Toons Turn Me On
The downsides of being attracted to art.
Being attracted to a cartoon is not that weird. People dress up like them for comic conventions all the time, and apparently adults ages 55 and older go ga-ga for animated porn. Adult film actress Annika Albrite admitted in an interview that in high school, she’d been “really obsessed” with masturbating to hentai. And comic book icon R. Crumb — once dubbed “the Nastiest Nerd” by the Washington Post — has long been candid about his infatuation with illustrations.
“When I, what was it, about 5 or 6? I was sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny,” he recalled in the 1994 documentary Crumb. “And I cut out this Bugs Bunny off the cover of a comic book and carried it around with me. Carried it around in my pocket and took it out and looked at it periodically. And it got all wrinkled up from handling it so much that I asked my mother to iron it on the ironing board to flatten it out. And she did, and I was deeply disappointed ‘cause it got all brown when she ironed it and brittle, and crumbled apart.”
Called toonophilia or schediaphilia, those with this fetish tend to hide it, discussing it predominantly online, on sites like DeviantArt, Psych Forums, and Reddit. Most chat room conversations about cartoon fetishes tend to revolve around people trying to stop their attractions to them or wondering if it’s wrong to feel such a way.
Few people seem to want their name associated with the sexual predilection. An online petition to legalize marriages to cartoons in the U.K. started by an anonymous toonophile has only earned 14 signatures in 10 years. More recently, a former editor for Vanity Fair almost had a meltdown after he was caught with an open tab for hentai on his computer. Kurt Eichenwald claimed he had been looking at it for research purposes only, so that he and his kids could prove to his wife that “tentacle porn” existed. To further prove his innocence, he posted screenshots of a text message conversation with his wife to Twitter. In it, he wrote: “Theresa...I’m sorry, this is a stupid question. Were our (adult) sons and I trying to prove to you that tentacle porn exists?” Eichenwald’s wife texted back, “Yes. Still amazes me.” He went through all that effort because that’s how badly he didn’t want to be associated with the fetish.
Samantha, a young adult living in Canada, is well aware of toonophilia’s taboo reputation. Since childhood, she’s found cartoons attractive, and throughout her life has vacillated between keeping it a secret or telling others and risking ridicule and humiliation. It’s created a lot of problems with her family and friends, and has impacted her love life substantially.
Under the condition that she remain anonymous — Samantha is not her real name — and that we conduct the interview solely through email, she spoke with OK Whatever about the trials and tribulations of leading a life with toonophilia.
Read on to find out what a toonophile considers an “instant mood killer” and why life with it is “not an easy path to walk.”
When did you realize you were attracted to cartoons?
Samantha: For as long as I can remember, even back in my childhood, I've always had an attraction to and fascination with cartoon characters. As a child, I was a fan of Dick Tracy, and I still remember telling my parents that, when I grew up, I was going to marry him. My parents, of course, laughed because I was just a child.
As the years went on, I never grew attracted to three-dimensional people, but my cartoon crushes continued to hold strong. I hadn't fully clued in, but it was around the time I entered high school that I had toonophilia.
Of course, there were other fans of cartoons, comics, and anime like myself, and they too had "character crushes." But at some point I started to realize that my "crushes" weren't the same as theirs. To put it into perspective, when they said they had a "crush" on a character, it more or less translated to "this character is my favorite” or “they're really cool." For me, when I said I had a “crush” on a character, I literally meant I was attracted to them.
That led to a period of time where I struggled internally and started doing some self-exploration. I began to label myself as asexual towards the end of my high school years and into my college years. I had no sexual (or romantic) attraction to three-dimensional people, so I thought that asexual was an easier way of explaining that. But asexuals weren't supposed to feel any sort of sexual attraction or desire, and while I didn't feel that kind of attraction towards living, breathing people, I did feel sexual attraction towards two-dimensional characters.
It wasn't until 2010 that I fully embraced it. It was a very hard choice to make that brought a lot of tension between myself and my friends and family. My friends, of course, all thought I was joking when I finally came out about it, but when they realized I was serious, they began to talk behind my back. I know this because I caught them several times though I never once confronted them about it, even to this day. My mom accepted my confession about it, but also told me that I should "keep an open mind" and not swear off relationships with three-dimensional people completely.
When did you first learn of the terms toonophilia or schediaphilia?
To be quite truthful with you, I was entirely unaware of the terms until 2014. I had previously coined a term for myself — “2Dsexual” — until a friend on Facebook posted an image to my wall containing a misspelling of schediaphilia and the definition. I immediately went to Google to look it up, and that's when I realized that there was actually a term for the kind of attraction I felt. I've been using the term ever since, which I feel has helped (albeit very minimally) to spread awareness of the existence of the term.
What kind of cartoons are you attracted to?
I find it hard to pinpoint a certain trait that the characters I've crushed on have all had in common. Some shared a voice actor, others seemed to share a hairstyle or color, but there hasn't been a single trait that every single one of the characters have had.
The character I love the most — my "fictional husband," if you will — does not possess any of the traits of my past crushes. Every character I've liked has been humanoid, though. Most of the characters, and my current love, are completely human, but I have crushed on a couple of android characters in the past who had human appearances.
How has your attraction to cartoons influenced your love life?
Well, it has definitely affected it. I can't even pretend it hasn't. The problem with me is that, while I can find three-dimensional people attractive, there's nothing beyond that. During my self exploration period in high school, I tried to envision myself in a relationship with another person, and to be quite honest, it made me feel a bit sick to my stomach.
I've had some people ask me if I'm scared of or disgusted by sex. I'm not. I can watch sexual acts in a movie or on television, and it doesn't gross me out. But, it doesn't turn me on either. It's a complicated feeling, to be honest.
When it comes to envisioning myself in an intimate situation or relationship with another person, it's a turn-off and an instant mood killer. Yet, if I envision the same intimate situation with myself and the character I love, it's a very different story.
What was it like “coming out” to your family and friends?
I told my parents first. In fact, my confession came in the form of an April Fools joke, back in 2010. Needless to say, my parents did not take it as a joke, nor did they find it at all amusing. Mom kind of shrugged and said, "I already knew that. It was pretty obvious." But Dad just sort of tried to pretend like he never heard me say anything. Even now, he's the one who ridicules me the most about it.
For the most part, when I tell people, they kind of laugh about it because I don't think they realize that I'm serious. I have found people who accept me as I am, but many people have found it "absurd" or "creepy," and I've been called many a name in the years between coming out and the present day. It bothered me at first, but you know, after awhile, you get used to it.
My online friends were much more accepting than my offline friends, though I have had instances where the people I've cut ties with have used it as a way to lash out at me. My offline friends, well, they play accepting to my face but I know they feel otherwise when they think I'm not around to hear them. After all, being "in love" with someone who is two-dimensional is a hard thing to comprehend.
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