Researchers have trouble fully defining asexuality. Mostly because this label encompasses anybody who feels they simply don't experience sexual attraction. One question that often comes up when discussing asexuality is whether or not asexual people masturbate, or have sexual fantasies.
Researchers at University of British Columbia conducted a survey of 1,090 people to try and find an answer to these questions. Participants were given a survey designed to "capture asexuality" and of the 1,090 surveyed participants, 351 were identified as asexual.
These findings alone are cause many experts to question if asexual is becoming too broad of a label, and if we need to fine-tune this definition a little more. (But that's a subject for a different article.)
It turns out about 20 percent for asexual men and 35 percent of asexual women don't have sexual fantasies at all.
So what about the rest? When it comes to fantasy and masturbation, asexual people aren't very different from "sexual" people in terms of frequency. What is different is how they fantasize.
Most asexual people fantasize about sexual encounters they are not a part of, unlike sexual people who tend to fantasize about themselves having sexual experiences.
The study shares some specific examples:
"I do have sexual fantasies but most of the time they do not involve me or any real person. I sexually fantasize about fictional male couples and their romantic and sexual relationships and events. They are all monogamous relationships where they are faithful to one another (no affairs). With fictional male couples, my sexual fantasies can involve many and varying sexual preferences and fetishes." (Female, 19 years old)
"I don’t put myself into my fantasies. 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. I think it’s because I’m not capable of feeling sexual attraction or lust, so I mentally conjure up people who are and empathize with them (though my ideas of how they experience lust are, since I’m asexual, awfully vague in some ways and probably way off base in others)." (Female, 32 years old)
"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)
But like with everything involving sex, to each his (or her) own.
Human sexuality is infinitely complex and nuanced. Having sexual fantasies where you are a third-party spectator doesn't make you asexual, just as having sexual fantasies you a participating in doesn't make you sexual.
H/t: New York magazine