Pornography in hospitals

September 25th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre Tags:
in bad science, politics | 67 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 25 September 2010

The Sun, of all people, are angry about pornography: “THE hard-up NHS is blowing taxpayers’ cash on PORN for sperm donors, a report reveals today.” The Telegraph immediately followed suit. Some clinics provide pornography for men masturbating in clinic rooms to produce sperm for IVF with their partners.

The report is called “Who said pornography was acceptable in the workplace” and is produced by a right-wing thinktank called 2020health. The author, previous conservative MP candidate Julia Manning, says pornography in this clinical setting is: a violation of the NHS constitution; a case of manipulation by the sex industry; the encouragement of “adultery of the mind”; a danger to men as it introduces addictive material into their treatment (which “beggars belief”); strips women of their human status; and is an abuse of taxpayers money.

The average spend on magazines was £21.32 per trust per year, with each clinic treating a large number of couples. For context, private clinics charge around £6,000 for each couple to have 3 cycles of IVF.

But the moral case may still stand: is the pornography necessary? Farmers, animal breeders and vets all have extensive experience of getting viable sperm out of male animals under artificial circumstances, and they have approached this very question, albeit tangentially.

Hemsworth and Galloway showed in 1979 that sperm count in the ejaculate of a domestic boar (I mean an actual boar, that’s not a euphemism for men) was significantly increased by allowing a “false mount”, or observation of another boar’s semen collection. I wouldn’t want to overstate the evidence: another study found that the effect seems not to be present in rams. But in 1984 Mader and collagues studied 12 Hereford Bulls and found that watching another mating pair in action significantly increased frequency of ejaculation. That very same year, Price and colleagues found semen collection from male dairy goats was faster with a “stimulus female”, which was present, but unmountable.

This can hardly be a surprise. As long ago as 1955, Kerruish reported that insemination centres for cows did not provide “adequate sexual stimulation” prior to semen collection: his regimen of intensive sexual stimulation resulted in a “marked improvement in sexual behaviour” and – crucially for our question – an increase in the conception rate.

But it gets more interesting. There is already evidence from animal research that males increase the amount of sperm in their ejaculate when there is more competition around. In 2005, Kilgallon and Simmons conducted an experiment to see whether human males viewing “images depicting sperm competition” also had a higher percentage of motile sperm in their ejaculates.

Now to my mind, this wasn’t a perfect study: they compared ejaculate in 52 heterosexual men looking at pornography with two men and one woman, against pornography with three women, whereas I think it would have been better to use comparison images with one man and one woman, but there you go. They found that men viewing the “two men one woman” pornography had a higher percentage of motile sperm. On a related note, Zbinden and colleagues found that male stickleback fish ejaculate more sperm after being shown a big rival than a small one.

But finally, bang on the question at hand, Yamamoto and colleagues in 2000 studied 19 men masturbating into a jar, either alone in a room, or with “sexually stimulating videotaped visual images” at hand. Sperm volume, total sperm count, sperm motility, and percentage of morphologically normal sperm were all higher when the men had pornography. Meanwhile, some men find it impossible to ejaculate on the day it’s most needed for IVF, and sperm can only be retrieved by epididymal aspiration, or rather, a needle inserted into the testicle. This is a seriously sub-optimal outcome.

I’m not saying porn is brilliant. I absolutely agree that the objectification of women’s bodies is a bad thing, and I don’t particularly want to see porn lying around at work, although by their very nature, you can see all kinds of dreadful things if you open the wrong door at the wrong time in a hospital.

All I’m saying is, when there is a reasonable evidence base that pornography helps people attain what for them are very important goals – like “not being childless” – when they’re going through the very strange and unpleasant experience of masturbating, alone in a clinic room, with everyone outside knowing what you’re doing, and quite possibly some kind of queue: then this research showing that pornography works is the sort of thing you might want to take into account, proportionately.


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67 Responses



  1. Statgen said,

    September 25, 2010 at 12:37 am

    A friend of mine used to work in a fertility clinic so I already knew about the porn. Didn’t seem massively controversial to me but then I’m not really the Sun’s target demographic. Anyway, it always used to make me laugh that she told me men were shown into a private room where there was a chair and a table with said porn magazines, a cup of tea and a biscuit!

