February 25, 2010

Jack and Jackie: A dialog about sex and gender

Those who have followed this blog, know that I have been obsessed with the theory of autogynephiliacs (men who dream of having a woman's body) having a kind of erotic target location error. In this blog post "my inner woman" tells us where Blanchard went wrong.

Fetish Land

It was Ray Blanchard who came up with the idea of AGP men internalizing their external love object, in an attempt to explain why crossdressers and what I call crossdreamers get aroused by the idea of being women.

The logical progression towards Blanchard and Bailey's conclusion is something like this:

  • There are fetishes where sexual energies are channeled into objects that seem irrelevant to the "normal" sexual act (like getting turned on by nylon stockings).
  • Crossdressing is understood as a fetish due to the role of garments.
  • Some types of "transvestic fetishism" are relabeled as paraphilia because of the inclusion of "crossdreamers" (i.e. men getting turned on by the idea of having a woman's body without dressing up).
  • The fetish/paraphila concept is expanded to defining autogynephilia (AGP) as "an erotic target location error". In the autogynephiliac the natural attraction to a woman has apparently been transferred to the idea of having a female body of your own. All fetishes are in fact considered target location errors, but this is the big one!
So it doesn't matter how strongly an autogynephiliac feels that he has a strong inner woman. If he admits to having erotic fantasies of this kind he is automatically labelled as a fetishist or a paraphiliac, which in this context can only be understood as a pervert.

This means that if the autogynephiliac is to be true to himself (or herself in the case of AGP transwomen), he will have to keep quiet about his fantasies if he wants people to believe him when he says that he has some kind of innate femininity.

The AGP Dialog

It is the man in me, I guess, who believes that if you intellectually understands something, you can handle it. So if I just managed to find an alternative explanation to why we are as we are, I would be able to get people to understand that this is so much more than a fetish.

The good thing about being an autogynephiliac is that we do have a strong inner woman, and she told me to stop fussing.

"You think too much," she said to me. "Take a deep breath. The answer is right in front of you!"

The rest of my admittedly fictitious inner dialog can be reconstructed as something like this:

JACK: Right in front of me? What do you mean, right in front of me?

JACKIE: Well, you have never really believed in that theory, have you? It is convoluted, inelegant, too much an attempt to make the facts fit with a theory where good old fashioned heterosexual love is the only kosher love that makes sense evolution wise. Blanchard cannot make you fit in with the homosexuals, so he have to put you in the paraphilia category.

JACK: Well, yeah. I guess he just took the idea of the fetish to the next step.

JACKIE: Exactly, but you and I know that there is more to autogynephilia than a fetish for clothes or a fetish for a female body, do we not?

JACK: Yes, it is just as much a deep instinctual urge to have sex as a woman. In the case of the crossdressers it is also a deepfelt need to express a strong feminine side.

JACKIE: Don't be shy, you can say it!

JACK: They want to express their inner woman.

JACKIE: That's a good boy! Don't worry, Jack, you are not schizophrenic. In this blogpost I am nothing but a literary device.

JACK: Good to know!

Loving someone else

JACKIE: So why does Blanchard's idea about autogynephiliacs internalizing their external love object sound so convincing to many?

JACK: Because they find it creepy that someone can get turned on by the fantasy image of their own body. It is as if they are not able to have a relationship with a real woman.

JACKIE: But you have a relationship with a real woman, don't you, in spite of me?

JACK: Yes...

JACKIE: And you love her very much! And you know of a lot of other crossdressers and crossdreamers that have real love relationships with women.

JACK: Yeah, but still. There are so many of us who become obsessed with our inner girls.

JACKIE: Fair enough, but there are a lot of self obsessed people around. If you had to keep a secret like that, you would be a little self obsessed as well, wouldn't you?

JACK: Tell me about it!

Autoerotic

JACKIE: OK, so what is it that makes autogynephiliacs perverts?

JACK: Their sex life is unnatural!

JACKIE: How?

JACK: They are autoerotic!

