Exploring The Purported Link Between Ejaculation and Prostate Cancer

“Ejaculation prevents prostate cancer!”

So claims the breathlessly excited article that pops up in your news feed.  The article talks glowingly about a study that found that the more someone ejaculates, the less likely they are to get prostate cancer.  And OBVIOUSLY, the inverse is true, that the less someone ejaculates, the more their prostate rebels against them.  “So get to it!”, the article implies, “Start fighting that cancer today!”

That’s the story everyone reads, anyway.

I have seen a number of aces use this as their primary reason for masturbating.  In a lot of these cases, the rationale is “I have heard that ejaculation helps prevent prostate cancer, so I masturbate because I have to, not because I want to.”  I wanted to explore these studies, see what they’re really saying, and see if there really is a good reason for aces to masturbate in order to prevent prostate cancer.

And what I found…?  Well, there’s going to be a lot of numbers and sciencey talk in the post ahead, so if you just want the quick TL;DR, here it is:

If you masturbate solely on the basis that you’ve heard it prevents prostate cancer, you probably shouldn’t waste your time.  The studies don’t actually say that it does, the results are a bit mixed, there are a number of significant concerns about the makeup of the study, and even if all of the findings are accurate and true, the true benefit is fairly minimal.  I think allowing this myth to stand unchallenged is doing harm to many aces who frequently subject themselves to something they do not inherently want to do based on its advice.

First, a few disclaimers…

I am not a doctor. I have no urology training.  For this post, I read the two main papers on the subject, but did not do an exhaustive search of the literature for all the papers on the topic.  I freely admit to the possibility that my conclusions here are completely off-base, and will happily correct what I’ve said, should more concrete evidence come to light.

Also, I personally quite like to masturbate.  This should in no way be taken as saying that aces shouldn’t masturbate at all.  All I want to say here is that the purported reduction in risk of prostate cancer that is supposedly linked to more frequent ejaculations should not be a reason that someone masturbates, particularly if they would not want to masturbate otherwise.

About Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer, as its name implies, is cancer of the prostate.  The prostate is a small organ that typically comes as a package deal with a penis and testicles.  That means that only about half of the population has a prostate.  The other half does not have one, and therefore cannot get prostate cancer. (A similar organ, called the Skene’s Gland is what comes as part of the vagina/clitoris package deal.  Skene’s Gland cancer is apparently very rare, much rarer than prostate cancer.)  It sits just below the bladder, surrounding the urethra before it heads towards the penis.  The ejaculatory ducts coming from the testicles intersect the urethra within the prostate.  The prostate’s main purpose is to supply prostate fluid during ejaculation.  Prostate fluid helps sperm get around and is a clear to milky white fluid that makes up about 30% of the volume of semen.  The prostate is a critical part of the process of ejaculation, hence the interest in a possible link between prostate cancer and ejaculation.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 9 people with a prostate will eventually be diagnosed with prostate cancer.  (Note that this says diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Some people who get prostate cancer have no symptoms and will die of other causes without ever being diagnosed.)  The majority of those cases are in people over 65 years old.  However, only about 1 in 41 will die from prostate cancer.  [1]

To look at it a different way, if you have a room with 1000 prostate-owning people in it, 111 of them will be diagnosed with prostate cancer within their lifetimes, but 889 will not.  [Figure 1]  24 of them will die of prostate cancer, while 976 will not.  [Figure 2]  And if you combine those two, it means that 87 of the 111 people who are diagnosed with prostate cancer will die of some other cause. [Figure 3]  So even if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, there is an almost 80% chance that something else will be what kills you.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Prostate cancer is one of the most survivable cancers.  It has a five year relative survivability rate of 99%. [2] Relative survival is a slightly complicated measure that indicates how likely someone with a disease will survive for a period of time (typically 5 years) compared to the number of similar people who don’t have that disease.  A lower number is worse because it means a person is less likely to survive.  It’s not really saying that someone with prostate cancer has a 99% chance of surviving for five years, because there’s always a chance they’ll die from something else during that time, like heart disease, a car accident, or hippopotamus attack at the local zoo.  It’s saying that if a comparable “healthy” population has 100 people who don’t have heart attacks and survive trips to the zoo, etc. for five years, that you would expect 99 people who have prostate cancer to also be alive at the end of that, even after accounting for all the heart/hippo attacks that killed people who had prostate cancer, too.  For comparison, breast cancer has a 90% five year relative survival rate, and lung cancer has an 18% rate. [3]  The 10 year rate for prostate cancer is 98% and the 15 year rate is 96%.  Because prostate cancer’s survivability is so high, and because prostate cancer is typically found in people older than 65, the majority of people who are diagnosed with prostate cancer die of something else first.

Furthermore, the National Cancer Institute has a breakdown of five year survivability, based on the stage of the prostate cancer.  The stage is basically a measure of how bad the cancer is or how much it has spread.  The types they report are “localized”, “regional”, or “distant”.  Localized means that the cancer remains within only the prostate.  Regional means that the cancer has spread to parts of the body right near the prostate, such as the seminal vesicles.  Distant means that the cancer has spread well beyond the immediate neighborhood of the prostate.  79% of prostate cancer cases are localized, 12% are regional, 5% are distant, and 4% are of unknown severity.  According to the NCI, local and regional cases have a 100% five-year survivability, which essentially means that people do not die from prostate cancer as long as it remains local or regional.  If the cancer reaches the distant stage, five-year survivability drops dramatically to only 29.8%.  But again, that’s only around 5% of cases.  [4]

On top of this already high survivability rate, cancer in general is becoming more survivable.  New treatments are being developed, meaning that for someone diagnosed today, their 15 year survival rate will likely be better than someone diagnosed in the past.  Over time, there may even be a cure or a vaccine developed, which can completely eradicate prostate cancer.  Someone who is 20 today might not even have to worry about getting prostate cancer by the time they’re over 65.  (Of course, there’s also the flip side, which is that as medical science gets better, more effective treatments are developed for other diseases and health problems, too, and people live longer in general.  So someone who survives a heart attack at 70 that would have killed them just ten years ago now may live until prostate cancer can kill them at 102.)

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Cancer is an awful, horrible thing in all its forms, including prostate cancer.  Dying from prostate cancer leaves someone just as dead as dying from lung cancer.  These statistics and survivability rates don’t change it’s ability to destroy a life.

The American Cancer Society does not recommend routine screening for people with an average risk of prostate cancer.  This is because finding the cancer early does not significantly improve survivability, and because treating the cancer can cause issues (like incontinence and impotence) which can actually be worse than the cancer.  As one doctor put it, “Evidence of harm from prostate cancer screening is stronger than evidence of benefit.” [5]

It should be noted that prostate cancer rates vary notably by race.  Black people are twice as likely to get prostate cancer and twice as likely to die from it than white or Hispanic people.  White or Hispanic people are about 50% more likely to get prostate cancer than Asian/Pacific Islanders or Native Americans. [6]

Nobody knows what causes prostate cancer.  Some cancers have a clear causal link to a risk factor.  For instance, smoking is responsible for 80% of lung cancer deaths.  If you avoid smoke (and asbestos and radon, to lesser extents), you’re far, far less likely to develop lung cancer.  There’s nothing like that for prostate cancer.  Doctors can’t say “don’t do X and you won’t get prostate cancer”. There are many theories, from hormonal interactions, to STIs, to a vitamin D deficiency, to the “prostate stagnation hypothesis” which basically says that prostate fluid goes bad over time and that it won’t go bad if the system is regularly flushed.   Neither of the papers I read are explicitly looking for the cause, instead, they are looking for an association between the frequency of ejaculation and the incidence of prostate cancer, which can then be used to guide further exploration into the causes.

The Studies

The two papers I read were “Ejaculation Frequency and Subsequent Risk of Prostate Cancer” by Leitzmann, et al (JAMA, 2004) [7], and “Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results with an Additional Decade of Follow-up” by Rider, et al (European Urology, 2016) [8].  These seem to be the source of the idea that frequent ejaculation prevents prostate cancer.  Both of these papers use data from a long term cohort study called the “Health Professionals Follow-up Study” [9], which I’ll talk about more in a moment.  Rider 2016 is a similar analysis to Leitzmann 2004, but it looks at an additional decade of data from the cohort study.

The overall conclusion of Leitzmann 2004 is “Our results suggest that ejaculation frequency is not related to increased risk of prostate cancer.”  Notice that this only says that increased ejaculation frequency doesn’t have anything to do with increased risk.  They’re not saying that it decreases the risk, only that it doesn’t make it worse.

The overall conclusion of Rider 2016 is “These findings provide additional evidence of a beneficial role of more frequent ejaculation throughout adult life in the etiology of PCa, particularly for low-risk disease.”  The “low-risk disease” part is important.  As I’ll get into more in a bit, their results around advanced or lethal forms of prostate cancer are mixed.

Both papers use data gathered from the “Health Professionals Follow-up Study”.  This study is a long term, recurring survey, following a cohort of male doctors aged 40-75 that were selected for the study in 1986.  (There is a similar study including women, called the “Nurses’ Health Study”.)  The goal of this study is to track the long-term health of these participants.  No one can be added to this study, it will be the same group of people until there are no more people who respond.  If a participant dies, they are not replaced in the study.  In fact, that death is a valuable data point.  Every two years, participants are sent a follow-up survey, and that information is compiled and can provide a long term view of the health and lifestyle of a particular individual.

The makeup of the cohort is important.  The study designers selected health professionals, because they believed that people working in that field would be more likely to recognize the importance of such a study and be more compelled to diligently follow up and provide accurate information.  However, it needs to be recognized that such a selection will introduce a huge bias in the population sample.  Health professionals are likely to have a higher than average income.  They’re probably less likely live next a chemical factory or breathe the air in a mine for long periods of time.  They’re probably more likely to take better care of their health overall.  And since nearly 20% of this cohort were veterinarians, they are probably far more likely to be attacked by a hippopotamus at the zoo than you are.

The cohort is also overwhelmingly white.  Like greater than 91% white.  When you’re talking about a disease that strikes black people twice as often as white people, your results are questionable when only about 1% of your sample is black.  In fact, Leitzmann 2004 acknowledges this:  “Our results are generalizable to white US men aged 46 years or older.”

So, basically, the HPFS is skewed heavily towards healthy high-middle to upper class white people.  It’s possible that this bias has no material impact on the results, and it’s also possible that the bias can be controlled away, but it is important to note that this is skew is present as it has the possibility that it will render the findings invalid for a general population.  Both papers recognized this bias and attempted to control for it.

In 1992, the HPFS asked study participants about their frequency of ejaculation for three time periods in their life:  Between ages 20-29, ages 40-49, and in the year before the survey regardless of age (which would have been 1991).  Here is the question asked by the HPFS, as seen on the survey form [10]:

Figure 4

There were several possible issues noted with asking this question.  First, it’s a bit of a sensitive question.  The researchers believe that the anonymous nature of the responses should help with the accuracy of the results.  Furthermore, the section of the survey was preceded by an acknowledgement of the sensitivity of the questions and an explicit invitation to skip any questions the participants did not wish to answer.  While this likely further enhances the truthfulness of the responses, there is no way to know who did not answer and whether or not that alters the results of any analysis of this data.  Was it the crowd who would have answered “None”, but were so put off by the questions that they skipped the section?  Or was it people too embarrassed to admit their two-to-three times a day habit?  Or was it a more even distribution that proportionally left out people in all categories?  There is also a concern regarding “recall bias”, in other words, that people were remembering things wrong, largely because time had passed.  In 1991, the participants were age 45-80, meaning that “20-29” was a long time ago for most of them, and they might not have a clear memory of the number of times they ejaculated in a given month.  Also, some of the participants were still in their forties when this question was asked, so their Ages 40-49 may be inaccurate, and the “Past Year” answer would overlap with that time frame.

For reference, the following table summarizes the percentage of the study population that falls within each “Ejaculations Per Month” (EPM) range, based on the “Lifetime Average” calculated in Leitzmann 2004, for a total of 29342 people.

0-3 EPM 4-7 EPM 8-12 EPM 13-20 EPM 21+ EPM
n 1327 6523 9107 10362 2023
Percent 4.5 22.2 31.0 35.3 6.9

A couple of things to notice here.  First, the percentages don’t add up to 100 because of rounding.  Second, 13-20 had the highest number of people, while 0-3 was the lowest.  21+ wasn’t that much higher than 0-3.

Also, notice that these numbers group 0-3 together into a single bucket, despite the original question having separate options for “None” and “1-3”.  Why?  Because they claim that there weren’t enough people who reported “None” to be able to analyze them as a separate group.  While I can understand that decision from a mathematical point of view, I am frustrated by it, because I’d like to know what percentage of people actually reported “None” and also because the “None” category is of very critical importance to aces who are attempting to use these findings to decide whether or not to masturbate.  Neither paper examines the None group.  In fact, both papers tend to brush aside the 0-3 category entirely.  (More on that in a bit…)

The papers attempt to calculate the relative risk or the hazard ratio of each group.  “Relative Risk” (RR) or “Hazard Ratio” (HR) are a way to compare two groups that are similar except for the variable you’re interested in comparing.  This lets you see whether that variable has an impact on what you’re interested in.  An HR or RR of 1.0 means that there is no difference between the baseline and the comparison group.  An HR or RR of 0.5 means that the comparison group is half as likely to be impacted than the baseline group, while an HR or RR of 2.0 means the comparison is twice as likely to be impacted.  In this case, lower is better, higher is worse.

That last paragraph probably didn’t make a whole lot of sense to anyone who didn’t get at least a math minor in college, so let’s look at an example.  Leitzmann 2004 reports that the RR for the 21+ EPM (Ejaculations Per Month) group is 0.89 when compared to the 4-7 EPM group.  What this means is that people who ejaculated 21 or more times per month on average are only 89% as likely to get prostate cancer than people who only ejaculated 4-7 times per month, or that they’re 11% less likely to get prostate cancer.

11% less likely!  That sounds pretty good, right?  Case closed, let’s tell everyone with a penis to get cranking!  Y’all got some work to do!

This is what mainstream coverage of these studies ends up reporting.  But this isn’t the end of the story.  Not by a long shot.  Let’s look at the rest of the numbers.

It’s not saying that the overall risk of getting prostate cancer is cut by 11 percentage points.  Since the overall risk is about 11.1%, cutting it by 11 points would leave only a 0.1% chance behind.  That would be a huge, very substantial difference!  But that’s not what it means.  It actually means that it drops the risk by 11% of that 11.1%, which means the overall risk of getting prostate cancer would go down by about 1.2%.  That would still mean someone has a 9.9% chance of getting prostate cancer.

The following table gives the HR or RR from both studies for each group and for each age range.  (For simplification, I am using the “Multivariate RR” values from Leitzmann 2004 and the “Multi-variate non-Erectile Dysfunction HR” values from Rider 2016 for this table.)

Study 0-3 EPM 4-7 EPM 8-12 EPM 13-20 EPM 21+ EPM
Leitzmann, Age 20-29 1.09 1 1.06 0.95 0.89
Rider, Age 20-29 0.91 1 0.99 0.90 0.80
Leitzmann, Age 40-49 0.83 1 0.96 0.98 0.68
Rider, Age 40-49 0.91 1 0.93 0.81 0.82

You may have already noticed the column that’s full of 1s, and thought “That’s weird”.  That is because of how those HRs and RRs are calculated.  You have to pick one of the groups as the reference baseline, and compare all of the other groups to it.  Both papers picked the 4-7 EPM group as the baseline, so when you compare the people in 4-7 EPM to themselves, you get a 100% match, therefore you get an HR or RR of 1.  The numbers for all of the other groups are comparing the likelihood that someone in that group will get prostate cancer compared to the likelihood that someone in the 4-7 group will get prostate cancer.

But…  Hang on a second here.  They chose 4-7 EPM as the baseline?  If you’re trying to determine whether or not more frequent ejaculations changes the risk of getting prostate cancer, shouldn’t you start with the lowest value, and go up from there?  Why would you pick a group in the middle to compare everyone against?

