Male Chastity - Pleasure and Devotion, the Science Behind It
I have been doing some reading lately about the science of sex and more particularly, the science of orgasm. I have been looking to answer a number of questions I’ve had about my own reaction to chastity, such as:
1. Why am I in such a good mood during my periods of chastity?
2. Why are my orgasms, when I do have them, so intense and long-lasting; utterly unlike any orgasms I have experienced before?
3. Why do I have these intense feelings of devotion to my wife, of wanting to help and serve her during my periods of chastity?
4. Why do I lose those intense feelings of devotion after I have orgasmed and do not feel them return until days, sometimes a week or more, afterwards?
5. Why is my wife so much more enthusiastic when we have sex than she was before this chastity experiment?
6. Why does my wife seem to be in a better mood than she had been before, more willing to experiment a little sexually and generally warmer and more playful during our non-sexual time together?
I have had these questions, and others, swirling around in my mind for some time but didn’t feel the need to think and research them more deeply until a couple of things happened. First, in trying to explain to my wife what that powerful feeling of devotion was, I compared it to that post-orgasmic feeling of closeness we always have as we lie entwined with each other after sex, telling each other how lucky we are to have found each other. She remarked, “yes, but that feeling doesn’t last long, does it?” That made me curious as to why it doesn’t last.
Second, I had been following an excellent blog on male chastity, called aptly the Male Chastity Blog (www.malechastityblog.com), written by Sarah Jameson. It has been an font of wisdom, reason and good advice and followed closely the developments of her relationship with her husband, John, and her thoughts about it. In that blog, she described the increasing period of time between orgasms for her husband, from monthly, to every three or four months, to at least seven months, to serious consideration of stretching that to a year or more; and even discussion and consideration of permanent orgasm denial (gulp!).
Sarah has also recently written a book on male chastity called “Be Careful What You Wish For,” a superb collection of her thoughts, wisdom and advice on whether male chastity is right for you; if it is, how to go about adopting that lifestyle and how to make it work for you as a couple. One thing she discusses in that book is her thinking on extending the period between orgasms for her husband. Her reasoning is logical, in fact mathematical in nature. First, she states that she and her husband’s experience with male chastity so far has established a clear pattern that whenever John orgasmed, he lost that feeling of devotion, that powerful feeling of wanting to help and serve his wife for 7-10 days. Then, she projected that pattern and its results on letting John orgasm every month and found that for every year, they (and especially she) would lose that special devotion generated by male chastity, in aggregate, for three to four months. She considered that loss much too high to permit if she didn’t have to, and she didn’t have to. John seemed perfectly content with the less frequent orgasms as long as there were frequent periods of sexual play, touching and teasing - even if it was ostensibly just for Sarah’s benefit.
That description of John’s lost devotion after orgasm and his general state of happiness while he was chaste closely matched my own experience and made me wonder just what was the best duration of chastity for me. During my own experiment in male chastity, the longest period I had gone without orgasm was 18 days and I recalled feeling as though I was jumping out of my skin I was so excited by the prospect of sexual release. Should I go longer, and if so, how? Can I be trained over time to extend the duration?
I began researching my questions by trying to understand the mood change that occurs after orgasm, particularly after a lengthy period of chastity. From previous experience, I knew moods are often dependent on the presence, concentration or absence of certain neurotransmitters. So I began my internet search with “sex and neurotransmitters,” and “orgasm and neurotransmitters.” What I found is that the relationship of sex and orgasm to our mood is not a mystery; the biochemical mechanisms are well understood. And, I discovered that those mechanisms provide the answers to not only all of the questions I had about mood change and male chastity but many questions I hadn’t even thought of yet. At the end of this article, I will list some web sites that would be of interest in understanding these mechanisms. Each of those sites, in turn, provide links for further research and investigation.
