clock menu more-arrow no yes

Odd Job: Can a man earn a living on sperm donation alone? This guy did.

Sperm donors can make up to $12,000 a year.

Toy balloons shaped like spermatozoa all “swim” in one direction.
Sperm donors can make thousands by donating.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

I think all men have a natural distrust of the sperm donation business. We’re constantly inundated with their ads — usually in the index pages of dying alt-weeklies or in the margins of dicey websites — promising hundreds of dollars for about 10 minutes of our time. How could that not be a big honking scam? Why would a company ever pay me to jerk off? Seems too good to be true.

Thankfully, I have 30-year-old John Carpantier as my personal ambassador. About six years ago, he worked as a full-time sperm donor in Northern California. Carpantier was in a fortunate situation with his other expenses (he was living rent-free), but he remains one of the few men in human history to literally make a career out of what the rest of us make of our morning showers.

According to Carpantier, after a lengthy application process and some uncomfortable phone calls to distant relatives to verify that he didn’t have any genetic red flags, sperm donation is about as simple as it sounds. You sign up for a strict 12-month contract, and your “work schedule” consists of two trips per week to the clinic and some designated no-sex days before your grim charity. $1,000 a month isn’t a ton of money, but it beat the barista life he was living before. We talked about all that, as well as the relationship Carpantier expects to have with any future hypothetical children and how he almost got rejected before he started because he was going to community college rather than university.

So where were you in life when you decided to become a full-time sperm donor? How did that come to be?

At the time, I was going to community college. I was working at a coffee shop, making minimum wage. Not much money, but something. I was looking for anything I could talk my way into, and sometimes I’d see these ads that said, “Hey, make $10,000 being a sperm donor.” I was like, “Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.” But one day, I decided the worst they could say was no. So I sent in an application.

What was the application experience like?

It was a very lengthy process. They wanted to know everything about me. They had me fill out a bunch of stuff about myself, my family history, anyone I was close to that had died or had health issues. I called up some [family members] and they were like, “Nope, we’re pretty healthy.” My uncle had cancer and beat it. Other than that, super healthy. So I gave them all of that, I filled out some stuff about my education.

They almost denied me because at first I was like, “I’m going for an associate’s degree,” and they were like, “Well, we’re really going after people who are trying to do BAs or BSs.” I said I was going to do that too, but I was completing my AA first.

What was the money like?

The way it would work is you’d go in twice a week, you’d have to have no sexual activity two days beforehand to make sure your sperm count was high enough — which was another part of the application process, making sure you had a high count. It was $100 a session, so about $800 to $1,000 a month.

That’s a good amount of money. That’s basically my rent right now.

The funny thing was, shortly after I started, I ended up getting married to a girl in the Coast Guard. We moved, and I was like, “Well, I’m making my money, and we don’t even have to pay rent because she’s in the military, so I guess I don’t have to have a job for a year.”

So you were living off sperm donation for a year.

Yeah, very, very rarely would I have to take any money from her. We both bought each other stuff.

This must’ve been a routine for you. “All right, Tuesdays and Fridays I’m going to the clinic,” or whatever. What was the schedule like?

Yeah, it was like, “Okay, I’m scheduled for Tuesday and Friday, so I can’t do anything Sunday or Monday.” Tuesday at around 1 pm, I’d drive the same route to the clinic, find parking in downtown Berkeley, head to the clinic, do my thing for 30 minutes or whatever, go home, and have the rest of the day. It was an hour from getting in my car to getting home.

Did you think of it as work?

It definitely didn’t feel like work. But at the same time, it was one of those things where it’s like, it’s going to be over in a year, so enjoy it while it lasts. It’s doing something we’re all doing anyway.

Did it ever interfere with your sex life?

Well, there were issues, but there were issues with [my wife] in general. And I probably have a lower libido than most men. So it was always a strain in our relationship. I finished [sperm donation] while we were still together, and that was a problem afterward.

Did she ever want you to quit?

Oh, no, but the thing is if you go in and your shot doesn’t work or it doesn’t have a high enough count, they just wouldn’t pay for it. That’s like a lost paycheck, so you have to be more careful. It wasn’t an exact science, either. If you [had sex] a day before, sometimes it’d work out, sometimes it wouldn’t.

What’s the tax situation with sperm donation?

Pretty straight-up 1099. The standard if-you-earned-more-than-$600 thing. I had to file one of those, but it wasn’t that much in taxes.

When did the arrangement end? When did things come to a close with your donation?

It was for a set year to have enough sperm in their bank for anyone to go for it. So it was just like, “All right, the year is up, thank you so much.” I think I even got a small extra stipend for getting through the whole year.

Would you ever consider doing it again?

Certainly, it wasn’t a bad experience. But there’s not a whole lot of opportunities. When I told people about it while I was doing it back then, they were like, “Dude, you should just start hopping county to county and start doing it.” I was like, “I don’t think there are that many programs for that.” I looked, and yeah, you can’t really do it for a career.

Did any of your friends want to give it a shot?

Nobody I talked to mentioned trying it. But again, the application process was pretty … not arduous, but extensive. There were many minefields that I’m certain I skipped over without realizing that they are disqualifying.

Are you aware of any biological kids running around?

Funny you should mention that. When I was finishing up the application process, at the end, they were like, “This is fully optional, but if you’re interested, if your sperm ends up being a kid, once they’re 18 they can call you.” I was like, “Yeah, why not?”

Is sperm donation something you’d recommend?

Yeah, absolutely. It was good for me. It didn’t do anything bad for me. It’s a fun story to tell, and maybe in a decade and a half, I’ll get some fun phone calls.

Sign up for The Goods’ newsletter. Twice a week, we’ll send you the best Goods stories exploring what we buy, why we buy it, and why it matters.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.