Mention the word sperm, and watch everyone’s inner Adam Sandler emerge and begin to get the giggles. Even the briefest exploration into the real world of sperm donation will reveal that what is portrayed in Hollywood, blogged about on the internet, and reported in the media actually bears very little resemblance to the facts.
Let’s look at some widely-held beliefs about sperm donation:
White men wanted --- but gingers need not apply
Men of color, especially men of African descent, are particularly underrepresented at U.S. sperm banks, and are actively recruited. Sperm banks want to have a broad range of donors to serve their clients. Every ethnic background and combination of hair, skin and eye color is desired. If a woman has a redheaded partner, you can bet she is looking for a redheaded sperm donor.
Donors are weird, creepy losers with no other way to earn money
It would be nice if Hollywood could get a bit more creative here. Donors are Everyman. Many are students, artists, writers, dads, athletes, and other men who have flexible, part- or full-time jobs and choose to be sperm donors out of a sincere desire to help others create families.
Every donor has to be at least 6 feet tall and look like a leading man
Most sperm banks will accept applicants who are 5’9” and taller, and some accept men who are at least 5’7” tall. There’s no beauty contest here. Sperm donors look like all the other real men out there in the world. The unifying factor is that they are healthy, having passed rigorous screening.
Only medical school students or PhD students are accepted
Depending on the sperm bank, men whose highest level of education is a high school diploma are eligible, though men with Bachelor’s degrees and higher are preferred. Typically, women looking for a sperm donor tend to choose one who has had some college education, but that’s just one of many desirable characteristics they are seeking.
Offspring (or their birth moms) will come after donors for money
Donor-conceived individuals are, as a group, deeply wanted children with strong family structures. There are no unintended pregnancies in this population. In well-managed, anonymous sperm donor programs, donors have no legal rights or responsibilities for those offspring, either as children or adults.
Donors have hundreds of offspring
The idea that one sperm donor might have 533 offspring is good material for a movie like Delivery Man, perhaps, but it doesn’t have much basis in reality. Although there are reports of some sperm donors worldwide having 50-100 offspring, sperm banks limit the number of families who can use the same donor, so the average number of offspring per donor is much lower. The Sperm Bank of California (TSBC) has the lowest family limit in the U.S.; donors are restricted to 10 families. To maintain family limits, sperm banks rely on women reporting their pregnancy outcomes accurately and consistently.
Around the world, lesbian couples, single women, and women with male partners with infertility benefit from the generosity of sperm donors who have shared their genetic material so that others can have the family they’ve always wanted. One day, maybe, a proud sperm donor will earn the same kind of respect as the much-admired egg donor already does.
Photo credit: flickr