  2. Daniel Rutter said,

    September 25, 2010 at 12:52 am

    “sperm can only be retrieved by epididymal aspiration, or rather, a needle inserted into the testicle. This is a seriously sub-optimal outcome.”

    What nonsense. That’s not the only way!

    Clearly the right-wing think-tank responsible, displaying the peculiar personal interests found so often in the world of right-wing thought leaders, would prefer the long-established simple veterinary approach: “Electroejaculation”, induced by means of an electrode stuck up the donor’s arse.

  3. Vekiki said,

    September 25, 2010 at 12:55 am

    Right – I’m not a bloke, so I may well be coming at this from an odd angle – but surely the guys could just be encouraged to bring their own porn. That way it will be to their own tastes, it will be clean (I’m no neat freak, but the idea of communal porn is a massive turn off. I understand that the sperm is obviously being caught in a cup, not going onto the magazine – but, well, how clean do I think all the other guys hands are? plus how accurate is their aim?) – and it means the nhs son’t have to provide it, so it will not cost them anything, and it won’t be around all the time to offend anyone

  4. TriathNanEilean said,

    September 25, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Never mind the magazines. You had me sold with “a cup of tea and a biscuit”? Ohhhhh, aaaaah, yes, …. YES!

    Sorry, is that just me?

  5. forester said,

    September 25, 2010 at 1:25 am

    OK, my brain stopped working at idea of the Sun being angry about pornography. Would they be so upset of the NHS was providing page 3 pictures to help the donors along?

  6. ineedmunchies said,

    September 25, 2010 at 5:14 am

    “Porn worked for your momma last night…” etc etc sorry I had to. But any way, very interesting :)

  7. nanite2000 said,

    September 25, 2010 at 5:48 am

    As someone who has sperm in storage (for medical reasons), I was also aware of the porn. And it didn’t surprise me in the slightest. In fact, it seemed to make perfect sense. Frankly, the Sun and the Independent are full of sh!t. They love porn as much as anyone else, they just won’t admit to it.

    While it’s unlikely anyone would have questioned he lack of porn in those clinics had they not been there, I find it hard to believe that *anyone* who has been to a clinic would go in, and then decide not to go ahead with it because they had a moral objection to the presence of porn magazines. Seriously, what century are we in again?

    The idea of page 3 girls being used as a substitute is interesting. But when you’re in that situation, I can tell you that soft core porn just isn’t enough (unless maybe you had a seriously conservative upbringing).

    As for the idea of bringing your own material – *no one* is going to want to bring their private porn stash to a communal waiting room. I’m very liberal, and even I would find that…awkward.

    I really hope the general public treat the sun and the Independent with the derision they rightfully deserve, since the doctor I spoke to told me how desperate they are for more sperm donors…

  8. fnorman said,

    September 25, 2010 at 7:10 am

    They should have tried showing pictures of male sticklebacks ejaculating.

  9. Jbags said,

    September 25, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Nothing gets me in the mood like a cup of yorkshire and a jammy dodger. Kudos.

  10. Sharpy said,

    September 25, 2010 at 7:14 am

    erm – wouldn’t it be simpler for the *partner* to accompany the donor into the clinic room & assist the process? No reading material required. I’m a bit sad that that doesn’t seem to be the default option.

  11. DevonDozer said,

    September 25, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Sharpy 07:14 has a great idea. Could even outsource the facilities to TravelLodge.

    More importantly, tea & biscuits is all well & good, but what about a cigarette the remains of a bottle of flat champagne? Must be getting old!

    On a pedantic note, it sems to be fashionable to describe almost anything now as “right wing” or “left wing”. I have no idea what these terms mean any more & do not see their relevance or usefulness. Why use them?

  12. fnorman said,

    September 25, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Sharpy – who do you mean by the “Partner”?

  13. liquidcow said,

    September 25, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Vekiki – It does seem like a good idea for the man to be allowed to bring his own stimulus, of course. As you say, this means that he can bring along something suited to his exact taste, all the better to counter the sterile and uncomfortable nature of the hospital. I’ve never had to do this myself so as far as I know it may even be allowed.

