A skeptic’s view on No Fap and Taoist semen retention

I was recently asked about my stance on ‘no fap’ as well as Taoist semen retention. Here is the question, from reader ‘shaking my head’, in full:

You talk about guys with high sex-drive. What’s your take on this whole ‘no fap’ (i.e. not jerking off) or “semen retention” stuff that Taoist practitioners preach? I ask since you, Aaron, have been into meditation for a while. Is all this semen retention and ‘no fap’ a bunch of nonsense?

First, let’s talk about ‘no fap’. I am familiar with it. Look online, and you will find quite a few sites where men write about how much their life changed for the better once they stopped fapping. However, it’s not fapping itself that is the issue but fapping to porn. The biggest benefit of ‘no fap’ seems to be for people who are obsessed with porn if not downright addicted to it. If this is your problem, then you are simply an addict and any kind of addiction treatment will help. Fapping to porn is simply a concrete expression of an addiction, which is not fundamentally different, on an abstract level, from other addictions such as social media addiction, gambling, drug abuse and so on. In short, if you are addicted to fapping to porn, meaning that this habit negatively affects your life, then it’s time to work on it. This is no different than if you were addicted to X, whatever X may be.

On the other hand, if you are not addicted to fapping to porn, then rubbing one out every now and again, even if it is to porn, is hardly an issue. The No Fap community makes some very strong claims related to the benefits of abstaining from fapping to porn, but I call bullshit on that. Dropping a moderate fapping habit will not magically increase your productivity like crazy or take care of all your mental issues. In the No Fap community you’ll get plenty of anecdotes of how not splashing a huge load of cum all over your screen while watching some real-life sex doll getting bukkake’d by fifty guys turns you into superman. Much more likely is that you just fap less. If you lack willpower, you will simply find other ways of wasting your time. That PlayStation under your TV probably starts to look awfully tempting for most guys that have kicked their porn habit.

An issue with addictions is that they point to underlying problems in your life. So, if compulsorily fapping to porn is an issue for you, then the obvious question is how you could even get to that point. If I look at how busy I have been the last few years, I wouldn’t even have had the time to develop some addiction, let alone a porn addiction. I don’t think I am special. Work full-time, commute, devote some time to a hobby, have a girlfriend, and then tell me how you’re going to fit in ten masturbation sessions a day. You won’t be able to do it. There is a very fitting proverb for all of this: “The devil finds work for idle hands.” So, find something meaningful to do with your life and porn will be much less of a temptation.

Now, onto the second issue: semen retention. The belief is that if you don’t ejaculate then you retain ‘vigor’ and yield a whole slew of other health benefits. It is based on Taoist beliefs. There is just one problem with it: it does not make much sense. As far as I know, there is not a single study that has shown that releasing sperm has negative effects on your health. Blowing a load may very well have negative effects on your life if you impregnate a woman during a one-night stand and she subsequently sues you for child support, but apart from that, shooting your wad really is not an issue. If the absence of scientific proof isn’t good enough for you, then how about viewing this from an evolutionary angle. This quickly leads to a contradiction because if retaining semen had evolutionary benefits, then… Oh, wait, if you retain semen, you don’t even get to procreate.

Here is something else to think about: show me a No Fapper or Semen Retentionist who not only proclaims increased productivity but also actually produces something. I’m not talking about a blockbuster movie or a best-selling book. Just something, anything. In my case, I just put out one book and will have another one out soon. I don’t subscribe to No Fap and I think little of semen retention. I know that my argumentation is a bit shady, but proponents of No Fap and semen retention are quick to claim universal benefits. As you all know, because you all have had some exposure to mathematics, an example isn’t a proof, but a counter-example is a counterproof. Thus, pointing to people who enjoy mental clarity even though they don’t practice semen retention is a counterexample to the proclaimed universal benefits of that practice. Similarly, being productive while not abstaining from fapping is a counter-example to the claim that fapping is bad for you. (Repeat: compulsive fapping is bad for you, just like compulsive anything is bad for you.)

Lastly, let me talk about meditation for a little bit. I have been meditating for over twenty years, starting in my mid-teens. Through that practice I acquired great mental clarity. I also acquired many, if not all, of the purported benefits of semen retention, like being able to remain calm in the face of chaos. Serious meditation is a genuine struggle. If you don’t believe me, then try meditating, not focussing on anything, for fifteen minutes, if you’re a beginner. Heck, if you think you’re good, do it for two hours. Meditation is a phenomenally effective tool for training you willpower. It even works if you ejaculate every once in a while. If this sounds cryptic, think about what this entails.

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32 thoughts on “A skeptic’s view on No Fap and Taoist semen retention

  1. Thanks for taking the time to provide your feedback!

    Did you notice any “depletion” and all sorts of stuff that no-fappers and Taoists say will happen if you have so much sex like you did?

