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?

30 comments:

Deborah Kate said...

This is a very interesting article, Jack.

I do think that the 'auto-' aspect of AGP is very interesting, and it should be explored non-judgementally. I agree that there is no clear-cut distinction between the autoeroticism of crossdreamers and that of 'normal' heterosexuals. But I think there may well be some difference, even if only of degree. The focus on the transformation of the self in trans erotica isn't quite matched in hetero erotica. The difference could be explored non-judgementally as 'target location difference' rather than 'target location error'.

Again I think it a shame that you frame your exploration with a demonising Blanchard and Lawrence, 'how dare they call us perverts' theme. It is hard not to suspect that your summaries of their beliefs add crude judgement. If we reject the judgement that autoeroticism is perverted (or if we reject the concept of a sexuality being 'perverted')then Blanchard and Lawrence are not actually calling us perverts. Does Lawrence really regard herself as 'a narcissistic autoerotic wanker'?

Anonymous said...

I dunno, the idea of modifying the theory to be a "target location difference" kinda strikes me as an ad hoc modification to save a theory that was never really well supported in the first place. The most significant evidence for target location error has been cross-gender arousal's existence itself; weakening the theory so it can account for the evidence that the stronger theory is contradicted by just doesn't seem wholly above-board to me.

tg_captioner said...

Have I masterbated while looking into a mirror? Sure. Do I do it often? No.. In fact, I don't believe it's really me being attractive to the female version of myself (self-love), sometimes it's nice to explore the fantasy of temporarily being a girl through crossdressing. If you could stick me into a stranger female body, I would be just as happy if not happier. In fact, give me a some good virtual reality goggles and an xbox 360 that will render a semi-realistic female body that mimics my moves, and I will also be happy. I don't think it has anything to do with the "female-me", unless you're referring to the fact that we're more attracted to being the female role that being with a female. Of course this is true, there are two brains in each of us. There is the actual brain gender, and then there's the sexual brain gender. There's a reason why many of us don't transition, we don't feel like women in everyday life, it's temporary. Sexually, we wish we could slip into a female body suit and have mad passionate sex as a real woman. This of course puts a strain on our thoughts. I can't begin to know how a normal person thinks, one who's actual gender matches their sexual one. It's even more confusing during sex because we think of ourselves as a woman, yet we're getting our cock stroked, so how are we a woman at the time? Sometimes I'm not, sometimes I'm simply a pretty shemale. I don't think our attraction is really even the gender itself, but the role. We appreciate beauty, and feminism, and softness, and hugs.. But once the deed is done, we're back to doing house projects.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtA2L5OndW8&list=FLzhfsgUpg1Qp_rWMXc1NSfg&index=6

This very thing, women do, and they do it with a frequency that might surprise. I would know, I'm female (my husband is a crossdreamer).

While understanding that this ad aims to target both male and female, the underlying eroticism of women being aroused by what they're wearing is considered neither narcissism or pathology, but if a man envisions the very same thing, look out!...we call it a pathology. Well, some do anyway.
It's not... you couldn't convince me otherwise.





Anonymous said...

p.s. I do understand clothing is not the only aspect of crossdreaming.

Sam Z said...

tg_captioner has actually a good point with that. I too believe there is a psychosexual female mindset inside of us like for many crossdressers. I mean, crossdressers experience the same arousal too but they find the outlet to feel desireable by crossdressing, we don't. So we want to picure us at something we could find attractive in order to actualize our desireableness. The dysphoria comes from misalignment between body and sex. Crossdreamers, who are non-dysphoric can be male-identified but share the same need to feel desireable by feminizeing fantasies similar to what crossdressers need.

Sam Z said...

...or that many of non-dysphorics simply are in the right body and all but we might have a naturally more heightened female hormones similar to what crossdressers have, and crossdressing or AG have to be expressed properly in order to feel good.. otherwise it might distract us from heterosexual relations.. but also if AG becomes more compulsive.

Jack Molay said...

@Deborah

I understand the need to discuss a wide variety of possible explanations for crossdreaming and not shy away from the unpleasant ones.

This is also why I gave Blanchard & Co the benefit of the doubt when I started this blog, to the point of using the term "autogynephilia".

Since then I have read everything Blanchard has written on the topic, as well as Bailey and Lawrence. At the moment I am reading Lawrence's new book.

