“I was mainly worried about whether it would hurt,” says Sam, a 25-year-old accountant from Edinburgh. He’s referring to the padlocked plastic and silicone cage he’s worn around his penis 14 hours a day for the past two months under his suit pants — a choice that’s prevented him from eating and drinking at work, lest he have to use the bathroom.
Sam, a pseudonym, is a self-described porn addict, who, at the height of his addiction, would “masturbate at least four times a day, sometimes more.” It wasn’t just restricted to his place either. He’d frequently jerk off at friends’ houses, work and coffee shops. He once even masturbated behind a bush in a public park. His lowest point came when his girlfriend of just over a year broke up with him. “She felt disconnected from me in our relationship, and in our sex life, too,” he explains, adding that he never told her about his compulsive need to masturbate. “I think she got the feeling that I wasn’t into her — it’s only a matter of time before the ‘I’m tired’ excuse stops working, or when you’re just not able to do anything when you’re actually having sex.”
Overall, the relationship wasn’t great. “We argued a lot,” Sam says. “Sometimes it was about the lack of effort I was putting into our relationship; other times it was about the future — things like moving in together. I wasn’t making an effort to so because my life felt so directionless.” After the breakup, Sam felt that if he was going to get his life back on track, he had to address his issues with masturbation.
Sam’s story isn’t atypical. Millennial men like him — men who grew up in the age of easy-to-access internet porn — often believe that they’re “addicted” to pornography and masturbation, even though there’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest that such addiction isn’t scientifically valid. Still, there are hundreds of thousands of “NoFappers” online who are attempting to either dramatically restrict their masturbation habits or stop them completely because they believe it’s the very thing that’s ruining their relationships (and lives).
“If you just keep on adding up days without doing it, one more day on another, while holding back any such urges to porn or anything, you’ll abstain from it eventually,” a typical message reads. To keep themselves occupied in the meantime, members of the NoFap subreddit, as well as hundreds of YouTube videos, suggest adopting a cardio-intensive workout that leads to less testosterone build-up and using tracking apps and calendars to set weekly abstinence goals.
Sam’s strategy: “I bought software that blocked all my social media pages and websites that had porn on them. It was pretty extreme. By the time I filtered every site, the only places I had access to were BBC News and Wikipedia.” Unfortunately, though, Sam found that he’d accrued enough pornographic imagery in his head for these blocks to become ineffective. As such, on some weeks, he was masturbating just as much as when he had access to porn. “I’d see someone [I was attracted to] on the street or in a magazine, and I’d fantasize about them all day until I had to masturbate,” he says.
Desperate to curtail his addiction — and without enough money to go to a therapist — Sam turned to the most extreme method of prevention he could think of: a jet black penis cage, which he purchased via Amazon Prime (naturally).
For the most part, chastity cages are associated with BDSM. In particular, male submissives say chastity cages are an expression of loyalty to their dominant partners. (They’ll wear them in their domme’s honor for weeks and months at a time.) For instance, 23-year-old Alan (another pseudonym), a barista, explains, “I wear [a chastity cage] as a reminder that it belongs to my domme. She’s the one who is in control and can decide when it gets unlocked. I want her to have complete pleasure over me.” Goddess Mia, a domme in New York City, adds, “[A large number of her male clients] want to be controlled by me, especially [me having] the right to tell them when they’re allowed to jerk off.”
Now, though, a growing number of NoFappers are turning to chastity cages, too — in their case, to curb their masturbation habits. Users on the official NoFap website recommend others place the key “somewhere accessible, or to a partner if you have one.” Meanwhile, over at r/nofap, there’s a listing of affordable chastity belts and cages. “Wear a cock cage and put the key in a cup,” redditor SpecOpsAlpha advised last year. “Fill the cup half way [with water], put the key on top, then fill to the top and freeze. The key being buried inside a block of ice means you have a time window until you can free yourself.”
Admittedly, it’s unclear how many dudes are doing this. For his part, Sam hasn’t told anyone about his cage, not even his closest friends. The key to it is stored in an envelope in his mailbox. At 8 p.m. every night, an alarm on his phone tells him he can unlock it for 90 minutes to bathe, urinate and clean the cage. “By the time it’s done,” Sam says, “I’m too tired to masturbate, or it’s too late anyway.”
“Chastity cages aren’t designed for a specific thing — they can be used for whatever you want,” explains Alex, the 30-year-old owner of Chastity Cages Co, a U.K.-based company that’s the internet’s biggest distributor of such cages. Their site receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each week, a stat that, Alex tells me, “shows how big chastity is becoming around the world, not just for reasons of enhanced sexual pleasure, but also showing how people are rethinking what sexual pleasure actually is.”
He adds, “Most of our customers are between 24 and 35, and they’re mostly male. So it’s not the case that their girlfriends or wives are buying it for their pleasure. It’s also because men are interested in chastity and how it can help their relationships, sexual or not. Chastity is such a wide area [of sex] that men haven’t been able to think about openly, so this might show that [there’s] a change in how men want to have sex. It could also show how relationships are changing too, how people want to explore more.”
Since putting his chastity cage a couple of months ago, Sam says it’s had a positive effect on his life. He’s only masturbated once — during the early days, when he was getting used to it. Since then, the cage has helped him stay focused throughout the work day and improved his routines. “I’m going to the gym more often,” he laughs. “And I’m spending my time doing other things — cooking, reading, learning how to speak Spanish.” While he doesn’t think a chastity cage is the solution for everyone, he says it’s provided the breakthrough he needed.
“It’s useful if you’re somebody who watches porn all the time, and someone who can’t control themselves,” he vows. “If you’re at that level of extreme, like I was, then you probably need something to physically force you to reset your life.”