For the last half-century, Western sexologists have advised men to ejaculate as frequently as the urge arises, on a par with nose-blowing. At the same time, doctors assure guys that there’s no risk of excessive ejaculation because they’ll stop when they’ve had enough.
But what if this advice is not supported by the data biologists are turning up? We’ve been fascinated by a debate going on over on Amazon about the realities of primate sex and mating. This debate and the self-reports from young guys on a variety of forums are making us question the standard ejaculation advice.
Personally, we’re not enthused about increasing the world’s population, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for the men we’ve heard from who cannot consummate their marriages, let alone impregnate their wives, as a consequence of their heavy porn use. (Come to think of it, that suggests a strategy for population control. Simply give every guy on the planet an iPhone, and every woman a vibrator.)
Where are we now?
The predictable, though not necessarily intended, result of the standard ejaculation advice is that many younger men believe it is unhealthy not to ejaculate very frequently-at least once a day. (Indeed, authorities in England and Spain have actively campaigned to spread this notion in schools.) Many guys believe that if once is healthy, 2, 3 or 4 times must be even healthier.
In the under-thirty crowd, masturbation and Internet porn use are synonymous, so if 4 ejaculations per day are really healthy…well then, that many Internet-porn sessions are too. Indeed, even after their hormonal rush of puberty and sexual peak have passed, guys can use today’s superstimulating masturbation aids (Internet porn, cam-2-cam, sex toys) to remain veritable geysers of semen…at least until they hit a wall.
Now, many men, as early as age twenty, are complaining of delayed ejaculation, an inability to climax with mates who don’t look/act like their favorite fetish porn star, erectile dysfunction and a host of other symptoms. (Astonishingly, when they stop porn/masturbation for a couple of months, they report dramatic improvements in confidence, mood, concentration, sexual chemistry and sexual performance.)
If you’re noticing unwanted symptoms, and you’re not sure you want to let your genes down, consider the following biological and anthropological information.
‘My sperm production keeps up with my daily ejaculation frequency.’
Even though Western males apparently masturbate to climax more than any other species, humans are not, in fact, built for prolific ejaculation. According to Promiscuity author Tim Birkhead:
The rate of human sperm production is lower than that of any other mammal so far investigated. The numbers of sperm stored in the epididymis are also low. … Men, in contrast [to chimpanzees] have a more limited capacity and six ejaculations in twenty-four hours is enough to deplete the epididymal sperm stores completely. [pp. 82,84]
Sperm collected via daily masturbation dropped from 150 million on day one, to 80 million on day two, and to 47 million on day three. It takes about 64 days for sperm to mature.
While figures vary across studies, and certainly between men, humans have a low sperm production rate, considering that a sperm count of around 100 million is usually considered necessary for a reasonable chance of fertilization. It is simple to see how habitual frequent ejaculation could lead to chronic depletion and decreased fertility.
Sperm production estimates vary, but it appears that ejaculation every third day would not overtax sperm supplies (assuming they have normalized after very frequent ejaculation). Ejaculation every third day is more than enough action to keep a mate “topped up” with viable sperm, so evolution is likely to have equipped us accordingly. Incidentally, too many sperm can increase miscarriages because fertilization by more than one sperm renders a zygote inviable. “Eject!”
‘If I’m horny, it means I need to ejaculate.’
Not necessarily. Even though human sperm production is low relative to other animals, human males still become aroused in response to promising genetic opportunities regardless of semen reserves (the Coolidge Effect). This reality is what makes possible a binge using Internet porn (with its parade of novel “mates”).
Male zeal for sex and the willingness to risk lives to access potential mates are common across species. After all, the male gender more often faces the potential of zero offspring because the struggle for fertilizations is normally demanding and failure common.
In short, you don’t have to have a mammoth libido, or be a pervert, to have trouble saying “no.” Healthy human brains respond to high-value sexual cues or novel mates. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t be here. In fact, you’re the product of those who wanted sex the most.
