Are AGP Men Sexist? (Spoiler: No)

A lot of people feel that many themes in AGP pornography are sexist (which they are, I guess), and therefore conclude that AGPs also are sexist. Maybe they’re also basing it on certain stereotypes about autogynephiles. Either way, the point is that people think AGPs are sexist. But is that true?

Not as far as I can tell. In my Sexuality and Attitudes to Gender survey, I collected 24 items related to opinions on gender and compared the attitudes of AGP men with non-AGP men. The result? AGP men were slightly more feminist across almost all questions; the exception involved AGP men being as feminist as the baseline. Here’s an overview:

correlations

Correlation coefficients between the items used to determine degree of feminism and autogynephilia, along with the correlation coefficients between the items feminism, and a measure of agreement between autogynephiles and feminists for each item. Bold coefficients are statistically significant.

The above diagram shows autogynephilic men’s opinions on a variety of topics. They’re usually quite similar to those of non-autogynephilic men (half the correlations don’t even reach statistical significance), but the difference is there. The second column shows the association between feminism (defined as the belief that “Feminism as a movement does important work”) and each of the items. As you can see, for all the items where autogynephilic men differ significantly from the baseline, they do so in a feminist direction.

To make it easier, I’ve created an “agreement” column, which shows the agreement between feminist men and autogynephilic men. When the number in this column is greater than 0, they differ in the same direction, and with greater numbers indicating greater agreement. Even among the nonsignificant items, there are only two cases of disagreement, and they’re sufficiently orthogonal to feminism that their correlation with feminism isn’t even statistically significant.

We can take a look at some of the individual correlations too. In practice, most of the cases where autogynephilic men are significantly different from the baseline are questions focusing on gender nonconformity. Perhaps this means that this can better be summarized as “AGP men are no less feminist and more supportive of gender nonconformity than other men” than “AGP men are more feminist than other men”, but at the very least, it can’t be summarized as “AGP men are sexist”.

Speculations on the Sexist Themes of AGP Porn

But, there’s still some sexist themes in AGP porn. Or is there? We don’t actually know much systematic about what AGPs usually get off to. Maybe most just like lesbian porn, or PoV porn! This is something I want to eventually examine, but we don’t know yet. Still, I believe that the sexist themes probably exist.

Why? One obvious point is that a lot of porn, especially kinky porn, has sexist themes in general. Maybe it’s a reflection of general societal values or whatever.

A subtler point is that what seems like sexist themes aren’t necessarily quite as bad as you might think. Degradation through feminization and forced feminine behavior sounds sexist, but often the dominant person may be woman who’s not being degraded. This is more “misosissyist” than misogynist. That may be problematic in its own way, but it’s probably more complex than pure sexism.

Update 2018-09-17: Similar results in another survey I did.

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More Thoughts on Falsifiability

Consider the concept of meta-attraction. It is the assertion that many trans women are attracted to men not because of normal androphilia, but instead because being with men makes them feel feminine, which they find attractive because of their autogynephilia. Skeptics of Blanchard’s typology seem to find this theory preposterous and often use the mere fact that this has been proposed to dismiss the typology.

This seems to imply a strong belief that meta-attraction is an incorrect theory, which makes me tempted to suggest an experiment. The experiment would be pretty simple; take some bisexual-identifying autogynephilic trans women, show them pictures of men or women, and measure their genital arousal. If they exhibit a gynephilic arousal pattern, we declare that meta-attraction is the correct theory, gender identity theory has been debunked, and the typology is correct. After all, gender identity theory clearly very strongly predicts that bisexual-identifying trans women are bisexual in an ordinary sense, so this should falsify that model.

Here’s the problem with this, though: if they did end up having a bisexual arousal pattern, my belief in the typology wouldn’t be all that shaken. Sure, I would probably adjust some expectations a bit, but I’d only rework things a little. The reason for this is that I can imagine a number of ways that AGP trans women might still exhibit genital arousal even if they are only meta-attracted. For example, maybe the genital arousal is learned, maybe they can manage to construct fantasies powerful enough to awake their meta-attraction using only the images, or maybe being paraphilic can lower your sexual specificity. Point is, there’s a lot of possibilities.

