James Cantor

Last post on paraphilia for a while, I hope. The reason I bang on about it is that I have suffered from crippling shame, and I seek all ways: cognitive-behavioural, psychological, emotional, rational- to overcome it, without denying truth. 

I sought help from James Cantor, and am grateful for his generous and detailed response. He referred me to his article “Is homosexuality a paraphilia?” This title seems to assume that it is helpful to lump together shoe fetishism and lesbian transsexuality as a single phenomenon, paraphilia, from which homosexuality, a characteristic of Dr. Cantor, may be distinguished, but the article includes this passage, which helps me in my task:

Other than by being sexual, the most salient feature on which male homosexuality and the paraphilias resemble each other is their lifelong nature—starting in childhood and being immutable despite all efforts to convert them to conventional sexual interests. There have periodically been claims of successful conversion of homosexuality to heterosexuality or of paraphilia to euphilia, but such observations are perhaps better attributed to more mundane reasons, such as demand characteristics, suppression of only the overt expression of the undesired behavior(s), or a reduction of sexual desire in general, rather than in any change in actual focus of whichever sexual interest. Similarly, reports of adult-onset paraphilias might instead be attributed to (typically neuropathological or drug-induced) loss of the ability to suppress already-existing interests.

Unfortunately for me, academics usually have to charge for their work, but a search on that site for paraphilia produced this. Click on “Show summary” to see the abstract. It says that  researchers looking at Body integrity identity disorder (BIID) first classified it as a paraphilia. Rather than being impartial investigators assessing evidence, they reacted out of emotional revulsion, and linked BIID to things also conventionally found revolting.

I wondered if lesbian transsexuality may also be distinguished from paraphilias. A shoe fetishist will agree that there is no point in licking and kissing a Jimmy Choo apart from arousal, and if he ceased to be aroused, he would cease the fetishistic act. Whereas, there may be a reason for imagining myself expressing myself female separately from being aroused: gender dysphoria. The gender dysphoria may arise prior to the sexual arousal. There is no reason to assume otherwise. This is true whether or not gender dysphoria in people with testicles who are attracted to women, and those who are attracted to men, is more than one phenomenon. Indeed, I was more committed to transition after taking testosterone suppressants.

In his article in The Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology on “sexual disorders” Dr Cantor is careful to distinguish autogynephilia from gender identity disorder. They may co-exist, but he does not posit a causal link either way.

That is the crux for me. I am quite happy to admit that I was aroused by fantasies of me as female and pictures of me dressed female. I have no wish to distance myself from the shoe fetishist, who gets aroused by one thing other than a human partner, I by another. What hurts and shames me is the idea that that is all it is, that I am recognised as different by everyone I speak to and all it is is a sexual fantasy, rather than the Real Me.

The intellectual basis for freedom from shame is established.

Today, Gauguin, to cheer us all up:

8 thoughts on “James Cantor

  1. To think that’s “all you are” is reductionism to the extreme. Ever since Krafft-Ebing’s psychopathia sexualis, people have tried to pathologize non-conformist behaviour, failing to see conformist behaviour is a societal fabrication. A short stroll through anthropology and tribal sexual behaviour shows us clearly that modern gender and sexual norms are tantamount to mythology.

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    • No, what worries me is that paraphilia is all my “femininity” (whatever that might mean) is. If I write a poem or construct a legal argument that is my creativity in action, not necessarily male or female. From my in-between-ness I can give a reassuring hug from my male space or my female, more than cis-gendered people of either sex. But for whatever reason I use a female name and express myself female all the time, which affects every interaction I have with other human beings, and my gender and sexuality affect each of those interactions. The thought that this “femininity” should only be a perversion of sexuality rather than an underlying gender identity I have found shaming, though I am not sure I could give an intellectual explanation for that.

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      • I’ve spent the afternoon considering your point and how to respond to it. So what if we reverse it? For whatever reason girls from Essex adopt a form of “femininity” that is very particular and specific. It’s extreme to a degree that we can spot them on television or on the street. Conversely (I know it’s archaic, but I like the word), latin men (and if you’ve been to the gritty parts of Spain and Italy you know what I mean) feel the need to constantly re-adjust their intimate parts, spit and discuss female genitalia in their interpretation of their manhood. Why is your femininity a paraphilia, any more than the next person, if human beings of whatever gender approximate themselves to their vision of their gender identity? In my opinion you’re holding yourself to an unjust standard.

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        • The theory of autogynephilia as generally understood is that the gender identity is formed from the paraphilia: I fantasise myself as female, and because of that construct a female identity. “Men trapped in men’s bodies” is the classic expression of it, and this hate-blog still peddles the same line. So according to the theory, I was masculine, and created a feminine identity as a response to masturbatory fantasy.

          James Cantor is not going so far, now: the paraphilia called autogynephilia, getting aroused by the thought of onesself as female, may coexist with the gender dysphoria, but does not cause it. I think it more likely that the gender dysphoria causes the autogynephilia.

