There are men who are for­sak­ing porn

Will it, iron­i­cally and quite un­ex­pect­edly, be men who even­tu­ally shun the porn in­dus­try and end its per­vad­ing side­ef­fects? Oliver Roberts looks at two web­sites that sug­gest this might be the case

Sunday Times - - Contents -

Es­chew­ing porn and not mas­tur­bat­ing can un­lock ‘su­per­pow­ers’

Have we reached peak­wank? A num­ber of web­sites and on­line fo­rums seem to think so, but to­day we’re go­ing to fo­cus on two of them, and by two I re­ally mean one be­cause both web­sites and their fo­rums sort of cor­re­spond with each other, one usu­ally lead­ing its user onto the other, and vice versa.

First, there’s www.your­brain­on­ (hereon known as YBOP), which was cre­ated in 2010 and has since spawned a 2014 book by the same name. YBOP is a sec­u­lar, sci­ence-based site that looks at porn’s — more specif­i­cally on­line porn’s — ef­fects on the brain. The in­for­ma­tion con­tained comes from more than 15 years of re­search and nine years’ worth of ac­counts from re­cov­er­ing porn ad­dicts.

YBOP is ea­ger to point out that it is not look­ing at pornog­ra­phy and its ef­fects from a moral point of view, but rather ob­jec­tively pre­sent­ing sci­en­tific ev­i­dence and case stud­ies re­gard­ing porn’s ad­dic­tive qual­i­ties and its sub­se­quent tidal ef­fect on the porn user’s phys­i­ol­ogy and psy­che, plus their gen­eral so­cial in­ter­ac­tions, more specif­i­cally with the op­po­site sex.

Sec­ond, there’s­, which is re­ally more of a fo­rum-based site that of­fers sup­port for those seek­ing re­lease from the nasty fall­out of the ha­bit­ual cy­cle that No­Fap terms PMO — Porn, Mas­tur­ba­tion, Or­gasm. In short, PMO refers to the act of watch­ing porn and then mas­tur­bat­ing to or­gasm. And, as ex­plained in great de­tail by YBOP, all this PMO’ing is do­ing se­ri­ous dam­age to male PMO’ers in the form of ac­tual, bona-fide ad­dic­tion cy­cles that repli­cate the dopamine-hit-type ad­dic­tion pat­terns wit­nessed in the brains of ac­tual recre­ational drug users/ ad­dicts.

Not only do these ad­dic­tion cy­cles in­duce with­drawals in the form of anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion and “brain-fog”, they are also re­spon­si­ble for feel­ings of low self-es­teem and self-loathing, plus — most hor­ri­bly — erec­tile dys­func­tion and men gen­er­ally hav­ing is­sues be­ing able to or­gasm with a real-life part­ner be­cause their brains have got­ten so used to or­gas­ming to foul pix­els.

(By the way, in case you’re won­der­ing, No­Fap is so named be­cause “fap” is an ono­matopoeic ex­pres­sion for wank­ing).

Out of our two afore­men­tioned an­ti­wank web­sites, No­Fap is prob­a­bly the most com­pelling be­cause, in its sev­enyear ex­is­tence, its fo­rum has grown mas­sively and glob­ally, and, apart from the sin­cere and of­ten heart­break­ing posts and con­ver­sa­tions geared to­wards re­cov­ery from PMO ad­dic­tion, there are threads from scores of No­Fap mem­bers (of­fi­cially termed “fap­stro­nauts”) claim­ing that es­chew­ing porn and re­frain­ing from mas­tur­ba­tion en­tirely (ex­cept for un­con­trol­lable noc­tur­nal emis­sions) can un­lock “su­per­pow­ers” that in­clude be­com­ing su­per-fo­cused/ am­bi­tious, more manly and more at­trac­tive to women.

(Here I should point out that there are a lot of con­flict­ing the­o­ries re­gard­ing the phys­i­cal/men­tal ef­fects of sperm re­ten­tion, some of which can be found in the side­bar on the fol­low­ing page. One oft-cited con­tention with sperm re­ten­tion and/or fore­go­ing

mas­tur­ba­tion out­right is that it can sup­pos­edly lead to ram­pant li­bido and un­wanted erec­tions).

What­ever your take on sperm re­ten­tion, pornog­ra­phy and mas­tur­ba­tion (re­mem­ber that the lat­ter has been al­ter­nately de­monised/deemed per­fectly healthy since, like, the be­gin­ning of time — did you know that Doc­tor John Har­vey Kel­logg, yes, he of the ce­re­als, orig­i­nally devel­oped his ubiq­ui­tous Corn Flakes as part of an an­ti­mas­tur­ba­tion cru­sade? He be­lieved the docile flakes would some­how re­press sex­ual im­pulses in the youth). Any­hoo, what­ever your take on these things, there is no doubt that No­Fap rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant, and per­haps yet un­prece­dented male-driven back­lash against pornog­ra­phy and its af­ter-ef­fects.

I man­aged to track down a few South African fap­stro­nauts who spoke to me about PMO ad­dic­tion (us­ing their fo­rum names) and how the No­Fap move­ment has helped/con­tin­ues to help them.

JohnDoe (who joined No­Fap less than a month ago) is 32 years old and started watch­ing porn when he was a teen. He’s been mar­ried for five years and says that porn ad­dic­tion was ru­in­ing his life.

