Every so often, the question circulates: Is it okay to eat semen if you’re vegetarian or vegan? After all, it’s the protein of a mammal, and vegans and vegetarians refrain from other versions of this, like eggs and milk. Recently, the question was asked in light of so-called Steak and a BJ Day, a joke holiday that’s meant to be the dude’s Valentine’s: to make up for giving her flowers and candy on February 14th, women are supposed to cook their men a steak and go down on them as a payback. (This of course begs the question: Are most men going down on most women on Valentine’s Day? Pshaw.)
Writing at the Metro U.K., Miranda Larbi asks if it’s okay for a vegan to swallow semen, noting that the ingredients of semen are mostly water, 1 percent sperm, and a mixture of amino acids, calcium, citrate, magnesium, potassium, Zinc and Vitamin C.
“Although it’s produced by mammals, there’s no material you wouldn’t find from a non-animal source,” Larbi concludes. Even if that tiny bit of sperm constitutes a reproductive cell, she argues, because the human swallowing it is consenting — unlike the byproducts we take from other animals without permission, for instance — it’s A-okay to consume the jizz.
But why are we so obsessed with semen as a food, when it’s a bodily fluid? Probably because it has deep cultural, historical and spiritual roots as a food (we even call it a “superfood” because of its ingredients). In the history of male masturbation, we learn that ancient Mesopotamian god Enki was the lord of semen and therefore the fertilizing of plants. And in ancient Egypt, semen battles were settled by getting the loser to eat the other guy’s jizz by any method necessary.
Semen and ejaculation are actually a strong part of ancient Egyptian god myths: there’s an extended episode in which Set and Horus, two male gods, have what’s essentially a semen-battle. Set tries to seduce Horus, but Horus throws Set’s semen in the river, and then tricks him into eating lettuce smeared with Horus’s semen. When the other gods try to figure out who “won” this particular fight, they summon both bits of sperm, and Horus wins, because he got Set to “swallow.” Horus’s semen becomes a lovely gold disc of shame around Set’s head.
The word semen is from the Latin for “seed,” and the whole planting the seed to make the baby grow thing is innate in its origins. Aristotle wrote about it back in the 300s BC, arguing that “Sperms are the excretion of our food, or, to put it more clearly, as the most perfect component of our food.” But his idea was more that it was necessary for male nourishment and growth; he thought if men had sex too early, and gave up their semen, they wouldn’t grow properly (and that semen was actually made out of blood). The Etoro tribe of Papa New Guinea regards semen as a life force and the ingesting of it by young boys — from their male elders — as a ritual of manhood. The notion of semen as a sacred magical fluid pervades history.
As Michel Foucault summarizes it in his History of Sexuality (1990: 130), “by expelling their semen, living creatures…deprived themselves of elements that were valuable for their own existence.” This is one reason why eating “liquid soul” was an early Christian ritual. Semen became the Eucharist and Host of the body. If it’s eaten then it’s not wasted! Perhaps they took The Gospel of Eve literally, which says to “gather your seeds” and to not waste them. Some of these Christians believed Jesus was the first to show us, at the Last Supper, how to consume his soul through oral sex. “This body-blood is my soul. Eat it so that I may live in you forever.” We know about these early Christian beliefs because they were described in detail by Iranius and Epiphanius, the Church Fathers bent on exposing heretical Christians.
Early ancient Gnostic sects like the Borborites, who told stories of Jesus drinking his own semen after sex, supposedly smeared their bodies with menstrual blood and semen (they also ate both.) Some Japanese Buddhist students ate their master’s semen as “a means for mind transmission.”
The idea of semen-as-food shows up in numerous sexual contexts. Writing about Tantric sex, Jennifer Lawless writes:
The Tantric way to end fellatio is by accepting his semen into your mouth. Vedic texts contain many references to semen as a form of food. On an esoteric level, swallowing semen is a form of Eucharist whereby the deity resides in the semen and enters the body of the worshiper.
And there’s the fact that eating semen is also found in the animal kingdom. Some female species do eat sperm like it’s food as part of the reproductive act. Carrion flies, Spadella cephaloptera (marine invertebrate), some leeches, and a certain type of squid all eat semen either for nutrients or to kick off reproduction. But those animal/insect semen contain over 80 proteins, and they do something beyond having nutritional benefits: they stimulate ovulation or reproduction or actually reduce the possibility that she’ll mate with another dude bug.
Human sperm has a lot of proteins, too — over 200 — but the amount a human woman would need to consume for it to mean anything is something like a half a cup of jizz just to get the protein of one egg white. That hasn’t stopped science from trying to justify why everyone should be eating semen all the time. So far they’ve mostly proven that while it has some benefits, it’s mostly harmless, unless the semen contains an STD, or you’re allergic, or it just gives you the shits. It’s possible eating it could cure morning sickness, but this antidote hinges entirely on a woman’s ability to even think about eating jizz while nauseous.
Still, at this point, it’s clear we’re not really eating it for much benefit other than sexual enthusiasm — not that there’s anything wrong with that. Still, shouldn’t we stop talking about eating cum and think of it more as drinking it? After all, it’s a liquid.
Regardless, our historical affection for consuming the stuff proves a consistent number of people are totally cool with taking it down the gullet. Paul “Fotie” Photenhauer, the author of a series of cookbooks that use semen in the recipes (as well as the website Cooking With Cum) makes it clear that no matter what you think about drinking jizz, it’s not weirder than anything else we consume.
“If you want your partner to swallow, you should be willing to eat your own semen — I mean, it’s your semen,” Photenhaeur told SF Weekly. “Then I started thinking about it. People eat all kinds of weird shit. Eggs are the menstruation of chickens. Milk is the mammary excretion from cows. Semen is…at least it’s fresh and you know who the producer is.”