Reflecting on the Appeal of Mirror Sex
Editor's note: Some sources for this article requested their full names not be used.
If you've ever watched the 2000 psychological thriller "American Psycho," chances are a certain scene of Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale) having sex with two escorts is indelibly etched in your mind.
In the scene—which was actually a spur-of-the-moment on-set idea—the main character is seen admiring his body in the mirror while flexing and pointing at his arm, preferring to look at himself rather than give attention to the two women. The scene's intent is to have the audience bear witness to the highest level of narcissism.
While Bateman may have genuinely loved checking himself out in the mirror (even while having sex), he could have also been a katoptronophile.
Katoptronophilia is sexual pleasure or arousal derived from having sex in front of mirrors, according to Anil Aggrawal's 2009 book, "Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices." Even though it's more commonly depicted in movies and erotic videos, there are hotels that set up mirrors above the beds—look no further than Las Vegas.
Mirror sex and autoeroticism
Getting pleasure from mirror sex may be associated with autoeroticism, where individuals are attracted primarily, sometimes exclusively, to their own bodies, as referenced by psychologist Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., in a 2013 story in Psychology Today.
"For the individual farther out on the autoerotic continuum, 'mirror sex' can be every bit as exciting—even more exciting—than what we might call 'partner sex,'" he wrote. "For having chosen themselves as their partner, sexual gratification doesn't rely on anyone else's presence."
However, it's not only autosexuals who enjoy mirror sex. The sensual effect evoked from watching yourself having sex may be associated with many other factors.
Become the star of your own erotic film in real-time
Mirror sex allows you to activate your fantasy of engaging in consensual voyeurism, whereby you get to watch everything—from arousal to climax—as it happens in the moment.
This can feel a lot like watching your own homemade porn video while in the moment.
"It's one thing to just be looking at my partner's face, but it's another thing when I can see everything happening in front of me and feel it at the same time," explained Megan, from New York. "Unlike filming yourself during sex and watching it later, mirror sex is a totally present moment."
It's a great confidence booster
If you're having partnered sex, seeing yourself and a partner in an erotic state can help you gain confidence. Mirror sex enables you to look at how you naturally express yourself while receiving pleasure. The sight may make you feel more desirable.
As someone with body image issues, 24-year-old Ekata, from India, said mirror sex helped her embrace her body and feel sexier.
"I feel more free while being intimate," she added. "I can let myself be and respond positively with moans instead of consciously policing my enjoyment."
It enhances your visual experience
A large part of sex is tied to what you're experiencing visually. For instance, watching your partner's face reacting to pleasure can be extremely arousing.
Findings from a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience revealed that visual stimuli can increase sexual arousal. Enter mirrors.
Not to mention, mirrors can highlight angles and body parts you may normally not be able to see. Say your partner has a foot fetish. If you're in the missionary position with your legs up, a mirror above the headboard provides them with a great view of your feet in the air, explained Linnea Marie, C.S.E., a board-certified sexuality educator and relationship coach based in Pittsburgh.
There may be angles of your partner you've never seen during sex. This period of discovery can prove exciting.
Intimacy is enhanced
Mirror sex offers a great way to build a stronger connection with your partner. It allows you to make more intense eye contact in the mirror, which can stimulate a love-inducing chemical known as phenylethylamine, according to Canadian-based eye experts the IRIS Network. Visual contact releases oxytocin, which promotes attachment and is associated with commitment and long-term relationships.
"Making eye contact during sex amplifies sensations and enhances the experience by creating deep connections," Marie noted. "This adds to a more fulfilling and intimate experience."
Mirror sex is great to add to your spank bank
If you are a person who loves to keep a mental collection of visual images to remember later for the purpose of heightening arousal during self-pleasure, mirror sex can greatly assist by creating new and exciting images.
"The more you see during sex, the more you can visually recall and reminisce about," Marie explained.
Remembering not only how you felt but also how you looked in the act of receiving pleasure helps you mentally believe and accept that you are deserving of pleasure, she added.
Adding sizzle to your sex life with mirror sex
Incorporating mirror sex in your own space is a sure way to spice up your sex life. And it's best to get a full-length mirror if possible so you can enjoy a full view of everything.
"Be sure whatever mirror you have is big enough for both of your bodies to fully fit inside the frame," said Gigi Engle, A.C.S., a certified sex educator specializing in gender, sexuality and relationship diversity in London.
Place the mirror across the bed, or at the very least, somewhere you can turn to on the bed that allows for a view of yourself in the mirror, she recommended.
"Usually, the best place is on the largest wall in the room," Engle said. "You can stand against the mirror while your partner goes down on you while on his or her knees, giving them an excellent view of your juicy booty."
However, it's important to be sure the mirror is steadily reinforced, as mirrors are surprisingly heavy.
"Use a stud finder to locate the two-by-fours along your wall," Engle said. "You don't want to lean your hands against a mirror laid into drywall because it might fall and you'll end up injuring yourself."
Alternatively, using a handheld mirror can also work great, especially for seeing different angles. For instance, holding a mirror while receiving oral sex or during penetration helps you to see various angles of your partner in that position.
Whether for solo or partnered sex, adding a mirrored element to your sex life is a great way to explore fantasies, create your own sexual script and take pleasure into your own hands, or eyes.