Confession: Sometimes when I'm getting dressed in front of my bedroom mirror, perhaps slipping tights over brand-new black lingerie, I'll get turned on. So what exactly is going on? Am I a total narcissist? According to Michael Aaron, PhD, a kink-friendly therapist in New York City and author of Modern Sexuality: The Truth about Sex and Relationships, my self-induced arousal is actually quite common.
"Some experience it more like an orientation, in that they feel more aroused by themselves than by others, and they are called autosexuals," Dr. Aaron says.
Autosexuality, also known as autoeroticism, is a fuzzy concept sex scientists have struggled to define and research, according to Leon F. Seltzer, PhD, in an article for Psychology Today. Whether it's seen as one-off experiences or an orientation, the term "autosexual" refers to individuals who are attracted to themselves (and btw, it's totally different from having narcissistic personality disorder). Like most things sexual, those who relate to the concept fall on a spectrum. "It is very common for people to be aroused by themselves [to varying degrees]," Dr. Aaron says. In my case, I'm mainly attracted to other people, but at times, I'm also attracted to myself (which might be why my ex-girlfriend looks so much like me). Other people may only be attracted to themselves.
The easiest way to tell if you fall on this spectrum, as Dr. Seltzer explained in his article, is to think about your masturbation habits. If you picture yourself while masturbating, you may be autosexual. However, if you just find yourself turned on looking at yourself in the mirror when you're looking particularly hot, or getting off on watching yourself have sex with someone else in the mirror, you're probably not an autosexual according to the strictest definition of the term. It's simply exciting to see yourself looking sexy or doing sexy things. Of course, masturbation is inherently autoerotic (there's just you, after all), but unless you're fantasizing about having sex with yourself, you're not considered a full-blown autosexual by most experts. Unfortunately, there's really not much data on the topic, so it's hard to say where exactly the line should be drawn, so that's just the approximated consensus among experts. All that said, it's not like you have to label yourself.
While vanity gets a bad rap, there's absolutely nothing wrong with turning yourself on. In fact, if you bring a mirror into your sex life, you can transition those feelings of arousal into an experience that you can enjoy with partners. (And if you're really into having sex in front of mirrors, there's actually a name for that fetish: katoptronophilia.) But hey, there's also nothing wrong with masturbating in front of the mirror simply because you're feeling yourself.
While we're arguably more in control of and confident about our sexuality than ever, there's still so much we don't know about female arousal. So this month, we're exploring everything you want and need to know about how women get turned on now. Check out more here.