Quick question: Does anyone actually know anything about precum? Anyone? Hello?
Precum feels like a weird thing we’ve all heard about since we hit puberty, but no one actually has any facts about it. While everyone thinks they know what it is, no one really knows what it is. While precum has likely been in your sexual vernacular since middle school it's confusing, like many things sex-related. There is also a lot of misinformation out there.
We’ve heard everything from: It’s dead sperm! It’s the same as sperm! It’s urine! It’s not urine, and it’s kind of semen but, also isn’t!
Suffice to say we need some down and dirty facts about this bodily fluid. Here is everything you need to know about precum.
First of all, what exactly is precum?
We never really to stop ask what this fluid is, where it comes from or why it even happens in the first place.
Precum (sometimes referred to as “pre-ejaculate”) is exactly what it sounds like: a fluid that a man (or person with a penis) ejaculates before the full-on ejaculation. It “is a clear, slick fluid that leaves the urethral opening or hole, at the tip of the penis, usually before ejaculation, hence the term, ‘pre’ cum,’” says Laura Deitsch, resident sexologist of Vibrant, Planned Parenthood's sex toy e-tailer.
And you’ll never guess what precum's function actually is: sanitizing the urethra before ejaculation. “Urine and semen both exit the male body through the urethra and it is important for the tube to be clean so the acidity of the urine doesn't kill the sperm,” Deitsch explains.
Basically, precum is the cleaning fluid of sexuality intercourse.
Let’s talk pregnancy and how precum plays a role.
Ok, so what we often find is conflicting information on whether or not one can get pregnancy through precum.
Why is this so important? Because so many people use the "pull-out" method. (The "pull out" method, for those unaware, is when the penis is removed from the vagina right before climax as a type of birth control.)
Side note: Please don’t do this—It's NOT an effective or reliable method at preventing pregnancy, and it obviously doesn't protect from any other sexually transmitted infections or diseases. (Here are better methods of birth control.) Deitsch says that precum isn’t usually the reason the pull-out method fails. “It is really about the penis not exiting the vaginal canal early enough and having actual semen enter the female body.”
And even then, you CAN still get pregnant from precum.
While Deitsch says it’s unlikely, it’s still possible. “Any residual sperm left in the urethra from a prior ejaculation could conceivably exit the urethra with a subsequent batch of pre-ejaculation and cause pregnancy.” Now, it’s definitely not as likely that you’ll get pregnant through precum as you would semen, but do you really want to take that chance?
Another thing to note: You can get STIs through precum. So, if you’re not in a monogamous relationship, do NOT skip the protection.
When should you be on the lookout for precum? Another myth: Precum happens right before ejaculation. This is untrue. In fact, pre-ejaculation can occur anytime during sexual play.
“Pre-ejaculatory fluid is released at any point after arousal and before ejaculation. It varies in amount, consistency and timing from man to man,” says Deitsch. “In healthy men, it will happen in varying degrees every time there is arousal past a certain point, as the body prepares itself for the eventual flow of semen.”
TLDR? If your partner has an erection, you never know when precum may occur. MEANING, you need to be using condoms or another form of birth control when having sex. Yes, we will keep saying this until you do it.