June 23, 2010— -- If you want to be a parent, Parissa Mobasher believes you owe your offspring three things: love, the best education you can provide and good genes.
That's why, as a member of BeautifulPeople.com, a dating site exclusively for attractive people, she's joined the company's most recent venture, a "virtual sperm and egg bank for people who want to have beautiful babies."
"I know it sounds really shallow in the context of BeautifulPeople, but if you look at human nature, the initial attraction is the exterior," the 42-year-old Londoner said. "It's that extra edge in life."
As a single woman, she said she's potentially open to finding a suitable sperm donor on what the company called its fertility introduction service. And if she chooses against having children of her own, Mobasher said she'd seriously consider giving her eggs to someone else -- especially given the strength of her own genetic endowment.
"Wouldn't it be an awful waste of eggs if I was to stop producing eggs?" she said. "I've seen my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother. I've seen what they turned out to be."
Launched this week, BeautifulPeople.com's new fertility forum is intended to give members and non-members (or "ugly people") better odds of having good-looking children, the company said.
"Right or wrong, infertile couples highly value attractiveness in their donors," Greg Hodge, the site's managing director, told ABCNews.com. "It may not give us all a warm, fuzzy feeling inside but you can't argue the fact that parents want to secure every advantage for their child."
Though the dating site is only open to men and women who are voted attractive enough by other members of the site, he said the fertility forum will be available to anyone.
"Initially, we hesitated to widen the offering to non-beautiful 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," company founder Robert Hintze said in a statement.
BeautifulPeople.com Not Making Money From Fertility Forum
Hodge said that over the years, BeautifulPeople.com, which has more than 600,000 members from 190 countries, has received repeated requests from fertility clinics to advertise on the site. He said they launched the fertility forum to help address the shortage of sperm and egg donors in the United Kingdom and help potential parents more easily find good-looking donors.
But he emphasized that the company has no financial interest in the new site. It's meant to be a forum for discussion and a way to match beautiful people with those who want their genes, he said. The site directs members to information about fertility clinics and the appropriate protocol to follow.
"It's political, it's contentious, it's polarizing. We certainly don't want to be profiting from it," he said.
But profit or not, critics say the site isn't just ethically questionable, it's an affront to other human beings.
"It's just terribly insulting. It trivializes our values. It trivializes human sexuality. It's just another example of the superficiality and consumerism that I think is running rampant in our society," said Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, a bioethicist at the University of Chicago.
He said that while attraction has played a role in human mating for thousands of years, sites like this make it falsely seem as though the only attribute that matters is a person's looks. He also said that it approaches Aldous Huxley's scenario in "Brave New World," in which people are engineered for certain characteristics.
"It's another step in turning children into products rather than persons," he said.
And Sulmasy asked about what happens when things go wrong.
"This is genetics. It's still a lottery when you're picking somebody's sperm," he said. "The beauty may not come through in the genetics. ... What are the parents supposed to do then? Turn it in?"
Other detractors worried that BeautifulPeople's new forum would give people a way to circumvent safeguards intended to protect the adults and the child.
"If they are going to be a matchmaker between people who need donations and people who want to be donors, I'm concerned that the medical and psychological protections will not be in place for either party," said Corey Whelan, program director for the American Fertility Association.
Attractiveness Not the Only Consideration for Potential Egg, Sperm Recipients
Though the site said it would direct would-be donors and recipients to clinics and the proper protocol, she said the forum still "opens up a can of worms" as people could potentially bypass medical tests, psychological screenings and other legal requirements.
She also said that while people do consider attractiveness when choosing a sperm or egg donor, she emphasized that many other factors also come into play.
"[Fertility] centers are really trying to give a broad-based profile of what this person is and certainly looks are part of that, but so is health, so is family, so are interests," she said. "When people are looking at the profiles of potential donors, they are looking for someone with qualities that resonate with them."
There will always be people who weigh attractiveness over other attributes, she said, but that's not the vast majority of people.
"We don't create our families that way," Whelan said. "When people are looking to create their family they [consider] much, much more than looks."