Securing Sexuality is the podcast and conference promoting sex positive, science based, and secure interpersonal relationships. We give people tips for safer sex in a digital age. We help sextech innovators and toy designers produce safer products. And we educate mental health and medical professionals on these topics so they can better advise their clients. Securing Sexuality provides sex therapists with continuing education (CEs) for AASECT, SSTAR, and SASH around cyber sexuality and social media, and more.
Links from this week’s episode:
Masturbation: A Healthy Activity for Positive Sexual Experiences, The Benefits and Risks of No Nut November, and Investigating the Impact of Self-Discipline and Abstaining from Masturbation
No Nut November (NNN) is a popular online challenge that has been gaining traction in recent years. The challenge involves abstaining from sexual activity for the entire month of November, with participants encouraged to post updates on social media about their progress. While the challenge has been met with both enthusiasm and criticism, it raises important questions about the intersection of intimacy and information security in a digital age.
We explore the benefits and risks of No Nut November, as well as how individuals can protect their privacy while participating in this challenge.
The Benefits of No Nut November
No Nut November is often seen as a way to promote self-control and discipline among participants.
By abstaining from sexual activity for an entire month, participants are able to focus on other aspects of their lives such as work or school without being distracted by thoughts or urges related to sex. Additionally, some people may find that taking part in No Nut November helps them become more mindful of their own bodies and desires, which can lead to healthier relationships with themselves and others.
Another potential benefit of No Nut November is that it can help reduce stress levels by providing an outlet for people who may be feeling overwhelmed or anxious due to work or personal issues. By focusing on something other than sex for an extended period of time, participants may be able to gain perspective on their lives and develop better coping strategies for dealing with stressors.
The Risks of No Nut November
While there are potential benefits associated with participating in No Nut November, there are also risks that should be considered before taking part in the challenge. One risk is that individuals may become overly focused on not having sex during the month-long period which could lead to feelings of guilt or shame if they do end up engaging in sexual activities at any point during the month.
Additionally, some people may feel pressure from peers or society at large to participate in No Nut November even if they don’t want to do so; this could lead to feelings of resentment or frustration towards those who are pressuring them into taking part in the challenge when they don’t want to do so.
Another risk associated with No Nut November is related to information security: since many people post updates about their progress on social media platforms such as Twitter or Instagram, there is a chance that sensitive information could be shared inadvertently which could put individuals at risk for identity theft or other forms of cybercrime if hackers were able access these accounts through weak passwords or other means.
Protecting Your Privacy During No Nut November
While participating in No Nut November does come with certain risks related to information security, there are steps you can take to protect your privacy while still enjoying all the potential benefits associated with this challenge:
1) Use strong passwords: Make sure your passwords are complex enough so that hackers cannot guess them easily; use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols when creating your passwords for added protection against cybercriminals
2) Avoid posting sensitive information: Refrain from posting any personal or financial information online during No Nut November; instead, if you must, focus on sharing general updates about your progress without giving away too much detail.
3) Use two-factor authentication: Whenever possible enable two-factor authentication on all your accounts; this will add an extra layer of security to help protect your data from unauthorized access.
4) Be aware of phishing scams: Be wary of emails or messages claiming to offer discounts or special deals related to No Nut November as these could be attempts at phishing scams designed to steal your personal information.
5) Monitor your accounts regularly: Check your accounts regularly for any suspicious activity and immediately report any unusual transactions to your bank or credit card company as soon as possible.
6) Use secure networks whenever possible: When accessing the internet during No Nut November, make sure you are using a secure network whenever possible to protect your data from being intercepted by hackers.
By following these tips, you can enjoy all the potential benefits associated with participating in No Nut November, while also keeping your sensitive information secure from cyber criminals who may be trying to steal it.
In conclusion, No Nut November is a popular online challenge that can provide participants with an outlet for promoting self-control and discipline. However, it is important to consider both the benefits and risks associated with taking part in this challenge before deciding to participate.
In order to properly protect their privacy individuals should follow best practices for safeguarding their personal information online including using strong passwords, avoiding posting sensitive information, enabling two-factor authentication, being aware of phishing scams, monitoring their accounts regularly, and using secure networks whenever possible.
No Nut November
Intimacy and Information Security
John Harvey Kellogg's Corn Flakes
Sylvester Graham's Graham Crackers
CW Post's Grape Nuts Cereal
Abstinence Practice and Self-Discipline
Kinsey, Masters and Johnson
Hello and welcome to Securing Sexuality, the podcast where we discuss the intersection of intimacy and information security.
I'm Wolf Goerlich.
He's a hacker. And I'm Stefani Goerlich.
She's a sex therapist. And together we're going to discuss what safe sex looks like in a digital age.
And together we're talking about no what November?
