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Who’s your daddy?
September 30, 2011 11:42 AM   Subscribe


 
Inconceivable!
posted by benzenedream at 11:45 AM on September 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yikes. That's one of the reasons my wife and I were uncomfortable going through sperm banks when we were trying to get pregnant. That donor sibling registry makes it so that even if the donor is anonymous, the kids can all find each other.

It's a little different in Canada - there's a limit on the number of live progeny for each donor, but it's still in the 30s-40s if I remember correctly. The thought of my kid having that many genetic half-siblings was a little squicky. I can't imagine what it must feel like for the donors who care about that sort of thing. Seems to have worked out ok for this guy who was profiled, though, so good for him.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:49 AM on September 30, 2011


Yeah, I'm not sure it means what he thinks it means.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:49 AM on September 30, 2011


Wow. That is a lot of kids. And what a complicated emotional situation this must be, for the donor, his recipient families, the babies born to those families, the donor's spouse... the donor's eventual own kids (I don't know what the correct language is there - but you know what I mean.)

I think I... I had somehow gotten the impression that sperm banks capped the number of successful pregnancies with one donor's sperm? (I don't know where or how I had gotten that idea.)

I am really startled that the donor in this article has that many kids, though. That is a LOT OF KIDS.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:49 AM on September 30, 2011


I should be clear - I am absolutely in favour of the donor sibling registry and I think that kids should have access to as much information about themselves as possible. That's just not the backstory I wanted for my kid.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:50 AM on September 30, 2011


I can see why he confided in his software friend there. He probably figured what happens with Vas Leckas stays with Vas Leckas.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


DANG. I'm glad I never was tempted by this avenue of ready cash and have now been rendered surgically incapable to be tempted by it (I could be tempted by $150 a, uh, pop right about now...)

THIS:

“How did mommy get the sperm?’’ she asks Abby, who is 7.

“Google?’’ Abby replies.

posted by nanojath at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Looks like the donor limit thing might be specific to the sperm bank in question. Here's what I found on the Xytex site (one of only two sperm banks that serve Canada):

To reduce the risk even more, the Xytex policy requires that “any donor with 35 family units should be retired…[With the retirement, any] remaining inventory can be sold until the donor reaches 40 family units. Any remaining units can be used for second or subsequent pregnancies only [in families that already have a child by this donor].
posted by arcticwoman at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's just not the backstory I wanted for my kid.

Jump in a barrel of toxic waste. Now that's a backstory a kid would love to have. Imagine the powers.
posted by DU at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is it weird that this article really made me want to sign up for donating sperm?

Talk about spreading your genes!
posted by pmv at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess he wins an/several anti-Darwin award(s).

/bitter for not quite growing to 6' height
posted by porpoise at 11:54 AM on September 30, 2011


He probably figured what happens with Vas Leckas stays with Vas Leckas.

It's what happened in vas deferens is the real issue amiright?
posted by nanojath at 11:54 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


This raises a lot of questions. Like, why not Filemaker? Or iWork? Actually, Google Docs would probably be best, since collaboration seems to be the key word here.
posted by PlusDistance at 11:55 AM on September 30, 2011 [15 favorites]


Seisler averaged $150 per donation and said the transaction seemed pretty uncomplicated.

He was making money hand over fist.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:57 AM on September 30, 2011 [17 favorites]


Inquiring minds want to know: what are the attributes of this guy which made his sperm a commodity? Is there a picture of him available? (I apologize if this information is on pages 2-4 which I did not click on because I assume that stupid media company wouldn't get this.)
posted by bukvich at 11:58 AM on September 30, 2011


There's little-to-no regulation for sperm donation in the US.

