Masturbating at work: why fapping is the new smoke break.

Because you can always grab a coffee or a cigarette instead, masturbation has remained an outre form of getting that added boost you need to power through your work day.

Hard at work or hardly working? The answer may be both.

While workplace etiquette might discourage squeezing one out during your lunch break, a recent Time Out New York survey found that a large number of male readers (39%) reported masturbating at the office. An earlier poll from Glamour in 2012 found that 31% of workers regularly adjourned to the restroom for a little Onanistic release.

Although it might seem taboo, there’s evidence that masturbation is actually good for workers — and their employers. Critics suggest that engaging in self-gratification decreases productivity, but the exact opposite is true. Not only have regular breaks been shown to create a more healthy workflow, but masturbation has particular physiological benefits that boost output and creativity, whether that’s at the office (in the privacy of the single-occupancy bathroom, please) or telecommuting from home.

Sarah Jessica Parker knows how to spend a night in. Image: Sex and the City/HBO.

This, of course, flies in the face of conventional wisdom about the relationship between bashing the bishop and efficiency — an idea long promoted by pop culture. In “Malcolm Babysits” — a classic first-season episode of Malcolm in the Middle — Hal (Bryan Cranston) and Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) can’t have sex for a week, due to the fact that Lois is on antibiotics. Powered by their pent-up desires, the two whip their house (which is currently being fumigated) into shape, fixing it up with repressed gusto.

Stephen Chbosky's shy protagonist, Charlie, even touches on this myth in the beloved young adult novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In one passage, Charlie reflects: “I thought that in those movies and television shows when they talk about having a coffee break that they should have a masturbation break. But then again, I think this would decrease productivity.”


In the Internet age, that myth has gone viral, with entire online communities built upon the nebulous idea that masturbation is nothing but an unhealthy distraction. Reddit’s anti-masturbation community (r/NoFap, which boasts over 160,000 followers) instead advocates total abstention from getting yourself off — a practice they call “rebooting.” One posterclaims that “fapping is the enemy of progress,” as well as “confidence, productivity, happiness, charm, energy, contentness [sic], pride, [and] drive.”

In a 30 Day Challenge, successful lifehacking guru Tim Ferris claimed that by quitting masturbation for a month, you’ll increase “cognitive endurance” and “get 50-100% more done.” Ferris’ program was called NOBNOM, which stands for “No Booze, No Masturbating.”

Meg Ryan's orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally is iconic. Image: Columbia Pictures.

Telling people that they will be productive superhumans if they channel their sexual energy into other activities is a great sales pitch if you’re trying to push copies of your self-help paperback. The problem is, however, that it isn’t true. As New York Magazine’s Jesse Singal wrote after Ferris’ challenge went viral back in 2014, the fact is “there’s simply no hard scientific evidence to back up” the Internet’s anti-fapping crusade.

“There is significant evidence debunking the most common sex and productivity notion: that sex before playing sports inhibits performance,” Singal writes. “Since arguments about masturbation are often couched in similar terms — that it drains away a certain edge or drive, leading to apathy — there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of them.”


This myth dates back to ancient Greece, when the Greek sophist writer Philostratus advised Athenian Olympians to forgo physical pleasure if they hoped to achieve athletic excellence. “Those who come to the gymnasium straight after sex are exposed by a greater number of indicators when they train, for their strength is diminished and they are short of breath and lack daring in their attacks, and they fade in color in response to exertion, and they can be detected by signs of that sort,” Philostratus wrote in his 3rd century treatise on sports,Gymnasticus.

Eighteen centuries later, Philostratus’ creed remains extremely popular with athletes — Many teams during the most recent World Cup games made no-sex vows. But as Slate’s Mason Currey explains, numerous writers (including John Cheever and Honore de Balzac) have advised the opposite: When you’re at your desk all day, there’s nothing better for you than a little carnal interlude.

In writing Look Homeward, Angel, author Thomas Wolfe found that sexual stimulation, in the form of “fondling his genitals,” helped to arouse his creative spirit. “[T]he sensuous elements in every domain of life became more immediate, real, and beautiful,” Wolfe wrote to an editor.

Click through the gallery below for some on-screen orgasms. Post continues after gallery. 

Although Gustave Flaubert (best known for writing Madame Bovary) once swore off masturbation, he reneged on the vow during a horrific case of writer’s block while penning 1874’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony. “There are moments when my head bursts with the bloody pains I’m taking over this,” Flaubert later wrote. “Out of sheer frustration I jerked off yesterday, feeling the same bleakness that drove me to masturbate at school, when I sat in detention.”

Masturbation has been shown not only to be good for your creativity but also increases your natural drive to get things done. “ like meditation,” Kit Maloney, founder of the sex toy company O’actually, once told Bustle. “It allows the space for the monkey brain to quiet and that means you'll be more focused and effective with your to-do list afterward.” Maloney claims that masturbating before a pitch meeting once helped her ace the presentation.

In a recent Vice survey, a number of readers agreed that masturbation helped them focus at work — or at least “calm down and relieve stress.” But the reason may be both about the particular benefits of lessening distractions and also what taking a moment to “excuse yourself” signifies: getting an actual break.


Currently, the Fair Labor Standards Act has no federal regulations in place mandating regular breaks for employees, and less than half of U.S. states even require employers to give workers mealtime. But those that do allow downtime for employees likely see benefits, according to a 2008 study from the University of Illinois. Plowing right through might seem like the best way to finish a task, but individual performance and ability to focus decreases without intermittent rest periods.

Watch our staff confess their last sex dream below. Post continues after gallery.

This is because our brains are powerful organs that require a lot of energy to run and expend even more energy to operate properly. “Maintaining unbroken focus or navigating demanding intellectual territory for several hours really does burn enough energy to leave one feeling drained,” argues Ferris Jabr in Scientific American.

In 2014, DeskTime — which bills itself as a “real-time time tracking service that analyzes productivity” — even approximated exactly how often workers should be taking breaks, whether for masturbation or other activities. Its data recommends that for every 52 minutes spent on the job, workers should be allowed to have 17 minutes off the clock, in order to maximize their productivity.

Because you can always grab a coffee or a cigarette instead, masturbation has remained anoutre form of getting that added boost you need to power through your work day. However, there are signs that the stigma against fapping at the office might be slipping. This year, the company Hot Octopuss debuted “masturbation booths” across New York City to give men a public place to “relieve stress.” (These stations were actually converted phone booths.) Instead of reacting with disgust, women wanted to know where their masturbatoriums were.Why should men have all the fun?

You might be tempted to conclude that masturbation is the new smoke break, but the numbers tell a different story. It has been for a long time.

This story by Nico Lang originally appeared on, a feminist news+culture website.

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