One of the most popular hobbies amongst transgender folk is the ancient art of Blanchard bashing. In its spontaneous form it can involve nothing more than a conversation in which the autogynephilia theory proposed by sexologist, Raymond Blanchard, is vigorously criticised. In the future, though – when raving transsexuals finally take over the world – Blanchard bashing will take on a more organised form with mass rallies where transfundamentalists gather in the street to burn his books, shout anti Blanchard slogans and preach jihad against the cisgender infidels.
What proponents of Blanchard bashing fail to see, however, is that – despite the offensive language of his work – he did make a valuable contribution to transgender studies. Before Blanchard – or Blancho – as I like to call him (just the name Blanchard is enough to make me yawn) – there were only two types of cross-gender behavior. There were either dirty perverted trannies with a fetish for women’s clothing ie. transvestites, or women trapped in the wrong body who had always known they were women ie. transsesxuals. Blancho’s work created a third category… a dirty perverted tranny who was a man trapped in a man’s body. Admittedly, this wasn’t a great boon for the community, but he did bring to light an important phenomenon – the erotic desire to be a woman – which, despite its prevalence in the transgender personality, has still not been satisfactorily accounted for by transgender writers. For me, therefore, his work is not that collection of satanic verses which fuel Blanchard bashing around the world.
Ok, so now I’ve proven I’m not a fundamentalist Blanchard basher, I can now get on with the purpose of this article: to lightly bash Raymond Blanchard. Today, I’d like to talk about his failed work on the causes of autogynephilia, in particular – his adoption of erotic target location errors.
Before we start, my first objection to the theory is more aesthetic than scientific: it’s the name. Who in the history of psychology has ever come up with a clumsier sounding term than erotic target location error? Instead of rolling off the tongue it has you biting it as you try to ejaculate all those syllables out of your mouth. It’s like when you work on a product and you haven’t got time to think of a decent name, so you just say whatever occurs to you as a working title… but never intend to actually use it. Except in this case they did. I mean, just stop for a moment and think of some of the great concepts of modern psychology; and spot the odd one out…
- The subconscious
- Oedipus complex
- Erotic target location error
Put three cockney builders round a pub table and ask them to come up with a name for the theory, and this would be the sort of name they’d come up with. “Well, it’s about sex so let’s call it erotic. It’s obviously all fucking wrong cos it’s gay and shit… so let’s call it an error. I know! What about…”
You may think that my first objection is superficial but it’s not… appearances are important, and in psychology the language you choose to describe or label a behaviour is the appearance. I have previously mentioned how unconsoling it must be for a transsexual in treatment to be told he’s, in Blanchard’s terminology, a non-homosexual autogynephiliac transexual, and it’s the same with this concept. How is a patient supposed to react to the news that their condition was caused by an erotic target location error? I can’t imagine the penny drops…. “Fucking hell… I knew it… I said from day 1 to my wife it’s got all the hallmarks…’ I said to her, ‘this is an erotic target location error if ever I saw one.’ Case in point… I just entered into Google ‘treatment for autogynephilia’ and the fifth result is the following…
Struggling with autogynephilia
Jul 19, 2013 – The bad news is that there seems to be no cure for crossdreaming. … other than to think of it as an “erotic target location error”
So, my first objection to the theory is its name. Basically, it sucks. Now, I’ll attempt to be more scientific and actually explain the theory.
Erotic target location errors (ETLE) are based on the idea that children are born with a sexuality like an arrow cocked in a bow. The string is pulled back, taut, ready to fire and connect with its target – which in the case of men – is women, and vice versa. So, in a ‘normal’ person, the arrow is launched and hits its target and for the rest of their life they will seek and engage in sexual relations with the correct type of partners. Unfortunately, though, erroneous fetishists step to the firing line drunk, shoot their arrow, and it misfires. In the case of the autogynephiliac it hits the target – women – but then kind of bounces back on the firer and makes him believe that him as a woman is the channel for his sexuality. This is…
…an erotic target location error.
The fetishist has failed to locate the correct point to direct his sexuality and this is clearly an error.
If this sounds ridiculous and simplistic… it is. I’m sure that proponents of the theory could put it in a much more eloquent way, but this would just be a more sophisticated sounding version of the previous description ie. exactly the same.
The worse thing about this explanation for so called ‘fetishes’ (and here comes my second objection) is that it explains nothing… it merely describes the phenomena in different language. Everyone is already familiar with the conventional narrative that sex is for men and women… but the sexual desire of a fetishist has been misdirected to whatever weird thing he is attracted to. What does erotic target location error tell you that this explanation does not? The only new thing it brings to the listener is that the misdirection occurs in early childhood, which, given the prevalence of Freudian psychology, everyone presumes anyway.