Also, I think it's important to recognize that, to be blunt, some guys' sperm is more desireable than others. Just because this guy has 70 or more offspring doesn't mean that every sperm donor will fit the same profile.

bukvich - the article doesn't go into it too much, but one woman cites his religion, his physical attributes (which matched hers), his profession, and his athleticism. The religion one kind of surprised me - unless it's a heritage thing (like Judaism), it doesn't seem to me like religion will come out in the DNA. But I guess if you're picking between different candidates, you have to use something to decide, and religion is as good as anything else.
posted by muddgirl at 12:02 PM on September 30, 2011


And there are pictures available if you Google his name. If you're the type of person who is shallow enough to do that before you've even got past the first page of the article. Which, I guess, I'm admitting I am.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:07 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only thing worse than finding out you were conceived through a sperm donation is finding out this guy is your father.
posted by digsrus at 12:10 PM on September 30, 2011


Sortof the flip version of the Bokanovsky Process from Brave New World (Aldous Huxley.)
posted by dancestoblue at 12:15 PM on September 30, 2011


The only thing worse than finding out you were conceived through a sperm donation is finding out this guy is your father.

No, worse would be finding out that the girl you just slept with was also conceived through a sperm donation and he's also her father.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:16 PM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ben Seisler keeps track of his biological children on an Excel spreadsheet.

Father of the Year?

This guy isn't even in first place, the New York Times just noted another donor with twice as many children (One Sperm Donor, 150 Offspring). Also:

"Although other countries, including Britain, France and Sweden, limit how many children a sperm donor can father, there is no such limit in the United States."
posted by dgaicun at 12:17 PM on September 30, 2011


Though, he seems like a pretty reasonable, okay guy. He's not freaking out or being a jerk about any of this. Nor is he trying to pretend that he's all lovey dovey and family with the kids. I'm not sure why finding out that this guy was your father would be a particular issue.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:18 PM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


There's all these stories about identical twins who end up separated at birth yet end up with remarkably similar lives, can't help but wonder if there will be some of this same sort of thing as more and more people are born half-sibs due to this situation. If it was a guy at Harvard doing double major in law and um, I dunno, something, and also leader of the baseball team and pretty as a picture, he could end up with seventeen thousand kids.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:23 PM on September 30, 2011


One problem with "sperm banks" is that people who look good on paper can have a number of major flaws that would normally prevent sane women from wanting to have relationships or-- godforbid-- children with them. The Discovery Channel had a show called Genius Sperm Bank that featured a man with at least 19 donor children, and he came off as a colossal douchebag. I'd say sociopathic:

"he's like: I know I have 19 kids out there... if any more women want my services I'll be happy to oblige... I would love to be a king in the past... I'd have 70 kids all around me in my palace... they'd be like my gang... there should be more people like me."

Women are judging men on a lot more varied and subtle traits than appearance and income when they evaluate them for sex and reproduction . So I'd worry that sperm donation actually increases genetically undesirable traits in the population, even though there is an obvious eugenics philosophy running through the veins of this entire process.
posted by dgaicun at 12:33 PM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Obligatory (German??) Golden Era Simpsons reference.
posted by dgaicun at 12:40 PM on September 30, 2011


re sperm donors looking good on paper? (NSFWLanguage!!)
posted by supermedusa at 12:51 PM on September 30, 2011


So basically, he has 70-80 kids but hasn't had sex with any of their mothers? If he'd just been sleeping around he'd at least have the satisfaction of having done the deed...
posted by valkyryn at 12:53 PM on September 30, 2011


“It was almost shocking at first [to hear from families], but at the same time, you realize that … what happened facilitated people having families. It was heartwarming.’’

He sounds like a decent guy to me.

Why the parents would let their kids meet him on a reality-TV setup is beyond me though. Very unfair to the kids. I wonder how much the parents were paid.
posted by headnsouth at 12:53 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the parents he heard from was a Seattle single mother named Sharon. She used Seisler’s sperm to have two children, selecting him from an online cryogenic bank catalog because his profile appealed to her. “He met the religion criterion. He met the looks criterion,’’ said Sharon, who asked that her last name not be used to protect her children’s privacy. “I wanted someone who looked enough like me that people would never question that they were mine. I wanted a professional. I wanted someone athletic.’’
every sperm is sacred?
posted by ennui.bz at 12:55 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Boston attorney and one time sperm donor Ben Seisler keeps track of his biological children on an Excel spreadsheet.

....haven't the pages kind of stuck together?
posted by gallus at 1:06 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


unless it's a heritage thing (like Judaism)

Intertubes say he's Jewish.
posted by endless_forms at 1:10 PM on September 30, 2011


Here's the Reality Show segment where Ben confesses his 70 children to his fiancee.

