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The Indignity Of Producing a Sperm Sample – Is Home Testing The Way Forward?

The venue was an antiquated general hospital on the northern shores of the Welsh coastline.  The building looked like a prefabricated relic from the post war era from the early days of the NHS.  I was ushered by a matronly looking, stern but caring type of middle aged nurse, into a side room.  Her uniform, and the authority it represented, may have excited some men … but not me.

The room itself was painted in two shades of clinical green.  It contained a desk, an examination table, and various medical paraphernalia, including a stethoscope, a wound trolley, and x-ray viewing cabinet.

“Lie on there”, said Sister in a matter of fact sort of way, “and use this to collect the sample”, handing me a small jar on which had been written my name and hospital number.

With her instructions ringing in my ears, the ‘privacy curtain’ was pulled around me.  Sister apologised for not having any porn, and she was gone.

Like a ‘good patient’, I tried to ‘produce’ my sample.  Although a little embarrassed, I tried to be ‘grown up’ about the procedure.  These were professionals after all, and had asked many men to perform the same manoeuvre.

‘The sample’, of course, was of sperm … and it necessitated, as a precondition of its production, an erection.

I tried, as best conditions would allow, to make myself comfortable.  I took off my shoes, dropped my jeans to my ankles, and lay on my back with a heavy sense of duty.

I closed my eyes and withdrew into the deep recesses of my mind, you know, where the ‘really dirty’ fantasies reside … the ones that only come out when the need to cum outweighs the need masturbate in a morally responsible way.

Nothing happened … in fact the longer it took … the more difficult it became.

I wondered what NHS porn, should it have been available, would have looked like.  I came to the conclusion it probably wouldn’t have been of any help.  Any porn, so I reasoned, pre-screened and approved by Sister, wasn’t going to hit the spot.

I reflected that a more male friendly ‘masturbatory suite’ should have been pre-planned by managers for just these eventualities, and wondered what such a suite might contain.  A comfortable ‘bed’ was a must, as was subdued lighting, a DVD player of course, and perhaps solicitous décor.

Such thoughts, though pleasant, only served to impede my progress through my usual routine, and frustrated my ability to meet Sisters’ request.

As time moved on, I imagined the nurses talking amongst themselves, wondering why I was taking so long.  Perhaps it was the end of their shift, and they were waiting for me before going home.  The pressure was intense.

It was only when I was at the point of giving up that ‘things’ managed to stir in the right direction. Seizing my opportunity, I indulged with vigour – finally able to let inhibition retreat sufficiently to let necessity in.  I produced ‘my sample’.

Somewhat embarrassed by the three quarters of an hour I had been cocooned in this medico-sexual nightmare, I handed my sample to Sister with a sense of pride tapered with relief.  The ordeal was over.

“No” she said to my horror “you don’t give it to me, you have to take it to the lab”.

“The lab!” I exclaimed.

And so it was I was despatched to hand deliver the sample “as quickly as possible” to the counting facility for their attention.

I left the hospital feeling bruised and battered.  In producing ‘on command’, the very thing that defined me as a man, I had been emasculated by the process.

 

Perhaps because my memory of that day is etched indelibly into my consciousness, I read with considerable interest of the efforts of Loes Segerink and colleagues at the MESA and the Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.  They have produced a 10 centimetre long ‘lab on a chip’ that, in principle, means that sperm counting could be done at home.

What a great idea!

In fact the technology is so ‘portable’, it may be possible to deliver it as an ‘off the shelf’ test similar to women’s pregnancy testing kits.

Of course there are ‘ethical’ issues about making such tests available to men without a medical consultation.  Given my experience, if any medical ethicists are reading this, you need to seriously consider the ethical benefits of the home test, against the reality of its alternative.  Trust me, it’s not pretty!

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