Too frequently, a college student will hit financial rock bottom where buying a Chipotle burrito might leave you bankrupt and extra guacamole is out of the equation. Last week, I hit that rock bottom and wanted to find another source of disposable income fast and easy. The most tempting offer for fast, good money was to donate my sperm.
On average, a sperm donor can earn $50-$70 per donation, and healthy men are able to earn $1,000 per month. Heavily persuaded by the large sum of money offered, I glanced over at the requirements to be a donor. There I found vague guidelines of what I expected to see: needing to be healthy, having graduated from high school, having no diseases, etc. However, the only set requirement to donate sperm was a height minimum of 5 feet, 10 inches.
Sizing up to barely 5 feet, 9 inches (on a good day), I was shocked that I couldn’t donate because I was too short. Other donation centers had slightly lower height requirements (i.e. 5’8”) but still had set standards nonetheless. The requirements set by the sperm banks reinforce the social standard for the preferred male height. As a result, the preference for taller guys can be devastating to how men perceive themselves.
Michael Sandel of Harvard University even goes so far as to say that the criteria to be a sperm donor is more demanding than the admissions criteria for Harvard.
“The ideal sperm donor is 6 feet tall, Sandel said, “with a college degree, brown eyes, blond hair and dimples for the simple reason that these are the traits that the market has shown the customers [women] want. If our customers wanted high school dropouts, we would give them high school dropouts.”
Hence, the issue is not entirely with sperm banks because they operate in a capitalist market and are simply trying to fill the supply with sperm that has qualities that are in demand. The real issue comes from a much larger societal pressure that has created the stigma that successful, dateable men are taller.
Multiple studies have found correlations between height and assorted life factors such as money, power, sexual attraction, lifespan and happiness. On the other hand, research has been presented to support the relationship between perceived societal importance of height and self-esteem.
Nancy Booth’s research about height and self-esteem found that adolescents who were much taller or shorter than the average height reported a lower self-esteem. Moreover, this lack of self-esteem was due less to their actual height and more to their awareness of their abnormal height. In other words, because the much shorter/taller subjects felt that height is important in society, they felt more cast out.
Dissatisfaction with one’s body and lower self-esteem have been found to lead to the development of obesity and high levels of depressive symptoms, as well as initiation of drug use and binge drinking at least monthly, according to a 2014 study. Understanding the dangers associated with a lower self-esteem, there is an importance for college men to take care of their mental health and perceived image.
The National Association for Self-Esteem provides a list of steps to boost self-esteem including affirmations, associations and accomplishments. Through proper mental health and self-care, college men can fight off the negative social critiques regarding their height.
Society needs to discontinue the “taller is better” craze when selecting romantic partners. The shallow preference completely ignores the man’s personality, character and values. Once this shift in culture happens, institutions such as sperm banks will be able to stop requiring a height minimum. Not only would the issue of tall preference be minimized, but the sperm banks would be reinforcing the openness to all heights which would increase male self-esteem for those that deviate from the average height.
In the end, height is a predetermined genetic trait and nothing more. Your height is not a defining characteristic of you, and your response to the societal pressures that ‘tall men are better’ should not diminish your self-esteem.