As more asexuals come out of the closet, they're often met with a host of questions that, perhaps uncomfortably for aces (a nickname by and for asexuals), that tend to revolve around a head-scratching and sometimes outright discriminatory theme of "are you normal?" Sexuality is so deeply engrained in our culture, pairing up and getting it on hailed in pop culture as pretty much the sole reasons for being it's hard for some to imagine an absence of those overwhelming urges.
But just because asexuals, who have their own intragroup variations regarding sexual and romantic interests as well, might not seek out sex with the same urgency and compulsion as sexually-identified people doesn't (or at least shouldn't) indicate anything amiss.
Lori Brotto, the director of the University of British Columbia's Sexual Health Laboratory, has studied sexual response and habits among asexual-identified people and helped shed light on the orientation from an empirical standpoint. A 2011 study, for instance, found asexual women express far lower sexual interest and desire than the average woman, but it's not the result of any physiological hiccups. "Taken together, the findings suggest normal subjective and physiological sexual arousal capacity in asexual women and challenge the view that asexuality should be characterized as a sexual dysfunction," the paper concluded.
When it comes to masturbation, Brotto's research has similarly disambiguated between sexual dysfunction and asexuality. In fact, Brotto estimates around half of all asexuals masturbate with some regularly, some as often as every day. So how does masturbating qualify as an asexual activity? Speaking to The Huffington Post, Brotto explained: "When you talk about masturbation, you may think of it as a sexual activity, but actually masturbation is not inherently sexual. [Asexuals cite] boredom, stress reduction, helping them to get to sleep, etc., as reasons behind masturbation."
Moreover, Brotto notes many asexuals report they rarely conjur sexual imagery while masturbating, as it's more of a reflexive exercise than a sex act. Many say they don't think of anything at all while masturbating, in fact. In other words, asexuals just do things a little differently, or maybe not that differently because, really, when it comes down to sexuality, masturbation and romance, everyone has a unique profile in one way or another.