Ancient teachings across numerous cultures positing that a man's life force depletes with ejaculation have gained in secular popularity today and has consequently driven a subculture of nonmasturbation. Some people attribute their increased energy or increased success to a lack of ejaculation, but claims appeal to the concept that sex needs to be managed rather than enjoyed.
Find out the truth behind some of the inaccuracies that surround masturbation and ejaculation.
Avoiding ejaculation boosts testosterone
"Increases in testosterone can sometimes lead to more energy, better sleep and an increase in libido," Gonzalez said. "These effects, however, can take weeks, so it's unclear if men would truly be aware of these changes after a short period of abstinence."
If you're concerned about testosterone levels, testing is typically conducted via a simple blood test, and at-home test kits are even available.
Semen quality worsens with frequent ejaculation
Proponents of full semen retention claim the practice benefits the man and his sperm. Asserting the idea of quality over quantity, it's argued that if ejaculation is generally avoided, the semen eventually released should possess more "vitality" than semen from habitual ejaculations.
"There is no such thing as too much sperm production," Gonzalez said. "The boost in sperm production reported from abstinence may have more to do with an increase in total ejaculatory volume and sperm concentration than from actual increased sperm production."
While the ejaculate may appear thicker to the naked eye, Gonzalez said relying on abstinence to artificially enrich semen may only serve to mask more serious health concerns.
"Testosterone can get too high, usually from using too much prescribed testosterone or steroids, but not from masturbation abstinence," he said. "Men with elevated testosterone levels may be at increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, elevated cholesterol, polycythemia and blood clots. Low semen count can be caused by underlying health conditions, like infection, inflammation, malignancy, hormone imbalance and chromosomal defects."
Ejaculation is a loss of life force
The vaguest of promises offered by semen retention proponents is that refraining from ejaculation boosts a man's "life force," somehow making them more effective at their occupation or interests. Don't masturbate and success follows. Gonzalez boiled this claim down to time management, not a loss of life force through self-stimulation.
"As a sexual health expert, I am not aware of any correlation between abstinence from masturbation and success," he said. "Certainly, if someone is a compulsive masturbator and is dedicating multiple hours in a day to pleasuring themselves, then that's time away from work."
If stress is an issue, both masturbation and partnered sex are stress relievers. Managing stress is important for helping someone reach their full professional potential without burnout, he said.
You can ejaculate too often
Abstaining from self-pleasure could be empowering for someone overcoming an addiction to masturbation. However, a large U.S.-based study that followed more than 31,000 men for 18 years suggested men who achieve 21 or more orgasms per month are less likely to develop prostate cancer, especially when measured against men who ejaculated seven or fewer times per month. That's enough to keep anyone busy, alone or with a partner.
Sperm can be saved up
Sperm is stored in the body, but only for so long.
"New sperm are made every day," said Betsy Greenleaf, D.O., who practices in Howell, New Jersey. "Those that are not ejaculated will die and be reabsorbed. The body will turn over its entire sperm supply every 64 days."
She further pointed out that while abstaining from masturbation and orgasm doesn't confer many benefits or necessarily increase the likelihood of health concerns, enjoying orgasm—alone or with a partner—definitely benefits the body.
None of this is to say anyone should feel compelled to masturbate or not masturbate by any factors other than their own desire. Just remember that any noticeable variations in your quality of life due to physical symptoms should be addressed by a doctor, not by abstaining from or engaging in masturbation.