Studies on the refractory period

Submitted by Tantra11 on
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I was wondering if anyone has looked into the research done on men who have no refractory period? I seem to recall that a man who goes by the pseudonym, Azael, was studied by Rutger's University for this.

Given that it seems like it's not semen loss (and the energy required to regenerate what's lost) but rather the post-orgasm dopamine depression that might be behind the refractory period, I was wondering if the dopamine levels were looked at? Maybe such men simply do not have a standard neuro-hormonal system, and this might mean they would be happy having passionate sex with one partner for life in addition to the more obvious benefits of not having a refractory period? Or maybe they still suffer the more emotional effects of orgasm but can just have another right away? I'd think this would be an interesting course of study to continue what has been learned so far about what's really going on behind the ancient admonishments against ejaculation.

Until I found this website, I guess I didn't really think too hard about how the mere fact that men with no refractory period exist is strong evidence against the theory that semen loss is behind the deleterious effects of orgasm. Nor did I think too much about the fact that some women, after having an orgasm, don't want sex to continue either.

Or maybe both theories are correct--semen loss does indeed result in deleterious effects AS WELL AS the dopamine drop. Hmm... doesn't that seem strongly likely? Women may suffer ill effects from orgasm too, but they don't feel physically depleted the way men do.

Any thoughts?

There was a

German study on a man who was capable of multiple orgasms, and it showed that prolactin (which suppresses dopamine) did not rise immediately after orgasm, as it does in most of us. That doesn't mean it doesn't rise if he keeps going to *his* point of satiety...although the study didn't seem to run the experiment that long.

However, refractory periods are not terribly relevant in my view. What's relevant is what happens between lovers over the two weeks after a passion 'bout. In the experience of a number of people who observe themselves carefully (even before visiting here), there seems to be a longer program of hormonal ups and downs, perhaps involving changes in nerve cell receptors (that is, sensitivity to various neurochemicals), and so forth. While it would be different for each person, just as each woman's menstrual period is slightly different, we suspect it would generally be about two weeks long, with a slightly different pattern of ups and downs for each person...and slightly different each time.

While there is evidence of a two-week hangover in rats (whose limbic systems are so similar to ours that they have been called "guiding flashlights" by one neuroscientist), no one has been looking for it in men. Even so, some Chinese researchers have noticed that testosterone levels after ejaculation fluctuate in a recognizable pattern after orgasm with minor ups and downs...and, consistently, they notice a sharp spike at day 7.

Testosterone is probably only one of several neurochemicals that fluctuate after sexual satiety. But the point is that there is already proof that there is at least a 7-day post orgasm "program" in men.

This is why I say the refractory period itself is somewhat irrelevant if one wants to understand the complete picture of the changes in feelings that can occur between couples over the two weeks after satiety.

A capacity for multiple orgasm doesn't necessarily lead to stronger bonds. And, like it or not, we pair-bonders are healthier and more relaxed when harmoniously mated (even if we still have the urge to fool around occasionally Wink ). By the way, that urge to fool around seems to fade when lovers use the emphasis-on-affection, non-orgasmic approach to the extent possible. See:

Great question. Look forward to your further thoughts on this and other subjects.

German Study

Do you have a reference? I'd like to see how they verified orgasm. One would hope they did not just take the guy's word for it. Seems like, biochemically, orgasm is DEFINED as the prolactin spike.

You can read the whole article.

As I thought, an ejaculation was claimed with each supposed orgasm, but nothing was said about how it was verified, whether is was actually observed, or the quantity of ejaculate. The orgasms were said to be 2 minutes apart. Nothing was said about how many orgasms the subject had before arriving at the clinic. Maybe he was an addict and had 3 or 4 before breakfast. When a man has frequent orgasms, the quantity of ejaculate has to go way down. Semen can only be made so fast. In the experiment, the so-called orgasms would have been just as tiny as the amount of semen, and logically, the prolactin spike would also have been so small that Dr. Kreuger's analysis couldn't measure it.

Interesting theory

Who knows? I wouldn't assume anyone lied, though. Mantak Chia's pupils sometimes say they have multiple orgasms without ejaculation. Not sure what their prolactin levels do.

Couldn't they just detect

Couldn't they just detect the muscular contractions somehow? That wouldn't require measuring the quantity of ejaculate. Don't women also have muscular contractions at orgasm, just that they're internal? So then I'd think that orgasm could be defined as the appearance of the one contraction of certain muscles every 8/10ths of a second.

