AUTOSEXUALITY AND AUTOROMANTICISM

 

By Ghia Vitale

I take myself out for coffee, go on walks in nature, dress in lingerie and cuddle up to myself, or simply sit in the darkness and bask in my own presence.

I don’t just love myself. I’m in love with myself.

In other words? If you’re like me, then you’ve gotten those crush-like butterflies in your stomach just thinking about yourself. I am my own partner, and not just in the metaphorical sense that women’s magazines often encourage as a means of self-care.

As an autoromantic, I experience the relationship I have with myself as romantic. And because the relationship I have with myself is romantic, I find myself treating myself like I’d treat a lover. My alone time — as I’m my own lover — is so necessary, it’s essentially sacred to me. When I am a good lover to myself, I am, in turn, a good lover to everyone else in my life.

 

Autoromanticism and autosexuality have been omnipresent in my interior landscape from as early as 13 years old. I can remember having just gotten out of the shower; I was looking at myself in the mirror, and getting very attracted to the sight. I couldn’t help but wonder why my peers didn’t like my fat body as much as I did, but my erotic image of myself wasn’t able to override their taunts or criticisms, so I struggled with low self-esteem and poor body image for the entirety of my adolescence. I believed fat people weren’t “allowed” to be beautiful and subsequently, this internalized attitude got very much in the way of dating myself while growing up.

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.

It wasn’t until I found the term “relationship anarchy” that I began thinking about my relationships outside of mononormative relationship structure. Only then did I begin seeing my relationship with myself as a viable and romantic love in its own right. Only then did I become emotionally free.

I also noticed that terms like “primary relationship” and “secondary relationship” really didn’t jive with my non-hierarchical love style.

According Kale, the “nonmonogamous sex positive feminist” founder of the website relationship-anarchy.com, relationship anarchy means a “few things”:

“…relationships based around consent and communication, I believe I can love as many people as I choose, I value each relationship I have independent of the others, sex doesn’t necessarily come into play regarding who my Important People are, I highly value autonomy and direct communication, and therefore I won’t ask you for permission to do things, but I will talk to you about how you feel for as long as you need to!”

To me, relationship anarchy is loving outside of societal conventions and hierarchies and before I discovered it, I wasn’t able to conceive of my relationship with myself as independent, sexual, and romantic.

 

Around my third year in college I noticed I had a bonafide 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.

Needless to say, on top of being polyamorous, it was a confusing time in terms of understanding my needs and desires. It was the first time I felt the thrill of being my own Valentine and loving it. In the beginning, I couldn’t stop checking myself out in the mirror. I dressed up in fishnets, hiked up the cleavage, and bought chocolate for myself. I drank wine and shared it with friends, all for my own pleasure. I masturbated to how great I looked in the short skirt and fishnets.

My sexual and romantic orientations turn just about any mundane activity into a full-blown date. For me, a walk through a graveyard is more than a relaxing stroll through a death sanctuary. I alternate between admiring the tombstones and admiring myself.

 

My sexual and romantic orientations turn just about any mundane activity into a full-blown date.

 

I take myself out for coffee, go on walks in nature, dress in lingerie and cuddle up to myself, or simply sit in the darkness and bask in my own presence. Sometimes, I light candles and do sensual dances for my own entertainment. When I’m feeling especially positive about life, I do a lot of things to romance myself. I’ve learned how to create dates with myself out of thin air. Something as simple as lotioning my body can turn into a sensual, sexual moment, sometimes voluntarily and other times on its own.

I realized that I enjoyed spending my alone time in a certain way others don’t. It’s not something I think about. It just happens, and I’m okay with it.

My autosexuality is both mental and physical in nature. The first time I ever thought to masturbate to myself was when I came out as bisexual to a friend I was dating at the time. When I asked if he had any questions, he asked if I masturbated to myself in the mirror. I hadn’t, but the idea stuck. I’d always been attracted to myself — I’d even had wet dreams about myself — but because I was not conventionally attractive, I never gave myself permission to “get off” to myself until my friend brought up the possibility.

 

I occupy a central position in my own love life.

