THE NOFAP EXPERIMENT: A VOYAGE THROUGH PORN ADDICTION, SUPPORT, AND RECOVERY

An in-depth look at porn addiction by projectknow.com

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By its very design, online pornography is meant to be highly titillating to visitors. It's easy to understand why internet porn poses a significant risk of addiction: it induces a state of hyper-stimulation, provides constant novelty, is highly accessible, costs nothing, and can be used in the privacy of one's home. Online porn is so stimulating, it can make existing sexual relationships seem inadequate in comparison, and the quality of porn addicts' relationships - and lives - may suffer as a result.

A community support group on Reddit.com, known as NoFap, has begun to push back against their own addictions by voluntarily abstaining from porn use. These participants recognize that porn use has become a problem in their lives and, together, they're making an effort to regain a sense of normalcy and control over their addictions. Here, we'll explore the demographics of these users, the consequences porn addiction has had for them, and their experiences with giving up porn.

The highly addictive elements of online porn

What makes net porn different?

Internet porn has several aspects that distinguish it it from other pornography as well as other addictive substances. Unlike porn in other media, net porn doesn't come in physical formats that must be acquired (and concealed), carry a high cost of ownership, and offer little in the way of variety before becoming "stale". Online porn is potentially endless, and often free – users are not limited to whichever magazines or DVDs they can afford. And unlike addictive drugs, for instance, most internet porn is fully legal to view. The barriers to accessing net porn anytime, anywhere, are largely nonexistent: it's always just a click away.

The internet is ubiquitous, its contents on-demand, making it the perfect medium for the porn industry. It has also demolished any social barrier of having to purchase porn in-person from a shop or adult store – internet porn allows its viewers to remain safely anonymous (or as anonymous as anyone can be online) in the comfort of their own homes. WebMD reports that an astounding 420 MILLION web pages contain pornographic material. YouPorn.com, the second-largest porn site on the web, receives 100 million page views a day, and serves 4,000 VIDEOS a second during its peak hours. This one site receives an astounding 2% of the internet’s total traffic.

Our novelty-seeking sex drive

Male sexual response follows a well-established pattern known as the Coolidge effect. As demonstrated in rats and other animals, a male will enthusiastically have sex with a female he's been newly placed with – but before long, he'll become accustomed to her, and less interested in sex. However, if she's replaced with a new female, the process restarts, and the male will once again be just as enthusiastic about having sex with her as he had been with his previous mate.

This is a novelty-seeking behavior: a new female mate is largely more stimulating and exciting than mates that the male has been with before. The effect is so pronounced that, with new females, the post-sex refractory period of males is substantially reduced - allowing them to have more sex, more frequently. While this effect is most prominent in males, it's also been observed in females to a lesser extent. (http://yourbrainonporn.com/doing-what-you-evolved-to-do)

How these elements combine

The features of internet porn are perfectly poised to take advantage of the Coolidge effect. Were it not for this novelty-seeking effect, net porn viewers would settle on the first few scenes they enjoyed, and never seek out anything else. But this isn't the pattern that's observed, as indicated by the continuing boom in the online porn business. Porn viewers have the opportunity to browse through as much new porn - “new mates” - as they wish, for as long as they wish. This provides a constant source of novelty.

This pattern of response to porn has been scientifically proven. In one study, sexual response steadily decreased as men were shown the same adult film 18 times in a row, but their arousal once again peaked as they were shown a new film the 19th time around. (http://yourbrainonporn.com/doing-what-you-evolved-to-do) With the vast amount of porn online, and all of the different niches available, viewers will never run out of novel porn, and this state of heightened sexual response can be maintained indefinitely. This phenomenon, where modern technologies take advantage of our evolutionary tendencies in an exaggerated way, is known as a supernormal stimulus, or “superstimulus”. It is the kind of overwhelming stimulus that the human mind simply did not evolve to cope with – just as unnaturally sweet foods drive us to keep eating unhealthy amounts of them. (http://yourbrainonporn.com/garys-research-intense-sweetness-surpasses-cocaine)

The endless stimulus of porn has a real impact. Today, 42% of male college students report that they regularly visit porn sites, one in five feel controlled by their own sexual desires, and 12% of them spend 5 or more hours watching internet porn every week.

