The world of the donorsexual

What kind of man becomes a sperm donor? A Swedish study in BJOG, an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology, says that donors are actually a cut above the average Swedish male: they “suffer less from uncertainty, shyness and fatigability”, they have “a capacity to take responsibility, to behave in a goal-directed manner, to be resourceful and self-acceptant, and to behave in a manner guided by meaningful values and goals”. In short, donors are “stable, mature and well-integrated”.

However, other studies suggest that there may be a darker side to this sunny picture. An American study of egg donors found that they tended to present themselves in the best possible light.

A recent article in Newsweek about the growth of free sperm donation supports the view that sperm donors are often eccentric. Buying disease-tested sperm from a clinic can be expensive – at least US$2,000, so “an online underground” of websites and chat rooms has sprung up to connect women – mostly lesbians – with men. One transaction mentioned in the article took place in separate bathrooms in a Starbucks.

The article profiles Trent Arsenault, a 36-year-old who calls himself a “donorsexual”. He created a website offering his own sperm as a free service and thinks that he has sired ten children. However, his services have stopped, at least for the moment. Last year the Food and Drug Administration ordered him to “cease manufacture” of sperm because he cannot provide adequate protection against communicable diseases.

Some donors are altruistic, but others just want to spread their “amazing genes”, like the polyphiloprogenitive potentates of the ancient world.

There are fears that the government will step in to regulate donor websites which operate like dating websites without the commitment. However, Beth Gardner, a lesbian who launched one of these, told Newsweek that this is “preposterous”. “If it’s legal to go to a bar, get drunk, and sleep with a random stranger, then it can’t possibly be illegal to provide clean, healthy sperm in a cup.” 

Hmmm. When the leaders of the Sexual Revolution were fighting on the barricades, did they ever think that “free love” would take place in paper cups in Starbucks?

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