This Is How Your ‘Refractory Period’ Impacts Your Sex Life


Understanding How Your Own Personal ‘Refractory Period’ Impacts Your Sex Life

Orgasms are pretty great — so great, in fact, that many people would have them all day long if they could.

But while cultural stereotypes often posit that men are hornier than women on average, it’s actually much less likely that a cis man spends all day orgasming than a cis woman.

In fact, the concept ofgiving someone multiple orgasms” is typically only associated with women getting them. Why is that?

While many things to do with sex have sociocultural gendered roots, this one is absolutely a question of biology — and it comes back to something called ‘the refractory period.’

RELATED: How to Have a Second Round of Sex

In order to better understand what the refractory period is, how it impacts your sex life and workarounds you can use if yours is an issue for you in the bedroom, AskMen spoke to a handful of sex experts. Here’s what they had to say:

What Is the Refractory Period?

“The refractory period is a physiological phenomenon that occurs after orgasm and ejaculation or after intense sexual arousal,” says Dr. Joshua Gonzalez, sexual health ambassador for ASTROGLIDE. “During this period, the body experiences a temporary period of reduced sensitivity to sexual stimuli and decreased ability to achieve another orgasm or arousal.”

Basically, the refractory period is a countdown clock that starts as soon as you orgasm, and dictates the soonest your next orgasm can occur.

RELATED: How to Reach Climax in No Time

It’ll last a different amount of time for every person, and as we’ll explore later, will likely change over the course of your life, but it could be anything from a handful of minutes to multiple days depending on a variety of factors. .

According to Gonzalez, the refractory period is “thought to be regulated by a combination of hormonal, neurological, and psychological factors.”

“After ejaculation“, levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and oxytocin decrease, while levels of prolactin increase,” he notes. “Prolactin is believed to play a role in suppressing sexual arousal and desire, contributing to the refractory period.”

However, Justin Lehmiller, also a brand ambassador for ASTROGLIDE, notes that despite these theories, there isn’t yet a scientific consensus on the matter.

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Regardless of the cause, “your refractory period will be unique to you and will more than likely change over time, often becoming longer” for people with penises as they age, says sex expert Court Vox,

Your refractory period can also “vary from one sexual situation to the next,” notes Lehmiller.

Ultimately, he says, “There’s a lot we still don’t understand about the refractory period.”

Male vs. Female Refractory Periods

“It was once thought that only men had refractory periods, while women did not,” says Lehmiller. “As evidence for this, people often point to studies showing that multiple orgasms are common among women, but not men.”

RELATED: Understanding the Female Orgasm

“However, as more research has been conducted on multiple orgasms, we’ve seen that there are indeed some men who have this experience, and plenty of women who do not,” he adds. “We definitely need more research on this, but it’s possible that everyone, regardless of gender, has a refractory period and that, on average, women’s is just much shorter, sometimes measured in seconds.”

RELATED: Yoga & Relaxation Can Help Women Achieve Multiple Orgasms

This need for more research is, unfortunately, symptomatic of much of the medical science around sex.

“The refractory period in people AFAB is less well-studied and understood compared to those AMAB,” Dr. Gonzalez notes. “But this is true for many sexual health issues.”

“It’s important to note that refractory periods can vary greatly between individuals, with some taking minutes to hours while others can be seemingly absent altogether allowing some individuals to achieve multiple orgasms in quick succession,” he adds.

“Anecdotally, based on my embodied work with Back to the Body AFAB women, I have seen that AFAB folks can become more multi-orgasmic with age, while most AMAB folks will need more and more time to recover as they age,” notes Vox. .

That’s right — as they age, people with vaginas get better at having orgasms, and people with penises get worse. If that feels unfair, remember that’the orgasm gap‘ is a real phenomenon that sees women who have sex with men receive far fewer orgasms. So maybe it’s a way for them to catch up over time.

Refractory Period Changes Over Time

That’s right — one interesting (and possibly frustrating) aspect of the refractory period for people with penises is the way it changes over time.

“Refractory periods tend to increase in length with age,” says Lehmiller. “For younger men, particularly in their teen years, it might be a matter of minutes. For a much older man, it could be hours, or possibly even days.”

