Karezza, invented by gynecologist Alice Bunker Stockham in 1896, is a practice wherein people have sex without orgasm — on purpose. It’s okay if orgasm happens, but it’s not the goal. Some practitioners go months without orgasm, and even aspire to avoid it for their entire lives, all while having plenty of intercourse. The goal is to improve emotional connection, in part by moderating the hormonal highs and lows that come with orgasm.
It may seem extreme, but for some people it could be beneficial. Dr. Diana Hoppe, an ob-gyn and author of Healthy Sex Drive, Healthy You, says karezza could encourage bonding between partners by taking the emphasis off orgasm. Especially if partners are feeling disconnected from each other, karezza could help them focus on each other rather than on their own sexual gratification. And she thinks the practice may be growing in popularity due to “our 24/7 bombardment with social media” — karezza may serve as a “meditative sexual experience” where people learn to be in the moment rather than dwelling on the past, the future, or what’s happening on Twitter.
However, Hoppe also notes that there’s nothing wrong with having an orgasm, and karezza could cause problems if one partner ends up feeling they’ve been denied sexual release.
A number of mystics and other thinkers throughout history have ascribed magical powers to sex. Nineteenth-century writer Paschal Beverly Randolph believed that couples could use sexual intercourse to induce visions and even make wishes come true. Orgasm of both parties was required to produce results, and sex with prostitutes didn’t count. Famous occultist Aleister Crowley was also a believer in sex magic — he wrote that ejaculating on a demon’s special symbol could open up communication with said demon.
Men in the Oneida community in upstate New York in the mid-19th century were encouraged to practice “continence” — or sex without ejaculation. Aside from the obvious contraceptive benefits, this was supposed to increase women’s pleasure. Young men were supposed to learn continence through having sex with postmenopausal women. The Oneida community also practiced “complex marriage,” in which every man in the community was married to every woman, and all were encouraged to have sex with each other. The Oneida community disbanded in 1881, but some still praise the practice of male continence.
Based (sometimes loosely) on Hindu and Buddhist disciplines, tantric sex merges sexual activity with such practices as massage, meditation, and yoga to promote spiritual fulfillment. Tantric teacher Margot Anand says her practice, known as SkyDancing Tantra, allows adherents “to overcome feelings of separation and create a sense of union with yourself, others, and the world” and to participate in “a new sexual and spiritual experience in which physical/sensual pleasure becomes a celebration of the heart and an ecstasy of the spirit.” More concretely, her teachings promise stronger orgasms, better general health, and better partner communication. Sting famously said he and his wife had tantric sex for hours — she later said this was an exaggeration.
Purported tantric sex aficionado Sting.
Starting in the Thirties, Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich put forth the theory of orgone, a “primordial cosmic energy” that influenced everything from the color of the sky to the development of cancer. He also linked it to sex, writing [PDF] that the “damming-up” of energy through insufficient orgasms was responsible for psychological problems, which in turn caused all of humanity’s social ills. He developed “orgone energy accumulators,” large wooden boxes that people sat in to be cured of sexual and other physical illnesses. Reich’s ideas have been discredited, but some of his followers still believe in orgone energy. The American College of Orgonomy, near Princeton, still hosts events, and you can learn how to make your own orgone accumulator on the Internet (you need a lot of steel wool).
In her 2000 doctoral dissertation, psychologist Patricia Taylor defines expanded orgasm as “a practice of spreading genitally derived pleasurable sexual energy progressively through the entire physical, mental, emotional and spiritual spheres of experience.” Experts in the practice — Taylor interviewed 44 — said they experienced communion with “the Divine” and “psychospiritua birth and death” during expanded orgasm. Some EO experts also report orgasms that last hours.
Developed in the Seventies and Eighties by aspiring therapist Harley Reagan, Chuluaqui-Quodoushka (called Q for short) purports to be “a powerful healing and revitalizing energy” that people can access through sex. Q workshops promise to teach newcomers to “enjoy new ways of understanding your body, desire, and energy” and “release guilt, shame, or repression to better enjoy the power of now.” More experienced practitioners can even “use your sexual life force energy to define and manifest the world you choose to create.” Reagan initially claimed that Q was based on Native American teachings — tribal leaders have strongly disagreed.