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What Is Autogynephilia

Megan P.

The term “autogynephilia” originated during the 1980s and ’90s at the University Of Toronto, where Dr. Ray Blanchard was a Professor of Psychology. Blanchard specialized in the study of paraphilias, human sexuality, and gender identity disorder. He was particularly focused on the field of sexual orientation.

After many years of research and evaluation of archives of sexual behavior, Blanchard developed typology, commonly known as Blanchard’s transsexualism typology. Unfortunately, this typology persistently attracts a tremendous amount of controversy, mainly because of the inclusion of what’s known as Blanchard’s autogynephilia theory.

This typology essentially focuses on the categorization of male to female transsexualism. The first group consists of androphilic male-to-female transsexuals. Androphilia refers to the love of men and being androphilic means that you are exclusively sexually aroused by men.

Members of this group are also notably feminine in both their behavior and appearance. Transsexual males experiencing this class of male gender dysphoria typically undergo sex reassignment surgery by the time they are 30.

The second group is primarily driven to undergo sex reassignment surgery because of the concept of autogynephilia, coined by Blanchard. Autogynephilia is a sexual orientation characterized by sexual arousal at the thought or image of yourself as a woman.

Transsexual groups experiencing autogynephilia are typically attracted to women, but it is also common for such individuals to have an asexual or bisexual gender identity. It is common for males facing autogynephilic gender dysphoria to transition much later in life and uphold a conventionally masculine behavior and appearance throughout their lives.


Blanchard’s Autogynephilia Theory

Blanchard states that autogynephilia does not occur in homosexual male to female transsexuals, based on extensive sex research. That is, trans women do not experience autogynephilia, but all non-homosexual male-to-female transsexuals exhibit this form of gender dysphoria.

Blanchard also clarifies that autogynephilia is present in many gender dysphoric males and some transvestites who do not have a trans sexuality. During his research, Blanchard found that autogynephilia is nonexistent in biological females. Consequently, female to male transsexuals never exhibit autoandrophilia; male transsexuals do not experience erotic arousal by the thought of themselves as men.

A field that has not been subjected to studies includes whether non-gender dysphoric people are ever sexually aroused by their own bodies. However, a research project by Gebhard & Johnson reported that at least 20% of men and 9% of women are, to a limited extent, sexually aroused by their own nude bodies, and many are stimulated by observing their genitalia during masturbation. What is unknown is whether non-gender dysphoric people have sexual fantasies about having different body qualities, like being thinner or more masculine.

Clinical observations yield the conclusion that many individuals experience changes in their levels of sexual desire caused by alterations in their body types. The reasonable assumption, in this case, is that a more desirable body may contribute to some people’s sexual fantasies. Building on this statement, it is unsurprising that the thought or image of oneself as a woman leads to arousal in male to female transsexuals with autogynephilia.

It is worth noting that a sexual fantasy where you have a different body type is very different from your altered body being the key factor in your sexual fantasy. Conclusively, male-to-female trans women may imagine themselves having female bodies as part of their fantasies, but fantasizing about themselves as women is not always the sole reason for sexual arousal.

Autogynephilia has only been definitively proven to be a trait of trans women (biological men). Blanchard states that he could not find a single study indicating that a biological female is aroused by the mere thought of possessing breasts or vulva. This is not to say it undoubtedly does not exist; it would just be much less prevalent among the general population.

Blanchard’s study included evaluating whether people with autogynephilia felt the most aroused when studying pictures of themselves in women’s underwear, women’s clothes, or nude. However, the results were speculative at best. It was unclear whether the respondents interpreted the test question as revolving around the arousal experience at the image of themselves as women alone or if it included which attire most arouses them in general.

Archives Of Sexual Behavior By Lawrence A. A.

If we assume that MTFs with autogynephilia reported sexual arousal due to the thought or image of having vulva and breasts, it would be accurate to think that natal women would express autogynephilia differently. This is because women already possess these features, and people generally tend to fantasize about what they don’t have.

If we are correct in this premise, it stands to reason that the effects of autogynephilia would subside after sex reassignment surgery. This assumption was supported by the study by Lawrence, where she investigated the sexual interests and triggers in MTFs before and after SRS. The results were astounding as 56% of respondents reported never experiencing episodes of autogynephilia after having surgery, compared to 14% pre-surgery.

Data indicates that many transsexual women experienced a high frequency of fantasies involving autogynephilia, whereas autogynephilic sexual fantasies became a lot less prevalent after SRS. There is also the possibility that post-surgical transsexual women now direct their fantasies to an ideal image of their feminine bodies.

Suppose the participants in Lawrence’s study reported a decrease in autogynephilic episodes over time. In that case, it may bring about a debate concerning sexual orientation versus age and include the effects of decreasing testosterone levels.

Whether autogynephilia is present or absent, in addition to partial versus complete autogynephilia, carries clinical and etiological importance in the study of sexual orientation and gender identity disorder.

Clinically, the presence of autogynephilia interferes with widely accepted interpersonal sexual attraction because it is so strongly connected to gender dysphoria. According to Blanchard, homosexual gender dysphoria in males often coincides or appears after the onset of autogynephilia, whereas the presence of autogynephilia in later years tends to diminish.

The noted absence of autogynephilia in women in sorts supports Blanchard’s theory that autogynephilia is an atypical sexual interest of males and their motivation for undergoing SRS is sexually driven.

If natal women and male-to-female trans women both exhibit the same behaviors regarding autogynephilia, it may not be a trait exclusive to men but rather shared by both groups. This would imply that autogynephilia results from the effects that female sexuality has on people. The presence or absence of autogynephilia in both trans women and natal women thus has significant implications.