          I fell for the “men trapped in men’s bodies” line. I really did. It has made me deny my sexuality for years (distinguish gender identity). The thing is that the paraphilia cannot cause the gender identity. I see that now. If it could, gender identity would be far more plastic than it is observed to be.

          And yes, I do hold myself to too high standards.

          Thank you for your thoughtful, considered and caring comments. I am grateful.

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  2. I have read James Cantor’s paper, and it may seem objective and balanced. If you start to read it more thoroughly, however, the gaping holes appear:

    1. He is setting homosexuality up against paraphilias in general, as if “autogyenphiles” and “pedophiles” automatically belong to the same category. It makes as much sense as to distinguish between red haired people and “non-redhaired” people.

    2. He has no clear definition of paraphilia, glossing over the fact that historically, paraphilias or perversions are cultural concepts, not scientific ones. It was not that long ago that homosexuality was listed as a perversion in the DSM, and the only reason it was taken out was cultural and political. As more and more gay men came out of the closet, the harder it was to see them as creepy child molesters. Since the crossdreamers are invisible, it is still possible to see them as creepy wankers in pink skirts, as opposed to the hard working and responsible fathers or working men they often are.

    Nymphomania was a paraphilia once, until women joined the ranks of researchers, probably telling them that women can — in fact — be horny.

    3. The main evidence that puts gay men apart from other paraphiliacs is Blanchard’s fraternal birth order theory. This theory is weak for many reasons. Other researchers have not found the effect in their studies, and even if this effect is there t on an overall statistical basis, the fact that the majority of gay men does not live up to the theory must mean that a majority of gay men fulfills the paraphilia criteria. SInce Cantor is willing to distinguish between gay men and lesbian as regards etiology, he must also be willing to discuss the possibility of two types of gay men.

    He does not, of course, for the simple reason that he has his own agenda.

    Cantor is a gay man himself. In spite of all the kind words of respect for the life choices of paraphiliacs, he knows very well that an inclusion in the DSM is a social kiss of death. It was so for homosexuals and it is so for crossdreamers and gynephilic transwomen. He is therefore writing this paper in order to prove to the world that he is not a pervert.

    Andrea James argues that Ray Blanchard is gay as well. I have seen no final proof for this. If he is, however, he will have the same motive as Cantor for keeping gay men (and androphilic transwomen) apart from autogynephiliacs and gynephilic transwomen. That would explain Blanchard’s obsession with autogynephiia and the fraternal birth order. He would have to keep the androphilic transwomen apart from the gynephilic ones in order to make himself distinct from the kind of people he so actively stigmatizes in his DSM work.

    The theory of the fraternal birth order is based on evolutionary biology, a point followed up by Anne Lawrence last year. The idea is that since homosexuality gives an evolutionary advantage (leads to offspring), it is not a paraphilia. Since they can see no evolutionary advantage from autogynephilia this condition is considered a perversion.

    The fact is, of course, that in this day and age (when gay men are not forced to marry), “autogynephiliacs” are much more likely to have children and transfer their genes. In fact, there is reason to believe they statistically speaking may be better parents than the regular macho guy. This would mean that evolution wise, crossdreaming is beneficial. For obvious reasons neither Cantor nor Blanchard has followed up on this line of reasoning.

    I am normally skeptical towards brainy poststructuralism, but in this case I think the ideas of Foucault, Butler and Deleuze are highly relevant. What we see here is a cultural mind set that continuously try to discipline people into following stereotyped ideas of what “normal” people should be and do. This belief system is under constant threat from the diversity of real life. Sometimes the cultural “machine” manages to keep people in line, at other times it is forced to assimilate new expressions of behavior and ideas. It has been forced to assimilate the idea of the sexual , thinking woman (at least to a certain extent) as well as the normalcy of the homosexual man.

    Now we find homosexual men on the “inside” of the system, defending the status quo against the “perverts”. Like the chaste Victorian women before them, they will not be associated with the dirty outsiders, as these threaten their social standing in the world. Remember that it was not long ago sexually active women were considered sluts and prostitutes. Cantor & Co now use the powerful language of science to exclude us, the male to female crossdreamers and gynephilic transwomen.

    Don’t mistake their friendly words for respect. These men has painted themselves into a corner, because of their need to sort people into the clean and the unclean, and as for all dogmatists of this kind, that makes them very dangerous. You Clare has suffered from this, as have I and many others. We need to fight back.

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    • For me the heart of autogynephilia as a threat is the idea of cause, which Dr Cantor appears to have recanted: he is not arguing that autogynephilia causes gender dysphoria. Then, it ceases to be a theory, and becomes an observation.

      Even straight people who practise the missionary position within marriage still get embarrassingly steamed up about sex. Sex is not “civilised”. So let us go further: the liberation struggle at the moment is to value and accept the uncivilised bits of us, which in fact need be no threat to our civilisation. Fearing and suppressing them just makes unhappy people waste our energies. The Shadow is a good thing.

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