    However, I’m not sure how well it would go down with their wife/girlfriend knowing that the man had such material stored in a desk drawer somewhere, or had gone out to buy it. Some women may be willing to accept their man looking at porn in these special circumstances, but otherwise be totally against the idea. Some men may be against porn and only be willing to use it in these special circumstances (although to be honest I doubt this). For this reason, I sort of see the providing of porn as a way of avoiding this awkward situation.

  14. ABS said,

    September 25, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Sharpy, the collection of sperm and ova are often performed simultaneously. This means that while the male is collecting sperm the traditional way, the female is getting their ova collected in an adjacent room. I will spare you the details of that intervention.

  15. LastResort33 said,

    September 25, 2010 at 9:09 am

    @Sharpy: Depending on the situation as I understand it, the woman may not be the partner of the man.

    I think that maybe a computer terminal should be provided, there’s lots of pornography on the internet, it would allow everyone to find something to their own tastes.

    Tea and biscuits for example.

  16. LastResort33 said,

    September 25, 2010 at 9:17 am

    @DevonDozer: That’s because pretty much everything (especially when it has something to do with public services) is motivated by politics. The view expressed is a very conservative one, and thus associated with the right wing, whereas providing extensive public services (including pornography) paid for by taxes is socialist and therefore left wing.

    If this think tank consistently produces capitalist and conservative conclusions, then right-wing is an accurate description, not a value judgement. It only becomes that when compared against the reader’s own politics.

  17. reprehensible said,

    September 25, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Makes you wonder what kind of service you get it you can afford to go private? Apart from more NHS resource if it’s successful of course…

    Multiple pregnancies following IVF are associated with 56% of the direct cost of IVF pregnancies whilst representing less than a third of total annual maternities in the UK. Total direct costs (maternal + infant costs) to the NHS per IVF twin are £9122 and £32,354 per triplet family whereas singleton IVF pregnancies cost £3313.

    Ledger, W. Dilly, A. Marlow, N. Thomas, C. Wilson, E. (2005) The costs to the NHS of multiple births after IVF treatment in the UK. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. 113(1)21-25

    – from my now finished dissertation on Medical Tourism, hopefully forthcoming :-)

  18. TimW said,

    September 25, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Is a biscuit really the best receptacle, then? I’d never have believed it.

  19. anewcombe said,

    September 25, 2010 at 9:33 am

    “bang on the question at hand”

    lolz

  20. fishsticks said,

    September 25, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Vekiki: There will be some blokes who don’t have any porn to bring in. There will be some blokes who probably don’t want to admit that they have porn and there will be some who can’t bring it in because it’s all on their computer.
    And if everyone has to buy their own magazine, then that means sales of pornography will increase!

    Forester: It would be interesting to see which, if any, taxpayer funded institutions spend money on buying copies of The Sun. The Sun probably wouldn’t be up in arms about the “NHS wasting money, hand over fist” if that were the case.

  21. rueroy said,

    September 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Magazines? You can get porn in magazines? Amazing. Whatever will they think of next?

  22. womble said,

    September 25, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    As somebody who had to “afford” to go private – 5 times – unsuccessfully, what you get is exactly the same but without the tea and without the biscuit. So why is the NHS wasting my tax on nourishing these perverts!

  23. QuietKnoll said,

    September 25, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Sharpy@07:14 suggests a “helping hand” approach from a partner. Sadly this doesnot always work.

    I opted for this method to provide a sample after vasectomy. The sample pot was ready, with the top removed, and as the climax approached we both reached for it … and knocked it on the floor! I tried – desperately – to “hold on” as I fumbled for the clear plastic sample pot and in the end “provided” a sample with the pot ….. upside down! Plan B – that succeeded – was a solitary affair.

  24. Tom Bennett said,

    September 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Baby…you had me at ‘epididymal aspiration’.

  25. mesmer said,

    September 25, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Reminds of the wonderful scene from the comedy ‘Frasier'; Niles and Daphne are examining a ‘fertility kit’ whereupon the elderly and streetwise father states that he once had something similar … ‘ Your mother in something black and slinky, a bottle of chilled wine and Dean Martin on the turntable!

