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By Sean Harrigan

That is the question. If Shakespeare were here himself, he most likely would point to his Christian beliefs for the answer to this question, and answer “not to cum” with his raised, sticky right hand. Typical Christian. I would agree with Shakespeare if he answered in such a way. The main defense I would argue involves the biochemical process within one’s brain, occurring from released catecholamines, the most famous of which being dopamine, and the recovery process. For a more proper term folks in the business call this, “postcoital dysphoria,” or “post sex blues,” or “post-coital tristesse,” or the colloquialism “post-nut clarity” that the kids say.  There are also issues with productivity and having a virtual partner vs. a real-life partner which further support the anti-masturbation argument. 

The “happy chemical” in our brain, dopamine, tells us when we are feeling pleasure, but how long does that pleasure last, and what happens afterward? Thank you for asking. Typically, a female orgasm lasts around 20-35 seconds, and likewise, penile ejaculation lasts around 3-10 seconds. Once orgasm is experienced, the lucky guy or gal will release dopamine, spiking their dopamine level, similar to the chemical process after doing heroin, both of which activates the reward pathways of the limbic system and afterward, males usually hit an arduous refractory period—the period between orgasm and the next sexual arousal— which varies depending on your age, health, biological makeup, and a few other factors. The refractory period is noted to last anywhere from 15 minutes to 20 hours for males. More infrequently, some males exhibit no refractory period or a refractory period lasting less than 10 seconds. Females, on the other hand, don’t usually have much of a biological refractory period. Shocker…

According to a 2004 paper by Dailly et al., during this refractory period and afterward, baseline catecholamine levels can drop so much that said lucky guy, or gal, is working with an unusually small amount of dopamine. Although the neurochemistry is more complicated, I personally believe you could think of these catecholamines like your budget where, in a sense, you can even “accrue debt.” Although, like a college student, one can spend however much income or debt you get. If you spend it the day after you get your paycheck, you can’t spend it on anything else for the rest of the week, or until you generate more income. You must live broke for that next week, and depending on what you spent your income on, it may or may not be worth it. With orgasms, it’s a little different. You must ask yourself; would you rather have a good time for 3-10, or 20-35 seconds, maybe even 0 seconds for the ladies, and be a little depressed afterward? Or would you rather be less depressed, and feel relatively normal for a period of time instead of getting a short spike of dopamine? 

To clarify, these “post-coital blues” are not guaranteed to happen all the time. Consider a 2018 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy by Kashdan et al., which shows that around 41 percent of men reported experiencing this effect. The literature on postcoital dysphoria is very limited at the moment, but the conclusions from these studies agree with each other nonetheless.

The other arguments I have are ones of productivity and finding a real-life girlfriend. Chances are, if you masturbate regularly and are male, you are by definition less productive because you spend your time and energy on masturbation more so than things like working out, studying, or finding a partner. Typically, those who stay single are preoccupied with their virtual mistresses, whereas if they have a sex drive and refuse to “shake hands with the milkman” they will spend that drive and energy searching for a real-life partner.

So, the best way to make this decision is to take note of your happiness and productivity levels without an orgasm and compare it to a few days of dating “Hand Solo.” Then ask yourself, “Is a few seconds of fun worth the time period of a “post-sex blues,” with a higher probability of living a single life, and being less productive overall? Or is it better to sacrifice those few seconds of fun? 

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