Semen is a combination of fluids, including sperm and water. Males produce sperm following ejaculation from the penis. Although swallowing semen is a relatively safe and common practice, there are some risks to be aware of.

Oral sex is a common form of sexual activity. Some people may enjoy swallowing semen as part of oral sex. Others may not feel comfortable doing so. People may also feel uncomfortable about letting a partner taste or swallow their semen.

Open, honest communication between sexual partners is essential. It can help people feel comfortable with one another and boost sexual satisfaction. It may also reduce feelings of self-consciousness.

Swallowing semen is not a necessary part of oral sex, and a person should not feel pressure to do it if they do not wish to.

This article will look at the safety, benefits, and risks of swallowing semen.

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In most instances, it is safe to swallow semen.

Semen is a mixture of fluids that come from different bodily glands. It includes a variety of components, including sperm.

When a male ejaculates from the penis, they produce semen, which contains water, protein, and small amounts of sperm.

The prostate contributes the following to semen:

The seminal vesicles add the following to semen:

  • fructose
  • ascorbic acid
  • prostaglandins

The ampulla of the vas deferens also contributes fructose.

It is generally safe to swallow semen. None of the components in semen are harmful. However, there are a few cases where it may not be safe to swallow semen.

Rarely, people can be allergic to semen. This is known as seminal plasma hypersensitivity.

Because semen is a bodily fluid, it can also carry sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV. People should ensure that they test for STIs before engaging in any form of sexual activity. It is also important to have an open discussion about any potential STIs and use barrier methods of contraception to prevent transmission.

Some people may believe that swallowing semen can result in pregnancy, but this is extremely unlikely. Pregnancy can only occur if semen comes into contact with and is able to fertilize an egg.

Learn more about pregnancy and oral sex here.

Semen consists of minimal amounts of sperm. The rest of it is protein, fructose, mucus, enzymes, water, vitamins, and minerals.

Typical ejaculate can fill about a teaspoon and only contains about 5–7 calories.

Although some people believe that it is high in protein, the protein content in semen is negligible.

Only a small portion of semen is sperm. The other components are what impart taste.

One of these components is ergothioneine. Mushrooms often contain this antioxidant. This may give a slight mushroom-like taste to semen.

Despite plenty of anecdotal evidence, there is no definitive research showing that diet affects the taste of semen. Some people suggest that fruit juice and vegetables improve the taste, while red meat, cheese, and coffee may make it taste worse.

The taste of semen varies from person to person. Some people describe the taste as being:

  • salty
  • bitter
  • sweet
  • metallic
  • musky

Certain lifestyle habits may alter the taste of semen by changing its composition. For example, a meta-analysis from 2016 found that smoking lowers the quality of semen and alters its composition, which may affect the taste.

Also, some people may have health issues that affect their taste receptors. These people may interpret the flavor of semen differently to others. Some of these health issues may include:

  • respiratory or middle ear infections
  • exposure to certain drugs or chemicals
  • head injuries
  • surgery of the ear, nose, and throat
  • dental problems
  • radiation therapy for head and neck cancers

Learn more about the taste of semen here.

As with taste, liquids other than sperm are what give semen an odor. The smell of semen may change when it comes into contact with other bodily fluids, such as urine and sweat.

It may also smell different if its pH balance is off. Typically, semen has a pH between 7.2 and 8.0. When semen comes into contact with the vagina, which is a slightly acidic environment, it may smell different.

As semen contains mostly water, it may have no scent or a faint smell. Due to the pH being slightly alkaline, some people report a smell similar to bleach or ammonia. Other components — such as fructose, magnesium, or calcium — may cause it to smell sweet, metallic, or salty.

The smell of semen should not be pungent. A strong odor, such as a fishy smell, can be a symptom of a problem, such as an infection.

Learn more about the smell of semen here.

There has been little research into the health benefits of swallowing semen.

Many nutritional claims about semen are false. Since people produce a small amount of ejaculate, it is unlikely that anyone will consume enough for it to have any discernible health effects.

One notable study from 2002 suggests a link between semen exposure and mood. Females who had direct exposure to semen had fewer symptoms of depression.

However, the study did not consider other factors that may contribute to improved mood, including sexual activity itself.

Another small study from 2003 links prolonged exposure to sperm to a reduction in the risk of preeclampsia. However, more research is necessary to confirm this link.

There is a risk associated with engaging in oral sex without a barrier method of contraception. If someone swallows the semen of a person with an STI, they may contract it themselves.

The following is a list of STIs that people can contract by engaging in oral sex without using a barrier method:

Factors that may increase a person’s risk of contracting an STI through oral sex include:

  • having open sores in or around the genitals or mouth
  • having poor oral hygiene
  • having exposure to the preejaculate or semen of someone with an STI

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that the risk of transmitting an STI such as HIV through oral sex is low.

People can limit their risk of contracting STIs through oral sex by using barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms. They can also make sure that they and their partner(s) test frequently for STIs.

A small portion of people in the United States are allergic to semen. If these people swallow it, they may experience an allergic reaction.

People with a semen allergy can use condoms to prevent coming into contact with it. Gradual desensitization is another possible treatment for this kind of allergy, according to one 2011 study.

Swallowing semen is relatively safe.

It is extremely unlikely that pregnancy will occur from swallowing semen. However, STIs are transmissible through semen.

Sexual partners should test for STIs before engaging in any sexual activity.

Each partner should be comfortable with and enthusiastically consent to this type of activity before doing it.