Too Many Orgasms?

Having sex with fewer orgasms may lead to increased sexual satisfaction.

Does “the more you scratch, the more you itch” sometimes apply to sexual arousal?

Intriguingly, the Chinese noticed a “ratcheting up of sexual desire after orgasm” thousands of years ago. Men today do too.

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I sometimes feel hornier in the days following orgasm. At such times, I also have strong feelings of attraction for other women (even though I’d never want to have sex with anyone other than my partner). —Tom

My new girlfriend and I got each other off, and now, a day or two later, I’m definitely noticing powerful urges to masturbate and look at porn again (after three months porn-free). It seems so contradictory that our heavy petting would trigger this, but it’s happening. I’m masturbating more and I even looked at homemade porn yesterday. Incidentally, I tried masturbating without porn. To my surprise and anger, my withdrawal symptoms didn’t go away completely. Only the super-stimulation of porn gave me temporary relief from these cravings and that, my friend, is a very sobering and scary thought. Jeez, it really is like crack, ya know? —Dick

After the first orgasm in this recent set, I felt very close to my wife, and I initially felt satiated. After two more orgasms, I began to think about when I could get the next one—perhaps three times per hour. Then I had one orgasm alone, and the frequency of the thoughts approximately doubled. Now that I know what to look for, it is almost humorous to watch the process. It is quite clear that high frequency of orgasm is a disruptive influence that, from a utilitarian perspective, is not desirable. In the last six months, each instance that I returned to porn or masturbated without it occurred the day after I had an orgasm during sex. —Harry

I noticed that after binging on porn, you really need to push yourself to get back on track because orgasm makes you hornier. The first three days are difficult. —Max

Up until last week, I had gone four weeks without ejaculating and felt really good about it. One ejaculation and I’m excessively horny and feeling tempted by porn. I didn’t experience either during the four weeks. Now I feel selfish. I love giving to my wife, but it would sure help to get some more coming back my way. —Alan

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According to scholar Douglas Wile (Art of the Bedchamber), the ancient Chinese Daoists recorded that orgasm can inflame sexual desire (after that immediate post-coital relief)—even as it depletes the body and brain. At the same time, they insisted that pleasurable intercourse is vital to good physical and psychological health.

Their solution to this conundrum followed the discovery that frequent sex with occasional ejaculation was less depleting than occasional sex with habitual ejaculation. In their view, lots of sex with little orgasm actually nourished lovers sustainably with whole-body ching (vitality), and relieved men of “lustful thoughts.”

In contrast, the attempt to meet one’s sexual needs through “expenditure without restraint” depleted the brain, accounting for symptoms like premature ejaculation, uneasiness after orgasm, nocturnal emission, and relationship disharmony.

Ah, women. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent. —Friedrich Nietzsche

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Were these observers right? Might fewer highs lead to fewer lows and more satisfaction overall? Quite possibly, although learning balance after years of “expending without restraint” requires an open mind, patience, and a sense of humor. Here are some lovers’ reports:

Guy #1

We have been experimenting with this concept for about a month. My scorecard:
• No porn
• No solitary masturbation
• No ejaculation in three weeks
• Three “plateau” orgasms, without ejaculating
• My wife and I are reacquainted

The porn has been surprising easy to give up (well, I did “peak” once in the first week). I’ve noticed no withdrawal symptoms and I don’t feel strongly tempted. This is quite surprising to me, because I have been viewing porn regularly for decades. During the first week, I did ejaculate three times. Since then I have come to realize the benefits of not “going for it.” If I feel the urge to come, I just relax and let it pass. Then we are ready for more. I am really enjoying the long, slow lovemaking that never really ends; we just take a break and start again the next day. I have experienced one incredible orgasm and two mellow ones (all with no ejaculation). But having frequent orgasms is no longer one of my top reasons for living. The best part is that our marriage has come out of a long stale period and is rejuvenated. My wife and I are closer than we have been for years, in bed and throughout the day.

♦◊♦

Guy #2

First, I was able to go almost six weeks without an orgasm and during that time I felt very stable emotionally. During that period I had gentle intercourse with my partner. However, in the last month or so I’ve fallen back into a “typical” orgasmic frequency during sex (1-2x/week) and my moods have become less stable. I’m engaging in more thrusting and friction than before. It feels really good at the time and even feels OK not to orgasm, but the build-up in stimulation makes it nearly impossible for me not to seek release at some point.

