Autochorissexualism and Sex-Favorable Asexuality

I have a lot of feelings about the word autochorissexualism. Coined by academic Anthony F. Bogaert in 2012 to refer to a “paraphilia that is consistent with a lack of subjective sexual attraction for others and involves a ‘disconnect’ between an individual’s sense of self and a sexual object/target,” autochorissexualism has been a topic of discussion in the ace community ever since. Some aces identify with autochorissexualism, while others say it’s not an orientation or identity. In this post I’m going to delve into what autochorissexual could be and its potential connections to sex-favourable asexuality.

In future posts on autochorissexualism I plan to discuss the following problems: one, that autochorissexualism is considered a “paraphilia” and what that means, two, the questionable ethics behind Bogaert’s study and his model of attraction, and three, that Bogaert’s “proof” for autochorissexualism is based on a faulty premise. According to Bogaert, the sole fact that asexual people masturbate is evidence of autochorissexualism and/or another paraphilia! I’m looking forward to my full critique on that, including a list of many many reasons why asexual people might masturbate (inspired by Siggy’s “20 narratives of aces who like sex“); you’re welcome to anticipate that post and start writing reasons in the comments below.

Last year, in response to my post on living as a sex-favourable asexual, a commentor suggested “there may be some overlap with what you experience and autochorissexuality.” I replied:

Bogaert suggests that autochorissexuals don’t want to participate in the sexual activities they imagine. That does not intersect with the way I think about sex-favourable asexuality. And yet, sex-favourable and autochorissexual are closer to sexual normative scripts than other forms of asexuality, so exploring the connections between them might be interesting!

While I continue to believe sex-favourable and autochorissexual are distinct phenomena, I also think it’s important to recognize that they aren’t mutually exclusive.

To make sure we’re all on the same page, by sex-favourable I mean my counterpart to Mark Carrigan’s sex-averse and sex-neutral. Sex-favourable people are favourable to sex. That doesn’t mean sex-favourable aces want to have sex all the time (as some critics of the term supposedly say). They just want to have sex enough that the term sex-favourable means something to them. This is the key part we’ll return to in a moment. Furthermore, it means something very unique to say you’re sex-favourable in an asexual context; if I didn’t identify as ace, I wouldn’t identify as sex-favourable.

Autochorissexualists on the other hand, according to Bogaert, fantasize about sex that is not connected to their identity. In other words, they fantasize about people who are not them having sex.

Therefore, on the surface, autochorissexualism and sex-favourable seem to be incompatible or mutually exclusive.

Breaking it down:

  • autochorissexual = you think about sex that does not involve you.
  • Sex-favourable = you are favourable to having sex that involves you.

However, because sex-favourable people aren’t always interested in personally having sex (favourability exists under certain conditions, not as a permanent state of interest), it’s possible for sex-favourable aces to masturbate and think about sex that doesn’t involve them.

Hypothetically a sex-favourable ace could want to have sex on Monday. On Tuesday they could read or write erotic fanfiction that has nothing to do with them. Allosexual people do that all the time. Sex-favourable and autochorissexual refer to different phenomena, but you could be both. I might be both.

One problem with Bogaert’s article is that autochorissexual is set up as an all or nothing paraphilia – either you are or you’re not. That’s easily corrected if we conceive of autochorissexualism on a spectrum like sex-favourable already is. You can have it a little. Maybe you’re only autochorissexual. Maybe it ebbs and flows.

Autochorissexualism and sex-favourable asexuality are interesting to me because they both don’t follow normative ace scripts. In a simplistic example, if I went over to reddit (or even the AVEN forums) and started mentioning sex-favourable or autochorissexual tendencies, people would probably tell me I’m not asexual.

Autochorissexuality and sex-favourable don’t fit into this neat asexual vrs. everyone else divide because sex-favourable and autochorissexual are not exclusively asexual phenomena. Many people (incorrectly) assume all allosexual people are sex-favourable. But autochorissexual? We don’t know where to put that experience in the mainstream stereotype boxes. Autochorissexual is not really part of an allosexual stereotype, but it’s about sex, and so it gets labelled as a paraphilia.

