NoFap was started in 2011 by a Pittsburgh web developer named Alexander Rhodes. Since then, thousands of people have found success on NoFap.
It’s all about avoiding artificial sexual stimulation. This is done to heal the brain of an addiction to compulsive porn viewing and live a healthier life.
Sounds peachy right?
Well, there’s a dark side to NoFap too. Since its inception, critics have highlighted the idea of it being a cult. They target its scientific claims and its effect on mental health. This doesn’t bode well for people who have shaped their identity around NoFap.
In this article, we’ll examine the arguments for, and against NoFap. Additionally, we’ll look into what defines a “cult” and see if NoFap meets these criteria.
The Origin and History of Nofap
The origins of NoFap date back to June 20th, 2011.
It all started on Reddit. Reddit is a site that allows users to post content that’s rated and discussed by the community.
A user on the platform had an idea to create a subreddit dedicated to abstaining from porn and masturbation. From there, Alexander Rhodes registered r/NoFap. The next day, r/NoFap burst onto the scene. It made it to the front page of Reddit when a study by the National Institute of Health found that not ejaculating for seven days increased testosterone by 45.7%.
In its early days, guys tried to go a week or even a day without fapping. The idea of streaks came in the first week of the subreddit’s life. Weekly and monthly challenges also came with this idea. It was an exciting time for NoFap since no one knew this movement’s direction.
Regardless, it resonated with a lot of guys.
The badge system was released in November 2011 and the subreddit kept growing. By March 2012 it hit 10,000 subscribers, and by September that number had tripled to 30,000. NoFap would later become a website with a mission to help people recover from compulsive porn use.
It was the beginning of something great. Or was it…?
The Basics of NoFap
To understand if NoFap is a cult, we need to know how guys approach abstinence. This will give us a better idea of the psychology behind this supposed “cult.”
There are two basic ways to approach NoFap:
- Remove everything that drives you to PMO (porn, masturbation, orgasm).
- Develop the willpower to resist PMO.
The drivers that cause someone to watch porn are usually based on a feeling. Loneliness, boredom, stress, and anxiety fall into this category. It’s important to face these emotions and resist the urge to self-medicate through porn.
PMO addicts must train their brains to respond to these emotions, or let them pass. They should work on cultivating a life that brings sustained satisfaction instead of momentary pleasure. Members of the community will often redirect their urges by investing in activities that will improve their life.
Regarding willpower, it’s like a muscle that can get stronger or weaker.
This depends on what’s done (or isn’t done). In simple terms, if you delay gratification you’ll strengthen it. And if you choose instant gratification you’ll weaken it. Small acts that push you out of your comfort zone such as a cold shower or striking up a conversation with a stranger will also strengthen it.
Drugs, gaming, PMO, and alcohol are examples of habits that weaken your willpower muscle. Generally, giving in to instant gratification strengthens the desire for more pleasure.
How does this relate to NoFap being a cult?
On the upward spiral to a better life, some guys can develop a superiority complex. They may begin to look down on those who don’t agree with the NoFap ideology. We’ll cover this in more detail in the sections ahead.
Before we revisit this, let’s look at the bright side of NoFap.
The Bright Side
There are many benefits of NoFap and even more success stories. However, the positive side of NoFap can cause cult-like tendencies within the population.
For example, someone may claim to have improved their eyesight using NoFap. Another member of the community will see this, and look for confirmation bias supporting this claim. They may be on a long streak and think that their eyesight is improving as well.
This creates an echo chamber of placebo effects that may not be scientifically proven. Over time, these claims spread — and dogmatic thought patterns emerge. It creates the perception that NoFap is infallible and it can fix everything. Unfortunately, less informed members of the community can fall prey to this.
With that in mind, here are some scientifically proven benefits of NoFap:
- Lower stress and anxiety
- Improved confidence
- Better sleep
- More energy
- Higher-quality sperm
- Lessened or cured erectile dysfunction
- A better attitude toward sex
Here’s a member’s success story, and their opinion on whether NoFap is a cult:
|“I find myself seeing things in my life in a whole new light. I’ve also become more confident, happy, and most importantly, much more appreciative of what surrounds me. I feel accomplished with my feat, and blessed to be part of the same world as you all and to be part of this planet called Earth, in which there are billions of beautiful people. Some may call NoFap a cult, but they fail to see what it truly is. “Someone’s opinion of you does not have to dictate your reality.” The reality that I choose to believe in, is that NoFap is a group of people that are determined to succeed. We are willing to challenge ourselves in order to prove to ourselves that it’s possible. That we are strong. That we are tenacious. That we are courageous. And that we have greatness.” – throwFapOut|
Here’s another success story from a member of NoFap:
|“I thought I was doomed to live the rest of my life as a miserable hypocrite, a slave to pornography and masturbation. But, look at me today, a year without PMO. I really can’t believe it, but it’s real. There is a deep gratitude in my being for having the opportunity to reach this stage of the process. The road has not been easy. I remember the first few weeks and how I went through the withdrawal symptoms, but it was worth it, and it’s not like I’m completely healed, but today is a great achievement in that healing process.
I am a few weeks away from turning 32, in which 20 years I have lived as a PMO addict (at another time I will share my story of how to become prey to this terrible addiction).
This year, without a doubt, has been the best I’ve ever experienced. I have really been reborn, these months have been a starting point to change the course of my life.” – Ebervg
The supportive community of NoFap has helped many overcome this addiction. But there’s also a dark side to NoFap that keeps many bogged down.
The Dark Side
There is a small group of people within the NoFap community who can make it seem like a cult.
