In the interest of full disclosure, I've met Trent Arsenault, the now famous sperm donor, and he's a really nice guy. So maybe I have a dog in the race, but I think the media is misunderstanding what lower and middle class single women, lesbians, and infertile men go though to get pregnant: It's not cheap.
At the Cryobank, for example, a single donation (for an open donor which is what Arsenault is) costs from $455-$715. And that's after the host of charges involved in choosing a donor. ABC reports that a 39-year-old woman spent $60,000-$70,000 at sperm banks, before finally becoming successfully pregnant by using a free donor.
So Trent Arsenault considers himself something of a sperm donor activist who believes he's working for the greater good by giving free sperm to women who have exhausted their funds at the super-expensive, totally for-profit sperm banks. But the majority of articles and comments I've seen on the web about Arsenault tend to be snickering, if not vilifying.
It's like the boys in the press hear the word sperm and they have to suppress a giggle. Gawker says, "We weren't the only ones simultaneously grossed out by and fascinated with human DNA factory Trent Arsenault."
I'm not sure what's so gross or fascinating about sperm either, but I do know Arsenault doesn't donate it as some kind of pervy pastime: He takes his mission very seriously. He's on a special diet to increase his sperm count, he's put his family history of disease on his donor website, and he gets the plethora of tests required by the FDA to be a sperm donor.
But if a woman or couple doesn't have the money for a traditional sperm bank, or if they prefer to meet the man before using him, government laws make it difficult, and in Arsenault's case illegal. He's been fighting a cease-and-desist order from the FDA for a year. The Feds are threatening him with a fine of up to $100,000 and as much as a year in jail. And so he's taken the fight to the press, billing himself as someone who provides sperm for the 99%.
But after his most recent spate of publicity, Gawker (who's supposed to dig into the lives of powerful celebs and politicians) dug up the fact that Arsenault likes to upload his jerk-off sessions to Xtube, and then grossly exaggerated by calling him a porn star. If he's a porn star for displaying what's inside his tighty-whities on Xtube, then I'm a movie star for appearing in videos on YouTube.
And then, probably fearing the FDA and/or women he's donated to over the years might think Arsenault is disease-ridden, he also went public about being a virgin (something his donor site says, but he hadn't mentioned in previous interviews).
Arsenault says he remains a virgin so that the women he donates to are completely free of sexually transmitted diseases, and that the X-rated videos are a way for him to cope with having to suppress his sex drive in order to remain a virgin.
Obviously Arsenault may have more complex reasons for his virginity and Xtube sessions than even he himself completely understands. But, really, who cares? Over the last half decade, he's probably given away hundreds of thousands of dollars in free services to hosts of families and single women.
So doesn't Gawker have any bigger fish to fry? It's going to get to the point where average people, when asked for comment by the media, are going to think "no way! They're going to dig up that time I ___ " (fill in the blank).
And it's kind of a bummer too that when the 14 kids Arsenault has sired get older and Google him, instead of seeing his years of devotion to helping women -- which is how he and the women involved see it -- they're going to see Trent Arsenault: Porn Star.