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Someone you know-any male close to you-could be having a secret "affair" behind closed doors and you may not even be aware of it. Not to worry, it may not involve another woman. This man may be having an affair with female clothing. If so, it is safe to say that this man is suffering from a transvestic fetish.
What is a transvestic fetish?
Transvestic Fetishism is a psychosexual disorder found mostly in men. To better understand this disorder, we must first look at the definition. Transvestism is defined as dressing in the clothing of the opposite sex to achieve sexual arousal, excitement, and gratification. Fetishism is the reliance on nonhuman objects as the preferred or exclusive method of achieving sexual excitement. The major symptom of fetishism is the use of nonliving objects to obtain sexual arousal. The most common fetish objects are articles of women's clothing such as bras, underpants, stockings, shoes and boots. The individual will often masturbate while fondling, kissing, or smelling the fetish object. In other cases, the individual's sexual partner will wear the object during sexual encounters, thereby providing an arousing stimulus that enables the fetishist to participate in otherwise normal sexual behavior. Thus, men suffering from transvestic fetishism gain sexual pleasure from dressing in women's clothing, a behavior defined as cross-dressing.
Cross-dressing can range from wearing only one article of women's clothing while alone to dressing completely in women's clothing and appearing that way in public. In some cases, the cross-dressing is so effective that it is difficult to distinguish a cross-dressed transvestite from a woman. However, the person's goal is not to "pass" but to achieve arousal.
Cross-dressing seems to be exclusively male behavior, and there is really no explanation for it. There is no evidence of any hormonal or genetic abnormality. One explanation is that childhood experience with cross-dressing may have been associated with sexual play and arousal. One sample of transvestites found that 78 percent were either married or formerly married, and marital friction is one of the main reasons that transvestites seek therapy.
A man with a transvestic fetish will often masturbate while dressed in women's clothes and will fantasize about other men being attracted to him while he is dressed in those clothes. In a very limited number of cases, homosexuals may cross-dress to attract other men, but the homosexuals do not gain sexual pleasure from the cross-dressing and are therefore not diagnosed as having a transvestic fetishism.
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Such a possibility is illustrated in the following report:
TRANSVESTIC FETISHISM IN A HAPPILY MARRIED MAN: HIS WIFE'S REPORT
Allan and I were married during the summer before our senior year in college. Married life was great. We had a cozy apartment close to campus, our classes and grades went well, and we really loved being married. It was wonderful-until one terrible afternoon in December. I had classes in the afternoon, but that day I didn't feel very well, so I cut my 2 o'clock chem lab and went home to the apartment. When I walked in, I got the shock of my life: Allan was sitting on the bed dressed in my clothes: hose, skirt, blouse, and jewelry-the works! He even had one of my bras under the blouse, but he couldn't snap it because it was too small. I couldn't believe it, and at first I just stood stock-still and stared.
As soon as Allan saw me, he jumped up and started to "explain." I became so upset, I don't remember everything he said, but I know he tried to tell me that he had a multiple personality. He said that I married the "straight" half and this was his "other half." He said that the half that married me didn't know about this and that everything was all right with that half. I didn't believe a word he was saying. I thought that he was making it up as an excuse. I didn't know what to think-I was in shock. There sat my husband dressed in my clothes-and he'd been doing it for months. I finally just broke down and cried; my neat little world was coming apart. Allan changed clothes and tried to comfort me, but I didn't want him to touch me. Finally, he went out for a walk so that I could be alone for a while.
By the time he came back, I had settled down emotionally, but I still didn't know what to do. He sat down and explained that he was ashamed of what he had done and that the story about having a multiple personality was just an excuse. He admitted that he had been secretly dressing in women's clothing since he was 12 or 14 but that he didn't know how it all started. It just did, and it had been going on for a long time. He told me that sometimes he just sat in the clothes and other times he masturbated. He seemed really ashamed of that. He said he never went out of the house dressed that way and that he never did it with anyone else. He told me he wasn't a homosexual. After a while, he told me that he loved me, that our sex had always been really good for him, that dressing in women's clothes was something that was just "separate from everything else," and that he was sorry. My feelings were confused; I loved Allan, but I felt weird with him. That night, he slept on the couch.
The next day, we went to a counselor at the university clinic. I didn't know what would happen. I thought that maybe there was some form of drug therapy or that we should consider divorce. The counselor was pretty calm about the whole thing, but he really didn't have much to say either. We saw him once a week for a couple of months. One thing that came from the sessions is that I learned that Allan's cross-dressing problem is a "stand-alone" problem, and it does not mean that there is anything else wrong with Allan. I was relieved about that. The other thing that happened in our sessions was that we came to view Allan's cross-dressing as a "mistake" or as an "alternative sexual behavior." The analogy was to an affair-it was an inappropriate indiscretion that could be stopped. You couldn't erase the past, but you could try to forget (forgive?) it and go on. That may be stretching the point a bit, but it is a way of thinking about it that helps us. It's been 2 years since that December afternoon. The topic of cross-dressing is still a bit touchy, but usually I don't think about it, and Allan and I are very happy. Sometimes you just have to "go with the flow" and take things one step at a time. Allan had kind of an unusual affair, but it's over and behind us now. (Holmes, p. 488)
As read above, not every cross-dresser can be diagnosed with a transvestic fetish. There are symptoms with this disorder, as with every other disorder. Over a period of at least 6 months, in a heterosexual male, there will be recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving cross-dressing. The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Is Jill really Jack? Is Jane really Dick? You be the judge....
Holmes David S., Abnormal Psychology; Second Addition, Harper Collins College Publishers, 1994
Morris Charles G., Psychology, An Introduction; Sixth Edition, Prentice Hall, 1988
Mental Health Net, Transvestic Fetishism Symptoms, http://www.cmhc.com/disorders/sx95.htm
Wilson Katherine K., Gender as Illness: Issues of Psychiatric Classification, http://www.transgender.org/tg/gic/ictltext.html