People are imperfect. They make bad decisions from time to time. And so do I. For example, I made a bad decision by taking up a 100-day sexual abstinence challenge. Spoiler alert: The main lesson I learned is that I will never do it again.
Do I counsel you to chastity? Chastity is a virtue with some, but with many almost a vice. […] To whom chastity is difficult, it is to be dissuaded: lest it become the road to hell—to filth and lust of soul. (Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra)
But before I talk about my conclusions, let’s look at my results first.
1. Did I succeed?
Yes and no. Except for my failure on day 27, I managed to not ejaculate until day 100, which was yesterday. Given that this was the hardest willpower challenge I have ever done (and I have done many), I could say that I succeeded and that I am proud of myself. In reality, however, things are more complex.
I did some stuff during the challenge that I am not proud of. Porn is a big one. During the last 40 days, there was a week where I watched porn. In particular, I heard about Chaturbate and got hooked.
My excuse was that this would be a good way to take my challenge to the next level. As if it weren’t already tough enough! I told myself that I would strengthen my Will even more if I practiced orgasm control while facing temptation, instead of running away from it. But what did actually happen? Well, I fell into a pleasure trap and started edging (masturbating without ejaculating).
Thankfully, I had a lot of other stuff to do, so I did not waste alarming amounts of time. Still, it took me a week until I could keep the site blocked on my laptop for good. And I shall never unblock it again, for the sexual enticement there is just too demonic.
Before my ascetic days, I did not have an unhealthy relationship to porn. I would often challenge myself to go 30 days without: not a big deal if one has some willpower. And when I allowed myself to watch porn, I primarily used it to get a quick orgasm and clear my focus. I never spent two or three hours in a row watching porn like an addict. On some days during the last 40 days, however, I did, and it made me feel awful—because it hedonistically limited my freedom.
Another thing I am not proud of is that instead of letting my sexual arousal dissipate through mindfulness exercises, which never worked past the duration of the exercise, I constantly had to distract myself from it. That’s the blunt secret behind my partial victory.
2. How did I do it?
I managed to stay sexually abstinent and not ejaculate for so long only because I manically distracted myself from all temptation. I would be continually physically active until I fell asleep. When I was not working at my physically demanding job, I would be lifting weights, training jiu-jitsu, or hiking through the woods while conceiving new ideas for blog posts. This was unhealthy, of course, and I totally exhausted myself.
My sexual abstinence did not give me more energy. Rather, it forced me to stay frantically active by making the temptation unbearable as soon as I would try to relax my body. And whenever my sex drive got a hold of me, I had to pay the price: waste tons of energy on resisting temptation, feel bad about myself despite not surrendering, and then get a shitty night of sleep because my mind was too obsessed with sex—and eventually wake up unrecovered, tired, only to run away from temptation again.
But the physical exhaustion was helpful. The more I impaired my hormonal health, the less I cared about sex. Those were the days where I did not have to resist any temptation, and there were many of them. So my ascetic period was not one constant struggle. On about half of the 100 days, I had no sexual desire to overcome; then it was easy and I did not even think about it—at least as long as I stayed away from my computer and from women in real life (I did not go out at night and I rarely approached girls during the day).
Over the past 40 days, I only approached two sexy women (just to prove to myself that I could still do it), and both times it evoked a disaster. Obviously, not getting laid is zero challenge for me, a single male non-celebrity. But not jerking off to my mental image of a hot chick I flirted with earlier posed a tremendous challenge, particularly since I had not had sex in over two months. Hence, I did my best to stay away from everything female, both online and in real life.
3. What was my experience like?
In parts 1-3, I wrote about how much anger, hate, frustration, and emptiness I felt on this challenge. This part of my experience changed substantially after I had somewhat of an epiphany. Now I know that I can be happy with or without sex, although sex will add a further color to my joy.
