Reader Mary Beth alerts us to this fascinating topic currently under discussion on Wendy Shalit’s Modestly Yours group blog: the increasing number of single women who are having babies via sperm donors they found on the Internet. The spur: a New York Times article from October:

“The groundswell of single women deliberately having babies reflects their increased ability to support a family. It helps, too, that the Internet has done away with the need to leave the house to find a donor. A woman can now select the father of her child from her living room and have his sperm sent directly to her doctor. It is faster and cheaper than adoption, and allows women to bear their own genetic offspring.

“Single women have always found adoption rules more restrictive than they are even for gay couples. Many hesitate to simply have a sexual fling or use a ‘known donor’ for fear that the father may someday stake a claim to the child. But thousands are now gravitating to sperm bank Web sites, where donor profiles can be sorted by medical history, ethnic background and a wide range of physical characteristics.

“‘It’s not necessarily Plan B anymore, it’s just the plan,’ said Melissa Singer, 46, a member of Single Mothers by Choice, a national support group, who had a donor-inseminated daughter 10 years ago. ‘It means there’s a lot less desperation as a whole in the group.'”

My own feeling is that there are going to be a lot of young adults in a couple of decades who are going to be searching the Internet themselves–to try to track down the dad they never knew but sorely miss. There’s a synonym for “sperm donor”; it’s “father.” The New York Times, natch, dismisses this concern as a silly superstition: “the widely held belief that two-parent homes are best for children.” Yes, it’s a belief widely held. I wonder why.

The insemination craze strikes me as a byproduct of the current belief that young people aren’t mature enough to marry until they’re practically middle-aged–and also that they’re entitled to a decade or two of sexual free-for-all-ing so they can fulfill their needs. Unfortunately for women, not only are their biological time-clocks running during this period, but so are their looks clocks. A lady in her mid-30s faces a lot of competition for men from gals just five years younger than she, and it’s not surprising that many women are going to the brink of infertility without finding husbands. There may be “a lot less desperation” if you can have a baby via mail-in sperm, but there’s desperation nonetheless.