Do It Better

A Guide to Sex and Masturbation For Asexual People

| 10/12/2020

Asexuality is defined by the lack of sexual attraction or desire to others. Like basically everything else, it’s a spectrum. Some people (like me) are demisexual, which means that you only experience sexual attraction after you’ve formed a deep emotional bond. Others are grey asexual, which means experience pretty low levels of sexual attraction. And some people are just regular old asexual, meaning they don’t experience sexual attraction at all. 

Someone may not experience sexual attraction, but that doesn’t mean that they abstain from sex. 

Plenty of folks under the asexual umbrella choose to have sex, masturbate, or both! (And crucially, asexuality is not the same thing as being aromantic.) Some asexual people may want to feel close to their partners through sex. Others may want to masturbate in response to their general sexual desire or interest in experiencing sexual pleasure (as opposed to feeling arousal in response to a particular person). No matter your reason for having sex or masturbating, here are some basic things every asexual person should know. 

You Don’t Owe Anyone Sex

First things first: If you’re in a romantic relationship, that does not mean that you have to have sex with your romantic partner or partners. Navigating sexual boundaries can be tough for anyone, but it can be even more nerve-wracking between an asexual person and an allosexual person (someone who experiences sexual attraction). 

Romantic relationships and sexual relationships can happen together, but sometimes, they’re totally separate. That means you can be asexual and in a romantic relationship, and you might have sex, but you might not ever. That’s okay! 

It’s best to talk with your partners as early as possible about your sexual boundaries and what your asexuality means for you and your sex life. Work together to come up with a system that makes sense for everyone involved. And remember, partnered sex might be important to your partner, but that doesn’t mean that it’s your responsibility to fulfill that desire.

Some asexual folks may not feel interested in partnered sex, but still want to orgasm because of the physiological benefits.

If you’re in a relationship and you’ve recently figured out that you may be asexual, take some time to think through what that means for you. What types of things are you comfortable with? How might your boundaries need to be adjusted? How will you communicate any of the above with your partners? The way that we understand our sexuality changes throughout our lives, so it’s okay to learn something new about yourself, even if it’s later in life than you would have liked.

You Should Still Get Tested, Even If You Don’t Have Sex Often

If you aren’t having sex very often or you haven’t had sex with more than one partner, testing may not be on your mind. Testing for STIs is for everyone who is sexually active – regardless of how often you have sex or how many people you’ve had sex with. 

The most common symptom of an STI is actually no symptoms at all. There are many different types of STI tests you can request, but the most common urine tests will include screenings of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Most providers will test for HIV, too. 

If you have insurance, STI testing is typically free or available at a copay, and your primary care provider can order tests for you. If you don’t have insurance or a primary care doctor, you can get tested at your local health department, Planned Parenthood, or request a mail-in testing kit (like those offered by Nurx).  

It’s OK to Masturbate If You Want 

Some folks on the asexual spectrum masturbate and some don’t. Just like anyone else, your comfort with masturbation is going to depend on a whole host of factors: your comfort with your body and genitals, your desire to pursue pleasure, your personal sexual values, and your history with trauma, just to name a few. 

Many folks in the asexual community opt to only masturbate when using a toy, because they might experience genital avoidance or repulsion.

People masturbate for stress relief, for help sleeping, and because the release of orgasm can feel really good. Some asexual folks may not feel interested in partnered sex, but still want to orgasm because of the physiological benefits. So, if you want to masturbate, go for it! Your hands, shower head, and body-safe toys all make great options. 

And if you’re an asexual person who isn’t interested in masturbation, that’s fine, too. It doesn’t mean you’re broken or a prude; it’s just not something you’re into! 

Toy Materials Matter

Many folks in the asexual community opt to only masturbate when using a toy. That’s because some folks might experience genital avoidance or repulsion (a feeling of being disconnected from your genitals or generally not comfortable engaging with them). If you experience some level of genital avoidance or repulsion, using your hands to get off might give you goosebumps — in a bad way. Using toys can help give you the physical pleasure and sensations you’re looking for, skin-to-skin contact not required. 

It may be tempting to just buy the first and cheapest toy you find on Amazon, but I’d caution against it. The toy industry isn’t regulated, which means that there isn’t a standard for what is allowed to be sold. That means that some toys are made out of materials widely considered to be toxic or not body-safe. 

Rather than list off all of the things that aren’t safe for your body, here’s a simple list of what is safe: 100% silicone, ABS plastic, stainless steel, and borosilicate glass. All of the above are easy to clean and sanitize and aren’t going to chemically degrade in your nightstand. Plus, you can get body-safe toys at every price point! 

Invest in Lube

If you’re interested in partnered sex or masturbation, lube is absolutely essential. First, if you have a vagina and are planning on having sex even though you don’t experience physical arousal, lube can save you a lot of discomfort. Even if you do get wet relatively easily, it’s helpful to have a bottle of lube on-hand just in case things start to dry up. 

Plus, many asexual folks opt to explore anal play. It’s something that can be done solo or with a partner, and for people who experience genital aversion, it can provide pleasant physical stimulation without having to engage with your penis or vulva. Whether you’re playing with just the exterior of the anus or you’re planning on diving deeper, lube is necessary. The anus doesn’t self-lubricate and the mucous membranes in the anus are extremely thin, which makes them prone to tearing without the addition of lube. 

If you’re not using any toys, then a silicone or water-based lubricant will work. If you are using toys, I recommend sticking with a water-based lubricant because silicone lubes will harm your silicone toys. And if you are engaging in partnered sex and using barrier methods, remember that you can’t use oil-based lubricants with latex condoms, because the condom will break. 

Remember, having sex or masturbating doesn’t invalidate your asexuality. You might not experience sexual attraction to other people but still want to have sex or masturbate. Your reasons for pursuing sex and sexual pleasure are your own, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Swell in your inbox,
every week

2