Being admitted to California Cryobank as a sperm donor is a bit like getting into Harvard. The bank accepts fewer than 1 percent of its 26,000 annual applicants. (Harvard, in comparison, accepts about 6 percent of its approximately 35,000 undergraduate applicants.) Cryobank has even set up clinics in Cambridge, New York, Los Angeles, and Palo Alto specifically to be near the prestigious colleges from which it hopes to draw donors.
Raul Walters, whose name has been changed, represents the Cryobank’s ideal candidate. He is tall and good-looking, holds degrees from top schools, and enjoys a clean bill of health: no one in his immediate family has a history of cancer, early-onset heart disease, or mental illness.
Raul began donating sperm in 2004, to help finance a year off before law school. He was working on a novel while trolling for job opportunities on Craigs-list, and his wife was pregnant with their first child. “I had no real skills,” he said, “but I was six-three with a half-million-dollar education.” Like many of Cryobank’s target donors, Raul is goal-oriented, and he admitted that the selectivity was also part of the allure.
Raul made about $10,000 total by donating a couple of times a week for a year and a half, at $70 a sample. He didn’t dwell on the outcome—the possible children, the various mothers. He went on with his plans for a legal career, his artistic pursuits, and his own family life. Last year, he mentioned to colleagues that he’d been a sperm donor during his time off. “Have you ever Googled your donor number?” one of the other lawyers asked.