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The New Eugenics

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There's controversy brewing at the Sperm Bank ...


Gay Uncle Brett Berk: Some lesbian friends recently came to visit my boyfriend and me at our house upstate. And guess what? Like every other gay person in America, they're trying to have a kid. This is good news for me, as it means at least one more guaranteed sale of my book. But instead of jerking some man-juice out of one of their friends, adopting one of the thousands of unwanted American children, or trying to steal a baby from the arms of its family in Malawi, they're going the anonymous donor route.

I'm down with this too. But I have to admit that when they started talking about the specifics of why they chose a particular dude from the tens of thousands of cum shots that the Sperm Bank had in their deposit reserve, I got a little ... skeeved out. My friend said, "He's Italian like me, but he's not one of those short Italians because his mother was from Denmark or Norway or something, so he's tall. And everyone on both sides of his family has good teeth. And he has eyes like Meghan [her partner]. And no history of heart disease or cancer. And I found out from my forum online that they have an attractiveness scale that they use internally at the Sperm Bank to rate the donors when they come in. It ranges from two to eight-point-five, and when I asked the lady where he rated, she said 'Eight.' And when I asked how many eight-point-fives they'd ever seen, she said, 'One.' So he's our guy."

Now I'm all in favor of giving your kid all the appropriate advantages. And I suppose that if I were offered choices on stuff like this, I'd tend toward ticking off some of the same boxes. But in my heart, I feel like there's something borderline ... eugenicist about the whole process: picking out a kid -- like a fanny pack or Peruvian alpaca sweater -- who'll match your skin and eyes, or selecting a donor based on his similarity in appearance to an idealized version of yourself or your partner. It just seems like a setup for an even deeper form of narcissism than the one normally derived from participating in what I like to call "The Ultimate Vanity Project." Maybe straight people pick their partners for the same reasons: they'll breed well? Or maybe I'm the only one who rankles at this. What do YOU think?

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6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sara June 24, 2009, 3:00 PM

the only thing that makes me nervous is all of these anonymous sperm donor people running around and falling in love with someone who may or may not be their sibling.

Anonymous June 24, 2009, 10:22 PM

What if the baby turns out to look nothing like them? Is there nothing else they were basing the donor on?? Yikes. They’re in for some disappointment, ‘cause genetics can screw with you and make a kid look nothing like his/her parents… so some idealized version of themselves that they see in this donor and his potential offspring could be so “off” from what they imagine him/her to be!

Rachelle June 25, 2009, 1:51 AM

I DO find it to be very vain to “pick out” your child as if you are gathering scrap material for a new sweater or something. They may all be very fine scraps, made of very fine materials, but you still don’t know what the outcome will be.

And there are SOOO many children already in this world who have NO ONE. I do understand the delema though. When I was a kid, I had a hysterectomy due to an illness, and I went round and round (until I actually came to terms with it), trying to decide between surrogate pregnancy, or dreaming of (God forbid) cloning! Once I smartened up, I realized adoption is the ONLY way to go. My son will be three next month, and without him, I don’t know where I would be. He is my shining star!

Tobin June 25, 2009, 1:57 AM

I reviewed donor data with my friends who were shopping for some goo.

They took a very different approach. The birth mom is French-Vietnamese and fairly tall. Mama is a short Italian.

They were considering a a Mexican fellow and because they had made friends with the people at the sperm bank they managed to get some inside info on the donor’s disposition and that clinched the deal. The email I received was
” Made up our minds
Stopped by the sperm bank
And Bingo
Yan is pregnant”

Also got some advice. Don’t shoot the whole wad at once. Most women try too early and should save half for use a few days later.

Years ago I considered asking someone I knew to donate some sperm. I don’t know if any of them would have agreed. They were of varied ethnicity and body types. They were all kind, funny, smart and high energy guys.

deaddrift June 25, 2009, 3:07 AM

Great piece, thought-provoking. But then how DO you select your anonymous donor? Do you look for just the right flaws to throw in? Throw a dart at a list?

Once you get into this unusual situation, the usual rules don’t apply, I think.

JennyOndioline June 30, 2009, 1:16 AM

I’d be tempted to cut these folks some slack. When a hetero couple has a baby, the kid resembles each parent in some way or other. It’s a roll of the dice whether or not the kid will get mom’s fabulous eyes, dad’s talent for engineering, etc. Couples who select from a pool of sperm donors are only trying to achieve the same unpredictable result. It sounds like your friends were trying to select for traits they both have, and that’s really sweet IMHO. Let’s be honest — parenthood is a crapshoot no matter how you become a parent! That’s the wonderful, crazy, scary thing about it!

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