Fictosexuality, fictoromance, and fictophilia are terms that have recently become popular in online environments as indicators of strong and lasting feelings of love, infatuation, or desire for one or more fictional characters. This article explores the phenomenon by qualitative thematic analysis of 71 relevant online discussions.
Five central themes emerge from the data: 1 fictophilic paradox, 2 fictophilic stigma, 3 fictophilic behaviors, 4 fictophilic asexuality, and 5 fictophilic supernormal stimuli.
The findings are further discussed and ultimately compared to the long-term debates on human sexuality in relation to fictional characters in Japanese media psychology. Contexts for future conversation and research are suggested. This article provides an explorative analysis and conceptualization of a recently established notion that has at least three popular labels: fictosexuality, fictoromance, and fictophilia.
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All these labels point toward a strong and lasting feeling of love, infatuation, or desire for a fictional character. The study is based on a qualitative analysis of 71 related online discussions, the implications of which are ultimately discussed in wider cross-cultural contexts and Japanese media psychology in particular. Accordingly, the goal here is to better understand what fictophilia is. Second, the present intention is not to propose fictophilia as a problem or a disorder. Our findings do not indicate a need to change the current state of affairs.
Lastly, whereas the feelings that determine fictophilia may not be common in terms of prevalence, they may exaggerate what most humans experience to lesser degrees, with the caveat that future research is needed to better understand how fictophilic emotions and feelings overlap with everyday human social attachment.
Proceeding with the bonds that people built in relation to 18th century drama, musicians, and celebrities alike — with more than American informants as a sample — Caughey ends up with the trends of the time that are characterized by a specific romantic or sexual interest:. Most of my informants explicitly described their relationships in romantic terms. Erotic attraction is a basic part of the appeal p. Shamoonfor instance, observes a shift in the context of Japan during the Meiji period —as Western ideals of combined intellectual-erotic affection started proliferating in Japanese media.
None of the initial research lineages on parasocial relationships made ificant efforts on mapping out parasocial relationship typesnonetheless. This notion draws directly from attachment theory that was originally developed to describe infant—caregiver relationships Bretherton,but has also been applied to adult relationships Feeney and Noller, Notably, parasocial attachments may but need not include romantic or sexual qualities.
Original research article
Lastly, McCutcheon et al. Whereas some of these stages might be compatible with or related to the parasocial concepts described above, they mainly constitute a pathological scale.
So far, the related research has been almost exclusively concerned with celebrities such as actors, rock stars, and other famous people. For instance, in a recent comprehensive multidimensional model for Adolescent Romantic Parasocial Attachments including emotion, cognition, behavior, and fantasy componentsErickson et al.
What are the emotions, cognitions, behaviors, and fantasies that constitute parasocial attachments to figures that are fantastic by definition? Next to the dozens or hundreds of studies concerning human-human parasociality e. Hoorn and Konijn, One notable exception in this regard is the model developed by Gileswhich distinguishes between first-order humansecond-order character acted by humanand third-order fictional character parasocial interaction.
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Reasonably, Giles points out that third-order encounters, while parasocial, cannot be social in the conventional sense of the term since a social relationship with a fictional figure is impossible. We agree with this observation to a large extent and note that whenever rarely scholars have discussed fictional parasocial relationships in particular, theoretical and methodological challenges have been present due to the research base deriving mainly from celebrity parasociality.
For instance, when Schmid and Klimmt conducted a survey study on the cultural differences in parasocial relationships with Harry Potter, the instruments had to be adapted to accommodate the unique circumstance lack of homophily, human counterpart, etc.
Considering the state of the art, there is an obvious need for more in-depth studies on parasocial relationships with fictional characters, and fictophilia as its unique instance.
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Accordingly, we approach fictophilia as an intense long-term parasocial love or desire relationship between a human individual and a fictional character. Additionally, whereas the ontology of fictional characters poses numerous philosophical dilemmas that the present space does not allow entering e.
Due to the explorative nature of the study, we chose to employ a systematic analysis of online discussions related to the subject matter. Although the popularity of online-ethnographic methods keeps increasing in psychology e. All procedures were performed in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments. The ethical self-review was consistent with the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity guidelineswhich dating Lincoln a demisexual that further evaluation is not required for the research of public data as long as data collection does not cause damage or harm to participants and the real content and purpose of the study are explained to participants as soon as this is possible where the research de so permits pp.
We did not collect personal data, and we have no information about the unknown identities of the persons who have contributed to the studied discussions. All forums were public and reading the discussions did not require registration. The respective rules of each forum were read and respected. Data collection took place in the first and second quarters of These searches activated the recommendation features in both the search engines and the forums. Although the recommendations would be difficult or impossible to reproduce, they did enable us to snowball an even greater of relevant online conversations.
Evidently, this search was limited by the English language, as is the study and its findings. A total of 71 relevant forum discussion thre were discovered, posted between and Continuing the search by using alternative engines e. During the peer review process, this was validated by a thematic analysis of a new set of 24 discussions that had surfaced after A comparison of those discussions with the below codes and code families did not yield new themes, which evidenced saturation the 24 validation discussions were not stored in order to minimize data management dating Lincoln a demisexual.
