Dating a guy who goes to therapy is great until you’re hanging out with them on a random weekday afternoon and he makes a move on you. When this recently happened to me, I thought, Wait, sex? Don’t you have an appointment later? It felt a bit like when Rocky’s trainer Mick tells him not to have sex before a big bout — I figured it would mess with his focus.
In the end, we didn’t have sex. But the question that stayed with me — particularly now that more people are receiving teletherapy online — was whether post-nut clarity helps or hinders the therapeutic process?
After an orgasm, the brain is flooded with oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins. Stress hormones like cortisol decline during this time as well, which might make people feel a little calmer before a stressful therapy session. “In that sense, it might relax us and perhaps even make some of our hidden conflicts accessible,” psychiatrist and author Loren Olson tells me. However, those benefits are too short-lived to be relevant, even without a commute factored in. “There’s a natural sense of peace and calm following an orgasm, but it doesn’t last long enough to really interfere with therapy,” Olson adds.
To psychotherapist Jacob Brown, any clarity that sex or masturbation might potentially provide would also be limited to the romantic relationship or content of the sexual fanstasy. For instance, when he was a teenager, his dad would give him the advice: “It’s not important what you feel about a girl when you’re taking your pants off. What really counts is how you feel about her as you put your pants back on.” But the clarity his dad referenced is different from clarity about past painful memories, unhelpful behavioral patterns or the general challenges life presents that you often need to access during therapy.
So it’s not that an orgasm before therapy wouldn’t necessarily yield a more or less productive session, but the choice to do so would certainly change the direction of the conversation. One of Olson’s main concerns would be whether the sex or masturbation included any fantasies about the therapist. If that’s the case, it’s a common side effect of the inherent intimacy of a therapeutic relationship that needs to be discussed in order for a person to continue working on themselves. “A fantasied sexual relationship with a therapist must be addressed in therapy,” Olson says. Therapists are trained to address this and help clients move past it, often by identifying traits they may be missing in their romantic partners, like empathy or emotional intelligence.
Outside of that, “an orgasm with a different fantasy or partner is probably not an issue by itself, but I would question why the person chose that particular time,” Olson continues. If a person was masturbating in anticipation of therapy, or to prepare for the stress, it would, at the very least, warrant a conversation about the person’s coping skills. While there’s nothing wrong with using sex and masturbation to help manage stress, if that’s the only lever you have to pull before therapy, it would be beneficial to broaden that skillset with breathwork, meditation or grounding exercises.
For his part, Brown takes issue with the notion of post-nut clarity more generally. The term, originally coined by podcasters Alexandra Cooper and Sofia Franklyn on an episode of Call Her Daddy, “fits with the socially accepted idea that men are just dicks with legs,” he says. In his opinion, the belief that men would have to have orgasms in order to talk about their feelings openly underscores a “sexist and hostile perspective” that might keep some guys from going to therapy in the first place.
And so, Brown is more interested in looking at the role that sex and masturbation can play in avoiding the uncomfortable, often painful emotions that come up in therapy — regardless of gender. “People might do that as a way to distance themselves from painful feelings that they aren’t able to — or don’t want to — bring into therapy,” he says. The solution, however, is to talk to your therapist about the emotions you might be avoiding “instead of trying to get rid of them before therapy.”
So if you’re getting laid before a therapy session every now and again, it’s probably not a big deal. But if you’re deluding yourself into thinking an orgasm can help you open up, you’re only creating another issue to uncomfortably unpack with your therapist.