In the mid-20th century, French and Belgian spouses experimented with a variation of Synergy-style sex, L’Étreinte Réservée (the reserved embrace, which practitioners sometimes referred to as the oriental embrace). You can peruse the full collection of their self-reports in French at the bottom of this page, in a volume entitled L’Étreinte Réservée: Témoignage des Époux by Paul Chanson (1951). intends to make some of these couples’ experiences available in English on this page, as we gradually translate them.

Testimonials (by letter)


February 16, 1949  [p.11]

We have been using the Chanson method for many months, Sir, and I apologise for reporting the results only today.

Thank you for letting us benefit from your advice and experience. After a period of abstinence of almost six months, I think it is not an exaggeration to use the term “second honeymoon,” as regards the benefits of the oriental embrace.

Certainly, at first, inexperience can cause doubts about the result to be obtained and, had it not been for your method, I am sure we would not have persevered.

Our case is complicated. In fact, the doctor advises against it and even prohibits the Ogino method which, according to him, provides no guarantee. He tells us that as far as we are concerned, we absolutely must avoid any new pregnancy for several years. We will therefore content ourselves with the oriental embrace and hope to continue in this way for as long as it takes for my wife’s health to recover completely.

We have been able to share your instructions with young families, who, like us, have to keep the rate of births under control. Thank you once again, yours sincerely etc.

COMMENTS [of the book’s author, Paul Chanson]

A priori, almost all men believe, like this correspondent, that the oriental embrace is, from a practical point of view…undoable. The first failures are inevitable, except in specific cases, and the beginner starts to “doubt the result to be obtained”. The correspondent is clear. Had it not been for the Chanson method, he would not have persevered. We have to be wary therefore of those who give up. Did they follow my principles?

Did they follow them tenaciously, and methodically ? That’s the question. Because the number of those who persevere is not exactly “legion”, and I take the liberty of pointing out this sin to the moralist, as it is very close to “sexual laziness”. We abandon it completely after a half-hearted attempt, we resign ourselves to falls and clumsiness. And under the guise of humility, we prefer to repent than put in the effort, especially since today the fashion is for the spiritual value of necessary and salvific sin.

One more thing. This correspondent had well and truly decided upon using contraceptive devices and I can state that he only gave up that idea thanks to practising the oriental embrace.


22 March 1949 (pp13-17)

I’ve received your letter and I’m not surprised, Sir, to hear of the opposition you’ve encountered. I dare to hope that, if need be, these several lines will encourage you to persevere.

I’m more and more persuaded that it is possible for all average households to practise the oriental embrace. I assure you however, that I wasn’t always so certain. Today I expect that my initial scepticism, as with certain people you encounter, was only the scepticism of those who have never sincerely tried it, or who, in any case, have not had the will to persevere. I’ve been able to affirm for myself the profound truth of all you have claimed as to the benefits of the oriental embrace.

There where continence would have seemed cruel, we have found numerous delights, thanks to the Chanson method, and, without prejudice to the many conjugal satisfactions, permit us, my wife and I, to reveal a great insight to you. Besides the fact that the oriental embrace resembles full intercourse in nearly all its points save its conclusion, I venture to say that it offers, in addition, other advantages that I could hardly have imagined. The union of our bodies in this way has had a noticeable effect on our love. Our physical love now appears to us as a feeling of which we can be proud, because we keep control of our impulses.

From a physical point of view, it is no longer about the performance of an act that was beyond our control and of which we lost control, obsessed by its conclusion.

For my part, I have scarcely noticed any serious physical drawback in practising the oriental embrace. Such drawbacks might exist if the embrace were too brief, but they disappear if the embrace is prolonged.

So? So, I no longer really see why those who have never tried it should, at all costs, want to close a door that will have to be reopened sooner or later. For my part, I will not fail to give the Chanson method the publicity it deserves. I now understand that before trying it, I did not know how to love my wife.

From where does this transformation come, this growth and expansion of love, through the simple awareness and practice of the oriental embrace?  I cannot clearly explain it. But what one can experience is that, while enjoying true physical satisfaction and a true appeasement of the senses, the spirit dominates the flesh and leads it – from beginning to end of this controlled and “reserved” embrace.