JACKIE: There you go again with all your fancy words!

JACK: They get off by fantasizing about sex! You know, all by themselves.

JACKIE: They get turned on by imagining themselves having sex? Alone?

JACK: Yes!

JACKIE: And "normal" people never do?

JACK: Exactly!

JACKIE: Have you ever heard about masturbation, Jack?

JACK: Heh? Oh! .... All right, all right! Most people masturbate.

JACKIE: So being autoerotic is OK?

JACK: I guess...

JACKIE: So what's the difference? Normal people masturbate to the idea of having sex. So do autogynephiliacs.

JACK: You are twisting my words! Normal people dream about having sex with another person. They get turned on by imagining themselves having sex with another person! They do not get turned on by the idea of having a woman's body!

JACKIE: Well, I have read the same transgender erotic stories you have, Jack. I seem to remember that they all include having sex with other people! And since you have a strong inner woman it shouldn't come as a surprise at the idea of having a woman's body is such a turn on for you. You associate that body with the pleasure of sex.

Faceless men

JACK: Yes, but I sometimes imagine myself having sex with faceless men.

JACKIE: Yes, and what is wrong with that? You are not gay, Jack. I know who you are looking at when you walk down Main Street. You are not looking at the men. But your female instincts long for submission and penetration, and men have the necessary tool.

JACK: They are faceless! I have turned them into masturbatory props!

JACKIE: Oooh, what a naughty boy you are! And the teenage boy down on the second floor only dreams about real women, right? Real blonde bimbos with huuuuge tits and complex personalities. And the girl next door, when she takes out her vibrator she only dreams of realistic knights on realistic white horses sweeping her off her realistic feet and making rough love to her up in their realistic company jets. Oh yeah, no one but autogynephiliacs make use of mastorbatory props!

JACK: Now you are making fun of me!

JACKIE: Yah' think?

JACK: Normal straight men do not dream about submitting to masked men!

JACKIE: What do you know about what normal men dream about? You are not exactly normal are you, Jack? You share your body with me, and in my mind your body is female. No wonder our instincts drive you to dream about being mounted instead of being the mountee. That's what girls do dream about!

JACK: But I am not a girl now, am I?

JACKIE: No, you are a boring straight boy. But I am a girl, Jack, and I am part of you! And I know what I want.

JACK: You said you would not go all schizo on me!

JACKIE: Oh, my dear Jack. I am not saying that you are normal. I am not saying that you are not in trouble. I am just saying that you are not a fetishist or a paraphiliac. You have the sex drive and the sexual orientation of a straight man. At the same time you have the sexual instincts of a woman. That has to get messy.

Classical

JACK: But wait! Classical male to female transsexuals do not get turned on by the idea of having a woman's body, right? They are not fetishists. That proves that I am a creep and they are normal women.

JACKIE: There you go again! Most of the classical transsexuals are attracted to men, Jack. If you ask them if they get aroused by the idea of having a female body, they will have to say no. The correct answer is that they get aroused by the idea of having sex with a man in a female body. They are probably as horny as you are, and in their dreams they have tits and a pussy, just like an autogynephiliac, but since they are women loving men there is nothing controversial about this.

JACK: Well, if you put it that way...

JACKIE: I do put it that way! You should listen more to your female intuition, Jack.

Proof

JACK: According to Blanchard and Bailey I do not have a female intuition!

JACKIE: It's me, Jack.

JACK: Oh, give me a break! You are just a figment of my imagination. This doesn't prove anything!

JACKIE: Blanchard and Bailey haven't proved anything, so why should you? They have given good evidence to the fact that there are different types of transsexuals. Good! That is useful. But their erotic target location error theory is nothing but a theory, and you know it. They haven't got an explanation for why a heterosexual man should want to internalize their external love object.

That's me, Jack. I am your target location error. So tell me, where do I come from?

Emasculation theory

JACK: I don't know. Some childhood trauma, maybe. God knows I had enough of them.

JACKIE: We all have childhood trauma, Jack. Why would your trauma lead to me?