Leitzmann 2004:  “We used the category of 4 to 7 ejaculations per month as the common reference group to achieve meaningful comparisons between increasingly extreme ejaculation frequencies and to ensure stability of the RR estimates.”

Rider 2016: “As in the 2004 report, 4–7 EPM was selected as the reference category as relatively few men reported an average of 0–3 EPM.”

In other words, Leitzmann 2004 picked 4-7 because it made their numbers better, while Rider 2016 picked 4-7 because Leitzmann did and also because they felt there weren’t enough people in the 0-3 category.

Making better numbers is also what leads to the “multivariate” and “non-ED” classifications.  The researchers consider additional data and adjust for it or completely remove those data points from the calculations.  For example, the “non-ED” category in Rider 2016 excludes participants who had reported having erectile difficulties.  The paper explains that this group was excluded because ED is likely to cause lower ejaculation frequency and tends to be associated with other conditions that can lead to early death.  Since prostate cancer is typically found in older people, if someone dies early, they’re less likely to get prostate cancer and have it diagnosed.  So that exclusion could be considered a legitimate way to filter out bad data that will muddle your findings.

Or…  It can be seen as an arbitrary way to make your findings appear more conclusive.  If you get rid of people with ED, It could also be argued that perhaps you should eliminate smokers with a vasectomy because, hey, they got that vasectomy for a reason (wink-wink) and they’re probably going to die of lung cancer.  Splitting up your data in a way to make your numbers look better (Whether deliberately or unconsciously) is called “p-hacking”.  P-hacking happens because people like clear conclusions.  In particular, journal editors like clear conclusions.  If you write a paper where you say “I looked at all this data and didn’t find anything”, that’s a valid scientific result, but it’s not as interesting as writing a paper that says “You’re less likely to get prostate cancer if you ejaculate more”.  Rider 2016 was accused of p-hacking [11], although they did provide a rebuttal to these claims.

You may also be wondering why the Leitzmann and Rider numbers are so different.  The Rider paper was looking at the same people as the Leitzmann paper, so shouldn’t they be the same?  Remember that the Rider paper used an additional ten years of followup data to consider.  In those additional ten years, the number of study participants who were diagnosed with prostate cancer had roughly doubled.  And remember that this is a cohort that doesn’t change, so the number of cases will never decrease.  Once someone gets prostate cancer, they will never “un-get” prostate cancer for the purposes of this study, even if they undergo treatment that leaves them cancer-free.  At the same time, since much of the cohort is still alive, there are quite a few of them who will be diagnosed at some point in the future.  Rider 2016 looked at the HPFS data from 2014, when the youngest members of the cohort were 68.  Recall that most cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed after age 65.  So these numbers are a work in progress.  They will continue to change until the entire cohort is deceased.

Anyway, enough about the methods…  What do those numbers even mean?

It’s quite a ways back up the page now, so I’ve repeated the table of interest here, so you don’t have to keep scrolling around.

Study 0-3 EPM 4-7 EPM 8-12 EPM 13-20 EPM 21+ EPM
Leitzmann, Age 20-29 1.09 1 1.06 0.95 0.89
Rider, Age 20-29 0.91 1 0.99 0.90 0.80
Leitzmann, Age 40-49 0.83 1 0.96 0.98 0.68
Rider, Age 40-49 0.91 1 0.93 0.81 0.82

Recall that lower is better and higher is worse, and a value of 1 means there’s no difference.  So yes, looking at that table, the data indicates that 21 or more ejaculations a month does have a lower risk than only ejaculating 4-7 times a month.  But 13-20 is also better.  8-12 is better in all but one of the categories.  But…  Hold on a minute.  0-3 is also better in most of the categories?  That doesn’t really fit with the theory that ejaculating more leads to less prostate cancer.  You’d expect 0-3 to be higher than 4-7 if that were clearly the case.  In fact, based on this table, the conclusion you should draw is that people should avoid ejaculating 4-7 times per month, and instead go for more or less, because 4-7 is clearly the worst for your health.

Or…  Not.

You see, all of these numbers also come with a “Confidence Interval”.  You can think of the confidence interval (or “CI”) as being similar to the “margin of error” of a survey.  You’ve probably heard of a survey where they’ve said a political candidate is polling at 51% of the vote, with a margin of error of +/- 3%.  That means that the actual support for that candidate is probably somewhere between 48% and 54%.  That 48%-54% range is the confidence interval.  In most cases, including in these papers, the CI used is the “95% Confidence Interval”, which means that the correct value of an estimated number is between the high and low numbers 95% of the time.  In other words, when the Leitzmann paper reports a value like 0.89, with a CI of 0.73-1.10, what that means is “I’m 95% sure that the real value is between 0.73 and 1.10, and I think it’s probably somewhere close to 0.89.”

Now, imagine if I said “I’m 95% sure that my wallet has between $7.30 and $11, and I think I have around $8.90”.  That’s almost a $4 difference between my high and low estimates.  You’d be rightfully worried about my ability to pay my $8.50 share of the cab fare, because maybe I really only have $7.30.  And if the cable company told you that they were 95% sure that the repair tech would be at your place between 7:30 AM and 11 AM, but probably around 8:50 AM, you’d be awake and dressed by 7 and you’d clear your calendar until noon.  But if these confidence intervals were narrower, like if I said I had somewhere between $8.85 and $8.95, or that your cable is getting fixed between 8:40 and 9:00 AM, you’d feel a lot better about those estimates.

So let’s include the confidence intervals in that table, then see what it says.

Study 0-3 EPM 4-7 EPM 8-12 EPM 13-20 EPM 21+ EPM
Leitzmann, Age 20-29 1.09 (0.80-1.47) 1 1.06 (0.88-1.29) 0.95 (0.78-1.16) 0.89 (0.73-1.10)
Rider, Age 20-29 0.91 (0.71-1.17) 1 0.99 (0.86-1.13) 0.90 (0.78-1.02) 0.80 (0.69-0.92)
Leitzmann, Age 40-49 0.83 (0.64-1.09) 1 0.96 (0.80-1.16) 0.98 (0.79-1.13) 0.68 (0.53-0.86)
Rider, Age 40-49 0.91 (0.75-1.11) 1 0.93 (0.84-1.02) 0.81 (0.72-0.90) 0.82 (0.70-0.96)

What it says now is “That’s a hell of a lot of numbers”.  If you turn your head and squint just right, maybe you can start to see a lot of the numbers are now bigger than 1.  But it’s all still largely a jumble.  So let’s make it easier to see what’s going on.

Figure 5

Okay, yeah, so it’s still a bit of a jumble, but now it’s one with pretty boxes and lines and things.

The boxes indicate the extent of the confidence intervals for each group and the dash in the middle of each box is the estimated HR/RR.  The actual value is probably somewhat close to the dash, but not guaranteed to be.  There is a 95% chance that the actual value is within the extent of the box, and a 5% chance that the actual value is outside the box entirely.  The red line at 1 represents the 4-7 EPM reference category that everything else is compared against.  If a box or a data point is above the red line, that indicates that the HR/RR is greater than the reference and that the likelihood of prostate cancer may be higher for that group than it is for people who ejaculate 4-7 times per month.  If a box or a data point is below the red line, that indicates that the HR/RR is less than the reference and that the likelihood of prostate cancer may be lower for that group than it is for people who ejaculate 4-7 times per month.  If the box straddles the line, that means that the risk could be higher, could be lower, and you can’t say with statistical confidence that which side it’s actually on.

As you can see, almost all of those boxes straddle the line.  In other words, most of those boxes tell you very little about whether or not the risk of prostate cancer is truly higher or lower for those groups.  What once looked like a clear sign that you should avoid ejaculating between 4-7 times a month has turned into a bit of a mathematical ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

There are a few of the confidence interval boxes that are completely below the red line.  That means that the data analysis is at least 95% sure that there is actually a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer for those groups.  The only group that’s below the red line in both studies is the group that ejaculated more than 21 times per month at age 40-49.

So…  The conclusion that’s drawn from this is that it doesn’t matter what you do the rest of the time, but you’d better get busy in your 40s?  As I noted earlier: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Recall that the two studies are the same group of people, just with ten additional years of data included in the Rider paper.  The confidence intervals are getting narrower, which is what you’d expect as you get a larger sample size.  But outside of that, some of the numbers vary wildly between Leitzmann and Rider.  Comparing the Age 40-49 data between the two papers, it appears that the RRs for the 8-13 and 13-20 groups get much better, while 21+ takes a sharp turn for the worse.  The surface level implication there is that if someone ejaculates between 8 and 20 times per month, then they either get it earlier than someone with 21+ EPM or they don’t get it at all, and that the 21+ EPM group might delay the onset of prostate cancer for a few years, but eventually catches up?

But that doesn’t really make much sense…  So also recall that the data from the cohort is a work in progress.  Maybe it really is just random and the numbers look kinda weird because there’s absolutely no correlation between ejaculation and prostate cancer.  Surely, these aren’t the only two papers that explore this potential link.  Unfortunately, I don’t have time to explore the literature and see what they all have to say.

Fortunately, Leitzmann and Rider already did that for us!  Leitzmann, take it away!

Previous investigations on reported ejaculation frequencies or sexual intercourse and prostate cancer are limited to studies of retrospective design and results are mixed. Nine studies observed a statistically significant or nonsignificant positive association; 3 studies reported no association; 7 studies found a statistically significant or nonsignificant inverse relationship; and 1 study found a U-shaped relationship.

That’s all sciencey talk, but the key phrase is “results are mixed”.  Leitzmann 2004 reviewed 20 different studies that look at a possible link between ejaculation or intercourse (which implies likely ejaculation) and prostate cancer and they all said different things.

Also, that paper is from 2004, so it’s missing 14 years (as of this writing) of additional research that has likely been conducted in the meantime.  Rider 2016 looks at a handful of additional studies, and is more to the point:

The literature exploring the role of sexual activity in the etiology of PCa is inconsistent.

“Inconsistent.”  “Results are mixed.” That is hardly wide-ranging compelling evidence in favor of the theory that more frequent ejaculations will decrease the risk of prostate cancer.  Or that prostate cancer risk has anything to do with ejaculation at all.

But okay, let’s set all those questions and doubts aside for the moment and assume that Leitzmann and Rider are correct, that there is a statistically significant correlation here, that as ejaculations per month go up, prostate cancer goes down.  But does that actually make a difference in how bad the disease is?  Remember back when I was talking about the survivability of prostate cancer, how I mentioned the different stages, local, regional, and distant?  And how local and regional had a 100% five-year survivability rate, according to the National Cancer Institute?  So, does more frequent ejaculation decrease the risk of the more lethal distant stage of prostate cancer?


Sorry, got ahead of myself there.  But no, no it doesn’t.  At least not according to these papers.

I present Rider 2016’s numbers here because that paper has an additional 10 years of data over Leitzmann 2004.  (Some of Leitzmann’s numbers are just plain wacky due to lack of data.  For instance, one of the categories has an RR CI of 0.49-6.60, which is like saying “The risk could be cut in half or it could be 6.5 times worse.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”  Leitzmann’s numbers are generally similar to Rider’s, however.)  Rider breaks down the numbers by risk category and stage.  I have included only the data for only the 13+ EPM group (Rider combines the 13-20 and 21+ groups for this analysis because there were not enough cases in the 21+ group in some of these categories for the data to be meaningful).

Figure 6

Figure 7

There are three main conclusions that can be drawn from these tables.

  1. A person who ejaculates more than 13 times per month has a lower chance of low risk or organ confined prostate cancer.
  2. A person who ejaculates more than 13 times per month has a potentially greater chance of higher risk or advanced/lethal prostate cancer.
  3. OMG, 1991 is gonna kill everyone!

If 1 and 2 are true, think about what that means for a moment.  Someone who ejaculates more frequently is less likely to have the lower risk, less fatal types of prostate cancer, but they’re more likely to get the type that will kill them.  That, on its own, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Prostate cancer is not a “Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200” sort of thing.  You don’t just skip to the advanced/distant stage of the disease.  If there’s an increased risk of the more deadly types of cancer, then those deadly cancers had to progress through the earlier stages, so there should be an increase in the earlier stages, as well.

There are a couple of possible explanations for this.  First, the p-values for these findings that suggest an increase are fairly high.  A “p-value” is a measurement of how likely it is that the results you got are simply due to random chance.  The higher a p-value is, the more likely a result is random, while the lower it is, the more likely your result is valid.  You can think of a p-value as sort of how confident you are in your confidence.  It’s generally accepted that a p-value < 0.05 means your results are statistically significant, because it means that there’s only a 5% chance that your results are random.  (Side note:  The p-value is the same p in the “p-hacking” that I mentioned earlier.  p-hacking is the process of trying to manipulate your data and analysis to find something that yields p < 0.05.  The problem is that in order to do so, you may have manipulated your data into meaninglessness.)

Another possible explanation is that people who ejaculate 13+ times per month really like doing it.  Also, everyone in this study is a health professional, so they’re likely to know that treatment for prostate cancer often leads to impotence.  So, perhaps they intentionally skip prostate cancer screening or treatment to avoid a diagnosis and the possible consequences.  But if this is true, this actually would invalidate the other findings, too, specifically that a higher EPM rate is associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer.  The risk might not actually be lower, instead, those people just might not know that they have it.

As for 1991 killing everybody, that is actually a legitimate finding.  The p-value for that set is 0.05, so it’s statistically significant.  In fact, that’s a point of consternation for Rider 2016, which apparently makes up a symptom for prostate cancer that somehow encourages more frequent ejaculation to explain it.  I mean, I’m all for hypothesizing on possible causes when your data doesn’t match reality, but…  If you have to immediately say “While we are not aware of any literature supporting [this]” after your proposal, you probably shouldn’t be saying it.  Especially when it seems like it’s something that should be easy for a urology researcher to verify one way or the other.  Walk into the break room and say, “Hey, any of you all ever hear of people wanting to get off more when they have prostate cancer?”  If the answer’s “yes”, then add a line about how there’s unverified anecdotal evidence in support of the idea and you’ve got the topic of your next paper.  If the answer’s “no”, drop the idea and admit you don’t have an explanation.

Look at what they’re saying there, though.  They’re speculating that the development of prostate cancer might influence the frequency of ejaculation, when all this time, the focus has been on whether frequency of ejaculation might influence the development of prostate cancer.  I want to return to something I said earlier, that no one really knows what causes prostate cancer.  So even if there is a statistical correlation between ejaculation frequency and prostate cancer, that’s not necessarily an indication that it’s a causal relationship.  If it’s “prostate stagnation” that causes prostate cancer, then yes, there’s a causal relationship, where ejaculation flushes the toxins out which prevents cancer.  But if it’s a lack of vitamin D, then no, there’s not a causal relationship, because it’s just vitamin D making people more horny AND preventing cancer.  And if that’s the case, you can just take vitamin D supplements and get the cancer reduction benefits, and however much you ejaculate doesn’t matter.  Neither paper is attempting to prove a cause of prostate cancer, and neither paper claims a causal link.  They are only looking to see if there is a relationship.

Okay, okay, okay.  Let’s take a step back and refocus on what we’re actually interested in.  Let’s assume that there actually is a causal relation between more ejaculations and less prostate cancer, and let’s ignore the suggestion of a possible increase in the higher risk types of cancer associated with more ejaculations.  Going on the pure optimistic, best case scenario here, what I want to know is this:  How much does the risk of prostate cancer actually go down if I ejaculate more frequently?

I have no idea.

None at all.  The papers don’t actually say.  None of these RRs and HRs and confidence intervals and other things being thrown around actually give that number.  What they all say is that the risk may be lower for the 21+ EPM group when compared to the 4-7 EPM group.  But what’s the risk for the 4-7 EPM group?  Are they higher than the average risk?  My mathematical sense about how averages and populations samples work says that yes, they are higher risk than average.  If the 4-7 group is considered the baseline reference of 1, and if all the other groups are less than 1, then the 4-7 group has to have an above average risk in order for the lower relative risks of the other groups to balance out.