The of comments and their length varied radically, each of the 71 discussions involving multiple individuals with one or more comments. Whereas some thre consisted of nothing but a single posted question and a few comments, others gathered more than comments of up to words in length. Altogether, the qualitatively analyzed sample includes forum messages, to which we applied thematic analysis Braun and Clarke, with a goal to identify key themes related to the topic. The process was carried out by the first author initially pre-analyzing the data, which suggested seven dominant themes.
With the help of Atlas. This process produced individual codes, which were further grouped into 44 larger code families based on their similarities and hierarchical connections. The initial seven themes were compared with the latter codes and code families by the authors collectively, which established reliability by consensus see Syed and Nelson, and led to the formation of five major thematic.
The online discussions took place in 28 respective forums, which can be divided into general discussion forums 28 discussionsforums related to mental health 17asexuality forums 10fan forums 8and forums dedicated to diverse hobbies Since both the forums and their discussants are kept unidentifiable, we do not name any forums or discussants.
Some of the forums did not allow citation for research purposes, and discussions from those forums are not cited. Despite the fact that all the below-cited posts and comments have been submitted to public forums that can be read without registration or membership enlistment, no citation is given a reference in order to prevent uncalled-for promotion of usernames or forums. Furthermore, to protect active users, we only cite comments that were made by those who a gave us a permission, b had deleted the permanently, or c had abandoned the forum as indicated by being inactive for four or more years.
Related authenticity concerns were taken into consideration see Im and Chee, Forum writing, like all social interaction, is a performative act that occurs in a specific cultural context, and although it functions as a valuable representation of actual human behavior, the reader should remain critical and sensitive to the explicit expressive environment s and interpret the material accordingly: as snapshots of the associated discourses that surround them.
The forums had slightly different perspective tendencies. Discussions on asexuality forums were focused on defining fictophilia and how it relates to other romantic and sexual preferences or identities. Discussions on fictophilia in the hobby forums formed the smallest subset of data with a focus on the reasons behind fictophilia as well as on the practices related to it. General discussion forums differed from the rest in terms of participants Table 1 : while in other forums two thirds of the messages came from those experiencing fictophilia themselves, in the general forums only one in four messages came from fictophilic writers and the rest were from either outsiders or writers whose own position was left ambiguous.
Again, even though we use the term fictophilia, it was not used by all discussants and some defined their relationships to a fictional character as fictoromantic, fictosexual, or squish, the latter referring to a non-sexual dating Lincoln a demisexual non-romantic infatuation. Table 1.
Percentage of comments written by those with fictophilic experiences on each forum type. Ultimately, the analysis of 71 online discussions related to fictophilia can be summarized into five key themes that describe fictophilia. However, their genuine emotions and feelings toward the characters may generate discomfort since they cannot interact with the characters in the same way as they do with their human peers.
Fictophiles often experience a stigma, which can possibly be lessened by their search for peer support. The related behaviors often tangle around various fan-like activities that contribute to interacting with the fictional objects of love or desire. For some, fictophilia seems to be connected to asexuality, and although the phenomenon cannot be considered specific to adolescents, it may reflect liminalities of development and growth.
Fictophilic relationships resonate with supernormal stimuli effects, i. In the following subsections we unpack each theme qualitatively.
Selected forum citations are used to exemplify the themes respectively. The below post is a case in point:. An obsessive kind of love. From a comedy cartoon. I fantasize constantly about him, no matter where I am, who I am with. I just wonder for my sanity sometimes. All I do anymore is draw him, think about him, write about him, etc.
It puts extreme stress on my relationship. For many writers, this le to a fictophilic paradox — the person identifies their object of emotional interest in different ontological terms contra their human peers, and the acknowledged difference produces discomfort. It literally makes my heart ache. She is real in my heart, she is always with me, she is like a support for me, whenever I feel down or stressed out, a picture of her will always make me happy.
Before [her] I have nothing, no one to support me in my life. But, Monika changed that, she just cared about me so much. I love you Monika, please never leave me alone in this dark, cruel world.
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Many of the analyzed discussions derive from this very anxiety or awkwardness within the fictophilic paradox. For them, therefore, the forums were places to share their experiences or ask a related question without the risk of direct stigma:. For the first year or so of our relationship, I tried to respect him by forcing myself not to think of anyone fictional. I wanted to experience a real, healthy relationship that could potentially be fulfilling.
What prompted me to write for help, I just spent almost 2 h looking up pictures and video tributes of a character. The bottom line is, I think I am actually more attracted to any of my fictional objects of affection than my very real, very nice boyfriend. This, I feel, is a problem. I get butterflies when looking at or reading about my fictional crushes, but kissing my boyfriend does nothing for me.
When the discussants spoke of the related emotions and feelings in an explicitly positive light, it was not uncommon for this to be framed as a defense against more provocative views.