Fapstinence or no fap is a purported self-improvement method often used by or advised to "low-T" (short for low-testosterone) and love-shy men on the inceldom spectrum that consists of avoiding masturbation and/or pornography consumption.
There are links to the large and growing anti-porn movement. Anti-porn advocates are primarily focused on using no fap as a method of curbing porn usage and the negative effects they argue porn consumption can have on user's neurochemistry, sexual function and behaviour, but they do not necessarily advise against masturbation per se. Some have noted that the various no fap forums appear to overlap with incel forums in terms of themes and characteristics of the forum users, such as sexual inexperience and low self-esteem.
Masturbation has historically been viewed as an aberration or a sin in several major world religions, and it has therefore frequently been socially discouraged on those grounds. In the modern era, secular motives for fapstinence appear to have initially been, to a large extent, sparked by the PUA subculture, as reducing masturbation was advised by the famous PUA Mystery, and fapstinence was commonly discussed and promoted on PUA forums as far back as 2008, with a common line of thought in said circles linking frequent masturbation and porn use to approach anxiety.
Overview[edit | edit source]
Fapstinents often make dubious 'evidence-based' arguments that abstaining from masturbation will increase their T levels and increase their confidence and, consequently, their ability to do cold approach or warm approach women. Fapstinents also often believe that "high-T" men exude a greater "animal magnetism" that is highly attractive to women, often obviating these men's need to approach women altogether. Some more enthusiastic fapstinents also appear to believe this T increase would positively affect their muscle or bones in a noticeable way, i.e., they are using it as a looksmaxxing technique. It is also commonly advised in the bodybuilding/fitness subculture due to these reasons, though the bulk of scientific evidence into masturbation and sports performance only suggests a weak negative link between sexual release and sports performance when it occurs right before the event, though masturbation per se has not been examined here to a great extent. Claims like these have led to criticism that the movement is pseudo-scientific and cultish in nature. However, the modern nofap movement essentially proposes empirical and secular arguments against masturbation, as opposed to traditional religious arguments for celibacy of different degrees. This secular, superficially evidence-based approach may be one reason why fapstinence, in its modern incarnation as an internet-based movement, took off and become a popular trend while traditional religious admonitions against "sins of the flesh" have typically failed to attain widespread appeal.
Some modern fapstainers do take a less materialistic approach, stepping overtly into the realm of "woo" and adopting the practices and beliefs surrounding the dissipation of "sexual energy" advocated by certain Eastern religions and mysticisms, such as Chinese tantra and the Dharmic religious practice of brahmacharya (total celibacy of body and mind). These approaches to masturbation abstinence can be broadly called semen retention, as many of these people also advocate sexual activity without ejaculation among men, a practice known as coitus reservatus. Coitus reservatus has also historically been used as a form of birth control, to increase male sexual potency, to make sexual intercourse more pleasurable (esp for women), and has been a common practice among many religious sects to control male sexuality, such as the utopian socialist Oneida community in the United States, who saw it as one method enforcing greater gender equality by 'liberating' women from what they viewed as the burden of reproduction.
Porn use, masturbation and inceldom[edit | edit source]
Abstaining from masturbation would not appear to be an effective intervention to cure inceldom, in the vast majority of cases, at least, because
- testosterone levels have very little to do with mating success in men (assuming abstention has any major effect on T levels, which it doesn't)
- some research has indicted a positive linear relationship between porn use frequency in males and their odds of being in a relationship (and thus the majority of men are not substantially limited in attaining relationships owing to their porn use).
In the US's long-running General Social Survey (GSS), pornography non-use was a significant predictor of sexlessness in the years 2000-2018, suggesting that abstention from pornography is generally associated with a lower sex drive, voluntarily celibacy, and perhaps a slower life history speed.
Men higher in partnered sex (it is not clear if this is true for sex in general) do tend to masturbate less, though it is more likely that since men display a compensatory pattern for masturbation (which is not generally found among women) this suggests that men masturbate more when they can't get sex rather than the masturbation being the cause of them not being able to get sex. Fischer & Træen (2022) found evidence for the existence of 'clusters' of heavy masturbators who were sexually satisfied, and heavy masturbators who were highly sexually unsatisfied, as opposed to high sex satisfaction/low masturbation and low sexual satisfaction/low masturbation, suggesting that incels who masturbate a lot are simply those with higher sex drives, as opposed to the disproportionately high portion of completely sexless people who seem to be asexual.