Yet what happens when limitless simulated and stimulating sex becomes available to these zealous males in the form of virtual sirens begging for semen from cyberspace?
Research shows that animals will prefer a supernormal stimulus to the natural one. Female birds prefer to brood an oversized wooden egg rather than their own real eggs. A male fish prefers to court a wooden oversized female (bigger size = more eggs) than a real female with real eggs. And humans can easily fall for superstimulating online charmers in lieu of real mates with whom they could potentially reproduce. An evolutionary-biologist friend, who specializes in sexual evolution and the sexes, remarked:
Now, we face the prospect that porn sex will make real sex a poor alternative or even impossible. Moreover, women have vibrators that can also make real sex a poor alternative—and even more so if men cannot achieve erections.
I can almost envision a future in which men and women will live separately, masturbating to porn or with sex toys. Reproduction, when desired, will be done with a turkey baster—assuming computer-illiterate donors can be found. We could even be the first species whose sex drive leads it to masturbating itself to extinction. LOL
Laughable, and yet a recent UK survey reported that among men looking at porn for at least 10 hours a week sixty-one per cent agreed it could make you less interested in sex with a partner (compared with 27 per cent of moderate users and 24 per cent of light users).
‘Even if I overdo it, there are no lingering repercussions.’
We were startled to learn that exhausting semen supplies may have surprisingly long lasting repercussions for human-male fertility. In a study where men ejaculated an average of 2.4 times a day over ten days, their sperm output remained below pre-depletion levels for more than five months.
There’s also the risk of long-lasting plastic brain changes in response to super-enticing stimuli. Brain changes can desensitize the individual’s pleasure response and leave him hyper-responsive to sexually explicit material indefinitely…much as an obese person continues to buy chips because his brain’s reward circuitry is shouting, “More!” even as his body is screaming, “Enough!”
Lingering brain changes increase the risk that today’s frequent ejaculators will not, in fact, “stop when they’ve had enough” as the medical profession claims. Binging on Internet porn in search of satisfaction is not unusual among users. One possible result is chronic sperm depletion.
‘The suggestion that there can be too much ejaculation is religious moralizing.’
Actually, many sex-positive cultures have taught moderation for millennia. As explained, men have not evolved to be able to have limitless sex without suffering physiological repercussions. Historically, male fervor was held in check by the reality of sexual opportunities with novel mates being rare. Later, when population density rose, male potency was protected by traditions that regulated sexual excess.
In fact, the last half-century’s decision to dismiss the possibility of biological limits represents a sweeping departure. Across the globe and over thousands of years mankind generated a broad array of traditions and taboos to protect male potency and vitality. For example, the ancient Chinese Daoists made a science of sexual health and relationship harmony, without a hint of moralizing.
They were not alone. Almost a century ago, anthropologist A. Ernest Crawley recorded that tribal cultures all over the world believed that temporary abstinence from sex was appropriate in connection with many activities (depending upon the culture). These included hunting, warfare, planting, fishing, harvesting, wine preparation, shamanic deeds, pilgrimage, the first days of marriage, pregnancy, lactation, menstruation, and so forth. Such advice was so widespread that Crawley characterized temporary chastity as an “infallible nostrum for all important undertakings and critical junctures.”
Periodic abstinence was believed to increase male invincibility and vigor. For the same reasons, numerous cultures have also evolved ways of making love that encourage frequent intercourse but infrequent ejaculation (unless conception is desired).
More recently, anthropologists studying cultures in Central Africa reported that the Aka and Ngandu peoples don’t masturbate. (They don’t even have a word for it.) These cultures also traditionally observe a moratorium on sex from the birth of a child until it is able to walk. Despite the fact that adults of both genders obviously relish sex, men’s interludes of frequent ejaculation tend to be limited. (Incidentally, no religious missionary influenced these traditions.)
Is the ejaculation advice of the last half-century suitable for humans?
