On the Science of Changing Sex

Dangerous Thoughts

Posted in Science Criticism by Kay Brown on August 15, 2016

critical-thinkingIt has long been noted by sexologists, and folk in the “kink” scene, that if one has one paraphilic sexual interest, the likelihood that individual will have other paraphilic interests is dramatically increased.  Some of these paraphilic sexual interests tend to cluster.  It is these clusters that help sexologist delve into potential underlying common sexual functions that are distorted (hence the the common term “kink”).  One of these clusters is that of Voyeurism, Exhibitionism, Frotteurism, and Paraphilic Rape, that are grouped together as Courtship Disorders.  Another cluster is Autogynephilia & Autoandrophilia (most often found as “transvestic fetishism” = “erotic cross-dressing”),  Autopedophilia, and Apotemnophilia group together as Erotic Target Location Errors.  But there have also been many observations of of clustering of other paraphilias that don’t have obvious connections of an underlying common function (other than sexuality in general).

Given the current political climate and some rather pointed and ugly recriminations and insinuations regarding transgender people and the safety of women & children in sex segregated facilities, it behoves us to seek real data rather than polemical rhetoric.  In a very timely study involving nearly 6,000 subjects chosen because they are members of a twin birth, the incident rates and co-occurances of various paraphilic sexual interests was explored, including “transvestic fetishism” and “sexually coersive behavior”.

As has been known for decades, most people with an Erotic Target Location Error are male.  Males are about nine times more likely to have autogynephilia as females are to have autoandrophilia, with 4.6% of males aroused by cross-dressing and only 0.5% of females.  Please note, the number of females was not zero… only small.  Compare this number to the estimated 3% to 6% of females being exclusive gynephilic.  This ratio also fits the data we have on the relative numbers of gynephilic FTM transmen vs. androphilic/bisexual FTM transmen, adding statitical support to the hypothesis that androphilic/bisexual FTM transmen are autoandrophilic.

First, the good news for transfolk.  There was no independent correlation between transvestic fetishism (both autogynephilia and autoandrophilia) and sexually coersive behavior.  That is to say, that neither autogynephilia nor autoandrophilia alone has any effect on the likelihood, one way or the other, on whether an individual would be sexually coersive.

On the other hand… that’s not the whole story.  As I mentioned above, the likelihood that one will have a co-occuring paraphilic interest is increased with autogynephilia or autoandrophilia, as the data from this paper showed.  And with THAT OTHER paraphilic sexual interest, there WAS a correlation with an interest in sexual coersion.

But, before going deeper into the data, it is important to explain a bit about the study and what constituted interest in sexually coersive behavior in this study.  The question asked whether the thought of persuing a range of behaviors from deliberate deception (not simple dating exageration) to acheive sexual contact, forcing contact, taking advantage of an incapacitated individual, to forcable rape was sexually arousing.  The raw numbers in the population at large were to be honest, more than a little disturbing; They were in fact horrifying.  The number of men who had an interest (not neccessarily actualized / committed such an act) in being sexually coersive was 18.5%.  That’s nearly one in five men indicated that the idea of performing a sexually coersive act was sexually arousing.  The percentage of women who found the thought of performing (not being the victim of) such an act was significantly lower at 3.6%.

Again, while autogynephilia and autoandrophilia alone were not independently correlated with an interest in sexually coersive behavior, when controlling for other paraphilias, this only meant that they were no more likely to have an interest in such coersive acts as the general population.  That is to say, that 18.5% of autogynephilic males without a co-occuring paraphilia is interested in sexual coersive acts.

So the good news isn’t that autogynephilic only males are less likely than other males… only as interested as other males in sexually coersive acts.

The bad news is the fact that paraphilias cluster and that there is an increase in the likelihood of co-occuring paraphilias and that as shown in this paper, sexual interest is some paraphilic behaviors correlates with increased interest in sexually coersive behavior, which in turn would suggest that autogynephilia and autoandrophilic people in general would be more likely to be interested in such acts.  And, sadly for transfolk, this is the case.  The number of autogynephilic and autoandrophilic people (the study lumped male and female “transvestic fetishism” subjects, but given that males are nine time more likely than females to experience transvestic arousal, most of the subjects are male) that are sexually interested in sexually coersive behavior is a disturbingly high 28.3%.  That is to say, that one in four finds the thought of performing a sexually coersive act to be sexually arousing.  Remember, this does not indicate that transfolk are more likely to actually act on such desires, only that they find the thought of it arousing.

Paraphilic Interest          Males          Females           AGP/AAP
Transvestism                     4.6%             0.5%                  100%
Voyeurism                          18.2%             6.3%                 39.8%
Exhibitionism                   4.3%              0.6%                  12.4%
Sadism                                 2.7%             2.3%                   11.5%
Masochism                         4.9%             8.6%                  24.8%
Sexual Coersion               18.5%             3.6%                  28.3%  (AGP/AAP alone: 20%)

What is surprising in this data is that the % of autogynephiles/autoandrophiles that were also interested in voyeurism is so high.  I personally hadn’t seen this suggested in the literature.  We see lots of references to the high co-occurance of sexual masochism.  It may be because of the relative ratios; AGP folks are about twice as likely to be interested in voyeurism as men in general, while they are five times more likely to be interested in masochism as men in general.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be as surprised as I am considering the oft noted intense interest in pornography among AGP transgendered people?  Perhaps pornography could be considered a watered down version of voyeurism?

Going back to risks of paraphilic sexual interests causing actual sexually coercive acts, the authors estimated from this and other data that perhaps one in three sexual assaults may be averted if all paraphilic individuals were identified and provided treatment interventions aimed at keeping them from acting on their sexually coercive interests.  This would, conversely, suggest that two thirds of such assaults are mediated by other factors including Rape Culture in a misogynistic male privileging environment.

Addendum 6/17/2017:

From an earlier study by NIKLAS LÅNGSTRöM, et. al., an interesting concurrence on the percentage of men and women who experience autogynephilia and autoandrophilia and co-occuring paraphilias as described in their abstract,

“We used a random sample of 2,450 18–60 year-olds in the general population of Sweden to study the prevalence as well as the social, sexual, and health correlates of transvestic fetishism (sexual arousal from cross-dressing). Almost three percent (2.8%) of men and 0.4% of women reported at least one episode of transvestic fetishism. Separation from parents, same-sex sexual experiences, being easily sexually aroused, pornography use, and higher masturbation frequency were significantly associated with transvestic fetishism. A positive attitude to this sexual practice and paraphilia indicators—sexual arousal from using pain, exposing genitals to a stranger, and spying on others having sex—were particularly strong correlates to the dependent variable.”

Note that the “particularly strong correlates” with fetishistic transvestism (transvestic autogynephilia and autoandrophilia) were masochism, exhibitionism, and voyeurism, the same group as in the Baur study.

Further Reading:

Essay on Erotic Target Location Errors

Essay on Autogynephilia

Essay on Autoandrophilia in Androphilic/Bisexual Transmen


Baur, E., et Al, “Paraphilic Sexual Interests & Sexually Coersive Behavior: A Population-Based Twin Study” Archives of Sexual Behavior:  DOI:10.1007/s10508-015-0674-2

Langstrom, et al., “Transvestic Fetishism in the General Population”  Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, (2011) http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00926230590477934

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