Two's a Crowd: Solosexuality and Its Discontents
Solosexuals are interested in sex, but not in having it with other people.
Image via Guille Faingold / Stocksy
A video blog titled "The Joys of Being Solosexual" opens with a mid-twenties stereotypical nerd smiling into the camera. He proudly proclaims that he's been "solosexual" since June 2010. According to kinkly.com, this means he is "someone who finds arousal and sexual release in masturbation while having no interest in engaging in partnered sexual activities." There are several reasons someone might identify as solosexual, per Kinkly, including "anxiety surrounding the risks that come with partnered sexual activities (i.e. possible STI exposure and pregnancy), social anxiety, or a simple preference for one's own sexual company."
The boy in the video describes how he came to this realization about himself: After a few failed relationships, he found himself on a "solosexual date" sitting on a subway train in New York, quietly looking at his computer en route, when he came up with an interesting idea. The subway announced for his stop, 86th Street, and he didn't want to interrupt his train of thought, so he went up to 125th and caught the next train back home. "No big deal," he says to his potential YouTube audience. "The problem is that if I had been with a girl, she would have made a fuss, most likely, and she would have dragged me off the subway [at 86th]. We would probably get in a fight and I would have forgotten the computer idea I had."
"I don't have to justify things to myself," he laments, arguing that a girlfriend is a nuisance. He says that relationships get in the way of the better things one has to do: work, scholastics, or, in his case, getting up at 3 AM and getting a piece of chocolate from the corner store.
Those who identify as solosexual always prefer masturbation and have zero interest in a "normal" monogamous relationship.
In 1948, Alfred Kinsey developed the sexuality scale, a 1 to 6 point spectrum to determine how gay or straight an individual is. One could fall anywhere on it, but today, this scale seems rigid. Gender-fluidity is totally acceptable in 2015, even trendy. There are no rules. Millennials are not interested in a so-called archaic spectrum, but instead playing within a cluster-fuck of sexual identities that bash and rock like bumper cars. Along with the rise of sexual fluidity has come a proliferation of other labels, some of which might seem oddly specific or rigid to an outsider: now there are people who identify as demisexuals (one who requires intense emotion to engage with a partner), sapiosexuals (one who values intelligence over all other traits in a partner) and, of course, the increasingly popular solosexual.
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The main trait of a solosexual is the lack or interest in pursing intercourse or a relationship with another human being. Although some solosexuals say they do have sex with other people on occasion, those who identify as solosexual always prefer masturbation and have zero interest in a "normal" monogamous relationship. While an asexual claims an extremely low or non-existent sexual drive or interest in sexual activity, they still often desire romantic relationships that satisfy an emotional connection. A solosexual is the antithesis of an asexual: charged with hormones but reluctant to engage on an emotional level.
According to Salon, solosexuals come from all ends of the Kinsey spectrum, identifying as gay, bi, and straight, but they all have a common philosophy: Forget dating when you can be sexually satisfied just jerking off. After all, one (not the only) aspect of a relationship is sex. Why struggle and strive when you can DIY it?
Of course, if you are going to talk about men jerking off, you have to talk about pornography. In a 2012 TEDx Talk, Gary Wilson introduced the "Coolidge Effect," a biological and psychological phenomenon seen in mammals where males (and, to a lesser extent, females) exhibit a renewed sexual interest when presented with a series of different partners—basically they can fuck away until they pass out. However, when presented with the same partner again and again, they will continue to fuck, but will lose interest in the process. The whole point is that a male wants to fertilize as many females as possible, he argues; it's a benefit to the evolution of our species.
"Without this, there would be no internet porn," Wilson claims. According to this theory, in his most basic, primal brain, a man watching porn is trying to inseminate every woman on screen he sees; when he orgasms, his brain is charged with dopamine. That's what addicting. So, when it comes to real, live women, Wilson believes the Coolidge Effect takes over—why should a man bother with one partner when he can go home and jerk off to five within an hour and get that same rush?
Jerking off on Pornhub is free. Taking [someone] on a date is big money compared to that.
"Obviously pornography loves men who enjoy jerking off, as that's how we make money," says Christian XXX, a well-known porn performer and producer. He says there is nothing wrong with lots of masturbation, as long as it does not start to take over your daily responsibilities and tasks. "As for jerking off rather than dating, I always assume outside factors are the culprit—obesity, social anxiety, unemployed, low self esteem, depression...there is a laundry list of traits or factors that preclude men from wanting or having a relationship."
