Gestational surrogacy – carrying someone else’s baby (or babies) to term and giving birth to them – is perhaps one of the most intimate acts a human being can perform for others. However, the proliferation of commercial surrogacy has drawn concern and criticism, with many scholars arguing that it both creates and exacerbates global social and economic inequalities. Commercial surrogacy thus raises both the possibility of global intimate connection and the specter of reproductive exploitation. I therefore explore the various, shifting, and often discordant desires for intimate connection between the intending parent(s), the surrogate mother, and the resulting child(ren) in commercial surrogacy. I then examine how those intimacies intersect with commercial surrogacy’s socioeconomic inequalities. Weighing commercial surrogacy’s driving desires and intimate practices against its commercialization, I end with a reconsideration of the procreative desires and intimate practices that spur current international commercial surrogacy (ICS), urging an emphasis on reproductive justice.

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Sociological Research Online
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Cheney, K. (2021). Discordant Expectations of Global Intimacy: Desire and Inequality in Commercial Surrogacy. Sociological Research Online. doi:10.1177/1360780420984169