Perhaps some of the fascination with these crime shows is because semen does not just leak during violent crimes. It can also leak during furtive, intimate moments that are secretly shared between consenting adults. The at-home infidelity testing industry has capitalized on a growing market of suspicious partners that want to collect physical evidence of infidelity. Reflecting another aspect of the "CSI effect," infidelity tests encourage laypeople to draw definitive conclusions in their temporary role as forensic investigators. The companies that benefit from this niche market prey on suspicion as a means to generate profits. These companies target male partners who are suspicious of their female partner's infidelities. As companies' advertise, an individual can either purchase an at-home kit for semen detection or send away samples of "panties, nighties, sheets, condoms, tampons" for more costly laboratory testing. According to testimonials on the website getcheck-mate.com, many people make important decisions based on the outcome of these tests.40 As someone from Tyler, Texas writes:
As a man experiencing a tumultuous time in his marriage, I was troubled with the mixed feelings. Is it stress, a newborn child, mid-life crisis, or was there someone else involved? Not knowing is the worst of feelings. I was putting my clothes in the dirty clothes hamper and I inadvertently noticed a stain in my wife's underwear. Now I was certainly suspicious. A few days later after she was out of town again I noticed a similar stain. Now I was worried and needed a definitive answer. I searched the web and found out about checkmate. I was apprehensive as you would expect but I gave it a try. I received the kit promptly and discretely and tested both garments against a known semen sample. To my surprise and relief the 2 tests were negative, and the known sample showed positive in about 4 seconds! My marriage is certainly no stronger but at least the worries of infidelity won't com-
plicate trying to fix it or end it. Truly a great product and a good value if you think about what it really does.41
One company, genuServe.com, offers home fidelity kits and laboratory services with the following price tags. To determine whether a stain or fluid is semen with or without sperm cells, in June 2006, prices range from $195 to $995, depending on how quickly you want the results. To compare one evidence sample to one suspect sample costs $1,200. DNA extraction tests semen contained in condoms, jars, plastic bottles, or other sterile containers and runs $300. Additionally, dnatest-ingcentre.com provides condom matching, which determines whether cells outside of the condom match a DNA sample you provide, to see whose body the condom has been inserted into. However, the website notes that there is only a 50 percent chance of DNAbeing extracted from the outside of the condom. Regardless of the ability to achieve results, the service costs $580. So even using a condom to contain the "evidence" may not prevent the lay sleuth from gathering evidence.
At sementest.com, ForenseX Laboratory Corp., an Arizona-based company urges, "Send us your dirty panties." Another website, infi-delity.com, boasts to be "The # 1 Source for Semen Stain Detection Tests." An article from a London-based website states that in 2001 Checkmate sold 1,000 kits a month, 85 percent of their clients were men, nearly half of their customers have been married 15 years or more, and 40 percent were over 40 years old.42 This kit is primarily aimed at testing "flowback"—that is, semen that drains into undergarments for up to 72 hours after intercourse. The test is specially formulated to detect certain enzymes produced by the male prostate gland, which is found in semen. The cost of at-home testing, $69.00 for testing 10 articles, contrasted to hiring a private investigator at about $1,000 minimum fee, is marketed as one of the product's major benefits. The ad also suggests that women who are cheating on their partners are usually in a rush and don't clean up very thoroughly, possibly leaving traces of semen on different parts of the inside of their clothing.
The sales pitches and slogans of these products are sensational. A cartoon on the website infidelitykit.com illustrates a woman with a surprised look on her face saying, "I don't know how that semen got in my underwear!" The sites are straightforward in their claims and appeals:
Just imagine how many men who were doing laundry when they inadvertently came across a stain, they had no real way to identify.43
Checkmate replaces Dog as man's best friend.44
Will give you scientific truth about the infidelity or fidelity of your mate.45
Don't be made a fool of by a cheating wife or a cheating wife's lover. Stop hurting and know the scientific truth.46
She brings the evidence home to you without even knowing it.47
Make an informed decision.48
Remember the Clinton Rule, check all clothing. Cheating is cheating.49
Did you know that semen, blood and saliva can be detected on clothing or bedding and that DNA technology can say who those stains came from or didn't come from?50
What type of man is being constructed in these statements? Clearly, these sites attempt to exploit men's insecurity, suspicion, and doubt regarding their partner's fidelity and their own ability to retain and satisfy that partner. Men who might use these sites may not be able to afford a private detective, or they cannot afford to lose in a "messy" divorce. But there is also an obvious appeal to traditionally masculine qualities such as scientific rationality and the desire for hard proof. With a direct, no-nonsense style, these statements command men to take control of their situation.
While most of the marketing is targeted primarily to a male consumer, there are also testing services available for women who are suspicious of their male partners. These sites claim that men secrete semen up to two hours after intercourse or oral sex; consequently, semen will be in their underwear. There are no catchy headings on the webpages about a woman's best friend. Women are untrustworthy, but that is only because there are other men and other sperm out there that want access to these women. Infidelity kits allow for the creative and potentially deceitful manipulation of semen. For example, there is nothing preventing someone in the midst of a messy divorce case from getting hold of a woman's panties, having a male friend stain them, and then sending them in for testing.
The currently available technology employed by fidelity kits relies exclusively on the presence of semen. The authority to definitively answer questions of infidelity rests with semen. While women can be either suspected of infidelity or removed from suspicion, the only time a woman can get definitive results from this type of testing is if her partner is involved in homosexual activity. The heterosexual male is in the most advantageous position. To date, there are no definitive biological tests for women to employ to determine if their male partners are participating in sex with other women.
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