This simple rewrite of an existing idea makes me think that if I ever need to make some quick money I’m going to go into psychology. If such a shoddy piece of work is all it takes to invent a respectable theory and you get paid for it and go to conferences and shit, that’s what we call in my neighbourhood… ‘an easy gig.’ I could knock out theories like that at a rate of three a day I reckon. (Sorry… excuse that mini rant within a rant.)
So, basically, my second objection to this theory is that it’s shockingly empty. It’s like opening the oven excitedly to look at your cooked chicken and all there is are bones… there’s no fucking meat on it. In fact, I don’t even know why we’re calling it a theory…it’s… a brief description.
To explain the causes of autogynephilia would take a knowledge of neuroscience, genetics, psychology and human experience, which we simply don’t have. Even If you accept – which many people don’t – that it is primarily a sexual phenomena and not a byproduct of being transgendered, then you would have to already have a global knowledge of how all human sexuality is formed – not just autogynephilia… and then you would have to know the psycho-biological mechanisms which created the variants – or even if they were variants at all.
We have nothing like that knowledge at this point in time, and until we understand the human mind in its totality, psychology will never be a true science. That’s why we have to essentially make educated guesses and construct radical, imaginative concepts like the subconscious… because that’s the best we can do. Erotic target location error is definitely not the best we can do in this area… explaining the causes of autogynephilia and human sexuality would take a ballsy theory and a creative leap of the imagination – and ETLE has neither. It lacks ambition, style and substance.
My third objection is, of course, the use of the word ‘error.’
In his kinder moments, Blancho suggests that autogynephilia is best thought of, not as a paraphilia, but as a form of sexuality – like hetero or homosexuality.
suppose I’m an autogynephiliac and I accept that my erotic taste is a form of sexuality. Perfect. But, I then have to accept the fact that my sexuality – one of the cornerstones of human personality and desire – is, an error. Every time I get an erection… every time I experience desire… every single erotic moment I have… it’s all… an error. A huge system error. While this is funny in one respect, it shows the defining characteristic of Blancho’s work in this area (and that of his followers): a consistent lack of respect for the transgender community he is supposed to be helping, underpinned by a covert form of homo and transphobia.
The theory states it clearly: sexuality exists for the purpose of sexual reproduction – ie. to make babies. This ‘when mummy and daddy love each other very much’ idea… essentially says that – as this is the purpose of sex, anything that is not this… is an ‘error’. My first reaction to this is “and what about gays?”. The autogynephiliac may be an error but at least he’s somehow directing his sex drive towards the woman; gays are like… way off target… that must be beyond ‘error’ and into the realms of ‘total system failure.’ All of Blancho’s work in this area is underpinned by the belief that anything not heterosexual is abnormal.
However, my objection is not just that the whole error thing is offensive and hetero-supremacist, it is supported by faulty logic… as is all thinking on ‘fetishes.’ The idea that sex exists for childbearing both ascribes an intention which we can not know, and… a simplicity. It is very easy to look at the result of something and say therefore the whole thing exists for that purpose… however, you can never know unless you know the person or the agent that produced it. All you are is a third hand observer. To say that you… Jo human… understand the purpose of nature / God/ extraterrestrials/ unknown forces is not only arrogant but shortsighted.
The most obvious objection to the idea is that if sex was for making babies then why does homosexuality exist in both the human and animal world? And of course the arrogant psychologist will go ‘Ahh… no… you see… that’s a design error.’ So not only has he assigned purpose to the designer and claimed to understand him/her/it… now he’s able to recognise when he/she/it made an error. This is clearly ridiculous… but also fails to take into account one of the most powerful forces of evolution: variance. The role of variance or mutation as it is called in genetics, is of the utmost importance in the development of species. ‘Error’ is a relative word because in systems of all types it is the variation or mutation that often leads to progression or at least to the next stage of evolution.
The idea that sex is all about procreation is an extremely veterinarian idea. We are not like the other animals. We do not just pass on genes… we pass on memes… defined by wikipedia as “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Given the disproportionate amount of gay artists, writers and designers in the creative history of mankind… I’m not really seeing the ‘error’ but only the plusses of homosexuality. In other words different forms of sexuality may bring benefits to our species.
To conclude, erotic target location theory is a shoddy piece of work; as an undergraduate essay on my desk I’d probably give it a… four out of ten. Furthermore, I’d be calling the student in for a chat and asking him why he was trying to denote a large percentage of the world’s population as erroneous.
What do you think?