Culture

What Masturbation Is Like For Demisexual People

| 08/09/2019

Illustration by Miranda Lorikeet

Have you ever heard the term demisexual? It refers to one type of person who falls under the umbrella of asexuality. But unlike asexuals who never or rarely feel sexually aroused, we demis do get lusty under certain circumstances. 

We typically don’t feel sexual attraction to another person unless we feel a strong emotional bond to them. It doesn’t matter how physically attractive they may be. And it doesn’t even matter how horny we are. Demis just can’t phone it in. We need to feel that connection and attraction, but as even non-demisexuals know, that’s pretty damn hard to come by.

Those distinctions can be difficult to understand for those who consider their sexuality to be “normal.” (Pro tip: there’s no such thing as “normal.”)

But if your sexual radar is usually triggered by physical attraction, a person’s intelligence or their sense of humor; if your sex life is dominated by hook up apps and one-night stands; or if you fantasize about “love at first sight” after seeing your dream partner across a crowded room – the concept of demisexuality can be hard to grasp.

Here’s a quick look at what it means to be demisexual.

Understanding Demisexuality

As I mentioned at the start, a demisexual is someone who is only aroused after they’ve formed a strong emotional connection with another person. More formally, according to the Demisexuality Research Center at demisexuality.org, it’s “a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond.”

Is demisexuality really a sexual orientation? In a way, because people don’t choose to be demi. It simply is who they are. Gender identity and other aspects of sexual orientation have nothing to do with whether someone is demisexual; straight, LGBTQ, pansexual/panromantic and transgender people may all be demis.

Demisexuality doesn’t define who a person is attracted to. It defines how they form that attraction. That’s why some choose to call it a sexual identity rather than a sexual orientation, But as we all know, sexual terminology is a tricky subject these days.

The term “demisexual” first gained acceptance in the early 2000s, when the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) website at asexuality.org shed light on what it called the “asexual spectrum.” That spectrum broadly expanded the relatively-new understanding of asexuality (often shortened to “ace”), which had been described as having either a lack of sexual attraction or low interest in sex.

Demisexuality falls squarely into the asexual spectrum, which includes a number of other sexual identities. They include:

  • Aromantic: A “subcategory” of asexuality, in which people do not experience romantic attraction.
  • Gray-asexual: A hard-to-define middle ground between asexuality and sexuality.
  • Reciprosexual: People do not experience sexual attraction to someone unless they first know that the person is attracted to them.
  • Akoisexual: People may be sexually attracted to someone else, but lose those feelings if they find that the other person is attracted to them.

Demis certainly knew that their sexual feelings weren’t in the mainstream, but this recognition by the asexual community was the first time most could identify with a group of people who shared those feelings. I can tell you from experience that most MDs and PhDs are unlikely to understand asexuality in the same way that asexual people can.

Here’s something very important to understand about demis: even when we form a close emotional bond with someone, that doesn’t mean that we want a romantic relationship with them, or that the connection will always lead to sexual activity. We might want either or both of those, but it’s just as likely that things will remain strictly platonic. However, there’s no way that we would ever want the relationship to progress to romance or sex unless we first felt that deep bond.

This is not to say that demisexuals are prudes. In fact, many demis have sex drives which can – under the right circumstances – be as strong, or stronger, than anyone else’s. However, it’s fair to say that demisexuality usually means having less partnered sex than most people.

There’s an easy way to satisfy those sexual urges, of course: masturbation. I’ll get to that after answering one other frequently-asked question. 

How Do Demis Develop Attractions?

Most demis I know don’t get celebrity crushes because we can’t feel attraction to a stranger. Actually, we’re more likely to fall for a fictional character and the feelings they inspire. We’re unlikely to salivate over some photo of a stranger, like Ian Somerhalder. But we might fantasize about Damon Salvatore, or another fictional character he plays if we’ve grown to feel connected to their stories.

Some of us need a deep friendship before attraction can grow. For others, there are specific and even esoteric emotions that must be felt to view somebody in a sexual light. People like myself gag at the thought of having sex with a stranger.

