Naomi Wu and Autogynephilia in women

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Naomi Wu is an Internet personality and ‘maker’ who lives in Shenzhen, in Guangzhou in southern China. She built a career around making ‘how-to’ videos and doing technical reviews. Hers is an invented name and it would be fair to categorise her, in part at least, as a performance artist. She is also, self-admittedly, a ‘geek’.

Naomi Wu got into trouble with the relentlessly leftist and deeply unpleasant Twitter mob (before Elon came in) over a row about an interview she did with Vice magazine, a suppurating boil on the backside of the Internet. But that is not our concern here, other than that it raised her profile enough to be noticed outside the ‘geek-world’ she naturally inhabits.

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More germane is her persona. Naomi Wu has never hesitated to flaunt her feminine assets and has always been a walking, talking affirmation of gender. Habitually, in public and on camera she wears outfits that display significant amounts of her and she has, well, spectacular breast implants. She is tall and has long legs, which she is clearly proud of and shows off, wearing the briefest of shorts and tallest of high-heels.

One has to admit that the ensemble is impressive. Although she tends not to wear a lot of make-up, she always wears some and is attentive to her appearance. She describes herself as the ‘Sexy Cyborg’ and is a committed transhumanist, a philosophical position that welcomes the coming together of human biology and innovative technical devices.

By any measure, Naomi Wu is a striking figure, beautiful, articulate and clearly smart. But recently, her fans got a shock: this quintessential Internet tech-babe, all legs, boobs and brain, is lesbian.

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Her marriage (to a man), she explained, had been one of convenience. This is a common tactic for LGB in China, as it was in the West until recently. Prior to World War 2, Harry Hay, the founder of the modern ‘gay’ movement, was himself married (to a lesbian) for this reason. It allowed people who were not heterosexual to function, inside a rigidly conformist culture which was deeply suspicious both of homosexuality and transvestism, which Hay also practised.

We should not find it surprising that, in a country which remains conservative and controlled to an extent that most Westerners could not easily conceive, at least as yet, Naomi Wu should have adopted this strategy.

Naomi Wu might appear incredibly sexy but still; she had certainly left a breadcrumb trail of clues. On one of her profiles, she asked people to send her money but ‘only what you can afford, because I’ll spend it on beer and women’. Nevertheless, Naomi Wu’s coming out was accompanied by a howl of angst from all quarters, especially, again, from the left. We might pause to reflect on the hypocrisy of a political movement that pretends to support autonomy for all women, yet criticises in detail the actions, sexuality and opinions of one woman.

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Certainly, Naomi Wu is a paradox, even perhaps a challenge: she appears to be a conventionally feminine woman, if somewhat exaggerated, while actually being rather masculine, not just in her interests, but in elements of her appearance and manners, and she is lesbian. She definitely does not accept, or conform to, a swathe of modern Western notions about sex and sexuality.

Central to contemporary popular views on sexuality in the West is an assertion that sex, sexuality and gender are independently variable. Sex, according to this, in a political manifesto called ‘SOGIE’, does not inform either sexuality or gender, and the same is true for both sexuality and gender. All three are completely separate.

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Naomi Wu

This is fine, if all you want is a glib facade to hide behind. But it is a fragile one. Most informed commenters today assert that sexuality and gender are innate; that they cannot be changed. This must mean that they are formed early on in the development of the personality.

As a result of this and other factors, researchers have for decades focussed on the notion that a biological influence is affecting these children and that this occurs prior to birth, that is, in utero. The paucity of evidence of a ‘gay gene’ works in the other direction and suggests that any influences that bring about homosexuality and transsexualism are operative no earlier than the embryonic phase. In addition, hundreds of studies have been done now on the effects of pre-natal testosterone delivery to the unborn baby. They show convincingly that these effects are real and that amongst their consequences is a form of sexual inversion, such that the baby has a body of one sex, but grows up with a sexuality and gender that conforms to the other.

