August 24, 2009

Autogynephilia as something normal

I have spent quite some time discussing the autogynephilia theory as it has been developed by people like Blanchard and Lawrence.

In short they believe men fantasizing about having a woman's body are displaying a kind of disorder, where their sexual energy is misplaced. Instead of loving a real woman, they love the idea of themselves as a woman.



Their writings present it all as something extraordinary. Since Blanchard's study was based on responses from clients visiting his clinic looking for sex reassignment surgery, he never looked into the possibility that this may be a rather common fantasy, shared even by people who cannot be called transsexuals (and who do not seek sex reassignment).

When your read the discussions on forums for transgender fantasies like Rachel's Haven and Feeling Femme Sanctuary the discussants range from transwomen who have transitioned, to men but who feel well at ease with their male identity and would not like to become women. They still fantasize about what it would feel like.

These are people who have found the forums, signed up and takes part in the discussion. But it is a fair guess that there must be a very large number that have never gotten that far. How many, we don't know, but I guess it is much larger than the specialists believe.

The British-Australian psychoterapist Tracie O'Keefe has a very interesting discussion of 10 cases from her own practice, all men and women who reports that they have fantasies of having the body of the opposite sex, autogynephilia for the men and autoandrophilia for the women.

She says:

"It seems likely in light of this study that autogynephilia/androphilia is far more common than current literature depicts. Far from being solely a psychopathology or paraphilia it is likely that many people experience autogynephilia/androphilia as part of their ordinary everyday sexual fantasy lives.

"For some of those people the experience gave them great pleasure, for some it was confusing and for others it is even disturbing; but what is clear is that each case is bound up with the person's own individual psychodynamics. Those psychodynamics are undoubtedly, as with every person, the results of the person as a whole self and should not be viewed purely in isolation."

Most of her respondents did not experience "gender dysphoria" (i.e. a gender identity disorder, where they feel that they are the wrong sex). Instead they used the fantasies to enrich their sex lives or to handle other psychological pressures.

She tells about the married couple Robert and Clair where the autogynephilia and autoandrophilia "seemed to be a dance of role reversal and power brokerage that in some ways stabilised a relationship where both partners could be very dynamic and forceful personalities."

Then there is the man that has heavy responsibilities in his job, and that uses autogynephiliac fantasies to get a respite:

"In men fulfilling such subservient roles through autogynephilia it may mean giving up total control and being almost natal once again, having someone else make their decisions for them."

She makes some very good observations about how many in the Western tradition tend to sort sexual fantasies into "sinful" or "accepted" in the religious sphere or "pathological" or "healthy" in the medical arena.

"Blanchard's study was based on a strictly bipolar male/female paradigm to examine and explain human experience. To see the human condition and behaviour as only heterosexual, homosexual bisexual or asexual is unenlightened. People are sexual and clusters of sexual stimuli can be triggered by all manner of fantasies that would not be pathological except for narrow monocultural interpretations. In the case of Canada, to a large extent, it would have included a Judeo/Christian element that historically saw only heterosexual males as healthy men."

But what do we know about people's fantasies and sexual desires, really?

An autogynephiliac may think that other people are "normal", dreaming of having normal sex in the missionary position (after the required bonding through foreplay, of course). His girlfriend may actually be dreaming about being taken roughly from behind up against the wall. Not that she would like all sex to be like that, but her sexuality is probably not as "pure" as some would like us to believe.

The enormous amount of porn online, and the great variety of topics we find there should tell us something about the variety of sexual imagination.

It would help if we could stop looking at sexual desires and fantasies as "sins" or "perversions", and instead look at them as what they really are: variations of the strange and fantastic world of human sexuality.

Sin is about hate and hurting other people, not about gender roles.

Do read O'Keefe's paper: Autogynephilia and Autoandrophilia in
Non-Sex and Gender Dysphoric Persons
!



