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School of Social Sciences Studentships 

Fees-Paid funded PhD studentship starting 1st October 2018

Plus Icon Women's experiences of unregulated sperm donors

Project Description

Increasing economic and health inequalities restrict women in accessing assisted conception via the medico-legal structures of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).  Consequently, increasing numbers of women are resorting to obtaining sperm donations from men on unregulated websites and social networking sites.  Initial research (McQuoid, 2015) indicates that one in two of these women are abused by unregulated sperm donors, who insist on “Artificial Insemination Plus” (AI+), i.e., the woman sexually stimulates the man to produce the sperm sample, “Partial Insemination” (PI), i.e. the man partially inserts his penis into the woman, or “Natural Insemination” (NI), i.e. the man has unprotected sex with the woman to impregnate her.  These men often sexually groom women in a vulnerable position to convince them that “PI”/“NI” doesn’t constitute sex and that these will be more effective than artificial insemination, or otherwise mislead women, agreeing to artificial insemination but then demanding AI+/PI/NI.  Some online sperm donors also pressure women to send sexual photos/messages, demand high financial remuneration and/or sexually assault women pregnant with their sperm.  This abuse disproportionately affects marginalised women, e.g. limited economic means, intellectual/psychosocial disabilities, young/sexual minority women.  This is an important, but very new, area of research.  This project is likely to involve:

  • A scoping review to map the key concepts underpinning this new area (online sperm donation and women’s experiences of it) and the main sources and types of evidence available, including policies, legislation, academic scholarship and debates.

  • An environmental scan to systematically identify the websites and social media platforms used by online sperm donors, followed by a qualitative analysis of how men, women and children are constructed within these websites/platforms.

  • A qualitative longitudinal study of women looking for online sperm donors, starting with their initial search and following their journeys over a 12- to 18-month period.  This could involve diaries and interviews, though other (particularly creative) methods, are welcomed.

  • Possibly, as well/instead of the longitudinal study, retrospective qualitative research with women about their previous experiences of online sperm donors.

 Supervision Team

Professor Georgina Jones (G.L.Jones@leedsbeckett.ac.uk) and Dr Tamara Turner-Moore (t.turner-moore@leedsbeckett.ac.uk), School of Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University.

Plus Icon How to apply

Applicants should send the following to researchadmissions@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

  1. A full academic CV.
  2. A completed application form (which can be accessed here). The application form includes a research proposal of up to four A4 pages using Arial 12 point (with references as an addition to the proposal). The research proposal should: (a) expand on the project description to provide a focused literature review, the research aims, and a detailed description of the fieldwork, including (where applicable) participants, methods, analysis, and timeline; and (b) indicate where you already have experience and skills relevant to the eligibility criteria and research proposal. The proposal should clearly meet the requirements outlined in the Project Description.
  3. Scanned copies of your degree certificates (e.g. undergraduate or masters degree certificates) and transcripts.
  4. If relevant, scanned copies of your English language requirements.
  5. If relevant, scanned copies of your passport and previous UK visas.

 The closing date for applications is midnight on Sunday 2nd September 2018. Shortlisting is due to take place  Wednesday 5th September with  Interviews taking place on Thursday 13th September.


Plus Icon Contact Us

Candidates are encouraged to contact Professor Georgina Jones via email or phone 0113 812 5106 prior to applying for an informal chat about their qualifications, experience and research proposal.

Plus Icon Mode of Study and funding

This PhD can be completed full-time (3-4 years) or part-time (4-6 years).  The studentship covers the cost of tuition fees for UK and EU students (currently £4,260 p.a. for full-time UK/EU students).  Prospective students from outside the UK/EU should contact Research Admissions for further information.  All Leeds Beckett Psychology PhD students have a budget of £1000 each to spend on conference attendance and additional funds are available for research-related costs.  For funding towards living costs, see: https://www.gov.uk/funding-for-postgraduate-study

Plus Icon Eligibility

We are seeking an impassioned and high-achieving student. Applicants should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject (e.g. psychology, sociology, gender studies). The following are highly desirable, though not essential: (1) a postgraduate qualification in a relevant discipline; (2) experience of undertaking and analysing qualitative research; (3) experience of undertaking research on sensitive topics; (4) research, professional and/or voluntary experience with women who have accessed assisted conception in any capacity and/or experienced sexual violence.  Equivalent professional qualifications and any appropriate research experience may be considered.  For applicants whose first language is not English, a minimum English language level of IELTS score of 7.0 with no element below 6.5 is required. 

Plus Icon Overseas Applicants

Prospective students from outside of the UK and EU who wish to apply will be required to make up the difference annually between the UK/EU fees covered by the studentship (currently £4,260 per year) and overseas’ fees (currently £12,500 per year).  The fee difference must be paid prior to starting.  Overseas applicants must refer to the UKBA regulations on studying in the UK and contact Research Admissions before applying.


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