To withhold or not to withhold – that's the ponderous question many ponder in the NoFap movement. Here, we delve into the realm of science, testosterone levels, and fertility to seek clarity on this abstinence-centric endeavor.
The NoFap Contemplation
I can't help but wonder if the NoFap movement is a fleeting internet trend akin to the craze of sea shanties, or if it carries a more profound societal influence. For those uninitiated, "NoFap" involves, as the name suggests, abstaining from masturbation. The "fap" portion of the term is, interestingly, onomatopoeic slang originating from a webcomic in 1999 – an attempt to mimic the sound of male self-pleasure.
So, why have some modern men embraced this practice of "fapstinence" when earlier admonitions against self-indulgence failed to dissuade them? Part of the reason may be a noble effort to combat porn addiction, while another part is rooted in Eastern mysticism, where preserving "sexual energy" was valued. However, it's doubtful that many NoFappers are well-versed in these practices. Still, elements of this idea have permeated Western culture, influencing various groups, from anti-fappers to incels and even the Proud Boys.
These groups believe that abstaining from self-pleasure can boost testosterone levels, leading to increased virility and confidence. Some go so far as to believe it gives them Kramer's kavorka, making women irresistibly drawn to them.
Additionally, they claim this abstinence-derived higher testosterone enhances their body composition, promoting muscle gain and fat loss. Some even believe it can boost fertility by abstaining for a few days or weeks, improving their chances of procreation. However, these beliefs contradict those who equate ejaculatory volume with virility and masculinity.
A Glimpse into History
Before we delve into the scientific aspects, let's acknowledge that only around 5% of male ejaculate consists of sperm. The rest is a blend of fluids that support sperm survival, motility, and functionality.
Sperm, as a unique cell type, was a mystery until Anton van Leeuwenhoek's discovery in 1677. Before that, theories about human reproduction were vivid, even suggesting that emitted vapors stimulated women to conceive. Another theory posited that sperm contained tiny pre-formed humans and women played a passive role in the fetal development process. It wasn't until the mid-19th century that microscopy revealed the process of embryonic development, putting these theories to rest.
Interestingly, masturbation was historically considered sinful and detrimental, even leading to insanity and bodily decay. It took until the 20th century for society to accept masturbation as a natural and normal act.
However, cultures in some regions still struggle with "semen-loss anxiety," like India's "dhat-syndrome." It afflicts young, unmarried men who believe that self-pleasure causes fatigue and weakness. A similar condition, "shen-k’uei," exists in China. These beliefs persist in various forms, fueling the American NoFap movement.
Does Abstinence Elevate Testosterone Levels?
Surprisingly, there's little research to support the idea that abstinence boosts testosterone levels. In fact, watching porn or engaging in sexual activity can temporarily elevate testosterone levels. A study even found that engaging in sexual activity in a sex club raised testosterone levels temporarily.
Furthermore, a longitudinal study discovered that higher masturbation frequency correlated with increased testosterone levels among older adults. The majority of evidence suggests that self-pleasure, rather than abstinence, leads to higher testosterone levels.
Can Abstinence Improve Sperm Quality?
Some advocate abstinence for increased sperm quality, but the evidence is inconclusive and complex. Parameters like semen volume, sperm concentration, and motility have unclear relationships with abstinence.
One puzzling finding is that semen collected through penile-vaginal intercourse differs significantly from that collected through masturbation in terms of sperm quality. The first fraction of ejaculate contains a higher concentration of sperm, which is crucial for fertility. Abstinence may be recommended to some extent for fertility, but it's important to strike a balance.
Interestingly, the first fraction of ejaculate is the most effective for conception. It contains vital components that support sperm vitality and function. This has significant implications for fertility clinics.
Does Ejaculatory Volume Matter?
Some men seek periods of abstinence to increase ejaculatory volume. While most women don't believe a bigger volume enhances pleasure, it's partly due to the influence of the pornography industry.
However, studies indicate that volume increases by about 12% for each day of abstinence, plateauing after approximately 5 days. This shouldn't lead to cataclysmic deluges.
Lifestyle, diet, and supplements can also affect volume. Ensuring optimal testosterone levels, maintaining prostate health, staying hydrated, engaging in foreplay, and taking supplements like pomegranate extract, lycopene, zinc, and Maca root can all influence ejaculatory volume.
In extreme cases, some opt for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to preserve or potentially increase semen volume, but this is a niche endeavor.
While the NoFap movement serves various purposes, from combating porn addiction to exploring self-control, it's essential to clarify the science behind it. Abstinence doesn't elevate testosterone levels, make one more virile, or significantly enhance fertility. The beliefs surrounding ejaculation are multifaceted, rooted in complex historical and cultural narratives.
In the end, whether to abstain or not is a personal decision. However, it's crucial not to ascribe false medical, moral, or spiritual beliefs to this choice.