Autosexuality is defined as attraction to yourself and comes with unique challenges.
Claire Gillespie is an experienced health and wellness writer. Her work appears across several publications including SELF, Women’s Health, Health, Vice, Verywell Mind, Headspace, and The Washington Post.
Isabel Casimiro, MD, PhD, is an endocrinologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois. As a physician-scientist in molecular biology, she uses her research on diabetes, lipid disorders, cardiovascular function, and more to provide comprehensive care to her patients. Her research findings have been published in several scientific and medical journals, including Cell Metabolism and the Journal of the Endocrine Society. Dr. Casimiro also has extensive experience providing gender-affirming hormone therapy and improving education regarding transgender medicine for endocrinology fellows. Her work with transgender patients has been published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society and Transgender Health. Dr. Casimiro also serves on graduate and medical school program committees and is a clinical instructor at the University of Chicago. Dr. Casimiro received her PhD in biomedical research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and her medical degree from the University of Washington. She completed her internal medicine residency and endocrinology fellowship through the Physician Scientist Development Program at the University of Chicago. She is board-certified in internal medicine.
If you experience sexual attraction to or are sexually aroused by yourself, you might be an autosexual. And like all sexual identities, autosexuality 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, told Health.
What Does Autosexuality Mean?
Someone who is autosexual may feel aroused by looking at their own body or may enjoy masturbating while thinking about or picturing themselves, MacLean said. In contrast, asexuals do not experience sexual attraction at all or only experience it in certain circumstances.
Autosexuality is also different from narcissism, which is characterized by an excessive need for attention and a lack of empathy, among other things. “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,” said Lindsay Fram, MPH, sexuality educator and co-author of “Above the Waist: Sexuality Education Beginning with the Brain.”
In some cases, autosexuality can coincide with autoromanticism. “Someone who is autoromantic is mostly or only interested in romantic experiences by themselves,” MacLean said. So someone might be autosexual, autoromantic, or both––and also identify as heterosexual, bisexual, genderfluid, or any number of other sexual feelings or experiences.
People who are not autosexual can be aroused by themselves to some degree, like when wearing sexy underwear or fantasizing about a past sexual experience. But autosexuality is different. “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,” Fram said.
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 said. “Being dismissed out of hand because of one part of your identity feels terrible.”
An autosexual person may get more satisfaction from thinking about and touching their own body—but that doesn’t mean that they are not 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 added. And when someone doesn’t believe you when you tell them who you are, suggests it’s a phase, or mislabels you as selfish or narcissistic, that can lead to feelings of shame.
Autosexuality Is Not Always Culturally Accepted
Another challenge autosexuals face stems from how our culture values partnered relationships over 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 said. MacLean out that many people, unfortunately, feel shame around masturbation, despite the fact that 98% of people will masturbate at some point. “If self-pleasure is your only source of sexual pleasure, that can lead to internalizing harmful negative messages,” MacLean said. “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.”
According to Fram, the misconceptions and miseducation start 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 said. “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 stated.
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 said.
In a couple where someone is autosexual, this might mean agreeing to take turns with sexual pleasure, rather than trying to achieve it simultaneously, MacLean suggested. 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.
“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 said.
It’s also important for the sexual partner of someone who is autosexual to not take the sexuality as an insult. “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 said. While autosexuals certainly can and do enjoy sex with other people, 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 said. Fram suggested that a partner can touch the autosexual person’s body while the autosexual person touches their own body. Alternatively, a partner could touch the autosexual person’s body until they are ready to orgasm, then step back and watch their partner. “Watching your partner give themselves an orgasm can be just as enjoyable as being the one who ‘gave’ them an orgasm,” Fram noted. 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 said.