Autogynephilia: What It Is And Why It Is Not Considered A Paraphilia

Autogynephilia is a proposal for paraphilia that is not considered a valid psychological construct.


Autogynephilia is a controversial concept that for years has been appearing in the debate about the relationship between sex and gender, and that is often used for political purposes.

In this article we will see what it consists of and how it has been defined in the historical context in which it arose; an issue that leads us to question to what extent science can observe the phenomena of human behavior from a purely objective perspective.

Paraphilia or expression of gender identity?

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 living.

Sexual orientation would be the third variable, differentiated from the previous ones, and from which the decision to maintain romantic relationships with another person based on their sex or independently of this (homo / heterosexual, bisexual, asexual etc.) .

As they are all phenomena that keep a certain independence from each other, it is likely that disparate and plural combinations will arise in which a predictable directionality does not necessarily have to occur according to traditional standards.

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

What is the concept of autogynephilia?

Autogynephilia (autoginophilia) is a deeply controversial construct. It can be divided into different semantic units following its Greek origin: “auto” (relative or referring to oneself), “gine” (woman) and “filia” (attraction or desire); Therefore, 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 adopts female features. Of course, only theoretically.

This word, which does not enjoy unanimous consensus among the research community, was coined by psychologist Ray Blanchard as a result of a series of works published in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Through his The 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 from birth) who would conceive him as a “woman trapped in the body of a man “(also known as the female essence narrative).

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

This finding, together with the fact that the group of non-androphilic (gynephilic, bisexual and asexual) reported less frequently having shown any hint of femininity during their childhood, encouraged him to conclude that: androphilic female transsexuals were homosexual people who sought modify their bodily characteristics in order 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 consigned male sex at birth, and not female-male transsexuals.

Understanding this concept according to Blanchard’s postulates, autogynephilia would describe a wide 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, all non-androphilic transsexuals would be considered heterosexuals whose focus of interest would be displaced, so that instead of lusting for a woman they would wish themselves by adopting her role. That is, the person himself would become the very object of his narcissistic paraphilia.

Autogynephilia would imply a redirection of the object of desire as has been described in some cases of apotemophilia (attraction to people who suffer severe amputations and which ends with the resection of limbs or other parts of the body). Despite the fact that 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 openly considered transphobic by the LGTB community, and clearly harmful for the trans community.


In the first place, it is important to note that autogynephilia is not considered in any of the commonly used diagnostic manuals (DSM-5 or ICD-10) as a clinical phenomenon, in any of the general categories available to them.

On the other hand, Gender Identity Dysphoria (DIG for its acronym) does appear, understood as the clear rejection that occurs in the face of having a body with primary characteristics of one or the other sex, and with which one does not feel identification any. In any case, neither in the case of gender dysphoria does one speak of psychological disorder specifically, although its close relationship with moments of discomfort that are not unrelated to the way in which social pressure conditions what should fit with gender roles.

According to the defenders of the existence of this concept, autogynephilia, this particular form of paraphilia would be expressed as excitement: imagining wearing women’s clothing (especially underwear), adopting body postures generally attributable to the feminine during activity sexual, when being recognized as a woman by other men or when imagining having intercourse 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 from the same nosological family. In the work of Blanchard concurrency with ran frotteurism (excitation obtained through deliberate rubbing and not consented to other bodies) and voyeurism (sexual pleasure through inadvertent watching others practicing coitus); or even others much more serious due to their great impact on third parties, such as pedophilia or zoophilia.

However, the one that has been most strongly linked to autogynephilia (although always theoretically) has been without any doubt masochism; which consists of 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 being transsexual ; Considering that this bond is illusory, artificial, degrading, lacking any scientific and malicious substrate.

In any case, the supporters of the autogynephilia model postulate that it is a real disorder, and that it underlies many of the practices that are carried out with the aim of altering the physical expression of sex (not gender): cross-dressing to hormonal, and ultimately going through reassignment surgery. In any case, the label would only apply to transsexual women (MtF for “Male to Female”) who did not refer to a homosexual orientation, in such a way that paraphilia would become their motivation for change (and not a question of identity).

About the term autogynephilia and its impact on a social level

The very concept of autogynephilia, which has been explored in depth in the article, has mutated in recent years into a throwing weapon with a clear political tinge. Through its use, an attempt has been made to systematically question the mere existence of transsexuality as a legitimate option through which to live one’s identity and sexual orientation, raising a construct covered in science to construct value judgments about one or the other.

All of this has been particularly harmful to the female transsexual community that does not experience itself as homosexual, nor does it refer to feeling as such from its earliest childhood. That is why perhaps 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 objectively knowing reality and contributing to the fact that knowledge adds value to lives of all people. Likewise, the very model of autogynephilia rules out the trans community of men (women by birth), for whom its precepts do not seem to fit.

In recent years, hypotheses have been emerging that emphasize that the fantasies conceived in this model tend to 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 different way. congruent with your intimate desires. Along the same lines, it is observed that such practice tends to be diluted after surgery, since the female self-image would have already been integrated.

In any case, the scientific community is not oblivious to the matter and its repercussions, so it continues to invest its efforts to shed light on it and strip it of any ideological nuance. Only in this way will a more precise and constructive knowledge be achieved, resulting in authentic benefit.

Bibliographic references:

  • Bailey, JM and Triea, K. (2015). What Many Transgender Activists Don’t Want You to Know: and why you should know it anyway. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 50 (4), 521-534.
  • Blanchard, R. (1989). The Classification and Labeling of Non-homosexual Gender Dysphorias. In: Archives of Sexual Behavior 18 (4), Ray, S. 315-334.
  • Klára Bártová, RA, Lucie Krejčová, PW & Klapilová, K. (2020) The Prevalence of Paraphilic Interests in the Czech Population: Preference, Arousal, the Use of Pornography, Fantasy, and Behavior, The Journal of Sex Research, doi: 10.1080 /00224499.2019.1707468
  • Serano, JM (2010). The Case against Autogynephilia. International Journal of Transgenderism, 12, 176-187.

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