August 14, 2013

A Frank Discussion of Autogynephilia

Being sexy feels sexy. That is natural.
Photo by Vladimir Nikulin
"Hopeful Kylee", a transseuxal woman videoblogging over at YouTube, has published a fresh and frank post on autogynephilia that should be of interest to all crossdreamers, also those who are not transsexual.

As me, Kylee simply argues that women too get aroused by the idea of being sexy and being attractive, of feeling desire and being desired.

How can a pre op transsexual woman not get aroused by the idea of being desireable, when sexuality is such a central part of the lives of nearly all people?

It seems to me  that too many of us has fallen for the myth that women are somehow less interested in sex than  men, less libidinous, and with sexual fantasies restricting themselves to the engaging in the missionary position with their faithful husband every Saturday night.

The sexual fantasies of women

I am currently working on a series of blog posts on the sexuality of women born women, and their sexual fantasies.

I am going through all the relevant research I can find. I am reading steamy romance novels, and erotica written by women for women.  I am also studying collections of female fantasies made by people like Nancy Friday.

Apart from the transformation part,  all the motifs of MTF crossdreamer fantasies and fiction are found among XX women. All of them, including the more extreme fantasies of humiliation and rape.

The existence of crossdream fantasies can therefore not be used to pathologize transsexual women.

Non-transsexual crossdreamers

As for the rest of us? Well, having erotic male to female transformation fantasies does not prove that you are wired like a woman. I guess you could argue that these fantasies draw on instincts and mental figures common to both sexes.

Still, the existence of women like Kylee, tells me otherwise. As she points out, the desire to transition is for her much more than a desire to be a sexy woman. It is much more fundamental, much more comprehensive and applies to all the aspects of being a woman.

This makes me suspect that also non-transsexual crossdreamers share some, but not necessarily all, of the trans women's fundamental identity.



The pure and the impure 

Kylee indicates that there may be two types of crossdreaming (my word, not hers).



If I understand her correctly, one type would be the sexual fantasies of  trans women like her, where crossdreaming is just one of an expressions of a broader female sex identity.

The other type would be those that limits their fantasies to the sexual side of the equation. These would be the "autogynephiliacs".

That does not make much sense to me, I am afraid.

I do see the difference between non-transsexual crossdreamers who feel at ease with their own male sex identity on the one hand, and the gender dysphoric on the other, but it is hard for me to believe that the origins of their crossdream fantasies are completely different.

People are complex beings. The difference could be caused by variation of intensity, of the number of biological and cultural factor involved in the development of their sex identity and of different degrees of psychological repression.

But it seems to me the content and intensity of these fantasies are too similar for the transsexual and non-transsexual ends of the spectrum to be caused by two completely different phenomena.  Which is exactly why I think all crossdreamers can learn something from trans women like Kylee.

Julia Serano on sexual fantasies

I will take the liberty of quoting the book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano.

She has made some of the most illuminating comments on the sexual fantasies of transgender people in general and trans women in particular.

Serano adds a cultural dimension to this. Note how her discussion is not limited to trans women. Much of what she writes applies to a wider spectrum of gender variant people.

She writes:

"I would argue that MTF spectrum trans sexualities make far more sense once we recognize them as being on the receiving end of cultural messages that sexualize femaleness and femininity, rather than being the perpetrators of such sexualization themselves.

Those who fit the so-called 'true' transsexual archetype (i.e. Blanchard's 'homosexual' group) typically identify as female  from an early age and transition relatively early in life. Because they identify as female for much of their lives, they are likely to absorb much of the same cultural encouragement that non-trans heterosexual girls do, such as becoming focused on being conventionally attractive and attracting boys.

On the other hand, MTF spectrum trans people who become aware of their cross-gender desires after they have already consciously accepted that they are 'boys' (i.e., Blanchard's 'autogynephilics') tend to have greater difficulty reconciling their female or feminine inclinations with societal messages that insist that men and women are 'opposite' sexes, and that girls are inferior to boys.