From another point of view, more psychological perhaps, the oriental embrace also offers the advantage that its pleasures are pleasures that one senses are “earned.” Needless to say, there’s nothing original in the husband finding his pleasure in the complete and usual act. But the reserved embrace, which is more delicate, more nuanced, and more subtle, offers something more refined than the completed act: it’s particularly so with respect to the conclusion of the oriental embrace. It excludes orgasm; it doesn’t end with several seconds which are almost unconscious – those instants where, gripped by the paroxysm of pleasure, one more often thinks of oneself rather than one’s partner.

I don’t merely authorise you but urge you to report my letter. I thank you again for all the good you have done for us, Yours faithfully, etc., etc.

Comments [of the book’s author, Paul Chanson]

This correspondent who is only 25-years old, is a young husband. The doctor insisted that they delay having a second infant. The witness is part of the military elite and highly spiritual. But being passionately in love with his wife, and married as a virgin, he protested to me by the way, that no one had the right to separate those whom God had joined; and that since he was obliged to space out the births, he had the right to take precautions. As with an earlier correspondent, it was the oriental embrace which turned him from onanism [coitus interruptus?].

From the physical point of view, we note that it is in prolonging the union that the correspondent felt satisfied. For this reason, we sometimes recommend that lovers space out or shorten [lengthen?] their relations.

It is certainly not typical, quite the contrary, that a husband can master the seminal reflex and avoid capitulation sometimes or simple clumsiness at other times.

Doctor are not unaware of the fact that “continence lowers the threshold for sexual-stimulation”. On this subject, let’s consult an eminent specialist, Doctor Palazzoli of Broca Hospital:

Among sexual disorders [ he writes] there is one seldom more common than premature ejaculation. The normal sexual rhythm (of the interested party) would urge sexual relations several times a week, but the premature ejaculator refrains from sex more and more for fear of an accident. The more he abstains, the more his sexual frustration increases “ex non usu” [from lack of use]. In view of the sexual power of premature ejaculation, one must counsel sexual relations as frequently as possible. Nothing is more detrimental than abstinence, and it will play a harmful role in his wellbeing.

Such are the disappointments faced by the husband who turns down sexual union and restrains himself from sexual touch. The seminal reflex becomes less and less controllable and more and more rapid. It is quite different for those who practise the oriental embrace.

The correspondent is very young and very amorous, and it’s normal that his embraces are quite frequent. I had wondered if because of this frequency, he hadn’t left himself open to regrettable “surprises”. “Not at all,” he advised me after of several months of trying it. In fact, on the contrary, controlling the reflex has proven more and more reliable and easier. His profession requires him to crouch down or kneel from time to time, and for long periods, and he has learned that following these forced situations retention is much less easy. In consequence, he abstains for a day or two afterward, he mentioned in passing, which testifies sufficiently to the quality of his soul and the correctness of his intentions.


9 July 1950 [p.110]

Mr. Chanson,

If I overcome my natural shyness to write to you, it is because I consider that I must give you my testimony, first of all to thank you, but also to encourage you in your mission. You have a lot of “guts”, sir, and your action can be useful to many households.

I believe that my husband and I represent the kind of union that you want to help regarding a problem that arises after a few years of marriage.

It will soon be ….. (between seven and ten years) that we have been married and had several births in quick succession. It was after the birth of our sixth child that the problem arose. Six little ones were already a lot of work, and we would have liked to be able to space out the next ones a bit. But my husband and I love each other passionately. The problem was unsolvable, and I felt a bit depressed, and even a little angry at the impossibility of reconciling our real and legitimate passion with the demands of Catholic morality, while other spouses take it at their leisure.

The seventh child came along quickly. I accepted this with a good heart. It was just before the birth, you’ll remember, that you spoke to us about the reserved embrace, and I am just so grateful to you for now my husband and I are at the same time more loving and have peace of mind. For those who believe that the reserved embrace is impossible for a husband, I would say that it is completely possible on one condition, namely that the husband really loves his wife before himself. As for the wife, the reserved embrace is not disappointing for her, because her husband remains loving for the next few hours, while the usual and completed lovemaking throws him back into a world different from the one the wife continues to dream of. In the oriental embrace, all in all, the union is more perfect, and the husband is proud to stir his wife in a way that matches him.

