Autogynephilia: what it is and why it is not considered a paraphilia

Sex and gender are essential phenomena for the definition that a human being makes of himself. In the first case it refers to its biological reality, and in the second to a social construction linked to the way in which masculinity and femininity are understood in the spatial / temporal coordinates that have corresponded to live.

Sexual orientation would be the third variable, differentiated from the previous ones , and from which the decision to maintain sentimental relations with another person because of their sex or regardless of sex (homo / heterosexual, bisexual, asexual etc.) would be forged. .

Since all of them are phenomena that maintain a certain independence from each other, it is likely that disparate and plural combinations arise in which there is not necessarily a predictable directionality according to traditional standards.

Next we will deal with a complex and enormously controversial issue: autogynephilia, which was postulated as a paraphilia whose purpose would be to explain the epistemological substrate of transsexuality. The controversy on this issue remains today.

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What is the concept of autogynephilia?

Autogynephilia (autogynophilia) is a deeply controversial construct . It can be divided into different semantic units following its Greek origin: “auto” (relative or self-related), “gine” (woman) and “filia” (attraction or desire); so it can be summarized as obtaining sexual gratification that arises from imagining oneself assuming feminine attributes, or simply making use of the clothes that have traditionally been assigned to this gender.

In this way, it would become a specific paraphilia in which a male would be attracted to himself as long as he adopted a woman’s traits. Of course, only theoretically.

This word, which does not enjoy a unanimous consensus for the research community, was coined by the psychologist Ray Blanchard as a result of a series of works published in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Through his formulation would not only seek the recognition of a “new” pathology, but the definitive articulation of a theoretical model through which to confront the traditional vision of the transsexual woman (man of birth) who would conceive it as a “woman trapped in the body of a man “(which is also known as narrative of the feminine essence).

Blanchard’s studies were carried out by dividing a sample (quite small, actually) of transsexual women into four groups, based on their sexual orientation: androphilic (attracted to men), gynephilic (by women), bisexual and asexual. What the author described in his works was that the last three groups, which he baptized as non-homosexuals, reported having experienced more excitement when imagining themselves with the appearance or clothing of women , compared to the group of androphilic or homosexual (75% vs. 15%). None of them wanted to undergo reassignment surgery.

This finding, together with the fact that the group of non-androphilic people (gynephilic, bisexual and asexual) pointed out less frequently that they had shown any hint of femininity during their childhood, encouraged him to conclude that: transgender androphilic women were homosexual people who were looking for modify their bodily characteristics to be able to attract heterosexual men, and that the rest of the transsexuals would be affected by a paraphilia (autogynephilia) in which their own corporality would become the object of desire. This would affect only those who were assigned the sex of male at birth, and not transgender woman-man.

Understood this concept according to Blanchard’s postulates, the autogynephilia would describe a broad group of transsexuals according to the way in which they orient their sexual desire , completely avoiding the question of identity (or subsuming it in a reductionist way). With this way of understanding things, the totality of non-androphilic transsexuals would be considered heterosexuals whose focus of interest would be displaced, so that instead of wishing a woman they would wish themselves adopting the role of this. That is, the person himself would become the object of his narcissistic paraphilia.

Autogynephilia would involve a redirection of the object of desire as it has been described in some cases of apotemnophilia (attraction for people suffering from severe amputations and ending with the resection of limbs or other parts of the body itself). Although it is a theory that went unnoticed in the scientific community , it was rescued at the beginning of this century by J. Michael Bailey and has motivated a substantial volume of studies for and against. And it is a theory that has been considered openly transphobic by the LGBT community, and clearly harmful to the trans collective.

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In the first place, it is important to highlight that autogynephilia is not contemplated in any of the diagnostic manuals commonly used (DSM-5 or ICD-10) as a clinical phenomenon, in any of the general categories available to them. On the other hand, the Gender Identity Dysphoria (DIG) appears, understood as the clear rejection that occurs when having a body with primary characters of one or the other sex, and with which there is no identification any.

According to the defenders of the existence of this concept, autogynephilia, this particular form of paraphilia would be expressed as excitement: by imagining wearing women’s clothes (especially underwear), by adopting body positions generally attributable to the feminine during the activity sexual, to be recognized as a woman by other men or to imagine having sex with a male partner (vaginally).

One of the aspects that have generated the most controversy regarding the issue of paraphilia is its supposed comorbidity with very different pictures of the same nosological family . In Blanchard’s work, the concurrence with the froteurismo (excitement obtained through deliberate rubbing and not consented to other bodies) and voyeurism (sexual pleasure through inadvertent observation of other people practicing intercourse) was postulated ; or even others much more serious because of its great impact on third parties, such as pedophilia or zoophilia.

However, the one that has been most solidly linked to autogynephilia (although always theoretically) has been masochism without any doubt; which consists in obtaining sexual pleasure through passive (or receiving) participation in practices that generate pain, suffering or humiliation. However, there is no empirical evidence that connects such paraphilias with the fact of being transsexual ; considering that this link is illusory, artificial, degrading, lacking any scientific and malicious substrate.

In any case, supporters of the autogynephilia model postulate that it is a real disorder, and that many of the practices that are carried out with the objective of altering the physical expression of sex (not gender) underlie: transvestite to hormonalization, and ultimately going through reassignment surgery. In any case, the label would only apply to female transsexuals (MtF) that did not refer to a homosexual orientation, so that paraphilia would be erected as their motivation for change (and not a matter of identity).

On the term autogynephilia and its impact at the social level

The very concept of autogynephilia, about which he has delved into the article, has mutated in recent years in a throwing weapon with a clear political dye . Through its use, attempts have been made to systematically question the mere existence of transsexuality as a legitimate option through which to live one’s own identity and sexual orientation, flying a science-clad construct to build value judgments on one or the other.

All this has been particularly harmful to the transgender female community that does not experience itself as homosexual, nor does it refer to feeling as such since its early childhood. That is why perhaps there would be a reflection on how science can be used occasionally for purposes very different from those for which it is conceived, which are none other than knowing reality in an objective way and contributing to knowledge bringing value to lives. of all people. Likewise, the very model of autogynephilia discards the trans community of men (women of birth), for whom their precepts do not seem to fit.

In recent years, hypotheses are emerging that emphasize that the fantasies conceived in this model usually arise predominantly in transsexual men prior to reassignment surgery, and that they could be part of the construction of a scenario in which they experience their sexuality in a way congruent with your intimate desires. Along the same lines, it is observed that such practice is usually diluted after surgery, since the female self-image would have been integrated.

In any case, the scientific community is no stranger to the matter and its impact, so it continues to invest its efforts to shed light on it and dispossess it of any ideological nuance. Only in this way will a more precise, constructive knowledge be achieved that results in an authentic benefit.


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