DeLamater & HasdayPage 9
There is a great variety of ways in which humans derive sexual gratification and satisfaction. We suggest that one continuum for sexual expression is the involvement of other persons, ranging from asexuality (where no one is involved sexually) through auto-erotic sexuality, partnered sexuality, and finally multi-partnered sexuality at the other extreme.
Asexuality refers to having no sexual attraction to a person of either sex (Bogaert, 2004). In a national sample of 18,000 British residents, about one percent reported no sexual attraction. The National Health and Social Life Survey (Laumann, et al., 1994) involved interviews with 3,432 Americans ages 18 to 59; 4 percent of male and 11 percent of female respondents reported having no sexual partner and engaging in little autoerotic activity in the preceding 12 months. In both studies, those who reported little or no sexual activity were more likely to be single (including divorced, widowed), older, and less educated. It is likely that some/many of these persons do not experience sexual desire or attraction to others.
Sexual self-stimulation can be produced by masturbation or by fantasy. In the NHSLS (Laumann, et al., 1994), 62 percent of men and 42 percent of women reported masturbating in the past year; 27 percent of men and 8 percent of women reported masturbating at least once a week. Masturbation is not a substitute for partnered activity; people who report more frequent masturbation report more frequent sex with a partner. A survey of older adults in the United States found that 35 percent of men and 20 percent of women ages 60 to 69 reported masturbation; among both, the principal correlate was frequency of sexual desire (DeLamater, Moorman, & Sill, 2005).