I am writing all this to you in all simplicity, Mr. Chanson, yours sincerely etc.

COMMENTS [of the book’s author, Paul Chanson]

No initial scepticism in the husband. Hence the promptness of their success, and its brilliance. The wife’s satisfaction is to be remembered, and her point that the reserved embrace requires in the husband a true spirit of charity:  which proves to what extent those who accuse the reserved embrace of necessarily leading the couple to a kind of latent eroticism are wrong.



Please excuse my naivete, but I am not certain I understand what you’ve written to me with respect to the reserved embrace. Does it mean that there is actual intercourse, but no seminal emission? I was assured in the confessional that morality forbids this. Sometimes I was also told that this would be debilitating to my health, which is in my opinion perfectly ridiculous.

For my part, here is how I do it. I prolong the physical union, and, when the orgasm becomes too threatening, I divert my attention and I contract my abdomen. I am not a doctor, but I believe that the abuse of seminal emissions is very harmful to the body, and that it well explains white hairs.

Why should this refusal to orgasm need defending? Isn’t renunciation a Christian word?

I would like to tell you that after this embrace without orgasm, one feels a great sense of well-being throughout the body; the nervous euphoria is very noticeable, and it is perhaps compensation for the sacrifice of the complete act. In any case, I am not aware of the slightest depression.

Yours faithfully, etc., etc.


15 September 1949 [p. 24]


It is after much hesitation that I have decided to write to you, and in fact, I am only writing to you at the request of my wife.

I apologise for asking you for advice on a problem, about which you will certainly not be able to offer me any other solution than the one we know, namely ascetic continence, which consists in the spouses living as brother and sister. But I won’t hide from you that this solution seems inhumane to us.

I’ll briefly describe myself. I’m a young man of… (between 30 and 40 years). I had a Christian upbringing, and spent several years in a religious establishment, the college of ….. My mother is a saint. This is not just my opinion – as that might be biased – it is the opinion of all those who know her. My father was also considered a saint by all his friends. He died, alas, when I was five years old. I only have an education in science, and although I went to the Polytechnic for Engineers, I am not what you’d call a cultured man.

At the moment, I am an officer at ….. where I work principally as an engineer. But soon I will leave the army to become a civilian engineer in the chemical industry.

That said, what concerns me is the problem of birth control, and my case is certainly not unique. It is the situation in any household where the woman is nearly always fertile. This means that the Ogino method completely fails. If I am to believe a number of private conversations, the Ogino method succeeds sometimes, but it also fails in certain cases no matter how much care one takes in its practice.

As for my case, here is my situation. I have several children, the last of which is eight months old. The children are about 15 months apart on average…  Precise dates would be tedious and would not alter my question. In general, things have unfolded in the following way:

After each birth, we abstained from all contact for about six months. Each time we resumed conjugal relations, motherhood was practically immediate. For the last two children, we had decided to apply the Ogino method at least for a while. But the failures were clear. I should add that during my wife’s pregnancy, relations were normal for only three or four months. All in all, after several years of marriage, we only had one year during which we were able to love each other without restraint. At present, for many reasons, I find myself obliged to avoid births for a period of time that I cannot yet calculate, perhaps several years. But given my wife’s fecundity, we have to abstain from all interaction, at least if we want to conform to the Church’s edicts. I know that there remains what is called permitted forms of caressing. But they cannot replace the union of bodies, the beneficial connection. On the contrary, these caresses make one desire union even more, such that it is preferable to abstain from them. I have come to wish that circumstances would separate me from my wife for as long as possible. But look, under such conditions, normal love cannot be maintained, at least not unless one is a saint or a superman, and that is not the general case. Forcing one to consider one’s wife as a sister, or at least as a friend who must not excite one’s senses seems to me a good way to destroy household unity. In my opinion it’s a situation that goes “against nature”. If we can even define what the expression means. Using artificial means to prevent conception is condemned as unnatural. But isn’t it reasonable to conclude that for spouses who are one and the same flesh it is equally unnatural to live without any physical intimacy?