Plus, the rituals of dating and seduction are expensive, especially for something that doesn't always feel rewarding. "I think young people feel like economic freedom is out of their grasp, and they know it takes money to have relationships," said Christian. "Jerking off on Pornhub is free, playing World of Warcraft is 15 bucks a month. Taking [someone] on a date is big money compared to that."
With the advent of interactive masturbatory sites like Bateworld and Chaturbate, the solosexual lifestyle is becoming increasingly accessible and arguably increasingly popular. Members can plug in their web cams, jerk off and click through thousands of other people doing the exact same thing. It's essentially DIY porn. "Bateworld is the prime online destination for all things male masturbation, including solosex, buddybate and group jack offs," Paul Rosenberg, the founder and manager of Seattle's gay jack off club, Rain City Jacks, told me over email. "Most Internet sex is virtual, just different kinds of 'bate fuel' for people to fantasize and masturbate alone about." (The first time I logged on to Chaturbate, I encountered a naked girl, scrolling through her phone, one hand masturbating herself in the most lackluster fashion imaginable. Others users were teamed up, dick swirled on dick, gaining messages and interactions.)
Although solosexuality seems like something men would be totally into (a demographic skew which reflects in the blogs and forums devoted to the subject), there are females who fall into this category. Take Genevieve, 24, a writer, who realized her identity after a series of bad Tinder experiences.
I don't feel like I could enjoy sex with anybody I have ever met to date.
"I had gone out on a date with a guy I met on Tinder and he texted me to tell me he wanted to hang out again and I started freaking out," she told me over email. "This had happened over and over with guys I'd met on the internet or even in real life, but it was like the final straw. I really didn't want to hang out with him again even though we'd had a good time together and I thought he was cute and I was wondering what was wrong with me. I tried to think about why I was so nervous and realized that it was the idea of having sex with him that was so nerve-wracking."
"I don't feel like I could enjoy sex with anybody I have ever met to date, though I would be open to the possibility of it happening someday. I literally cannot imagine it. Whenever I've suspected I am heading toward a would-be sexual experience with someone I am extremely uncomfortable to the point of deeply freaked out and immediately trying to leave the situation."
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Genevieve does not define herself as strictly solosexual; she says that she kind of teeters between defining herself that way and identifying as asexual. She says that she has platonic relationships feelings with people, like, "I would adopt a dog with this person" or "I would start a band with this person", but it never goes beyond that. However, she does masturbate. This is her only sex drive.
But what if she faced her anxieties? Genevieve is still a virgin. How can she throw away the experience of sex before it's even happened? "The idea of having sex with someone, even of being naked in front of someone, is not at all appealing to me and never has been," she says. "It is even kind of off-putting. I can't even think, I should try this before I decide I don't like it, because the very idea of it is so uncomfortable."
The idea of having sex with someone is not at all appealing to me and never has been.
We put so much emphasis on the importance of sex. Losing your virginity is seen as this illogically important landmark in a person's life. In some ways it is, but in other ways it's not. I don't remember losing my virginity; however, what I do remember vividly is learning about sex with my first boyfriend—the awkward attempts at getting it right, mastering blow jobs, my first lesbian experiences, all these specific moments that happened through the years. These deeply important sexual encounters that had so much to do with my development of confidence about my physical body, my seduction, and sexual appeal. But, is all that really necessary for a full life?
In her book, The Sex Myth, Rachel Hills writes, "Sex plays a key role in popular imagination of what it means to be young, free, and fun. Modern media and popular culture tell us that young single people are dining at a buffet of almost unlimited sexual options—and doing sex "right" means taking advantage of those opportunities." But, does it still? And will it always? Will the increasingly introverted shield themselves from human interaction, preferring to masturbate in the comfort of a chatroom? Like Christian said, that's easier, both financially and emotionally, than navigating the complexities of dating and sex. If we consider sex as an innate part of humanness, aren't solosexuals just redefining sex for a generation in bed with technology?
"I really appreciate how technology has made it easier to find a community of other people like yourself who can validate your sexual identity, whether you are queer, asexual, kinky, etc. whatever," Genevieve told me. "I hope the internet and its resources will continue to make it easier for future generations to realize their identities; I know if I'd known I could be asexual or solosexual when I was, like, 14 or 15, it would have spared me a ton of angst."