Sperm Facts You Probably Didn’t Know
Our bodies are weird and wonderful things, aren’t they? As wondrous as they are though, we’ve still got some questions and they’re especially about the male body. For instance, what makes you guys scratch your balls so often? Also, what the hell is a foreskin even for in the first place?
This leads us to one aspect of the male body that, we gotta admit, we’re still a little mystified about: semen. Whatever you want to call it: spunk, cum or ejaculate, perhaps you’re like us and only know the basics of it, which is that it contains sperm and can get you pregnant. Of course, it’s not so simple as that so we did some digging and here are the facts about semen that, chances are, you probably didn’t know.
Like, for instance…
Sperm and semen isn’t even the same thing! Those little tadpole-shaped guys that we always visualize as the little swimmers are the sperm, while semen is the fluid that transmits it through the male urethra to be ejected as ejaculate. We may use the terms sperm and semen interchangeably, so to avoid confusion just use this little mnemonic device that we just made up: ‘sperm like to squirm, and semen is what they swim in.’ As we said, we just made it up okay?
It’s maybe even a little nutritious! However, don’t replace your daily vitamins with it. Sperm contains vitamin B12, C, calcium, fructose, lactic acid, magnesium, zinc, fat, potassium and many different kinds of protein – but only like tiny, minuscule amounts. To add up all the fats, carbs and proteins in a teaspoon of semen, you only end up with about 5 to 7 calories.
Smelly or yellow sperm is a bad sign. If his semen is yellow-y, or even greenish and has a foul smell to it, it could be a sign of a sexually-transmitted infection. And if it’s reddish or brown, that could also be a sign of a broken blood vessel in his prostate or urethra.
Like a fine wine, it’s quality changes with age – but not for the better. Males can produce sperm throughout their lifespan, but as they age it becomes less and less likely to produce sperm that is useful. Above the age of 52, sperm begins to deteriorate in terms of quality and when they’re in their 20s they produce their highest levels of sperm per ejaculation.
You can be allergic to it. It’s rare, but some people can have an allergic reaction to their partners’ semen, localized to the area of contact (read; where it touches their skin). This can mean an allergic reaction in a partner’s vagina or wherever the semen lands or ends up. What triggers an allergic reaction is the proteins in the semen, and if the male partner, say, eats a particular food that their partner is allergic to, some traces can accumulate in his semen and pass along to his partner.
Semen keeps sperm alive. It’s worth knowing that sperm can live for up to five days in a woman’s reproductive tract as it waits for an egg to fertilize. Outside of the body however, it’s a harsh world for little spermies: a chemically-treated pool will kill off sperm in just a few seconds, while warm, untreated water is where they can live for about five minutes. When the semen dries or dissipates is when sperm tend to die when exposed to the elements.
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Colin Hanna is a Volonté contributor and freelance writer who lives in Shanghai, China with his wife. He’s written extensively about sex and human sexuality for LELO since 2010.