Heritable traits possibly on display:
- lack of realistic forethought (sperm donation without thought of long-term consequences)
- short-term thinking (wow $150)
- laziness (wow $150)
- poverty (wow $150)
- irresponsibility
- selfishness
- narcissism
- lack of realistic forethought (embarrassing moments from private life on reality tv show without thought of long-term consequences)
posted by dgaicun at 1:29 PM on September 30, 2011


Video clips from the Style Network show, Sperm Donor, in which he participates: Telling his fiancé ; telling his friend Vas
posted by ericb at 1:30 PM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jinx, dgaicun, you owe me a Coke!
posted by ericb at 1:30 PM on September 30, 2011


*fiancée *
posted by ericb at 1:31 PM on September 30, 2011


So does anyone know how many kids you can get out of one donation? I mean, did the guy donate over 70 times?
posted by Specklet at 1:32 PM on September 30, 2011


One problem with "sperm banks" is that people who look good on paper can have a number of major flaws

I indeed have any number of major flaws. I donated sperm in college and was paid about $200 per shot. I did this about 8-10 times. It was very easy money (ahem). The group I was doing this for was actually using the samples for university research. Although there was a waiver that said I could not rule out it being used for conception, I'm fairly sure it wasn't because that was not their business.

The ONLY characteristics they cared about was that I don't have a crazy family medical history and that I am 6'7". Shorter applicants or those with heart disease, cancer, etc. in their family history needed not apply. I would assume that this is also the case with sperm banks for conception.

I do know one person who conceived this way, but I'm not sure what she was looking for in the profile. I could ask, but that may be an uncomfortable situation, so I'll just assume for many people it's a picture and some on-paper stats that may well ignore MAJOR issues with the person.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:45 PM on September 30, 2011


But I guess if you're picking between different candidates, you have to use something to decide, and religion is as good as anything else.

This was another reason we decided against sperm banks. Unless you've done it, you have no idea how just plain weird it is to look through a catalogue of men and judge them based on whether or not their earlobes are detached, what their chest hair pattern is, the jobs held by their parents and grand parents, etc. When I found myself looking at the "Favourite Book" field and reflexively tossing away anyone who didn't have a favourite book (or admitted to not being a reader) I realized how uncomfortable I was with the whole process. Who cares if his earlobes are detached? That's not how I picked the person I'm going to raise the kid with. But what possible information could the sperm bank give me that would make me comfortable? You have to judge based on something, and they give you everything they can so you can make that judgement.

Being in Canada means you don't get a whole lot of choice, either. It's against the law in Canada to pay for body parts (including sperm and egg) so with how intensive the procedure is for men - months of interviews, medical screening, physicals, abstaining from sex, etc - Canadian men don't want to do it. So in Canada we import American sperm, do some extra tests on it, call it Canadian compliant, and sell it to the desperate for three or four times the US price.

Sorry, this may be way more than you've wanted to know about sperm but after 5 years of trying to conceive I am a lesbian who is an expert on the topic. :) I find this post to be really interesting - it's fascinating to see what goes on on the other side of that transaction. As much as I don't want my kid to have 70 genetic siblings, I can't imagine being the man with 70 genetic offspring.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:46 PM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Previously.
posted by Eideteker at 1:48 PM on September 30, 2011


This guy is in contact with his biological children solely because he wants to be. I don't see any indication that someone who donates sperm and is assured of anonymity cannot choose to continue that anonymity. This is important, because otherwise sperm donations will decrease.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:04 PM on September 30, 2011


This is important, because otherwise sperm donations will decrease.

And yet...
posted by jacquilynne at 2:19 PM on September 30, 2011


.5% of the world's male population are descendants of Genghis Khan (8% of men in some regions of Asia). So, while this appears to be a new problem, it actually isn't in some ways.

The same men who are going to get picked quickly in dating services are getting picked as sperm donors: good-looking, smart, high status occupation, right religion. Jewish doctors, for example, are highly sought after— so much so that they're about the only short donors among the very highly popular. But there's another factor that makes certain guys stand out: they get people pregnant easily and the sperm banks tell people which donors have pregnancies. That's how you end up with these cases.