Rather than feeling entitled to call themselves female or to act outwardly feminine, they often develop intense feelings of shame and self-loathing regarding their cross-gender inclinations.

To cope, they may develop sexual thoughts and fantasies that associate their desire to be female/feminine with subordination, humiliation, and sexual objectification. If anything, these fantasies share more in common with the exhibitionistic, submissive, and rape fantasies experienced by many women rather than the sexually aggressive and objectifying fantasies commonly associated with men.

"Because the relentless sexualization of MTF spectrum trans people has become one of the most common tactics used to delegitimize our gender identities and expressions, many in our community have tried to disavow their sexual predilections. I believe that this approach is inadequate because it fosters a continuing shame regarding our sex and fantasy lives, and because it leaves a void which is too easily filled by the ideas of so-called experts (like Blanchard and Bailey) who are all too eager to put their own cissexist, oppositionally sexist, and traditionally sexist spins on our sexual thoughts and history."

I strongly recommend anyone interested in the relationship between crossdreaming and different types of gender variance to read Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity.

She is, like Kylee, one of the few activists who actively and deliberately breaks the taboo of discussing the crossdreaming of transsexual women. That is of help to all transgender people, including non-transsexual crossdreamers and crossdressers.



33 comments:

Lindsay said...

Hi Jack,

Are you assuming that all crossdreamers are TG or TS? I think that what Kylee is saying is that there is a difference between TS/TG crossdreamers and the non-TS/TG who are turned on by imagining having sex as a the opposite sex. And I agree with her.

TG/TS should have a lot in common. But for the non-TG/TS, it is possibly totally different. The world is full of examples of getting the same results from 2 totally different paths (human eyes and octopus eyes for example).

Lindsay

Jack Molay said...

@Lindsay

I am convinced the etiology (which is a fine scientific term for cause) is the same, although the desire to become a woman definitely will vary in intensity and expression.

Not all crossdreamers and crossdressers are transsexual, but they have something in common with the MTF transsexuals.

The main reason for me arriving at this conclusion is that many -- maybe even the majority of transwomen -- start out as crossdreamers and crossdressers, Kylee and Serano included.

Now, my judgment may be clouded here from the fact that I am gender dysphoric. Maybe I have more in common with Kylee than the "average crossdreamer". That would leave me in a grey zone, and wherever there is a grey zone like this one, it is very hard to uphold a strict division between two categories.

joanna Santos said...

This is a very complex topic Jack. The line between disphoric and non disphoric can be blurry which is why its easy to come up with the conclusion that its all rooted in paraphilia by the unscrupulous theorists.

I believe that all disphoria is rooted in the same place and only the intensity varies. If you are on the extreme end, you will transition and those less inflicted will deal with it via crossdressing or other coping methods.

What muddies the waters is that there are those who suscribe to AGP theory who vehemently deny that they are disphoric and for whom their gender variance is only a kink. But since we are all unique beings, it is very difficult to diagnose what each of us is experiencing in a scientific and measurable way.

This is why the internet is ripe with conjecture.

theautogynephiliac said...

The underlying premise is false, because the fantasies are not akin to what is thought to be archetypal "female fantasies".

Rather it is the case that the fantasies of "autogynephiliacs" are FUNDAMENTALLY constituted in the anxiety of one's association to emasculating femininity. It is this which also discloses it's etiology.

@Joanna Santos

"its easy to come up with the conclusion that its all rooted in paraphilia by the unscrupulous theorists."

- You seem to be the "unscrupulous" one in your politically motivated compartmentalization.

Jack Molay said...

'Rather it is the case that the fantasies of "autogynephiliacs" are FUNDAMENTALLY constituted in the anxiety of one's association to emasculating femininity.'

What you presenr here is a article of faith, not an argument.

If the fantasies of mtf crossdreamers were born out of a unique male fear of emasculation, they should be very different from female fantasies, as the female fantasies grow out of a very different sociocultural context.

The fact is that there is a total overlap. On the other hand, there is not an overlap between the crossdreamer fantasies and the stereotypical male fantasies.

