Ejaculation: How Often for Good Health?

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Will an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?

sperm and eggSeveral years ago, men began showing up in my website's forum struggling to end compulsive porn use. Gradually, they worked out that a period of abstinence often helps reboot their brains. (Initially, their sexual arousal is so tightly wired to porn images and flashbacks that foregoing orgasm for a time can speed re-wiring and stave off binges.) 

Discussions naturally arose about whether frequent ejaculation is needed for health reasons. Surprisingly, there is no consensus on the answer. There is, however, a wide gap between popular lore and the views of most reproductive health experts.

Interestingly, men who cut back often remark on changes: more energy, better concentration, interacting with potential mates more easily, greater gains from workouts, stronger erections, healthy dietary changes, return to earlier sexual tastes, more optimism, seeing women differently—even deeper voices. As with other aspects of life, it seems that finding a middle ground pays. Yet when it comes to ejaculation, few people are talking about what might constitute a healthy middle ground.

In his book on American campus life, I Am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe remarked that, "Many boys spoke openly about how they masturbated at least once every day, as if this were some sort of prudent maintenance of the psychosexual system." More recently, British authorities campaigned to encourage kids to masturbate daily: "An Orgasm A Day Keeps the Doctor Away." They offered no evidence that daily masturbation is beneficial apart from a claim that it improves cardiovascular health. (So does walking up stairs.)

The absence of a reliable consensus could be a problem. Having heard that frequent ejaculation is vital to good health, many men now fear to cut back—even for a time, even when they have sound reasons. They may resort to risky sexual enhancement drugs or more intense sexual stimuli to increase/maintain ejaculation frequency. Some also mistake withdrawal discomfort (when rebooting) as evidence that avoiding ejaculation is harmful, rather than recognizing withdrawal discomfort as an unavoidable phase in the return to balance.

Intercourse is good for us, but the belief that the benefits are coming from ejaculation may also be changing the focus of some men's sex lives away from real partners. After all, today's extreme sexual stimuli can certainly produce more intense (and frequent, though not more satisfying) ejaculations than most partnered sex (because partners aren't always cooperative). For example, scientists have learned that masturbating to a novel porn star increases ejaculate volume and motile sperm. Also, the time it takes to ejaculate decreases significantly. In short, sexual novelty (many porn users report constantly seeking novel erotica) translates into expenditure of more fertile semen and faster ejaculation. Research also shows greater reward circuit activity in the brain when exposed to a novel sexual partner, increasing the risk of developing an addiction.

Today's stimuli also spare users the bother of mastering interpersonal skills. This may not be such a good thing. Primates are a funny bunch. Even the sexy bonobos and their cousins the macaque monkeys frequently don't ejaculate when they engage in sexual activity. It seems primates need sex for the social bonds that soothe their brains—rather than mere ejaculation. In fact, comforting contact may be even more vital for pair-bonding brains like ours. In any case, too much sexual stimulation can actually leave people less contented.

One thing is certain: It takes a lot of effort to uncover objective information about ejaculation and health. Said one young man,

On the men's sites that I frequent, the number one rationalization for masturbation is that it is good for the prostate. All you have to do is tell a guy that jerking off is good for his health and he's a lifer. Does frequent masturbation really prevent prostate cancer?

Curious, my husband and I began digging around for the answer. Results were, not surprisingly, inconsistent. As the researchers of a study frequently cited in support of the men's site statement said, "Nine studies observed a statistically significant or nonsignificant positive association; 3 studies reported no association; 7 studies found a statistically significant or nonsignificant inverse relationship; and 1 study found a U-shaped relationship." 

In one study, frequent masturbation alone was a marker for increased risk of prostate cancer in the 20s, 30s and 40s when researchers finally thought to distinguish masturbation activity from penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI). PVI proved to be protective of prostate health in older men and neutral in effect in younger men. A more recent study found 19% less non-lethal prostate cancer in more frequent ejaculators (lethal rates were unaffected). However, many questions remain unanswered, such as what else the researchers controlled for. For example, communicable disease may be a more likely prostate-cancer culprit than ejaculation frequency. Wanker's crampSaid one guy,

There are so many contradictory beliefs regarding masturbation (orgasm) out there. Such as, ‘Masturbation creates more testosterone;' ‘If you masturbate, you won't act so desperate (Something About Mary):' and ‘If you don't masturbate you will build up excess testosterone, and lose your hair.'

