Understanding the NoFAP Movement and Masturbation Abstinence
Asked to explain the NoFAP movement, most people draw a blank. However, it is a quickly growing online community, geared toward providing support for those who wish to change their relationship to masturbation.
The internet is often serves as a place where people can find their niches, communities, and liked-minded groups for support and areas of interest. Social media platforms and forum boards and find information and communities for just about anything that can be thought of. One of the most prolific websites to search for and ultimately interact with specialized communities is Reddit. Reddit is a website that is home to communities and discussions for general topics such as sports, politics, medical, relationship, and legal advice, music, and much more. If one wants to get more specific they can find specialized communities for topics such as Borderline Personality Disorder, specific kinks and fetishes, and supportive communities for those who may partake in unique lifestyles. One examples of those communities can be seen through Reddit’s NoFap, or masturbation abstinence community.
What is the NoFAP Movement/Community?
The NoFap origins begin in 2011 when a web developer from Pittsburgh created the first Reddit post under r/nofap, the subreddit dedicated to those looking to “get a grip” on their compulsive masturbation and porn consumption. The name comes from a 1999 Japanese comic strip in which the writer used the word ‘fap’ as a onomatopoeic synonym for masturbating. Since its genesis, the online community has grown to its current population of more than 603,000 users (also called Fapstronauts) looking for support, advice, and comradery around their compulsions. According to their own subreddit, goals of their community can include challenging and supporting those who wish to abstain from pornography and masturbation for a period of time (also called “rebooting”).
They claim that one of their missions is to serve as a porn addiction recovery resource as many of their users feel they are consumed by or have compulsions to masturbate to excess or watch copious amounts of porn and feel guilt or shame for their actions. In addition to porn addiction, many express experiencing overall genital desensitization due to over-exposure to porn. Many describe a similar experience of constantly needing to increase the extremity or shock factor of pornographic content in order to obtain and maintain an erection as well as to reach orgasm. For those who experience this, many rely on the NoFap community for advice and support as a means to successfully “reboot their brain” and rely less on pornography for sexual arousal.
It’s important to note that the NoFap community mentions that they are not inherently or vehemently anti-masturbation. Moderators and participants on the subreddit acknowledge that many users that resonate with the NoFap movement return to masturbation in moderation and regain self-control over their urges and porn consumption. However, the existence of the community in general is there for those who seek support, community, and empathy from those who struggle with the same issues.
Impact of Porn and Compulsive Masturbation
As previously stated, many participants of the NoFAP movement feel as if they struggle with compulsive masturbation, sex addiction and/or online pornography consumption. Many participants have expressed feeling as if their urges and high capacity for masturbation and porn are out of their control and some even claim masturbation and porn have become addictions. Participants often share stories of watching hours of pornography and spending countless hours masturbating to a point of genital desensitization and in extreme cases, injury. In some cases, participants strongly believe and vouch for porn’s insidious nature and express the profound negative impacts porn has had on their lives.
Many within the community believe the NoFAP movement is clear evidence that many men (as well as some women) suffer under a hypersexual culture that promotes readily accessible porn, making the issue less empathized with or brushed off as a non-issue to the general population. However many of those who are active in the community describe their pre-NoFap movement life as “out of control, shameful and/or embarrassing, and generally painful.”
Whether one is an active member of NoFap or not, compulsive sexual behavior and excessive porn usage is a reality for many men and women who struggle with hypersexuality disorder. Hypersexual disorder is characterized by a long-term, frequent, and intense preoccupation with sexual fantasies and sexual behaviors that, in addition to personal suffering, leads to a reduced functioning in social, occupational, or other domains. Compulsive masturbation can be found in 30–75% of those suffering from hypersexuality. To learn more about how to know if watching porn and masturbation becomes compulsive, click here.
Attitudes Towards Masturbation and Online Pornography
Negative beliefs towards masturbation can be traced back to the 18th century. A swiss physician named Tissot believed and advocated that masturbation was a serious medical illness that weakened the male spirit, promoted immorality, and chronic ill health. However, today, scientific evidence confirms masturbation to be a normal human sexual experience, a way for one to understand their sexual selves better, and a healthy form of release, and innumerable health benefits, when not performed to excess or when not categorized as an addiction.
Of course there are consequences that can come from excessive masturbation and pornography consumption. For example, there are some studies that are finding cases of erectile dysfunction in men who admit to frequent or excessive pornography use. A 2015 study of men (average age 41.5) seeking treatment for hypersexuality, who masturbated (“typically with very frequent pornography use”) seven or more hours per week, found that 71% had sexual dysfunctions, with 33% reporting difficulty orgasming. The results of this study are very much aligned with the shared experiences of many members of the NoFAP movement, and one of the major reasons this community exists.
The medical and psychological communities may be on board for healthy levels masturbation, and there are many factors that shape one’s personal and individual beliefs and attitudes towards self-pleasure and online pornography. For example, one may belong to a particular religious community in which masturbation is forbidden or at the very least looked down upon. Consequently, messaging around pornography may be that it is something to be avoided or understood as “sinful.” Some may receive negative messaging around masturbation and pornography from their upbringing.
Masturbation and pornography could have been understood as “bad” or “immoral” and one may have been punished, embarrassed, or made to feel ashamed for their behavior. Another person may have grown up in a family system that made sexuality and self-pleasure a taboo, something to be ignored and for the individual to figure out for themselves – which will most likely lead them to the (in many cases) universal educator of sex – pornography. Regardless of the messaging received about one’s sexual health, and pleasure, everyone is entitled to the freedom to explore themselves without feeling shame or guilt. One’s body is their own business and it’s up to them to determine how they interact with it, sexually and otherwise.
The Importance of the NoFAP Movement
Each individual knows their own personal experience best. What works or what is healthy for one person may not be the experience for another. Many people in the world can masturbate and consume porn healthily, without serious consequences to themselves or others. However, there is a very real population of people who do struggle with addictions to internet porn and masturbation and feel emotionally, physically, and sexually affected by what may seem “controllable” to many.
Regardless of one’s own relationship to porn and masturbation, it’s important for those who feel negatively affected to have a community in which they can garner support, acceptance, and empathy. In fact, many participants of the NoFAP community have expressed that since finding the supportive subreddit and giving up masturbation and/or porn, they have experienced increased happiness, confidence, lower levels of stress and anxiety, higher energy levels, better sexual performance, and in some cases decreased or cured erectile dysfunction.
Regardless if this community is fully understood or empathized with by the general population, it’s usually helpful for one’s mental health and sense of self to feel understood and accepted. When one loses a loved one and attends a grief support group to cope with the grief they are experiencing, typically that person is not shamed for finding emotional support from a community who understands their plight.
It’s important that society not shame people for their experiences as it can often lead to more divisiveness and less understanding of people’s real struggles. Many who participate in the NoFap movement are attempting to avoid masturbation, take control or understand their struggles with pornography addiction and compulsive masturbation. They likely just want to be a healthier version of themselves. It’s important and can be beneficial for society, give them the empathy and safe space to do so.