Q: How did you get a job at a sperm bank?
A: It was a temp job. I was trying to get a job at the university’s art gallery, and someone there recommended that I sign up with the university’s temp service. Of course, after I signed up I found out that 90 percent of the jobs they had were at the hospital. But then I was running out of money and desperate for a job…
Q: What were the main things they did there?
A: They stored donor sperm, took sperm donations, and ran semen analysis. It’s basically where they do the “dirty work.” They also cryobanked sperm for cancer patients, men about to start chemotherapy.
That part was kind of crazy—these guys’ doctors were like, “Oh you’ve got cancer, we’ll start you on chemo tomorrow, run downstairs and bank some sperm while you’ve got the chance.” And these guys would come down to the lab; they weren’t even sure why or what they were being sent to us for. What was really heartbreaking was the leukemia patients, boys who were 12, 13, 14. It was like, these kids have probably never had a girlfriend, and here they are banking sperm to impregnate their future wife. And what could be more embarrassing than having your mom take you to the hospital to masturbate?
Q: What were your job duties?
A: I was the secretary, so I had to take phone calls and schedule appointments for semen analysis, inseminations, and sperm donations. I was either talking to women who were ready for insemination, or scheduling a semen analysis for their husband, who was too embarrassed to make the call himself; or I was talking to men who were all embarrassed and trying to crack off-color jokes.
I had a little script I used to explain the procedure for semen analysis—two to three days prior to your appointment, you have to have an ejaculation to clear out the dead sperm and “debris,” followed by abstinence until the time of the collection, which helps you build up your sperm count. You can either book the collection room at the lab, or collect at home and drop off your semen sample. If you collect at home, you can either pick up a sterile container from the lab, or use a sterilized baby food jar, as long as it’s absolutely dry because water molecules kill sperm.
Q: Did guys ever bring the semen in anything other than the approved containers?
A: Yes, sometimes they would bring the semen in that thing… what’s it called… like a Country Crock tub. There was another guy who brought his semen in a little prescription bottle. He’d peeled off the label and there was pubic hair sticking to the bottle.
Q: Do you have any other interesting stories?
A: Once, some high school seniors left a message that said they wanted to donate sperm to raise money for their prom. I had to call them and explain the whole process—that it’s not easy.
Q: What is the process?
A: You meet with the nurse practitioner, who gives you a thorough exam. As part of the exam you have your penis swabbed with a Q-Tip—they put it in your urethra. That scared a lot of people off. And you have to answer detailed questions about your sexual history. Then you have to come in once a week for several months.
Q: Was it like you see in the movies? Did they have some sort of room where guys would go to give their donations?
A: In the lab there was a “collection room” that had a leather couch and a bathroom area, and a big red light above the door on the outside, to indicate that it was “in use.” It was a dark room with a TV. I think they had soft-core porn movies, and maybe Playboy too, I guess. And lots of white cotton towels. Men coming to collect a sample for semen analysis could bring their wife or girlfriend in the room with them, but when you told them that they usually got really embarrassed and said they’d be OK by themselves.
Q: Do they have binders full of photos of donors that women can choose from?
A: I think it is New York State law that they can’t show photographs, to protect confidentiality. They have basic information though, like ethnic background, hobbies. Some women would bring in pictures of their husband and ask if we could “match” him. The lab techs were really good about it—they knew what the donors looked like and they would try to match it.
What I thought was funny was out of dozens of available donors, there were two or three that were really popular, that most of the women wanted to use. I don’t know what it was, but apparently these guys had what women were looking for.
Q: What did your family think of you doing this job?
A: Apparently my parents got a kick out of it, but I didn’t know it at the time. I’d come by their place for dinner and they’d be like, “How’s work?” And I’d say, “Fine.” But my brother told me later that after I’d leave to go back to my apartment, they’d just go off on these sick jokes for hours, about my hand sticking to the phone or whatever.