Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
What’s in semen? Is it bad to swallow?
Linda Lesondak, PhD on September 12, 2011
What is semen? Semen is penile ejaculate...a thick fluid that’s released out of the penis, typically during orgasm. It consists mostly of water, protein and sugars; it contains sperm plus a mix of secretions of the testes, prostate and other male sex glands.
Are there any benefits to swallowing semen? Probably not. Some studies have claimed that swallowing the semen of a healthy male has no risk...even going so far as to promote certain benefits of swallowing semen (e.g., supposed anti-depressant effects).
However, other studies point out its potential risks...
Fellatio (giving a man oral sex) can put you at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like HIV, herpes or HPV. HIV can be spread through oral sex especially if you have an open sore, bleeding gums or gingivitis. Herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV) can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, including oral sex. And unfortunately HPV has also been linked, recently, to cases of throat cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hepatitis B can also be spread if infected semen or blood comes into contact with an open sore or cut in the mouth.
So, to be on the safe side, if you have any doubt about your partner’s STD status, I encourage you to use a condom during oral sex until you’ve both been tested, and treated (if necessary) for STDs.
Latex condoms can help prevent the risk of catching an STD...but keep in mind that condoms aren’t completely foolproof (e.g., if they break, or if infected skin isn’t completely covered). Luckily, they can greatly reduce your risk of catching an STD through oral, vaginal or anal sex.
For more information about STD risks and prevention, review the Expert Guide to STD Basics.
Dr. Lesondak is a Community Psychologist with the Chicago Department of Public Health. Her areas of expertise include STDs, HIV, preventive care, public health and community planning, as well as human sexuality and women’s health. Dr. Lesondak was educated at Georgia University in Atlanta.