Perhaps not. In the words of our evolutionary-biologist friend,
Cheering on multiple daily ejaculations as some sort of ‘natural’/ancestral behavior is mistaken. All-in-all the evidence suggests that human sperm production has not evolved for more than a moderate rate of ejaculation, and masturbation is possibly not something that is ‘normal’ on a daily basis, if at all.
It’s likely our false belief in ‘limitless’ human sperm production arose primarily because the brain’s evolved reward mechanism for sex is very strong. Especially for males, reproduction is uncertain. It’s the intensity of sexual pleasure that makes us assume frequent ejaculation is more beneficial than it is.
How could something that feels so great ever be a problem? Answer: Our sexual expression is occurring in an environment very different from the one in which it evolved.
22 thoughts on “Is Today’s Ejaculation Advice Right for Our Species?”
What about involuntary nocturnal emissions when daily release is not performed manually? It seems that frequency is not consciously regulated. Or, does constant exposure to pornographic images cause seething hormonal secretions that transform one’s brain into a hypersexually aroused freak of nature?
“Is Today’s Ejaculation Advice Right for Our Species?”
Posted on June 20, 2011 by marnia
“Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction Is A Growing Problem”
Posted on June 15, 2011 by marnia
“Day 64: Successful, great, normal sex”
Posted on May 29, 2011 by marnia
“DSM-5 Attempts to Sweep Porn Addiction Under the Rug”
Posted on May 21, 2011 by marnia
The End of The Porn Debate?
Posted on April 16, 2011 by marnia
Ejaculation: How Often for Good Health?
Posted on July 8, 2010 by marnia
Forbidden Sex Research: The Orgasm Cycle
Posted on June 4, 2010 by marnia
So…. Just what is it you are selling, marnia/Gary Wilson?
@Mr152. You’re right that direct control of wet dreams is not consciously possible, but men who give up porn report that nocturnal-emission frequency tends to decline within a few weeks. Demand isn’t based on supply. To learn more about how porn use affects the brain, see this slide show: http://yourbrainonporn.com/your-brain-on-porn-series
@ Grumpy. Selling?
Certainly this blog has a point that it is trying to convey, but is notably free of charge. It’s clear to me that it isn’t trying to “sell” anything, but is in fact trying to empower the millions of people who are enslaved by the porn industry to liberate themselves.
Perhaps we can reverse the question: what are you trying to sell?
if you aint been laid in a while , its just Gods way of sayin that you aint worth a f^^k
The vedic(yoga) folks believe the sex is spiritual in nature and affects our ‘energetic’ body, depending up how we use it. As such, there is a belief that semen contains a lot of prana(energy) and by ejaculating, a man also loses prana(spiritual energy), which is one reason why he feels depleted and sleepy after sex. It’s one reason celibacy is a preferred state for a male in some yoga communities. Furthermore, there are folks who believe that regularly masturbating without ejaculation in the male or orgasm in the female leads to physical and mental enhancements. For more info about this, read ‘Masturbation, Tantra and Self-Love’ by Margo Woods. Like I said, I believe that there is a LOT more to learn about human beings and sex.
This certainly is news. With history and evidence as back up, this sure is news worth sharing to everybody from pre-teens, which tend to be hormonal, to marrying-age men. Everybody deserve to be made aware of this reality that porn is taking away the essence of human beings to feel and get emotional connection from their partner. Thanks for sharing.
As usual Marnia is a complete scatter brain and continues to just make up things as she goes along.
She does not report on science but just references some science then just assumes and dramaticizes everything else.
@Maria why don’t you just admit your threatened by men using porn and take your campaign elsewhere. Why porn would ever threaten a person is beyond me. That is unless they view relationships as basic and shallow and feel they can’t compete with porn… “inability to climax with mates who don’t look/act like their favorite fetish porn star”.
If your “losing” to porn, then porn is not the problem. It’s you and/or your relationship.