♦◊♦

Guy #3

I have reduced my frequency of orgasm to approximately one quarter the mean of the previous six months (which was 0.76/day). The compulsion to orgasm, which I had been unable to quell for many years, has diminished perceptibly. My wife has said she understands my motive for trying to reduce orgasm frequency, but when we make love, she sometimes actively tries to make me orgasm. I believe that synchronizing my sexual behavior with my wife’s will ultimately bring us closer. If frequent orgasm were the best emotional glue for relationships, we would have been irrevocably, harmoniously bound to each other long ago. Orgasm does not bring lovers closer. What is particularly frustrating for me is that she infrequently has an orgasm during or associated with sex (and has fewer orgasms overall), and has always been experiencing the relationship-enhancing results of fewer orgasms. Unlike me, she has never complained about sexual dissatisfaction, rarely starts fights, and is considerably more content with life and with our marriage.

Guy #4

My sex life is better than it has ever been. I’m getting more, and better, sex than I ever have. I’m enjoying it more, and am much more bonded to my wife. I believe some of us simply have more sexual energy running than others, and this can get us horn dogs in trouble. Karezza [affectionate sex without the goal of orgasm] to the rescue! Karezza is like natural Ritalin for the ADHD personality. It has been a lifesaver for me.

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Woman #1
It took my husband months to bounce back after heavy porn use. We now both limit our orgasms to about once a month, and we both notice a big difference. Our new arrangement is fully satisfying and we are not at all frustrated. It does require frequent affection and mutual arousal (short of orgasm) to stay centered though.

♦◊♦

Can modern science shed any light on these experiences? Possibly. In fact, the Daoists were likely right that the brain is the key. Intense stimulation (not only today’s super-stimulating sex aids, but even sufficiently arousing sex with orgasm) can be a signal to the brain to look around for other intense stimulation.

This is completely consistent with the “binge trigger” concept: the idea that when the brain registers intense excitement (in the form of a neurochemical signal that something really valuable is about), it numbs itself temporarily in order to urge us to pursue more of it. The Daoists said too much climax “depletes the brain,” which is consistent with this concept, as the numbing is likely to be, in part, a product of reduced D2 (dopamine) receptors in the brain’s striatum.

Whatever the precise mechanism(s), the result can be that, instead of feeling satisfied after intense sexual arousal, we soon hungrily look around for further stimulation. This can throw us onto a speeding treadmill of dissatisfaction and discouragement. Worse yet, it can cause lovers to blame each other for not meeting their sexual needs, when, in fact, their dissatisfaction is the product of subtle brain chemical changes, which cannot be successfully overcome with more stimulation.

In contrast, lovers who make love calmly and often, without the neurochemical blast of intense arousal and orgasm, often tiptoe right past this binge trigger, reap the many benefits of intercourse and intimacy, retain their rosy perception of each other, and avoid annoying cravings for more intense stimulation—just as the Daoists recorded.

—Image by vectorportal/Flickr

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About Gary Wilson & Marnia Robinson

Gary Wilson has taught anatomy, physiology, and pathology for many years. His wife Marnia is the author of Cupid's Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships. Among other projects, they host the website Your Brain on Porn.

Comments

  1. Empirical evidence or GTFO.

    • Empirical evidence for what? The existence of a “binge trigger?” The idea that humans can overstimulate their brains with too much intense sexual stimulation?

      • How about some empirical evidence in support of (what appears to be) the main thesis of the post, large and bold right at the top:

        “Having sex with fewer orgasms may lead to increased sexual satisfaction.”

        The fact that you seem to be backing up your hypothesis with ancient Chinese “wisdom” and clearly biased testimonials should raise a red flag for any person of discerning intellect.

        • Gary Wilson says:

          This isn’t meant to be a scientific paper published in a peer-reviewed journal. It’s one of those “Try it for yourself” articles.

          However, you seem to have fallen under a strange delusion that nothing exists unless it is first studied and confirmed by science. Your model of inquiry would lead to no scientific (or other) progress. Why? Because all science first starts with observations. People in the article, others, and yes, Eastern cultures have made a consistent observation: The ratcheting-up of desires following excessive stimulation. Has science studied this sexual phenomenon specifically? No. Has science studied the ratcheting up of desires following binging on food, gambling and drugs? Yes. It exists, and is caused by a decline in dopamine sensitivity in the reward circuitry. Feel free to actually follow the link, and learn about it.

          Follow the logic: Consumption of sex, food, and addictive drugs are all governed by the reward circuitry and dopamine. It’s well known that overconsumption of food and drugs can lead to cravings for more stimulation. How can this not happen with sex under the right circumstances? Obviously if excess leads to more cravings, it’s not unreasonable that people find more satisfaction by finding balance.

