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10 Spunky Facts About Sperm

by Petros Absalon
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Sperm and semen are as common as men in the world. However, aside from knowing that it comes from the male genitals and is important for making babies, there are still a lot of amazing things about it that many of us don’t know. For example, during World War I, British spies had the bright idea to use semen as invisible ink. After one agent decided to store his semen in a bottle, the letters he sent using the invisible ink stank so much that his handlers were forced to send him a letter telling him that a “fresh operation is necessary for each letter.” But even that pales in comparison to . . .

10Beauty Products

Humanity’s quest for perfection has led to a thriving industry that is projected to reach $265 billion by 2017. With such large sums at stake, it is no wonder that a variety of bizarre treatments have entered the market. There is certainly no lack of customers willing to try anything to look better than the rest.

When it was discovered that semen contains a compound called spermine, which has powerful antioxidant properties and can delay aging and smooth wrinkles by up to 20 percent, some entrepreneurs put two and two together and made facial creams out of the stuff. The creams now sell for as much as $250 in high-end spas around the world, earning the patronage of celebrities like Heather Locklear. The manufacturers claim that the semen was processed and treated with chemicals to make it better-smelling and eradicate any unwanted viruses.

The hair industry doesn’t want to be left out of the semen craze, either. After a conditioning treatment made from a broth of bull testicles made waves at a Los Angeles salon, top salons in America and the UK have scrambled to whip up their own lines of semen-based treatments for an ever-growing clientele, who claims that bull semen repairs their dry, damaged locks as well as making them thicker and bouncier. Hair stylists claim that the positive effects of bull semen on hair are due to its high protein content.

For those who have not tried semen treatments because of the steep price, fear not. You might have already used a semen-based beauty product without knowing it. One of the binding ingredients in some body lotions and makeup is derived from cod sperm.

9Semen Theft

Semen theft is an actual thing that is happening in real life and not just in some lurid hentai fantasy. For most of us who were not raised with any agricultural background, the idea of people stealing semen is hilarious, but it’s serious business to livestock farmers.

Why would anyone in their right minds want to steal semen? Depending on the breed and the proof, cattle semen can fetch hundreds of dollars per shot, while the cheapest still goes for $10. (Every shot is about 0.25–0.5 ml of bull juice.) To put that in perspective, if someone steals a liter of bull semen priced at about $15 per shot, the thief now has about $30,000–60,000 worth of bull juice on his hands. By comparison, a liter of pure gold fetches about $40,000 in the current market.

The reason bull semen is so expensive is because keeping bulls is cost prohibitive to modern-day livestock farmers, forcing them to outsource their semen stock. With the demand for burgers and steaks on the rise and milk a staple of most households, the need for high-quality semen has never been greater. This drove up the price until it became a multimillion-dollar industry. With almost no security on most farms and the potential for a huge payoff, semen is a very tempting target for thieves.

8Antidepressant For Women

Those who suffer from depression can attest to how debilitating the illness can be, and antidepressant medication can cause very serious side effects. Fortunately, there is an alternative solution to pill-popping: According to one study, unprotected sex can chase the blues away.

The 2002 study concluded that women who did not use condoms during sex showed fewer signs of depression than those who did. The researchers theorized that the vagina absorbs a number of components from semen, including mood-altering compounds like endorphins, estrone, prolactin, and oxytocin. As an added benefit, the presence of oxytocin produces a stronger bond between the partners and promotes better interaction and acceptance, which can greatly reduce stress and depressive tendencies.

Don’t go throwing out the condoms just yet, though. Gordon Gallup, one of the researchers involved in the study, wants to “make it clear that we are not advocating that people abstain from using condoms. Clearly, an unwanted pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease would more than offset any advantageous psychological effects of semen.”

7Antimicrobial Semen

Venereal disease is a big problem not only for humans but also for animals. How does an animal keep itself STD-free if there are no condoms or penicillin shots available for them? If the semen of other animals has the same properties as that of mallard ducks, they are as safe as unprotected sex can be. Recent research by scientists who don’t mind tinkering with duck semen found that mallards have fewer STDs because their semen can destroy bacteria such as E. coli and other pathogens. Additionally, female mallards can identify who has the most antimicrobial semen just by looking at the drake’s bill—the more colorful the bill, the cleaner the semen.

Before you start sending Mother Nature hate mail for giving preferential treatment to ducks, you should know that we have antimicrobial semen, too. Unfortunately for us, and fortunately for big pharmaceuticals, the antimicrobial properties of human semen are not very strong, and its efficacy rapidly decreases in a very short time.

6Cyborg Sperm

For years, scientists have been trying to make drugs that can act like guided missiles, hitting a target with greater accuracy and consequently better results. The use of nanotechnology to create tiny robots that can be injected into the body and guided by remote control is a viable option, but scientists were left with a dilemma. Robots need fuel, but the fuels we have at our disposal often use substances that can be deadly to humans. The bright minds from Dresden Institute for Integrative Nanosciences came up with a solution: make cyborgs out of sperm cells.

The scientists designed micro tubes made of thin sheets of titanium and iron to trap sperm, creating cyborgs that can be controlled through the use of magnets. This solution is both ingenious and cost effective, since sperm cells are harmless to the human body and can swim pretty well on their own, requiring no outside fuel. The cyborg sperm are capable of traveling up to 100 micrometers per second and are small enough to easily access any area of the body. The potential uses for this new technology are numerous, from cancer cures to more effective treatment of infertility.