Please stop concerning yourself with men choose to do with their dicks as if its your business.
As co-author it gets old dealing with ad hominen attacks that contain a lot of hot air and absolutely no substance. Please enlighten us on what exactly is “made up”.
A porn freak is still a freak.
You sound exactly like marnia (Maria* spell check…). I criticized her before for all her non scientific assertions and the general argumentative/interpretive nature of her posts.
She then asked how I’m being objective… Which just shows how little she acknowledges or cares about context and integrity. (I was making a PERSONAL criticism of her while she was talking about verifiable generalities and acting like she was reporting on science.)
She does not report on science, which is what this site is all about. This site is not about science that backs up Marnia’s opinions or Marnia finding and solving social problems.
Look at the unfounded assertions here,
“The predictable, though not necessarily intended, result of the standard ejaculation advice is that many younger men believe it is unhealthy not to ejaculate very frequently-at least once a day. (Indeed, authorities in England and Spain have actively campaigned to spread this notion in schools.) Many guys believe that if once is healthy, 2, 3 or 4 times must be even healthier.”
This includes speculation and non specific (deceptive) language like “many”… What joke.
Or look at the absolute dribble here,
“Personally, we’re not enthused about increasing the world’s population, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for the men we’ve heard from who cannot consummate their marriages, let alone impregnate their wives, as a consequence of their heavy porn use.(Come to think of it, that suggests a strategy for population control. Simply give every guy on the planet an iPhone, and every woman a vibrator.)”
Of course she is being sarcastic but what she is doing is creating the social context and giving her own prerogatives.
What really gets me is that after she treats this site like her personal (interpreting, speculating, and solving larger problems she came up with) blog then goes on a stupid tyraid over how badddd masturbation is.
You may find this post, which appeared today under another item, of interest:
After reading some of the past comments, I felt inclined to post. Many men
seem to have a strong reaction to anyone suggesting that masturbation could
be an unhealthy habit and will label someone as being a staunch Catholic
(which I found ridiculous since there isn’t anything in this article to give
I started masturbating around the age of 11, I am currently 19. Though I
don’t remember how frequent I was masturbating from age 11 till now, I would
have to guess that I started masturbating at a more consistent rate when I
became 16. From then on were THE worst years of my life.
I’m not sure which came first, the masturbation or the social anxiety and
depression. Let me note that I was always a very outgoing kid before 11th
grade, always one of the popular kids in the class, but during 11th grade I
developed severe social anxiety. I avoided everything and everyone. I had NO
reason to act this way and even after I graduated high school I still felt
the same way. Little did I know that the “natural stress reliever” that I had
been relying on for so long was the culprit.
I thought that there must be something physically wrong with me, because it
sure felt that way. I was tired throughout the whole day, always bitter and
afraid to be social with just about anyone. This past year it had gotten so
bad that I didn’t even want to go to any family get-togethers and I also
couldn’t bring myself to go to my sister’s college graduation. I would just
wake up, go on the computer and feel like the most pathetic person on Earth,
every single day. I was masturbating once a day on average, and sometimes
more depending on how bad I felt about myself. I have to note that I am
Atheist, and have never felt shame about looking at pornographic material and
masturbating, I have absolutely nothing against it.
After realizing I had hit rock-bottom I examined what I was doing that could
make me feel like this, and had an epiphany. I wasn’t doing anything, but
eating food, going on the computer and masturbating. So it probably was one
of those things right? Well it was honestly as simple as that. After coming
to the conclusion that masturbation could be the problem I did a search and
found this article. It was pretty much a word for word of my situation and
about a week and a half after abstaining from masturbation I already started
to see some huge changes!
Instead of feeling like I am in a constant fog I now feel clear minded, more
social, confident, happy, calm, and surprisingly more manly. I am positive
that this article will help others just like me so don’t be put off by some
of the ignorant comments posted on here. I can tell from reading some of your
comments and this blog post that you are a strong person and your intentions
are to help people. I truly thank you, because I am certain that this is
exactly what was holding me back from living my life.
