The Drosophila I-R type of hybrid dysgenesis is a sterility syndrome (SF sterility) associated with the mobilization of the I retrotransposon in female germ cells. SF sterility results from a maternal-effect embryonic lethality whose origin has remained unclear since its discovery about 40 years ago. Here, we show that meiotic divisions in SF oocytes are catastrophic and systematically fail to produce a functional female pronucleus at fertilization. As a consequence, most embryos from SF females rapidly arrest their development with aneuploid or damaged nuclei, whereas others develop as non-viable, androgenetic haploid embryos. Finally, we show that, in contrast to mutants affecting the biogenesis of piRNAs, SF egg chambers do not accumulate persistent DNA double-strand breaks, suggesting that I-element activity might perturb the functional organization of meiotic chromosomes without triggering an early DNA damage response.