What is semen retention and what are the benefits?

Yael Cooperman, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Ethan Miller 

Yael Cooperman, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Ethan Miller 

last updated: Nov 17, 2023

3 min read

Semen retention is the practice of intentionally not ejaculating. However, it’s not the same as abstinence. Many people who practice semen retention are still able to have “dry orgasms” (orgasms with no ejaculation). 

The idea is rooted in Taoist sexual control practices and has gained popularity on forums like Reddit. While some people swear by it, there’s currently no scientific evidence to suggest that semen retention offers any meaningful health benefits. Continue reading to learn more about the purported benefits of semen retention, potential risks, and more.

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Why do people try semen retention? 

The ancient Chinese philosophy known as Taoism taught that sexual self-control was a way of maintaining and increasing one’s life force, and that ejaculation actually depletes it. Many of the techniques people use to achieve semen retention, such as edging and retrograde ejaculation, come directly from Taoist teachings. Browse through the popular subReddit r/Semenretention and you’ll find all kinds of reasons people may want to give semen retention a try. Some claim that semen retention leads to a better memory, a bigger penis, and even super strength. These Reddit posters say that the energy normally lost from sexual activity––specifically ejaculation––can be channeled into other aspects of life. 

Many religions and philosophies encourage different forms of self-control–followers of Judaism and Islam may practice fasts throughout the year, Hinduism encourages awareness and control over the senses, and some denominations of Christianity forbid sex before marriage. All of these practices aim to help direct energy away from immediate gratification and towards spiritual, mental, and physical growth.

Benefits of semen retention

There is no scientific evidence to suggest any actual benefits of semen retention. In fact, some studies suggest that ejaculating could have positive effects, like decreasing the risk of prostate cancer

However, those who practice semen retention claim tangible benefits to their mental, spiritual, and physical health. Some of those benefits include:

  • Reduced anxiety

  • Increased energy

  • Better self-esteem 

  • Improved cognitive function

  • Increased muscle growth

  • Stronger sperm

  • Thicker hair 

  • Glowing skin

  • Healthier relationships

  • Greater happiness

Even as the practice has strayed from its Taoist roots, the community surrounding semen retention more closely resembles a religious community than a group of sexual science devotees. While there is no evidence to back up any of the purported benefits of semen retention, one study of men who adhered to a 3 week period of abstinence found an increase in testosterone levels and semen volume, leading to more pleasurable orgasms.

Is semen retention the same thing as abstinence?

The short answer is, no. While some people who practice semen retention also practice abstinence, abstinence is not a requirement of semen retention (like how every square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square). Semen retention is practiced in many different ways and for a variety of reasons. Some people may choose to be completely abstinent and refrain from sexual activity altogether. 

Others choose to masturbate and have sex while still practicing semen retention. Those who engage in sexual activity while trying to retain semen mostly use two methods: edging and retrograde ejaculation. 

What is the NoFap movement?

Many people associate the “NoFap” movement (“fap” is slang for masturbation) with semen retention, but the two are mostly unrelated. NoFap is an organization dedicated to providing resources to those in recovery from porn addiction and compulsive sexual behavior, not a philosophy.

Risks of semen retention

There is no evidence to suggest that semen retention poses any serious threat to your health. So, if the practice works for you, feel free to continue. However, there are numerous purported benefits to ejaculation, including:

  • Improved cognitive function (memory, focus, etc.)

  • Better sleep

  • Stress relief

Techniques to practice semen retention

Semen retention can be achieved through abstinence, edging, and retrograde ejaculation. Edging involves reaching a point right before orgasm and then stopping stimulation. Edging is also practiced as a way to treat premature ejaculation and to encourage sexual control. 

  • Retrograde ejaculation occurs when you have an orgasm, but instead of semen releasing through the penis, it’s diverted back up into the bladder. Retrograde ejaculation, also referred to as a dry orgasm, is a medical condition caused by certain medications. Those who wish to retain semen can employ techniques to make it happen intentionally. When it feels like you’re about to have an orgasm, press on the perineum, the area between the scrotum and anus, in order to prevent semen from exiting. This will divert semen into the bladder.

These techniques may take practice before you can get them right. It may help to experiment while masturbating before trying semen retention methods with a partner. Make sure to discuss your goal with your sexual partners to ensure they understand and are comfortable with semen retention. 

While some people experience positive results from semen retention, there is no evidence to support the purported benefits. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and a healthy sex life are more likely to provide physical and emotional benefits. If you have concerns about your sexual function, make an appointment with your healthcare provider.


If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

November 17, 2023

Written by

Ethan Miller

Fact checked by

Yael Cooperman, MD

About the medical reviewer

Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.