Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sperm for sale cheap. Only one small problem

Last night I was watching the first episode of the TV series "Parenthood" on Netflix. There's a scene where one of the male characters gets out of bed, where he's just had sex with his girlfriend, and opens the fridge to find a vial of frozen sperm--not his--from a sperm bank. "It's very high-quality," she says (or something like that). "It's from an Olympic athlete who was also a Rhodes Scholar."

Why this successful stallion was selling his baby batter for $50 a pop (I admit ignorance of the going rate) is not discussed, but the scene did make me think.

The prurient aspects of sperm donation disappear into the background when a single woman decides to have a baby. She's concerned only with quality. And from my experience with mothers, they want nothing but the best for their babies, whether it's a stroller, a crib, a nanny...or their DNA.

But what is quality? And, relevant to this blog, if I hypothetically donated to a sperm bank, would any woman want to buy it?

Here are the selling points: I'm a decent-looking guy, in shape, highly educated. No major health problems run in my family.

Or do they? Does eczema count as a major health problem? I think it probably would, for a prospective mother shopping for sperm. There's almost no cash discount that would make any of the yuppie moms I know choose my vial if they knew I was likely to pass on the genes for eczema.

Evidently my wife made the calculation at some level. She wasn't buying it like shoes on Zappos though. Things would have gone differently.

I bet sperm shopping is like a high school dance, but worse. Everyone wants a hot partner, but the reality is that there are only so many to go around. Nevertheless most people find someone to go to the dance with. That's not the case with sperm; the "best" vials are probably in high demand, while the others sit on the shelf. Dog and horse breeders know that you get fine animals only if you start with the best material.

I don't know what point I want to make, only that I would surely correct the errors in my own DNA if I could and if it would do any good; and that this thought experiment makes it clear that all human lives are valuable--especially to the people like me who are living them. Chance and environment play major roles in how a human being turns out.

By saying this, I do not mean that I am in the "pro-life" camp when it comes to abortion or euthanasia, but just that the vast majority of people have something unique and worthwhile to offer, and that in the big picture, eczema doesn't make that much of a difference.

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