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Is Abstinence Healthy?

I’ve decided to use this blog to answer some of the questions I get about sexuality. Here’s a good one – let me know what you think! What would make you stop having sex?  Stop masturbating?

I have this friend who has in recent months ended a relationship with his girlfirend, who he has lived with for the past two years. I assume that he enjoyed a normal and healthy sex life. Well, at least he had some sort of sex occasionally (I know he jacked off as often as he needed to). Since becoming single he has forgone any masturbatory urges and is “saving” himself for Ms. Right. How healthy is it to abstain from any sexual release for a prolonged period of time? What psychological and emotional impact can it have on a person? What is the holding capacity of the tank that is storing the enormous load some lucky lady is going to receive?

Abstinence can be a conscious choice (like your friend), it can be dictated by circumstance (such as unavailable partners), or it can be a religious vow.  Overall, I’ve found that abstinence has become more popular in the last few years.  In fact, several of my college students have told me that they have decided to forego sex and wait for the right person (women AND men).

Now to your questions – the semen “holding tank” actually has a release valve that takes care of large capacity loads.  Men are constantly producing sperm and when they ejaculate, the build-up of sperm and semen is released.  If the sperm is ready to be released but there is no orgasm, it often will be absorbed back into the body.  Sometimes if physical sexual tensions mount to a critical level, they may be discharged by orgasms during sleep (often called “wet dreams” in men).  Although we don’t talk as much about this happening in women – women are capable of sexual release during their sleep as well.  If this does not happen, the typical ejaculatory load will be larger after a prolonged period of abstinence.

Overall, there are no known health risks to abstinence.  In fact, there are several possible benefits.  Psychologically, abstinence may help clear our heads.  If we’re involved in an intimate relationship it can help give more depth to the relationship.  There is also less worry about pregnancy, birth control, STDs, and other related issues.  Abstinence can help you focus on what you really want and need in a sexual relationship.

So, the bottom line?  Masturbation is healthy, abstinence can’t hurt you, and our bodies take care of pent up sexual energy.  Spread the word!

    6 Responses to “Is Abstinence Healthy?”

    Another View on February 27,2009 4:00 pm

    “Overall, there are no known health risks to abstinence. In fact, there are several possible benefits.”

    What? This isn’t true. Yes sperm can be reabsorbed back into the body. And this happening for too long a period can cause problems. spermatoceles are much more common in men who do not ejaculate regularly. Also, the rates of benign prostatic hypertorphy, prostatic cancer, prostatic calculi, premature ejqaculation and impotence are all higher in men who do not ejaculate regularly. Simply put regular ejaculation is important to good sexual health. Any Urologist can tell you this. Moreover, masturbation and orgasm are important to good psychological well-being. Orgasm floods the brain with endorphins and melatonin, both give a sense of contentment and well-being. And it also allows one to connect with oneself sexually and maintain a healthy sexuality.

    Yes, many younger people today are “choosing” abstinence to the extent that they forego masturbation. But many psychologist see this as a form of sexual maladjustment, neurotic reaction to feelings of sexual inadequacy, or possible endocrine problems. It isn’t healthy. There is no such person as “Mr. Right” or “Miss Right”; this is just a silly romantic notion, so saving oneself for him or her, is to deny oneself a healthy sexuality for the sake of a fantasy.

    Questioner, your friend’s postion is self-contradictory. He was in a relationship and having sex, but the intimation is that not as much as he wanted. So he supplemented with masturbation. There’s nothing wrong with that; most men in committed relationships continue to masturbate, because it’s important to have a sexual relationship with oneself. Yet now that he’s single, he doesn’t masturbate. He satisfied his urges before, but not now that he doesn’t have a partner. So, there are two possibilities here: 1) he’s not being straight with you. Remember, there are two types of men in the world: those who jerk off and those who lie about it. or, 2) Your friend needs some counseling to find out why he has suddenly decided to deny himself sexual pleasure. It may very well be that he has some outstanding issues from his break-up that he isn’t dealing with.

    streaming on August 5,2010 5:19 pm

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    Jeane Giere on March 20,2014 9:08 am

    I’ve been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this web site. Thank you, I will try and check back more often. How frequently you update your website?

    Kristine Crane on June 30,2014 3:22 pm

    Dr. Carroll,
    I am working on an article about the risks (and benefits) of abstinence and came across your blog post:
    I would love to interview you about this. Do you have any time in the next couple of days?


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