In most ways, he had always lived clean. He never smoked or did drugs. Except for a few sips of wine and one Sex on the Beach (bought by co-workers on his 21st birthday), he had never tasted alcohol. But he had grown up on the hacker diet of Pringles, Velveeta, and Mountain Dew. He spent three years researching food, experimenting first with smoothies made of Pop-Tarts and chocolate syrup and landing, ultimately, on a healthier recipe “optimized for fertility and aesthetics.” (It includes organic fruits and raw milk, which he’d seen in the diets of some of the world’s most fertile countries.) He drank each smoothie as soon as he made it, before oxidation could erode the precious benefits, and locked in a daily diet: smoothie for breakfast, smoothie for dinner, and a salad with wild salmon for lunch. He read a book by Roy Walford, the father of calorie restriction as a route to DNA preservation and longevity, and by 2005 he had shed 70 pounds from his six-one frame, dropping to 150.
Trent’s exercise regime changed, too, from training for triathlons to a more moderate program designed to keep him maximally fit without overexercising. He took to monitoring his health and having his blood tested for biomarkers, to gauge the effects of his diet on testosterone, metabolic function, liver function, enzymes, cholesterol, and vitamin and hormone levels. Though celibate, he carefully studied up on STDs.
“Around that time is when I started becoming more of a germophobe,” he says. The house in Fremont, where Trent moved in 2005, appealed because it was far enough from highway exhaust fumes, which can lower sperm count, and sheltered by hills on three sides, blocking out 20 percent of the sky and mitigating his exposure to radiation, another threat to sperm. His Wi-Fi access point is in the garage, to keep radio signals at a remove, and he never puts a laptop on his lap. Ozone depletion is another thing that concerns him. When traveling on airplanes, he minimizes his in-flight radiation exposure by draping himself in a heavy lead blanket.
Until a year ago, when he began working from home, Trent would commute to the Oracle campus, where he was contracted by HP. Co-workers don’t remember Trent’s lifestyle as particularly conspicuous, save for his acute aversion to the sun and his smoothie diet. But Trent says he turned down promotions, lest the added stress depress his sperm count, and was transparent about his self-described weirdness in order to discourage further offers. He now works as a $120,000-a-year security-focused infrastructure specialist, helping companies protect themselves from hacker attacks.
There was one thing Trent did that all but guaranteed he’d never rise in a corporate hierarchy. His reclusive personality notwithstanding, Trent had long ago acquired a taste for being observed, starting in junior high when the local paper wrote a story about his ham-radio station WWOU. From his teenage years, he began holding on to his school papers and just about everything else that entered his possession. “I’ve kind of always known,” he says, “that people will wonder about me.”
After he moved to California, he set up a home webcam that streamed 24/7. His parents could log on anytime and see their son. Strangers, too, came across the feed, and he began to receive requests to take off his clothes. Trent was proud of his new body, and he obliged, posting pictures of himself on sites called TrentCats and TrentNude. He was excited by the feedback, and after the launch of Xtube, an amateur porn-sharing platform, he started uploading masturbation videos under the name TrentDog. Most were straightforward; occasionally he would mix things up by using a prop, such as a yellow water-polo ball or a bag of frozen blueberries. The videos gave him a sexual outlet while preserving his celibacy, and he came to view them as just another part of the process of boosting his sex drive and sperm count, which at this point, he says, was four times the average.
Having optimized his body for producing sperm, Trent turned his attention to disseminating it. Initially, he assumed he would donate through a traditional bank or an Internet version of one. This typically involves an anonymous donor, screened by the bank, receiving around $40 for each sperm specimen, which is then sold to a recipient for several hundred dollars. But any ham-radio, open-source, computer-hacking libertarian would shy away from such an arrangement. In 2005, as Trent began to educate himself, he discovered a Yahoo Group—FreeSpermDonors—that matched recipients with donors willing to provide sperm for free. And so he entered the strange, off-the-books subculture of broke, desperate women, and men of indeterminate motivation, who meet in coffee shops and hotel rooms where the man masturbates in the bathroom and hands over his semen, and the woman, using some variation on the proverbial turkey baster, inseminates herself.