Why do crossdreamers dream of shemales?
"Autogynephilia" is for a good reason one of the most controversial diagnoses in the transgender area. Ray Blanchard argues that gynephilic M2F crossdressers and transwomen are basically heterosexual men who are turned on by the idea of having a woman's body.
I have argued that it is possible to recognize the fact that some men get aroused by feminization fantasies without labeling them as narcissistic perverts or paraphiliacs, i.e. without accepting Blanchard's explanation for why these male bodied persons feel the way they do. I call them M2F crossdreamers.
I also believe we have to look into controversial phenomena like this one if we are to get to the bottom of what the various transgender conditions really are.
Another equally controversial topic is the "transfan" or "transsensual", i.e. men who are attracted to M2F transsexuals, crossdressers or "shemales". In this article I am going to see if that phenomenon can help us get a better understanding of crossdreamers in general.
Fantasy shemales are not real
Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I do not believe that shemales exist in the real world! I am willing to discuss the possibility, and I see there are transgenderists whocall themselves shemales, but when I write about them it is as fantasy objects of desire.
In this way they are similar to the nymphomaniac blonde and buxom bimbo of some male fantasies, or the handsome knight in shining armor you find in some female fantasies. Even though some may choose to play the role of the Blonde Bimbo or Prince Charming, that does not make them real. Behind the cliché hides a complex human being.
The people playing the roles of shemales
"Shemale" i a derogatory term used by the porn industry to describe persons with a female appearance but with male genitals.
The models playing the roles of shemales are pre-op transwomen or transgenderists in real life. In other words: In real life they are not "shemales", but complete human beings like you and me.
A pre-op transwoman is a biological male who has a female gender identity and who longs to become a woman also in body. In order to play the role of a shemale, this person will normally have had to undergo some hormone treatment, electrolysis and surgery, but for some reason she has not changed her male genitalia. If she is playing the role of a shemale, in porn or as a call girl, this is probably because she has decided to keep it for business purposes. She may be saving money for the final operation, though.
A M2F (male to female) transgenderist (a term not to be confused with the word "transgender") is a person who lives as a member of the opposite sex either fulltime or part time. She may have had hormone treatments or surgery, but she deliberately decides to keep her original genitalia. The transgenderist does not feel that it is the genitalia that define her as a woman. There is a medical term for this which I do not like much: gynemimetics. I believe they are real women, not copy cats, and should be respected as such.
I am also open for the idea that there might exist feminine gay men who transition for practical purposes, without feeling alienated from their male bodies. This is why they decide to keep their penis. They change their bodies to attract straight men.
I know some people find the idea of a feminine gay man transitioning extremely provocative. I do not. Life is short and we all have to make the best out of what we got.
The fact that there may exist feminine gay men who transition, should not be taken to mean that there are no androphilic transwomen who experience real gender dysphoria, though.
Fairy tale figures
Let me get back on track: When I use the word "shemale" it is to depict a fantasy figure. Even though trolls and fairies do not exist in the physical world, they do exist in the realm of myths, dreams and fantasies. They have a psychological reality that needs to be understood -- a reality that tells us something about who we are -- and so do the fantasy shemales.
Do crossdreamers dream of shemales?
Many -- if not most -- crossdreamers say that they do not dream about shemales. The reason I can say this with some certainty is that I have access to a rich database of crossdreamer fantasies. These fantasies are published on transgender erotica sites like Fictionmania.tv (as short stories), or as so called TG captions in forums and on blogs. TG captions are ultra short stories accompanying a photo or an image. Many of these "caps" are erotic fantasies. (For references, see TFCC).
If you read these stories (and yes, I have read a few), several patterns emerge, and I plan to explore them in some detail in later posts. As regards the topic of transsensualism I can say that although there are quite a few "shemale" fantasies out there, most of the stories found depict transformation into normal women.
In fact, a large number of crossdreamers posting on forums like Rachel's Haven explicitly say that they do not like stories with shemales. This is mostly because they do not picture themselves becoming shemales; they dream about becoming full fledged women. But it is also because they feel no desire to interact with them.
However, some do admit to the fascination, and this is in itself interesting. There are feminization fantasies where the crossdreamer submits to a dominant shemale. This shemale will feminize him by forcing him to act or dress as a woman, or he may be changed into a woman by surgical or magical means. These fantasies are very similar to the sissy and the dominatrix fantasies I have discussed elsewhere, the main difference being that the dominatrix in those fantasies is a natural born woman. In both cases, however, the crossdreamer submits sexually to the dominant woman.
What could make a crossdreamer dream about shemales? Is there anything in the life situation of a crossdreamer that would make this happen? Is there any mythological or psychological reasons for this admittedly strange phenomena?
I think there are, and I think that these explanations can throw some light upon the crossdreamer condition in general.
Alice and her admirers
Alice in Genderland is the only crossdresser autobiography I know of that doesn't hesitate to discuss the sexual motives of a crossdreamer. This alone makes it very valuable in a world where transgender fantasies are considered taboo among cisgendered and transgendered people alike.
Alice, AKA psychiatrist Richard J. Novic, has decided to live out her dream of being a woman, including dating and bedding men. She combines this outgoing life with living with a very tolerant wife. (See Alice in Genderland, A Crossdresser Comes of Age, NY 2009, and my interview with her). Note that Alice is not a transsexual. She also presents as a man.
Alice finds these men in clubs frequented by transgendered. The men approaching her are labelled as "admirers" by her. I guess the derogatory term is "tranny chasers". In the book she reports that she has asked them what makes them interested in a girl like her. Most of them end up with phrases like: "I'm turned on by women who've just got that little something extra." That is not much of an explanation, really.
One night she met "Darius", who confessed that although he was not a crossdresser, he did try it out at home once. "I was one big fat mama," he said. Alice soon found out that several of her admirers had tried crossdressing:
"With my illusions shattered, I now saw little difference between my all-man admirers and the ones at the bar dying to try on my stockings, give oral sex, and get fucked -- like I was when I met Prima back in Chicago [when Alice experienced being the bottom]. It all began to make sense. Deep inside every chaser beats the heart of a tranny."
The controversial use of terminology aside, what Alice says here is simply that most transfans are themselves somewhat transgendered.
There is a group of pre-op transwomen and M2F transgenderists that work as call-girls. They often advertise their services as "shemales", "transsexuals" or "lady boys".
I have gotten several emails from crossdreamers who have approached such call girls. I have gotten permission to refer to one of them. Let us call him "GB". He is in his fifties and lives in London, UK.
GB tells med that at any given time there are more than 100 escorts of this kind in the Greater London Metropolitan Area. More than half of them are foreigners, often high class escorts that travel from country to country. According to him, many of them come from South-East Asia (especially from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore) and from Latin-America (mainly from Brazil).
I have been unable to confirm these numbers. A cursory Google search confirms that there are quite a few of them advertising online, so he is probably not far off the mark.
GB tells me that it was a deep and desperate emotional need that led him to approaching some of these call girls. And yes, that need was partly the desire to be the receiving part when having sexual intercourse, to allow himself to be the receiver instead of the manly male. He tells me that he feels no sexual attraction to the male body, although he wish he had, as being gay would have made his life so much easier. He loves women, though, and has even been married two times, but he find traditional love making unsatisfying. He tells me he feels forced to take an active role that is not his by nature.
He says that a majority of the "shemale" call girls in London actively advertise that they can take the passive as well as the active role. This clearly proves that they consider "submissive" men to be a market.
GB tells me that he learned a lot from meeting these girls, as many of them were outgoing, independent, talkative and with strong personalities. Many of them are also stunningly beautiful. I quote: "There is no way you can guess that these are not natural girls just by looking at them!"
In spite of this he stopped seeing them. This was partly a result of guilt:
"These women are in no way the drug addicted prostitutes you read about in the papers," he writes. "They are strong and independent business women. But they are prostitutes and I am not comfortable with supporting that kind of activity."
From what he tells me, however, there is another reason for him stopping seeing them as well, and that is that these women are not really into crossdreamers. They are attracted to active manly men, and only accommodate "bottoms" because of the money.
One of them told him that she loved straight men, and not gay men who wanted to take the passive role. She clearly mistook him for the active type. It is interesting to note that this transwoman classified crossdreamers as gay, in spite of the fact that they go to her -- a woman. This again confirms how language shapes the way we see the world.
The reason GB did not meet any gynephilic escorts of this kind, is probably not a coincidence. It could simply be that woman-loving (gynephilic) transgendered women, pre-op or post-op, transsexual or transgenderist, find the idea of having sex with men unattractive.
But even if Mr. GB had found one, this would not be a match made in heaven. Gynephilic transwomen love women, not men. Moreover, they prefer to be the catcher, not the pitcher. If we are to believe Alice Novic GB is himself -- at least partly -- a gynephilic transwoman.
A better match for GB would be a female to male androphilic dominant transsexual or a F2M crossdreamer (the complexity of all this makes my head hurt!). They do exist but are relatively hard to track down. Besides, they want to look and act as men, and that is not necessarily what GB is looking for.
Crossdreamer vs. crossdreamer
Cloudy, herself an androphilic transwoman, made the following comment to my post Beyond the perversion:
"You [i.e. Jack] posed this question: 'Other autogynephilias "solve" this problem by imagining themselves penetrated by a woman with a strap-on or by a "shemale". There are a lot of "shemale" (pre-op transwomen) prostitutes out there that advertise the fact that they are "active". Maybe their customers are autogynephiliacs?' I can tell you from personal experience that yes, their customers are nearly all AGP [autogynephiliacs]. I've had friends who were 'working girls'... and I should point out, that in their personal love lives, they were not "active", but bottoms. But gynandromorphophilic [transfans] men will pay more than straight men, because of the relative rareness of an HSTS [man-loving transwoman] who will be "active". (I sure as heckfire wouldn't!) (...) On the other hand, AGPs are so commonly into 'she-males', that two reasonable passing AGPs meet, they often become lovers, both pre- and post-... BTW... many of these relationships get counted by the researcers as evidence of being attracted to men ! Note, that such is not the same as being attracted to non-AGP, straight, masculine men. Rather, it is the ability to map the process of AGP mediated desire for feminization of themselves onto their partner, to essentially map the internal AGP to the external AGP !!! To outsiders, this may sound strange, but it is actually quite common in the AGP trans-community."
I don't buy Cloudy's explanation for why some crossdreamers end up in relationships with other crossdreamers. But it certainly makes sense for them to do so. Not only do they get a soul mate who understands what they have been through and accepts their desires. They also get a female partner who is willing to play the active part when needed. If they are both post-op I guess they can make use of one of the many sex toys available.
In this sense they would not be too different from a gay or lesbian couple where both are bottoms. With love and understanding they should be able to develop a sex life where they take turns playing the active and the passive role.
In popular culture the readers of shemale porn are often depicted as love shy nerds and socially clumsy men. In the American TV series Dexter, for instance, the forensic lab tech Vince Masuka is a sex obsessed nerd with a strong interest in shemales.
This stereotype may have some ground in reality, as there are love shy men and crossdreamers who find it hard to cope socially (see my posts on the love-shy men of Gilmartin). I suspect their shyness is as much caused by their crossdreaming as it is the other way round.
Many crossdreamers do not fit this cliché, however, Generally I think the stereotype is based on the belief that shemale lovers are closeted gay men. This is an argument that is often used to establish a divide between "tainted" crossdreamers and "pure" transwomen.
The industry is growing rapidly
Examiner.com had an interesting article on the subject last summer. Using data from Alexa, Google and Internet World Stats they found that nearly 190 million heterosexual men are attracted to transsexual women and actively seek romantic contact with or sexually explicit images of them annually. I believe these are world wide numbers, but if they used English language search terms, a significant number of transfans will have been excluded.
The article by Maddy Claire points out that:
"According to the latest Internet statistics, interest in 'transsexual' topics has risen more than 5,000 percent in the past five years, and interest in 'transsexual dating' has surged more than 400 percent. In the past 90 days alone, combined traffic from the top 10 adult sites and top 10 dating sites catering exclusively to trans-loving males has risen 350 percent."
No, I have not seen the methodology used to arrive at these figures, so we have to take them with a laaaaarge pinch of salt. But they can be taken as an indication of the interest in the topic. The increase is probably partly caused by a general increase in Internet traffic, and the fact that the shemale porn industry is growing so rapidly. For some adult entertainment companies transsexual titles are now apparently outselling all others. Shemale porn has become commonplace.
The customers are straight men
One representative of that industry argues that the majority of customers are straight men: " I don’t even bother to promote it to the gay market, because it would be a waste of money."
This confirms the theory that men interested in pre-op transwomen are gynephiliacs and not homosexual men - at least not in any meaningful sense of the word. They move from traditional heterosexual pornography over to shemale pornography in hope of a resolution to their dilemma. They never move over to gay porn, as they have little or no interest in the male body per se.
This does not mean that all readers of shemale porn are necessarily crossdreamers. Given the variety of the human condition, there must be other explanations as well.
The active male
A strong argument against my theory so far, would be that the male is playing the active part in much of this erotica. If the viewer of such films identifies with the male, he is playing out the typical male copulation instinct, not the female's. Moreover, the shemale does not always plays the role of the dominatrix. She is more often casted in the role of the submissive woman.
This could mean that the viewer, who identifies with the active male, for some reason is fascinated by women with a penis. There could be many psychological explanations for such a fascination.
Again, I doubt very much that such a viewer would be a closeted gay man. Gay men are attracted to male bodies with all that entails: broad shoulders, square jaws, strong muscles, hairy chests etc. They are not looking for soft curves and breasts, and there are limits to what upbringing and suppression can do to your sex fantasies.
I am pretty sure there are "normal" heterosexual men who do get turned on by such a scenario, them playing the active manly role in the fantasy. However, it could also be that there are those that identify with the shemale in the movies, pictures and stories. In that scenario, they play the role of the feminized and emasculated man. Sure, she has a penis attached, but it is not used for any manly activity.
Given the masculine stereotypes of modern western culture, this fantasy represents degradation and a humiliation, as the man has been partly castrated (the limp penis) and given the role of a submissive woman (another stereotype based on a negative view of women). But for the crossdreamer it may stand for another resolution to the need for being the catcher instead of the pitcher.
Remember that we are talking about sexual fantasies here, not real life. Some research shows that some 50 percent of both men and women have fantasies of being raped by someone of the opposite sex. I doubt you will find any of them wanting to be raped in real life. The fact that such fantasies are common puts the rape fantasies of crossdreamers in a different light, though. It is the feminization aspect that makes them different, not the fantasies of being taken by force.
Men as props
The observant reader should now stop me, demanding an answer for a very embarrassing inconsistency in my discussion. I say that these shemale porn customers are not gay , because they are not attracted to the male physique. In spite of this I argue that some M2F crossdreamers may fantasize of taking the role of a shemale being taken by a male!
I readily admit that this is a dilemma. The autogynephilia reseacher Ray Blanchard's answer to the puzzle of gynephilic men fantasizing of being taken by men, is that these fantasy men are not real men at all, but masturbatory props, like dildos i guess -- only bigger.
These fantasies are not limited to shemale fantasies. The M2F transgender erotica I wrote about above is full of descriptions of crossdreamers having sex with men after been changed into a woman. Actually, this is the theme in most of the stories.
Blanchard, of course, uses this phenomenon to underpin that crossdreamers are autoerotic only. They are sexually attracted to the idea of themselves as a woman, not to any real person out there. The fact that the men in these fantasies are faceless and without personality proves that this is a paraphilia, according to him. When women fantasize about men these men are either people they know or some concrete acquaintance, movie star or sport's celebrity. The autogynephiliac does not care about such things.
You know, this is one of Blanchard's best arguments. It truly is, because the men in crossdreamer fantasies are often faceless, and I do think he is right when he says that these fantasy men are often -- but not always -- props. And I also think he is right when he argues that the men are faceless because these crossdreamers are gynephilic (woman-loving) and not androphilic (man-loving).
But you can easily explain this without arguing that the man has internalized his external love object, i.e. the real women out there.
First, remember that M2F crossdreamers are perfectly capable of loving others and also feel sexual desire for them. Nearly all of them fall in love, but most often with women.
But if their copulation instinct is female, a traditional western heterosexual relationship may not give them the sexual release they are looking for. The M2F crossdreamer can play the role of the penetrator, but is wired to be the "penetree". The being-taken-by-a-faceless-man fantasies are a way of resolving this urge, as is the dominatrix with a strap-on fantasies and the dominant shemale fantasies.
The M2F crossdreamer longs to be at the receiving end when having sex, and in his/hers sexual fantasies he conjure up a faceless man to play the part of the man that makes him/her a complete woman.
And before you go: "OMG! That only proves that the crossdreamer is a sexual pervert and not a real woman at all!" please do stop and consider this: The desire for sex is an ubiquitous human trait. The reason modern women keep a dildo in their drawer is not because they need to massage their aching necks. An inner femininity may just as well express itself as a sexual urge as a need for knitting or child care. For most crossdressers, for instance, this sexual urge is part of a larger complex of deep felt dreams about being a woman.
Now we are close to the reason for all the confusion. GB's call girl considered all passive men to be gay, even if they went to her, a woman. Blanchard is unable to make any sensible explanation for the origin of autogynephiliacs, because he -- like the prostitute -- needs to put them in one of two categories: heterosexual or homosexual. In his universe bisexuals and asexuals are put in the same box as the gynephilic, because there are only two ways of sexual attraction: same sex and opposite sex.
As I see it, the crossdreamers have actually much more in common with feminine gay men and androphilic transwoman than both Blanchard and most crossdressers would like to think.
I don't have enough information on gay men to make any sensible judgment on Blanchard and Bailey's claim that all gay men are feminine by origin, and by implication that they are all bottoms. But some of them are. And so are most of the crossdreamers.
In that sense the call-girl was right. She had sensed that there was something different about a male customer who wanted to bend over and... well. She had only one category for this: gay.
We need another language that can help crossdreamers and transfans make sense of it all.