There are a number of different neurotransmitters involved in shaping our moods throughout our life but the three dominant, key ones where sex and orgasm are concerned are dopamine, prolactin and oxytocin. A fourth factor is the concentration of receptors for these neurotransmitters, in particular those for dopamine. Sexual activity and orgasm generate predictable patterns in the levels of each of the three transmitters as well as receptors. Men and women have distinctly different patterns which have evolved over time to deal with the imperatives of species survival - i.e successfully passing on one’s own genes. In particular, gene pool mixing and the care of off-spring so they survive long enough to pass their genes on.
This is not an article about evolution, but suffice to say that the feelings and behaviors those neurotransmitters generate that are related to survival (that is, gene survival) exist in us today because they were the most successful in allowing our ancestors to survive and procreate, and for allowing their progeny to survive and have a chance to also procreate. The neurotransmitters dopamine, prolactin and oxytocin exist and work the way they do because in the world of long ago, when our ancestors evolved, they provided an advantage in procreation and in survival of the resulting progeny.
Okay, so let’s introduce the “stage” and the three main actors in this ongoing play:
First, the stage for all of this is our brain; in particular the part of our brain in the limbic system called the “reward center.” All of our physical senses like taste, smell and touch only provide signals to the brain which the brain receives and processes resulting in the generation of neurotransmitters. Our genitals are just one of many such signal senders.
The three “actors” are:
Dopamine - the neurotransmitter that causes the feeling of pleasure we receive from engaging in certain activities. Sexual arousal, the eating of calorie rich foods, and for some people, certain other behaviors like gambling or shopping. The ingestion of certain drugs like cocaine, amphetamines and heroin also raise the level of dopamine in our reward center. This rising level of dopamine is experienced as pleasure and the higher the level, the more intense the pleasure provided there are sufficient receptors to accommodate the rising level. The intense pleasure of orgasm that we experience results from the sudden flood of dopamine that is released in the reward center of our brain.
Prolactin - the neurotransmitter of satiation; it applies the brakes, so to speak, on the level and duration of dopamine and oxytocin ( it affects oxytocin indirectly by its effect on dopamine). Prolactin levels generally remain stable in the reward center of the brain except during orgasm when they are substantially increased to deal with (i.e counteract or reduce the level of) the sudden flood of dopamine and oxytocin. The elevated levels of prolactin after orgasm persist in the reward center for one week to two weeks.
Oxytocin - often called the “cuddle hormone,” when the level is elevated, produces the pleasurable feeling of bonding or “connectedness,” as well as feelings of closeness, devotion and protection. It is the primary factor in establishing the basis for pair bonding. A burst of oxytocin is produced during orgasm and is responsible for the post orgasmic afterglow feelings of love and connectedness . After orgasm, in men, the level or oxytocin quickly drops - in less than an hour it is well below the level it was at before sexual arousal began. In women, the post orgasmic level of oxytocin decreases more slowly reaching normal levels in several hours and remaining there. In addition to orgasm, the other mechanism for raising the level of oxytocin is touching and caressing, not necessarily in a sexual manner; even the simple act of holding hands will raise oxytocin levels in both men and women. When the level of oxytocin is reduced to at or below normal levels, despite the reduction of the powerful bonding feeling, the memory of that feeling remains. It is that memory that provides the basis for long term relationships to survive the dopamine/prolactin roller coaster.
As discussed in the section on oxytocin, the manner in which dopamine and prolactin rises and falls during and after orgasm is quite different in men than in women. In men, the curve tracing the increase and decrease of dopamine through sexual arousal, orgasm and aftermath is saw-tooth shaped. There is a gradual rise during sexual arousal with the gradient or slope increasing as he approaches orgasm. At orgasm, the slope is nearly vertical as it is the sudden burst of dopamine that is experienced as intense pleasure by men. The feeling of intense pleasure lasts only 5-10 seconds in most men (4-12 muscular contractions about 0.8 seconds apart according to Masters and Johnson). This burst of dopamine triggers a nearly concurrent burst of prolactin causing the level of dopamine to “fall off a cliff” in a nearly vertical descent after orgasm. The result of the dueling neurotransmitters just minutes after orgasm is a dopamine level that is well below the level it was before the sexual arousal leading to orgasm started with a concurrently high level of prolactin that persists above the normal level for up to two weeks.
