Karezza: Men Say Best Sex Comes Without Orgasm

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ABC News did a feature on karezza, and the reporter interviewed a number of forum members.

Matt Cook hasn't had an orgasm in seven months, and he hopes never to intentionally have one again. The 51-year-old publisher from Virginia isn't celibate. Happily married for 25 years, Cook said his sex life is more exciting than ever and giving up the goal-oriented climax has improved every aspect of his life.

Cook, the father of adult two sons, is a newcomer to karezza, a form of intercourse that emphasizes affection while staying far from the edge of orgasm. Climax is not the goal and ideally does not occur while making love.

"It creates a deep feeling in a relationship that is very difficult to describe -- much deeper than conventional sex," he said.

Cook is one of a growing number of men who have embraced karezza and have found it has helped heal their marriages, inject more spark into their sex lives and even shed porn addiction.

A recovering porn addict, Cook suffered from performance anxiety with girlfriends. Sex got better with his wife, but he didn't know how much until he discovered karezza.

Now, he has sex almost every day.

"It kind of never ends," said Cook. "Why would I want to give that up for a 15-second orgasm?"

Deb Feintech, a counselor from Portland, Maine, uses karezza to help couples repair their broken relationships.

"The people most interested are men," she said. "It's very radical for them, but they are finding the emotional intimacy far outweighs any of the thrill of the chase and the mating mind."

And Feintech said the practice is not just helpful for middle-aged couples struggling with the ennui of a long marriage, but for young couples headed to the altar.

"I offer this to them as something to try for a month or so," she said. "They wake up every single morning and they are not even thinking about genital stimulation. They are snuggling, holding and breathing with eye contact and flow. It's very conscious -- from the genitals to the heart."

It puts puts the emphasis on attachment, not climax.

The word karezza was coined by Dr. Alice Bunker Stockham, a Chicago obstetrician and early feminist who promoted birth control, a ban on corsets and sexual fulfillment for both genders. In 1896, she wrote a book by that name -- from the Italian word carezza, which means caress.

For strengthening marriages, she encouraged what was then called "male continence," although in the interest of equality, she asked that women abstain from orgasm, as well.

Marnia L. Robinson has carried the contemporary torch in her 2009 book, "Cupid's Poisoned Arrow," and on her website, Reuniting: Healing With Sexual Relationships.

"Even for those with the highest libidos, performance can become a grind and drive a craving for novelty," said Robinson. "Such feelings, although perfectly natural, can create projections and resentment that cause disharmony, especially after our temporary honeymoon neurochemistry wears off."

Technique is "virtually immaterial," she says. "It's a practice about not doing, about getting your goal-driven mammalian mating system out of the way long enough to fall into a state of relaxed union."

A former corporate lawyer and now a devotee, Robinson argues that karezza's power is rooted in neuroscience.

"Orgasm really isn't in our genitals, but actually between our ears," she said.

In the "passion cycle of orgasm," the hormone dopamine rises in anticipation of sex, then crashes after orgasm, creating a biochemical "hangover," according to Robinson.

In men, that happens almost immediately after ejaculation; for women, it can be two weeks before the brain returns to homeostasis, according to Robinson.

"Karezza turned out to be an enjoyable way to tiptoe around biology's agenda," she said.

Overstimulation of the pleasure receptors can also desensitize the brain to pleasure or create a craving for more. When men are addicted to pornography or have frequent orgasms, "no amount of pleasure can satisfy," she said. "We are always looking for something novel."

But in karezza, lovemaking never finishes, so sexual energy continues to flow, helping to prevent boredom with a partner, say advocates.

Karezza also elicits the relaxation response and encourages the brain to release the "love" hormone ocytocin, which helps in bonding behavior.

Robinson, unable to sustain intimacy, had been married twice before meeting her husband Gary Wilson, a former science teacher who helped her in her research. He had experienced depression and alcohol addiction, but after the couple explored karezza together, he was able to give up Prozac and drinking.

She found she was able to sustain a lasting and harmonious marriage.

"We sit tight, next to each other 24/7 and are never apart," said Wilson. "I don't feel the need to have my space, which is unusual."

Though many other men look at Wilson "like I am crazy," he said karezza can surprisingly help "rekindle things" in a long-term relationship.

Such was the case with Darryl Keil, a 56-year-old furniture maker from Brunswick, Maine, who has been married to his wife Annabelle for 29 years. They run a business and homeschooled two sons together.

