The refractory period is the time interval after an orgasm in which a man finds it impossible to have sexual intercourse. It is a ‘recovery phase’ during which men aren’t able to stay erect and engage in further sexual activity. The duration of this period varies in all individuals and can go from several minutes for some to a few days for others.
A psychological feeling of satisfaction plays a crucial role post an orgasm where the man cannot be sexually aroused and naturally loses interest. A man’s penis may even become hypersensitive and sexual activity can be painful in such cases.
Various hormones and chemicals being produced in the body are at work here. Oxytocin, popularly known as the cuddle hormone is released during foreplay, intercourse, and actual ejaculation. The amount of oxytocin released is believed to directly affect the length of the refractory period. This hormone is produced in the human body not only during sex, but also during breastfeeding, birth, and social bonding.
Another hormone produced by the pituitary gland called prolactin, represses dopamine levels after ejaculation. Dopamine is the key hormone responsible for sexual arousal. The role played by prolactin in refractory periods has got the attention of scientists. Drugs like Cabergoline, which inhibit prolactin are reported to eliminate the refractory period altogether and let a man achieve multiple orgasms, according to a study. On the other hand, it manipulates hormones and can cause adverse side effects.
Another theory involves pressure in the walls of the seminal vesicles. It is believed that the reduction in this pressure creates a negative feedback loop from the male organ by means of neurons. This feedback mechanism takes place all over the human body, regulating various physiologic systems. The refractory period is said to get over when the feedback loop is broken on the restoration of pressure.
Refractory periods have been documented to be around 10 minutes for 18-year old males to 20 hours for men in their 60s. Many sexual myths propagated by pop culture and social conversations have a lot to do with numbers. As with any sex-related topic, creating awareness and gaining knowledge is more important than believing myths.
Refractory periods are a natural response of the male body, and it’s certainly not a bad thing. The time could be used for recreation, interaction with the partner, understanding their needs and desires and indulge in foreplay as well.
Some books do claim to help men achieve a zero refractory period by having multiple ‘ejaculation-less orgasms’. Some sources also say that men who started masturbating before hitting puberty are better at achieving multiple orgasms. Of course, none of these are backed up with any concrete scientific proof.