There may be enough data available in the papers to try to come up with some sort of rough estimate, though.  I’ll warn you now that the following is speculation and likely mathematically unsound, but at this point, we’re already ignoring so many red flags and possible issues, so what’s one more thing to overlook, eh?

For this, I’m going to look at the overall risk of prostate cancer, compared to the incidence in the overall study population, and for each of the EPM groups as reported in Rider’s Age 40-49 category.

Overall Population Study Sample 0-3 EPM 4-7 EPM 8-13 EPM 14-20 EPM 21+ EPM
11.1% 12.0% 11.2% 13.3% 12.4% 10.8% 10.3%

The first thing that jumps out at me is that the study sample has a higher reported overall rate of prostate cancer than the general population.  And remember, this is an on-going study tracking the same group of people, so that number can only go up over time.  So is that difference an artifact of better health care and more detection of prostate cancer among the study population?  Are dentists and veterinarians more prone to prostate cancer than other people?  Or is it just ordinary sampling error?  In any case, it’s notable.

Second, the 4-7 EPM group does have highest cancer rate in the study, at 1.3 points higher than the study sample rate.  And 21+ does have the lowest rate, at 1.7 points lower than the sample rate.  (It’s worth pointing out that the 0-3 group is also lower than the overall study rate.)  What that means is that if there is a reduction in cancer risk for 21+ EPM over 4-7 EPM, you lose about half of the effective value of that reduction, just to get back to the study rate.

Another way to think of this is to imagine a store advertising a 30% off sale.  30% off, that sounds great!  But if their original prices are 13% higher than the store next door, then you’re not actually getting a 30% discount, you’re really only saving 17%.  And if all the stores in that city already have a 9% higher sales tax than the rest of the state, that eats into that 30% discount even more.  At the end of the day, maybe you’re only getting an 8% discount.  Still a discount, sure, but hardly what was advertised, and it’s now low enough to make you think twice about going out of your way to shop there.

However, an 8% discount is still a discount, so let’s look at what kind of discount you might actually get.  Let’s go back to that room of a thousand prostate-owning people for one final batch of comparisons.  (We’ve left them sitting in there for so long, it would be rude to keep them waiting any longer.)  For this, I’m going to compare the absolute difference between the national prostate cancer rate compared to the raw 0-3 and 21+ study group rates, as well the deltas for those groups compared to the study rate normalized to the national rate.

(And have I mentioned that what I’m doing here isn’t sound.  Because what I’m doing here isn’t sound.  If you try to quote anything that I’m about to report in this section as some sort of legitimate finding, then you’ve completely missed my point and should start over at the beginning.)

Overall Population Study Sample Raw 0-3 EPM Raw 21+ EPM Normalized 0-3 EPM Normalized 21+ EPM
11.1% 12.0% 11.2% 10.3% 10.4% 9.5%

Figure 8

Figure 9

Figure 10

Figure 12

Figure 13

Figure 14

In Figures 9-14, I’ve highlighted the difference from the national rate.  Filled boxes with red borders are an increase over the national rate.  Empty boxes with green borders are a decrease compared to the national rate.  I have one final observation to make:

The “Normalized 21+ EPM Rate” represents pretty much the best of the best of the best case scenario.  [Figure 14]  Getting there required ignoring pretty much every concern we’ve come across, deliberately selecting the best data set, and probably ended up making statisticians scream “What are you doing?!” at their screens.  And even with all that, the difference is only 16 boxes with green borders.  That means that even if the papers were accurate AND there really is a causal link between ejaculation frequency and reduced risk of prostate cancer AND all the leaps of mathematical faith we took are correct AND medical science doesn’t change at all in the next couple of decades AND no one else in the study cohort gets prostate cancer AND you dedicate yourself to jacking off at least 5 times per week for the rest of your life, the best result is a 1.6% chance that something in your life will turn out different.

I’m not gonna drive across town for that sale.


First off, thanks for sticking with me through thousands of words of math and science and graphs and stuff.  Or thanks for scrolling past all of that and skipping directly here.  Whichever.

Let’s review the key points that we’ve learned.

  • You’re probably not going to get prostate cancer, no matter how much you ejaculate.  There’s an 89% chance you won’t.
  • Even if you get prostate cancer, it’s probably not going to kill you.  If you get prostate cancer, there’s an 80% chance that you’ll die of something else, and its 15-year survivability rate is 96%, so even if it does kill you, it’s probably going to take its time.
  • Because medical science is continually improving, prostate cancer gets less likely to kill you all the time.
  • Studies involving sexual activity/ejaculation and risk of prostate cancer are “mixed” and “inconsistent”.
  • There is no proof that ejaculation itself decreases the risk of prostate cancer.  At best, these papers may have found a correlation, but correlation is not causation.  At worst, some other papers have reported that there may be an increased risk of cancer associated with more frequent ejaculation.
  • The papers do not report an absolute reduction in risk for more frequent ejaculation, only a relative reduction when compared to the 4-7 ejaculations per month group.  The overall potential benefit is unclear.
  • My best-case, super-optimistic, ignoring-all-problems-and-red-flags, everything-is-perfect, don’t-quote-me-on-this analysis indicates that there might be at best a 1.6% chance that you’ll avoid getting prostate cancer by masturbating at least 21 times a month.
  • Both papers basically ignore the 0-3 EPM group, which happens to be a group of interest to asexual people, especially those who only masturbate because they’ve heard it can decrease the risk of prostate cancer.  They don’t even consider the risk of prostate cancer in people who never ejaculate.
  • The study the papers are based on is biased, and that bias potentially contaminates the results.  The Leitzmann paper even admits that the results are only useful for white guys over the age of 40 in the US.
  • The findings suggest that all levels of ejaculation frequency other than 4-7 EPM (including 0-3) may have a lower risk of cancer than those in the 4-7 EPM group.
  • There is only a statistically significant decrease in the risk of prostate cancer in both papers for the group who ejaculated 21+ times per month at age 40-49.
  • 21+ ejaculations per month is around at least 5 times per week, which is probably waaaay more than someone who’s not a fan of the process would want to go through with it. (An informal, totally unscientific poll of aces who say they masturbate mainly to reduce the risk of prostate cancer found that most of them only do it 0-3 times per month.)
  • There is a chance that ejaculating more is actually associated with a higher risk of the worst kinds of prostate cancer.
  • There is a chance that the apparent lower risk of prostate cancer overall in people who ejaculate more is an artifact of a reluctance to be screened by the higher EPM groups.
  • 1991 is going to kill us all.  No, seriously.  It was mathematically proven.  See what you miss when you skip to the conclusion?

Or, to tl;dr my tl;dr:

If you’re asexual and you don’t like masturbating, but you do it anyway, only because you’ve heard that ejaculation can prevent prostate cancer:  Stop.  Don’t bother.  You’re far more likely to die of heart disease than prostate cancer, so take that time that you would have spent masturbating, and use it doing something that’s good for your heart.  (In fact, the stress of constantly doing something that you dislike is probably bad for your heart.)

And, well, if you don’t believe me that there’s essentially zero evidence that you should masturbate as a way to lower your risk of prostate cancer, take it from the authors of Rider 2016 (emphasis mine):

We wish to emphasize that until the biological mechanisms underlying this association are convincingly elucidated, interpreting ejaculation as an established means of preventing prostate cancer is premature. [12]



[1] Key Statistics For Prostate Cancer, American Cancer Society

[2] Survival Rates for Prostate Cancer, American Cancer Society

[3] Cancer Statistics Center, American Cancer Society

[4] Prostate Cancer – Cancer Stats Facts, National Cancer Institute

[5] Prostate Cancer Screen And Detection Decline, American Cancer Society

[6] Prostate Cancer Rates by Race and Ethnicity, CDC

[7] Ejaculation Frequency and Subsequent Risk of Prostate Cancer, Leitzmann MF, Platz EA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Giovannucci E., JAMA. 2004;291(13):1578–1586. doi:10.1001/jama.291.13.1578

[8] Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results with an Additional Decade of Follow-up, Rider, Jennifer R. et al., European Urology , Volume 70 , Issue 6 , 974 – 982

[9] Health Professionals Follow-up Study, Harvard School of Public Health

[10] Health Professionals Follow-up Study, 1992 Long Form Survey, Harvard School of Public Health

[11] Looking Deeper: P-hacking and Some Other Bias, García-Perdomo, Herney Andrés et al., European Urology , Volume 70 , Issue 6 , e155 

[12] Reply to Herney Andrés García-Perdomo and Ramiro Manzano Nunez’s Letter to the Editor Re: Jennifer R. Rider, Kathryn M. Wilson, Jennifer M. Sinnott, Rachel S. Kelly, Lorelei A. Mucci, Edward L. Giovannucci. Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results with an Additional Decade of Follow-up. Eur Urol 2016;70:974–82

Missing a Permission Slip

[Content Warning: Discussion of masturbation and sex and stuff.]

Not too long ago, over on Asexual Activities, there was a discussion about aces having trouble masturbating in one way or another.  So I started writing about the problems I encountered learning how to do it.  Along the way, I realized that there was something else getting in the way that I’d never really thought about too much.  It’s always been there and the strength of it comes and goes, but it touches pretty much every interaction I have with sexuality.

I don’t feel like I have permission to have sexuality.  It doesn’t feel like it’s mine.  It’s like I stole it from someone else and I’m going to get in trouble if someone finds out that I have it.  And I’ve never read the instructions, so I have no idea how to use the thing anyway.

I know that sort of sounds like guilt or shame, but it doesn’t really feel like that’s what it is.  Guilt or shame implies that I think I’m doing something shameful or that I’m guilty of doing something wrong.  I know it’s not anything that’s wrong and I know it’s not anything that’s shameful.  It’s like one day I discovered that there was a mysterious $1000 deposit in my bank account.  It’s not mine, I don’t know where it came from.  I should tell the bank that they made a mistake, but everyone else says that they got the same mysterious deposit, and they’re going around spending it, with the bank’s blessing.  But I don’t know what to spend it on and it doesn’t really belong to me, so I keep it in the account.  I check on it once in a while, and it’s always still there.

Let’s start by getting some terminology out of the way.  I’m not using “sexuality” as a synonym for sexual orientation.  I am asexual, and that’s not in doubt.  It’s likely even a large contributor to why I feel this way.  I’m using “sexuality” to refer to my feelings, thoughts, interactions, reactions related to sex and other stuff in that general neighborhood.

Now, some statements of fact which feel relevant to what I’m going to talk about:  I own a penis.  I experience physical arousal.  There are external factors which sometimes cause physical arousal.  I masturbate.  I enjoy it.  I have sex toys.  I look at porn.  I have had sex twice.  Fifteen years ago.  I live alone.  I am asexual.

When I hit puberty and first learned how to masturbate, it was something beyond top secret and fraught with peril.  Messages from all over were telling me how terrible it was.  You’ll go blind!  You’ll grow hair on your hands!  You’ll go sterile!  It’s a sin!  It was something only losers did.  My ultra-Christian neighbor from an American Taliban household even gave me a mixtape that had a Christian Punk song about how “Masturbation is artificial sex” that probably detailed the eternal fiery horrors that awaited those who went downtown.  (Fun fact:  The pervy neighbor kid mentioned in the other post?  Same guy.)  Of course, none of those messages were coming from my parents.  They never talked to me about it, but I suspect their thoughts would have been “Lock the door and clean up after”.  But those messages were so pervasive from other places that they absolutely tainted how I felt, even though I didn’t believe most of them.

And it tainted what I did.  No one could ever find out.  I would take precautions worthy of an undercover agent.  Only in the shower, where the evidence will be washed away and if someone walks in, I can say I’m just cleaning it, nothing else going on.  Eventually, that expanded to being willing to do it while sitting on the toilet, but in that case, I had to use toilet paper to wrap myself and catch every drop.  (Not sure how I was going to explain that if someone walked in…)

Either way, securely locked in the bathroom was the only place I was willing to do it for years.  On extremely rare occasions, I would grab a bit of hand lotion from the front room, but that felt like a mission behind enemy lines.  The house had to be vacant and expected to remain that way for hours if not days, all the doors were locked and checked, all the rooms were cleared, and then I’d make my move, grabbing a bit of lotion and running to the safety of the locked bathroom.  I was terrified that every milliliter of lotion was being tracked and that I’d be discovered, so I did not do this often.

Eventually, I worked up the courage to try it in my bedroom.  I think my parents were going to be gone for the weekend, and I was home alone.  I triple checked the house to make sure it was empty, closed all the curtains in the house, checked the garage to make sure their car was gone, locked all the doors, then went into my bedroom and locked that door, too.  I didn’t strip naked and get comfortable on my bed in order to have the most relaxed and pleasant experience possible.  Instead, I was kneeling in front of my bedroom window, watching the driveway through a crack in the blinds, just in case.  I kept my clothes on and did the deed through my fly.  Not only was it all wrapped up in toilet paper, I added a layer of paper towel, to be extra special sure that everything would be contained.  That happened maybe twice, total.  Too risky.

Masturbation was something I did, but not something I felt I was allowed to do.  It felt good, but it really wasn’t something I was able to enjoy, because I constantly had to be on guard or taking steps to hide the evidence.

I mention all of this, not to tell funny/embarrassing stories of my youth, but to detail how secret and forbidden I felt the whole thing was, and the lengths I felt I had to go to to conceal it.  And certainly, I’m sure that other teenagers went through the same sorts of cloak-and-dagger routine to hide what they were doing.  But some of that never left me.

Fast forward, years later.  I have my own place.  I knew by then that masturbation was common and that it didn’t cause random hair growth, etc.  It had, by then, largely turned into something I was able to enjoy.  But there were still limits.  It was still done in the shower most of the time.  I was able to occasionally work up the nerve to do it naked and relaxed in bed, but that was rare.  I lived alone.  No one would catch me, no one would know, but still, it somehow felt like the locked bathroom was the only truly private, safe place I had.

I had moved beyond using toilet paper and had discovered that various lubricants worked much better.  But those had to be purchased.  At a store.  Where I had to get them off a shelf.  Where I had to walk around the store with the item in my cart.  Where a checkout clerk had to scan them.  They are going to know.  They are going to know why I’m buying hand lotion.  They are going to know and they are going to report me.

Buying sex toys was a multi-faceted operation.  First, finding the toy involved a lot of false starts and cleared search history.  When I finally found something, it was probably a couple of weeks before I actually made the purchase.  I used a second browser and completely cleared out the history when I was done.  No one else ever used my computer, but you could never be too careful.  (Not to mention the fear that the computer would somehow glitch out and start forwarding the order receipt to everyone I knew, or that it would set a picture of the item as my wallpaper and not let me change it.)  Then, when the item arrived, it was dropped off at the leasing office, so I had to go in to pick it up.  They have x-ray eyes or the box broke open so they know somehow.  They know.  They’re all going to laugh at me and I’m going to get evicted now.  I even remember thinking that my new job would find out about it somehow and fire me.

Who did I think was going to find out my dark secret?  Why did I think it was a dark secret?  I knew there was nothing wrong with it, but why did it feel wrong?

But no, not wrong.  Not bad.  Not in itself.  It wasn’t about someone discovering that I masturbate, it was about someone discovering that I was in possession of something that didn’t belong to me.  That act, those feelings, that glimmer of sexuality, I wasn’t supposed to have that.  I could pretend that it was mine, I had learned how enough of it worked to get by, but in the end, it wasn’t mine.  And any time I tried to embrace a part of it or expand on what I knew, that put me at risk of the whole thing falling apart.  Changing routine is what gets you caught.

I’ve been talking about masturbation a lot, because that’s my primary interaction with the world of sexuality, it’s not just that I feel like this about.  Anything remotely sexual seems to set off the same alert buzzers in my head.  I remember agonizing for a month about whether or not I should stop by the Student Health Center at college to pick up a free condom, because it seemed like a good idea to know how they worked.  Even when I went to the health center a couple of times for something unrelated, I couldn’t bring myself to grab a few, because someone might see me.  For years, any sort of undressing had to be done within the protection of the locked bathroom.  I couldn’t change at the closet where all the clothes were.  If I didn’t have a towel after a shower, I would have to dart to the hall closet to get one, after carefully peeking my head out the door to make sure no one was around. Sleeping in the nude was right out.  Hell, sleeping in anything less than full clothes on even the hottest nights wasn’t something I felt I could do.  (And this is all when I lived alone in my own apartment and there was no reasonable expectation that anyone would be there.)  Whenever coworkers or friends talk about sex, I tend to shut off and pull back into my shell.  Certain types of sex scenes in movies make me uncomfortable to watch.  Beaches in Hawaii were unpleasant because of the amount of skin present.

