Semen Retention Science, Benefits, and Risks Explained [2022]

Let’s look at the science behind semen retention – benefits, drawbacks, and its physical effects on the male body. We’ll also debunk myths about it. Read on:

For most men, ejaculation is a normal and excitable part of everyday life. Some men, however, will deliberately avoid ejaculation for long periods of time. This can be done for religious, cultural, or personal reasons.

While many men can’t stand the thought of abstaining from sexual release, other men can find it an empowering and spiritual experience. However, it is important to know the facts before making any serious sexual lifestyle change.

It’s time to break down the science behind the benefits, drawbacks, and physical effects of semen retention. 


What Is Semen Retention: Is It Real?

First thing’s first – just what exactly is semen retention? What exactly does a practicer of semen retention do?

  • Semen retention is when a male avoids ejaculation. For some men, this means having no sexual activity on their own or with a partner. (Mind Body Green, 2021) 1
  • Others practice “dry orgasms,” which is a method of achieving orgasm without ejaculating. (Mind Body Green, 2021)1

What Happens If You Stop Ejaculating and Practice Semen Retention?

Just like with any lifestyle change, semen retention will cause your body to react to the sudden decrease in sweet release. Here’s what medical science has to say about the physical effects of semen retention in the body.

  • It’s important to note that modern medicine does not recognize semen retention as a legitimate medical practice. Your body will always produce sperm, whether you ejaculate or not. (Tower Urology, 2018)2
  • Semen is stored in bodily structures called seminal vesicles. When these vesicles are full, they will release semen during sleep in the form of  nocturnal emissions or “wet dreams.” (Tower Urology, 2018)2

Why Do Men Engage in Semen Retention?

Orgasms are a natural and beautiful part of the human experience, so why would anyone willingly choose to stop? Here are the reasons semen retention supporters give for their unique practice. 

  • Some men believe semen retention has spiritual benefits or increases their fertility. Additionally, dry orgasms provide some men with a unique pleasure and sense of empowerment. (Ask Men, 2020)3
  • Among other personal factors, some men report that it increases their motivation, personal drive, and desire. (Ask Men, 2020)3

How to Practice Semen Retention

For many men, refraining from orgasm would take an incredible degree of self-restraint. Semen retention is not always a pleasureless lifestyle, however, and there are many methods of male sexual gratification that do not involve actual ejaculation. 

Here are some of the most prominent semen retention practices:

  • Edging
    • Edging is when a person brings themselves to the brink of orgasm without actually finishing. (ISSM, unspecified)4
    • Once the person reaches “the edge,” they stop having sex or reduce stimulation to avoid climax. (Ro Health Guide, 2021)5
  • Retrograde Ejaculation
    • Pressing on the perineum, or “taint” – the area between the scrotum and anus – to prevent semen from releasing is called retrograde ejaculation. (Ro Health Guide, 2021)5
    • This practice often causes semen to mix with urine in the bladder, creating cloudy-looking urine after orgasm. (National Library of Medicine, 2016)6
  • Squeeze Technique
    • This technique involves edging by placing the thumb and forefinger on the front and back sides of the penis (right where the head joins the shaft) and gently squeezing. (National Library of Medicine, 2019)7
    • Upon reaching the edge, the individual waits 30 seconds and then repeats the process several times over. (National Library of Medicine, 2019)
  • Abstinence
    • Abstinence is pretty self-explanatory. The individual participates in no sexual activity of any kind. (Ro Health Guide, 2021)5
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises
    • The pelvic floor is a muscle group that supports organs such as the sphincter, bowel, and urethra. (National Library of Medicine, 2019)7
    • While normally involuntary, specific exercises (such as a Kegel) can allow an individual to strengthen these muscles and use them voluntarily. (National Library of Medicine, 2019)7

Consider checking out our best sex tips for men guide to take your game to a new level.  


What Are the Benefits of Semen Retention?

While some claims made by semen retention supporters are untrue or misleading, there are several verifiable or religious benefits of the practice. 