About 14 years ago he read a book on sex and Taoism after feeling "depleted" and looking for something to rejuvenate their sex lives. Eventually, that led him to karezza.

For the last eight years neither one has had an intentional orgasm. He calls the old sex: "lick, pump, squirt, snore," an act that was driven by the man.

Now, his wife feels she is an equal partner in the bedroom. They are having sex every day -- "and it's not boring," said Keil, who is writing a book and runs small workshops.

"It's really alive, great sex with great feeling," said Keil. "The pleasure goes up another level ... You follow the sensation in your body, not the stimulation."

Most men who have never heard of karezza look at Keil as if he were a "freak of nature."

'It's just hard to get men to want to skip orgasms," he said. "One guy said to me, you want me to climb 10,000 feet up Mt. Everest and not get to the top?"

Like others, the Keils experience occasional orgasms "accidentally," but karezza guru Marnia Robinson said it does not violate any rules.

"I have orgasms and it's no big deal -- gentle lovemaking sometimes slips over the edges and that's nice," she said.

For each couple, the experience is different.

"The natural 'karezzanauts' would be committed couples who want to sweeten the harmony of their relationships," said Robinson.

But young people, too, can try their hand at karezza, she said. In the very least, the practice is an effective form of birth control.

"I doubt any of us forget how to have conventional sex if pregnancy is desired," she said. "You can still ride a bike, even if you drive a car."

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/karezza-lovemaking-orgasm-strengthens-marriages-advocates/story?id=16743124

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And now, the HuffPo version

Karezza Sex: Without An Orgasm, Couples Say Sex Strengthens Relationships

The headlines are clear: When it comes to sex, reaching orgasm should be any couple's ultimate goal. And yet some couples are rejecting that idea. The practice of karezza has become increasingly popular among pairs trying to reignite the “spark” in their relationships, ABC News reported. And karezza sex doesn’t involve climax.

Karezza, which gets its name for the Italian word for “caress,” is a “gentle, affectionate form of intercourse in which orgasm is not the goal, and ideally does not occur in either partner while making love,” Marnie, a blogger for karezza website “Reuniting” wrote. Instead, emotional connection and affection are emphasized. ABC News spoke to 51-year-old Matt Cook who practices karezza with his wife of 25 years. He says that karezza has improved his sex life and his relationship with his wife. “It creates a deep feeling in a relationship that is very difficult to describe,” he said. “[It’s] much deeper than conventional sex.”

Counselor Deb Feintech told ABC News that she uses karezza to help her coupled patients revitalize their relationships. And despite the stereotype that all men are always looking to get off, many of her most devoted clients are men. “It’s very radical for them, but they are finding the emotional intimacy far outweighs any of the thrill of the chase and the mating mind,” she said.

If more men are embracing the orgasm free sex-lives, it appears that many women are turning to over-the-counter products in the hope of experiencing the big O. The New York Times reported on July 2nd that more women are purchasing lubricants, arousal gels and oils, vibrators, herbal supplements and other sex aids. Meanwhile, female sexual issues are becoming increasingly medicalized. Female Sexual Dysfunction will become an official diagnosis in 2013 when the DSM-V -- the psychiatric diagnosis manual -- is released. Experts disagree about whether this diagnosis is positive for women, increasing their access to helpful treatments, or will intensify the stigma surrounding sex that doesn’t end in orgasm, while profiting off of sales of "sexual enhancement" products the Times reported haven't been proven effective.

So with all of the focus that most people put on orgasms, why are some drawn to karezza? All of the individuals that ABC News interviewed about karezza were in long-term partnerships, and the majority of the couples had experienced a lag in their sex lives or were recovering from some form of addiction. Darryl Keil, a 56-year-old furniture maker found karezza when him and his wife were having problems in the bedroom 14 years ago. Neither he nor his wife Annabelle has had an orgasm for eight years, and they say that their relationship has never been better. Annabelle now feels like an equal partner during their daily sexual encounters. “It’s really alive, great sex with great feeling,” Keil told ABC News. “The pleasure goes up another level … You follow the sensation in your body, not the stimulation.”

Of course not everyone understands karezza-devotees’ zeal for an orgasm-free sex life. Keil told ABC News: “One guy said to me, you want to climb 10,000 feet up Mt. Everest and not get to the top?”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/karezza-sex-without-orgasm-coup...

