Back to Simmel: A new approach to third-party reproduction

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter addresses the attitudes of couples using Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) towards the third party involved in their parental project – either surrogates or gamete donors – through some Simmelian concepts (“door”, “bridge”, “stranger”, “third party”, “secrecy”, and “faithfulness”). I base my analysis on 66 in-depth interviews with different ART beneficiaries and professionals, in France and Portugal, specially 19 interviews with heterosexual and homosexual couples who used third-party reproduction in Europe and the USA. Neither the gamete donors nor the surrogates belong to the couple’s unit, but they do bring reproductive capacities (oocytes, sperm, and uterus). Like strangers, they engender distinctive combinations of both closeness and distance, involvement and indifference. Heterosexual and lesbian couples close the door to the third party: they do not wish to know his/her identity and avoid any situation that could entail proximity and thus lead to discomfort or disruption within the family. Conversely, gay couples wish to connect initially separated parties and build a bridge with the surrogate, overcoming both spatial and emotional separation. They develop friendship bonds and family ties with the surrogate, going far beyond the practical purpose behind its original creation. Simmel’s distinctive concepts and theoretical contributions are both original and fecund for rethinking third-party reproduction.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSimmel and Beyond
Subtitle of host publicationThe Contemporary Relevance of Simmel's Thought
EditorsPedro Caetano, Maria Manuela Mendes
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781000528749
ISBN (Print)9781032000916
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2022


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