If you’re not chronically online like we are, you might not have heard of the NoFap movement. It’s actually quite a huge online community of mostly cis men who are dedicated to “NoFap” or, put simply, not masturbating.
With 1.1million members, the NoFap community thrives mostly on Reddit and the description of the /r/NoFap community says it’s a ‘porn addiction and compulsive sexual behaviour peer support forum.’
They go on to say that the subreddit hosts challenges, which are described as ‘reboots’ in there for their members or ‘Fabstronauts’. These challenges are often abstaining from pornography and masturbation for a period of time, usually between 7-30 days.
The goal of the community is essentially to support people through recovering from porn and sex addiction
Porn addiction is a real issue, too, and a pressing one within addiction services. In fact, last year, UK Addiction Treatment Group (UKAT) revealed that addiction to pornography has tripled since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, what’s the problem?
Well, with all of the above considered, it sounds like the NoFap community is an essential source of support and education for those experiencing porn addiction or those who are looking to ‘reset’ their sex drives.
However, research published earlier this year found that this can actually be very harmful in practice, despite being well-meaning on the surface and can cause more harm than good.
Researchers spoke to participants of the NoFap movement about their experiences with relapse – the catch-all term used to describe masturbating or watching porn again – and found that the participants reported feelings of shame, worthlessness, and even suicidality.
Additionally, the community itself is quite harmful, according to participants. 73% of participants reported that NoFap forums contained misogynistic posts which isn’t surprising given that a top performing post on the subreddit today describes a woman as ‘nothing’.
It doesn’t stop there, though. In fact, the forums seem to be playing a key role in driving stigmas towards minorities with 42% of participants reporting that there are anti-LGBT posts and 32% reporting antisemitism.
NoFap forums are self-described “peer support forums”, but they have been reported to be particularly abusive to members. 49% of participants reported bullying, 23% were instructed to harm or kill themselves and 21% reported posts that contained threats to hurt somebody else.
What to do if you’re experiencing porn or sex addiction
While peer support forums aren’t necessarily bad and in many ways can be a force for good, if you’re experiencing porn or sex addiction, it’s best to speak to an expert who can help you in a way that still protects your mental and physical health.
The report found that ‘more engagement in NoFap online forums was associated with worse symptoms of erectile dysfunction, depression, anxiety, and more sex negativity’ and this is at least in part due to the unregulated nature of the forums.
UKAT offers addiction support services and a wealth of resources to support you through recovery.