Does Ejaculation Make You Weak?
Humans like to tell stories about the things that fascinate us, and if there's one area of study we seemingly never tire of, it's ourselves—particularly our sexuality.
From the first legends we hear as kids on the playground to the myths many adults casually accept, we have a long tradition of tall tales and misunderstandings about how sex works.
One long-standing theory that seems to never fully vanish is that ejaculation makes a man weak, at least temporarily. We'll break down where that myth may come from, what ejaculation actually does to your body and how it may not be a myth after all—at least for a specific set of guys.
Where does the idea that ejaculation makes you weak come from?
The notion that ejaculating makes a man weak is a particularly sticky myth. Anecdotally, most people know that after an orgasm—and this applies to all genders—your body relaxes, tension recedes and you might even feel a bit sleepy.
Belief in a link between ejaculation and actually becoming physically weaker is ancient—pre-dating Taoism in China, according to some sources. Ancient Greeks admired warriors from Sparta, and Romans praised Germanic fighters, both of whom claimed to refrain from ejaculation before battle, believing that the practice of abstaining enhanced their strength.
In more modern times, 20th-century coaches often instructed the athletes under their tutelage to refrain from ejaculating the night before a big game to help them stay strong.
These ideas have morphed into intricately developed—if poorly sourced—semen retention and "no-fap" philosophies. Millions of young men flock to TikTok, YouTube and Reddit to absorb a confusing mishmash of misinformation from non-degreed influencers who hold similar beliefs.
"Semen retention is the idea that withholding ejaculation improves your overall health and wellness," said Justin Dubin, M.D., a urologist and men's health specialist with Memorial Healthcare System in Miami. "I think the idea has really evolved on social media that it improves your testosterone, your hair, your fertility, your skin. No-fap is a pure anti-masturbation movement that claims it can improve your focus and your energy, stuff like that. These are entire communities of people who believe in things that are just not true."
Why do I feel tired after ejaculating?
There's a good reason for the old trope about the man who rolls over and goes to sleep right after sex: hormones.
When a man has an orgasm, his body releases a stew of brain chemicals, including norepinephrine, vasopressin, serotonin, nitric oxide—a crucial component to getting a good erection—and the hormone prolactin. Prolactin is thought to be associated with the sense of sexual satisfaction after we climax, as well as dictating the refractory period.
Prolactin is also thought to be linked to sleepiness, and levels have been shown to be higher when we're sleeping.
Oxytocin is another one of the more important hormones in the context of ejaculation. In popular media, it's commonly referred to as "the love hormone" since it's been shown to play a role in childbirth, lactation and mother-child bonding. Oxytocin is linked to sexual arousal, trust between people, hugging and romantic connections, too.
Released by the pituitary gland at the time of orgasm, oxytocin plays a crucial role in ejaculation, prompting the vas deferens to contract and push seminal fluid and sperm forward and out of the penis. In the wake of this massive flood of powerful hormones, it kind of makes sense that we'd get sleepy.
Weakness, though? That's another matter.
"I don't think there's any data to suggest more frequent masturbation or ejaculation is any more likely to make you weaker or correlate with strength or poor hormone levels or the like," said Katherine Rotker, M.D., a urologist with Yale Medicine who specializes in male infertility and reproductive health. "During ejaculation, yes, oxytocin and other pleasure-center hormones can be released, and sometimes we feel that sense of relaxation. But in terms of correlating that with fatigue or illness or feeling weak? We can't really say that."
There's always an exception to the rule
There is a rare condition called post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS). The handful of men and women who experience this report flu-like or cold-like symptoms after having an orgasm, regardless of whether it was through sex with a partner, masturbation or a wet dream.
Symptoms may appear within seconds or minutes after orgasm, and it's thought to be a type of autoimmune disorder.
"Those patients can feel very fatigued, tired and ill after orgasm," Rotker said. "But that is a rare condition, not common at all. And it's male or female—it's not related to the ejaculation portion, more to the orgasmic portion."
Despite the staying power of these kinds of myths, the data just doesn't back up a correlation between ejaculation and weakness.
Sure, you might be sleepy afterward, and yes, you might roll over to take a happy little nap afterward. That, however, has nothing to do with getting weaker or your feelings toward your partner; it's just hormones.
Hey, even modern-day Spartan warriors like ourselves deserve a little post-orgasmic joy in life, even if it is the night before a big battle.