FaplessAndFancyFree

News

Can a Reddit forum change the world? This Catholic, and recovering porn addict, thinks so

FaplessAndFancyFree
Image

July 23, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A curious thing is happening on the social media site Reddit, less renowned as a place for thoughtful social movements than as a catch-all for the bizarre and often obscene. And yet, as the site has grown in popularity, numerous so-called "sub-Reddits," or forums, have cropped up dedicated to various issues, allowing likeminded people to exchange information and engage in conversation. Some of these are less than wholesome, such as the sub-Reddits dedicated to niche, and often lurid and/or borderline illegal, forms of pornography.

Several of these latter made a list compiled by Gizmodo of the "9 weirdest places in Reddit" (Caution: explicit material). But one of those nine "weirdest places" was not like the others. It was the sub-Reddit called r/noFap (Note: "fap" is Internet slang for masturbation). While NoFap might seem bizarre in the eyes of Gizmodo, or in terms of Reddit, one of the moderators of the forum says that far from being a sideshow curiosity, r/NoFap is actually doing amazing things to "change the world" for the better.

The forum is dedicated to people who have made the choice to give up the pleasures of pornography and/or masturbation, whether temporarily or permanently. And so far 65,000+ of them have joined. (To find out more about NoFap, read: 65,000+ Reddit users flock to forum founded by atheist to quit pornography, masturbationInterestingly enough, the forum was founded by an atheist, and many of the users are atheists or agnostics. However, in an interview with LifeSiteNews.com, FaplessAndFancyFree, the forum's sole Catholic moderator, explained how he became involved as a moderator at NoFap, and why he believes the forum is helping numerous people to find a degree of happiness they didn't believe possible.

1) How did you get involved with nofap, both as a reader/user and moderator? 

Well, I was looking for porn.  I had recently discovered Reddit, which is the Mos Eisley of the internet. I had spent a few evenings bingeing and, for the first time in my life, I began to despair that I'd ever be able to break this habit. I was searching for "fap", because that usually leads to good fapping material, but /r/nofap came up instead.

I was inspired by the people I found there. They were -- often without realizing it -- reaching in the direction of sexual truths that I recognized from my catechism (I can just about recite CCC 2351-2354 by heart!).  But they hadn't read this stuff in a catechism, hadn't been taught it from a pulpit or an NFP class or their parents; they were discovering it (slowly, in pieces) by having lived through it. They were stunned by what they were finding, which went against what they'd been taught. And they were no less stunned to discover, all of a sudden, that they were not alone in feeling this way.  

There was joy in NoFap's users -- the joy of people who have just heard the good news of freedom from pornography for the first time. I have not found this joy in other, religiously-inspired campaigns against masturbation. In my experience, there has always been too much guilty feeling and self-flagellation in those places for joy to take root. Mercy, yes, but usually not joy. For most /r/nofap users, it never even occurred to them before discovering us that there might be something wrong with porn and masturbation, so how could they feel guilty? They're just ecstatic to have found a way out.  With their joy comes tremendous energy.  That energy goes in all sorts of directions, some unproductive, but mostly to the good.

To be sure, /r/nofap is not where you'd want to send a Catholic teen for an education in healthy sexuality, and I don't think any nofappers would suggest that it is. Such a teen would likely walk away with the idea that online porn is the worst thing in the history of time, masturbation is great in moderation, and the solution to all this is to have as much real sex with real women as humanly possible... or possibly no orgasms at all, depending on whether the PUA's or the Karezza-boosters get to him first. To these Catholic eyes, some of the ideas that are widely accepted at NoFap are nuts -- but, then, my fellow NoFappers would say the same about my Catholic ideas!

Despite that, the /r/nofap community calls to my mind a passage from Flannery O'Connor's letters:

"The harshness with which you speak of C. is not justified.  She may be basically irreligious but we are not judged by what we are basically.  We are judged by how hard we use what we have been given.  Success means nothing to the Lord, nor gracefulness.  She tries and tries violently and has a great deal to struggle against and to overcome.  The violent bear it away.  She is much to be admired for not repeating.  It is better to be young in your failures than old in your successes."

I found the spirit of NoFap very attractive -- holy, in its violent and sometimes graceless way -- and their hope and joy proved a little infectious. So, every time I felt the urge to read some erotica, I went there instead and dispensed advice and encouragement. Thing is, I felt a lot of urges to read erotica at the time, so I racked up quite a lot of posts. Slowly, NoFap's "they" became "we."  The mods took notice and invited me onboard to help administer the new badge system; I've been there ever since.

2) Can you in brief explain your own involvement with pornography/masturbation, and how the forum has helped you deal with these problems?

How I got into PMO is the same old boring story: an incautious curiosity turned into compulsion slowly, then all at once. I developed a very good habit of confession, and became even better at avoiding taking communion without anyone in my family noticing. My sexual predilections became frayed (I had -- have -- a particular weakness for futanari), but I still maintained certain standards -- no videos, no rape, etc. -- and I thought much too well of myself for doing so.