    I recall the “science” about ejaculation and short lifespan was popularized by Tim Ferriss and ADHD write-up in his 4-Hour body book. He referenced something about worms or something. And then there are the soccer players who are told by their coaches not to have sex before a game.

    1. If you have wild sex but stop before ejaculating, you are about as exhausted as if you topped it off with blowing a load. By comparison, having tame sex, soy-boy style, with an ejaculation at the end is not nearly as exhaustive. This observation alone is sufficient to dismiss “depletion”.

      Tim Ferriss is synonymous with “bullshit”, so as a rule of thumb you can dismiss that almost outright. Having (wild) sex shortly before having to compete at a very high level is most likely counterproductive, just like exhausting yourself any other way would be.

  2. Semen retention makes perfect sense from the evolutionary angle. Why wouldn’t nature engineer a way to make unused semen actually useful?

      1. Admittedly, I don’t know much about semen other than the basics, but here’s how I think of it:

        Males very low in the dominance hierarchy don’t get any. This was especially true in ancient and pre-history. Today, not only are there plenty of options to get off, but men’s biological imperative isn’t as strong due to modern distractions. But let’s say a tribesman in 8,000 B.C. isn’t “pulling his weight,” and thus, doesn’t get any. To me it makes perfect sense that over tens of thousands of years nature would select men whose unused semen triggered a spike in productivity, assertiveness, etc.

        Anecdotally, NoFap has helped me be much more productive, and I was neither addicted to porn nor masturbation. Of course, this could also be a placebo effect.

      2. Would you care to elaborate how those men who didn’t get any managed to procreate. It seems that’s a rather elementary part when trying to make an evolutionary claim. If I interpret your words very charitably, you seem to claim that men who managed to not ejaculate became more productive and thus at one point stopped refraining from ejaculating and procreated. Is this roughly what you want to say? If so, isn’t there a contradiction because those who were best at retaining their semen could not possibly have procreated.

        Also, I’d be interested to learn whether you can quantify your increased level of productivity. What great things did you manage to achieve now that you no longer spend a few minutes every other day to rub one out.

  3. Yeah, I realized I left out the most important bits. To clarify, the women would find the now more productive and assertive tribesman more attractive, and naturally, the tribesman would pick up on this and finally get his chance to shoot his load.

    There are other scenarios where this could be useful, too. Imagine two tribes meeting each other for this first time. Tribe A has a low ratio of women. Tribe B has an even 1:1 ratio. History tells us that this meeting would likely result in the extinction of one of the tribe’s males. In this case, even the more masculine, but partnerless, males in tribe A–who in a more gender equal tribe would have no problem getting a wife–would benefit from testosterone retention, as the extra energy would be beneficial in battle.

    As for myself, I guess I’m your stereotypical introverted NEET. I’ve been living off my personal savings for the past 9 months, but started NoFap almost a month ago and it’s motivated me to stop wasting time online, get a job and lose weight.

    1. I’m no expert on evolutionary biology or psychology, but I dont think your speculation is borne out by any evidence.

      If females dropped the alphas they are procreating with in favor of the “new alphas”, wouldnt the resulting semen retention in the “previous” alphas cause them to bounce back?

      Moreover, men who dont get laid have a tendency to engage in antisocial behavior, like rape. The link between sex deprivation and rape is subject to debate but very plausible in my opinion. Increased availability of porn and prostitution has been correlated to lower rates of rape and sexual assault repeatedly.

      Google up on the case of Rhode Island, where prostitution was legal for a few years, and how this reflected on sexual assault stats (spoiler: they went down).

  4. Well have you tried it? The semen retention part is not the important part, unless you are busting a nut twice a day, than it will help too, because you lose a big amount of important nutrients when you build new sperm. Nofap is more about dopamine. Abstaining from orgasms does the trick. Because it alters your brain chemistry exactly like a drug.

    When you are abstaining from orgasms (and other stimulants) for a long period of time your brain gets more sensitive to dopamine and that gives you more motivation to do things. Thats the reason why it works.

    And there is a study done with primates that showed that those primates who have the highest sensitivity to dopamine are likely the most dominant in the group or „leaders“. It does makes sense, because when you are more sensitive to dopamine, you will have more motivation in general and more motivation in general will lead to more success. Plus more dopamine sensitivity gives you more energy because dopamine is important for your body movements and recruitment in muscles (Parkinson patients for example have not enough dopamine in parts of the brain, thats why they start to shaking).

    Of course if you replace mastrubation and porn with another drug or video games nofap won’t help you at all.

