Getting Off On It?
One of the stranger internet phenomena of recent years has been the way in which Mumsnet, a site originally set up to provide resources and discussion fora for mothers, has become TERF central with a lot of seriously unpleasant threads about trans people and, particularly, trans women. All the usual tropes are there, weirdos, sexual predators, can’t let them in the ladies and, for some TERFs, the clinching argument, they are perverts. They actually get off on pretending to be women, you know, really get off. Some even cream their knickers. Just go to Mumsnet (or, better, don’t) and search fot autogynephlia. This is the concept du jour of the Mumsnet/TERF axis
Autogynephilia is essentially the idea that trans women are sexually excited by the idea of themselves as women. It was described in a 1989 paper by the psychologist Dr Ray Blanchard.His thesis is not undisputed. Other researchers have identified equivalent behaviour in cisgendered women. Not, then, something specific to trans women but observable behaviour in many women who are not transgender. So not an abnormality or a pathology either. And, if this is the case, then it cannot logically be an explanation of gender dysphoria or a motive transition. It is something transwomen do as transwomen, just as ciswomen do.
There are other problems with the concept. It seems to be one of those ideas that seeks to explain everything and, by doing so, explains nothing. It offers no account As presented it does not account for the different ways in which people born and raised male present as female. In addition to trans women, who live, or seek to live, 24/7 in a female role, there are cross dressing men, drag queens, sissies, and others. And for many of these dressing most definitely is a sexually charged activity. Forced feminisation and sissification are well known BDSM activities, for whose practitioners the thrill of dressing is intimately tied up with submission to the dominant who is forcing them to dress in women’s’ clothing, and the enjoyment of the scenarios of humiliation and emasculation in which this takes place.
Many people have clothing fetishes, some of them related to their kink and their sexuality. I have mine, leather gloves and boots and anything in latex. This is nothing to do with being transgender (I know lots of ciswomen, men too, who love their latex.) It is do with having fetishes. And fetishs are normal, hey are life enhancing. They are fundamental to my sexuality.
And besides, if some transwomen get a kick out of putting a dress on, is that really wrong? My cis friend S. gets a massive kick out of her Blahniks! It seems to me that these Mumsnet/TERF discussions are evidence not just of transphobia but of a wider censoriousness and conservatism, one that excludes the possibility of people (and especially cis women) enjoying kink, and fetish and alternative expressions of their sexuality.
Do I get off on it? No, putting on work clothes Monday to Friday doesn’t do it for me, any more than it does for anyone else. But when I put on my latex and leather for a club night on a Saturday I feel a real sexual charge pulsing through me. I can conquer worlds and Mumsnet isn’t gong to stop me!