I walked into the London Sperm Bank last Wednesday. I’d come straight from work and introduced myself, shook hands with the guy behind the desk. He asked for my ID and scanned it. I was there to ejaculate into a plastic cup. I told him I write in my free time and figure sperm donation might be interesting to read about, that there’s a lot of misconceptions about the process. The guy agreed and laughed as he re-read the closing line of my application – “Who doesn’t want to be a professional wanker?”
A few weeks ago I read about the London Sperm Bank’s new app, and laughed at their openly phallic logo. I moved on but I guess some small part of my psyche latched onto it, as a while later I was casually browsing the internet for information on sperm donation. I realised I was free to apply, figured I might as well. The application parameters are simple enough; are you male, aged between 18-41 and relatively healthy? Go ahead – before your first donation you’ll be sent an extensive health survey to fill in.
You’re asked to give information about any physical or mental health issues present in either your family or yourself, from depression to cystic fibrosis – naturally you disclose any STDs you have, and then you’re asked to provide info on your height, weight, eye colour, hair type. You’re asked what movies and music you enjoy, your education level, to talk a little about why you want to donate. And there’s something so deeply surreal in knowing that this information, at some point, may be read by your genetic offspring. Some person born of my donation but apart and wholly separate from my life.
Because this is where most of the misconceptions arise – what, exactly, are the laws regarding anonymity? The reality is that since 2005, completely anonymous donation isn’t a thing anymore, at least in the UK. Any of my potential offspring, once they’re 18, are allowed to know my name, to read a small biography I’ve written about myself, and ultimately to get in contact with me. I’ll be 40 by the time this could happen, at the very least.
I don’t personally have any issues with this, and it’s been observed that for people born of donation, it can help them achieve a sense of ‘self’ and understanding of who they are. No matter what, donors are of no legal or financial liability to children born of their sperm. In no way, shape or form am I their father other than pure biology, there’s no standing for me to be sued or otherwise financially liable. My sperm could be used by up to ten families and could be kept frozen for up to ten years – meaning a child could be born in 2026 of sperm brewed now, an interesting and fantastically unnatural fact.
Counselling is offered to all donors during the program, to help come to terms with the reality and repercussions of creating new life, regardless. If all goes well there will be several children running around who are half my genetic code, and while they might never contact me and I’ve no responsibilities to them, it’s a significant event regardless. And I’m free to request information about children born of my sperm – their birthday, their gender, age. As someone with no interest in having children, it seems a unique and interesting genetic ‘loophole’.
There are three outcomes to the initial sample – complete success, meaning all is well and usable and you’ll be asked to become a donor, borderline, meaning for whatever reason the sperm wasn’t ‘quite’ useable, and you’ll be asked to give another sample, or the sperm is unusable. My initial sample was ruled borderline, as it met all initial parameters but struggled with reanimation after freezing. I’m hopeful my little guys can pull thru with this second sample and I can become a fully-fledged donor, but less than 5% of men’s sperm is eligible for use.
If my sperm is deemed suitable, I’ll be asked to come in once or twice a week for up to six months – the bank wants to collect a sizeable amount of semen. You also have to be abstinent from sex or masturbation for three days before each donation – any more or less can affect the quality of the semen.
So it was with this knowledge I went for my first donation, had a lovely chat with the guy and was pointed towards one of the donation rooms, down a corridor and towards the back, a nice big red ‘OCCUPIED’ sign which lit when the door was locked. Inside, a waist high sink and soap dispenser, instructions to get my junk as clean as possible. Next to the sink, a low long cushioned seat with a stack of porn magazines, a fascinating relic from a bygone era.
Also present was a touchscreen PC, with ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ playlists. But ultimately, you’re left to your own devices and it didn’t feel anywhere near as dodgy as expected. The surrealism of the situation was piercing, of course. You’re given a plastic cup and told only to break its seal when you’re depositing the sample, then to screw the lid shut and pop it in a ziploc bag. As you leave the room you drop the sample into a deposit window, avoiding any awkward exchanges as you pass the parcel.
Overall, it was an incredibly unique and interesting experience, and I’m hopeful I’ll make it onto the program full time. They’ll pay you £35 for each visit, which I’m planning to put towards a flat. Plus, I got to take a pen with ‘London Sperm Bank’ on it! If you’re healthy and interested, look into your local bank – you could help someone who can’t have a child naturally, and ultimately give someone the gift of life itself. Plus you get paid for wanking.