Check out these facts and statistics to learn more about the positives:

  • Taoist sexual practice holds “retention of the semen” as a foundational tenet and asserts that it replenishes one’s life force. This, they claim, leads to stronger personal energy or spirituality. (The Art of the Bedchamber… 1992)8 
  • Practicing abstinence can increase confidence, creativity, and motivation. It can also help reduce social anxiety. (NoFap, 2016)9 
  • Abstinence can deepen relationships of all kinds, resulting in more meaningful interactions with friends, family, romantic partners, potential romantic partners, or even strangers. (NoFap, 2016)9
  • Longer and more intense orgasms have been reported by some men who practice abstinence. (Research Gate, 2001)10
  • After a period of abstinence, a man’s semen volume, sperm count, and sperm concentration increase significantly. (National Library of Medicine, “Abstinence Time…” 2016)11
  • In 22 studies measuring the impact of abstinence on sperm count, 91% of them found that sperm concentration directly increased with longer abstinence periods. The longer the abstinence, the more concentrated the sperm. (National Library of Medicine, 2018)12
  • Edging can be used to increase sexual control and treat premature ejaculation. (National Library of Medicine, 2017)13
  • Some men find that consistently delaying an orgasm, or edging, causes their eventual orgasm to be significantly more pleasurable. (ISSM, “What is Edging…” unspecified)14
  • One limited study found that men who either edge or use the squeeze method can reduce premature ejaculation, increase sexual control, and train their bodies to last longer during sexual intercourse. (National Library of Medicine, 2019)7

For more sex studies and statistics, consider checking out our guide here.


The Risks and Side Effects of Semen Retention

Now that the benefits of semen retention have been laid out, it’s time to cover the potential downsides of the practice. 

Here is what medical science has to say about the negative effects of semen retention in men. 

  • Epididymal hypertension – AKA, “blue balls” – is scrotal pain caused by unrelieved persistent arousal or lack of ejaculation. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2007)15
  • Retrograde ejaculation can cause infertility in men. (Mayo Clinic, unspecified)16
  • Semen retention traps sperm, leading to ejaculation problems, such as premature ejaculation. (Medicine Net, 2021)17
  • According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), infrequent or absent ejaculation for six months or longer can cause serious mental distress if the individual desires to ejaculate but is unable to. (National Library of Medicine, 2015)18

How Often Should a Man Ejaculate? Is It Worth It?

In general, male ejaculation is a normal and healthy sexual practice. Additionally, evidence suggests that it’s good for your prostate. 

  • On average, men report ejaculating 4-7 times monthly. (National Library of Medicine, “Ejaculation Frequency…” 2016)19
  • Men who ejaculate 21 or more times per month are 50% less likely to develop prostate cancer – simply put, frequent ejaculation reduces the risk of prostate cancer. (National Library of Medicine, “Ejaculation Frequency…” 2016)19

Are NoFap and Semen Retention the Same?

In recent years, the NoFap movement has gained traction in some online circles by glorifying abstinence from masturbation. However, there are some key differences between semen retention and NoFap. 

  • NoFap is aimed at helping men with porn and sex addictions. There is some overlap, but it’s important to note that semen retention allows pornography and dry orgasms, while NoFap encourages abstinence from pornography and masturbation. (Ro Health Guide, 2021)5
  • Supporters of semen retention sometimes claim that it improves fertility and sperm quality and encourages sexual exploration without ejaculation. The intent of NoFap, on the other hand, is to curb sexual activity altogether. (Medical News Today, 2020)20 

Myths About Semen Retention

Semen retention advocates make several claims, and it can often be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Here are some explanations of common semen retention myths.

  • Does Semen Retention Boost the Law of Attraction?
    • Many people claim that semen retention makes them more attractive to prospective partners. They say that they receive more eye contact, smiles, and flirting. (NoFap, 2016)9
    • While increased sexual pheromones from semen retention may increase individual attraction, it is also likely that their increased social confidence is creating those results naturally. (NoFap, 2016)9
  • Does Semen Retention Increase Your Happiness in Life?
    • Despite high praise from some online forums, semen retention is not a cure-all solution to mental or medical problems and will not drastically improve health and happiness. (Ro Health Guide, 2021)5
    • Exercise, proper diet, and healthy sex life are far more likely to generate happiness by improving your physical and emotional well-being. (Ro Health Guide, 2021)5
  • Does Semen Retention Increase Testosterone?
    • During an abstinence period, men do experience elevated levels of testosterone. There are positive aspects of increased testosterone, such as enhanced sexual drive and motivation. (Research Gate, 2001)10

Want to know more common sexual myths? Check out this article.