“My sex drive was ba­si­cally zero, be­cause I mas­tur­bated dur­ing the day at work. Porn made me want more from sex, un­re­al­is­ti­cally more. So when my wife de­clined weird fan­tasy stuff like anal, I went to pros­ti­tutes to try and ful­fil my porn fan­tasy. Worst of all, my wife knows noth­ing about this dou­ble life.”

JohnDoe has now found an­other lo­cal fap­stro­naut and the pair sup­port each other over What­sApp. He says he still pines for porn (“it’s like a very bad group of friends that you miss at times”) but, in the words of a true re­cov­er­ing ad­dict, he says: “It’s not easy, but at least I’m fur­ther away from my ad­dic­tion than I was yes­ter­day.”

He says that in the time that he’s stopped PMO’ing (17 days at the time of writ­ing), he feels more “in tune” with his emo­tions, has more en­ergy and is more af­fec­tion­ate to his wife.

An­other user, McDreamer, is a 22 y/o bi­sex­ual who was ter­ri­bly ex­cited to be part of the ar­ti­cle. He first saw porn by ac­ci­dent when he was six (!) and started PMO’ing roughly six years later. One of the rea­sons he signed up was to im­prove his sex life — the ef­fects of 10 years of PMO’ing have been so se­vere that, up un­til last month, he had never or­gasmed with a part­ner.

McDreamer ad­mits he was scep­ti­cal about cer­tain No­Fap claims, but con­firmed that within 17 days of ab­sti­nence, he no­ticed his nat­u­rally in­tro­verted self come out of its shell a bit and, like JohnDoe, he’s been “more in touch with my feel­ings and other sim­ple things about my­self … The changes aren’t semi-imag­ined — they’re real. I saw changes in the 17 days ver­sus the 10 years I’ve been PMO’ing. I know it’s true.”

McDreamer cites easy ac­cess to porn as the most chal­leng­ing thing for a fap­stro­naut, or frankly any li­bidi­nous male alive to­day.

“It’s not like an ad­dic­tion to drugs or food or al­co­hol, which have some sort of re­stric­tion. Porn you can get 24/7 any­where, plus it’s part of our cul­ture, and peo­ple re­gard it as a ‘rite of pas­sage’. Add to that an ad­dic­tion to the in­ter­net and FOMO, and you have a recipe for disas­ter.”

No­Fap is not easy. Or rather it’s eas­ier for some than oth­ers. There are some mem­bers on the fo­rum who claim to be PMO-free for more than a year (a lot of the time this in­cludes not ejac­u­lat­ing) and, just read­ing the be­fore/af­ter posts, you can see that many fo­rum mem­bers have suc­cess­fully made their way through a very dark and swampy tun­nel and come out the other side into blinding, mildly dis­ori­en­tat­ing day­light, sort of like the way you feel when you go to the cinema dur­ing the day­time and then walk back out into the park­ing lot.

The last lo­cal fap­stro­naut I spoke to, 35 y/o Ma­ronite Metal Praise, has a life story that is ba­si­cally too up­set­ting to go into here, ex­cept to say that he was in­tro­duced to porn when he was nine, via the nudie mag­a­zines sold at his fa­ther’s corner café. Af­ter be­ing ba­si­cally scammed out of all his money by a woman he met over the in­ter­net, and even got en­gaged to, he plunged deeper into PMO and has been strug­gling with it ever since. He says he’s at­tempted the No­Fap thing sev­eral times, and failed on each oc­ca­sion, i.e. “over­dos­ing on PMO.”

“I can’t go without mas­tur­ba­tion for more than a week,” he says. “It causes me to think of noth­ing else; at work, all I end up think­ing about is porn and ev­ery dis­gust­ing fan­tasy imag­in­able. I des­per­ately want to give it up ... I hope one day I can fi­nally be free of porn and mas­tur­ba­tion ad­dic­tion, but be­cause I’ve in­dulged for years it will al­ways be in the back of my mind, invit­ing me to go down that long road to ruin one more time.”

Some claim that on­line porn is the new to­bacco, in that by the time we un­der­stand its ef­fects it’ll be too late and mil­lions of lives will have been de­stroyed. Oth­ers claim that the ef­fects of porn have less to do with avail­abil­ity and more to do with the psy­chol­ogy of each in­di­vid­ual us­ing it. And the fact that there is so much in­for­ma­tion alerts us to just how sig­nif­i­cant on­line porn and its con­sump­tion is, both as a sub­ject and as some­thing that, be­cause of the un­cer­tainty of its long-term ef­fects, re­mains an un­known.

Whether or not you sub­scribe to the views and ideas of plat­forms like YBOP and No­Fap, two shim­mer­ing ironies/anom­alies have come out of these global re­tal­i­a­tions against the per­sis­tence of on­line porn: (1) the re­tal­i­a­tion has come from men them­selves, who have too long been re­garded as uni­ver­sally sex-mad and the pre­sumed hold­ers of shaky, locker-room morals when it comes to porn; and (2) on­line porn’s very sur­plus may, in its own sweat-laden, sticky way, hold the key to a re­fresh­ing, hash­tagged re­ver­sal in the way sex — and women — are treated and per­ceived.

Of course, the power of the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia means this very well could hap­pen, or not hap­pen at all. But at least there’s hope.

The re­tal­i­a­tion has come from men, re­garded as uni­ver­sally sex-mad

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