NOTE: I see that this post has become quite popular among the wider community, which is not the audience for which it was intended. If you are unfamiliar with asexuality or want to know more about asexuality and masturbation, please check the FAQ. I’ve answered several more questions about masturbation there.
I briefly mentioned masturbation in my previous post, but I wanted to talk a little bit more about it, because it’s a pretty hot topic.
I HATE that when I tell people I’m asexual, one of the very first things they ask me is whether I masturbate. Because first of all, hello, that’s kind of rude, isn’t it? It might be okay if you and I have been friends for a while, and you ask discreetly. But most of the time I’ve known these people for all of a few weeks, if that, and they ask right out in public. If I were doing visibility work, I’m sure I’d get asked all the time by reporters and talk show hosts. And I do think it’s a good question to ask, in order to educate people, which is why I’m talking about it here, but really? I just don’t want to show that much of myself to the public. It’s a very private thing, for me. It’s the one thing I would really rather stay in the closet about, especially because answering that question honestly would lead to a whole host of challenges to prove myself to other people.
Which leads me to my second–and most important–point: it doesn’t matter.
Whether I masturbate or not has no bearing whatsoever on my asexuality. It is not a contradiction, as most ignorant sexual people perceive it to be. Because like I said in the previous post, I learned to masturbate as a child, before I even had any concept of what sexuality was. I don’t connect it with other people. I don’t have any desire to do so. It is something to be done alone, not shared with anyone else. That’s not to say I think it should be something shameful, that everyone should do alone. If other people enjoy mutual masturbation, then hey, whatever floats your boat, man. But for me? No thanks.
I think one of the main problems that sexuals have with understanding how asexuals can masturbate and still call themselves asexual is, they think about masturbation so much in terms of frustrated desire that they don’t realize that for other people, it’s not. Several weeks ago, I watched an internet argument develop between a fellow asexual and a skeptical sexual about masturbation. The incredulous sexual, when informed that people who masturbate can still be asexual, said, “Then what are they masturbating to?”
Okay, stop right there. What? Since when do we all have to fantasize in order to masturbate? I’ve never done it–in fact I’ve tried to, and it doesn’t work for me. Not all of us keep a mental image in mind while we’re doing it, and even for those of us who do, would that indicate an actual desire to do whatever-it-is in real life? No, not necessarily. A mental image can just be a mental image. For many asexuals, it may even be an unpleasant mental image. But maybe it gets the job done, I wouldn’t know. I imagine it’s a little like reading a book about a murderer. If I do that, would it mean that I want to become a murderer myself? It could, sure. But in the case of the common reader, it wouldn’t (or so I would certainly hope).
But on to my third point: why do I have to prove myself to you?
Most people, you know, I really don’t care whether they believe I’m asexual or not. Most of them, I’m not even out to. But with the people I AM out to, it gets tiring, having to deal with constant challenges to my sexual identity. It’s not even really the challenges that get tiring, it’s the ignorance. It’s the sheer unwillingness to learn something new, and accept something which may be just a little bit outside the scope of their world view. That’s an attitude that bugs me in any aspect of life, really. If I’m ignorant about something (and there are a lot of areas where I am), then I want to learn about it, even if it challenges my ideas about the world. But they don’t want to learn, and they don’t want to actually listen to me. They just want to prove me wrong.
Why would I open myself to that hostility? Why would I waste my time?
I do tell people I’m asexual, because sometimes I do reach people. And even if I only enlightened one other person in my entire life, that would make it worth it. I’m talking about this here so that maybe I will reach a willing audience. But in real life? I will not brush this particular subject, and I have no qualms about lying about it, if I have to. It’s none of their business. And I hate that I have to prove myself to other people, but I know from personal experience that sometimes that’s exactly what I have to do. This is one challenge that I might be willing to take on after knowing someone for a long time, but after just having met them? Until they’ve reached a certain level of acceptance of asexuality, it would be pointless anyway. I don’t want to overwhelm them with seemingly contradictory information, and I don’t want to subject myself to the inevitable frustration that comes with dealing with people who are trying to prove me wrong.
EDIT FROM THE FUTURE: You will find further discussion of asexuality and masturbation here.