While things have changed and gotten better over the years, this still comes up even today.  I rarely go downstairs in my house unless I’m fully dressed.  I still think that the mail carrier and neighbors will know what’s in certain packages I get, or that some package thief will grab one and blackmail me over what’s inside.  Any book that’s remotely sex related (Even a general anatomy reference guide) doesn’t get put on the bookshelf, it gets hidden.  So does any movie with “too much sex” in it.  I’ll clear my clipboard if I ever copy/paste something remotely sexual.  I’ll hide the hand lotion whenever someone comes over.  Sex toys are removed from the closed cabinet in the headboard (that no visitor would ever open) and hidden in the closet.  I even feel weird about having a box of tissues near my bed, because of the potential association it might have, even though I really do only use them to blow my nose.  And I’ll censor what I talk about or feel weird about posting on Asexual Activities, even though that was deliberately designed to be an uncensored place to talk about those sorts of things.

And it’s not a general “Sex is bad, run away” reaction, either.  When I’m in a scenario where I have permission, where sexuality is expected, it’s fine.  When I had a girlfriend, we did sexual things.  I was awkward and I had no idea what I was doing really, but I didn’t feel like I shouldn’t be doing any of it.  At work, I had to test the adult filter settings on a service we ran, which basically meant searching for porn all day and making sure that the nudie pics showed up in the results or were blocked, depending on the settings.  That was just doing my job.  And I can dive in and research all sorts of random things for people who have questions on Asexual Activities, without any issues at all.  But if I want to know about those things personally, I get a bit nervous.

So, what’s going on?  Why do I feel this way?  Why do I have so many blocks and caution signs put up around so many expressions of sexuality, even when they’re completely private?  Well, the two broad areas that I think are coming into play here are society’s views on masturbation (specifically male masturbation) and the fact that I’m asexual, and the way those two things interact.

Society basically requires men to masturbate.  If you don’t, you’ll be a two pump chump, your balls will fill up and explode, you’ll become a slobbering ball of horniness, and you’ll get cancer.  But masturbation is only permitted in very specific scenarios.  It must only be done when there isn’t a suitable partner available, and when it is done, it must be done while fantasizing about an acceptable person.  And regardless, you’ll be mocked and ridiculed for doing it.  You’re a pervy loser who can’t get laid.

Masturbation is seen as a replacement for “real” sex.  You’re not supposed to do it if real sex is available.  If you are forced to do it, due to a lack of real sex, you must be imagining having real sex with someone while you do it.  It is not to be done within the context of a relationship, unless it somehow involves your partner, because the involvement of your partner allows you to claim that you’re doing it for them.  It’s never permitted to be pursued in its own right, it must always be a substitute, never the main event, and any pleasure you take from it must be surrogate pleasure that’s being provided on behalf of your fantasy.

You can use porn to help, but not too much of it or the wrong kind of it.  Oh, and by the way, any amount is too much and any kind is the wrong kind.  Possession of nudity in all forms makes you a pervy loser worthy of mocking and ridicule.  (Unless it’s an oil painting, a sculpture, or soft-focus photograph, then that’s art and therefore perfectly acceptable.  But you’re not permitted to be aroused by that in any way.)

Sex toys are an absolute no when you’re alone.  If you’re a pervy loser for masturbating, you’re an especially pervy loser if you use a toy.  If you’re using a toy, you’ve given up hope of ever getting “real sex”, so you’re trying to find a second-rate simulation with a sleazy blow up doll.  You’re so perverted that you’d rather fuck a rubber pussy than use your hand.  And if the toy gets you off, you must have the hots for an inanimate object.  It doesn’t help that sex toys for men have a stigma of being creepy and weird (likely because so many of them actually are creepy and weird).

And finally, look at how it’s portrayed and discussed.  If it’s ever brought up in a movie or a TV show, it’s a punchline.  When it’s mentioned in the news, it’s universally negative.  It’s a peeper at a window, a creeper in the bushes at the park, or a movie executive abusing his position.  It’s never a positive sexual health piece about how it’s normal and safe and fun and here’s these awesome toys to try.  There are dozens of examples of where masturbation for women is held up as an empowering act, an important skill to learn.  Hell, there’s one movie where it literally brings color to a dull black and white town, with so much energy that it sets a tree on fire.  But when it’s a man involved, he’s invariably a dirty, pervy overly horny creep who can’t control himself.


That sort of constant stream of negative messages will really mess you up.

Being asexual adds a number of complicating layers on top of an already complicated situation.

I mentioned earlier that I felt like I didn’t have permission to have sexuality.  Well, a huge part of that is that it feels like my own body never gave me permission.  It physically responds when prompted, yes, but that’s all mechanical.  It seems like other people will start to become interested in sexual things, and think “Am I allowed to do this?  Do I have permission?”, and their body will respond with a resounding, hormone charged “YES”.  Yes, you have permission to think you’d like to have sex with that person, in fact, why don’t you think about that when you touch yourself and it’ll make the whole thing better.  My body doesn’t do that.  My body’s all “What are you on about?  I don’t understand what’s going on here.  Do you need something?”

Sexuality in our culture is supposed to be directed at someone.  You can only wear “sexy” clothes when you’re trying to attract someone, not because you like how they look or because they’re comfortable on a hot day.  You can only masturbate if you’re fantasizing about someone and you’re treating it as practice for the “real sex” you’d rather have, not because you just want to get off.  You can only have sex because you find someone attractive and want to share a moment with them, not because you just like the way orgasms feel when they’re provided by someone else.   Your sexuality is never really yours.  Even when it’s entirely in your imagination and private, there’s a part of it that’s directed outward, and it’s that part that makes it acceptable.  But I can never do that.  I can’t include anyone else.  My sexuality isn’t directed at anyone, my asexuality won’t let that happen.  My sexuality can never be acceptable.

And when an expression of sexuality isn’t directed outward, it’s treated as if there’s something being hidden.   Touching yourself while imagining being with your partner, that’s fine.  Jacking off to nudie pics, that’s fine.  Pleasuring yourself to a fantasy about the person that was in front of you at the coffee shop that morning, that’s fine.   Using a toy supposedly modeled on a porn star, that’s fine.  But masturbating to nothing?  Well, come on now, you just can’t do that.  What are you thinking about?  If you can’t say, then just what kind of dark, depraved secrets are you hiding?

I can’t even look at porn right.  Porn is supposed to be fantasy fuel.  I’m supposed to want to be there, I’m supposed to put myself in the scene, I’m supposed to imagine what I’d do with the person featured.  Everything is supposed to be a stand-in for my penis.  The cock on that guy is supposed to be mine.  That toy is supposed to be my disembodied penis.  Those fingers, are they supposed to be my fingers or my penis?  I can never tell.  And if there isn’t a surrogate penis in the scene, then I’m supposed to mentally introduce my own into the picture.  Every shot, every angle, every position, they’re all designed to indicate that the surrogate cock or imaginary penis is being worked on.  That seems to be how everyone looks at porn.  That’s why that sort of porn is so prevalent, that’s how everyone describes their reaction to it, that’s even how people frame their objections to pornography, that it encourages lustful thoughts, because you’re imagining committing adultery and/or fornication.

But that’s not what it does for me.  I never picture myself in the scene.  I never teleport my penis onto another body or into the plastic shell of a toy.  That doesn’t work for me.  That sort of emphasis is dull and boring and leaves me confused, wondering whether people really like that sort of thing.  This is supposed to be a turn on?  That’s supposed to be hot?  Doesn’t that chafe?  Isn’t that tiring?  I’m pretty sure I can’t bend that way.  For most people, porn is a way for them to explore their sexuality, to let their fantasies wander.  But for me, it’s a big wall.  My body and my mind are just standing there saying “Nope, you don’t belong here.”  I don’t have permission.

(And honestly, even when it’s a video I’ve taken of myself, I can’t put myself in the scene…)

That’s not to say porn never works at all.  It does.  Sometimes.  Rarely.  It’s best when the performers seem to genuinely be having a good time, doing things they actually want to be doing, instead of trudging through a script for the camera.  My response feels more empathetic than sexual.  They seem to be having a good time, doing things that feel good, so I can have a good time, doing things that feel good.  But a lot of pictures and videos have to be clicked past to get to that sort of thing, and all that clicking and clicking feels like a chore, especially when I know that almost all of what I’m clicking past is going to be more than adequate for other people.

And I seem to be repulsed by the stereotypical “porn star” look.  I don’t know if it’s the glossy fakeness of it all, or the overt, deliberate sexuality of it all, but something about it is a quick ticket to the land of “nope”.  It’s not appealing and I don’t even remotely understand what is supposed to be appealing about it.

There are some people who I find pleasant to look at, but pretty much none of them would be considered “sexy” by a jury of my peers.  And while it’s pleasant to look at them, it’s not a sexual pleasantness.  Sex isn’t in the picture.  If I try to fantasize about doing things with them, it all falls apart.  In the rare event that there’s someone in porn that I find pleasant to look at, that certainly helps things, but I don’t understand why.  I don’t think it’s anything about the pleasantness that’s subconsciously sexually enticing to me, because if that were the case, I’d be able to get the same enhancement by thinking about someone I find pleasant to look at that’s not in a pornographic context, but that doesn’t work at all.  Maybe it’s that because it’s pleasant to look at them, I’m able to look at the images for a longer period of time without getting bored?  Maybe I feel more comfortable?  I don’t know, but the whole thing feels like there’s some sort of neuron in my brain that would normally be responsible for sexual attraction, but it’s confused and not wired up correctly, so it just spends its time taunting me.  It’s arousing, but why?

The world of sex toys was not made for asexuals in mind.  So much of it is driven by fantasy and an attempt to convince someone that it’s fine to use sex toys.  It’s not a rubber tube that’s getting you off, it’s an anthropomorphized rubber replica of some porn star’s anatomy of choice, and so therefore, it’s really her that’s getting you off.   Here are some direct quotes from the marketing of a few sex toys:

“Ever wondered what it would be like to bone me? Now you can screw me in the nastiest ways!”

“Let her love tunnel’s ribbed Cyberskin grip you so good as you slide home.”

“Flip this cheerbabe over and dive under her skirt for some steamy anal play!”

“Stop dreaming about your hot neighbor… and start doing everything you’ve fantasized about with her!”

To be clear, these were talking about 4-6 inch long rubber tubes.  It wasn’t hard to find marketing copy like this.  Pretty much every toy has something like it.  That sort of thing does not enhance the experience for me at all.  It just feels creepy and sleazy and misogynistic and makes me less interested in the product.  Does that sort of thing even work for non-ace people, or are they just as skeeved out by it?

Most toys have some sort of anatomical features.  Most common are labia, to resemble a vulva.  But there’s also mouths and butts and breasts and feet.  There’s even some that have mouth-breasts and foot-vulvas.  Some toys claim to have a G-Spot or a cervix, neither of which ever resembles those actual structures.  (Anatomy lesson for sex-toy makers:  The cervix does not get penetrated during sex and it would likely be excruciatingly painful if that happened.)  And for the more adventurous, there’s double-clitted aliens, zombie mouths, dragon cocks and mare vulvas.  But whatever features they have, they all have a few things in common:  They can’t be seen when the toy is in use, they have little to no effect on the sensations of the toy, and they usually drive up the price of the toy for no reason.

And even non-anatomical toys aren’t very ace friendly.  One toy mentions that it’s great for use with a partner, another that its open ended design allows “added oral thrills” with a partner, another has product photos where it’s placed on a naked woman.  And pretty much any toy that doesn’t look like a vulva is sold as a “blow job simulator”.  When you try to buy a toy, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see some sort of genital depiction somewhere in the storefront.  If you look up lists of the best sex toys of men or look at male sex toy review sites, it’s pretty much guaranteed that cock rings and vibrators will be on the list, and it’s always about how “you’ll drive her wild” when you use them.  All of that is useless to me.  There’s never anything about the softness or stretchiness of the toy.  Dimensions are rarely mentioned.  There’s never anything about how a ring changes sensations or how to effectively use a Magic Wand style vibrator on a penis.  (I’m still trying to figure that last one out…  Nothing I’ve tried is reliable.)

I masturbate because I like the way it feels.  I use sex toys because I like the way they feel.  It’s all about the physical feelings.  It’s not about cleaning the pipes or about practicing for the Real Thing™.  It feels good.  Almost everyone else does it because it feels good, too, but no one’s allowed to admit it.  So they pile up a wall of excuses and rationalizations made up of desires and fantasies and imaginary health concerns to justify it and protect themselves from having to admit that they do it because it feels good, because that would be wrong.  And I don’t have any of those desires and fantasies, I don’t have anything besides the way it feels, so I’m all I’m left with is the feeling that it’s wrong.

And because I’m ace, I feel like I can’t talk about these things.  In a non-ace context, everything about sexuality is foreign to me.  I don’t understand the feelings, motivations, or goals that are in play.  If I try to read about masturbation techniques or look at sex toy reviews, it usually ends up with someone talking about how they just thought about “the girl from the bar I fucked last week” or that the toy “feels just like a blow job”, neither of which is remotely useful for me.  Every once in a while there’s something I understand, but it’s buried under an overwhelming mountain of stuff that just fundamentally does not make sense to me.  And in an ace context, these things just don’t get discussed.  All of these things are “sexual”, therefore they can’t be associated with an asexual person.  Some aces are reluctant to talk about it because they think it makes them “less asexual” to do it.  Some aces are reluctant to talk about it because they’re not comfortable talking in a semi-public arena about such things.  Some aces are reluctant to talk about it because they don’t want to offend or alienate other aces.  When I talk about it, and there’s little response, I can’t tell if no one’s paying attention, no one understands what I’m saying, no one feels comfortable talking about it themselves, or if what I’m talking about or the way I’m talking about it is dirty, pervy, and creepy, so it drives people away.  So I feel like I’m not allowed to talk about any of it, even in the place that I created to talk about it.


There’s no place where the way I feel is allowed to exist.

What if I’m not averse to sex, but averse to sexuality?  And not because it’s gross or disgusting, but because I can’t understand it.  Maybe I feel like I don’t have permission because none of it makes sense, so it’s obviously not something I’m supposed to be a part of.  It’s like I snuck into the field trip for the wrong class and we’re all at the planetarium of naked people, but asstronomy was never covered in my class.  And it’s frustrating that I don’t understand it, because everyone else knows what’s going on.  And so I play along because maybe there’s something out there which will unlock my sexuality, that somehow I’ll find my permission slip.



On deeper reflection, it feels like a large part of it is that my sexuality is not typically desire-linked, yet the general cultural conception of sexuality is.  So all these desire-linked concepts are being layered on my experiences by external forces, and I’m not comfortable with that.  I’m supposed to be feeling sexual desire for someone, I’m supposed to be able to connect that desire to my actions, I’m supposed to be able to kindle that desire through surrogate objects.  But that’s not what’s going on, don’t assume that’s what’s going on, don’t make me feel like I have to correct the record, don’t make me feel like I have to play along.

This outside overlay of desire-linked sexuality on top of what I’m feeling is alien, unwanted, invasive.  I don’t really see masturbation as sexual in the way other people mean it.  And so there’s a fundamental disconnect there which I keep trying to reconcile.  It’s just something I do that feels good, but other people/society/whatever keeps trying to layer meaning on it, interject their own analysis and inferences and innuendo or whatever.

It’s not so much that I don’t have permission, it’s that in a fundamental way I don’t recognize the concept of sexuality as it exists for most other people.  They’re using a different file format for sexuality, and I’m incompatible with it.  I don’t know what to do with the data being passed to me and just end up throwing a bunch of internal exceptions.