    Links to studies and more information on yourbrainonporn[dot]com

      1. You don’t consume nutrient from sperm you don’t ejaculate. When you don’t ejaculate your body doesn’t need to create new sperm, hence it saves on nutrients. The first nutrient that comes to mind for sperm production is zinc.

        Do you have wet dreams twice a day when you don’t ejaculate?

        You didn’t address the rest of his argument about dopamine sensitivity which is the meat of the case here.

  5. The causal chain no orgasm->dopamine sensitivity->motivation to do stuff->alpha… looks very weak at best.

    Among primates, leaders=greater availability of females to reproduce, so i see a contradiction there.

    Dopamine sensitivity=motivation to do stuff? Cool, who said it motivates you to do stuff that is socially useful instead of antisocial or outright destructive.

    In my experience guys who dont get laid and dont fap get too obsessed about sex, or at the very least overvalue it. And they are more sensitive to female attention/demands /manipulation.

    You know, like that old joke goes
    “Q: How is sex like air?
    A: Its no big deal unless you are not getting any…” 😉

    1. “orgasm->dopamine sensitivity->motivation to do stuff->alpha”

      This argumentation has a basic flaw as with any other self-help related advice.
      First, you need to establish that causation.
      It sounds plausible but you have to prove that it is not the reverse.
      You are alpha -> you don’t fap (you get pussy) -> you have increased dopamine sensitivity.
      If you look at other bullshit it is the same:
      “10 things successful people do”
      Well, those things can be a side-effect of their success.
      Regular pua advice:
      “push-pull strategies” you as a successful bachelor are confident and not obsessed with pussy thus you don’t mind poking fun at women and being cheeky.
      All of these are not the reason for the success but the results of it.

      1. Well, those things can be a side-effect of their success.
        Regular pua advice:
        “push-pull strategies” you as a successful bachelor are confident and not obsessed with pussy thus you don’t mind poking fun at women and being cheeky.
        All of these are not the reason for the success but the results of it.

        Great summary. This basic understanding would destroy so much of the self-help bullshit out there.

  6. Ugh, it’s the one point where I usually completely disagree with Aaron. But let’s start with basics. A guy, who has just “learned” that all his life failures were due to excessive fapping – not his bad genes, not his low iq, not anything but fapping – will get incredible hyped. This hype is a very strong placebo that very likely can get you results. Combine this with “some guys see benefits right away, some in a week, some in a three” and you have perfect gambling mechanism (as we all know, random reward works better than expected reward – in other words if nofap sites claimed everyone will get benefits by day 17, they would be abandoned by now). Okay combine this hype with feminism bullshit spawned on those websites, like on YBOP. TL;DR is “women want normal men, not some idiots who jack off to porn and objectify them, they want men who show emotions, can cry to music and what not”. Now the man not only had heard that his body will get fixed, he also learns that being a wuss is sexy to woman. Next thing he approaches woman indiscriminately, because he is so damn horny and sure of good results. And guess what? It works.

    Of course, not due to semen retention. However, I can hardly see it working after a year of nofap attempt, because all hype and gambling is dead.

    So why did I say I disagree completely? To have a chance to proove myself. I will start nofap this very second and then report in one or two weeks.

    1. I failed to get promised two week period. Well I got laid but that is not the point. My max streaks were 5 days and damn – my libido is very low it seems, because I remember horny drooling not even 3 years ago, meanwhile all it did for me was drastically raise my energy levels. I need 10h sleep it seems, but on my nofap streak I managed 7h->3h + hangover->8h->10h ->6h just fine, which would be unthinkable otherwise.
      So yeah, my tl;dr of nofap is – higher energy levels IF THEY ARE LOW USUALLY. Less sleep requirement. Being more “pissed”, in the moment, go-getter personality. This is not a supe big change like advertised, but it probably on the level of some drugs affecting the mind.

  7. Here is something to wrap your head around.

    Some species of animal like the giant tortoises or the arctic clam live for hundreds or even thousands of years. They can afford to reproduce later since their body is adapted to live longer. In contrast, the fish salmon has a body that is no adapted well and therefore can’t live for longer. The salmon in this case can only have sex just once in its entire lifetime. Sad as it is for the salmon, it is a good way to ensure its genes too survive for longer even though their bodies and therefore their lives don’t. Therefore, lifespan is independent on the amount of times or the way which you reproduce or even ejaculate through masturbation. The ability to masturbate frequently itself is a indication of our rather short lifespans. Which ever way you like to do it is up to you. But the data and evidence is stacked against NoFap and semen retention. You can find studies and evidence for the above or ask for something specific and I’ll link to it below when I have time.

    Us humans are meant to fuck, masturbate and reproduce all the time. Lets not let misinformation fuck that up. By the way, the reason why salmon can only fuck once in their entire lifetime is that they die immediately after ejaculating and giving birth for males and females respectively.

