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Fapstinence is a Puritan religious behaviour adopted by some people on the inceldom spectrum. It consists of avoiding masturbation, and sometimes even avoiding orgasm entirely.[1][2] According to fapstinents, this self-denial will inevitably increase confidence and consequently the ability to cold approach or warm approach, and as such, help to eventually deincelize.

Fapstinence overlaps with the anti-porn sentiments,[3] with adherents in developed countries often attempting to avoid visualizing naked people altogether.

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.[4] Some pick-up-artists ("PUAs") such as Erik von Markovik have also recommend reducing masturbation. 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.[5]


Anti-masturbation propaganda from 1861

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.[6] 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.[7] It is also commonly advised in the bodybuilding/fitness subculture due to these reasons,[8] 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.[9] Claims like these have led to criticism that the movement is pseudo-scientific and cultish in nature.[10] 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),[11] 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.[12][13]

Porn use, masturbation and inceldom[edit]

Abstaining from masturbation would not appear to be an effective intervention to cure inceldom, in the vast majority of cases, at least, because

  1. testosterone levels have very little to do with mating success in men[14] (assuming abstention has any major effect on T levels, which it doesn't)
  2. 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).[15]

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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

Lack of scientific evidence[edit]

Testosterone and fapping[edit]

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).[19] 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.[20][21] 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,[22] which is supported by earlier research.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25] 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),[26] 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.[27] 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,[28] and possibly chronic[29] 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.[30] 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[31] all having a short-term positive effect on men's testosterone levels, though this is an understudied topic.

Is masturbation and porn harmful[edit]

The bulk of scientific research suggests masturbation is not harmful unless it is excessive.[32] Pornography consumption is unlikely to cause inceldom,[33] 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.[34]

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.[35] 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.[36]

Modern history of the movement[edit]

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'.[37]

The modern fapstinence movement, though largely secular in nature, was popularized on a subreddit founded by the Christian web developer Alexander Rhodes,[38] 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.[39] 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.[40][41] 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.[42] He also successfully sued a news website who tried to link him and his website specifically to far-right political movements.[43] Rhodes himself denies his website is linked to or representative of any broader movement.


The "Corn Flakes" method[edit]

John Kellog was against masturbation, and advocated circumcision as a way to prevent it

Fapstinents sometimes eat the cereal Kellog's Corn Flakes with the hope the cereal will act as an anaphrodisiac.[44][45] This is due to a common rumor that the creator of Corn Flakes, Mr. Kellog, developed Corn Flakes as an anti-masturbatory aid.

The idea that Corn Flakes was developed in this way may not be true. The fact-checking website Snopes attempted to find evidence for this rumor, and only found that the cereal was developed to aid indigestion, not anything else. While Mr. Kellogg was a highly religious man against masturbation, there is no existing evidence tying his religious beliefs to his cereal creation.[46]

No Nut November[edit]

Groups of online fapstinents sometimes try to avoid masturbation collectively and during a common timeframe, in a sign of solidarity. November is the most common time for this.

November was largely chosen on the basis of alliteration, following other challenges like "Dry July" that play on words in a similar fashion[47] 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.[48]


  1. https://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/gwa63u/nocturnal_emissions/
  2. https://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/rxsuk/how_to_stop_nocturnal_emissions/
  3. https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/tools-for-change-recovery-from-porn-addiction/rebooting-basics-start-here/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_on_masturbation
  5. https://pick-up-artist-forum.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=11048&start=90
  6. https://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/1uzdgr/list_of_superpowers/M/
  7. https://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/4557x3/i_finally_found_some_evidence_that_nofap_makes/
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPSRlANKpDw
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4914923/
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NoFap
  11. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/karezza-sex-technique-relationship_l_5d7c1a9de4b00d690598e15f
  12. https://dspace.sunyconnect.suny.edu/handle/1951/69892
  13. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/oneida-christian-utopia-contraception-king/
  14. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.06.980896v1/
  15. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1743609520300473
  16. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2767066
  17. https://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-022-02305-8
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3947171/
  19. https://old.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/i514e/til_when_men_dont_masturbate_for_7_days_their/
  20. 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.
  21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12506329/
  22. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12610-021-00148-2
  23. https://theconversation.com/nofap-can-giving-up-masturbation-really-boost-mens-testosterone-levels-an-experts-view-157701
  24. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.693121
  25. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225384248_Endocrine_response_to_masturbation-induced_orgasm_in_healthy_men_following_a_3-week_sexual_abstinence
  26. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0306453093900056
  27. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1440244099800073
  28. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/406451
  29. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ab.10050
  30. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12914589/
  31. https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(20)31902-6/pdf
  32. George R. Brown, MD (July 2019). "Overview of Sexuality". Merck Manuals Professional Version. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  33. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2378023121996854
  34. https://raceandconflicts.home.blog/2021/02/18/on-the-effects-of-pornography/
  35. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-41039233
  36. https://healthinflow.com.au/nourish-jing-essence-diet/
  37. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-020-01722-x
  38. https://www.christianpost.com/news/christians-find-help-for-porn-masturbation-addiction-through-nofap-community-started-on-reddit-by-24-y-o-web-developer-110061/
  39. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/08/fashion/mens-style/anti-internet-porn-addict.html
  40. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NoFap#Litigation
  41. https://www.vice.com/en/article/ywa97m/nofap-founder-suing-a-neuroscientist-no-nut-november
  42. https://web.archive.org/web/20191112185330/https://nofap.com/defend-alex/
  43. https://www.brettwilson.co.uk/blog/press-release-nofap-llc-and-alexander-rhodes-secure-substantial-libel-damages-and-apology-from-scram-news/
  44. https://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/62xrf3/the_corn_flakes_method/
  45. https://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/1z6tn3/corn_flakes_temporarily_kill_the_sex_driveit_can/
  46. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/kelloggs-corn-flakes-masturbation/
  47. https://www.dryjuly.com/
  48. https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/destroy-dick-december-masturbation-challenge-meme/

See also[edit]

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