Do Asexuals Have Sexual Fantasies, and Do They Masturbate?

Some do, some don’t, and it matters in the face they present to the world.

Posted Feb 19, 2017

AVEN
Source: AVEN

In my last post, an asexual primer, I indicated that asexual individuals are not all of one kind, and I gave examples. Some asexuals have slight sexual interests, others have slight romantic interests, and some have neither. I also made a familiar point that just as sexual and romantic attractions are on continuums, from exclusively one sex to exclusively the other sex, so too are the degrees of sexual and romantic attractions, from none to some high level of intensity. Not all asexuals share the same commonalities.

This major point has been made by asexual researchers Yule, Brotto, and Gorzalka. They propose that there are “subtypes” of asexual individuals. Some have no sex drive, while others can be sexually aroused, but that arousal may not necessarily be directed at other people, but focused on the self or fictional characters. Or asexuals may feel a profound or slight disconnect between the self and the object of arousal, viewing themselves as being separate from the sexual acts they are fantasizing about.

Yule et al. explored two hallmarks of sexual people: self-stimulation (aka masturbation) and sexual fantasies. They conducted an online survey of individuals of all sexualities, 351 of whom were classified as asexuals based on the Asexuality Identification Scale. Because the vast majority (83 percent) were women, I have less trust in their results for men. Their major findings:

Masturbation

On average, asexual women masturbate less frequently than do sexual women; the higher women score on the asexual scale, the less likely they are to masturbate.
Asexual men masturbate “at least monthly” at the same rate as sexual men (a more fine-tuned measure of masturbation frequency might tell us otherwise). Asexual women and men who masturbate did so because they feel they “had to,” not because it is particularly sexually pleasurable or fun. They might also be motivated to masturbate to relieve tension or because of procrastination, boredom, or sleeplessness.

For many asexuals, the masturbatory procedure takes place without a sexual or romantic fantasy. The focus is on physical sensations, rather than erotic images. That is, their masturbations are more motivated by physical needs (“akin to an itch needing to be scratched”) than by innate sexual desire or arousal.

Sexual Fantasy

The majority of asexual women (65 percent) and men (80 percent) have sexual fantasies. However, this is a significantly lower proportion than sexuals. Asexuals’ fantasies are less exciting to them than those of sexuals are to them. Asexuals as a group are more likely than sexuals to endorse the response: “My fantasies do not involve other people.” In terms of fantasy content, asexuals are less likely than sexuals to have sex scenes such as group sex, public sex, an affair, and celebrity sex, and more likely to have scenes in which they are not present, to have a self-focus, and to have fictional human characters.

There are other fantasies among asexual women that they share with sexual women, including scenes with little focus on genital contact (BDSM, sexual humiliation, fetishes) and scenes that don’t involve others (masturbation, voyeurism, use of sex toys). If an asexual woman is in a relationship, she is less likely than a paired sexual woman to fantasize about extramarital sex.

Continuum

These data support the view that asexuality exists on a continuum, as an umbrella term. Asexuality exists at one end with those who have zero sex drive, zero sex attractions, zero romantic attractions, zero masturbations, and zero sexual fantasies. From these zilch points, we can go in many directions to get slight variations. For example, asexuality includes individuals who are not attracted to other people, but continue to experience sexual fantasies and/or sexual activities, such as masturbation. But if any one domain (such as sex drive or attraction) becomes too large, then asexuality ends. What that point is, I don’t know, and maybe it doesn’t really matter. If an individual identifies as asexual, then we should respect that and the communities they create.

For researchers, I merely say: clearly define who you are including in your asexual sample. Or, as Yule et al. suggest: “Clearly define what is meant by terms such as ‘asexual,’ and be thorough in the questions that are posed to identify participants as such for research purposes.”

Yule et al. conclude, “Self-identified asexuality might comprise a highly heterogeneous group. There are likely a large number of variations in how (lack of) sexual attraction is experienced that might lead a person to identify as asexual.” My only change would be to eliminate the modifier “might” and insert “does.”

References

Yule, M. A., Brotto, L. A., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2017). Sexual fantasy and masturbation among asexual individuals: An in-depth exploration. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 311–328. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0870-8