    Perfect.

  26. 0tralala said,

    September 25, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Fascinating article, thank you. We finished our final course of IVF earlier this year with no good result and are now looking into adoption. We found the whole process of IVF utterly harrowing. (I blogged about it at 0tralala.blogspot.com/2010/02/ivf.html and
    then again at 0tralala.blogspot.com/2010/04/game-over.html.)

    We were caught between three health authorities so I’ve used the wanking rooms in four different hospitals in the last few years.

    They all provide instructions. For the initial tests into infertility, you’re meant to abstain from sex for three days prior to producing a specimen. When it gets to the IVF itself the instructions are more complex – you have to ejaculate as near to 48 hours before as
    possible, and then on the day itself, once the eggs have been prepared, everyone’s just down the corridor waiting on you. So no pressure.

    But otherwise the hospitals do very different things. Hospital #1 had a photocopied sheet (which I kept because I thought no one would believe me) that explains things like, “The specimen must be obtained by masturbation…”. It also says, in bold, “NB There are no
    facilities for the specimen to be produced at [Hospital #1]” and that specimens must be delivered within 45 minutes.

    This is something of a bother if you live 45 minutes away from the hospital by car, and worse if you don’t have a car. At exactly what stage in the process do you ring for the taxi – before or after?

    The taxi driver will inevitably arrive earlier than you’re expecting, and then – as you sit red-faced and guilty in the cab – will not know where the hospital is. So you get out the photocopied sheet for the address, and realise as you show it to him that it says in big letters “Semen samples for infertility investigation”.

    There is not a lot of dignity in this process.

    I’ve sadly not been able to find the photocopied sheet from Hospital #2, but I’m pretty sure I kept it because it said something along the lines of, “Please do not produce specimens in the waiting room.” I assume they need to tell us this based on past experience.

    At Hospital #3 there’s a special toilet cubicle with its own key and a small offering of tatty pornography. You collect the key from the nice lady at reception, who provides you with a pot and a brown envelope. You produce your specimen, fill in the label on the jar and hide the jar in the envelope. You then take it back to reception, but don’t hand it to the receptionist. Instead, you put it in one of the lockers opposite, lock the door and hand the key to the locker and the key to
    the wanking room to the receptionist. That way, of course, she won’t know what you’ve just done.

    If someone else is waiting for the room, you don’t hand the key to them. Instead, you pass it to the receptionist who leaves a beat before handing it the next wanker. You shuffle off, trying not to make
    eye contact.

    Worse is when the next person is already waiting before you go in. You find yourself wondering if you’ve been to quick or slow. Is there a study on the optimum time spent having a wank?

    Because of building work at Hospital #3, our last go at IVF was split between there and at Hospital #4, with me dashing across town in a taxi to deliver freshly harvested bits of my wife. Hospital #4 is an
    altogether different operation, with a very smart room for a better class of wank. There’s a light outside the door to let other people know its occupied, a DVD player as well as the magazines, and a comfy leather chair. Well, I say “comfy” – it would be in any other
    circumstance. You try not to wonder if the seat is warm from the last occupant, and not to make the chair squeak.

    Instead of a locker system, you put your labelled jar into a pneumatic tube. It’s like a wank from the future.

    The porn was still just as cheap and tatty as that in Hospital #3 – which I’m sure will come as some comfort to taxpayers and think-tanks. And it’s a stressy, pressured thing to have to do anyway, and so
    spectacularly unerotic. As a bloke, this is your one contribution to a process that is, for your partner, awful and intrusive and bruising – physically and mentally. You spend most of your time as a useless
    spare part, while the person you love goes through hell.

    You get used to the matter-of-fact and brutal language with which your plumbing and parts are discussed. You get used to the numbers these tests produce, and the stark probabilities of success. You and your partner are utterly objectified, cuts of meat on the slab.

    I appreciate the objections to porn, and in the context a workplace. But as my blog post says, there’s a lot of weird reactions to IVF, and the way some people judge you for it – or seem to – is particularly cruel.

    IVF is a desperate and terrible thing to go through. I’d have stabbed myself in the eye if the doctors had said it increased the chances of success. £20 a year on some tatty jazz mags doesn’t seem very excessive.

