There’s a Pandemic Sperm Shortage, and “Sperm King” Megadonors Are in High Demand

Sperm is in high demand, and these online donors can't unload their product fast enough.

sperm swimming
Sperm kings unite.
Getty Images/Science Photo Library

These may not seem like ideal times to bring new life into the world, but apparently not everyone sees it that way. In fact, despite the well documented difficulty of parenting during a pandemic, it would seem many aspiring parents have decided to move forward with their reproductive plans anyway. So many, in fact, that sperm banks can’t keep up.

According to The New York Times, sperm banks have seen a record-breaking increase in demand over the past several months. Maybe prospective parents think the flexibility of the work-from-home era makes it easier to carve out time for parenthood, or maybe, as Michelle Ottey, director of operations at Fairfax Cryobank, told the Times, “they’re just trying to find some hope right now.” But whatever the reason, people want pandemic babies, and the sperm banks are struggling to meet demand. While more people want sperm, fewer are donating it during the pandemic, and this supply shortage has left many prospective parents trying to get their sperm fix elsewhere — namely, the internet.

Enter the “sperm kings,” as the Times‘ Nellie Bowles has dubbed them. These are men donating their sperm, largely free of charge, through online networks. You can find them in massive Facebook groups like Sperm Donation USA, which boasts around 11,000 members and counting. According to Bowles, these groups have seen a recent surge in new members seeking sperm from these “off-brand megadonors.”

It’s easy to understand why these online communities are a big draw for aspiring parents. They want sperm, sperm banks don’t have enough to give, and these unregulated online alternatives offer a less expensive option with fewer hoops to jump through. But what’s in it for the sperm kings, many of whom receive little to no financial compensation for their goods and/or services?

For some, it might be a sex thing. While most donors reportedly specify they will donate through artificial insemination only, others offer donations via “natural insemination,” also known as sex. As one might imagine, “the line between altruism and a sexual kink can get murky quickly,” Bowles noted.

For most guys, however, the call to spread their seed seems to be more about the urge to reproduce without the burden of parenthood. “I have a strong desire to know my genes have been passed on,” one donor wrote on donor-finding app Just A Baby. “Like many of us, I’m not in a position to do so at the moment nor do I foresee this is in the near future.” While the idea of fathering myriad children might sound chaotic, some men seem attracted to the idea of siring a massive brood. “I have this vision of me being in my 50s and 60s, and I have a large dinner table, and I’m inviting all my donor kids to join me for dinner,” one popular donor told the Times.

Whatever the reason, however, the sperm kings know their reproductive material is a hot commodity, and many of these good semen Samaritans are content to give it away for free.

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