Update May 2009: The world's largest sperm bank, Cryos in Denmark, reports that its business is growing so quickly it can't open new offices fast enough. These are indeed hard times.
When I was in college, I once visited a friend at another university. As with many such visits, I spent much of my time in an alcoholic haze, wandering from apartment to apartment, meeting my friend's friends, drinking odd beverages, and generally getting down Hunter S. Thompson-style. Good times.
In one apartment, I remember watching some 90210 on the occupants' big screen TV. Over the course of the show, I noticed that they kept referring to it as "the TV that sperm bought." Finally, unable to contain my curiosity, I asked about the nickname. Laughing, one of them told me that the roommates had pooled their resources from selling sperm and had used the proceeds to purchase a TV. Since then, my research has shown me that, regardless of the the truth of the roommates' claims, it certainly could be true. Advertised sperm donation rates vary from $1 to $200 per week; most donors can expect somewhere around $40 per donation. Given that you can only deposit sperm every five days, your career as a sperm donor will probably only net you enough money to eat at McDonald's. Although, if you save carefully, your genetic material could translate into a sweet home theater system.
When I was a college student, sperm donation seemed like an interesting idea. After all, I'd be paid for doing something that I usually did pro bono, would be able to make some poor ladies really happy, and would pick up a little bit of dough on the side. In the meantime, I was legally protected; there was no way that the little Brucies and Brucinias that were wandering the earth could track their way back to me. Then I read the small print.
To begin with, sperm donation isn't a quick and easy, drop in, drop off, pick-up-your-cash type of deal. Among other minor irritations, it requires months of tests, a six-month to three-year commitment to a sperm bank, and no "liberation" of sperm when you're off the clock. Added to this is the fact that you will probably never know what happened to your children, although recent events are conspiring to strip away the cloak of anonymity under which many sperm donors have made their contributions to society. In other words, regardless of your position on the whole anonymity thing, sperm donation could end up being a little awkward.
That having been said, there is a desire for healthy sperm donors and the money is nothing to sneeze at, particularly if you're currently working your way through your ramen and tuna fish years. Unlike egg donation or surrogacy, the comparable options that are available to women, sperm donation is relatively non-invasive, albeit a lot less lucrative. Frankly, if I had it all to do over again...well, there were a couple of years in the mid-1990's when I could have used a little more cash...
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. Sometimes he lies awake at night, thinking of all the little Brucies that could have been.