  27. lproven said,

    September 25, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    I thought that standard practice in sperm banks was prostate stimulation? Viz, basically, a cold glass rod up the jaxie, prod at just the right spot and wallop, there’s your sample.

    Or have I been misinformed, or been reading urban legends?

  28. MicheleB said,

    September 25, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    How is having someone getting a medical handy in one of those rooms LESS gross for the NHS staff than porn? I would think the nurses would find it significantly more gross.

    These people pontificating on the most socially acceptable way to get semen in a cup seem kind of nosy.

  29. HobbesLondon said,

    September 25, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Iproven – certainly not in IVF clinics where private or NHS it is a room and a mag/DVD.

    Having been the female bit of the process a number of times (successfully in my case and no, reprehensible, I did not have twins) I can say that there is no way I would be in that room even if I wasn’t prostrate on a bed in a gown about to have people digging around in my ovaries.The IVF process is a grim way to procreate at the best of times. My partner can confirm that the quality of the mags was the same whether NHS or private. There were also lots of stern advice about hand cleanliness and not touching the pot etc. again the same whether paying or not.

  30. brookster said,

    September 25, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    As someone who’s given a semen sample, my only advice is to take your own pornography with you. Or load up a suitable video on your smartphone.

  31. bigrazorsis said,

    September 25, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    The thing that tended to work best for me in this situation was my Gillian McKeith videos.

  32. brookster said,

    September 25, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    So coprophilia’s your thing?

  33. Jellytussle said,

    September 25, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    In Southampton General Hospital the sperm storage facilities (which operate for those about to have chemotherapy as well as the IVF customers) has an information pamphlet with a passage: “…pornographic magazines are provided, but please feel free to bring your own if you prefer.”

  34. Abhishek Arora said,

    September 25, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    To me, at least, it makes perfect sense! How else do you expect men to donate high quality sperm?
    After all this is for a good cause & not for self gratification!

    Not to mention the pressure the patient is under, trying to wank, with people outside queuing up to use the room and everybody waiting for “your sample.”

    No pressure at all! How the hell is the donor patient going to even get it up with all that happening all round him and the knowing smirk from the people in the living room when he comes out!
    These women have no idea, what it is like! Those poor men need all the help they can get!

    Imagine doing it in a Hospital room facing a white wall! It is just not practical!

    Some people just like to make noise, esp. Sun with its half nude Page 3 models!

    These people are far from reality and don the holier than thou altitude!

    I agree with Otoralia when he says that – “IVF is a desperate and terrible thing to go through. I’d have stabbed myself in the eye if the doctors had said it increased the chances of success. £20 a year on some tatty jazz mags doesn’t seem very excessive.”

  35. Eli said,

    September 25, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    a danger to men as it introduces addictive material into their treatment (which “beggars belief”)

    By this token, it “beggars belief” that doctors would ever prescribe painkillers.

  36. Kapitano said,

    September 25, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Was anyone seriously unaware that sperm donation involved optional pornography? “I am shocked, shocked to find pornography going on in this establishment!”

    But I have a solution to The Scum’s worries – an automated electrically powered Orifice & Semen Collector. The customer sits comfortably in the chair with the tea and biscuit while the Orifice Device mechanically stimulates them to orgasm…and neatly collects the result.

    All deliveries of supplies to hospitals in plain brown wrapping from Gloryhole Industries.

  37. reprehensible said,

    September 25, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    @ Womble, sorry to hear you were unsuccesful. The world needs more parents who post on this site! (Still think we need to debate the rationing issues though)

  38. William said,

    September 26, 2010 at 12:38 am

    What a depressingly uptight society we live in. Yes of course we are supposed to pretend we disapprove of porn, but for heaven’s sake do we really have to put up with “adultery of the mind”, “a danger to men” and other Harriet Harmanisms at a fertility clinic where – if anywhere, surely – the realities of sexual response should be understood and acknowledged?

    With any luck there is a massage parlour located conveniently near the hospital.