At this point I don’t care to comment if autochorissexualism is really an identity or not. If someone finds the term useful or meaningful to them, why not use it?

Autochorissexualism is a potentially liberating concept; you masturbate, think about sex, and are a valid asexual? That’s amazing! Unfortunately the “valid” is what’s up for debate and part of why I don’t personally call myself autochorissexual (even though I might be).  Stay tuned for more on this in future posts where I will critically explore the method Bogaert used to first write about autochorissexuality.

 

About Talia

Talia is an asexual, nonbinary, vegan-feminist that drinks a lot of coffee and stays up very late playing Blizzard video games and writing fiction. They are working on a PhD in Environmental Studies where they think a lot about oppression as intersectional and impacting identities differentially. Talia has a particular fondness for asexuality, fandom, and Critical Animal Studies. Their personal blog is petuniaparty.tumblr.com
This entry was posted in Articles, asexual politics, Language, personal experience, Research, Sexual normativity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Autochorissexualism and Sex-Favorable Asexuality

  1. Sennkestra says:

    In response to one of the first parts of your post – “According to Bogaert, the sole fact that asexual people masturbate is evidence of autochorissexualism and/or another paraphilia!”- In the context of the paper, I actually….agree with his assessment? I think it can sound bad at first blush to someone not familiar with the technical use of the word, but in the context of how the term “paraphilia” is actually used in sexological literature it makes sense to me and I don’t really find it objectionable at all.

    (For anyone interested, I’m guessing that refers to this passage from the original paper: “Evidence in favor of autochorissexualism and/or other paraphilias occurring in some people without subjective attraction is the finding that some asexual people masturbate (Bogaert, in press-a; Brotto, Knudson, Inskip, Rhodes, & Erskine, 2010). Brotto et al. found that 80% of self-identified asexual men and 70% of self-identified asexual women reported having masturbated. Using a national sample from Britain, Bogaert (in press-a) found that approximately 40% of people who reported no sexual attraction for others had masturbated in the last month. Thus, a significant percentage of asexual people masturbate and this raises the possibility that self-stimulation occurs to consistent themes, either in fantasy or pornography.”)

    The thing about paraphilias is that in a sexological context, sexual desire centered around literally anything other than sexual attraction towards [the typical sex characteristics of] an [opposite-sexed?] person’s body is a paraphilia. A paraphilia isn’t necessarily a bad thing – just something outside the normative narrative of sexual attraction. (though there’s definitely things to be said about what gets counted as normative sexuality).

    And for many aces (myself included), masturbation is – as it is for many non-ace people – a sexual act that is often accompanied by some sort of stimulation (whether it’s mental fantasies or viewing external stimuli like porn or erotica). And since, for someone without sexual attraction, attraction to the other bodies in said fantasy/erotica isn’t the prime source of stimulation there must be something else – which by nature suggests the presence of a sexual interest of some kind in something other than attraction to others bodies – aka, a paraphilia.

    Anyway, I’m sure you’ll probably get into this more in later posts as you mentioned, but this has just been sticking in my head and I wanted to get the thoughts out before i forget.

    • Siggy says:

      The problem with paraphilias was that they were explicitly disorders until the DSM-5. The DSM-5 now distinguishes between paraphilias and paraphilic disorders, which is nice, but when all the previous editions worked hard to enforce the paraphilia/disorder association, it’s too little too late.

      Also noteworthy that the DSM-5 postdates Bogaert’s autochorissexualism paper.

    • Talia says:

      Yes that’s the passage I was referring to and thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂 I will definitely return to your comment in more detail when I write the post on paraphilia, but it’s also neat to have an early discussion about it now.

      This thought really stood out to me: “A paraphilia isn’t necessarily a bad thing – just something outside the normative narrative of sexual attraction. (though there’s definitely things to be said about what gets counted as normative sexuality).”