This does not prove that mtf crossdreamers are wired as women, but it clearly undermines the idea that crossdream fanrasies can be used to 'prove' that these fantasies are driven by a typical male sexuality.

theautogynephiliac said...

@Jack

"What you presenr here is a article of faith, not an argument."

-As is your phenomenological interpretation of the very same fantasies. But lets not be relativistic, as you do fail to grasp how the fantasies function.

"If the fantasies of mtf crossdreamers were born out of a unique male fear of emasculation, they should be very different from female fantasies"

- And that is the case.

"The fact is that there is a total overlap."

- On one side you have the relation to oneself through the anxiety of emasculation, of which feminine symbolism is it's supreme object.

Where typically for women, there will be sexual stimulation by hunks themselves, turning the hunk on and so forth in itself. In the context of the fantasies in question for example, there is no sexual stimulation by the image of the hunk itself, but if the hunk does figure, it will be sexual arousal by the very idea of being sexually stimulated by him. Just another symbolism of masochistic emasculation which one subjects to one's self.

"but it clearly undermines the idea that crossdream fanrasies can be used to 'prove' that these fantasies are driven by a typical male sexuality."

- The context here is not male sexuality, but rather typical male anxieties of emasculation. Of which it's direct sexualization is constitutive of the given fantasies.

Jack Molay said...

@ theautogynephiliac

You present the traditional visual stimuli/sexual response view of sexuality -- in many way the same one as Blanchard.

This is why I went ahead and collected every collection of female sexual fantasies I could find.

Unfortunately I have not finalized the relevant blog posts yet (sometimes I spend several years on preparing blog posts), but hopefully it should be ready in a month or two.

Anyway: What is abundantly clear is that your model of sexuality is wrong, especially when it comes to female sexuality. Even Blanchard and Bailey admit as much.

Experiments show that women get turned on by the idea of someone having sex, more that the visual clues of the male body. Show them videos of women having sex, and bonobos frolicking, and they are very likely to react with arousal (although the arousal may be subconscious).

They do react positively to an erect penis, but it seems it is the message it sends about their own attractiveness that is the main factor, not the penis in isolation. (Which is, of course, the same response you find among MTF crossdreamers).

Women do get turned on by being sexy, feeling sexy, being perceived as sexy, and there is nothing wrong in that.

This is also why they have what Blanchard would be forced to call autoerotic fantasies: having larger breasts, getting turned on by the image of themselves in the mirror, wearing sexy lingerie. There are even those that fantasize about being the sexy, blonde, bimbo, even if they are nothing like that in real life.

I suspect that the difference between male and female sexual fantasies are caused by greater repression on the male side. But if we accept that the differences are inborn (as Blanchard does) the only reasonable explanation for the overlap between MTF crossdreamers and women in general, is that the crossdreamers have something fundamental in common with women. Their sexual desire is indeed female.

Following Ockham's razor, it therefore makes no sense to go for complicated and convoluted theories like autogynephilia or the fear of castration/emasculation.

Or, if we do, we will have to conclude that most women are autoerotic narcissists suffering from penis envy, which would make them identical to the image of the MTF crossdreamer you are presenting.

theautogynephiliac said...

@Jack

"You present the traditional visual stimuli/sexual response view of sexuality"

- The particulars of the examples of "archetypal" female sexuality are not the point, but rather how what is thought to be figments of female sexual (as is the case with potentially any feminine symbolism) function within the fantasies in question. In so far that potentially any female symbolism (sexually themed or otherwise), fundamentally figures through the context of social emasculation anxiety.

joanna Santos said...

Jack as ususal this thread will become very long because this person believes that gender disphoria is in of itself rooted in sexual target error and therefore a paraphilia. He desperately wants to believe its a kink because he's afraid to begin thinking about things like transition when he becomee older which is his own political motivation.

You'll get nowhere by responding and you will note the excessive use of psycho babble for no good reason.

Blnchard's work is very poor science and it is increasingly being recognized as s fail theory. Besides, describing something as target location error does not describe its origin or why only a tiny sliver of the male population is afflicted.

theautogynephiliac said...

