And other things you should know about blowjobs and your health.
BLOWJOBS AREN’T “SAFER” THAN SEX
Blowjobs may not be full-blown sex, but your chances of getting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) aren’t actually any less.
“It’s a common misconception that oral sex is completely risk-free,” say Dr Jonathan Ti and Dr Grace Huang of Dr Tan & Partners Clinic Robertson. “The reality is that a variety of STDs can be transmitted during blowjobs.”
These include infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, which may not have any visible symptoms. “Some people may feel a mild sore throat, but most people with chlamydia or gonorrhea in their throats feel completely well,” they point out.
Another common STD is HPV, which can result in warts and an increased risk of oral, anal and cervical cancers. And then there’s syphilis, which can lurk in the body for years and affect the nerves, brain and eyes if left untreated; and herpes, which causes painful blisters and ulcers in the oral or genital region. There is no cure for herpes, so once you’re infected, the virus stays with you for life.
And if you’re wondering, your risk of getting an STD isn’t lower even if you “minimise” contact with ejaculate. “Exposure to pre-ejaculate, semen, vaginal fluids or genital ulcers can transmit infections. Whether you spit or swallow doesn’t matter,” say the doctors. They add that the risk of contracting these infections increase if you have a cut or ulcer in your mouth or if you have poor oral hygiene.
SEMEN ISN’T BAD FOR YOUR GUT...
You may have heard this before: semen is pretty rich in nutrients.
“It’s mainly made up of water containing nutrients as it’s meant to nourish the sperm and allow it to perform its function,” says Dr Melvin Look, founder and director of PanAsia Surgery and a consultant surgeon specialising in gastrointestinal surgery and digestive health. “The nutrients include sugar fructose, enzymes, amino acids, flavins, proteins, citrate and prostaglandins.”
“A typical sample of semen contains 200 to 500 million spermatozoa [mature sperm cell], but that makes up only five percent of the seminal fluid,” says Melvin. He adds that semen also contains fluid from the prostate gland, which has zinc and acid phosphatase, and that this combination is what gives it its bitter yet sweet-sour taste.
But is it bad for your gut?
“All the components of semen are fully edible and digestible,” say Dr Ti and Dr Huang. “Swallowing is in no way bad for your gut and is generally harmless unless you have a rare and unfortunate condition in which you’re allergic to semen. Because if you do, you could develop a bad or even life-threatening reaction.”
Follow a particular diet? “It may help you to know that the nutrient balance of semen actually complies with an Atkins or Paleo diet,” says Dr Look. “And because it’s a whole food, it’s also gluten-free.”
He adds that three to four ml of semen only amount to one calorie, so you also don’t have to worry about tipping over your daily calorie intake.
...BUT IT WON’T GIVE YOU CLEARER SKIN
You might have heard about how semen is good for your skin. Well, it’s not exactly true.
“Semen contains protein and a multitude of compounds including citric acid, zinc, magnesium and calcium,” say Dr Ti and Dr Huang.
“But while certain components like vitamin C and zinc play a role in improving skin health, the actual amounts one would get from semen is so little that it’s unlikely to have any real benefit to one’s complexion.”
CAN YOU BE ALLERGIC TO SEMEN?
According to Dr Ti and Dr Huang, a semen allergy is uncommon. But when it happens, it usually manifests in the form of itching or red rashes at the areas that came into contact with the fluid.
But the symptoms can be much worse. “It may also lead to a generalised reaction of hives or angioedema (swelling around the eyes, mouth, and other mucous membranes),” they say. “Very rarely, it can progress to higher grade anaphylactic reactions, which can affect blood pressure and cause breathing problems.”
And since it’s an uncommon condition, it can be tricky to diagnose. “The main way to try and find out if someone has a semen allergy is through studying their history of symptoms shortly after they’ve been exposed to ejaculate. We’d also need to rule out other conditions which may have similar symptoms, such as concurrent food or drug allergies, or infections like thrush or herpes simplex.”
Unfortunately, treatment of the allergy isn’t guaranteed. The doctors say that while medications such as antihistamines and steroids (or in severe cases, an adrenaline injection) can be prescribed to calm the allergic reaction, when it comes to treating the condition itself, they can only “sometimes” recommend a “desensitisation protocol”.
“This requires an allergy doctor to prepare several different dilutions of semen, then apply them to the patient progressively at regular time intervals,” they explain.
“It needs to be performed in a closely monitored setting in case of a serious reaction, and will usually need to have a maintenance phase where the couple should have sex (or at least have exposure to semen) at least every 48 hours.”
If you have a semen allergy, they suggest that you use condoms or have your partner use the withdrawal method. And if you’re trying to conceive, they recommend getting specially-washed seminal plasma-free spermatozoa harvested and used for insemination.