It is impossible for me, from any stand point, academic or personal, to judge this as anything but prejudiced, bad science.

And yes, they are calling us "self-obsessed autoerotic wankers", admittedly not in those words. They package the message in nice science sounding terms like "autoeroticism" (wankers) and "paraphilia" (perverts), but the meaning is the same.

Lawrence's last book is called "Men Trapped in Men's Bodies", a phrase that is used to cover all male to female gynephilic crossdreamers and transsexuals. In other words, she continues to call transwomen (including herself) men. That is not only wrong, it is insanely offensive.

In fact, I strongly urge you to read that book, so that you see that I am not adding "crude judgement". It is all there!

The two of them remind me of the eugenicists in the early 20th century who by way of scull measurements and IQ tests "proved" that all non-Nordic people were "feebleminded", promiscuous and prone to crime.

God knows what has made Lawrence, who herself is a crossdreamer and a transsexual woman, end up as a supporter of this bigoted crap. Maybe she believes this is the only way she can find room for her own female self. If that is the case, she is the most eclatant example of what this kind of quasi-science does to people.

Now, of course, no one -- with the exception of people like me -- recognize her as a woman, not even Blanchard.

So I am sorry Deborah, I am going to continue to fight a theory that only destroys the little dignity crossdreamers and transwomen have left. I am not going to rest until that horrible term "autogynephilia" is taken out of the psychiatric manuals.

Lawrence argues that people like me suffers from "narcissistic rage". That is her way of belittling those that disagrees with her. This is actually the same tactic who argued that strong willed and independent women were suffering from "hysteria" and had to be sterilized.

I am appalled that we in 2013, after the persecution of women, colored people and homosexuals, still have to fight people like those two. But I guess that is human nature.

But all of this does not mean that I am not willing to discuss the "autoerotic" part of crossdreaming. In fact, that is what I set out to do with this blog post.

Jack Molay said...

@Anonymous

The lingerie video is another example of a depiction of women enjoying the look of themselves as beautiful and sexy.

I am sure there are those that would argue that this is a film made by sexist men, projecting their own filthy dreams onto women.

But the film is targeting women, and you -- as an XX woman -- clearly gets the message, so I take the clip as another indication of "autogynephilia" in women.

@Sam Z

I think you are right about there being a "psychosexual female mindset" in all MTF crossdreamers, but that this does not necessarily equal a female sex/gender identity.

I think it is necessary to go deeper into what people and crossdreamers actually men when they say the have -- or do not have -- a female identity.

I doubt that crossdreaming is caused by some kind hormonal imbalance when we are adult, though. But it might be that we were exposed to an unusual hormonal mix when in the womb.

Sam Z said...

@Jackmolay

Yes i meant to say "hormonal imbalance" in the womb. This is also why crossdressers might still feel like men but feel the need to crossdress.
Crossdressing arousal, i believe, is a form of AGP when one feels desireable and sexy.

Not having a female identity is often simply when there is no gender or sex mismatch.. But the strength of the identity also includes identifying with men socially, balance between masculinity or feminity, and personal attributes. I mean i just feel that my whole personality and the way i am fit in a male body and even thought i might have a feminine psychosexuality too and feel aroused by the thought of looking like a hot female, it feels rather uncomfortable to have that and i would rather be a normal male than a GG. I guess i would be a crossdresser, fetishtic or not, if i would feel more attractive enough as a male to crossdress.

Deborah Kate said...

Jack,

What do you think of the Wikipedia entry on Blanchard? It includes this comment:

"Blanchard supports public funding of sex reassignment surgery as an appropriate treatment for transsexual people, as he believes the available evidence supports that the surgery helps them live more comfortably and happily, with high satisfaction rates."

And this quote from Blanchard:

"We tried to go as far as we could in depathologizing mild and harmless paraphilias, while recognizing that severe paraphilias that distress or impair people or cause them to do harm to others are validly regarded as disorders."

joanna Santos said...

You are proving to be quite the digger jack. I like where you're going with this article as I always felt (and still do) that Blanchard and Lawrence's work to be a little too neat and simplistic. The more examples of AGP type behavior we find in conventional adults we find, the harder it bevomes to cstegorize us as paraphilics. I don't believe that my arousal is tied to love of my own image as a woman as much as an expression of my joy at being feminine and pretty; something which has always existed within me. In fact the arousal confused me for the longest time until I was able to put it into proper context....

