September 10, 2010

The female and male copulation instincts 1

This is a post about crossdreamers, biological men who fantasize about being women and biological women who get aroused by the idea of having a male body.

This post is a revised version of an entry posted over at Sex Gender Body.

I know that this is a very controversial topic. Ray Blanchard - the man who coined the term "autogynephilia" (men who get sexually attracted to the image of themself as a woman) and who most clearly has recognized the sexual part of the motivation of some transgendered people -- reduced all male to female transgender to sexual deviants. They have no inner woman, no femininity and no real female gender identity, according to him.

He does not recognize female to male crossdreamers ("autoandrophiliacs") at all, and the term "autoandrophilia" did not appear in the DSM-V proposal until a few months ago.

By reducing everything to sexual urges Blanchard and his followers miss out on the complexity of human life. The fact that men and women may get turned on by feminization and masculinization fantasies does not mean that these men and women do not have a true transgender identity. The feminization and masculinization fantasies may very well be a natural expression of their "inner woman" or their "inner man". Sexuality is a basic part of life. We have to look at it in order to understand the transgender condition or conditions.

I want to look into the male to female crossdreamer's longing for being the catcher instead of being the pitcher in the sexual act. From what I have seen, read and experienced one of the main reasons some men have feminization fantasies is that they look for emotional release for a female sexual instinct.

I will also argue that you find the same phenomenon among some biological women. There are female to male crossdreamers who dream about taking the active male role when having sex with men.

The female copulation instinct

I consider the female copulation instinct to be one of the important variables in what makes some men long for a female body and a female identity. It is definitely not the only one and it can not be seen in isolation from other instinctual and psychological traits, but it helps me understand crossdreaming in a better way.

I got the idea from a model developed by James Weinrich. I do not agree with his conclusions, and I will tell you why, but I find his line of thinking helpful.

Rats in the kitchen

But first I need to tell you what I mean by a copulation instinct.

As noted in my posts on biological research on the development of sexual identity, at least some of the differences in behavior and brain structures as regards women and men are caused by hormones. The traditional theory says that the behavior of the male is caused by the presence of hormones very early in life, including life in the womb. These hormones cause so called organizational effects that are considered irreversible by many researchers.

This applies to humans as well as mammals in general.

In rats the typical female behavior is inviting the male by ear wiggling, hopping, a downward arching of the back (lordosis) and moving the tail aside to give room for the penis. The male has an instinctual mounting behavior: climbing up on the female's back, holding her, entering, thrusting and ejaculating.

The traditional theory says that the lack of such hormones or an inability to make use of them leads to the development of female patterns. Rats, for instance, are sensitive to the effects of sex hormones for a few days after birth. If you castrate a male rat at that point in time, you stop the flow of androgens (male hormones) to the brain.

In her book Sex and Cognition Doreen Kimura puts it this way:

"If this is done to a rat in the first few days of life, then when the animal is full grown it will, with some priming from female sex hormones (called an activational effect), display female sexual behavior, such as lordosis, but little or no male sexual behavior. (...)

"In the rodent, researchers have identified two fairly independent processes in the development of male sexual behavior. One is masculinization, the organization of such male behaviors as mounting, intromission, etc. The other, called defeminization, refers to the inhibition of female behavior , which will occur if not actively suppressed."

As i have noted elsewhere, there is some disagreement whether the dichotomy masculinization vs. defeminization makes any sense or whether the idea that the female pattern is the default is correct. It probably isn't, but hormones clearly plays a role in the basic instinctual behavior of rats. In other words: You cannot use psychology or culture to explain transgender rats.

From rats to humans

I am not saying that crossdreaming is caused by a process like the one described here. Human sexuality is different. Human mating habits are also much more complex than the ones of rats. In fact, the only mammal I know of, that is more creative Kama Sutra wise than we are are the bonobos, but then again we are practically cousins.

In spite of all this variation, I do think it is safe to say though that the basic female drive when having intercourse is to be receptive and -- for lack of better words -- reactive. The basic male drive is to be mounting and proactive.