5Artificial Sperm

For couples who badly want to have kids but just can’t, their dream of having a brood from their own loins might soon become a reality. Not long ago, anyone would think that giving the gift of procreation to a eunuch was nothing short of a biblical miracle, but such a thing is possible with the advent of stem cell technology. It could even allow women to impregnate other women.

Scientists from Kyoto University used stem cells from mouse skin and embryos to create primordial reproductive cells, including both sperm and egg cells. When injected into the testicles of an infertile mouse, the primordial reproductive cells produced healthy, normal-looking sperm cells that can be used to make healthy offspring through in vitro fertilization.

Not to be outdone, scientists from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University pioneered a different method of generating artificial sperm by creating an artificial testis in a Petri dish that can produce viable sperm cells with the help of some scientific wizardry. Their method of creating sperm cells involves the use of testicular germ cells that grow into mature sperm under in vitro culture. This method opens a vast avenue of possibilities. In the future, anyone can just have their testicular germ cells stored before having cancer treatment or enlisting in the military without worrying about damaging their testicles because they already have a spare tucked away for future use.

4The Fuhrer’s Bull Semen Aphrodisiac

Plenty has been said about Adolf Hitler, but we don’t know much about his sex life. Historians agree that Hitler probably had six female lovers, four of whom attempted or committed suicide. There must have been something about Hitler that drove women to love him to death. Was it the sex? Probably not.

From what has been gathered from Hitler’s medical files, it appears that he had problems when it came to keeping things up and going. Killing Jews and waging war against the Allies took its toll on poor old Adolf to the point that he needed a boost to keep his libido strong enough to satisfy young Eva Braun. Since Viagra was not yet available, his good doctor prescribed him a regular course of bull semen injections. The idea was that since bulls are virile creatures, injecting their semen would bestow some of those attributes upon the patient. Unfortunately, we do not have any record of whether the treatment was effective.

3Semen Allergies

The chemicals that our bodies produce during and after sex are the reason why sex is so much fun, even if it is physically arduous. Unfortunately, for some, sex can be a nightmare. There are people out there who suffer from the wretched problem of being allergic to semen.

Semen allergies can manifest in various forms and with varying intensity. Some experience only mild itching while others may go into life-threatening anaphylactic shock. This illness is not limited to women—there are men who are allergic to the semen of others and even some who are allergic to their own. A variant of semen allergy found in men is called POIS, which is an acronym of “post-orgasmic illness syndrome.” As the name implies, it means that sufferers experience flu-like symptoms just after orgasm that may last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

It’s not much more fun for women, either. According to a recent study, as many as 12 percent of women suffer from some form of semen allergy, with symptoms ranging from mild headaches to severe rashes to anaphylactic shock. Doctors are quick to point out, however, that semen allergy does not in any way prevent someone from getting pregnant, since the allergy is to semen and not sperm.

2Sperm Smuggling

Palestinians, like most Arabs, are from a family-oriented culture that favors a sizable brood. This has caused problems for the wives of Palestinian men serving time in Israeli prisons, where they are not allowed conjugal visits. Since Palestinian culture strongly frowns on women divorcing their husbands or seeking comfort from other men while their husbands are gone, their options for pregnancy are limited.

Using Hollywood logic, the women found an ingenious solution: smuggling their husbands’ sperm out of jail, then using it to impregnate themselves through artificial insemination. Of course, smuggling semen out of a high-security Israeli prison is not easy. The very short shelf life of semen, not to mention its sensitivity to heat, makes it even harder. These women are apparently remarkably determined, however, because many of them have succeeded, thanks to a combination of tenacity, luck, and science. So far, more than a dozen have given birth to healthy children conceived via smuggled semen.


Scientists have developed a new method of freeze-drying sperm cells that trumps the old and cumbersome cryopreservation chamber. This new technology involves the use of a special preservation liquid that preserves sperm more easily and with greater energy efficiency. With the old method, the process required keeping sperm cells at a temperature of – 196 degrees Celsius (–321 °F) using expensive machinery that was difficult to maintain. The new technology, however, allows the sperm to be stored at just 4 degrees Celsius (39 °F). The sperm can even survive storage at room temperature for several hours in the event of a power outage.

With the new technology for preserving sperm cells and egg cells, forward-thinking conservationists now have a cheaper means of implementing their dream of preserving genetic material from the world’s endangered species inside an “ark.” Better yet, it might mean we could someday use preserved genetic material to populate another world. Another tantalizing prospect is that we can now cheaply store our sperm at an optimal age for reproduction and use it whenever we decide to settle down and have kids, thus ensuring that our offspring will get the best genetic material from us without sacrificing our youth.

+Sexually Transmitted Allergic Reactions

For most of us, the thought of getting a sexually transmitted disease is always at the back of our minds when we have sex. However, there is more harm that semen can do to us aside from disease, unwanted pregnancy, and even semen allergies. Those who are afflicted with food allergies have another thing to worry about: allergic reactions to food compounds present in semen.

In the first recorded case of a sexually transmitted allergic reaction, a woman suffered shortness of breath, dizziness, and severe genital itching and swelling after intercourse. A trip to the hospital and several tests later, it was revealed that the allergenic compounds in the Brazil nuts that her boyfriend had eaten several hours earlier and to which the woman was severely allergic were not broken down during digestion, finding their way into the man’s semen. Doctors speculate that many more cases of allergic reactions that occurred right after intercourse may be due to the transfer of allergens through semen.

Petros Absalon is a freelance writer who thinks that life can be quite amazing if you look at it from the right perspective. You can read more of his writing on his blog.

fact checked by Jamie Frater