October 5, 2009

A man trapped in a woman's mind

About men who dream about becoming women, sissies and feminization, and a possible psychological explanation.

In this blog I have so far focused more on nature as opposed to nurture as an explanation for autogynephilia, i.e. some men's fantasies of having a woman's body.

I am not willing to dismiss the possibility of autogynephilia having psychological causes, though, especially from childhood experiences.

In a response to an previous blog post "Anonymous" writes the following:

"I am a heterosexual man, with no feminine characteristics. I have been told variously that I look like a cop, a professional wrestler, or a teamster organizer. I was raised by an extremely abusive mother and older sister. I have been seeing a therapist for years. After a number of years I finally told him that I fantasized about being a woman (usually cruel and always beautiful who treated men terribly). I thought I was a major league pervert, but he told me it was something called 'identification with the aggressor'. This is a defense mechanism where someone actually identifies with the person, or group of people abusing them as a way of dealing with their fears"

(You can read the rest of his comment here.)

The role of strong women

I can put a related narrative for my own childhood that in a chilling way fits the idea of abuse causing autogynephilia.

I grew up in a family with a emotionally very strong and willful mother. Unfortunately she wasn't too bright and had absolutely no sense of humor. A dangerous combination of traits, indeed!

My father was an intelligent man, kind and compassionate, but also prone to depression. He was in no way able to handle my mother, a woman he should never have married.

Still, it could have worked out all right , I guess, hadn't it been that a disaster hit our family. I am not going into detail here, for the sake of anonymity. Neither of them handled it very well, and I guessed it killed my mother's love for my father.

The prince/wimp complex

My mother had the kind of schizophrenic view of men that some women develop. It is a kind of parallel to the madonna/whore complex some men display. In her world there were two kinds of men: princes and wimps.

1. There were the "charming" men. There is no clear definition of this concept, but I guess self-confidence, good looks and a good smile have something to do with it. This was probably her "prince-coming-to-rescue-me" archetype.

2. Then there was the weakling. This is a man with little self-confidence and strength. A man that are not able to help women in the way he should and leaves most of the burden of running a family to her.

Her own father had been the interesting combination of a strict religious fundamentalist and a womanizer with two lovers on the side (!). That might have caused her to become a man-hater. When my father turned out to be less than perfect, he was moved over from category 1 to category 2.

Stockholm syndrome

My mother now decided that her disappointment in my father had to get an outlet somewhere, and she decided to make me her confidante. I therefore absorbed her hate for men, and adapted it as mine. I became an aggressive feminist of the negative kind.

Had I belonged to category 1, however, I would never had accepted this kind of emotional abuse. I would have withdrawn from her, and either grown closer to my father or found another male role model.

Instead I found myself in the strange position of becoming category 2: the pitiful, weak, male. In many ways I had much in common with my father. After all, that was why I was able to play the role of the patient and understanding listener. That being said, it was clear that my mother appreciated my loyalty, and returned it with a kind of perverted love.

So what was I really? Was I like my father, whom she considered an unmanly man? Part of me had to believe that. And given that I was bad at sports and had no manly physical strength, I guess that impression got stronger over time. I also entered puberty at a very late age.

This had to be an intolerable situation, and it could be that my autogynephilia was some kind of response to this.

Becoming the girl friend

I guess that in my relationship with my mother I had taken on the role of the feminine, understanding, girl friend or daughter. The one that listens to your worries. Given that she hated men, and put women up on a pedestal, I guess I came to the conclusion that the only way of getting love from women was to become one myself -- mentally, that is.

This is a kind of self-castration that is bound to leave deep scars (no pun intended!).

This is my "man trapped in a woman's mind" theory. I adapted my mother's view of the world in order to get the love all kids require, and has been suffering for it since.

Thanks to years of therapy the man inside me did manage to get out and do some good. I am now considered to have an outgoing personality and a strong will, and in some ways I guess I have. Some would even consider me an alpha male, although I definitely do not feel like it.

Sissy fantasies

There is a whole sub-genre in transgender erotica called sissy stories. These are about men who is turned into women by one or more strong and willful women. They may be sisters, mothers, colleagues or some type of dominatrix, but what they have in common is that they despise weak men and decide to turn the man into the women he truly is.

The change may include cross-dressing, hormone treatment or some kind of magical change whereby the man becomes a woman. The man is always humiliated and he becomes a kind of submissive slave to the woman. In some cases he is denied sex -- he becomes asexual -- in other stories he is given to others to be used as a sex slave.

