Q: You often mention asexual people. I believe I may be one. I'm a 51-year-old woman. I've been separated from my opposite-sex partner for nearly nine years. I've been approached by a variety of men, each one interested in becoming "more than friends." I haunt Craigslist's "platonic m4w" section, but each time I reach out to someone, he turns out to want a FWB or NSA relationship. It's frustrating! That part of my life — the sex part — is really and truly over! I had many sex partners for many years, I had a good run, and now I'm done. When I find someone attractive, I admire them in a nonsexual way. But I do masturbate. Not often. I can go two or three weeks without needing (or thinking about) release. When I do masturbate, it's more of a "stretching activity" than a passionate requirement. Do true asexuals masturbate? Am I correct in identifying as asexual instead of heterosexual? Or am I a straight person who has simply retired from the field? —No Need For Sex
A: "There's some handy-dandy research on this topic," said David Jay, founder of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). Jay is the world's most prominent asexuality activist and widely acknowledged as the founder of the asexuality movement.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia studied the masturbatory habits of asexual individuals and compared them to the masturbatory habits of people with low sexual desire. "[They found that] the majority of asexual people (about 56 percent) masturbate on at least a monthly basis," said Jay, compared to 75 percent of individuals with low sexual desire. "For a sizable chunk of us, this is about a sense of physical release rather than about sexual fantasy. Masturbation and partnered sex are very different things, and desiring one doesn't mean that we automatically desire the other."
So, NNFS, the fact that you masturbate occasionally — as a "stretching activity" (ouch?) — doesn't disqualify you from identifying as asexual. And while the fact that you were sexually active for many years, presumably happily, and always with men could mean you're a straight lady with low to no sexual desire, you're nevertheless free to embrace the asexual label if it works for you.
"If you're not drawn to be sexual with anyone, then you have a lot in common with a lot of people in the asexual community," said Jay. "That being said, there's no such thing as a 'true' asexual. If the word seems useful, use it. At the end of the day, what matters is how well we understand ourselves, not how well we match some platonic ideal of our sexual orientation, and words like 'asexual' are just tools to help us understand ourselves."
All those crazy labels — bi, gay, lesbian, straight, pansexual, asexual, etc. — are there to help us communicate who we are and what we want. Once upon a time, NNFS, you wanted heterosexual sex, you had heterosexual sex, and you identified as heterosexual. That label was correct for you then. If the asexual label is a better fit for you now, if it more accurately communicates who you are (now) and what you want (now), you have none other than David Jay's permission to use it.
"I also feel NNFS's pain about Craigslist 'strictly platonic' ads," said Jay. "But I've found there are plenty of people out there who are interested in hanging out if I simultaneously say 'no' to sex and 'yes' to an emotional connection. I wish NNFS the best of luck in finding some."
Q: There's this guy I stopped dating a few months ago, but we've remained friends. When we were still dating, he once wore a thong when we were having sex. He called it his "sexy underwear." He said he wore it only if he really liked a woman. He also told me he tried using a vibrator and fingers in his ass and really enjoyed it. I wasn't bothered, but I am curious to know if straight guys really wear thongs and enjoy having their asses played with. Could he be a gay? —What's He Attracted To?
A: That guy could be a gay, WHAT, but any guy could be a gay.
There are, however, lots of straight guys out there who dig sexy underwear — and some mistakenly believe thongs qualify. There are also lots of straight guys out there who like having their asses played with — and some are secure enough in their heterosexuality to share that fact with the women in their lives. And I hope you're sitting down because this may come as a shock: Not all gay guys wear thongs and not all gay guys like having their asses played with. The boyfriends of these guys never write to ask me if their boyfriend could be a straight. Instead, they take the gay sex they're having with their gay boyfriends for an answer. I understand why a straight woman might have more cause for concern: Very few gay-identified guys are secretly straight, while a significant percentage of straight-identified guys are secretly gay or bi. (Google "antigay pastor Matthew Makela caught on Grindr" for a recent example.)
But at some point, WHAT, a straight woman should relax and take all the straight sex she's having with her thong-wearing, ass-play-digging boyfriend for an answer.
Q: Just because a woman closes her eyes during sex doesn't mean she's fantasizing about something. I love to look my husband in the eyes, but sometimes when I'm trying to get off, I just need to close my eyes and concentrate on what I'm feeling. Visual input is too distracting and makes it hard to focus. I get off pretty much every time we make love, but some times require more concentration than others.
—Concentrating On My Euphoria
A: COME is referring to my advice a couple of weeks back for Come As You Are, a man whose wife had to lean back, close her eyes, and rub her clit in order to come. I advised CAYA to ask his wife what she was thinking about when she did that—what scenario she was fantasizing about—and not to panic if she wasn't thinking about him.
Lots of women wrote in to say that they do—they must do—the same thing CAYA's wife does in order to come: close their eyes and concentrate. A majority, like COME, said they're not fantasizing about anything in particular; they're just concentrating on the sensations. But a large minority said that they have specific and sometimes wild/unrealizable/disturbing fantasies that they have to concentrate on in order to climax. Just as every fantasy doesn't have to be realized, not every fantasy has to be shared. But women (and men) who are lucky enough to have a loving, supportive, secure, and game partner should consider bringing their partner in. Allowing a partner to play an active role in your wild/unrealizable fantasies—through dirty talk—will make your partner feel like a part of your fantasy world (and your orgasms) and not an exile from it.