The Effects of Not Masturbating

No Masturbation
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
25th August 2020

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Recently, a lot of attention has been paid to the positive effects of not masturbating. Thought to include a boost to testosterone, healthier sperm, and an overall increase in wellbeing, these supposed benefits have encouraged many men to dabble in abstinence.
Yet, whilst anecdotal evidence suggests that avoiding masturbation brings its positives, science has not confirmed this. In fact, many of the claimed positives of not masturbating are not strictly true at all, whilst there are many benefits of masturbating which you will miss out on in your abstinence.
These include stress relief, better sleep, and greater comfort with your sexuality and preferences. In the end, it’s important to remember that masturbation is perfectly healthy and normal.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the effects of not masturbating. However, with anti-masturbation initiatives and organisations like NoFap and “No Nut November” focusing only on the positive effects of abstinence, it is important to take a more balanced view.

Whilst there may be positives, there are negative effects of not masturbating too – as well as just neutral ones. In this article, we’re going to have a look at the range of impacts that masturbation avoidance has – and we’ll see what the science has to say too.

Positive Effects of Not Masturbating?

Let’s look first at the supposed benefits of not masturbating. Proponents of masturbation abstinence insist that avoiding self-pleasure has a number of hugely powerful effects on both your body and mind.

But we need to debunk some of the benefits that these NoFap practitioners report. Whilst some men swear by them, the evidence is purely anecdotal – and science hasn’t confirmed that these effects are as likely as is suggested.

Testosterone

Anti-masturbation initiatives such as “No Nut November” began online as a consequence of a particular study that suggested that refraining from masturbation for a week caused a 45.7% increase in testosterone levels. From this belief have come other claims, such as the idea that not masturbating helps you to build muscle.

Whilst this one study suggested that abstinence boosts testosterone levels, others disagree however. The link between masturbation and testosterone is actually highly uncertain. One study, for example, has shown that testosterone increases after ejaculation, whilst another suggested that self-pleasure has no effect on your hormones at all.

Willpower, Focus, and Motivation

Another supposed positive effect of not masturbating is that it increases your concentration and your productivity. This is often linked to the testosterone theory cited above, but also to the idea – which is as old as time itself – that sportsmen or soldiers should refrain before their big day.

Whilst many men have reported a greater dedication to a given task during periods of abstinence, one recent study has shown that sexual abstinence does not improve your performance the next day – nor vice versa. In fact, there’s no evidence at all that not masturbating improves your focus. It may even decrease it if you are someone with a high sex drive.

Stress and Mood

Similarly, some abstinent men claim that one of the major effects of not masturbating is on their mood and levels of stress. They claim to be happier, they note being less stressed, and report an increased sense of general wellbeing.

We wouldn’t deny the experience of men. So, if you feel these effects yourself, then good on you. However, there isn’t much evidence to support these claims. In fact, the opposite might be true. Masturbation itself is known to be an important mechanism for stress relief – and boosts your mood.

If masturbation is associated for you with negative feelings such as guilt and anxiety – something that may be more common than you think – simply not masturbating is not the best response. Instead, talk to someone about it. There should be no shame in self-pleasure at all.

Improved Sexual Health

Finally, it has been claimed that abstinence from masturbation has positive effects on your sexual health – including helping sperm health, curing erectile dysfunction, and changing unhealthy attitudes towards sex and towards women. It has also been cited as a way to tackle pornography addiction too.

However, there isn’t a lot of evidence to support this. Whilst sperm concentrations increase with abstinence, studies have shown that their motility decreases the longer abstinence continues. Meanwhile, a healthy man may experience more erections as a neutral side effect of not masturbating, but there is no evidence that those who are experiencing clinical erectile dysfunction will see any benefit as a result.

It needs to be said too that, in some cases, the culture surrounding communities of voluntary male abstinence can itself create unhealthy attitudes to sex and masturbation. Whilst compulsive masturbation can be a problem, masturbation in itself is normal, healthy, and brings its own benefits. 

The Negative Effects of Not Masturbating

Whilst we have discussed many of the supposed positives, it is time to consider a few of the negative effects of not masturbating. Mainly, these arise from the fact that you will be missing out on many of the practice’s benefits.

