By Donald DeMarco
The Interim

Our Celebrity Culture has placed such a high premium on good looks that many prospective parents are having second thoughts about reproducing themselves for fear that their progeny might be as unglamourous as they imagine themselves to be.

A Malibu, California photographer who has worked with Playboy is attempting to cash in on this anxiety of producing less than celebrity-looking children. Ostensibly as a service to humankind, Ron Harris has a website advertising the auctioning of eggs from supermodels and sperm from super-males. The site is After being posted for only a few days, according to USA Today, it received approximately seven million hits.

The price of having beautiful children, however, is rather steep, and automatically eliminates everyone but members of the upper crust. The minimum bids for premium eggs and sperm are set at $15,000 US, and when the bidding starts, the price rises at $1,000 increments.

The maximum bid is set at $150,000. Model Misty-Lee Fern is holding out for $50,000 for her eggs. Another model has received a bid of $42,000.

Harris stands to receive 20 per cent on top of the highest bid. Egg donors will receive 15 per cent of the bid when they begin hormone treatment, and the remaining 85 per cent once the eggs are harvested. The sperm donors receive all their money once they have made their sperm available to the appointed physician.

The cost of in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer to the uterus of the gestational mother is extra and can run anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000. Thus, it could cost a married couple, for example, $400,000 for the privilege of attempting to have a child that is procreated by two total strangers, though strangers who are certifiably good-looking.

Harris is careful to point out that he is not trying to push beauty on people. He makes it clear that all he is doing is letting the market determine the true price of premium eggs and sperm. It is, he attests, “Darwin’s ‘Natural Selection’ at its very best.”

Why such emphasis on beauty? Harris explains, “Beauty is its own reward.”

Ours is the first society to comprehend fully how important it is to be beautiful. It is the beautiful person who is more likely to get jobs that involve interacting with others. It is the beautiful person we prefer to watch on television. There are even reports, as Harris’s website informs us, that “young babies prefer to look at a symmetrical face, rather than an asymmetrical one.”

Harris then delivers the question that the conscientious prospective parent could only answer in the affirmative: “If you could increase the chance of reproducing beautiful children, and thus giving them an advantage in society, would you?” Ron Harris, of course, does not guarantee that the meeting of choice gametes will result in a conception, let alone a pregnancy, or a delivery, or a beautiful baby. But he is convinced that his Web site “mirrors our current society, in that beauty usually goes to the highest bidder.”

At the same time, given the relative inefficiency of in vitro fertilization and embryo implantation, there will be a high percentage of human embryos who will die in the process. There is also the trauma to the egg donor who must endure hormone treatment, anesthesia, laparoscopy, and possible damage to her reproductive system. Even when there is success, there may be psychological problems associated with the sense of alienation the biological mother and father experience knowing that their own flesh and blood are being raised by strangers.

Is our culture putting too high a price on enhancing the chance of producing beautiful children? Does the ordinary husband and wife sense that, all things considered, the children they raise should be biologically sired by comely celebrities? Ron Harris may very well be over-estimating current society’s obsession with good looks. On the other hand, we may wonder whether society is rushing to the Internet to do by choice what Hitler failed to do by force.

The specter of eugenics looms large, even though one could hope that Harris may very well be over-estimating current society’s love affair with physical attractiveness. There is beauty that emerges from being loved that cannot be obtained at any price. But what Harris is doing is fostering an extremely pernicious elitism that is crowding out love and lowering people’s estimation of their own worth.

We should like our children to be beautiful. But more importantly, we should want them to be lovable. And they will be as lovable as their parents are loving. The Internet should be used to surf for information, not to shop for one’s children.