Upon investigation, we learned that ejaculation is not, in fact, an important influence on testosterone levels (although normal testosterone levels support sexual performance). Testosterone is generally slightly higher when abstaining from orgasm. And it does rise slightly during sexual activity—before dropping back down to normal. (Orgasmic frequency and plasma testosterone levels in normal human males) It also spikes and then drops back around day 7 after ejaculation, indicating that orgasm triggers a subtle hormonal cycle that lasts at least a week.

That said, men often notice very real changes in libido and energy over the days and weeks following ejaculation. These shifts probably have more to do with changes in key neurochemicals and nerve cell receptors in the brain's reward circuitry than they do with serum testosterone levels.

What happens to sperm that aren't ejaculated?

According to Cambridge University's "NakedScientist" forum,

Sperm that have reached their sell-by-date get broken down in the same way that, let’s say, blood cells get broken down. And basically any of the nutrients and goodies in the sperm just get recycled back inside the body.

What is the ideal ejaculation frequency?

A forum member recently asked his urologist this very question. The doctor said that, in the absence of the "irritation of frequent masturbation," a man's wet dream interval would be a good guide. He advised his patient to wait until he had two wet dreams, without disrupting the cycle by climax. The resulting interval was suggested as a good guide for the sake of reproductive health, whatever one's age.

The doctor explained that glands are not muscles, and do not need exercise. Glands secrete fluids all on their own (e.g., wet dreams), and manual intervention is simply not needed. Therefore, if a man cares to take a time-out, he can rest assured that his body will meet his ejaculation needs without his intervention. The forum member added:

Since I have not had a wet dream for a decade or more (always masturbated) I asked the doctor, "What if I don't have a wet dream?" His reply was, "Well then, you no longer need to ejaculate."

Is there such thing as too frequent ejaculation? The classic view of sexologists is that climax is self-regulating: No one can ever ejaculate too much, because he'll simply stop when his body has had enough.

Southpark guy with raging porn addictionUnfortunately, it looks like not all men automatically stop at that point; ejaculation becomes compulsive. (Just as one third of Americans don't automatically stop eating, and become obese.) For example, the online Onania support group is primarily made up of men who describe their masturbation as compulsive, and acknowledge its negative effects. The group even coined the term "copulatory impotence" for their resulting inability to ejaculate with real partners. Clearly, their bodies did not self-regulate with regard to ejaculation. The good news is that this phenomenon is likely reversible.

As we investigated, we discovered research showing that too much ejaculation can cause lingering physiological changes. When men engaged in a "ten-day depletion experience," ejaculating an average of 2.4 times per day, their sperm output remained below pre-depletion levels for more than five months. It's quite possible that there are other effects occurring in the brain, which haven't been uncovered yet. The research hasn't been done.

The absence of comprehensive information may be causing unnecessary suffering. For example, hundreds of men are now recording severe symptoms after ejaculation in the Post-orgasmic Illness Syndrome forum. Not long ago, a psychiatrist noted that the neurochemical changes after orgasm are sometimes associated with depression and anxiety in otherwise emotionally healthy patients. Might today's emphasis on frequent ejaculation be dysregulating brains?

Where can men find sound advice? What would a healthy middle ground look like?

Although their is nothing wrong with masturbation, it may not be the health panacea touted by the popular press. This article from The Archives of Sexual Behavior, was produced after the above post - Masturbation is Related to Psychopathology and Prostate Dysfunction: Comment on Quinsey (2012)

In the following post we disucuss the above journal article, and many others.

Rethinking the Wonders of Adult Masturbation - Reconsider these five popular myths about solo sex 

Growing scientific evidence of a lingering post-orgasm cycle (studies)

Studies on the overlap between sex and drugs in the brain  

To explore the available science, organized into easily readable sections, check out Prostate cancer risk factors by Cancer Research UK.


Perhaps a good guide

I plan on trying the cycle suggested in Marnia's post. I plan to abstain from orgasm (but not bonding sexual activity) until the first wet dream, then continue this way until the next. I will TRY to keep the group updated as to the results, but since it could take a very long time, I freely admit to the potential of trailing off....

Anyone else feel this is a good idea? (Hint: I see this as a pretty ambitious undertaking and I would be very grateful for support of the group....thanks in advance.)


VERY ambitious!

You're a better man than I. Have wet dreams been a part of your life prior to this? I don't know how this would be quantified equivalently for a woman.

