I’ve had the privilege of having 3 different really good accountability partners between high school and the present. I told all of them about my struggle with crossdressing and they all told me about their struggles with pornography. Over the years, I have found that there are actually a lot of similarities between struggling with crossdressing and struggling with pornography, and lately I’ve also been thinking about similarities between crossdressing itself and pornography itself.
Here are some things I think are the same or similar in particular order –
1. Crossdressing and pornography both can easily become sexual addictions that are very hard to break. We feel a strong “need” to keep giving in to it to the point that almost all crossdressers report that crossdressing is something they cannot live without. It sexually excites us before or during masturbation. Sometimes we do it for sexual pleasure without masturbation happening. (Sometimes it’s not done for sexual pleasure but still an addiction that one feels that he cannot live without). The addictions become so consuming that we waste hours of our lives every day. They are harmful compulsions that cause us to take risks jeopardizing relationships or jobs. They can become more important than certain relationships or jobs in our mind. They can suck hours out of our day. And “Dr. Victor Cline, clinical psychologist at the University of Utah, said that pornography is the gateway drug to sexual addiction.” (Source here). In my experience, crossdressing functions this way too, and it has for many people I have read about.
“Clinical research shows that pornographic images create chemically encoded messages on the brain that can remain through adulthood. Human memory is formed in part by the release of the chemical epinephrine which, upon emotional arousal, leaves behind an imprint on the brain.” (Source here). I would argue that crossdressing for sexual or emotional arousal does the same thing.
2. Pornography and crossdressing both objectify women. Now in the case of pornography there is an important difference. In pornography, there is an actual woman who is used for her body in order to make the pornography, and this doesn’t happen in crossdressing. But there is a similar objectification of women that takes place. The porn addict becomes infatuated with the ideal female body. He finds sexual pleasure in the body alone or rather images of the body alone aside from an actual female person. Women are viewed as sexual objects and that’s it. The crossdresser does something similar. We become so infatuated with the female body that we are not content with trying to find an actual woman to know and love, but we instead create our own. We disguise ourselves and become attracted to ourselves dressed, rather than loving a real woman. Further, we objectify what it means to be a woman. Being a woman becomes synonymous with a certain look, dresses, skirts, bras, breasts, makeup, high heels, and on and on. Rather than loving a woman with a mind, personality, and soul, we love the externals that we associate with womanhood. We become so consumed with the objects as equal to being a woman, that we fail to see how ridiculous we look when crossdressed. We feel womanly because of the objects.
3. Pornography and crossdressing can both lead to other sexual fetishes/perversions. For my friends who were addicted to pornography, they were led into other places. Eventually they were being turned on by watching women having sex with other women, and being turned on to sadism and masochism in their pornography and sexual fantasies. The more they gave into their addictions, the more newness and depravity they craved. The same was true for me with crossdressing. The more I crossdressed or read crossdressing fiction, the more I was turned on by strange new things. I was eventually turned on by pictures of men crossdressed, crossdressing stories with homosexual elements, crossdressing stories with forced submission elements, and a host of other strange things that I am not proud of.
Pornography has four stages following initial exposure according to – this source. It starts with addiction – the desire and need to keep coming back to the pornographic images. This is followed by escalation – the need for more explicit, rougher, and more deviant images for the same sexual effect. And then desensitization – the material once viewed as really shocking or sinful or taboo is now seen as acceptable or commonplace. Last is acting out – which is the tendency to begin to perform the behaviors viewed whether exhibitionism, sadistic/masochistic sex, group sex, rape, or sex with minor children. In my own life, I have clearly seen this progression with my crossdressing addiction and based on the erotic fiction I’ve read, and real-life stories of crossdressers I’ve read, most others are just like me.
4. Both crossdressing and pornography can take a multitude of forms. Pornography these days is mostly done through the internet with pictures and videos, but strip clubs and magazines also play a role. Erotic fiction and erotic telephone calls can also become part of a pornography addiction. Crossdressing can mostly be done in private with clothing. But often part of it will be crossdressing fiction or TG fiction, as well as crossdressing websites, pictures, videos. And sometimes crossdressing is done with other people, a lover, or with friends.
