All illustrations by Heather Benjamin
"Your cum tastes like candy," an ex once told me after she swallowed some of my boy butter. It was true; I kissed her and my semen tasted like fruit juice. During the previous few days, I had eaten pineapple and berries for lunch and was drinking more juice than usual. I had heard that food with natural sugars made your cum taste better, but I was surprised to find any truth to the urban legend.
"Any kind of intake, whether it's food, medication, or drink, can affect the flavor of your semen or vaginal fluid," Dr. Carol Queen, a sociologist and sexologist whose practice focuses on sex-positivity, among other sex-related topics, recently told me over the phone. "Anything we smell or taste on the body is part of an excretory process... If you can tell a difference in someone's body odor, then the likelihood is that you can tell about their sexual secretions, as well."
In other words, if your farts or armpits smell weird after you eat a lot of meat or dairy, chances are your jizz or vagina will reflect the same. Try eating only asparagus for a few days; your pee won't be the only bodily fluid that's affected.
"If you want your bits to taste good, fruits like pineapple, papaya, and citrus will make a difference," Dr. Queen said. "Semen is known for having a bitter flavor, and that's what your partner was likely noticing—the absence of bitter flavor, not necessarily a sweeter flavor."
That said, there isn't peer-refereed research to totally confirm that caffeine and cigarettes spoil the taste of your junk, as some suggest, or that pineapple sweetens your swimmers. Dr. Queen provided a possible explanation as to why: "Part of the reason there are urban legends and a lack of proper research [about sexual fluid taste] is because there is no money to be made off it," she said. "These days people who get funded to do sex research are often funded through pharmaceutical companies so they can claim ownership of something like 'the next female Viagra' or capitalize on a medical model—not pour money into sex and lifestyle stuff."
Instead, it makes more financial sense for a company to make products that simply mask a body's smell, from deodorant and douches, to pills that make your cum taste like Jamba Juice. But there can be repercussions from society's disregard from talking or learning about how what we consume affects our stank.
"There are teenagers now that have never heard that bodies do smell good; they're taught that you should hide your odor," said Dr. Queen. "But scent is part of the natural attraction among partners. If people believe genitals should not smell or taste like anything, and when they taste them and they have flavor, they think something is wrong—and that's not the case at all. Some people like funk!"
To that end, my senior editors asked me to organize an experiment, and a married male-male couple and a married female-female couple volunteered to participate. They were asked to follow strict diets for three weeks while writing observations about how their partner's cum and vaginas tasted each time they had sex.
During the first week, the control, the couples would eat however they typically eat. During the second week, they were asked to only eat healthy food, with a focus on food that's rumored to make body excretions smell better than normal, such as fresh veggies, ginger, and citrus. And on the third week, the couples were to follow a diet featuring food that makes your body excrete foul odors, such as cheese, meat, and stuff with lots of corn syrup and artificial flavors. Plus, caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and other things that generally fuck up your system. Pseudoscience or not, this would at least get us talking more openly about our bodies. Here's what went down when the lovers went down. All names have been changed to protect anonymity.
Couple One: Amanda & Stella
A writer/producer and tech engineer who've been married for one and a half years.
Regular Diet Week
Foodstuffs Consumed: Fresh juice of various varieties, various fancy smoothies, cheese sandwiches, salads, broccoli, kale, tuna tartar, octopus, haddock, Arctic char, Shigoku oysters, clam roll with pickles, meatballs, deviled eggs, cookies, tequila, wine, cigarettes.
Regular Diet Sex Observations
Amanda: On the first night I wrote observations, her taste was pretty L I T E. My hand didn't even have a lingering scent. She's been working out a lot and eating healthy, so maybe that was it. Two major taste notes: East Coast oyster—maybe a Blue Point or Quahog or something similar—topped with nutritional yeast, making her taste a bit briny and a bit savory.
The next time we had sex, I wasn't sure if it was the lemonade she drank or the remnants of the Energizer grapefruit juice frolicking around on my tastebuds, but there was a noticeable sweetness, despite a super mild taste overall. Have you ever had the Trader Joe's seasoned kale chips with cashew butter and tahini? Well I have, and if they made a light version I would say it's a reasonably good comparison to my day two cunnilingus experience.