In The Words Of Dr. Ray Blanchard

Has The Presence Of Autogynephilia Escalated?

Blanchard expressed doubt that the presence of autogynephilic gender dysphoria has necessarily become more prevalent in recent years, meaning that a male’s propensity to become sexually attracted to the image of themselves as women has not increased among society. The number of autogynephilic trans women coming out to family and friends has simply increased.

Many autogynephilic males were reluctant to come out as historical context dictates that male gender dysphorics were associated with a range of mental disorders, nervous and mental disease, being sexually deviant, and the wrongly termed gender identity disorders. However, in modern times, sexual behavior and sexual orientation are not as harshly judged, and the pursuit of cross-gender identity will likely be praised.

The consequences remain relatively the same throughout the years when it comes to homosexual versus non-homosexual cross-gender behavior.

Blanchard reports the relative numbers of autogynephilia among gender dysphoric males to constitute the majority back in 1987, approaching 60%. The proportion of autogynephilia occurring in gender-dysphoric men reached an astounding 75% by 2010.

Is Sex Reassignment Surgery A Valid Treatment For Gender Dysphoria In Patients With Autogynephilia?

It largely depends on the level of intensity of the autogynephilia and the severity of the homosexual or non-homosexual gender dysphorias as a result. If the case is deemed mild or intermittent, cognitive behavior therapy or counseling may be sufficient in guiding patients through intense gender dysphoric feelings.

Counseling is frequently the method of choice if a patient wishes to maintain a marriage or uphold a career that would suffer due to transitioning. Marital therapy is also a valid and helpful option for couples who don’t want to sacrifice their relationships because of changes in gender roles.

However, if a patient suffers from persistent and severe gender dysphoria, SRS and hormonal treatment would offer the best chances of the patient gaining peace of mind and overall higher quality of life. Blanchard is of the opinion that clinicians have to require patients to live in the cross-gender role for a significant amount of time before surgery is approved. This exercise aims to establish whether an individual feels more confident in their gender identity when they practice gender reorientation.

Blanchard does not believe that sexual behavior or orientation can be eliminated with treatment of any kind. People can not be taught what they want; they simply want it.

Do You Think Autogynephilia Ever Occurs In Natal Females?

There have been numerous accounts of heterosexual women possessing significant masculine traits who feel as if they were homosexual men. They claim to be strongly and exclusively sexually attracted to effeminate men. These accounts date back over a century in the history of human sexuality.

Blanchard does not equate these females with autogynephilia and rather refers to women exhibiting this particular sexual behavior as autohomoerotics. In many of these cases, women develop severe clinical gender non-homosexual gender dysphoria, and a small portion of these individuals are likely to seek sex reassignment.

Until recently, female-to-male transsexuals were uncommon. The differences between autohomoeroticism and autogynephilia are subtle but substantiated. While homoerotic females are aroused by the idea of being a participant in gay male sexual activity, autogynephilic male gender dysphorics are attracted to the idea of possessing a female body.

Consequently, becoming a gay male is the primary goal and outcome of autohomoerotics, whereas becoming a lesbian woman seems to be a secondary goal of autogynephiles.

Archives of sexual behavior also demonstrate the propensity of autogynephilic trans women undergoing puberty to have masturbated wearing women’s undergarments. Equivalent accounts of autohomoerotic females masturbating in men’s underwear are entirely missing.

Post Research Conclusions

In the analysis of various questionnaires and their responses, it was found that both MTF trans women and natal women reported sexual arousal by the thought or image of themselves as females, indicating autogynephilia. These results effectively disprove Blanchards’ theory that this onset and sexual orientation is exclusive to trans women.

Critics argue that the questions focused on a history of autogynephilic behavior instead of current episodes of such desires. Still, the questionnaire was tailored according to Blanchard’s assessment methods, which should then be criticized similarly.

When particular stimuli trigger episodes of erotic arousal over a short period but eventually cease, the relevant area of study probably differs from the phenomenon of enduring erotic episodes.

Blanchard showed a connection between non-homosexual sexual orientations and autogynephilia, but this correlation does not insinuate causality. There is a high possibility that autogynephilia in natal women and trans women are entirely different phenomena that we cannot distinguish effectively as of yet.

Paraphilias are characterized by their intensity and uncommon nature. It cannot be stated whether autogynephilia meets the criteria to be classified as a mental disorder or a paraphilia. For most non-homosexual trans females, autogynephilia is not chronic, recurrent, or intense. But then again, it is not yet clear if the concept of paraphilia is a useful and reliable construct.

The major advocates of the autogynephilia theory, including Blanchard and Lawrence, suggest it is a form of paraphilia, while other aspects of their studies suggest it is an orientation. A study by Freund and Blanchard suggested that it was one among many erotic target location errors. On the other hand, Lawrence described it as being closer to romantic love for one’s feminine self.

It is possible that the respondents in the studies were more aroused by the idea of a sexual encounter than by the autogynephilic stimuli involved. Therefore, it is likely that many MTFs were aroused by the thought of engaging in sexual activity as a female rather than being excited by their own female bodies.

Lawrence conclusively states that autogynephilia is a paraphilia. This conceptualization effectively explains why some men who have been successful as men and who are attracted to women still wish to undergo SRS. As paraphilias are relatively uncommon in natal women, this explanation also justifies why autogynephilia is not frequently found in biological females and, thereby, female-to-male individuals.

When examining multiple studies on the matter, autogynephilia does not entirely conform to the meaning of a paraphilia. These phenomena differ in their intensity, duration, and frequency, and the infatuation and arousal by one’s own body is not comprehensively understood.

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