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A lot of people think that having had sex is a disqualifier, and a lot of people use someone’s sexual history as a “gotcha”, that is, as clear, incontrovertible evidence that someone isn’t really asexual.
That you’ve had sex means nothing, as far as asexuality is concerned.
Sex is an activity. It’s something you do. A person’s sexual orientation is not tied to that person’s actions. If that were the case, it would mean that there couldn’t be virgins who know that they’re straight or gay, and it would mean that a significant percentage of the population would have to identity as bisexual, after that drunken night in college or that high school sleepover experiment. That would just be silly. Sexual orientations are a description of a person’s pattern of sexual attractions, not their pattern of sexual actions. If you’re not attracted to someone before and you’re still not attracted to someone after, whatever you did in the middle doesn’t change the fact that you’re still not attracted to them. So how could that alter your orientation?
As with masturbation, some people carve out a limited number of acceptable reasons for an asexual person to have sex. Baby-making and partner-pleasing generally top that list. Other acceptable reasons include: Because you’re curious. Because you like how it feels. Because a human is warmer than a sex toy. Because you’re bored. Because if you get your card stamped enough times you can earn a free sandwich. Because it relieves stress. Because it takes care of your libido. Because it supposedly burns enough calories to make that second donut you had this morning guilt-free. Because you want to. Because that thing you just read made your privates all tingly. Because why not?
And again, those are not the only acceptable reasons for an asexual to have sex, and none of those reasons mean someone isn’t asexual.
Even the type of sex or sexual activities you’ve done are irrelevant, from fully-clothed petting to a rimjob, from vanilla missionary piv to a two dozen person BDSM orgy, from once in your life to three times daily. There isn’t some line where you suddenly cross from being asexual to not.
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This is one of the more common doubts. It’s been written about extensively, including elsewhere on this site. So let me get right to the point: Masturbating does not somehow disqualify you from being ace. It’s that simple.
So why does this remain such a pervasive doubt? Why do so many people think doing it means they can’t be asexual? A large part of it is the cultural perception that masturbation is some sort of “substitute sex”, that it’s only done as a replacement for all the sex you can’t get with someone else. This same attitude underlies the thinking that people who masturbate are losers who can’t get any, and that someone is a sexual failure if they discover that their partner masturbates. In that line of thinking, someone who masturbates obviously wants sex with someone.
Well, that thinking is complete nonsense. Masturbation is not substitute sex, it’s not always a replacement for “the Real Thing”. It can, and does, exist on its own.
Some people think that masturbation means someone isn’t asexual because masturbation is a sexual activity, involving sexual organs. Yeah, and? What does that have to do anything? The word “asexual” describes a sexual orientation, it does not mean someone is completely free of all sexual characteristics and can never, under any circumstances, take part in any activity that is sexual in nature. Under that type of interpretation, they would also have to believe that the word “homosexual” refers to someone who consistently takes part in exactly the same type of sexual activity every time they do something or that heterosexual people are infinitely varied because they must always do something different. Clearly, that’s a ridiculous assertion.
There is also a common belief that the reason someone masturbates may indicate whether or not someone is asexual. Some people seem to think that the only acceptable reasons are to “handle a pesky libido” or to “clear out the pipes”. Certainly, those are acceptable reasons for an asexual person to masturbate. Here are a few others: Because it relieves stress. Because it relieves period cramps. Because you’re bored. Because you need to provide a sperm donation for your best friend’s IVF treatment. Because if you don’t, you’ll have to clean the sheets. Because you’re curious. Because you like orgasms. Because you’re taking part in a masturbate-a-thon for charity. Because your partner likes to watch. Because that thing you just read made your privates all tingly. Because why not? Because.
There are countless other becauses, countless other acceptable reasons for an asexual person to masturbate. Just about the only because that might cause a legitimate doubt about your asexuality is “I masturbate because I’m sexually attracted to someone”. But even that one can’t rule out demisexuality or gray-asexuality. And it might not even rule out asexuality, as some of the other doubts will explore.
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Many people who are asexual will have doubts about whether or not they’re actually asexual at some point in time. For some, it’s before they’ve embraced asexuality and the doubts stand in the way of recognizing that they’re ace, while for others, the doubts emerge after they’ve discovered that they’re ace and the doubts make them wonder if they’re really asexual after all.
Doubts are common. It’s okay to doubt. The doubts may never go away.
The doubts may usher in a new period of self discovery, or the doubts may simply be a temporary nuisance, the result of misinformation.
This series explores some common doubts that I’ve heard ace people express about their asexuality. Sometimes I will ask questions. Sometimes I will provide information. This is meant to be a guidepost on your journey, a tool to help you find your way, but it is not meant to provide all the answers. It is ultimately up to you to resolve these doubts on your own, as you are the only person who truly knows how you feel.
And it’s okay if you change how you see yourself or change how you identify after digging into a doubt. You weren’t wrong before, you weren’t faking it or lying to people. You just had an incomplete picture of who you are, and now that you know more, you are able to understand and present yourself in a more accurate way.
In general, my advice for any doubt is to take a step back and look at things from a somewhat outside perspective. How do you compare to other people, the way they act, the things they say? Are you like them, or is there a fundamental difference in your experience?
An Exploration of Doubts