January 16, 2013

"I feel pretty!" (On the Autgynephilic Woman and More)

"Oooh, I am such a sexy autogynephile!"  (Photos.com)
Is the crossdreamer dream of an attractive body really that different?

One of the basic building blocks of Ray Blanchard's autogynephilia theory is that male to female crossdreamers (male bodied persons who get aroused by the idea of being a woman) are sexually attracted to their female selves.

Blanchard and his followers  sometimes go as far as defining this as a separate sexuality, one that comes in addition to heterosexuality and homosexuality.

While gay men are attracted to men and heterosexual men to women, the "autogynephiles" are reduced to  narcissistic autoerotic wankers.

The self-admiring crossdresser

The proof is allegedly found among male to female crossdressers who get aroused when dressing up as women, admiring themselves in the mirror. It is the erection that gives them away.

And it all sounds so believable and common sense. After all, real men and real women do not get aroused by the idea of being a man or a woman, do they? No, they only get aroused by being with another man or woman, not by being (by) themselves.

Besides, real women do not get erections. They are hardly aroused at all.

Beyond the stereotypes

As is often the case in the gender and transgender debates, this whole argument rests on  ideas that become very problematic when you look a little closer.

There is, as far as I can see, no reliable research on such autoeroticisms  among non-transgender men and women. That is, there is a lot of research on autoeroticism (defined as "using your own body as a sexual object"), but most of it focuses on regular masturbation, which is no longer considered a disease.


The so-called experts used to consider masturbation an unnatural perversion, of course. They love their perversions. But the sexual liberation and the general openness about sex has made it clear that masturbation is so common, that it makes no sense to consider it an aberration. Indeed, most experts now consider masturbation a normal and healthy part of a person's sex life.

Masturbation is also common among human children and among animals.

So the offensive part of crossdreaming is not the autoeroticism per se, but the idea that the crossdreamer is replacing a natural object of desire (a woman out there) with a unnatural one (the woman inside).

When a young teenage boy enjoys a quiet time with himself, his mind is still focused on that girl in Sports Illustrated, and not on the idea of he himself being sexy. He is still attracted to a woman out there. Or so it seems.

The important question here is the following: Do people who are not "autogynephilic" ever get aroused by the idea of themselves being a sexually attractive human being? If they do, the whole autogynephilia theory falls apart.

Let us find out.

Ivar, Karen and real life arousal

Let me exemplify what I have learned about auto-eroticism among straight non-transgender men and women from just being with them,  talking to them and from studying relevant fiction and non-fiction.

These examples cannot be considered scientific proof (if there is such a thing in this area of human life). I am appealing to your own life experience. I am convinced you will find similar examples among your own friends and acquaintances.

Imagine Ivar,  a 25 year old male, preparing to hit the town.

He is hoping Karen is going to be at the club tonight, because he fancies her tremendously and she has given signs of liking him as well. He might get lucky tonight.

What is even better, this might get even more serious. He would love to have a girl friend now. Life as a bachelor is getting stale.

He puts on his best jeans, the ones that accentuates his tight buns. He has spent one hour every day in the gym for the last year or so, building muscle, making his shoulders look broader. The girls loves that, and the way Karen touch his biceps the other day tells him that the investments is paying off.

He then puts on a simplistic but expensive shirt, a shirt that tells the world that he is sophisticated and has style, without being gay. His perfume from Hugo Boss tells the world he has some money, but also that he is not vain.  If he had been North African, he might have added some gold jewellery,  but an ethnic Scandinavian man does not get away with that of thing.

As he prepares for his evening he gets increasingly excited. He looks at himself in the mirror and likes what he sees. He is young, he is sexy, he is attractive and the world is his.

He gets excited by the idea of Karen admiring him, and imagines what she will say when she comes up to him. And the idea of that slow dance makes him crazy. He longs after the moment she rests  her head  against his chest, filling his world with her silky hair and the smell of her perfume.

Are you with me so far? Is this a realistic rendering? Yeah, I know that Ivar gets aroused by the idea of attracting Karen, but bear with me, that doesn't matter as much as you may think.

Karen gets ready for a night on town

Autogynephilia in real life (Photos.com)
On the other side of town Karen is preparing for the same party. She spends more time on the grooming than Ivar does, but what she is doing is more or less the same as he is doing.

She wants to be as sexual attractive as possible, because she desperately needs sex. And since she is Scandinavian, and has been raised in a fairly liberal culture, she is not afraid to admit so. As she told her good friend Anne earlier that day: "I am so horny I am going crazy!" Anne gave her a pack of condoms.

Karen puts on the most sexy dress she has. It covers enough to stop her from being arrested, but not enough to stop her from freezing  her butt off in the Scandinavian winter cold. She does not care. Right now she is warm enough to a cause climate change all by herself.

And the girl she sees in the mirror is smoking hot! In fact, she gets flustered just by looking at her. She touches her breasts her ass and her thighs and imagines it is Ivar caressing her.

No, she does not masturbate in front of the mirror. Why should she?  She knows that Ivar will come home with her that very night.

I Feel Pretty!