  39. Bogusman said,

    September 26, 2010 at 12:43 am

    My abiding memory was that the little room was ever so cold. That really didn’t help matters along. I don’t even remember anything about the quality of the visual aids.

  40. Steve August said,

    September 26, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Sort of a sperm in a teacup story really. Here’s a chance for some investigative reporting – can anyone (cleaner, reporter, anyone) check out if the Sun and Telegraph newsrooms have naked women pinups on the walls or behind the doors? Usually the greater the holier-than-thou outrage in public, the dirtier the underpants are in private: it’s called hypocrisy.

  41. Sili said,

    September 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Funny that they focus on the pr0n.

    My question is, why is the NHS wasting money on producing yet more kids in the world that’s already seriously overpopulated? Plenty of savings to be had here.

    If people want to spawn that badly, they can bloody well pay for it. If they can’t pony up £6k for the treatment, how can they even think of ever affording to raise a kid?

    and sperm can only be retrieved by epididymal aspiration, or rather, a needle inserted into the testicle.

    Oooooooh! This would solve a lot of propblems. Can’t we make it so that all conceptions have to go this route?

  42. euthyphro said,

    September 26, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Manning’s ‘investigation’ reports the mind-blowing fact that a large minority of NHS trusts spend an annual average of £21.32 supplying jazz mags to fertility clinics. But beyond that, not a jot of substantive evidence is provided to support any of her claims. Instead she provides a medley of logical fallacies and non-sequiturs poorly marshalled into a singularly unconvincing Daily-Mailesque rant. The links she provides are painfully inadequate: a broken link to an article from the guardian ‘life and style’ section; an article from New York magazine by Naomi Wolf, whose ‘evidence’ is introduced with the phrase ‘Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up…’; an article from ‘the First Post’, a newspaper which specialises in the second hand reporting of stories from other newspapers. It is a sad state of affairs when such blatant political propaganda dressed up as research should reach the light of day.

  43. Twm said,

    September 26, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    I went to an ‘andrology clinic’ drop in center as a precaution due to the fact that I was going to have pelvic surgery.

    It was very surreal going from a hospital corridor into a little hotel like room with bed.
    I have to admit to being surprised by the porn mags provided, I assumed it was BYO. With infection control I would have thought they needed sealed bags and discarded at the end of each session.

    Anyway, It’s the TV that got me. Only one channel worked and it played a film of a ‘naughty nurse’ being pounded by stressed surgeon. Part of me wondered if was a theater cam accidentally piped through.

  44. Jon d said,

    September 27, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Seems very quait that they’ve kept the paper system in place in the internet age seeing as the free samples you can get off the web are miles better than newsagent porno mags ever were.

    Not quite sure why Ben thinks the choice of images is for Kilgallon and Simmons wasn’t right? Surely it’d depend whether the viewer could safely be assumed to identify with a single male or view him as a rival?

    The same study btw found a significant relationship between both sperm quality and quantity from mobile phone storage proximate to the gonads.

  45. Marcus Hill said,

    September 27, 2010 at 9:24 am

    It may soon be a moot point anyway – several PCTs have already announced that they’re not going to fund IVF as a money saving measure.

  46. elpenordignam said,

    September 27, 2010 at 11:15 am

    My issue is not so much with my taxes being spent on pornography but rather the promotion of masturbation by the NHS.

  47. dabscience said,

    September 27, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Given that there is an evidence base for the effectiveness of visual stimulation, maybe the NHS should produce their own materials (featuring NHS employees naturally). They would be providing their service in the name of good clinical practice. The moral dilemmas of supporting the porn industry and exploiting women would be neatly sidestepped.

  48. dabscience said,

    September 27, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    On further reflection, this could even generate some profit for the NHS if they could sell the product to other providers.

  49. JonDurham said,

    September 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    This reminds me of the Family Guy episode where Peter wanders into the fertility clinic store cupboard with his flask, and manages to knock over and smash every sample in the room. When the nurse knocks on the door to ask why he’s been in there so long, he replies with something like ‘No reason … I didn’t have to replace EVERY sample’.

