Male Control of Ejaculation

by catherine yronwode


The illustration on this page is a Thai penis amulet
from the pages of the Lucky W Amulet Archive.

Men often ask me what i think of various techniques for the control of male orgasm, specifically those advocated by Mantak Chia and his peers. Stripping away the spiritual veneer from their teachings and getting down to biological basics, these authors promote what i call the "mechanical tantra" school of training. Basically, they either recommend manual pressure on the base of the penis or perineum to prevent ejaculation or the development of internal muscular control of the penile sphincters to produce retrograde ejaculation -- backing the sperm up into the urinary bladder. They cite as sources for their teachings early writers, including some yogic adepts.

There is no doubt that some of these "secret teachings of tantra" are ancient, but that doesn't make them attractive. Hindu yoga is filled with adepts who promote oddball practices, including drinking urine and running cloth through one's alimentary canal. I certainly find these tantra techniques physiologically interesting. But if i were a man i would not feel as if i had accomplished anything very useful, not to mention spiritual, if i had to manually squeeze myself every time i wanted to stop from coming. And as for retrograde ejaculation, well, the idea makes me cringe. I would most definitely not want to practice something so counter-biological, nor can i see how snuffling semen up into one's bladder could conceivably be expected to produce the psychological and metaphysical benefits its adherents claim for it. (I never was much for quaffing pee or stuffing towels down my esophagus, either.)

Okay, you say, so if i don't like these particular techniques, what advice can i, a woman, give to a man about control of the male orgasm? That's a difficult question to answer. I could make the assumption that our neural systems are similar despite gender differences in circulatory hydraulics and tell you what some women do...or i could tell you what some of my male friends tell me they do. I guess i shall opt for the latter. This is a little slice of life i call:

THE TRIP TO TEXAS or: REVELATION IN NORTH AUSTIN

In the mid 1970s i met my first tantra lover. I had read about karezza and tantra since i was a teenager; he had read about tantra and other forms of yoga, including raja yoga, kundalini yoga, and so forth. We had been friends for about four years when it happened that both our marriages fell apart at the same time. We were all hippies living on rural subsistence farm communes in the Missouri Ozarks. His commune and mine were about 60 miles apart. Both of our partners were soon repartnered, and both of us continued to live on the communes with our ex-spouses and our children. Eventually, he and i decided to start up an affair. In the course of flirting (he'd come over to help our group plant potatoes), we got to talking about tantra -- and he said that his fondest wish was to try it. I said i felt the same way. For whatever reason of luck, grace, spiritual blessings from on high, or you name it, we were able to experience that form of union with no prior practice and having never even kissed each other prior to our first experiment. Perhaps we were just naturally lucky. I don't know.

Well, he and i rocked on for quite a while, visiting each other regularly and exploring the heights of bliss (when we weren't quarreling over something or other). In 1976, about a year after we got together, we decided to hitchhike down to Austin, Texas, to visit my best friend Barrance C. Lespine, a man i'd known back in my home state of California. He was married and had a child. My tantra lover and i hung out with his family for almost a week.

While we were there, Barry said that he wanted to take us around North Austin, up by the lake, so we could view the terrain. As we were driving along the cliffs, admiring the fancy homes and interesting landscape, we got to talking about a magazine article my lover and i were co-writing about Alice Bunker Stockham, the originator of karezza. (It was eventually published in the New Age Journal.) Barry, who was a student of the occult, said he had read about some of this stuff in old books, but he wanted to know how one could really do it -- how a man could control his orgasms. I kinda shrugged and threw up my hands, but my lover said, "Aw, all you do is relax your abdominal muscles and slow down your breathing. And you have to remain conscious, of course. That's all there is to it."

I can still remember exactly where we were when this happened. We were rounding a curve. I looked at Barry and he just nodded. "I get it," he said. And that was the end of the conversation. A day or two later, the three of us drove to the town of Fredricksburg, from whence we were to set off hitchhiking to visit my lover's cousin in California. It was a pretty little place. After lunch Barry took us to a good spot, let us out, snapped our pictures as we picked up our heavy backpacks, and said goodbye.

