The “loophole” in No Fap seems to be partnered sex, and it seems that could be problematic. If you already have a significant other when you start No Fap, or if you get one in the process, sex is A-OK. I can only imagine why there would be the temptation to make sex the main goal in a relationship. When you eliminate alternative ways to achieving orgasm, that puts more pressure on your partner. Neither Stark nor George has consummated a relationship in the No Fap zone, but it’s due to a lack of opportunity rather than a conscious effort to avoid it.

Maybe the pros of No Fap (like sexual success) are just products of increased energy and motivation. There seems to be a general idea that No Fap is really about taking your sexual energy and channeling it elsewhere. Perhaps masturbation is kind of "the easy way out" and once you realize that, with regard to sex, you can then channel that same mindset towards other things you do. Benjamin puts it this way: When you aren’t masturbating all the time, he says, “You sort of aren't putting out this fire all the time.” If you think of testosterone as some kind of internally produced Red Bull (or if you believe there’s such a thing as “sex energy”) then No Fap could perhaps increase and redistribute that energy.

All these possible benefits of No Fap don’t discount the positives that can come from masturbation (i.e., sexual exploration, comfort with your body, awareness of what gets you off), but no one is claiming that they do. Some claim regular ejaculation is essential for prostate and testicular health. Some claim the two aren’t related.

It’s also possible our rapidly changing technologies and shifting culture are actually leading to an increase in time spent masturbating. Although there is no way to know how frequently cavemen dabbled in self-love, we know they did—there are depictions of male masturbation in cave paintings from as far back as the 6th century BC. Sexuality counselor Ian Kerner posits on CNN that men are masturbating 50 to 500% more than they did before the rise of internet porn. George also notes the large amount of highly accessible porn available on the internet is making frequent masturbation much more difficult to combat: “These days, it's just ridiculous. We are so inundated with choice and accessibility that it’s like all the walls are broken down. If you need instant stimulation it's there.” That’s the thing about masturbation—it’s always right there.

So the internet is making us masturbate more. But the internet is also what’s encouraging people to stop. Without web-based communities like the No Fap subreddit, the support group that many men have found to be instrumental in their self-love celibacies, the awareness of such a trend would likely to relegated to a few isolated communities around the world: a group of friends in Iowa, two brothers in Argentina, a few scientists in China. It’s really just another example of what we’ve known for awhile now: the internet plays a large part in both the problem and the solution.

The internet makes possible (and encourages) these sort of strict, regimented self-help programs via various support groups (like the No Fap subreddit), but it also makes such rigidity seem essential. Obviously it comes to treating addiction, moderation often isn’t really an option. But No Fap doesn’t give moderation as an option to anyone. It’s not enough just to limit your frequency of masturbation—you have to cut it out of your life completely, and most times, never look back.

No Fap could be categorized as just another fringe self-improvement movement, like juice fasts, oxygen bars and Saran Wrap sweat detoxes, but it could be more than that. In some instances, it seems like necessary support group for a masturbation addiction. At the same time, the question presents itself almost instantly: Are men like Brian Spark really addicted to masturbation, or does No Fap merely provide a wall to hide behind? The decision to not jerk it is a relatively benign life decision, but—for at least a few No Fappers—there has to be an element of repressed sexuality there. A in-the-closet gay teenager growing up in a very conservative southern town who hasn’t jerked it in almost three years? And the only reason for that is that it makes him feel better?

Women are also a rarity on the No Fap subreddit. Sure, the study that sparked the movement measured testosterone levels, but it’s possible the benefits could cross genders. And when a woman does post about her difficulty to quit masturbating, male members frequently call “trigger” on her, claiming that can’t possibly read about a woman even thinking about masturbating, and so the post must be flagged. It’s not the most welcoming community if you are a woman with a sex drive. 

There’s a wealth of information on ejaculation and orgasm, but when weeding through the jungle of the internet, it’s easy to find conflicting opinions. Even within the No Fap subreddit, there are no conflicting opinions—at least when it comes to whether or not a masturbation-free stint is a good idea. But No Fap is just another direction of sexual and personal exploration: No Fap is all about masturbation, without being about masturbation at all. Brian Stark is quickly coming up on 1,000 consecutive days of No Fap. Once he’s reached that milestone, he says he’s got no idea what he’ll do.

*names have been changed

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