Semen retention is the practice of avoiding ejaculation. It is an idea that has been around for thousands of years, and is part of some ancient practices.
Semen retention, also sometimes called ‘sexual continence’ or ‘coitus reservatus’, can be a part of other practices, such as tantric sex, the study of Tao, and karezza. In recent years, semen retention has seen a growth in popularity for various reasons.
GP Dr Roger Henderson looks at the purported benefits of semen retention, the evidence behind it, and how to practise semen retention yourself.
What is semen retention?
Semen retention is the sexual practise of avoiding ejaculation.
Of course, this can be done by abstaining from sexual activity altogether. However, some people who practise semen retention learn to orgasm without ejaculating, also known as dry orgasm.
Why do people practice semen retention?
People who practice semen retention have their own personal reasons for doing so, ranging from emotional to physical to spiritual.
For some, the self-control required for semen retention gives them a purpose to their lives; for others, it can be part of a sexual relationship where submission and domination can play a part; while others simply believe it improves their physical well-being and emotional health. Whatever the chosen reason for practising semen retention, that person believes there is a perceived benefit to some part of their life whether mental, spiritual or physical.
There is no evidence that semen retention causes any physical or emotional risks, and it can be practiced either in the short or long-term.
Purported benefits of semen retention
People who practice semen retention believe there can be benefits in a number of areas:
• Physical benefits
It is believed that semen retention causes greater day-to-day energy and vitality, with better physical fitness, general wellness and muscle strength as well as improved sperm quality and fertility.
• Mental benefits
• Spiritual benefits
There is a view that semen retention can improve the ‘life force’ of an individual as well as strengthening personal relationships if your partner understands the reasons why it is being followed.
Is there any research to support these claims?
This does not mean that benefits may not occur as a consequence of practising semen retention, rather that more long-term controlled studies are needed to verify any health claims that are made.
Followers of non-ejaculation point to some published studies they believe prove the benefits but these are all either small studies or have not been repeated.
Whatever benefits may or may not arise, the good news is that it will do no harm.
A small study in 2001 found that men who did not masturbate for almost a month had elevated levels of testosterone. A 2003 study also reported a link between abstinence and raised levels of this male hormone. One small animal study also found that frequent masturbation lowered the level of brain androgen receptors that help process testosterone in the body.
More recently, however, a 2018 systemic review found that a short period of abstinence (as little as 24 hours) was linked to an improvement in sperm motility compared to longer periods of abstinence.
How is semen retention done?
The simplest way to practice semen retention is to avoid sexual activity or masturbation completely, and for some people this is acceptable.
For many others, however, practicing non-ejaculatory sex or masturbation is the preferable option, and this takes a lot of practice and discipline.
The key here is to be able to flex your pelvic muscles very strongly just before you would normally ejaculate, and by doing so, prevent orgasm.
To build these muscles up, contract them regularly (to know where they are, if you stop urinating midstream these are the muscles you are using) for sets of 10, holding and relaxing them for several seconds each time, at least three times each day.
When having sex, concentrate on these muscles and relax all others such as in the buttocks, legs, jaw and arms. If orgasm approaches, hold perfectly still to calm your body and contract your pelvic floor, putting all your attention on your partner. Pressing your perineum between the anus and the scrotum with a finger can also help. This takes time and practice, so do not worry if you still keep having orgasms whilst learning.
If masturbating, when you start to feel an orgasm building up squeeze the end of the penis and keep squeezing hard until the urge to ejaculate passes and at the same time flex the pelvic muscles hard. This can be repeated as necessary.
Semen retention is a deeply personal issue and should you choose to try it always make sure you know your reasons for doing so, and what benefits you hope to gain from it. If it makes you feel better there is no reason why this cannot be continued for as long as you want, but you can also safely stop at any time.
Last updated: 21.08.2020
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