Conclusion

Semen retention is, essentially, a sexual lifestyle choice that primarily offers some mental benefits to those who believe in it.

Unfortunately, while it can increase fertility and reduce premature ejaculation, it can also increase the risk of prostate cancer, cause infertility, or increase premature ejaculation.

If you’re seeking spiritual benefit or new methods of self-pleasure, it’s important to weigh the risks before diving right in. 


Footnotes

  1. Mind Body Green, 2021. An expert-reviewed article by Suzannah Weiss, certified sex educator, and writer with a focus on gender and sexuality.
  2. Tower Urology, 2018. A medical article by Dudley S. Danoff, MD, FACS, president of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Tower Urology Group in Los Angeles.
  3. Ask Men, 2020. A male lifestyle article by Alex Manley and citing Kenneth Play, international female pleasure expert and GQ’s named World’s Greatest Sex Hacker
  4. ISSM, unspecified. A medically reviewed article published by the International Society for Sexual Medicine.
  5. Ro Health Guide, 2021. A medically-reviewed article by Ethan Miller, reviewed by Yael Cooperman, Physician, BA in Life Sciences, MD from Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. 
  6. National Library of Medicine, 2016. A medical article on retrograde ejaculation authored by Arie Parnham of University College London Hospitals and Ege Can Serefoglu of Bagcilar Training and Research Hospital in Istanbul.
  7. National Library of Medicine, 2019. A compilation of medical research by Informed Health Online, the German national health information portal for patients. 
  8. The Art of the Bedchamber: The Chinese Sexual Yoga Classics Including Women’s Solo Meditation Texts, 1992. A book on traditional Taoist sexual practices excerpted in an online encyclopedia.
  9. NoFap, 2016. An introductory information packet published by NoFap LLC.
  10. Research Gate, 2001. A three-week study by Michael S. Exton et al. and published in the World Journal of Urology
  11. National Library of Medicine, “Abstinence Time And Its Impact on Basic and Advanced Semen Parameters,” 2016. A medical article on the effects of abstinence on semen parameters by Ashok Agarwal et al.
  12. National Library of Medicine, 2018. A comprehensive medical analysis of 30 studies on the relation of semen factors to abstinence, authored by Bashir M Ayad, M Sc., Gerhard Van der Horst, Ph.D., and Stefan S Du Plessis, Ph.D., and published in the International Journal of Fertility and Sterility. 
  13. National Library of Medicine, 2017. A medical article on premature ejaculation authored by Christopher Martin et al. and published by the International Journal of Urology. 
  14. ISSM, “What is ‘Edging’ and Why Might it Be Employed?” unspecified. A medically-reviewed article published by the International Society for Sexual Medicine.
  15. American Academy of Pediatrics, 2007. A medical study of epididymal hypertension in a 14-year-old male by JM Chalett, MD, and Lewis T. Nerenberg, MD.
  16. Mayo Clinic, unspecified. A medical article on retrograde ejaculation written and published by Mayo Clinic.
  17. Medicine Net, 2021. A medically reviewed article by Jasmine Shaikh, MD, a board-certified physician and medical writer with an MD in Ayurvedic Medicine.
  18. National Library of Medicine, 2015. A medical article on delayed orgasm by Lawrence C. Jenkins, MD, and John P. Mulhall, MD, published by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
  19. National Library of Medicine, “Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer…” 2016. An 18-year study of 31,925 men to determine a link between ejaculation frequency and prostate cancer, authored by Jennifer R. Rider et al. and published in European Urology. 
  20. Medical News Today, 2020. A medically reviewed article by Jennifer Litner, a sexologist, licensed marriage and family therapist, and certified sex therapist.
Dainis Graveris

Dainis Graveris

Over last 4 years Dainis have helped millions of people through his advice on this site (200+ guides and 1M+ visits/monthly). His work & advice has appeared on sites like: Healthline, Vice, Cosmopolitan, Men's Health, WomensHealthMag, MindBodyGreen & more. Read More

Got Questions? Ping me on Twitter.