Its impact on sexual behavior and relationships

Like any addictive stimulus, continued use of net porn appears to induce a degree of tolerance and desensitization. This heightened state of arousal becomes normal - a new baseline. Acquiring the same “high” now requires more effort. This further perpetuates the cycle of seeking out new porn, and the addiction is real: using internet porn is the single strongest predictor of compulsive internet use. It’s more addicting than any game or social website, striking right at the heart of one of our evolutionary imperatives.

The behavior of porn users precisely matches the predictions of the Coolidge effect. Against this desire for novelty, traditional monogamous relationships with a single partner often cannot compete. This normal stimulus, a single mate, is not enough for someone who's used to the constant novelty of online porn. Just as with the rats, porn users can experience delayed ejaculation, as well as a selective impotence – one that occurs while with their partner, even when this is not an issue for them when viewing porn. (http://yourbrainonporn.com/dr-oz-show-addresess-porn-induced-ed) Even their porn use may become less satisfying to them, no matter how frequently they use it, often leading to more fetishistic or deviant porn content. Their addiction leaves them unable to stop, and all of this can greatly compromise their relationships as well as their enjoyment of sex. (http://yourbrainonporn.com/doing-what-you-evolved-to-do)

Reddit's NoFap community and their goals

Why NoFap?

The Reddit community NoFap is a support group for users who have chosen to abstain from masturbating – what they describe as “the ultimate challenge”. The users of NoFap now number over 73,000, with 4,000 joining in the past month alone - over 140 each day. These users have given up masturbation for a variety of reasons, including:

  • They believe their masturbation is causing undesirable psychological effects, such as depression and social anxiety
  • They feel it’s sabotaging their chances of finding a partner
  • They feel masturbation is compromising the quality of sex in their current relationship
  • They feel their masturbation or porn use represents an undesirable lack of self control

Cooperatively, NoFap users aim to fight back against the ill effects of internet porn addiction.

NoFap is not a religious or moralistic movement, and the NoFap board specifically prohibits posting material pertaining to religion. Rather than being devout, NoFap exists as a community outpost which stands in contrast to the prevailing attitude of wider culture: that porn use is normal and healthy.

NoFap as a support method

The NoFap board largely functions as a support group for its participants. Given the difficulty of resisting innate sexual urges, as well as sharing a common struggle with giving up porn, this community support is crucial to helping its visitors be successful in their attempts. Many who post are newcomers, and they are celebrated and welcomed with open arms. Others post of their struggles with relapsing and tales of how masturbation has caused problems for them. Still more share their success stories of how forgoing masturbation has improved their enjoyment of their lives.

The attitude of NoFap users is largely one of sympathy: these are all users sharing in the same experience and struggle, and they know how difficult it can be. Support and camaraderie are the prevailing atmosphere on NoFap. It is also completely voluntary: NoFap users participate of their own initiative, without trying to recruit others to abstain from porn.

Speaking the language of NoFap

NoFap users have developed their own jargon to describe their shared experiences of abstaining from porn. Their new vocabulary includes: (http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/wiki/index#wiki_glossary)

  • Fapping - the act of masturbation.
  • Fapstronaut/Femstronaut - a male or female NoFap participant.
  • PMO - “porn, masturbation, orgasm”, the ongoing cycle of porn use that NoFap seeks to escape.
  • Death grip (male)/Death schlick (female) - excessive physical stimulation during porn use, potentially causing a decrease in sensitivity.
  • The surge - a peak in energy and sex drive that occurs after 1 – 2 weeks of abstaining from masturbation
  • Flatlining - a period of almost-absent libido that occurs after 2 – 6 weeks of abstinence.
  • Chaser effect - an urge to masturbate that occurs 1 – 3 days after having sex.
  • Reboot - the quoted amount of time it takes for the brain to return to normal after abstaining from porn, about 2-4 months.

NoFap users also vary in their goals: while some aim to retrain themselves to focus on sex with a partner, others believe that breaking their addiction requires abstaining from any sexual release in any context. It's common for NoFap users to keep a running total of how many days they've avoided masturbating, listed next to their usernames.

Who are the Fapstronauts?

In response to a 2012 survey, 603 NoFap participants provided their demographic information, reasons for participating, perspective on porn use, and their sex lives before and after the NoFap program.

The demographics of NoFap

The NoFap userbase is overwhelmingly male - 90% are straight men. Most Fapstronauts are in their teen years or early 20s: 58% are aged 20-29, and a further 31% are aged 13-19. Remarkable as it is, nearly one third of users are teenagers, already struggling with the effects of porn addiction. Only 11% of users are in their 30s or older - porn addiction is largely a problem of youth.