          Read this article for a better understanding: Has Evolution Trained Our Brains to Gorge on Food and Sex? http://yourbrainonporn.com/has-evolution-trained-our-brains-to-gorge-on-food-and-sex

          • First off, just because this isn’t a scientific paper for a peer-reviewed journal doesn’t mean that you don’t need to back up your assertions with convincing evidence. I am under no delusion that “nothing exists unless it is first studied and confirmed by science.” But if you don’t back something up there’s no reason I should believe it.

            I understand perfectly well the idea that stimulation of the dopamine reward system of the brain can trigger further cravings and a lessened sensitivity to the source of that stimulation. It does not necessarily follow, however, that more frequent sex with fewer ejaculations will lead to a more satisfying sex life. It’s seems plausible, but I’m far from convinced. For one, sexual stimulation, even without orgasm, still activates the reward system of the brain, doesn’t it? And how often is too often? Is one orgasm per day too much? Two per week? Three? Isn’t there a natural variation in different people’s libidos? What do you mean by “balance”?

            Can you back this statement up with any data: “In contrast, the attempt to meet one’s sexual needs through “expenditure without restraint” depleted the brain, accounting for symptoms like premature ejaculation, uneasiness after orgasm, nocturnal emission, and relationship disharmony.”?

            I’m a skeptic by nature, and this article was just way too light on details and evidence for me to be able to take it seriously. I understand the purpose of your website and I absolutely believe that people can become addicted to porn. But I’m very wary of broad statements about “balance” and “increased sexual satisfaction” without some science to back them up.

          • Also, I do apologize for the crass and reactionary nature of my initial comment. I should have been more explicit and polite from the get go. Sorry about that.

  2. fidnthezspot says:

    The problem is that your article is presented as scientific when in fact it is not. It’s because it is based on a few testimonials (from an inherently biased sample, your own readers) and that you don’t reference any journals or studies that reinforce your views so your credibility is at the same level as an infomercial. On top of that, you reference yourself. That’s worse than referencing Wikipedia!

    Anit-porn and masturbation zealotry wrapped up in pseudoscience. GMP can do better than this.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts. This article is not anti-porn or anti-masturbation; it’s pro-sexual balance, which, admittedly is a difficult concept to grasp today.

    Also, it isn’t a “scientific article” of the type one would find in an academic journal. These are people’s honest experiences, which line up with thousands of years of sexual wisdom. Do with the information as you wish, but don’t mischaracterize it. The only science in it is our suggestion that there’s a “binge trigger.” That has been proven to exist in the case of other superstimuli (gambling and overeating), and already researchers in Israel, Germany and France are suggesting that today’s porn users are experiencing similar brain changes. (Studies for all these points can be found here: http://yourbrainonporn.com/research-articles-and-abstracts)

    In any case, it’s clear that users are indeed binging past the point of satiation. Just a few days ago Italian researchers reported that many young men cannot achieve normal erections with partners due to heavy porn use: http://www.lifeinitaly.com/news/italians-suffer-sexual-anorexia-after-internet-porn-use

  4. Thanks for sharing your insights. The title we recommended for the article was, “Do You Need A Chaser After Sex? Desire sometimes ratchets upward soon after hot sex” Oh well…. ;-)

    • This practice has long been used to increase the harmony and attraction between couples – not just by harem masters. There are many examples of such traditions in “Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships.” For a taste, here’s a free book on the subject, written 80 years ago: The Karezza Method: http://www.sacred-texts.com/sex/krz/index.htm

      The fact is, a depleted-feeling partner is actually hungrier for stimulation. And novelty is one of the most reliable ways to increase stimulation. So keeping a partner drained is not actually great insurance if fidelity is a goal.

  5. What’s the magic number?

    I find that going for too long makes me orgasm faster and isn’t as enjoyable and intense.
    To each their own, just don’t be obsessive about it, it’s just sex.

  6. Email me with updates please!

  7. For Steve. There’s no reply button under your last post. Thanks for your gracious remark. Skepticism is good, and we certainly don’t think you should believe *anything* you don’t find convincing – whatever your criteria. If you need to wait until scientists address these issues, and you meanwhile find the observations of the ancients, combined with people’s actual experiences, unpersuasive, so be it. You may be waiting a long time. See “Forbidden Sex Research: The Orgasm Cycle” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201005/forbidden-sex-research-the-orgasm-cycle

    You’re right that sex activates the reward circuitry, and it’s quite likely that too much stimulation is a prime cause of habituation and discontent between sex partners. Remember the Coolidge Effect? http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/200907/what-if-she-were-always-in-the-mood If, as a culture, we get to the core of the issue: intense stimulation’s potential for dopamine dysregulation, then debates about “how many is too many?” become pointless. Each person needs to figure that out for him/herself, based on the sensitivity of his/her/their brain(s). Balance will not be the same for everyone, but imbalance will produce a range of common symptoms: irritability, anxiety, cravings, dissatisfaction and so forth.