@joanna Santos

"gender disphoria is in of itself rooted in sexual target error"

- That proposition is idiotic.

"He desperately wants to believe its a kink"

- Because it is.

"thinking about things like transition"

- The notion of "transition" has no inherent relevance to me, and especially it has no relevance to my specific fantasy niches.

"the excessive use of psycho babble"

- Like the psychosexual expression of repressed archetypal female identity?

joanna Santos said...

just because its a kink for you does not mean it is for everyone else so don't presume to speak for me. You get a big rise out of wearing woment's clothes? good for you but for some of us there is something more there and I dont need you or Blanchard defining that for me. For the record I have weighed transition seriously and not because that's a kink too.

joanna Santos said...

Jack I would also propose that you refrain from using the term Autogynephilia since through its use it gives implicit credence to the theory by Blanchard. That's his term but if people like autogynephiliac who are just fetishists are happy to adopt it for them that's fine.

The fact is NO ONE has successfully explained why only a tiny sliver of the male population suffers from gender disphoria. We don't how it originates and its both simplistic and idiotic to say that its simply rooted in sexual kink. That would work if it started during or after puberty which for many of us it begins much earlier. That connection is as of yet unexplained to my satisfaction as well as to the satisfation of any scientist worth his salt because there is NO scientific evidence for either transsexualism (GID) nor any other form of gender confusion.

People can conjecture all day long but it won't make any difference. So in the absence of anything solid peoplem will believe what they want to believe.

joanna Santos said...

But even if we were to assume its all rooted in sexual preference, that still requires an explanation because that implies a type of paraphilia and an abnormal sexual targeting. Sexually rooted or not what is it about the brain chemistry of some that causes this to happen? that is where my interest lies and just like with transsexualism we have not found one genetic marker or brain difference that explains why and how this anomaly happens.

joanna Santos said...

and for the record, I dont have a "repressed female identity". I suffer from an abnormality which I term gender confusion or disphoria which based on my personal experience is far more complex and layered than pure sexual kink. I also self identify as an HBS type IV transsexual.

I did'nt ask for my condition but I simply deal with it because it has always been my reality and I have come to accept it.

The fact that you self identify as a fetishist does not mean everyone else also does unless of course you don't believe there is such a thing as transsexuality.

theautogynephiliac said...

@Joanna

"I dont need you or Blanchard defining that for me."

- Like you and the crossdream discourse defining the sexual experience as an expression of repressed female identity?

"The fact is NO ONE has successfully explained why only a tiny sliver of the male population suffers from gender disphoria."

- Rather, in regards to this specific issue, no one has successfully explained why one thinks the way they do, beyond one simply coming to think the way that they do. You continuously fail to understand this.

"its both simplistic and idiotic to say that its simply rooted in sexual kink."

- All kinds of affiliations or convictions can have root in any possible aspect of one's being or experience. It is fine to propose that an object of sexual stimulation can become a general object of emotional affiliation and longing. In likelihood, this looks to be somewhat of a universal phenomenon.

"That would work if it started during or after puberty which for many of us it begins much earlier."

- Like my own sexually stimulating masochistic fantasies, which began around 4-6 years of age?

"But even if we were to assume its all rooted in sexual preference, that still requires an explanation because that implies a type of paraphilia and an abnormal sexual targeting."

- No, it doesn't.

"Sexually rooted or not what is it about the brain chemistry of some that causes this to happen? that is where my interest lies and just like with transsexualism we have not found one genetic marker or brain difference that explains why and how this anomaly happens."

- Have you heard of a thing called "psychology"?

joanna Santos said...

a "psychology" that only affects a tiny sub group of the population is not an answer sorry. transsexualism is certainly not explained away that easily and so you have not addressed the essential question.

But of course you have for yourself since you only have a fetish which you celebrate.

Those of us who are more strongly disphoric and have some commonality with the full blown transsexual are not explained away through "psychology".

joanna Santos said...

psychology deals with issues of much broader impact on the general population such as depression, trauma, post traumatic stress disorder, etc.

