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Mirror, mirror on the wall: A brief look at katoptronophilia

In the 2000 film American Psycho, the anti-hero Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale) contains a scene in which while having sex with two female escorts, looks at himself in the mirror admiringly. Even when one of the escort girls tries to attract his attention, he seemingly prefers to look at himself rather than the women he is making love to. Quite clearly a narcissist, Bateman may have also been a kataptronophile. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, katoptronophilia is a sexual paraphilia defined as sexual pleasure and arousal from having sex in front of mirrors.

Having said that, somewhat confusingly, Aggrawal also says that individuals who derive sexual arousal “from looking at oneself in a mirror [and] arousal from image in mirrors” is called spectrophilia. (However, I examined this in a previous blog and most credible sources state that spectrophilia relates to those who derive sexual arousal and pleasure from having sex or sexual thoughts about ghosts). A short online article on katoptronophilia on the Wikipedia website goes a little further and defines it as:

“…a paraphilia for mirrors (the Greek word for mirror is katoptron). It may include activities such as having sex in front of mirrors, masturbating in front of mirrors, enacting other paraphilias in front of a mirror, having an orgy in front of a mirror, or enacting stripping fetishism in front of mirrors. Enacting katoptronophiliac fantasies may involve constructing environments for erotic activity in which one is completely surrounded by mirrors, sometimes including even on the ceiling. A person who is a katoptronophiliac may put mirrors all over their house so they can have sex in any room in the house”.

On first look, katoptronophilia appears to be a sub-type of voyeurism where the key distinguishing feature is the use of mirrors as part of the voyeuristic act. However, voyeurism is usually defined as the act of gaining sexual arousal from the watching of others either naked and/or engaging in sexual behaviour. I stressed the word ‘others’ as katoptronophila involves the watching of oneself having sex via the use of mirrors. Technically, kataptronophilia is a sub-type of scoptophilia (sometimes called scopophilia). According to Dr. George Pranzarone in his 2000 Dictionary of Sexology, scoptophilia/scopophilia is

“A paraphilia of the solicitational [and] allurative type in which sexuoerotic arousal and facilitation or attainment of orgasm are responsive to, and contingent on watching others engaging in sexual activity, including sexual intercourse [from Greek, skopein, to view + -philia]. The condition in which a person is dependent on looking at sexual organs and watching their coital performance in order to obtain erotic arousal and facilitate and achieve orgasm. It is not surreptitious, as in voyeurism. The reciprocal paraphilic condition is sometimes also referred to as scoptophilia; or by its own name, autagonistophilia. Synonyms, mixophilia; mixoscopia; scopophilia”.

Just complicate things a little further, many online definitions of mixophilia (which as in the definition by Dr. Pranzarone above appears to be another word for scoptophilia) often mention mirrors in the definitions. For instance, the Fetish List website defines mixophilia as gaining sexual arousal and pleasure from watching “their partner or themselves engage in sexual activity. Usually this means watching themselves in a mirror”. This is similar to the definition for mixophilia in the online Gay Slang Dictionary that notes:

“A person with this fetish [mixophilia] likes to watch his partner or the both of them engage in sexual activity. Usually this means watching themselves perform in a mirror. A common theme in gay porn pictures is the presence of a mirror in which part or all of the action is reflected”

I’ve yet to come across a single academic article on the topic and most of the theorizing is speculative to say the least. In 2003, Mark Pendergrast published his cultural history of mirrors (Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection), but did not specifically examine katoptronophilia (although did mention the sexual use of mirrors). The one thing I learned was that the Etruscans [an ancient Italian civilization originating around what is now known as Tuscany] often featured sex scenes painted on the back of their mirrors). In relation to why katoptronophilia exists, one online snippet I came across claimed that:

“Theories suggest that katoptronophilia is fed from a basal narcissistic instinct. It is a combination of narcissism and degradation and a feeling of over powering dominance. It’s like watching a live porno of yourself. The most advanced stage of voyeur there is”

This appears to be somewhat corroborated by the Wikipedia entry (and the fictionalized account that opened this blog) that notes that:

“Many pornographic films show porn stars having sex in front of mirrors. Many people enjoy having sex in front of mirrors and have mirrors in their bedrooms in which they can watch themselves have sex. They sometimes engage in this activity for their personal enjoyment. On a deeper level this could relate to the person’s need to reflect and critique themselves, and also being on a mental state of narcissism. The person often is solely absorbed in themselves and likes to watch their actions so as to admire”.

A 2007 online article on kataptronophilia at the Journals of an Intelsexual website argues that the fetish is evolving and that “technology is also expanding on this fetish; live stream cameras, multiple cameras, big screen monitors…the possibilities are limitless”. I’m not convinced that evolving technology providing more ways to watch yourself having sex is actually katoptronophilia as the key distinguishing feature of the paraphilia is the use of mirrors (not the watching of yourself). I seriously doubt if this type of paraphilic behaviour (and I have some doubts as to whether it is a paraphilic behaviour anyway) will ever be the subject of serious academic research as it’s highly unlikely that such behaviour is problematic un any way.