    1. That’s a good point. We have adopted a very particular mating strategy as humans. Individual behavior cannot override it. The wrong conclusion to draw, from your example, would be that you could prolong your life, claiming that humans are like giant tortoises. That is, however, not how we work.

      1. I am happy I put my education to good use at least here. Evolution is abso-fucking-lutely interesting. Regardless of wether we fuck, masturbate or have wet dreams just once or a trillion times that, isn’t going to effect our lifespan barring diseases, wear (in terms of accidents and regular tear) and maybe cellular decay. The evidence to that is overwhelming just as much as for evolution itself.

        As for semen retention, it can actually reduce our lifespan as for many reasons chief among which is stupidity that is prevails in people who generally BELIEVE shit instead of THNKNG shit. Shit such as semen retention itself. Funny enough.

    2. Just because your body is „meant“ to do something „evolutionary“ it doesn’t mean, that you should engage in this behaviour. Human bodies crave fast food due to evolution, but is it a good idea to eat it? No. But most people follow this craving like animals and get fat like whales. In fact due to evolutionary mismatches in our society you should stop listen to most of your instincts these day (unless you want to be fat, broke and depressed).

      „We have adopted a very particular mating strategy as humans. Individual behavior cannot override it.“ Semen retention is not about overriding it, its more about hacking it. Like knowing about the mechanics of body building is a hack to build muscles.

      Semen retention/meditation/working-out are just life hacks to make your life better and hey, if it doesn’t work for you it’s fine. As for me it changed my life and i will not look back.

      90% of people claim that mediation is bullshit and they have similar arguments like yours against it. Would Aaron say mediation is bullshit? No, because he tried it and experienced the benefits.

      1. 1) Re. fast food: I don’t crave fast food. This is just an excuse for the lazy and weak-willed. Food is plentiful in Japan as well, yet you hardly ever see obese people over there. Thus, your argument falls apart.

        2) Re. ‘hack’: this is an absolutely trite metaphor. You can’t ‘hack’ hour body. Your analogy to bodybuilding is completely off. Also, the only ‘hack’ for building lots of muscles is via steroids and other supplements. Otherwise, there is a hard genetic limit which you won’t ever exceed.

        3) Re. meditation: First, don’t pull numbers out of your ass. Second, read up on the appeal to authority (hint: it’s a logical fallacy, which means that your statement is doubly stupid). Third, from the claim that meditation isn’t bullshit it does not follow that semen retention isn’t bullshit.

        Quite frankly, you sound like someone who is incredibly confused. It’s been years since I have come across someone exhibiting such shoddy reasoning. You might have done better if you had started with elaborating on the improvements in your life due to semen retention.

  8. There is a natural experiment for no-fap..which is people who travel. Whenever i have traveled I have not masturbated for long periods of time. I definitely got really horny…I didn’t get any more productive or motivated.

    I have methods for being much more productive and motivated that have nothing to do with not masturbating and are vastly simpler. I think the single best thing I found is mini-habits which is exactly what it sounds like. Cost/benefit actions lists are also great. I could go on.

  9. No fap is potentially dangerous for men scientists say in:

    “They [scientists] say cancer-causing chemicals could build up in the prostate if men do not ejaculate regularly.”

    “They found those who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to develop the cancer.”

    “Dr Giles said fewer ejaculations may mean the carcinogens build up.

    “It’s a prostatic stagnation hypothesis. The more you flush the ducts out, the less there is to hang around and damage the cells that line them.””

  10. My point was that besides addiction to pmo there is no way nofap can have benefits. Now it seems like there are disadvantages to nofap. How surprising it would be to an idiot who follows that crap.

  11. you used the naturalistic fallacy to support your evolutionary argument that semen retention= no procreation = no benefit(s). That’s not skepticism, but hey ho different skeptical strokes for different pseudo-skeptical folks.

  12. Hi, l will be very honest here. I had a social anxiety really bad for the last 12 years. It was so bad that i avoided even family functions. I tried all top motivational trainers and their techniques, it helped but i still was unable to even go to shops cuz anxiety was too much. Just last month after praying so much to God I came across semen retention. I was having sex almost everyday after i got married. I abstained from sex for 8 days and bellieve me guys i felt i was more confident among people. I ejeaculated and again stopped myself for 19 days and honestly i went to places where i stopped going in the last 12 years. Semen retention does work. Look at me who tried everything and came back to confident life by not ejaculating more frequently. I m being very honest, now i have planned to ejaculate twice a month and during this time i can enjoy myself but not ejaculate.
    I again advise everyone please dont waste ur semen . Its really bad. Make your own routine of sex and dont do it excessively. I have determined my routine and i am back to a happy life.

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