Could VR porn boost the sperm stockpile?

Immersive 360 degree videos are finding their way into special rooms in clinics

Tucked away on a side street in Barcelona, opposite the Villa Amèlia Gardens, is a centre that's home to a teenage boy's dream. A room designed to "increase the male satisfaction level," where adult films and virtual reality headsets line the walls and vagina shaped masturbators are dished out to visitors. Welcome to the Erotic Personal System. A porn lover's paradise.

Don't book your flights just yet. This isn't a room for randy so-and-sos, it's a carefully curated experience in the Institut Marquès, a private fertility clinic with centres in Barcelona, London, and Dublin – and the EPS (only found in Spain so far) is the ultimate semen sample collection room.

The "special place" has been created to offer patients a selection of stimulation methods. "Where men can feel as comfortable as possible and get maximum pre-excitement prior to ejaculation," Dr Marisa López-Teijón, the head of assisted reproduction at Institut Marquès, tells Wareable.

A room with a VR view

The USC Los Angeles Fertility Center has also adopted virtual reality in order to help men deposit a sample of sperm. Dr Richard Paulson told press earlier this year that the immersive kit "offers the patient an opportunity to leave the stressful environment of the collection room and makes the experience more pleasant."

VR Bangers is the adult entertainment company which supplies the all-in-one AuraVisor headset pre-loaded with 4K 360-degree videos for the USC Center. Examples of what viewers can expect include scenes with "an Asian geisha" and "a cute blonde pizza delivery girl in a sexy hotel room". Fantasy, remember.

"In the coming months I look forward to bringing relief to many other clinics around the world," said Daniel Abramovich, CEO of VR Bangers back in July. "Anything we can do to ease the hardship of people going through the IVF process with our award winning hardcore content is something we are eager to offer people everywhere."

A pleasant experience for would-be fathers is only the beginning. Dr López-Teijón says it's been proven that a high level of arousal can have a positive affect on a sample.

The EPS program in Barcelona corresponds to studies that suggest "the intensity and time of sexual excitation" can not only reduce the chance of a partial ejaculation but also "ensure higher vascular irrigation" so that "the prostate and seminal vesicles secrete more seminal fluid", with a "full ejaculation" enabling patients to produce a semen sample that is superior in both quantity and quality.

Dr. López-Teijón calls this a "more complete" ejaculation and argues that such samples have a greater potential to fertilise an egg.

Of horse and men

Could VR porn boost the sperm stockpile?

Professor Allan Pacey MBE, head of andrology at the University of Sheffield and former chairman of the British Fertility Society, and an expert in sperm quality diagnosis, agrees there is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that increased sexual arousal is linked to better quality ejaculates – "not because more sperm are produced under these circumstances [it takes three months to produce a sperm] but probably because the ejaculatory response is altered and the neuronal innovation pinches off the vas deferens closer to the testicle, thereby capturing more sperm."

Animal breeders have known this for years, he says, citing the process of showing a stallion a 'teaser mare' before being taken to the mare that he is required to mount.

"In the human situation, the data is less clear but there are studies showing that when men view images which show more erotic scenes, in their opinion, more sperm are ejaculated," he says. "This is of interest clinically as we have to conclude that when we look at ejaculates produced in a sterile environment of a hospital, they may not be representative of those that a man may produce at home, in the company of his partner."

Escaping the clinic

The power of VR to transport users somewhere else, in this case into a sexual fantasy, could be an obvious answer for when the nerves set in. In the case of IVF patients this can turn a "hyper-responsible" task into just another session of 'me time'.

Making the process less clinical, "allowing men to feel as if they have escaped the small sterile collection room", is one of the main reasons the USC Fertility clinic in California adopted VR.

"The process of collecting sperm can be one of the most dreaded parts of the process for the male partner as men can find it embarrassing, awkward and stressful," Dr Kristin A Bendikson, a fertility specialist at USC, told us. "The use of virtual reality technology will hopefully ease the tension and help our male patients through the process, making the collection easier."

A boost to sperm stockpiles?

Could VR porn boost the sperm stockpile?

There's a broader issue on the map here too. Last year, the UK's first and only National Sperm Bank stopped taking donors, only two years after its launch in 2014. It was set up with the goal to challenge a dwindling stockpile of NHS sperm – and failed miserably with just a total of nine donors. Conversely, the UK's private sperm bank industry is in a healthy state but can charge up to £950 per insemination compared to £300 at the national bank.

With 'Viking babies' taking over the world, it could be argued that there's a need for affordable sperm in the UK – so could the use of high-end tech spark a surge in donations?

Professor Pacey, who argues there's still very much a need for a national bank, doesn't believe so. He says that whilst innovative use of technology – such as the Tinder for sperm donors mobile app launched last year by the London Sperm Bank, an idea already used in US and Denmark – has a role to play in the evolution of sperm donation, "the decision to be a sperm donor is down to other factors unrelated to the erotic material made available."


In fact, he says the use of any erotic material in clinics remains a controversial topic in the UK, citing a report published in 2010 by the right wing think tank 2020health, which was critical of NHS spending (what amounted to roughly £25 per hospital per year) on visual sexual stimulation (VSS).

In response, Pacey wrote an editorial in the Journal of Sexual Medicine (JSM) about the medical benefits of erotic material. Still, the NHS spending money on expensive VR systems in the current financial climate would not "go down very well," he says and, for the time being, the most donors should expect are a few DVDs and some magazines.

But with VR Bangers' business section listing sperm banks and fertility centres, alongside hotels and online retail, as the sectors it has worked with, we expect to see more and more private clinics getting into VR.


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