27
May
13

“Transsexual” Pornography and The Allure of the “Shemale,” or “How I stopped being angry at TG porn stars and wanted to hug Bailey Jay.”

Before I dive into the dicey subject, let me make a few key disclaimers. The overall social acceptability of porn and the feminist positions on porn are subjects for many many articles, and better written authors than myself have tackled them. I may have something to say on the subject at a later date, but for now, I’m restricting strictly to the subject of porn that falls very generally in the category of “transsexual”. Furthermore, my inclusion of words that I know to be offensive (and that I am offended by) is a conscious choice…they are unavoidable in the this particular subject. Also, I know this particularly article is very heavily focused on transwomen, and I apologize for that. While I’m aware of a growing amount of porn involving trans-men, I just don’t have any experience with how people perceive it.  Finally, I’d like to reiterate my primary disclaimer on this blog…this is a work of my own opinion, and I make no claims as to how the rest of the trans (or any other community I am a part of) may feel.

As I’ve talked about before, one of the things the things that trans folks seem to have to struggle most constantly against is the ton of stereotypes about us. I’ve discussed why that is before, so I’ll not rehash that here. But a key source of these stereotypes is porn, particularly when it comes our sexuality. Don’t get me wrong, all kinds of weird views of ALL women’s sexuality get propagated through skin flicks. But let’s face it…cis-gendered straight women are just a lot more numerous. That gives them at least a little more leverage in combating their stereotypes. Most people who attracted to FAAB women will probably have sex with a few of them over their lifetime. Just given our numbers, a lot fewer people will have an intimate experience with a transwoman.; that means a lot fewer chances to fight these stereotypes directly.

I have a number of beefs with CONTENT of TG porn. The biggest one is the sheer amount of it that is mind-blowingly transphobic. A common theme seems to be “straight” men being “tricked” into a sexual encounter with a transwoman. This just reinforces a number of ridiculous views about transwomen being frauds and manipulators, out to “dupe” straight men. Of course, there is also the language problem. Terms like “shemale”, “hermaphrodite”, “he-she”, “dickgirl”, “trap”, and the ubiquitous “tranny” are common in the titles as well as the dialogue of TG porn, which gives validation to the usage of these hateful, offensive terms. Lastly, there’s penetration problem. So much of trans-related porn features men being penetrated in some way by the actresses dick. My issue here is twofold. It perpetuates the male fantasy of the top transwoman. While I know that top transwomen exist, in my experience they are definitely the exception and not the norm. I know that I personally find the idea of penetrating anyone pretty awful and likely to induce a horrible bout of dysphoria, and I’ve heard that sentiment echoed by a lot of the transwomen I know. A quick glance at the casual encounters section of your local craigslist is all you need to see just how popular this fantasy is (More on that in a minute). Granted, I’m not interested in men for ANY intimate purpose, but the sheer number of times I’ve been approached in person or online by a man interested in blowing me or being fucked by me is astounding, and I know I’m not alone in this. But in all honesty, it’s my second objection to this situation that really grates on me. All of this presses into people’s minds that transwomen are a danger to men’s sexualities, that we are all out for your precious virgin bums, that we are trying to turn you all GAY. While that seems to be the sort of thing that gets a lot of men off, it’s also the sort of thing that many men find TERRIFYING. And terrified men are often violent men. And violent, terrified men murder transwomen. Again, other articles here discuss the ridiculous notion that being attracted to a transwoman makes you gay, so we’ll not recover that ground. But so many men are scared that even thinking we’re pretty is turning them gay…the idea that we all really like buggering the shit out of “helpless” dudes makes the situation a hundred times worse.

You might ask, well then, if men are so scared of being gay, and of transwomen, why is there so much trans porn? Why is this “shemale” stuff so popular? The answer is right there in the question…because men are afraid of being gay (or bi). There’s no denying that we live in a society where women have a much greater freedom to explore their same-gender sexual interests than men (again, a topic for later article perhaps). There’s the old joke that a woman can screw a hundred girls when she’s in college, and still be “just experimenting”. But if a guy even touches some other guy’s dick once, he’s gay for life. I think this isn’t just a societal view, but a concept that men have internalized. I think a lot of men DO have same-gender sexual curiosities, but feel that exploring it would risk turning them permanent homosexual. So, what would make sucking dick ok? Well, if a girl had a dick, it would be “less gay”! And the analogy extends for anal sex. It’s a way of abrogating responsibility for their curiosity about cock. So now, the “shemale” (a beautiful woman with huge porn-star breasts and a big, functional cock) becomes an object of fantasy, which is then reinforced through porn. Next thing you know, said man is approaching any trans woman he can find in real life or online, asking to suck her dick. I think this same desire to shirk responsibility for dick-curiosity is expressed by the (so I’m told by a number of sex-worker friends) extremely common male request for “forced” bisexuality play. Because if the pretty lady is “making” you do it, you aren’t responsible!

Don’t get me wrong, in many ways, I feel bad for these guys. It’s not entirely their fault…society has hand-cuffed them, and the homosocial male culture has warped THEIR brains too. They’d be a lot happier and healthier if they could just explore their sexual desires as they wish without all the worries about the views of their sexual orientation. Everyone is damaged by rigid sexual binarism. If people could just accept the spectrum of sexual orientation, and not be so hung up on labels…yeah, I know. I’m dreaming.