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This is not new. Sexual Inversion, as an encompassing theory to explain homosexuality, was first proposed in the late 19th century and was supported in the work of Freud, Hirschfeld and Havelock Ellis. Indeed, it was established in the medical community until around 1970. Homosexual males were feminised and females virilised, and this was the result of pre-natal conditions then unknown. However, during the 1960s, another form of male homosexual became dominant. These appeared to be masculine and objected to the term ‘Sexual Inversion’. Although for no scientific reason, the term and theory fell out of favour.

This abandonment was challenged by the work of Dr Ray Blanchard on potential transitioners, that is, males who sought to appear to be women and desired medical and surgical assistance to do so. The fact that these fell into two readily identifiable groups led him to propose that there were indeed two groups, one which was homosexual from childhood and the other which was not.

Our interest for now is in the first, which he called Homosexual Transsexuals or HSTS. These, he said, were like an extreme form of homosexual male, such that if a really feminine male of this type were a Kinsey six, then HSTS were ‘seven or eight’. It follows, then, that male homosexuality at least is definable in scientific terms and is associated with a definable personality type.

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Back in Play

All of a sudden, the theory of Sexual Inversion was back in play, albeit in whispered tones. If male homosexuality and therefore HSTS were the result of pre-natal factors and thus the effects were innate to the individual, and the result was on an aetiological scale from feminine men to Kim Petras, then this looked awfully like what Ellis and others had proposed. In fact the one mapped directly on to the other, with no adjustment. Blanchard went further and asserted that lesbianism and female-to-male transsexualism were similar, but in the inverse. That, by implication, meant that pre-natal factors were also at work, which in this case tended to virilise the baby.

Measuring

However, if we accept the theory of Sexual Inversion, then we have to measure it against real-life phenomena. This is a problem because it predicts that those affected will present in the gender opposite to their sex, more or less completely, depending on the extent of their exposure to pre-natal anomalies. This would link sexuality to gender and so torpedo the SOGIE orthodoxy described above, which, again, claims that these are independently variable and not linked at all.

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The problem here is that many men identifying as homosexual and having been so all their lives, become very masculine, often using supplementary testosterone. Obviously, this challenges the Sexual Inversion theory, which predicts that these males should be both attracted to masculinity and identify as feminine. In order to avoid Gender Dysphoria, then, they should present as women. Many such men find this suggestion contentious and even offensive and it behoves us to find a sustainable explanation.

Here we may turn back to Blanchard for one, which lies in his description of the second type of Male-to-Feminine transitioner, those who were not primarily homosexual. The males in this group were neither attracted to masculinity nor were they feminised. In fact, they were no different, on average, from other related males, while HSTS tended to be smaller, lighter, more neotenous and much more naturally feminine.

HSTS are simple; they are feminine because of their sexual natures. But what about those who are non-homosexual, indeed are strongly attracted to women (gynephilic) and who nevertheless wish to appear to be women? Doesn’t this compromise the whole theory of Sexual Inversion?

Blanchard, in an inspired insight, realised that there must be two quite different stimuli provoking these two very different expressions. The men in the non-homosexual cohort were fixating on themselves as sexual targets, but, because they were heterosexual, recreating themselves to appear more feminine, to accommodate this. Let me explain.

We all live in a constructed world that our brains compile from sensory input. We call this the ‘mental model’ and we all inhabit one. This is efficient and accurate, but it is not perfect, because we are human. It can be fooled, and this is how optical illusions work; they trick the brain into thinking it sees something that the eyes do not.

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At the same time, we create, as we grow up, an ‘ideal other’ as our desired partner. For heterosexual males, this will obviously be a woman, but the specifics vary through environmental exposure. For example, men of my generation often find sallow-skinned women with high cheekbones and full lips attractive — probably because when we were growing up, Sophia Loren and other women like her were such big stars. Freud, of course, posited that the base model for this was the man’s own mother, leading him to form his theory of the ‘Oedipal Complex’.

