For virile young men, donating sperm can look like the holy grail of money-making opportunities since, you know, you’re getting paid to do something you’d be doing at home anyway. And as the semester draws to a close and your bank account withers away into nothingness, those Craigslist ads and posters outside Bobst guaranteeing paychecks of up to $1200 a month can be especially enticing to any student. In fact, most city sperm banks — like the Manhattan Cryobank – recruit solely from local universities and colleges.
“My uncle [donated sperm] all throughout college. He was broke…and he saw it as an easy way to make money. He got $100 per [donation],” David Zumwalt (CAS ’16) said. “It was easy, because he was a dumb, poor bastard in college, and all he had was his sperm.”
But the process isn’t as easy as merely showing up, drop off your little swimmers, and walking out a couple dollars richer. After filling out the initial application — including a “Personal Essays” section that admittedly awakened the Common App jitters of high school — it can take anywhere from four to eight weeks until you might get paid to ejaculate. Choosing to become a sperm donor is like adding a part-time job on top of the past-due work you most certainly have: donors sign on to commitments ranging in length from four months to a year, during which they are required to make weekly or biweekly deposits. The process places a number of constraints on the donor’s life, including abstinence for two to five days leading up to donations, as well as a reduction in alcohol and nicotine consumption.
All of this, of course, is contingent on whether or not your, um, “fluids” make the cut — which they probably won’t. In fact, only 3-10% of applicants are deemed eligible for cultivation. According to Cryos NYC, a donor must merely “be between 18 and 39, have at least a college/vocational education (or pursuing a higher education), [and] live a healthy lifestyle.” A few establishments have additional height requirements — minimum donor heights are around 5’9” or 5’10 ” — but they all operate following mostly the same criteria.
Initially, the prerequisites don’t seem to be too stringent; however, they effectively bar most men from pursuing masturbation as a career. Adopted? Don’t bother, because your inability to provide a family medical history disqualifies you. Are you gay or bisexual? Too bad, for any man who has sex with other men is, according to the FDA, just too risky to have as a donor. If your Nana had breast cancer or your Great Uncle Harold had diabetes, you will most likely be disqualified, even your application is otherwise spotless. And if you’re a ginger, don’t even bother, because who’s going to want to pay money for your soulless, melanin-deficient spawn?
“I looked into donating sperm last year as a way to make some money,” Michael King (Steinhardt ’16) said. “I started the application, but because my dad had prostate cancer, I was ruled out.”
The choice few who make the cut will spend the next year of their life being contractually obligated to masturbate for around $70-120 a batch. From there, donors are cataloged and their little tadpoles are frozen in huge quantities. Families and individuals struggling to conceive can pick which sperm is the right sperm by comparing hundreds of pedigrees in a way similar to that by which my aunt would pick her expensive designer dogs.
Currently, there are no FDA or CDC regulations in regards to how many children can be born from a particular donor. Because sperm is frozen in such great quantities, a college kid looking to score some easy money can end up having hundreds of his biological offspring running around somewhere in the world — a possibility many are ill equipped to deal with.
“I have considered it, but I don’t think I will,” Zumwalt said. “I don’t want little Davids that I don’t know about wandering around. Even if I never met them, it would be too weird.”
Furthermore, despite the guarantees banks may make when you sign your seed away, there is no legislation protecting the anonymity of donors. And, with new studies that show that children of sperm donors often want to know more about their bio-dads, you run the risk of turning your life into a real-life, wacky Vince Vaughn comedy.
“I’ve considered it. I like money…[But] I haven’t been that hard up yet, so to speak,” Joe Leitess (Tisch ’16) said. “I wouldn’t be averse to donating on some grounds that it’d be ‘spooky’ or whatever. If people can’t conceive and I can help them and get cash for it, then I would do it. But I guess there’s always that almost universal worry: What if my biological children blame me for their existence? For bringing them into an unfit world? What if i pass on the heart problems that show up in my family? Or a tendency for depression slips through the genetic cracks? They’re not really things I can control is the thing.”