Never Have I Ever: Experimented With Semen Retention

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Here’s What It’s Really Like to Forgo Solo Pleasure — And Why So Many Guys Do It

Never Have I Ever: Experimented With Semen Retention

Here’s What It’s Really Like to Forgo Solo Pleasure — And Why So Many Guys Do It

Have you ever played “Never Have I Ever” before? Here are the rules: Everyone puts up ten fingers, and you go around in a circle and one by one share something sexy or scandalous that you’ve never done before. When someone else shares something you have done, you have to put one finger down — and of course, drink. The first person to put all 10 fingers down loses (or wins, depending on how you look at it).

Well, AskMen is still playing Never Have I Ever, and the rules are simple: In each edition of this column, we speak to someone about doing something new in bed, whether it’s a long-time fantasy, something that just happened, or even something they regret. They tell us everything so you get an inside look at what some sexual experiences are actually like.

If you’ve spent any time on spaces where guys congregate online in recent years, there’s a decent chance you’ve heard about the concept of semen retention.

And while it’s a supposedly very masculine concept, The beliefs that lead to semen retention are, to be frank, more new-age woo-woo than any witchy Instagram influencers I’ve seen. Many proponents of semen retention believe that ejaculation drains you of your life force, messes with your chakras or even makes the devil happy.

However, typically, all the fuss is more about masturbation than it is about partnered sex. For many proponents of semen retention, sex with a woman is the much desired goal, the top of the hierarchy of sex acts. It’s ejaculating by yourself that’s the problem.

Despite the aforementioned pseudoscientific claims, the practice of semen retention has gone mainstream. Just look at the popularity of “No Nut November,” which even (ironically) turns up on porn sites occasionally.

Intrigued, I set out to find a man with experience with semen retention. I found Kincaid McMinn (he/him), a clinical sexologist who is a pansexual, non-monogamous, cisgender man.

Not only did he dish on his expertise with semen retention (it turns out jerking off is more fun and healthier), but as a sexologist, he answered everything you ever wanted to know about the practice, associated with the devil, but almost as mainstream as Dry January, another collective practice of abstinence.

So keep reading, especially if you want permission to masturbate tonight without shame. (However, if abstinence and semen retention turn you on, and you’re doing it for kinky and healthy reasons, bravo. The only thing we’re against in this article is outdated views on gender and sexual shame.)

AskMen: So what is semen retention, exactly?

McMinn: In the context here, we are talking about a voluntary absence or lack of ejaculation, commonly known simply as “abstinence.” It is a practice that has appeal in certain groups or communities like “No Nut November,” but can be found all over the world, and across the socio-political-and spiritual spectrum. The common goal is essentially this: abstain from orgasm for as long as possible.

What is the appeal of things like “No Nut November” that sound… not so fun!

No Nut November is a relatively recent phenomenon, but some manifestations of the movement and their core philosophy are much, much older. At their core, they all stem back to this myth that orgasm and ejaculation (specifically during masturbation, but interestingly not during partnered sex) has some sort of negative effect (drains their life force, depletes their testosterone, is giving into temptation from the devil, etc.) and/or that abstaining from masturbation, orgasm, and ejaculation will give them some benefits (increased confidence, focus, testosterone, health benefits, reset their chakras, detox their brains, better sex with their partner, etc.).

These groups primarily attract men, but are open to women as well. The exact logic can shift and change, but much of it stems back to a belief that only partnered sex (often ideally intercourse between a man and a woman) is at the top of a supposed sexual hierarchy, with masturbation at the bottom as something that is harmful for you.

The appeal comes partially from acquiring those perceived benefits and avoiding perceived ills.

That’s the marketing around it, anyway. But there is another source of appeal that comes from inside of us, and that is that we as humans often get a sort of pleasure from restricting our behavior in some way. Ironically, we get pleasure from not allowing ourselves pleasure.

A very similar thing happens in the diet industry and their associated eating disorders frequently: they sell you a perceived benefit of dieting, but you end up being your own enforcer, and can sometimes get a source of satisfaction from depriving yourself, even to the point of starvation.

People dress it up in all kinds of ways, most often as a “challenge to develop self-discipline,” but at the end of the day what we are talking about is pleasure from self-imposed deprivation.

When was the first time you tried it yourself? Will you tell me about your experience?

I’ve dabbled with abstinence from pornography and masturbation a few times in my teens and early 20s, mostly because at that time I was single and struggling to meet partners, and thought that part of the reason was because I was “wasting my time masturbating” instead of “being out in the real world” or “devoting time to my passions” as is often the messaging in these groups.

Even though I was already casually interested in sexology at the time, I was still curious and exploring different ways I could live my life, so I gave it a shot. I tried several times, and would usually last a week, maybe two, and I think my longest round of abstinence was around three or four weeks.

