What Men Should Know

Dew on the Lily

(by Mickey Diablo)
It’s the appetizer before the main course, the Royal Variety Performance preceding the NYE fireworks, the isolated showers which herald the Highveld storm. I could wax lyrical a little longer but I think you get the point… The fact is that precum is not the main event, it’s not necessarily that exciting, and it frequently goes unnoticed.

So what exactly is this colourless, viscous appetizer, and how, if at all, does it differ from cum? Quite simply, precum is the clear liquid that is secreted from the urethra after sexual arousal (either visual or physical)  prior to ejaculation., It is referred to rather clinically as pre-ejaculate, preseminal fluid, Cowper’s fluid and, more colloquially, as precum.

Precum originates primarily from two pea sized bulbourethral glands (also known as Cowper’s glands) located below the prostate, which release their secretions directly into the rear of the urethra. The Cowper’s glands are supported in turn by the smaller Littré glands located in the penis along the urethra. Precum’s composition is similar to that of cum, and yet it has some significant chemical differences. There has been mass debate (pun intended) regarding the presence of sperm in precum. Studies, however, have been conflicting, with some not having found any viable sperm in precum, while others have found that a subset of men leak sperm into their precum. The statistically small numbers of participants in the various studies, however, have rendered any decisive conclusions elusive. Bad news then, for those of us practising coitus interruptus (the “pull out” method of contraception in straight sex)!

So now that we know what precum is, the next logical question is why do our bodies produce it, and what is its function? Owing to the fact that acidic environments are hostile to sperm, precum acts to neutralise residual acid levels in the urethra caused by urine, thereby creating more favourable pH neutral conditions for the survival of the sperm on its passage through the urethra. Precum also acts as a lubricant during sex, although depending on the quantities that your guy produces, you may not want to put away that lube tube just yet.

Amongst the men that I’ve, ahem, come across (and I’ve come across a few) their precum production levels were as varied as their dick sizes. Many guys produce no precum at all, while others experience slight to moderate discharge, which may leak onto their underwear. Others still may produce a squirting discharge (as much as 5ml and more). Many men may in fact find excessive precum production a source of embarrassment. Its also important to bear in mind that the production of precum should not be confused with premature ejaculation, which is another matter entirely. There are a huge number of geographical and cultural variations in the reported incidence of excessive precum production.

My advice is to look on precum, including “excessive” production, as normal, desirable and pleasurable, as opposed to something dirty or shameful. For those who are still concerned,  take comfort from the fact that the amount of precum produced usually declines with age. And if all else fails, there is medical treatment available, although most guys would do well to realise that this approach involves an element of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut (or to bust a nut as the case may be…)

On a rather more serious note, studies have been interpreted to suggest that, in men who have HIV, a small amount of the virus can be found in their precum  although this is at levels lower than that found in cum. However, based on this research, it is not possible to confirm whether, and under what circumstances, precum exhibits a higher or lower concentration of HIV. When assessing the risk of HIV infection, however, it is not essential to know whether the concentration of HIV in precum is slightly lower or higher than in semen. What’s more important is the type of sex that is practised and the mucous membrane that came into contact with it.

As far as oral sex is concerned, because it is more difficult to transmit HIV through the relatively resilient membranes in the mouth and throat, precum carries a very low HIV risk, especially where the partner performing oral sex does not swallow precum or take a load of cum in his mouth. However, as it is easier to transmit the virus through the more susceptible rectal mucous membranes, there is more of a risk of HIV transmission from precum during anal sex.

In light of the HIV risks inherent in precum, it is worth noting that the risks of transmitting HIV increase exponentially when the carrier is also infected with a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Gonorrhoea infects the urethra and the glands that support human reproduction, which means that the Cowper’s glands can support the infection. If the condition is not treated, the infection can stay within the Cowper’s gland for a substantial period of time. It is therefore possible that during oral sex, gonorrhoea can be transmitted via precum. . Other STIs that can be transmitted via precum include herpes, HPV (the virus that causes warts), trichomoniasis, hepatitis and syphilis.

So it seems that, as innocuous as this distillate of love may first appear, precum not only has very clearly defined biological functions, but also that we ignore the potential sexual health risks inherent in its transmission at our peril. Perhaps some of you guys, newly armed with this information, may now have a fresh appreciation when admiring the glistening dew on the lily before the rain showers commence (and I’m not talking about flowers. Or the weather…)