Almost 20 years passed before the two of us again discussed the techniques of karezza or tantra yoga. In the meantime, my lover and i had drifted apart and Barry and i had had a brief love affair, during which i realized that he too had become tantrically adept. We used our knowledge to bring about heightened states of consciousness in ourselves, and had some intensely lovely moments, but we never talked much about that stuff, we just let it happen...and after a while i got married to another guy and he entered a second long-term monogamous relationship with a new gal, and the subject was inappropriate, so it never came up.

It wasn't until 1996, while talking about our lives, that Barry and i again touched on the subject of tantra. He knew i was writing about it for publication, and he asked me what i planned to say.

I told him that the most often asked question -- and the one for which i have the scantiest answer, is the one that men ask: "How can i learn to control my orgasm response?"

"Hmmm," he said.

I took this as an opportunity to ask him.

"So...how did you learn to do it?"

"I didn't learn. It just happened to me. You and D---- gave it to me by...by transmission, i guess. Remember back in the seventies when you all came to visit and we were driving along the cliffs above Lake Austin? Well, we were in the car...and we were rounding a curve... and i asked how you could learn to do that and D---- said, 'Just relax your abdominal muscles, breathe slowly, and stay conscious.'

"It was like...a blinding flash of light. Like Zen satori. The moment he said it, i knew what he meant. I...I felt it...inside myself...like something turning. I knew exactly what he meant. And i could hardly wait to get back home and try it with A---."

Why did i tell such a long, personal story to answer this question? Well, if hearing those simple instructions worked for my friend, maybe they will work for you.

THE REALITY BEHIND THE REVELATION

When i showed the above piece to Barry, he had the following commentary to add:

The incident cat describes is true but maybe not as mystical as it sounds. What happened is that I suddenly saw how what [her lover] said connected with things I already understood. As part of fitness training, I had lifted weights and done some yoga-style stretching. In the process I had learned a bit about how breathing worked to manage the tension and relaxation of muscles.

The build-up to orgasm involves a progressive increase in muscular tension. I realized that if I was more aware of where I was tensing, I could relax those muscles and maybe slow the process.

I noticed that along with my abdomen, my lower back and thighs would tense up as I approched orgasm. During sex I practiced relaxing those areas while holding on to the sensation I call the glow. One part of learning to relax was to keep breathing slowly and deeply, not holding my breath when orgasmic tension would start to build. I found that I could difuse the tension by taking shallower in-breaths and deeper out-breaths. One woman teased me about "blowing out birthday candles one by one."

Sometimes the moment that control turned out to be the most important for me was when I first entered my partner, especially if I was nervous or the whole thing was just too exciting. At those times, in addition to simple relaxation and breathing, I found that by wiggling my fingers or toes for a moment I could cue myself to loosen up if I was getting too tightly wound.

From the standpoint of maintaining control for an extended period, I think some positions are better than others. A position that has partners lying on their sides may work better than the so-called missionary or man-on-top position, since supporting your body push-up style makes it harder to stay loose. Woman-on-top gives you, the man, a good opportunity to stay loose, while your partner may enjoy the chance to be more active.

Another big help in maintaining relaxation is communication with your partner. Even with someone you don't know well, a few words about what you're trying to do gets you both on the same page. Likewise she may have some things she wants you to know.

Two brief stories illustrate how all this applies in real life:

At one time I was involved with a modest woman who often took a long time to come. She said that she liked sex, but for her it usually wasn't about orgasms. When we were able to take it slow, I could sometimes enjoy a couple of small peaks along the way, building the glow and backing off, as we worked our way to a big peak together.

In another stage of my life, I met a woman who was very comfortable with her body and was open about sex in general. We were able to talk about various sexual issues. For example, she had worked to control the contraction of her vaginal muscles and before long she took an interest in controlling her own orgasm response too. During sex we tried to maintain eye contact and we would signal as we got near our peaks. Sometimes we'd build and drop back together. Sometimes she'd go to orgasm while I'd hang back, and then we'd build again and both go over the edge.

There is no one right way to develop ejaculatory control, but by experimenting with a combination of relaxing key muscles, breathing, using certain positions, and maintaining communication, you can develop a style that works for you.

So there is one man's story -- and i thank him very much for taking the time to tell it.

"RELAX, JUST RELAX"

That famous phrase was the shortest daily newspaper column Will Rogers ever wrote. (He had just regained consciousness from a serious medical operation but couldn't bear to miss his deadline.)