No nut November, the annual time when guys around the world attempt to refrain from masturbation for 30 consecutive days. So I think you pitched this idea to me when we were on a plane.
And of course we don't get snacks anymore on planes, right?
You get pretzels and a cookie and I'm like, oh yeah, okay. No nut that makes sense. Peanut allergies.
Sure, let's give everyone a break. But this is not what we're talking about.
No, this has nothing to do with macadamia, with peanuts, with Brazil nuts. This has to do with the human nut, the verb slang for ejaculation that has been adopted by proponents of this month, this choice as sort of a rallying cry and a goal. So I got to tell you, I like Cyber Security Awareness Month and Pizza Month in October better.
But, you know, when I hear things like this, I'm reminded of those sort of health fads that America went through probably 100 years ago.
You and I recently watched that movie and it's an old movie, The Road to Wellville, right?
1994 movie shows John Harvey Kellogg, the person who made Kellogg's Corn Flakes, putting people through all sorts of different tortures with the idea of, hey, we are going to help you be healthy. And of course, part of it was, don't indulge in any of these things we're talking about here today in modern times. Sylvester Graham also was all about that.
I think that's one of the reasons why, this may be an urban legend, but that's one of the reasons why graham crackers were invented. It is graham crackers were invented as an appetite suppressant, effectively, but not the, you know, the gastronomic appetite, but the sexual appetite.
The idea was that bland foods would temper hotheadedness in all areas of life and that if one consumed graham crackers on the regular, and I believe corn flakes too as well, that these were foods that would be calming, that would be boring, and that would reduce the inclination towards what they would call self abuse. You can see now I'm hungry.
The last one I'll mention is CW Post, who of course is Post Cereal, came out with Grape Nuts, right?
So great tie in right there. One of the things I thought was really funny was Grape Nuts was advertised with a pamphlet that said, the road to well-being. So that very movie was named after a Grape Nuts commercial back in the day to help people have a good healthy start on the day, I guess.
So can you walk us through Grape Nuts to where we are today?
So there have always been people who have advocated for abstinence in one form or another as a form of wellness practice for a long time.
If we look at the Victorians and the even pre-Victorian in the 1800s, there was a strong belief that masturbation was not only a spiritual sin, but that it would deplete the vital humors of the body, that you were literally making a conscious choice to give up some of your life essence, your strength, your stamina every time you ejaculated or orgasmed.
So parenting manuals in the 18th and early 1900s would advise that Victorian parents pin their little boy's nightgown sleeves to the mattress or to the crib sheets so that they couldn't physically move.
There were all sorts of chastity devices or, frankly, quite weaponized sheets or rings that could be put on that if somebody became aroused would cause physical distress, physical harm, not harm, but physical discomfort so that it would discourage the arousal response cycle.
There was a huge amount of effort and energy put into limiting, controlling, and discouraging self-pleasure across the ages as we became aware of the lack of scientific foundation for the humorous model of health and science. There's no phlegm, there's no bile.
There are, but not in the classical medical sense of Aristotle and the four humors. We started to recognize that maybe, maybe perhaps it was possible to ejaculate or have an orgasm without literally losing vital life force. And in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, sexologists like Kinsey particularly, Masters, and Johnson, started studying the actual biology of arousal and orgasm and ejaculation in all different kinds of bodies, male, female, and everything in between.
And the medical and scientific understanding of masturbation changed. And we started to realize not only that it wasn't harmful, but that in a lot of ways there were actually some very real medical and social, psychosocial benefits to masturbation.
So it goes from being thought of being as harmful and something we're trying to avoid to go to something that's thought of as being helpful, which would make me think we would get the, like the road to Wellville version of here's what you do kids. This is great. You're going to lose weight and I don't know, gain energy and everything.
But that doesn't seem to be what's happened here, right?
So somehow the fad has detached from the science, I think, if I'm hearing you right.
So in a lot of ways, yes, the fad has detached from the science. There has been, I believe a few years ago, there was a study that showed some benefits to abstaining from sex.
2019, there was a study that said that, you know, if people avoid ejaculating for one to four days, and that's no matter how that ejaculation occurs, whether that's through partnered sex or by yourself, then yeah, you know, there was more semen present, there was more concentration of semen, there was more mortality among the semen.
So if somebody was perhaps trying to conceive, if that was a goal of theirs, fertility doctors or urologists might recommend, you know, hold off for three, four days before the fertile cycle starts, because you're going to have sort of maximum fertility efficacy there. And so some people took that study and ran with it.
Although it's important to understand that the actual, you know, no nut November movement started almost a decade before that study came out. So it really was a case of latching on to a study and kind of backfilling the science to defend and justify the logic that had already kind of been established within the social media sphere. So we latch on to the science, we backfill it.
Oh, sure. Everything now is legit.
How do we get that from there to a movement?
