I’m a Solosexual. I Prefer Masturbation to Partnered Sex

"I have a housemate, so I can’t do everything I’d like to, such as buying sex toys or converting my shed into a goon cave."
I’m a Solosexual. I Prefer Masturbation to Partnered Sex
Images courtesy Getty Images
A series about sex and stigma.

Conceptually, it’s easy to define solosexuality: A strong or exclusive preference for masturbation over any other form of sex. Yet mainstream reporting on this lesser-known sexual identity over the last decade shows that many people struggle to understand solosexuality in practice. 

Although the term’s been used on niche web forums since at least the late 90s, solosexuality drew a flurry of mainstream media interest in 2015. Back then, VICE notably—and erroneously—suggested solosexuality must entail a lack of interest in emotional connection or relationships with others. Riffing on the widespread cultural belief that masturbation is an inferior alternative to more intense and physically and emotionally fulfilling partnered sexual experiences, outsiders also often assume solosexuality is a symptom of social dysfunction, sexual anxieties, or some other pathology. Alternatively, many think it’s just something people practice when they're single—an activity they can turn off and on rather than a proclivity or a sexual identity.


Some of this confused speculation reflects the fact that, while there’ve likely always been people who align with the idea of solosexuality, the term itself, and the concept of a distinct solosexual identity, is relatively new—open to misunderstanding for lack of solid reference points. Since the early 2010s, a few vibrant hubs of solosexual community and advocacy have coalesced on platforms like Reddit, Discord, and BateWorld, “the premier online men’s masturbation community,” and via in-person masturbation clubs in major cities across the world. (While many prominent groups, like those on BateWorld, are entirely male, there are also female solosexuals.) But those communities haven’t gained much visibility or acceptance in the wider world. 

Few sex researchers or therapists have explored solosexuality in depth, either. But those who have started to study the topic suspect that, while some solosexuals may indeed be dealing with issues like sexual anxiety or trauma, others seem inherently drawn to masturbation above all else. They’ve also stressed that, whatever the roots of a person’s solosexuality, most solosexuals seem happy, healthy, and connected to others—so there’s no need to pathologize or fret over their preferences.


The struggle to grok what solosexuality actually looks like also reflects the fact that it often intersects with other sexual and romantic styles and identities. Some solosexuals are indeed (partnered) sex-repulsed or -averse, but others are open to partnered sexual experiences—albeit not keen on them. Some are aromantic, while others still want to form conventional romantic relationships—just with little to no conventional sex. Some identify as pornosexuals, people who are primarily or exclusively aroused by porn, as well as solosexuals. But others rarely or never use porn when masturbating, instead getting off to their partners, their internal fantasies, or (especially in the case of solosexuals who are also autosexual, people who are primarily or solely attracted to themselves) to images or sounds of themselves masturbating. (It's worth noting that, much like not all solosexuals are autosexual, not all autosexuals are autoromantic—primarily or solely romantically interested in themselves as opposed to others.) Some solosexuals masturbate alone, but many view solo sex as a communal activity, getting off together or watching and/or encouraging each other to goon, a kink that involves prolonged ecstatic masturbation and is popular among (but not universally or solely practiced by) solosexuals. 


Since 2015, a handful of solosexuals have shared personal accounts of their intimate lives to help broaden and deepen understandings of the identity—such as BeastlyBator and M.B. Timothy, who’re active on BateWorld, or Jason Armstrong, who published the book Solosexuality: Portrait of a Masturbator (part memoir and part history of solosexuality) in 2016. But accounts of navigating solosexuality, especially alongside relationships, are still rare in mainstream media outlets. To help bring more visibility to the complex and diverse realities of this distinct sexual identity, VICE spoke to Aki, a young solosexual guy, about how he discovered his solosexuality, what solosexual intimacy looks like for him, and how it factors into his relationship. 

VICE has withheld Aki’s last name at his request to protect his privacy. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

VICE: When did you realize you were solosexual? 
I didn’t have many opportunities to think about dating growing up, so I dove headfirst into exploring my sexuality through solo activities. My family was religious and didn’t approve of masturbation, but I did it anyway—mostly without getting caught. (Although one time, when I was 16 or 17, they found the hard drive where I kept porn. They practiced corporal punishment, so that went about as well for me as you might expect.) But I didn’t think about that as an active preference at the time. It was something I did because I didn’t have the opportunity to do other things yet. Then, I went to university, got into my first relationship, and had my first sexual experience with another person. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I put that down to possibly bad chemistry, but sex didn’t get better in that relationship or later on. 


