There are subreddits for just about everything, from one dedicated to loooooong furbies to one created by a community that likes to staple bread to trees. One that stands out is "nofap", which acts as a sort of support group for people who (for one reason or another) have chosen to stop masturbating.
People in the group tend to take on challenges where they don't masturbate for a certain period of time, then report back to the group with how that's going. One "success" story from the group was posted last month, and received a surprising amount of attention in the media (maybe because we are entering a period that the Internet, in its wisdom, has chosen to label No Nut November).
"Today marks day 90. I had no idea that I was 3 months in because I didn't check my streak often, maybe once every 1-2 weeks which I think was key in my abstinence," Redditor Vyxize wrote on the subreddit.
They said they felt a number of health benefits (though admitted that these could have been placebo).
"During these 90 days, I have experienced more energy, my brain stopped sexualising normal things and my brain fog is basically gone," they wrote.
"I find it easier to socialise, and start conversations. I have also experienced a huge energy boost in the gym, and have seen tremendous progress during these 3 months."
"Some people may call this placebo, and even if it was just placebo, all these successes stories have actually helped with other people's mental health".
Is there actually any benefit to abstaining from masturbation?
People in the nofap community tend to cite benefits such as increased testosterone and energy – but is there actually anything in this? Well, the evidence is weak, and even contradicted by other available evidence.
One claim is that if you stop masturbating it will raise your testosterone levels. However, as Australia's Healthy Male points out, this idea is based on a tiny (and retracted) study that found testosterone levels in males increased after seven days of abstaining from sex or masturbation. A subsequent study found that testosterone was increased with masturbation. Another found no real difference either way. Whether you want to raise your testosterone levels is another issue entirely, and one you should talk to your doctor about (should you feel your testosterone levels were too low).
Some have claimed that abstaining from masturbation and sexual activity brings about higher levels of energy. However, a study that assessed the impact of masturbation and sex the night prior to athletic tests found that there was no "statistically significant difference in physical exercise performance" between those who masturbated, had sex, or abstained from both.
In fact, there are much more tangible benefits to cranking it like it's going out of fashion. One study found that climaxing 21 times a month or more may reduce the chances of getting prostate cancer by up to a third.
Another study found that masturbation and sex increase serotonin, and are a good way to get some shut-eye.
"Engaging in safe and satisfying sexual activity (either alone or with a partner) together with other sleep hygiene strategies before attempting sleep," the study concluded, "may offer the general adult population a healthy behavioral approach toward improving their subsequent sleep".
Abstaining from masturbation may have been anecdotally beneficial to some in the nofap subreddit (some of whom say they are addicted to sex) but the benefits to the general population are unclear or unsupported, at least medically speaking. Should you feel you are addicted to sex or masturbation, a better port of call might be to a doctor rather than a subreddit.
All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current.