Furthermore, my feeling of emptiness was not necessarily tied to my lack of sexual satisfaction. It could just as well be that my lack of intimacy made me feel empty inside. After all, I had no girlfriend nor any contact with former sexual partners during the entire experiment. (Yes, part of my motivation to do this challenge was to have an easy excuse to not invest any time in women for a while; however, considering the time I had to invest in resisting distraction, it was not absolutely worth it.)
Another thing: I expected that I would get used to the lack of sexual satisfaction and overcome my sexual desire at some point. I hugely overestimated the power of my Will there. The truth was: It never got easier. My desire always came back with undiminished force. The fight was never-ending.
I found that quitting sex is not like quitting sugar or a drug. When you stop eating sugar or taking a drug, you only have to struggle until you break the habit and overcome the addiction; then the hardest part is over. But when you stop masturbating and having sex, you have to continue struggling, on and on and on. The struggle never ends, and it never gets easier.
What makes the difference is that breaking an addiction brings you back to your healthy natural state, whereas fighting against sexual temptation means resisting the healthy pull of your natural state. Ejaculation is a biological need, not a bad habit.
In other words, this challenge taught me that I am far from being a zen-enlightened master stoic. Rather, I am a very normal human being. A simple man with manly needs. And no force of Will is able to change that, for the force of sex is in my blood. Ultimately, denying this force will only upset, disrupt, destroy the harmony in my soul.
But my experience was not all negative. For example, having seen no pussy in a while, I developed an eager erotic curiosity that would be triggered whenever a young woman caught my eye. I felt giddy with lust like a boy in puberty, excitedly hoping to spot further aspects of her body. This was a positive experience because here I had what Buddhists call a “beginner’s mind” (shoshin). Needless to say, as soon as I was back home, that innocent lust would rapidly turn into menacing temptation.
Usually, whenever I became too obsessed with sex, I would just jerk off and be done with it. Ejaculation immediately kills all my sexual desire (at least for a while). But as I could not allow myself to ejaculate during the challenge, I was permanently trapped in the pre-orgasmic phase, unduly overvaluing the importance of sexual pleasure. Before I cum, sex is the greatest thing in the world; afterwards, sex is utterly uninteresting. That is how it should be for a man. My resistance to sexual release, however, turned sex into a constant high priority for my body—hence the temptation, hence the contra-productive struggle, hence the stupid nature of my challenge.
4. Did I get what I want?
In a blog post about my New Year’s resolution for 2017, I announced my motives for doing this challenge:
Why do I do this?
- to train my bodily self-control and exercise self-mastery
- to have a simple reason not to hit on random chicks when I should be focused on more important things anyway
- to learn how my interactions with women change when I know that banging them is not an option
- to test the hypotheses claimed by the NoFap community: does the eschewal of sexual release make a man more confident, energetic, focused, sociable, and sexually magnetic?
- to have more time for working and writing while transmuting my sexual energy into productivity
- to see how it affects my masculine psyche
Now let’s see whether I got what I wanted out of completing the challenge:
- Self-mastery. This was a partial success. On the one hand, yes, I did train my bodily self-control hardcore. On the other hand, I think I could have done better in terms of strategies. My primary strategy was to distract myself by becoming a workaholic, inconsiderate of my bodymind health. Although I tried, I should have put more effort into pursuing a mindfulness-based strategy.
- Anti-pickup. This was a partial success as well. Often times, yes, I felt liberated from the juvenile pressure to approach every cute chick I come across. Many other times, however, I felt like a coward when I did not open my mouth, and when I did, I always had to deal with the repercussions back home (temptation to masturbate). In a sense, I conditioned myself to associate approaching women with something bad. I just hope that this conditioning is as short-lived as the interactions I had with them.
- Behavior around women. This one was a disaster. My typical behavior around women during the challenge could be best described as lethargic. The lethargy definitely resulted from the incessant suppression of my sexual urges together with my physical exhaustion. Accordingly, my game has suffered quite a bit during those 100 days. I am sorry, but the online myth that a man starts becoming the center of all female attention just because he has not shot a load in a while is ridiculous (sure, there might be a little increase in testosterone after about a week, but life is more complex than that).