Marnia, I agree that the refractory period isn't important for the downsides of orgasm, but I think studying the difference between normal men and the anomolous non-refractory period men might yield some interesting insights into how the hormonal system works. Or sexual system in general. For example, I wonder if men like him are proof that ejaculation actually does not result in energy loss like the Taoists claim?

I hear you

It would be great to be able to measure "energy" in some way that science would recognize as valid. I wondered if Kirlian photography would be a way, but it doesn't seem to be highly regarded by scientists. It will happen someday.

I'm already convinced that semen loss is *not* the issue. Although orgasm affects men and women differently, it does affect both in subtle ways...for about two weeks. Men may tend to perceive it as "lost energy" because of the "roll over and snore" phenomenon. But ask any recovering porn addict, and you will hear that as they go through withdrawal they can feel even more depressed at different points in recovery, even though their "energy" is supposedly building.

These experiences suggest that the real culprit is dopamine (and other neurochemical) levels, and that the problem is longer than the refractory period. (Women can often experience *no* refractory, and still experience intense mood swings in the days and weeks following. Although most blame it on something - or someONE - else until they start tracking it.)

So while I agree that a comparison would be interesting (we found it very interesting that the German guy didn't show the usual rise in prolactin, for example, since that suggests that prolactin is a big factor in feelings of satiety), I still don't think refractory comparisons get to the full picture of what really causes friction to build between the sexes. That's still the question that fascinates me, because relationships are such "good medicine" when they're harmonious.

I know that with CFS, you're very concerned with energy. And I believe these two problems will be solved harmonious union and careful management of sex.


Sorry Marnia, I truly respect your knowledge of physiology, and I'm not calling you one, but every time I hear a New Ager use the word "energy" I have to roll my eyes. Perhaps you have heard of Reich's "unit of sexual energy." He termed it the "orgone" or something and I think it is supposed to "pervade the universe." But I suppose by the "energy" involved in orgasm you mean the action potential released by neurons, and as you know, it's quite measurable, at least in theory and in some experimental protocols. I suppose you could wire up a prostate or a penis as it contracts and pick up an electrical charge, but there are also the neurons involved in hormone secretion to consider. Is that what you mean? As for Dr. Kreuger I think he is pretty fuzzy as a scientist, at least in his papers. It's clear to me that the prolactin spike and the related dopamine response IS the orgasm, and this so-called "multiorgasmic," non-prolactin-secreting character he found in some Essen ashram is just grist for his quota of papers for the university. Moreover, I'd bet that, for men anyway, the more semen ejaculated, the more prolactin released into the blood, and that the same goes for women, with some analogue of semen being ejaculated somewhere or other.


I didn't mean anything in particular, only that I don't think semen loss is the whole story. The fallout from orgasm is happening at a more subtle level. This is not to deny that the greater the sexual satiety the more severe the hangover. That may be true as well. One of the POIS ( observers wondered if intensity of orgasm determines the degree of "hangover." That makes sense, too. All are reasonable theories.

I think Kreuger was just intrigued enough to report that experience in a journal because it was related to his other, more comprehensive studies that showed prolactin rise in both men and women after orgasm. No need to insult him. Wink

Sorry for the harsh criticism...

I know I can be sarcastic, but I also know from first-hand experience how sloppy scientists can be with language and the pressure they are under to publish their quota of papers whether they have anything important to report or not. I appreciate your pointing out the paper and Dr. Kreuger's efforts and his important contributions. I have read other of his papers before and found them interesting. Just trying to keep him honest. I also should say that I don't know the whole story. His paper references several of his previous papers for what is implied to be a more complete report of his methods, and those were not freely accessible online. His editor may have given him limited space, but I get the feeling the reference to his previous papers was a red herring and semen quantity too important to gloss over.