The Benefits of Masturbation

Masturbation’s benefits range from the psychological to the physical, with evidence suggesting that self-pleasure can help reduce depression, improve the functioning of your immune system, and even reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.

Meanwhile, there has been a lot of excitement surrounding a possible link between masturbation and prostate cancer, with evidence suggesting that the more you masturbate as a young man, the less likely you are to develop the illness.

Moreover, masturbation provides the easiest way for people to reach orgasm, which is itself something that brings positives to your health. These include lower blood pressure, reduced stress, a decreased chance of illness, and a heightened feeling of health.

By not masturbating, you’re forgoing these potential benefits – without many certain positives in return.

Unhealthy Attitudes toward Masturbation

As we said above, campaigns surrounding not masturbating can instil unhealthy attitudes towards self-pleasure. Beliefs in the benefits of abstinence can reinforce negative feelings towards what is a normal and natural part of life at all ages.

Masturbation enables people to explore their own body and sexuality – and can make you feel much more comfortable with your own desires when it comes to partnered intercourse. Framing masturbation as something that you should avoid does not encourage healthy development in these matters.

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Key Takeaways

Not everyone enjoys masturbation – and it is perfectly reasonable not to do it if you don’t want to. However, don’t be convinced that not masturbating will bring health benefits. These have not been confirmed by science – and are purely based on anecdotes.

Masturbation brings benefits ranging from a reduced risk of depression to a healthier prostate, whilst it is also an enjoyable and normal thing to do too. If not masturbating makes you feel good, however, then that’s up to you. At the end of the day, what you do with your body is your choice alone.

References

  1. Ming JiangJiang XinQiang ZouJin-Wen Shen (2003). A research on the relationship between ejaculation and serum testosterone level in men: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12659241/

  2. Emmanuele A. Jannini Emiliano Screponi Eleonora Carosa Mario Pepe Francesco Lo Giudice Francesco Trimarchi Salvatore Benvenga (2001). Lack of sexual activity from erectile dysfunction is associated with a reversible reduction in serum testosterone: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1365-2605.1999.00196.x

  3. C. A. FOX, A. A. A. ISMAIL, D. N. LOVE, K. E. KIRKHAM and J. A. LORAINE (1972). STUDIES ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PLASMA TESTOSTERONE LEVELS AND HUMAN SEXUAL ACTIVITY: https://joe.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/joe/52/1/joe_52_1_005.xml

  4. Gerald S. Zavorsky, PhD, Eleftherios Vouyoukas, MD, and James G. Pfaus, PhD (2019). Sexual Activity the Night Before Exercise Does Not Affect Various Measures of Physical Exercise Performance: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6522944/

  5. Roy J. Levin (2007). Sexual activity, health and well-being – the beneficial roles of coitus and masturbation: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14681990601149197

  6. Giovanni Castellini, PhD, MD, Egidia Fanni, MA, Giovanni Corona, PhD, Elisa Maseroli, MD,  Valdo Ricca, MD and Mario Maggi, MD (2016). Psychological, Relational, and Biological Correlates of Ego-Dystonic Masturbation in a Clinical Setting: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5005301/

  7. Vanessa A. Comar, Claudia G. Petersen, Ana L. Mauri, Mariana Mattila, Laura D. Vagnini, Adriana Renzi, Bruna Petersen, Andreia Nicoletti, Felipe Dieamant, Joao Batista A. Oliveira, Ricardo L. R. Baruffi and José G. Franco Jr. (2017). Influence of the abstinence period on human sperm quality: analysis of 2,458 semen samples: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5714597/

  8. F C Denison 1, V E Grant, A A Calder, R W Kelly (1999). Seminal plasma components stimulate interleukin-8 and interleukin-10 release: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10333355/?dopt=Abstract

  9. Philip Haake, Tillmann H C Krueger, Marion U Goebel, Katharina M Heberling, Uwe Hartmann, Manfred Schedlowski (2004). Effects of sexual arousal on lymphocyte subset circulation and cytokine production in man: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15316239/

  10. Diabetes.co – Masturbation could lower diabetes risk: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2013/dec/masturbation-could-lower-diabetes-risk-91791016.html

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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