‘Together they blog on “Psychology Today” and “The Good Men Project.”’
The good men project… No surprise there.
“In the under-thirty crowd, masturbation and Internet porn use are synonymous, so if 4 ejaculations per day are really healthy…well then, that many Internet-porn sessions are too. Indeed, even after their hormonal rush of puberty and sexual peak have passed, guys can use today’s superstimulating masturbation aids (Internet porn, cam-2-cam, sex toys) to remain veritable geysers of semen…”
Wtf… So where’s your evidence for that wild generalization.
You still show no sense of appropriateness and feel free to make things up misrepresent your post as science, when in fact its your conjectures, just to serve your clear agenda.
That’s,fine if you have a story to tell but keep it at that. Don’t project your problems on everyone else and assume IF porn was a problem for you it must be a problem for everyone… In essence you are just moralizing your experience onto everyones behavior. You are not everyone else, you do not have the same goals as everyone else, and you do not have the answers.
Keep these kinds of at your blog… And even there please stop cling porn evil for everyone.
Nothing at all speculative in the statement, “Many guys believe that if once is healthy, 2, 3 or 4 times must be even healthier.” That’s simple logic. “Many” guys began posting on our forum (which had nothing to do with porn addiction) five years ago. Nearly every guy thought any and all amounts of masturbation were healthy; therefore any amount porn was healthy–because they all masturbated to Internet porn.
We are ahead of the existing meme on the subject of Internet porn’s effects, but our information is well supported by current addiction research (that’s science, by the way). In any case, doctors have been known to publish a single case study of interest in a journal. We have thousands.
I don’t know how old you are tom, but if you educated yourself, you would find that most men under 30 consider masturbation & porn to be synonymous. This is a key concept for you to hold in your brain.
Since we created a separate website to support men dealing with porn-induced ED, and related problems, numbers grew. Our sites get about 20,000 hits a day. Hundreds of forums, from about 25 different countries, have linked to us. New ones pop up every day. By the way, only about 10 of those links are from porn recovery sites.
As a result, we have read thousands of additional accounts of porn-induced ED , loss of libido, and a variety of symptoms. And yes we continue to read the same mantra over and over again: Guys can’t believe that more masturbation/porn could cause any problems. More masturbation probably *wouldn’t* cause problems, but Internet porn can, and that’s the issue guys are facing today.
We are not anti-porn, we are pro-penis and male virility. It’s physiology, not morality.
As far as men unable to consummate marriages or get their their wives pregnant, we do hear from very scared men whose main concern is just that, and there are many posting with such concerns elsewhere. It’s just reality, tom.
Why are you so concerned with the thought of men not watching porn and temporarily reducing masturbation in order to restore their erectile health? Seems very odd to me. Below is a comment to illustrate the point.
“I have looked at internet porn since I was 14. I’m now 26 with erection issues during sex. In the back of my mind I always felt like too much masturbation and porn was causing these problems, I even asked the doctors at medhelp.com. They all laughed at me and insisted masturbation is healthy and that you can’t masturbate too much.”
“Nothing at all speculative in the statement, “Many guys believe that if once is healthy, 2, 3 or 4 times must be even healthier.” That’s simple logic. “Many” guys began posting on our forum (which had nothing to do with porn addiction) five years ago. Nearly every guy thought any and all amounts of masturbation were healthy; therefore any amount porn was healthy–because they all masturbated to Internet porn.”
You don’t even understand logic yourself. Please review this.
And your side stepping my who point. This place is to report science, not use science in YOUR arguments and prerogatives.
Seeing how the both of you lack an understanding of logic, awareness of where the science ends and your interpretation begins, recognizing your own INDIVIDUAL value judgments, and a lack of appropriateness I fear for the advice you give at “the good men project” (As if that name isn’t already insulting).
