Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 311–328 | Cite as

Sexual Fantasy and Masturbation Among Asexual Individuals: An In-Depth Exploration

  • Morag A. YuleEmail author
  • Lori A. Brotto
  • Boris B. Gorzalka
Special Section: The Puzzle of Sexual Orientation


Human asexuality is generally defined as a lack of sexual attraction. We used online questionnaires to investigate reasons for masturbation, and explored and compared the contents of sexual fantasies of asexual individuals (identified using the Asexual Identification Scale) with those of sexual individuals. A total of 351 asexual participants (292 women, 59 men) and 388 sexual participants (221 women, 167 men) participated. Asexual women were significantly less likely to masturbate than sexual women, sexual men, and asexual men. Asexual women were less likely to report masturbating for sexual pleasure or fun than their sexual counterparts, and asexual men were less likely to report masturbating for sexual pleasure than sexual men. Both asexual women and men were significantly more likely than sexual women and men to report that they had never had a sexual fantasy. Of those who have had a sexual fantasy, asexual women and men were significantly more likely to endorse the response “my fantasies do not involve other people” compared to sexual participants, and consistently scored each sexual fantasy on a questionnaire as being less sexually exciting than did sexual participants. When using an open-ended format, asexual participants were more likely to report having fantasies about sexual activities that did not involve themselves, and were less likely to fantasize about topics such as group sex, public sex, and having an affair. Interestingly, there was a large amount of overlap between sexual fantasies of asexual and sexual participants. Notably, both asexual and sexual participants (both men and women) were equally likely to fantasize about topics such as fetishes and BDSM.


Asexuality Sexual orientation Masturbation Sexual fantasy 



M. A. Yule was funded by a Doctoral Research Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Compliance with Ethical Standard