This issue of "relaxation" rather than "suppression" of orgasm means a lot to me as a woman, too. It is the method i use. Earlier i said that i would not try to tell men what i do, because i am a woman and it might not be appropriate. But my techniques are the same as my friend's and my ex-lover's. I don't clench anything or press on anything or suppress anything. I just relax.

I also have a theory as to why this technique worked so well for me, from the very first time i tried it.

Before meeting my first tantra lover, i had two home births using the La Maze method. This is a technique that allows a woman in labour to relax the rest of her body while her uterus is contracting, so as to avoid or diminish the pain that often results from spending hours in a state of partial tetany due to "sympathetic tension" in irrelevant muscle groups.

During pregnancy, the La Maze trained woman is taught to separate various muscle groups from one another and relax them one at a time on the key word "relax." The training also involves proficiency in several forms of shallow and deep breathing. It is usually undertaken with the co-parent as a training partner. He is encouraged to participate, not just as a coach, but as a fellow-trainee.

Essentially, a well-trained La Maze couple enters into a state of mutual Pavlovian conditioning. On the general command "relax," there will be an overall increase in mental alertness and a loss of all bodily tension. On specific commands such as "relax your right leg," that part of the body alone will go limp while the rest will stay as before. Breathing rhythms are monitored separately from muscle relaxation, and "blocking" the breath (tensing the diaphagm) is avoided.

I am convinced that when the subject of tantra or karezza techniques was first broached to me, my previous La Maze training came into play. In particular, i am sure that the key word "relax" induced a specific, TRAINED bodily response. I was able control my orgasm respons from my first try not because i am somehow gifted, but because i unconsciously applied months of La Maze training to the situation of sexual arousal.

In support of this theory -- or rather, in support of the part of it that depends on a presumption that La Maze conditioning may persist for years after childbirth -- i can add that some time after my second daughter was born i was at a dentist's undergoing a root canal and he casually asked me to "relax." I automatically went into that alert-but-zoned La Maze state of mind. The dentist chuckled and asked me if i had ever done La Maze training. When i said i had, he told me that he had noticed that several of his patients -- whom he described as "hippie women" -- could be made to relax on that verbal cue while he was working on their mouths.

I realize that to me, the key words "relax your abdominal muscles" probably meant far more than they would have meant to someone who had not had La Maze training. Those few words restimulated months of conditioning during which i had learned to isolate and relax the abdominal muscle group while continuing to breathe lightly and stay alert. I think that's why i "got it" the first time i heard relaxation suggested as a form of orgasm control.

Barrance C. Lespine, the man who wrote the commentary above, knew about La Maze training too. In fact, his mother was a gynecologist who taught La Maze to her patients, and he and my ex-partner Peter had been my co-coaches during the home birth of my daughter Althaea. The breathing technique he described is taught in La Maze childbirth training. So i asked him if he thought that his life-long familiarity with the La Maze method might have had an effect on his rapid self-training in orgasm control. He replied:

In my family La Maze was a way of life. I didn't say it, but orgasm control is simply a re-application of the La Maze technique to a different purpose. Everything you said is true. If you know that drill, you know what it's about ... so this was yet another reason why your comments connected with my experience. I think that in talking about orgasm control with anyone who's had kids via La Maze you can take a big shortcut. The rest can probably recycle the same training, going in the reverse direction, if they ever have kids.
My correspondence with Barry has given me a new idea:

Why not train people in orgasm control by explicitly using the La Maze method? It is not religious or spiritual, but i KNOW it would work.

La Maze course curicula are well established and the method itself has a long history of success. Much of the support material aimed at childbirth training for couples (instructional manuals, diagrams, and so forth) could be adapted to teaching orgasm control to couples. In addition, because many people have gone through La Maze training in preparation for childbirth, they would be familiar with La Maze principles and key words and could rapidly re-apply them to orgasm control.

I believe it would be relatively easy for a tantra or karezza teacher to achieve a high rate of success in students by adapting the La Maze method to orgasm control. I am not a teacher, but if i were, i would do it.

If nothing else, such training would be a lot more biologically elegant and sex-positive than telling men that the highest heavenly bliss of spiritual coition they can attain in this life depends on their learning how to reverse-pump their semen into their own bladders!

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