For women, the picture is quite different. Perhaps because of different survival and procreation imperatives, or because women’s dopamine levels are largely driven by their menstrual cycles (high levels at fertility, highest at ovulation, lowest at the end of the cycle when not fertile - this low dopamine level is often experienced as PMS irritability and also, often, an insatiable appetite for calorie rich foods which is a way of raising dopamine levels back to normal), a women’s dopamine curve is smoother, shaped more like a flattened sine wave which, if looked at in detail, is a series of pyramid like steps with small rises and drops followed by a period of leveling or a plateau. So, during sexual arousal, a woman's dopamine level rises in a series of steps (the plateaus accounting for the generally longer foreplay period required by women before orgasm). At orgasm, the dopamine level peaks but does not drop off drastically, descending instead in a series of steps because, unlike men, her prolactin levels rise only a little above normal and continue at that level only long enough to return her dopamine level to the level which is normal for where she is in her menstrual cycle.
Now that we understand the dopamine/prolactin cycle and the oxytocin cycle, let's look at the moods and feelings that are associated with normal or somewhat elevated levels versus low levels of dopamine; excess versus normal levels of prolactin; and higher versus lower levels of oxytocin.
Normal/Somewhat Elevated: Motivated, Feelings of well-being, pleasure in accomplishing tasks, healthy libido, optimistic about life, good feelings towards others, a desire to bond with others, sound choices.
Low Level: depression, Anhedonia (no pleasure, the world looks colorless), lack of ambition and drive, inability to feel love, low libido, no remorse about personal behavior, social anxiety, impaired judgment.
The symptoms associated with excess levels of prolactin are:
lethargy, loss of libido, depression, irritability, infertility, decreased testosterone levels, weight gain, little interest in bonding with others and pessimistic about life.
Normal/Elevated: strong feelings of attachment, devotion and connection; increased sexual receptivity, positive feelings, health benefits (lowers blood pressure, faster wound healing) fewer cravings and addictions, feelings of protection and responsibility.
Low Levels: little or no feelings of attachment, devotion or connection, little or no feelings of protection and responsibility for another, low libido, depression and weakened immune system.
Now let’s walk an average, middle-aged, married couple through their respective neurotransmitter cycles, assuming they have sex to the man’s orgasm about twice per week (with the woman reaching orgasm about half the time):
For the man, it’s a dopamine/prolactin roller coaster of pleasure and depression with him experiencing the pleasure of elevated dopamine and oxytocin for relatively brief periods of sexual arousal and orgasm while spending most of his time experiencing the lethargy, depression and loss of connectedness of low levels of dopamine and oxytocin with high levels of prolactin. To compensate for this, the man will attempt to raise his dopamine levels to feel good again by doing things in which his brain has, through experience, already developed pathways for responding with dopamine surges. This includes over-eating, use of dopamine raising drugs - legal and illegal (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates), looking at porn, masturbation, sexual liaisons with others, particularly those involving risk (New York Governor Spitzer and President Clinton come to mind - both of whom paid a high price for living with a dysfunctional dopamine/prolactin cycle), etc..
Importantly, along with the negative effects of low dopamine, there is also the lost feeling of connection and ability to love with low oxytocin levels. The moods and feelings generated by low dopamine levels often prevent the very thing necessary to raise oxytocin levels - touching and caressing of his wife or by his wife, physical closeness and intimate communications.
With the persistence of prolactin in the brain after every orgasm preventing the return of dopamine levels to normal, a man who orgasms every few days and/or masturbates with that kind of frequency (or more often) is continuously stuck in a cycle in which he never returns to a normal level of dopamine and is constantly seeking ways to boost those levels. Moreover, he is unable to consistently maintain an emotional connection to his wife.