- NoFap benefits. No, I did not experience any of the superpowers allegedly gained by quitting masturbation. While this could have other reasons too (e.g., I did not consistently stay away from porn for 100 days, nor did I try to get laid as most NoFappers do), I have many reasons to believe that those benefits are nothing but placebo effects. As far as semen retention goes, sorry, I did not experience anything that would speak in favor of it. If semen retention is good for anything, then for increasing willpower; but there is an infinite amount of other methods that strengthen the human Will—methods that are actually healthy and productive (check out my book Willlpower Condensed).
- More time and energy. This was, again, a partial success at best. On the one hand, yes, I had more drive to be active. On the other hand, I already explained that this drive was more frantic than energetic. And regarding time, well, on some days I had more time because I did not waste any on dating and having sex, but on other days, I wasted hours on battling with my Will against temptation. A few minutes of jerking off until orgasm would have been nothing compared to the prolonged hardship I had to go through when I was horny, alone at home, and having the Word Wide Sexy Web readily available.
- Masculinity. Apart from challenging my Will, this experiment did not really do much good for my masculine psyche. I do not feel like I have become a better man, nor do I feel spiritually empowered. I simply feel like a man who has not had sex in a long time and who just wants to find relief.
5. What will I do now?
I was thinking a lot about what to do once I am done with this challenge. Should I hire an escort for a weekend? Should I try to reconnect with old fuck buddies? Should I take a Sunday off to binge-watch porn for an entire day? Should I take a week off to travel to Prague or Vienna to go out every night and do pickup? No. I see it as a demand of my self-discipline not to do anything radical just because my challenge is over now. That would be shortsighted.
Still, I definitely will do these three things:
- A new lay. I will do some pickup again, probably mostly daygame with moderate effort, and try to get a new lay within the next three weeks. After a 100-day cold streak, I feel a masculine obligation to do that. Considering that I live in a small city, do not have much time on my hands, and my pickup skills are rusty by now, three weeks are a realistic goal.
- Non-habitual, non-visual masturbation. I will not keep up my current habit of refraining from masturbation and ejaculation. Porn is for losers, but isn’t NoFap for losers, too? Single men who become overly passionate about NoFap tend to share some common characteristics: an addiction to online porn, social anxiety, and a general lack of self-discipline, self-confidence, and pickup skills. NoFap will probably be good for men who suffer from these issues; in general, though, I think that masturbation is awesome. It feels good, it brings me in touch with my body, it helps me to wind down naturally, and it makes me less needy around women because I know that I always have the option of going home (or kicking her out of my home) and jerking off to a mental image of her. I do not find this sad at all; it is liberating! After all, resisting the temptation to masturbate when I am really, really horny costs way more time and energy than just doing it, enjoying it, and getting it over with. Therefore, I will start masturbating again, but I will not watch porn or anything arousing while I do it, and I will not make it a habit because that would only diminish the quality of my experience; lastly, as always, moderation will be key.
- Next challenge. I have already started a new challenge today. This time, I have chosen something positive, something that makes me take action rather than halt action, and something that will actually have a positive effect on my life. I will do the 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program by Jon Kabat-Zinn. You can read more about this challenge and my experiences with it here.
The most important thing, however, I have already checked off, for as I am writing this, I am past 100 days… And freedom is flowing through my veins again! My blood is liberated, as is my sperm. I ejaculated. Now I feel free. Total fucking freedom. Nothing else. I did not even bother getting laid. I took it into my own hands and liberated myself. From myself. From the shackles of my own misguided discipline. I have cast out the demons of my sexual repression. And I feel great.
Self-denial of pleasure is good if that is what one’s True Will demands and if it is necessary to achieve a concrete goal. Sexual asceticism just for the sake of it is bullshit. I would not even recommend it for the learning experience.