I need help with sex and gender issues.
February 28, 2011 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Please help me deal with issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and either assure me that I’m not a bad person or tell me how to stop being a bad person. A lengthy, detailed and NSFW explanation follows.

I’ve never discussed this in any detail, so please bear with me as I type my thoughts out. First, background: I’m a cisgendered man in an opposite-sex marriage with a cisgendered woman. We both identify as bisexual, and I’d probably land somewhere around 1 or 2 on the old Kinsey scale—pretty much, but not entirely, hetero. Our relationship is semi-open, and she is in a relationship with another woman; sometimes the three of us engage in sexual activity together. This is working quite nicely for all of us, and isn’t the problem at hand, but I wanted to lay a clear foundation.

My dark secret, and the reason I’m coming to AskMe, is that my ideal fantasy sexual partner is someone who has all the secondary and tertiary sexual characteristics of a woman, but has a penis instead of a vagina. I often seek this sort of thing out in pornography, and I’m feeling really guilty about it, because I feel like I’m objectifying and fetishizing transgendered women. I’ll look for porn with words like “shemale” or “tranny” or “dickgirl.” I know these words are offensive, and I feel like I’m trapped in a dichotomy of trying to fulfill my own desires while still being conscious of the very real societal pressures and stress placed upon anyone who doesn’t conform to gender norms.

At the same time, I try to be active in social causes and be a friend to the transgendered community, whether that means political activity in the real world or stepping into an online conversation. Way in the back of my mind, though, I wonder whether I’m really sincere, or whether it’s just my fetish that’s driving me to white-knight because it makes me feel noble to do so.

So what do I do, AskMe? I’m not directly hurting anybody in any way, or at least I hope I’m not, but I’m acting and thinking like a creepy, objectifying pervert because I can’t stop obsessing about a woman’s genitals when I learn that she’s transgendered. To all transgendered women on MetaFilter, I sincerely apologize, and I hope I haven’t made you feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. How do you deal with the knowledge that people think of you like this?

Thank you for listening and letting me get this off my chest. Again, I’m sorry for being a creep. I really don’t want to be.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

And if you were drawn to regular female pornography, you wouldn't feel guilty about objectifying women?
posted by Dragonness at 1:07 PM on February 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

I read this and I am not squicked out in the least.

Sounds like you are living a very honest life, in respect to this stuff. Also, you like what you like (as does everyone) and it is difficult to do anything about that.

As long as your behavior with others stays on the up-and-up, I do not see a problem. Also, since you are in a semi-open relationship, what is wrong with going for what you want, in a direct way? Seems like there could be people out there who like what you have, also.
posted by Danf at 1:11 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I don't think it's creepy to *think* this way, and certainly not in response to pornography/the desires of one's own brain. It'd be creepy if you treated transwomen like this in real life - if you were "Hey baaaybeeee," instead of "Hello, nice to meet you!"

I'm a cisgendered woman and I know that lots and lots of men objectify people like me. As long as they treat me like a person when we're hanging out, I don't think they're creepy.
posted by rtha at 1:18 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't really feel qualified to address most of your question, but I do have a suggestion: Check out Drew Deveaux. She makes porn and is interested in creating porn with trans and queer people that is empowering, not exploitive.

I just want to say I think it's good you're considering these things. A vast majority of the people who profit off of "tranny" porn are shitty assholes who only want to exploit and fetishize the women who work for them. While you might be trying to offset what you consider your tendency to fetishize trans women by supporting the trans community in general, it's not a bad thing. Working to ensure that trans people (especially women) are just as likely to be employed, housed, educated and able to access health care is a worthy goal. If we lived in a world like that, porn with trans women would lead to squicky questions of whether or not that was their only way to make a living and whether they'd be doing it if not.
posted by SugarAndSass at 1:25 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of my roommates had something he said whenever he heard/read about any extreme-fringes-kink stuff -- something that encapsulated the entire semester-long course in human sexuality that I took in college. And that thing he said was:

"....(shrug) Eh, wiring is weird."

What I mean is: you dig what you dig. Your personal sexual makeup is unique unto you, and draws on so very, very many different things that trying to puzzle out where it came from, and what each thread of it means, is a fool's errand. And -- it would be ridiculous to get after you about the pictures that happen to be in your head when you're fantasizing about something (hell, my own personal list of things that send me to my room have included everything from a specific departures gate at LaGuardia airport and a sculpture in MoMA, to the soundtrack to Last Temptation of Christ, a red light bulb and a specific thirty-second clip from the film Dune, and no power on this earth will compell me to explain any of that to you).