The sexual habits and symptoms of porn addicts

Most NoFap users are either between relationships, or have never been in a relationship: 75% are currently single, and almost 50% have never had sex in their lives. Fapstronauts report becoming regular porn users at a surprisingly young age. 53% developed a regular porn habit during age 12-14, and a further 16% started before they were 12 - their problem often begins before they’re even out of middle school.

A majority, 59%, spend a remarkable 4-15 hours per week on porn, while another 24% spend 1-3 hours a week. 64% report that their tastes in porn have become more extreme or deviant - and among them, about half are ashamed of this. Most notably, an early start predicts a worse porn habit in the long term. Fapstronauts who started watching porn before age 10 were 3 times more likely than others to masturbate four or more times a day.

The most common sexual symptoms experienced by NoFap users include erectile dysfunction, decreased sensitivity and pleasure, disinterest in sex, and difficulty reaching orgasm during sex with a partner. Among 27-31 year olds on NoFap, 19% suffer from premature ejaculation, 25% are disinterested in sex with their partner, and 31% have difficulty reaching orgasm. 34% experience erectile dysfunction, and 37% have decreased sexual sensitivity. Sexual dysfunction is the norm on this community; only 27% of Fapstronauts have never experienced any of these symptoms as a result of their porn addiction.

Not all Fapstronauts consider themselves addicts, and those who do have rather different experiences with porn. Among those who do see themselves as addicted, 72% watch over 4 hours of porn weekly; only 40% of non-addicts do. While 42% of addicts masturbate twice or more daily, this falls to 20% among those who don’t feel they have an addiction. And although 40% of addicts report that their porn preferences have become more deviant and extreme, a mere 20% of non-addicts say the same. Many Fapstronauts are clearly aware that the extent and severity of their habit has become a serious problem.

The reboot: Detoxing from net porn

When Fapstronauts give up porn, they often have similar experiences with their recovery. 35% say that they clearly experienced a “surge” of energy and sexual drive about 1 - 2 weeks after quitting porn, while a mere 31% said they didn’t feel this at all. And a further 30% report the “flatlining” of their libido during the 2 - 6 week period - the downward adjustment of their sex drive to a normal level after an extended period of porn-induced overstimulation.

Most experienced a notable reduction in their sexual symptoms of porn use - 60% of them felt their sexual dysfunctions had improved due to following the NoFap program. And their recovery wasn’t limited to sex. 56% of self-reported addicts became more willing to flirt with women, and 60% of Fapstronauts overall felt that they had gained a better knowledge of their own strengths and weaknesses. 67% even had an increase in their energy levels, as well as their productivity. For these former porn users, giving up this habit seemed to free them to accomplish more with their time and energy, and their lives improved as a result.

Recovery is possible

Internet porn is, in many ways, the perfect trap for the human sex drive, feeding its viewers as much instant stimulation as they can handle and making them hungry for more. For today’s generation of young adults, porn use has become an accepted norm - but it may not be as innocuous as most people believe. Porn has a dark side for many of its viewers, an impact measured in countless hours spent in front of a screen, widespread sexual dysfunction, and an overall lack of fulfillment.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. As shown by a community that’s taken the initiative in recognizing their problematic porn habits, this need not be a lifelong addiction. Not only are an increasing number of people choosing to quit using porn - they’re proving that they’re better off for it, in their relationships, their happiness, and their personal success. Porn isn’t the only option here, and as our intrepid Fapstronauts demonstrate, recovery can be the greatest pleasure of all.

Survey Data:

  1. http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/updy4/rnofap_survey_data_complete_datasets
  2. http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/porn-novelty-and-the-coolidge-effect
  3. http://men.webmd.com/features/is-pornography-addictive
  4. http://www.extremetech.com/computing/123929-just-how-big-are-porn-sites/2
  5. http://www.covenanteyes.com/2009/11/24/why-are-so-many-christians-addicted-to-porn/
  6. http://www.nofap.in/glossary/
  7. http://stattit.com/r/nofap/
  8. http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/wiki/faq#Benefits
  9. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2428861/Porn-addicts-brain-activity-alcoholics-drug-addicts.html

Taking a Whack at Porn

Profiling the Voyage of 73,000+ Fapstronauts

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