Lack of scientific evidence[edit | edit source]
Testosterone and fapping[edit | edit source]
The hype around fapstinence appears to have gained impetus from a 2011 Reddit post to /r/TIL about a single Chinese study claiming fapstinence would boost T levels by 45% above baseline (paper stated 145.7% above baseline after 7 days of abstinence). This study went on to spark discussion on Reddit that led to creation of the initial no fap subreddit. The paper has since been retracted because "it significantly overlaps with a previously published article in Chinese (Jiang, 2002)", and so the original study it is based on has not been translated to English, making the specific methodology used uncertain. This experiment was furthermore based on a tiny sample of men and has not been independently replicated. More recent experiments have discovered that exposure to pornography and masturbation can acutely increase free testosterone levels, which is supported by earlier research. Though the effects of masturbation and porn usage on men's hormonal profiles seems to be transitory and of little practical significance both ways, and research in this realm can be considered to be in its infancy.
Another experiment, this one using a repeated measures design with a mere 10 male subjects, found a small increase in serum testosterone levels specifically in response to sexual arousal and masturbation after three weeks of complete sexual abstinence. The baseline testosterone levels of the men were similar both before and after abstinence, and the difference between the two conditions was only marked following sexual arousal. The authors concluded that "on the other hand, the increased testosterone concentrations may have resulted from enhanced sensitivity to anticipatory cues, since testosterone secretion increases in anticipation of sexual interaction" (ibid). Thus, this study simply seems to find that being exceptionally horny, such as when one is exposed to porn after three weeks of celibacy, can spike men's testosterone levels.
Explaining these seemingly contradictory findings, is possible that masturbation causes a small spike in testosterone release (seemingly associated with sexual arousal in general), but that abstaining from masturbation can also potentially weakly boost testosterone, possibly as an adaption to increase mating drive as testosterone does increase libido. This explanation, however, may not be sufficient to explain this T boost as even the administration of reasonably large amounts of exogenous testosterone (roughly equivalent to 4x the amount of testosterone most men produce naturally, disregarding differences in individual metabolism of exogenous T) only moderately increases libido in most males. Furthermore, Exton et al. (2001) only found higher serum testosterone was associated with abstinence per se when combined with sexual primes, as noted above.
The short-term boost in testosterone in this study, moreover, if replicable, was likely so small and of such a short duration that it would play no practical role in driving differences in behavior, sexual drive, or physiological changes. Hormone studies have discovered it seems to generally require both large, and possibly chronic doses of testosterone to drive even modest behavioral changes in test subjects.
Another line of research no-fappers often point to as evidence of the claim that "no-fap increases T" are rodent studies that find that ejaculation is associated with a short-term reduction in androgen receptor (AR) density in certain regions of the brain. At the same time, sexual abstinence seem to result in the up-regulation of androgen receptor density in the same areas of the rodent brain. Thus, the argument is that an up-regulation of androgen receptor density resulting from abstinence will essentially result in a behaviorally masculinizing effect, as androgen receptors play a decisive role in mediating the effects of androgens on brain function and physiological functions, libido and so on. It is unlikely that this small increase in androgen receptor density in the brain (assuming this holds true for humans) would play much of a function in altering behavior to any large degree (especially in the absence of large changes in T levels). This neural change likely mainly serves to inhibit excess sexual activity on behalf of male mammals, as the down-regulation in receptor density was the largest among rats that were allowed to copulate ad libitum with receptive females. These rat studies likely simply prove that no-fap makes one more sexually motivated due to sexual frustration, which is pretty obvious prima facie. In conclusion, there seems to be no reliable evidence of any strong causal association between masturbation frequency and testosterone levels, with the evidence pointing towards sexual arousal, masturbation and potentially ejaculation all having a short-term positive effect on men's testosterone levels, though this is an understudied topic.
Is masturbation and porn harmful[edit | edit source]
The bulk of scientific research suggests masturbation is not harmful unless it is excessive or occurs in public. Pornography consumption is unlikely to cause inceldom, and even consumption of degenerate porn is unlikely to affect mental functioning as it is generally hard to perturb. Porn consumption is correlated with some negative life outcomes, but this is suspected to be explained by other variables rather than by porn itself.
China appears to have a history of discouraging masturbation in general. In 2017, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) blamed overconsumption of fizzy drinks, computer gaming, and masturbation for the poor health of young people, and announced the rejection of army recruits that had a varicocele (an enlargement of a vein in the testicles, associated with infertility) which they attributed to excessive masturbation. China's aversion to masturbation can perhaps be explained by traditional Chinese beliefs that attribute a loss of "jing" (vital energy) to men as a result of ejaculation. As a result of this belief, abstinence from masturbation and refraining from ejaculation during sex (coitus reservatus) is commonly prescribed by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a remedy for several health issues.
