Should you try a sex fast? Experts weigh in on the pros and cons
Celebrity-endorsed fasts are nothing new, but instead of subsiding solely on a concoction of maple syrup and cayenne pepper water in lieu of food, some stars are waxing poetic about the benefits of foregoing sex. Aaron Rodgers as well as engaged couple Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker have all spoken about taking a break from fornication and orgasms for a period of time, as an element of a more all-encompassing Ayurvedic medicine fast. While the intention of the Ayurvedic cleanse is to "encourage certain lifestyle interventions and natural therapies to regain a balance between the body, mind, spirit and the environment" (alcohol, caffeine and sugar are also off the list) the idea of skipping sex itself is a bit controversial. In fact, some experts say there’s a good reason not to get on board.
Physically, there is limited reason to skip sex, says Dr. Amy Roskin, OB-GYN and Chief Medical Officer of Favor.
“If you’re a healthy adult without known medical concerns associated with sex, there are no known medical benefits from abstaining from intercourse,” she tells Yahoo Life. “While some may abstain from sex due to a medical issue, like certain types of surgery, or immediately after childbirth for example, there are otherwise no scientifically proven benefits to a sex cleanse.”
She notes that while there has been some research to suggest that a period of abstinence could increase semen volume and sperm count in men — which could technically assist with fertility if having a child is one’s goal — there have yet to be any formal recommendations from the research.
When it comes to one’s relationship with their sexual partner, a sex fast poses a risk.
Laurie Mintz, a psychologist who is the President-Elect of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research as well as the author of Becoming Cliterate and A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex, points out that whether or not you should try a sex fast with an intimate partner is all about intention — but so far, there’s no research to say that it’s going to help your relationship or physical health.
“If you want to do it just to try something fun, or to increase the frustration so that you’re really horny the next time you have sex, go for it,” she tells Yahoo Life. “But, remember to really communicate about it — what’s on the table, and what’s off. Can you hold hands, make out? Foregoing all touch can be harmful and disconnecting.”
She notes that there are plenty “physical, emotional, and relational benefits of sex” that you can miss out on.
“You are foregoing those feel-good chemicals that good sex releases,” she notes. “If you’re doing it because you’re having a difficult or troubling relationship with sex, and you break the fast by cheating or whatever, it could really make you feel worse about yourself.”
In lieu of a true sex fast, Mintz adds that sex therapists may recommend a therapy for sexually dysfunctional couples in which intercourse or genital touching is initially off the table, and the level of intimacy builds over time.
“If you take genital touch and intercourse off the table, that can be pretty hot, because you can really learn to remember what it was like when you were first dating when things were hot,” she explains. “A lot of long-term couples get in this rut where they don’t even touch each other erotically. But, you really need to talk about it — how long are we doing this, when are we breaking it? There is just no research that I’m aware that says [a true sex fast] could be helpful.”
That being said, the anecdotal evidence from Kardashian is hard to ignore. The reality star told Bustle, “It actually made everything better … Like, if you can't have caffeine, when you have your first matcha, it's so good.”
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