The Cult of ‘Semen Retention’

These guys believe you shouldn’t cum because your seed contains holistic, metaphysical powers

“A man’s ejaculate generally has enough life force to repopulate a large portion of the planet,” says Chris Bale. “That’s a lot of energy.”

Bale always appears the same way in the many videos that dot his YouTube channel. Angular and country-strong, dressed in basic linen shirts, with a dusting of stubble across his chin, his sermons run the gambit of new-age esotericism. He tells me he got his start learning Traditional Chinese Medicine in college, and worked as both an acupuncturist and medicinal qigong masseuse through his 20s. It was during those years, he says, that he became concerned with how “internally confused and feminized” cosmopolitan masculinity had become. Part of the cause, in his estimation, was our semen — how we devalue and disrespect it, how we refuse to treat it as a crucial part of our maleness.

“When a man [ejaculates] in order to scratch his itch, to experience a few seconds of euphoria, he immediately goes into some form of deficiency, which every man feels. He puts his limp penis away, as there’s nothing it wants to do anymore. Many men fall asleep after cumming, and some become totally disinterested in the partner they happen to be with, once the deed is done. The man drains himself of his essence, of his vitality,” explains Bale. “If the man wasn’t to indulge in the few seconds of euphoria, but instead is willing to acquire the ability to let this vital essence build up and spread up through the higher centers of his body, this brings him to a place of internal alchemy.”

In practice, this is called “Semen Retention,” and it’s a foundational part of the mentorship program Bale offers through his company, Awakened Intent. (You can buy sessions in either 60-minute Skype calls for 255 Euros, or a more comprehensive, year-long mentorship, which is closer to 1,000 Euros.) It’s comparable to NoFap, the community of men who refuse to masturbate in the hopes that it will help them self-actualize as sexual beings, but with one major difference: To believe in Semen Retention is to believe that your own seed contains holistic, metaphysical powers — a self-propagating Elixir of Life deep within your core.

According to Bale, the effects of Semen Retention can be felt in both the tangibles and intangibles. From a scientific perspective, he says that ejaculate contains a huge amount of zinc and selenium, which are both dispossessed from the body after climaxing. “It usually takes a number of days for these nutrients and hormones to build back up and rebalance,” he says. “So you can imagine the condition of the man who is jerking off once or twice every day!” From a more spiritual angle, he points to the Chinese concept of “Jing,” which refers to the mystic qualities of both semen and menstrual blood. “Essential fluids, which cannot be regained.” Bale’s doctrine states that men must “transmute” their sexual energy back into their soul, which can only be fully consummated through asceticism. “It’s to keep the tap closed, to plug the leak,” he continues. “So the water can build up and circulate internally. When the man allows his life force energy to accumulate, before he knows it, he has oceans of energy which he isn’t used to having.”

Bale intends to create ideal, non-ejaculating men through his program. He defines them as such: “A male who gives himself full permission to be that which he has come here to be, in whatever form that takes, and who makes no apology for it. A man who does not compromise what is right for himself, in order to appease another.” More specifically: “An ideal man is a man who does not tolerate the childishness and the little girl behaviors in women, for he only wants to be with a woman.” Aquarian spiritual guidance isn’t typically macho, nor does it adhere to traditional gender norms, but that’s what makes Semen Retention different. It’s a sort of conservative occult; repurposing tried-and-true ideals about the sanctity of life, the wholesomeness of sex and the conniving intentions of women into something stranger and more mystic with a variety of theological roots from Islam, Christianity and tantric sex — the perfect aphorism for the Trump era.

The movement is catching on. Alongside Bale’s oeuvre, you can find a number of YouTube therapists hawking their own interpretations on Semen Retention. The most popular might be Johnathan White’s Sexual Kung-Fu channel, with 8,800 subscribers, where he uploads videos with eyebrow-raising titles like “Does Semen Retention Increase Lifespan?” and “Semen Retention & Increased Attraction,” (which is currently sitting at 238,887 views.) The Semen Retention subreddit is currently locked at 4,048 subscribers. Recent topics include someone who claims to have made his first million dollars after embracing chastity, and a list of miraculous physical boons from a man who’s successfully gone six months without orgasming. “My gaze is sparkling, [my] face is more symmetric,” he writes. “Video games don’t interest me at all anymore, I’ve only watch like three movies in six months… [I’ve] finally started loving myself, and thus loving others.”

