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One woman's quest to make artificial insemination more intimate

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Stephanie Berman always thought that starting a family would be easy. True, being a lesbian threw some complications into the mix, but her years of work with Sepal Reproductive International meant she was familiar with the world of assisted reproduction. However, Berman quickly discovered that her available options as a consumer left something to be desired. Physician-assisted intrauterine insemination (IUI) costs anywhere from $500 to $1500 per attempt, a rather steep price for a procedure with a success rate that maxes out at around 20 percent. At-home insemination is cheaper, but using a syringe or turkey baster to initiate conception wasn’t quite the intimate, romantic experience Berman wanted to begin a new life with.

Using a syringe or turkey baster to initiate conception wasn't quite the romantic experience Berman wantedThe first artificial insemination was in London in the 1770s, when Scottish-born surgeon John Hunter advised a cloth merchant with severe hypospadias — a condition where the urethra is on the underside of the penis, rather than the tip — to collect semen spilled during intercourse in a warmed syringe and inject it into his wife’s vagina. The technique has since spawned an entire industry, one that’s enabled countless individuals to conceive. But as we’ve used technology to expand our reproductive options, we’ve lost intimacy in the process — and it’s that very intimacy that Berman sought to recreate when she invented the Semenette, a squirting dildo that mimics male ejaculation, allowing her to impregnate her wife the same way a heterosexual male would.

Berman is not the first person to invent a sex toy capable of ejaculation — several companies, including sex toy giant Doc Johnson have explored the niche with various toys, creating toys that allow individuals or couples to experience ejaculation independent of a flesh-and-blood penis. But Berman is one of the few to create one with insemination specifically in mind — and that mission has provided the Semenette with a number of features that set it apart from competing products.

Most squirting dildos were low-end toysPrior to the Semenette, most squirting dildos were low-end toys, made of cheap materials that weren’t always easy to clean. The Semenette is 100 percent medical grade silicone (meaning it can be easily sterilized), and unlike competitors, which permanently embed the dildo’s tubing into the product, the Semenette offers a removable, replaceable tube that can be discarded after each use. It was also designed with the wearer’s comfort in mind, with a chamber in the back that allows the tubing to tuck in and lay flat.

Perhaps best of all for aspiring parents, with a retail price of $139.95 (and $45 for a pack of five replacement tubes), the Semenette is dramatically more cost effective than doctor-assisted IUI, especially for repeat users. Though users are still responsible for supplying their own semen, the Semenette provides everything else they need to create an intimate, loving conception experience in the privacy of their own home.

In the years since it first hit the market, the Semenette has made inroads with the lesbian couples Berman originally envisioned as its audience. But it’s also found its way to a number of other groups as well. Semenette fans include trans men, men dealing with erectile dysfunction or disabilities, and couples that include an HIV+ partner, to name a few. For many of these users, the Semenette’s appeal is as simple as it is revolutionary, offering them access to something so basic that many heterosexual couples take it for granted. As Berman explains the Semenette does little more than "[recreate] what heterosexual couples are doing on a daily basis."

For trans men in particular, the Semenette holds promise beyond its reproductive capabilitiesBut assisted reproduction isn’t the only thing that draws people to the Semenette: for some users, the attraction is something else entirely. For trans men in particular, the Semenette holds promise beyond its reproductive capabilities, with a realistic, ejaculating dildo easing gender dysphoria for some users. Based on user feedback, Berman estimates that only about 50 percent of trans users are seeking to become parents — and the notion that the Semenette has potential to do more than just assist in reproduction has inspired her to explore other potential markets for the product. Berman sees a number of other non-reproductive applications for the Semenette. Couples into pegging or BDSM can make use of the product’s squirting abilities to engage in enhanced gender play. Solo users turned on by the sensation of ejaculation might find the Semenette’s squirting abilities intensify their pleasure during solo play. The Semenette was intended to revolutionize IUI, but in the process, Berman seems to have stumbled onto a product poised to carve out a whole new niche in the adult industry.

In the meantime, Berman’s happy to focus on the Semenette’s existing success stories: Berman herself is a proud Semenette parent, with a 15-month-old child serving as a testament to the product’s ability to aid conception with a mix of fancy new technology and good old-fashioned intimacy.


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