Autosexual - What is it? What does it mean?

Last Updated: 01/19/2022
6 min read
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The term autosexual typically refers to a person who is primarily or exclusively sexually attracted to themselves. At the very core of it being an autosexual individual means having sexual attraction towards oneself.

An autosexual person may have sexual desire and experience sexual fantasies about their own body. They often prefer masturbation over partnered sex. Autosexuals find their own body a turn-on and may often feel sexually attracted to themselves but they can form romantic relationships with others.


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Terminology

According to Urban Dictionary, the term autosexual means: “A person who doesn't experience sexual attraction to others. People who identify as autosexual prefer being intimate with themselves.

The prefix auto comes from the Greek word which means self. Autosexuality is not a new concept but defining it as a sexual identity is fairly recent. Although there is a name for people’s sexual feelings, the recognition of autosexuality as one of the sexual orientations on the spectrum in some sense is up for debate. 

Some people confuse it with narcissism while others deny it as a whole. Autosexuals can be in sexual relationships, they enjoy sex, have sexual dreams, and often experience sexual contact. That said they are sexually aroused by themselves not others. So someone who is autosexual may desire themselves but can also be a generous lover. 

Sex therapist and sexuality educator Dr. Jess O’Reilly says we live in a conflicting society where self love, body positivity, and self-care are praised but how people identify is often judged by others. “We’re supposed to like ourselves, but we’re judged when we admit that we like ourselves—sexually or otherwise. 

Some refer to autosexuality as a form of sexual orientation while others describe it as an experience focusing on sexual pleasure. 

History

The word autosexual was first used by Bernard Apfelbaum, a clinical psychologist. Apfelbaum used the term in his 1989 workbook titled “Principles and Practice of Sex Therapy”. He considered autosexuality an abnormality. It was among the health conditions where the person's own desires were viewed as the opposite of a healthy expression of sexual attraction. Since most autosexuals prefer masturbation over sex with partners, Apfelbaum labeled it as an abnormality when it comes to sexual relationships. 

Autosexuality was also somewhat synonymous with narcissism. That said, the two terms are no longer interchangeable. People who have narcissistic tendencies often focus on receiving pleasure for themselves rather than the other person. Autosexual individuals who have romantic feelings for their partners may be interested in giving them pleasure. So, autosexuals are aroused and attracted to themselves but can be very generous lovers. It is also possible for a person to have an autosexual identity and exhibit narcissistic tendencies.

Flag and Symbols

There are many versions of the autosexual flag currently available online. Most of them feature shades of blue and grey. According to some online resources, the shades of blue represent the relationship with oneself. They stand for self-care and compassion. The grey color stands for the asexual spectrum since many autosexual people identify as being on the ace-spec.

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Pronouns

People who are autosexual can have different gender identities, sexuality, romantic orientations, and so on. Those who are autosexual can be cisgender, transgender, or non-binary. They may also use a variety of pronouns ranging from gender-specific ones like she/her, he/him to gender-neutral ones like they/them, xe/xem, ze/zir, ee/eem. 

An individual may also prefer to use their name instead of pronouns. To the same degree, it is very important to always ask other people about the preferred way to address them in conversation. For better understanding, share your pronouns in written and oral communication. Never assume someone’s pronouns based on their sexual attraction, orientation, or gender expression. 

Differences

Autosexual people often have a hard time responding to other people’s sexual touch but enjoy self-pleasing activities. They may have a partner or partners and enjoy sex in other forms. 

Autosexual vs. Asexual

These two words may sound similar but have very different meanings. Asexual people tend to not experience sexual attraction, while autosexuals are sexually attracted themselves. It is possible for an autosexual person to also be on the asexuality spectrum. Autosexual people may also identify as demisexual meaning they can be attracted to others if they develop a strong emotional bond. 

How to Know if You’re Autosexual?

There is no right or wrong when it comes to labeling one’s sexuality. If you feel the term fits you best, then go ahead and claim it! If you feel sexually aroused by yourself, you may be autosexual. Here are a few things that may help you feel more comfortable with the label. 

You enjoy masturbation over sex with other people

Most autosexuals prefer to have sex with themselves rather than with a partner. Masturbation is much more common for autosexuals than having sex with others. If you prefer to finish on your own or avoid sex altogether then you might be autosexual. Some autosexuals may prefer mutual stimulation with a partner over intercourse. 

You are more attracted to yourself than other people

If you often fantasize about having sex with yourself instead of your partner or other people then it is a close sign that you might be autosexual. People who identify as autosexual are often turned on by the thought of themselves in sexual scenarios because they find themselves sexually attractive. If during sex with other people you tend to focus your attention on yourself then you might be autosexual. 

You enjoy watching yourself during sex 

Sex and masturbation in front of a mirror are nothing new. Many people enjoy watching themselves and their partner or partners during sex but if you catch a glimpse of yourself and get turned on it might be because you are autosexual. If you enjoy having intercourse in front of a mirror just to admire yourself, you might be autosexual. Autosexuals often get turned on by watching themselves during sexual interactions. That said, autosexuals don't just get aroused while getting dressed. They typically enjoy seeing themselves performing sexual activities. 

You really like the label 

If you believe the label feels right to describe your sexual identity, attraction and/or orientation then it is the best label for you. Truthfully, no one can tell you how to label your attraction or orientation. If you feel comfortable with autosexuality then it is yours to claim. If you believe that it is by far the best way to describe your sexual attraction then you are an autosexual individual. 

The language around sexuality is fluid and can change over time, so do not feel that you always have to apply the same label or term to describe it. 

Do Autosexuals Have Relationships with Others?

Autosexual individuals can form strong and long-term bonds with other people. They may be in emotional, physical, spiritual relationships with others. Autosexual people can connect with others on many different levels. Although sexual and romantic attraction often go hand in hand like in heterosexual, heteroromantic relationships or gay, homoromantic relationships, they do not have to. Many people can have sexual attractions that differ from their romantic attractions and vice versa. 

Autosexuality refers to sexual orientation. Autosexual individuals are primarily or exclusively attracted towards themselves but that does not mean they are romantically attracted to themselves. An autosexual person may have a romantic orientation that does not go hand in hand with autosexual tendencies. 

Some autosexual folks may also be autoromantic which means they are romantically attracted to themselves, but many are not. For instance, a person may be autosexual but be romantically attracted to the same gender as their own or they may enjoy the idea of a romantic relationship with someone of the opposite gender, or gender will not be a factor in their relationship at all. 

This means that autosexual people can be in all sorts of relationships. They may also have sex with others and even be great lovers. Autosexuals may be able to engage in sexual activities with others. 

Autosexuality is more common than people think. Dr. Jess O’Reilly suggests that “we’re all autosexual to some degree.”

How to Support Someone Who is Autosexual?

If you would like to support people who are autosexual then start by doing some of the following: 

  • Research and learn more about autosexuality
  • Use the appropriate terminology
  • Do not shame people for using the term 
  • Join LGBTQ+ organizations
  • Volunteer your time at events aimed at raising awareness 
  • Provide an affirming space for people who are autosexual
  • Be an ally on a regular basis.

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Julia Sotska is a former Senior PR Manager at Taimi. She hails from Toronto, Canada where she studied Communications and Journalism Broadcasting. Julia is an experienced journalist, TV producer, editor and communications manager. Her work has been featured in prominent publications in Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and more. Julia is passionate about LGBTQ+ and disability rights, mental health, wellness, and parenthood.

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