Here’s the penultimate episode in the miniseries looking at underwear as a highly gendered product. In ending Part 4 we recognised that there are bigoted types who aren’t going to be very open-minded about men wearing lingerie, and there are slurs that they often employ. These slurs sit alongside other terminology for men wearing items of women’s clothing. Just so you know what they are and their correct use, let’s quickly recap them.
There are some specific subsets who wear lingerie for particular reasons. Let’s look at those, but let’s take a swift glug of reality juice for a minute.
Not everyone is open minded. In practice it seems like the most open-minded are the younger generations, like the Millennials. They’re growing up with both icons and individuals on social media who blur and cross socially-constructed gender boundaries all the time.
The other group that can be surprisingly adventurous are the later middle aged, the ones who are comfortable with their gender identity and sexuality and understand that some black lace and a silk strap aren’t going to rewrite your DNA or change your sexuality. Hims and Thems of those mindsets, we salute you!
This is not intended to be an in-depth psychological profile, it’s just a layman’s overview of a few specific lingerie-wearing demographics for people who may have heard the terms and don’t know what they mean.
Potential trigger warning: some of these terms can be taken as problematic and I try to balance the viewpoints out. I’m not great at keeping my opinions to myself so it’s not hard to see which side of the argument I come down on. However, I urge you to keep an open mind and decide for yourself.
Autogynephile / Fetishistic Crossdresser
‘Auto’, meaning ‘self’ + ‘gyne’, relating to ‘female’ or ‘woman’ + ‘phile’ being ‘someone who has a love or fondness for something’
Quite literally them, an autogynephile is someone who likes it when they look like a woman. In a more clinical sense, we generally use it to describe AMAB people who are aroused by dressing as a woman. Maybe they’re slipping into something saucy by Agent Provocateur, maybe they’re in a pair of co-ords from the & Other Stories AW22 collection; the point isn’t what they’re wearing, it’s that they achieve some sort of excitement or arousal from doing so.
It is specifically the wearing of clothes and underwear to change the appearance that creates arousal – contrast that with sissy, below. Fetishistic crossdresser is not a label generally used by people to describe themselves, but it could be.
There is a clinical term created by Ray Blanchard which gets used: transvestic fetishism. Because the term transvestite was used as a diagnosis of mental disorder to describe cross-dressing men, it is seen as at least outdated, if not as an outright slur and the term crossdresser is preferred. The term was generally used to describe cisgender men, but later opened to all genders.
Crossdressing is not limited to cis men, it’s an activity that all genders can undertake (someone who doesn’t identify as gendered would dress in opposition to their biological sex).
In practice, it’s rarely used to describe cis women. It is used by a slur by gender-conservative types and specifically by cis men on other men and AMABs, although not as often as transvestite or ‘tranny’ is. The difference between this and fetishistic crossdressing is that there’s no sexual component.
Crossdressing (I refuse to write it with the pointless hyphen so if that’s an issue for you, you need to start dealing with it) has a long history; practically as old as the actual practice of wearing clothes, which in itself is suggestive. It can be used as performance, in a straight (as in, not queered) performance such as Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire, or in a highly exaggerated manner like drag (see below).
Historically, there are many notable examples of women crossdressing as men. The story of Mulan, for example, even if the historicity of its origins is a little slippery, is one example. Kit Cavanaugh did something similar in the 17th century, dressing as a man and enlisting in the army in an attempt to find her husband who had been drafted into the army a year earlier. There are tales of lesbian couples in history where one has dressed as a man in order to live together.
It’s a standard movie trope that a woman wakes up and wanders around the kitchen in her male partner’s button-down shirt with the bottom of her bum on show, but you never see him slipping into her La Perla chemise to pop into the kitchen to make coffee. No one thinks twice about a woman going out in a man’s sweater.
In general, society is harsher on men who dress as women than the other way round. And we know why that is, don’t we?
Drag is gender exaggerated for performance, with crossdressing used as one aspect of the performance.
Although drag queens – usually cis men dressed in an exaggeratedly feminine style – are what most people picture when they think of drag, it can be performed by any gender portraying any gender. There are female drag queens (faux queens or bio queens) and nonbinary drag kings (enbies performing as men).
If you’ve watched RuPaul’s Drag Race, you’ll know that some queens have also come out as trans on the show, and then gone on to transition. The point is that the exaggerated portrayal of gender is the performance aspect, and exaggerated dressing is one aspect of that.
In recent years the likes of Courtney Act, Valentina and Farrah Moan have provided a very femme counterpoint to the Dame Ednas and Lily Savages that we were previously used to seeing here in the UK.
And if you were waiting for me to find a way to crowbar Farrah Moan in somewhere, you can cross that off on your bingo card. I have never wanted to be a camel more than when I saw that picture.
Okay, if you’re going to have an abreaction to this post, this might be where you have it, so keep that in mind as you continue. Remember too that this is just a layman’s overview of the terminology, so if you have questions I urge you to read more widely about it before you make up your mind (or yell at me. This is not a PhD dissertation).
Feminisation, sometimes called sissification (sometimes sissification is seen as a subset of feminisation) is a kink practice in which (usually) cisgender heterosexual men are sexually humiliated by being forced to look like and/or act like women. When we say ‘forced’, it’s usually consensual domination and the men want to be forced to do these things.
It’s a broad spectrum:
- Sometimes, men are just forced to dress provocatively in an exaggeratedly feminine way, in lingerie, heels, wig and make-up. Sometimes that is taken further, so that they are made to act and pose as provocatively as possible. That’s sometimes referred to as ‘slut training’.
- They may be forced to dress as a highly sexualised French maid and perform household tasks, which is ‘maid training’.
- There is a subset behaviour in that after being feminised, they are forced to perform sex acts on cis men, or to be penetrated anally either by men, or by women using sex aids. You might hear this referred to as ‘forced bi’ and occasionally ‘femdom’ and ‘cuckolding’, although technically those two are different things so please keep that in mind when you hear other people use those terms.
- Some take it much further into a lifestyle choice, taking hormones to physically alter the appearance, such as feminising the face or growing breasts, and wearing feminine attire 24/7. This narrower definition is often referred to as feminisation, rather than being a subset.
There are other terms too, like ‘panty boy’, but these are ones you might hear more often, depending on the sort of circles you move in and how often you have the vicar over for afternoon tea.
I don’t kinkshame as a rule but I do get at least partial ick here. If the men are achieving sexual arousal through being humiliated by being forced to dress as a women, then for me the inescapable conclusion is it’s because they view women as less than men. I can’t escape or shake that thought. For me, you can’t be humiliated by being forced to look or act like someone you see as an equal or a superior.
The counterpoint usually employed is that by submitting to a woman (although the dominant partner can be any gender, it is usually a cis woman) the men are actually achnowledging the superiority of women by being forced to dress and act like them, and the humiliation aspect comes from going against the social taboo of crossdressing.
I can see the logic behind that but I think it shifts the blame somewhat – instead of finding looking like a woman the humiliating part, it’s crossdressing that is seen as humiliating and that just kinkshames crossdressers. I’m not entirely sure that I’m swayed by it, but ultimately it doesn’t matter what I think and I certainly wouldn’t kinkshame anyone who enjoyed this kind of roleplay.
It’s just a personal opinion and frankly I’ll probably think something different next week, as anyone who knows me will tell you.
Okay! Time for the last part. Now that we’re acquainted the ins and outs of lingerie and associated terminology, let’s have a look at where we can buy it!