In a 2010 study, Brotto says she found evidence that asexual women have a similar genital response to stimuli as sexual women -- in other words, a comparable sexual arousal response.

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"It's like an itch that you have to scratch," Luke Bovard, a 23-year-old graduate student at Canada's University of Waterloo, explained matter-of-factly, leaning back on a Brooklyn park bench during a recent visit to New York City.

"There's nothing more to it." Luke Bovard, who studies applied math, says he's been "vaguely aware" of his asexuality since his early adolescence.

but I enjoy a lot of the sex with him only very partially from my own sexual desire, which is minimal.

It's really from this secondary sexual desire, this desire to make him happy, that makes it enjoyable.

I don't understand all the intricacies of myself yet, so this is the closest approximation I've come up with," said Chris Maleney, an 18-year-old Pennsylvania high school student who identifies as Gray-A.

The specific language that has developed among asexuals has not just been useful in helping aces define themselves, but it's also worked to bring the community together.I just don't want to interfere with someone else's bits and pieces or have them interfere with mine." There are also members of the ace community who identify as demisexual or Gray-A, which are identities that sit along the spectrum between sexuality and asexuality.Demisexuals, explained Gwendolyn M., a 25-year-old designer who lives in Honolulu, are people who do not experience sexual attraction toward others unless and until they forge a very strong emotional -- and usually romantic -- connection.[Asexuals cite] boredom, stress reduction, helping them to get to sleep, etc., as reasons behind masturbation." Several male asexuals told us they masturbate frequently, some every day, and most used the phrase "cleaning the plumbing" to explain why they do it.One female asexual said that while she masturbates about once a month, she has no idea why she does it; it just feels like something she's biologically compelled to do.She estimates that half of all asexuals stimulate themselves on a fairly regular basis.