Why is a sperm bank banning redheads?

When it comes to making babies, gingers are out -- at least at the world's largest sperm bank

Mary Elizabeth Williams
September 20, 2011 11:21PM (UTC)

You'd think that a customer shopping around to make a baby wouldn't mind the possibility of a child with the qualities of Thomas Jefferson, Gen. George Custer, Winston Churchill or Elizabeth I. And who'd ask for a refund on a sprog with something in common with figures as notable as Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Darwin or Shaun White? Who'd complain if a baby grew up to resemble Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Susan Sarandon or Nicole Kidman? Well, hold your horses -- and your little swimmers -- my Viking friends. Because Cryos International, the world's largest sperm bank, is no longer accepting deposits from gingers.

"We have nothing against red-haired donors," explained the agency's director Ole Schou to msnbc.com Monday. Schou told the Danish newspaper Ekstrabladet that "there are too many redheads in relation to demand. Our stock is about to explode."


Exploding stock, of course, is not a problem you want at your sperm bank.

It stands to reason that a variety of physical types would be greatly prized at a bank that offers "more than 500 donors of different races and ethnicities." So while Schou, employing the unfortunate metaphor of the week, says that redhead sperm is still going "like hotcakes" in Ireland, he admits the company's currently seeking "more Black, Asian, Hispanic, Mediterranean and mixed-race donors" to reflect the diversity of its clientele.

But there may be another issue at work here. "I do not think you choose a redhead, unless the partner -- for example, the sterile male -- has red hair," Schou says, "or because the lone woman has a preference for redheads. And that's perhaps not so many, especially in the latter case." In other words: Step off, Conan. Ladies don't want your ginger juice.


Unfortunately, Schou may be on to something. Though a sperm donor is just as likely to produce a female offspring as a male one, there may be something to the idea of reproducing, even in a doctor's office, with a redheaded man that's a turnoff to customers. A man who imagines baby-making with a redhead can picture tapping Christina Hendricks. A woman, on the other hand, may consider whether she's holding a turkey baster full of Ron Weasley.

Maybe the fact that redheads are a diminishing population reflects not just a natural selection in the world of sexual reproduction but a scientific selection as well.  All this and "Kick a Ginger Day," too. The indignity never ends for the freckled of face and carrot of top. There's an old saying that if you want trouble, find yourself a redhead. But if you want a baby, apparently, most people would prefer something in a brunette.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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