Because it seems, all right, honestly, maybe I just go in different circles. But this isn't something I really thought was a thing. I thought it was more like a joke. Like it was also the whole thing where some people don't shave in November. So I thought maybe it was something like that.
Where does this turn from being or was it to start out as a joke or was I just completely off the rails on that one?
So I don't know that I would say it started out as a joke. We're not entirely super clear on the definitive origins. We know that no nut November as a term first appeared on Urban Dictionary in 2011. And it started to pick up steam there as that definition was shared. We started to see a lot of conversation around it, like trending hashtags and all that stuff by Twitter in 2017.
And then by the following year, by 2018, Reddit, somebody had posted the official rules for no nut November. So it seems to be pretty recent to, you know, the 2010s. But it's been a pretty organic social media, not zeitgeist, but sort of like an organic creation. We have seen lots of people sort of building that ethos, contributing to those sort of founding myths.
And it now is a huge community of primarily men, although not exclusively, all around the world, who either as you know, an exercise in annual sort of self discipline and personal challenge, all the way through a much smaller community who really have made this defining aspect of their lives and identities. It's grown exponentially and become rather mainstream.
Yeah I went and looked at that Reddit sub that you mentioned, and it looks like there's around 130,000 people on it. It looks like it gets around 90 posts per day. So not huge, but a pretty active, pretty active place.
Where else are people having this information?
Or is it predominantly the Reddits, the Twitters?
And communities dedicated towards sort of encouraging this month-long or lifelong practice of cheering each other on. Some of those communities and those spaces are safer or perhaps less toxic than others. It is a place where people find validation, I would say, for a lot of what they already believed about sex, about spirituality, about relationships between themselves and potential partners.
And this is an experience and a movement that can be whatever the participant wants it to be. Whether that be a healthy exercise in temporary self discipline or something much more deeper and with perhaps some far more severe ramifications. Now we know from placebo science and we know from the world of skeptical inquiry that if you do anything, anything at all, you're going to feel a little bit different.
You're going to have some changes and you may attribute those changes to what you did both pro and con.
So what are some of the things that people who are participating in this, for lack of a better word, challenge?
What are they claiming that they get out of this?
What does it do for them?
The biggest claim is that when you abstain from masturbation, it raises your testosterone level. And that is true. Not to a huge degree. It's not if you are somebody that typically has either a low T or just sort of a normal base level T, you're not going to see dramatic improvements there. But it will boost it a little bit.
And a lot of the other physiological claims come out of that because where you have higher testosterone levels, you will see more muscle growth. You will see higher energy levels. You'll see an improvement in sperm quality like I've already talked about. And for a lot of people, you'll also see differences in erectile function.
So if somebody has low testosterone naturally and they go to their family doctor and they get prescribed testosterone supplements, that can help with their erectile dysfunction. So a lot of the proponents of No Nut November say, look, when we abstain from masturbation, that raises our testosterone levels. When we have higher testosterone levels, these other things can happen. And that is a logical chain sequence.
However, the actual impact on testosterone levels from masturbating versus not are not necessarily significant enough to receive those benefits. It's not as if you are suddenly adding on a T supplement. The other benefits that people talk about are the emotional, the psychological benefits.
And there, I think what you said is really true. These are things that will naturally occur whenever somebody sets a goal for themselves and works towards achieving it. So we hear about things like increased confidence, greater motivation, stronger willpower, we'll hear about better mood, a heightened sort of sense of spiritual connection. And all of those things are very real for the people that participate in No Nut November. 100% true.
However, they would be just as real and just as true if the participants were to say, I'm going to spend every day in November doing charitable work or volunteering somewhere. You would have the same benefits if you chose to do a mindfulness practice like 10 minutes of meditation every day in November. The psychological benefits are not coming from the act of abstinence.
They are coming from the act of setting a goal, choosing an act of self-discipline and self-development and following through on that. So in that respect, if this is something that works for the participants that feels safe and comfortable and lets them feel good about themselves, then it absolutely will have psychological benefits for them.
But this is a great example of correlation not equaling causation in that if somebody doesn't feel comfortable abstaining in November, if they don't think that that's something that they could do, there are other ways that they can receive those same benefits that are just as valid. Such as No Peanut November. No Peanut November.
If you love peanut butter and you chose to give it up for the month of November as an act of self-discipline to see if you were capable, you would feel better, stronger, more confident by achieving that goal. Absolutely. Just as long as you're with 130,000 of your closest friends. I joke a little bit, but to the listener, that won't work for Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts will increase your testosterone. I stand by that.
I have no study to quote. I'm not the researcher on this. But of course there are certain foods that do good things for your testosterone. Those of us who are in middle age always are getting bombasted with ads for.
Now is there actually any biological improvement?
I got to imagine there is to a certain degree, right?
Because if you are doing, if you are using something or not using something, your body tends to prioritize resources around it.
