No Nobels, One "Failure," a Few Regrets

Exploring the "Nobel Prize sperm bank."
March 30 2001 3:00 AM

No Nobels, One "Failure," a Few Regrets

How did the genius sperm-bank donors turn out?

(Continued from Page 2)

Most of the Slate Seven remember their "work" for Graham with satisfaction. A couple are purely happy about it. They think fondly about any genetic kids. A couple are pleased with the venture in an intellectual way: They don't think much about any kids but praise Graham's goals. A couple feel slightly embarrassed by what they did. None thinks of himself as a father to the bank children. Even those who believe most strongly in heritability insist that fathers are made by nurture, not nature. Even so, all of them expressed some enthusiasm at the prospect of meeting their biological offspring, though they worry about tampering with the kids' families.

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The Average Guy has the most perverse and complicated feelings about being a donor. He has kept obsessive track of his repository kids. He took notes every time a repository staffer contacted him to report a birth, allowing him to figure out his offspring's birthdays and sexes. He corresponded—anonymously through the repository—with one mother who used his sperm. Though the repository eliminated identifying information from the letters, he was able to figure out the first names and professions of her and her husband, as well as where they lived. (How did he find their hometown? you ask. The parents sent him a studio photo of their daughter: He searched photo studio catalogs to find the studio that used the logo embossed on the frame. Voilà! It was one in … I'm not telling. He showed me the photo: The girl's resemblance to Average Guy is astonishing.)

But despite his obsessive record keeping, Average Guy says he is often ashamed of what he has done. He is chagrined that he has selfishly avoided responsibility for raising kids. And he feels that spawning more than a dozen rugrats contradicts his own environmentalist ethos. "I am concerned about overpopulation and America's destructive appetite for resources. I have contributed to this problem in a big way by creating so many new consumers."

In one final way, the donors seem very much alike. All sound blue when they discuss their genetic offspring. They seem sad that they have kids they can't ever meet, can't watch grow up, can't ever help. They understand the melancholy reality of sperm donation. It's fatherhood without the responsibility, but also fatherhood without the delight.

If you have a connection to the Repository for Germinal Choice—whether as a child, parent, donor, or employee—and you would like to share your story anonymously, please contact me by e-mail at plotzd@slate.comor by phone at (202) 862-4889.

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