Are 2D lovers born with their attractions? This question seems to be a divisive and loaded one, as well as one that has yet to be explored in-depth on a wide scale.
It is easy to argue that fictosexual individuals, those with a recurring, primary-to-exclusive attraction to fictional characters, are born with the ‘crossed wires’ that would enable such a pattern of behavior. When we defend fictosexuality as a legitimate sexual identity against our loudest detractors, we tend to appeal to this general idea; we are born with our attractions, and our attractions are unchangeable and harmless — therefore, there is no good reason why we shouldn’t be able to take up the space we do.
It’s widely agreed upon that many (or perhaps most) people are born with the capability to feel fictional attraction — this is reflected in the fact that many characters, both mainstream and obscure, are designed and written specifically to invoke physical attraction in the viewer. Beyond that, it is posited in some scientific circles that the human mind does not actually subconsciously distinguish between real and fictional beings. Japanese psychologist Tamaki Saito writes:
“...we are more sensitive than we have ever been to the way fiction works. We know very well that our awareness is always limited, that it is nothing more than an image constructed according to the logic of our nervous system and the organization of our psyche … With this understanding we can conclude many times over that everything is fiction and nothing more. [Yet] it is sex that keeps resisting to the end the fictionalization and relativization brought on by the fantasies of an informationalized society. Sexuality has never been portrayed as a complete fiction, and it is unlikely that it ever will be … the moment we desire [a character], reality intrudes.”
We tend to explain the DNA of 2D love as a heightened extension of the fictional attraction that most ‘normal’ people feel already — where for most, fictional attraction stops short of any actual desire to be with or devote oneself to a fictional character, repelled by the ultimate barrier between the real and fictional, a 2D lover feels romantic and sexual love for fictional characters while acknowledging, but ultimately paying little regard to, the fact that they are intangible.
It could be argued that even the intense and prolonged fictional attraction that 2D lovers embrace is more common among the general population than we currently know or recognize, and as such, that many people who are innately mentally capable of becoming 2D lovers simply never explore their feelings (due to societal stigma or otherwise), or are never ‘awakened’ to them.
Since societal mores define the ‘healthy extent’ of fictional attraction, 2D love in practice is often innately countercultural — 2D love communities tend to shelter individuals who are outcast from the shared experience of fictional attraction among ‘normal people’ due to the unorthodox nature of their feelings (including those outcast for the intensity or longevity of their attraction, as well as those with attractions to ‘weird’ or conventionally unattractive characters). As such, the barrier separating 2D love from the more common and accepted ‘fictional character crush’ is a partially socially constructed one — one which is incompatible with this more essentialist approach, as it is itself non-essential.
When this question is asked, there is often a more pernicious second half to it, one which may be only implied: were you born this way, or did something happen to you? The ‘something’ of the hour is generally nebulous — heartbreak by a real lover? Absentee father? Or are you simply deeply, irreconcilably lonely?
It would take several hundred more words to fully unpack the implications here — that we can only ever exist as a reaction to our surroundings and experiences, and that said surroundings and experiences must only be tragic — but it speaks to the truth of the matter at hand. The question we are presented with is often not one of essence, but of nature vs. nurture — whether our state of being is natural or unnatural. It is not an attempt to understand our nuances, but to categorize us.
It would ultimately do little good to reject this question entirely, to refuse to ask or answer it. There are certainly some individuals who were born with the seeds of their 2D lover identity already planted, just as there are some for whom those feelings developed as a result of extant circumstances. However, as human as the desire to contextualize one’s current self may be, it too easily overtakes us.
Unsureness of the ontological nature of one’s 2D lover identity should not be confused with unsureness of said identity. The goal of our self-reflection and self-work should, perhaps, not begin or end with assigning cosmic reason, but instead focus on making peace with ourselves as we exist in the present.