So is there any biological changes?
So other than the short term benefits to sperm counts from quality that we talked about, there are no long lasting biological benefits.
However, the reverse is not quite the same. We actually do know from Harvard studies and from other epidemiological research that there are measurable definitive physiological benefits to masturbating, particularly for men.
Lower cancer rates for one. One study at Harvard found that when you ejaculate more than 20 times per month, and that's in any form, partner sex or by yourself, it actually lowered the prostate cancer risk by about 20% compared to people that only ejaculated four to seven times a month. So one time per week versus let's say three times per week dramatically lowers your risk of prostate cancer.
What about psychologically though?
I remember from an adolescent and childhood perspective, there was always mixed messaging around that.
Oh no, you're a terrible person versus yes, go forth and do it if it makes you feel good. When we were kids, there seemed to be a lot of mixed messaging around that.
Has the science come forward to anything at this point?
Yeah, I was thinking about that when I was researching for this episode because I was in high school along with you in the mid 90s. And I remember when Joycelyn Elders was, you know, Clinton put her up as his nominee for surgeon general.
And a huge part of why she lost that role was because she believed and she said that education about masturbation should be a part of sex ed in schools and that we should be teaching young people in adolescence, the science of masturbation. And people took that and ran with it.
And it turned into, you know, a lot of the same sort of extremist messages that we hear today, right?
She wanted to groom young children and sexualize preschoolers and a lot of the exact same reactions that we hear today. But the science behind her statement was actually really grounded in research and evidence because we know that when adolescents, when older children are taught about masturbation in a normal, healthy, nonjudgmental way, and that does not mean providing how to instruction.
It simply means, you know, a one-off sentence of, oh, yeah, your body responds to that and that feels good. And that's something you can do in private when you're by yourself. A message as simple and high level as that is associated with healthier overall self image and with more positive sexual experiences later in life.
So at the time when Joycelyn Elders was pitched as our surgeon general, a lot of our understanding about sexuality and sexual development and sex education was not where it was today. And the idea that we should acknowledge that masturbation exists, that people do it, and that it is a healthy thing for people to do was absolutely scandalous.
But today we know that just giving that message to young people, your body does that, it's okay, and it's something you can do alone in private, makes them feel much more confident about their bodies, stronger, happier, more secure in their bodies across the spectrum of body image and self-esteem. And it makes them more likely to have more positive, happy, healthy relationships with partners in adulthood.
With all that in mind, as we come to the end of our episode, if someone is just finding out about this and like, oh, I know, I'll go to Reddit.
What are some final parting thoughts?
I would say that the vast majority of people who take on the No Nut November challenge are doing it for some very sincere and very simple reasons. They want to see if they can do it. It's a personal challenge to themselves. They are curious to see if the health benefit claims will pay out for them.
They know that there's minimal risk in doing this, right?
Nobody's asking them to take a substance into their body. It's just avoiding doing something for a couple of weeks. And so on the surface, this is a harmless activity if somebody wants to try it and if it feels good for them to do. But there are fringe elements in this world that take No Nut November to a lifestyle extreme that can very quickly become angry, misogynistic, aggressive.
And I would encourage people that are curious about No Nut November to, instead of seeking out online community centered around one's private masturbatory habits and bringing those into a community space, perhaps do some of your own research around the scientific benefits, the social and emotional and psychological benefits, both of masturbation and of temporarily refraining from masturbation.
And then make an informed decision for yourself based on the evidence and research of people who have dedicated their lives to studying human sexuality and the way our bodies work.
Instead of going to social media forums where, what's the fallacy you mentioned yesterday?
I already believe it, so I see it everywhere.
Yes, the availability bias of this is already something I believe, this is already something that I'm doing. And so therefore, I need to find and rely on facts to back up the decisions I've already made. We want to make the decisions that are best for us, our lives, our relationships, our bodies, not necessarily the decisions that are best for the other 90 people on Reddit that day. That makes sense.
And yeah, the availability bias is how easy it is to think about something. I think in talking through that, you also brought in the confirmation bias, which is, I believe something, therefore I'll find things that echo and support my beliefs. And both of those are incredibly amplified by social media, which is where some of these things play out. Some of these things can get driven forward.
Some of these things can get exacerbated much more quickly than back when people were handing out pamphlets with your box of cereal. So with all that, thank you so much for tuning in to Securing Sexuality, your source of information you need to protect yourself and your relationships. From the bedroom to the cloud, we are here to help you navigate safe sex in a digital age.
Be sure to check out our website, Securing Sexuality, for links to more information about the topics we've discussed here today, our conference next year. And if you want to leave us a review or five stars on your podcast app of your choice, we wouldn't say no to that either. No we wouldn't. But please do join us again for more fascinating conversations about the intersection of sexuality and technology. Have a great week.