The ace community is full of people who mostly afab. I think I’m asking what are your views/concepts/ideas etc on the topic.

Q: I think its obvious that the queer community, and I think specifically the ace community is full of people who mostly afab (regardless of later cis or trans identities). I don’t want to ask the question how do we fix this, because the answer is consistently education, as it should be. I think I’m asking what are your views/concepts/ideas etc on the topic.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the wider queer community is mostly AFAB people.  Some corners are, but others are heavily AMAB.  But, I’m not an expert on demographics, and that’s outside of my area, so I’ll leave it there.

Now, about the ace community, that’s absolutely true.  The periodic censuses that are done show it, and even just an informal glance at the people involved shows that.  According to the latest census, less than 10% of the ace community are cis-males.  And I don’t think that breakdown reflects reality.

I’ve got some anecdotal hypotheses about why that is (none of which have been proven or even really explored):

    • Women are “supposed” to be asexual, while men are “supposed” to be hypersexual.
    • Women are “allowed” to talk about their feelings, while men are expected to keep it bottled up.  This also means that women are probably more likely to hear about asexuality from other women, while men are more likely to hear about asexuality from absolutely no one.
    • Online message boards and forums on these sorts of topics tend to skew towards a female audience, which introduces sampling bias.  (Also likely why many of the same surveys show a predominance of or introverts.)
    • The belief that erection == attraction.
    • Fear of ridicule for being anything other than a practicing heterosexual.

General awareness of asexuality would help, but beyond that, I think there are issues that specifically need to be addressed regarding asexual men.

First, the idea that a functioning penis has any bearing on sexual orientation needs to be thrown out.  I might very well have discovered that I was asexual years earlier, if I hadn’t been so caught up on that.  You can be asexual and get erections.  You can be asexual and masturbate.  You can be asexual and have orgasms.  And you can be asexual and enjoy all of the above.

Second, the people who mock asexuality as the emasculated beta-male byproduct of feminism need to be destroyed.  (They need to be destroyed in general, but also specifically because of this.)  I am not asexual because women are allowed to vote or work or wear pants or generally be treated like human beings.  I am not asexual because I’m afraid that I’ll be sued for harassment if I even look in the direction of a woman. I am asexual because I’m not sexually attracted to anyone.

An Asexual’s Guide To … Male Masturbation

[Up to Masturbation | Main]

The techniques and details described in this post are not the only way to masturbate.  They’re not the “correct” way or the “best” way.  They may not even work for you.  They’re provided as a base upon which you can experiment and learn what works for you.

Okay, so, I’ve got a penis and I want to try masturbating.  How do I go about doing that?

The first step is to get ready.  Find a comfortable and safe position, where you’ll have enough time to experiment and try things out without being disturbed.  Lock your door if that would make you feel more comfortable.  You may want some sort of lube to help things along.  Pretty much anything slippery will do, but try to avoid soap or shampoo, because those have a tendency to dry out your skin or cause a burning sensation if they get in your urethra, neither of which is very fun.  Lube specifically designed for sexual activity (typically called “personal lubricant”) is your best bet, but something like hand lotion, baby oil, or Vaseline will also work.  (However, oil and latex don’t mix, so if there’s any chance that a condom and another person will be involved in your session, stick to water-based personal lubricants that are specifically made for use with condoms.  To repeat:  Do not use hand lotion, baby oil, Vaseline, or anything else like that if there’s going to be a condom involved.)  And finally, you’ll want to have a towel or some tissues nearby.  If you end up having an orgasm, you’ll probably ejaculate, and you’ll probably want to clean that up.  (Or just masturbate in the shower or bath and wash it all down the drain.)

All the prerequisites are taken care of, it’s time to get down to business.  The most common and most straightforward way to masturbate is to wrap your hand around your penis and stroke up and down repeatedly until you orgasm or decide to stop.  That’s the technique I’m going to explain here.

For this to work, you’re going to need access to your penis.  I’d suggest taking off your pants and underwear, so it’s all out there and freely reachable, and so you don’t have to worry about accidental stains on your pants when you’re done.  Of course, it’s also possible to pull your penis out through your fly, although that can sometimes lead to painful zipper bites.  Or if you want, you can simply reach into your underwear and do it entirely inside your pants, but that typically leads to restricted motion, which may make things uncomfortable and more difficult.

Now you’ll need an erection, also known as a hard-on.  This is where your penis fills with blood, becomes somewhat stiff, and tends to stand up.  At this point, most other resources will direct you to “Think of that hot girl in accounting” in order to get an erection, but since you’re here, I’m assuming you’re ace, so that’s probably not going to work so well for you.  That means you’ll need to get one some other way.  Of course, you might already have one from reading this far and anticipating what’s next.  Awesome, you’re ready to go!  Then again, you may know how to achieve erection, in which case, proceed.  Or, you can always wait until you have one naturally for some reason.  Morning wood can be used for masturbation, just like any other erection.

However, in many cases, you might have to help your little soldier stand at attention when you want to use it.  Here’s a few things you might try to get you up and running.  Feel free to mix and match these techniques.  If one doesn’t work on its own, it might work with the help of another.

  • Touch or rub your penis.  This may seem obvious, but it’s often rather effective.  Don’t just poke it with a finger or hold it like you would when you pee, but run your fingers or hand around it.  Near the head on the underside (the side that faces your balls when you’re soft) is an area that’s often more sensitive than the rest of skin.  Rubbing there in a circular motion may get you aroused.
  • Grab and pull your penis.  Don’t yank or jerk, but gently pull it outward and move it around.  Start stroking or pushing along it.
  • Move the loose skin back and forth.  Pull the skin back, then pull the skin up over the head over and over.  If you have a foreskin, pull it back all the way.  Try gently pinching, rolling, or stretching the skin.
  • Caress your stomach, inner thighs, and balls.  Try focusing on other areas around your penis.  Those regions are often fairly sensitive and may send a wake-up signal to your equipment.
  • Constrict the base of your penis for a short time.  Make a loop with your thumb and forefinger around your penis, down near where it attaches to your body.  Make the finger loop tighter. This will allow blood to enter, but make it more difficult to leave, which may result in an erection.  Toys called “cock rings” do this same thing.  Don’t stay like this for too long or hold it too tightly, or you’ll cut off circulation, which could be bad.
  • Apply pressure to your penis.  Press it against your body with your hand.  Lean against something, so that your penis is between your body and something else.  Or try laying face down, with your penis between your body and your mattress.  Make a gentle rocking motion with your hips to vary the pressure on your shaft.  You might also try crossing your legs with your penis between them.
  • Tense or clench your genital muscles.  Try tensing the muscles that you use to hold back pee.  Clench and hold, or repeatedly tense and release.  After a while, you might start to get an erection.
  • Think about sex, look at porn, or read something erotic.  Yeah, you’re asexual, but this still may work anyway.  Don’t ask me why, I haven’t figured it out myself.
  • Use a vibrator.  The little buzzing machines aren’t just for a clitoris.  A penis can be woken up by one, too.  That zone on the underside is a good place to try placing it.

By the way, you don’t actually have to have a full erection to begin masturbating.  An erection isn’t an on-off binary, where you’re either completely soft or rock hard.  There’s a huge area in between, and you can usually work with your penis even if it’s in a semi-erect state.  So, if you’re able to get yourself partially hard, but not completely there, then you’re probably far enough along to continue.  The later stimulation will likely complete the erection.  And if you start to lose the erection after you’ve started, come back to these tricks and you might be able to regain it.

Okay, so now you have an erection (Or at least enough of one) and are ready to go.

At this point, pretty much anything that slides up and down your penis over and over may eventually lead to an orgasm.  Some techniques are very effective, while others are a quick trip to rug burn.  I’m going to describe one of the most common techniques.  Note that this is not the only way to masturbate.  There are many variations that you can do, so I’d encourage you to experiment and improvise in order to find out what works best for you.

Reach down and wrap your hand (doesn’t matter which) around your erection.  Your grip should sort of be like you’re holding a cup or a refrigerator door handle.  Your thumb and forefinger should be able to completely close a loop around your penis near the head, your palm will fully contact the shaft, while the rest of the fingers will curl around as far as they can reach.  You want to hold tight enough that you can feel some pressure, but not so tight that you’re really squeezing it.  You’re not trying to pull off your penis, so you don’t need a death grip.

Start sliding your hand up and down the shaft of your penis.  It should be a smooth, continuous motion.  If you’ve ever seen the piston on an oil well or on a steam locomotive, think of the continuous back-and-forth movement of one of those.  You don’t want to “jerk” it or “yank” it, despite what the common euphemisms for masturbation imply.  Keep stroking up and down your penis repeatedly.  If you have no idea how fast to be going, try about one or two full up and down strokes per second, but don’t worry about precise timing.  Faster or slower is okay, and you’ll find the speed that works for you.

There should be some play in the skin of your shaft.  Your grip should be tight enough so that the skin moves slightly back and forth with your hand, but loose enough that it’ll slip back into position as you move.  You don’t want a grip so tight that it feels like you’re going to pull the skin off or so loose that you don’t feel the skin move at all.  If you have a foreskin, you might be able to slide that back and forth.

You do not have to move your hand along the entire length of your penis with every stroke.  The base of the shaft is less sensitive than the head, so you may not get much from stroking the base.  Then again, the head may be too sensitive to stroke, so you may want to avoid it at certain times.  You’ll probably keep your hand in contact with your penis most of the time as you stroke, instead of pulling it completely off the end with every movement.  Sometimes you might make several short strokes close to the head between strokes along the full length.

If your hand’s not sliding smoothly across the skin of your penis as you stroke, you may want to use some of that lubricant that I mentioned above.  Start with a small amount, like a drop or two.  It’s easy to add more, but harder to take it away.  You want to add enough so that you reduce friction, but not so much that you’ve completely eliminated it.  Too little and it’ll probably feel sticky, but too much and your hand will slip right off.  Make sure that the lube is spread around to all of your fingers and your palm.  If it starts to dry out, adding a little bit more or a few drops of water will usually bring it back.

As you continue to stroke, it should start to feel different downstairs.  It probably will begin to feel good.  Varying the pressure of your grip (even mid-stroke), the speed of the stroke, the angle you’re holding it, even how many fingers you’re using may all have an effect on how much pleasure you experience.  Everyone is different.  Some people like fast strokes while others take it slow, but too fast may cause irritation and too slow may not be enough stimulation to keep the erection up.  Some prefer looser grips and others prefer more pressure, but too loose and you won’t feel anything and too tight and it might hurt.  There’s no “perfect” speed or pressure, so you’ll have to experiment with what works best for you.

There are various areas of your penis that will react to stimulation differently.  The shaft is probably the least sensitive area.  On the underside of the penis, near the head, there may be a zone that is very pleasurable to stimulate.  A band of skin called the frenulum connects the shaft to the head in that area, and the frenulum can be quite sensitive, although it’s unfortunately sometimes removed during circumcision.  The head is often the most sensitive area.  Sometimes, particularly for someone who is uncircumcised, the head may even be too sensitive to stimulate directly until you reach a high enough level of arousal and your body is prepared for it.  The corona, the ridge around the base of the head can also be a highly sensitive region.

Now, you may be thinking, “If the head is so sensitive, why don’t I just spend all my time focused on that?”  Well, the answer is that it’s generally too intense to do that.  The stimulation will sort of overload your senses and it may become too much to take.  If it starts to feel too intense, back off a bit.  Slow down, loosen your grip, maybe retreat to the shaft for a while and stroke the head a bit less.

Okay, so, you’re stroking over and over, and hopefully it’s starting to feel like you’re getting somewhere.  There’s a misconception that you won’t feel much of anything until all of a sudden, BOOM! Orgasm.  That’s typically not how it works.  It’ll probably start to feel good well before the orgasm, with a small surge of pleasure with every stroke up or down.  You’ll start to get a feeling for which areas feel best, and you’ll start to focus on them.  You’ll probably start to adjust your speed and pressure to maximize the sensation.  Just keep at it like this.

Don’t worry about whether or not you have an orgasm.  You probably won’t have one the first time you masturbate.  Or first five times.  Or maybe even your first hundred.  Don’t try to force it and don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have one.  It doesn’t mean you’re broken, it doesn’t mean you’re impotent, it doesn’t mean you’re unable to have one.  More than likely, it just means you’re inexperienced.  So, just relax and keep doing what feels good and trying different things when something doesn’t feel good, and eventually, you’ll probably get there.  If it doesn’t feel like you’re getting anywhere this time, then stop for now, don’t sweat it, and try again later.

However, if it feels like you’re getting somewhere, keep going.  As you proceed, the pleasure will probably increase.  You may notice that your pulse and breathing have changed.  Muscles all over your body may start to tense up or shake involuntarily.  You may start to focus on the sensations and begin to tune the rest of the world out.  Eventually, you may feel like you’re climbing a hill or pushing against a wall, that’s there’s a sense that something is about to happen, if you can just get there.  At this point, a lot of people become nervous and think that something’s wrong or that they’ve hit a dead end, so they stop masturbating.  Keep going, keep trying to get to the other side.  You may want to change the speed and pressure of your strokes at this point.  A lot of people will go faster and grip tighter in an effort to get over that hill.  You’re not far off from the orgasm, so keep going.

In some cases, your penis might pulse or twitch when you’re at this stage.  That’s not a sign that something’s wrong, it’s just your body preparing for what’s next.  This doesn’t always happen, though, so don’t worry if it doesn’t happen to you.

Eventually, all that repetitive stroking you’ve been doing will pay off.  You’ll have a sensation that you’ve made it to the top of the hill and you’ll start coasting down the other side.  This is the orgasm.  Usually, there will be an intense surge of pleasure that lasts for several seconds.  Often, there will be a series of rhythmic muscular pulses in your penis, kinda like a very strong heartbeat.  These pulses are often accompanied by a surge of pleasure.  They’re roughly a second apart at the start, but they slow down and become weaker with each passing pulse.  You can have from one to over ten of these pulses, but generally you’ll probably have somewhere between 3 and 7 of them.

Most of the time, you’ll also ejaculate when you orgasm.  Ejaculation is when the muscular pulses pump semen through your penis, causing it to come out of the end.  Semen is a whitish (or maybe yellowish) liquid that generally contains sperm.  Sometimes, it’ll just dribble out the end, while other times it’ll squirt out with such force that it can fly several feet.  Sometimes it’s thick, while other times it’s runny.  The volume of semen, as well as the strength of the ejaculation is different for every person, every time they have one.  In many cases, if you haven’t ejaculated in a while, it’ll tend toward thicker and more volume, while if you’ve ejaculated more recently, it’ll become thinner and there will be less.  I should probably point out that although your testicles produce the sperm, they’re not really all that involved when ejaculation happens.  They don’t pump anything, and if you touch them during ejaculation, you won’t feel them moving at all.

Your first few times, an orgasm may feel more weird than good.  You’ve got muscles moving on their own in ways you’re not used to, you’ve got sensory input you’ve never had before, and you’ve probably got strange liquids being expelled from your body.  You may even feel slightly nauseous.  It’s almost a guarantee that it won’t be a mind-blowing, world-shaking experience and it probably won’t be the best feeling ever.  More than likely, you’ll get used to the sensations of orgasm over time and it’ll start to feel better as you go along.

After you orgasm, you’ll probably feel deeply relaxed.  All the tension that had built up while you were climbing that hill has been released.  At the same time, your penis has probably become very very sensitive.  Trying to continue stroking it is probably unbearably intense.   Even a light motion might be uncomfortable.  You can let go of yourself at this point, but you may also enjoy the feeling of simply holding your penis (without moving anything) for a while afterward.  During this time, you’ll gradually lose your erection and your heart rate and breathing will return to normal.

Most people will stop at this point.  Most of the time, everything downstairs will need a bit of time to recharge.  You’ll probably lose your erection and find it difficult to get another one for a period of a few minutes or up to several hours.  This is called the refractory period.

In any case, that’s just one of many ways that you can masturbate.  As I’ve been saying all along, don’t be afraid to experiment and try other things.  You’re the only person who can know what works best for you.

tl; dr:  Put your hand around your cock and stroke until you come.

