Health

What Happens When You Stop Masturbating

February 2nd 2016

By:
Laura Donovan

Many people first discover their sexual desires through masturbation, which is also an easy and safe way to release sexual tension during dry spells. But what happens when you decide to give up solo play for a while? Many people have been vocal about their masturbation sabbaticals and oftentimes, they cite positive results for taking a break.

The NoFap Community

People in Reddit's NoFap community experiment with breaks from masturbation to see how it impacts them. Because masturbation is still highly stigmatized in our culture, it can be difficult to talk about, so the anonymity of the group enables people to freely share their experiences without worrying about judgment or social shaming.

contemplative-man

Alexander Rhodes, a web developer, created the group in 2011 to share his experiences with quitting masturbation after regularly getting off to pornography 10 times a day. Rhodes recently told UpVoted that he would rush to the bathroom anytime he felt the urge to masturbate and even experienced heart palpitations when he wouldn't do it.

But when he stopped solo play entirely, Rhodes became more focused, energetic and productive.

“I gained an energy that can be applied to every area of life," he told UpVoted. "It is hard to explain in words."

Last year, Vice U.K. writer Ed Smith reported experiencing a similar productivity increase after quitting.

"I got work done, I kept my house clean, I finished off personal projects that procrastination had always forbid me from finishing," Smith wrote. "I realized that a self-enforced period of blue balls can actually be a lot better for the mind, body and soul that I'd first assumed."

Why people masturbate compulsively and how porn plays a role in it.

When Rhodes created NoFap, he found that many people in the community felt they suffered from porn addiction. Three years ago, Cambridge University researchers conducted a study on NoFap members and found that the brain activity of compulsive porn consumers was similar to the brain activity of people addicted to drugs. Though neuroscientist Matthew Johnson told Upvoted that he doesn't believe watching porn can reprogram the brain, he said it's likely that compulsive porn consumers are likely predisposed to addiction. In other words, a person might masturbate more frequently as a result of being predisposed to addictive habits.

man-behind-laptop

A recent video created by The School of Life reports that there are indeed neurological factors at play with compulsive porn watching habits.

"The problem of porn is identical with that of food," the video says. "Brains that were geared to take quick advantage of the occasional presence of a few berries are now defenseless before the vats of artificial sweetness turned out by our remorseless technologies."

How too much masturbation and porn consumption impacts your personal life.

Porn and masturbation can present conflict in certain relationships, and some people consider both of these activities to be cheating. This is part of the reason porn addiction and compulsive masturbation carry a social stigma. Fighting the urge to watch all the time can be challenging for many because it's difficult to find a comparable high. Porn addiction can also make it difficult for some people to enjoy sex in real life because to them, it might not be as arousing or fun as sex in porn.

People who compulsively view porn may also find themselves watching porn at work: In a recent study, around two-thirds of human resources professionals discovered porn on employee computers and nearly half of them discovered the material on more than one occasion.

porn-couple

In the end, Smith gained a lot from quitting masturbation, but he did admit that this choice can make you sexually frustrated.

"The litany of distractions provided by work and hobbies are helpful, and if you can keep them coming then you might be OK," he wrote. "However, it makes sense that not masturbating will up your sex drive. Therefore, in my experience, chastity is something best enjoyed – somewhat paradoxically – with a partner."

Here's why masturbation is still important.

The point isn't to quit solo play completely; it's more about figuring out the place and purpose of masturbation in one's life. 

Jim Pfaus, a psychology professor at Concordia University, told Ed Smith in the Vice article  that giving up on masturbation 100% "will not kill us, but it will deprive us of important self-discovery...[Masturbation] is a great stress reducer – there's evidence that having sex or masturbating can reduce our resting heart rate for up to 12 hours," Pfaus said. "Plus, it does our sex lives the world of good to learn our sexual rhythms. We connect [through masturbation] to the types of action that we see in erotic or pornographic visual stimuli. This feeds our sexual fantasies, which is an enrichment of our creative process."

Taking a brief break from masturbation can actually increase arousal for having sex or masturbating. This hike could lead to more rewarding sex for people when they actually engage in it. Members of the NoFap community reported a host of benefits: 

NoFap screenshot

"Holding semen in does not increase the likelihood that any of the constituents will 'leak' back into the blood," Pfaus said. "However, if you are holding it in, that means you are not having sex or masturbating, which could increase your arousal in anticipation of actually having sex. I think this is the 'energy' that the purveyors of tantric sex talk about. Learning how to maintain erection and hold off ejaculation makes the orgasm experience more intensely pleasurable. This is true for us and rats. So the increase in 'energy' is more psychological and belief-driven than anything else."

As Women's Health Magazine writer Kristen Solleen noted in a 2014 piece, masturbation can be even more rewarding than sex in some cases, as sex requires both partners to be in the mood.

"[Y]ou don’t have to shave or dress sexy, and you definitely don’t have to think about anybody else’s needs but your own...masturbating is the gift that keep on giving," Sollee wrote.

[Ed. Note: An earlier version of this story attributed the video about porn addition to TestTube.com. The video was posted on TestTube, but created by "The School of Life." The correction has been made.]

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