"The Entrepreneur" Speaks
A donor tells why he gave the Repository for Germinal Choice his Grade A sperm.
Click here for the editor's explanatory introduction to this new Slate feature.
A day after the first installment of " Seed" appeared, a repository sperm donor e-mailed me and said he would like to tell his story. He's worried that Americans are too alarmist about new reproductive technology and thinks that telling the whole story of the repository might help calm them.
The donor and I spoke for more than an hour on Friday, and he told me why he donated sperm to the repository, how he feels about it now, and whether he ever thinks about the babies his sperm created.
Who is the donor? Repository founder Robert Graham generally confined himself to scientists: Our man was one of the first businessmen Graham signed up. In the repository's catalog, he was described as an "entrepreneur," so that's how he asks me to identify him. The Entrepreneur, who's now in his late 40s, says he's no genius—his IQ is 149—but he otherwise lives up to Graham's hype about his donors. The Entrepreneur is an extremely successful businessman, someone who has launched several companies, including one that's almost a household name. He's rich, accomplished, athletic, and driven. He also has no children of his own.
(How do I know The Entrepreneur is not a faker? Click
Slate: How did you get involved with the Repository for Germinal Choice?
The Entrepreneur: I was doing some speaking at a Rotary Club in 1985, and this guy—Bob Graham—comes up after and says I would like to meet with you. I did not know who he was, but I had heard about the repository. He took me to lunch and corralled me about it.
So were you interested?
Not really. I told him, "Hey it sounds great but we are not in trouble, and you're not going to line up enough people to make a difference. This is proverbially pissing in the ocean. And besides I don't think the gene pool is really in danger. We're not lacking leaders or scientists. And there is no assurance that if you put me together with someone else, that the child will turn out above average."
But Graham was a passionate guy. He was very persistent. He worked on me for probably three months. He played on the fact that I had never had any kids. He would say, "You haven't had any kids. It looks like you aren't going to have any." And I would say, "I don't care that I'm not going to have any." And he would say, "I do." I felt like the dog at the dog breeders meeting.
David Plotz is the Editor of Slate. He's the author of The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank and Good Book. He appears on Slate's Political Gabfest.