Type of site
|Launched||June 20, 2011(subreddit)|
NoFap is a website and community forum that serves as a support group for those who wish to give up pornography and masturbation. Its name comes from the slang term fap, referring to male masturbation. While reasons for this avoidance vary by individual, the main motivation cited is attempting to overcome addiction to pornography,[a] or other compulsive sexual behaviours. Other reasons include religious and moral reasons, self-improvement, and physical beliefs that are not supported by medicine.
The group's views and efforts to combat pornography addiction have been criticized as simplistic, outdated, and incorrect by neuroscientists, psychologists, and other medical professionals, with the purported science behind the group's activities said to come from anti-porn activist Gary Wilson, "an Oregon man with no scientific training or background, who has made a career peddling pseudoscience."
NoFap was founded in June 2011 by Pittsburgh web developer Alexander Rhodes after reading a thread on Reddit about a 2003 Chinese study, which claimed that men who refrain from masturbation for seven days experience a 145.7% spike in testosterone levels on the seventh day. This hit the front page of a popular forum on Reddit. The website states that some NoFap participants aim to "improve their interpersonal relationships", do a "challenge of willpower – to seize control of your sexuality and turn it into superpowers", but always with the goal of being able to "abstain from PMO (porn/masturbation/orgasm)." The expression fap is an onomatopoeic Internet slang term for male masturbation that first appeared in the 1999 web comic Sexy Losers to indicate the sound of a male character masturbating.
While the website is most commonly associated with men seeking to quit porn and reduce masturbation, there are a minority of females who are users of the website as well, who are nicknamed "Femstronauts"; Alexander Rhodes has estimated that five percent of participants are women. Rhodes appears in the documentary written and directed by Nicholas Tana called Sticky: A (Self) Love Story, in which he discusses his findings and his opinions about masturbation. After this, Rhodes created NoFap as a subreddit forum community on Reddit. The endeavour is sometimes referred to as "fapstinence".
Users on NoFap's subreddit more than tripled in number in two years, leading Rhodes to build an off-Reddit forum at NoFap.com and begin other plans to better serve the website's fast-growing factions in Brazil, Germany, and China. NoFap.com is a forum-style website where individuals who have committed to abstain from pornography and/or masturbation for a period of time can talk about their experiences and engage in challenges to help them recover. NoFap.com is the sister website of the Reddit-hosted NoFap community.
A 2014 internet survey found that 99% of NoFap followers are male, although women are also a part of NoFap. The membership of NoFap ranges from atheists, like founder Rhodes, to fundamentalist Christians. However, Rhodes has publicly solicited and received funding from religious groups. The users of the website call themselves "Fapstronauts." Some correspondents have nicknamed NoFap's community members as "NoFappers", "fapstinent", or "no-fappers". Some self-described porn addicts seek out NoFap for help, while others join the website for the challenge or to improve their lives and interpersonal relationships.
The overwhelming goal of members of the NoFap forums is to stop masturbation entirely, and that this goal is due to their "perception of masturbation as unhealthy". After abstaining from porn and masturbation for a period of time, some of NoFap's users claim to experience various improvements in physical and mental health. Some NoFap users say their brains were warped by porn, at the expense of real relationships.
NoFap hosts a wide variety of different opinions on sexual health, and supports users with various goals as long as they are trying to improve their sexual health.
Some of the group's beliefs cite the work of Gary Wilson, an anti-pornography activist who has no medical or scientific training. Wilson's work is pseudoscientific.
According to various sources, the overwhelming majority of all websites and YouTube channels devoted to anti-masturbation and anti-porn addiction propaganda, channels, and websites supporting NoFap are owned by far-right, religious fundamentalists, and conservative who are biblical inerrantists, and also are entirely political in nature. The NoFap community is sometimes viewed to be a part of the manosphere – online groups credited with propagating misogyny.
Psychologists, MDs, and social scientists noticed that the traditional Christian obsession with combating sexual activities, including masturbation, is unhealthy and unwholesome, and this also applies to secular advocacy of anti-pornography and anti-masturbation, including 16 US states' legislatures which have declared that pornography is a "public health crisis".
The American Psychiatric Association had by then already dismissed such moral panic ("political stunt") in DSM-5 (published in 2013), and DSM-5-TR, published in March 2022, does not recognize a diagnosis of sexual addiction (which would include internet pornography viewing).
Therapist Paula Hall for The Huffington Post was asked about NoFap claims of "physical health benefits mentioned including renewed energy, greater focus, concentration, and better sleep" and responded "there is little medical evidence for any of these changes". Therapist Robert Weiss for The Huffington Post sees NoFap as part of a tech backlash. The endeavor has also been criticized as generating embarrassing side effects such as prolonged or unwanted erections in men or an excessive libido. Psychologist David J. Ley wrote: "I'm not in opposition to them, but I do think their ideas are simplistic, naive and promote a sad, reductionistic and distorted view of male sexuality and masculinity". Ley criticizes NoFap supporters as amateurs who are using "bad data" and "extrapolations on weak science to argue that porn has a disproportionate effect on the brain" and claim that porn use causes erectile dysfunction. Ley has stated that the website is a continuation of the anti-masturbation movements from the past, such as Swiss doctor Samuel Tissot's 18th-century claims that masturbation was an illness that "weakened the male spirit" and led to immorality; American doctor Benjamin Rush, who claimed that masturbation caused blindness; and W.K. Kellogg, who developed corn flakes as part of his anti-masturbation efforts.
