What does semen taste like, and can it change?
There is no right or wrong way to feel about semen. Some people enjoy swallowing or tasting a partner's semen, while others feel uncomfortable doing so. Likewise, some people may feel self-conscious about allowing a partner to taste their semen.
Open communication with a partner and gentle mutual encouragement can help both partners feel less worried about all bodily fluids, including semen.
In this article, we examine what semen typically tastes and smells like, and what gives it this taste. We also take a look at what factors can influence taste and how semen can reflect a person's health.
What does semen taste and smell like?
The taste of semen may be a combination of bitter, salty, sweet, or metallic.
Several fluids combine with sperm to make semen. Each of these fluids adds different chemicals, with each influencing how the semen might taste.
The process begins in the epididymis, where sperm mature. To make semen, the sperm pass through the vas deferens and into the ampulla for storage.
The ampulla produces ergothioneine, an antioxidant that commonly develops in mushrooms. This may give semen a slightly meaty taste similar to uncooked mushrooms. The ampulla also adds fructose, a type of sugar that helps nourish sperm and may give semen a slightly sweet taste.
When a person ejaculates, the body adds fluids from the prostate gland and seminal vesicles. Most of the fluid comes from the seminal vesicles, which add a wide variety of chemicals, including:
- amino acids
- citric acid
The prostate gland mostly adds citric acid, but also adds:
- various enzymes
The taste of semen varies from person to person. Most people describe the flavor as some combination of:
- bitter or salty because it is alkaline
- sweet because of the sugar content
- metallic because of the minerals and vitamins
Semen is mostly water, which dilutes the smell. Many people do not notice a smell at all. When they do, they may describe a musky, salty, or slightly metallic smell.
When semen combines with the vagina, which is very acidic, the smell and taste may change. When there is a fishy odor after vaginal intercourse, this may be a sign of an infection in the vagina called bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis is highly treatable.
Does diet affect the taste of semen?
Broccoli may make semen taste or smell worse.
Although many people insist that certain foods change the taste of their semen, there is no conclusive research to confirm this link.
Anecdotally, some people believe that fruits, such as citrus fruits and pineapple, may improve the flavor of semen.
Foods that produce a strong odor, such as broccoli and cauliflower, may make semen taste or smell worse. Likewise, foods that tend to change the appearance or smell of other bodily fluids, such as asparagus, may also change the taste of semen.
If a person notices that a specific food changes their body odor, it may also change the way their semen smells or tastes.
Health and the taste of semen
Some health conditions may change the way semen tastes.
Certain lifestyle choices, such as drinking excessive alcohol, may change the makeup of sperm, possibly changing its flavor. Numerous studies, including a 2016 meta-analysis, have found that smoking may change the composition and lower the quality of semen, which may also change its taste.
Health issues in the person who is tasting the semen can also affect its flavor. Medical conditions that can affect the body's taste receptors include:
- respiratory infections
- middle ear infections
- dental health problems
- infections in the mouth or gums
- recent surgery on the mouth, nose, or face
- head or spinal cord injuries
- some medical treatments, including radiation therapy for cancer and some antibiotics
- exposure to chemicals, such as certain pesticides
Is swallowing semen safe?
The ingredients in semen are harmless.
Very rarely, a person may be allergic to the proteins in semen and have an allergic reaction. Doctors call this seminal plasma hypersensitivity.
As semen is a bodily fluid, it can carry sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV. It is essential for sexual partners to undergo regular testing for STIs. The risk of getting an STI is higher if the person swallowing semen has an open sore in their mouth or on their lips.
To reduce the risk of transmitting STIs during oral sex, people should use a condom. Learn more about STIs and oral sex, including prevention methods, here.
Can you get pregnant from swallowing semen?
A person cannot get pregnant from swallowing semen.
It is a myth that swallowing semen or oral sex can cause pregnancy.
The body digests semen like any other food. Some people worry that the semen will travel into the stomach, and somehow make its way to the uterus or vagina, causing a pregnancy.
A person will not become pregnant unless semen enters the vagina and travels to a healthy egg. It is, however, possible to get pregnant if ejaculate from oral sex somehow gets into the vagina. This might occur if a male partner has intercourse with a female partner immediately after ejaculating and semen remains on their penis.
Often, the media make jokes about sex, bodily fluids, and bodies. Perhaps that is why many people feel self-conscious and anxious about their bodies and bodily fluids, especially during sex.
Oral sex is a common sexual act that many people find pleasurable. In one study using data from a large scale survey, 85.4% of men and 83.2% of women stated that they had performed oral sex.
A person can still enjoy oral sex even without swallowing semen. For example, using a condom will prevent semen from entering the mouth after ejaculation.
People who feel anxious about the taste or flavor of semen may want to try performing oral sex without allowing their partner to ejaculate, then manually stimulating their partner to orgasm. This can be just as pleasurable but may help new sexual partners or people uncomfortable with semen feel more confident.
Does personal hygiene affect the taste of semen? If so, how?
A person's sense of smell is closely related to their sense of taste. Therefore, poor personal hygiene that results in a pungent body odor can lead to an undesirable semen taste. Similarly, good personal hygiene practices are likely to reduce sweat and the bacteria that create foul odors. Both of these factors can increase and adversely affect a person's sense of taste. Overall, a favorable taste of semen is more likely when you smell great.Janet Brito, PhD, LCSW, CST Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.