I spoke to three diagnosed sociopaths for VICE about love & sex.
A few weeks ago, I spoke to relationship experts about what it’s like to date a sociopath for another VICE article. After the article was published, I received a few from actual, diagnosed sociopaths wanting to share their experiences. Writers are used to getting weird emails; I ignored them at first. But their words stayed with me, and eventually I gave in to curiosity and decided to hear what they had to say. I spoke to three diagnosed sociopaths—Jessica, Alexander, and Taylor—about what it’s like to date, fuck, and fall in love as a person with antisocial personality disorder.
Jessica Kelly is a transgender 30-year-old from the Midwest. Jessica runs the blog called Psychogendered and does not use a pseudonym. Alexander*, a 23-year-old man living in Los Angeles, proves that sociopathy isn’t binary, and that some sociopaths are very giving in bed. And Taylor*, a 40-year-old man living in Chicago, is in a happy and kinky relationship with his live-in girlfriend, whom he describes as a “budding sociopath.”
My conversations revealed that while the relationship experts weren’t totally off-point with their warnings, sociopaths are also very compelling individuals. They will probably make you come, but they also might view you as a houseplant.
VICE: So how were you diagnosed as a sociopath?
Jessica Kelly: My diagnosis story was a bit unusual in that I was diagnosed in my late 20s. My relationship with my ex-husband was fading fast. He gave me an ultimatum to either get help for what [we] thought was just simple depression, or get out. So I spent the past four years in therapy dealing with my own various mental health issues, and we noticed that depression just didn’t explain a lot of my traits. It didn’t explain my emotional indifference to other people, my inability to feel love, my various sordid experiences earlier in life, so on and so forth. [My therapist] had me read Confessions of a Sociopathbecause she wanted to introduce me to the possibility in a [gentle] manner. I read the book, I found that it resonated a little bit, and then we started exploring the possibility of antisocial personality disorder. As we started putting the pieces of my life together, it fit like a glove.
What has your experience with love been like?
It seems like love is one of those self-evident truths that a lot of people hold onto. Some people describe it as a pitter-patter or a deep conviction for another person. Whereas for me, it’s much more possessive. There’s no real emotional state involved, but there’s a feeling that it would be unfortunate if the partner would leave. It’s kind of alien, kind of like trying to explain color to someone born blind.
We were having sex one night, and he asked me point-blank, “Do you care if I enjoy myself?” I told him, “No, it’s all about me.”
So then what is the appeal of a romantic relationship that is more than just sex?
I do value companionship, but it has to be on my terms. The analogy that I like to use is that those around me are like potted plants. I like to water them, I like to look at them, but ultimately if I don’t want their attention, I want them to leave me the fuck alone. What may set me apart because I was in therapy—I still am in therapy—is the approach [I took] in my marriage and the approach I would take now are vastly different. Previously, I didn’t really care whether or not my partner’s needs were met. I don’t want to imply that I care now, but I realize that there is a self-serving interest.
Another thing that is common with a lot of sociopaths is what I like to call “bait and switch.” A lot of people with ASPD will be on their best behavior during the courting phase of a relationship, and then once the relationship is secure, they just say “fuck it.” I don’t want to use the term “lazy,” but they kind of revert back to their antisocial roots. That’s what happened with my husband. I was on my best behavior until we were engaged and then I kind of went back to my potted plant analogy: He’s mine now, I don’t have to do shit.
How did the relationship ultimately end?
It’s interesting. The fatal blow—and this ties into sex a little bit—is that one of my flaws is being honest at the wrong times. We were having sex one night, and he asked me point-blank, “Do you care if I enjoy myself?” I told him, “No, it’s all about me.” I think that’s how sex is experienced for a lot of sociopaths, as a one-dimensional and one-party experience. If the other partner enjoys themselves, it’s kind of secondary.
VICE: Tell us about your diagnosis story. Did you always feel different?
Alexander: I think part of me has always known. I think back to times when I was really young and certain social interactions didn’t make any sense to me. They still don’t. I was in a theater camp and someone asked me why I wanted to act, and I said because I always acted, which was true. I didn’t realize the significance of that until probably around my junior or senior year of college, when I started taking my mental health more seriously and started seeing counselors. My main disorder is an anxiety disorder rooted in ASPD tendencies.
Are you dating anyone at the moment?
No, I am not.
When you’ve dated in the past, did you reveal your diagnosis?
It’s difficult for me because I’m not necessarily a romantic person. But I did end up dating someone for four years. We were more friends than anything else, but we were monogamous. And yes, she knew. I ended up telling her about a year in and we talked about it.
What was her reaction?
Well, she understood, which was good.
Will you elaborate on what you meant when you said that you’re not really a romantic person? How do you think your experience is different in a relationship?
