Crucially, not every person experiences sexual attraction, so for folks on the asexuality spectrum, the simple answer to that question is a plain-old no. However, if you’re someone who does have sex and, more crucially, wants to have sex, there may be a few effects to know about with regards to not participating in regular sessions (whether solo or partnered).
“Long-term dry spells may predispose [people] to depression, anxiety, and increased stress,” says fertility specialist and board-certified OB/GYN Lucky Sekhon, MD. That’s in large part because our brain is deprived of the endorphins (or happy hormones) released during sex, like oxytocin and dopamine. But there are other ways to boost endorphins if you're not having sex.
Moreover, because sex is a physical act, you can reap benefits of exercise by engaging, says sexologist Carol Queen, PhD. “The longer it lasts, the more often you have it, and the more vigorous you get, the more effect it will have," says Dr. Queen. "It can raise your heart rate and [it] supports blood flow—so it can be good for your heart." Of course, again, in the absense of sex, there are all kinds of lifestyle habits you can stick to in order to benefit your cardiovascular system, so if you stop having sex, you're hardly relegated to decreased heart health.
With that in mind, read on to learn seven possible effects of not having sex (partnered or solo), according to sexual health experts.
7 possible effects of not having sex (or stopping having sex), according to sex experts.
1. Experiencing aches and pains
2. Increase in blood pressure and stress levels
“If you’re not having sex or engaging in other forms of exercise, you may see a rise in your [blood pressure and stress levels],” says Story. “Also, if you aren’t getting ‘that release’, your stress levels may rise, which can cause a decrease in mood.”
Just as with the examples of symptoms of anxiety and heart health mentioned above, if you do stop having sex, you can be mindful to exercise in ways other than sexual activity as a means to level your blood pleasure and stress.
3. Tightening of the vaginal canal for folks going through menopause
“Long periods of time without regular intercourse can lead to tightening of the vaginal canal [during menopause], which can lead to thinning of vaginal tissue and predisposition towards tearing [and] bleeding during sex,” says Dr. Sekhon.
4. Decreased prostate health
According to a 2016 longitudinal study in European Urology, ejaculation frequency and risk of prostate cancer are inversely related. More specifically, prostate-havers who ejaculated fewer than seven times a month were more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than those who ejaculated approximately 20 times a month.
Remember, the experts agree that solo sex and partnered sex—so long as it’s consensual, safe, and enjoyable—offer similar benefits. So, consider masturbating for the sake of your prostate, even if partnered sex isn't on the table.
5. Spontaneous arousal levels may drop
A small 2014 study of 174 people published in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality found that engaging in sex on day one actually makes you crave it more on day two.
And according the Dr. Queen, the inverse—that an effect of not having sex may lead you to want less sex in general—may also be true. “For some, this will have the effect that it becomes harder to get turned on, even if you want to.”
6. The pelvic floor may not stay in shape
All human beings have a pelvic floor, and not having sex can compromise its strength. This, in turn, can affect your ability to have and the intensity of future orgasms, says Dr. Queen. “If you try to have one, it might feel weaker, because the pelvic floor pulsing is the source of the pleasurable pulses we feel with orgasm.”
7. Risk of lower quality sleep
“When you experience intense pleasure from sex, the body releases a cocktail of hormones that help you fall asleep,” says Alvarez, specifying that hormones like vasopressin and oxytocin reduce stress in the body and help you fall asleep quickly. After that point, adds Alvarez Story, “norepinephrine and serotonin then help your body get into a flow of REM sleep cycles to help you stay comfortably asleep.”
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