Autogynephilia (from Greek “αὐτό-” (self), “γυνή” (woman, though the stem is actually “γυναικ-”, so that “autogynephilia” is ill-formed) and “φιλία” (love) — "love of oneself as a woman") is a term coined in 1989 by Ray Blanchard, to refer to "a man's paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman." Alternative terms proposed for this notion include automonosexuality, conism, and sexo-aesthetic inversion.
The DSM-IV-TR includes an essentially equivalent definition, and recognizes autogynephilia as a common occurrence in the transvestic fetishism disorder, but does not classify autogynephilia as a disorder by itself. (Blanchard has served on the gender dysphoria sub-working group for the DSM-IV and of the paraphilia sub-working group for the DSM-5.)
The term is most notable for its use in Blanchard's taxonomy to explain the motivation behind gender dysphoria in gynephilic (attraction to women) male-to-female transsexuals, in contrast to sexuality as the motivating factor in androphilic (attraction to men) transsexuals. Autogynephilia has also been suggested to pertain to romantic love as well as to sexual arousal patterns. While Blanchard claims that autogynephilia does not exist in natal (from birth) women, Veale et al. (2008) and Moser (2009) report that it does exist in natal women at rates close to or equal to that of non-homosexual transsexuals. This is controversial.
Blanchard provides case examples to illustrate the autogynephilic sexual fantasies that people reported:
Philip was a 38-year-old professional man referred to the author's clinic for assessment....Philip began masturbating at puberty, which occurred at age 12 or 13. The earliest sexual fantasy he could recall was that of having a woman's body. When he masturbated, he would imagine that he was a nude woman lying alone in her bed. His mental imagery would focus on his breasts, his vagina, the softness of his skin, and so on—all the characteristic features of the female physique. This remained his favorite sexual fantasy throughout his life.
According to Blanchard, "An autogynephile does not necessarily become sexually aroused every time he pictures himself as female or engages in feminine behavior, any more than a heterosexual man automatically gets an erection whenever he sees an attractive woman. Thus, the concept of autogynephilia—like that of heterosexuality, homosexuality, or pedophilia—refers to a potential for sexual excitation" [emphasis in original].
- Transvestic autogynephilia: arousal to the act or fantasy of wearing women's clothing
- Behavioral autogynephilia: arousal to the act or fantasy of doing something regarded as feminine
- Physiologic autogynephilia: arousal to fantasies of female-specific body functions
- Anatomic autogynephilia: arousal to the fantasy of having a woman's body, or parts of one.
There also exist biological males who report being sexually aroused by the image or idea of having some but not all female anatomy, such as having female breasts but retaining their male genitalia; Blanchard referred to this phenomenon as partial autogynephilia.
This theory is highly controversial. Blanchard's theory has been questioned on the grounds that it does not account for the behavior and self-identification of a great many transsexual and transgender women, who are presumed under the theory to be mistaken about themselves - or, as it is often stated, lying. Some suggest that, since correlations do not establish causality, Blanchard may be mistaking a symptom of gender dysphoria for its primary cause. A lack of control groups in Blanchard's work lead some to wonder how different bisexual, lesbian and asexual transsexual women are from bisexual, lesbian and asexual cisgender women. Some critics also regard the theory as unscientific, because Blanchard and other proponents of this theory claim that every transperson who does not admitt fitting into these categories are lying. This, in their view, makes the theory unfalisfiable and therefore unscientifc.
Also highly controversial is the claim that "autogynophliac" trans women are usually "older and uglier" than "homosexual" trans women, a claim that has, among with many equally problematic ones, been greatly emphasized in J. Michael Bailey's "The Man Who Would Be Queen" (2003).
Trans men, that is female-to-male transgender persons, are only briefly mentioned by Blanchard. According to him, all trans men are of the "homosexual" type, that is attracted to women, since, according to him, women never have paraphilias. However, most trans men groups report that at least one third of trans men are exclusively attracted to men, and that many consider themselves bisexual or similar. That obviously contradicts this theory.
Less controversial than Blanchard's theory is the recognition that some people sometimes have sexual fantasies about being the other sex. These people may or may not also be transgendered. When viewed as a psychopathology, these fantasies may be thought of as a type of paraphilia. The pathologization of socially unacceptable erotic interests has a long history, and recent clinical diagnoses such as "ego-dystonic homosexuality" and "nymphomania" have fallen into disrepute. Many expect "autogynephilia" will be similarly discredited as a diagnosis in time.
- Smyth, Herbert Weir; Greek Grammar §285.
- Smyth, Herbert Weir; Greek Grammar §870.
- Lawrence, A. A. (2007). Becoming what we love: Autogynephilic transsexualism conceptualized as an expression of romantic love. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 50, 506–520.
- Blanchard, R. (1991). Clinical observations and systematic studies of autogynephilia. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 17, 235-251.
- Blanchard, R. (1993). Varieties of autogynephilia and their relationship to gender dysphoria. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22, 241–251.
- Blanchard, R. (1993). The she-male phenomenon and the concept of partial autogynephilia. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 19, 69–307.
- Blanchard, R. (1993). Partial versus complete autogynephilia and gender dysphoria. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 19, 301–307.
- History of the Concept of Autogynephilia by Ray Blanchard (Archives of Sexual Behavior, Volume 34 Number 4, August 2005)
- Bland, J. (2003). The 'Science' Behind Autogynephilia
- James, A.J. (2004). "Autogynephilia": A disputed diagnosis
- Wyndzen, M.H. (2004). Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Autogynephilia (but Were Afraid You had to Ask)
- TSRoadmap: Categorically Wrong? A Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence Clearinghouse
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