Thursday, June 4, 2009

Forced Feminization WTFery

Call me crazy, but "forced feminization" roleplaying boards like The D+X Institute strike me as super duper transphobic. I mean, sure, they're effectively fantasizing about being trans. But I don't think that's quite the same as respecting trans people as actual human beings the way cis people are "actual" human beings.

Overall, I'm not totally comfortable with the way transgendered people and gender dysphoria tends to get hypersexualized. The whole "it's all about chicks with dicks and how naughty and forbidden that is," because it wouldn't be naughty or forbidden if--deep down--people weren't still really attached to the transphobic idea that all of this is deliciously threatening. If trans people were just normal people, there would be nothing racy or titillating about becoming one.

There's also the fact that "forced feminization" seems to carry the same overtones as rape fantasies. "I want this, but I'm not allowed to want it because it's naughty and bad. Therefore I think it'd be swell if the choice wasn't mine and I wasn't accountable for it." Lots of women enjoy a good rape fantasy without actually having the conscious opinion that sex is bad, just as I'm sure lots of people on this board get off on forced feminization without having the conscious opinion that trans people are bad. More likely they're actually congratulating themselves on how cosmopolitan they are for creating a scenario where "but for the grace of God," go they themselves.

But y'know... just as there are implications that rape fantasies are reflective of anti-sex pressures on the people who have them (even if the people who have them wouldn't classify themselves as anti-sex), I get a real vibe that this whole thing is reflective of anti-trans pressures on the people playing there.

Maybe I'm prattling on about something totally obvious, but I'm trying to articulate this in a sensible way and I don't know if I'm succeeding.

I understand that the people on this board are--more likely than not--here to get their rocks off and not to explore the sociocultural implications of how the media (including erotica) portrays trans people. The hypersexualization is, whenever it happens, quite dehumanizing in the end.

Considering how rough trans people have it even now... I think they've been dehumanized enough. So this board bothers me.

But again. Fantasy is fantasy. People can fantasize about non-consensual sex without thinking it's right. I'm just not sure people can fantasize about being forced into a trans lifestyle without recycling a lot of old transphobic tropes. I think I'd be too worried about the cultural forces I was strengthening to truly enjoy a board like

That's the only drawback to being a progressive social scientist. Certain things become less fun once I start considering who is or might be harmed by them. Because, whatever people may say about me behind my back, I don't actually like people being hurt. The fact that I'd even have to sit and think about whether this is feeding into something nasty kills any potential fun... even if I were to decide in the end that I'm overreacting and being paranoid and nobody cares but me.

How do people feel about this? Trans issues get neglected a lot, and I don't want to do that to them. I don't want to miss a huge chunk of the injustices people perpetrate on each other, but I must admit that I'm not very good at considering these issues (or at least, I don't feel like I'm on steady footing here). Feedback?

1 comment:

Sam said...

I would actually consider forced feminization to reinforce the man/woman hierarchy far more than it reinforces the cis/trans hierarchy (although it does both, since clearly these two hierarchies are pretty interlinked). Forced feminization is thus like, say, pony play: the submissive is being forced to act out a role that is subordinated in our society, such as that of a woman or that of an animal. Corsets and lipstick are, like bridles or tails, simply a mark denoting membership in the subordinated group. It's hard to find much forced feminization that doesn't involve a lot of misogynist stereotypes in addition to transphobic stereotypes.

This is a type of complaint that's lodged pretty regularly against many forms of D/s play: it's really very difficult to construct a "real"-feeling hierarchical scenario without exploiting one or many of the hierarchies seen in our culture, and for some reason it seems that the least legitimate hierarchies are the most frequently eroticized.

That said, most reasonably self-aware D/s-ers realize this. Fantasies are relatively difficult to consciously control in order to bring in line with one's political commitments, and whether or not you think it's worth the effort usually depends on whether you believe there's a stark division between fantasy and reality.