It should be noted that this type of cycle probably exists because it was very advantageous to the survival of ancient man’s genes that he seek quantity and variety for sex - ensuring the continuance of his genes by placing them with as many women as he could. He was a dopamine driven creature, with occasional bursts of dopamine rewarding his sexual behavior - passing his genes along, but persistent low levels of dopamine to drive him to seek sex again with an even larger boost if it is with a different partner.
(Note: There is a funny if possibly apocryphal story about this involving President Calvin Coolidge - google the term Sex and “Coolidge Effect” to find it.)
It should also be noted that the mechanism for gene survival is completely disinterested in the feelings of the man - whether or not he feels good or bad most of the time; or for that matter the feelings of the women with whom he has sex. This is, of course, at odds with our modern desire to be happy in our life.
For the woman in this marriage, her dopamine levels are largely controlled by her menstrual cycle with her experiences of elevated levels at orgasm and slower, more gradual drop off in dopamine levels that help maintain her feelings of well-being but with the mood, attitude and behavior of her dopamine deprived husband alienating her from him emotionally. There is a constant interplay of low dopamine affected husband, resulting withdrawal of affection by the wife and resulting decreased oxytocin levels in both of them that creates problems in the marriage. It is important to recognize that orgasm by the woman does not have the same severe, adverse effect on her dopamine levels as is the case with a man. The man's emotional detachment after orgasm is not a mystery. It is biologically driven and has little to do with the acts or omissions of his mate.
One more quick note about the fourth factor, the level or concentration of dopamine receptors - with respect to the man who masturbates a lot or looks at a lot or porn to raise his dopamine levels. The law of diminishing returns applies. Just as in the case of a cocaine addict needing more and more of the drug to generate the same rush of pleasure and, over time, not even getting much pleasure, eventually needing the drug just not to feel bad, the man who has frequent orgasms causes his brain to down-regulate the number of dopamine receptors so there is a diminishing intensity of pleasure felt because the surges of dopamine at orgasm do not have receptors to bind to. It also explains the greatly enhanced feelings of pleasure felt by men who orgasms infrequently; men who have comparatively high concentrations of receptors.
Now, let’s look at the dopamine/prolactin/oxytocin cycle with the same middle-aged couple in which the man is allowed to orgasm only once every three months (as the Male Chastity Blog writer, Sarah Jameson, permits for her husband, John). In this scenario, the woman is allowed to orgasm whenever she wishes, usually during sex play with her husband. For the chaste man, after his last orgasm, he is in the same situation as the “normal” married man who has just had an orgasm. He has low dopamine and oxytocin levels, and high prolactin levels.
But unlike the man who keeps having orgasms inside of his dopamine recovery period and therefore remains chronically low in dopamine, the chaste man does not orgasm again for some months. Within a week or so his dopamine not only returns to normal levels but over time it is further elevated by frequent sex play and intimacy, especially with teasing and denial. Moreover, just wearing the chastity device raises his level of dopamine because of the continuous, low level of arousal he receives from the awareness of his genitals and the fact that he has turned over control of his orgasm to his wife.
(Note: The turnover of sexual control is one of the reward pathways that the chaste man may have developed sometime in his past; a reward pathway being a behavior which reliably raises dopamine. Generally, the male chastity lifestyle will work best when the man has already developed that reward pathway, i.e. already desires or even craves turning over control. It is possible that this reward pathway can be developed in a man that doesn’t already have it. The craving of every type of sexual “kink” can be understood in this way. They are all attempts to boost dopamine levels using pre-established reward pathways that the person has developed in the past which reliably provided a dopamine burst when activated.)
The key to the chaste man’s long term mood elevation - his increased feelings of happiness and satisfaction, is that although his dopamine levels are continuously being raised above normal for the months in between orgasms, without orgasm he never triggers the surge in prolactin that lowers dopamine levels. Throughout the day, every day he is in his chastity belt, aware that he has turned over control of his orgasm to his wife, his dopamine level stays elevated. During sexual play and intimacy, when he is teased and denied, particularly when teased to just short or orgasm, his dopamine level is boosted without triggering the corresponding, counterweight of prolactin to defeat it. Making love to his wife and bringing her to orgasm is incredibly arousing for him, boosting his dopamine levels with no subsequent sudden drop of dopamine level for him because he doesn’t orgasm himself.
