‘No Nut November’ is in vogue just now. The idea: men should abstain themselves from ejaculating the entire month. The belief: there are many (unproven) health benefits of retaining semen.
The touting of the advantages of semen retention is probably inspired by a similar challenge in ‘Seinfeld’ in the 1990s. In one episode of the popular sitcom, the four main characters – Jerry Seinfeld, Elaine Benes, George Costanza and Cosmo Kramer – challenged each other to abstain from any form of sexual activity, and placed bets too, triggering a hilarious set of events. All four failed the challenge.
Almost three decades later, many participants in the No Nut November internet challenge are clearly not in it for the humour element. They seem to genuinely believe that retaining semen has health benefits.
But experts disagree — and also debunk some myths around masturbation.
No Nut November: Claims and reality
The No Nut November challenge revolves around the premise that for men abstinence is healthier than masturbation or letting their semen out.
There is, however, no clinical proof about such benefits. Experts, in fact, insist that beyond the cacophony there is no meaning or positive health implications attached to No Nut November.
Sugars, protein and water (the constituents of semen) are not present in significant enough quantities in semen to have a bearing on the energy levels of a person, say experts.
“Preserving semen serves no purpose,” says Dr Ooha Susmita, consultant psychiatrist and sexologist at Allo Health, Bangalore. “It does not provide any nutrients or retain energy. The energy [for physical activities and bodily functions] is derived from diet, while sleep, physical activities and other lifestyle patterns have a say, too.”
Is it healthy to retain sperm?
“Semen is produced in the body in very small quantities because the organ holding it is also tiny,” says Dr Susmita. “Retaining that little amount is not going to provide any health benefits.”
Instead, it might be better to periodically release the semen.
“There is some research which claims that there is benefit in letting your semen out periodically,” adds Dr Susmita. “But again, that correlation also does not have very robust evidence yet.”
What happens when men don’t ejaculate?
If men abstain from ejaculating for a long time, nocturnal emission or nightfall is bound to happen eventually. That’s the body’s natural mechanism to release semen.
“Let’s say, if they were in the habit of masturbating regularly prior to November, then during that time [of taking up the No Nut November challenge] they are likely to have a couple of nightfalls,” says Dr Susmita.
Masturbating activates the same area in the brain that is triggered when drinking alcohol or consuming nicotine. By retaining semen for a long time, men starve this reward pathway. So, this pathway becomes highly sensitive and when eventually one ejaculates, say through masturbation, the “experience would be more intense,” says Dr Susmita.
Many people in some cultures still seem to think that masturbation or ejaculating leads to the loss of male energy (through semen). Take the ‘Dhat’ syndrome, for example, where many men — especially in some Asian countries — report feeling weak and depressed because (they wrongly believe) they have lost muscle mass due to semen release through masturbation.
“[These men seem to] believe that their symptoms occur because they had masturbated, and all their energy has gone out of their body through their semen,” says Dr Susmita. “This is a very real culture-bound syndrome, and people end up getting treated with antidepressants and a lot of intensive therapy just to get them out of this belief system.”
Semen retention: More myths
The following are some common myths around masturbation and semen retention:
• Myth 1: Semen retention helps build muscle mass
“The protein that builds your muscle comes from your diet,” says Dr Susmita. “It is absorbed through the enzymes present in the gastrointestinal system which breaks down the proteins. There’s nothing happening in the reproductive system [the seminal vesicles where the semen is stored].”
In short, releasing semen has no bearing on muscle mass or muscle loss in men.
• Myth 2: Masturbation reduces testosterone level
There is a temporary decrease in the level of testosterone after masturbation. However, that does not affect the overall level of this male hormone.
“Hormone formation is an ongoing process in our system, and masturbation does not decrease testosterone permanently,” says Dr Surya Kant Choubey, consultant, urology, Manipal Hospitals, Bangalore.
• Myth 3: Masturbation affects sports performance
Masturbation does not lower performance while playing sports.
“Masturbation on a regular basis improves self-esteem and gives confidence,” adds Dr Choubey. “It is not going to affect the performance in sports.”
- No Nut November revolves around the premise that for men abstinence is healthier than masturbation or letting their semen out.
- Experts say there is no clinical evidence to show that semen retention provides physical benefits.
- Even if men try to retain semen, they are bound to have nocturnal emission or nightfall where they ejaculate involuntarily in sleep.
- There are lot of myths around masturbation. The belief that masturbation leads to weakness and muscle-mass loss is wrong, say experts.
(With inputs from Alifia Kapasi)