Boyfriend practices semen retention. It sucks. What can I do?
August 13, 2018 2:57 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend abstains from ejaculation during sex and sexual activities. It makes me feel tremendously frustrated, sad, and turned-off. I have no clue how to even begin to unpack why I feel this way, or how to navigate the inevitable discussion I'll need to have about it with him.

This is a newer relationship (<6 months, though we casually dated for a few months 5+ years ago), but one in which I am incredibly invested and committed. We've exchanged the L word, make plans for the future, are kind and supportive of one another, do fun activities, laugh a lot, talk, etc. Everything beyond this ONE part of our sex life is pretty damn good. Our communication styles match up really well, so I know I can talk to him about this safely. I just don't know where to start.

During sex (all types, including manual stimulation) BF will pause and prevent himself from reaching orgasm and ejaculating. At all. For the entire session. Sometimes for days, and generally aims to prevent the crescendo for as long as possible. When I've asked about it, he cites the benefits claimed in Classical Chinese and Indian practices (Taoist, Tantra, etc). It seems pretty important to him.

I want to better understand why people would do this. A lot of alleged benefits I found while researching seemed pseudoscientific at best. My initial conclusion is that it all seems pretty pointless unless you're recovering from an addiction to masturbation or suffer from premature ejaculation. (No to both.)

The reality of how this affects me is that the flow of sex is interrupted, sometimes several times, and my own 'counter' resets to zero. I don't get to enjoy my partner being visibly, audibly, and definitively satisfied. I end up feeling incredibly frustrated, even if I've had an orgasm. It all feels artificial and arbitrary. Like he's not being entirely present during sex because he's more focused on avoiding something instead of just relaxing and having fun.

I love sex and I pride myself on keeping a healthy view towards everything to do with it. This whole deal has completely thrown me for a loop. We have sex frequently and it doesn't at all read like a fetish or a kink. (And in fact, negatively impacts at least one important kink/fetish of my own.)

What the heck? How do I approach this? Am I missing something? Are there any negative side-effects to withholding ejaculation? Am I being ridiculous here?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think this post is a really articulate starting point if you wanted to share with him.

It frames key points, your beliefs, how it impacts you and that your trying to understand.

I don't think your being ridiculous, but you two may not be sexually compatible if this is just his thing. And it could just be something he enjoys doing. I am female, and married to a female, so I'm really unqualified to comment on the behavior itself.

Have you considered this may be a cover for a medical condition he could percieve as embarrassing? (I would have no idea if that was the case, and am taking you at your word that it is real, just throwing it out there just in case.)
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:42 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Are there any negative side-effects to withholding ejaculation?

Everything I've seen on the topic suggests that men who ejaculate more often are less likely to get prostate cancer. So there's that.

I know that orgasm denial is a kink/fetish/whatever, but I don't know if self-denial is a widespread one.

This does sound frustrating. If it's his thing, you may not be sexually compatible. If I were with a woman who prevented herself from having an orgasm - especially also forcing my "counter to reset to zero" - it'd be a deal-breaker if it was a regular thing. Sex shouldn't be frustrating (unless both parties want it to be, I guess).
posted by jzb at 3:57 AM on August 13, 2018 [17 favorites]


I had a friend who did a similar thing as your BF. He often represented himself as a "great lover" because of his stamina that he built up practicing retention. It appeared that this was the only part of being a "great lover" that he invested any energy in, as the two women he was in long-term relationships that I knew actually cited the retention (as well as him bragging about it) as an indicator of how selfish he actually was.

Obviously, it sounds like this guy isn't quite like this, but maybe you frame your conversation as such? That even though he thinks/feels like this is providing you with some ecstatic experience, it's actually not and sort of coming off as selfish?
posted by kuanes at 3:58 AM on August 13, 2018 [11 favorites]


Have you told him that it makes sex not enjoyable for you? Flat out? Because he might be under the impression that this is just his thing and it’s no big deal since he can “perform”.

You might not be compatible but it’s certainly worth to have a serious conversation about it. Detail all the consequences for you: delaying your own orgasm, taking you out of the moment, making you feel like sex is not a priority, and wanting sex with you to be more emotional and not as controlled. Those are all valid wants.
posted by lydhre at 4:14 AM on August 13, 2018 [32 favorites]


Forgive me if I miss the mark. I've been dating men over 50 for a few years, many who have difficulty ejaculating (not your partner's problem, I know). For a long time, I struggled with this, and the blow to my ego. But I knew (for these guys) it wasn't a choice, and in my head I compared it to my early sexual experiences where orgasm wasn't an option for me. The nicest guys were invested in my enjoyment, but not pressuring me to do something I couldn't. After talking to my lover who explained that this was the sexual experience he was seeking, how could I demand an orgasm for my ego (especially if he couldn't, unlike your situation).

Then it got more complicated. My lover could, sometimes, but only by self-stimulation. Or he could, but preferred not to, because his refractory period was several days.

