by Todd Litman
Is syndicated automobile columnist Jeremy Cato a pervert? In his 5 July 1996 column, he repeatedly refers to the 97 Pontiac Grand Prix as sexy, providing vivid details. Here's how he describes the vehicle: "It's very much a ground-hugging look, with the wheels pushed out to the corners, a wide track, low roofline and sharply angled windshield. Adding to its muscularity are flared wheel openings, oversized twin-post side mirrors and standard foglamps up front." Cato is clearly an autosexual.
Of course, public displays of auto-eroticism are common. Consider the sensual pleasures that car owners exhibit with compulsive washing and waxing; the erotic rubbing of a soft cloth over a silky smooth surface, with careful attention to each curve and crevice. This polishing would seem to be primarily subservient behavior, but clearly the "rubber" also enjoys gentle stimulation.
Not all auto-eroticism is hands on. There is also auto-pornography - magazines, books and even newspapers filled with carefully composed photos of highly buffed automobiles. Auto-porn also fills the advertising on television, magazines, billboards and even radio, where the voices of excited autophiles gush with enthusiasm while the vehicle's engine is heard accelerating in the background.
This is what really concerns me. It's not that I'm a prude who cares what consenting adults do in their garages. It's when they flaunt their abnormal behavior, and especially when they encourage innocent children to take up their deviant interests and lifestyle. How often have you seen a man describing, with obvious pleasure, his automobile conquests to an audience of boys, or leering with youngsters over an automobile obscenely displayed in a full-color magazine photo.
Is autosexual orientation innate, or is it a chosen and learned behavior? If autophilia is learned, then society is justified in taking strong action to discourage its spread. Although the answer to this question is still open to debate, I'm inclined to think that it is primarily learned. After all, there was no public autosexual culture until this century. Remember that an auto-human union cannot reproduce: It is only by recruiting that autosexuals can hope to maintain their culture.
Autosexual behavior is a form of fetishism: sexual love of inanimate objects. It is a displacement of human love, resulting from repression, loneliness, and low self-esteem. It is most common in men, probably because our society does such a poor job of nurturing male children, and provides so few positive male role models. The result: boys turn to cars for gratification, rather than try to develop affection for another human being.
If an autosexual is truly committed to being cured and receives professional help, his problem can be overcome. Many autophiles eventually marry, have families and establish normal, healthy relationships. It may be difficult for a time, and many have temporary relapses, but the potential for change is clear.
Some autosexuals, however, may be so deeply involved in autophile culture that their entire self image is built on auto-love. This is dangerous, because their deviant habits are reinforced by daily behaviors and social interactions. Many even support themselves in autosexual jobs. Its a difficult trap to escape.
Poor Jeremy! He is an example of an autosexual who is unlikely to change his orientation. His professional and social identity revolves around auto-attraction. He drives a different vehicle each week, and even a casual examination of his writing indicates a strong, though apparently fleeting, affection for each one. This is unhealthy for everybody involved, although he is the one that is most harmed.
Todd Litman is director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in Victoria, British Columbia. This article originally appeared in the Spring '97 issue of Transmission magazine.