The Origins of the Myth

The baster is a large kitchen tool used to moisten meat while it cooks, which you may be familiar with if you have a roast turkey dinner for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But the baster has long had another association: as a tool for self-insemination. Christine Ro examines how the myth of turkey-baster insemination came to be, where it originated, and whether or not babies have ever been conceived in this manner.

It was during the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. I was restless. And after making a number of unexpected discoveries, I developed a mild obsession with turkey basters—kitchen tools that resemble big syringes but are meant to keep meat moist while roasting.

It began when an unknown person messaged me on Facebook, suggesting that we might be related. This discovery of a half-brother made me reflect on my general apathy about genetic origins. Being the adopted aunt of a Mexican, the stepsister of a Filipina, the daughter of a Korean, and the stepdaughter of a Native American, I’ve never placed too much value on ties based on bloodline.

But for my half-brother, as for so many people around the world, this chromosomal link meant something. I wanted to better understand what I was missing, and this curiosity took me in some unexpected directions.

During that early, isolated, Zoom-heavy phase of the pandemic, I attended a webinar titled “Curious connections: the social life of egg and sperm donation.” It was part of a sociology research project at the University of Manchester.

During this discussion, University of Hertfordshire sociologist Kathryn Almack inquired about the history of the “turkey-baster myth.” This folklore claims that turkey basters are useful for more than just cooking—they can also be used to transfer sperm from a man into a woman without requiring sexual contact.

“I wonder where that myth about the turkey-baster came from; according to my research, women who use known donor sperm typically use a small syringe,” Almack pondered. Given the tiny amount of sperm per donation, the couples she spoke with for her research “said they used syringes and laughed at the idea of turkey basters!”

And with that, I set out to find out more about the turkey-baster myth. Over the past few years, visiting archives, reading writings by self-insemination pioneers, and learning more about women’s experiences managing their own fertility have made for a pleasant, low-stakes, idle curiosity project.

“Considering the small amount of sperm per donation, the couples who were interviewed stated that they used syringes and laughed at the idea of turkey basters!”

It is now evident that the “turkey-baster insemination plot” is a popular culture cliche that can be humorous at times or frightening and violent at others, which is one of the main reasons the myth endures. The baster in the soap opera Jane the Virgin is large and goofy, but in the horror movie Don’t Breathe, it’s terrifying. In both cases the baster has a dramatic visual presence.

However, a particular form of visual culture called pornography has given rise to some common misconceptions about the amount of semen that is produced during an ejaculation. Let’s just say that an eye dropper or teaspoon is generally big enough.

Women have often had to be resourceful and innovative when it comes to getting pregnant. And, though their use has been exaggerated, women have certainly tried using turkey basters as vehicles for sperm. “I think that turkey basters or similar devices were used for at-home inseminations,” says Lisa Jean Moore, a medical sociologist at the State University of New York. “People also have been known to put semen on diaphragms and then insert them. ”.

Moore herself has personal experience of self-insemination, using a syringe. “I believe that syringes for medical use can be difficult to come by, depending on where a person lives and their access to healthcare, so people make do with readily available technologies.” ”.

While artificial insemination goes back centuries, the “turkey-baster era” of self-insemination dates to around the 1970s. There was plenty of personal experimentation involved, for instance within the Feminist Self-Insemination Group in London.

Lesbian and feminist organizations played a particularly significant role in promoting the idea that conception didn’t have to be extremely expensive, medicalized, or exclusive. This was crucial for certain groups of women, such as queer and single women, who faced particularly harsh judgment from the moralistic medical establishment.

“A symbol of domesticity turned into a tool for taking charge of one’s own reproduction, a welcome diversion from reports of doctors secretly inseminating women.” ”.

Parts of the groundbreaking book on women’s sexual health “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” which was published in the 1970s, contributed to the idea that turkey basters could be used as a tool for reproductive agency. A tool for taking charge of one’s own reproduction was once a symbol of domesticity; this was a welcome change from the reports of doctors secretly inseminating women or comparing artificial insemination to adultery or worse. Using ordinary household implements also allowed self-inseminators to evade the scrutiny of would-be meddlers.

A woman expressed amazement in the 1979 book “Up Against the Clock: Career Women Speak on the Choice to Have Children” when she learned that lesbian women on the West Coast were using turkey basters to inseminate themselves. That’s right, the kind you keep in your kitchen. I know it sounds a little strange, but I thought it was a wonderful idea. So I used a turkey baster and there was nothing to it. ”.

