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.

13 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Thank you for this article. I would like to make a few comments on some of the issues raised by you in the sequence in which they appear in your piece.
    Blanchard reduction of the entire transgender issue to sexual urges, and therefore the denial of their reality and the classification as deviants is of course the easy way out if he cannot otherwise describe the phenomenon of human beings crossing the social dividing line between genders and having a need to reconstruct the physical determination existing at birth. As discussed in another place Blanchard is good at building typologies, that is the reduction of what he perceives into a system that for him describes and thereby explains his perceptions. The difficulty is that it is still a reduction. The richness of the phenomenon is reduced to less in the process and the end result becomes poor. It also leaves the niggling feeling in the reader that "it is not quite right", something is missing.
    In your description of the Weinrich work a thought emerges for me that may help clarify an approach to conceptualizing the transgendered phenomenon. The research indicates that we are essentially developing gender-neutral in the first phases of gestation. That neutrality is then shifted if you will by hormones which are an environmental factor in the strictest sense of the word in that they come through the environment of the developing foetus. If this research is correct, the instinctual capacity of human foetuses includes both mount receiving and mounting impulses. The hormonal environment during gestation "organizes" the predisposition for either gender once it begins it's work.
    In my view this is a very important aspect of this whole debate. It completely debunks our notion that there are two god given genders and everything else is a perversion, as Blanchard in not so many words theorizes. What it really shows is, that if you study the phenomena of gender expression then gender is a continuum not a dichotomy.
    Another aspect of the research that is out there and of course the anecdotal experience of every human being is the search for "completeness" if you will, in a gender sense. You could postulate that sexuality (despite how much fun it is) is a device to achieve gender neutrality thus procreation. Since our hormonal organizing has predisposed our gender location of the spectrum during gestation, and this process is irreversible at least physically we must seek a mate with whom in combination we achieve a state of Thank you for this article. I would like to make a few comments on some of the issues raised by you in the sequence in which they appear in your piece.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Blanchard reduction of the entire transgender issue to sexual urges, and therefore the denial of their reality and the classification as deviants is of course the easy way out if he cannot otherwise describe the phenomenon of human beings crossing the social dividing line between genders and having a need to reconstruct the physical determination existing at birth. As discussed in another place Blanchard is good at building typologies, that is the reduction of what he perceives into a system that for him describes and thereby explains his perceptions. The difficulty is that it is still a reduction. The richness of the phenomenon is reduced to less in the process and the end result becomes poor. It also leaves the niggling feeling in the reader that "it is not quite right", something is missing.
    In your description of the Weinrich work a thought emerges for me that may help clarify an approach to conceptualizing the transgendered phenomenon. The research indicates that we are essentially developing gender-neutral in the first phases of gestation. That neutrality is then shifted if you will by hormones which are an environmental factor in the strictest sense of the word in that they come through the environment of the developing foetus. If this research is correct, the instinctual capacity of human foetuses includes both mount receiving and mounting impulses. The hormonal environment during gestation "organizes" the predisposition for either gender once it begins it's work.

    ReplyDelete
  4. In my view this is a very important aspect of this whole debate. It completely debunks our notion that there are two god given genders and everything else is a perversion, as Blanchard in not so many words theorizes. What it really shows is, that if you study the phenomena of gender expression then gender is a continuum not a dichotomy.
    Another aspect of the research that is out there and of course the anecdotal experience of every human being is the search for "completeness" if you will, in a gender sense. You could postulate that sexuality (despite how much fun it is) is a device to achieve gender neutrality thus procreation. Since our hormonal organizing has predisposed our gender location of the spectrum during gestation, and this process is irreversible at least physically we must seek a mate with whom in combination we achieve a state of gender neutrality together. This would explain some of Weinrichs conclusions but also explain why the model breaks down and why, as I believe, the questions is if not silly, asked of the wrong phenomenon. In addition, it removes sexuality as the driving force of the whole matter. As said above in my view sexuality is a device, a tool.
    When Blanchard explains away the femininity of M2F transgendered people by simply reducing it to a specific form of narcissism and therefore classifies transgendered M2F sexually deviant, a form of metal disorder, then he is so in love with his own theory that cannot see the forest for the trees. Let's face it sexual arousal and it's causes is one of the most unspecific phenomena you could possibly find. It is "Like allergies, sexual arousal may occur from anything under the sun, including the sun."[2]"Aggrawal, Anil (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press. pp. 369–82. ISBN 1420043080. It makes you laugh if it doesn't make you cry.

    Thanks again

    Kathryn

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  5. There are two things I have noticed in my admittedly short time in looking at agp blogs: 1) no one talks about sex and specifically no one talks about how agp's realize sexual satisfaction and 2) many people have an almost medieval fascination with placing people and their behaviors in the "proper" category.

    This present topic is a perfect example: it is described as a discussion of "female and male copulation instincts", sex in other words, and soon falls into a criticism of someone's charts of human behavior, described as similar to periodic tales, which in themselves have nothing to do with human behavior, and why these charts do not properly put human behavior into the "proper" slot.