      The “things to be said” is where my mind immediately leaps. I hope the intention isn’t bad to label the phenomenon we’re discussing as a paraphilia, but I find myself resisting doing so. I think what gets counted as normative sexuality can’t help but be a negative commentary on paraphilia. Or maybe backwards – the Other (paraphilia) defines (is a commentary on the normalcy/desirability of) the one. The one cannot exist without the Other. I’m referencing something feminist but can’t remember how to break it down at this exact second (which I’ll hopefully do better when I get to the next post). The labels normative and not normative are about politics, not commonality, in my opinion.

      The context does matter as you said. I’m definitely applying a feminist and critical disability studies lens to a sexological paper, but I really value interdisciplinarity; a critique from outside can often upend and expose what those inside might count as normal.

      • Sennkestra says:

        Thanks for responding! I think I tend to have a gut reaction to resistance against calling autochorissexuality a paraphilia because so often I’ve seen it come from a place of “it’s not a paraphilia because those are weird and gross things only nasty perverts like; what we do is normal unlike the freaks who are into [insert other paraphilias here]”.

        So I guess I’m just wary of anything that implies (even though I think it’s clear now that this wasn’t aiming for it) that “this ace thing isn’t a paraphilia because paraphilias are bad and not normal and we aren’t”; but I wholeheartedly I agree with you that the whole idea of separating things into “this is normal sexuality” and “this is non-normal sexuality” is extremely fraught and tends to be mostly based on just politics and personal bias.

        But yeah, I look forward to seeing more discussion on this after that future post comes out! I have more nerding out on that subject that I should probably just save until then 🙂

        • Talia says:

          Thanks for explicitly naming where your gut reaction is coming from 🙂 I hadn’t thought about that. I kind of just assumed solidarity with those labeled having a “non-normal sexuality” (particularly people with kinks).

    • ettinacat says:

      I have heard that some asexuals don’t really picture anything while masturbating, or think thoughts that have nothing to do with the activity they’re doing. So I don’t think masturbating automatically means you’re autochorrissexual. (I’m also not convinced that all autochorrissexuals masturbate. My own very limited experience of sexual attraction is a fetishistic autochorrissexual experience, but I don’t find masturbation really worth doing when I’m sexually aroused. I’d much rather read fics and do my best to ignore what my body is doing in response.)

  2. Sennkestra says:

    I’m looking forward to this series! I also have a lot of feelings about autochorissexuality, though perhaps different feelings in some way than yours.

    As a fun fact for other readers, bogaert’s paper (which is more of a “hey this seems like it could be a thing what if we looked into it more?” than an actual rigorous study) was basically inspired by a single AVEN thread, which you can read in full here: http://www.asexuality.org/en/topic/9980-masturbating-as-what-do-you-think-about-when-masturbating/ (all quotes in his paper come directly from this thread)

    I think its kind of fun to have that context when reading his paper.

  3. I’m looking forward to this series. Siggy’s post on narratives of sex-favorable asexuality suggests that many sex-favorable aces have experiences beyond what one might expect based on popular understandings of allosexual experience (these understandings may themselves be narrow and inaccurate, but that’s a topic for another post), including some experiences that seem to overlap with autochorissexualism or are similar to it. I think we can only benefit from sharing and exploring the full range of experiences that make up the asexual spectrum.

  4. I’ll be interested to see how this series develops! Personally, I’d say I experience a degree of autochorissexualism at times, complicated by arcflux stuff. Plus there’s the fact that I tend not to have a solid handle on what is and isn’t ME in dreams and fantasies… So, like everything else about my sexuality (and gender), it’s all a bit fuzzy!

    • Lee says:

      How you describe your sense of “you” in dreams and really resonated with me. Also the description of finding your sexuality and gender to be a bit fuzzy. Do you find the sexuality/gender fuzziness to be upsetting? I feel like I have a hard time tolerating uncertainty and fuzziness but I also kind of think that’s just the way my sexuality and gender are… so it’s often distressing! D:

      • Glad to hear that resonated with you! I used to find the fuzziness more distressing, but I’ve found that adopting labels that are somewhat vague has given me space to breathe. Also allowing myself to use slightly different labels in different spaces, depending on what I want to focus on and how I’m feeling. It’s definitely an ongoing process, though!