Since then, at-home insemination has gained a great deal of normalcy and precision, and the self-inseminator has access to an astounding array of tools and resources. Turkey basters, meanwhile, have generally returned to their single purpose in the kitchen.

Yet “turkey baster” remains a kind of shorthand. It can also refer to self-insemination using a syringe or cervical cap in place of a baster, and it was used hundreds of years before the invention of the turkey baster.

Regardless of how common it ever was, the turkey-baster myth remains a useful reference point. It’s also a reminder that family units come in all sorts of configurations. That’s beneficial for those like me who harbor unresolved emotions regarding the genetic ties we share with non-biological relatives.

Strangely, my research into turkey basters has become a conduit for some of my questions about family, even though there’s no connection. Now, a few times a year, my half-brother and I exchange halting messages in an attempt to maintain a shaky connection. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Steven is a photographer at Wellcome. His photography takes inspiration from the museum’s rich and varied collections. He enjoys collaborating on creative projects and taking them to imaginative places.

Can You Get Pregnant by a Turkey Baster? The Truth Behind the Myth

The “turkey baster baby” myth has been circulating for decades, but is there any truth to it? Can you really get pregnant using a turkey baster to inseminate yourself with sperm?

The turkey baster myth likely originated in the 1970s, during a time when women were gaining more control over their reproductive health. Feminist groups and lesbian couples were exploring alternative methods of conception, including self-insemination

Back then, access to medical-grade insemination supplies was limited, so some women turned to household items like turkey basters as a way to inseminate themselves. This practice was documented in books like “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” which helped to spread the myth.

The Reality of Turkey Baster Insemination

While it’s technically possible to get pregnant using a turkey baster, it’s not recommended for several reasons:

  • Hygiene: Turkey basters are not sterile and can harbor bacteria that could cause infections.
  • Effectiveness: Turkey basters are not designed for insemination and may not deliver the sperm effectively to the cervix.
  • Safety: The force used to squeeze the bulb of a turkey baster could damage the cervix.

A Safer and More Effective Option: Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

If you’re considering self-insemination, it’s much safer and more effective to use a medical-grade insemination kit. These kits contain a sterile syringe and a catheter that can be inserted into the cervix.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a procedure that involves placing washed and concentrated sperm directly into the uterus This is typically done at a fertility clinic and is more effective than self-insemination with a turkey baster

Who is a good candidate for IUI?

IUI is a good option for couples who are experiencing infertility due to:

  • Endometriosis
  • Male factor infertility
  • Cervical factor infertility
  • Unexplained infertility

IUI is not recommended for women who have blocked fallopian tubes or who are over the age of 40.

The Bottom Line

The turkey baster myth is just that – a myth. While it’s technically possible to get pregnant using a turkey baster, it’s not a safe or effective method of insemination. If you’re considering self-insemination, talk to your doctor about using a medical-grade insemination kit or undergoing IUI at a fertility clinic.

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Find Out If the Turkey Baster Method Is Real

Can you get pregnant with a turkey baster?

The Turkey Baster Method is the most common way of artificial insemination to get pregnant via artificial insemination at home. More often than not you do NOT actually use a turkey baster but instead, a disposable syringe. Obie is your reproductive health coach, helping you reach your goal with expert personalized guidance. Not an iOS user?

How to inseminate yourself with a Turkish Baster baby?

It takes just three quick steps to complete the process: Draw the semen from the cup into the syringe. Then, insert the syringe into your vagina. Lastly, press the plunger to release the semen inside your body. As you can see, the “Turkey Baster Baby” method is a quick and simple way to inseminate yourself.

How do you do turkey baster insemination at home?

Here’s what you need for turkey baster insemination at home: It takes just three quick steps to complete the process: Draw the semen from the cup into the syringe. Then, insert the syringe into your vagina. Lastly, press the plunger to release the semen inside your body.

Should I buy a turkey baster If I have infertility?

If you’re experiencing infertility, artificial insemination is typically a good place to start because of its low cost, reduced side effects, and lower health risks. Don’t go buy the turkey baster though; your doctor can help you find an at-home insemination kit that will come with the necessary tools, no turkey baster needed!

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