[Epistemic status: I’m super confused about this, and no matter what future opinion I end up with, I’m going to look back at this and ask how I could be so stupid as to not realize that this is the true answer.]
[Update: I suspect this may be a better approach.]
Some people point out that the autogynephilia that is common in trans women seems to have analogues in cis women’s sexuality. For example, before transitioning, AGP trans women will imagine having female bodies in sexual fantasies, similar to how cis women tend to imagine having female bodies in sexual fantasies; AGP meta-attraction is the sexual desire to be seen as an attractive woman, and being desired seems like a big aspect of cis female sexuality; and last but not least, AGP trans women report that being a woman is sexually arousing, just as cis women do.
(This diagram is based on the data from my Survey on Traits You’re Attracted to or Would Like to Have.)
Suppose we tentatively extend the concept of “AGP” to cover the previously mentioned AGP-like sexuality observed in cis women. How do these concepts compare? First, let’s consider some similarities:
- Autogynephilia in trans women is associated with less attraction to men and more attraction to women, whereas in cis women it’s associated with more self-reported attraction to both men and women. However, there are two different subtypes of trans women, and in the AGP subtype, autogynephilia is positively associated with effective attraction to men. Thus, the correlation with sexual orientation seems to match.
- Autogynephilia seems associated with a desire to be or remain a woman regardless of who has it (cis men, trans women, cis women).
- Autogynephilic cis women are more likely to feel that their sexuality affects what sorts of style and body they would like to have, similar to how autogynephilia in trans women is thought to be the motivating factor for their transition.
There’s also some significant differences:
- Trans women seem to occasionally be autogynephilic about things that are really “weird”, such as menstruation or riding women’s bikes.
- Autogynephilia in cis men seems associated with other erotic target location errors, and trans women seem to have a higher rate of these. However, AGP in cis women does not seem to be associated with ETLEs in the same way.
- AGP in natal males seems to be associated with more attraction to androgyny, whereas AGP in cis women seems to be associated with slightly less attraction to androgyny.
And last, there’s points where the relation seems unclear:
- Autogynephilia in trans women and cis men seems to be connected to certain sorts of masochistic sexuality, such as sissy fetish or other forms of emasculation. It is unclear what forms of sexuality would be analogous to this in cis women, but AGP in cis women is correlated with self-reported kinkiness.
Applying this concept of autogynephilia to cis women seems to present a number of challenges, though, in addition to the differences I mentioned above. For example, AGP trans women are not very feminine, so it’s unclear why they’d have ended up with a feminine aspect of their sexuality. In addition, HSTS trans women do not experience AGP, despite clearly being much more feminine and also plausibly having a more feminine sexuality.
Overall, I’m skeptical that autogynephilia can be applied to most cis women, but I have to admit that there’s a surprisingly good case to be made for it. I definitely think it’s worth investigating more thoroughly. However, I don’t think it necessarily destroys the typology of trans women if it turns out to exist; for example, “AGP” cis women seem to report that their sexuality affects their desired looks, which seems to match the proposed etiology for AGP trans women. It’d just… complicate things a bit. (Well, a lot, probably.)