During the third trial of this control experiment, my wife tasted decidedly different than the previous two days. There was something much more citron about her taste. Sort of like a bruleed grapefruit, a sweet bitterness, not bittersweet though, if that makes sense. The flavor felt like a distant cousin to a Sour Patch Kid. Overall, a pleasing morning.
Stella: During my first observation of the regular diet cycle, my wife tasted very sour and there were notes of ammonia. This was not the normal taste I am used to. These were just the top notes. While the main bouquet (I don't know what I'm talking about) was still a bit sour, the taste was closer to the neutral, creamy flavor I am accustomed to. I couldn't tell if I was tasting the Manouri cheese sandwich she had for lunch, her 15-hour workday, or the fact that she had not had one drop of water in hours.
Things went better during the next trial. I remembering thinking, This. Thiiiiiiiiissss. This was the taste I know and love. The mild tanginess that reminded me of Chobani or 2 Percent Fage. There was this delicious, smooth texture combined with a pungent but mostly-neutral taste, like a really expensive and mild cheese. Don't make that face, everyone loves cheese.
Healthy Diet week
Foodstuffs Consumed: Various fresh juices including grapefruit and cucumber, various fancy smoothies, scrambled eggs with veggies, almond milk matcha latte, coffee, eggs in a cup, kombucha, fruit salad, Sweetgreen salads, trout, various vegetables, various fruits, fish tacos, Arctic char, cookies, tequila.
Healthy Diet Sex Observations
Amanda: This time, her scent and taste was noticeably sweet, with more than a suggestion of pineapple. I also noticed she got wet more quickly than the previous week. Maybe related? Beyond the pineapple were super faint, herbal notes. I know that might sound odd, or like I'm talking about a Sauvignon Blanc, but it was there. Overall, a totally pleasing oral sex experience.
Stella: The taste today was very specific, and the first time in all of these experiments where her taste was truly sweet. It was almost reminiscent of cake batter, or Soylent. It is actually crazy that human beings can produce tastes like that, now that I think about it. Bodies are insane.
Unlike my wife, a trained chef, I have a pretty unsophisticated palate. There are three flavors I can discern: sweet, salty, and Chipotle (the restaurant). As such, I'm a bit at a loss to come up with a new, profound, overly-detailed way of explaining how her vagina tasted on this day. It tasted good, it tasted creamy, it tasted balanced. TBH, it just tasted like pussy usually does: Not anything super crazy, but the way a really well made gin and tonic tastes on a hot day—just right.
Gluttonous Diet Week
Foodstuffs Consumed: Frittata with cheese, chicken wings, shrimp quesadilla, garlic fries, prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich, chicken gyro, more garlic fries, meat and cheese plate, olives, cheeseburger, asparagus, potatoes, buffalo wings, blue cheese, wine, tequila, cigarettes, cookies, cacio e pepe, more alcohol, more cigarettes.
Gluttonous Diet Sex Observations
Amanda: From what I remember, she tasted like rose and salt, which on one hand seems ludicrous and on the other actually seems pretty accurate. All together not unpleasant. If anything, the flavor was perfectly pleasant.
During this unhealthy diet, her vagina's taste didn't come across as acerbic, but definitely a bit more pungent than usual. Overall, the fattier and dairy-filled foods were more noticeable and present. She tasted much less sweet, but instead weightier in both flavor and scent.
Stella: When I'm drunk, the more flavorful, the better. This time, she tasted strong, deep, warm, and caramel-y in the best possible way. It filled my mouth and tasted like a meal. Remember that scene from Kids where Casper makes Telly smell his fingers? Like that.
Later in the week, I tasted garlic and experienced a similarly 'weightier' taste and scent like my wife observed about my body. It was definitely the bodily fluid equivalent to our diet. This diet was my favorite because everything going into my mouth was flavorful, savory, and awesome.
