The rise of ‘sperm cowboys’ fathering children around the world

Keen sperm donor Adam Hooper has fathered children in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Sweden – and possibly New Zealand soon, as he has just embarked on his first sperm tour in that country.

He has called the two-month journey “Lord of Donors: A Journey to Middle Earth.” The 36-year-old Australian father of twenty children is going on a trip in a motorhome, and he already has more than fifty appointments in the country.

“I’m going to Hobbiton, then I’m going south, to Wellington and then to the South Island,” he tells VICE World News. “Obviously, I’m not trying to crowd a certain area.”

The nationwide tour is primarily aimed at raising awareness, talking to the media and potentially recruiting new donors — but Hooper says he’s open to doing a few inseminations along the way. “That’s pretty much what a sperm trip is about, I guess.”

In November he goes to Mauritius. And next year he will visit France and England.

“I want to visit a few countries a year, spread the word and show people that there is another way to do these things,” he explains. “I want the news of my initiative to spread like wildfire, I want to tell people what it’s really about.”

Hooper is the founder of Sperm Donation World: a global organization built around an online community of donors and would-be parents who connect via social media platforms such as Facebook. The idea is that the hopeful parents try to get pregnant without using regular fertility clinics. It is a booming industry. Since launching in Australia in 2015, Hooper’s organization has grown to include groups in Africa, New Zealand, the Philippines, the UK and the US. The Australian Facebook group currently has over 15,000 members; USA almost 22,000.

But while Hooper is said to have helped thousands of people struggling to have children, the lack of official oversight of the DIY sperm industry has also sparked controversy. Some point to increased risks around accidental incest, sexually transmitted diseases and exploitation. These concerns became apparent recently when fellow super sperm donor Kyle Gordy, a US citizen, was… detained at Nadi International Airport in Fiji. He was on his way to Hooper’s New Zealand tour.

Gordy has fathered 47 children around the world and is the expectant father of 11 others. He told New Zealand Herald that the Fijian authorities took him aside during his stay so that he could speak on the phone with the New Zealand Immigration Service. They told him that his visa was canceled because he had not been honest about his reasons for coming to the country. He has now been deported to the United States.

Hooper laughs and says that making enemies is the order of the day for people like him and Gordy.

“Someone probably complained, ‘Hey, this person is coming to fertilize all of New Zealand’, so the immigration service probably waited for him,” he says. “They also tried to kick me out, but I had told people different arrival dates.”

“Kyle is, I think, a little less intelligent.”

Private sperm donation has become a serious industry with a increasing number of real sperm bros, which includes Hooper and Gordy. They regularly speak out against the mainstream fertility industry and offer alternative ways to get pregnant online.

For some, these volunteer donors—meeting you at a bar, visiting your home, and eventually helping you through intercourse or a container of sperm—are biological philanthropists. Others think they’re crazy: sperm cowboys who don’t understand that their behavior can potentially lead to harm.

Professor Stephen Robinson is a researcher in reproductive medicine at the Australian National University of Medicine. He says people have received sperm through the informal circuit for a long time, but that “the fence has really gone off the rails” with the rise of social media – especially when it comes to global transactions.

“It’s just a whole new playing field,” Robinson tells VICE World News. “People are traveling to different countries, and it’s something new, and I think social media plays a big part in that… It’s been going on for a while, but not on this scale.”

Hooper agrees. He believes that social media and dating apps have changed the way people think about intimacy and relationships.

“It’s growing very fast,” he says. “The average relationship doesn’t last as long as it used to, so that fuels trends like this. The rise of technology also plays a role. It gives more people the opportunity to consider starting a family.”

Hooper explains the changed rules of the game by pointing to hopeful parents who no longer want the sky-high costs of traditional fertility clinics. His distrust of the fertility industry and the medical professionals who work in it runs deep – he compares them to used car salesmen.

“At the end of the day, they’re salespeople: they want to play golf, they want to drive around in their Ferraris. Because the fertility industry is driven by those kinds of financial incentives, there’s a good chance you won’t get a proper diagnosis.”