"Rebecca" has described the Sissy Quadrant Theory (link to explicit content!):

"All great sissy stories are based on the interaction between four archetypal character types:
  • Powerwoman, a strong mother, aunt, teacher, nanny or wife that has total control over her own life and the life of others.
  • Powerman, a strong, muscular, 'real' man (with a big dick); a mythical figure that is actually able to satisfy the sexual needs of Powerwoman. He is always an outsider (and does not exist in real life).
  • The Wuss, a boy or man, totally unable to live up to Powerwoman's expectations of what constitutes a 'real man'. His inadequacy is symbolized by his small dick.
  • The Sissy, a submissive and mentally challenged girl or woman with no personal will of her own.
The plot of a sissy story is basically like this:
  1. Powerwoman and the Wuss are in a relationship (husband/wife, son/mother etc.).
  2. Powerwoman despises the Wuss and decides that he is, for all practical purposes, as Sissy.
  3. Powerwoman changes the Wuss into a Sissy.
  4. Powerman serves Powerwoman.
  5. Sissy serves Powerman."

As I see it, these stories try make sense of the conflict between stereotypes, both as regards men and women. The stories try to resolve the conflict by making two distinct categories for both genders. There are strong and weak women as well as strong and weak men.

The protagonist in the story, the "victim", is given the role of the weak, submissive, woman.

My guess is that many transgendered men find this exciting, because by becoming the sissy they resolve a horrible dilemma. They have had to become a kind, weak and submissive person in order to be accepted by the strong woman in their childhood (mother, grandmother, aunt, sister).

Since the same female role model also despises weak men, they have also come to believe that their strategy makes them unsuitable to become real lovers for "real" women.

This is a Catch 22, for whatever they do, it looks like there will be no release for their sexual desires. Women only like them if they are submissive, but if they are submissive they won't get any!

In the sissy fantasy, the autogynephiliac takes the only option that seems available, namely complete feminization. This leads to two possible "favorable" outcomes:
  1. He becomes a submissive sissy, but an attractive one. There will be lots of sex with dominant men or women.
  2. He becomes totally asexual. In these fantasies the sissy becomes the servant of the dominatrix. He can indulge in feminine activities like dressing up, manicure etc, but is denied sex. In this case it is the cross-dressing that give the emotional reward. He is, if nothing else, accepted as the submissive girl friend.
Not the whole story

I do not consider myself a sissy, but I recognize the longings underpinning these sexual fantasies.

In and for itself my life story (if my analysis is correct) could be a sufficient explanation for my autogynephilia, and I do not doubt that my life experience has been a contributing force.

The sissy stories may indicate that there are a lot of autogynephiliacs out there that try to come to terms with their trauma by finding a new role as a submissive woman, at least in their fantasy life.

Still, I doubt that this is the whole explanation. Many boys will not accept this kind of treatment. I had a sibling who froze my mother out and attached himself to my father instead. There must have been something in me that made me go for this particular "solution".

I believe there were strong feminine traits in me that responded to this kind of mistreatment, but it is hard for me to determine whether I would have become an autogynephiliac if my upbringing had been more normal.

Here's one take on it though:

Let's say I truly am a woman trapped in a man's body. That will naturally lead to a strong alienation from my own body. I would find it hard to accept it, to like it, to find peace in it. My self-loathing and low self-esteem may very well be caused by this, and not only by what my mother did to me.

It could be that I actually accepted my mother's negative view of men, because I hated myself as a man, being in fact a (kind of) woman. The hatred of my own masculinity could easily be turned into a general hatred for men, given the right (No! wrong) conditions.

Of one thing I am certain. I strongly believe that the condition of most (if not all) transsexuals has a biological foundation. In too many of the life stories I have been told and have read, the kid comes out as a transgendered at a very early age, often down to two years old. You cannot explain that as caused by psychological abuse. The process I have told you about takes place over a long period of time, all the way up into puberty.

Note also that a majority of the transgender fantasies found on the web do not include forced sissyfication.

Secondly, I have no reason to believe that all transwomen and transmen have lived in dysfunctional families. Obviously many of the parents have had difficulties understanding and even accepting their kid's condition, but that lack of understanding cannot have caused the condition. Common sense requires that their reluctance should have hindered it, rather than stimulated it.

This means that the introduction of a psychological explanation can mean one of two things:

1. The life experience of an autogynephiliac can alter the way the condition plays out. It can make it more traumatic, but it cannot cause it.

2. There are several types of transgendered people: Some based on biology and some the result of psychological trauma.

My gut feeling is to go for alternative 1, but I cannot prove it.



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.