“I used to wonder what was wrong with me when all of my friends gushed over Brad Pitt,” my friend Jillian tells me. “I’ve learned that I’m not broken. I’m just demisexual.”

Demisexuality and Masturbation

Some folks might be confused at the notion of demisexuals who engage in frequent masturbation, because demis are often dubbed as uninterested in sex and even touch-avoidant. The truth is, solo sex might be more important for the demi than almost any other sexual type. We’re more likely to experience sexual droughts since it takes a lot for us to even consider dating somebody new. So for some demisexuals, including me, a robust masturbation habit is a matter of self-care. 

Because, you see, demisexual people get horny. Sometimes we might even feel insatiable. Some of our libidos might even be higher than our friends who have no trouble swiping right on Tinder or OkCupid for a one-night stand. I sometimes get so turned on that I’m not sure how to contain it. 

The truth is, solo sex might be more important for the demi than almost any other sexual type. 

For many people, though, this sudden surge of lust can be triggered by random people around us: You see a hottie at the coffee shop and before you know it, you’re going to town in the comfort of your own bed, alone. For me, that intensity isn’t typically connected to anyone in particular – it’s more a matter of being excited by the idea of getting off hard, and being pleasantly surprised to discover some kinky connection with the right kind of person. 

Since most demisexual folks aren’t about to scratch their itch with a stranger, we’ve got to take our sexual needs into our own hands to fill in the gaps. Solo sex is a safe way to get off and relieve sexual tension in a way that feels pressure-free. And it’s where our fantasies thrive because we don’t have to wait for the right kind of partner. 

“If I didn’t masturbate, I would feel routinely stressed,” says Jillian, who is demisexual. “I look at orgasms as a pretty big need in my life, but I don’t always have a partner to help meet that need. Sometimes it’s up to me to take charge – especially when I’m single.”

Whether we’re exploring our body with our fingers or a fun new toy, we get to imagine our ideal partner and feel no shame. Or, we get to simply fantasize about whatever situations turn us on. And some of us demis are perfectly happy to help somebody else get off if we don’t have to touch them. Personally, I’ve gotten more than one thrill by simply allowing guy friends to watch a video of me pleasuring myself.

If that person doesn’t exist at the moment, that’s okay. I can direct all of that sexual desire in a very personal way. And I can take delight in the way my body aches for release, along with the way my orgasm comes hard, fast, slow, or deep. I can find satisfaction in pleasing myself and also in the thought of somebody else masturbating along with me–as long as I don’t have to do anything I wouldn’t do alone. 

That said, every demi is different. Some demis might not masturbate at all, while others might never dream of letting a guy friend see their O face. Another demisexual writer, Elle Wayne, told me that masturbation doesn’t interest her much. “I don’t feel many urges for sexual satisfaction, except for my partner of 6 years,” she says. “Rather, sex is something I do as a result of my attraction to an individual.”

Demisexuals, Masturbation and Fantasies

Perhaps more than most people, a truly successful masturbation session for a demi is all about the fantasy. Since we’re not attracted to strangers, our solo sex sessions tend to cover the fantasy of connection. Still, some demis masturbate to porn because the situation turns them on. It’s not about the strangers on the screen; demis don’t salivate over porn stars. But some of us do fantasize about new experiences with a partner we’re crazy about. 

For most demis who use porn, I think we’re often imagining what it would feel like to want someone so bad that we do whatever it is that we’re seeing on the screen. We might imagine feeling desired, but again, it’s not the stranger we’re watching, it’s the circumstances and the whole fantasy of being wanted. 

I know several demisexual women who identify as heterosexual, but they masturbate to lesbian porn because the situation feels sexy and taboo. They’re not attracted to the women they see, but rather the notion itself. In fact, I’ve got a few fantasies about being schooled by a lesbian, along with a couple of other plot twists I’ll likely never enjoy in real life. Solo sex for a demi is a time to imagine the possibilities of every quirk and kink. 

At the end of the night, demis aren’t all that different from non-demis: we like what we like, and there’s no shame in an act of self-love.

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