Is 'No Nut November' Worth It? We Ask A Sexologist About The Benefits
It's November! The month we associate good feelings with, because it's the beginning of the holiday season.
However, for the guys who intend to join the 'No Nut November' movement, it's the month where their willpower is put through an excruciating test.
No Nut November is a movement that started on Reddit in 2011.
Every year, valorous No Nut 'cumrades' gather on Reddit to start their 30 agonising days of abstinence.
If you want to join the movement but do not want to be tied down to the month, there is also the 'No Fap' challenge, which boasts 890,000 members on Reddit.
While both groups have different rules, the basis of the challenges remain more or less the same:
— no masturbation leading to ejaculation
— wet dreams are allowed
— having an erection is permissible but you cannot come to completion
(The No Fap challenge has a set of more lenient rules, such as sex is allowed, as the basis of the challenge is also about quitting pornography.)
"If the challenge is so insufferable, why would someone put themselves through it?"
Well, the reason is because the challenge promises enticing benefits.
By not ejaculating for a month, No Nut 'cumrades' promise you higher energy levels, improvement in self-confidence, mental clarity, increased testosterone, increased physical output at the gym, semen retention, and becoming more attractive.
Some even use the challenge as a way to force themselves to become a 'better person', deep cleansing the way they look at the sex they are attracted to, pausing for a moment, and realising everybody is human, with complex emotions other than genitals to be pleased.
Broadly speaking, they are talking about changing their unconscious and subconscious id, the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual drive
The level of commitment shown by some No Nut 'cumrades' include cutting out models they follow on Instagram and training themselves to not even glimpse at people's asses.
Some adherents even seek inspiration from figures such as late Apple founder Steve Jobs and legendary boxers Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali, as they are known for abstaining to better perform in their professions.
Since the movement's inception, No Nut November or the No Fap challenge has morphed into a pseudo-self-improvement course.
It is a community with a strong sense of camaraderie: YouTubers vlog their journey, and strangers share tips and stories of their abstinence journey on forums
"Be strong, bro", "13 days left!", "the war is not over yet", and "beat the urge, not the meat"... are some of the chants 'cumrades' use.
For those who do not know better, taking on the challenge is a no-brainer because it means being a better version of yourself.
A 'simple' change in lifestyle provides the key to more energy, becoming a more attractive and respectful person, and having control over one's mind. The challenge sounds like a secret to success.
But do all the claimed benefits hold water?
To investigate, three 'cumrades' took the challenge upon themselves to find out the truth. Adam, Jacob, and Stephen (not their real names) then shared about their 'No Nut' journey with me.
Following that, I interviewed sexologist and sex education advocate Dr Rachael Winston to help us understand the science behind abstinence.
To my surprise, Rachael celebrates the movement. However, she emphasised that everyone should get into the challenge with the right mindset. (Psst... spoiler alert: it's not for the proclaimed benefits.)
All three 'cumrades' abstained during the pandemic when they were trapped at home with extra time to spare
Jacob started abstaining early this year "out of boredom", while Adam took on the challenge in November last year after encountering several tweets about the movement on Twitter.
On the other hand, Stephen said he partook in the challenge because physical sex was no longer in the picture due to the interdistrict travel ban and COVID-19 fears. Being cut out of the social world, he found himself seeking more and more comfort in porn.
Not wanting to be addicted to it, he decided to partake in the No Fap challenge after his partner encouraged him to try while he waited for himself to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"I'm a very sexual person. I love exploring myself and I constantly find things that can satisfy me sexually. So I found the challenge was kind of hard for me. The hardest period was definitely the first 10 days," Adam shared.
"I remember one night I had to sleep in the living room just to prevent myself from touching myself as my housemate practically lived in the living room playing games, so I definitely wouldn't masturbate in front of him."
"I also had to uninstall my TikTok and unfollow some accounts on Instagram because those after-gym selfies and thirst-trap posts were just making it hard for me to not feel horny," he continued.
"So to make it easier, I started new hobbies and also [made] myself busier by going to the park to jog, walk, and feed the strays. I also tried meditation and watching what I eat because, weirdly, I easily get horny when I'm too full."
When asked if abstaining was an easy challenge, Adam said it had its ups and downs
Adam said the journey was mentally challenging at first, but once he started new hobbies and routines, it became easier. He also said he slept better during the challenge, but he said that could be because of his newly improved lifestyle.
Better sleep quality is also a benefit claimed by the No Nut community.
As for the mental clarity that the challenge promises, both Jacob and Stephen denied experiencing any changes, even ephemerally
"It was neither a positive or negative challenge for me. It didn't mentally change me as they claimed it would," said Jacob, describing the movement as a "viral bulls--t" that was enabled by dated scientific papers.
