6 Terrifying Things Nobody Tells You About Donating Sperm
To a young guy with not much money, sperm donation seems too good to be true. It pays well (as we've pointed out before) and requires you to do nothing more than what you'd be doing anyway. And if you happen to help a childless couple along the way, that's just icing on the cake.
Having actually been a sperm donor, I can say that you had better be prepared for a long haul. There are a lot of (horrifying) hoops to jump through, and then sperm banks expect you to masturbate like ... well, like it's your job.
And it's not an easy one.
Minorities, Runts and Gingers Need Not Apply
Sperm donation is a textbook example of a buyer's market; thousands of compulsively masturbating dudes are jockeying to impregnate a slim number of eggs. To even be considered, you and your sperm have to meet their criteria.
"They scored well on taste and color, but we're concerned about their performance at the 100-meter dash."
You obviously must be male (or a very talented female), usually between 18 and 35, and live within an hour's drive of the sperm bank. Not too difficult, right? Oh, did I mention you have to be at least 6 feet tall? Yeah, turns out nobody likes shorties, least of all prospective parents.
What a failure of a human being.
Also, you need to have a high school degree or better. The bank I went to required that you at least be enrolled in college, if not already a college graduate. Some banks request that you pursue a graduate degree because they can then charge an extra premium for PhD sperm. If you happen to be from an Ivy League school, even better.
You generally have to be white, as most sperm recipients are white couples. You must be in shape, since who wants a fatty for a kid (and if your fatness isn't genetic, your laziness might be)?
"I trained well for this golden opportunity."
Some banks even set restrictions on hair and eye color; the world's largest sperm bank recently stopped accepting sperm from redheads because nobody wants a goddamn carrot top, and their stockpile of ginger jizz was going to waste. In essence, you need to be a tall, dark and handsome Vitruvian Man from a good school ... who still has wound up in a position where, in order to make ends meet, he must masturbate for money.
They Will Need to Know Everything About You (and Your Family)
OK, so it's understandable that parents want a good-looking kid. Hell, they're dropping upwards of $41,000 per baby, so this better be the damn Cadillac of babies. Naturally, to ensure only the highest grade human, the next step is to complete a medical history form.
Who knew the stork would be so picky?
If you've ever donated blood, you're already somewhat familiar with the process. In addition to the standard battery of health questions, you also need ensure you've never had sex with a man from Africa since 1977 for money or drugs or shared a bus seat with anyone who has. But after that, the medical questionnaire quickly becomes less of a standard health form and more of detailed catalog of every runny nose and weird rash that you or any member of your extended family has had.
In keeping with the practice of only taking the best of the best, there are 50 or so disqualifying conditions (again, depending on the bank), and something as minor as a food allergy can knock you out of the running. Also, if you've ever had an STD, you're automatically disqualified, even if it has since been cured.
Don't buy hookers if you want valuable sperm. That's the kind of moral they don't teach in Highlights.
You must also be able to provide a detailed medical history for every parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin and grandparent you have, as well as any children your siblings or cousins may have, going back four generations. I was nearly disqualified because I am only the third generation of my family born in the U.S., but it was ultimately decided that three generations of medical history would be OK this time.
If you're still thinking this doesn't sound too difficult, realize that by submitting the form, you've given them carte blanche to interrogate you on the most intimate details of your life. If your medical history is decent, they give you a follow-up call to ask a few questions, so you have to be ready to explain any anomalous conditions or deaths in your family tree.
"Demanding satisfaction runs in his family. That's a black mark."
I had an uncle who died at a relatively young age in a workplace accident and I was asked to produce a newspaper article or obituary verifying my claim. I also had one set of grandparents who both died in their late sixties from heart attacks, which naturally was a cause for concern. When I explained that they had both been lifelong smokers and drinkers, I then had to assure them that no other member of my family had a history of substance abuse, to assuage their suspicions that I might be genetically predisposed to addictions.
Funnily enough, sex addiction wasn't a problem.