Conflict of interest

M. A. Yule declares that she has no conflict of interest. L. A. Brotto declares that she has no conflict of interest. B. B. Gorzalka declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional and/or National Research Committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Aicken, C. R. H., Mercer, C. H., & Cassell, J. A. (2013). Who reports absence of sexual attraction in Britain? Evidence from national probability surveys. Psychology & Sexuality, 4(2), 121–135. doi: 10.1080/19419899.2013.774161 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barclay, A. (1973). Sexual fantasies in men and women. Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 7(5), 204–216.Google Scholar
  5. Bivona, J. M., Critelli, J. W., & Clark, M. J. (2012). Women’s rape fantasies: An empirical evaluation of the major explanations. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(5), 1107–1119. doi: 10.1007/s10508-012-9934-6 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Blanchard, R. (1989). The concept of autogynephilia and the typology of male gender dysphoria. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177(10), 616–623.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bogaert, A. F. (2004). Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample. Journal of Sex Research, 41(3), 279–287. doi: 10.1080/00224490409552235 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bogaert, A. F. (2006). Toward a conceptual understanding of asexuality. Review of General Psychology, 10(3), 241–250. doi: 10.1037/1089-2680.19.3.241 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bogaert, A. F. (2012a). Understanding asexuality. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  10. Bogaert, A. F. (2012b). Asexuality and autochorissexualism (identity-less sexuality). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(6), 1513–1514. doi: 10.1007/s10508-012-9963-1 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Bogaert, A. F. (2013). The demography of asexuality. In A. Baumle (Ed.), International handbook on the demography of sexuality (Vol. 5, pp. 275–288). Dordrecht: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-5512-3_15 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bogaert, A. F., & Brotto, L. A. (2014). Object of desire self-consciousness theory. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 40(4), 323–338. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2012.756841 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Bogaert, A. F., Visser, B. A., & Pozzebon, J. A. (2015). Gender differences in object of desire self-consciousness sexual fantasies. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(8), 2299–2310. doi: 10.1007/s10508-014-0456-2 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Brotto, L. A. (2010). The DSM diagnostic criteria for hypoactive sexual desire disorder in women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(2), 221–239. doi: 10.1007/s10508-009-9543-1 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Brotto, L. A., Knudson, G., Inskip, J., Rhodes, K., & Erskine, Y. (2010). Asexuality: A mixed-methods approach. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(3), 599–618. doi: 10.1007/s10508-008-9434-x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Brotto, L. A., & Yule, M. (2016). Asexuality: Sexual orientation, paraphilia, sexual dysfunction, or none of the above? Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0802-7.Google Scholar
  17. Brotto, L. A., & Yule, M. A. (2011). Physiological and subjective sexual arousal in self-identified asexual women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(4), 699–712. doi: 10.1007/s10508-010-9671-7 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Cantor, J. M., Blanchard, R., & Barbaree, H. (2009). Sexual disorders. In P. H. Blaney & T. Millon (Eds.), Oxford textbook of psychopathology (2nd ed., pp. 527–550). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Carvalheira, A., & Leal, I. (2013). Masturbation among women: Associated factors and sexual response in a Portuguese community sample. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 39(4), 347–367. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2011.628440 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Clifford, R. (1978). Development of masturbation in college women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 7(6), 559–573. doi: 10.1007/BF01541922 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Crepault, C., & Couture, M. (1980). Men’s erotic fantasies. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 9(6), 565–581.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Critelli, J. W., & Bivona, J. M. (2008). Women’s erotic rape fantasies: An evaluation of theory and research. Journal of Sex Research, 45(1), 57–70. doi: 10.1080/00224490701808191 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Dean, T. (2009). Unlimited intimacy: Reflections on the subculture of barebacking. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dunkley, C. R., & Dang, S. S. (2016). Factoral structure of BDSM and paraphilic sexual interests. Unpublished data.Google Scholar
  25. Ellis, B. J., & Symons, D. (1990). Sex differences in sexual fantasy: An evolutionary psychological approach. Journal of Sex Research, 27(4), 527–555. doi: 10.1080/00224499009551579 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gerressu, M., Mercer, C. H., Graham, C. A., Willings, K., & Johnson, A. M. (2008). Prevalence of masturbation and associated factors in a British national probability survey. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37(2), 266–278. doi: 10.1007/s10508-006-9123-6 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Ginoza, M. K., Miller, T., & AVEN Survey Team. (2014). The 2014 AVEN community census: Preliminary findings. Web. Retrieved March 13, 2016 from
  28. Gordon, A. (2002). survey and evaluation system. The Internet and Higher Education, 5(1), 83–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Griffith, M. (2012). Something to get animated about: A brief overview of toonophilia. Dr. Mark Giffith’s blog. Retrieved from
  30. Höglund, J., Jern, P., Sandnabba, N. K., & Santtila, P. (2014). Finnish women and men who self-report no sexual attraction in the past 12 months: Prevalence, relationship status, and sexual behavior history. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43(5), 879–889. doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0240-8 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.Google Scholar
  32. Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., & Gebhard, P. H. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.Google Scholar
  33. Knafo, D., & Jaffe, Y. (1984). Sexual fantasizing in males and females. Journal of Research in Personality, 18(4), 451–462. doi: 10.1016/0092-6566(84)90004-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  35. Leitenberg, H., & Henning, K. (1995). Sexual fantasy. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 469–496. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.469 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. LeVay, S., & Baldwin, J. (2012). Human sexuality (4th ed.). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer.Google Scholar
  37. Levin, R. J., & van Berlo, W. (2004). Sexual arousal and orgasm in subjects who experience forced or non-consensual sexual stimulation—A review. Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine, 11(2), 82–88.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Lodi-Smith, J., Geise, A. C., Roberts, B. W., & Robins, R. W. (2009). Narrating personality change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(3), 679–689. doi: 10.1037/a0014611 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  39. Lucassen, M. F. G., Merry, S. N., Robinson, E. M., Denny, S., Clark, T., Ameratunga, S., … Rossen, F. V. (2011). Sexual attraction, depression, self-harm, suicidality and help-seeking behaviour in New Zealand secondary school students. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 45(5), 376–383. doi: 10.3109/00048674.2011.559635 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Lykins, A. D., & Cantor, J. M. (2013). Vorarephilia: A case study in masochism and erotic consumption. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43(1), 181–186. doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0185-y CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Poston, D. L., & Baumle, A. K. (2010). Patterns of asexuality in the United States. Demographic Research, 23, 509–530. doi: 10.4054/DemRes.2010.23.18 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Terry, L. L., & Vasey, P. L. (2011). A case report of feederism in a women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(3), 639–645. doi: 10.1007/s10508-009-9580-9 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Visser, B. A., DeBow, V., Pozzebon, J. A., Bogaert, A. F., & Book, A. (2014). Psychopathic sexuality: The thin line between fantasy and reality. Journal of Personality, 83(4), 376–388. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12110 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., & Calhan, C. (1994). Homosexual foot fetishism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23(6), 611–626.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Yule, M. A., Brotto, L. A., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2014a). Biological markers of asexuality: Finger length ratios, handedness, and birth order in self-identified asexual men and women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 299–310. doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0175-0 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Yule, M. A., Brotto, L. A., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2014b). Sexual fantasy and masturbation among asexual individuals. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 23(2), 89–95. doi: 10.3138/cjhs.2409 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yule, M. A., Brotto, L. A., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2015). A validated measure of no sexual attraction: The Asexuality Identification Scale. Psychological Assessment, 27(1), 148–160. doi: 10.1037/a0038196 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Morag A. Yule
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lori A. Brotto
    • 1
  • Boris B. Gorzalka
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Obstetrics and GynaecologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations