What Is Semen Retention and Is It Worth It?

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What is semen retention and is it worth it?


You may have heard of semen retention and wondered what all the fuss is about. We’re here to demystify the whole thing. 

First off, what exactly is semen retention? Basically, it’s the practice of avoiding ejaculatory orgasm. You can practice retention by completely abstaining from sex, use of adult sex toys such as a male masturbator, and general sexual activity, but you don’t have to go that route. For example, you can also engage in semen retention through non-ejaculatory orgasm (i.e., having an orgasm but not ejaculating. If you’re wondering whether that’s a thing, yes, it is.) 

If you’re looking to figure out sperm retention, we’ve got some essential tips for you here. Bear in mind that there are also a lot of lineages, such as Taoism, that emphasize the health benefits of practicing semen retention. 


How long can sperm retention last? 

The short answer is: It depends on your goals. Are you looking to get someone pregnant? If the answer is yes, then data from this study suggests that you should space out your ejaculations by one day (meaning that you would only ejaculate once a day) and not more than 10 days. If you continue with retention for over 10 days, it turns out that some positive effects could be lost (again, if your goal is to impregnate someone). 

Why is this so? Given the semen analyses, researchers looked at penis owners who went through a short abstinence period (between 2 and 10 days of not ejaculating) boosted their low sperm count. That kind of orgasm abstinence can also lead to increased sperm quality and an uptick in your sperm motility, or the sperm’s ability to move about and travel egg-ward. All of this discussion about sperm retention might have you curious about whether it can make your orgasms last longer or maybe even how long does an orgasm last? We have the answers. 

In addition to sex and health benefits like these, spiritual teachers like Mantak Chia outline the sexual health and sexual energy benefits of semen retention. Much of this material is drawn from Taoist and Chinese practices. Some such teachings involve cultivating vital essence. When you’re retaining semen, you build up your energy and power, which you can funnel in different ways (like your creative pursuits).

If you’re not a penis-owner, there are still strategic measures you can take to change up your orgasms. A not-so-common occurrence for vaginal orgasms is squirting. You’re not the first person to wonder, can all women squirt? Educate yourself by getting familiar with how to make yourself squirt and what causes squirting during an orgasm to further enhance sexual pleasure.


What is sperm retention?

Semen or sperm retention could be seen as a new and modern idea, but it’s not. While the internet has made it a lot easier for more niche ideas to flourish openly with the advent of forums and discussion boards, the concept of semen retention has been around for a seriously long time. There are many references to semen retention as an ancient practice in texts and lineages, such as Taoism and tantric sexuality practices. 

Essentially, people have known for a long time that you can use semen retention to increase your vitality and heighten your sexual pleasure. In other words, there are lots of reasons why you might be interested in keeping those spermies inside. For instance, as mentioned earlier, maybe you’re looking to help someone get pregnant and need to have the most “in shape” sperm to help cross that fertility finish line. 


What happens to my sperm if I don’t ejaculate?

When you don’t ejaculate for long periods of time (also known as ejaculatory abstinence), the sperm is reabsorbed into your body. The testes continuously create sperm, but if your body already has enough, the sperm there is reabsorbed. If you have a vasectomy, the process is similar. Seminal fluid can leave the penis, but the semen is either blocked from leaving the testes or, in the case of an open-ended vasectomy, the lower end of the vas deferens is left un-cauterized, which allows sperm to flow into the scrotum. While this might not sound great on paper, it does lead to less pain when healing from a vasectomy and allows for a higher likelihood of successful vasectomy reversal (if you’re considering this procedure, always actually contact a specialist).

In addition, some men and people with penises aren’t able to ejaculate at all. Sometimes this is due to medical complications from procedures related to prostate cancer or erectile dysfunction. If you’re in this boat, keep in mind that your body is still wonderful and that you can experience sexual pleasure without an orgasm.

If you’re experiencing a dry orgasm as a penis-haver, one thing that might be happening is retrograde ejaculation. This is when the semen travels into the bladder instead of out through the penis. This isn’t necessarily a problem and doesn’t have serious side effects, but it isn’t great if you’re trying to have a baby. On the other hand, it isn’t an issue if you’re having unprotected sex and actively trying not to procreate. 

Dry orgasms have the added benefit of allowing the person in question to have multiple orgasms.


What are the benefits of not ejaculating for 30 days?

If you’re looking to perform some sort of semen retention miracle, 30 days could be your target. Or maybe 40? Some Catholics practice sexual abstinence during Lent, a 40-day period of self-reflection that can be used for non-ejaculation and refraining from masturbation. Some folks also use this kind of challenge to overcome porn addiction.

Some men/penis-owners also report that when they extend their abstinence period, they experience nocturnal emission (wet dreams). This is likely not an experience a penis-haver has had since puberty and can lead to strange, exciting dreams and intense orgasms.

If you choose to refrain from ejaculating for a longer time and are in a partnered relationship, talk about it. While sex and sexuality don’t have to be focused solely on orgasm and sexual intercourse, it might be difficult for everyone in the relationship to go without. It’s easier if everyone’s on board for this type of change to your sex life. Fortunately, engaging in semen retention can amp up sexual desire in your relationship and make that eventual fantastic fountainesque finish happier and more fun. ;) 


Does sperm retention make you stronger?

Masturbation and frequent ejaculation may have a minor effect on your testosterone levels and androgen receptors, causing a small drop for the body to produce more semen. In theory, refraining from masturbation can keep your testosterone levels higher, but your body still produces semen even if you’re not ejaculating. You just take those little guys right back into your own body and repurpose them.

The long and short of this story is this: semen retention is an exciting practice that you can explore for various reasons. If you’re curious, go ahead and try it! There aren’t any negative effects worth mentioning — semen retention appears to be very safe. You may experience benefits from semen retention such as muscle growth, higher levels of energy, better quality sleep, and greater concentration and focus (as anecdotally experienced by other penis-havers on NoFap forums and discussion boards).

If you’re on the fence, try it on for a while! The worst that could happen is you get swole and have super-sperm. ;)

For vagina-owners who aren’t personally concerned with sperm retention, our related blogs have vagina related topics that can increase your sexual IQ. Are you looking for a reason to throw your heating pad in the trash? Read our deep dive on the classic question, do orgasms help cramps?


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Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Sunny Rodgers

This content was reviewed for accuracy and relevancy by Dr. Sunny Rodgers.

Dr. Sunny Rodgers is a clinician, author, and speaker who has worked in the wellness industry since 2000. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, a Master of Arts in Clinical Sexology, and is an accredited Sexual Health Educator. She is the Founder of The Institute of Intimate Health, an Ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association, regular lecturer for the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Sexual Confidence Coach for the Marigold App, and a professional Sex Toy Concierge™. Rodgers hosted a popular weekly show on Playboy Radio, has been an expert guest on several TV and radio programs, and is a regular contributor to HuffPost, Men's Health, Cosmo, Bustle, and many more publications.