  50. sciencerocks said,

    September 27, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Last 2009, HEFCE announced that 48 additional student numbers (ASNs) would go to a ‘project’ (presumably a degree of some description) in Health & Costume. Imagine if a male patient was accompanied by a nurse dressed in Rocky Horror costume. Would that aid the process better than pornography?

    www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/circlets/2009/cl22_09/

    PS the ideas by the ‘think tank’ on pornography reminded my of some great Bill Hicks material.

  51. nanite2000 said,

    September 27, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    @Sili (#41): By that rationality, a lot more money can be saved by simply cutting out funding for cancer research and treatment. If you want to limit population growth, then you might as well cut out those people who are least likely to survive, right?

  52. Daibhid C said,

    September 27, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Am I the only one here who remembers the episode of Coupling with the fertility clinic? Steve goes into a rant about the poor quality of porn available, and dragoons Jeff into, yes, getting his personal stash for him…

    @Steve August (#40): I’d be absolutely astounded if the Sun doesn’t have nude pictures on the walls, given that it has them in the paper. The only way this could be more hypocritical is if it was the Star

  53. andy2 said,

    September 28, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Funny you should speak about The Star as they have already covered the same report and reported on it in the most attention seeking manner by advertising their owner’s porn channel! It was duly picked up by tabloid watch….

    tabloid-watch.blogspot.com/2010/09/northern-shameless.html

  54. MSB said,

    September 28, 2010 at 9:49 am

    @ 0tralala, thank you. You put it far more eloquently than I ever could.

    One thing that got me though was the poor collection method. Surely a condom would help with trapping the collection. The Pope wouldn’t approve, though.

  55. bob sterman said,

    September 28, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Indeed copulatory ejaculates collected using a special condom are superior…

    Zavos PM. Seminal parameters of ejaculates collected from oligospermic and normospermic patients via masturbation and at intercourse with the use of a Silastic seminal fluid collection device. Fertil Steril1985;44:5 17-20.

    Zavos PM. Characteristics of human ejaculates collected via masturbation and a new silastic seminal fluid collection device. Fertil Steril 1985;43:491-2.

  56. Moobs said,

    September 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    When I opened the drawer in the little Pine table in St Thomas’IVF unit’s sample collection room, I was greeted by a copy of Farmer’s Weekly. Gracing its cover was an enormous udder.

    I was offered the chance to watch DVD Porn on condition I filled in a questionnaire that indicated whether it had made the process more “efficient”. The form did not elucidate how efficiency was to be measured.

  57. elvisionary said,

    September 29, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Not a pleasant experience. When I went into the little room I was surprised to find a dog-eared copy of Razzle in a drawer. The whole environment was hardly erotic, and it was soon evident that the editor of Razzle and I didn’t share the same view of what is attractive – I think the naked female form is an incredibly beautiful thing if presented in the right way, but this was all a bit gynaecological and disrespectful for my tastes.

    So I returned Razzle to the drawer and tried to focus my mind on the task in hand. Not surprisingly, I had a little difficulty finding the required, ahem, fortitude. But my brave little soldiers dutifully lined themselves up and on my command launched themselves out of the trenches and charged into the no-man’s-land of the little tube. Unfortunately it was only at this point that the aforementioned fortitude fully arrived, and because I had positioned myself in such a way as to ensure no wastage, I soon found myself painfully stuck. Not recommended.

    All in all, I’m totally in favour of such material being provided to those who find it helpful, no matter how tasteless it might be. Anything to help people get a tricky job done…

  58. The_Purple_Cow said,

    September 29, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    My experience was at the Vrij Universiteit Hospital in Amsterdam in late 1998, and early 1999. I think I must have been there for five or six ‘donations’, before I finally came up with enough goods to produce my two sons.

    The cubicles were in a block of six, which were segregated only by thin sheets of pegboard, through which you could hear everything down to the softest rustle in the other cubicles. I noticed pretty early on that white guys tended to go in alone, but Turkish and Moroccan guys tended to take their partners in with them. It was grimly fascinating to hear couples getting it on in Turkish or Arabic just a couple of feet from where I was sitting. The cubicles were painted grey with a hard bench covered in paper roll. Other than that there was an ancient TV with a VHS player, a pile of ten to fifteen year old porno magazines, a porno video cassette, a box of tissues and a waste basket with a lining marked ‘Biological Materials’. You couldn’t really open the magazines, the pages were ‘glued’ together with years of spilt semen, I tried pealing a couple of pages apart, but gave up pretty quickly.