Transsexuality is not a simply rooted in psychology but likely also in biology but we have not yet found the genetic marker.

joanna Santos said...

oh and there are plenty of us who don't have masochistic fantasies. I am one of those people...

joanna Santos said...

If this were about simply "thinking the way I do then I would have gotten rid of my disphoria long ago since I never wanted it in the first place so very poor argument I am sorry to say...

theautogynephiliac said...
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theautogynephiliac said...

@Joanna

A thought is a psychology. Whatever it is about and whatever it does is psychological. Identification of any kind is a psychology. The thought which is connected to sexual arousal is a psychology, and so on.

"there are plenty of us who don't have masochistic fantasies."

- Yet an overwhelming majority of gender dysphoric "crossdreamers" present themselves as experiencing the very same fantasies as the rest. Only, usually differing in terms of how the masochism is presented. For example, as similar to the submissiveness in common female fantasies.

"If this were about simply "thinking the way I do then I would have gotten rid of my disphoria long ago since I never wanted it in the first place so very poor argument I am sorry to say..."

- Are you proposing that an emotional psychological affiliation can not have any bearing on one's psychology because it is psychological?

joanna Santos said...

I am afraid that the last sentence confuses me but if I interpret what you are trying to say, yes there is an emtional affiliation to your attraction to wanting to be female but that original affiliation was not my idea; it was planted there and is in my opinion almost precognitive. I tried to drown it many many times to no avail but finally succumbed to it being virtually imprinted in me. A connection that early, that profound and, for me, so completely devoid of prepubescent eroticism was not created by me but is likely part of my intrinsic wiring. Where does it come from? I have no clue. But you and I are clearly very different.

Senrub said...
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Jack Molay said...

@Joanna

Sorry about not following up your comments at once.

I have given "theautogynephiliac" the benefit of doubt, as I saw him posting in the same discussion as whyxlup over at another blog.
¨
Whyxlup has been banned from this blog for calling trans women fetishists.

I see now from theautogynephiliac's linguistic style and way of arguing that he is most likely whyxlup making yet another attempt at getting followers to his we-are-all-fetishists gospel.

I feel no need to go through this discussion for the third or fourth time. Like you, I find no convincing proof of gender dysphoria being purely psychological/lingusitic/semiotic or whatever.

We are flesh and blood as well, and sex is definitely a part of our animal nature.

Jack Molay said...

@Joanna,

You say:

"Jack I would also propose that you refrain from using the term Autogynephilia since through its use it gives implicit credence to the theory by Blanchard."

I agree with you here. I never use the term autogynephilia when referring to crossdreaming per se. I only use the term to refer to the theory of Blanchard.

This is also the policy of trans activists like Serano and James.

The term is included in the headline here for three reasons: (1) Kylee uses the word, and (2) she uses it to discuss the theory. (3) I sometimes include the term, so that crossdreamers searching for "autogynephilia" find this blog, and not the sexist crap written by Blanchard, Bailey and Lawrence

Jack Molay said...

@Joanna,

Like you, I do not think all crossdreamers are masochist.

My reading of TG fiction, caps and comics tells me that most crossdreamers, transsexual or not transsexual, express the same wide variety of sexual fantasies as most people.

I have one crossdreamer friend who writes lesbian love stories with no trace of BDSM. (Lesbians love his books!)

In fact, in much of TG fiction the transformed protagonist is proactive and strong, not submissive and weak.

The masochistic/submissive streak found in some of the TG literature is caused by the cultural suppression of female sexuality, not the other way around.

The MTF crossdreamers are brought up in a society where female sexuality is taboo. To express their own sexuality some therefore make use of the symbolism they were brought up with: The submissive whore.

This is found in Serano's story as well.

My reading of the fantasies of women born women affirms this understanding. Research shows that more than 50 percent of women have been aroused by rape fantasies.

