The Daily Beast reports on an interesting phenomenon: sperm donors who donate for free. One couple, stymied by the $2,000-and-up cost of acquiring sperm the usual way (sperm bank), started exploring alternative options online:
A few clicks later, the couple slid into an online underground, a mishmash of personal ads, open forums, and members-only websites for women seeking sperm—and men giving it away. Most donors pledge to verify their health and relinquish parental rights, much like regular sperm-bank donors. But unlike their mainstream counterparts, these men don’t get paid. They’re also willing to reveal their identities and allow any future offspring to contact them. Many of the men say they do it out of altruism, but some also talk unabashedly of kinky sex and spreading their gene pool.
In addition to the cost angle, some women like the option of having their children know their fathers, which many sperm banks don’t allow for. The free sperm route, however, has its drawbacks — a lack of donor testing, potential custody issues, and concerns over the legality of the practice.
In the absence of monetary compensation, many of the donors express a desire to “spawn as many children as possible,” a motivation that baffles researchers:
Rene Almeling, a sociologist at Yale University and the author of a new study of the fertility market, Sex Cells, says that among the 20 sperm-bank donors she interviewed, the most common motives were money, spreading “amazing genes,” as one guy put it, and helping women conceive. University of Nevada, Las Vegas, anthropologist Peter Gray, coauthor of Fatherhood, about the evolution of paternal behavior, says this drive to propagate reminds him of the ancient khan men of Mongolia—and of Moulay Ismail, the 17th-century emperor of Morocco—men who fathered as many as a thousand children, parenting none of them. “I’ll have to think about this a bit,” he says.