But Jack! You cannot possibly know that a woman can feel this way!

I think I can. I think this description of a Scandinavian girl getting excited by seeing her sexy self in the mirror is very realistic.

I am not saying this because I personally can identify with her or Ivar. I am the kind of gender dysphoric who avoids mirrors and who has never felt sexy or attractive (even though I can actually be so, according to others).

I am saying this because this is what men and women tell me. Besides, these are common themes in literature and art.

I have no doubt a lot of women  identify with Maria in West Side Story, even if the lyrics were written by a man,  Stephen Sondheim. (He was gay, and in the weird world of Blanchard & Co, that may actually mean something.)




"I feel pretty
Oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and bright
And I pity
Any girl who isn't me to night
I feel charming
Oh so charming
It's alarming how charming I feel
And so pretty
That I hardly can believe I'm real
See the pretty girl in that mirror there?
Who can that attractive girl be?
Such a pretty face
Such a pretty dress
Such a pretty smile
Such a pretty me!"

Autogynephilia among women

But by all means. Let us bring in independent proof.

Doctor Charles Moser sent out a questionnaire to a group of women and tested them for autogynephilia.

By the common definition of autogynephilia of ever having erotic arousal to the thought or image of oneself as a woman, 93% of the respondents were autogynephiles. Using a more rigorous definition of “frequent” arousal to multiple items, 28% could be classified as autogynephilic, according to Moser.

This is important, Moser notes, because:

"The hypothesized absence of autogynephilia in women is seen as supporting Blanchard's theory that autogynephilia is an unusual sexual interest of men and that the desire for SRS [sex reassignment surgery]  is sexually motivated. If genetic women and MTFs both endorse the same statements and exhibit the same behaviors, then autogynephilia may not be an unusual sex interest of men, but a sex interest shared by both groups; it could be a characteristic of female sexuality. Thus, the presence or absence of autogynephilia in women is a significant finding in understanding the sexuality of both natal women and MTFs."

The women were asked if they identified with statements like:
  • I have been erotically aroused by contemplating myself in the nude.
  • I have been erotically aroused by contemplating myself wearing lingerie, underwear, or foundation garments (e.g., corsets).
  • I have been erotically aroused by preparing (shaving my legs, applying make-up, etc.) for a romantic evening or when hoping to meet a sex partner.
  • I have been erotically aroused by preparing (shaving my legs, applying make-up, etc.) for a romantic evening or when hoping to meet a sex partner.
It has been argued that Moser's research is flawed, as the women responding to his questionnaire live in a completely different social and emotional context than the "autogynephiliacs". That is: they are not really answering the same questions. 

That is actually quite true, but that does not change the fact that many of them get aroused by their own attractiveness.

Realistic, not autoerotic

But wait a minute, Jack! These women are clearly aroused by the idea of being sexy and attractive to a man. The crossdreamer on the other hand is attracted to the idea of being attractive to noone!

That is what Blanchard and his friends would like you to believe.

But if you take a look at all the erotic crossdreamer literature out there (TG ficition and caps), you will see that most stories lead up to a point where the male to female crossdreamer -- as a woman -- is considered attractive by someone, in the same way Ivar and Karen fantasize about a lover.

In the crossdreamer fantasies, as in the fantasies of "normal" men and women, the final objective is to have sex  with someone else.

But there is one catch: The male to female crossdreamer may believe that he (or she, if she fully identifies as a woman) has no chance of getting laid as a woman. Most gynephilic (woman-loving) male to female crossdreamers look nothing like the girl in their dreams.

Given that most of them love women, they have done everything they can to present as masculine men, and may even have succeeded in this.

Moreover, finding a woman that would like to take the role of the man during intercourse is possible, but very difficult, as both male to female and female to male crossdreamers do everything they can to blend in.

Some male to female crossdreamers  make love to men, but that again requires both looks and a kind of courage most MTF crossdreamers do not have.

In other words: Unlike Ivar and Karen, the MTF crossdreamer does not leave his room, as he/she has nowhere to go. That does not make him exclusively autoerotic, only realistic.

Back to the teenage wanker

Let us go back to our teenage boy and his use of erotic magazines. There may not be a living breathing woman in his life right now, so he masturbates to a model instead.

The women of Playboy and Penthouse are not real women, in the same way the imaginary lovers of a crossdreamer are not real women or men.

Moreover, the Penthouse Pet embody the teenager's  ideal fantasy sex object, not a living, breathing woman with a complex personality and demands of her own. When he wanks off to this fantasy, he is enjoying a dream that has little to do with the real world.

That does not mean that he is sexually attracted to photos of cover girls (imagogynephilia?). It simply means that he is a sexual being with needs.

This is also the case with MTF crossdreamers. They fantasize about dream loving and dream lovers, because that is what men and women do.

If MTF and FTM crossdreamers, in the same way as gays and lesbians, developed a culture where they were able to find each other, I am sure they would be able to combine sex and love, in the same way "normal" cis-people do.

The autogynephilia theory is a parody of the real world

What I am saying here is simply this: The supporters of the autogynephilia theory are so locked into their own prejudices that they fail to put the lives of MTF crossdreamers into a broader context, and you have to do that if you want to understand them.