So what I am inelegantly saying is, if your lover is getting exactly what he wants from you, and you know enjoys it, it's not a chore, he wants intercourse or sex in any of it's forms, can you see your way to thinking of yourself as his perfect lover for not demanding something that he doesn't want to do? Which reminds me, this particular situation turned sex on its head for me. Always in the past, sex was over when the guy came. Now it's over when I've had enough. It took ages to get used to that. With all the rules about performing sex as a woman, that one was ... hard. But it's awesome, when you get used to it. Your orgasm doesn't need to be predicated on his. Start a new sexual grammar for the two of you. Let him know it's a new and scary pathway, but that you're interested in discovering it, and discussing it, gently, as you explore it together.
posted by b33j at 4:18 AM on August 13, 2018 [12 favorites]


Deep-seated fear of pregnancy?
posted by freya_lamb at 4:19 AM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


Also, ask for verbal feedback. I did. It was very rewarding.
posted by b33j at 4:19 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


...or any other (perceived/potential) consequence of ejaculation beyond orgasm.

Or maybe he is just doing his thing without realising the impact on you. Only way to find out is to talk with him directly.
posted by freya_lamb at 4:38 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


You’re not being ridiculous; it’s perfectly normal to want your partner to orgasm during partnered sex, especially if you yourself are having orgasms. I would approach it like this:
1. Ask if there are any reasons he does this beyond the perceived health benefits. If the reasons have anything to do with performance/confidence, he may be hesitant to share, so approach with care.
2. Tell him that while you respect his desire to try to achieve certain health benefits, you would also like him to orgasm with you more often (tell him all your very valid reasons). See if you can find a compromise.

If he’s not willing to compromise and meet you in the middle, you are probably incompatible, sorry.
posted by yawper at 5:31 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


You might look on Reddit at R/NoFap to see what other things beyond Taoism that might be influencing his thinking. It's supposed to focused on guys not masturbating so they can fulfill goals in their lives but has morphed into many of the community believing that retention of semen gives them benefits that sound to an outsider like they're engaging in magical thinking.

Another thought - either in partnered sex or masturbation, does he practice edging? If so, his might be a two pronged issue - one the retention and two the kink of retention/withholding/overcoming.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:07 AM on August 13, 2018 [11 favorites]


What does he say when you talk about how it affects you? In some ways that's more important than what he does in response. If he just negates your needs for his, and doesn't suggest solutions, that's really bad behavior.

My boyfriend withholds ejaculation because he says it lets him have multiple orgasms. At first I didn't believe him and felt like I wasn't doing it for him, but it wasn't otherwise affecting how good sex was for me (he didn't need to stop to make it work for him), so I decided that even if it wasn't entirely true, it was his choice and preference so whatever.
posted by metasarah at 6:14 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don’t think you’re being ridiculous. But my husband practices Taoist meditation and energy work and has tried this practice out, and he does experience at the very least feelings of positive energy and wellbeing due to his practices combined. (I.e. not just the sexual ones.) We balance it in our lives like everything else - he doesn’t meditate at 6pm when we are in the middle of a crazy week of kid-driven activities and if I let him know I would like to feel the closeness of both of us orgasming then he listens to me.

One challenge here is to accept that your partner has beliefs that are not scientific but essentially matters of faith. I personally find the whole orgasm=loss of energy thing a little whacky but I respect that in my husband ‘s case, it’s part of a lifestyle that helps him feel centred and whole. In his case it is a very small part of what he practices.

I would recommend that you find out more about how this practice fits into his life, and if he’s willing to compromise. If not that will tell you quite a lot.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:15 AM on August 13, 2018 [13 favorites]


(To be clear my comments about r/NoFap were assuming he doesn't actually practice a faith where retention is one of the tenants but rather took different philosophies with that practice and incorporated it, but not larger parts of the faith, into his life.)
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 7:00 AM on August 13, 2018


This is allowed to be a deal-breaker for you-- it would be for me. I suspect it would seem a whole lot like my partner was just staring in a mirror watching himself perform and carefully regulating everything, rather than directly engaging with me. I would just nope out of there in a hot minute. But I'd be very upfront, and have a discussion (or multiple conversations) about it first.

One person's spirituality (if that's even what it is-- I am very skeptical about that, with the internet/society/reddit/patriarchy being what it is in 2018) doesn't negate the desires and needs of their partner. Especially if he is using religion to justify one this one tiny aspect he follows, and ends up using a claim of spirituality to shut down the conversation and guilt you in complying.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 7:04 AM on August 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


I want to better understand why people would do this.

Because it feels fucking mindblowing. Orgasm is a complete letdown by comparison.

I don't get to enjoy my partner being visibly, audibly, and definitively satisfied.

Those of us who don't treat sex as goal-oriented are definitively satisfied for the entire time we're there in the bed with our partners. I understand that the lack of conventional visible and audible signalling can make that fact harder to grasp for those who are more goal-oriented, but that doesn't make it not a fact.

Like he's not being entirely present during sex because he's more focused on avoiding something instead of just relaxing and having fun

I think you'll find, if you look into what he's doing with a little less prejudice, that remaining entirely present and fully engaged with everything happening in the present moment is pretty much the entire point of his approach to the whole thing.

