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It's that time of year when "No Nut November" starts cropping up all over social media. At first it might just look like a silly challenge: just don't ejaculate for the month of November. But "NNN" is a gateway to the less-fun aspects of the internet and has led many men down a rabbit-hole that starts with bro-science, dives deep into misogyny, and ends up in an upside-down world of conspiracy theories and women-hating.

On top of that, No Nut November is also potentially unhealthy in a literal biological sense, as you're denying the normal biological function of your body simply for the memes.

white ceramic figurine on pink surface
Photo by Deon Black on LetsTalkSex

No Nut November is basically NoFap Lite

I am no fan of the NoFap movement. It's born of incorrect bro-science and makes promises that simply cannot be kept. In short: there is no biological benefit to not ejaculating. Your body doesn't store up all that semen, you're not saving protein or developing new powers. Masturbation and sex are not shameful nor the domain of the weak or losers.

The professed goal of No Nut November is right there in the title: don't "nut" — ejaculate — for the entirety of the month of November. It's a fun bit of alliterative wordplay, for sure, and there are certainly more guys contributing just jokes and memes than actually participating.

But it's worth remembering that not everybody sees it that way. Not everybody has that gift of perspective or intuition that this isn't right, they feel lost and confused and see this rising wave at the end of October to abstain from masturbation because they'll come out the other side a better and stronger man. Those are the men that make easy prey for the misogynists that drive this bus. There's so much crossover between this group, incels, and so-called "men's rights activists" that it makes my skin crawl.

Of course, not all men fall for that, and some just take part because they think it's a fun challenge. But this isn't something that will help make a difference in the world, this is no Ice Bucket Challenge. It's a meme with a dark underbelly that takes advantage of some of society's most vulnerable men.

Masturbation is healthy, not shameful

Due to the shifts of hormones and cultural conditioning, a fair number of men find themselves feeling shame or guilt after masturbation. Often that's branded as "post-nut clarity", with guys questioning what led them to the point of jerking off to the materials they did. It's simple: you liked it, and that's okay. The bad actors behind NoFap and No Nut November prey on those feelings of shame; instead of helping men find acceptance of the perfectly normal practice of masturbation, they lean into their insecurities about it and pull them down the dark path of the incel.

The truth is that masturbation is healthy, both mentally and physically. It provides a necessary sexual release, giving an outlet for the often-distracting thoughts and drives that can inhabit a man's brain. It also stimulates the release of "feel good" hormones like dopamine and oxytocin that help with stress management.

That's not to say that those hormonal releases can't lead to their own pitfalls; men find themselves addicted to that through compulsive masturbation all too often. All things in moderation, as they say.

But masturbation and ejaculation are also important biologically. The body is constantly producing the components of semen, and a lack of release can lead to discomfort and eventually even the body doing the release itself through "wet dreams". Would you rather have a controlled and enjoyable ejaculation, or just wake up from a night's sleep in a bed made sticky with your own cum?

On top of that, researchers have shown a link between higher frequencies of masturbation and lower rates of prostate cancer. That link isn't one of causation — science hasn't proven that blowing your load more frequently reduces your risk of cancer — but there's a connection that and I'd rather be safe than sorry.

All of that said, one can masturbate too much or become addicted to masturbation. If you find yourself unable to control urges to masturbate, that it's impacting your ability to get tasks done, that you no longer find pleasure in it, or that you can only get off by masturbating yourself and not with a partner then you'll want to consider cutting back.

The nonsense bro-science behind No Nut November and NoFap

NoFap is based on a core misunderstanding of scientific research, believing that abstention from masturbation will lead to increased testosterone levels, better health and fitness, a clearer mind, and even "superpowers" like increased confidence, sharper focus, and improved energy.

They attributed this to two things: the nonexistent hormone changes and the lack of protein loss from ejaculation — "semen retention", as they call it. This is all nonsense.

Testosterone is produced continually in the male body, primarily by the testicles. Testosterone plays a key role throughout the body, including the development of muscles, red blood cells, bone mass, and libido. But it is not "used up" through masturbation or ejaculation, and refraining from those activities does not change masturbation levels. Testosterone levels naturally vary through the day with or without masturbation; for men on a normal sleep/wake cycle (circadian rhythm) they experience the highest testosterone levels around 8 AM and the lowest around 8 PM.

In fact, a 2021 study in Germany actually looked at testosterone levels and masturbation, and found no difference in average levels between groups that abstained from masturbation, those that merely viewed pornographic materials, and those that saw the porn and masturbated. The only discernable difference observed was in free testosterone (the 1-2% of these hormone molecules that haven't yet been bound to other cellular chemical receptors), and it saw that those that masturbated had slightly steadier levels throughout the day — total testosterone concentrations and ratios were unaffected.

"Semen retention" makes no biological sense — sperm are continually produced and discarded whether you ejaculate or not.

The other supposed benefit of semen retention is in reducing protein loss, which involves a deliberate misunderstanding of how the testicles function. The testicles are constantly producing new sperm and a generally constant rate. The mitosis functions run unabated through the day and night, unfazed by exercise, sleep, stress, ejaculation, or anything else. They do this out of biological imperative: our prehistoric ancestors never knew when the opportunity to mate would present itself, so having a constantly replenished supply of sperm ready to go at a moment's notice was important for propagating one's genes and the species as a whole.

Replenished is a key word there. While it takes several weeks for a sperm cell to be produced and reach maturity, once it does it typically only has three days of viability before it's no longer good enough to ensure a successful fertilization. So the seminal vesicles storage attached to the testicles only keeps fully matured sperm around for a few days before they are discarded as trash. These expired sperm are flushed out through the lymphatic system like any other old or damaged cellular material or trash, to be broken down for useful components and the rest discarded.

Because this process runs continuously it doesn't matter whether the man ejaculates or not. The proteins used to create millions of sperm cells every single day are going to be used regardless. Abstaining from masturbation does not stop the process, it just means it's wasted instead.

Addressing porn addition

One of the strongest draws of NoFap is in cutting a man's addition to pornography. Porn addition is a real and serious thing, and it's absolutely worth addressing. Excessive pornography consumption can lead to men having warped ideas of what sex and relationships should be like, and make it impossible for them to orgasm without that specific audio-visual stimulation — even with an in-person partner involved.

person holding green gourd with artificial hand rack

But fully cutting out masturbation isn't the answer. Leaving aside the often-questionable culture of porn production, the product of pornography itself is neither inherently good nor bad. It's sexual entertainment, and nothing more. But just as with other sorts of entertainment addition like video games or TikTok, it's usually not a matter of the material itself but the perceived lack of other options.

So how does one break that addiction to porn? It's often a lot of the other things that No Nut November and NoFap prescribe: go work out, start a new hobby that keeps your hands and mind occupied, hangout with friends — just do something, literally anything, else.

No Nut November and you

Sure, maybe No Nut November to you is just a fun thing to joke about and challenge yourself. But it's basis in shoddy science and pushing by the shady characters that inhabit the NoFap community should give you pause. If you think you need help with an addiction to pornography or masturbation, going cold turkey for a month thanks to a meme almost certainly isn't the answer.

It's up to you whether you want to participate in this silliness, just know what you're getting into and that the supposed benefits are lies meant to drag you down.