In her blog, Sarah relates that in trying to understand why her husband craves chastity, he said it was because he was constantly aroused, that he was “half-way to orgasm” all the time. Biochemically, he was exactly right. He had discovered that in terms of overall happiness, it was better to be half way to orgasm 95% of the time than all the way to orgasm .01% and no way to orgasm the other 99.99% of the time.
What about oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone?” After orgasm and the short term boost of oxytocin, the chaste man suffers the same fade to below normal levels. But, unlike the man who orgasms frequently, his dopamine and oxytocin levels are restored to normal after a week or so. The chaste man spends most of his life with high dopamine and high oxytocin levels (helped along by his loving wife who appreciates the mood and attitude of her high dopamine, high oxytocin level mate) who lavishes lots of physical attention on him. Touch and caress, hand holding and massages, warm intimate talks are a regular part of their daily lives.
Rather than feeling depression and alienation from low levels of dopamine and oxytocin, most of the time the chaste man feels positive, motivated and devoted to his wife. One of the most consistent reports of changes that occur in a relationship when a male chastity lifestyle is adopted is the male’s greatly increased attention, cooperation and personal service to his wife. This extends to all parts of their relationship, from the way he constantly hugs, touches and showers affection on his wife to his perfect willingness to do domestic chores like the laundry and dishes that he previously wouldn’t go near. It is one of the discovered joys of male chastity for the female mate of the chaste man and usually quickly turns them from anxious skeptics to fully committed believers who never wants to go back to the way it was.
What is the ideal time between orgasms for the male? That it is personal choice for the two individuals involved in the relationship. It’s a trade-off between the desire by the man to experience the intense pleasure of orgasm (greatly amplified by the infrequency with enhanced receptor concentration) while minimizing the period the low dopamine level loss of feelings of well-being. For the female, the trade-off is a complex mix of what she believes is best for her mate whom she loves, what is best for their relationship, and frankly what is best for her. Realistically, every time her mate orgasms, she can expect one to two weeks of a low dopamine, low oxytocin mate with the attendant loss of attention and devotion that she enjoys the rest of the time.
So some of this is basic arithmetic that depends upon what I will term the “Devotion Refractory Period,” taken from the term “male refractory period” which describes the period of time after orgasm in which the male cannot erect and orgasm again. In this context, the devotion refractory period is how long it takes after orgasm for the male’s dopamine and oxytocin levels to recover so that he is again a happy, devoted mate who is once again lavishing his attention on her and performing any number of useful services.
In her book, “Be Careful What You Wish For,” Sarah estimates the period before her husband, John, recovers those feelings of intense devotion for her as about ten days. Figuring that if she allowed him to orgasm every month, then in a year she would lose about 120 days or fully one third of the year of focused, devoted attention by her mate; and he would suffer a depressed mood and emotional alienation for the same period. Sarah decided that this loss was too high a price to pay for giving him the pleasure of monthly orgasms and instead she went to once every three months . Significantly, she noted that although she had the absolute right in their arrangement to do this, she certainly took into account her mate’s feelings and found that he didn’t seem to mind. He wanted to orgasm but craved denial.
So, what does this scientific analysis mean for our understanding of sex and orgasms and the effect it has on our relationship? . First, we now understand that the mechanism, the dopamine/prolactin/oxytocin cycle, was simply the most successful way for man to pass along his genes so it was that mechanism that survives to this day. This mechanism was indifferent to the feelings of men and their mates caught up in it. This is contrary to our modern day personal objective of being a happy, fulfilled and deeply connected person in our relationships. Simply put, male chastity is one way of correcting the mismatch between ancient, biological imperatives and our own modern, personal desires.
The following are some of the useful web sites I found in researching this. Each of these sites, in turn, included numerous links to more information which I also used as needed. The book, "Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow," by Marnia Robinson, was one of several important references for the science and is very interesting reading on its own.
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