In fact, I have a hunch some the things we fantasize about may draw their power from our awareness that they are just that -- fantasies that we know will never happen for real. It's kind of like how your most favorite let's-pretend games when you're little are the really wild fantasy ones -- in the back of your mind, you know that the days of princesses and knights or cowboys and saloon girls are over, so you won't get a chance to do them for real, so that's why you have the freedom to act them out in pretend.

It's only where things cross into action that you need to watch out -- but it sounds like you have a good handle on that, though. You say that you're worried about "exploiting" transgender people -- but what if you met a person who had the penis on one hand and all the other female sex characteristics on the other hand, and liked it that way? Would you be "exploiting" them for finding them attractive if that's who they geniuinely are? Nah.

When it comes to sex, the only thing that matters -- in my book -- is whether everyone involved in the particular sex act is fully able to consent, and whether they all do consent. If you've got both those conditions met, go nuts. And as for what you're thinking when you go nuts -- fret not.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:29 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I often seek this sort of thing out in pornography, and I’m feeling really guilty about it, because I feel like I’m objectifying and fetishizing transgendered women.

Are you running up on transgender folks in real life and treating them terribly?

Porn is porn, fantasies are fantasies. What you do in private, or in your head, that doesn't hurt anyone really isn't anyone's business, and likewise, it's also unlikely to be harmful to anyone.

There's nothing to be guilty about.

Just in the same way, thinking nice thoughts about people doesn't help them stay safe, fed, or clothed. People like to make this big deal about feeling guilty or liking a group of people as if the magical powers of their intent are shaping the world more than actions and inactions.

Though, if you want some concrete actions to "offset" your guilt, consider donating to safe houses and counseling organizations for transgender people. They have a ridiculously high murder rate around the world.
posted by yeloson at 1:31 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

First of all, the Kinsey Scale is kinda bunk. As someone who, erm, admires certain transgender characteristics in others, I figured out long ago that gender AND sexuality are more of a 3D model. You can look one way and be attracted to another. There are all flavors and combinations to choose from. There is no set rule I can point to. Get over the labels. IMHO, they are fucking you up.


Now. Your post brings up another pet peeve of mine. It really pisses me off that being transgendered marginalizes folks so much. So many in the transgendered community end up as sex workers because they aren't accepted socially and sometimes can't make a living in any other manner.

I'm not sure if your objection to enjoying porn of a certain flavor is that you understand this and feel guilty for contributing to the issue... or if you deep down identify with the folks who marginalize the transgendered community on a wider societal scale. Maybe you could clarify this through the mods?

Unlike Danf, the only thing that squicked me out about your question was the over-use of labels. Otherwise, I am confused about your issue.

If you love trannies - celebrate that! I don't see the problem here. I hope you can pop back in via the mods and elaborate.
posted by jbenben at 1:35 PM on February 28, 2011

The problem with PORN (and I say this as a fan of porn, myself), is that it always boils down to the most sensationalistic language and imagery. "SLUTTY HOUSEWIVES HUNGRY FOR COCK" and the like. When it's focused on trans imagery, it's no different. So, you know, to the degree that you can, try to find porn that's sex positive, but, really, I think you shouldn't sweat it that the porn you like isn't using the most enlightened language. Especially if your tastes are even a little off the mainstream, that's gonna happen.

No one I know in the trans community would object to someone becoming an ally through sexual interest in transgender people. Hell, as a member of some "special interest groups", myself, I feel like, dude, anything that gets someone who isn't naturally interested in my issue or concerns interested enough to read up and support me and mine in it is ultimately a good thing.

I don't think you're hiding a shameful secret, and it sounds like you're handling it in a pretty respectful way. Keep learning, keep thinking, keep caring, and you'll probably stay in fairly safe waters.
posted by rosa at 1:35 PM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

Also, go ahead and try to meet and (hopefully!) date trans individuals you are interested in romantically.

Or is the problem here that your primary partner might object to that??
posted by jbenben at 1:39 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel like I’m objectifying and fetishizing transgendered women.

Objectifying and fetishizing is just a fancy way of saying you get off on thinking about it. Guess what? Everyone does that about something. You shouldn't feel bad about liking the female + penis combination any more than a gay man should feel bad about fantasizing about having sex with men. Nobody gets to pick their fetishes, we get off on whatever we get off on, and as long as you aren't harming anyone or breaking any laws you're fine.

If porn with real people in it bothers you (understandable), consider reading written pornography instead?

Also in the Japanese hentai world this is a surprisingly popular fetish. Searching for "futanari" or "futa" in the relevant hentai-related places should bring up plenty of non-real-people porn in the form of manga and anime.
posted by Sexy, Sexy Anonymity at 3:01 PM on February 28, 2011

Does it have to be a 'real' penis? Plenty of men like to get fucked by women wearing strap-ons.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:41 PM on February 28, 2011

No one I know in the trans community would object to someone becoming an ally through sexual interest in transgender people. Hell, as a member of some "special interest groups", myself, I feel like, dude, anything that gets someone who isn't naturally interested in my issue or concerns interested enough to read up and support me and mine in it is ultimately a good thing.

