order to obtain sperm from men is that the resultant sperm may well be of a higher quality. Is this an argument in favour of pornography or in favour of the higher quality sperm produced as a result of using it?

    The featured female argument against using pornography in order to obtain sperm from men is that pornography is a “public health issue”, ie. is potentially harmful to women. In other words, sperm ought to be obtained from men in ways that do not involve pornography because the potential damage of pornography is of greater concern to women than a possible decrease in sperm quality.

    I didn’t expect to read any arguments re the harm that harvesting men’s semen for cash has on men, nor the harmful effects on men of pornography, but I live in hope that one day it might be possible to raise an objection to the assumption that selling one’s genetic material anonymously for cash is morally & ethically abhorent to many men & that the damage caused by pornography to men directly is of equal concern than the damage caused to women specifically without being made to feel as if these were minor concerns.

  4. dom Says:

    “I’d never considered a possible increase in the motibilty of sperm as an argument in favour of pornography”

    Argument in favour of pornography…it can be demonstrated to be of some benefit to women.
    Argument against pornography…it can be demonstrated to be of no benefit to women.


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