What if I don’t want to touch myself?

If you’re not a fan of direct contact with your penis, then you can try wearing a rubber glove on your hand or a condom on your penis while you masturbate.  You will almost certainly need to use lube in this case, and if you go the condom route, be sure to put some both inside and outside.  This method has the benefit of being pretty much identical to the hand stroking technique outlined above.

If that’s still not your cup of tea, you can try using toys.  Many masturbation sleeves cover your penis completely, so with the exception of possibly helping your penis into the sleeve, you won’t have to touch it while you masturbate.  I’ll talk about some of them in a bit.  However, you’d have to purchase a toy, so that may not be the best solution.

Another option is to remain fully clothed and grind against something.  Grinding or humping is when you press your penis against something, then rock your hips back and forth in order to stimulate yourself.  The hip rocking motion should either move the penis or it should change the pressure point, in either case, the part of the penis that’s being stimulated will change as you rock.   Lying face down on a mattress is a common way to do this, as is grinding against a couch or other piece of furniture.  There are downsides to grinding, though.  First, since you’re probably grinding against rough clothing, you may end up irritating your penis.  Second, if you orgasm, you’re probably going to ejaculate in your underwear, which would probably get a bit messy.

What if I don’t like fluids?

Probably the best way to avoid fluids is to wear a condom while you masturbate.  They’re specifically designed to catch and contain your semen when you ejaculate, after all.  You can put one on when you first get started, wear it the whole time you’re masturbating, then take it off and throw it away when you’re done. The downside is that condoms can get expensive if you’re buying them all the time.

You can try keeping a tissue or a towel handy.  When you sense that you’re about to come, place the tissue around the head of your penis and cover your urethra and try to catch the ejaculate.

Masturbating in the shower is another good way to deal with fluids.  When you ejaculate, it goes straight down the drain, and you can immediately wash your hands.  A similar technique would be to ejaculate directly into a toilet.

Many masturbation toys will contain your semen after you ejaculate.  You simply ejaculate into the toy, then wash it out later.  These toys also contain the lubricant, leaving your hands clean and dry.  I’ll talk about them shortly.

Another option is to stop before you reach orgasm and ejaculation.  It can still be quite pleasurable.  If you learn the signals of your body, you’ll be able to tell when you’re about to reach orgasm, so you can slow down or stop for a bit then resume a while later.  This allows you to continue masturbating almost indefinitely without having an orgasm.

Are the fluids harmful?

Your own precum and your own semen are not harmful to you in any way.  It’s perfectly safe to touch them, it’s even safe to ingest them if you think you’d be into that.  Semen might start to smell bad after a while, but you’re probably going to clean up long before that happens.

What about toys or other implements?

Masturbation toys, also called sex toys, are a way to enhance or alter your masturbation experience.  You can use them in addition to or in place of another masturbation technique.  Some toys won’t get you to orgasm on their own, but they can potentially increase the pleasure.  There are far too many types to talk about all of them, so I’m just going to cover a few of the common ones.

  • Penis Sleeve:  A sleeve is a toy that encloses your penis.  You typically apply lube to the sleeve, insert your penis, grab the sleeve and stroke with it.  The sleeve usually has soft ridges or bumps or some other texture on the inside to vary and increase the stimulation.  Sometimes, sleeves are little more than a thin tube that’s open on both ends, while other times, the sleeve is made of a thicker material, or closed off on one end.  Sleeves that are large enough or that are closed on one end are often a good way to contain the ejaculation for easy cleanup. Occasionally, sleeves have an opening that resembles a body part, but the opening rarely has any practical effect on the stimulation.  Common sleeves include the Tenga brand and the Fleshlight.
  • Vibrator:  A vibrator is wide term that encompasses any toy that vibrates.  You typically press the vibrator against a sensitive spot on your penis, run it around your testicles, or, in some cases, insert it in your anus.  Most vibrators have adjustable speed or strength.  Vibrators by themselves may not get you all the way to orgasm easily, but they can be used to help with arousal or enhance the sensation of orgasm.  There are multiple types of vibrators.  Bullet vibes, where the vibrating motor is encased in a small egg are fairly popular.  Dildo vibes are the combination of a dildo and a vibrator.  Cock ring vibes are the combination of a cock ring and a bullet vibe and allow hands free stimulation of your penis.  Ring vibes that are sometimes sold with condoms are typically single use and have weak motors powered by watch batteries.  It’s possible to get stronger ring vibes which have larger vibrators attached, and which are powered by AA batteries.  Then there’s the personal massager vibrators, which are typically larger, stronger, and are usually marketed as back massagers.  The Hitachi Magic Wand is a popular personal massager.
  • Cock Rings:  A cock ring is a ring that fits around your penis (sometimes your penis and testicles), and is designed to restrict blood flow.  Restricting blood flow tends to create a stronger erection, because the blood can get in, but has a harder time getting back out.  Most of the time, cock rings are passive, you just put it on and leave it on until you’re done.  Sometimes, however, they’ll have vibrators attached, which can provide additional stimulation.  Cock rings should not be used for an extensive period of time and you should take it off immediately if it starts to hurt.  Also, remember that your penis probably will grow when you get erect, so a size that fits when you’re soft might become uncomfortably tight when you’re hard.  Don’t use a ring that you can’t cut off in an emergency, or you might be facing an embarrassing visit to the ER…
  • Dildos:  A dildo is a generally somewhat cylindrical toy that is designed for penetration.  Sometimes a dildo may have a vibrator inside it, and sometimes a dildo might be designed to resemble a penis.  You use it by applying generous lube and carefully inserting it in your anus.  You may choose to move it in and out, or you may with to simply leave it there.  Anal stimulation rarely leads to orgasm on its own, but it often will enhance the pleasure of masturbation.  Anal dildos are an effective way to stimulate your prostate.  Be sure to only use toys specifically designed for anal penetration, which typically have a ridge to prevent the whole thing from going inside and getting stuck.  Also, take note of the size.  Many dildos are designed for vaginal penetration, so they can be fairly large and using them in your anus can be very uncomfortable and unpleasant.  Anal penetration can also be a bit messy, so be prepared to clean both the toy and yourself when you’re finished.  The Aneros is a dildo that’s specifically designed for prostate stimulation.
  • Handheld Shower Head:  If you have one of those detachable handheld shower heads on the end of a small hose, you can direct the spray toward your penis, testicles, or perineum.  Adjust the spray pattern and water temperature to find what works best.  In some cases, you may find that a direct spray at a specific spot works, while other times it may be more effective to sweep the spray across your genitals.  It can be difficult to reach orgasm with only the spray from a shower head.  You may wish to direct the water at your balls while you stroke your penis.

Ejaculating seems messy.  What do I do about that?

First, it’s important to understand that there typically isn’t much fluid produced when you ejaculate, often no more than a few milliliters.  That means there isn’t too much to clean up, and it also means that it’s fairly easy to contain, if that’s what you want to do.  As I mentioned in an earlier response, you can contain it when you ejaculate by using condoms, certain toys, or by finishing into a tissue or towel, or you can simply masturbate in the shower and wash it all away.

You can also deal with it by controlling where you ejaculate.  Some people will shoot into toilet or sink when they masturbate, while others might try to aim it so that all of the semen lands on their stomach, where it’s a quick wipe to get rid of.  It’s also possible to ejaculate into your cupped hand, then wash it off from there.  Also, instead of ejaculating directly into a tissue or towel, you can place it on your stomach and chest or wherever and just ejaculate onto it.

Some of these techniques are more disruptive than the others.  If you’re lying in bed masturbating, it can be quite a shift to jump up and run to the bathroom to ejaculate when you feel orgasm coming on.  Try different methods, and you’ll find one that works well and doesn’t distract from the experience.

There are several techniques to prevent ejaculation during orgasm.  One is to apply pressure, either by squeezing very tightly around the base of the penis or by pressing hard against the perineum.  Both of these techniques will close off the urethra and not allow semen to exit through the penis, but both can also cause discomfort.  Another method is to clench and hold the muscles around the penis as tight as you can for as long as you can during orgasm  This will disrupt the ejaculatory pumping, and you may experience and orgasm without ejaculation.  (These are also some of the techniques that could lead to multiple orgasm.)  Both of these techniques are not 100% effective and take a lot of practice to get right.

If you ejaculate on something, you’ll probably want to clean it up fairly soon after you’re done.  Semen will turn dry and crusty after a while, and will probably leave a yellowish stain behind.  (So, don’t use your favorite shirt to soak it up…)

Will I always ejaculate when I masturbate?

Not necessarily.  While orgasm and ejaculation usually happen at the same time, they’re not actually the same thing.  It’s possible to have an orgasm without ejaculating.  Sometimes it just happens, where you get some sense of an orgasm happening, but nothing comes out.  Other times, you may have ejaculated so many times within a short period of time that there’s not really anything left.  And, as mentioned above, you may also be able to train yourself to have an orgasm without ejaculating.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get anywhere close to the orgasm/ejaculation zone when you masturbate.  And even if you do, if you’re able to sense when you’re getting close, you can easily stop before you get there.

On the other hand, if you do experience orgasm when you masturbate, but you rarely or never ejaculate, you may be experiencing what’s called retrograde ejaculation, where the semen enters the bladder instead of exiting through the penis.  If that’s what’s happening, you might want to consult with a doctor about it, especially as it may point to a condition that’s more serious than simply not ejaculating when you orgasm.

If I don’t masturbate, will I explode from an unreleased buildup of semen?

No, not at all.  Semen doesn’t endlessly build up in some internal balloon until you eventually ejaculate.  If you fail to ejaculate regularly, exactly nothing happens.  Most of the time, the sperm produced will simply be reabsorbed into the body.  Occasionally, you may have a wet dream and ejaculate while you sleep.  But you’re not going to explode because there’s too much sperm in you.

Think about people who’ve had vasectomies.  A vasectomy doesn’t do anything to turn off the testicles.  They’re still there and running, constantly producing new sperm.  A vasectomy just cuts off the tubes that connected the testicles to the penis, so that the sperm has no way to get out.  People who’ve had vasectomies don’t have to go in for a sperm draining every couple of weeks.  The sperm just gets absorbed back into the body, and that’s the end of it.

People who say that they’re going to explode are just exaggerating.  They might have a high libido, they might really enjoy orgasm, but nothing physically is going to happen to them if they don’t ejaculate.

What’s the deal with the prostate?

The prostate is an organ that produces some of the ejaculatory fluids.  It’s located just behind the forward wall of your rectum.  And for some reason, despite its location, it can feel good if you stimulate it in some way.

Prostate stimulation should be considered an “advanced technique”.  If you’re just starting out, it’s best to get a little bit more experience masturbating before trying to include the prostate in your play time.  Otherwise it’ll just unnecessarily complicate things.  Even if you’re a veteran, you may not find prostate stimulation to be worth the trouble.

The prostate is not in a terribly accessible location, so stimulating it isn’t the easiest thing to do.  It can be reached by sticking a well-lubed finger in your anus.  (Be sure to clip your fingernails first!)  Go in a couple of inches, then press against the wall toward your front.  You should eventually come across a walnut-sized lump on the other side of the wall.  That lump is your prostate.  If you’re not too keen on sticking a finger up your butt, there are many toys that are specifically designed for prostate stimulation.  They typically have a curved shape that will press against the prostate when inserted.  And if you’re not a fan of anything at all going in that opening, then it’s sort of possible to stimulate the prostate from outside.  There’s a soft patch in your perineum, directly in front of your anus.  If you press there, you should be able to feel your prostate.

Prostate stimulation generally consists of rubbing it or pressing against it.  Some people claim that prostate stimulation alone can cause orgasms, orgasms without ejaculation, or ejaculation without an orgasm, but in most cases, it just tends to increase the intensity of the sensation.  It also may make it so that a much larger than usual amount of pre-ejaculatory lubricant will flow from your penis, even if you’re not doing anything to stimulate your penis.

Can I have multiple orgasms?

Maybe.  There’s a common belief that once there’s been an orgasm, the penis goes into sleep mode and can’t be used again for a while.  While that’s typically the case, it can be possible, with practice, to be able to have an orgasm, but then keep going afterward.

Multiple orgasms should be considered an “advanced technique”.  If you’re just starting out, it’s best to get a bit more experience masturbating before going for extra innings.  Otherwise it’ll just unnecessarily complicate things.  Even if you’re a veteran, you may not find going for multiple orgasms to be worth the trouble.

One technique is to prevent ejaculation when you orgasm.  This can be done by tightly squeezing the base of the penis or pushing hard against the perineum just as the orgasm starts, in order to close off the urethra.  This way may, however, be uncomfortable.  Another method is to tighten and hold the muscles you use when you pee.  As soon as the orgasm starts, stop stimulating yourself and clench those muscles and hold them as tight as you can for as long as you can.  You’ll probably need to have strong PC muscles to pull this off, so practice those Kegels!

Another technique is to completely relax and stop stimulating your penis as soon as the orgasm starts.  Completely relax and hands off.  Your penis will probably twitch and pump and you’ll likely ejaculate a little bit.

In either case, once you feel the orgasm is ending, resume stimulation.  If you’re successful, you won’t feel too sensitive or not sensitive enough.  It’ll be just right, and the stimulation will feel pretty much like it did before the orgasm.  You should be able to build it back up for another orgasm (and possibly another and another…).  You probably won’t be able to keep going forever, though.  Each successive orgasm tends to become harder to obtain.

The orgasms in a sequence of multiple orgasms are often less pleasurable than the typical single orgasm.  This is because you’re disrupting the process and making it less intense.  Unfortunately, this means that if you ever fail to ride through the orgasm and aren’t able keep going on to another one, you’ll probably only have had a relatively weak and unsatisfying orgasm, and be facing a limp penis that’s not interested in continuing.  Because of this, you’ll probably want to try to finish with an orgasm that you don’t intentionally disrupt.

If you decide to pursue multiple orgasms, be aware that it takes a lot of practice and a willingness to experience disappointment while you try to get the hang of it.  Even if you get it figured out, you may decide that it’s not worth the effort.

What other things can I try?

The penis isn’t the only body part that you can use while masturbating.  Try caressing your testicles or your perineum, try touching or pinching your nipples, try rubbing your thighs, stomach, or chest.  All of those places, and more, can enhance the experience.  In particular, don’t be afraid of your testicles.  They’re not as fragile as you might expect.  Don’t be afraid to rub, tug, or even squeeze them.  Just start gently and work up from there.

Some people enjoy anal stimulation.  You can try rubbing the opening, or gently push a well lubed (and well-manicured) finger inside.  The prostate, mentioned before, lives in that area.

You can try sitting on a rubber ball, rolled up sock, or bunched up blanket or towel in such a way that it presses gently against your perineum.  The penis extends back into the body, just above the perineum, so pressure there can work to stimulate that extension of your penis.

Try a different grip on your penis.  The “door handle” grip is just one.  You can turn that grip upside-down, so that your thumb and forefinger are on the positioned closer to the base.  You can place your fingers down the side of your penis and have the head cupped by the palm of your hand as you stroke.  You can use only fingertips.  Any way you can hold your penis is a valid way to try masturbating.

Go at it two handed.  You can stack your hands on top of one another and have an extra long stroke.  You can perform an “endless” stroke by stroking one direction with one hand, then when you reach the end, place the other hand and stroke with it, in a continuous motion.  You can stroke with one hand, and rub circles with the other.  You can place the palm of one hand over the opening in the other hand, so that a downstroke will have the head of the penis rub against the palm of the hand.  You can rub your penis between two palms.  Or you can have one hand pay attention to the shaft, while the other hand works the head.  Any way you can think of to use two hands it probably something worth experimenting with.

You can try a completely different method of masturbation, one that does not involve manual stroking.  One fairly common method is to thrust into something smooth and slippery.  The smooth and slippery object can be any number of things:  Your lubed up hand, a penis sleeve or similar toy, a condom, or even something improvised, like a plastic sandwich bag with a little bit of lube placed inside.  You can try sandwiching the object between a couple of pillows on your bed.  You might want to place a towel between the object and the pillows, in case any lube or anything else spills out.  Once you’re set up, you lie face down on top of the pillows and place your penis inside.  After you’ve adjusted everything and found a comfortable position, you can start moving your hips back and forth in order to thrust your penis in and out of the object.  This method often feels very different than masturbating by hand.  (And always, experiment with technique, speed, and pressure to discover what works best for you.)