UPDATE ON TERMINOLOGY

Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the terms "autogynephilia" and "autoandrophilia" to describe people. The reason for this is that the terms implicitly communicates an explanation for why some people get aroused by imagining themselves as the opposite sex . This explanation, that this is some kind of autoerotic paraphilia,  is both wrong and stigmatizing. Instead I use the neutral term "crossdreamers".

Click here for a discussion of the dark side of the autogynephilia theory.

8 comments:

  1. It would be so interesting for someone to either take a poll, or to get a more honest view of fantasies, to put thousands of people under hypnosis so they can put down their guard and reveal what they really think about. I'm willing to bet, just by looking at little signals from people, that there is a lot more kink, especially cross gender fantasies than we realize.

    I also agree with the "using this fantasy to escape the pressures of work" concept. Not often, but there have been times when I was REALLY stressed at work, and I used crossdressing to convince myself I led a simpler life as a female with a boring easy job, perhaps even a housewife that just cooks and cleans. Something similiar was covered on the tv show deseperate housewives (early in the series) when the husband snuck to a dominatrix so he could switch roles (go from the controlling boss to the submissive slave).

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  2. I just stumbled across your blog and thought I should say hi, as you sound similar to me in many ways. Though I probably won't be back (or maybe I will). I also self identify as an autogynephile.

    I have recently completed a PhD in Science and have a background in science/tech including in the defence industry (amazing how common that is with autogynephiles).

    I am quite shy, not at all domineering, gentle, kind, easy going placid. Hate male competition and aggressiveness (except racing my car). My face and personality are probably more toward the feminine end of the scale but I think most people would describe me as a normal man, not particularly feminine. I am very much a thinker not a feeler, a machine person not a people person.

    I wasn't particularly feminine as a kid either. As a kid I too played war games and even these days I like a good first person shooter on the computer (though I've outgrown it a bit now).

    I also like racing my high performance car, and my hobby is body building and power lifting, which I'm pretty good at, though a bit fat for a body builder at the moment. I absolutely love women, don't currently have a girl friend, but have several irons in the fire at present (I don't perceive myself to be unattractive to women, if I weren't so shy I'd probably be a veritable Don Juan...in my perception contrary to popular opinion women really do like the well muscled male physique).

    I am not gay and have never been turned on by the male body or male sex organs, the idea of gay sex repulses me.

    My autogynephilia started at the same time as puberty (and in fact my first wank was to self feminisation fantasies, though more normal heterosexual ones followed). I started out in my early teens (12-13) just being turned on by the fantasy of wearing nail polish, this progressed to the fantasy of wearing bobbles in my hair like my sister. This then progressed to wanting to have female breasts (when I learned that hormones could grow them) but otherwise being male. This then progressed to fantasizing having the whole kit and caboodle, i.e. vulva, vagina, curvy butt, pretty face etc (once I learned about SRS).

    In my teens on a number of occasions I tried on my mum's various bras and one piece swim suit and underwear. Once or twice I tried on a dress. All followed by a wank (far more intense orgasm than normal heterosexual wanking could provide). Ultimately I found cross dressing unfulfilling though because I just looked like a guy in a woman's panty, I didn't have the curvy figure to make it look good. As a result I haven't cross dressed since my teens.

    I have probably wanked on average once a day since my teens to the fantasy of having a female body as a result of taking female hormones and having SRS/FFS to look like a woman. I am now in my early 40s. Starting in my late 30s I added to my fantasy the fantasy of not just having a vagina (from SRS) but having a guy thrusting his dick into it, but I always blur out the rest of the male body because I am not gay, and men and gay sex gross me out, they don't turn me on.

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  3. Just finishing my above post which was cut off due to word count limitations.


    Unlike in my earlier years these days I can spend many hours fantasising about having a female body but not getting the slightest erection form it but still find it somehow enjoyable. I toy with the idea of taking female hormones, I know what to take, how much and where to get it (without any need for a doctors interference). Eventually I do wank however (if only to escape the fantasy so I can do something more productive). Up until and even during orgasm feels great, but immediately after wanking I feel 100% certain that I don't want to be a women and that what I just did was just a sexual fantasy to turn me on. Probably mainly for this reason I have never gone beyond the fantasy stage and put my desires into practice.