12 comments:

  1. I feel that it is very important that people understand that AGP exists, however, I sometimes worry that some of the language on sites like this can be confusing and cause people to draw the wrong conclusions.

    A lot of feminine and high intensity transsexuals do not have the symptoms of AGP and generally when transitioned, come across as very normal happy women.

    Someone with gender issues should be honest with themselves and try to figure out what they really want and why they want it. If they grew up masturbating in woman's clothes or feeling a sexual thrill while cross dressed, they are probably AGP. If they grew up identifying as female and trying to find ways where they could interact as a woman, a categorization of AGP is probably less likely. In order for people not to incorrectly categorize themselves into the second group, people need to realize that being AGP is part of their fundamental nature and that they should feel no stigma about coming forward with the condition.

    I do think that there are some people out there who have gender issues for psychological reasons, however, I suspect that the majority of reasons are biological but that psychology like you suggested does play a role in how these issues develop.

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  2. I would like to mention my story here.
    Unlike you, my bone of contention have been dominant men and not women. I still view women as soft and submissive and despite my strong knowledge on the contrary, it's one idea my mind seems too reluctant to dismiss.
    I got bullied, hit and teased by guys as I was not too agile and tough in sports. I simply don't know what is wrong with me but I have some typical symptoms of Aspergers and I have poor eye-hand coordination. And with that,I got to be tormented hard.Though not like agile guys, I wasn't feminine either. I was just like a dull nut, neither this way or that.
    At first,I did not mind too much but later as I grew up, I developed a strong need to feel special to men.I did not know how to as there was nothing in me to prove myself as a good guy. However,then suddenly, my eyes turned towards females. The feminine glam became the resort through which I began to enhance my outlook. And within these 10 years,I have developed strong feminine desires and I feel like I cannot do without them. I need femininity in my fantasies as a tool of coping up with the male aggressor. Because, somehow, if I prove special,I would avoid the ire of boys for my social ineptitudes.
    But recently, my feminine desires and my wish to embrace feminine fantasies just as a tool of show-ff has become so powerful, that I no have almost the same symptom of AGP. However, it's not that I get sexually aroused on imagining femininity, rather, I get the enthusiasm and inertia to lead a dull life with it.
    In other words, such fantasies lift up my otherwise dead male spirit.
    Is my condition genetic? I wouldn't say so as even now,I am not drawn to femininity for my own enjoyment. If it was not a tool of my narcissism and a way of making my life appear special, I would be indifferent to it as much as my masculinity. However,I would say that there must have been a genetic miswiring which failed to make me a real man and my AGP fantasies were a direct means to cope up with the resulting feeling of loss of self-image.

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  3. I would not say that reacting negatively to the extent of hating men by listening to your mother's comments would directly mean that you have a female mind.
    As a norm, all males have got a feminine side and all women have got a masculine side. Your femininity might have got invoked due to a combination of appropriate circumstances subconciously. Like, you were more close to your mother,so, it was easy for you to get towards the feminine side.
    If another boy resents the mother and gets closer to dad, it could be because he somehow has come to believe that men would protect and look after him more than the women, so, it's safe to be a man and be friends with men.

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  4. I do think you are somewhat wrong in your generalizing. Most transwomen who transition don't report having any of those sissifying fantasies. They don't do it because of having crossdreaming fantasies, but rather a genuine identity mismatch, something more into real life.
    I don't think that by the feelings you describe, you seem to have a profound gender identity mismatch in social life. Your crossdreaming fantasies might have a genuine gender dysphoria as root, but it is certainly not what transwomen face. I have not heard of transwomen like Lynn Conway reporting such cross-gender fantasies. Infact, what they had was full gender mismatch, nothing of fantasies.
    I would suggest you to definitely investigate the root of AGP but at the same time keeping yourself away from the case of transwomen. Because AGP looks totally different from the primary transsexualism, it is bound to create fluttter or send wrong signals among post-op transsexuals who go through this blog.

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  5. And in any case if you indeed think you are a woman and feel like integrating yourself with other transwomen, I think you should call yourself female rather than "transgender men". Using the word "transgender men" might be really offensive to transsexuals as they never consider them as men in any way.
    I was just pointing out your error in usage of terms, not meant to offend you outright.

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  6. @Vinita

    No offense taken!

    First of all: This is an exploratory blog. I am presenting ideas for discussion. Since I wrote this post, I have become more and more convinced that crossdreaming (which I now feel is a better term than autogynephilia)has a biological basis.

    Not all crossdreamers (men who fantasize about having a woman's body) report forced feminization fantasies, nor do crossdressers in particular.