What constitutes a female wet dream?

*if I were that one guy I'd get a different urologist*

Go for it!

Since I've never had a wet dream, I'd be afraid my body would tell me I never need them again. Wink

But it would be interesting to see what you discover.

Thanks for input

I appreciate the input and encouragement. To answer the question from Lolita: I have had a wet dream before, but long ago. The wet dream occured during a period of recovery from a serious athletic injury. However, for the last ten years or so I have not had one--I have always masturbated or had sex at least once a week.

Therefore, I truly have no idea how long this interval is going to be. So as Cole points out, it IS possible that my body will indicate that I don't really need to ejaculate again. I am not afraid of that possibility, it sort of intrigues me.

The link from Lolita was a good one. It fascinates me that we humans deep down know some things that contemporary science wishes we ignore.

Like Marnia says, consistency will be key. Perhaps I may go six months without ejaculation and I will lose patience with the wet dream interval experiment. At least I will then know that I would need NO MORE than two ejaculations a year.

I remember reading that the effects from male ejaculation can be thought of as a two week long "estrangement" period--or "vacation"--from a spouse. As such, a good guide might be how much "vacation time" from loving your spouse would she be willing to grant? If someone looks at this like working for a company, then 2-4 weeks of vacation usually suffice. As such, this method yields a recommendation of one or two ejaculations per year.

For sure, I am going to go as far as I can with the wet dream intervals and see what that does.

Please stay tuned!


From another forum member

We did have some discussion on another forum concerning ejaculation frequency for prostate health, etc. as my wife and I had some concerns about this as her dad had prostate cancer - and most of what you read leads one to believe that regularly "emptying the tank" could be beneficial in reducing cancer risk. I conducted as much research as I could find on the subject and there is no definitive answer either way. I believe there is a lack of sufficient numbers of non - ejaculatory men to perform a viable test. Not bragging here but I have always been a prodigious (high volume) ejaculator and what initially put me on the path to become non - ejaculatory was the fact my semen upset the delicate environmental balance of my wife's vagina and triggered seemingly endless yeast infections. So when life deals you a lemon you find a way to make lemonaid out of it - and I stopped ejaculating inside her - which eventually led to not ejaculating at all once we began to see the benefits. I relate this to illustrate that I have literally been from one extreme to the other - and currently approaching three years without ejaculation. From my own meandering experience my take is this is much like any other bodily function and the body reacts to meet the demand - what ever the demand might be - and we are all highly individualistic as far as what works for us and what our needs are. If one ejaculates frequently the body ramps up production, and if one goes for extended periods without then the lymphatic system removes waste. Automatically. For me at least I do not think any "drying up" occurs as I do "leak" the clear pre-ejaculatory fluid during play and since we play at the edge sometimes I do get that very "full" congested feeling if play is extended for long periods of time. But the body quickly processes out the "excess" to restore equilibrium. So all the "plumbing" appears to be working just fine in spite of a long period without ejaculating. I have found that my arousal cycle is very much in harmony with my lovely wife and when she is out of commission during menstruation my libido slows down to match hers where as during peak ovulation I "rise" to the occasion and take full advantage of her increase in "demand" so we just naturally flow together in the most delicious way. (http://www.reuniting.info/node/3772#comment-25679)

No need to clean out the pipes

Shortly before I found this site, I asked my urologist if ejaculation helped prevent prostate cancer. He stated unequivocally that he knew of no medical reason for a man to ejaculate. This was actually a bit of a relief to me, for I was "cleaning out the pipes" 3 or 4 times a week, partially because I thought it promoted good health. Since I have always slow to ejaculate, this was sometimes a lot of work, especially for my wife. So one less thing on the to-do list. A week or two later, I happened on Marnia's site which extolls the benefits of avoiding ejaculation. It was a one-two whammy for me than really changed my life and freed up a lot of time to pursue other pleasures - such as bonding and karezza :)

Ha ha!

Thanks for sharing. I'm always glad to hear doctors say this, because I love men and wouldn't want to contribute to harming them in any way.

I'll post the key insight on another thread or two, too.

Readers may also find this information interesting:

"Masturbation is Related to Psychopathology and Prostate Dysfunction"

Just learned of this published letter to a journal editor, which might be of interest: http://www.reuniting.info/download/pdf/Costa.Masturbation.PDF

The author points out that the standard claims that masturbation is healthy contrast sharply with the best available empirical evidence.

