It's easy to point out the flaws in BeautifulPeople.com's gamete donation plan, matching attractive egg donors or sperm donors with attractive recipients in order to create uberattractive babies: (1) it's disgusting and shallow and rude, (2) it reduces people to a set of physical features disregarding all other qualities, (3) strong chin trumps math skills.
Newsweek gets to the heart of the matter:
BeautifulPeople.com’s approach sounds a lot like selective breeding. No matter how you cut that, there’s something creepy about creating a made-to-order child. Even a really pretty one.
And Women's Rights takes it a step further:
I can't imagine a better child-rearing goal than having a beautiful baby. Maybe future environmental disasters and internecine wars will come to an end once we've got more celebrity look-alikes in the mix! Maybe parents will finally stop worrying about things like education and focus instead on that key characteristic of slim, slick, moneyed hotness!
But don't we all inherently do with our eyes and choices what a computer system is doing with a few algorithms? Don't we choose our partners based on their physical attributes? Their physical attributes may not fit the standard Jake-Gyllenhaal-in-Prince-of-Persia body, but this doesn't mean that you're not physically attracted to those traits. While others may not think my husband is the hottest man on the planet, I think he gives the men who make People's Sexiest Men of the Year issue a run for their money. Of course I hoped our kids would inherit the physical traits I found beautiful -- his straight, regal nose; his long fingers, that thick head of brown hair.
If we had to use donor sperm, I would have used the same criteria I used to choose my husband when I considered him as gene-bearer material (I used different criteria to examine him from the how-would-he-do-as-a-partner-to-me material) -- I would have looked for qualities that I wanted my child to possess, whether they were talents or physical traits. If you gave me a choice between sperm from a six-foot man and a four-foot man, I would have taken the sperm of the six-foot man. I'm certain the four-foot man has lovely qualities, too, but I'm attracted to taller guys, so it would follow that I'd probably choose the sperm from the taller man. The same goes for hair color -- love dark hair, hate blond. So if you gave me a choice between the sperm of a brown-haired man and a blond, the brown-haired man is going to win out every time.
So why is it shallow to choose donor traits but it's not shallow to choose your partner? When you pick your partner, you are choosing them (in part) for their traits. And I'm certain that if you needed to interact with the donor, you would take more care to weigh other points, but since your only interaction will be via the genes passed along to your child, you spend more time thinking about those traits.
Does beauty matter? Somewhat. I mean, even if I had the greatest chemistry with a potential mate via the telephone and email, I would still want to see and touch the person. Of course it is shallow to admit that physical traits matter, but I'm going to be shallow -- they do. Luckily, beauty is also in the eyes of the beholder -- so you may love that blond hair that I find unattractive, and I may like the brown eyes that you find boring. Outward beauty is just one of the many factors that go into creating that connection, but while it should never be held as the end-all-and-be-all, it also shouldn't be disregarded.
It is easy to use the BeautifulPeople.com situation as ammunition in the infertile-people-want-designer-babies argument, but at its core, it's a ridiculous argument for two reasons:
(1) The idea of control is only an illusion, and any infertile person who has taken a gander at SART's clinic success rates knows this. Doctors can try to manipulate the creation of life, but only nature has the ability to actually take that spark and make it become a person. And, more often than not, even with all the help of IVF, the body still lets the person down. We cannot create beautiful people because we cannot create people. By which I mean, we can attempt to create a person, but it is entirely out of any human's hands whether that person is created or not. The body has more control than science.
(2) We all attempt to "breed out the uglies" by marrying someone who is -- in our eyes -- beautiful. I've never met someone who married someone they find unattractive. And again, while others may find my husband hideous, I think he is gorgeous and sexy and ... dare I say it? ... a Beautiful Person. Therefore, whether we do it by marrying someone we find attractive or we purchase sperm from someone who we deem attractive, we are still ending up in the same place -- trying to create a person who will be attractive in our eyes.
Do I think the founder of BeautifulPeople.com sounds like a bloated frat boy when he says things like:
Initially, we hesitated to widen the offering to nonbeautiful people. But everyone — including ugly people — would like to bring good looking children in to the world, and we can't be selfish with our attractive gene pool.
Yes, of course. But wait, BeautifulPeople.com isn't telling you that it's a douchebag-free site -- it's just an ugly-person-free site. And people shouldn't mix up external qualities with internal ones.
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