Five things you probably didn’t know about sperm

You might have read articles dealing with sperm that include facts about teaspoons, taste and just how tenacious those little swimmers really are. Here are five things about sperm that you’ve probably never considered (some of them for good reason).

Some people are allergic to sperm.

Unfortunate, but true. Known as ‘sperm allergy’, it’s a rare reaction to the proteins found in semen. Symptoms can include redness, swelling, pain and a burning sensation (which, FYI, are also common symptoms of STIs, so don’t get it twisted). These symptoms are often localised to the, ah, area that has been in contact with semen, and a reaction usually starts as quickly as 10 minutes after contact. Both men and women can be afflicted with a sperm allergy (and men can even be allergic to their own semen – but this is rarer still). The good news is the allergy can be treated with antihistamines and diligent condom use.

Sperm can be used as invisible ink.

Well, this is handy. Apparently, during World War I, the British Secret Intelligence Service experimented with ‘bodily fluids’ as tools for writing secret messages. Agents at MI6 were determined to develop an ink that would not react to iodine vapour and, to their delight, semen was the perfect material. It’s unclear how they discovered the invisible properties of semen (wild lunch break in the office, perhaps?) but the endless supply made it an attractive prospect. And the man who pioneered this inventive use of semen? First Chief Mansfield Cumming.

Sperm can live in your body for longer than you think.

Sperm can survive in the human body for a really long time; some studies even suggest they can stick around for up to five days if the conditions are right. As far as urban legends go, it’s actually true that sperm can survive longer in a hot tub than on a dry surface, but the likelihood of a sperm being able to impregnate a female bather is pretty much nonexistent.

A dead squid could inseminate your mouth.

Yes, really. In 2012 a woman in Korea was eating a parboiled squid when she felt a stinging in her mouth. When she went to the hospital, doctors extracted packets of squid sperm from her gums, cheeks and gums. And that was not the first time this had happened! According to medical journals, there are 16 recorded cases of this phenomenon. It occurs when spermatophores (little sacs of sperm inside the squid) have not been adequately heated during the cooking process. Squid spermatophores function autonomously from the squid and aim for deep implantation and injection into the muscles around it. Scientists still aren’t 100% sure why this occurs.

Semen could be used as an antidepressant (or maybe not).

In 2002, a psychologist called Gordon Gallup published a paper claiming that women who had sex without condoms were less depressed, and thus semen must have antidepressant qualities. As you can imagine, this study was met with a lot of “Haha, are you serious?” in the medical community. The reaction was so strong that a 2008 counter-study was conducted – which had, essentially, the exact opposite results. The last word from the medical community? Correlation does not imply causation. Tough luck, Gordon.