Never has a subject been more deserving of New York Post coverage than Ari Nagel, the Brooklyn man who graced the cover of the tabloid over the weekend with the headline “Great Balls of Sire: NY prof donates free sperm in public restrooms—has 22 kids and counting!”
All credit goes to the Post for finding a man who was willing, nay, proud to talk about how he regularly masturbates in public restrooms in order to give sperm to needy women and couples. (That’s when he’s not doing it the old-fashioned way, by just having sex with them. Charitable!) Nagel, a math professor, is like a modern-day Robin Hood … if Sherwood Forest were an urban Target and instead of stealing from the rich, Robin Hood provided the poor with his own seed.
But the piece still left us with quite a few questions, some of which made us want to consult a medical professional. So we did.
By now, Nagel has a routine down pat: First he meets the women somewhere public, like Target or Starbucks. (Some women don’t feel comfortable meeting him at his home—only comfortable enough to take the sperm of a stranger.) Then he goes to the bathroom and pulls up some porn to masturbate with on his smartphone. “You can’t connect to Target Wi-Fi if you’re connecting to a porn site, so I use my cell service,” he told the Post. What a reasonable and normal statement of fact. Next he ejaculates into an Instead Softcup, a type of menstrual cup. Then he leaves the bathroom and hands the cup off to the lucky woman hoping to get pregnant, who subsequently goes into the ladies’ room and inserts the Softcup into her vagina. Easy-peasy.
Reading the article, one gets the feeling that it will probably result in Nagel’s arrest or at least a few more lawsuits (he has been successfully sued by five women for child support, believe it or not). It just all seems illegal. Gregory Zapantis, medical director of New York Reproductive Wellness, a fertility clinic, was kind enough to talk through the article with Slate. “From a professional standpoint, I was appalled,” Zapantis said of his first reaction to the Post story. “Something like donor sperm is a complex process that requires considering social issues, ethical issues, and legal issues, and it seems like all of those things have not really been thought through carefully. In fact, it was approached in a very blasé and egotistical manner.”
Zapantis said that practices like his “have to adhere to certain guidelines set forth by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the FDA,” guidelines put in place for the protection of both donors and recipients. These include things like STI testing, disclosure of medical and family history, and other background checks. “There’s no oversight in what that guy was doing, really.” In this case in particular, “it seems like [psychological testing] would be very appropriate.” Nagel’s case seemed to him like a pretty literal embodiment of the cliché about man’s need to “spread their seed,” he added.
As for Nagel’s public-bathroom donation procedure, “There are definitely hygiene issues to be concerned about,” Zapantis said. And one wonders whose idea the Softcup was. It’s one of the only menstrual cups that is worn high in the vagina, just below the cervix, and women can have sex while wearing it. But no, it is not necessarily a safe or advisable way to transport sperm, Zapantis said. “I don’t even know if that’s a sterile cup,” he said.
There’s also the matter of consanguinity to consider—some countries place limits on the number of times people can donate sperm or eggs in order to prevent the children from eventually meeting and mating. (Nagel still has a ways to go before he catches up with the Dutch man who had fathered 106 children as of October 2015.) Oh, and the emotional lives of the children themselves, some of whom Nagel is permitted to babysit! At least the children will have 21 other people to commiserate with in the support group they eventually form.