Jack Molay said...

@Deborah

"Blanchard supports public funding of sex reassignment surgery as an appropriate treatment for transsexual people, as he believes the available evidence supports that the surgery helps them live more comfortably and happily, with high satisfaction rates."

Yes, he does. Like me, Blanchard (and Lawrence) does not believe that there is a cure for gender dysphoric crossdreamers. He has nothing else to offer them in the way of treatment at his clinic and therefore agrees to allow SRS for at least some of them. (But I have also reports of many being rejected).

But this does not mean that he recognizes them as women. Far from it! If we take his understanding of autogynephilia as given, he is actually castrating perverted men so that they can fulfill their sexual fantasy. If you accept the premise (which I not not) that can hardly be considered ethical!

Also remember that the transwomen who come out of the clinic must live with the fact that their "healer" does not recognize them as women. I guess that does a lot to your self esteem and public recognition as a woman.

"We tried to go as far as we could in depathologizing mild and harmless paraphilias, while recognizing that severe paraphilias that distress or impair people or cause them to do harm to others are validly regarded as disorders."

This was the argument that was used to keep homosexuality in the manual as well. It was removed in the end, as both gay activists and enlightened doctors realized that having homosexuality in any form in the manual led to the stigmatization of all homosexuals. In short: They accepted that it was not homosexuality that caused their mental suffering, but society's reaction to their sexual orientation.

Blanchard has now reintroduced the old way of arguing. In other words: Autogynephilia remains a mental disorder, but those who are not impaired by the disorder are not mentally ill. Who are they kidding? Do you think the bigots out there will understand the difference? I certainly don't,

Note that all woman-loving transwomen are impaired by their "autogynephilia". Gynephilic transwomen who admit to crossdreamer fantasies therefore risk being diagnosed with autogynephilia instead of gender dysphoria. That will lead to more stigmatization and stop many of them from getting SRS.

I recommend Andrea James' article on the methodological weaknesses of the autogynephilia theory for a more detailed discussion. You can also take a look at my discussion of the DSM-5 and my post on the interpretation of autogynephilia.

Deborah Kate said...

Jack,

Thank you for taking the trouble to reply so thoroughly and thoughtfully.

I don't think we are going to agree about this. I think there are other ways of looking at the two quotes you discussed than the way you do, but I won't take issue here. I am not convinced by Andrea James's article; it is so evident that she has an axe to grind that I cannot trust her interpretation to be balanced and just.

I have read some of Lawrence's work at annelawrence.com. I really do not see seething transphobia there, only scientific detachment. (Chapter Two of her new book is available to download for free, as is Blanchard's forward, which illuminatingly and succinctly presents his perspective on trans commentators' hostility to his work. See also Bailey's FAQ: her answers are not what readers might expect.)

'Auteroticist' is not synonymnous with 'wanker' and 'paraphiliac'is not synonymous with 'pervert'. The latter terms are intended to abuse, and I see no evidence that Blanchard or Lawrence dislike, disdain or intend to abuse autogynephiliacs (you may be able to refute this if you produce a quote to the contrary). It is you who chooses to finds the descriptions insulting, which is not the same.

When I see poeple being vilified my instinct is to give them a chance, to consider their point of view. But I am not intent on taking up a position as a supporter of Blanchard and Lawrence. I can understand the anger towards Blanchard of transsexuals who are certain that their feelings are not at all sexual. Concerning those of us who do identify as crossdreamers/autogynephiliacs, though, many of us - including yourself - have written about what an important good thing it was for Blanchard, whatever his motives, to name a sexuality that we do recognise as our own. This has greatly benefited our self-awareness, and has created the potential for a community, which you more than anyone have subsequently developed.

Beyond that, it doesn't feel important for me to know what is true and what is false in Blanchard's theory. What is important, though, Jack, is what I see as a major difference in our attitudes, which makes me a little sad. Whereas I think that crossdreaming/AGP is fine whatever its causes, you now think it needs legitimising through being attributed to an authentic femaleness; that if Blanchard's theory is right, then yes, we are indeed lowly perverts.

For a more positive response to Blanchard, Bailey and Lawrence, see Alice Nove's comments in her interview with you
here
.

Love,
Deborah xx

Lady Alexia said...