    The purpose of this article was to raise awareness that there can be such a thing as too much, and propose an alternative that clearly works for some people. Right now, our culture has a strong meme that insists, “There’s no such thing as too much.” When people have symptoms of excess, they are therefore automatically diagnosed with “other issues.” No one seems willing to re-examine the fundamental assumption, which entered our culture before today’s hypstimulating sex aids.

  8. There is no such thing, in my experience as too many. Having sex with lots of orgasms leads to increased sexual satisfaction. That, plus it’s fun.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Frequency of orgasm is just one factor among several. Sure, all other things being equal it might increase sexual pleasure to go without for a while, but not everything is equal. There is more than one kind of orgasm, or at least more than one kind of lead-up to it. If someone is reaching orgasm the exact same way every time, then it’s likely that it might lose a little of its magic. Maybe introducing some variety could have the same effect (or even better effect!) than simply going without orgasm at all.

    Also, there seem to be diminishing returns or a window of effectiveness. Past a certain point, going a little longer will probably not make much difference. I admit I’ve never tried it, but I find it hard to believe going 10 years without an orgasm will make the orgasm much better than going a year without one.

  10. wellokaythen says:

    From what I gather from reading Dan Savage, abstaining from orgasm is a not uncommon aspect of dominant/submissive role play, whether the denial of orgasm is voluntary or on command. In a sustained roleplay relationship, this drought period is part of the pleasure/power dynamic and it can last for quite a while. People who do that do it because it feels good. That would count as some evidence that restricting frequency is already being been used quite effectively to heighten long-term pleasure. I say learn from the kinksters.

    • I think you’re thinking of the “chastity as kink” folks. Yes, there are people who get off on not getting off. Like all true fetishists, they get a rush of dopamine from this type of play.

      There are other approaches to non-orgasmic sex, however, which are not fetish-based, and seem to produce an entirely different, relaxed ecstasy arising from a different neurochemical cocktail. For more, read Tantric Sex for Men or Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships.

  11. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    I’ve always had trouble having orgasms. It’s made me pretty popular. (Supposedly my natal Mars in Pisces has something to do with this.) But, I’ve gotta go with Wilhelm Reich here. Sometimes an orgasm is just the thing.

  12. So, no more vibrators for women and no more porn for men or women? The fewer orgasms the better the relationship? One orgasm a year is better than one a month? How about one a decade? We’d be really close then!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Is this technique basically prescribing blue balls..? And what’s this talk of removing foreplay (from the yourbrainonporn.com link)? Isn’t foreplay supposed to be…well…playful? And fun?

    • Who says *this* technique can’t be playful and fun? Try it before you write it off. Many are amazed at how enjoyable and relationship-enhancing it is. If you go slowly as you make the transition, you can sidestep the blue-ball problem. It’s great that you love sex. Keep an open mind.

    • I would think that having sex without release and having foreplay without sex would make you less satisfied.. Me and my fiance have sex almost every night… some night he does not get off he has gone 3 night without getting off… but I always do and it does not bother him at all. How is a woman like me who it does not take much for my soon to be hubby to get me off, how am I supposed to refrain from having an orgasm.. I am very attracted to my soon to hubby I am horny on a regular basis so how am I supposed to keep from wanting to make love to him because even with slow gentle love making I still hit that peak… and Also isnt it bad for a man to keep building himself up and not letting it go.. I thought their was studies that showed that is not good for men either.

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  6. [...] people in some sex-related communities have asserted that for maximum amorous power, it’s actually best to limit one’s orgasms, because then the contained sexual energy ends up channeling into a deeper connection with [...]

  7. [...] people in some sex-related communities have asserted that for maximum amorous power, it’s actually best to limit one’s orgasms, because then the contained sexual energy ends up channeling into a deeper connection with one’s [...]

  8. [...] looking at porn or having orgasms on their own, but sometimes when I hear about the effects of choosing not to do those things, it sounds like there’s really powerful bonding potential there. Something to keep in mind [...]

  9. [...] people in some sex-related communities have asserted that for maximum amorous power, it’s actually best to limit one’s orgasms, because then the contained sexual energy ends up channeling into a deeper connection with one’s [...]

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