The average price for a cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) in the United States is approx 12,000 to 14,000 dollars (11810 to 13780 euros), while artificial insemination between 650 and can cost $3500 (640 to 3445 euros) per attempt. To stay in the Netherlands three IVF attempts is reimbursed after the basic insurance if the woman is younger than 43 years. An IVF treatment costs on average here 3000 euros at a time, artificial insemination costs between 150 and 500 euros per treatment, provided you use Dutch sperm. Do you use foreign seeds? Then the costs are higher: between 600 to 1000 Euro. Hooper says he and his donors give their sperm for free. While some donors charge a travel allowance, Hooper claims helping people and “changing the world in a unique way” is a huge reward.

Although he has around 20 children and a global fertility empire, Hooper’s genetic footprint is relatively modest. Famous serial donors like ‘Sperminator’ Ari NagelClive Jones and an American man named Joe Donor require more than a hundred children each.

Hooper says his offspring probably account for about a fifth of that score—though he doesn’t know an exact number because he deliberately doesn’t count his children.

“I’ve helped about 20 families – which could grow to 25 in the next few years – but yeah, I didn’t count them,” he says. “I suspect that the first time I find out how many children I have, it will come from one of the children themselves. They will probably go through the list and count. But the oldest children are now only six years old.”

The informal sperm industry is much bigger than a few hyperfertile types. Search for ‘sperm donor’ on Facebook and you’ll see how deep the pool really is: there are hundreds of public and private groups in countries such as Canada, Ghana, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Scotland and South Africa, with many thousands of members .

The 37,000 joint members of the Sperm Donation World Facebook groups are expectant parents as well as donors. Hooper screens potential donors to make sure they aren’t “sleazy” or “perverted” or looking to donate for the wrong reasons. He claims that this control process has to do with his gut and that he has always had a good intuition. But for potential donors, he says, checking their personal Facebook account is usually the best way to find out what kind of meat he has in the tub.

“One of the advantages of Facebook is that you can see how people behave in posts and feeds… I’ve been doing it for almost eight years, so it’s kind of a sixth sense; the alarm bells go off very quickly,” he says. . “We have had no rapes, no venereal diseases and no sexual assaults. So it has worked well for over seven years.”

It is interesting that Hooper celebrates his success with these measures. In fact, he only talks about a few of the health and safety risks posed by this unregulated industry. Experts have raised concerns about potential custody issues, financial obligations and privacy complications. In addition, there is a real danger that siblings will meet and enter into sexual relations in the future.

“Social media has made contact between donors and patients so much easier – it’s easy to set up a Facebook page – but it’s still a complex issue. In many ways, social media increases that complexity and increases the likelihood of harm,” says Robinson. “Women and couples who seek treatment are vulnerable, the children who are born can also be vulnerable and we must not forget that.”

Robinson points out that established fertility clinics are highly regulated, with extensive registration procedures and ethical, psychological and emotional evaluations, as well as multiple security and privacy safeguards. And while he understands the concerns about bureaucracy, delays and financial costs, he also stresses that those rules are there for a reason.

“A lot of work goes into ensuring the integrity of these things so people stay safe,” he says. “If you’re a guy who thinks he can just judge people’s lives, I think that’s really against reality.”

On the third day of his tour, Hooper heads to Auckland to meet a potential client, have a chat and “see how it goes”. If it clicks, he can donate his seed. However, this will only be a drop in the ocean compared to the total production of Sperm Donation World. Hooper estimates that the company has enabled between 500 and 700 births a year in Australia alone. Since 2015, the organization is said to be responsible for “more than 5,000” children born around the world.

Most of Sperm Donation World’s babies were created through artificial insemination, partly because of customer preference and partly because of the legal protection it affords donors. In many countries, a man is not obliged to pay alimony if the pregnancy was not achieved by natural insemination. But that preference is changing. Hooper says there is “definitely an increase in people wanting to do it more naturally.”

Despite Hooper’s almost aggressively positive view of the growth of the unregulated sperm donation industry, there are also horror stories. Last year, the Australian authorities their concern expressed about the number of people seeking informal sperm donation on social media. These concerns arose over reports that some women were sexually abused by potential donors or pressured to participate in natural insemination.

The regulated donor industry tries to protect itself against this, because donors are not only genetically and medically screened, but they are also psychologically tested to rule out that they have ‘non-altruistic motives’. While there are a number of legitimate reasons why people would go the informal route, Robinson adds, people should be aware of the dangers of seeking refuge in this growing, non-transparent industry.

“I understand that people are concerned about the cost and their choices, but they have to realize that this is one of the most important decisions a person will ever make in their life.”

This article originally appeared on VICE World News.

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