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06/24/2010

New Website is Match.com for Your Genes

Before I even describe the services purportedly offered by BeautifulPeople.com, let me quote Art Caplan who has summed it up better (characteristically so) than anyone else could: “It’s pure, utter nonsensical baloney, at best.” Oh, and he also said it’s bad for society and is clearly a form of eugenics.

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That said, it’s also hilarious and fascinating hucksterism at its finest. Despite their URL, BeautifulPeople.com will match those less attractive specimens of the human species as well with single women and those offering fertility services to couples and singles who are looking for ways to reproduce.

Apparently this site isn’t new, however. Over the last 8 years, BeautifulPeople.com has accumulated 600,000 members from 190 countries. But it is the forum section of its website that is perhaps its most controversial for its ability to “hook up” service providers, gamete donors, surrogates and others without any oversight (of course, just like the rest of the assisted reproduction world) at all.

But what is most disturbing about this website is their purported philosophy about both the beautiful and non-beautiful alike: “Initially, we hesitated to widen the offering to non-beautiful people….But everyone — including ugly people — would like to bring good-looking children into the world, and we can’t be selfish with our attractive gene pool.” How charitable. At least no one can accuse them of being beautiful gene hoarders.

But one can accuse them of being discriminatory. Apparently, in an effort to keep their genetic gene pool as full of beautiful people as possible, the site recently culled 5,000 members who gained weight, says AOL. I mean, come on, what if obesity is more genetic than we currently know? BeautifulPeople.com would not want to be responsible for cute, but chubby offspring, now would it?

Of course, the entire notion that the genetic material of beautiful people could somehow be responsible for the production of more beautiful people is about as scientifically reliable as getting genetic material from Nobel Prize winning sperm or Ivy League egg donors. (It’s not.)

This website feeds on our society’s desperate need to be (or at least feel) beautiful and the (false) belief that the right genetic combination will guarantee that for one’s children.

As Caplan so aptly put it, this website “builds the myth that beauty is gene deep.” Moreover, the belief that beauty is determined by genetics doesn’t hold up, says Caplan. “A lot of attractiveness is determined by the cosmetics industry, surgery, the fashion industry and money. Genes are pretty far down on the list.”

So what is a prospective parent to do if they want a beautiful child? Get a grip. Realize that becoming a parent is not about your own selfish desires and instead is about creating a family and loving that child regardless of how high their cheekbones are or their weight or their hair color. (And as their parent, you will have the rest of their life to impose your own screwed up notions of beauty and body image upon them, so why not just leave their genetics alone?)

Summer Johnson, PhD

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