On September 12, 2011, Style Exposed aired a program called “Sperm Donor”, which features 33-year old Ben Siesler, a man who has fathered 74 children. When he was in law school at George Mason University, he donated to a local sperm bank for three years and never knew he fathered so many children until recently. For each month he donated his sperm, he received $900. Throughout the documentary, he has trouble telling his fiancée Lauren about his 74 children, while they both discuss wedding plans and the possibility of having children of their own in the near future.
After finding out about the amount of children he has from the Donor Sibling Registry, Ben decides to contact the families who have reached out to him. So far, 15 of his children have personally contacted him from the Registry, but in the documentary, he only meets two of his biological children, a boy and girl born from a single mother. Finding out that Ben will be visiting them, Ben’s biological daughter asks her mother if she and Ben will be breaking up, since Ben will be marrying another woman. Clearly, his daughter is sad that she does not have a father by her side and lacks a stable nuclear family unit.
When asked about his experience meeting two of his biological children, Ben said that “It was kind of wild. On the one hand, these kids are biologically my kids. On the other hand, they are not my kids. I didn’t raise them. I have no control over how they are raised.” Despite how truthful Ben’s statements are, it is a shame to see that the sperm donor industry enables single mothers to create “families” out of their own self-interest and that psychologically damages the children that are born into such households.
In addition, “Sperm Donor” also features two half-sisters, one born in Kansas and the other born in Arizona, who both have Ben as their father. After meeting virtually on the Registry, Adrienne decides to fly out to Arizona to surprise her half-sister Karis for her senior prom. While in Arizona, Adrienne discusses the importance of getting to know all of her half-siblings and having all of them unite to become one big family. Adrienne’s exact sentiments convey how the sperm donor industry is responsible for breaking up the stability of the traditional family unit by separating biological siblings into numerous families that only feature one biological parent.
Essentially, programs like “Sperm Donor” are normalizing the unethical effects of the sperm donor industry and are continually perpetuating the moral decay of our society. By restructuring the traditional family unit and the two-parent heterosexual model, the sperm donor industry is purposefully changing America’s definition of a stable society and thus is ultimately hurting the children conceived from such a system.
However, there is hope that the abuses of the sperm donor industry will halt. Recently, The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network released a film called Anonymous Father’s Day, which features adults searching for their biological fathers and calling for the end of the very system that conceived them.
In the trailer, one woman asks “Should we be conceiving children in the first place who will be deliberately denied the ability to know, and be known by, their father?” Another woman states that she wants “…her children to know where they came from.” Such statements convey both the unethical and emotionally damaging nature of anonymous sperm donations.
The truth about this industry is being told, but will such an immoral practice that could potentially lead to the rise of incest and genetic disorders be deterred soon? We have yet to find out.
Anna Maria Hoffman // University of California at San Diego // @AMHoffman