    In TG erotica, only a small percentage of the stories written include "sissyfication".

    As regards the pronoun: This is tricky. I always use the word "she" when referring to XY persons who identify as women. Transwomen are women. Period.

    However, this blog is just as much for biological men who remain in their male role publicly. Many of them also identify as men, although as men with a strong woman inside.

    Many of us are in between genders. This could be because we are truly crossgendered, or it could be because we have not able to face the fact that we are transwomen.

    Some crossdreamers/crossdressers come to the conclusion that they are, in fact, women, and chose to transition.

    As for the question of transwomen having autogynephilic fantasies: I know for certain that many of them have had such fantasies -- at least before transitioning -- because many of them have told me so. But I also believe those that say that they haven't.

    I see that some transsexual women argue that transwomen who have had crossdreaming fantasies are not "real" women. Needless to say, I do not believe in such an argument. It leads to further stigmatization, and forces them to keep a natural part of themselves secret.

    This is also where I find myself disagreeing most strongly with Ray Blanchard: I find it hard to understand why having erotic fantasies about becoming a woman, should make a transwoman less of a woman. Transwomen are -- as all women -- sexual beings.

    It is only natural that they dream of having sex as a woman. As long as they are trapped in a male body, it is not unnatural that the idea of getting a female body can be arousing. Only with a female body can they have a sex life in harmony with their inner selves.

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  7. Jack,
    I do agree with you that sexual women would definitely have erotic fantasies of their own body. But,you see transwomen already face a lot of transphobia from mainstream society, and hence, they wish to be very much away from any aspect of sexual fantasy. Of course many of them don't have them too, as many are asexual.
    There indeed have been many male transvestites with crossdressing being nothing more than a sexual kink. They are heterosexual males with high sex drives and have been using not only women as their sex objects but also their clothing and accessories.
    Again, there are numerous homosexual males wear female clothing to attract men.
    However, transsexualism is much different from both of these, and despite many media reports, people seem to confuse it with wither of the above aspects.
    And this means the very mention of such "erotic fantasy" term reinforces the mainstream belief of transwomen being nothing more than either heterosexual fetishists or homosexual crossdressers.
    Nothing wrong in either of the above, but the problem is that both of the above aspects would make the transwoman a man and not woman.
    From what your story mentions, it does seem you are more than a mere fetishist, because you are womanly in more ways than one.
    I understand that there are indeed crossdreamers who have significant gender dysphoria rather than anything of fetish. But many transwomen would still look down upon you,since you are still a man and not woman, and that too, a man with erotic fantasies.
    It would hence take some time for both the sides to come to a close kinship. However, the fault as I said, is not of the transwomen, but of the mainstream society which chooses to accept things at face-value.

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  8. I think the modern thought that gender=/=sexuality is quite right. I am bisexual male and I can stand testimony to this. In fact, contrary to what most could ever believe, I feel more manly when I am having sex with a guy. I love the emotional and romantic bonding beween two guys and though I take the feminine role during sex with a guy,I imagine myself as a guy.
    But with women it becomes more feminine and I turn almost into a "lipstick lesbian". I find I am emotionally connected to females as a female and emotionally connected to men as a male.

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  9. Could this possibly mean I am androgynous bisexual Jack?

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  10. @Railey

    "Could this possibly mean I am androgynous bisexual Jack?"

    Bisexual, yes. Androgynous? No, unless you appear as such to others. I think we need a new language. That's what I think. The traditional terms do not capture all this heterogeneity.

    Jack

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  11. I have become androgynous lately of the years compare to a pantyhose fetish I had starting out to now wanting to be dressed and treated like a women while being sexually forced by several men

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  12. That's my fantasy but really since I came out to my wife of 20 years that I told recently2 years ago that I love wearing pantyhose mainly at times heels dress bra stuffed etc I haven't tried makeup yet I been doing the pantyhose fetish thing since I believe or recall of 5 years old. I used them mainly to master bate but as well admire how sexy I look in them (was raised with 3 sisters and a mom with a dad who did molested me which I was down for or enjoyed) no penetration though it was till I was 25 or so before my felling or fetish shall I say changed to being cd with several men while tied down forcing me as well as being gang banged but I as well was using meth. I starting using a dildo a few years later reminding you I'm 35 at this age then told spouse cause I was being accused of cheating 40 now I m still closeted besides wife knowing but I've become bicourious more than ever but discreetly at moment. I wear my hose heels skirts etc. almost daily now with dildo . I'm want a man more than ever but I'm nervous as well not sure if I want to be more man or feel more as women at times

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