Sexual Fasting

Published: AUGUST 15, 2023
Reviewed by Dr. Sunny Rodgers
on August 12, 2023

Sexual fasting is a form of abstinence, or the practice of going without sex for a period of time. People may practice sexual fasting for many reasons, including to:

  • Last longer during sex
  • Boost their sex drive
  • Connect more with their partner
  • Improve attitudes around sex and sexual behaviors
  • Wait until they feel ready for a sexual relationship
  • Focus on non-sexual aspects of their life, such as a career or hobbies
  • Emotionally heal after a breakup
  • Avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections
  • Improve their overall sexual health and wellbeing

What constitutes sexual fasting varies from person to person, as sex can mean different things to different people. For example, some people may stop penetrative sex and focus on other forms of sexual intimacy while others may stop all sexual interactions with partners. Some people may cut out all forms of sexual activity during a sexual fast, including masturbating, watching porn, and even thinking about sex.

Sexual Fasting: The Term's History

Sexual fasting hit the mainstream in the 2020s after several celebrities began talking about the benefits of this practice. Actor Terry Crews was one of the first stars to discuss sexual fasting, noting that a 90-day fast helped him overcome an addiction to porn and deepen his connection with his wife. In 2022, Kourtney Kardashian told Bustle that sex fasting during an Ayurvedic cleanse “made everything better” about her relationship with then-fiancé Travis Barker. NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who tried a sex fast as part of a similar Ayurvedic detox in 2022, said the cleanse decreased his stress levels and helped him feel more grateful. The same year Andrew Garfield said he abstained from sex and fasted regularly for a six-month period to prepare for playing a priest in an upcoming film.

However, people have practiced forms of sexual fasting throughout history. Semen retention and orgasm abstinence are forms of sexual fasting that Tantric practitioners believe can help them improve their connection with their bodies as well as their mental, physical and spiritual health. Restricting sexual behaviors has also been a common practice within the BDSM community for many years. Members of the community may use tools like cock cages and chastity belts during sexual fasts to increase their connections with partners, arousal and eventual pleasure.

The term sexual fasting is similar to celibacy, but these terms are usually used to denote abstinence with different motivations. Celibacy often has religious or cultural motivations. Sexual fasting tends to be a more individual choice motivated by a desire to improve health, well-being and relationships. A sexual fast also tends to be more temporary than celibacy, which may last until marriage or as long as someone serves the church.

Does sexual fasting improve sexual performance?

While there is no scientific evidence suggesting sexual fasting improves sexual performance, many people say their performance has increased after abstaining from sex for a while.

A sexual fast can act as a kind of reset that removes any pressure surrounding sex. This period can help people reconnect with a partner and their own desires, which may help them work through issues such as erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. If sex has become mundane, sexual fasting may build anticipation and help someone perform better when the fast ends.

By taking away the physical component of a relationship, sexual fasting can also encourage people to deepen their emotional connections. They may find they perform better sexually once they’ve gotten to know more about their partner and what they like.

However, a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Medicine suggests sexual fasting may not be the answer for people with erectile dysfunction. This study found that people who have sex infrequently are more likely to have erectile dysfunction. Some doctors question these findings though, stating that infrequent sex is more likely to be the result of erectile dysfunction, rather than a reason for the condition.

Can sexual fasting lead to stronger orgasms?

Anecdotal evidence also suggests sexual fasting can lead to stronger orgasms. Just as sugar can seem to taste sweeter to someone who hasn’t had any for a while, orgasms can also feel stronger to people who haven't had them for a while. They may also be easier to achieve. This may be because sexual fasting increases awareness of the sensations in the body. This increased awareness may also help people experience the four stages of arousal more acutely. People who understand when they are close to orgasm may find using techniques like edging, which can strengthen orgasms, easier.

More About Sexual Fasting

There can be some baggage around sexual fasting as there is a degree of societal pressure to have sex, especially when in a relationship. It’s especially important to consider the feelings of any intimate partners before starting a sexual fast. It’s a good idea to discuss a desire to sexual fast - and the reasons for it outside the bedroom - at a time when all parties feel relaxed and able to focus on the conversation. A good discussion lets everyone talk about their motivations, fears and the compromises they could make. Reassuring intimate partners that they are still loved and desired can help the relationship survive a sexual fast.

Who should try sexual fasting?

“Before deciding on sexual fasting, one should check in with themselves as to what their goals and desired outcomes are,” suggests Leah Spasova, a psychologist specializing in sex and relationships at LIFESEXPERTS. “Going into it without a specific goal or desired outcome will more likely result in feeling sexually frustrated than being able to focus on navigating the desire and sexual energy.”

Defining clear goals can help people decide whether sexual fasting is the right option for them or if they could benefit from another strategy. Sexual fasting is just one option that may improve sexual performance and strengthen orgasms. People with these concerns may like to see a healthcare provider to discover whether they have any underlying health issues or medications impacting their sex life. Treating these problems may improve sexual function and satisfaction.

Counseling, either alone or with a partner, can also be beneficial. Therapy sessions may help people identify insecurities or beliefs negatively impacting their sex life. It can also help people work through trauma, improve their relationship with their bodies, and improve their communication and connection with a partner. A counselor may also suggest exercises that can help people foster intimacy and improve their sex life.

Beyond Fasting: Other Ways to Improve Sexual Performance

Sexual fasting isn’t the only lifestyle change that can positively impact sexual performance and orgasms. Reducing stress, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, increasing exercise and eating a balanced diet may help reduce sexual problems like erectile dysfunction.

The Drawbacks of Sexual Fasting

While many people claim a sexual fast has been positive for them, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider, including:

  • Negative impact on mental wellbeing
  • Poorer quality sleep
  • Reduced immunity, due to lower levels of immunoglobulin
  • Decreased sperm quality
  • Potential for shame if the fast is broken early
  • Epididymal hypertension, sometimes called “blue balls”

Spasova suggests defining an appropriate length of time and limitation for any sexual fast. “Full abstinence from all physical intimacy for a long period of time can lead some folks to frustration and even anger. It may drive others to feel disconnected and unloved or bring in any addictive self-soothing behaviors that may not be so helpful or even healthy," she said. "We must not forget, sex and intimacy are not things we do just for the physical pleasure. They are often an important aspect of feeling connected, wanted, loved, and appreciated and are often great for helping us destress and relax better.”


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