Now, I’m no Samantha Brick, but I have, however, bagged myself a good deal of men in my time. (I’ve also romanced a fair few women, but that’s another matter.) From 18 to 48, muscular to skinny; from the stupid to the smart and the rich to the poor; white men, black men, Brits, Americans, Asians and Irish; Tom, Dick and Harry have all had a slice of the Paris pie. Discrimination sucks. There’s plenty of fish in the sea, and so, in my wilder years, I would always cast my nets wide. In other words, on the subject of men who sleep with trans women, I can, with some legitimacy, claim expert status.
Many of these men were dicks. Most of them, actually. I loved them all at the time, naturally, but my admiration for them was discarded routinely with the condom wrappers. My life is different now, but my retrospective opinion of these men suggests that they were, on the whole, pathetic, deceptive, selfish and cruel. Obviously, my findings do not apply to all Men Who Sleep With Trans Women, just a significant subcategory: Men Who Slept With Paris. It is from this special (and of course historical) subgroup that I shall now draw some universal truths…
Some men find some trans women highly attractive. Some of these men are perfectly well-behaved and respect their sexual partners.
Transmisogyny is widespread but this cannot be divorced from social pressure on men to conform. Many trans people – who did not transition till adulthood – should well understand that fear of social ostracism can, and does, lead to duplicitous and insensitive behaviour. Many men who desire trans women behave in exactly the same way for exactly the same reasons.
Are they fetishists though? ‘Gay’, ‘straight’ and ‘bi’ don’t really describe sexual attraction towards trans women with penises. ‘Tranny shaggers’ is used, I suppose. There’s an unfortunate social dynamic, ‘cotton ceiling’ if you will, that makes these men ashamed of such desires. As a result, they may compartmentalise, objectify and disrespect trans women. No excuse, of course, but worth noting.
I’d also suggest that not all trans women who find themselves the willing object of these attentions are themselves free of internalised transphobia.
The resulting behaviours may seem loveless. In the male ‘chaser’ it might be described as sleazy, perverse or fetishistic. The trans woman, as described in Blanchard’s theory of autogynephilia, may only feel able to ‘enact’ femininity and fear the intimacy of all but anonymous sex.
Men throughout history have treated ‘unacceptable’ women (whether due to class, race, disability or sexual knowledge) with a similar degree of contempt. Disrespect for these women’s identities and indeed their humanity is common because they are seen as ‘less than women’. Misogyny, in a word.
Classifying attraction to pre/non-operative trans women as a fetish creates, I fear, a catch 22. I remember being appalled once that a friend of mine had pulled a ‘chaser’. Why was this man aroused by breasts and a penis on the same body? What was wrong with him?
If we broke this cycle of fear and ridicule, these men might learn to treat trans women better. This includes, perhaps, a bit more patience and less condemnation heaped on them by trans women themselves.
But isn’t pinning the locus of desire onto a certain body part a fetish by definition – even if this is widely accepted as normal? It certainly goes with Lacan and Freud’s ideas about polymorphous perversion before the ego separates and absolute jouissance ends.
Should desire for the body always stem from desire for the person and not desire-for-the-body applied onto the person?
Some suggest a distinction between ‘chasers’ who see trans people as elements of a preconceived fantasy and those who want the person, sex-variant body included. Consider: “I fancy her because she’ll be my submissive Oriental flower” versus “I fancy her because I fancy her, and part of that is her almond eyes and silky black hair”. There’s also, of course, a big difference between somebody saying “I don’t usually find Asian men attractive” and “I don’t fancy Asian men”. But how about “I don’t fancy brunettes” – is that acceptable?
And what about a man who wants to bed ‘Daphne’ because she’s a woman, versus a man who has fallen for Daphne? Does it always have to be the latter?
Of course, some people just fall in love and genitals are a secondary consideration.
Either way, there should be no judgement placed on anybody’s sexual attractions. So long as it is consensual and they experience pleasure, maybe even love, why should male ‘chasers’ be excluded from this? Surely this also applies to anyone who’s turned on by a man with a vagina.
I say this as someone who has suffered some of the very worst male behaviour, ranging from violence to simple lack of tact. Behold this line from a male friend, describing our first meeting: “It was at that party, remember, I was chatting you up… then someone told me”. Thanks, Lee. Make me feel special why don’t you?
I don’t believe in blanket bans but, still, if someone isn’t attracted to certain genitalia, what can you do? Likewise if they are. Ultimately, we’ve all got different bits and we either like them or we don’t – and other people have a right to feel that way too.
The problem, if there is one, is ‘radical’ feminists and other prudes in cisgender society imposing ideology on mere sexual desire. Should we define or compartmentalise sexual orientation? Describing behaviour which defies heteronormative strictures as fetishistic destroys self-esteem and propels a vicious cycle.
I can imagine a very different world where no man need ever feel ashamed to introduce the woman of his dreams to his mum, whatever her genital configuration.
If a bad girl like me can do it…