It is not that I trust the literature on this, but having studied both cisgendered male, cisgendered female, lesbian and crossdreamer erotic fantasies and literature, I have come to the conclusion that, yes, some have a more female, "passive", wiring; others a more proactive masculine wiring. It turns out, however, that some females are wired like men, and some men like females.

"Sarah" says this about her alter ego "Jim" in the Crossdreamer's Journey:

"He likes girls. According to 'common knowledge', that makes him heterosexual. However, during fantasizing, he would sometimes take the female role. Doing this he sticks something up his butt. According to 'common knowledge', guys who stick things up their butts for pleasure are homosexual. Following that logic, people who do both hetero and homo things are bisexual. As he used to explain it, his 'bisexuality' is an extension of his heterosexuality. But in his fantasies he was not playing the part of a male 'receiving' another male, e.g. gay. He was playing the part of a female receiving her male lover, e.g. hetero. Paradox again."

Jim's feminization fantasy goes beyond the need for anal sex, however. For him it is an expression of an inner femininity, symbolically represented by his alter ego "Sarah".

The James Weinrich model

In the late 1980's James Weinrich got the idea of classifying gender variations ("transpositions") in a table very much like the chemical periodic table. The table was made to help researchers see useful patterns that could help them asking the right research questions.

Weinrich is in many ways the exact opposite of Ray Blanchard, the man that coined the term "autogynephilia". Weinrich respects the heterogeneity of the transgender world and hoped this table would make it clear that all "transpositions" were but natural variations of human sexuality.

He coupled the idea of different mating or copulation instincts with the two dimensions of feminization and masculinization like this:

Remember that in this model the female brain is the default. Cismales ("normal" men) become cismales thorugh two processes: (1) Maculinization, i.e. the development of typical male behavior, but also the basis for later male sexual characteristics like body hair and larger muscular mass. (2) Defeminization: Processes that stop the development of female characteristics, being that a female psychology, and the basis for breasts or a curvy body. In this case Weinrich is focusing on the development of behavior, i.e. the brain, which must be understood as independent from the development of the body.

In his model the basic sexual masculine behavior is mounting, while the feminine is mount-receiving. The four quadrants represents the mix of masculine and feminine sexual behavior found in different types of individuals. Most females will be in the lower left-hand corner, most males in the upper right. People who fall in the corner opposite to the one normal for their biological sex are transsexuals. People who feel at home in the sex of their bodies, but who has a untraditional sexual orientation or gender presentation fill out the rest of the table.

Weinrich presented several models, but this is the one that seems to be the most finalized one. I found it in Linda Mealey: Sex Differences: Developmental and Evolutionary Strategies.

As you can see, the" heterosexual transvestites" -- who I think come closest to my crossdreamer category -- are put close to the upper right hand quadrant, side by side with the heterosexual men. This means that they are slightly less "mounting" in their sexual instincts compared to other heterosexual men, but not by much. They are not mount-receiving or feminine as regards their copulation instinct. Their brains are defeminized, and fairly masculinized.

Alternatively, some MTF crossdreamers may be what Wenrich calls gynephilic MTF transsexuals. They are closer to the side that is neither masculine or feminine as regards copulation instinct. They are more like the asexual transwomen.

And this is where Weinrich gets it wrong, in my opinion. From what I see from my own life, research and transgender fiction, many -- if not most -- crossdreamers are of the mount-receiving kind. This is the major obstacle they face in their heterosexual love lives. They love to be the bottom and not the top. Yes, there is -- as always -- variation, and some crossdreamers play well in both roles, but in general the M2F crossdreamers belong in the lower left hand side of the quadrant. This is where Weinrich has placed the androphilic male to female transsexuals.

Such a position will make the M2F crossdreamer brain as feminized as the one of androphilic M2F. Maybe they are and maybe they are not, or maybe the question is just silly. Regardless, the model breaks down.

In part 2 I will present an alternative model of the relationship between copulation instincts and gender identities.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!