Because of the damage I feel is caused by trans porn, I’ve personally struggled with my views of trans porn actresses for a long time. On the one hand, I’m firmly of the opinion that women have the right to do whatever they like with their bodies, including producing pornography. I also try my very best not to pass judgement on how people express their sexuality as long as they aren’t harming others non-consensually. I also recognize the difficulties that most transwomen face with secure employment and financing transition, and how that leads so many of us into sex work. But part of me has always felt a little betrayed by what they’re doing. Trans porn actresses are often very attractive and frequently intelligent and well-spoken, and if they could be visible doing almost ANYTHING else, I feel like they could be doing so much to help improve the image of our community. And since we do struggle so hard against the stereotypes that so many media types portray about us, it stings to see “one of our own” helping to cement those stereotypes.

But then a funny thing happened to me. I was reading one of my favorite trans blogs, wehappytrans, and I saw they had filmed one of their famous 7 questions segments with Bailey Jay, who is quite possibly the best known trans porn actress around. I was expecting to be angry or irritated. But I’ll be completely honest, I got a rude awakening. She turned out to be smart, and charming. She quoted Kate Bornstein. I related to her. She called out transwomen for their anger and cattiness towards each other. I felt guilty. I cried. And by the end I wanted to just give her a big hug. While I don’t necessarily agree with her career choice, I can very much get behind what she’s saying, and I’ve let go of my negative feelings towards the adult actresses in the trans community. We ALL have a hard enough time as it is, without tearing each other down. There are better ways to fix these problems. While I’m sure she will never see this, Bailey deserves a big thank you from me for sharing so much of herself in her 7Q video, and changing my views so thoroughly. So here it is: Thank you, Bailey Jay, for giving me an emotional smack upside the head and opening my eyes.

Even an opinionated pain-in-the-ass like me can have her point of view rocked.

Bailey’s 7 Questions on WeHappyTrans


5 Responses to ““Transsexual” Pornography and The Allure of the “Shemale,” or “How I stopped being angry at TG porn stars and wanted to hug Bailey Jay.””


  1. May 28, 2013 at 2:01 am

    I find that most people who diss TG or even TS’s are not comfortable with their own attraction to this type of sex. Few will admit to wanting to experience it especially if they are partnered up and their partner frowns upon this as something, (stereotyping) ‘ a weirdo’ would do. I really enjoyed this article. A very great read. ty.

  2. January 30, 2014 at 2:31 am

    I’m a “tranny” porn star, and I share a lot of your critiques here. But a couple things you said stung me a bit. I know you conclude by saying you’ve changed your opinions some (I’m glad you stopped being mad at people like me!), but just to add to that….

    1. “Why is this “shemale” stuff so popular? The answer is right there in the question…because men are afraid of being gay (or bi).”

    >>> While this is, without any doubt, the case for some folks, my many years of experience as a trans sex worker tell me this is NOT at all the reason many cis men like to fuck trans women or look at trans porn. Personally, most of my clients and fans identify either as “straight”, “bi” or “trans-attracted”, and far from being insecure about it, most are *very* comfortable with their sexuality. More so, I’d say, then your average straight cis dude even. I wrote a longer exploration of this theme once that I recommend to anyone exploring this issue: http://thedistantpanic.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/the-best-of-both-worlds-can-tranny-whores-also-be-tranny-chasers-or-toward-a-trans-centric-sexuality/

    2. “Trans porn actresses are often very attractive and frequently intelligent and well-spoken, and if they could be visible doing almost ANYTHING else, I feel like they could be doing so much to help improve the image of our community.”

    >>> Like most folks in general, most porn stars do have lives outside our jobs. I personally have been involved with more community organizing projects than I can even remember. I’ve helped change policies at jails, I’ve worked as a case manager for homeless trans youth, etc etc. So just cause we’re one thing doesn’t mean we can’t also be other things. Porn is just how we make coin cause social workers and radical activists rarely get paid what we’re worth/need to survive! ;-P

    3. “And since we do struggle so hard against the stereotypes that so many media types portray about us, it stings to see “one of our own” helping to cement those stereotypes.”

    >>> Trans women who are sex workers also face those same stereotypes, and often are even more directly impacted by them (and by the violence caused by them) than non-sex-working trans women. We aren’t helping to cement them anymore than a worker at Walmart is helping to cement poverty wages in Indonesia. Blame management/decision makers at the top, not people just doing what they must to survive. Cause for many folks like me, sex work is the only option and porn is one of the safest forms of sex work available, so yes I will let someone call me a shemale if that’s what I gotta do to avoid cops, pimps, etc while I’m making money.

    Other than that, I appreciated your comments and your blog! Take care. 🙂

    • January 30, 2014 at 2:54 am

      Thank you for your eloquent response and criticisms! I’ve come to realize that a lot of my raw news re: trans porn are just extensions and intensifications of my wider gripes about the large bulk of pornography, and I’ve let go of my negative feels for trans performers and other sex workers, and really turned my attention to the institutions that create the issues in the first place.

      I’m definitely adding you to my blog list, and I’m now following you on Twitter, too. 🙂

      Thanks again, and I hope you keep reading!

      -TheTNF


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A blog about nerdy things, feminist thoughts, and queer/trans life. It's full of rants, opinions, and personal stories. I don't claim to speak for absolutely anyone but myself. Read at your own risk.

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