Spit or swallow? It’s a more complex question than you’d think. The sexual fluids our bodies produce serve an obvious reproductive purpose, of course: semen contains sperm (lots and lots of sperm), while vaginal secretions help enable easy penetration and give those sperm a slippery “runway” so they can get where they want to go (even if WE might not want them to).
And it turns out that there’s a lot more to the story. Sexual juices come with a surprising amount of history and cultural storytelling – plus nutrition, science, and other fun facts.
Of course, personal preferences are very important! If you like to swallow, great. If you really don’t, that’s just fine too. But curiosity is one of the key components of fulfilling sexual intimacy, and that’s why we wrote this article.
Read on to explore some scientific, spiritual, and cultural perspectives on sexual fluids - what they are, why they are, and what to do with them.
What’s in semen and vaginal juices?
Humans, and mammals in general, are goopy, runny creatures. We’re mostly water. We sweat and bleed, we make mucus and milk – and semen and vaginal fluids. And sometimes we can experience a lot of shame around our fragrant ooziness, often because of cultural messaging aimed at “fixing” us with consumer products.
Those expectations can seem more appropriate to an air plant than a person. We wholeheartedly recommend embracing the liquid-y parts of ourselves whenever possible – they’re a reminder that we’re truly a part of Mother Nature.
So what kind of juice are we celebrating here, and what’s in it, anyway?
If you have a vulva.
First, a note – not all vaginas produce fluids! If you’re postmenopausal, on certain forms of hormone replacement therapy, or if you acquired your vulva via gender affirmation surgery, the picture will look a little different. We are fans of vulvas and vaginas in general, whatever age they are, however they came to be, or whoever they belong to. (And we’re always proud to offer a little assistance if needed.)
Vulvas, vaginas and cervixes that do produce fluids create a few different types, and they all serve different purposes.
So those are your everyday fluids. Buuuuuut this is a sex blog, so let’s get to the sexy stuff – arousal fluid.
“You’re so wet” is a fabulous thing to hear. But what’s happening in your body when your vagina starts to self-lubricate? The key is vasodilation – swelling of the blood vessels throughout your vulva and vagina. And other parts of you too! Some people flush all over when they’re aroused, which happens via the same mechanism.
In the vagina, though, those dilated blood vessels exert pressure that pushes fluid to the surface of the vaginal walls, smoothing the way for penetration. (We designed Awaken, our cult-favorite arousal oil, to help facilitate this process.) Pretty neat, huh?
Arousal fluid is different from what happens when you squirt – if you do. We go into depth in our blog on the subject, but in short, squirting differs from normal arousal in that a squirt comes from the urethra, not the vagina. It will contain secretions from the Skene’s glands in the urethral sponge and, yeah, possibly a little pee too. (Refer back to the bit about embracing human liquidity; it definitely applies here.)
If you have a penis.
Ask most people what’s in that stuff that comes out of an extremely happy penis, and you’ll usually hear “Sperm, of course!” However, sperm are only a very VERY small part of the picture. They’re produced in the testicles, and when they’re ready for launch, they join up with an assortment of other fluids that come from the seminal vesicles, prostate and urethral glands. Those fluids – containing water, sodium, fructose, glucose and some trace minerals – make up the bulk of semen.
Also, the quantity varies from person to person, but many penises also produce pre-ejaculate, or “pre-cum”. It’s made up of those other, non-sperm fluids and acts as a lubricant. Pre-ejaculate can contain some sperm cells, though, which is one reason why the “pull-out method” isn’t the most reliable form of birth control. Sperm are tenacious, dedicated and hardworking little suckers, and semen is there to help them do their jobs. Respect it!
Nutrition of sexual fluids
Any material our bodies create will have some nutritional content. In the case of sexual fluids, it’s minimal – but it’s present. (Ever noticed how some animals like to eat the crotches out of panties? There’s something they want in there!)
Vaginal fluids contain a host of friendly bacteria, predominantly Lactobacillus, which help to keep vaginas at a healthy pH level. Lactobacillus (usually, though not always, not of vaginal origin) is powerful enough to ferment beer or bread, but don’t throw away your probiotics yet. In the quantities found in healthy vaginal fluid, there isn’t enough Lactobacillus to do much except impart a slightly tangy flavor. Normal! Embrace it!
How about semen? Along with the aforementioned water, sodium, glucose, and fructose, it also contains magnesium, protein, potassium, zinc, and about 5 to 25 calories per orgasm. Again, don’t chuck your multivitamins – those nutrients are present in truly tiny quantities, which didn’t stop one enterprising author from writing a semen cookbook. Human bodies are amazing; human minds, even more so.
The Tantric take
So we’ve covered basic science, but there’s more to life, and sex, than the material world. Sexual fluids are very important in Tantra, an ancient Indian esoteric practice that many Westerners (mis)understand as a kind of erotic yoga.
It isn’t – it’s so much more than that – but Tantra does embrace sex and its juices. For an expert take, we talked to D’Vita of Yes Tantra – a coach and RN who specializes in helping her clients transcend in notably wet ways.
“The 3 main tenets of Tantra are Breath, Sound and Movement,” D’Vita told us. “Each of these [practices] help vulva owners experience orgasms more easily and frequently. Amrita is the Sanskrit word used in Neo-Tantra for female ejaculation. In Taoist texts, it is referred to as Ambrosia. It means ‘divine nectar’ and is seen as a blessing.”
And, according to Tantra, there are three orgasmic “gates” represented by different types of sexual fluid.
- “The first gate is the clitoris. If a vulva owner is fully able to relax, they may also experience a clitoral ejaculation – which produces the 1st water. Clitoral orgasms come from the Skene's glands, which are on either side of the urethra.”
- This leads to the second gate, which is the G-spot. Following arousal from the first-gate orgasm, the vulva owner is more aroused and the G-spot begins to be activated. When the heart chakra is open and the vulva owner feels safe with their partner, it is easier for them to have a g-spot orgasm.”
- “The third gate is the cervix. When this gate opens, it is a deeper orgasm that releases the third water – which is a thick/viscous fluid.”
As a sensual finale, D’Vita says “Once the 3 gates have been activated, lovers may choose to breathe together and absorb the healing amrita/ambrosia/ejaculate into their bodies through massaging and licking.”
Where does semen figure in this celebration of human juiciness?
“For males, the process of ejaculating can be energetically draining,” D’Vita says. “It is believed that this is why males fall asleep quickly after sex, whereas females are more energetic. In Taoist beliefs, it is thought that this is also why the lifespan for males is less than females on average. For this reason, Tantra teaches techniques for males to learn how to separate their ejaculation from their orgasm so they may have stamina for hours and not feel drained following sex.”
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So… should I spit or swallow?
This one’s easy. What do you really, truly want to do? Then do that, with our blessing. You are not a prude if you choose not to swallow, and you’re not an [icky sex-negative slur] if you crave it. Spitting vs swallowing is an intensely personal question that we should all be free to answer for ourselves, without pressure.
A note on etiquette, though: if you elect to spit, it’s pretty bad manners to lunge, retching, for the wastebasket. Let those fluids run out of your mouth subtly, let your partner know you think they’re delicious – and if you’d rather avoid the issue entirely, switch to using your hands at the crucial moment.
And etiquette is important for the person loosing the juice as well! Provide fair warning when the tide is on its way. Don’t put it anywhere they don’t want it – many people hate getting sexual fluids on their faces or in their hair, and if you have a penis, know that semen in the eyes is not fun. Just be kind – and know that even in the throes of passion, good manners can sometimes be the hottest thing ever.
Then go forth, friends, and let the juices flow.
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