Some guys will come to NoFap in shambles. They see it as a rescue from their terrible lives. They have nothing going on. So they make NoFap the purpose of their lives. In doing so, they ignore important areas of life.
Relationships, nutrition, work, and exercise fall by the wayside. All that matters now is keeping the “streak” alive. And anything that challenges their beliefs must be attacked.
Their “progress” becomes an obsession. And they measure themselves against other members by what “day” they’re on. What’s worse is they belittle others who don’t share their views.
This is the dark side of NoFap.
Ironically, they’re measuring their progress the wrong way. Only abstaining from porn for “x” amount of days isn’t recovery. Being a balanced and functional human being — without needing porn to soothe negative emotions is recovery.
The dark side of NoFap is a group of people who’ve gone off the deep end. You can see them lurking on forums and comments sections of YouTube. They practice NoFap like the rest of the community, but they’ve forgotten its purpose.
These guys have a stronger association with guilt. And it feeds the driver of their addiction which causes more relapses.
What the Critics Say
Critics have two main gripes with the NoFap community. One is its scientific claims and “superpowers”. And second, is NoFap’s effect on mental health.
Critics say it combines “pseudoscience, abstinence-based sexual ideology, and anecdotal assertions.”
One target of their criticism is a TEDx talk with over 16 million views on YouTube titled, “The great porn experiment” by Gary Wilson. Here’s psychologist Jason Winter’s response to the video:
|“There is no research showing that Internet pornography causes mental disorders — none,” […] “Psychological problems and mental disorders can lead to problematic porn use as a means to cope and self-medicate.”
“Wilson is simply presenting his ideology as fact […] and in this case, it’s dangerous.”
Jason Winters, Psychologist at the University of British Columbia
It’s also a commonly known fact that porn can rewire your brain. But what do scientists make of this claim?
|“Whenever you hear someone talking about anything rewiring the brain that’s an immediate red flag – that’s not how the brain works.”
Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford
The response of the NoFap community to these criticisms is in their experiences. They claim to experience many benefits, and that’s enough for them.
Critics also have a problem with the studies that are cited. They say these studies are “poorly designed, suspiciously funded, misleading, incorrectly derived, or just outright false.” In other places, critics say that many groups linked to NoFap misrepresent the results of studies.
The final claim they want to debunk is the following:
Compulsive behavior should not be described as an addiction.
In 2018, “compulsive sexual behavior disorder” was recognized in the World Health Organization’s disease guidelines. However, it can only be diagnosed when it’s linked to an impulse control disorder.
This means that the activity needs to disrupt normal social functioning. This can be compared to other compulsive behaviors that are labeled as “addictions” such as gambling.
Studies acknowledge the concept of “pornography addiction” but there’s debate among critics saying that “addiction” may not be a proper term.
We’ve covered what the critics have to say. Now let’s define what a “cult” is and see if NoFap meets the criteria.
What Is a Cult? And Is Nofap One?
A cult is an organization with a set of atypical beliefs. The word itself carries a negative connotation in today’s society. However, in the past, it embodied concepts such as adoration, education, and cultivation.
Today, cults are associated with psychologically manipulating their members. This is usually done by a leader with the intention of isolating one from society.
Here are a few characteristics of a cult:
- Belief system: A cult promotes dogmatic beliefs. Members are discouraged from questioning the belief system. This may lead to punishment. Additionally, the belief system deals with absolutes.
- Leadership: An all-knowing, charismatic leader is at the center of many cults. In modern times, we see fewer individuals leading cults. Rather, ideas have taken their place.
- Systems of influence/control: Control mechanisms such as dressing a certain way, or adopting new behaviors are part of a cult. They’re designed to draw you deeper into a new worldview.
- Manipulation: The belief system, control, and peer pressure are designed to manipulate the member. Older members will act as examples for newer members. Manipulation is like a “glue” that keeps members in the cult.
- Abuse of members: It’s common for members of a cult to have unresolved trauma. Abuse seems familiar to them, so they process it as belonging and acceptance.
Now we can tackle our main question:
Does NoFap meet the criteria for being a cult?
NoFap has been known to meet some of these criteria at times. For example, a “badge system” where people display their streak can be seen as a hierarchy mechanism. People giving advice on forums are more likely to be accepted if they have a long streak displayed. This can be true even if their advice is terrible.
NoFap doesn’t have a clear leader. It’s the idea that keeps the group together. Furthermore, its agenda doesn’t necessarily involve donating money to a cause. Also, specific behaviors aren’t required — aside from not watching porn. The specifications of your challenge are unique to you, and you won’t be criticized for your choices.
Of course, less informed members of the community are more likely to fall victim to the myths floating around. There are still people who make ridiculous claims after abstaining for three days. It’s these individuals who make NoFap seem like a cult.
Many of the criticisms revolve around unfounded, and exaggerated claims (many of which are memes today). Aside from these claims, science has been uncovering more evidence to support NoFap. And it’s emerging as a legitimate phenomenon.
To add to this, NoFap has been a catalyst for life-changing transformation in many lives. Some of those men will go on to spread the message of NoFap in a positive light.
NoFap doesn’t meet enough of the criteria to be considered a cult. Although cult-like elements can be seen — they’re a reflection of the individual member rather than the idea of NoFap.
Here’s our parting advice:
Take everything you read on the internet with a grain of salt — and more importantly, check your facts. There are ideas out there that are untrue. And if you pursue NoFap with an intention that’s shaped by a false idea, you may become part of the “cultish” side of the group.