    The other reason I don't live out my fantasy is that I do absolutely love women and would hate to be without a dick and be unable to thrust it into a woman. I also love my well muscled body and would hate to give that up. I wouldn' t mind having a female face or tits, but I can't give up the male muscularity or dick, though I fantasies about doing just that all the time.

    Autogynephilia is a real bummer of a condition, talk about sexual frustration.

    I've had gender dysphoria in the past but these days I think I've pretty much worked out that I'm not going to transition. It doesn't help being 40ish either. Transition just in time to be an old lady, no thanks. The pics I see of 40+ transitioners also turns me off transitioning.

    I am forever on the fence(and have been for the last 30 years) I wish I could commit to one or the other, male or female. That is the worst thing, I can't really be female but my female fantasies stuff up my male sense of self big time.

    I used to think I was so weird and alone...now I see eveything about me there is someone just like me with the same traits/problems.

    PS: as if autogynephilia isn't enough I am also asprergic (and sometimes I wander if I'm not a little schizophrinic too.. and maybe some level of narcistic personality disorder. But I think thats all, apart from a phobia or two).

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  4. Thank you, anonymous, for two very interesting blog posts!

    I am glad you share this with us, because it helps to know that you are not alone having this strange condition or whatever it is.

    "Autogynephilia is a real bummer of a condition, talk about sexual frustration." Amen to that! It is f***'ing hard! That's what it is!

    I can relate to your description of feeling a strong need to become a woman, only to have it abate after masturbation.

    The femininity has become so closely attached to the sexual urges, that some of the pressure is relieved after an orgasm.

    As for whether you have Asperger or other afflictions, I would not know, but I believe any social awkwardness could also be explained by the fact that we struggle with being neither fully male nor fully female.

    If you wonder if you are schizophrenic, you are not. Schizophrenic persons believe their delusions are real.

    I can relate to the fear of being schizophrenic, however. There have been times I have been so overwhelmed with my female side, that it felt like I was possessed by someone else. By accepting "her" that panic goes away, though.

    I will have to look closer into this: the connection between the longing for a female body, the sexual urge and the "personalization" of the feminine side -- i.e. the fact that it often helps to think of "her" as a separate personality.

    (To make sure: I know that "she" is as much a part of me as any other part of my psyche. Talking about my feminine side this way helps me coming to grips with what is happening to me, though.)

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  5. oh, thank you for this blog!

    I am a heterosexual female who has been married to my husband for 7 years. We have 2 young children. Yesterday, I found photos of him...that were world-altering for me. After some research, I believe him to be an autogynephiliac. Looking back, so much is now explained...

    While I am the stereotypical heterosexual female, I like to think of myself as fairly open-minded. I think I could incorporate this into my life, but I'm not sure if HE will allow me to incorporate this. In a weird way, I think this bothers him more than it does me.

    And I'm totally upset about the secret life that he has been leading - much more so than by what I saw in the photos. I feel like I have just discovered that he has had an affair for 7 years with someone that he knew before we were married - it just happens that that someone is himself.

    My first thought is that we need counseling - both marriage and individual - even he admits that he needs to learn to love himself for who he is, but I still need help regaining marital trust. So much easier said than done in rural Iowa...

    Anyway, where do we go from here? I desperately want advice.

    Anyway, where do we go from here? I desperately want advice.

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  6. I have seen old maps where the cartographer had decorated the white undiscovered areas with magical beasts and dragons. That's probably where the two of you are now.

    There are probably not that many advisers, priests, psychologists or psychiatrists that know much about this either. Still, if you know someone wise and friendly with an open mind, I would definitely go and ask for some help -- just to have someone to talk to. If you do not know anyone, it would probably make sense to find a psychologist or psychiatrist that specializes in sexology. There must be someone -- even in Iowa! You might have to travel a bit, though.