RELATED: How to Satisfy Your Partner After You’ve Climaxed

However, Gonzalez points out, age isn’t the only factor involved. “While the refractory period tends to lengthen with age, it can vary significantly among individuals and may be influenced by a variety of factors beyond just chronological age such as stress, anxiety, relationship dynamics, as well as other underlying medical or psychological conditions,” he notes.

Ultimately, as you age, your body and the ways it works will change in a variety of ways, and this is just another one of them.

RELATED: Four Ways Your Body Changes After 30

This shift, while it may be unwelcoming, disconcerting or even downright unpleasant, “doesn’t mean one can’t continue to engage in erotic or sexual play,” Vox points out.

“It just means that interest and arousal levels may shift and arousal and/or erections will not be as readily available,” he explains.

If you’re curious, Vox says, you can try tracking how long it takes you to be able to achieve an erection or reach orgasm after your last one.

“Notice if it’s 15 minutes, 3 hours, one day, one week,” he suggests. “Although shifts take place with age, everybody is different, and some will notice more of a change than others.”

Dealing With a Lengthy Refractory Period

Whether it’s increased over time or is simply longer than you’d like, dealing with a lengthy refractory period can be frustrating.

1. Communicate With Your Sex Partner(s)

“Navigating a longer refractory period with a partner requires patience, understanding, and a willingness to explore new ways of experiencing intimacy and pleasure together,” says Dr. Gonzalez.

RELATED: How to Talk About Sex With a Partner

But, he notes, “by communicating openly, embracing variety, and prioritizing mutual satisfaction, couples can maintain a fulfilling and satisfying sexual relationship despite challenges related to refractory periods.”

2. Introduce Sexual Novelty

You can also try things to reduce your refractory period, says Lehmiller.

“If you experience long refractory periods, there are a few things that could potentially reduce them,” he says. “One is to explore adding more novelty into sexual activity. We see that in very novel, intense, and exciting sexual experiences, people sometimes find it easier to maintain arousal post-orgasm and, potentially, to have more orgasms.”

RELATED: How to Spice Up Your Sex Life

3. Try Erectile-Function Medication

Another thing you can do to reduce your refractory period’s duration is to “consider medications like Viagra and Cialis, which some men find helps them to maintain a higher level of arousal after orgasm and, sometimes, to have multiple orgasms,” Lehmiller adds. “However, the data on this is mixed and the effects of these medications seem to vary across individuals.”

And while these kinds of vasodilator medications could help, “for some the side effects are too harsh to participate,” Vox notes.

RELATED: The Best Herbal Viagras and Other Natural ED Cures

4. Address Your Heart Health and Testosterone

Another approach, he says, is eating healthy with a goal of increasing blood flow and heart health.

“Testosterone replacement therapy could also help boost arousal and ‘aliveness,’” Vox says. “I recommend you test both your testosterone and free testosterone levels, as they are both vital in supporting vitality. Often, ‘free testosterone’ testing is left off the panel if not requested.”

At the end of the day, however, you don’t have a significant amount of control over your refractory period.

“This is tricky, because while there are certain things you can implement from a proactive medical perspective, to boost shorter refractory periods, there is also only so much one can do,” says Vox. “Your body’s response is your body’s response.”

5. Explore Non-Penetrative Sex Acts

“A workaround with this is that, you can get your rocks off (or not) and then, if your partner can have more than one orgasm and they want to keep going, you can lend a hand, a mouth, a finger, a toy, and help support them in having more,” says Vox.

RELATED: How to Master the Non-Penetrative Aspects of Sex

“Climax does not need to be the end of an erotic experience, and penetration is not always necessary,” he adds.

6. Try Initiating Sex More Often

“Finally, initiate more,” Vox suggests. “I find that the arousal or desire pathway in AMAB men over 40 starts to shift from spontaneous to responsive, meaning more effort needs to be made to be sexual or erotic; it is no longer something that simply happens on the fly, it has to be invited or sought out.”

“Keep a journal and notice how long your body needs to recover in between, and then start to make efforts to invite erotic and sexual play in earlier,” he adds. “Experiment and see what your body is capable of and also what it desires most.”

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