People Who Are Autosexual Are Turned on by Themselves—Here's What to Know
This sexual identity can be confusing, so we asked experts to break it down.
If you’re sexually aroused when you catch a glimpse of your reflection, or don’t need to think about anybody other than yourself for the hottest masturbation sesh, you might be an autosexual. It’s not a sexual identity that’s widely discussed, so here’s what you need to know.
In a nutshell, autosexuality is experiencing sexual attraction to, or being aroused by, yourself. And like all sexual identities, it has a wide spectrum of experiences and feelings. “It may mean ‘more than’ or ‘instead of’ being attracted to or aroused by another person,” Emmalinda MacLean, program director at More Than Sex-Ed, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit educational outreach project of Community Partners, tells Health.
Autosexuals find themselves to be a major turn-on
Someone who is autosexual may feel aroused by looking at their own body, or may enjoy masturbating while thinking about or picturing themselves. MacLean points out that it’s nothing like asexuality, which means not experiencing sexual attraction at all.
It’s also different from narcissism, which is characterized by, among other things, an excessive need for attention and a lack of empathy. “Autosexuals derive deep pleasure from private and personal sexual moments, not from attention from others, but they can also have meaningful sexual and romantic relationships with other people,” Lindsay Fram, MPH, sexuality educator and co-author of Above the Waist: Sexuality Education Beginning with the Brain, tells Health.
On the other hand, autosexuality sometimes coincides with autoromanticism. “Someone who is autoromantic is mostly or only interested in romantic experiences by themselves,” MacLean explains. So someone might be autosexual, or autoromantic, or both––and also identify as hetereosexual, bisexual, genderfluid, or as any number of other sexual feelings or experiences.
Of course, we can all be aroused by ourselves to some degree––when we wear sexy underwear or fantasize about a past sexual experience, for example. But autosexuality is different, Fram says. “Someone who is autosexual is primarily, or even exclusively, turned on by their own body and does not experience the same degree or intensity of sexual arousal from others as they do from their own self-image.”
Being autosexual means dealing with misconceptions
“People may jump to the conclusion that someone who is autosexual won’t be a generous lover and might not spend the time to find out whether or not that is true,” Fram says. “Being dismissed out of hand because of one part of your identity feels terrible.”
Sure, an autosexual person gets more satisfaction from thinking about and touching their own body––but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t invested in their partners’ pleasure.
“As with any emerging understanding of less common sexual identities, the larger public isn’t always so keen to accept people as they are,” Fram adds. And when someone doesn’t believe you when you tell them who you are, suggests it’s a phase, or mislabels you as something you are not (like selfish or narcissistic), that can lead to feelings of shame, particularly when it happens again and again.
Autosexuality isn't always culturally accepted
Another challenge: dealing with the reality that our culture values partnered relationships more than many other kinds of emotionally fulfilling experiences.
“This deeply ingrained cultural messaging can leave lots of people feeling like their experiences of desire are ‘less-than,’” MacLean says. She points out that it’s also common for people to feel shame around masturbation, despite the fact that 98% of people will do it at some point. “If self-pleasure is your only source of sexual pleasure, that can lead to internalizing harmful negative messages,” she says. “Taking care of yourself, in all the ways you want and deserve to be cared for, is a wonderful gift! Many people would be happier if they invested more energy in their relationship with themselves.”
For Fram, the misconceptions and miseducation starts early––when our parents or teachers first talk to us about sex. “If and when we are taught about arousal, it is almost always framed in the context of a reaction to something outside of ourselves––a reaction to another person, pornography, or erotica,” Fram says. “We are never taught that being turned on by our own bodies is, in fact, incredibly normal, or that some people experience it to greater degrees than others.”
Representation matters, but when it comes to autosexuality, there is hardly any representation in popular culture. “The representation we do see is probably not how someone who is actually autosexual would choose to be represented,” Fram points out.
What to know if you're in a relationship with an autosexual
First of all, communication is key––for both parties. “The better you get at articulating your feelings, wants, needs, and boundaries, and listening deeply to understand another person, the better all your relationships will be,” MacLean says.
In a couple where someone is autosexual, this might mean agreeing to take turns with sexual pleasure, rather than trying to achieve it simultaneously, she suggests. Or it might mean having sex in front of a mirror. It’s likely to mean some negotiation and compromise––but that goes for all relationships, right?
“You have a right to sexual pleasure, and to having your feelings heard and respected; you also have a responsibility to be honest with your partner or partners, and to hear and respect their feelings,” MacLean says.
It’s also important for the sexual partner of someone who is autsexual to not take it personally. “A partner who is autosexual will almost always be more turned on by touching their own body than by your touch, but that is only a reflection of their sexuality, not a rejection of you,” Fram says. Remember, autosexuals certainly can and do enjoy sex with other people, but they might only orgasm by stimulating their own body.
“That can feel a bit alienating for a partner, but there are plenty of workarounds,” Fram says. She suggests touching their body together, or touching their body until they are ready to orgasm, then stepping back and watching your partner in ecstasy. “Watching your partner give themselves an orgasm can be just as enjoyable as being the one who ‘gave’ them an orgasm,” she notes. You could also snuggle up with your autosexual partner while they masturbate, masturbate alongside them, or read them an erotic story about themselves while they masturbate.
Generally, society has extremely rigid ideas about what it means to have sex. “If we can be a little more open, and accept that the goal of a sexual relationship is for everyone involved to do what feels good for them, that gives us more latitude to enjoy sexual relationships with people whose experiences with arousal are different than what we generally expect,” Fram says.
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