What Does It Really Mean to Be Autosexual?
Autosexuality may sound like a deep desire for automobiles, but while the two terms share a prefix, they're totally unrelated. Rather than naming what you want to ride (🚗), autosexuality is a sexual orientation that names who you want ride: yourself.
Have questions? Keep scrolling to learn all about autosexuality, including the definition of autosexual, insight on how it differs from asexuality, and signs you may be interested in the label for yourself.
What Is Autosexual?
Simply put, someone who is autosexual is sexually attracted to themselves, explains gender and sexuality educator Eli Scriver, founder of Pillowtalk, a queer-inclusive column and radio show.
And autosexuality exists on a spectrum, explains Caitlin V., M.P.H clinical sexologist for Royal, a vegan-friendly condom and lubricant company. Some autosexuals are exclusively attracted to themselves; some are primarily attracted to themselves but occasionally attracted to others; and some are primarily attracted to themselves, but have the capacity to regularly experience sexual attraction to others, too.
What's more, it's common for people who are autosexual to experience sexual desire when looking in the mirror, to prefer masturbation to all other types of physical or sexual contact, and to get turned on by the thought or act of their own performance during sex to a greater degree than they get turned on by their partner(s). (Related: LGBTQ Glossary of Gender and Sexuality Definitions Allies Should Know)
Autosexual vs. Asexual
While the words are somewhat similar, autosexual and asexual are not the same. Someone who is on the asexuality spectrum does not experience regular sexual attraction. Someone who is autosexual does experience regular sexual attraction — that sexual attraction just happens to (primarily) be towards oneself. (See more: What Does It Really Mean to Be Asexual?)
That said, it's possible that someone who is autosexual could also be on the asexuality spectrum. For example, someone might also be autosexual and demisexual, meaning they primarily experience sexual attraction to themselves (autosexual), but have the potential to experience sexual attraction to others after they've developed an emotional relationship (demisexual).
It's also possible for someone to be autosexual and allosexual, meaning they also experience regular sexual attraction for others. From there, they may be able to further specify what types of people they're attracted to; for example, "someone could identify as autosexual and heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, or any other sexual orientation, meaning they also experience attraction to people of similar and/or different genders," says Caitlin V.
And No, Autosexuality Is Not Narcissm
Being autosexual is not the same as being narcissistic; the two identities are not mutually exclusive nor synonymous.
Autosexuality is a sexual orientation that names a sexual preference. Narcissism is not a sexual orientation, but a personality disorder that names an intense lack of empathy for others. "Narcissist personality disorder is also accompanied by a series of other symptoms that people who are autosexual do not necessarily have," notes Scriver. Narcissists tend to monopolize conversations, exaggerate their achievements, take advantage of others, have difficulty regulating their emotions, and have deep-seated insecurity, according to the Mayo Clinic. (Related: Signs and Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder)
"There's not enough scientific evidence to make any full claim about a relationship between the two [narcissism and autosexuality]," says Tara Suwinyattichaiporn, Ph.D., professor of sexual communication at California State University, Fullerton. Plus, any conflation between autosexuality and narcissism enters dangerous, non-scientific waters where non-heterosexual orientations are mistakenly labeled as personality or psychiatric disorders.
If you suspect you're autosexual, there's no reason to seek help from a health care professional (for instance, a queer-inclusive therapist) unless your experience of attraction is actively bringing you distress. However, if you suspect you have narcissistic personality disorder, working with a health care provider who specializes in personality disorders is an invaluable way to manage the accompanying symptoms and help you live an enriched, love-filled life.
Autosexuals Can Be In Happy, Healthy Relationships
To understand how it's possible for someone who is autosexual to be in an emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually fulfilling relationship, you need to understand that people have sexual and romantic orientations. Sexual orientation describes the genders someone is sexually attracted to, whereas a romantic orientation describes who someone someone's pattern of romantic attraction. And while the two are sometimes aligned (such as in the case of a heterosexual heteroromantic or lesbian homoromantic) they do not have to be. (When they are not aligned, it is known as being mixed- or crossed-oriented).
