Nocturnal emission  

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A nocturnal emission; an ejaculation or orgasm while asleep, often accompanied by an erotic dream.

    • 1985, David Lewis, "British playwright makes a mountain out of a Mole" (review of The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend), The Globe and Mail (Toronto), 9 Jan, p. E22,
      His mother is having an affair with the man next door, is reading Germain Greer's The Female Eunuch—which spawns Adrian's first wet dream.
  1. An exciting fantasy; a very appealing, ideal thing, person, or state-of-affairs.
    • 1986, Liam Lacey, "Same old irresistible Seeger," The Globe and Mail (Toronto), 24 Oct, p. D11,
      Bruce Springsteen may become middle America's wet dream.
      The plan is, if all goes well, to have these batteries, an eco warrior's wet dream due to their non-toxicity, on sale in two or three years.

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A nocturnal emission is an ejaculation of semen experienced by a male during sleep. It is also called a "wet dream", an involuntary orgasm, or simply an orgasm during sleep.

Nocturnal emissions are most common during teenage and early adult years. However, nocturnal emissions may happen any time after puberty. They may be accompanied by erotic dreams, and the emission may happen without erection. It is possible to wake up during, or to simply sleep through, the ejaculation in what is sometimes called a "sex dream". Women can also experience orgasms in their sleep.



In the 18th and 19th centuries, if a patient had ejaculations outside of marital intercourse, or released more semen than is typical, then he was diagnosed with a disease called spermatorrhoea or seminal weakness. A variety of drugs and other treatments, including circumcision and castration, were advised to treat this imagined "disease". Some alternative practitioners, especially herb healers, continue to diagnose and advise treatments for cases of spermatorrhoea, but these treatments have no evidence base, and no place in mainstream medicine.

Religious views

There are numerous religious views on nocturnal emissions. Below is a limited summary of some perspectives.

Patristic Christian view

Saint Augustine held that male nocturnal emissions, unlike masturbation, did not pollute the conscience of a man, because they were not voluntary carnal acts, and were therefore not to be considered a sin. Augustine did, however, pray that he may be released from the "glue of lust" and thus recommended the beseechment of God's assistance in clearing one's soul of all such carnal affections.

Saint Augustine interprets the references to the uncleanliness of discharge of seed (and menstruation) in Leviticus as symbolising disorder and unruliness as opposed to the seed forming a human being through conception which symbolises the form and structure of a just life.

Jewish views

Some examples of passages under the Mosaic law of the Bible teach that under the law of Moses a man who had a nocturnal emission incurred ritual defilement.

"If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean [Hebrew tameh] until the evening. And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water and be unclean until the evening." – Leviticus 15:16-17
"When you are encamped against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing. If any man among you becomes unclean [Hebrew lo yihyeh tahor, literally "is not clean"] because of a nocturnal emission [literally: "by reason of what happens to him by night"], then he shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp, but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp." – Deuteronomy 23:9-11

A third passage relates more specifically to priests, requiring "a man who has had an emission of semen," among other causes of ritual defilement, to abstain from eating holy until after a ritual immersion in a mikveh (see paragraph below) and a subsequent night-fall (Leviticus 22:4).

The regulations required the defiled person (tamei) bathe in a mikveh. A man who had normal intercourse with his wife was also considered ceremonially unclean, and he too was required to bathe in a mikveh and he became pure after the sun had set (Leviticus 15:18). Leviticus makes similar statements about menstruation (15:19-24) and childbirth (Leviticus 12).

In Judaism, the Tikkun HaKlali, also known as The General Remedy, is a set of ten Psalms designed in 1805 by Rebbe Nachman whose recital is intended to serve as repentance for nocturnal emissions.

Most rabbis feel that nocturnal emissions are associated with daytime thoughts, and there are comments impinging the wisdom of those who suffer from immodest dreams. A midrash attributes not having nocturnal emissions as being an attribute of holiness.

Islamic view

Muslim scholars consider ejaculation (regardless of cause) ritually impure; it means that a Muslim who has ejaculated cannot pray, hold the Quran or enter a mosque until he performs ghusl.

A wet dream itself is, however, not a sin in Islam. Moreover, whereas a person fasting (in Ramadan or otherwise) would normally be considered to have broken his or her fast by ejaculating on purpose (during either masturbation or intercourse), nocturnal emission is not such a cause. He or she is still required to bathe prior to undergoing some of the rituals above.

Medieval folklore

In medieval Western occultism, nocturnal emissions were believed to be caused by a succubus copulating with the individual at night, an event associated with night terrors.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Nocturnal emission" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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