Modern history of the movement[edit | edit source]
Fapstainers are group of people loosely linked to the manosphere entirely focused on fapstinence. These nofappers often congregate on various platforms titled "no fap" or derivations thereof. They frequently believe that abstaining from masturbation, and in some cases ejaculation altogether, will increase confidence levels, assertiveness, and men's sexual success, and other behaviors associated with being 'high-T' or masculine. These individuals often call themselves 'fapstronauts' and claim the process of abstaining from pornography use and masturbation to be a process of 'rebooting'.
The modern fapstinence movement, though largely secular in nature, was popularized on a subreddit founded by the Christian web developer Alexander Rhodes, who since created a website called nofap.com. He stated he initially started it as a support group for porn addicts, a condition he claimed to suffer from severely in his teenage years, which he maintained later led to him experiencing sexual dysfunctions that negatively affected several of his romantic relationships. Rhodes also trademarked the term "NoFap". Rhodes is known for pursuing aggressive litigation against his critics, such as a neuroscientist who claimed that users of Rhodes's websites harassed her due to her criticism of the validity of porn addiction. A now deleted article on Rhode's website accuses several of his critics of likely being in the pay of the porn industry and pursuing a defamatory agenda. He also successfully sued a news website who tried to link him and his website specifically to far-right political movements. Rhodes himself denies his website is linked to or representative of any broader movement.
Fapstinence as a cult[edit | edit source]
Arguments for it[edit | edit source]
- The Argument that Asceticism as historically involved with the occult (e.g. Satanism)
- No-fap can enable chronic anxiety and insomnia
- A lack of historical context on Victorian celibacy
- Alpha-faking and ego-stroking (i.e. insecurity) in the movement
Arguments against it[edit | edit source]
- Those that complain that no-fap does not work, often has traits of Elliot Rodger (e.g. aggression, apathy of women, "hatred" against women).
- Pornography and sexual idolatry also have historical basis in the occult
Ulterior political motives of both sides[edit | edit source]
Feminists have identified that fapstinence as a practice has largely gained traction among various far-right movements, such as the "Proud Boys", who advised members to adopt "NoWanks" as a method of attaining the motivation to approach women.
Fapstinence as a paradoxical fetish[edit | edit source]
Orgasm denial is a subtype of BDSM, and that ironically, those that claim to be "ascetics" and the political right are engaging in this debauchery through open declaration. There is a claim that populists and hyper-conservatives are more likely to engage in BDSM-like behaviors, since it is an analogue to authoritarian policies. Others have suggested that US Democrats fantasizes about BDSM more, whilst US Republicans fantasizes about cuckoldry more (note: that the Democrat-Republican axis and the liberal-conservative axis can be non-equivalent). Some attempted to explain that populism is the intermediating factor. In UK politics Labor (Left) are more likely to engage in Oral Sex and Role Play, whereas LibDem and UKIP (Libertarians) are more likely to engage in masturbation and bondage.
The paradox goes further, and that religious fundamentalists, TradCon and anti-democracy advocates are are likely to both use porn, and desire the banning of pornography. Those who are prone to porn addiction are more likely to be low in Emotional Stability, Extraversion, and Conscientiousness whilst being high in Agreeableness, which are more likely to fit the psychological profile of "Right Wing Authoritarians" and unlikely to fit with Dark Triad traits. Rapists are not prone to porn use however. Pedophile, are ironically, more biologically masculinized, while those that are against promiscuity are more feminized. From an evolutionary perspective, it can be said that rapists and pedophiles are more likely to be fast LH whilst those that are TradCon and are more emotional about fapstinence are more likely to be slow LH.
No Nut November challenge[edit | edit source]
Another subgroup of the fapstinence effort is the "No Nut November" meme. This can be seen as a viral challenge that is popular in certain internet circles. The main goal of challenge is to avoid ejaculating (not necessarily masturbating) for an entire month, typically the month of November. This month was largely chosen on the basis of alliteration, following other challenges like "Dry July" that play on words in a similar fashion so there is no fixed commemoration. As a counterpoint, Destroy Dick December is by some embraced to make good for the previous month of abstinence.
Memes[edit | edit source]
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Jiang M, Xin J, Zou Q, Shen JW (2003)"A research on the relationship between ejaculation and serum testosterone level in men." Journal of Zhejiang University Science A. 4 (2): 236–240. doi:10.1631/jzus.2003.0236.
- George R. Brown, MD (July 2019). "Overview of Sexuality". Merck Manuals Professional Version. Retrieved 4 March 2020.