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Posted by Nobody at 11:01PM, Sunday, December 03rd, 2000

Jerking Off for Fun and Profit

Adventures in the wild world of anonymous sperm donation

I had two things in mind when I answered a newspaper ad to sell my semen to a cryogenics lab: making money, and increasing the number of homosexuals in the world.

If I could get through their screening process and slip my potentially gay sperm into an unsuspecting uterus, I reasoned that I'd be doing something good for the world. After all, don't homosexuals contribute disproportionately? Look at Alan Turning and Eric Allman in computer science. One could make a seemingly endless list of contributors to the arts -- Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington's longtime collaborator; Lenny Bernstein; Aaron Copland; composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, tenor Peter Pears; choreographer Merce Cunningham and his partner, composer John Cage; authors Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster; playwright Tennessee Williams... If the pro-life crowd frets that an abortion might be ending the life of another Albert Einstein before he draws his first breath, shouldn't I be worrying that another Aaron Jay Kernis or Truman Capote is going to waste every time I shoot a load onto my boyfriend's chest? The world needs gay people now more than ever.

Then there's the money aspect. As a casualty in the collapsing dot com market, I could do a lot with $50 per load. The right number of ejaculations makes up the difference between unemployment benefits and monthly expenses. And even if I land a new job, it's a little extra to buy a few of the toys I covet. After all, a couple of quick wanks per week is easy to squeeze into a busy schedule.

There's more at stake. I'm conceited enough to think that I really have something to offer to the world, that I'm smarter than most of the people I interact with every day, and that there's a genetic component to my useful traits that could be passed along. There's also that typical component of insecurity -- the feeling that I'm wasting my life, but that reproduction could redeem me, and maybe make up for the air, water, and other resources that I've consumed.

When I call the phone number listed in the ad, the woman at the other end of the line walks me through the basic screening questions: do I meet their height requirements? Have I completed a four year degree program? Am I between 19 and 35?

She then gives the details: two donations to check for viability. If I pass the initial test, I get $25 per donation, pending a screening process which includes a physical, blood test, and three-generation family history screening. If I pass, I'll be paid $25 retroactively for all donations to date, and $50 for anything in the future. They want a 9-12 month commitment, with 2-3 donations per week. Then the clincher: two days abstinence before each donation.

No problem, I say. I do some mental calculation. With some creative scheduling, that could fit into my existing sex life, but it would be tricky. When I had a job, sex with my boyfriend was usually squeezed into the weekends anyway. Both of us came home drained from long days writing code, and barely had enough energy to cook dinner and flip through the channels, let alone hop in the sack and tie each other up. But having to worry about two days of abstinence could crush those spontaneous early morning fucks before work, or those nights when we both came home full of animal lust.

I make an appointment regardless. The woman gives me the address of a building I've walked by countless times, tells me to go to the door marked 'service entrance', and gives me a code to unlock it. Unmarked entrances? Door codes? The spy vs. spy element piques my interest.

When the day of my appointment comes, I've abstained for four days, just to be sure. On the subway, I start wondering about the money: It's not much of a donation if they're paying me. Are the payments taxable? If so, how? As a consulting fee? Miscellaneous income? Do I have to pay social security on it? If I make it through the screening process, how much is this actually worth to me? Is it still as appealing if it's only $40 after taxes? Would this put me into the next tax bracket and cost me more than it earned me? Do I act gay?

As the train nears the stop, I rein in my thoughts: I'm going to be broke in a few weeks; I can pass for straight; and there could be dozens, even hundreds of little gay kids running around thanks to me. I look around at my fellow passengers. What would they say if I told them I was off to masturbate into a cup for money? They're too busy looking at nothing to care.

It takes me a moment to locate the service entrance -- a curtained glass door with a keypad next to it. I enter the code, and the door buzzes open. I step into a narrow corridor and squeeze by three oversized tanks of liquid nitrogen. They're all on wheels, with post-it notes indicating that they are empty. A small sign points me down a windey, narrow hallway and doors marked "consultation in progress" and "donor room" to a small window.

A young woman in a lab coat greets me. I give my name, and she explains the procedure. Fill out these forms, she says, then take a sample cup into one of the donation rooms and follow the instructions on the wall about hand washing. She puts a bell on the counter of the window. Ring this when you're done with the paperwork, she says, and then again when you're done donating. Place the sample here when you're ready, she says, and nods towards a small tray.

I sit down with the paperwork. Name, address, date of birth, social security number, license number, height, weight, all the standard stuff is right there on the first page. I begin to fill it out. The license number gets me thinking. It has to be for a background check. Are they screening convicted felons?

Forging ahead, I move on to the second page. Has anyone in my family experienced any of the following illnesses before the age of 50? I scan down the list -- diabetes, heart disease, cancer, all negative. Have I suffered from any of the following illnesses? Diabetes, cancer, Cruzfeld-Jacobs, no on all accounts. Have I ever used illegal drugs? I lie and say no. How often did I drink every week? Have I ever smoked? Do I have any Jewish ancestors?