This is far below the standard 30 to 90 days that a lot of these groups say is the sticking point to fully “rewire” or “reboot” the brain, so maybe I am not the perfect sample size, but from both a clinical and personal perspective, any “benefits” do not outweigh the drawbacks.

Would you recommend it to others?

Not particularly. I don’t believe that we can cut away parts of ourselves, including our sexual desires, and that attempting to do so only means that those desires will crop up in other ways.

You may stop masturbating, but because you’re still not having the type of sex that you want you may start to avoid sex with your partner; or in another example, if your partner is your only sexual outlet because you’ve stopped masturbating, they may feel pressured that any time there is kissing or touching that sex will be expected, and now they become avoidant. Lack of acceptance of your desires and lack of ability to explore those desires on your own can have a cascade of effects.

I believe that a much more effective path to managing “out of control sexual behavior” is to work on analyzing and accepting those parts of yourself, and work to integrate those elements into your life in a conscious, healthy way. This requires a lot of vulnerability with yourself, and if you’re with a partner, opening up to them too.

If you find that your masturbation habits are more frequent than you’d like, or affecting your work or relationship, then there are ways to address those concerns that don’t rely on total abstinence, and may actually bring more joy, creativity, and pleasure into your life in the long run.

If you need help brainstorming or implementing different ways to deal with that concern or other concerns, then it may be helpful to reach out to a professional.

How did your experience compare to your expectations?

Two of the most common supposed benefits of abstinence from masturbation include finding a partner (or better sex with your partner if you have one), and increased time and discipline to focus on other areas of your life. Let’s address those one at a time.

In my situation (single, and wanting to meet women) if, by having “better sex” we mean that the next time I had sex with someone, I had a mind-blowing orgasm in 60 seconds or less because my penis was so understimulated, then you could say it was a success. But just because the sex was great for me, doesn’t mean that my partner had any fun because it was over so soon.

Setting aside the focus on intercourse in that example, for most people, if you find that your genitals are desensitized due to your masturbation frequency, abstaining for as little as a few days to a week can be enough time to re-sensitize them and make sex more stimulating, partner or no partner…

As far as the increased focus: I suppose after a few days, I experienced what could be described as more tension, but I wouldn’t necessarily describe that feeling as greater “focus,” even if I was actively trying to use that time to focus on tasks. I just felt antsy and dissatisfied with the work that I was doing, and thought about sex more frequently because I wasn’t allowing myself to meet my own needs and move on. Another missed expectation for the abstinence movement.

What are health considerations for anyone trying it?

From a strictly physiological point of view, there are a few things to consider. One is that regular ejaculation (at least once a week) is helpful for flushing out a person’s testes and prostate to allow for the creation of fresh sperm and remove old prostatic material that, if left unchecked, can contribute to prostate cancer.

By regularly masturbating, we are also familiarizing ourselves with our patterns of arousal, which can allow us greater control of the pacing of our sexual encounters (better control over when you come), and especially for people with vulvas but everyone really, masturbation and orgasm is a great exercise for your Pubococcygeus or pelvic floor muscles, which have a whole host of benefits.

Neurologically, the buildup and release of orgasm unleashes a flood of positive neurochemicals in the brain that boost feelings of self-esteem, joy, and physical closeness.

On a deeper level, I ask anyone considering abstaining from masturbation or ejaculation what is motivating that desire? If it stems from a feeling of shame at masturbating, or viewing pornography, ask yourself “Is the shame really coming from the porn, or is it a reflection of the fact that I have been told porn is shameful? What if, instead of pretending like my sexual desires don’t exist or viewing them as an enemy to be conquered, I focus on integrating those desires into my life and treating them like a friend?” I guarantee the answers to these questions are not as scary as you think they are.

There are many creative solutions here beyond quitting cold turkey. If you need help, find a professional to guide you through this process.

What does the popularity of semen retention say about the sexual pressure put on men?

It plays into the idea that men’s bodies aren’t there for them: they must use their body for their job, to fight in wars, to perform sexually for their lovers, but not for themselves to enjoy.

This line of logic is inherently self-isolating, and it hurts millions of people every year. A practice of semen retention puts one person’s ability to access pleasure entirely onto another person, whether they want that responsibility or not. When one is dependent on another person to feel good, they have removed that power from themselves, and in all-too common instances, can turn deadly if someone who has placed their hopes for joy and pleasure on someone else is suddenly rejected.

It is my fervent belief that acceptance of self-pleasure connects us not only to our own humanness but, when done consciously, the humanity of others as well. You have a body that can feel pleasure, and joy can be found literally at your own fingertips. While semen retention has been gaining popularity on social media and within certain social groups, masturbation, orgasm, and pornography are a wonderful part of the human experience and can be integrated into a healthy lifestyle without the need for abstinence.

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Source: AskMen


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