Let's admit it: masturbation is fun. Self-pleasure allows us to get a better grip on what we like and don't like in the bedroom. Undoubtedly, there are numerous benefits to self-love, from reducing the likelihood of the common cold to the risk of prostate cancer. But, are there any benefits to abstaining?

NoFap, an online anti-sex group, claims abstaining from porn and masturbation for a period of time leads to "dramatic increases in social confidence, energy levels, concentration levels, mental acuity, motivation, self-esteem, emotional stability, happiness, sexual prowess, and attractiveness to the opposite sex." The group was founded by Alexander Rhodes after a thread on Reddit about a 2003 study found men who don’t masturbate for seven days experience a 45.7 percent increase in testosterone levels.

Read: Is Masturbation Good For You?

Testosterone Levels Don’t Increase

The truth is that testosterone levels are not affected, or increased, by abstinence. The 2003 study measured testosterone levels every day for 16 days, and found little change until day seven, when the spike occurred. However, after the one-day spike, testosterone returned to baseline or slightly lower levels from day eight to day 16 when the experiment ended.

A separate 2001 study, where participants didn’t ejaculate for three weeks, is also widely cited as evidence that abstinence leads to increased testosterone. The abstract reads “although plasma testosterone was unaltered by orgasm, higher testosterone concentrations were observed following the period of abstinence.” This is referring to testosterone differences while masturbating.

When participants were watching the erotic film and masturbating, testosterone levels dropped for the pre-abstinence masturbation session. After 21 days of abstinence, testosterone levels stayed closer to the 10 minute baseline during masturbation. Therefore, testosterone levels did not decrease as much during masturbating and porn viewing.

Generally, masturbation does not have any negative effects on hormone levels. Testosterone levels involve several factors, such as age, time of day, and physical activity. They are known to increase during sexual arousal and after orgasm by masturbation.

Vice Reporter Case

In 2015, Vice reporter Ed Smith wrote a piece on his experience ceasing masturbation for approximately 21 days. Smith revealed the benefits of no self-love included music sounding better, more productivity, and a lack of craving sugar and alcohol.

“I wrote 20 articles, built a bed, started work on a book, and began eating salad, like any proper, functioning adult with a fear of imminent heart disease should,” he wrote.

Man on computer Quitting masturbation isn't going to benefit your health. Photo courtesy of Pexels, Public Domain

Smith’s case could all be attributed to the placebo effect.

Dr. Nicole Prause, sexual psychophysiologist and neuroscientist told Medical Daily: “Placebo effects generally account for about 30% of response (gross estimate) so it is likely that some people make this attribution when it is not really connected.”

Read: Is There Such A Thing As Masturbating Too Much?

She reinforced there is no evidence that quitting masturbation changes productivity, energy, or cognitive abilities.

“Indeed, the reverse is more likely, that orgasm will temporarily reduce thoughts associated with sex that could improve cognitive abilities,” said Prause.

A 2013 study in Hippocampus found regular orgasms actually incite neurogenesis, or the birth of new cells in the brain, and also better cognitive function. In other words, people became more astute. In addition, a similar study found the hippocampal region of the brain increased in size with sexual activity. These studies suggest regular sexual activity adds to the health benefits of masturbation.

In his piece, Smith also noted, “There was a sort of levity to not masturbating — a cleanliness.”

This feeling of “cleanliness” is not necessarily a direct benefit from avoiding masturbation. Rather, some people might feel freer or have a better sense of self for another reason, according to Kyrin Dunston, an OB/GYN in Atlanta, Georgia.

“If a person believes that masturbation is taboo he/she will likely not enjoy it and ceasing self pleasure will likely free him/her because she is not doing something he/she considers ‘bad.’ It's all in his/her belief and perception of masturbation,” Dunston told Medical Daily.

Masturbation And Sex

So, how much does masturbation affect your sex drive?

Similar to how we have a sleep wake cycle, where there’s a specific range of hours of sleep that will satisfy and keep us healthy, there’s a sexual cycle. This cycle involves an amount of sexual activity over a specific period of time that will satisfy us. A person who has been without sexual release from masturbation will likely be more ready and have more pleasure.

Couples have an average time of two to three days that elapse between sex in an established relationship. It may reflect the time that allows sperm to “recover.”

Bottom line: Testosterone is not necessarily “healthy” or “unhealthy.”

Rather, we all need to become more familiar with our bodies to understand how they truly work.

See Also:

Why Do We Masturbate And What Are The Pros And Cons?

3 Unexpected Side Effects For Men And Women