Scientists almost never study the potential benefits of less orgasm. However, a German-Danish team happened to investigate what occurred when single male porn users abstained from porn and masturbation for 3 weeks. Some of these singles also didn’t happen to have sex during that time.

The paper is entitled A Period of Abstinence from Masturbation and Pornography Leads to Lower Fatigue and Various Other Benefits: A Quantitative Study. A PDF of it can be downloaded below.

Of course, strongly favours loving partner contact using “contain and exchange”. Nonetheless, some Synergy Explorers will find the results of this particular research intriguing.

The most pronounced effect the scientists reported was reduced mental and physiological fatigue in abstainers. Other positive, though less pronounced, effects included increased activity, inspiration, self-control, and reduced shyness.

What about sex?

The researchers took the unexpected step of comparing the men who abstained from sex (as well as from porn and masturbation) with those who did have sex during that time. Obviously, the latter had some companionship despite their single status. And yet, they apparently benefitted from it less than you might have expected.

Those who didn’t have sex (that is, who apparently didn’t have orgasm at all, save possible nocturnal emissions) reported stronger benefits than the subjects who got lucky during the experimental period. That is, those who did not orgasm at all reported even less mental and physiological fatigue. The researchers suggested that there might be energizing and performance-enhancing potential in periods of sexual abstinence for non-clinical single men. (Non-clinical means the men weren’t seeking treatment for any disorder.)

So, if you’re single and you’ve been unusually sluggish and uninspired, you may want to take a time-out. The scientists pointed out that their findings could be relevant to a range of clinical symptoms including social anxiety, lethargy and fatigue. They added that a limited time-out might also increase personal, athletic and professional performance. Maybe it will give you the energy to go out and meet potential partners.


What might account for the benefits these subjects reported? Said the authors of the study,

We hypothesize that the reduction in shyness and improvement in self-control [following 3 weeks of abstinence] are potentially due to both neurological and psychological factors. The energizing effects may have been generated mainly by improved functionality of reward structures through reduced stimulation.

The scientists clarified that shame appeared to have no bearing on the benefits reported.

A shameful attitude towards one’s masturbation practice can have a negative impact on mental health. However, most of our participants reported little to no shame.

The researchers noted that,

Three weeks may be too short a period to reveal the full benefits of [abstinence].

Critique by another neuroscientist

I just finished reading the entire paper. Quite good! It is very useful to be able to substantiate the benefits of a period of abstinence with a quantitative research paper.

I think it is quite unlikely that pre-existing conditions, such as reward deficiency syndrome, would be applicable to such a large number of participants. Besides, RDS is relatively rare. In my view, albeit the authors are cautious not to say it directly, this is essentially a causality paper. The researchers removed the condition and measured the effects.

The comparison between Ramadan and porn/masturbation/abstinence was instructive. Both are, in a broad sense of the word, fasting practices. In fact, both are to some extent “dopamine fasting” practices. The fact that the consequences of sexual abstinence and food fasting are comparable in psycho-physiological terms, such as enhanced sleep quality and better mood, fascinates me. But given that sexual stimulation is more potent than most foods, as the authors say, the benefits of sexual fasting would likely be even stronger than traditional fasting. Indeed this suggests that there may be wisdom in all these ancient practices calling for fasting to benefit individual mental health.

These data also furnish hope that impairment in reward sensitivity could improve, even in just 3 weeks. I wonder what a longitudinal follow-up of 3 months would reveal. I could see by the d for effect sizes that some were quite pronounced.

So, if 3 weeks was enough to produce large statistical effect sizes, the approach of 3 months or 90 days might yield quite interesting results. More stamina is achieved through improved striatal function, but the striatum is very much interconnected with the prefrontal cortices.

It’s no wonder that as the paper shows participants experienced improved concentration or less mental fatigue. Fasting affects both the body and the psyche, regardless of the type of but sexual is even more potent. Perhaps this phenomenon accounts for the traditional claims that abstinence increases personal success.

The point is that the concept of dopamine fasting works irrespective of the dopamine source you consider. Logically, however, the bigger the dopamine blast the bigger the benefits of an associated fast. In short, modern science is rediscovering what every ancient culture would tell you. But because such cultures used religious terminology their wisdom has been neglected or despised. Now we see the error.

The future

Will researchers one day investigate the possible benefits of Synergy (controlled lovemaking with or without intercourse)? Studies like this one raise the possibility that humanity could learn interesting things from such unfamiliar explorations by unbiased researchers.

Download PDF of paper