The Staff Is Female, There Is Porn and You Will Be Interviewed
For those who make it through the fine mesh of medical and physical standards, it's now time to actually go to the bank. After going through a standard physical and having some blood samples taken, you'll usually meet the administrator of the bank for an interview, since this is in fact a job. You'll be asked some normal job interview questions (tell me about yourself, why do you want to do this, where do you see yourself in five years), and you're expected to answer them with something other than "I want to jerk off for money."
"Wanking into letterboxes isn't providing enough challenge. I really want a chance to prove myself."
If they like you and you pass the interview, it's now time for the main event. You have to give two preliminary donations to evaluate the quality of your baby gravy, and these donations (or "deposits" in sperm-banking parlance) are on the house; that is, they're not going to give you a red cent until they're sure your swimmers are the Michael Phelpses of the testicular tadpole world.
It's pretty terrible when your sperm does better at the interview stage than you.
You'll be led to the masturbatory chamber by one of the staff and given instructions for how to go about your business, just in case you weren't sure what to do. They then leave you to do your thing, but not before reminding you to wipe everything down once you're done.
The rooms are similar to a normal doctor's room, except the exam table has been replaced with a TV, DVD player and chair. Forcing yourself to overcome the warm toilet seat creepiness that this is the room where thousands of people have masturbated, you choose your porn, sit in your wanking throne and get to work. The porn is nothing special; as a guy who can make do with even the most vanilla adult entertainment, even I found the selection to be pretty lackluster. And no, no one on the staff will ever "assist" you.
The fluffers are currently working trauma, idiot.
Once you're done, you seal your cup and put it into a little brown bag. Multiple signs posted around the room will remind you to wash your hands and to clean everything with some Clorox wipes (curiously, there were no rubber gloves for those wishing to clean things beforehand, too). You drop your sample off for evaluation, trying not to make eye contact with the female technician. Did I mention that nearly all the staff will invariably be female?
"Please tell your pen to stop judging me."
The three main things they're looking for in your little guys are count (how many you have), motility (are they swimming in circles?) and morphology (make sure they're not growing extra heads). The sperm count is where most people have trouble, since you're already required to have an above-average sperm count, and masturbation only produces about half as many sperm as having sex. Fifty to 90 percent of donors who make it this far are eliminated.
It's like auditioning for American Idol, but less degrading.
Yes, You Can Be Legally Obligated to Masturbate
Finally, after all this ancillary bullshit, it's time to start raking in the dough. If your two gratis deposits are high quality, you will start getting paid for your man juice. So you can just make enough donations to afford a new Xbox and then take off, playing the sperm bank for suckers, right? Why doesn't everyone do this?
"Have fun doing weird voodoo with my personal genetic material, idiots!"
Of course it's not that easy. You have to understand, they need a lot of your sperm, over a long period of time, and you won't be paid until they get it. In-vitro fertilization has a relatively low success rate, so parents who want your DNA are going to need a whole bunch of the stuff for any chance of success.
You need to baste a whole farm of these, is what we're saying.
So if your first two donations are good enough, they'll bring you on as a paid donor. However, that means you'll be required to sign a contract, usually for six months to a year, stating you'll come in at least once a week to spank the monkey. Just to make sure you follow through, your paychecks are kept in escrow by the sperm bank until the end of the contract.
In the meantime, your sperm are cryogenically preserved to maximize shelf life, but not all sperm handle the freezing process well. So, your first two donations are put on ice, and at the six-month mark, they're unfrozen to check how they're doing. If your tadpoles are still kicking, congrats, here's your check. If your sperm has gone all Mr. Bigglesworth, however, sorry, hit the road.
They won't even deliver a eulogy.
Also, there are certain delayed onset diseases that can take a few months to show up on blood screens (like HIV), so they need to test you every six months to make sure your sperm is cleared to give to parents. By withholding the money, that helps ensure donors to come back for their follow-up tests.
"Not Tonight, Honey, I Have to 'Work' Two Days From Now."
Well, you've come this far, might as well stick it out. So the screening was a pain in the ass and they're holding your money for the next six months, but hey, it's still a piece of cake. You're getting paid for what most people do for free. They're going to be so jealous ...
Assuming you actually tell anyone, we mean.
