Can You Be Sexually Attracted to Yourself? All You Need to Know About Autosexuality
Some autosexual individuals are exclusively attracted to themselves; some are attracted to others, too, but not as much.
“My sexual and romantic orientations turn just about any mundane activity into a full-blown date… Something as simple as lotioning my body can turn into a sensual, sexual moment, sometimes voluntarily and other times on its own,” writes Ghia Vitale, who is both autosexual and aromantic.
Autosexuality is the “practice of being sexually attracted to oneself,” Linda Roberts, a clinical psychologist noted. It’s “simply a way for individuals to explore their own sexuality and desires on their own terms without involving anyone else — it can actually serve as an act of self-care.”
The lack of awareness about autosexuality can prevent many individuals from recognizing their attraction to themselves. “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… 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,” Lindsay Fram, a sexuality educator, told Health. “As with any emerging understanding of less common sexual identities, the larger public isn’t always so keen to accept people as they are.”
Vitale recalls being confused by her sexuality. “For a long time, I didn’t understand how my relationship with myself was unlike the relationships most people have with themselves — but I could tell there was something profoundly different about the way I interacted with my body and spirit. When others engaged with themselves, I could see a lack of lust in their eyes… Around my third year in college, I noticed I had a bona fide crush on myself. I felt flutters in my stomach whenever I thought about myself. I craved alone time because I was able to bask in my body and my mind without interruption; I intensely enjoyed bonding with myself. Soon after, I began writing love poetry to myself. And if I found myself crushing on someone else, I secretly shunned them for stealing my attention away from myself… I realized that I enjoyed spending my alone time in a certain way others don’t.”
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Like most other things, autosexuality, too, exists on a spectrum. Some autosexual individuals are exclusively attracted to themselves; some are attracted to others, too, but not as much. An individual’s experience of autosexuality may, on occasion, co-occur with autoromanticism, or being romantically attracted to oneself. But it’s not necessary for autosexuality and autoromanticism to coincide — a person may have romantic feelings only towards themselves, but experience sexual attraction primarily toward others. In other words, one may be autosexual, but find themselves overwhelmingly attracted romantically to other individuals. This is precisely why some autosexual individuals can indeed have fulfilling relationships with another person; many others, however, can’t — emphasizing how autosexuality is a spectrum with everyone experiencing it in their own unique way.
Yet another factor that gets in the way of recognizing autosexuality as a distinct orientation is the rather universal experience of autoeroticism, or the act of stimulating oneself sexually — masturbation, in other words. Irrespective of their sexual orientation, many people engage in autoeroticism; but unlike an autosexual person, their fantasies might not hinge primarily on their attraction toward themselves. “For years now, I’ve mainly masturbated to images or fantasies of myself. I conjure up memories of myself lying naked on the beach, or remember a time when I touched myself in the bath while my housemates were downstairs… I know that most of my friends get turned on by the thought of their sexual partners – if they’re not with them they dream up fantasies involving them. For me, it’s different — while I do enjoy sex with other people, I need to be thinking about myself, and touching myself, to orgasm,” an autosexual individual, who preferred to remain anonymous, wrote in an article for BBC.
An autosexual individual is likely to rely on masturbation to pleasure themselves. But that doesn’t mean individuals who are addicted to porn to the extent that they prefer masturbating over intercourse with a partner, are automatically rendered autosexual.
Moreover, because autosexual people are primarily — if not exclusively — attracted to themselves, they’re often dubbed as narcissists. With narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) itself being a highly stigmatized diagnosis, many autosexuals don’t admit — or, at times, even acknowledge — their autosexuality. “It’s nice to know I’m not crazy for it, or a massive narcissist; it’s something real that a lot of people experience,” noted Luana Sandien, a Playboy model who is open about her autosexuality now.
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The inaccurate conflation of autosexuality with narcissism, however, continues unabated. “Autosexuals are more comfortable sexually when in their own company, while narcissists crave attention… Autosexuality [unlike narcissism] is also not likely to be associated with a lack of empathy or desire to give others pleasure — sexually or otherwise — but rather a preference towards a private and personal sexual experience,” Jennifer McGowan a lecturer for experimental psychology at University College London, explained.
As Jess O’Reilly, a sex therapist, had said: “We live in a conflicting culture… We’re supposed to like ourselves, but we’re judged when we admit that we like ourselves — sexually or otherwise.” So, even if autosexuality isn’t immediately conflated with a personality disorder, it can be deemed selfish, or perceived as arrogance.
But that’s far from the truth. As Jess Herbert wrote in Refinery29 about her experience, “In reality, autosexual tendencies emerge even on days of low self-confidence. It feels embarrassing to say ‘I feel sexually attracted to myself’ when you don’t feel attractive enough to be attracted to yourself.” Conceitedness isn’t something that frequently accompanies autosexual experiences. But coupled with the dearth of autosexual representation in the media, misconceptions around autosexuality can make guilt and shame a stable companion for autosexual individuals.
Vitale is open about her sexuality now. The writer for BBC, evidently, wasn’t. Herbert admits to not feeling guilty any longer, but worries “that future partners will feel intimidated by my autosexuality. Therefore, it’s not something I’ve openly discussed so far.” According to Herbert, the experience of autosexual women “ties into the wider misogyny surrounding female pleasure… We occupy a culture where women who show even an ounce of confidence, self-love, or acceptance are labeled vain… Obviously, autosexuality isn’t exclusively a woman’s experience, but perhaps men navigate it with less guilt as they’re raised to be autonomous sexual beings in ways that women aren’t.”
Devrupa Rakshit is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, a painter by shaukh, and autistic by birth. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.