In our increasingly digital world, more and more people are finding that they prefer solo sex to partner sex. Often (though not always), people use digital pornography in conjunction with solo sex. Sometimes this preference is so ingrained that these individuals choose to self-identify as either ‘solosexual’ or ‘pornosexual.’ Socially speaking, these designations have taken root deeply enough to be included in The Urban Dictionary.
- Solosexual: A person who prefers masturbation over other forms of sex.
- Pornosexual: A person who would rather watch porn and masturbate than have partner sex.
Self-Identified Solosexuals and Pornosexuals
As a sex and intimacy specialist, I find myself wondering if the individuals who self-identify as solosexual or pornosexual are the leading edge of an underexamined sexual orientation. Alternatively, I wonder whether they’re simply people who are intimacy avoidant, thanks to the pain of unresolved trauma.
Typically, when we think about sexual orientation, we think about the gender of the person that turn us on. Based on that, we call ourselves heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual (or any of the other potential, ever-changing designations). So now I ask, are solosexuality and pornosexuality variations on that theme? Or is the inclination toward solo sex simply a manifestation of trauma-driven attachment deficits?
The Potential Role of Trauma and Relational Dysfunction
To be honest, this is not a question for which I have a definitive answer. I’ve formed an opinion on the matter based on both clinical training and experience. My opinion is that some—quite possibly most—of the men and women who self-identify as either solosexual or pornosexual do so because of unresolved early-life abuse, neglect, and relational dysfunction. This dysfunction can poison the well of attachment in ways that cause them to feel unsafe or uncomfortable when asked to connect with others in emotionally and physically intimate ways. But I sincerely doubt this description covers every person who prefers solo sex to partner sex.
Others who self-identify as solosexual or pornosexual may be on the spectrum. Or, they could suffer from severe social anxiety, or deal with any number of other emotional or psychological issues. These factors could make the vulnerability of in-the-flesh sex with another person stressful, frightening, repugnant, or just plain not enjoyable. In such cases, solo sex (with or without the aid of pornography) likely feels more comfortable, attainable, and pleasurable. It’s also possible that some of the folks who identify as either solosexual or pornosexual are ‘born that way’. They may naturally have an inherent inclination toward sex with self rather than others.
Keeping Core Connections
At the end of the day, who am I to question a person’s identification as solosexual or pornosexual? If an individual is happier and more satisfied with solo sex than with partnered sexual experiences, that’s OK by me. Though, as a therapist, I will look at that person’s social connections to make sure he or she is not completely isolated in life and bereft of support. After all, study after study shows that we do better as people in every aspect of life when we feel ‘a part of’ rather than ‘apart from.’
If, however, a person comes to my office and says that he or she is unhappy with his or her solo sexual life (with or without pornography) and wants to pair bond with someone emotionally and sexually, believe me when I tell you that we’re absolutely going to look at that person’s trauma, attachment, and developmental histories. And as a therapist, I would fully expect to find a pattern of unresolved abuse, neglect, abandonment, and other forms of relational dysfunction.
Accepting How People Choose to Meet Their Needs
But I need to accept that not every person has an intimate romantic and sexual partner as a life goal. And there is nothing wrong with that, as long as those individuals are able to get their needs for emotional intimacy and connection met through friends and close family members. If they do, and then choose to get their sexual needs met through solo sexual behaviors, so be it. I don’t need to understand that choice. I do need to respect it.
So, does this mean that solosexual and pornosexual are sexual orientations, as some people state, in the same way that we think about heterosexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality? Probably not, in my opinion. Because solosexuals and pornosexuals are indeed sexual, and that sexuality is triggered by something—some type of person or activity. Whether they’re looking at porn or just fantasizing, they’ve got something in mind when they’re sexual. To me, whatever it is that they’re fantasizing about is the true nature of their sexual orientation.