One of the most common misconceptions about people who identify as asexual — meaning that they don’t feel erotic attraction towards others — is that they never think about sex at all. Or fantasize. Or masturbate. But while that’s an easy way to define a group of people who admit they don’t really go for all that sex stuff we’re always talking about, a new study reveals that asexuals (both men and women) fantasize and get busy with themselves, just like everyone else.
Of course, it’s impossible (and irresponsible) to paint all asexuals with the same brush — sexuality is a strange and beautiful spectrum — but the study, which looked at the masturbatory habits and sexual fantasies of asexuals vs. sexuals (the term used for those people who do go for all that sex stuff we’re always talking about), found that a large number of people who identify as asexual actually have a lot in common with the rest of us.
In fact, half of the women and three quarters of the men surveyed endorsed masturbating and sexual fantasies. They’re just doing it a little differently.
“I don’t put myself into my fantasies,” one asexual woman in the study explained to the researchers. “That is thoroughly unappealing to me. Instead, I imagine other people in sexual situations, and focus on their thoughts and feelings for a sort of vicarious arousal. I don’t want to do anything sexual with any of the people I imagine, and by themselves, they don’t turn me on.” In her experience, fantasizing is imagining getting turned on, not imagining to get turned on.
This isn’t an uncommon sentiment. According to The Science Of Us, which published a selection of responses subjects gave researchers, those asexuals who do engage in sexual fantasies often involve people other than themselves (sometimes fictional) and say they’re happy fantasizing about others enjoying their sexuality:
I enjoy watching other people enjoy their sexuality. I like the role of being strictly a voyeur but I love being the cause of them enjoying their sexuality. Although I am very excited by these situations I wouldn’t call it sexual excitement. Although my body is clearly aroused by it, I have no desire to attend to that arousal. I very much enjoy being the one who does not physically engage in sexual behavior while being the one who provokes it in others. I like to see my romantic partner endure unpleasant situations that I’ve created because I feel that his willingness to sacrifice his comfort is an expression of his devotion to me. I like to see a partner insensible with excitement or pleasure because of my interaction with them. This makes me feel very emotionally enticed and engaged but sexually I feel disengaged and disinterested even though my body is aroused (female, 35 years old)
This is the beginning of some very interesting research. Now that we know that those who identify as asexual do, in fact, fantasize or enjoy engaging in sexual activities with themselves, we can look at how sexual and asexual groups differ and what purposes sexual fantasies serve for those who have no interest (or don’t feel they can have an interest) in engaging in all that sex stuff we’re always talking about.