BY: KARMUN KHOO
The Ancient Egyptians believed that the world is a product of masturbation—an act committed by the god Atum. Early Indians wrote in the Kama Sutra that men should “churn [their] instrument with a lion’s pounce.” And if the Pompeii inscriptions are to be believed, the Ancient Romans preferred the left hand for masturbation.
By the late 18th century, however, both male and female masturbation had become taboo. According to Dr. Balthazar Becker, who named the act “onanism,” the possible consequences of frequent masturbation include:
“Disturbances of the stomach and digestion, loss of appetite or ravenous hunger, vomiting, nausea, weakening of the organs of breathing, coughing, hoarseness, paralysis, weakening of the organ of generation to the point of impotence, lack of libido, back pain, disorders of the eye and ear, total diminution of bodily powers, paleness, thinness, pimples on the face, decline of intellectual powers, loss of memory, attacks of rage, madness, idiocy, epilepsy, fever and finally suicide.”
Scary stuff, isn’t it? The Europeans of Becker’s age were suitably intimidated by this sensational list, and masturbation was denounced for the next two centuries, only to be revived from the catacombs of social stigma with the sexual revolution of the 1950s and ’60s. But in June 2011, a Reddit thread entitled “TIL (Today I learned) when men don’t masturbate for 7 days their testosterone levels increase by 45.7%” began circulating on the Internet. It spawned a counter-masturbation movement, complete with its own vocabulary and culture.
“Fapping” is modern slang for the act of masturbation, and “NoFap” aims to do just what its title implies: To prevent porn, masturbation, and compulsive orgasm-seeking in order to increase sexual well being. According to the NoFap website, adherents are called “fapstronauts,” led by founder Alexander Rhodes, and participate in organized challenges. Their mission is simple: To go the longest amount of time possible, measured in days, without viewing porn, masturbating, or achieving an orgasm. If this challenge is performed with absolutely no sexual release, even if achieved in partnership, then it is considered to be on “hard mode.”
The theory behind NoFap is a mix of Victorian ideas (such as those of Dr. Becker) and anecdotal knowledge. According to the fapstronauts, masturbation results in less actual sex. Obviously, the community considers sex with a partner to be far superior to solo fun. This is because male masturbation is believed to lower testosterone levels, which increase physical strength and mental concentration. Even if serial masturbators were able to get laid, NoFap believes that their sexual experiences would be less fulfilling. Why? Fapping with a “death grip,” the term used to describe a tight-fisted grip on the penis many men develop during masturbation, is said to decrease penis sensitivity, causing intercourse with a comparatively looser vagina to be less pleasurable.
Women are not spared from the dangers of masturbation. “Femstronauts,” as they are called, make up a small but powerful part of the NoFap community—two of its moderators are female. The “death schlick,” which is the female equivalent of the death grip, supposedly ruins the female capacity to orgasm during intercourse as a result of overly intense clitoral stimulation. As a lady, all I have to say is that if you’re stimulating your clitoris to the point that it’s going numb, you’re doing it wrong.
Just in case abstaining from masturbation and pornography wasn’t difficult enough on its own, fapstronauts have also tried “edging,” a sexual practice normally designed to increase the amount of pleasure felt during masturbation. The idea is to stimulate yourself to the point just before climax, then deny yourself the orgasm. Rinse and repeat as needed. On the NoFap subreddit, a Reddit group with almost 125,000 fapstronauts as of October 2014, there are numerous caution threads about edging: Do it too early in the NoFap journey, and any fapstronaut runs the risk of a relapse, which is defined in the NoFap glossary as, “For addicts, the act of returning to bad habits after a period of improvement.”
All this trouble, all this stress—and for what? The NoFap community believes in an elusive event called “The Surge.” This is supposed to happen after five to 14 days without masturbating and is said to cause a physically recognizable surge in energy and sexual drive. It appears that all the benefits of NoFap hinge on the ‘testosterone increase’ that is said to take place after a period of abstinence. There are fundamental problems with this assumption. First, no conclusive studies have proved that abstinence increases testosterone in males. Mainstream scientific literature shows that addictions only affect 10 per cent of the population, but fapstronauts claim that all males are being negatively affected by “PMO dependence.” Although there has been a significant increase in the consumption of amateur pornography with the proliferation of free online video libraries, the statement may be overarching.
It’s obvious that over-masturbation can negatively affect your social life and your relationships, even if only causing a decrease in productivity. Instead of presenting a healthy and positive view of human sexuality, which Kinsey and other researchers devoted their lives to campaigning for, fapstronauts and femstronauts encourage each other, as “accountability partners,” to view their sexual urges as taboo and unhealthy. Could this be a reversion to pre-sexual-revolution fundamentalism? Or are the foundational principles of moderation and restraint noble regardless of their sexual flagellation?