Wait, we're not done.
Sperm donation, as it turns out, has a pretty significant impact on your personal life, far beyond just having to take some time out each week to make your deposits. As mentioned above, you have to have an above-average sperm count for the whole process to be viable, so as such, you're required to be abstinent two to three days before making a deposit. So if you're trying to maximize your profits by donating twice a week, that leaves one day per week that you can do with your genitals as you please.
Hooray! We're also going to knit finger puppets!
If you're in a relationship, this limits your sex life pretty considerably, so you and your significant other have to plan no-pants time around your donation schedule. But hey, who likes spontaneity anyway? Even if you're only donating once a week, you will still have a set day and time each week to come in and make your deposit (sperm banks operate on 9-to-5 hours). So if a girlfriend's birthday or your anniversary happens to fall less than three days before your scheduled appointment, too bad.
Guess that means you'll have to get her a present instead of sticking your penis in a box like last year.
And don't go thinking you can just cheat the system. Your sperm count is still spot checked on each donation; if it's too low, you don't get paid for that deposit. If several donations in a row are rejected because of fledgling sperm counts, you may be asked to follow a special diet like this, which is designed to boost your numbers.
Happily, it includes both nuts AND bananas.
Of course, the diet and abstinence are all voluntary, and if you don't want to follow them, so long and thanks for all the spooge. Don't let the door hit you in the ass. If you decide to quit mid-contract, you just don't get the money from the pay cycle. Off you go, have a nice life, there's plenty of people to replace you.
You May Now Have Dozens (or Hundreds) of Children -- and They May Find You
One thing you notice right away is there is a huge difference in what you get paid depending on whether you choose to be a closed or an open donor. That is, whether the recipient can find out who you are (open) or you remain anonymous (closed).
At my particular bank, it was $20 a pop for a closed donor and $125 for an open donor. You're allowed to donate a maximum of twice a week, so going the open route will pay upwards of $12,000 a year, certainly not a bad chunk of change. However, this comes at the expense of releasing all your personal information to parents should they (or their child) ever want to contact you.
You donated your sperm to a grateful woman -- that's more than our fathers did for us.
If you thought you'd be clever and go the closed route, that doesn't mean that an intrepid parent or child couldn't track you down through DNA testing, which is becoming increasingly common (the bank will often neglect to mention this). While no person who has donated sperm through a bank has ever been found liable for child support (at least not yet), you and your family are still going to have to deal with the fact that there's a child, biologically YOUR child, who wants a relationship with you.
Also he's a master detective who you should be proud of, you asshole.
It also turns out that you could be the father of hundreds of children. Banks will tell you that there's a limit to the number of kids that can be born from your donations (12 in my case), and while most reputable banks will stick to this, there are plenty of unscrupulous ones that will happily dole out your sperm to anyone who asks. And that's where the implications can get truly horrifying. Suppose the bank uses your sperm to impregnate 30 different women. Many of those women will likely live in the same general area, and give birth within a few years of each other. They may not be overly eager to tell your offspring that terrible pornography was part of their conception process. Congratulations! You've uncorked up to 15 potential cases of "accidental incest" into the world.
The problem is that many banks rely on college students who are desperate for a quick buck, and they have in no way thought through what fathering a stranger's child actually means. They're just thinking in terms of the paycheck, not a lifelong decision.
"I just name 'em after the things I bought with my pay. The one at the back is Fleshlight."
After all, even if the 21-year-old version of you is OK with it, that doesn't mean that future spouses will be. You'll soon come to the realization that in the interest of full disclosure to a potential girlfriend, you'll need to tell her that you used to be a sperm donor. Sure, you can just lie and omit that part of your life, but see what happens when a kid shows up on your doorstep wanting to meet his real dad.
I've had more than one girl refuse to date me because I've donated sperm, and I can totally understand where they were coming from. Who wants to deal with that kind of drama? It's the kind of thing that guys will casually joke about with other guys, but it's actually an ethically contentious can of worms. That's not to say nobody should do it. You're giving people an amazing gift. But at the very least, you should know going in that it's a hell of a lot more complicated than just jizzing into a cup.