I have come to think I have the hormone imbalance thing that happens as the baby is forming in the womb. It would explain a great deal of what is in my mind. As I was in a teenage boy's body I would masturbate to the Swimsuit Illustrated models and the thing is, I would always come to thinking what it would be like to be like them. My most constant fantasy that I would become aroused to involved being turned into a statue and then these two women changing me from male to female by re-sculpting me. I masturbated so much to that dream. I watch porn now and want to be the woman in the scene, feel what she feels. It doesn't matter if it is male or female, I want to experience sex as a woman with them.

Thank You Jack for always expressing the variety of people that are some form of TG.

Jack Molay said...

@Mitchell

"You also seemed pretty focused on normality, and nature -- but it is normal, and natural for humans to do all kinds of things that we probably shouldn't, and may be a problem."

There are two sides to this: the factual and the cultural.

The fact is that there is so much diversity and variation among human beings that it is possible to define any kind of true normalcy. This calls for great humility and extreme tolerance, as far as I'm concerned.

The problem is that there are too many people out there that need a sense of normalcy. The diversity scares them, and they therefore go out into the world categorizing, forcing men and women into boxes of their own making, not Nature's or God's.

This applies to the ayatollahs of Iran, the Pope, Putin and his goons, and scientists like Blanchard. They all use oversimplified models of human sexuality and sex identity to define some of us as "the other" and "the sick".

The reason I spend so much time on describing the diversity of "normal" sexuality in both humans and animals, is to prove that what they consider strange and unnatural is actually quite common and natural.

One of the reason we got female emancipation (and the US Irish and African-American presidents) was that the claims made by priests and scientists on women, Irish and black people being weak and "feeble-minded" was just wrong.

I am afraid some of my crossdreamer friends forget that science, in the same way as politics and religion, are cultural phenomena that may be misused by bigots.

Too many transgender also reproduce the prejudices of the culture in which they were raised. I cringe when I hear you say you could just be a perverted wanker. None of the crossdreamers I have learned to know are.

Jack Molay said...

@Alexia

Thank you for your kind words!

"My most constant fantasy that I would become aroused to involved being turned into a statue and then these two women changing me from male to female by re-sculpting me."

That is actually beautiful imagery. To me this looks like your mind's way of solving both the bodily mis-alignment (re-sculpturing) and the cultural (being included in the fellowship of women). And since sex is a natural part of sex, it becomes arousing. There is nothing perverted in any of this.

Sean Sweeney said...

@Deborah - It seems to me that you are drawing a distinction without a difference. To all but a relatively small subset of scientists, perversion and paraphilia are the same. Something listed in the DSM is a mental illness... saying it is a harmless illness is not actually a whole lot less stigmatizing. By your reasoning, we should put homosexuality back in the DSM. It is a sexual variation from a perceived norm, just a different form of target location error.

You want statements that Blanchard and Co. have a problem with trans folks... look to their statements on how to handle gender dysphoria in younger people. To them, this is not a variation, this is an illness to be cured if possible and treated if the person is too old to cure.

@Micheal The Buddha didn't condemn? He is worried about them tempting others, bans them from ordination, lists their primary sexual options as sexual misconduct... That is not just a practical concern. He is saying they are morally inferior (they will tempt others in detrimental ways) and unworthy of sexual pleasure. Please tell me why he is cool again.

Deborah Kate said...

@Sean

I am not in favour of describing AGP as a mental disorder. I find the term existentially invalidating, and based on a normative model of sexuality.

But I do think that trans commentators reinforce that normative model, when they take a 'we are women, not perverts' line, implying that 'perverts' is an appropriate description for other sexual minorities. (And also, I think, encouraging a de-emphasizing of sexual trans feelings.)

What do psychiatrists mean when they describe something as a mental disorder? Do the mean that they hate sufferers and want to humiliate them, or do they mean that they recognise the damage it causes lives, and think psychiatric help appropriate (in serious cases that evidently are causing distress); cf. depression?

How would the many people who wish to be cured of their autogynephilia or dysphoria categorise what it is that they want to be cured of? I think that crossdreaming is fine, that the only problem is social attitudes to it, but others disagree with me, and in the case of dysphorics the suffering is surely very real.

Jack Molay said...

@Mitchell

Thanks for interesting comments about science philosophy and Buddhism.

