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Kourtney and Travis
via Instagram (@kourtneykardash)

Ask An Expert: Can sex fasting really make everything better?

Kourtney Kardashian recently abstained from sex as part of an Ayurvedic cleanse. We spoke to a therapist to ask how it actually works

From thumb-sucking to snogging on gondolas to that internet-breaking Instagram post, Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker are the very definition of horny on main.

Kravis have been refreshingly candid about their sex life since getting together last year, but now it looks as though abstinence is their new thing: in a recent interview with Bustle, Kourtney that she and Travis had tried ‘sex fasting’. “Oh my God, it was crazy,” she said. “But it actually made everything better. Like, if you can’t have caffeine, when you have your first matcha, it’s so good.” It makes sense that a sex fast would make your orgasms more intense: as the late, great Andy Warhol said, “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.” You always want what you can’t have, after all.

Apparently, the couple abstained from sex and orgasms as part of an Ayurvedic cleanse, a form of traditional Indian medicine that seeks to eliminate toxins from the body. The cleanse involves natural therapies and lifestyle changes, like diet, herbs, massage and meditation which are believed to help the body detox.

Sex fasting – or at least being more intentional about choosing to have sex – certainly seems to be on the rise. There have been innumberable articles and thinkpieces about Gen Z’s ‘sex recession’. One in ten adults reported having no sex between March and October 2020 – largely thanks to casual sex being effectively criminalised. But this trend towards abstinence precedes the pandemic: research published in January 2021 found that that 12 per cent of Brits haven’t had an intimate sexual experience for over three years. It looks like it’s set to supercede the pandemic too – but why? Are there any benefits to abstinence?

Marianne Johnson is a psychotherapist and counsellor. She explains that many relationship therapists sometimes use a method called sensate focus in order to intensify intimacy. “This begins with a couple agreeing not to have penetrative sex for a period of time and instead to focus on other sensory experiences and different forms of touching,” she says. “Gradually the couple build up to more intimate touching and eventually to having sex.”

“There are various ways this might be prescribed and it will depend on the reason a couple have come to therapy in the first place, but the idea behind it is to reduce the focus on goal-orientated sex, possibly reduce anxiety that’s built up around having penetrative sex, and for couples to get gain greater understanding about their arousal process,” she continues. “It also helps communication skills as couples work together through the steps.”

She explains that abstaining from sex can be useful for people who experience sexual dysfunction – for example, if a client has erection difficulties or has lost their libido. “It can be a relief for a client to be able to reconnect with what turns them on, without the fear that if they start having sexual contact they will be ‘expected’ to have penetrative sex.”

Johnson stresses that shifting the focus away from penetration and achieving orgasm can be helpful for all of us. “It’s a limiting way of looking at our bodies which are full of lovely unexplored erogenous zones,” she says. “Desire and arousal come and go, even in the space of a single sexual encounter. Sometimes a thought pops in your head which instantly dampens your arousal. The process is about learning what turns you on, tuning into that in a mindful way and also gaining awareness of what is blocking you from building an erotic charge in your body.”

“Our bodies and minds are in constant communication during sex and it’s often a busy mind which is causing the issues,” she surmises. “Taking sex off the table can recharge your ability to feel things; heightening your sensitivity to embodied sensations and allowing for a much more intense experience.”