Is No Nut November Bad for Men’s Health?

An annual male-abstinence challenge is now under siege from the upstart "Yes Nut" movement. We'll explain.

Updated November 2, 2021 5:04 pm
a squirrel holding nuts
Let's get nutty this November.
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Have you had an orgasm yet this month? It’s a personal question, but nearly a week into what is recognized, in some circles, as “No Nut November,” it’s worth asking.

Like its namesake No Shave November — as well as other monthly movements like Dry January and Sober October — No Nut November is ostensibly another gimmicky internet challenge designed to promote some kind of personal or social betterment. Unlike those movements, however, which encourage followers to explore the physical and mental wellness benefits of semi-sobriety or stop shaving for a month to raise awareness for men’s health, No Nut November’s challenge to avoid ejaculation for 30 days has dark origins in sex-negative, antiquated and often misogynistic ideologies, and no real health benefits of which to speak. If anything, sexual health experts suggest abstaining from sex and masturbation for an entire month might actually be bad for men’s health.

Enter anti-No Nut November campaigns like “Yes Nut November,” launched last year by adult cam site Stripchat to encourage men to keep getting off this month, and every month after. While a porn site has some obvious incentive to attack a movement that asks men to kick their onanistic habits, the “Yes Nut” campaign calls out No Nut’s reinforcement of dated attitudes that frame sex and masturbation as shameful practices reflecting some sort of moral or social ill, while also drawing attention to the potential health risks of forgoing ejaculation for 30 days straight.

“It’s actually quite dangerous for men to stop ejaculating for a month straight,” says Stripchat’s Max Bennett, citing a Harvard University study that suggests frequent ejaculation can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.

While the idea that it is “dangerous” for men to go without an orgasm seems vaguely reminiscent of old-school, bullshit arguments designed to pressure women into sexual activity lest they condemn their partner to the horrors of “blue balls,” sexual health experts agree there is a positive connection between frequent ejaculation and men’s health.

“For the best prostate health, doctors recommend that men orgasm about 21 times a month,” says clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist Dr. David J. Ley, adding that frequent orgasms can decrease the risk of prostate cancer by as much as 33 percent.

Does that mean your balls are going to explode if you go 30 days without getting off? Probably not, but abstaining from ejaculation might not be doing you any favors, either. “We can’t say that No Nut November is going to give you prostate cancer, but there’s no evidence it helps,” says Dr. Ley.

Regardless of what No Nut November does or doesn’t do to the prostate, abstaining from all forms of sex, including solo sex, for an extended period of time could have negative effects on sexual health and appetite in general. “Our sexuality is like a muscle, and failing to exercise it actually weakens it, it doesn’t make it stronger,” Dr. Ley tells InsideHook. “Researchers find that, in men, abstinence and refraining from ejaculation appears to decrease testosterone.”

These findings contradict directly with one of the founding principles of No Nut November: the idea that by abstaining from ejaculation, men can preserve or build up their virility. This notion is integral to the NoFap movement, a No Nut November precursor that began on Reddit back in 2011. In reinforcing a warped understanding of male ejaculate as the currency of masculinity, both movements reflect dated and ultimately harmful mentalities that tend to overlap with more aggressive, misogynistic and downright violent communities including men’s rights activists, incels and pickup artists.

“If No Nut November were just about encouraging men to be more conscious, mindful and intentional with their sexuality, I’d be all for it,” says Dr. Ley. “Unfortunately, the No Nut November movement is a recruiting tool for the antiporn groups and is based upon deeply misogynistic, heteronormative and antiquated ideas of masculinity and sex.”

Moreover, even if one can manage to participate in No Nut November without tumbling down the rabbit hole of men’s rights activism, the movement still reinforces unhealthy ideas about sexuality and masturbation.

“By promoting the idea that self-control, manliness, morality and virility are best demonstrated by abstinence, this movement replicates the ideas of the late 1800s, when Kellogg invented Corn Flakes as an anti-masturbation food,” says Dr. Ley. “People who don’t have sex are not better at self-control than other people, and resisting masturbation doesn’t make you a better person or a stronger man.”

That said, there’s nothing wrong with taking some time to reflect on your masturbatory regimen, particularly if you find certain aspects concerning or simply unsatisfying. “I do recommend that men can benefit from taking a step back from their sexuality, and thinking about it, and what role they want it to play in their lives,” says Dr. Ley.

As we’ve discussed, there’s never been a better time to practice self-pleasure as self-care through more mindful masturbation, and ridding yourself of some of the more concerning aspects of your solo sex life is a great place to start.

“I ask men, ‘Who is your sexual role model, and why? Do you feel ashamed of your sexuality, of the porn you watch or the fantasies you have? If you do, why?’” says Dr. Ley. “Exploring these things, and finding ways to develop sexual integrity, are important things that all men really need to do. But giving up on orgasms for a month is unlikely to help you along that path.”

To nut or not to nut may be the question of the month, but if, when and how often you orgasm is ultimately nobody else’s business. That said, don’t let the internet keep you from getting off. This November and every November, feel free to go forth and get nutty.

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