The Real and Imagined Benefits of NoFap
A new sexual health movement has firmly entrenched itself in Internet culture and is becoming more and more popular among thousands of men who feel there are issues with their overall sexual ability. This movement is none other than NoFap, with a whopping 356k people subscribed to /r/nofap
The methods espoused by followers of NoFap is that all pornographic materials and masturbation is to be completely eliminated from one's life, with users referring to how many days they've gone consecutively as a "streak" which is then worn as a badge of honor once a streak has reached a level deemed desirable.
A goal many "Fapstronauts" seek is an increase in both the pleasure of sex and the frequency of sex, but a small subset of NoFappers abstain from sexual activity entirely, this is known in the community as "hard mode."
But masturbation feels good and is extremely pleasurable, what would motivate a man sufficiently to make him voluntarily choose to stop getting himself off? The answer lies in what effects constant pornography use & masturbation has on the brain and how a human being relates to the concepts of orgasm and sex. Twenty or even thirty years ago, finding a copy of the relatively vanilla sex magazines with still pictures like Hustler Or Playboy was a young boy's first foray into the world of pornography, with grainy VHS porn being pretty much closest thing to modern tube sites. The high availability of pornography online that most men have actively used since they become sexually mature has lead one of the earliest public figures in the NoFap community, Gary Wilson, to dub this phenomenon "The Great Porn Experiment," since porn users can now have hundreds of tabs open filled with extremely graphic sexual materials. The effects of such easy access to sexually explicit material and its use by millions of men worldwide is what the "experiment" seeks to quantify.
The overuse of these materials has thought to re-wire the brain in such a way the brain begins to see sex as something between a man and his computer with dozens of sexual "partners" involved as opposed to a man and a woman engaging in an intimate experience. Individuals can skip around to different parts of the video to cherry-pick very specific sexual acts or just to skim through the sexiest parts of the videos before moving on to the next video in their queue. It's even a bit of a casual joke that there's this feeling men experience after ejaculating and closing 20 tabs of raunchy materials that is described as gross and shady feeling. The idea is that over time men become desensitized to regular encounters with women and their brain has been rewired in such ways that produce lethargy, social anxiety, and a general desire to just go home and interact with the harem of women the brain knows is only a few clicks away from. Even then, the kind of stimulation & excitement from regular sex is much different than that of masturbation, resulting in men as young as in their mid twenties reporting sexual dysfunction like an inability to maintain an erection or ejaculate from regular sex. The hand also stimulates the penis in a much different way than the vagina does, leading to reduced sensitivity caused by gripping the penis too hard, also known as Death Grip.
What Are The Benefits of NoFap?
So now the question is whether or not NoFap is a crock of nonsense or if choking the chicken too much can be a huge detriment to one's sex life. As usual in life, the answers are much more in the realm of shades of gray. Reducing the frequency of pornography use and masturbation in general definitely has effects on the human body, but the idea that occasional masturbation itself spells the end of a happy life is not backed up by available scientific studies.
The most popular claim of NoFap is that it takes 90 days of total abstinence from pornography, masturbation, and orgasm to rewire the brain back to it's pre-porn state and live a more healthy life.
The Scientific Benefits Of NoFap
Libido is, in a way, similar to other needs of the body like sleeping, eating, or drinking water. Over time the need grows and something has to be done about it. The ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes once said, "I wish it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing my belly." But the concept that once you've had your fill you no longer need to eat can also be applied to sex drive. If one is constantly drained due to masturbating several times a day, the desire to interact with and have meaningful romantic relationships with real women will be reduced in most men. If one stops masturbating and lets their sexual desires reach boiling point, the brain's desire to spread seed will become more prominent once again.
Stopping masturbation for even a few days will increase the strength of a man's erection because the body is hungrier for sex and is more easily excited. These stronger erections are easier to maintain and it's harder to snap yourself out of the frame of mind that you can wait to get off once you have the exact porn you need. Ejaculation volume increases as well since semen has been accumulating in the body. In this regard, the penis does become more effective after only just a few days. The return of morning wood is also a tangible benefit from abstaining from masturbating for a while.