It is difficult to reconcile the view that masturbation improves mood with the findings in both sexes that greater masturbation frequency is associated with more depressive symptoms (Cyranowski et al., 2004; Frohlich&Meston, 2002;Husted&Edwards, 1976), less happiness (Das, 2007), and several other indicators of poorer physical and mental health, which include anxious attachment (Costa&Brody, 2011),immature psychological defense mechanisms, greater blood pressure reactivity to stress, and dissatisfaction with one's mental health and life in general (for a review, see Brody, 2010). It is equally difficult to see how masturbation develops sexual interests,when greater masturbation frequency is so often associated with impaired sexual function in men(Brody&Costa, 2009; Das, Parish,&Laumann, 2009; Gerressu, Mercer,Graham, Wellings,&Johnson, 2008; Lau,Wang, Cheng, & Yang, 2005; Nutter & Condron, 1985) and women (Brody &Costa, 2009; Das et al., 2009;Gerressu et al., 2008;Lau,Cheng, Wang, & Yang, 2006; Shaeer, Shaeer, & Shaeer, 2012;Weiss& Brody, 2009). Greater masturbation frequency is also associated with more dissatisfaction with relationships and less love for partners (Brody, 2010; Brody&Costa, 2009). In contrast, PVI is very consistently related to better health (Brody, 2010; Brody&Costa, 2009; Brody &Weiss, 2011; Costa & Brody, 2011, 2012), better sexual function (Brody & Costa, 2009; Brody & Weiss, 2011; Nutter&Condron, 1983, 1985;Weiss&Brody, 2009), and better intimate relationship quality (Brody, 2010; Brody&Costa, 2009; Brody &Weiss, 2011).

Moreover, although less risk of prostate cancer was associated with greater number of ejaculations (without specification of the sexual behavior) (Giles et al., 2003), it is PVI frequency that is specifically associated with reduced risk, whereas masturbation frequency is more often related to increased risk (for a review on the subject, see Brody,2010). In this regard, it is interesting to note that masturbation is also associated with other problems of the prostate (higher prostate specific antigen levels and swollen or tender prostate) and,compared with the ejaculate obtained from PVI, the ejaculate obtained from masturbation has markers of poorer prostatic function and lesser elimination of waste products (Brody, 2010). The only sexual behavior consistently related to better psychological and physical health is PVI. In contrast, masturbation is frequently associated with indices of poorer health (Brody, 2010; Brody&Costa, 2009; Brody&Weiss, 2011; Costa& Brody, 2011, 2012). There are several possible psychological and physiological mechanisms, which are a likely consequence of natural selection favoring health processes as cause and/or effect of motivation to search for, and capacity to obtain and enjoy, PVI. In contrast, selection of psychobiological mechanisms rewarding motivation to masturbate is unlikely due to the severe fitness costs that would occur if it deterred one from PVI by making it irrelevant for well-being (Brody, 2010). More plausibly, masturbation represents some failure of the mechanisms of sexual drive and intimate relatedness, however common it may be, and even if not uncommonly it coexists with access to PVI. In this regard, it is noteworthy that greater masturbation frequency is associated with dissatisfaction with several aspects of life independently of PVI frequency (Brody& Costa,2009) and seems to diminish some benefits ofPVI(Brody, 2010).



I'm experiencing a moral/religious dilemma with this subject. I'll be 52 Sept. 26th, been divorced since 2003, haven't had intercourse in nearly 5 years, do not remember ever having a wet dream and usually masturbate more to get it (the sex act) out of my mind, which I accomplish quite quickly by the way. I'm relatively healthy, excercise regularly. I haven't found religion, it found me!!! Anywho, my religious/spiritual beliefs are contrary, against "self-abuse" (lusting/masturbating). I experience real pain, a bloating feeling, when I do not masturbate for some time. The relief is instantaneous after orgasm. I went to "Ask.com" where I found this forum. Very interesting. Anyone else experiencing same or similar predicament? Thanx.

reply to Capt. Timmy

I am 33 not married and not having intercourse for several years....I had the same dilemma with masturbation and for me the side effects were depression, self-hatred, anger, and suicidal thoughts. I was browsing the internet looking for answers and found http://www.HowtoStopMasturbation.com it has unique perspective with not eating meat and animal products. It has helped me a lot to get self control.