There are two basic types of artificial semen, as of summer 2011. The first type is used for decorative or demonstrative purposes. Typically, people use this kind of fake semen during some sort of demonstration that, were it a real event, would involve real seminal fluid. The second type is more of a scientific step forward. If successful beyond initial testing, this type of artificial semen might provide human health benefits.
For years, artificial semen has been any kind of substance, crudely crafted or professionally manufactured, designed to mimic the appearance of real seminal fluid. Sometimes, this kind of fake semen is used in sex education classes. Teachers can pair the fake seminal fluid with condom demonstrators that have an ejaculation function.
Of course, this demonstration does not have to take place in a classroom setting. It can take place between two new sex partners, a parent and a child, or in any couple or group setting involving someone who is unfamiliar with and needs to learn how condoms work. Facilitators of sexual health seminars, retreats, and other group workshops might use condom demonstrators with ejaculation functions that emit artificial semen.
Similarly, sex industry professionals can use artificial semen when real seminal fluid is not possible or practical. Such instances might be during still photo shoots or even filming sessions. Depending on the company’s budget, this might be purchased from a manufacturer or made from the industry's own recipe. Typically, though, the sex industry uses a chemical compound called methyl cellulose for its artificial semen needs. Methyl cellulose is nontoxic and non-allergenic and these, along with other characteristics such as lubricating properties, could be why it is used in other sex-related products like personal lubricants.
The term “artificial semen” can also refer to real sperm created in an artificial way. Technically, this is an incorrect use of the term as semen and sperm are not the same. Semen is the fluid that holds sperm. Scientists who specialize in fertility issues have created germ cells that produce sperm. Experiments have shown that once these germ cells are inserted into the testicles of male mice, the mice can produce sperm that looks healthy and normal. Likewise, when the artificial sperm is inserted into the eggs of female mice, the female mice are able to conceive and deliver healthy pups, or baby mice. If and when such a procedure is fully regulated and made available to humans, it could act as a groundbreaking fertility treatment to help men and women who weren’t otherwise able to conceive children.
What is Artificial Semen Made Of?
Actual semen consists of mostly water, plasma, and mucus. But on a movie set or in a classroom, you don’t want to use biological material. You need to use a substitute instead.
If you’re filming a movie, whether an adult film or a raunchy comedy, you want fake sperm that looks realistic. You can find these products online, and they’re typically made of cellulose gum and glycerin.
Cellulose gum comes from plants, and its primary use is as a thickening agent for food products. Glycerine is a type of naturally-occurring sugar alcohol. It’s a viscous liquid that is odorless and tasteless in its natural form. Also called glycerol, many different industries use it for vastly different purposes.
Like cellulose gum, it is also a food additive and adds sweetness to a food product. You can also find glycerine in wound care products, liquid medications, personal care products, e-cigarette liquids, and antifreeze.
Fake semen is made with food additives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to ingest. Different brands may add compounds that aren’t safe for human consumption. If you’re looking for edible artificial semen, like for a bachelorette cake, you’re better off making your own. The most common recipe floating around the internet uses egg whites, water, cornstarch, salt, and either non-dyed yogurt or sour cream.
What is Artificial Sperm?
As mentioned above, sperm refers to the reproductive cells within semen, but the two terms are often used interchangeably.
Scientists have been working towards creating viable artificial human sperm cells for over a decade. Succeeding in this would be a massive breakthrough for science. About 10% of men in the United States who try to conceive are infertile, and couples made up of two biologically female persons can’t produce sperm at all.
While donor sperm is a possible replacement, there are drawbacks. Many people have concerns about the ethical implications of sperm donation, and sperm banks are also largely unregulated.
It’s not uncommon for a couple to sue a clinic because they discovered that the donor lied or withheld information. By using artificial sperm that is the genetic product of one-half of the couple, couples know exactly who they’re getting the sperm from.
To achieve viable artificial sperm creation, researchers are working on turning stem cells into sperm cells. While fetal stem cells are the most commonly known, stem cells can be taken from many different areas of the body throughout most of a person’s life.
Scientists use pluripotent stem cells in their artificial sperm experiments. While not as much of a blank slate as omnipotent or totipotent stem cells, the type found in fetal tissue, they are still able to become any type of body cell. Adult pluripotent stem cells are in our bone marrow, skin cells, blood cells, and other organ and tissue cells.
What the Future Holds for Artificial Semen and Sperm
It’s unlikely that artificial semen is going to go away anytime soon. While raunchy comedies like American Pie aren’t as popular as they were in the early 2000s, they haven’t gone extinct.
The adult film industry continues to bring in billions of dollars every year. Add to that programming like crime shows and medical shows, and the movie and television industry will keep artificial semen on the market.
Additionally, artificial semen is also used in health demonstrations, and those won’t be going away either. Sex education is more important than ever. Occasionally, educators may use artificial semen in their lessons. Companies that manufacture prophylactics like condoms may also use artificial sperm in some phases of testing and product demonstrations.
Science has made incredible strides in creating artificial sperm, but we’re still a ways away from being able to use it to produce a viable pregnancy. So far, scientists have created healthy mice from artificial sperm. Scientists have also been able to create artificial sperm with rhesus macaque monkeys.
In the fairly recent monkey trials, the sperm cells created did not have heads or tails, so they could not swim. However, researchers were able to fuse with eggs by manually joining them in the lab. Of these early embryos, 12% progressed to a point where they could be implanted. However, scientists have not attempted implantation of these embryos as of yet.
It’s hard to say exactly how far we are from viable artificial sperm, but these experiments help get us closer to that point.
Artificial semen may sound silly, but it has many uses, such as filming and health demonstrations. Artificial sperm, meanwhile, has a lot of potential. We’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds.