NoFap started on Reddit in 2011 during an online convo between folks who’d given up masturbation.

The term “NoFap” (now a trademarked name and business) came from the word “fap,” which is internet lingo for the sound of jerking off. You know — fapfapfapfap.

What started as a casual discussion is now a website and organization that promotes quitting not just masturbation but also porn and other sexual behaviors.

The target audience appears to be predominantly straight men, with smaller pockets of women and LGBTQIA+ folks.

Proponents argue that adopting the NoFap lifestyle offers a range of benefits, from mental clarity to muscle growth. But is there any truth behind these claims?

We’ll start with higher testosterone levels. This is what fueled the original Reddit discussion back in the day after a user shared an older study that found not ejaculating for 7 days increased testosterone levels by 45.7 percent.

This sparked others to go a week without masturbating, some of whom went on to share other benefits of “fapstinence.” These included mental and physical health benefits as well as spiritual awakenings and epiphanies.

Mental benefits

Members of the NoFap community have reported experiencing a number of mental benefits, including:

  • increased happiness
  • boosted confidence
  • increased motivation and willpower
  • lower levels of stress and anxiety
  • heightened spirituality
  • self-acceptance
  • improved attitude and appreciation toward the opposite sex

Physical benefits

Some of the physical benefits shared by NoFappers are:

  • higher energy levels
  • muscle growth
  • better sleep
  • improved focus and concentration
  • better physical performance and stamina
  • improved or cured erectile dysfunction
  • improved sperm quality

There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence within the NoFap community. Many members are happy to share the rewards they’ve reaped from giving up masturbation or porn.

There may be a placebo effect at play, meaning that people join the community expecting a certain outcome and make it happen.

This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. Some people may benefit from it and find some of the strategies offered on the website valuable.

Research on masturbation

Abstaining from ejaculating for a few days may increase testosterone and improve sperm quality. However, there isn’t any research to back the other claims associated with not masturbating.

Most experts agree that masturbation is a healthy and integral part of normal sexual development. Research shows that masturbation in childhood and adolescence among females is associated with a healthy self-image and positive sexual experiences later in life.

Some more physical and mental health benefits that have been linked to masturbation include:

  • improved mood
  • better sleep
  • stress and tension relief
  • relief from menstrual cramps
  • lower risk of prostate cancer (research is ongoing to explore this link)

Pornography research

While there isn’t as much research around pornography, some evidence points to it having potential benefits.

Interestingly, many of the benefits of porn noted in one such study are a lot of the same ones NoFappers report experiencing after giving up porn.

Male and female participants in the study reported that hardcore pornography was beneficial to their sex lives and perceptions and attitudes toward sex, members of the opposite sex, and life in general. And the more they watched, the stronger the benefits.

First, let’s make it clear that semen retention and NoFap aren’t the same thing, even though you’ll often see it used in the same context on online forums.

Semen retention is the practice of avoiding ejaculation. It’s also called coitus reservatus and seminal conservation. It’s a technique people often use in tantric sex.

The key difference between semen retention and NoFap is that you can avoid ejaculation while still enjoying sexual activity and orgasm. That’s right: You can indeed have one without the other, though it may take some practice.

People believe it offers many of the same spiritual, mental, and physical benefits as NoFap.

Semen retention requires some serious muscle control and learning to flex your pelvic muscles just before ejaculation.

You can practice semen retention on your own or with a partner. Kegel exercises and other pelvic floor exercises can help you master it.

If you’re interested in the reported benefits of NoFap without having to give up porn or masturbation, semen retention may be the alternative you’re looking for.

Partaking in NoFap is unlikely to cause any harm, but it does mean you’ll miss out on the many proven benefits of masturbation, sex, orgasms, and ejaculation.

Also, NoFap isn’t a substitute for medical care. Trying it instead of seeking professional help could prevent you from getting the treatment you need.

If you’re concerned that you’re experiencing any kind of sexual dysfunction, including issues around erections, ejaculation, and libido, see a healthcare provider.

If you’re concerned about your sexual behavior or feel sad, hopeless, or unmotivated, consider reaching out to a mental health professional.

If you’re struggling with compulsive sexual behavior and looking for support, joining the NoFap community isn’t your only option.

Many people find talking to others who share similar experiences to be helpful. You can ask your doctor or local hospital for information about support groups.

You can also find a number of sources online. Here are a couple you may find helpful:

While some people report experiencing a range of benefits from adopting the NoFap lifestyle, these claims aren’t rooted in much scientific evidence.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with masturbation, even if you do it while watching porn. Partaking in some self-love isn’t a problem unless it’s interfering with your life.

That said, if you enjoy being part of the NoFap community and find it adds value to your life, there’s no harm in sticking with it.

Just be sure to follow up with your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.