So, last summer, being male and recently single, I was masturbating (if I recall correctly, it was something lurid involving Jake Gyllenhaal), and upon orgasm what came out of my penis was not its usual, pleasant pearlescent white, but a shocking bright blood red.

I panicked.

Hemorrhage. Cancer. AIDS. Donny Darko. The occult.

Thinking these worsts, I hopped on to the Internet to discover that the condition is called "hematospermia” or “hemospermia,” meaning, appropriately enough, “blood in the semen.” The extreme panic I experienced was unwarranted. Apparently it’s fairly common and mostly no more dangerous than blood in your snot when you have a cold.

While the etiology of hematospermia is not easily understood, here’s what I could find out.

In most cases if it arises on its own, it’s due to a simple, non-specific swelling of the seminal vesicles and/or the prostate. In most cases it also goes away on its own.

The seminal vesicles are small, flat pouches that sit on the bladder, on the sperm trail just before the prostate. They add fructose to the sperm. Fructose makes up 60% of the content of semen. Just after the seminal vesicles is the prostate, which adds a milky fluid to the mixture that helps dilute the sperm so they have an easier time of swimming. Prostate fluid makes up 30% of semen. As you can calculate, together these two glands make up 90% of ejaculate, so if something goes awry in the system here, it’s likely to have major impact, even if that impact is purely cosmetic.

The vesicles and prostate can be swollen by infection or even a sudden drop in the frequency of sexual activity (as was sadly in my case). When swollen they can leak blood into the semen, coloring it anything from brownish to a bright red. If the ejaculate goes into a human receptacle (and is not spit out), the blood itself does no harm at all, and it goes unnoticed.

There are some direct causes. A third of men who receive ultrasonic prostate biopsies report hematospermia afterwards. Some men who undergo conventional prostate biopsies also are affected. Severe hypertension is another major cause. In a very small percentage of cases it can be a side effect of prostate cancer. Men already suffering tuberculosis, HIV infection, or a cytomegalovirus infection may experience hematospermia as a side effect of the primary infection.

Dr. Jonathan Schiff on (the major source for most of this information) recommends that if the condition continues past 10 successive ejaculations then it’s time to see a doctor about it.

Who gets it?

Men between 14 and 75 have reported the condition. It is most common between the ages of 30 and 40, with an average age somewhere in the high 30s.

Some bad news is that if you’ve suffered it once, you’re more likely than others to have it repeat itself. But hopefully the second time it won’t be as terrifying.

How long does it last?

Episodes have been reported to last between 1 and 24 months. On average there will be several onsets of the condition within 2 weeks to 2 months.

What can be done to cure it?

In most men, the biggest effect of hematospermia is fear. In younger men, it is rarely indicative of anything serious. Most cases clear themselves up in 1-2 months as your body does its immune system and self-repair thing.

Especially if you are over 40 years old, your doctor may ask for urine or semen samples, and may do some other blood work related to diagnosing hypertension. Men over 50 years old may have to undergo an ultrasonic examination of the prostate to make sure nothing’s wrong up there, but this will unfortunately most likely increase the duration of the hematospermia being checked in the first place.

If a mild infection can be determined as the cause, then your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic for about two weeks. If it is a side effect of another infection, it may not be treated directly at all.

So that’s what I learned about it. As a spanking-young 32-year-old at the time, I had no real grounds for the panic I experienced, and it was gone on its own inside of two weeks. Hopefully this information will alleviate any knee-jerk anxiety you might feel should you see cum that is less than celebrity-tooth white.

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