We understand that the Church categorically forbids adultery. It is also understood that it demands that spouses have numerous children, and it would be very good, it seems to me, if the majority of the faithful respected these instructions. But for the rest, could the Church not change its position and depart from its inhumane intransigence?

But I realise that I am wasting your time. For I know your orthodoxy, and I predict that you will answer me in the same way as the priests I have consulted. That is to say that it will be quite normal that you will not take the trouble to respond to me! I can assure you, however, that most confessors seem to be quite embarrassed as soon as one wishes to go more deeply into the question. For those who follow dogma, life is simple. Others believe that the Ogino method has solved everything. If it were always effective, perhaps! But when it fails?…

Yours faithfully, etc.

Comments [of the book’s author, Paul Chanson]

I knew enough about the psychology of the “average” correspondent to know where I stood. I was dealing, once again, with a husband who felt that he had to resort to contraception. So, I quickly invited him to my home, hoping that with God’s help, I would be able to dissuade him by showing him the solution to the problem at hand. I did not keep track of our conversation, but it seems to me that I had at least shaken my questioner. He had never heard of the oriental embrace and, as it happens, his first reaction was ambiguous enough. “Try it,” I replied, “and experience will convince you better than my argument.”

It was not much more than a year before this same correspondent showed signs of life. In August 1950 he wrote a long report, but it was only on October 23 that he sent it to me:

[Second letter] 23 October 1950

Dear Sir,

Many months have passed since you welcomed me so kindly into your office. I wasn’t able to express all my thoughts verbally, because I am not very articulate. However, I must say that in listening to you I was immediately convinced that there was perhaps a solution in the way you were explaining it to me. Shall I tell you why? Since my adolescence, I have been convinced of the considerable efficiency of auto-suggestion. If I am alone (without any observer) I can manage, for example, to stop the urge to yawn, cough, or even sneeze. And I only rarely fail. This has certainly been of benefit. For I have made my annual hay fever recede and almost disappear. At one point I had rather serious bronchitis for which, after an X-ray, the doctor recommended I go to the hospital. However, I was not bothered by this disease because I did not cough very often. I have been able to stop the onset of flu. I even found that I could change the rhythm of my heart to some extent. You can see that I was particularly prepared for the study of the Chanson method, since it is based on the hypothesis that biological reflexes can be controlled. I feared, however, that the application would be a little more difficult in this case,  given that for the seminal reflex, the need for isolation is obviously missing. But you were right to appeal to my experience. In accordance with your recommendations, I have limited myself, on the one hand, to the deepest possible physical union and, on the other hand, to movements within a small range. Under these conditions, and without any “condom”, I was very quickly able to prolong the union at will and indefinitely. (It only took me a few days).

As far as my wife is concerned, her pleasure has increased considerably, compared to what she used to experience. She has since confessed to me that she now finds our unions much too short! I must say that this new pleasure that my wife feels is almost exclusively emotional. It’s she who tells me this, and moreover, I feel it as well. Her happiness is not just from prolonged union but also from the joy of knowing how much pleasure it gives me. My pleasure is not only emotional, but physical too. I’m telling you this clearly. If we stick with these advantages, it will make a considerable difference in our lives compared to what we had before. I fear however that my wife, who is experiencing practically no sexual pleasure, will grow tired of relations which in the long run she might find monotonous. It is natural in that situation that I should not be selfish and that I should seek to give her physical pleasure. Incidentally, I know that she is capable of it since I have been able to bring it on occasionally.

But in concrete terms, I can only achieve that goal by making movements that would make the control of the seminal reflex more unpredictable. On this subject, I must confess everything to you. I tried a condom. I noticed then that I controlled myself more easily, because the condom deadens the sensitivity of the penis. I know how rigorously you condemn any kind of contraceptive device. But facts are facts, and I think you should know the result of the many observations I made using an actual microscope. When I had pushed the excitement to the point of orgasm – without triggering it – I found the fluid produced much less dense than in a normal emission, but still very much alive. Be that as it may, I am currently nearly always master of my seminal reflex, and errors rarely happen, unless out of love for my wife when I seek to arouse her. In this regard, I would like to ask you to share positions with me, which on the one hand give more pleasure to the wife and on the other hand, make it easier for the husband to control his reflex.

