Kalter: Sperm donor profiles increasingly push looks, talents
“Blue-Eyed Crooner” is his screen name. His celebrity look-alike is Vin Diesel. He’s 6’3”, has “beautiful eyes and a dazzling smile,” is a musical phenom and is “almost too good to be true.”
This isn’t an online dating profile. Blue-Eyed Crooner is enticing anonymous women to use his sperm.
“The internet has certainly changed the way we operate,” said Scott Brown, director of communications for California Cryobank. “There is far more information available for people, and it’s available far more quickly.”
It’s not just the internet that has changed things. Donor conception used to be for heterosexual couples struggling with infertility. Now half of those looking for donors are single women. Nearly a third are same-sex couples.
When heterosexual couples dominated the industry’s client base, women often sought a donor who most resembled their husbands, Brown said. The new demographics mean more people just want someone they might like, and more information is being made available to them.
“In the old days, there were printed profiles and donor information was mostly limited to a statistical spreadsheet,” Brown said. “Over the years the client base has shifted. We started to try to create donor information that allowed you to make a much more personal connection to understand who they are as an individual and human being.”
Along with promises of celebrity look-alikes and biographies, donor profiles now include childhood photos, personal essays and even recorded interviews so subscribers can hear their voices. Donors are given blank paper and instructed to express themselves in a way that illustrates their personalities.
“You’ll find original poetry, songs, essays, photographs, drawings, recipes and anything else a donor can imagine to express his inner self,” the Cryobank website says.
The online method adds a sense of familiarity to what can often be a difficult and sterile process, said Heidi Kronenberg, whose donor-conceived son Jacob is a senior at Tufts University.
Kronenberg, director of operations for the social platform Empowering Single Moms Everywhere, began searching for a donor over 20 years ago, when profiles were far less extensive and mostly in paper form. She remembers using humor — naming the sperm-carrying nitrogen tank “R2-D2” after the Star Wars character — to provide some warmth to an emotionally taxing practice.
When she chose her donor, it was not his IQ or law degree that piqued her interest. It was the little personal information she had about him: He did pro bono work and liked the show “Beverly Hills 90210.”
“It’s a very weird feeling,” Kronenberg said. “I needed to be OK with someone else’s sperm inseminating me. I wanted to feel connected to the other person ... I wasn’t looking for smart or super tall or musical. I was looking for someone cool.”