One donation, of course, contains millions of sperm and if you are doing ICSI (where they inject one sperm into the egg) you could theoretically get millions from one donation, although there aren't actually millions of healthy sperm even in the best samples.

I actually think the dozens of half-sibs thing has some advantages: if you are not going to have a real connection with your actual biological father and his side of the family, you can at least have some genetic family link to these half-sibs.
posted by Maias at 2:57 PM on September 30, 2011


Looks like the donor limit thing might be specific to the sperm bank in question.

Yep. The California Sperm Bank (where I "worked") limits donors to 10 children, which seemed reasonable to me.

/bitter for not quite growing to 6' height

CSB has (or had) no such requirements (actually it may have been 5'8"). I am 5'10". The only real qualifications were no major genetic diseases (or other bad genetics) and sperm count/motility through the roof. (Yes, literally through the roof.)

When’s the right time to tell your girlfriend that you were a sperm donor? (Seisler broke the news to his on their third date.)

Me too. Past the point when you have an idea it might be a serious relationship, yet before it actually gets serious.

Inquiring minds want to know: what are the attributes of this guy which made his sperm a commodity?

Honestly, the main and most impotant qualifications are sperm count and motility. If you can't freeze it for a long time and fertilize and egg with it, it's worthless no matter how hot or smart you are.

If he'd just been sleeping around he'd at least have the satisfaction of having done the deed...

I'd prefer the $150 a pop. By the time I had fathered 10 children, I had donated maybe ... 200 times. I was only getting $45 a pop, but that's still $9,000 for less than an hour's work a week. I was limited to 3 donations a week, and if my sperm count or amount of semen was too low, I didn't get paid.

You are supposed to abstain at least 2 days before each donation, but I was sexually active at the time, and was lucky enough to have a really high count, so I didn't follow that rule too much.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:18 PM on September 30, 2011


Statements made by the creator of the registry sound dubious:

" .. A Colorado single mother whose son, conceived with the help of a sperm donor, was hungry for information about his heritage. “When he was 2 he came to me and said, ‘So did my dad die, or what?’ ’’ Kramer said. “By the time he was 6, he was saying pretty adamantly, ‘I want to know who my biological father is.’ "

As far as the Excel spreadsheet goes, he is a lawyer. It's not like he is going to know to build a wiki.
posted by TangerineGurl at 3:21 PM on September 30, 2011


The ONLY characteristics they cared about was that I don't have a crazy family medical history and that I am 6'7". Shorter applicants or those with heart disease, cancer, etc. in their family history needed not apply. I would assume that this is also the case with sperm banks for conception.

Actually, I don't think CSB would take anyone taller than 6'4". People want donors who look like their own partners or people in their family. The average height for men is 5'10".

This guy is in contact with his biological children solely because he wants to be. I don't see any indication that someone who donates sperm and is assured of anonymity cannot choose to continue that anonymity.<

Hm. I don't think that's necessarily true. I asked to remain anonymous, but I have no illusions that my offspring won't be able to identify and locate me if they really want to. Laws change all the time, especially when new technology is involved. I think that most people who donate take that into consideration. I certainly did.

so I didn't follow that rule too much.

Humble correction. I didn't always follow that rule. I don't want to sound like a Lothario because I was not. Mostly a serial monogamist, but I was 20.

posted by mrgrimm at 3:34 PM on September 30, 2011


Men enticed by the promise of quick money in donation need to seriously weigh the nontrivial probability that sperm donors will eventually fall under the obligations of child support laws, which could end up putting them at incredible liabilities. Really it's strangely unfair that they don't already fall under these laws, since their behavior is more deliberately tied to reproduction than unwilling fathers that did not intend intercourse to lead to reproduction.
posted by dgaicun at 4:30 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


dgaicun: Men enticed by the promise of quick money in donation need to seriously weigh the nontrivial probability that sperm donors will eventually fall under the obligations of child support laws, which could end up putting them at incredible liabilities. Really it's strangely unfair that they don't already fall under these laws, since their behavior is more deliberately tied to reproduction than unwilling fathers that did not intend intercourse to lead to reproduction.