The near constant rush of dopamine produced by pornography results in the brain seeking more and more explicit material at a single time to achieve the same effect if porn if used excessively. This dopamine rush isn't easily replicated by each and every real life sexual encounter so lowering the baseline for sexual excitement can help couples who are experiencing issues having a hard time with erection quality. By returning the brain to the natural state of seeking realer sensations as opposed to a tightly clenched hand and 18 tabs of videos, men can both achieve an erection more easily as well as ejaculate under more regular conditions.
One of the few scientifically backed up aspects of NoFap is a huge bump in serum (blood) testosterone after day 7 of no masturbation. This bump then returns to more normal levels. What this bump means as far as drawing conclusions is more hotly debated. It is at this point that effects such as deeper voice, an increase of energy, and the removal of brain fog are commonly reported. Whether due to increasing a man's primal desire to seek out women or through a little understood biological method, many also report an increase in female attention at this point, but as I said whether or not its interpreting average female attention to mean much more in an effort to find a mate or an actual increase in attention is still to be determined. These effects are referred to as "superpowers" and as such it should really be considered how much of these effects are due to placebo or an actual physical change. It's worth remembering that placebo effects are just as significant as "real" effects, just the cause is entirely psychosomatic (in your head) as opposed to physiological (in your body).
So, it seems that the only immediately provable and tangible benefits of NoFap are an increase in erection quality, the return of consistent morning wood, an increased volume of semen, and an increased sex drive that comes with mental and physical side effects.
Why NoFap Can Be Unhealthy, Too
Unfortunately this very interesting topic has been overtaken by bro-science and overly simplistic reductions of male sexuality and how the brain works. I would like it to be known that very few qualified neuroscientists and biologists have delved extremely deep into the effects of abstaining from pornography and masturbation and how profound of an effect it has. In fact, the large consensus by physicians is that masturbation is only a problem when it gets in the way of real sex, is done in public, or is compulsive to a life altering degree. The addition of pornography is often left out from their opinions, though, so I think they are still a few years behind being able to comment on whether porn use is a healthy or unhealthy practice coupled with masturbation.
Simply put, stopping masturbation isn't going to turn your life around on it's own, if reducing masturbation helps you to reorganize your life and live a more fulfilling life both inside and outside the world of sex, then it is beneficial but ultimately not the only thing that has improved your life, the discipline gained from breaking out of your comfort zone to achieve things is the true culprit. Breaking pornography addiction to have a more healthy view of sex is a much more realistic goal than trusting some dudes on Reddit that masturbating means you're going to go nowhere with women and in life in general.
Those who have dove in head first and seek to use NoFap as a reason to explain away all of their problems without having to take responsibility for the fact don't realize that maybe they just aren't living the lives they'd like to live because they aren't taking steps towards that life. I've seen some posters go as far as advocating for "abstinence friendly diets," like eating more kale is supposed to help you stop jerking off or something like that. The culty aspect of NoFap is what turns me off from it the most, as a lot of people immediately attribute anything positive to their lack of masturbation and anything negative to the effects of masturbation without considering that the body ebbs and flows for thousands if not millions of reasons on a daily basis. Extravagant conclusions from minor data points is extremely common on NoFap, so make sure to wear your critical thinking cap when researching NoFap.
As a sex therapist, I've frequently told my patients to alter their masturbation habits to be more healthier, as there is definitely physical and mental effects associated with masturbating. The idea of using neuroplasticity by stopping masturbating for long periods of time to shed some of the negative ideas picked up by porn use isn't outlandish whatsoever and if someone has ED or trouble in the bedroom they think their porn use is making worse, it's absolutely worth a shot.
I really hope that more studies and objective data is collected surrounding this idea, so myself and everyone interested can have unbiased and quality information surrounding the effect of pornography on the sexual functioning of men. Some men don't report any sexual dysfunction from frequent porn use and some report dysfunction just from irregular use. Clearly there is a mental aspect at play here regarding how an individual interfaces with porn that has real effects on the physical body. Abstaining from masturbation has it's benefits, but a shower wank isn't some life-ending event. Having a healthy outlook on sex & performing how you'd like inside and outside the bedroom is much more important than whether or not you jerk it from time to time, but excessive pornography use the way it's used in modern times can put a damper on those two things.
If you would like to talk about the subject more in-depth, please comment below, I'd love to hear more thoughts or experiences with NoFap!
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