We’ve shared the Chanson method with several households. It is difficult to know, but those who succeed seem to be about as many as those who fail.

In conclusion, I think it is worth summarising my personal views on the matter. The revelation you made in the first place, that it is possible to prolong the union, is without question of considerable interest. Being able to make the conjugal act less brief adds prodigiously to feelings of love.

It would be interesting to know the exact percentage of people who are capable of prolonging the act, even for a short time. It is indeed an example of voluntary control of the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system, in other words, to control certain muscles (such as those of the blood vessels), which normally function independently of the will. It is known that fakirs are able to push this control very far, particularly the heartbeat. I have told you that I am exercising this control in more modest ways. In any case, to come back to the seminal reflex, I can confirm that, except for rare failures, I have mastered complete control of it. …

Comments [of the book’s author, Paul Chanson]

This witness’s initial scepticism was somewhat reduced after his experience of it. But his case remained rather paradoxical. He uses condoms from time to time, and yet he practises the reserved embrace – and carefully enough that he rarely fails. There is no doubt that he would have fallen into standard onanism if he had dismissed the oriental embrace.

His microscope examinations are of great interest to me, as they confirm my predictions. I have said that when husband and wife practise the reserved embrace with a view to spacing or limiting births, they should never push the excitement to the edge of orgasm. And this for two equally important reasons:

  1. It is not honest to risk an accidental orgasm at this point.
  2. Getting to the edge of orgasm can cause the emission of a few spermatozoa which can be enough for fertilisation.

The witness in question found sperm only when he had reached the edge of orgasm. This tends to suggest that the reserved embrace offers nearly absolute security for those who are careful to avoid the edge of orgasm, which requires in particular the virtue of temperance.

Where the respondent is completely mistaken is when he expects the Church to reverse its position. It is a question here of a law of natural morality, and God himself cannot exempt his children from it, under penalty of undermining his own wisdom.

Second error: the “subjective” opinion of the act being “against nature”. The act “against nature” consists in “frustrating the conjugal act of its procreative efficacy.” This cannot be the case with the reserved embrace.

In fact, it is one of two things:

Either the reserved embrace is not pushed to the edge of orgasm, in which case it is obviously devoid of any procreative efficacy and cannot be frustrated.

Or the reserved embrace, pushed to the edge, provokes the emission of a few spermatoza, in which case this emission is perfectly natural, since it is produced within the female genitalia. … I have already said elsewhere, and I repeat here, that to prevent or ward off the temptation of forbidden fruit, one must appeal to love, and not to thoughts that counter conjugal intimacy.

What is ultimately significant is the happiness of the wife in prolonging the physical union. Nothing is less welcome to a wife, dare I say more “offensive”, than relations that are too short and hasty. Unless I am misinterpreting it, I understand that the wife is able to become aroused. But, even if she does, I don’t see that she has any difficulty avoiding a full orgasmic response.

Last remark. According to the witness, use of a condom facilitates mastery of the seminal reflex by dampening the sensitivity of the male organ. But, in all candour this time, one obtains the same result by using a lubricant…. Moreover, the standard method that I set out in L’Accord Charnel relieves excessive sensitivity using reflexology points.[i]


[i] On December 30, 1950, this correspondent confirmed to me that new analyses (of himself and his father) had proved to him that if one avoids the edge of orgasm, there is no emission of spermatoza, and thus no risk of fertilisation.


October 10, 1949 [pp 47-51] Dear Sir, 

The reason I have not answered your letter sooner is because, I will confess, that it is very difficult for me to convey the nature of our marital intimacy. It would undoubtedly have been easier in person… Also, if this is not very clear or well said, do excuse me.

My wife and I have practised the oriental embrace for a year already, and indeed without even knowing that was what it was called! My wife was exhausted. Thus, we had to find a way to express our love but without sinning. We discovered it on our own, and without having heard of the Chanson method. It wasn’t without its difficulties, at least in the early days. For our embrace could not last very long, say ten minutes at the most. It was only later that a friend told us about the Chanson method in detail. What amazed me was that it can take time, sometimes a long time, to prepare one’s wife. I finally realised that by practising the oriental embrace seminal emission became less demanding. Now, I can tell you that it is not only easy for me, but very easy, to avoid it.