This is exceptionally creepy to me. It's like men going to women's spaces because they want to have sex with those women, it really rubs me the wrong way. If you want to be an ally in the general sense, sure, but please stay out of trans spaces if you're only there to try to get in someone's pants.

Also, go ahead and try to meet and (hopefully!) date trans individuals you are interested in romantically.

Please don't do this. The last thing (most) trans individuals want is to be objectified for the part of their body that they hate the most. Many transwomen refuse to use their penis for penetration as it is very upsetting to them. The dickgirl promoted in porn is a far cry from the reality.

As a transman, the attitude in the quotes above really upsets me because this is creepy and objectifying behaviour to encourage. Not that the OP is being creepy due to having a fetish; I just really advise against trying to expand this to dating your average transwoman if the thing you like the most is the thing she hates the most.
posted by buteo at 7:08 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

With due respect buteo, I disagree with your statement that it's inappropriate to date the type of person you are sexually interested in.

Everyone else read the question that the OP feels uncomfortable for looking at trans porn. Fair enough! And you know what, I agree with the OP. There is something exceptionally exploitative about it in my eyes, too.

I ended up in 3 or 4 pretty serious relationships over the years with people in various stages on the trans scale, and somewhere around #2 or #3 it dawned on me I actually skewed that direction in a real tangible way. And I'm not particularly active in that community. Romance happens.

My message to the OP is that it's a legitimate preference. I understand his reticence to explore it via porn. I think it's better to get out there to meet and date people who tick that box for you and vice versa.

FWIW OP, I can't think of anyone in the trans community I know personally that might be offended if you found them attractive. General meeting and dating rules DO apply. If you find yourself interested in someone, I hope you go for it and find happiness...

Stranger things have happened than two people meeting and forming a relationship.
posted by jbenben at 8:33 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

OK well first of all, the fact that you used the term "cisgendered" (I had to look that up, and I thought I was fairly aware of gender/sexual/orientation terms!) is a pretty good clue that you have an honest sexual interest and are not a creep. Actually from the way you describe yourself and your relationship, you sound pretty open and understanding. I agree with above comments that you seem to just have found a "type" that you're interested in, and you should pursue it in the same way you would pursue any other person you were interested in - whether that be porn, or dating, or sex or whatever.
posted by radioamy at 9:04 PM on February 28, 2011

*facepalm* I'm sorry -- I somehow failed at reading comprehension earlier and thought this also involved acting on these fantasies.

We get turned on by what we're turned on by. But it really seems like you're coming from a (horn-dog) place of respectfulness about this. Certainly the labeling on porn isn't particularly respectful, but that's the case for any particular fetish - it's sensationalistic about whatever they're trying to draw your attention to.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:23 PM on February 28, 2011

To all transgendered women on MetaFilter, I sincerely apologize, and I hope I haven’t made you feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. How do you deal with the knowledge that people think of you like this?

This is a tricky line for you to walk. As a woman who used to have a penis, I personally am not creeped out that someone could have been attracted to me specifically because I was a woman with a penis, but for many trans women it is going to feel like an attack on who they are: they're women, they've always known they're women, they've fought long and hard to be recognised as such, and now someone comes along and says they're into the very thing that marks them out as different! This is going to be exacerbated if the lady in question is unable/unwilling to pay for surgery (in countries that require payment).

Not how I feel, but it's a sentiment I've seen expressed many times. On that subject, you may find this blog post worth reading: it's part of the complicated and mixed reaction the (internet) trans community had to this webcomic, which expresses a preference for trans men because of the way their bodies vary from those of cis men.

I don't have any advice as such, but I wanted to provide that data point to let you know that this is complicated territory you're swimming in.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:25 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hey, another trans person here and only speaking for myself. I'd back up what ArmyOfKittens said, it can get very tricky, even if your trans yourself. Amygdala Dentata has a really good post about trans porn (NSFW) which maybe worth a read, it did make me rethink some stuff.

As for your attraction, some people like folks with blond or red hair, big breasts or big bottoms, people like what they like, just some things are more accepted than others.

Oh, as for the keywords you put in google to find what you like, if I was looking for that sort of stuff, yeah I'd probably use some of those words, not that I think there right terms to describe me or anything, just at the practical level they work.
posted by Z303 at 5:08 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

anon, if you're still reading this, could you memail me?
posted by peep at 8:28 AM on March 25, 2011

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