What if it doesn’t feel good?

If you’re first getting started, it might not actually feel all that good.  You’ll probably have to try a couple of times before you start figure out what works for you.

If you’ve been at it for a while, but still nothing, shake up your technique a bit.  Switch hands, try using lube, try a different position, try using a toy, go faster or slower, relax or strengthen your grip.  In particular, try squeezing a bit when you stroke over the head of your penis, adjust your grip so that you press harder on the underside of your penis, or try tightening the loop made by your thumb and forefinger as you pass over the corona.  And remember, there’s no cookie-cutter way to masturbate.  What works for someone else might not work for you.

If you’ve tried it all and it still doesn’t feel good, then maybe it just won’t.  If it bothers you, you might want to consult with a doctor.  There may be a treatable medical reason for why it doesn’t feel good.  (Notably, it’s a side effect of many medications.)  However, if you’re cool with it, don’t worry about it.  You don’t have to masturbate or have orgasms to survive, so don’t worry about it.  It’s not your thing, but it doesn’t have to be your thing.

Are there any dangers or warnings I should know about?

  • This post has been written specifically about solo masturbation.  There are numerous health and safety concerns that would potentially need to be addressed if you’re doing anything I’ve mentioned here with someone else.  Most notably, there are countless disease prevention (and in some cases, pregnancy prevention) steps you would probably want to take that I have not mentioned here.
  • Don’t stick your penis into anything that wasn’t meant for it.  Always remember that a soft penis grows into a hard one, so something that’s easy to get into may be considerably harder to get out of.  Also, if the object is hard or rough, you could potentially cut, scrape, or otherwise injure yourself.
  • If you’re masturbating by thrusting into something, be careful not to accidentally jam your penis into something with the full force of a forward thrust.  Although there are no bones to break in your penis, it can still be severely injured by something like this.  If you slip out of whatever you’re thrusting into, carefully guide your penis back in before resuming full speed.
  • Watch what you use for lube.  Shampoo and soap might seem nice and slick, but it can severely dry out the skin or cause a rash.  They also may get into the urethra, where they’ll burn.  Some creams contain a “medicated” tingling or warming feature.  It might feel good on a sore back, but the sensation could be excruciating on your penis and testicles.  (Then again, that one’s up to individual preference…  Some people like how it feels…)
  • Inserting an object in your anus carries the risk of it getting stuck.  Save yourself an embarrassing visit to an emergency room and only use items that can’t get pulled completely inside and “lost”.  Many anal toys will have a ridge or tab to prevent them from going all the way in, or they’ll have a string attached to easy retrieval.
  • Make sure anything entering your anus is smooth and well lubed, and don’t force it in.  In particular, cut your fingernails!  A long fingernail might cut the inner lining, which can be unpleasant and runs the risk of infection.  Inadequate lubrication might cause irritation or tearing.
  • NEVER do ANYTHING that forcibly cuts off your airway while masturbating.  People have actually died from doing that.  You can hold your breath, but leave it at that.  Besides, taking long deep breaths can actually increase the sensations more than holding your breath will.
  • If it hurts, stop!  You’re probably doing something wrong.

[Up to Masturbation | Main]

An Asexual’s Guide To … Male Anatomy

[Up to Anatomy | Main]

(For most men, most boys, and anyone else who happens to have a penis.)

The most prominent part of the male anatomy is the penis.  Know that floppy, dangly, tube-shaped thing at the top of your legs?  The thing you pee out of.  That’s your penis.  It’s also known as “cock”, “dick”, “member”, “johnson”, and about 247,000 other slang terms of varying vulgarity, popularity, and descriptive inaccuracy.  Sometimes the penis will stop being floppy and dangly and will instead get stiff and stand up, which is called an erection, or “hard-on” or “boner”.  The penis has a number of components and points of interest that I want to mention, but let’s continue the tour and come back to them later.

Behind the penis is a lumpy bag.  This bag is called the scrotum and the lumps inside it are the testicles.  This part is also known as the “balls”, “nuts”, or “that thing that really really hurt and was sore for days when I accidentally got hit there that one time in PE”.  There are typically two testicles in the scrotum.  Sometimes the testicles dangle and sometimes they hug the body.  When they dangle, it’s common for one to hang lower than the other.  If you feel the scrotum, you should be able to feel both testicles, as well as a series of tubes connected to them.  In many cases, the word “testicles” is used to refer to both the testicles and the scrotum.

Many testicle owners are afraid of handling them, since they have a reputation for being very sensitive and causing a lot of pain when injured.  The truth is that you can often handle them quite safely.  Just be gentle and work up from there until you find your limit.  And handle them you should!  If you’re a testicle owner, you should periodically conduct a testicular self exam for lumps that may be related to testicular cancer.  (Just do an Internet search for instructions.  The phrase “testicular self exam” generally leads to a fairly safe, medically oriented set of results.)

While you’re down in this area, you may have noticed a forest of short, curly hairs.  These are pubic hairs, also known as the “bush”.  The area that they cover and their density varies greatly from person to person.  For some people, the patch of hair starts at the shoulders and stretches uninterrupted all the way down to the feet.  For others, the hair is limited to the area immediately around the base of the penis and testicles.  In still others, the hair is thickest around the penis and testicles, but may spread upward and start a colony around the navel.  The testicles are usually covered in hair, while the penis is typically hair free beyond a certain elevation.  Sometimes the color of pubic hair may not match the color of the hair elsewhere on your body.  In some cases, people shave some or all of this hair away for various reasons.  According to scientists, the only known purpose of pubic hair is to be particularly repulsive when found in a shower.

As you travel further back, between the legs and behind the testicles, you arrive at a  long, fairly featureless stretch, called the perineum, sometimes also called the “taint”.  On the surface, the most prominent landmark is the fold of skin in the middle, that looks like a sealed up seam, known as the raphe.  If you trace this seam forward, you’ll find that it continues along the bottom of your scrotum and keeps going up to the tip of your penis.  If you trace it backwards, you’ll find that it ends at your anus (which is our next stop).

The perineum is most notable for what lies beneath the surface.  The structure of the penis continues into the body underneath the perineum.  When you have an erection, the part of the penis located under the perineum also becomes hard, and you can feel it through the skin.  Also, if you press inward, into the soft area just in front of your anus, you may be able to feel your prostate (Although more on that later).

The anus is as far back as we’re going to go on this trip.  It’s the hole in your butt where poop comes out.  Strangely, this area is also home to a notable point of interest, called the prostate.  It takes a bit of spelunking to get to, though, so not everyone may wish to take this part of the trip.  (If you plan venturing inside to find your prostate, be sure to clip your nails first, wear a rubber glove if you’ve got one, and use some form of lube, or else your trip will likely be short and even more unpleasant than it already is.)  To find the prostate, venture a few inches inside and start pressing against the forward wall, as if you’re curving your finger to point at your belly button.  You should find a hard, kinda roundish lump on the other side of the wall.

Okay, now, enough of that.  Go wash your hands.  Thoroughly.

Our tour now leaves the lower reaches and travels up, onto your chest.  There you will likely find two nipples, one on each side.  The nipples are largely pointless little nubs of skin that typically are surrounded by darker discs of skin which may of may not have hair growing out of them.  Sometimes the nipples will get slightly hard and stick out.  Most people regard nipples on the male body to be some sort of cosmic joke, although they do have some limited utility that I’ll get into in a later post.

Okay, let’s get back to the penis.  Remember where it was?  Good.

The part that’s sorta long and tube shaped and fairly smooth is called the shaft.  The mushroom shaped squishy bit at the end is called the head or the glans.  The ridge where the shaft connects to the glans is called the corona.  The hole that pee comes out of, probably near the tip of your penis, is called the urethra.  (Other stuff comes out of there, too, but more on that later.)  The rest of the urethra is a tube that runs along the lower side of your penis, and may become more pronounced when you have an erection.  Also on the lower side, there may be a band of skin that connects the shaft and the glans, called the frenulum.

You may have a turtleneck sweater-like bit of skin at the end of your penis, which probably covers all or most of the head when you’re soft.  This is called the foreskin.  The foreskin is usually pretty loose and can slide back and forth along your penis.  It can be pulled back to expose the head (which often happens naturally when you have one of those erection things I mentioned earlier), or it can be pushed forward, past the tip of the head.  (I’ll cover what’s likely to happen if you repeat that pull and push motion over and over in a later post…)  If you don’t have that turtleneck sweater bit, don’t worry, that’s fairly common, too.  It was probably just cut off and thrown away when you were a baby, in a process called circumcision.  If you’re circumcised, there may be a ring scar that circles your penis.  The skin on one side of the scar might be smooth and thin, while the skin on the other side might be rougher and thicker and a different color.  There are many styles of circumcision, so it’s possible that you may not have a visible scar and that the smooth skin continues all the way to the head.  Some circumcisions even eliminate the frenulum.

Penises come in many different shapes and sizes.  The size of your penis has very little effect on what can be done with it.  Often, a two-inch penis is just as useful as one that’s nine inches. The one you have probably even changes shape and size every once in a while.  If you’re naked and cold, it’ll probably shrink and hide all close to your body.  If it’s warm, it’ll probably hang lower.  Sometimes, it’ll get wider, longer, and harder, and may stand up on its own.  This is called an erection, and occurs when the spongy inner bits of your penis fill with blood. The size of an erect penis does not necessarily indicate how small you’ll be when you’re soft.

When you’re soft, your penis is floppy and can easily move and twist in any direction.  When you’re hard with an erection, the movement of your penis is greatly restricted.  (This has probably been known to cause a great many frustrating mornings, when you wake up with both a full bladder and a hard-on…)

Don’t worry if your penis isn’t a perfectly straight, perfectly symmetrical cylinder.  Your erect penis may have a curve to it.  It may lean one direction or the other, it might stick up, it might stick out, or it might stick down.  There may be a slight twist to it.  Veins may crisscross the shaft at all angles.  And the whole thing may be lopsided in places.  That’s all normal, every penis is unique.  (In some extreme cases, the foreskin might not retract right or the circumcision might be too tight or the frenulum might be too short or something else could be wrong that causes a very sharp bend.  In those cases, surgical intervention is often a possibility.)

This concludes the tour.

(You will notice that the tour did not stop at the magic orgasm button.  That’s because there’s no such place.  If you want an orgasm, you’re going to have to work for it.  More on that later.)

[Up to Anatomy | Main]

Can Asexual Men Get Erections?

Asexuality is not a physical condition.  It’s not a synonym for erectile dysfunction or impotence.  Most asexual males have a fully operational penis that is capable of erection (as well as all of the other things the phrase “fully operational penis” implies).

Asexuality: Myths, Misconceptions and Other Things That Are Just Plain Wrong

Since asexuality is rather unknown, it is subject to a lot of misinformation and ignorance. Many of these misconceptions can be offensive and hurtful.  All of these are things that people have actually said to or about asexual people.  It’s time to set the record straight.

Asexuals don’t exist.

I’m asexual.  I wrote this.  You’re reading this.  Therefore this exists, therefore I exist, therefore asexuals exist.


Asexuality is the same as celibacy.

Asexuality describes someone’s sexual orientation, that is, that they do not experience sexual attraction to anyone.  Celibacy describes someone’s behavior, that is, that they do not have sex with anyone.  Orientation is not behavior, attraction is not action.  Celibacy and asexuality are neither mutually exclusive nor mutually linked.  It is possible for an asexual person to not have sex and be celibate, and it’s also possible for an asexual to have sex and not be celibate.

I do consider myself to be celibate, as I have not engaged in any sexual activity with anyone else in over nine years.

Asexuality is a choice.

Asexuality is not a choice.  It is a sexual orientation, like heterosexuality or homosexuality, and like those orientations, it cannot be turned on or off on a whim.

I never woke up one morning, thinking, “You know, I’m tired of being turned on by people.  I think I’m going to stop that now.”  I’ve always been this way.

Asexual people can’t fall in love.

Many asexuals can feel the full range of romantic emotions, from a slight crush to true love.  It’s just devoid of a sexual component.  Asexuals are not limited to platonic love, either.  When an ace feels love, it can be every bit as complex and deep as the romantic love that anyone else feels.

There is a concept of romantic (or affectional) orientation, which describes who a person is romantically attracted to.  Romantic orientation is separate from sexual orientation, although in many people, their romantic and sexual orientations do happen to coincide.  Common romantic orientations include heteroromantic (romantic attraction toward the opposite gender), homoromantic (romantic attraction toward the same gender), bi/panromantic (romantic attraction toward both/all genders), and aromantic (romantic attraction toward no gender).

Asexual people don’t/can’t have sex.

Most asexual people can have sex, and some of them do.  I have.  Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction, not a lack of sexual ability.  Asexuals are physically and physiologically indistinguishable from other people, in other words, in most cases, the equipment is all there and in working order.  If an asexual person is incapable of having sex, it is usually due to some other condition, and not necessarily related to their asexuality.

Asexuality is just a phase that you’ll grow out of.

I’m 32 and have never been sexually attracted to anyone, not even a naked woman standing in front of me, touching my junk and inviting me to reciprocate.  How exactly can that be considered a “phase”?  When am I going to grow out of it?

It’s just a hormone problem.

Most asexuals have hormones within normal ranges.  Asexuals who have started taking hormone supplements for some reason have reported no change in their orientation.

That’s not what “asexual” means.

And “gay” only means “happy” and “straight” only means “not curved”.  Words in the English language can have multiple meanings and can change over time.  Deal with it.

Getting laid will fix that.

First of all, there’s nothing to fix because we’re not broken.  Secondly, no, no it won’t.  I was asexual before I had sex and I’m still asexual now.  Many other aces who’ve had sex have had the same experience.  Sex wasn’t some super-awesome life-changing milestone that upended my worldview.

The corollary to this misconception is “Getting laid by me will fix that”, which ranks somewhere up around “Know what’d look good on you?  Me.” on the list of dumbest ideas ever for pickup lines.

You can’t know for sure unless you’ve had sex.

You don’t have to have sex to know what your sexual orientation is.  Most people, when they proceed into puberty (and in some cases, even before then), will naturally start to feel attracted to other people without having to engage in any kind of sexual activity at all.  They’ll know that they’re straight or gay or bi or what have you and they typically don’t have to hold try-outs to know which team they play for.  Asexual people are the same way.  They’ll know that they don’t feel that spark of sexual attraction, that they’re somehow not quite straight or not quite gay, that they’re different from everyone else, and they don’t need to have sex to confirm it.

I’m virtually certain that had I known what asexuality was before I had sex, I would have identified that way without needing sex to be certain.  As it was, I didn’t learn about asexuality for years after I had sex, but I knew that I was different.

Asexual people don’t/can’t masturbate.

In general, asexuals can masturbate and many do.  Asexuals generally don’t have impaired genital function, which means the parts typically work, and when the parts work, they can feel good to use.  Aces who masturbate will do so for reasons ranging from relieving tension to wanting the pleasure of an orgasm.  Of course, masturbation is a personal choice, and while many asexual people will masturbate, many do not.

I masturbate fairly regularly.

All asexuals are virgins.

Nope, sorry.  I had my v-card punched years ago.  Many other asexuals have also had sex.  Some have regular sexual partners, some are parents.  There’s no virginity requirement for being asexual, just as there’s no loss of virginity requirement for being heterosexual.

Asexuals are hermaphrodites.

Being intersex is completely unrelated to asexuality.  The various conditions grouped under the umbrella of “intersex” are all physical conditions.  Asexuality is not physical.  However, it is possible for an intersex person to be asexual.

(By the way, the word “hermaphrodite” is generally considered offensive, so don’t say that.)

Asexuality is the same as being a transsexual or transgender.

