Ejaculation and orgasm are not the same thing.
To many men this may sound incomprehensible, but I’ve been amazed to discover that not only is it true, it’s also easier than I expected to separate them from each other.
For solid evidence that coming does not entail spurting, a little human anatomy comes to our aid: whereas ejaculation is a function of the sympathetic nervous system (which also manages the instinctive ‘fight-or-flight’ response), sexual arousal is a function of the parasympathetic system (the automatic stuff that happens when the body is at rest). A sexual act that includes ejaculation, therefore, is a combination of bodily responses activated by different physiological pathways. More than one thing is happening here, which means there’s scope for turning one of them off, or changing the relationship between them.
Daoism and Tantra are two esoteric traditions that offer views on why it’s a good idea to not spurt when you come. Both seem broadly in agreement that there are health benefits, and opportunities for enhancing sexual pleasure. Semen and sperm contain all sorts of beneficial substances, which are lost upon ejaculation and must then be produced by the body all over again. If, instead, the ejaculate is conserved, it is simply broken down and its virtues recycled. Ridding the body of semen is not the urgent prerequisite for health and sanity that it may seem.
Ejaculation consumes so much energy and blood-flow that it’s basically ‘game over’ for male sexual arousal once it has occurred. A man must take a period of recovery (which may be quite a while, unless you’re a pro porno actor or a Viagra fiend) before erection and inclination returns. Refraining from ejaculation, however, opens the door to the male multiple orgasm. Yes, there really is such a thing. Gentlemen, it really is possible to come over and over again, each time as satisfactorily as if you’d had a fulsome spurt. (Those of you out there who have already been practising this stuff – just when were you planning to clue the rest of us in?)
The ability to maintain sexual arousal through multiple orgasms, especially for those of us with female partners, provides more scope to harmonise with our partner. But never mind this personal, ‘relationship’ stuff. Each of us is our own best judge of the applicability of these techniques to our relationships. Overall, the principle of retaining semen means that sexual arousal is not killed off in a climax to the sexual act, yet most of us have been conditioned to regard the expulsion of sexual energy as precisely the aim of sex. This has certain psychological and spiritual side-effects, but the consequences of the opposite strategy – keeping the sexual energy in – seem far more benign. For instance: learning the art of taking pleasure from what is ordinarily experienced as tension has the potential to increase our capacity for love, tolerance and enjoyment, beginning in the sphere of sexual experience and expanding outward.
Some of this may seem familiar, because most men have developed techniques for delaying their ejaculation – such as thinking of their granny, or imagining their partner as Margaret Thatcher. Unless you’re a member of the Conservative Party, the psychological drawbacks of these tactics should be obvious. Yet once you’ve established to your own satisfaction that ejaculation plays only a minor role in the sensations we label ‘orgasm’, there seems little point in merely delaying it, when it could be eliminated altogether.
This is not the place to go into the details of the specific techniques that will enable you to come without spurting. There is plenty of material on the web. There are pitfalls, however, and it’s these I’m keen to share. First off, a lot of this material is devised and presented by women. I’m sure they have the best intentions, but they don’t have the body parts to describe accurately the kinds of sensations to look out for. Secondly, there are lots of scrawny, long-haired weirdy-beardies out there, who may indeed have a penis, but will promise to make you a Sex God only in return for lots of cash. Personally, I wouldn’t bother. Not when you can learn this stuff virtually for free. And it’s probably more helpful to forget the ‘Sex God’ bit. Like all esoteric practices, this stuff actually turns out to be about rediscovering what is already very ordinary and familiar.
Indeed, the main obstacle I found was my expectation that something unusual was supposed to happen. Most of the techniques involve stimulation up to the notorious ‘point of no return’ (PNR), the moment at which ejaculation becomes inevitable and involuntary. The trick is to cease or reduce stimulation before PNR and learn the knack of ‘relaxing down’, riding the familiar but dry orgasmic spasms that will develop in the genital area. (Please note that there’s more to it than I’ve stated here!) The texts describe the eventual results as ‘full-body orgasms’. From this, it’s tempting to conclude that something special is going to happen. But it’s not. It’s just an orgasm – same as usual (mostly) – except without the spurty bit. Yet if we’re conditioned to expect and aim for the spurt, then at first its absence feels a bit weak and incomplete. For a long time, I assumed I hadn’t got close enough to PNR, or I wasn’t correctly applying the technique, because nothing ‘different’ was happening. It really doesn’t need to. By trying to fly too close to PNR (or even trying to somehow get ‘beyond’ it, as I did a few times) all you end up with is a sticky patch and a sudden end to your practice session.
Basically, what we’re doing here is meditation. It’s just meditation, with sexual sensations as the object, rather than the breath or peace and loving-kindness. It’s vipassana with a hard-on. The best tactic is to observe the sensations without seeking to modify them, without looking for something that’s not already apparent. It’s helpful to notice how, when there is no ejaculation, although the continued arousal can feel irksome for a short while, a dry orgasm nevertheless yields an afterglow every bit as lovely and fuzzy as a spurty one.
As in more ordinary forms of meditation, you can’t really (in one sense) do anything ‘wrong’. It’s instructive to misjudge PNR and lapse into an unintended spurt, because this gives us the opportunity to compare the two types of orgasm. I was amazed to find myself disappointed at how the spurt killed my arousal, just as I’d felt disappointed at how arousal continued after a dry orgasm. Whew… It seems dissatisfaction is just everywhere! This also gave me the opportunity to observe how there really is no such thing as an ‘orgasm’ – it’s a dependently-arising amalgamation of sensations. We might assume that ejaculation is the ‘essence’ of male orgasm, but when we look at the experience directly, ejaculation is just a fairly mild, squirty feeling. There’s nothing more special about it than taking a piss. The really pleasurable components of the experience belong to other aspects entirely. When looked at, it’s difficult to localise these in either the body or the mind.
And yet, we must remember: we are but men. Evolution has hardwired us to ejaculate, and the man who seeks to side-step evolution can never quite relax and surrender to sexual pleasure in the way a woman might. But I’m not complaining. Only a few months ago, I’d have thought that multiple orgasms for men was probably a myth. Yet it remains inevitable that what was built to spurt is probably going to, occasionally. I’m interested to see how far this practice can be taken. There’s much debate over whether it’s healthier to ejaculate occasionally, or never. I imagine that if a partner is determined to part us from our semen, then she or he will probably succeed… And, of course, there’s a vast ethical dimension to these techniques, which I’ve not insulted my readers’ intelligence by even mentioning.
The book widely acknowledged as the best and most helpful for learning the techniques mentioned, is: The Multi-Orgasmic Man by Mantak Chia and Douglas Abrams Arava (London: Thorsons, 1996).