I remember when I first explored the issue of crossdressing on the internet when I was young, one of the first things I found was a website talking about Freud’s view of crossdressing, the “sexual inversion hypothesis.” While Freud had a lot of crazy and strange views, and I surely disagree with him on many, if not most, psychological matters, I do think there is some merit to his idea here. Maybe not the whole idea as he has packaged it, but at least the central point, which is that the man’s sexual desire for women is somehow diverted, or inverted, so that he desires himself dressed as a woman, instead of a real woman. Even as a youth addicted to crossdressing, this idea made perfect sense to me and fit my situation. Today, I still think it describes the situation well of many, (but not all), crossdressers today. I say so not because of scientific evidence, but based on my experience and the stories of most other crossdressers I have ever read.
Here is an article that explains Freud’s view on this. It is a very interesting read. “Freud’s Sexual Inversion Hypothesis and Crossdressing.” His view seems to be very similar or even the same as the view of Blanchard and Bailey, called autogynephilia, I’ve talked about in this post – Book Recommendation – The Man who would be Queen.
Where I disagree with Freud is how this condition is caused. He argued that it could be due to things like incestual thoughts towards a mother, or problems with the relationship with our mothers in general. I don’t think any of that makes sense and it doesn’t seem to fit the stories of crossdressers I have talked to. However, the third class of causes, “facilitating experiences,” would actually fit a bit with my own story.
I’ll list some quotes from the above website for those who might not have time to read the whole thing. Quotations:
“With respect to crossdressing, the idea is that the sexual feelings a male would ordinarily direct towards women, are, in the crossdresser, diverted. They become instead directed towards female clothing, or towards the crossdresser himself as an imagined female.Sexual feelings must be understood to encompass a variety of distinct sensations and emotions, including:
- the giddiness or high that a man feels when attracted to a woman
- soft, tactile gratifications of holding and touching
- sexual arousal
- stimulation of erogenous zones
- release of sexual tension with orgasm
In the “normal” male, these sensations and feelings are elicited in various phases of courtship and mating with a female, and to some degree also in other relationships with women. Inversion implies that for some reason, the normal process is not followed, such that the man chooses to experience some or all of these types of pleasurable feelings by himself. As evidence that something like this is going on, consider the prominence that mirrors have in the life of the crossdresser. Indeed, one wonders whether, if there were no mirrors or cameras, there would even be crossdressing. The crossdresser sees in the mirror a reasonable facsimile of a woman. Many of the same cues that a man finds sexually attractive in a woman are in that image–the clothes, makeup, hair, nuances of expression, etc. It seems fairly clear that a crossdresser obtains sexual enjoyment (by the broad definition of ‘sexual’ above) from his own image. The basic concept of inversion is thus simple enough–the man chooses to display the attractive features of women, and to enjoy those, rather than to enjoy these features as present in an actual women.”
“A main implication is that crossdressing of this kind is not an ideal state (note: all comments here only apply to inversion-caused crossdressing). It is a misdirection of sexual energies from their original purpose. It might be too strong to call it “pathological.” But the theory does imply that crossdressing impairs self-actualization. Crossdressing risks violating the organic integrity of the male. It affects the unity of his essence. Part of him is still committed to women and to finding higher levels of fulfillment through his love of women. But the crossdressing diverts energy from this. By not adequately investing his sexual urges in women, his relationships with women potentially do not become as deep and fulfilling as they might otherwise become.
Like all neurotic or defensive behavior, there is an inherent paradox with such crossdressing. It is a “good” strategy short-term, but not long-term. For any given day or week, crossdressing provides pleasure and escape from anxiety. But what are the consequences, what opportunities lost by following the strategy for 10 years, 20 years or more?
The crossdresser basically experiences a highly refined version of infantile sexuality. It is highly fantasy laden, and extremely narcissistic. Some would argue that the very purpose of erotic pleasure is to tie us more deeply to other people. Yet in the crossdresser the pursuit of sexual pleasure tends to have the opposite effect of driving him away from people and into himself.”