But wait, doesn’t this violate the principle of falsifiability? Or the law of conservation of expected evidence? Or some other basic rule of epistemology? Well, the great thing is that we have math that tells us how to form accurate beliefs, so we can see what this says. Let’s build a toy model:

Suppose we say that the only two possible theories are Blanchard’s theory, which we denote B, and the gender identity theory, which we denote I. We then consider the observation E that trans women will exhibit gynephilic arousal patterns. Due to the previously mentioned complexities, I am uncertain, so I will perhaps say P(E|B) = 0.7. Gender identity theory, on the other hand, confidently asserts that bisexual trans women are not meta-attracted but instead bisexual in a traditional sense, so we might say that P(E|I) = 0.05. Let’s assume an equal prior probability of P(B) = P(I) = 0.5. In that case, we can find the prior probability of E, namely P(E|B)P(B)+P(E|I)P(I) = 0.375. Discovering that trans women exhibit gynephilic arousal patterns yields a posterior of P(B|E) = P(E|B)P(B)/P(E) ~ 0.93, and therefore P(I|E) ~ 0.07, clearly moving the probabilities a lot. On the other hand, discovering that trans women exhibit bisexual arousal patterns yields a posterior of P(B|not E) = P(not E|B)P(B)/P(not E) = 0.24, which is more than three times as high probability as the gender identity model would be assigned if we had found gynephilic arousal patterns.

(Of course, this toy model is very incomplete. For example, I don’t think either side would accept the idea that the two theories are currently equally supported by evidence, and the toy model pretends that both sides are honest truthseekers, a proposition that can easily be shown to be wrong by applying something similar to Aumann’s agreement theorem.)

So, first, doesn’t this violate the scientific rule that a scientific finding can only be considered scientific evidence for a scientific proposition if the scientific experiment would have disproved the proposition if it had turned out differently? Well, first of all, I’m not even sure this is a rule of science (but people keep accusing me of violating it and throwing around the word “science”, so it’s at least a rule of the popular conception of science), and even if it is, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a valid rule for figuring out the truth (that rule would be Bayes’s theorem). In fact, this rule clearly doesn’t hold. It both fails to hold in a very strict sense (the rule is formulated in absolute rather than quantitative language, which is an easy way to see that it is invalid because beliefs are not binary) and in a more practical sense. In the simplest example, if someone tells you that some event has happened, then it probably has happened, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened if nobody has told you; it might just be unimportant enough that you haven’t heard about it.

(But what about the law of conservation of expected evidence? Well, first, you’ll notice that the evidence did in fact update away from the typology. However, since the expectation overall was that we wouldn’t even find the evidence in the first place (P(E) = 0.375 < 0.5), we didn’t need to update as far away from the theory when finding it as we update towards the theory when not finding it. Of course, P(E) depends on the prior beliefs about the theory, so when P(B) > 0.69, the asymmetry switches the other way around.)

One thing that’s worth noting here is that it ties in with confirmation bias. “Confirmation bias” is usually defined as only seeking evidence in favor of one’s theory and dismissing evidence against. I think there’s an important distinction here, in that my approach is (or at least, can be) perfectly rational, whereas confirmation bias by definition is irrational. More specifically, if I already know the outcome of an experiment, it’s a waste of time to perform it; technically it would be good as a sanity check, but I could instead be focusing on something where I don’t know the results. This means that it’s a waste of time to perform experiments that my current model can very confidently predict the results of. At the same time, for social reasons it’s useful to perform experiments where other people are very confident about the results and I’m not, as this will give me a ton of relevant information and arguments. This means that implicitly, it’s rational for me to do experiments where my model doesn’t get disproved by the results no matter what the outcome is, but other’s models can. This looks very much like confirmation bias on the surface, but the fact that it’s rational makes me think it’s not fair to characterize it this way.

Endorsing this too much gets a bit problematic, though, because it can easily lead to problems where you get too set in a single model while failing to realize other relevant factors. I think for this reason an adversarial approach should be used, where people on each side of the issue discuss the situation and try to find experiments that would distinguish the two theories. Then people could do the experiments that confirm their theory, and we would get progress on the issue. I’ve been trying to set this up, and it hasn’t worked great yet, but hopefully it will eventually.