I also think you'll find that he's probably still too young to have worked out that attempting to impose one's own preferred way of being in the world on one's sexual partners is a self-defeating form of cruelty.
posted by flabdablet at 7:51 AM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I see two distinct issues here:

1. Your partner doesn't cum and that makes you sad.

2. Your partner is constantly interrupting the flow of your sex to stop himself from cumming. This leaves you feeling frustrated, disconnected, and sad.

1 is not your problem. There are all sorts of people who don't orgasm, for all sorts of reasons. Sex can be great without orgasms. Some men enjoy sex more and feel better afterwards when they don't orgasm.

2 is a problem. If your guy wants to be taoist monkey and retain his semen for the next 30 years, go for it. But if he's going to be jumping away from you to squeeze his nuts just when you're both about to reach simultaneous orgasmic bliss, then that is not okay.

Really, if he wants to do this during partnered sex, he needs to get better at it, so it doesn't interrupt the flow. That's the real issue. Having him not cum shouldn't be an issue.

(I write this all as a man who sometimes prefers to not cum. Ejaculating sometimes leaves me tired and run down the next day. Sex can be great without cumming, and I have more energy afterwards. Maybe I'm a pseudoscientist, but that's my life experience for several decades.)
posted by Winnie the Proust at 8:32 AM on August 13, 2018 [18 favorites]


Is he taking the time to help you have an orgasm, even after, or possibly before, the interruption(s)? Is there any way you can decide that this is important to him, and find some sexy way to incorporate his sexual practice into something you can also enjoy. Honestly, as a an AFAB woman, I've had way too much practice at not getting off, and the energy it gives me is frustration, but this is where he is.
posted by theora55 at 9:58 AM on August 13, 2018


During a non sexy time, when you have enough time to devote to a proper conversation:

“Hey partner, I’m not quite sure how to navigate this. I care about you and us, and I want to work towards us both experiencing satisfaction in the bedroom. I would like to share a bit more about my important kink/fetish, and how I feel in the moment when my flow is interrupted.

After that, can you tell me a bit more about how this practice fits into your life? I want to understand and see if we can incorporate this in a fun and sexy way. If possible, I’d love to work towards a compromise.”
posted by nathaole at 10:11 AM on August 13, 2018


re: how to approach this, you have good talking points covered already

1. It makes me feel tremendously frustrated, sad, and turned-off.

2. The reality of how this affects me is that the flow of sex is interrupted, sometimes several times, and my own 'counter' resets to zero. I don't get to enjoy my partner being visibly, audibly, and definitively satisfied. I end up feeling incredibly frustrated, even if I've had an orgasm. It all feels artificial and arbitrary. Like he's not being entirely present during sex because he's more focused on avoiding something instead of just relaxing and having fun.

3. (And in fact, negatively impacts at least one important kink/fetish of my own.)

these are extremely valid, non-ridiculous needs you're expressing here and any halfway reasonable non-selfish person who's not covering for ejaculatory dysfunction or something similar will be willing to work out some kind of arrangement, schedule, or system that incorporates male orgasms into your sex life

if you get some kind of response like "no, I cannot ejaculate, I will lose my accumulated power" then just know that at six months in, you're probably only at the tip of the weirdness iceberg
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:23 AM on August 13, 2018 [17 favorites]


I'll preface by saying that lots of people have their own preferences and practices and that's fine. But, if he's engaging in this and using the following as a smokescreen "he cites the benefits claimed in Classical Chinese and Indian practices (Taoist, Tantra, etc)", without engaging in any other parts of the practices of Taoism or Tantra, he needs to reframe it as his kink and not something that's part of a formal spiritual practice. Shopping around in spiritual traditions that are not your own and then just grabbing one or two things that match your own inclinations/kinks is really disrespectful and appropriative and often racist. Semen retention alone with an absence of all of the rest of the practices of either Taoism or Tantra is just a ham-fisted way of not owning your kink in a respectful way.

Appropriation issues aside, like many others here, I don't find the semen retention on its own to be a problem. I find his disregard for your pleasure a problem. Constantly interrupting sexual activity in a way that deprives you of pleasure is not really considerate. He's indulging his own kink at your direct expense. That's just not a nice thing to do to your partner. I'd have a frank conversation with him outside the bedroom so that it's clear that he knows that you're feeling dissatisfied and frustrated with how he's managing his kink with little regard for you. If he's not immediately willing to open up the floor to finding a solution and instead pivots to excusing himself and acting as though what you're bringing up is hostile toward him, I'd let him go. He's showing you he's selfish and that his desires will always come first, even if they bring you frustration and pain.
posted by quince at 11:50 AM on August 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


I always worry/avoid when people have a "thing" they do that seems off/odd and it's a big deal to them/twirled up in their identity. People who have a thing tend to be stupidly self focused. Spending all this energy on ejaculation is a thing with a capital T. When your attention on your own ejaculation is a noticable slice in you life's pie chart, I've got to go. Dude. Just play the game like the rest of us.
posted by orsonet at 2:42 PM on August 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


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