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Mirror Sex: Why We Absolutely Love Watching Ourselves F*ck

It’s no secret that I absolutely abhor shower sex. I’ve written about it, mentioned it in countless articles, and I talk about it in my personal life on a regular basis.

Yet bae has one of those fancy waterfall showers that is about as rare as a unicorn AND his own studio in Alphabet City, so when he wanted to get soapy and naked after the gym the other day, I actually said yes.

I’m not sure which one of us was more shocked by my agreeing to have shower sex, but I digress.

Anyway, we were doing the deed in his very sizable shower, and I noticed my reflection in the shower door. I could see my face over his shoulder, under the shower and his entire backside.

(He has a great butt. Kisses, boo, if you’re reading this. Sorry again for sharing our personal life with the general public, but not really.)

For some reason it made the whole experience astronomically hotter.

It was like watching myself in a movie. It felt like I was inside one of those hot, teenage, coming-of-age flicks from the 80s.

I was watching one of those steamy, fantasy shower sex scenes and, at the same time, I was experiencing it. It was thrilling and extremely sexy.

For once in my life, I actually enjoyed shower sex. In fact, I want to do it again — purely because I was so into watching myself.

Now, because I am a type A whack job and a sex writer/enthusiast, this steamy endeavour got me thinking: What is it about watching ourselves fck and get fcked that makes the experience so insanely hot?

Dr. Niloo Dardashti, an adult and couples therapist in New York, told Elite Daily:

Sex is an erotic act, and watching it makes it even more erotic — like watching porn but better for the viewers because they get to see themselves as the sexual objects, which is often considered taboo.
If there is one thing I want more than to get down and dirty, hard and long, it is to WATCH it happen, too.

The fact that seeing yourself get railed is considered taboo only makes it that much more arousing.

Sex itself is often considered taboo. It’s looked down upon and seen as “filthy,” which only makes us want the forbidden fruit even more — and to make it as FILTHY as possible.

To get the in-depth scoop on mirror sex, also known as katoptronophilia, Elite Daily enlisted the help of Lorrae Bradbury, a sexpert, speaker and the founder of the sex-positive brand, Slutty Girl Problems.

SEXUALITY IS TIED CLOSELY TO THE VISUAL EXPERIENCE.
Sex is not only about what we’re feeling when our partners touch our erogenous zones or vice versa; it is very much about what you are experiencing visually during the act of sex.

We get turned on be seeing our partner’s faces contorted in pleasure. We are aroused by seeing the way both of our bodies look during sex.

As Bradbury told Elite Daily:

The visuals of pleasure are a powerful turn-on that awakens sensuality and heightens arousal, even when it’s our own pleasure being observed.
Watching ourselves have sex is a turn-on in itself. You get to take on two, very sexually exciting roles all at once: the voyeur watching a couple have sex in front of you and the exhibitionist having sex in a unique, unconventional manner.

IT’S AN AROUSING SEXUAL ENCOUNTER HAPPENING IN REAL TIME.
When you’re f*cking in front of a mirror, you’re literally experiencing the visual manifestation of your fantasy unfold in front of your very eyes. It’s all happening in real time.

You see yourself from the same perspective your partner sees you while still physically feeling his or her touch.

Read More about sex in the mirror at a Refinery article here.

As Bradbury notes:

For some people, it’s hot because it gives a feeling of watching someone else, being watched or even starring in their own porn — all of which are also common fantasies.
You feel pleasure from receiving it from your partner, as well as by watching yourself react to that pleasure.

It’s a multifaceted sexual experience that engages nearly all of your senses.

That mirror is a metaphor for your deepest desires. Embrace it.

MIRROR SEX IS A UNIQUE WAY TO GET CLOSER TO YOUR PARTNER.
When you’re able to watch you and your partner engage in sex, it isn’t just about watching yourself; it’s about watching the two of you together.

Bradbury tells us:

With a mirror, you can see each other’s faces, lock eyes and gauge each other’s pleasure in positions where you’re normally facing away from each other. You also get a new view of your partner’s entire body, including the areas that usually face away from you.
It’s a whole new experience to not only get to see yourself enjoy sex but to also see your partner enjoy the things you are doing to him or her.

“It can actually help you connect more with your partner, by reading [his or her] facial expressions and cues to bring them more pleasure,” Bradbury says.

CONFIDENCE IS KEY.
As with all sexually satisfying encounters, the key to truly enjoying yourself and getting all you can from sex is you need to be confident in your own skin.

As Bradbury puts it:

If being in front of the mirror usually makes you cringe, seeing yourself bare it all, plus the motions of sex, might not look so appealing and flattering to you.
But don’t lose hope! If you’re not super confident in the buff, don’t fret! Mirror sex actually has the power to GIVE you confidence.