 

Relationship anarchy helped me see my relationships as they were: without hierarchies or societal expectations. My relationship with myself is an independent relationship that I feel compelled to nurture like any other. My relationship with myself isn’t exactly primary because admittedly, I like variety and I would grow bored if I were my only lover. However, I definitely occupy a central position in my own love life.

As far as I know, none of my lovers have felt intimidated by my autosexual or autoromantic tendencies, but if they were, I wouldn’t blame them.

 

Sex researcher Bernard Apfelbaum was the first to coin the term “autosexual,” but his explanation as to why this group of folks is so undercounted—because we rarely seek out other partners and live solitary lives—has always felt wrong to me.

Autosexual individuals are decidedly understudied—there are but a handful of these stories you can read from folks who identify this way—but it’s hard to know just why. Is it because it’s still so stigmatized nobody “believes” it’s real and thus, never sincerely studies it? Or is it because autosexuality is actually quite rare and there aren’t enough folks who manifest behavior in the same way to properly qualify it?

There are other questions too, like if autosexuals actually don’t seek out partners, or if they’re just not being asked to talk about it.

Speaking from my own experience, I can say that my being attracted to my own self has never dampened my desire for other partners, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one out there who feels this way. Not only am I polyamorous, but I’ve been in a steady relationship for over a decade. Based on my interactions, other people seek me out for sexual and romantic stimulation and don’t know about my autosexual or autoromantic nature; it’s not readily “readable” on my being.

At the same time, while autoromanticism and autosexuality don’t stop me from pursuing others, they certainly increase my need for solitude. That way, I can enjoy myself without distractions.

 

My being attracted to my own self has never dampened my desire for other partners.

 

One of the questions I am asked the most often is if my desire for myself is actually just glorified narcissism. Merriam Webster dictionary defines narcissism as:

  1. Egoism (a doctrine that individual self-interest is the actual motive of all conscious action)
  2. Love of or sexual desire for one’s own body.

I identify with one half of that definition; I am narcissistic. But the mental health professionals I’ve seen insist I don’t have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which is marked by “an inflated sense of [self] importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Once, someone on the internet found one of my autoromantic articles and began saying I had NPD. While I was glad more people were learning about autoromanticism, I couldn’t help but shake the knowledge that this person didn’t understand autoromanticism or NPD. People with narcissistic personality disorder have a maladaptive way of thinking, whereas I merely have a sexual and romantic interest in myself. Mental illness hinders quality of life; embracing my love for myself has only benefited it.

Other autosexuals I’ve spoken with agree that NPD and narcissism don’t have much of an overlap with autosexuality or autoromanticism. It might be narcissistic to sexually and romantically fixate on one’s self, but that doesn’t mean that we think we’re necessarily better or above anyone else. We simply appreciate ourselves in a way that not many other people appreciate themselves.

 

It might be narcissistic to sexually and romantically fixate on one’s self, but that doesn’t mean that we think we’re necessarily better or above anyone else.

 

Paul DaSilva, a fellow autosexual, doesn’t believe autosexual tendencies necessarily imply narcissism or NPD, either.

“If one would like to call it sexual narcissism, then sure we can give it that label,” he says. “But just because I have these attractions does not mean outside of sexuality I feel I am better than anyone else.”

Personally, I agree with him.

DaSilva and I often discuss our autosexual experiences, as we have so few people to talk about it with. DaSilva contacted me after reading an article I wrote, saying that he, too, was attracted to himself. I’ve since joined a Facebook group for autosexuals and autoromantics, which gives me the opportunity to connect with others like me.

I think that while the term “autosexual” encompasses a lot of self-stimulating sexual behaviors, autosexuality itself will become better known once autosexual people come out and start talking about their experiences. (After all, it’s not “that weird” in the wide spectrum of things to be attracted to.)

 

Autosexuality will become better known once autosexual people come out and start talking about their experiences.

 

As for me, if not for the internet, I don’t know if I ever would have met anyone else with “auto” tendencies, and my own confusion has led me to speak out for the autosexual/autoromantic communities. I know I’m not the only one who experiences this, but I’m one of the only people who talks about it.

Being attracted to yourself might not be considered “normal,” but autosexuality and autoromanticism do exist. I always go home with me — and nothing could make me happier.

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