Men Sexually Interested in Transwomen (MSTW): Gendered Embodiment and the Construction of Sexual Desire
Weinberg, Martin S., Williams, Colin J., The Journal of Sex Research
Being a transgendered person (which is currently a term that refers to types of gender enactment that go beyond the norms of one's assigned birth gender) can take many forms (e.g., persons who feel that they are the other gender and want to have genital reconstruction, those who feel that they are the other gender but do not want such surgery, and those who cross-dress for sexual arousal and who have no desire to live as the other gender). In addition, of those who live full or part time as the other gender, many use hormones to enhance their change in appearance, while others do not (Devor, 1997; Docter, 1988; Ekins, 1997; Gagne & Tewksbury, 2002; King, 1993).
In our previous studies (Weinberg, Williams, & Pryor, 1994; Weinberg, Shaver, & Williams, 1999), we came across a particular type of transgendered person that spurred our sociological interest--genetic males who had feminized themselves by developing breasts and a curvaceous body through female hormones while retaining a penis. Such transgendered persons are often referred to as transwomen--an informal descriptor used relative to one's affirmed gender (see Murphy, 2007, p. 48). In their relations with others, because of their sex-gender nonconformity, they are often discriminated against--finding it difficult to get housing or employment, being hassled by the police, and preyed on by street people (Valera, Sawyer, & Schiraldi, 2001). If this occurs, or they cannot pursue some kind of self-employment that minimizes face-to-face contact (which some have done, e.g., working on the development of computer software), it is not unusual for transwomen to engage in sex work (Boles & Elifson, 1994; Greenberg, 1993). This means spending time in fringe areas of cities which are locations for other forms of disreputability (e.g., drug use), as well as a large proportion of persons who are poor, unemployed, or otherwise socially marginal (see also Bockting, Robinson, & Rosser, 1998; Nemoto, Operario, Keatley, Han, & Soma, 2004).
We developed this research in a West Coast U.S. city. At that time, our main focus of study was bisexuality, so we were only concerned with transgendered persons who had a bisexual sexual orientation identity (Weinberg et al., 1994). This interest, in addition, directed us toward those men who had a sexual interest in the transwomen. Data on these men were gathered at that time but remained unanalyzed.
A renewed interest in these data was kindled by the advent of queer studies (Stein & Plummer, 1996) and the increase in literature on transgenderism by academics and transgender people themselves. These developments gave us the impetus to add to this literature by emphasizing newer issues (the social psychology of sexual orientation identity) and provide another study group of men who have a sexual interest in transwomen.
Partners of Transgendered People
Like anyone else, transgendered people enter, or wish to enter, into intimate and sexual relationships. This can be problematic in that they do not conform to conventional gender templates upon which most such relationships rest. Thus, potential sexual partners face issues, such as how to socially define a transgender partner--for example, as a "woman who has masculine features," a "feminized man," or in some other way (Cromwell, 1999). Further, what implications does such a decision have for the partner's own sexual orientation identity? Relationships may be additionally complicated by whether the transgendered individual has had genital reconstruction, whether they have any intention of doing so, or whether they are unsure (Kane-DeMaios & Bullough, 2006). Also crucial is the matter of whether they live in ordinary neighborhoods and work in conventional occupations or are embedded in a marginalized subculture (Nemoto et al., 2004; Reback & Larkins, 2006). For additional complexities, see Devor (1993).
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Publication information: Article title: Men Sexually Interested in Transwomen (MSTW): Gendered Embodiment and the Construction of Sexual Desire. Contributors: Weinberg, Martin S. - Author, Williams, Colin J. - Author. Journal title: The Journal of Sex Research. Volume: 47. Issue: 4 Publication date: July-August 2010. Page number: 374+. © 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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