Seeing yourself experience pleasure and put on a sexy ‘performance,’ all while positively enforcing your appearance with the pleasure chemicals of sex, can actually help you to feel more confident about yourself!
So, if you’re looking for something to give you that extra bit of conviction between the sheets, why not try posting up in front of the bedroom mirror?

IT’S A LITTLE LIKE PORN, AND WE LOVE PORN, RIGHT?
Who doesn’t want to star in his or her own porno that definitely WON’T end up on Reddit? Yep, me too.

The voyeuristic aspects of watching yourself get it on in front of a mirror can feel an awful lot like you’re starring in your own porn film.

It’s like you’re acting for your own camera, and you’re both the cameraman, director and star.

Now, if you’re going to take the extra leap and MAKE an ACTUAL film… just be sure it’s safely put under lock and key and on YOUR personal recording device.

You know what happens during awful breakups? Naked pictures end up online. Just sayin’.

If you want to watch yourself on film, it can teach you some new moves and can help you perfect your personal technique. It’s all about trial and error and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

According to Bradbury:

Some people also like to have a memory of the moment, go back to watch themselves have sex or even go back to perfect their technique.
It’s like watching your own audition tapes — for porn!

While filming yourself and watching it later is hot, and a lot of couples dig it, it’s different than watching yourself in the mirror because it isn’t happening in real time.

You’re watching something happen that already took place.

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The Truth About Mirror Sex —​ Why So Many People LOVE Watching Themselves Have Sex

Come on… You know you’ve tried to sneak a peek!

Enjoying sexual activity in front of a mirror, also known as katoptronophilia, is surprisingly common. It’s depicted in adult films, mainstream movies, and songs and we’ve all seen photos of erotic hotels with mirrors on the ceiling over the beds specifically in order to fulfill this fantasy.

Here are just 8 reasons people find “mirror sex” to be such a huge turn on.

Sexuality is often very closely tied to our visual experience.

We get turned on by seeing our partner’s body, their movements, and facial experiences. So, why wouldn’t we be turned on by seeing our own reaction to pleasure? Having that pleasure-packed visual is a powerful turn-on that brings your sensuality to life and heightens your arousal, even when you’re observing your own pleasure.

You get to be a voyeur and an exhibitionist.

When you watch yourself have sex, you get to simultaneously be a voyeur and an exhibitionist. It is similar to voyeurism because you enjoy watching someone have sex, but different than voyeurism because you’re watching yourself. Plus, voyeurism often has a covert “hidden” or “spying” element to the fantasy, whereas watching oneself is an overt act.

It happens in real time.

Watching yourself have sex can be a beautiful and arousing experience. You get to see the physical manifestation of your own pleasure from a third-person perspective. You also get to see yourself from your partner’s point of view — from your arched back to your mouth opened wide — which can be thrilling. And you get to see both yourself and your partner from more angles which are usually hidden, giving you a fresh perspective, increased confidence and a new appreciation for how hot you each truly are.

It’s a hot way to connect with your partner.

It’s not just about seeing yourself. It’s also a uniquely sexy way to connect with your partner. When you’re having sex in front of a mirror, you can see each other’s facial expressions, look into each other’s eyes, and gauge each other’s pleasure in positions where you’re typically facing away from each other. You can also get a new perspective of your partner’s body, including the areas that usually face away from you. And by reading their facial expressions and watch their reactions to see what’s working you can both make things even better for each other.

It can make you more confident.

Some people may find the experience distracting or uncomfortable, especially if they’re typically uncomfortable with their bodies or find the mirror to be too kinky or distracting for their taste, but, others find this to be a thrilling way to explore their own bodies and appearance, especially during sex. Seeing yourself putting on a sexy “performance” while naturally high on the positive feelings induced by chemicals our bodies release during sex can help you to feel more confident about yourself!

Anyone can enjoy it.

Sexual fantasies are for everyone, and you don’t have to be an American-Psycho-style narcissist to enjoy a mirror fantasy. For some people, it may be a narcissistic experience, if they only focus on themselves and how great they look. But to most people, it’s a unique way to enjoy visual stimulation in real time. You also get the feeling of simultaneously watching and being watched, or being in your own skin flick.

You’ll feel like you’re the star of your own “adult” film.

Sometimes, the voyeuristic aspects of watching yourself in the mirror might even feel like you’re the star in your very own pornographic photo shoot! Many people get so lost in the moment that they’re able to stop focusing on their imperfections and more fully enjoy the sensual show that they’re performing.

You might even want to film it.

Many people film themselves having sex to get the rush and thrill of performing for the camera as if they’re shooting their own movie. The unique feeling of creating a sexy show is all they need, even if it’s just for their own personal enjoyment. Some people like to save a memory of the moment and love being able to go back to watch themselves have sex, and some even do this so they can review themselves in order to perfect their technique!