  5. Writer Ace says:

    Interestingly, I think finding the term autochorissexual was a big part of what let me really start to consider myself a “valid” asexual. It gave me a framework for both being asexual and having a low sex drive and also having sexual thoughts/fantasies. Because I’m generally fairly sex-respulsed, but I do have (intentional) sexual fantasies about…I don’t want to say other people, but the ideas of people, I guess. I’m a fiction writer, so my fantasies tend to be somewhat analogous to my writing in that they’re not about real people. (I do write fanfiction that includes smut, but I consider that kind of different). I guess the way I experience it (and the way it ties into my sex-repulsion), I am autochorissexual to the degree that I not only don’t fantasize about anything including myself but also don’t fantasize by anything that could be associated with myself.

  6. Seth says:

    “autochorissexual = you think about sex that does not involve you.
    Sex-favourable = you are favourable to having sex that involves you.”

    That… wasn’t what I got out of Bogaert’s paper – or maybe it is, and the phrasing is just misleading. It sounds like you’re saying the dichotomy is third person vs. first person, but my understanding was that being autochorissexual means that the person you are in your sexual fantasies is not who you are in real life, in terms of gender and orientation. It’s still first person, but with an awkward feeling of disconnect, knowing you probably wouldn’t actually enjoy experiencing the things you’re fantasizing about.

    I’m now reading the thread that inspired the paper for the first time, though, and I’m seeing comments from people who’d fit both definitions. Could be that Bogaert meant to encompass both, and I just went straight to the identity disconnect, because that’s what matches my experience.

    • Sennkestra says:

      The examples Bogaert draws from for the paper are all specifically third person – for example, a scene between character A and character B, viewed from a 3rd person perspective like watching a movie or reading a book – where the fantasizer does not directly identify with or see things from the point of view of any participant. From the paper – “As suggested by these quotes, asexual people’s fantasies often do not involve their own identities. Also, when their fantasies involve people, these individuals are unknown to the asexual person or are fictional characters; in both cases, these individuals are not directly connected to the asexual person’s real-life identity.”

    • Oh! This helps to clarify what I was trying to articulate above about being unsure as to what is me/not me. I experience a sort of wavering between first and third person. In third person, it’s pretty clearly not me (physically anyway), but in first person that line becomes quite blurry, especially since I’m trans and often unclear on “well, DO I want my body to look/feel like that?”

    • Talia says:

      Bogaert probably didn’t mean to encompass both; sex-favourable is an external concept I’m linking to autochorissexuality.

      I am talking about first person vrs. third person. Sennkestra’s quote above is exactly what I was thinking of.

      I think Bogaert’s paper could be read to also include autochorissexual = first person + disconnect, but in an invalidating way I interpreted as him saying “you’re not REALLY ace.” I’m thinking of the quote: “Yet, this stimulation is disconnected from their identities: It is, at least in part, an identity-less sexual arousal. Thus, these individuals still seem to retain a lack of subjective sexual attraction to others (or anything), despite physical arousal and seeking out persistent themes in fantasy and pornography. Subjective in this case refers to the I or the me in one’s identity as a person. Moreover, it might be argued that asexual people’s bodies (or more correctly, aspects of their nervous systems related to arousal) have a ‘‘sexual orientation’’ of sorts, but they themselves, or their identities, do not (see Bogaert, 2006, in press-b).” What I find invalidating (which I plan to elaborate on in my future post on “the questionable ethics behind Bogaert’s study and his model of attraction”) is that last sentence.

  7. Lee says:

    I’m so glad I found this and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series! It took me a while to figure out I was asexual because I have a lot of interest and fascination in sex and sexuality. And I’m an avid reader of fanfiction. I find there to be a kind of cognitive dissonance for me that I have this third-person/fictional characters/theoretical interest in sex but a slight aversion to actually engaging in sex and no sexual attraction to people.

    • Talia says:

      Thanks for sharing 🙂 I can relate and have my own third-person/fictional characters/theoretical interest. As I entered academia my theoretical interest only got larger; I started applying how I thought about other topics to the fascinating interplay or absence of sex, desire, attraction, etc. If I hadn’t already identified as asexual, that probably would have been a barrier to me realizing it.

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