Well, if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it's because society views it as a desirable option for couples struggling with infertility, and it's fairly obvious you'd never get anyone to ever do it if the donors could be held liable for child support.

Personally though, I think you're right about the first point, which is one of a large number of reasons I'd never consider doing it myself.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:41 PM on September 30, 2011


Men enticed by the promise of quick money in donation need to seriously weigh the nontrivial probability that sperm donors will eventually fall under the obligations of child support laws, which could end up putting them at incredible liabilities.

At which point, nobody will donate their sperm any longer. Requiring a sperm donor (who, ultimately, is serving an important role in helping people who otherwise couldn't have a family) to be responsible for child support is as ridiculous as the case of requiring the man to support the child where a woman took the sperm from a man she had oral sex with an impregnated herself.

Yeah, if you want nobody but the most desperate and reckless people donating sperm, pass that law. It would be ludicrous.
posted by chimaera at 4:43 PM on September 30, 2011


Yeah, sperm donors will never be required to pay child support. It just wouldn't happen. Some countries have removed anonymity, but no country has ever done that. It would be more realistic to ban donation than to do that— and I don't see that happening any time soon, either.

I suspect you may see more regulation, though.
posted by Maias at 6:01 PM on September 30, 2011


Actually I was righter than I realized, sperm donors are already mostly ruled liable in child support lawsuits. Straight Dope:

"Most courts that have considered the question have ordered the donor to pay support"
posted by dgaicun at 6:02 PM on September 30, 2011


That statement is lumping together "known donor" and anonymous donor cases.
There are no reported U.S. appellate cases holding an anonymous sperm donor responsible for child support, nor are there any cases holding that an anonymous sperm donor is not responsible – there aren't any cases, period, no doubt because of the anonymity.
posted by muddgirl at 6:27 PM on September 30, 2011


Hey just think of all those potential spare kidneys. Having 70-odd half-siblings doesn't sound so bad when you are needing a close match to save your life.
posted by marble at 7:03 PM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Imagine being one of those 70 children and having your bio dad archived on youtube.

Aye aye aye aye aye aye aye aye.
posted by bukvich at 7:13 PM on September 30, 2011


He's not a redhead, is he? You see, nobody wants ginger kids.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:18 PM on September 30, 2011


That is an interesting piece mr crash. They have 70 liters of redhead sperm. Maybe those guys just put out really big loads.
posted by bukvich at 8:23 PM on September 30, 2011


stupidsexyFlanders: "I can see why he confided in his software friend there. He probably figured what happens with Vas Leckas stays with Vas Leckas."

Wow! All that setup for that punch line? Ha! That's commitment.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:42 AM on October 1, 2011


Most unfortunate paragraph in recent memory:

Mr Schou went on to say that the only real demand for redheaded semen comes from Ireland, where it sells "like hot cakes".


Fucking EWWWW???
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:44 AM on October 1, 2011


He's not a redhead, is he? You see, nobody wants ginger kids.

According to the articles I read, that's not true.

That is an interesting piece mr crash. They have 70 liters of redhead sperm. Maybe those guys just put out really big loads.

Yep. The stock on hand is larger than demand.
"If you’ve got red hair, don't bother donating sperm at Cryos International, one of the world’s largest sperm banks.

'We have nothing against red-haired donors,' Cryos agency director Ole Schou told msnbc.com Monday. 'Our stock is about to explode. We have just too many on stock in relation to the demand for the time being.'

Demand for redheads is still high in Ireland, according the clinic, but apparently it’s not enough to persuade officials at Cryos sperm bank to continue accepting them. It has 140,000 doses of sperm from red heads, and that’s enough." *
posted by ericb at 10:43 AM on October 1, 2011


Fucking EWWWW???

Ha ha. From the Simpsons link above:

Springfield Sperm Bank

"Put Your Sperm in Our Hands"
posted by dgaicun at 5:50 PM on October 1, 2011


Apparently gingers are just bigger wankers.
posted by Megafly at 9:28 PM on October 1, 2011


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