06/08/2005: Thought for the Day:
Anyway, back to Amanda. At this point I am obliged to point out that Amanda was cute. In fact, she was distractingly cute. She was thirty, I'd guess, and looked Latina. She smiled all the time, a sexy, gleaming smile, and laughed when I made even the lamest stab at a joke. She leaned across her desk toward me as we talked. Rule number one of sperm banking: The people who recruit donors are invariably women, and they are invariably good-looking. I suspect—no, I am sure—that this is deliberate, to get donors excited to join the Fairfax team.
Yet Amanda's sexiness presented a kind of paradox. The chief activity of the sperm bank—its entire purpose—is masturbation. But my interview with Amanda was actually designed to desexualize what I would be doing. It eliminated the embarrassment that men feel about masturbation by replacing it with tedium. After the review of my application, Amanda walked me, step by countless step, through the qualification process—if my sperm count were above such-and-such a number, I would make the next round. There would be blood tests for gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis, and scary diseases I had never heard of. They would give me a renal ultrasound. My sperm would again be counted, frozen, thawed, and recounted. Its motility—how well it swims—would be tested and retested. Only then would I finally be admitted as a donor—and even that was contingent on passing regular blood tests. Amanda listed what I would be required to supply to the bank if I qualified: baby photos, an audio CD about myself, essays on such topics as "What is your most memorable childhood experience?" and "What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you?"
Amanda held forth enthusiastically and at great length about money. "You will get paid $50 per usable specimen, for starters. Then you will get $5 for every vial from the specimen. The average is 10 to 14 vials per specimen. When a vial is released from quarantine after six months, you will get another $5. So the average payment is $209 per deposit." She paused. "Now, this is ordinary income, but we don't do withholding. We send checks twice a month, but later we will just give you a check every six months. We will send you a 1099 form at the end of the year."
Amanda had managed to take a mysterious and sexual and profound process and make it sound exactly like ... a job. I considered asking her about the 401(k) and dental benefits.
--David Plotz [on becoming a sperm donor]
Len on 06.08.05 @ 08:31 AM CST