Asexuality is not a gender identity issue.  Most aces are cis-gendered, but some are trans, others are agendered, genderfluid, or what have you.  Asexuality only describes who someone is sexually attracted to (namely, no one), and has nothing to do with the gender they are.

I happen to be a cis-gendered male.

Asexuals just haven’t met the right person yet.

This assertion offends many asexuals.  They’ve seen thousands upon thousands of people in their life and have not been sexually attracted to any of them.  This claim acts to invalidate and deny a part of their core identity.  It’s a bit like going up to a heterosexual male and saying “You could really be gay, you know.  Maybe you just haven’t met the right man yet.  Keep trying, you’ll find him someday.”

Everyone feels like that sometimes.

I know that non-asexual people don’t walk around in an endless horny cloud of lust all day, every day, and that everyone feels like this sometimes.  But I feel like this all the time.  I’ve never found anyone attractive.  I don’t know what it’s like to think that someone’s hot.  I’ve never passed a woman on the street and had my mind start turning through all the things I’d like to do with her in bed.  I don’t relate to the manifestations of sexual attraction that I see around me every day.


And that’s what makes me different.  That’s what makes me asexual.

Asexuals are really just gays in denial.

Homosexual people are sexually attracted toward people of the same sex.  Asexual people are sexually attracted to neither sex.  Asexual people are not hiding their attraction, they simply do not have any attraction to hide.

I have never felt any attraction, sexual or romantic, toward other men.

Asexual people are just afraid of sex or are disgusted by sex.

Some asexuals are afraid of or are disgusted by sex.  Some non-asexual people are, too.  Such feelings are not tied to one’s sexual orientation.  There are also many asexuals who are sex positive.  They’ve had sex or are open to the idea of having sex in the right situation.  I’m in this latter group.  I’ve done it before and I’d be willing to do it again in the right situation.

Asexual people are victims of some sexual trauma in their past.

The vast majority of asexual people have never had any kind of sexual trauma.  Most asexuals will be highly offended by someone trying to pin their lack of sexual attraction on some sort of unspoken, possibly repressed event.  And if they are victims of some past trauma, they’re generally not going to appreciate it when you bring it up and try to use it to invalidate their identity.

They have a pill that’ll fix that.

They have pills that’ll fix physical ailments, such as hormonal imbalances or blood flow issues.  Asexuality is not a physical ailment.  There’s no pill that’ll make an asexual start experiencing sexual attraction.  It would be like there being a pill that would turn a gay person straight.

Asexuality is caused by a brain tumor.

Hour-long medical procedural TV shows should not be considered reliable sources regarding sexual orientations.  Moving on…

Asexuals don’t/can’t have orgasms.

The majority of asexuals have normal, fully functioning sexual organs.  This means that the majority of asexuals have the capacity to orgasm.  Many asexuals do have orgasms, and often enjoy them.  Certainly not all asexuals have had orgasms, and some do not have fully functioning sexual organs, however, those cases are not due to asexuality.  Asexuality is only a description of sexual orientation, and in no way attempts to describe sexual ability.

I do have orgasms and I like them.

Asexuals are all homophobes.

This is categorically false.  The vast majority of asexuals are LGBT+ friendly.  There is absolutely nothing inherent in asexuality that minimizes, dismisses, invalidates, passes judgment on, or attacks homosexuality in any way.  Asexuality is another sexual orientation that coexists alongside every other sexual orientation.

Asexuals are all super-religious and against sex.

Asexuality has nothing to do with one’s religious beliefs.  Asexuality is not a form of abstinence, it’s not the result of a purity pledge, and it’s not that we’re “saving ourselves”.  It’s equally possible for an asexual person to be a hardcore born-again no-sex-til-marriage brand of Christian as it is for an asexual person to be an atheist who enjoys casual sex with strangers on the weekends.

Asexuals all hate sex and everyone who has sex.

Asexuality should not be confused with antisexuality.  Most asexuals have no problem with sex.  Some don’t like the idea of sex when it comes to themselves, but are typically indifferent when it comes to other people.  Some even enjoy having sex.  Asexuality is merely a sexual orientation, it doesn’t have any effect one’s opinion on sexual activity.

I actually kinda liked sex.  It was a bit boring, but at least it felt good.

Asexuals are naïve and don’t know anything about sex.

Asexuality is not somehow a function of a lack of information about sex.  There are plenty of people out there who know very little about sex besides what goes where, and they’re not all asexual.  Conversely, there are plenty of asexuals who know quite a bit about sex and sexual practices, even though they’re not necessarily all that interested in trying them out.

I happen to have a rather sizable library on the various facets of human sexuality, from textbooks and research papers to illustrated sex manuals.  I have a bit of an anthropological curiosity on the subject, probably from my repeated attempts to figure out where I fit.

Asexuals are just faking it for attention.

How is someone who’s in the closet and agonizing over their identity “faking it for attention”?  Most aces are in the closet or not very open about it precisely because they fear the sort of attention they’ll get.  All of these things in this list are actual things that people have said to asexual people.

Certainly, there are some people who will claim to be asexual because it’s trendy.  But there are also people who pretend to be gay for some reason, and no one tries to use them as evidence that disproves the existence of homosexuality in its entirety.

In real life, I hardly ever mention that I’m asexual, as it’s not typically relevant to the day-to-day experience of a software engineer.  The most attention I’ve gotten from it have been a few awkward (yet positive) conversations with my parents and a guy at work saying “Yeah, we all kinda figured that.”  So clearly, that’s what I’m going for with this.

There are no asexual men.

There aren’t?  Man, and I was so sure that I existed, too…  Do I have to take back my “QED”?

Asexual men do exist, contrary to the stereotypes.  I’m one of them.  David Jay is, as well.  He’s one of the most prominent asexual visibility activists around.  He founded AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, the largest asexual community on the Internet. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

And we’re far from the only two around.

Asexuality is a moral stand against sex.

Asexuality is nothing more than a sexual orientation.  It’s not inherently for or against sex or people who have sex.  When an asexual says something like “I don’t look at people that way” or “I don’t understand why people think sex is so important”, it’s not a value judgment, it’s not an attack.  It’s just a statement of fact. They literally don’t feel that way, they don’t understand it.

It’s also worth repeating that asexuality is not a choice, so it can’t be a decision that one makes to stand against anything.

Asexuality is evolution’s response to overpopulation.

I’ve seen this idea come up several times.  There are so many things wrong with this idea that I don’t know where to begin…  The concept of “overpopulation” is one of sustainability, not of actual, physical, overpopulation.  I have plenty to eat and plenty of space to live in, as did my parents when I was born.  Evolution didn’t come by one day and say “Well, there’s famine thousands of miles away in Africa right now and if you project out the current growth rates and consumption trends, there’s gonna be problems everywhere in about a hundred years, so, you know what?  I think I’m gonna make you not be interested in women.”  That’s just not how evolution works.  There’s the whole bit where advantageous traits are passed along throughout the generations, because they assist in successful reproduction, even if indirectly.  If there’s a trait that makes an organism not interested in reproduction, then that trait doesn’t get passed on, so it can’t become common within a population.  (On top of that, it doesn’t really matter if something was done to lower my effective fertility, since there’s plenty of people with reality TV shows that are more than making up for me.)

If evolution actually were responding to overpopulation, it would probably just make us smaller so we consume less.  Evolution typically doesn’t get much of a chance to respond to overpopulation, though, because famine and disease are far more effective instruments of population control which can eliminate the problem in a single generation.

Asexuals are all just confused teenage girls.

My driver’s license disagrees with this statement on multiple counts. Many asexuals are not teenagers. Many asexuals are not girls. And even those asexuals who are teenage girls tend not to be confused. Most people who identify as asexual do not do so on a whim or because we somehow just can’t recognize what sexual attraction is.  An asexual person generally examines their life very carefully before coming out, so you can be fairly certain that when someone says “I’m asexual”, the last thing they are is confused about how they feel.

You’re just single and looking for an excuse for why you’re afraid to date.

Except for those asexuals who aren’t single, or who genuinely don’t care about dating, or who really wouldn’t mind dating if the right person came along…

Asexuals hate their gender.

Asexuality has nothing to do with gender identity.  There are male asexuals and female asexuals and transgender asexuals and cisgender asexuals and agender asexuals and genderqueer asexuals and neutrois asexuals and all sorts of other gender asexuals that I haven’t mentioned here.  Some of them dislike their gender, some of them are happy with it, and some of them don’t care.  And none of them are the gender they are because they’re asexual and none of them are asexual because of the gender they are.

On the Existence of Asexual Men

Do asexual men exist?

Yes, absolutely.  Asexuality in males is real.  I am one myself.

So, you’re a guy, right?

Last time I checked, yeah.

And you were born that way?


And you’ve got all the guy parts?

Uh… Yeah…

And they all work?

As far as I can tell.

And you feel like you’re supposed to be a guy?

I guess so.

So, then, how can you call yourself “asexual”?

Because I don’t feel sexual attraction toward anyone.

But you said your parts work.

That they do.

And that you feel like you’re a guy.

Well, I don’t really care for football and I don’t own any power tools except for a drill, but other than that…

And yet you claim to be asexual?


You’re wrong. Asexual men don’t exist. You’re either straight, gay, or bi, or something ain’t working right, or you’re really a woman trapped in a man’s body and are in denial. It’s impossible for a man to be asexual.

I exist, therefore your hypothesis has been refuted. Please try again with a new hypothesis which accounts for this new evidence. That’s how science gets done.

So… I don’t get it.

That much is clear. Why don’t we start this over from the top, huh?

So, you’re a guy, right?

Yes, I’m male. And “cisgender” as all those kooky kids and their crazy new-fangled words might call it. In other words, I’ve got the factory-original male equipment and the male mind to go with it.

And you’re asexual?


But I don’t understand. How can you be male, with functioning parts, and still consider yourself asexual?

Asexuality does not depend on your anatomy. It’s not a function of gender. Asexuality is simply the lack of sexual attraction toward anyone. It’s just as possible to be asexual with a penis as it is to be asexual with a vagina as it is to be asexual with anything in between, and there’s no requirement that a person disown their privates in order to join the Ace Club.

And by “functioning parts”, you mean that you can get erections, right?

Yes, among other things that would be considered “functioning”.

A-ha! There! You’ve just proven that you’re not asexual!

What, because somehow an erection is an infallible sign that a man is sexually attracted to something?

I hate to break it to you, but erections are not necessarily a sign of sexual attraction. I doubt most men are sexually attracted to the tight clothes that they’re wearing. I doubt most men are sexually attracted to waking up in the morning. I doubt most men are sexually attracted to bumpy roads. I doubt most men are sexually attracted to randomly walking down the street. Yet most men have probably gotten erections from wearing tight clothes, waking up in the morning, driving on bumpy roads, and randomly walking down the street.

An erection is a physical process. Sure, it can sometimes be caused by emotional stimuli, such as sexual attraction, but attraction is not a requirement.

So, why do you think you’re asexual?

Because I don’t experience sexual attraction. I don’t look at women (or men, for that matter) and immediately think that I’d like to get them in my bed. I don’t feel what people mean when they use the word “hot” to describe someone. I don’t really think about sex and how I must get some RIGHT NOW or I’ll go insane.

What about the whole thing about how men think about sex every seven seconds?

I think about how that statistic is wrong every seven seconds.

Are you the only asexual male?

Um. No. There are clearly others.

Well, how come it doesn’t seem like there are?

[I didn’t conduct a survey or anything, so this section is mostly pure conjecture. I apologize if it’s completely off-base. If you have any objections to what I’m saying, please let me know and I can work to improve this area.]

I think the reason that it doesn’t seem like there are more asexual men is that men are less likely to realize and accept that they’re asexual. So much of the stereotypical male identity is wrapped up in sexual prowess that it’s difficult to step back and admit that you don’t really fit in that world. If you’re a man, you’re supposed to be constantly horny, always in the mood and always on the prowl. There’s simply no option for a man to feel otherwise. It’s as if semen is a highly volatile substance and if you fail to get it out of your body before it reaches a critical mass, you will literally explode. (And preferably with the assistance of someone else, too. If it doesn’t end up in or on someone else, where it will be neutralized by their body heat, then it can apparently remain dangerous, which is why masturbation is viewed as an outlet of last resort.) The only thing that can stand in the way of a man having sex is the inability to get an erection, but if you can’t get it up, there’s a pill for that, a pump for that, a ring for that, an implant for that…

But to say “I’m not interested”? Well, that’s just not possible for a man. Clearly, if he gets an erection, then he’s interested, right? In many ways, for a man, sexual attraction is seen as equivalent to getting hard. If he stands at attention looking at a woman, he’s straight, if he’s looking at a man, he’s gay, and so on. So, when he gets an erection and it’s not directed at anyone in particular, then maybe he just needs to sow his wild oats until he finds what does it for him. And there’s the irrational fear that if a man isn’t turned on by a woman then OMG HE MUST BE GAY, so he’ll force himself to believe that he’s attracted to women, even though he doesn’t feel anything in particular for men or women. It’s simply not acceptable for a man not to want to use that erection with someone. If he doesn’t, there must be something wrong with him, he must be broken.

And so, in a world where that’s not just the predominant view, but pretty much the only view, you can see how it’s hard for a man to figure out that he’s asexual. Faced with that sort of overwhelming attitude, he’s just going to hide how he feels, so he doesn’t appear to be weak or broken or damaged. Men aren’t supposed to admit their feelings, especially when those feelings aren’t shared by others.

Additionally, conflating sexual function with sexual attraction can lead some men to erroneously rule out asexuality. “I’ve had sex, therefore I’m not asexual, because I wouldn’t have been able to if I were asexual.” “I masturbate, therefore I’m not asexual, because I wouldn’t do that if I were asexual.” “I like having my penis touched by someone else, therefore I’m not asexual, because I wouldn’t like it if I were asexual.” They’ll take events like those, join them to even the faintest glimmers of aesthetic or romantic attraction and use that as evidence to prove that they’re straight or gay or bi or pan or whatever, when in reality, all they’re experiencing is a physical reaction to stimulation.

By the time a man reaches the age where they’ve gathered enough life experience to decide that they’re just not all that interested in sex, they’re typically at a point where they can say “Well, I’m not 18 anymore, the hormones have died down” or “The fires of passion always die down after a few years, but I still love her”, or any number of other convenient excuses that obscure the truth.

How did you figure it out?

It took me a solid week-long journey of self-discovery to come to the conclusion that I wasn’t simply “straight, but not very good at it” and that I was, in fact, asexual. I’d known for years that I just didn’t think about sex the same way other people did. I had a girlfriend that tried to awaken me sexually, but wasn’t all that successful. I just figured I was shy or that she wasn’t the one. I hadn’t had sex in over eight years and it didn’t bother me at all. I just figured I had a low libido or was just better at masturbating than everyone else or something. It never really occurred to me that I simply was not sexually attracted to anyone. I considered myself straight, pretty much through the process of elimination. After all, I’d never been attracted to a man, so therefore I had to be straight.

But it sort of bugged me. I didn’t fit. Whenever I heard other people talk about sex or about hot women, it was foreign to me. They may as well have been talking about golf.

One day, I had a conversation with a friend about a somewhat baffling depiction of sex on some TV show and as we went on, it became very clear that I was not like everyone else and that there had to be something out there, some reason, something to explain how I felt. It became too much to be able to deny anymore, so I went looking for answers. I went on my journey with open eyes, willing to embrace whatever it was that I discovered.

Asexuality is what I found. Asexuality fit me.

Pretty much everything fell into place at that point. All the things I’d done, all the things I thought, how I felt, it all made sense to me.

I went looking for answers. I went looking for myself. If I hadn’t taken that step, I’d still be “straight, but not very good at it”. Most men who may be asexual aren’t going to take that step. They don’t know that there is that step to take, or they’re afraid of what they’ll find, or it just doesn’t bother them enough to start looking.

And that points to the core issue. The information isn’t out there. For most people, there’s straight, there’s gay, there’s bi, and that’s all. They aren’t aware that there are other categories which might fit better. They aren’t aware that it’s perfectly fine for a man to not be sexually interested in anyone. If more men know about asexuality, more men will realize that’s what they are.