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We've all had our ideas about the thick, white stuff that comes out the head of some penises. This is about some of those ideas and how science has disproved them.

1. Blindness, Insanity & Death
2. Seminal Vapors
3. Preformationism
4. Doctrine of Vital Heat
5. Seminal Nurture
6. Partible Paternity
7. It's the Life Force!
Bonus: Titus Flavius Clemens proposed that when we get all horny and worked up it causes blood to froth and turn into semen.

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We’ve all had our ideas about the thick white stuff that comes out the head of a penis.

This episode is about some of those ideas, the semen myths that were held as fact until science disproved them. [WHIP CRACKING, COUGH]. Blindess, Insanity, and Death!

You may have heard me talk about my favorite sexologist Havelock Ellis. He was told by his doctor that the wet dreams he was having during puberty were symptomatic of impending blindness, insanity, and death. Medical doctors of the time believed that nocturnal emissions of semen were caused by gonorrhea and the like.

It was a sign you’re going to die! Science: nope. It's just a natural release of fluid built-up in the body because you shamed him out of masturbating!!!

Seminal vapors! In the 1700s, there were those who believed conception was a result of seminal vapors. Essentially that the gas or fumes rising from the semen is what fertilized the egg, not the semen itself making contact.

Science: In 1785 an Italian philosopher conducted multiple experiments with toad and frog semen to scientifically investigate whether or not this belief was true. Using concave glass -- the kind that chemists employ to evaporate a liquid -- he placed amphibian semen just 2.25 mm below the same species’ eggs. Five hours later he noted that the eggs were covered in a “humid mist.” So the seminal vapors wafted correctly but eventually the eggs perished.

Conclusion: vapors don’t lead to fertilization! Semen doesn’t either. It’s the sperm in the semen that fertilizes eggs.

Preformationism! Preformationism or preformism refers to the idea that all organisms that have existed, do exist, and will exist were created at the same time. Which is what Nicolaas Harsoeker and his colleagues saw in their early microscopes -- a tiny human crotched down into a tight ball they called animalcules or in the case of human sperm, homuncules.

A homuncule with a human in it, with a sperm in it with a human in it and with a sperm human homuncile in it that were all created at once to grow successively over time. Homunculi all the way down! Science: Now we have better technology.

It is possible see a nucleus with DNA so it can reproduce after fertilizing an egg. We can identify enzymes in the acrosome which facilitate penetration of the egg. There’s the centriole or neck of the sperm that connects the head to the middle piece with mitochondria we’ve learned produce energy that moves the flagellum, or tail which in turn propels the sperm.

Doctrine of Vital Heat! Aristotle claimed the warmer the semen the greater the probability of male offspring. As in, the more passionate the male is during sex, the closer to fire, the more exposed to the sun, the hotter the semen etc. the more likely insemination will result in a male child.

Females, according to Aristotle, were a result of less passionate sex, a cooler environment and OR a cold uterus that overpowered the hot semen destined to become a male. Science: Sex determination we’re still trying to figure out, but come on! Girls are conceived in sweltering deserts.

And the uterus isn’t cold -- it’s inside the body that typically runs around 98 degrees Fahrenheit, 37 Celsius. Seminal nurture! The Aka, a hunter-gatherer tribe in the Congo Basin rainforest, have been known to practice seminal nurture.

As in to nurture a pregnancy you have to give it multiple inseminations. Science: If serial ejaculation was required to complete procreation it would certainly reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. Can you imagine if you had to keep having sex in order to maintain gestation?

In order to have a kid? We know though that seminal nurture isn’t biologically accurate. In vitro fertilization is strong evidence that a single dose of semen -- even one sperm -- can result in a fully formed baby.

Partible Paternity! Indigenous cultures in lowland South America believe something similar to Seminal Nurture anthropologists call partible paternity. The thinking here is that it takes the semen from multiple males to conceive.

Which has its benefits -- there are essentially more father figures supporting a single pregnancy, the mother can “shop for good genes.” There’s constant negotiation over the best interests of the child. And with this collaborative paternity, there are fewer incidences of abuse between the males and toward the female. Science: Presenting sexually monogamous couples who have biological children.

It’s the life force! Semen is thought to be really powerful stuff. The Etoro or Edolo of Papua New Guinea believe you’re not born with semen; you get it from the elders by fellating them.

It’s a tradition, a rite of passage beginning around age 7, 8, 9, that goes on for years as part of a strict diet to strengthen boys into future warriors. The Maasai, located in Kenya and Northern Tanzania, have believed and may still that a girl’s sexual maturity is instigated by semen. Meaning for her to develop breasts, grow pubic hair, become fertile etc. she must have sex with men of a specific age group (usually 12 to 25 years old) called Morans.

Maasai girls ages 10, 11, and 12 are sent to assigned houses called esoto where they’re expected to dance and sing and have sex with Morans - to GO and become women! Semen all around the globe is thought of as a life force! Like in China, jing, or sexual energy, is something you want to harness and accumulate.

Ejaculating it, masturbating, is like shortening your life and letting yourself bleed.... Science: For jing, the counter argument is vibrant people who just rubbed one out and have been for years of their long lives. As for seminal strength and warrior juice, semen does not have enough protein to meet the daily dietary needs of a 9 year old.

The math is complex, but to get the same protein of just one egg white, you’d need approximately 24 average sized seminal ejaculations. Lastly, on initiating puberty and overturning seminal myths:. Harvard University partnered with the Oregon National Primate.

Research Center to study primates with similar reproductive systems to ours. And they gathered that GPR54 and the Kisspeptin protein are responsible for menarche. Not semen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Sexplanations. I personally find it valuable to reflect on the beliefs we conjure throughout history and how incredibly important and humbling science is to understanding our bodies AND EVERYTHING. Stay curious!

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