What did you expect partnered sex to be like? How would you describe the experience? 
There was an element of the Hollywood-ification of sex coloring my expectations, I guess. But I like to do my research on everything in life, so I’d read people’s personal accounts of their first times before my own. I knew it could be awkward, and there was a learning curve. But I expected it to be a fun experience or intense. It just doesn’t feel like that for me. I feel… detached? It was bizarre, actually, because even the first time I had sex, it felt like I was just going through the motions—despite the fact that I’d never gone through these motions before. After having sex a few times and never seeing any change, I thought, This can’t be what it’s supposed to be like. As a man, partners often expect me to be fairly active during sex and to maintain an erection, both of which are hard when you’re never fully connected to the moment. I feel like I constantly need to apologize for my issues with those things, which creates and feeds into anxiety around it, too. 

Did you experiment with different types of sex or approaches to the experience? 
Well, my first partner and I didn’t try many new or creative things because I later found out that she’s asexual and wasn’t actually interested in sex either. We tried enough that I did learn I enjoy performing oral on other people because I get a lot of auditory feedback, which is something I like. But I experimented a lot with my second partner, who had a high libido and was into kink. I was always open to exploring new things, and I found that I’m on the submissive side of the dominant-submissive scale. But I still didn’t enjoy sex at all, emotionally or physically. I still just felt like I was reading off of a script. Which is a shame because I enjoy everything leading up to sex—I like being in bed with a partner and cuddling. I have plenty of romantic attraction to the people I’m with, and I know that I don’t lack libido by any means. It’s just the sex that’s … yeah. 


Then, three years ago, I just thought, You know, I really prefer masturbation to sex. If I had to choose, I’d always prefer spending a night with myself, sexually, than with any other person. And two years ago, I came across the kink of gooning. Through gooners, I learned about the concept of solosexuality and thought, Ah, interesting. That might apply to me. 

Was this during a COVID lockdown? I’ve spoken to many gooners who found the kink—and in some cases, explored the concept of solosexuality—during that period of isolation. 
[Laughs.] Yes. I was actually aware of the kink before, but it can be fairly time-consuming. I broke up with the partner I was with right after lockdown started, and when she moved out, I suddenly had all this time to myself to explore. I got involved in some gooning Discord servers and Reddit communities and also started working with some online dominatrices—doing sessions and ordering custom content—that really helped me think about how solosexuality fits into my life, and especially about what relationships might look like for me in the future. 

What would your ideal relationship look like, romantically and sexually? 
In an ideal world, it would look very much like a traditional relationship, except we wouldn’t have sex with each other. We’d masturbate whenever we wanted to—mostly on our own, but I’m open to mutual masturbation, although I’ve never tried it before, and I’m not sure if it’d be a good fit for me. But let’s look at this logically and realistically: What are the chances that I can find a person who wants romantic attraction, doesn’t want to have sex, is sex-positive enough to be OK with me watching porn and masturbating, and whose wants and needs I fit as well? 


You’re currently in a relationship, right? How does your dynamic work now? 
I’ve been with my current partner for about a year and a half, and, to be honest, sometimes I ask myself whether I should have started this relationship. The reason it’s worked is that we don’t live in the same city, so I usually know at least a week in advance if we’re going to meet in person, and we never spend more than a week together. I can prepare to have sex when we are together. If I know when it’s going to happen, and it’s not frequent, I don’t look forward to it, but I don’t dread it. But if we eventually move in together, which is a real possibility, I’m going to have to tell her that I’m solosexual and that I’m not actually interested in sex. And the idea of having sex now and then for one month or two months is one thing, but when I think about having sex regularly for years to meet my partner’s needs, I think that would wear on me over time. Is it fair to the other person to be in a relationship with me when I’m still trying to figure this out? 

