I have always felt a surprising connection to the the transmisogynist term “autogynephilia.” Not that I ever casually refer to myself as an autogynephile during afternoon tea, but more that I find a power in exploring its repressive history and understanding the way its logic codes my body and my desires as pathological perversions. The term itself was coined in the 90s by Canadian sexologist Ray Blanchard in an endeavour to delegitimize transfeminine embodiment. According to his theory, transwomen fall into one of two possible categories: we are either homosexual men who pretend to be women in order to lure heterosexual men into our insidious loins, or else we are autogynephiles, heterosexual men with a such a deep sexual perversion that we can only be aroused by the image of ourselves as women, even going as far as surgically altering our bodies to satisfy our insatiably sick lust.
Autogynephilia is of course laughable as a plausible theory of gender, not to mention sexuality. While I am indeed not a sexologist nor a PhD candidate in the sciences of medicines and biologies, I do believe one could argue that even a slight decrease in gender dysphoria brought about by the adoption of any form of feminine expression could have dramatic effects on desire, pleasure, and sexual autonomy. I’m pretty sure it’s called “I’m feeling sexy” or “my cunt is wet” or any of the other six million normal things people say when they are looking hot and feeling thirsty. I’ve also heard like 6 different pronunciations for autogynephiliac, so literally only people who speak ancient Latin can probably say it good.
Autogynephilia is funny to me because in a way, it’s true. The vast majority of transwomen actually experience a surge in desire and pleasure after coming out, even if they are taking hormones which purportedly decrease libido. In fact, most medical practitioners who prescribe hormones make damn sure to let us know that hormones will negatively impact our “sex drives” and procreative capacities. What they really mean when they say this is that our ability to have choice boners and spray jizz all over the place, including into our own eyeballs, will not be possible. Considering some of us have immediate plans to get our dicks chopped off this is actually a very baffling warning. For others, who may not experience such intense dysphoria about their genitals, the way this claim is framed as permanently impacting our sex drives is frightening. Unless your sex life already consists of dressing up as a rainbow-hued donkey and licking a foot with salt on it, this would scare anybody. The real question is, why is sexuality still framed under a heteronormative and transphobic framework that centers orgasm and the procreative viability of cum. It’s not an exaggeration to say that sexual beings are equated with ejaculation, and for people who have penises, entrance into this sacred realm is premised upon the possibility of erection.
Even within queer and feminist communities, this reductive framework of sexuality is largely unchallenged. Admittedly, re-seizing pleasure in the face of the widespread historical repression of womyn’s sexualities and the criminalization of gay subjects is quite relevant. The pathologization of vaginal orgasms which swiftly followed the “discovery” in the 18th Century that pleasure was not an essential criterion for procreation had devastating effects on the lives and sexualities of many womyn and those coerced into the position. “And as soon as female (sic.) orgasm lost the legitimacy of a direct connection to reproductive capacity, it came to seem either non-existent or pathological. (Plant, 200). In response to such a repressive project, some 20th Century feminisms took “orgasms on any terms!” to be a rallying cry for a movement which was increasingly aware of how deeply their sexualities were confined. “It was imperative that women have orgasms. Measures had to be taken to liberate them and make them climax” (Plant, 200).
Similarly, the pervasive repression of homosexuality and the subsequent criminalization of sodomy, cross-dressing, and HIV non-disclosure, which contributed to coding gay sex as dangerous to some abstract “public,” politicized any expression of homosexual pleasure. Under a system of law which considers HIV “non-disclosure” to be a form of aggravated sexual assault, people living with HIV and their bodily fluids, such as cum, are considered to be weapons. In this context, it is obvious that reclaiming orgasm as a manifestation of freedom and pleasure is imperative. What I mean to convey through these examples of repression is that it’s not like people are just ejaculating willy nilly all over the place for no good reason, and even so, it’s not like we “need” a reason to cum. In a world organized around the principles of production and accumulation, Bataille mused that “our only real pleasure is to squander our resources to no purpose.” Or, in other words, to cum just because. In doing so, it is argued that we are able to connect with our own death, or that singular state which lies completely outside the confines of the market.
The issue at hand here is not orgasms, it would be rather silly to claim that they are not worthwhile experiencing. The real sticky point, however, is orgasm’s exalted status as the point of transcendence, that which supposedly grants us entry into a liberated and fulfilling sexual state. Without orgasm, sex becomes a slippery concept to define because in our culture cumming is the equivalent of a litmus test. When we orgasm it is assumed that we have been freed. I’m sure I do not have to describe the feeling, that sudden release of anxiety and surge of accomplishment that comes with the knowledge that we helped someone cum. On the opposite side of this spectrum is the feeling of potential failure that we were unable to provide release, or, disappointment that we ourselves did not cum. In these cases, it is not uncommon to throw the entire event into question as in “did we just completely bomb on doing the funky rn?” or even, “am I the worst persyn at sex in the entire world? Yes, I must be.”
