The recession, sperm banks, and eugenics

Posted by Jesse Reynolds August 11, 2009
Biopolitical Times
We've written before about the increase in women providing eggs for cash during the current economic downturn.(also see news: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) However, this recession - or "mancession" - is hitting men more strongly. Thus, it is not surprising that more men wish to provide sperm in exchange for a hundred bucks. What I find interesting is that this has led to a tightening of standards on the part of the sperm banks. After all, there is neither a a significant shortage of sperm nor a recent increase in its demand.
But the surge in sperm donor applicants doesn’t mean more men are actually profiting. In this business, only the best and the brightest sperm ever make it to market.

When I asked Scott Brown at California Cryo [International in New York] about the basic requirements of being a sperm donor, it started off pretty basic. You have to live near the facility (you’ll be going there a lot), you have to be between 19 and 39, and you have to be in good general health.

But you also have to be 5’10 or taller, go through a series of interviews, take numerous semen and blood tests, submit a family history that goes back at least 3 generations, and have graduated from or be enrolled in a 4-year university. Oh, and the competition is stiff. Most of the accepted donors have gone to places like Stanford, Princeton, Yale, and UCLA.

“It’s easier to get into Harvard than Cryo,” Brown joked. “We have a lot of initial window shoppers.”

By the end of the screening process, only 1% of applicants ever see their sperm on Cryo’s sales rack....

It may seem eugenically unfair (after all, some apples do fall far from the trees), but sperm banks are like any other business, and competition has only gotten tougher in recent years. For starters, advances in technology have made it easier for couples who are reproductively challenged to conceive without hitting up the banks.

“The biggest challenge for us is that the science is always improving,” says Brown. “People who would have been our clients 5 years ago aren’t anymore.”

As the author hints, the result is just more eugenic pressures on getting the "best" sperm.

Update (Aug. 19): A new cartoon from The New Yorker:

Previously on Biopolitical Times: