This is a win!
“Listen to trans people’s stories!” is a common response when women hint at the possibility that being trans is not exactly the same thing as being female.
As someone who was married to a “trans woman” and tried to make it work, I can’t be accused of not listening to trans people’s stories. I heard them in the most honest, most intimate setting possible, over and over again for more than a year.
As someone who has attended trans support groups, I can’t be accused of not listening to trans people’s stories. I heard them straight from the source: trans people in trans spaces.
As someone who has attended trans spouses’ support groups, I’ve heard more intimate, honest, letting-the-guard-down “trans stories” than anyone else I know, from women who wanted to stay married to trans people–the people who are most invested in hearing and understanding trans stories.
And as it turns out, the “trans story,” or at least the “trans woman story,” is overwhelmingly a story about sexual paraphilia.
A paraphilia is an “experience of intense sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations, fantasies, or behaviors.”
The majority of “trans women,” especially the ones who did not consider themselves gay at a young age, are sexually attracted to feminine clothing and to themselves in it. Most started with erotic cross-dressing. At some point later they became more interested in looking in the mirror than looking at their partner. For people born male, the line between “transgender” and “transvestic fetishist” is by no means a clear one.
Some are also turned on by acting “girly,” by the bodily functions of women such as menstruation, by the idea or reality of having breasts and constructed sex organs via hormones or surgery, or by several of these in conjunction.
Their marriages break down in large part because fetishism, by definition, is an interest that takes over and pushes out other, normal, partner-centered intimate activities.
This is hard for some to believe because we spouses of “trans women” often stay silent, lest we get mowed down by an angry mob with torches on social media. Over something we’ve experienced directly, and they’re merely guessing about!
It’s also hard to believe because “trans women,” my ex included, are out there marching on the platform that the sexual component is a dirty lie (all the while at home asking me to pull down his lace panties and call him a bitch).
Of course that’s the official story. The true story–the sexual one–threatens to open a real dialog on whether trans women should access women’s locker rooms and other spaces.
But the medical community is well aware of the sexual story. A phenomenon called “autogynephilia,” a “male’s propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought of himself as a female,” “underlie[s] transvestism and some transsexualism.” Although activists have tried to discredit the term, a search on something like Pub Med shows it’s alive and well among medical professionals.
Here, transsexual psychologist Anne Lawrence compiles 249 first-person accounts of trans women describing sexual attraction to themselves in feminine clothing or situations.
Did you know that men with fetishes and paraphilias tend to have more than one? And that “transvestites” fit that model?
Please note that all above links are to studies or medical or legal sources, not blogs or opinion pieces.
You might ask why the medical community supports transition in light of the fetish connection. Here are some interesting facts:
1. Up until recently, they did in fact oppose transition for fetishists. That changed after pressure by transgender activists to eliminate such “gatekeeping.” It’s worth thinking about why the transgender community does not want to ferret out fetishists from their midst, nor to see them denied transgender medical services.
2. Prescribing hormones to transgender people is still an off-label use. That means hormones are not approved by the FDA for transition. Doctors who prescribe them in such a way do so in contradiction of available research.
3. Many medical professionals are sounding the alarm about the lack of “robust evidence” behind the current protocol, some calling it a “medical scandal.”
Now let me make one thing clear. I don’t necessarily think fetishists are awful people. I’m not here to make judgments on paraphilias one way or the other. I think that topic is complicated, and in any case, it’s not my area of expertise.
But I also don’t think we have to pretend that men with fetishes are women. After all, “Fetishism is seen almost exclusively in men” per the DSM.
So yes, listen to trans women’s stories. You could start with the ones where numerous “trans women” on Reddit confess getting “spontaneous boners” from wearing women’s clothes and thinking about transition. (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 +)
We can listen to trans people’s stories, be fearlessly honest, protect the rights of trans people, and protect the rights of women and girls all at the same time.
No one should be denied employment or housing over how they dress. No one should be beaten up over what they look like.
But protecting the rights of trans people doesn’t have to mean redefining “woman” as anyone who gets a hard-on while wearing a dress.
Protecting the rights of trans people doesn’t have to mean making a civil rights crisis out of a tampon fetishist’s desire to share a women’s locker room with pre-teen girls.
Listen to trans people’s real stories, not the lies that are sanctioned by the activist community.
And when you do, consider whether those stories are the stories of women.
My ex-husband was aroused by wearing lingerie.
I used to refrain from saying that. First, I refrained in order to be respectful of his privacy. But then he decided to make a three-year post-divorce mission of dragging my name through the mud on social media. He decided to reveal my alleged dirty laundry–like that I called him a “tranny”–without revealing his dirty laundry–like that the entire reason I called him a “tranny” was that he requested it, in the bedroom, for a sexual thrill (I had used the word zero times before that request, despite his tossing in a completely fictional story that suggests otherwise). So I’m less motivated to respect his privacy now.
Then, I refrained from saying it because he’s a “trans woman” and it’s become strictly verboten–illegal, in some places–to say things about “trans women” that they don’t want said. Even if they’re true. Even if the “trans women” themselves said the same thing last week on transgender forums.
My ex-husband was also aroused by being called insulting names, like “bitch” and “slut” alongside the aforementioned “tranny.” He was also aroused by being tossed around and mistreated in the bedroom.
He was also aroused by “sissification” porn, a genre in which men are forced into wearing women’s clothes as a humiliating punishment for some offense.
Notice the conflation of the feminine with the demeaning.
My ex-husband went on to become a prominent transgender activist in my area who loves to repeat lines like “being transgender isn’t a sexual thing.”
A man once wrote to Dan Savage and said that he wanted his girlfriend to squeeze his testicle really hard until it popped.
Emasculation fetish is a powerful thing.
There’s a paraphilia called “cuckolding” in which men like to watch their wives have sex with other men. Judging by their posts on “cuckolding” forums, they especially enjoy it if the other man is extra masculine and virile and if he manhandles the wife. Cuckold-fetishists like being tied up and otherwise prevented from interfering with the sex they’re watching. There’s a strong element of being “shown up” by this “better,” more alpha male.
That’s reflected in the non-fetish, general dictionary definition of the term:
Cuckold: a man whose wife is sexually unfaithful, often regarded as an object of derision.
In biology, it applies to male animals who “unwittingly invest parental effort in offspring that are not genetically their own.” In other words, a sucker. A fool. Emasculated.
On a cuckolding forum recently, a man expressed his glee at discovering that his pregnant wife’s “bull”–a name given to the man who has sex with the wife–is HIV positive. The cuckold fetishist has been “rock hard” ever since, he enthused, to know that “only a thin strip of latex” protects his wife and child from wasting of an incurable, debilitating disease.
Misogyny is behind the emasculation fetish.
It is misogyny to conflate “female” with “demeaning.” It is misogyny to call your wife’s lover a “bull,” as if she is some animal you’re arranging to have bred. It is misogyny to get a hard-on at the thought of infecting your wife with a virus.
Emasculation might seem, at worst, like a disrespect of men rather than of women. But why is it disrespectful to treat men like women? Because of misogyny.
The power of the emasculation fetish comes from the indignity of being “feminized.” Women are for abusing, not men! Imagine wanting to be as worthless as a woman!
The risk of being caught dead and cross-dressed is a sexual thrill for some men. It’s the titillating fear of emasculation.
Studies have shown that cross-dressing has a high comorbidity with other fetishes and paraphilias. Almost as if it is a sexual thing!
On Reddit, a man once posted that he wanted a surgeon to remove his testicles and replace them with fake testicles. He frequented transgender forums, for what it’s worth.
Are you detecting a trend?
Do I think my ex-husband is a terrible person for acquiring an emasculation fetish? Do I think he’s going to choke himself to death or jack off to exposing another person to injury? Do I think he has ten other paraphilias?
Am I a “kink-shamer?” Much as I hate that word, no. No, I am not.
That’s why for a time, I called my ex-husband a “tranny” and a “bitch” and threw him around in the bedroom at his request.
I’ve indulged my share of kinks. I’ve had my share of kinks. As long as people act out their kinks with consenting partners, and without hurting anyone else, it’s not really my bag to call out kink behavior.
But do I think that fetishistic behavior in males equates to womanhood?
No. It does not.
If anything, it illuminates the very maleness of the thing.
Thought experiment: How many women do you know who get wet at the thought of having their ovaries removed?
“Fetishism is seen almost exclusively in men,” says the DSM, the health care field’s authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders, which include fetishes and paraphilias.
Getting off on misogyny is not the same thing as being female.
It’s practically the opposite.
For approximately twenty-five years, I believed I had straight hair, even though I have wavy hair. How did this happen?
It all started when I was a kid. Back then, I really did have straight hair (you can see it in photos). And my mom never cut it, so it was long. Down-past-my-butt long. My mom beamed when talking about her daughter’s beautiful, long, thick, straight hair. Other people complimented it a lot, too.
When I became a teenager I cut it and started getting perms, like you do in the 80s. That lasted off and on until my twenties. I liked perms even after I stopped liking 80’s “big hair” because perms gave my lifeless hair some texture and seemed to make it easier to “fix.” (Fixing it was important to me back then.)
So I don’t know exactly when my hair started getting a wave in it.
I do know that when my hair got a wave in it, I continued to believe it was straight and to say it was straight.
There were plenty of clues to the contrary. Like the stubborn wave in it that caused me to need to straighten it if I wanted it straight. But I had some weird justifications for that. First, the wave was a big wave, not a small one. I think I thought of wavy hair as containing cute, small waves that repeated and looked nice when you left them alone, not as containing one or two annoying big waves that just served to make your hair look messy.
Secondly, I’d sometimes say my hair was bendy like fishing line. It wasn’t that it had a wave in it. It was that I had leaned on it funny, or something, and it had bent, and it was wont to retain such a bend more readily than other people’s hair.
I think, in some strange way, I identified as a person with straight hair, because I’d once had straight hair and to some extent was rewarded for having straight hair. Andy Worhol once said something about the trap of “self-imitation.” He was talking about art. But maybe there was something similar at work.
Anyway, I was at my hairdresser only sometime in the past few years and I mentioned something about my straight hair.
“Oh honey,” he said. “Your hair isn’t straight. It’s wavy.”
I asked if he was sure. I mentioned that it was bendy like fishing line. He rolled his eyes.
“Your hair is wavy, my dear,” he said.
“It’s quite wavy.”
Then I realized he was right. The damn hair was wavy. That’s why it was hard to fix. That’s why it retained a bend. That’s why it looked wavy.
Good lord. Why had I been spending decades telling myself that it was straight?
It’s instructive to face that I went so long believing something untrue, that I sincerely held a belief that needed correcting. It helps explain why other people think things that are untrue in the face of so much evidence to the contrary.
As I’ve mentioned in a recent post, a lot of people think that people like my ex (straight, late-onset, masculine, geeky) are “faking it.” He’s not. He thinks he’s a woman (though he clearly crashes against some cognitive dissonance once in a while as evidenced by some of the things he says). He also thinks other people can tell he’s a woman. This isn’t even a belief that he passes, but a belief that the woman-magic is seeping out of him in a recognizable way. He also believes I’ve called him names I’ve never uttered in my life. He’s also more or less heard voices.
I have examples. But you’ll have to wait for the book. (Soon.)
Honestly, it’s been one of the hardest things about it all. If he was just a dick (I mean he’s that too, now, but), it would be easier to write off the whole experience as me accidentally getting involved with a dick. Instead, a person who was once kind and thoughtful and seemed to be facing reality has drilled so far into a bizarre inner world that he’s lost his personality, his grip on reality, and his connection to some of the friends and family who have shown him the most love.
My straight hair delusion was an easy-ish one to fix, all things considered. Not like being forced to update your beliefs on the existence of God or the fact that what your friend did that one time when you were asleep was assault. (I’ve had to do both of those.)
And yet, I went for a remarkably long time not seeing something obvious and benign and objective about myself that was right in front of my face (literally, sometimes).
What if I had insisted everyone see my hair as straight? What if I’d gotten mad at my hairdresser for his hair-phobic views? What if I’d said it was all of dire importance to me? Would people have stopped seeing the wave in my hair?
Identity is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. My ex once said to me, “I identify as a woman, same as you.”
But I didn’t identify as a woman, and I said so. That’s not to say that I identified as something else, but that I did not identify at all when it comes to gender–it all seemed like a set of made-up stereotypes that I found irrelevant. Might as well ask me which Harry Potter character I’m most like when I don’t read fantasy novels. Yes, I’m watching the shitstorm that can occur when one woman even alludes in a tolerant way to another woman’s belief that “sex is real” (even though that’s not why I chose that example; It’s one I’ve used before).
“Sex is real.” That’s what’s been named as the most hateful and criminally intolerable claim of our times. Not the spewing of “you cunt” and “suck my dick” and “die” that has been hurled in return, but the relatively boring “sex is real.” That’s how far things can go when people are committed to believing things that are untrue.
Anyway, I didn’t know what identifying as a woman was like, much to my ex’s ire and to his certainty that I was in some way lying to invalidate him.
I also don’t identify as a white person. Again, not because I’m something else, but because that would be weird. People can see my white face and they’re going to behave accordingly. They don’t need my commentary one way or the other.
If I were going to bother to identify as something, I’d identify as an artist. But I don’t, because I haven’t done any art in a while, and because I know that other people are only going to identify me as an artist if they see me make art, and further, if they like that art well enough that they feel it has some cred. I don’t get why I’d try to coerce their view, outside of just trying to make some good art and show it to them and hope they adopt the view on their own.
That’s what identifying is all about, isn’t it? Making a claim to something that isn’t obvious, is perhaps even counterfactual. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have to identify. People would just know.