Oh, I didn't mean to imply that semen loss is the whole story! No, what you say about dopamine, orgasm, and the effects on both men and women sound right to me. I guess I was just exploring another avenue, which is energy loss, not necessarily moodiness or relationship issues. (And by "energy loss" I'm just referring to how drained men can feel afterwards, not the more mystical kind of energy, though I do believe the concept of Chi is a useful model... but that's another discussion. However, I am NOT new age! :) )

Incidentally, in my experience, there's a worse effect from orgasm the LESS intense it is. However, now that I'm thinking about it... well, let me start at the beginning. I've read that ejaculation and orgasm in men are two entirely separate processes that only usually occur together. In most of my wet dreams, there's ejaculation but little to no orgasm. My sense is that these ejaculations aren't as draining as a quick, regular masturbation (i.e. with (bad) orgasm and ejaculation). Quick (and therefore not as satisfying) sex is also pretty draining. However, long, satisfying sex is less draining.

Prior to finding this site, my theory was that somehow the "energy" gets reabsorbed back the longer the love-making session is. Now I have an alternate theory, which is that despite the orgasm (which is still "bad"), the other, oxytocin pattern is also occurring, which alleviates somewhat the effects of the dopamine crash. Does this sound right? Do the couples who have worse effects from the dopamine crash generally have quick, less intimate kinds of sex? Whereas those who have longer, more emotionally intimate sex have less of a negative effect from the orgasm? (In a sense, I guess this latter kind of sex is both mating and bonding...)

I'm guessing

you're exactly right. Lots of bonding behaviors means sex is more satisfying and somehow eases the "hangover" neurochemically. I think this is why a lot of standard sex therapy definitely helps. It usually relies on more foreplay and less goal-driven behavior. Or at least it used to, before sex therapists began emphasizing sex toys and porn for couples.:-)

However, even if the hangover is less, I still find it kicks my butt in subtle ways, which usually create some kind of relationship friction...or at least temporary emotional distance. Gary notices that he feels more tired and "brain foggy." I notice he's more "octopus-like" in terms of feeling me up non-stop. *chuckle*

Since I *am* a bit New Age Wink I'll also add that I believe I manifest different things when I'm feeling whole...or, in contrast, suffering from a hangover. It seems like I'm more "in the flow" in the first instance. Even "bad" things often work out well. In the second instance, unexpected "draining" events or conflicts show up in my life more (or I handle them worse). Anyone else notice this?


Gary, the octopus. :0 And yes, I definitely notice that EVERYTHING in my life seems to work more smoothly when I'm not suffering from a hangover. I get along with even my more ornery friends and relatives. My interactions with strangers are almost always light and pleasant, and I can calmly tackle any life problem that arises. Opposed to when I'm in the hangover state, and EVERYONE has a stick up their butt (except me, of course), and I will swear that the entire universe is conspiring against me!


that pretty much sums it up. It's NEVER me. It's always "them." Wink

Gary *occasionally* gets irritable under the influence, but I *definitely* get...well...bitchy. Now that I watch myself more objectively, I have a lot more sympathy for what men put up with in their mates. *giggle*

However, I also see how men are even more likely than women to self-medicate (porn, alcohol, whatever), and how their situation is no better...just different.

We all benefit from more balanced energy...and so do our relationships.

I'm Confused

Marnia, what am I missing? You seem to be talking about orgasm hangovers in the habitual present, e.g. "Gary *occasionally* gets irritable under the influence, but I *definitely* get...well...bitchy," as if they are a routine occurrence. Don't you mean "used to get irritable" and "used to get bitchy" or some such expression? I thought you two had mastered orgasm suppression.

First of all

we do not recommend "orgasm suppression." If someone is fighting himself too hard instead of channeling his energy into something creative or a loving relationship (or both), he could be setting himself up for other kinds of potential problems. (We all know what happened to the arch deacon in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.) The exception is porn sufferers, who will probably have to fight themselves *at first,* unless they are lucky enough to have sweethearts who can help with lots of affection. However, in general, the best approach for everyone bold enough to try the ideas seems to be a sense of humor, patience, a sense of experimentation, and an open mind.

Second, Gary and I do, each of us, *very rarely* have an orgasm *inadvertently*. Usually it occurs in a dream. So we do occasionally get a reminder of why we stick with this practice. We have learned more from our past mistakes than our successes, in some ways.

I don't think of us as "masters" of anything, just travelers sharing what we learn as we go along...and learning from everyone else. We're still excited about what we're learning, mind you, and the benefits have been substantial. But we both feel there's more to learn. This site is sort of a "clearing house" for information on this subject, which I view as a group discovery.

When we're walking on water, I'll inform you all that we're "masters." Wink But some of you may get there before us, so keep in touch!