Yes, the flying monkeys

are out in swarms, but it's still a chance to expose people to the concept. And through the years we've noticed that it's mostly the flying monkeys who read each other's comments. The rest of the world gets on with sharing the information (with boo-boos, of course).

Had to stop reading too

Some of the comments after the article on that site were just plain vicious. It reminds me of trying to stop a baby from sticking a butter knife in the wall socket, they just want to do it. The attachment to getting that neurochemical buzz through release and orgasm makes some people crazy... but hey, I've been there too.

Lol

They are angry.  And accuse the people in the article of being like they (the commenters) are...projecting...

Good for you!

Really informative inviting article. I honor your courage in being out there like you are. I have been doing the affirmation this week" I love myself enough to be myself." Woo hoo for you being yourself!

First Class

These are two (three?) very very good and significant media appearances, well done all.

Maybe reuniting should start a media section to collect these in a more prominent place. One of the storys is presently buried in the comments area.

I too found the abcnews comments bewildering. I read them all trying to comprehend the thinking. As a newcomer, my first reaction was incredulity. How can any reasoning person with a brain so boldly support views like those? As KevinJ says the extent of vitriol and worked-upness is probably the give away. Genes definitely have those people well and truly by the balls.

However, as someone who makes themselves vulnerable by sharing the joy they have found, it is disheartening to be received like that, and it scares me. I really take my hat off to those of you that have put your names to this, that take real courage. But it is something that we must surely do if the validity of Karezza is to be established. I hope that in time i will stand amongst you.

Well...

as the old saw goes, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."

It did hurt some, but eventually we stopped reading.

Good suggestion about the media. Turns out the article sparked articles all over the globe and it would be useful to have them collected in one spot. I'll get on that.

And thank you all for your enthusiasm and support. I laughed out loud at the thought of the flying monkeys (vitriolic orgasm addicts) sticking their knives in wall sockets. (I leave that image to your imaginations....)

You might also enjoy the

comments of various academic sexologists on the listserve I frequent. (Many are gay.)

From:    DLey Author of a book claiming that sex addiction is a myth
Subject: ABC news explains why orgasms are unhealthy

On Good Morning America, sexnetter Marnia explains why orgasms create lasting brain changes. The story describes the practice of karezza, which advocates for withholding orgasm, to strengthen marriages and cure porn addiction.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/karezza-lovemaking-orgasm-strengthens-marriages-advocates/story?id=16743124&singlePage=true#.T_8G4ZEmq5c
 
I am struck by the potential cultural biases embedded in this approach - various cultures throughout history and around the world have not viewed sex consistently with the intense emphasis that is voiced in this article on emotional intimacy, commitment, monogamy and mutual satisfaction. This approach clearly places very high meaning on mutuality in sexuality, which is not necessarily a component of polygamous cultures, or of intensely "macho" cultures.

From:    Dan Savage [Famous gay 'agony aunt' in USA]
Subject: Re: ABC news explains why orgasms are unhealthy

hm…

i just profiled a couple in a femdom relationship that included chastity and orgasm denial for him. sounds a lot like this.

and, i'm sorry, but does this strike anyone else as unhinged? doesn't it pathologize male sexuality? and female too, but male particularly?

dan


From:    DLey

I couldn't agree more - I argue extensively in the myth of sex addiction (dan, I'm happy to send you a copy - where?) that the embedded messages in the discussions of porn addiction and this kind of attitude towards sex are indeed turning male sexuality into a disease state. The sexual values behind these arguments are driven by typically female sexual attitudes, that place highest value on intimacy and commitment, and view recreational sex, goal-directed sex, and casual sex as morally suspect, if not unhealthy. The sexual attitudes research by Hendrick shows the different attitudes towards sex across genders, and it is fascinating to me that these things that are currently deemed unhealthy are consistently things that are valued by men and devalued by women.

In terms of orgasm denial and femdom/cuckold stuff - I don't see that those couples are characterizing male sexuality as bad. Indeed, I think those men are able to access some interesting sexual aspects not open to many men, through submission to their wife's sexuality. Further, the women in those couples tend to have sexual attitudes that are more like those of men, at least based upon my experience interviewing femdom and cuckold couples for Insatiable Wives.