It’s a difficult question to answer because a lot of my friends will say, “Oh, I’m in love and I can’t stop thinking about her.” These are things that don’t make sense to me. I don’t have that sort of attachment to people. I have friends and I will have sex with my friends. I do, from time to time. But I don’t have the need to be in a relationship with someone.
It’s not like I don’t want to feel connected with people. I’m a lonely guy because I can’t connect with people on this basis.
So what was the benefit for you in staying with the same person for four years?
It’s a matter of finding someone who understands. In my case, she—well, it comes down to mental health. She understood that I wasn’t doing well, and in effect she wasn’t doing well, and we ended up bonding over that and became close. It’s the benefit that I think anyone seeks: not being alone.
What do you think are some misconceptions of ASPD and the dangers of dating someone with such a diagnosis?
There’s this reaction that people with ASPD or “sociopaths” or “psychopaths” don’t deserve humanity, don’t deserve to have the connection. And, for me at least, it’s not like I don’t want to feel connected with people. I’m a lonely guy because I can’t connect with people on this basis.
It’s often said that sociopaths are manipulative. Is this true for you?
I mean, I can be manipulative. I have been in order to pursue professional goals. Never in my relationships, but that’s because I value my friendships so highly, because I have so few of them.
Let’s talk about sex. I’ve heard that sex with sociopaths can be one-sided. Is this true for you?
Oh god, it’s the exact opposite of it all being about me. Sex was actually the first time that I connected with someone on a personal level. Because before that, I didn’t have any avenue to connect with someone in a way that I could understand. The way my ASPD manifests itself is more the reptilian brain, the part of me that is angry or fearful, or that has a need for sex. That part is still expressed, but the rest of it is muted. It’s like I’m emotionally colorblind.
But then when it comes to sex, it’s sacred. It’s one of those things that I thoroughly enjoy: providing pleasure. Being able to give someone something that oftentimes, because of the way we treat sex in our culture, people haven’t had.
VICE: So how were you diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder?
Taylor: I found out in therapy, in high school.
Did it come as a surprise? Had you felt different than other high school kids?
It didn’t come as a surprise when my psychiatrist said that. I remember being 13 and being asked what I was good at, and my reply was “manipulating people.”
Will you tell me about your current relationship status?
I’m dating and living with someone.
And she knows about your diagnosis, correct?
One hundred percent.
How did you tell her and what was her reaction?
It was an interesting thing. I was pretty honest from the get-go, and I sort of sensed it in her also. I wouldn’t say that she’s a full-blown sociopath, but she is certainly a budding one.
It’s the same with sex as it is with relationships: I pay attention more. If I’m pleasing them, they’re certainly going to be pleasing me.
Have you had any negative experiences sharing your diagnosis with previous girlfriends?
Absolutely. I had one tell me that I wasn’t a real person. That I was inhumane.
What is your perception of love?
I don’t have that surge of emotion that most people do. I feel things, but in a very quiet kind of way. The way that I look at it is that I do love her, but it’s about respect. It’s about seeing her and knowing her and appreciating her, I would say more on an intellectual level. But there is a romantic part to it as well.
What are some common misconceptions you’ve noticed about dating a sociopath?
One is that they’re trying to hurt people. I have the capacity to [hurt others] without feeling much regret or remorse, but it’s not something that I set out to do. Another is that we seek out weak-willed partners, someone that is easily manipulated. While I’m sure that’s true in some cases, I find myself drawn to intelligent woman with high self-esteem. A person that needs constant reassurance or can easily be beaten down doesn’t hold my interest for very long. It’s far easier to be with someone that knows how to accept a compliment and isn’t filled with self-doubt and self-loathing.
Can you tell us about your sex life? Some experts say that sex with a sociopath can be intense and passionate, but also selfish and one-sided.
Here is the part where I get to brag. I suppose that I certainly can be selfish, if I’m having a shallow one-night stand. But the things about sociopaths—at least for me—is that we’re very good at looking at people and seeing them and understanding them and using that to our advantage. On the other hand, when you actually can see someone and know who they are, you can prop them up as much as you can break them down. It’s the same with sex as it is with relationships: I pay attention more. If I’m pleasing them, they’re certainly going to be pleasing me. My current girlfriend and I have a pretty radical sex life. It’s incredibly kinky, and we’re very open. We have multiple partners. We don’t see other people but we see people together.
That’s a great set up. Have you used your sociopathic abilities to your advantage with sex and dating?
Absolutely. I mean to be honest I can’t tell you how many women I’ve been with. If you can have sex with someone and just blow their mind, they are certainly more willing to overlook other deficiencies. And it’s a good way to rope and reel them in.