Yes I’ve heard all the jokes. So, if it suits you, of course I’ll say that I went to a sperm bank ‘single handed’ and it was all done on a ‘first cum first served’ basis. But the truth is that donating the most productive of my bodily fluids was nothing like what you might think.
I decided last year that, not wanting to become a father myself, that it might be an act of philanthropy for me to donate my sperm to help another couple conceive. So I filled out a (deceptively) straight forward looking online form and headed to a sperm bank (which shall remain nameless) near Harley Street to become a donor.
Rather quickly however, I decided that I’d made a terrible mistake. And it would seem I’m not alone. Since the National Sperm Bank was created last year in order to tackle the shortfall in sperm donors in the UK, only five measly donors have stepped forward and passed the stringent medical checks in a period of eight months.
Are we collectively firing blanks as a nation? Or – more likely – have men been put off the idea of gifting their seed due to some of the following reasons?
1. You won’t get rich
When we were students we all knew two apocryphal stories: one was about some place in Cambodia where they let gap year backpackers shoot cows with machine guns. And the other is that you can do the old hand shuffle once a week and get paid each time for the privilege.
Neither story is true.
The truth is that most (but by no means all) sperm banks in the UK will pay no more than £35 per donation to cover your travel expenses. And you can forget about dis-charging your pipe hourly to up your day rate. Sperm banks won’t let you donate any more than twice a week. Otherwise the world will be full of, well, mini-yous.
2. Don’t expect porn
Back in the 90’s and earlier, the cubicles in British sperm banks were full of what your Dad would probably term ‘jazz mags’. These days, at least in the clinic I visited, there’s nothing in these rather impersonal rooms at all. You’re expected to rely on whatever filth you can find on your mobile. Though as my receptionist helpfully offered: ‘we do have a charger for Androids and IPhone’s if you need it’.
3. Your sperm must be of a top notch vintage
You may well find out, in what can be a frankly brutal assessment of your potency, that your sperm just isn’t strong enough to be considered. For the record, my sample was judged to be ‘borderline’ and I was asked to return for a second attempt as they just couldn’t be sure. I didn’t go. Mainly for the reason below.
4. You are not anonymous
One of the reasons why the UK sperm bank supply is currently rather low is due to a change in the law. Previously guaranteed anonymity is no longer the case. This means that, once a child conceived using your sperm turns 18, they’re entitled to find out who you are.
As a donor, you have absolutely no financial or moral responsibility towards the fruit of your loins at any point in their lives. Nonetheless, for me, the idea of getting an e-mail, phone call or, God forbid, a knock at the door, in two decade’s time from a teenager wanting to know why I decided to spaff into a cup back in 2014 was a scenario that, frankly, made me want to set sail for the colonies never to return.
5. The truth hurts
You may well find you’re too old. The London Sperm Bank doesn’t accept donations from men over the age of 41. Not only that, but you can’t donate if you’re considered to be too sexually promiscuous, if you have a serious disability, if there’s an ‘inherited disorder’ in the family, if you’re adopted and don’t know your real parents, if you’re a regular recreational drug user or if you’re unable to commit to donating once or twice a week for at least three to four months at the same centre. Off putting, isn’t it?
“We need to do something”, agrees Alan Pacey, professor of Andrology at Sheffield University.
“At the moment about a third of the sperm that’s being donated in the UK is coming from outside our national borders. Which is a bit of a shame. There’s nothing wrong with friendly Viking sperm (much of the imported sperm comes from Scandinavia) but I think, given the choice, most UK patients would rather the sperm came from a British national.”
So far, our National Sperm Bank has failed to convince British men to be a little more generous with their sperm. And, judging on my own failed experience, that doesn’t seem too likely to change.
Never mind the prospect of masturbating into a plastic beaker in a room that looks like a family changing room in a motorway service station. Reading the small print and legalese rendered me positively miserly about the idea of giving away my fluids.