Then some trickier material. Have I ever been an inmate in a correctional institution? How many sexual partners have I had in the past 3 months? 12 months? 36 months? Easy answers, all low numbers. More lies on the next section: have my sexual partners been (check one) exclusively female, both male and female, or exclusively male? I check exclusively female, which couldn't be further from the truth.

All the lying starts to make me nervous. What if they figure it out and come after me? Could they sue me for lying? The third page is simply a chart of my racial origins going back through my grandparents. I follow the instructions and fill in the letter C in the three-tiered chart of squares and circles. No problem. Then the last page, a bunch of legalese, none of which seems to explicitly threaten legal action for any lies contained therein.

I stand up and ring the bell. Now comes the interesting part. The lab tech smiles, and takes my paperwork. I grab a plastic cup, sealed in a plastic bag, from a bin next to the window and walk into one of the donation rooms. I am immediately confronted by a framed Herb Ritts poster of a nude, dark-skinned woman leaning against a wall. In the corner by the door is a small TV, and a shelf with two large stacks of magazines.

The other corner contains a sink, mirror, and posted instructions. "FIRST TIME DONORS," it reads in bold caps, "you must follow the instructions posted for washing your hands. Bacterial contaminants on your hands can severely affect sperm motility, and prevent us from accepting your sample."

I look over to the hand-washing instructions. Use soap, dry thoroughly. Pretty straightforward. The next part grabs my attention: do not use lubricants of any kind, including soap, water, any type of lotion. Lubrication may cause your sample to be rejected.

No lube? There could be some pretty serious chafing in the works. I wash and dry my hands. Suddenly I notice that I have to pee. Big dilemma. All the tea I had this morning has come back to haunt me. And the flourescent lights in the room suddenly seem awfully bright. Not the most romantic environment. Should I tough it out in the face of bladder pressure? Would it affect my ability to perform?

I take a chair cover from the pile and spread it over the black leatherette seat. Going back out to ask about the lab tech about the bathroom seems too strange. Undoing my belt, I begin to wonder if I'm contaminating my hands. And is there a convenient way to make sure the entire load lands in the cup?

I don't feel aroused, sitting there with my pants around my ankles, facing a pile of smut and a tv that undoubtedly contains some pretty nasty straight porn. Eventually I conjure enough images of my boyfriend doing exciting things to come up with a sample, but I have to cut some corners in the lube department. It's not as hard as I had thought to aim into a small container.

I don't spill a drop. No Ben Stiller/spooge hairgel moments for me. I check in the mirror above the sink just to be sure. Per instructions, I place the sample jar in the tray, and ring the bell. A different lab tech greets me and gives me a final piece of paperwork to fill out. It asks whether I had spilled any of the sample, and how long I had abstained before providing the sample.

The lab tech smiles, and hands me a brochure. Give us a call after 2pm tomorrow, and we'll give you your results, she says. And here's a free pair of movie tickets. We're running a promotion.

Free movie tickets? Cool. I walk out into the street wondering how many of the donors hit on the lab techs.

Waiting for 2pm to roll around the next day, I visit the company's website. I'm greeted by a picture of a google-eyed toddler, presumably of the type that potential clients would be creating. I click around, and soon found myself browsing a catalog of available donors, organized by skin type -- white, brown, yellow.

Do I want to download a profile of one of the donors? Sure. The first page lists height, weight, ethnic ancestry, and religion. It asks the applicant to list any distinguishing features, giving as examples "dimples, cleft chin, Roman nose, etc." What the hell is a Roman nose?

The second page is even better -- donors' answers to questions like "Describe your mathematical ability" and "What are your favorite foods?" Seafood and waffles? Pierogi, pizza and mexican? Does anyone want the DNA of someone who describes himself as a fussy eater?

What about a "modern, progressive, harder music" fan who likes snakes and describes his personality by writing, "Oh dear. I change quite frequently and drastically, but have always felt, in spite of such changes, a certain consistency which I call integrity." Exactly how many takers will there be for this guy? Maybe his Dutch, English, and Russian background would cause people to overlook the apparent bipolar disorder.

When I call for my results, I have passed. I make another appointment to provide a second sample. Next time, I'm told, abstain for exactly two days. Anything more or less than two can lead to decreased survival rates.

My second experience is much like the first. Different room, different Herb Ritts poster of a nude woman, different pile of porn. I turn on the tv and watch half a second of hardcore porn. I overhear another donor chatting up one of the lab techs. Yep, he's hitting on her.

This time I figure out how to operate the dimmer on the lights, and things are altogether a lot smoother. I could get used to this. Things might just work out. Maybe they'll pay extra for an Ivy League degree.

No movie tickets this time, but I'm again told to call after 2 the next day.

It's bad news when I call.

"Our policy is that we don't disclose the specific reasons for rejection," the lab tech on the phone says. "However, I can tell you that your sperm levels are within normal ranges. We're authorized to tell people that we look for people with motility rates in the three to four times normal range."

It sounds like a cop-out to me. Are they testing for a secret gay gene? Did they do a background check? I console myself with the knowledge that the odds of an umployed gay guy with plenty of disease and alcoholism in the family making it through the screening process was really, really low.

Maybe I can sell blood instead.

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