What Is ‘Semen Retention’ and Why Are Guys Into It?
The average guy’s concerns when it comes to their semen are typically that he wants to ejaculate more — more distance, more volume and a higher concentration of sperm.
RELATED: How to Increase the Volume of Your Ejaculate
But some guys are thinking in the exact opposite direction, having interest in how they can ejaculate less.
It’s a concept known as “semen retention,“ and it’s gaining in popularity thanks in part to certain strains of male internet culture that see masturbation, pornography and ejaculation as hallmarks of weakness and a lack of self-control.
To find out more about semen retention, AskMen spoke with a sexpert and a doctor who’s an expert in penile health to uncover who it’s right for, its benefits and drawbacks.
Understanding Semen Retention
What Is Semen Retention?
Despite its scientific-sounding name, from a medical standpoint, it isn’t really anything, actually.
“Semen retention is another term that doesn’t have a strict medical definition,” says Dr. Koushik Shaw of the Austin Urology Institute. “For whatever reason, some guys believe that abstaining from ejaculation will have knock-on health benefits, both physiological and psychological.”
Depending on how you approach semen retention, whether by trying not to ejaculate despite engaging in sex and/or masturbation or by avoiding sex or masturbation altogether, it can be a highly different process.
While refraining from ejaculating by not engaging in sexual pleasure is more of a psychological approach than a physiological approach, trying to prevent your semen from coming out at the moment of climax could have adverse effects.
“There is a method by which one can clench their [bladder’s] sphincter to halt ejaculation during intercourse,” says Shaw.
However, he notes that “this is an extremely bad idea” as it can lead to semen travelling into the bladder rather than being ejaculated outward. The process, “retrograde ejaculation,” can actually “cause damage to the prostate,” adds Shaw.
“Semen should only travel on a one-way route,” he says. “Out.”
That said, according to sex educator Kenneth Play, the concept of active semen retention, also known as injaculation, is “found in ancient Daoist sexual traditions, popularized in modern times by Mantak Chia, but centers around a philosophy of shortening the refractory period after orgasm or being able to last longer all as part of bringing harmony to your life force and lovemaking.”
Essentially, having a dry orgasm isn’t necessarily bad, but if you’re sending semen back into your bladder, it could potentially have long-term health effects. The safer bet, if you want to avoid ejaculating, is to avoid climaxing altogether.
Why Do Some Guys Engage in Semen Retention?
Semen retention can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, depending on how it’s approached. If you’re wondering why approach it at all, it turns out it’s a very valid question to ask with some highly interesting answers.
For Play, there are multiple reasons someone might want to be more selective about their ejaculations. Apart from “spiritual reasons” or a desire to “make the semen more ‘effective’ for fertilization,” he notes, it can also be “really amazing to learn how to orgasm without ejaculating, and learning how to separate the two can be empowering for a lot of men.”
“There’s a huge variety of reasons,” he adds. “Some men even use it as a motivation hack to increase their drive and desire.”
It’s that last class of guys who seem to be the focus of a recent upswing in popularity when it comes to semen retention. One article goes as far to describe the fad as a “cult” when discussing its popularity, and as with anything these days, there’s even a subreddit devoted entirely to it.
While you can’t really control desire itself, you can (to a degree) control how you respond to it. By refusing to engage in sex or masturbation, these men are asserting their self-control in a surprising area.
While many portrayals of masculinity in our culture praise men for being sexually powerful, the inverse — having control over your urges, rather than letting them control you — seems to be becoming increasingly viewed as a desirable outcome for men.
What Are the Benefits or Drawbacks to Semen Retention?
As with any kind of fad related to your sex life, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with before you get started. Any wrong move here could have serious, long-lasting impacts on your sexual wellbeing.
Luckily, as Shaw notes, when it comes to the avoidance aspect of semen retention, if you want to avoid sex and masturbation, there’s really nothing stopping you from a health perspective.
“Abstaining from intercourse has no proven health effects, positive or negative,” he says.
Play agrees, but notes that there is a bit of a historic background to the practice. “There is no quantitative research definitively saying any benefits or drawbacks, but it is something that’s been talked about in Chinese culture for a while,” he says. “Do with that what you will!”
That being said, if you do start to forego sex and masturbation, you could be missing out on some of the real health benefits they can bring.
“Studies have found that a healthy sex life has positive effects on mood, affect, feeling of wellbeing,” notes Shaw. And not only that, but other studies show that ejaculating regularly can decrease your risks of prostate cancer.
On the other hand, Shaw acknowledges that some guys engage in masturbation “up to ten times a day.”
“That behavior can become chronic,” he says — leading to unpleasant physiological and psychological side-effects. “So again, it’s not so much the act of semen retention (or expulsion) that matters but the context and behavior around it.”
RELATED: Side-Effects of Chronic Masturbation, Revealed
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide what you think is more important: the pleasure and health benefits of engaging in sex and sexual experiences, or the feeling of control and empowerment you get from abstaining.
Dos and Don’ts for Semen Retention
If you decide that semen retention isn’t for you, that’s totally fine! There’s no real scientific evidence backing it up for the time being, and while that doesn’t mean there never will be any, it’s definitely not the kind of thing that’s inarguably going to improve your life.
However, if you are curious and want to explore the idea a little bit, that’s fine, too.
“For me, it’s often a matter of managing my desire,” says Play. “If I cum too early, it may delay my further pleasure (refractory period, sensitivity, etc.), but if I can orgasm without ejaculation I’m more likely to have energy to keep going.”
Another aspect he notes? The post-coital relaxation you might feel after ejaculating.
“Once you ejaculate, your body releases prolactin, which makes you sleepy (think the Thanksgiving turkey effect),” he says, “so ejaculation control can prevent that. Also, as your testosterone levels go down as you age, your ability to recover after ejaculating decreases, extending your refractory period, which again, ejaculation control can help with the resource management of.”
However, apart from the aforementioned health concerns regarding retrograde ejaculation, here are some issues to be wary of from a psychological standpoint.
“Like any belief that you adopt, if you start to have a negative relationship with ejaculation and feel guilty every time, it’s not good for you psychologically,” says Play. “Think about it instead as a resource you can choose to spend when you wish.”
He also notes that refusing to climax might be off-putting to some partners.
“Communicate if appropriate, and also think about how semen retention can pair up with things like edging — some folks might find it hot to edge you and tease you but not have you cum until much later, others might crave you cumming and thus you’d be teasing them with your edging,” adds Play.
“Think about the fantasies and desires you can connect to this practice, too. It can also be useful to help balance out desire discrepancies between couples — if the man has a lower libido, for instance, he may find that practicing semen retention will increase his sex drive and desire to better match his lover.”
As for claims that it’ll make you more powerful, more mindful, more present and more successful? Well, there’s not much more than anecdotal evidence. If that’s something you crave, however, there’s no harm in trying it out.
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