You may be asking yourself at this point if my deep distrust of orgasm is actually a coping mechanism for being left out of the cum cocktail party. Well, in order to be entirely fair, I have decided to try and connect with my orgasmic potential so as to be sure this is not the case. What follows is a description of what I did yesterday, which was masturbate.
First, I did all the normal stuff to set a sexy mood like deep clean the fridge and make a simple collage about the history of recycling. After, I decided to get very autogynephiliac and put on things only girls wear, like socks and underwear. Then, I decided to mix it up by putting on a very gender neutral, very short summer dress, red lipstick, and thick mascara. Not only did I look good but I was feeling very revved up. I thought at this point it would be a great idea to think about things that turned me on, so I remembered my completely wasted transgirlfriend accidentally knocking over a small child during an early afternoon troll stroll a few months prior. This image made me thirsty but still I couldn’t feel anything stirring in my bone zone. I needed some extra help.
I decided to look up sexual videos of transgender lesbians doing lesbian stuff like putting their mouths all over each other’s dongs. This, we all know, is undeniably hot and I felt a trickle of desire forming within me. I laid down on the couch on my stomach watching the porn and thought that even though things were clearly heating up, I needed a dynamic approach. First, I slapped myself in the face and that hurt, then I bit my arm for a while, and finally I licked a book that was on the ground nearby because I find intelligence to be very sexy. I was feeling quite wet at this point so I slid off my underwear and used them as a cloth to dry myself.
Next I got up on my knees with my head down and slid a lubed-up dildo under my dress and pushed it inside me. This felt quite excellent and my whole body started to feel like a warm wet noodle. Poppers seemed appropriate at this point and after a sniff I melted way down into the couch. Oh, shit, I thought, maybe instead of this whole cumming thing I’ll just fuck my own ass on repeat. Yes…forever, I moaned, forever…..forever…..yes…till the end of time….there’s no other way….eternal…asshole….
WAIT! NO, ESTELLE. The plan was to release a tidal wave of orgasmic energy to soothe and liberate my psyche, not to just ream my own dumb butt until I die! So I pushed the dildo as far in as it would go and then got to the real work. I licked my hand and after a while of touching myself I got pretty much 63% erect which was A LOT. Then I just started full on jacking off which felt decent but required a lot of deep sexy concentration to maintain hard state. This kind of unpaid emotional labour didn’t deter me though, because I knew had to get the jizz out into the world. After five or ten minutes or so of this kinda up down thing, something really interesting started happening in the porno which saved me. These bitches were about to come! I turned to see these girls stroking their dicks with a laborious abandon and the sounds escaping their mouths were telltale signs of a cosmic struggle. I felt wholly connected to these women and the impossible tasks they were confronting. Why, oh why, were we all subjecting ourselves to this pain? One by one they screamed out things like “Oh yeah baby, are you ready for this cum load?!” “Load?,” I asked myself, confused.
Quite suddenly a girl shrieked and the camera zoomed in on her dick right by someone else’s mouth as she was saying “fuuck” which was clearly said in the way someone who was about to have an orgasm would say it. Then the person whose head was right by the penis started foaming at the mouth, amassing saliva all over her lips which she then expertly placed on the penis right at the orgasm moment in such a way as to confuse the audience. Wait a minute, did she cum? Is that splooge? Or is that just spit from the other persyn’s mouth? In sequence, the exact same thing happens to all the girls and I’m transfixed with a lascivious lust that will not let go. This deep confusion and clearly total lack of actual cum is so hot that I become extremely aroused. Within seconds some horrible force takes over my body and I close my eyes and embrace what must undoubtedly be my oncoming sexual liberation. My butt muscles squeeze a few times and then a tiny little drop of splooge falls on my stomach. Ewww!! Get it off, get it off!!
If we could only begin to approach sex a little differently, outside of the orgasmic framework, I believe this would proliferate the possibilities for new kinds of empowering interactions and intimacies. Sex, as many of us know, can be a very fulfilling creative space, and queers have always been creative masterminds. If fisting was the great sexual invention of the 20th Century (according to Foucault, anyway), then I think that muffing, a practice created by transwomen where the inguinal canals in the scrotum are penetrated, might be a top contender for the 21st Century, but there is clearly so much space left to explore. If we were able to take a step back from an orgasm-centric understanding of sexual liberation, people who don’t want to cum, or who can’t cum, or have problems becoming aroused, including some transwomen, wouldn’t need to feel so anxious about sex or their bodies not “working properly,” or living up to heteronormative standards of sexual functioning. Orgasms are cool and everything, but there are infinite sexual dimensions to be explored, and frankly, I’m sick of being bored.
Read Estelle’s last piece for us HERE.
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