    My point is this: a discussion of how agp"s deal with achieving a desirable level of sexual satisfaction, how they satisfy their "copulation instincts" in other words, would be interesting and informative; but looking at how sexual behaviors have been fitted onto an arbitrary grid
    is neither.

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  6. Well, I never thought that males and females have such a different copulatory instinct or something. I am a bisexual male and I get horny by the thought of a guy desiring me. So inevitably, I want to be the bottom during romance with a guy as I love the feeling of a guy giving me affection. But with women, I tend to be flexible as I love the mutual giving and taking both more therein.
    So I did not ever think my instinct for being the bottom for a guy was based on having any female opulatory psychology. I would rather say that my couplatory instinct is shaped largely by whether I wish to love or be loved.
    I really don't think the stereotype of male and female copulatory instinct exists.

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  7. @kathryn @mosa

    kathryn writes:

    "If this research is correct, the instinctual capacity of human foetuses includes both mount receiving and mounting impulses. The hormonal environment during gestation "organizes" the predisposition for either gender once it begins it's work."

    Yes, and for some that predisposition is receptive and for others mounting. This predisposition will often follow sexual orientation in accordance with gender stereotypes, but not always. The bisxual, like Mosa, has the advantage of having both predispositions. Many M2F crossdreamers seem to be able to combine the two roles.

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  8. @Mosa

    I admit that I am searching here. I am not 100 percent sure about anything.

    What made me think of the copulatory instinct as one of many ways of understanding crossdreamer psychology is the fact that so many crossdreamers tell me that they are completely unable to get any satisfaction from being the active part. Some of them are even unable to perform this way.

    In the same way I get reports from transwomen who report that they got no satisfaction from being the mounter when pre-op. In fact, they would not dream of doing so.

    On the other hand I read of F2M transmen who go to greath length using strap-ons etc. in order to be the penetrator.

    But I do not think this is a binary system. There are a lot of positions in between, many of which may be called bisexual.

    If you feel no sexual attraction to guys, but want to be admired by them or succumb to them anyway, I guess we are talking about something else, and for this we have no word yet (I have been thinking of cross-sexual, see http://bit.ly/cWafdJ ), but the fact that you can be both active and passive with women tells me that you have both instincts.

    If that is the case it makes sense that it is the context and the romantic mood that decide what role to take. And that I consider a good thing, because it gives you greater freedom.

    As a matter of fact, many cisgender ("normal") couples also experiment with the active and passive roles, including pegging.

    But again, this is an exploration, and as I said there is much more to crossdreamer psychology than a copulation instinct.

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  9. Mosa does have a strong point-type of feelings for the person determine the copulatory instinct, but that I guess could be for the cis-genders.
    I dont exactly know about the crossdressers, but as a transsexual woman, I did have a strong objection to be mounter pre op. The reason was not for my being feminine as much as it was about being female.
    Infact, whenever I got a chance to mount,I was reminded of the penis, the part of the body I did not want for myself and which reminded me that I was having this thing of a man.
    Post-op (I am lesbian) and I am quite flexible with my sexual roles. I have topped even an androgynous woman before.
    Topping as a woman is different from topping as a man, just because of that thing, which is seriously an issue for a transwoman.

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  10. I am loving seeing this conceptual understanding getting more focus. Thank you. According to this article i would classify myself as asexual male. While it may not be the defacto descriptor of my sexuality it is certainly the horoscope of todays understanding of sexuality.

    LIKE!

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  11. @Gregoy,

    Could you say a few words about why you would consider yourself asexual? After all, this post is about, sexual instincts.

    Do you use asexual to describe a lack of interest in a sexual relationship with others or a general lack of sexual desire?

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  12. Since it has been 3 years, would it be okay if I answer this question in Gregory's place?

    "Do you use asexual to describe a lack of interest in a sexual relationship with others or a general lack of sexual desire?"

    Neither. I have no sexual desire at all and no desire for a sexual relationship. However, I would be interested in a romantic relationship with another person.

    I identify as an asexual because I simply do NOT have ANY sexual attraction or even a desire to have sex with another person.

    It is confusing really, because I do have a libido and I do have attractions. For example, I can experience romantic attractions, and aesthetic attractions, and even sensual attractions.

    It took a long time for me to determine if my romantic attractions were sexual or not; and that was only further confused by being a mtf crossdreamer.

    But I have never felt a desire to have sex with anyone and quite honestly, I am somewhat repelled at the idea of having sex.

    Of course, there is an entire spectrum of different types of asexuality. Some of us have libdos, some don't. Some of us are sex repelled, some not. Some of us are romantic, others are aromantic.

    To maybe give you an idea of what it is like, I was reading your section on the causes of crossdreaming and it was talking about sliders and mentioned copulation instinct. Now, I have heard of this before, but it was the first time I had ever thought of my own instinct...and I simply had no idea. The question of my own preference completely floored me.

    That is why I started reading this section the other day and commented. Trying to figure out if I have that instinct at all.

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