Even so, Jack, the MTF crossdreamers who do make love to men, use them as dildos or masturbatory objects. They are not really making love to a real person. 

Hm, I wonder how many men who make love to women are using those women as  masturbatory objects. Quite a few, I believe. That may make these men amoral, in the eyes of many women, but hardly perverts.

In fact, modern women do the same thing. European women go to Greece or Africa to "use" men for pleasure, no love involved. This behavior is not classified as a paraphilia or perversion either. In fact, sociobiologists like Blanchard find this kind of behavior sound and normal.

There may be some gynephilic crossdreamers who make love to women, not because they are attracted to the male body per se, but because they seek the ultimate affirmation of their womanhood.

Non-transgender women also seek such affirmation. They project their ideal image of their prince and savior onto an unprepared man and expect him to play his part in their fantasy. Such relationships often crash brutally in the end, as no man can be Prince Charming all the time. She is bound to be disappointed. But she is, in fact using him as a fantasy prop.

Such relationships may become something more, however, if the two of them start exploring the real personality of the other. Infatuation may turn into real love, and I guess this may also apply to MTF crossdreamers. There are plenty of reports of MTF crossdreamers who were originally exclusively oriented towards women, who later on fall in love with men.

This violates Blanchard's theory, of course, which is why he says they are lying or deceiving themselves. But why take his word for this? The crossdreamers might just has well have been deceiving themselves before, not realizing that they were androphilic or bisexual. Or -- which I find much more likely --  sexuality and sexual orientation is much more fluid than people think.

Autoandrophilia among gay men

A very important part of the autogynephilia theory is that gynephilic (woman loving) transwomen are completely different from androphilic (man loving) transwomen and gay men. The etiology (cause) for their conditions is different.

The fact is that even Blanchard's studies show that there are quite a few androphilic transwomen who report "autogynephilic" fantasies, but let us put that aside for the moment.

If the offense of gynephilic transwomen is that they get aroused by the idea of being similar to their "love  object", does that mean that gay men who find themselves sexy as men are perverts too?

Apparently so, according to Anne Lawrence, one of the main proponents of the autogynephilia theory. She has written a whole paper on "anatomic autoandrophilia in a adult males", where such gay men are suffering from "a target location error."

I guess that this means that Richard Fairbrass of Right Said Fred is a pervert too, not because he is gay, but because he finds himself sexy.



Seriously, Jack, Richard Fairbrass is in a long term relationship. The song "I am to sexy for my shirt" is ironic, for God's sake!

My point exactly. What this video explores is one natural part of human sexuality. If self-admiration is taken out into the extreme, it becomes narcissistic and damaging.  But finding yourself sexually attractive is a good and healthy thing, and getting excited by the idea that someone else fancies you is only natural.

It is only people like Blanchard and Lawrence who insists on turning that which is natural and beautiful into a perversion.

Contextualize!

What's missing in the autogynephilia theory is a serious attempt at contextualizing. By this I mean  discussions of other possible explanations for the observed behavior that take the socioultural context and the personal life trajectory  into  consideration.

Could it be that androphilic transwomen (insultingly mislabeled as  "homosexual men" by Blanchard) are less likely to report crossdreaming, because they already have an active sex life where they are at least partly accepted for whom they are?

Feminine boys and men are stigmatized in gay culture as well, but there is room for fairies and drag queens and some amount of feminine expressions and interests. In other words: They can get laid playing the role of the effeminate gay man, even if this is not who they truly  are.

Indeed, androphilic MTF crossdreamers often seek out the gay communities in the big towns in order to explore their sexuality. In today's Western world they are less likely to try to adapt to the heterosexual norm and marry.

The gynephilic crossdreamer on the other hand, willl find little or no help in the gay community. He (she is she is transsexual) is therefore more likely to try to adapt to the norm. The female side is suppressed and is turned into crossdreamer fantasies.

Play and real life

Have you noticed how little kids often try out their gender roles? The little boy try to copy the talk and mannerisms of real or fictional men, looking tough and manly, and no one can mistake the joy he feels when he -- in his own eyes -- succeeds.

Little girls love to dress up as pink princesses not because they have a pink princess gene, but simply because doing so will lead to all those much coveted phrases:   "Ooooh, you are so pretty!" "What a sweet girl you are!"

This praise may be sexist, but it does affirm the girl's inner sense of being a girl, and it makes her extremely excited and flustered. I am not able to draw the line between this kind of arousal and the sexual one, simply because I think they exist on the same scale.

The commercial world knows this need well, which is why US women spend 7 billion dollars on cosmetics every year, and why toy manufacturers sell stuff like this:



Being excited and aroused from the feeling of being a beautiful and attractive person is natural and healthy. People like Blanchard poison that well of happiness, by turning normal human behavior into perversions. Now, that is truly a perversion!

See also: Noha Berlatsky: Why Are Trans Women Penalized For Body Fantasies Everyone Has?
Leon F Seltzer: Are You Your Own Sex Object?

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