A Few More Thoughts/Questions About the Trent Arsenault Order

My last post was about an order issued by the FDA directed towards a man named Trent Arsenault.   Arsenault provides fresh sperm for free via his website.  (I didn’t link to this before.  It’s fascinating and probably worth a look if the topic interests you.)   While Arsenault doesn’t exactly resemble a sperm bank, the FDA seems to be trying to regulate him as though he were one.

This, of course, makes for lots of interesting questions.  Among them–

What’s the difference (if any) between a for-profit sperm bank and Trent Arsenault?  Money/profit?   Volume?  Fresh/frozen? 

What’s the difference (if any) between The Sperm Bank of California (a not-for-profit sperm bank) and Trent Arsenault?  Some of above plus Arsenault doesn’t touch money at all while TSBC does sell sperm using the money to cover expenses, etc.?

What’s the difference between Trent Arsenault and a man who has had sex with dozens of women, most of whom he hardly knows?   (No one thinks the latter can be regulated by the FDA (or any other government agency.)

This last leads to some interesting trains of thought.   Simple reasoning might suggest that the man who has sex with all those women would ordinarily be the legal father of the children. while a man who provides sperm for insemination via ART is often not a legal father.  Thus, you might try to argue that the fact of legal paternity somehow regulates the individual who is free-lancing via sex while it doesn’t regulate people like Arsenault and thus this other regulation is needed.

But that’s not the law in CA (which is where this is happening).  In CA the donor like Arsenault (no doctor) is in the same legal position as the man who has sex.   For both, if a married/domestically partnered woman gets pregnant via sperm from a man not her husband, the mother and her spouse can assert legal parentage and defeat any claim by the sperm provider.   Notice that Arsenault will only provide sperm to women who are married or domestically partnered.  (See question 12 here.)

I’m not sure why Arsenault has this restriction–it could just be his own judgment on who is worthy or it could be motivated by legal concerns.  But he’s actually still at some risk, since if the couple he has assisted split up, he cannot enforce the presumption against them to bar a paternity action.   In any event, it’s hard to see a justification for treating the two men I’m imagining differently.   If anything, the FDA’s action could be said to create a perverse incentive in favor of the man who inseminates via sex.

There’s one other thing that is bothering me.   Arsenault says he is motivated by altruism and in general I’m rather a fan of altruistic behavior.  I  believe in the possibility that egg donors and surrogates and sperm providers might be motivated by altruism and I think it is a good thing.   Why is it that I find Arsenault’s assertion of purely altruistic motivation hard to believe?   Because truth to tell, I find myself deeply skeptical.

It’s not that Aresnault takes money.  I don’t believe that he does.  I think it is that there seems to be something so supremely egotistical about the way he’s doing this.  It’s not like he’s helping a friend or even a friend of a friend.   This leads me to wonder whether egotism is inconsistent with altruism.   Could he be egotistical and altruistic at the same time? I don’t exactly see why the answer to this is no.

So I’m just left a little bit puzzled about the whole motivation part.   And of course, I don’t see why motivation would be relevant to any FDA regulation.

In a larger frame, all the reactions to this seem to me to be consistent with a preference for conception via sex.    Is there really any good reason for that?   We might once have argued that sex was associated with committed partnerships so that favoring conception via sex was a way of ensuring that children grew up with two parents.   (Assuming, of course, you assume that’s a big plus.)   But can we even make that assumption?   Too much more to say about this, so it will wait for the next post.


5 responses to “A Few More Thoughts/Questions About the Trent Arsenault Order

  1. “I think it is that there seems to be something so supremely egotistical about the way he’s doing this. It’s not like he’s helping a friend or even a friend of a friend. ”

    This doesn’t differ from other providers, as I’ve so frequently complained, that altruism must be at least partially illusory

  2. The issue is simply that he is distributing semen and you cant do that unless you have a license. They are not saying he cant donate through a site like FSDW, but that he cant do it through his own site. This is why FSDW etc are ok- they are not directly distributing sperm. So all he has to do it take down his web site. Their issue is ‘distributing semen’ ie that he produces it as then gives it to someone for the purpose of AI. This practice is regulated- ie the sperm is fully tested and quarantined before being ‘passed’ for use. So a sperm bank can send a pot of sperm to someone- but you cant do that unless licensed and required therefore to comply with their standards. Its basic public health.

    Anyone donating outside of a clinic is seen as the legal father in most countries however many are now taking intent into consideration and laws are changing. This is why I would always recommend AI with a private donor (also for health and emotional reasons). So for me, this ruling will give ‘NI’ donors another reasons to tell women they should have sex. So frustrating.

    Also dont forget that Trent could advertise himself legally through his web site if he was having sex. THAT isnt regulated! It is purely because he is ‘distributing’ that they can take this action. Hes actually trying to do this as safely as possible, and yet the FDA are using this to close him down.

    Bit bizarre really, but logical if you think about it. They are looking to close down sites that help people get pregnant outside of clinics (they have to protect this multi-billion dollar industry!) and the only way really is to set legal precedent by ruling that what Trent is doing is illegal- because then they can go after sites that knowingly facilitate it- which will mean the solution to going outside of clinics- but still use Ai with a donor you have had tested etc will be taken away.

    I dont think it really matters about the motivation of a donor if he isnt asking for sex or money other than he choose who to donate to, to know as much as he can about them (ie that actually ready to have a child) and that he makes himself available to the child for information and a relationship if thats what the child wants- at the same time leaving the parents raising the child to take full responsiblity. I would much rather have donors like that than what is happening with sperm banks.

  3. I have known sperm donor Trent Arsenault for a long time and I don’t understand why anyone would want his sperm. Trent is misleading everyone and in my opinion a mentally unstable person. Trent has grotesque pornographic photos of himself on a website called Trentnude.com The MEDIA, anyone considering using Trent’s sperm, anyone who has used Trent’s sperm and Trent’s associates need to view these photos to see who Trent really is. Among the 1000’s of photos, you will see Trent masturbating in a bathroom on a commercial airliner and showing himself nude in public. Look at the photos, read the captions and judge for yourself. After viewing the photos, would you let this person anywhere near your children? Would you want this person “fathering” your children? Trent’s donor website is full of half truths. For example, Trent wants you to believe he was an honorable member of the Naval Academy. Trent doesn’t want you to know that he did not even make it one semester before being discharged from the Naval Academy. In fact, Trent does not even have a college degree. I feel sorry for the parents duped by Trent and even more sorry for the children “fathered” by Trent. Wait until they are old enough to view the photos of their “father” and come to the same opinion that I have, that they are the offspring of a deranged individual.

    The attorneys who represent Trent for free and media really need to know who Trent is. You will be embarrassed once you figure out who Trent really is. Trent is a sinking ship that you don’t want to be associated with. In this Sandusky media era anyone associating with Trent ought to question themselves. Go look at all his sick nude photos that he takes of himself in public. Are children present? The photos are certainly taken in public places where children could be. Just go to Trentnude .com and you will see what I am talking about. BEWARE!!!!!! BEWARE!!!!!

  4. i could not find any of that material you say exists.

    And who are you?
    If you’re certain enough to assasinate a man’s character at the very least you should put your name behind your stand.

    • I share the concerns about the comment you are reacting to. I posted it because I hate the idea of censorship, but I’m really not sure it advances any discussion and I’m not sure it belongs here. Character assassination is not a part of fruitful discussion.

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