Autosexuality is a sexual orientation; it names someone who primarily experiences sexual attraction towards oneself. This has no bearing on someone's romantic orientation, which is who and/or what gender(s) someone has the potential to be romantically attracted to, says Scriver. (Related: All of the Relationship Attachment Styles, Explained)
Sometimes someone who is autosexual is also autoromantic, which means they are primarily or exclusively sexually and romantically attracted to themselves, he says. However, someone could be autosexual and have any other romantic orientation. A man, for example, might be autosexual and homoromantic, meaning they want to romance and date people with similar genders to their own. However, a woman, for example, might be autosexual, heterosexual, and heteroromantic meaning she primarily experiences sexual attraction to herself but can experience some sexual attraction to men and is romantically attracted to men.
Wait, so can someone autosexual be in a healthy relationship? Yes, says Caitlin V. Whether or not the relationship is healthy depends on a variety of factors outside of one partner's autosexuality. "Ultimately, whether or not a relationship is healthy depends on whether or not the partners respect each other and their individual sexual and romantic preferences of the other," she says. (See more: The Potential Red Flags In a Relationship You Need to Know About)
How to Know If You Might Be Autosexual
1. You prefer masturbation to all other kinds of sex.
"It's common for autosexuals to prefer masturbation to sex with others," says Suwinyattichaiporn. Have you ever found yourself wishing your sexy time partner would leave the sex scene so you can finish on your own? Or declined partnered sex so that you could masturbate? If so, you might be autosexual.
To be clear: Preferring solo sex to partnered or multi-partnered sex is not, alone, an indication that someone is autosexual. There are a number of reasons someone might prefer solo sex to other kinds of sex, including convenience, safety, technique, and reduced risk of STI transmission and unwanted pregnancy. "As long as enjoying and partaking in masturbation is not compulsive, causing fear or shame, or stemming from a fear of intimacy, it is a completely valid sexual practice and preference for people of all sexual orientations," says Caitlin V. (Related: Incredible Health Benefits of Masturbation That'll Make You Want to Touch Yourself)
2. You're more attracted to yourself than your partner(s).
Autosexuals, says Scriver, get turned on by the thought of themselves in sexual scenarios. "Not because they are part of a sexual situation with another human they find sexually attractive, but because they themselves are in it," he explains. On the contrary, people who are not autosexual usually get turned on thinking about themselves in sexual situations because of the other person (or people) or the sexual acts they're having.
"If during partnered sex you find that you're paying more attention to yourself, that's good evidence that there is an attraction to yourself," he says. To help you decipher if this is true for you, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where was my attention during my last partnered sexual encounter?
- Where do I like the mirror to be positioned during sex?
- When I close my eyes during sex, who or what am I thinking about?
3. You love having sex in front of a mirror.
Masturbating in front of a mirror is a fabulous way to learn more about your hot spots and personal pleasure preferences. And having partnered and multi-partnered sex in front of a mirror is an A+ way to up the visual stimulation, sans porn. But if you love banging in front of a mirror specifically so you can admire yourself instead of your partner(s), it could indicate that you're autosexual. (Related: Vulva Mapping Is Here to Help You Get Acquainted with Your Bits)
Now, it's important to note that autosexuals don't usually get turned on by, say, simply looking in the mirror while getting dressed in the morning, says Scriver. But they might get turned on by getting to witness and gaze at themselves in sexual situations.
4. You like the label "autosexual."
"Identifying as autosexual can help someone who is autosexual find community, communicate with potential partners, and feel more concrete in their sense of self," says Scriver. However, as is true for all gender, sexuality, or romantic-orientation labels, you are the only one who gets to say whether or not "autosexual" applies to you.
If you've been nodding along with this article from start to finish, identified with any of the aforementioned signs of autosexuality, and adding the label to your identity CV feels good to you, you're likely autosexual. But remember that both your sexuality and the language you use to describe it can change over the course of your life, notes Caitlin V. So choosing to identify as autosexual now is not a promise to identify that way forever, she says. (Related: Why I Refuse to Label My Sexuality)