Maybe it's the bomb lighting, your killer outfit, or your #Iwokeuplikethis glow. Regardless, some days you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and just think: “Damn.” But what if, when you stopped to take pause, you became aroused by your own reflection? There’s a difference between feeling yourself and actually being attracted to yourself, and the latter refers to being autosexual. If that word is unfamiliar to you, you're not alone. Autosexuality is widely misunderstood and underreported.
A 2010 study of 40 students published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggested that we are more attracted to people who resemble ourselves. To boot, statistician Emma Pierson, who studied one million matches made by eHarmony's algorithm, found that users were more interested in people who were similar to them.
But for some, this goes one step further. Autosexuality is defined as sexual attraction to oneself, according to the Macmillan Dictionary. Additionally, autosexuality differs from autoeroticism (otherwise known as masturbation). It’s not just about pleasuring yourself, but more specifically, about feeling aroused by yourself. Writer Ghia Vitale, who identifies as both autosexual and autoromantic (meaning she’s in love with herself), first realized that she was attracted to herself around 7 years old.
“I recall looking at myself after I had a shower and feeling drawn to what I saw,” she tells Elite Daily. “It wasn't sexual, but it was one of my earliest experiences with attraction. Afterwards, I remember feeling confused — my peers made fun of me, so I remember thinking, ‘How can I feel this way when the whole world thinks I'm unattractive?’”
By age 13, Vitale started having erotic dreams about herself. But it wasn’t until she graduated from college that she discovered there was a term for what she was experiencing while reading about sexuality online.
When Vitale found out that there was word for how she felt, she told a friend, who was so accepting and encouraging that she decided to write an article about her autosexuality in 2015. Her writing served as an outlet to indirectly come out to friends and family members so she didn’t have to have a conversation about it.
“Anyone close to me who didn't find out through my articles and media mentions found out about me being autosexual because I disclosed that fact to them,” Vitale adds.
Autosexuality is thought to have been coined in 1989 by sex therapist Dr. Bernard Apfelbaum. But as Vitale points out, Dr. Apfelbaum described autosexuals as individuals who only get aroused by themselves, and struggle to respond to another person's touch. Autosexuality is far more complex than that: Like asexuality, it exists on a spectrum, and individual experiences of it can range quite vastly. For Vitale and others who identify as autosexual, being attracted to oneself doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t feel sexual desire for other partners.
“The amount of fantasizing I do about myself versus other people is equal at the moment,” she explains. “However, there are many times when I fantasize about myself more than other people. I'd say my feelings of attraction for myself and others fluctuate.”
One of the major misconceptions around autosexuality is that it’s somehow linked to narcissism. But it's important to note that narcissism is a personality disorder that typically entails an inflated sense of self-importance, and an intense desire for attention and admiration. Just because you’re attracted to yourself doesn’t mean you embody any of these traits.
In an AMA post titled “I am an autosexual!”, one Redditor explains that while she has gotten off to naked pictures of herself and has fantasized about making love to a clone of herself, she is fully capable of being attracted to others, and in fact, has struggled with her self-esteem.
“I am not egocentric… it's merely a sexual thing for my own genitals, body shape, etc.,” she writes. “Strangely, I don't expect anyone else to find me attractive and have always had self-image issues.” Autosexuality, from how they discover it and decide to come out, to how it informs their approach to dating and relationships, can range quite vastly.
“Some people might use the term autosexual to describe an experience and others might use it to describe their identity,” explains Jess O’Reilly, host of the “Sex With Dr. Jess” podcast. “Only you can decide how you identify. There is no specific set of desires or behaviors that universally lead to the same labels or sexual identities.”
According to Dr. Jess, feeling aroused by your own body is actually healthy. In fact, she asserts that feeling sexy and desired requires that you feel at least somewhat attracted to yourself, which is why she suggests embracing it.
“It can be normal to be attracted to yourself, but it’s quite a feat in a world that teaches us that we’re not good enough and profits from these messages,” she adds.
Not only that, but Dr. Jess tells Elite Daily that she believes we’re all autosexual to a degree.
“It’s not just about being attracted to yourself, but also about liking yourself and being comfortable with your body and sexuality,” she explains. “If you want others to find you sexually appealing (emotionally, physically and erotically), shouldn’t you also see yourself that way?”
In a society that encourages people to compare themselves to what they see on Instagram and hold themselves to the unrealistic physical standards portrayed in the media, owning up to one's self-attraction so boldly can feel like a radical form of acceptance. But autosexuality is not narcissism or self-love, nor is it resorting to oneself as an object of desire in the absence of anyone else. Rather, being autosexual means experiencing an arousal ignited by looking at or imagining your own image.