NoFap appears to oppose science. Their website includes legal warnings that scientists are prohibited from conducting research on them, and they have threatened to sue scientists who do.
A 2021 qualitative study found that NoFap's approach to pornography appears to be harmful. Specifically, the scientists studied "members of the online NoFap/PornFree self-help communities" and concluded "commitment to abstinence, framed by the notions of recovery and relapse, was found to be a major factor for maintaining distress" Another 2021 study concluded with a warning "...the mythical articulations that emerge from contestations over concepts like NoFap have the potential to galvanize young men into horrific, real-world violence." This later study viewed NoFap as creating self-pitying, self-constructed victims that "galvanizes misogyny and racism".
A 2020 study found that while NoFap claimed to be science-based, the more that NoFap followers believed that they should abstain from masturbation, the more they also reported "lower trust in science". Social psychologists Taylor and Jackson, who analyzed the content of NoFap forums, concluded in their study that some NoFap participants not only rejected pornography, but also radical feminist critiques of pornography. They also stated that members of NoFap frequently utilized and redeployed familiar hegemonic masculine views (e.g. men as dominant seekers of pleasure and women as the 'natural' suppliers of this pleasure), in turn reproducing societal expectations of gendered sexual dominance and submission. Another 2020 study stated that the forum represents itself as a source of medical information, which seems to discourage members from seeking actual medical advice and instead self-diagnosing.
A 2020 study analysing discourse on pornography, published in the journal Social Forces, stated regarding NoFap: "These claims do not necessarily come from scientific experts. Instead, we find that newspaper articles draw from a variety of professionals who are not scientists" and that "Rhodes is quoted repeatedly reflecting that he was 'addicted to internet porn' and shares the personal consequences." They conclude "journalists and political actors are overextending scientific findings to advance their media markets and political agendas" in support of gender and sexual norms.
A 2020 paper stated that NoFap appears to have been specifically targeted by far-right groups, writing, "the struggle for the 'remasculinization' of white men by overcoming porn (addiction) had to be an antisemitic one: a fight against 'Jewish pornography' and 'Jewish filth,' in which other current anti-porn actors such as NoFap should join". Cultural studies scholar Simon Strick stated regarding NoFap that a "racist culture war...was already implied in the call to join the ‘movement’ by becoming abstinent". The chapter continues, "NoFap present themselves as a search for non-toxic and progressive gender roles, even as they partake in gendered and racialized narratives that are no less violent".
NoFap supporters are "known for vitriolically attacking female scholars not sharing their view". Sociologist Kelsy Burke stated that "Rhodes and a small staff manage NoFap.com and its brand full time". She states, "There is no scientific evidence that supports the idea of these superpowers. Yet hundreds of thousands of NoFap users insist they experience them." She critiques similar gender problems in groups including NoFap, stating, "The scientific and spiritual gets muddled together as participants reinforce damaging gender stereotypes—those of hypersexual, biologically ravenous men who are simply "wired differently" than women. Women whose sexuality exists only in relation to male desire...porn addiction recovery reproduces the worst lessons of porn itself." NoFap forums are described by a 2020 paper as a place where "men's sexual entitlement to women was left unquestioned".
Several journalists have criticized NoFap. Some of them report that the forums were filled with misogyny, stating that "there is a darker side to NoFap. Among the reams of Reddit discussions and YouTube videos, a fundamentally misogynistic rhetoric regularly emerges", and that "the NoFap community has become linked to wider sexism and misogyny, reducing women to sexual objects to be attained or abstained from and shaming sexually active women." NoFap followers have posted videos on YouTube that regularly feature anti-homosexual and anti-woman values, such as 'stop being a little bitch' demands. A New York Times story by Rob Kuznia expressed concern about white supremacists promoting the belief that pornography is a conspiracy of Judaism. Scientist Shane Kraus, PhD, speaking to CNET describes there is "no scholarship" supporting the Reboot claims of NoFap.
According to a 2021 opinion article in The Daily Dot, "The NoFap model is nothing more than a breeding ground for racism, misogyny, and whorephobic violence. It’s time we take it seriously and close up its pipeline into violent behavior once and for all." The article linked NoFap's ideology to recent murders.
Der Spiegel reported that some NoFap adherents also belong to groups with members who have been connected to hate crimes and terrorist murders, arguing that there is a general potential for radicalization within the manosphere.
NoFap has been involved in legal actions filed or threatened by its founder, Alexander Rhodes. After threatening two scientists with litigation, the scientists published a letter defending the need to be allowed to criticize NoFap: "As [NoFap] operate in the public sphere, however, we deem it not only as legitimate but necessary to acknowledge and cite them as one prominent voice in the debate around masturbation abstinence—everything else would be an unjustifiable muting of their stand." For publishing a critique of NoFap's fundraising efforts, Rhodes sued ScramNews in the UK. ScramNews apologized to Alexander Rhodes and agreed to pay substantial damages and legal fees after false allegations and defamation. NoFap threatened to sue The Spectator for writing about their association with right-wing, antisemitic groups. They threatened to sue a blogger for using 'NoFap' as a trademark.