Obviously, there is no way to empirically equivocate things like posture, complexion and virility with a lack of ejaculation. “The past hundred years of advance in sexual medicine tells us that masturbation is very, very healthy,” wrote David J. Ley, in a piece for Psychology Today. “People who masturbate more, on average, have healthier relationships, live longer, know more about their own bodies and have better sex.” But there’s at least one man on the internet who’s willing to go on the record with me and say Semen Retention has changed his life. He’s a 22-year-old named Justin who tweets as @FRUITBASEDGOD, with an avi that has him doing a Downward Dog on a campsite table. His feed reads like a frathouse Goop; hundreds of bro-Chakra koans about the divine fulfillment of eating raw, drinking juice and not cumming. “Kings: We retain our Seed, because it is all of our power and LifeForce,” he wrote, back in June. “Semen Retention [is equal to] higher testosterone, vitality, less aging. Manifesting and creating with our sexual energy, instead of spilling in lust. Only Alkaline Fruit Goddess can catch this Fruit Nut.”

Justin tells me he’s been retaining since he was 18, after he failed to get sufficiently hard when he was losing his virginity. He described himself as a juvenile porn addict, and during his spiritual rebirth, came to the conclusion that ejaculating through lust was both a “form of abortion” for his future children, and a disgrace to his ancestors. Sex, which he annotates through the acronym Sexual Energy eXchange, is the fulcrum of male power, and it’s our responsibility to be its guardians. “Physically speaking, your sperm is made up of many nutrients, it takes 40 drops of blood to make one drop of sperm. When you ejaculate, you are losing blood, nutrients, testosterone,” he says. “A healthy man with high life force, also will have lots of healthy sperm. The more life force you have, the more you can manifest.”

Justin goes on: the non-sexual benefits he cites are a deeper voice, increased muscle mass and a boost in confidence around women. “It also cleared up my acne,” he mentions. Sexually, he says he no longer deals with erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, and that he hasn’t left a disappointed lover in his wake. (Remember, Semen Retention isn’t abstinence, it’s just not ejaculating. Says Bale: “I’m not requesting any man do that. Have all the sex you want.”)

Instead, the Semen Retainers have found their own way to climax; one that they say is much more substantial than the bottle-rocket of the traditional male orgasm. Justin says he cums like a woman now, with multiple vibrations, no downtime and no awkward trips to the bathroom for a towel. “Instead of ejaculating out, you ejaculate back in, and send the feeling of orgasm back up through your body,” he says. “When men ejaculate, you are done with sex, you are tired, out of stamina; often the woman is still not satisfied. This will allow you to have the most intimate, powerful, connected sex you always dreamed of. This takes a lot of practice, but never be discouraged.”

It’s funny to frame the art of Semen Retention against the broader metaphysical movement in our culture. You’ve seen it everywhere. Astrology is hip again, our friends have learned to read Tarot, every man in America has been forced to learn their Rising Sign (usually around 2 a.m., in the twilight of a Tinder date). By and large, this is a kindling facilitated by women and queer people, much to the tired grievances of cis, heterosexual men. (Last year, MEL published a self-help guide specifically for dudes who don’t care about astrology. “Men don’t give a shit about astrology,” it reads. “In fact, your eyes are probably already glazed over.”)

But naturally, men have found their own way to participate in the diction by carving out our own superstitions with something only we can control. The supposed gnostic, incorporeal powers of semen, held against those who would like to see us bereaved from it. It combines two of the most dominant narratives in 2018: our communal spiritual awakening, and the bleak future of masculinity, into one searching, desperate heave.

Justin, at least, takes a slightly more progressive approach to his theories compared to Bale’s cosmically-ordained machismo: “A real man, a true king, embraces his divine feminine and masculine in a perfect balance,” he explains. “In this society, we are plague with damaged men, who spill their seed and only think of themselves, consumed in ego, who adhere to this idea of hyper-masculinity. The truth is, hyper-masculinity is femininity. Men who are insecure in their masculinity will feel the need to project hyper-masculinity in order to compensate for their lack.”