    All the cubicles had the same movie, it starred a nice looking Dutch girl wearing early ’80’s disco clothing (remember those bright blue lycra leggings and the pink headbands?), even on a trip to the supermarket. Much of the movie was filmed on an Amsterdam house boat about two hundred meters from where I lived, (the boat is still there). At one stage she emerges on to the deck, having shagged three blokes senseless, and you could see the end of my street behind her. Incredibly, by pausing the video I was able to ascertain that our neighbor hadn’t changed her curtains in at least fifteen years. Unfortunately I more often than not got stuck in cubicle four, where the video was stuck on a boring scene where she sat with four blokes in a restaurant. I’m sure that scene lead to something, but unfortunately I’ll never know.

    On the last fateful day, I sat very early on a cold grey Monday morning under a fluorescent strip light that continuously flickered on-and-off and made a loud buzzing noise. I’d just thought, ‘let’s just get this done and get out of here’ when I heard two electricians explaining to the receptionist that they had come to replace the strip light in cubicle 4! So there I am doing what I have to do, while there’s a big hairy-assed Dutch bloke hammering on the door, shouting “hallo-oh, is there anybody in here? ‘ere Jan, are you sure it’s cubicle four?”

    My humiliation was complete, but maybe that’s what did the trick…?

  59. NeilHoskins said,

    September 30, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Nice article, Ben, thank you. And thanks also to 0tralala and the others who describe the whole miserable experience far better than I could myself, having been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. IVF is an unpleasant, nasty experience and its details aren’t discussed openly nearly enough. I should add, of course, that the unpleasantness, nastiness, and humiliation are about ten times worse for the woman.

  60. squitchtweak said,

    September 30, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    A slightly more serious comment on Statgen’s comment about the tea and biscuit – how much money does the NHS spend on tea and biscuits? They do seem to like giving people tea.

  61. LastResort33 said,

    October 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    @squitchtweak: Tea is a very important part of the healing process… considering how difficult it is for anything to happen in the NHS, a cup of tea while you wait is vital.

    And I’m not joking either, the placebo effect shows that making people feel better is about more than drugs and surgery. It would be interesting to see some sort of trial done to compare the recovery rates of people consistently being offered tea against those not.

  62. misterjohn said,

    October 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    I had lithotripsy treatment for kidney stones last week, and was offered tea (or coffee) and biscuits afterwards. My wife was also given a cup of tea. But no sandwich as it was too late.
    The coffee and biscuits were very nice, particularly as I was drugged up to the eye balls with pethidine, and hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for 8 hours.
    I guess the NHS must spend a lot on tea and biscuits, but they probably have a placebo effect or better. The Government will no doubt soon expect you to bring in your own biscuits and tea bags, as an economy drive.

  63. gothgirl said,

    October 3, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Surely what one needs is a copy of the Sun with its famous ‘nature’ photography on page 3. Objectifying women? But who am I to accuse the Sun of hypocrisy.

  64. Guy said,

    October 4, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Purple cow. that was brilliant. thanks for sharing the reality. Perhaps we should start a campaign for better quality porn for the poor donors! When you think of the billions spent in hospital, a few quid on magazines is neither here nor there. Typical red top hypocrisy.

  65. LiseW said,

    October 6, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Do you think the NHS would mind much if the men (and possibly women) brought their own pornography with? :)

  66. ml66uk said,

    October 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Done it in three countries. As a sperm donor in the UK and Australia, and as a known donor at a private clinic in Belgium. Tatty porn was provided in all three places, but no tea or biscuits, and the process was far from edifying. Still without it, my eight-year old daughter wouldn’t be here, and I’ve presumably helped some other families bring children into the world.

    elpenordignam said: “My issue is not so much with my taxes being spent on pornography but rather the promotion of masturbation by the NHS.”

    Umm, what’s wrong with masturbation?

  67. chrisdunst said,

    November 10, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Its really a disgraceful thing to do at a place like hospital. It should be condemn by all.