From:    LM

Before we assume that attitudes like this are driven by some feminist or female dominated view of sex, shouldn't we be looking at religion-driven attitudes about sex that dominate in this country and are still uttered by male leaders then 'enforced' by female sycophants? Sexuality of all kinds, especially masturbation, are still considered bad by many fundamentalist religions in the US. I have had clients who are expressly told at marriage workshops that masturbation is adultery and even sicker were foster parents who had been to one of these workshops who thought their foster son's masturbation was also adultery (he was 6!).

To control female sexuality these days even more is to control male sexuality.

From:    "DLey ."

Oh yes, sorry - I totally agree that these attitudes and arguments suppress all sex, male and female. But most highly sexual women report preferring male friends who are more accepting of their sexuality.

Baumeister and twenge did a wonderful investigation of where sexual suppression of women comes from, and it predominantly comes from other women.

interestingly, religious organisations are criticised currently for having values that are too female-focused and thus being somewhat inaccessible to men. It is a fact that male participation in organized religion is declining and this issue is one reason that is cited.

From:    AH

>
Subject: Re: ABC news explains why orgasms are unhealthy

The association that this story makes me think of is that Chairman Mao had
a reputation for engaging in rather regular sexual activity with a great
many youthful (teenage-ish) girls, but he was careful to keep himself from
ejaculating, keeping with a long standing tradition of semen retention in
China, especially among Chinese emperors.  The belief, as I understand it,
was that semen held ones virility and was thus something that should not be
squandered, lest it deplete your strength.

I'm pretty sure that semen retention predated feminism by at least a couple
of thousand years.  Hopefully someone more knowledgable on the history of
sexuality than me can enlighten us?  (I've been trying to find information
on this from reputable sources, but even the academic articles that quickly
confirmed a traditional belief in semen retention in China seem to be
citing articles that just state things as a matter of common knowledge.)

From:    GS
Subject: ABC news explains why orgasms are unhealthy

Actually this does sound similar to Taoist attitudes about ejaculation.
I looked up Karezza techniques and found, "The physical techniques of
karezza, as propounded by Alice Bunker Stockham and others in her
circle, are designed to teach control of the orgasm response in both men
and women, for the purposes of physical pleasure, partnership bonding,
better health, and spiritual benefit. What sets karezza apart from
traditional religious teachings such of tantra yoga is that karezza
method applies equally to both partners in the relationship, whether
they are a man and a woman, two men, or two women."

http://www.luckymojo.com/tktechniques.html

From:    AH

It turns out that one of OED's quotes for "karezza" is from Kinsey et al.'s
female volume.

1953   A. C. Kinsey et al. *Sexual Behavior Human
Female<http://www.oed.com.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/view/Entry/102559?redirectedFrom=Karezza+>
> * xv. 625   Coitus reservatus, the *Karezza* of the Sanskrit and Hindu
> literature, represents a maximum sophistication of such deliberate control.

From:    PJ

> Coitus reservatus, the Karezza of the Sanskrit and Hindu literature, represents a maximum sophistication of such deliberate control.

Which we've since learned results in higher rates of prostate cancer and other prostate problems for men over 40. [NOTICE THE ABSENCE OF CITATION HERE.]

MY REPLY TO THE GENTS:

Thanks for your thoughts guys. For sexual diversity zealots, you seem quite intolerant of others' sexual explorations--even when those explorations mirror practices that have shown up in various forms for millennia, often in quite sex-positive cultures. Maybe try the ideas before you knock them. 

Frankly, it's kind of  boring to read your attacks on the same tired straw men of your creation: "women-hating-men's-sexuality," "chastity kink" and "religion-driven attitudes" - without a shred of evidence (and in complete contravention of the facts as I know them rather intimately). Daoist practices, like tantra in some of its historical phases, were developed by men to enhance their own prowess, as best I can tell.

Paul, I wasn't aware that anyone had researched karezza's effects on the prostate. Please email me your citations. Every couple I know who practices it, occasionally has conventional orgasms, so it's hard to believe that it's harmful.

Speaking of prostate health, I'd like to see research on the subject of overly frequent ejaculation in young guys causing involuntary semen leakage at other times during the day. We hear that complaint frequently, and it seems to abate as guys' sexual health improves after they give up Internet porn (and their masturbation frequency drops). Hmmm....

BTW, did any of you happen to read this article? It's a good description of the new research on Internet addiction. Much of it will sound familiar to those who have read my posts here. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/07/08/is-the-internet-making-us-crazy-what-the-new-research-says.html It refers to the Sexnet-style arguments as "puckish." Cute.