A dating site called BeautifulPeople.com – now, there's a service to avoid -- is offering up its members as breeders who, for a fee, will donate eggs and sperm for in vitro fertilization to those of us who are merely mediocre. Predictably, and no doubt as the site's founders intended, the announcement this week that it is branching out into the fertility business has ignited outrage, tons of publicity and probably lots of traffic to the site. BeautifulPeople, located in Denmark, launched worldwide last fall and claims to have 600,000 members in 190 countries. It, like other dating sites such as OKCupid.com or HotEnough.org, screens applicants based on their looks. There are a few problems with the promise of pretty babies, however. First, having a beautiful donor does not necessarily mean you'll have a beautiful child. Genetic recombination is funny that way. Second, I spent some time on the BeautifulPeople site. The managing director of the service has boasted that its members resemble Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie and that it bans existing members who gain weight, but the denizens aren't actually that cute, unless you have a thing for young people who have clearly spent way too much time learning to pose like Paris Hilton and "The Situation." But the main problem is, BeautifulPeople.com is pretty slow off the mark — like about 25 years. Ever since the first baby born using a donated egg popped its little head into the world, mothers and fathers have been selecting donors based on a variety of traits they'd like to impart to that chip off the old block. Mainly, they want a child who looks like them, but sometimes with a boost, too. And, so we got outfits like the Repository for Germinal Choice, a sperm bank in California that boasted of its genius gene pool. In 1999, a Web porn entrepreneur named Ron Harris held an auction offering the eggs of models for minimum bids of $15,000. Soon thereafter, ads began appearing in Ivy League newspapers seeking egg donors with good grades, great looks, and a need for $15,000 to $20,000. Today, bragging about the good looks of your donors has become routine. There's an even more important reason to be wary of finding a donor on a funky dating website, Andrew La Barbera, scientific director of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, told me. Sperm and egg donors from legit providers "go through a very rigorous screening process, not only to determine the physical fitness of the sperm, but psychological screening, too...like past history of drug and alcohol abuse." (Looking at some of the "Beautiful People" makes such screening seem like a pretty good idea.) When he ran a sperm bank, La Barbera said, he rejected about 70 percent of prospective donors. A few years ago, I interviewed the owner of a Europe-based service called Elite IVF whose literature featured a gorgeous, raven haired young woman. "Everybody wants to have beautiful children," he told me, by way of explaining why he paid good-looking girls — mainly from poor, Eastern European countries — to cough up their eggs. "The fathers, eh?" I said assuming men would be seduced by the come-on for sexy eggs. "No," he said, "it's usually the mothers." At which point I turned to a woman, a potential IVF patient, who was browsing the Elite IVF booth at the convention I was covering. Would that be true for her? "Sure," she said. "Why not?" She wished she would not need a donor egg at all, but as long as she did, "at least maybe I could breed out my family's fat thighs." Good luck with that. What are your thoughts on BeautifulPeople.com? Tell us in the comments. To read more Body Odd posts, click here. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook.
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