At first, as I said, the embrace lasted only a short time, because of my excessive passion. I didn’t find it relaxing. Rather, it increased the desire that we maintained, frustrated, and left unsatisfied. Now it is better, but my wife tires faster than I do, and after an oriental embrace, I sometimes desire the full act.

You asked me if I think that the oriental embrace causes the husband to be more in love than with the usual embrace. I don’t know if it is so, but what I see is that that the oriental embrace teaches us to love each other better, that it teaches me at least, to love my wife with a love devoid of selfishness. For it is for her above all that I want to defer any new birth. After the oriental embrace, our love is deeper, and, I would say, less sexual.

You also asked me if my wife has difficulty avoiding orgasm, and whether she experiences well-being as a consequence of her bodily, and especially her emotional, satisfaction. You touch here on the big difficulty in our household, and it is the difficulty, I know, in the homes of many of my comrades. My wife has, so to speak, never really experienced sexual orgasm, so much so that, as far as she is concerned, sexual caresses produce a nervous state. She would be happy to stay in my arms, and to receive my kisses and nothing more. Actually, intercourse is often a real torture for her, and to such an extent that it causes moodiness between us. I’m not asking myself how to avoid the woman’s orgasm. What I am wondering is, alas, how to make my companion quiver with pleasure.

For us, if I must tell you everything, this is the big problem. For if my wife were to experience pleasure during our embrace, she would certainly want it more often. Unfortunately, as I was just telling you, this is not only the case in our home but in many others too.

Your guidance helped us, however. For, in spite of several years of marriage, I would not even have realised what you were telling me in your letter, that the preparation of the wife in some cases takes a very long time.

I can confide in you that on one occasion,  after I had read your letter, I spent three quarters of an hour just preparing my wife. I had to talk to her for half an hour without touching her. It‘s true, that day, she experienced more pleasure. I don’t know if everything I write you is useful. All in all, I mustn’t hide from you the fact that I prefer the complete act, which relaxes me more deeply. But the oriental embrace has been a great help to us, and what I can tell you for sure is that since we have been following your method, we have not committed a single act of impurity.

Yours faithfully, etc…

Comments [of the book’s author, Paul Chanson]

All in all, the experience is positive. It is too often believed that the only difficulty for husbands is to avoid the woman’s orgasm. But many women have no trouble at all in avoiding it, for the good reason that they do not succeed in obtaining it. A mere trifle, you might say! But that is not the opinion of my correspondent. He sees this as a “serious problem,” the solution to which would save him from bad moods. He protests that his case is unfortunately not exceptional, and that many of his comrades are in the same predicament. How could one overlook these difficulties? I am convinced that oriental embrace is one of the ways to remedy female frigidity. And what appears to prove me right is that the day when this husband did not hesitate to prolong foreplay, his wife experienced some pleasure. In any case, the embrace no longer felt like a chore. To study these problems in depth, one would have to be able to follow the household closely, and for a long time. Experience has shown me that, with few exceptions, the correspondent soon gets bored. Hence the urgent need to establish, as in England, offices for in-person consultation. Such will be one of the functions of the Orpheus group[1], with the help of God. 

A last word. This correspondent belongs to the working class, and his account flies in the face of the “bourgeois” prejudice, which claims that workers will be unable to practice the oriental embrace. Should any person prefer the full embrace to the reserved embrace, who would be surprised?… On the contrary, it is important that a “physiological” bonus remains attached to the procreative act.


[1] Head office at Éditions du Levain, 1, rue de l’Abbé-Grégoire, Paris (6e).

L’Étreinte Réservée: Témoignage des Époux

The links below go to the scanned pages of the original French text.

  1. Cover and pages 1-23
  2. 24-43
  3. 44-59
  4. 60-77
  5. 78-95
  6. 96-115
  7. 116-131
  8. 132-147
  9. 148-167
  10. 168-187
  11. 188-207
  12. 208-end

Also of possible interest:

The Chanson Affair (1950-1952)

Art D’Aimer et Continence Conjugale by Paul Chanson (1949)

What if my family had known about Chanson’s “Reserved Embrace”?

L’union réservée