Rhodes' aggressive litigation has had a chilling effect on free speech, as "Sex educators, adult industry groups and therapists told Motherboard that they are scared of legal action from NoFap, and some of them weren't willing to speak openly about masturbation and the stigma of watching porn."
In 2017, an Independent article called "Inside the Community of Men Who Have Given Up Porn" noted that an alternative subreddit, /r/pornfree, is different from 'NoFap' as members abstain from pornography but not necessarily masturbation. Another Independent article, from 2018, described /r/pornfree as less 'extreme' compared to /r/nofap.
A study of NoFap reddit users found that NoFap members were most likely to also be members of TheRedPill, seduction, and similar men's right and pick up artist Reddit groups. Another study reported a similar pattern that NoFap Reddit members also were likely to be supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump.
So why are men doing it, and what happens when they do? 'Why' can be answered two ways: some see a medical problem in chronic masturbation, others a spiritual one.
Despite the evangelical tone, NoFap is fundamentally different from traditional campaigns that view masturbation as an assault on religious values. Instead, it is developing as a secular movement popular among young men, many of whom identify as liberal and atheist. The majority of NoFap members are men in their teens and early 20s, though there are women, too, says Alexander Rhodes, the 23-year-old web developer from Pittsburgh who founded the movement two years ago. He estimates about 60 per cent are atheists; the site is also home to a fair number of Christians and some Muslims, all in broad agreement that porn is harmful.
We recently published a paper titled 'Abstinence from Masturbation and Hypersexuality' (Zimmer & Imhoff, 2020) in which we tried to explore correlates of men's motivation to stay abstinent from masturbation. In motivating the study, we pointed to existing discourses around the topic and cited different protagonists within this debate (e.g., the Web sites 'nofap.org' and 'rebootnation.org').
A porn addiction and compulsive sexual behavior recovery peer support forum.
NoFap™ is a secular community-centered sexual health platform designed to help you overcome porn addiction, porn overuse, and compulsive sexual behavior. We're here to help you quit or reduce porn use, improve your relationships, and reach your sexual health goals.
As visible from zero-order correlations and multiple linear regression, motivation for abstinence was mostly associated with attitudinal correlates, specifically the perception of masturbation as unhealthy. While there were associations with hypersexuality, no significant correlation with behavioral markers such as maximum number of orgasms was found. Higher abstinence motivation was related to a higher perceived impact of masturbation, conservatism, and religiosity and to lower trust in science. We argue that research on abstinence from masturbation can enrich the understanding of whether and how average frequencies of healthy behavior are pathologized.
Is there any way that masturbation can cause harm? Seventy years ago, a child might have been told that masturbation would cause insanity, acne, sterility, or other such nonsense. 'Self-abuse,' as it was then called, has enjoyed a long and unfortunate history of religious and medical disapproval (Caroll, 2013). The modern view is that masturbation is a normal sexual behavior (Hogarth & Ingham, 2009). Enlightened parents are well aware of this fact. Still, many children are punished or made to feel guilty for touching their genitals. This is unfortunate because masturbation itself is harmless. Typically, its only negative effects are feelings of fear, guilt, or anxiety that arise from learning to think of masturbation as 'bad' or 'wrong.' In an age when people are urged to practice 'safer sex,' masturbation remains the safest sex of all.
The most influential account of the causal relationship between PMO and the emergence of masturbatory subjectivity, which I mainly refer to in the following, is given by Gary Wilson ... Nevertheless, Wilson's talk is of vital importance to NoFap.
NoFap' is an organisation that supports its users regardless of what their goals might be as long as they're trying to improve their sexual health and live their sexual habits in a way that they want to," he says, pointing out that abstinence is not the ultimate aim of all participants. "We don't have a unified goal. Some people want to masturbate some people don't want to masturbate – it hosts a wide variety of people with different viewpoints.
Excessive use of the Internet not involving playing of online games (e.g., excessive use of social media, such as Facebook; viewing pornography online) is not considered analogous to Internet gaming disorder, and future research on other excessive uses of the Internet would need to follow similar guidelines as suggested herein. Excessive gambling online may qualify for a separate diagnosis of gambling disorder.
In addition to the substance-related disorders, this chapter also includes gambling disorder, reflecting evidence that gambling behaviors activate reward systems similar to those activated by drugs of abuse and that produce some behavioral symptoms that appear comparable to those produced by the substance use disorders. Other excessive behavioral patterns, such as Internet gaming (see “Conditions for Further Study”), have also been described, but the research on these and other behavioral syndromes is less clear. Thus, groups of repetitive behaviors, sometimes termed behavioral addictions (with subcategories such as “sex addiction,” “exercise addiction,” and “shopping addiction”), are not included because there is insufficient peer-reviewed evidence to establish the diagnostic criteria and course descriptions needed to identify these behaviors as mental disorders.