When asked to explain further, he said the No Nut November began in the early 2010s based on research that has already been disproven. Jacob said whenever the community is challenged with proof, they would double down and call doubters a 'coomer', a term that mocks men for being an excessive masturbator.
Stephen said the challenge gave him a push at the beginning to start socialising online and get back into dating apps, where he eventually met his partner
He said the 'energy' he experienced was rather short-lived as it was mostly pent-up sexual frustration. He also said the expectation of getting an energy boost from the challenge could also be a placebo effect.
All in all, Adam said the challenge was an opportunity for him to get healthy, Jacob said it was a waste of time, and Stephen said it put him under a lot of stress because the relief he could get from masturbation was taken away.
Stephen said he failed the challenge by the third week and suffered from some form of guilt for not completing the challenge.
He related that he'd rather stick to masturbation, adding that the act shouldn't be further tabooed and shamed — even by diehard 'cumrades' — as it is a healthy and normal practice.
When Dr Rachael Winston heard some of the experiences these three 'cumrades' went through, she said many No Nut participants start off on the wrong foot
"I would definitely promote No Nut November," sexologist Rachael said, before stressing that masturbation does not have bad side effects unless one is addicted to it.
On the claim that abstaining can help semen retention, the doctor — a certified sexologist at MUC Healthcare who has consulted over 300 patients — said there is no correlation between masturbation and lower sperm count, as men's bodies replenish sperm after each ejaculation.
She also said masturbation does not affect men's testosterone levels. Instead, it is stress that lowers men's testosterone levels — the prime culprit during the pandemic.
"A lot of people during the pandemic didn't have a good libido or sex because of the stress that they went through. So, a reduced libido is because of a reduced testosterone level. A reduced testosterone level is caused by stress," she said.
"Whether it is lack of sleep or whatever financial issues you're going through, a lot of things contribute to that. (Stress) causes the hormones to not be able to produce at a maximum level."
However, some claims — like mental clarity among men with performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction — could be true, said Rachael
"The No Nut challenge can be sort of like a rest time for them because these issues (performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction) are psychological conditions," said the doctor, an advocate for better sex education.
"When it comes to sex in men, it always comes down to erection. For example, how long can a person (be) erect and how long can they hold it in. It is a constant stress for them. So this particular month, usually when we talk about No Nut November, we are talking about a psychological rest."
Rachael said this challenge allows participants to reflect on what may be the cause of the decline in their sexual function and it also allows them to explore other things besides sex.
She said there is a misconception among many couples who think that sex can solve all their problems. Instead, Rachael said No Nut November could be a chance for couples to enhance their verbal relationship to strengthen their bonds while putting sex aside.
The sexologist also said stress experienced during the pandemic can also contribute to performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction. Hence, she said a mental rest could help remedy the condition.
Rachael is of the opinion that No Nut November is a great movement overall because it allows participants to claim control over their bodies and understand that 'sex doesn't control me'
"To be honest, I don't see anything wrong in the movement, but at the same time, even if you're masturbating on a daily basis, even that is not wrong," she explained.
"It's healthy either way, but why I would say that No Nut November is good because it gives men a lot of self-control. It trains you to have self-control."
"Stopping it makes you realise that you have control over your body. Sex doesn't control you. You control what you want to do. That is the most important thing of No Nut November. It is not about gaining strength, the physical energy, and all (those claims). For me, it is not about that. It is about teaching your body self-control."
The doctor acknowledged that quitting masturbation cold turkey — as with any habit — will of course lead to distress to the participants, especially when ejaculation is an endorphin-induced act
Therefore, she urged more people to go into the challenge with the mentality of gaining self-control rather than expecting a boost in testosterone levels and energy because when the claimed benefits do not materialise, participants would get frustrated and upset by the excruciating abstinence journey.
As for the participants who are training to gain self-control, Rachael said they are more likely to complete the challenge as they are reminded why they are doing it every time their sexual desires arise.
However, Rachael stated that if the challenge has ever become too much to handle, just give up as the challenge is just a form of meditation in the context of sex.
The doctor stressed that there is nothing wrong with high libido and masturbation. It is only a problem when it becomes an addiction that affects their daily lives.
If so, Rachael encouraged them to seek professional help. In her clinics, she offers counselling for people going through sex (compulsive sexual behaviour) and masturbation addiction.
They will be given a progress chart that encourages them to slowly lessen the addictive act and the doctors will monitor their recovery stage.
You can find Dr Rachael Winston at MUC Healthcare on their Instagram account here.