In a previous post, I discussed how Steve Jobs, Muhammad Ali, Nikola Tesla, and other celebrities were known for practicing a lifestyle of retention. The benefits of retention as reported by its online proponents are vast. They include clarity of mind, increased female attraction, higher testosterone levels, decreased anxiety, better energy, greater resilience, a stronger immune system, more charisma, sharper creativity, and a more developed masculinity. I have come across very few scientific studies that have direct implications for the conversation. Retention seems to be one of those things you have to experiment with yourself and arrive at your own conclusions regarding its effectiveness. With that said there is one avenue of research that I did come across that may be an exception to the rule of there being little scientific research on the topic. It has to do with male fertility.
Many experiments have been conducted with the goal of optimizing male fertility. Anywhere from a day to a few days of abstinence is preferred by many fertility clinics. This study from 2017 analyzed 2,458 semen samples. The study categorized the samples into three groups based on length of abstinence: less than 2 days, 2-5 days, and greater than 5 days. The study found that “the duration of abstinence had a statistically significant positive influence on sperm concentration and volume, the number of leukocytes and a statistically significant negative influence on sperm motility and vitality.” In other words, the body continued to produce sperm but overall sperm quality decreased over time.
This review confirmed the results of other studies on sperm quality, like this study conducted in 1994. The researchers, who analyzed semen after various abstinence periods ranging from 2 to 18 days, found that “Semen volume and concentration and total sperm count showed significant increases, whereas motility and normal morphology decreased significantly with duration of abstinence. Significant changes in the percentage of normal sperm forms were observed after more than seven days’ abstinence.” These findings mirror those of the previous study.
Another study in 2005 analyzed 9,489 semen samples according to periods of abstinence lasting up to two weeks. The researchers similarly discovered that sperm quality decreased over time. They concluded with a recommendation for men seeking to maximize their fertility: “Our data challenge the role of abstinence in male infertility treatments and suggest that to present the best possible semen samples, patients with male factor infertility should collect the semen after just 1 day of abstinence.”
The scientific data makes it abundantly clear that sperm quality and fertility tend to decrease as the period of abstinence increases. Could it be that the mind redirects the powerful energy purposed for procreation in other constructive ways? This would make sense from an evolutionary perspective. When a man frequently climaxes, he is signaling to his brain that he is balling from a reproductive standpoint. The brain responds by channeling energy and resources into his fertility. After long periods of abstinence, the brain may judge that the man is a reproductive failure and redirect that energy in ways that increases his future likelihood of achieving reproductive success. This progression may explain some of the powerful benefits experienced by retainers that I outlined in the opening paragraph.
Other scientific studies have confirmed that there is a trade-off involved between male reproductive health and secondary sex characteristics. This study discovered an inverse relationship between voice pitch and concentrations of sperm. Men with deeper voices tended to have lower concentrations of sperm in their ejaculate. The authors concluded that the data was more “consistent with a trade-off between sperm production and male investment in competing for and attracting females, than with the phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis.” The phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis contradicted by the data proposed that there was a positive relationship between male secondary sexual characters and semen quality.
All human beings have a limited amount of energy which the brain must allocate judiciously to maximize the organism’s chances of survival and procreation. One of the ways it does this is by taking cues from our behavior. There is evidence that climaxing negatively affects sperm quality. I have speculated that this decline in sperm quality may be a piece of the puzzle of why retainers experience such powerful energetic benefits. While the jury is still out until more scientific data is in, there is plenty of food for thought to digest in the meantime.