He checks in on a couple of ongoing conference calls; there is a situation involving websites under attack by a botnet. FedEx delivers a signed contract from one of his recipients. At one point, Trent wands a sensor back and forth near his forehead, taking his core temperature; as usual, he is running low, a typical biomarker of calorie restrictors. He takes his blood pressure with a digital Omron device. He wipes his face with salicylic acid.
With his expanding, very modern sort of family, Trent says he doesn’t find himself wishing he had a more conventionally intimate connection of his own. But if he did, it’s hard not to wonder, what sort of person would he want to raise a child with? I bring up, gently, the question of his sexual orientation.
The subject is cloudy. He describes himself as a “donorsexual,” with all of his libidinal energy channeled in service of others. His Xtube videos have been viewed more than 3.3 million times, and he frequently receives notes from viewers. Some are polite, lauding him for his donor work. Some are complimentary, of his “egg-size balls” in one instance. Many include offers to buy his sperm for non-donation purposes. Trent tries to respond to even the most salacious Xtube correspondents, thanking them for watching and usually ending with a smiley emoticon or two. Even in speaking of Xtube’s explicit content, he uses G-rated language like “effing the heck out of each other.”
He won’t be pinned down on what turns him on, saying only that “it’s more about serving people, male or female, if they ask, so maybe bisexual, because I’m serving both.” He insists that he feels orgasmic pleasure for only “a couple milliseconds.” This isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. The videos are strikingly joyless and mechanical. If a fetish is playing out, it’s a fetish of purposeful efficiency, of erotic self-abnegation.
A few months after his father’s visit last March, Trent, haunted by his own silent reaction, took time off from work “to just churn through it mentally.” Now he pulls out a file in which he has saved all of his parents’ letters and reads from one his father sent him recently. Amid all the personal news and biblical disapproval—“Obey the authorities, as God’s will will not go against the authorities of the land”—and practical concerns for Trent’s legal and career jeopardy and for the family reputation (“please remove all family connections … from your website and shut it down”) was a father’s pain. “Trent, I love you and you are my son,” his father wrote. “It breaks my heart that my son will not speak to me … If there is anything that we have done to hurt you please tell me so we can make it right and ask for your forgiveness.”
“I think I’m doing a good thing,” Trent says, looking up. “Helping people. It’s compassion, which is a tenet of religion. The official Assemblies of God view on it is that the seed of a man is between a man and a woman, and if God wants you to have a child, you will, and otherwise you don’t have a child. And if you believe that, it shuts out quite a large group of people wanting to have children. What do you think Jesus would do?”
At this point, Trent suspects his family is helping the FDA case against him. “I think there might be some jealousy,” he says. “They’ve ridiculed me over the years. They’ve spent their whole life trying to help people. And now it’s panning out for dozens and dozens of people that I’ve helped.” He thinks too much has taken place to bridge their differences, at least for a while. “I know that my biggest asset is time. I can just keep letting time go by. They have less of it. I’ve calculated it out. It goes back into the social-engineering thing. Time heals all wounds. That’s how I’m going to attack it.”
In the meantime, he has a new family to think about. Many of the recipients who have successfully become pregnant have maintained contact with Trent; the lack of anonymity has always been part of his appeal. They send him ultrasounds and arrange to have Trent meet the child. He has a bag ready to go containing his own old toys, which he gives away, and items he uses to observe childhood development, such as little oval magnets from China and a Bluetooth keyboard with a laser pointer. He recently gave one of the oldest of his offspring, a 4-year-old girl, mini-tractors, an animal-sounds clock, and two Palm devices. “She just loved them, went nuts,” he says.
Trent sits at his desk and pulls up Facebook, where he clicks through photographs of many of his biological children. “Of all the babies, I think, she looks the least like me,” he says of one little girl, “but she seems the most personally like me; she’s a tech lover.” He beams. “She’s not even 2. She’s in the 99th percentile in her growth.”
Even if he were to stop donating—which he would do immediately if, for instance, he learned that one of his children was autistic or had another genetic problem—Trent says he would stick with his extreme health regimen. “I want to be alive for the children. They will want to know about me. It may not be until they turn 18, or later in life, that they decide they want to meet me, so I want to be in a good capacity to meet them.”