The main function of semen is to help make babies, of course. When you have vaginal sex without using a condom, the tiny sperm (male reproductive cells) contained in the semen get squirted inside the vagina and start a long swim through the uterus to the fallopian tubes in search of an egg to fertilise. If just one little sperm finds an egg and burrows it’s way inside, voila, you get a baby!
Semen isn’t produced in the testicles but in glands inside the man’s pelvis – the seminal vesicles do most of the job, then the prostate and the bulbourethral glands both add a shot of different fluids to the mixture. The testicles just contribute the payload – the sperm – but that makes up only a tiny proportion of the total.
When a man orgasms the semen rushes through the tubes of his reproductive system comes out of the opening in his penis in between about five and ten spurts. In some men it shoots out like a fountain, in others it just dribbles. But that doesn’t affect how likely they are to get a woman pregnant.
Sometimes men ejaculate in their sleep – this is called having a wet dream. And some men can also orgasm without secreting any semen at all!
Read more about ejaculation.
Let’s start with how semen looks – it’s a white, grey or yellowish jelly-like fluid. It can be thicker or more runny but that has nothing to do with your fertility levels. It depends on a variety of factors like your diet, exercise and even clothing! If your semen looks red or pink in colour, you should get a check-up with your doctor – it might mean you’ve got blood in your semen.
Apart from sperm, the semen has a range of other ingredients. As well as a load of protein, it’s also contains fructose, creatine, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B12, zinc, and even chlorine. Because it’s acidic inside the vagina, the semen is alkaline so the sperm don’t get frazzled.
On an average, a man produces 2-5ml of semen when he ejaculates – 5ml is a teaspoonful. If you haven’t ejaculated in a long while, the volume might be high and if you ejaculate often, you might not produce as much semen at once. You’ve only got to worry if the quantity is much less than 1.5 ml or way more than 5.5ml.
How many sperm come out when you ejaculate? Well, it’s a lot. The WHO reckons you need about 40 million in an ejaculation to be useful. But two or three hundred million a shot is more usual! Even if you have plenty of sperm enough of them also need to be in good shape and strong swimmers – but it’s actually quite normal if 25 per cent of your sperm are dead when you ejaculate.
Some people think that ejaculating a lot can sap your strength, so you need to save up your sperm, but this is a total myth. You might feel a bit sleepy straight afterwards, and your testosterone level drops, but that doesn’t last long. For the sperm in your semen to be in good shape for fertility, it’s actually best to keep them flowing regularly.
Read fertility tips on getting pregnant for both guys and girls.
Despite all its virtues and life-giving abilities, semen can carry sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, genital warts, and syphilis. STDs not only spread through vaginal intercourse – they can also spread through oral and anal sex. And no, having a shower after sex doesn’t save you from contracting any STD.
The only way to surely never contract any of them is to abstain from sex. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? But there is an alternative – to always use barrier contraceptives like condoms.
Read more about sexually transmitted diseases.
Is it OK to swallow semen? Yes, of course. It certainly won’t make you put on weight. In fact, it’s packed with protein and vitamins, so it might just make you healthier! Whether you're up for it or not is a different matter - that's for you to decide.
But one thing a guy can do is to make sure his semen is tasty! It could taste sour or sweet depending on what you’ve eaten, or whether you’ve drunk alcohol or smoked cigarettes. To make your semen taste good, you can maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet – full with fresh vegetables and fruits. Some studies suggest that eating pineapples makes your semen taste sweeter.
What semen fact were you most surprised by? Or is there a semen fact you feel is missing from the above Top Five? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.