You could actually use the Buddhist concept of "maya" to describe my understanding of science.

I do not believe in "scientism", the belief that science provides objective truth. Science ultimately tries to fixate or imprison a reality that is always fluid, changing, and beyond any concepts we may come up with.

With the exception of fundamentalists like Dawkins, I find few serious scientists who have such a view of scientific findings. You point to Feyerabend. I could point to Popper, Kuhn, Gadamer and a lot of phiosopher that would agree with us in this.

For me science is -- at best -- a work in progress, a tool that helps us sharpen our minds and forces us to face our own prejudices.

But it can also be used to reinforce bigotry -- cp. all the researchers who "proved" that women were weak, Jews feebleminded, and gay men autoerotic child molesters.

I believe a blog like this one can use science for two purposes:

1. To identify and discuss concepts that we can use to understand ourselves in a better way.

2. To deconstruct and criticize scientific theories that take away our humanity and our dignity and causes us harm.

To me the autogynephilia theory is one of the best examples of contemporary theories that reduce living and breathing human beings into caricatures. The autogynephilia theory is a mirage, a phantasm, a seductive illusion that tries to reduce a rainbow of a million colors into black and whitt. It is maya.

Sam Z said...

Jack,

I might have asked you this earlier but i need clarification..

I have always been under the impression that "having an erotic interest in ones image as a woman" or being aroused by having "sex as a woman", for the transwomen, are about being aroused by these actions themselves of being a woman rather than just adapting the identity of a woman and being aroused by the whole context of sexual activity.. that has actually made me confused.

I doubt there are cis-women who are aroused by themselves, very rarely at least.
Does this article mean that both cis-men and -women get aroused by sex as their real selves or that "the erotic interest in their image" is about making themselves attractive to pursue a partner? Are Karens or Ivars reaction to their looks in the mirror excitement, accompanied with arousal of being the attractive bait to each other, or is it that they have an erotic interest towards themselves as a sexual orientation?

Jack Molay said...

@Sam Z

I am currently working on a series of blog posts about female sexuality. I have gone through all the literature I can find on women's sexual fantasies, including fiction and collections of female fantasies (like the ones of Nancy Friday).

There is now no doubt in my mind that women can get aroused by (1) the idea of being sexy, (2) the affirmation brought by men and women who find them attractive and (3) their own bodies.

Women masturbate as much as men, and they use fantasies to get off.

The fantasies of regular women are more or less identical to the ones of MTF crossdreamers.

For obvious reasons they do not get turned on by the idea of being turned into a woman -- they are women --- but they may get turned on by the idea of having -- let's say -- larger breasts or looking more sensual.

Blanchard & Co want to turn this into an issue of autoeroticism. But if being turned on by the feeling of being sexy is autoerotic, then all healthy female sexuality is autoerotic. And if that is the case, it is impossible to distinguish between the MTF crossdreamer sexuality and the sexuality of women on this basis.

This discussion has derailed because people focus too much on the arousal crossdreamers get from imagining themselves as having the body of the opposite sex.

As I see it, this arousal is to be expected, if your basic identity is fully or partly associated with the other sex.

In this scenario it is having the body of your target sex that makes real sex possible. Because of this the transformation itself becomes erotic.

Women do not often fantasize of having another body (although it happens), but they do get aroused by the idea of playing a different role. A lot of women get aroused by scenarios like:

- being the slut
- being the femme fatale who dominates men
- being the helpless farmer's daughter who is raped by the lord of the manor
- being kidnapped by a sect that uses her for a sexual pagan ritual
- being a stupid bimbo (normally when the woman is nothing but a bimbo i real life)

and so and so forth.

In all these instances the dream scenario alone is enough to make the woman horny.

Add the necessary physical transformation to these dream scenarios and you are looking at common MTF crossdreamer erotic fantasies.

As soon as we stop insisting on MTF crossdreamers having a stereotypical male sexuality the paradoxes disappear.

theautogynephiliac said...

@Jack

"This discussion has derailed because people focus too much on the arousal crossdreamers get from imagining themselves as having the body of the opposite sex.

As I see it, this arousal is to be expected, if your basic identity is fully or partly associated with the other sex. "

- You seem to have studied the fantasies of female sexual fantasies, but not our own fantasies. Of which the symbolism of both "female bodies" and "female psychological archetypes" are not representative of the fantasies themselves, but are rather common themes determined by a single semiotic structure: The association of oneself to the anxieties of emasculation, whereby "feminine" symbolism is it's supreme object.

