Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

What Women Want in a Sperm Donor

A study into how women choose sperm donors online has revealed that men who are intellectual, shy, calm and methodical are selected to produce more children rather than those who are extroverted.

“Worldwide demand for sperm donors is so great, an informal online market has emerged in which offspring are being produced outside of the more formal fertility clinic setting,” said Mr Stephen Whyte of Queensland University of Technology.

“You would expect in an online setting, men would have to sell or promote themselves to women, and extroverted men should be better at doing that. But what we find is actually the opposite.

“In what we believe is the first study to include males who are donating purely through unregulated websites and forums, we interviewed and collected data from 56 men. This online donor market works quite differently to fertility clinics in that it facilitates more interaction between the recipient and the donor. This allows us to explore individual donor personality characteristics and how likely they are to be chosen by women as their donor.

“Women were far less likely to choose the sperm of fretful or socially awkward men but at the same time those with lively, extroverted personalities were also less successful in being chosen.”

The participants for the study, which has been published in Applied Economic Letters (tinyurl.com/oegemfg), were aged between 23 and 66 and were from Australia, Canada, the UK, Italy, Sweden and the USA. Data were collected via online surveys of regulated (paid), semi-regulated and unregulated (free) online sperm donation forums and websites.

“Research has previously shown humans are good at judging personality traits as well as levels of intelligence with only minimal exposure to appearance and behaviours, and our findings certainly seem to support that,” Whyte said. “We also found that 73% of our participants who had children by donation kept in touch via mail, email, phone, video link or even in person with at least one of their donor children.”