Which is not what I expected. From Rothman’s “erotic” description, I’m thinking swank lighting, a leather chair, maybe some scented candles. Inside, though, it’s more like the room you take your SATs in if you’ve missed the general date: cold floor, white light, noise from an overhead fan. There’s a small TV, but no DVDs, so I scrounge through a few other rooms — attracting a WTF glance from the receptionist — before settling for one outfitted with issues of Hustler, Swank, and something called Razor. An instruction sheet hangs above the room’s small sink:
1) Wash Hands
2) No Lubricants of Any Kind! [Exclamation mine! Eek!]
3) Ejaculate only once, depositing your entire specimen into the cup. Do not touch the inside of the cup. Do not scrape any lost portion of your specimen into the specimen cup, i.e., from hand, clothing, chair, floor, countertop.
4) Wash Hands.
5) Return to Reception. Ring Bell.
In the bright light of the cubicle, questions on best practice stream through my head: Do I drop my drawers?Fully? Do I take off my shoes? My socks?
The whole process is difficult: you have to stop to aim, and my body — all too used to sex as the stop-and-go driving of rush-hour traffic — interprets the pause as a red light. The whole thing is basically interruptus, and my results are, well, disappointing. Just like after real sex, I’m flushed with shame and pretty much immediately want another chance.
The really hard part is sorting through whether people should be buying and selling sperm at all. Given the world’s booming population and limited resources, might not the tens of thousands of dollars that people are spending to unnaturally have their own children be better spent elsewhere?
According to The Baby Business, nearly twice as many babies were born through in-vitro since 2003 than were adopted from abroad. There are 500,000 babies available in the US foster care system right now. And in her research Spar found that no matter how a parent gets a child, the end result is the same: “At the end they all say the same thing,” she says. “ ‘This is my kid, this is the one I was destined to have.’ ”
But telling people that they’ve been naturally selected out of the reproductive cycle is difficult. As Spar says, “The problem of excess children is the world’s problem. It’s not fair to expect infertile people to solve it.”
Although he acknowledges the adoption concerns, Sean S., the known-donor, adds, “I look around and there are regulations against lesbians adopting, there are waiting lists — in general, society isn’t doing everything they can to make it possible for the people wanting children to adopt them.” It’s a good point. If people are going to be discriminated against in the adoption process, shouldn’t they have another in to the parenting world?
In talking with Sean S. and Kelly Fitzgerald — the people for whom making money isn’t the issue — it’s clear that some of those involved really are doing this for all the right reasons: to help people. Still, as Spar says, “We are increasingly subsidizing [artificial fertilization] instead of adoption. We aren’t sitting down as a society to say, ‘What would we prefer people do?’ ”