    I must say I admire your way of handling this. Your open mind and your acceptance is probably the very factor that can turn all this into something good.

    I totally understand that you feel betrayed in a way, and that regaining trust will take time. He has not been cheating on you. "The other woman" is, as you point out, himself. And the reason he kept it all secret is not that he doesn't love you. It is probably quite the opposite: He was afraid to lose you and his family if you found out.

    Your understanding will probably go a long way towards helping him accept himself as who he is. If I am not mistaken, though, the other shame -- the one that comes from him having kept you in the dark -- may stay a little longer.

    I am not sure if I can add much more to this. I will take the liberty of quoting your comment in a new blog post and ask the readers for input.

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  7. I know it's been awhile since the last post but the words, how common is autogynephilia, still bump this site close to the top of the page in google.

    I'm posting because today is the first day I can completely identify my sexuality. I've known since I first hit puberty (12-13) and a bit before that, that I liked being feminine. It was a true complusion to wear girls clothing and make up even before I could capitalize on the sexual energy and fap.

    Later in my teens, I'm 19 now, I had a few girlfriends and never any sexual conotations towards guys but still a persistent NEED to dress/feel like a woman.

    I thought it was dirty, I felt dirty, but I couldn't stop myself if I tried. I'm so glad I stumbled across the word 'autogynephilia' because I can finally come to peace with who I am. Well that's not quite right because I have already analyzed who I am and decided I was fine with myself, but it's nice to know the 'professional' term.

    A post above me said that he rarely cross dressed because of the way he ulitmately ended up looking and also enjoyed weight lifting as a hobby. Since I do regularly don female clothes, I hesitate to build muscle. The only physical exercise I do is run.

    Final closing thought, while I love the fantasy of dressing as a woman I very nearly positive I will never take steps so drastic as intentional castration or even hormone treatment. For me, this sexual orientation is purely sexual. ; ) I guess that makes me kind of an autogynephilia whore..

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  8. Wow, so much information these days, where were you guys/gals 20 years ago. I've spent that long struggling with my "affliction" convinced I must be completely weird or more likely the sickest and perverted individual in the world. Then, less than a year ago, I hear of Autogynephilia and hoping to find answers, causes and other people like me and how to cope, or the very least, how to deal with this. What I've found in this short time very different stories that all lead to autogynephilia individuals. It the hope this helps someone, here's mine.

    I was a normal young man doing everything boys do right up until hitting puberty. In the early years it was lots of masturbation and looking for girls and although never considered a jock I loved doing boy things and being a boy. What I found in my early teens was that I wasn't a jock, I wasn't anything to look at, I wasn't amuzing, I wasn't that fun guy to be around, I wasn't.... You get the idea, no self esteem and little options for a horny young man. At the time I never put my life's experience and autogynephilia fantasies together but today I firmly believe its what put me on my path.

    My first memories of autogynephilia fantasies were simple. It started with a towel that could substitute for a skirt that would be removed by a male lover (usually played by my pillow LOL) who would penetrate my "vagina". As time went on I cross dressed more and more using pantyhose from my mom or one of her skirts, but it always ended in an autogynepjilia masturbation session.

    Fast forward 15/20 years and I've evolved into a closet cross dresser meaning I do it as much as I can but its always in private and includes varying Autogynephilia fantasy and masturbation sessions. The fantasy is pretty constant these days i'm always a young beautiful girl with big breasts forced to be a stripper or student forced to screw old men, ugly men or black men. It always takes the form of something many consider either taboo or degrading to a girl and sometimes includes dildos and/or fake semen to simulate fellatio and cum swallowing or even anal penetration. Its as if I'm punishing the women who rejected me in early puberty with the men my mind perceives would degrade them.

    During these sessions I thoroughly enjoyed being the woman and was one in my mind. The funny thing is, I have no desire to transform permenantley and once I step outside my door I pursue women as a man and repulsed by the thought of any male sexual contact.


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