I think I've addressed the second part of the question above, and I don't want to fatigue you by writing too much, so I will leave it at that. NoFap was not the only part of my learning to live chastely -- prayer, sacraments, and frequent fasting were all key, too -- but the day I signed up there proved to be the turning point.

3) You say you believe the "movement" is going to (slowly) change the world. Can you expand upon that? Why is this forum so unique? What makes it so effective? What is it about the forum that you appreciate the most?

Again, I think my first answer touches on this.  Here I'll only add that the pluralistic character of the forum is key to its success. NoFap does not impose. Officially, it does not even propose -- the mod team is scrupulous about keeping our Official Seal of Approval off any particular version of the program.  There is a lot of debate, but no doctrines.  We simply provide a space for thousands of young men and women to tell their stories, and then we invite readers to ask themselves: does any of this sound familiar to me?  NoFap does not cite the authority of revelation or philosophy or history or science.  Our sole authority is one's own experience, and, though that authority has a hard time reaching the clean, universally applicable conclusions we find in, say, the Summa Contra Gentiles, it's also the hardest authority in the world to impeach.

As more and more people experience the terrible effects of pornography on their communities, their families, and their spirits, arguments about science and scripture and philosophy and sex are going to continue, as they always have.  But lived experience bypasses the porn industry's stranglehold on academic sexology, skips right past teleological arguments about genitalia.  In the end, NoFap changes the world without ever winning an argument or even taking a position on anything.  We change the world just by asking the right questions.

4) You mention the fact that many of the other moderators don't share your distinctly Catholic/moral viewpoint of the fapping/pornography issue. What do you think has brought so many secularists to the forum?

They can tell you better than I can.  Here's a ton of successful users telling their stories.

But I suspect it's what I said above: they come because they have heard something (or the beginnings of something) that they've never been taught, yet know to be true: that the orgasm-focused sexuality espoused by porn and masturbation is not living up to its promises, and is actually making them unhappy.  Now, NoFap is hardly the first to suggest this, but it is, for many of our users, the first group suggesting it that they could hear.

When the Church or Chris West or even Mary Eberstadt writes about sex, a reddit secularist first hears revelation -- which he rejects -- and second hears revelation's prejudice against modern sexuality -- which he does not share and which he deeply, deeply mistrusts. The modern young secularist's encounter with a West or a Jalsevac is colored by a suspicion that the whole discussion is animated by an ulterior motive -- evangelization, with a healthy dollop of misogyny and sex-negativity.  It's not fair, but since when are human beings fair?

But NoFap is made up mostly (~62%) of reddit atheist/agnostics whose motivations -- whatever they may be -- undoubtedly have nothing to do with religion.  When these people speak, other redditors are a lot more likely to listen -- to watch the Your Brain on Porn TEDx talk, or sign up for a week-long "trial mode" challenge.  And that's exactly what they have done, by the tens of thousands.

5) What is it like being the only Catholic moderator? What do you think that you bring to the forum that others might not be able to?

Being the only Catholic moderator is pretty much like being any other moderator.  Since moderators don't shape conversation or much policy, the only time religion comes up in modmail is when an atheist and a Christian/Muslim have started a public brawl on a thread and need to be separated.  The rest of our mod work is pretty dull: answering user questions, assigning badges, blocking porn, and so forth.

Being a rare Catholic user, on the other hand, can be very interesting.  If NoFap is all about asking the right questions, as I suggested above, then my faith positions me to ask particularly good questions.  I don't see it as my job to challenge the entire sexual outlooks of everyone on the far side of the Tiber, but a passing familiarity with the personalist approach to Catholic sexual ethics has served me very well on many occasions in attempting to articulate (for example) why women are so uncomfortable with their boyfriends' porn habits.  Often the women themselves don't have the vocabulary... but John Paul II (or, as I call him to avoid ad hominems, "philosopher Karol Wojtyla") does.

Catholicism has also given me a great gift that has been denied to many of my atheist NoFap brothers:  I know I can't resist this temptation all on my own.  I am not in control of it.  Without help from some factor outside my control -- I recognize it as grace, others may call it good luck -- I will fail.  And, of course, I have failed, plenty of times, despite making what I considered my best efforts.  Grace does not always come immediately when asked for.  Neither does good luck.  Except for a few very fortunate people, most of us are going to fail, frequently, for quite a while before we make any progress.  Newbies sometimes consider this terribly cynical and unhelpful of me.  Old hands, however, who are falling into despair as their early dreams of iron willpower and self-conquest crumble, sometimes find it gives them the hope to carry on.  One of the great cruelties of secular humanism is its suggestion that a person can shape himself into anything he wants simply by putting his mind to it.  NoFap is a great help for the 99% of the process that is simply putting your mind to it, but sometimes it misses that last 1% that has to come from somewhere else.  

Although I write at greater length about all kinds of other things at NoFap, reminding people of that 1% is the part of my work that stems most directly from my Catholicism, and it's also the work I'm proudest of doing, because it gives people who are falling into despair the same hope that NoFap gave me 20 months ago, when I was the one falling into despair.

FREE pro-life and pro-family news.

Stay up-to-date on the issues you care about the most. Sign up today!

Select Your Edition:

You can make a difference!

Can you donate today?


Share this article