This ideal partner, however, is not real. She is a construct of our minds, pasted together from parts of all the women we, if we are heterosexual males, have found attractive.

Naomi Wu
Naomi Wu

The Erotic Target

Blanchard called this ideal other the ‘Erotic Target’. In most of us, while this is formed by our own minds, it is projected outwards, onto individuals outside ourselves. This is probably how ‘love at first sight’ happens; we stumble upon someone who so closely matches our Erotic Target that it’s almost as if we have known her forever. This Erotic Target is not just an abstract concept but a sophisticated, highly developed representation of a woman (or what we think a woman is) that moves, talks and interacts.

In fact, this target can become so convincing that some men really fall in love with it. But it is not a real person; it is constructed by the self. So these men fall in love, effectively, with themselves, but in the form of a woman.

Blanchard called this misplacement of the Erotic Target, on a part of the self rather than a person outside it, the Erotic Target Location Error or ETLE. This gave rise, in a heterosexual man, to a condition he called Autogynephilia or AGP, the ‘love of the self as a woman.’ Note that AGP is the result of the ETLE; without the latter, the former cannot be present.

This runs into a problem because the man, let’s not forget, is heterosexual and his Erotic Target is a beautiful woman; but what does he see when he looks in a mirror? A masculine man. This causes him cognitive dissonance, which leads him to attempt to modify his appearance to more closely resemble the target’s. If the cognitive dissonance persists, as it is likely to, then non-homosexual Gender Dysphoria will be the result. (Please note that AGP is an extremely complex and varied orientation and this is the briefest possible outline.)

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Dysphoria is a symptom of the ETLE

Note again that the Dysphoria is a symptom of the ETLE and its attendant AGP, it is not causative in itself. This is why treating the Dysphoria without attending to the preconditions risks failure; yet documents like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual insist on this strategy. This is a bit like spraying paint on a rusty car.

Turning back to masculine male homosexuality and taking Blanchard into account, this can now be explained via another ETLE. In this case the Erotic Target is a masculine man, because it is created by a homosexual or androphilic male, but otherwise the system is the same. The Erotic Target becomes located on the self and the individual tries to bring himself into line with it, exactly as the man with Autogynephilia would. But note, because the target is a man, the condition is Autoandrophilia or AAP. This is a phenomenon readily observable in homosexual men in the West.

This explains how and why some males who are in fact sexually inverted, thus having female sexuality, may become masculine — or even hyper-masculine. The actor Jaye Davidson, famous for his role as a transsexual in the 1992 film The Crying Game, is a classic example of this — but he is scarcely alone. Such men are the precise mirrors of the heterosexual man with AGP who becomes feminised. They develop an Erotic Target which is in the image of their desire, a masculine man, but instead of playing the role of feminine partner to that man, they project that target onto themselves. In other words, they become their own ideal lovers.

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The sexual targeting system

This brings us to another interesting observation: the sexual targeting system, which forms the Erotic Target in the first place, must therefore be a function of sexuality and not directly of sex. Sexual Inversion has given these males feminised or female sexuality, and so their Erotic Targets must be men. So the theory of Sexual Inversion holds up.

Most lesbianism in the past has been seen in the framework of obviously sexually inverted forms, of conventionally ‘butch’, virilised expressions. Feminine women, in this schema, substitute butch lesbians for men and of course the lesbians, who are attracted to femininity, are quite happy with this. But there has always been another form, in which both parties appear to be feminine women.

This has been explained as a form of sororal lesbianism or female homophilia. It may be seen as a kind of defence mechanism that proceeds from a fear of men, caused by trauma of some kind, or something like situational homosexuality, that results from the simple unavailability of suitable men. Certainly there are plenty of examples of both of these, one being prison sex, but there are many others that don’t fit. The explanation seems at best glib and does little justice to the women involved themselves.