5. Pornography and crossdressing both have the same emotional aftermath. When one struggles for a while with pornography or crossdressing, eventually one will come a point of deep shame and guilt. This is followed often by a purge of clothing for crossdressers, or a removal of the internet or computer, or getting an internet filter, for those who struggle with pornography. In both cases, it is important for the person struggling to find forgiveness in God, and realize their salvation is not at stake just because they sinned. In both cases, they need to learn how to get back up and renew their fight against the sin they struggle with. In both cases, drastic measures need to be taken to really get rid of the addiction.
6. Pornography and crossdressing both have the strong chance of destroying one’s marriage. Some wives will silently allow the husband to remain in sin, as long as she doesn’t have to see it or hear about it. Other wives will not tolerate it. Even in the cases where the marriage is not destroyed, pornography and crossdressing can both alienate the husband from his wife. Both will probably eventually consume the husband to the point that he barely desires his wife or barely spends any sexual time with her. Even in the cases where the husband is fighting his crossdressing problem or pornography problem, the marriage can undergo a lot of stress because of the complications it causes. Even if the crossdressing or pornography is a thing of the past, it can still cause problems in the marriage bed. The pornography husband has unrealistic notions of the female body and may have trouble being turned on by his wife. The crossdressing husband may be so consumed with female clothing that he can’t have sex with his wife without thinking of crossdressing fantasies or without his focus being solely on his wife’s clothing and accoutrements.
7. Both pornography and crossdressing give us a false ideal that “THIS” is what women are supposed to look like. We get false views of what ideal beauty looks like. This can cause us to harshly judge our spouses’ looks, or not be as attracted to her. Perhaps it even causes crossdressers to harshly judge their own looks, not happy and content with how they look as a man, and maybe not happy about how they look while crossdressed either.
8. Both pornography and crossdressing can lead to harmful sex role stereotyping. This is how women should act and be, and this is how men should act and be. Pornography has be linked to problems like rape, and sexual aggressiveness and violence. Crossdressing to me seems often to be linked with unhelpful gender stereotypes, such as that being a woman means being passive, quiet, sensitive, emotional, free, spontaneous, etc. etc. etc., and being a man means being the direct opposite – strong, stoic, rigid, forceful, etc. The truth is that many of these are just stereotypes. We have limited men from being fully human and limited women from being fully human by forcing them into these unhelpful gender stereotypes.
9. Both pornography and crossdressing feel good to those who do it, and it doesn’t seem wrong to them because it feels good. In both cases the people doing it usually don’t see a problem, whereas practically everyone in their life thinks it is a problem, or would think it was a huge problem if they knew about it.
10. Both pornography and crossdressing are used as escapes from reality because of stress or anxiety. While providing temporary relief from the pressures of masculinity or life in general, they both don’t solve the problems causing the anxiety or stress. In my and my friends’ experiences, crossdressing and pornography have only served to increase stress rather than alleviate it. The escape from reality takes the place of pondering one’s feelings and life situation, and dealing with the problems or making changes.
11. Both pornography and crossdressing seem to lead to lying, and even stealing and cheating. This happens as we try to find ways to do what we want to do without people finding out.
12. Both pornography and crossdressing are perceived to be harmless by those who do it, but both are harmful to oneself, and to one’s relationship with God, and often to other people. They are both sinful and destructive. They are both deceptions. They are both outside the sexual boundaries that God has set for us within marriage. They both involve lusting after someone we should not be, whether it be a woman online, or a false woman of our own creation. Both need to be dealt with by Christians and fought vigorously against.
13. Watching pornography or engaging in crossdressing both have the potential to disconnect us from real relationships. They both detach real emotional involvement from sexual experience.
14. Pornography and crossdressing seem to involve the same sorts of treatment to fight the addiction. Both can be helped by accountability partners, prayer, recovery groups, removing of temptations and triggers, understanding oneself and why one desires the temptation, finding joy and meaning in other healthy ways, rewards/punishments, feeling loved and forgiven by God, etc.
I was struck writing this at how similar pornography and crossdressing are. Perhaps we as struggling crossdressers have a lot of wisdom to offer to those struggling with pornography and the other way around. Perhaps we are not so unique and wacky from the general culture after all. Maybe we are struggling with the same root sexual addiction that objectifies women, but we just do it in a different way.