Sperm Bank: No Red-Headed Men Need Apply

There's been interesting coverage lately of sperm "super-donors" who father dozens of children, from this story in The New York Times to this one in the Boston Globe.

As co-author of a book that featured donated sperm, I can tell you that the prospect of dozens of half-siblings who could conceivably meet, fall in love with each other and unknowingly commit incest strikes a deep, atavistic chord in many people. At readings and events, it was one of the most common questions: "You mean there are no controls on how many children a donor fathers?"

Personally, it doesn't worry me much. It's a problem that could be solved by a national registry of donor-conceived children, and is already partly solved by the heroic efforts of a Colorado force of nature named Wendy Kramer, whose Donor Sibling Registry helps such half-siblings identify each other.

But here's a true sperm-related outrage: Discrimination against red-headed men! Sisters, where is your discernment? Hat-tip to Beth Jones, who pointed out this article in the New York Daily News. Headline: "World's biggest sperm bank, Cryos, tells redheads: We don't want your semen."

"There are too many redheads in relation to demand," Ole Schou, the director of Cryos, told the Danish newspaper, Ekstrabladetaccording to London's Telegraph.

Men with scarlett manes sell "like hot cakes" in Ireland, Schou said, but that's about it.

"I do not think you choose a redhead, unless the partner - for example, the sterile male - has red hair, or because the lone woman has a preference for redheads," he said, the Telegraph reported. "And that's perhaps not so many, especially in the latter case."

And the worst of it is, if red-headed men's feelings are hurt by this rejection, they may be more sensitive to the pain, research suggests.

This program aired on September 19, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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