When analysing a fantasy narrative, every cue of sexual stimulation functions in accordance with this determinant structure.

"As soon as we stop insisting on MTF crossdreamers having a stereotypical male sexuality the paradoxes disappear."

- This has already been refuted. The context is not male sexuality, but rather stereotypical male anxieties of emasculation, of which it's direct sexualization is constitutive of each instance of arousal in a fantasy.

Lindsay said...

I know that there are crossdreamers that do have "anxieties of emasculation" and I can see how and why they are turned on by this, but I can say emphatically that I am not. I'm just enjoying the sexuality that other women enjoy. I don't see why there can't be more than one cause of crossdreaming. It's entirely possible to have multiple ways to get to similar results. Trying to say that there are common underlying traits/causes of crossdreaming is probably pointless.

Lindsay

Sam Z said...

Jack,

Thx for your reply,

1. Still, when i read on the web, very few cis people get 'turned on' by their own bodies - that is autosexual by definition.
Are you using the word 'arousal' to describe a sexual reaction or the overall psychological reaction to something exciting or something else? The word seems to have different meanings.

2. Do you think mens sexuality is similar to womens sexuality? Like, do men also get aroused by the thought of being sexy for women or having muscles and being powerful?

theautogynephiliac said...

@Lindsay

"I know that there are crossdreamers that do have "anxieties of emasculation" and I can see how and why they are turned on by this, but I can say emphatically that I am not."

This has already been addressed repeatedly. It is counter productive to have to keep on going over the same ground. There very fantasies in question are enjoyed by both "mere" fetishist, to the most dysphoric persons. Only differing in how the masochism is interpreted, for example the the dysphoric persons will tend to interpret as the submissiveness common to typical female fantasy. In my "Phenomenology of sexual arousal by feminization" I am certain that the fundamental workings of the fantasies have been totally elucidated for the first time.

@Sam Z

Sup' Sam. In terms of being attractive, how I appear to myself, or how I perceive I am perceived by others, does not figure for me sexually. In the context of my "fetishism", the theme-niche of being attractive does not figure either.

I think there are at least two kinds of ways one could be "autoerotic". The first being that a facet of oneself, for example, one's hand, as manifestly stimulating arousal (just like tits may usually). Another phenomenon which could be "autoerotic" is the particular way in which something may be related to one's self. Like people who are into "being animals", which they would experience as associating oneself through a animalistic symbolism... The very idea of being hairy, the sight of oneself wearing dog ears in the mirror.

Lindsay said...

"This has already been addressed repeatedly. It is counter productive to have to keep on going over the same ground. "

I'm just stating my opinion. Is there anything wrong with that?

Except that your "theory" (and that's all it is, and it's one of many) doesn't apply to everyone. Why can't you just admit that your model breaks down in the case of some (maybe all) dysphorics. I agree that it might explain people with fetishes. Just because it works for your own case don't try to extrapolate it to everyone. Your constant droning is doing nothing to convince anyone.

Also, I don't see masochism having anything to do with my fantasies. Are you being misogynistic in implying that all women are masochistic?

Lindsay

theautogynephiliac said...

@Lindsay

"Except that your "theory" (and that's all it is, and it's one of many) doesn't apply to everyone."

- It applies to the fantasies in question. Whether mine, Rebecca Molay's or otherwise.

"Why can't you just admit that your model breaks down in the case of some (maybe all) dysphorics."

- Dysphoria is an additional and non-essential psychology in relation to the fantasies. The difference is interpretation of the very same fantasies. A dysphoric person will ideologically tend to conflate "submissive female sexuality", whereas it is emasculation anxiety for everyone else.

"Just because it works for your own case don't try to extrapolate it to everyone. Your constant droning is doing nothing to convince anyone."

- The "crossdream" discourse is a reaction to autogynephilia, and I react to them both. All extrapolate.

"Also, I don't see masochism having anything to do with my fantasies."

- You can't deny or refute what I propose if you don't understand how it actually addresses the fantasies.

Sam Z said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sacha Traviata said...

Most normal men love to see there dick going in a hole...so they are excited when they see their dick in action !

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