Everything we say is backed up by the latest neuroscience. Your one tactic is to pull out the morality card and play it, knowing nothing about us, and knowing nothing about the men who are recovering their erectile health. Argue the neuroscience of addiction, and explain how Internet porn cannot cause addiction. Please enlighten us with your hypotheses on chronic erectile dysfunction in young, healthy men. Keep the word ‘variable’ in mind.
Thousands of young men, mostly in their twenties, develop chronic ED for no apparent reason, after years of contented masturbation. It’s not anxiety, as ED symptoms are present when they masturbate. These visitors, most of them in their 20s, but many also in their 30s and 40s, come from all over the world. They differ in education, religiosity, attitudes, values, diets, marijuana use, personalities, etc. But they have two things in common: heavy use of today’s Internet porn and increasing tolerance.
As the men recover, they experience similar symptoms at similar time intervals. First intense cravings, then complete loss of libido for several weeks, then slow return of spontaneous erections, and finally complete erectile health. The process usually takes 4-12 weeks depending on relapses. They experience restored erectile health, mood improvement, increased libido, seeing real women as attractive.
One variable in common – and when that variable was removed all had the same response. Apply your logic to this one. What is truly frightening is the misinformation men suffering from porn-induced ED are receiving from so-called experts. Desperate young men, told nothing can be done, or it is all in their heads. All are desperate and some suicidal believing they will never be normal again.
Here’s one expert that understands a few things. Dr. Nora Volkow, Head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and one of the top addiction researchers in the world – in recognition of the change in the understanding of natural addiction, is advocating changing the name of the NIDA to the “National Institute on Diseases of Addiction”, as quoted in the journal ‘Science’:
“NIDA Director Nora Volkow also felt that her institute’s name should encompass addictions such as pornography, gambling, and food, says NIDA adviser Glen Hanson.”
I think I’ll take Nora Volkow’s opinion on Internet porn over some random poster with a bone to pick.
One has to ask how this mystic-trystic Tantra stuff got its own Scienceblogs channel.
To tom: While you are forming your hypothesis on all those healthy young men mysteriously developing chronic ED, spend a few moments readin a recent post from an academic.
Thanks for the explanation. I’m sure that someday reason and the desire for knowledge will prevail over professional egos. As a guy who’s had an academic career, I know how tough that challenge can be, but sooner or later reason and knowledge win.
In the meantime, it looks like furthering scientific studies of internet porn is as difficult as overcoming an addiction to it. Or even admitting to yourself that you have a problem. It took me quite awhile to convince myself that I have a problem, not only because I didn’t want to believe it, but because conventional wisdom is that masturbation is OK, porn is OK, and we can’t have too much of either. I ran head-on into the wall of ignorance you describe.
Fortunately I found this website, which has given me the tools–the knowledge–to see my addiction for what it is and to start down the bumpy road to recovery. I’ve had a couple of relapses, but I’m persisting. Thanks so much for this website and the knowledge you make available to people. Keep fighting the good fight!
I feel like letting my freak flag fly if you know what i mean 😉
Porn never says no, later, not tonight, I have a headache, I had a bad day at the office, I am too tired, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe next month, etc… etc… and doesn’t withhold sex until it gets what it wants. With porn there is no risk of STDs or knocking it up and being on the hook for child support for the next 18 years. You also don’t have to remember to take it out and buy it an expensive dinner, and send it flowers on its anniversary. All you have to do is remember to pay the Fios bill.
Basically getting off with porn is just much easier and less stressful than dealing with a real live woman, which is why more and more men would rather just log onto the Internet where hot, beautiful, sexy women are available 24/7 to help them take care of business.
Yes, using a distraction is always easier than dealing with life. Nothing wrong with that, except that chronic overstimulation can cause risk of addiction and sexual performance problems. (And in adolescents it can wire sexuality profoundly, making real sex more challenging later. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvyejdlmKpE&feature=youtu.be.) So it’s complex…just like all of life.
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