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Study: Sexual arousal patterns of autogynephilic cross-dressers resemble heterosexual men

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Male cross-dressers have similar erotic preferences to heterosexual men, according to recently published research.

The research in the peer-reviewed Archives of Sexual Behavior examined the genital arousal patterns associated with autogynephilia, meaning the tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of being a woman.

Using a variety of erotic videos along with a device that physically measures genital arousal, the study compared 27 autogynephilic male crossdressers, 24 gynandromorphophilic men (who are attracted to transgender women who have retained their penis), 21 heterosexual men, and 21 homosexual men.

The researchers found that autogynephilic men’s arousal patterns were similar to heterosexual men’s and even more similar to gynandromorphophilic men’s. However, autogynephilic men’s arousal patterns were quite different from homosexual men’s. In other words, autogynephilic men, gynandromorphophilic men and heterosexual men all tend to get turned on by the same type of erotic content.

PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, Kevin J. Hsu of Northwestern University. Read his responses below:

PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?

Hsu: In a recent study, our lab found that men who are sexually interested in transgender women (who have retained their penis) exhibited genital sexual arousal patterns similar to typical heterosexual men: Both were sexually aroused by female and not male stimuli. However, relative to the typical heterosexual men, the men sexually interested in transgender women showed increased arousal by transgender stimuli (erotica featuring “shemales,” the colloquial term used in pornography). We also found that the men sexually interested in transgender women tended to be sexually aroused by the idea of being a woman themselves. That is, they tended to be autogynephilic. Thus, we were interested in whether autogynephilic men would show a similar pattern of genital sexual arousal as the men sexually interested in transgender women, given this overlap.

What should the average person take away from your study?

Autogynephilic men showed genital sexual arousal patterns that were near identical to men sexually interested in transgender women. That is, both groups of men were sexually aroused by female and not by male stimuli, just like typical heterosexual men. Both also differed from typical heterosexual men in their increased arousal by the transgender stimuli. This lends further, objective evidence to the overlap between autogynephilia and sexual interest in transgender women.

Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?

The reasons for the overlap between autogynephilia and sexual interest in transgender women remain unclear. Perhaps they share the same, underlying cause. Or perhaps simply because transgender women instantiate the transition from male to female, they tend to be arousing to autogynephilic men, who fantasize about becoming a woman. In any case, we hope our study will motivate future work in this area.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Sexual arousal patterns are a window into a man’s sexual orientation. But autogynephilia is an unusual kind of sexual interest to measure, in that it is directed inward rather than outward. We think our study also provides clues for future research to measure the sexual arousal patterns of men with other kinds of sexual interests that are directed inward.

The study, “Sexual Arousal Patterns of Autogynephilic Male Cross-Dressers“, was also co-authored by A.M. Rosenthal, David I. Miller, and J. Michael Bailey.

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