JACK: I was very shy and timid as a boy. I guess I felt emasculated. And I worshiped women. Maybe I gave up on the idea of becoming a "real man", so dreaming of becoming what I admired the most was the only option. If I had been a woman, people would have liked me for my looks and not only for my bloody personality!

JACKIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and I am the only reason they like your personality at all. Hah!!!

Anyway, this emasculation of your explains why you feel alienated from your own body? Is that what you think? Why you avoid looking at yourself in the mirror. Why you unlike most men feel no pride in your manly bits?

JACK: Exactly! And although I am not a crossdresser myself, this also explains why so many of my fellow autogynephiliacs dress up in women's clothing.

JACKIE: They dress up as sexy women, dreaming of being sexually attractive?

JACK: It is as if you are reading my thoughts!

JACKIE: That's because I am reading your thoughts, Jack.

So!... Let me get this straight. Crossdressers dress up as women because they imagine themselves being attractive. But that is not the same as being in love with yourself, now, is it Jack? All people dream of being liked, and testosterone driven beings like you have a bad tendency of mixing up human attraction with sexual attraction.

Of course crossdressers dream about being sexually attractive! In this respect they are no different from other men or women. We all long to be loved.

By the way, for you to be in love with yourself would have been a huge improvement. As I see it, the main problem is that you do not love yourself. And you definitely do not love me. I make you feel ashamed.

JACK: Eeeh...

Inner woman

JACKIE: But it is a good theory, Jack. This emasculation theory of your. It really is! And parts of it may even be true. The problem is that it doesn't explain why you started out as a timid boy in the first place. There is something in your genetic or biological profile that made you less like the archetypal rough and tumble boys.

JACK: What "something"?

JACKIE: Well, we do not know, now, do we? But I like to think of that "something" as me.

JACK: Of course you do!

JACK: Listen Jack, there are male to female transsexuals out there whose inner woman is so strong that they are women, no questions asked. When they say they feel trapped in their male bodies, they are correct. When they transition they become what they should have been, all along.

But nature is messy. In many cases it isn't that clearcut. All men and women, natural born or trans, have a mix of male and female traits along a large number of axis. In most cases the nobs and sliders are set in positions that make it easy for that individual to identify with one and only one gender.

In some cases, however, these traits cancel each other out, and the individual seems neither masculine or feminine. In other cases you can find one very masculine trait in parallel with strong feminine one. This makes the person appear both masculine and feminine at the same time.

Our language and our natural logic is able to accommodate for a lot of such variation, as long as the individual appears predominantly feminine or masculine on an aggregate level. But some are caught in the twilight zone, Jack, and in the twilight zone it is hard to decide what way the tree might fall.

JACK: Now you are mixing metaphors!

JACKIE: Yes, Jack, we are mixing metaphors, and that's why this is so hard to understand! There is a difference between men and women, but it is not absolute.

JACK: You have lost me now. I thought I was to be the analytical male and you the emotional woman, and here you go making another theoretical exposition. So you are saying being a man or a woman is about being placed somewhere on a scale. So that I am, let's say, 40 percent woman and 60 male?

JACKIE: So I am the weak one, now, am I? So typical male of you! 40 percent? Huh! Keep on dreaming, boy!

No, there is not one slider with female at the top and male at the bottom. That is far too simple.

There are hundreds of sliders relevant to the development of both sex and gender, probably thousands. Some of these sliders are genes, some are the production of hormones, some are the absorption of hormones, some are the digestions of food and toxins and some of them are social and cultural. What happens to one of them, may influence some of the others. And that influence goes both ways. Your life experiences change your brain, and those changes may change the production of hormones, which again change the way you experience the world.

JACK: It is a mess!

JACKIE: It is a complex system that doesn't care a fig about what some people believe is the proper order of nature.

JACK: Is all of this supposed to make me feel better?

JACKIE: I don't know. Does it?

Coming up next: Jackie gets some unexpected support from modern brain science!



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.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!