The Happy Trail

Orgasm-free sex?

You know that moment when you’re with a partner, when you’re just about to hit the big “O” but something interrupts? Maybe your cell phone rings. Maybe your roommate walks in. Maybe the fire alarm goes off. Hell, maybe your partner can’t quite get you to the edge.

The point is, when you’re trying to reach orgasm, and you don’t, it leaves you sexually frustrated and irritated. I mean, orgasms are the holy grail of sex, right? Orgasms can strengthen a sexual relationship and bring two people closer together, right?

Maybe not. The method known as “Karezza” is a gentle, affectionate style of sex in which orgasm isn’t the goal. In fact, ideally, orgasm will never occur. Orgasm is avoided.

Now hold on a second. At first, intercourse not geared towards orgasm seems a little strange. But with a better understanding, it’s easy to understand why more and more couples are hopping on the Karezza bandwagon.

First we must understand, what is Karezza? Although Karezza has become much more popular over the last couple of years due to the publication of the book Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow, it is by no means new.

Karezza has its modern origin in the 1896 book Karezza, Ethics of Marriage by Alice B. Stockham. It is not just a “how-to” guide for orgasm-free sex, but rather a path to richer, more loving, more fulfilling relationships.

Karezza focuses around two basic ingredients. The first is a focus on daily bonding activities between couples. These activities include cuddling, massaging with intent to comfort, prolonged eye-contact and synchronized breathing. The activities release oxytocin and make people feel loved and connected.

The second and most puzzling ingredient behind Karezza is orgasm avoidance. A lot happens in our brains during and after orgasm, and trying to understand and sort out all of the chemicals that affect us can be confusing.

It is best understood when we keep in mind that most neurochemical events in our brain revolve around dopamine and the brain’s reward circuitry.

Dopamine is the “I gotta have it!” drug, and as one becomes aroused, dopamine levels shoot through the roof. In fact, in 2003 Dutch scientist Gert Holstege showed findings that compared dopamine levels during orgasm replicated dopamine levels while shooting heroin. And you know what they say, what goes up must come down.

After climax, dopamine levels drop rapidly. Now we might imagine that it might drop down to baseline, but alas, the brain is tricky.

As a recent American Society of Addiction Medicine article stated, there is a neurological rebound after activities with high dopamine levels such as orgasm. This rebound drops dopamine levels below normal (sometimes for nearly two weeks.)

As dopamine levels drop below baseline, they drag oxytocin with it. This leads to decreased feelings of satisfaction and irritation with the sexual partner.

According to the Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow article “The Passion Cycle,” orgasm has even greater implications. During this two-week “hangover” period after orgasm, your biological instincts start to kick in. We begin to want to spread the gene pool as much as possible. This means people become less satisfied with their current partner and become more attracted to other people. It is a fatal truth in relationships.

Taking all of this into consideration, the appeal of Karezza is obvious. It keeps your oxytocin levels high, it keeps you satisfied with your current partner and many Karezza fans report that they begin to completely lose eyes for people other than their significant others.

If you are looking to pursue a long-term monogamous relationship, perhaps Karezza is for you. Sexual psychologist Marina Robinson sums it up well in her Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow article “Certainly, if orgasm tightly bonded lovers, we’d see very few one-night stands… and a lot more johns in love with their hookers.”