That’s the problem, for me. Coercing others’ views on things they’re not inclined to believe, or worse, getting them to pretend to agree, is squarely on the dishonesty spectrum. And if there’s anything I’ve come to learn about myself over the last few years it’s that I hate being dishonest.
I only ever do it under duress, like telling a hiring manager that I’m excited about the project when maybe I just need to pay the bills and feed myself. Someday I’d like to shed even the little white lies required of me by capitalism and other compelled social arrangements. Why not? What’s so scary about a world in which people tell the truth? I personally think it would revolutionize everyone’s bravery, compassion and ability to make a difference in the world. It’s my little utopian fantasy.
I have no interest in identifying as anything. I have no interest in coercing anyone’s thoughts or language. I’m interested only in interacting with people as free agents, who are free to voluntarily accept, reject, or question whatever I throw out there. Otherwise, why not check out of real life and surround myself with agreeable bots on social media?
Actually, that seems to be more or less what a lot of people are doing.
I’m going to stick with honesty as best as I can.
If someone comes along and tells me my hair is wavy, maybe they’re right. Maybe I have something to learn from them.
Is my hair wavy? Is yours? Why can’t we have those conversations? I’m not afraid.
There’s an “asexual” in my class and one in the Pride group where I work.
It’s easy to be snarky. There are so many snarky things to say about asexuals:
- Asexuality isn’t a sexual orientation. There are gay men who don’t want sex, lesbians who don’t want sex, bi people who don’t want sex and straight people who don’t want sex. Asexuals know they have an orientation apart from “asexual;” that’s why they invented the words heteroromantic, homoromantic et al. It isn’t necessary to create a new identity every time someone wants or doesn’t want something.
- Asexuals aren’t an oppressed minority. No one who might hire you or rent you an apartment can tell whether you like sex or not. It isn’t stamped on your face. Maybe your asexuality manifests in your being perpetually single (though it needn’t), but being single is something everyone, gay, straight or bi, is at some point (and often over and over again).
- Because of all this, asexuals who join the LGBTQ+ movement look a lot like just another flavor of straight person who inexplicably seems to crave queer cred.
- Almost every “asexual” I’ve ever met has changed their mind within a few months to a couple of years. It’s almost as if they were going through the perfectly normal experience of not being tortured with constant arousal and/or finding other things in life to prioritize.
But goddess love ’em, in the end I believe asexuals are reacting to a toxic sexual culture.
They are mostly young, mostly female, and mostly heterosexual. The messages they’re receiving from society in the age of social media and “sex-positive” wokeness are absolutely nauseating to anyone with a shred of decency at their core. The males in their age range are completely unsuitable for having sex with. It’s always been a challenge for women to find caring and reciprocal partners, but female pleasure doesn’t even seem to be on the collective radar anymore.
Not having sex under these circumstances is the most rational response a woman can have.
Here’s what a sexual culture that’s toxic to women looks like:
- This video of a bunch of inexcusably clueless and selfish men tee-heeing about how they can’t be bothered to make their partners orgasm.
- Porn that’s more violent than ever and more ubiquitous than ever.
- A cultural stigmatization of “kink-shaming” that has bafflingly come to mean that committing cruel and unusual sex practices is preferable to questioning cruel and unusual sex practices.
- An atmosphere where a high school teacher friend of mine found a girl crouching under and chained to a boy’s desk, surrounded by a number of other boys, in the middle of class. When questioned, the boys insisted they were all having a consensual BDSM relationship.
- A world where Teen Vogue advises teenage girls (who have probably never even had decent “regular” sex, see point one) on how to take a dick up the butt. It was bad enough when boys, patriarchy, movies, music and porn were doing that, but now trusted adults posing as sex educators are doing it too.
- A world where a teen magazine wouldn’t be caught dead teaching boys (much less girls) to perform cunnilingus well. Where’s all that sex-positivity now? Oh, right. It was only ever male-orgasm-positivity after all.
Who can blame a young woman for feeling turned off in a world like this?
The problem is that “asexuality” is a short-term and individualistic solution to a systemic problem. My classmate writes poetry on her “mixed-orientation” relationships, whereby men pressure her for sex and she resists it, and the whole thing is presented as some interesting journey of divergent souls finding a middle ground in a complicated world.
My classmate believes that unenjoyable, coerced sex is normal, and that she’s the unusual one. The “other.” The one whose “identity” requires naming. The one whose quirk requires working around.
It would be better for her soul, and for the soul of society, if she could embrace and thereby spread the absolute normalcy of not wanting to make oneself available for abuse.
But that’s too much to ask of a young woman. It’s easier to take on a quirky identity than to understand that almost every male around you is broken.