Let’s talk about No-nut November…
If you haven’t heard of No-Nut November, it’s essentially an annual challenge encouraging penis-owners simply not to masturbate during the month of November (or even, for many, have any sex).
A colleague of mine had shared an article published on Rollingstone.com which struck a chord with me. As a social media personality and podcast host, as well as a researcher, I do 90% of my work online within different sexuality and health communities. No-nut November comments are nothing new to me, and without fail, begin showing up bright and early on Nov. 1st across places like Twitter, Tiktok, Reddit, IG, etc.
While the pre-conditioned side of my brain shrugs at yet another social media “challenge” that seems to make no real sense other than to make the challenger complete a ridiculous task in the name of bragging rights, the academic side of my brain took a moment to pause at this idea. Why do this when regular masturbation is not only healthy but helps to reduce the risk of things like testicular and prostate cancers, improves the overall sense of well-being, etc.? We will go down this road in a moment…
Now the kinky side of my mind kicks in… there are many wonderful penis owners in the world from kinksters to submissive, who enjoy cis-male chastity devices (honestly, there are some beautiful pieces of hardware out there in the world of cock-cages). Since the pandemic began, the world of kink has exploded and become far more mainstream. Now, these communities are near and dear to me and I want to drive home that this type of activity is not associated with No-nut November.
In cases where chastity devices are used, the consenting parties must be highly aware of safety and health concerns, requiring consistent communication and checking-in. When done well, the experiences of masturbatory abstinences for pleasure or as part of a D/s dynamic can be immense, but always with the health and safety of each party as 1st priority.
Now that we have that out of the way…
Where does this No-nut November challenge come from? The article provides a brief history that illuminates further. Initially, it was created as a play on other internet challenges such as the Ice Bucket Challenge, and often found in circles associated as part of “NoFap”, an anti-porn subreddit that has gone from half a million members in 2019 to nearly 1 million today. However, It has been made clear by NoFap that it is not affiliated with No-nut November, but members in both groups will post #NNN memes within both groups on their social media pages (Dickson, 2019).
While this challenge is often shrugged off as an excuse to taunt and tease each other (ugh…) there are also large groups who take the activity of non-activity very seriously. According to the article in 2019, “52,000 people as of this writing diligently documenting their day-by-day progress (and setbacks) on the subreddit r/NoNutNovember. r/NoNutNovember moderator /u/yeeval estimates that approximately 90% of the posts are from people “actively participating, and also there’s the occasional fallen member who stays on the subreddit for the community and laughs.” (Dickson, 2019).
Given we are now a week into November as I write this, I decided to take a look at the current member numbers on the subreddit r/NoNutNovember to which the subreddit has grown to a whopping 115,365 members within 1 year. r/NoFap now has nearly 1 million. Interestingly, while the movement has grown, I found some compelling statistics thanks to the adult industry nerds at PornHub, which we will talk about in just a bit.
A bit deeper history shows a long-standing idea promoted by oppressive and antiquated ideas of sexuality in the U.S. The perpetuation of an idea that semen retention boosts a penis-owner’s virility, and somehow increases his masculinity by demonstrating self-control over one’s “impulses” has been promoted extensively to cis-men. However, the act of semen retention as having such “extensive” health benefits has been disproved by science, often showing the opposite to be true.
Overall, science has shown that abstaining from masturbation does not help the body in any way through semen retention. In fact, there are several case studies put out by research journals such as by Harvard Medical Journal and the Kinsey Institute, as well as around the world that are showing a marked decrease in the risk for prostate cancer and stress-related illness through regular ejaculation (Harvard Medical Review, 2019).
The truth is, No-nut November is rooted in extremist and oppressive organizations in part by the anti-masturbation movement, many of which are linked to anti-Semitism, homophobic organizations, under the umbrella of white-supremacy. If you have the time, I highly recommend reading the full article from Rolling Stone which gives a highly detailed lineage with comments from the anti-masturbation movement themselves.
Now, I certainly do not believe for a moment that everyone making a No-nut November comment is attempting to perpetuate the anti-masturbation movement, white-supremacy, or know the health benefits of a healthy masturbation practice. But, consider how this lack of knowledge continues to damage society just by engaging in the next social media “challenge.” Without realizing it, one may be allowing for an oppressive patriarchy to continue.
Dickson explains, “The irony of this strain of the anti-masturbation movement is that, while it’s ostensibly intended to fight the larger porn industry’s attempts to brainwash and emasculate white men, anti-masturbation ideology has historically been used as a tool by fascist figures to gain social control. The cultural stigma associated with masturbation, combined with the fact that pretty much everyone masturbates, invariably leads to a lot of men “developing a lot of internal shame,” says Ley. “And that makes them open to manipulation and social control.” As an example, he cited the National Socialist Party in 1930s Germany, which strongly discouraged Hitler Youth members from engaging in masturbation. Because anti-porn and anti-masturbation movements tend to be comprised of young heterosexual males, they could potentially be viewed by some on the far right as ideal recruitment grounds. The fact that something like No Nut November appears to be a joke on its face “appears to serve as this interesting front door recruiting kind of strategy to bring folks into this deeper, much more insidious and shaming movement,” says Ley.” (2019).
Now back to Pornhub: while this is a popular challenge in recent years across the social media giants, it doesn’t appear that very many take the challenge all that seriously. When the Rolling Stone article was written, they had used Porn Hub’s 2018 Year in Review Statistics. I took a moment to compare the months of November from 2018 and 2019 and found there was no marked decline in typical usage in the month of November for those years.
Of course, it goes without saying that not everyone who participates in No-nut November or NoFap is a white supremacist or religious fundamentalist and that the founders of these groups explicitly reject any suggestions of overlap between the two communities. According to NoFap leaders, “No-Nut November isn’t a political movement. We are not anti-porn. We are not anti-woman. We are not anti-masturbation or anti-sex,” he says. “In its most simple form NoNutNovember just a fun internet challenge that has grown in popularity due to many memes that circulate the internet…However, I also think that the reason that it has become so widespread is that it has given many the opportunity to look within themselves and realize that they might be relying on masturbation and porn for comfort.” (Dickson, 2019). (I do want to note here that porn addiction is still a highly debated and controversial topic as evidence suggests that it is often incorrectly diagnosed when compulsive porn or masturbation behavior may be a symptom of OCD or other mental disorder, but this topic is one for another day.)
As I turn inward, I proudly proclaim that masturbation, ejaculation, and sex are fantastic. Ethical porn is beautiful, and yes, touching myself or watching my partner touch themselves is a source of great comfort and joy to me because seeing pleasure is pleasurable too!
So, I encourage you to take a deep dive, unsettle yourself and those around you with some knowledge, and enjoy the act of healthy self-pleasure. If you feel you’re in distress due to impulse control, that is a sign to seek assistance from a qualified therapist with a background in sex therapy, not to participate in “No-nut November.”
- Porn Hub’s 2019 Year in Review – https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2019-year-in-review
- Porn Hub’s 2018 Year in Review – https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2018-year-in-review
- Dickson, S. (2019). The Rolling Stone. “How a New Meme Exposes the Far-Right Roots of #NoNutNovember”. Retreived from: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/coomer-meme-no-nut-november-nofap-908676/
- Ejaculation frequency and prostate cancer. (2005). Harvard Men’s Health Watch, 10(5), 7. Retreived from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/ejaculation_frequency_and_prostate_cancer
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