So far women world wide have bought more than 70 million copies of the BDSM "mummy porn" novel Fifty Shades of Grey, a book that is very similar to the BDSM sub-genre of TG fiction.

In other words: The masochistic element found in some TG fiction and crossdreamer fantasies support the idea that the crossdreamers share a female sexuality, not that they are perverted men.


theautogynephiliac said...

@Jack

"Like you, I find no convincing proof of gender dysphoria being purely psychological/lingusitic/semiotic or whatever."

- The desires and distresses which is often called "dysphoria" is phenomenological, regardless of whether it has any biological underpinnings.

"Like you, I do not think all crossdreamers are masochist"

- Sorry but the fantasies really do seem to be fundamentally masochistic.

http://theautogynephiliac.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/a-phenomenology-of-arousal-by.html

"In fact, in much of TG fiction the transformed protagonist is proactive and strong"

- You fail to realise that such themes function in exactly the same way.

"The masochistic/submissive streak found in some of the TG literature is caused by the cultural suppression of female sexuality, not the other way around."

- Femininity is an additional or non-essential condition of emasculation anxiety.

"The masochistic element found in some TG fiction and crossdreamer fantasies support the idea that the crossdreamers share a female sexuality, not that they are perverted men."

- That line of argument is dead, give it a rest.

The fantasies are constituted as one's association to the anxieties of emasculation, of which femininity is it's supreme object. This very semiotic discloses it's etiology.

Being sexually aroused by something does not denote "perversion". So stop the crude manipulation.

Senrub said...
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joanna Santos said...

Thanks Jack. Autogynephiliac tries to paint all of us as masochistic and says all disphoria is simply rooted in psychology and "how we think" which I know is clearly and plainly wrong. I have no masochistic fantasies to speak of and my main joy comes out of presenting publicly as a woman and doing normal everyday things. I am much closer to a transsexual than this person is and while his fetish argument works for him, it is clearly not appicable to everyone. Most pre op transsexuals exeperience eroticsim at the idea of feminization but that does not automatically make them masochists and yes I am aware that its really Whyxlup writing...

theautogynephiliac said...

@Joanna

"Autogynephiliac tries to paint all of us as masochistic"

Yourself and the "crossdream" discourse tries to paint the fantasies as resembling what is thought to be archetypal sexual fantasies. I see such a representation as failing to address the workings of fantasies apart from superficial appearances. My understand in the sexualization of emasculation anxiety, not only subsumes the logic of the crossdream discourse, but also addresses the workings of the fantasies on a fundamental level.

"disphoria is simply rooted in psychology and "how we think" which I know is clearly and plainly wrong"

- I previously stated, "The desires and distresses which is often called "dysphoria" is phenomenological, regardless of whether it has any biological underpinnings."

"I have no masochistic fantasies to speak of... it is clearly not appicable to everyone. Most pre op transsexuals exeperience eroticsim at the idea of feminization"

- I previously stated, "Yet an overwhelming majority of gender dysphoric "crossdreamers" present themselves as experiencing the very same fantasies as the rest. Only, usually differing in terms of how the masochism is presented. For example, as similar to the submissiveness in common female fantasies."

Senrub said...
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joanna Santos said...

The last paragraph in autogynrphiliac's last post makes no sense: "the overwhelming majority if gender disphoric crossdreamers present themselves as experiencing the very same fantasies as the rest"....wrong.

Firstly how do you know this took a poll? I do not have any masochistic tendencies or fantasirs and consider myself to fit an HBS class IV typology so I don't fit onto that so called overwhelming majority.

Enjoy your own masochistic fetish but please refrain from speaking for others.

Sandi said...

A little late to this party, but I'm really only just getting caught up as I get up and running on my own little slice of the blogging world. I can sort of understand the "two types" argument, though I don't necessarily agree with it. My own blog leans heavy and hard on the sexual side of my crossdreaming. But, I do plan to talk about the "mundane" now and then because it's there, and it's important. Yes, I get supremely aroused, but there are also plenty of times when crossdreaming is simply an exercise in contentment, not sexual stimulation.

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