Amanda: I think through all of these "experiments," I was expecting her taste to be drastically impacted by diet, but truly what I found was that her water consumption is the keystone of the whole operation. If she was well hydrated enough, there was a mildness to her taste that borders on flavorless. When she was dehydrated, I was able to tell a huge difference in the taste, and it seemed to really showcase the foods she'd eaten.
Couple Two: Adam & Matthew
A videographer and producer who've been together for nine years, married for one. Matthew did not review Adam's semen.
Regular Diet Week
Foodstuffs Consumed: Various fruits (emphasis on bananas, strawberries, and apples), various vegetables (including eggplant, green beans, and cauliflower), coffee, eggs, gluten-free toast, tuna salad, pickles, hummus, mozzarella, feta cheese, pasta, chicken, Korean BBQ beef and chicken, kimchi dumplings, Thai curry, brownies, Prosecco, red wine, beer, tequila, cigarettes.
Regular Diet Sex Observations
Adam: After giving my husband a blowjob, he ejaculated in my mouth, followed by a hesitant swallowing on my part. The cum was slightly sour and more watery than usual, meaning he probably ejaculated in the past day. There was a nasty aftertaste, including lingering sour notes in the back of my throat. I consumed excess water in an effort to relieve myself from the taste.
Later in the week, I gave him a blowjob/handjob into my mouth (different than coming in my mouth during a blowjob). The cum felt weirdly void of taste, not at all like the sourness I noticed earlier in the week. It was thick with a salty aftertaste. I could have swallowed, but didn't. Then I went on with my day as usual, no palate cleaning needed.
Healthy Diet Week
Foodstuffs Consumed: Rice milk, elderflower tea, Kombucha, many fruit and vegetable smoothies (wheatgrass, sweet lupin, etc.), tons of fruit like pineapple, papaya, banana, strawberry, apples, kiwi, grapes, blueberries, coconut; tons of veggies like kale, spinach, beets, zucchini, mushrooms, and edamame; yogurt, salmon burger, Tom Kha soup with chicken, Thai coconut curry with tofu, Udon noodles, wakame salad, kimchi, fried shrimp wontons, glass noodles, non-alcoholic beer.
Healthy Diet Sex Observations
Adam: I gave him a blowjob and swallowed slowly to get a better palate-read. This time, his cum went back to being a bit funky. Earthy and gamey, though—not sour. It tasted mammalian and thick, and was one of those times when I couldn't get the taste out of your mouth for hours.
Later in the week, I jerked him off into my mouth so the cum hit air before reaching my tastebuds. I hope that didn't mess up how it would taste. It was significantly less funky this time, but also went back to being weirdly devoid of taste. It wasn't at all sweet, and had average texture and minimal aftertaste.
Gluttonous Diet Week
Foodstuffs Consumed: Eggs and smoked salmon, eggs with stinky cheese, chia pudding, fried rice, potatoes, chocolate and caramel ice cream, beer, more stinky cheese, asparagus, yellow curry with rice noodles, cabbage, fried onions and chicken, tuna salad, sausage, sushi, cheeseburger, beef patties with cream sauce, more asparagus, fried halloumi, lamb and peanut sauce, beef roulade, cigarettes, vodka, wine, beer, cocaine.
Gluttonous Diet Sex Observations
Adam: One day this week, I gave him a blowjob and swallowed. It wasn't as gross as I was expecting, but maybe the cocaine from the night before hadn't moved through his body and affected his cum machine yet. I would even say it was a little bit salty. It wasn't too bad and kind of nice (for cum).
Another night, I gave him a blowjob and he ejaculated into my mouth. This time it was funky and a bit earthy, with an aftertaste that wouldn't quit.
On a different day, he jerked off into my mouth. At this point, we were both a little sick of this. I was literally checking Instagram and then rolled over he was ready to aim his cumshot into my mouth. It was fucking funky this time and sour for sure. It was like a shock to my oral system.
Adam: The fourth experiment during the gluttonous week is pretty indicative of this whole experience. My husband jerked off into my mouth and I expected it to be the most nasty-tasting cum I've ever been granted. But it wasn't so bad. It was still a bit earthy, but I couldn't pinpoint the exact food that made it taste funky or dirty. That being said, it still had to have been something he ate.
Follow Zach on Twitter