You haven’t told your partner that you’re solosexual yet? 
I was very upfront from the start about the fact that I use OnlyFans because some people aren’t comfortable with that. She was fine with that. And we have a relationship where we can both say, “I’m going to have a wank,” and it’s OK. But we haven’t talked about my solosexuality yet. 


What are the blockers that’ve kept you from talking to her about this? 
Guilt. Although I’ve always consciously believed it’s fine to masturbate, I absolutely have some subconscious hang-ups, which were made worse by the fact that my first sexual and romantic partner was averse to porn and masturbation, so I felt weird masturbating in any way she might be aware of. Even in my second relationship, I felt guilt masturbating, knowing that my partner might want to have sex. I’ve made significant strides in dealing with that guilt by talking to other solosexuals, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still feel it. And it’s one thing to feel comfortable with yourself and another thing to open up to other people about who you are. I’m also bisexual, for example, and while I’m comfortable with that, I haven’t told my family because I know they would not take it well, and I do not want to deal with the negative impact of telling them. In the same way, I’d hate to tell my partner about this side of myself and upset her, and I’d also hate the impact of telling her and her saying unkind things in the moment or us breaking up because of it. I don’t think she would say anything hurtful because she’s not that kind of person. But this is not a common conversation, and you can never fully predict how someone would react. 

My concerns about this give me so much more empathy for my first partner, who only told me she was asexual a year and a half into our relationship. At the time, I was like, Why did you only tell me this now? If you’d told me from the start, we could have seen how things worked before we developed an emotional attachment. But now I see the desire for romantic closeness and how aspects of yourself can make it hard to find that. You convince yourself that you can try to do what other people need or expect, not what you’d prefer to do, to avoid risking that connection. 

But I’ve learned that acceptance is especially important to me. So if we do have this talk and she says something like, “That’s a lot to take in, but I accept you as you are,” then having sex from time to time might not even bother me, I think, because of how much that acceptance would mean to me. I just don’t want to have to hide this part of who I am from my partners anymore. 

What does solosexual intimacy look like for you these days outside of your relationship?
I have a housemate, so I can’t do everything I’d like to do if I had my own space, such as buying sex toys or converting my shed or basement into a goon cave to have a dedicated gooning space. But every morning and evening, I usually have a 30-minute masturbation session, and on Sundays, when I’m on my own and don’t have any social plans, I’ll take a couple of hours to enjoy myself. Maybe I’ll reach out to one of the online dominatrices I work with a few days beforehand to see if they’re available for a session, or if I can commission a custom video to use then. I also write out full fantasies I have that I can possibly act out with these dominatrices later.

You’ve mentioned masturbating to porn several times. I know many solosexuals who also identify as pornosexuals. But I also know solosexuals who’re mainly aroused by their partners, their own fantasies, or even themselves, some of whom never use porn. Where do you fall in that mix? 
Ah yeah, that’s a very fair question. I think I prefer porn, but I’m not against masturbating to something else, including my partner. The only issue is that I’m very into femdom BDSM. So unless I had a partner who was into that, I think I’d still lean to pornography.

Most of the solosexuals I’ve met say that getting involved with solosexual communities in-person or online not only helps them feel more comfortable in their identities but also introduces them to radically new ways to masturbate—to express their solosexuality. Has that been true for you as well? What sort of things have you learned in solosexual spaces? 
Soooo much! At first, I learned ways to elevate the experience—with candles, mood lighting—to be more than sneaking off for 20 minutes. But I’ve also learned it’s OK not to elevate things. If you want to masturbate like a degenerate, that’s OK. It’s like how some people talk about pole dancing: They only take it seriously if it’s this classy thing, for example, in burlesque shows. And that’s great. But it’s also fine to go out in a G-string and be as sexual on the pole as you want. 

What are you still figuring out in terms of solosexuality and how it plays out in your life?  
Some people in the communities I’m in have tried to get me to consider masturbating with other solosexuals. I’ve always thought of masturbation and gooning as things that I do on my own. I love talking to people about it and learning new ways of masturbating and new kinks from others in the community. But I’d never considered doing it with others. It always felt to me like that would not technically be solosexuality anymore. But I know that’s a big part of solosexuality for many people, and I’m always open to new things, so I’m considering it. Still, I have my reservations. But if my partner said, “Hey, I’m into gooning too,” it might be fantastic to goon together!