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It has long been held that Autogynephilia either does not exist or is rare in females and the only study which attempted to counter this, by Moser, was rightly debunked on the basis of its methodology. The argument has often been that women do not show the kind of paraphilias that men do, which, allegedly, give rise to Autogynephilia and Autoandrophilia (AAP). Indeed, in interview, Blanchard said that he didn’t think the latter existed at all and that he conceived the category to avoid accusations of sexism.

This argument depends on the assumption that AGP and AAP are in fact paraphilias, that is, mental disorders in their own right. Worse, it seems to regard the ETLE as incidental, when in fact both are the direct result of one. If there were no ETLE, neither could exist. So logically we should look at the ETLE as causative and address that, rather than AGP, AAP or even Gender Dysphoria, which are actually the observable symptoms of an ETLE. Yet we have seen that the Erotic Target along with gits enabling systems, in both males and females, is completely natural and we all have one. An unconventional placement of the Erotic Target looks more like variation than disorder.

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This is where the celebrated Naomi Wu comes in. Her social media are open and on her Instagram she posts pictures of herself and her girl friends. From these it quickly becomes clear that she is tall, with narrow hips and large feet, and her face is not particularly feminine (though it might seem so to a Western eye.) In fact, many who did not know her might think, on first glance, that she was an Asian transwoman. I actually tried showing her pictures to several transwomen, just to get a straw poll and they immediately forwarded the suggestion. (I mean no disrespect to Naomi Wu.)

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Naomi Wu

Naomi Wu is hyper-feminine, similar to male AGPs

Naomi Wu is in fact hyper-feminine, living in a very conservative culture. Her demeanour and appearance is clearly out of the ordinary for it. So can we conclude that Naomi Wu is an example of the elusive Autogynephilia in females? She might very well be.

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Naomi Wu, this proposes, is Sexually Inverted such that she has a somewhat virilised body and is gynephilic. She has created an Erotic Target in the form of an unfeasibly feminised woman with huge boobs and acres of skin, has then fallen in love with that and now brings herself into line with it.

If this were so, then it would prove that Autogynephilia does indeed occur in women, but only amongst those who are Sexually Inverted. That supports the hypothesis that the Erotic Target and any Location Error are a function not of sex but sexuality. In this view, Naomi Wu’s Autogynephilia would be triggered by her male sexuality, which she has a result of being Sexually Inverted. This would give us no clue to the overall prevalence of Autogynephilia in women, of course, or whether it affects all feminine lesbians, or only a subset.

We must question our presumptions

Autogynephilia’s existence, in females, must question our presumptions about its nature and those of both ETLEs and paraphilias. Are ETLEs actually the function of paraphilias, which are considered so rare in females, at all? Are AGP and AAP actually paraphilic in any real sense?

If the propensity to become attracted to the self as one’s own Erotic Target is universal, experienced in both males and females, is it even a paraphilia? No disruption of the life of an affected person necessarily follows, although the Gender Dysphoria and social rejection, that they might experience as a result, could well do. Might they not just be a natural part of variation in human sexuality, simply a different (rather than erroneous) placement of the Erotic Target?

Autogynephilia carries a huge stigma, such that many men who obviously have it deny its very existence. They create nonsensical websites and carry out baseless surveys, they are bombastic and defensive — and often with reason, especially in the face of merciless, needless and vicious attacks from some feminists, amongst others. This is principally because they have been shamed for being what they are and react, unsurprisingly, with hostility. But why the shame? In a narcissistic society like the West, where actions and their consequences have been separated and reality itself called into question, who does not love himself, or herself? In a Post-modern world, what else is there, except the self?

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If ETLEs are not really errors at all but simply phenomena that can be found everywhere, all over the world and in both men and women, then why should anyone be shamed for having one? They could be seen as similar to having ginger hair — just the way you happen to be, get over it.

Perhaps it’s time they were.

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