An ending note: one aspect of my toy model that is a bit unfair is that I set P(E|I) = 0.05; many typology-skeptics also have serious reservations about the validity of PPG, so they would likely seriously discount the evidence obtained from this source. I don’t find their objections especially convincing, so I don’t think it’s fair for them to set P(E|I) very high, and that kinda puts us in a tricky situation. My interpretation of this issue is that they want to keep traits like sexual preferences difficult to observe directly so their politically-motivated theories on the subject can’t be empirically disproved. This is of course a cynical theory, but Aumann’s agreement theorem requires me to have cynical beliefs when there is persistent disagreement.

Feminism-Induced Dysphoria

Feminism is often correlated with various forms of gender discomfort in women. I suspect this may be due to feminism in some sense causing dysphoria in some cases, but this sort of theory needs to be careful to distinguish feminism-induced dysphoria from Capitalist Patriarchal Gender Dysphoria; it seems plausible that the dysphoria could instead appear because women who do worse with womanhood are more attracted to feminism, or because feminism makes the ways that gender hurts them more clear and crisp. Thus, we need to think about how the kinds of dysphoria that could truly be blamed on feminism look like.

Let’s consider beauty standards. Women with poor body image seem possibly slightly less satisfied with being women (though the effect seems small) than women with a good body image. Since feminism advocates for women who aren’t conventionally attractive, such women may join feminism and contribute to an association between feminism and dysphoria. In addition, feminism might point out the relevance of gender in their body image issues, further contributing to gender problems. This seems to fall more into the CPGD category than the feminism-induced dysphoria category, because the underlying problem isn’t caused by feminism.

To think about true feminism-induced dysphoria, consider some attractive woman who as a result has an excellent body image. Under normal circumstances, she would do better than the baseline due to discrimination in favor of attractive people. Much of her attractiveness might come from deliberately putting in effort via makeup, and this effort would necessarily be in competition with other women, but under normal circumstances this competition would only be acknowledged to a limited degree.

If she then joins a feminist group, one thing she might learn about are beauty standards and how ‘society’ pits women against each other by making them compete on attractiveness. Far worse than learning about this is the fact that it will become common knowledge in her peer group that this is happening, and that she is benefiting from discrimination in favor of attractive people. This could conceivably lower her status or lead to social pressure to compete less strongly, which she would obviously be uncomfortable with. This might show up as a weak effect on assessment of gender satisfaction, as she now likely benefits less from being female than before. The effect likely wouldn’t be big, but this is to be expected since we only find a weak connection between feminism and gender dissatisfaction.

Obviously, you could argue that this discomfort is justified because intrasexual competition hurts women, but I don’t think zero-sum status games are going to disappear any time soon, so causing pain by criticizing them too much is probably harmful (or at least, not helpful).

Attractiveness is not the only domain where feminism-induced dysphoria could apply. In general, whenever it is pointed out that some behavior commonly associated with women has implications (such as submitting to domination, competing unfairly, being dependent or similar) that differ from the image that people would like to project, the contradiction might lead to discomfort and psychological problems. Since a lot of our behavior probably isn’t as angelic as we would like to believe, there will be plenty of places for feminism to dig in and criticize.

Like in the case with beauty standards, there will probably often be situations where this is very similar to CPGD, but I think it can be distinguished as a fundamentally different model. Under CPGD, the dysphoria comes from the person in question being actively harmed by the status games and events, while under feminism-induced dysphoria, common knowledge of feminist analysis makes participation in the status games and behaviors reflect badly (at least to some degree) on the person who is participating.

I could imagine that it’s difficult to actually test whether feminism-induced gender dysphoria is real, and I’m more proposing this as a potential model than a proven theory. However, I thought that laying down these concrete ideas might be useful for future reference.

Capitalist Patriarchal Gender Dysphoria

There is a kind of gender dysphoria that I often see proposed in radical feminist groups. In a sense, it’s not really one kind of dysphoria, so much as a “many roads lead to trans” amalgamation of different sorts of dysphoria, but there seems to be a unified philosophy behind the proposals, and none of them are really mutually exclusive, so in some ways it makes sense to treat it as one “kind” of dysphoria…

I’ve decided to name it Capitalist Patriarchal Gender Dysphoria, because this seems to be the philosophy behind it: that societal sexism causes many women to feel profound discomfort with being female, which leads to Big Pharma trying to trans them for money, turning them into permanent patients. All the while, autogynephilic “transactivists” cheer on and try to accelerate this machine.

The exact aspects that function as the source of the dysphoria can vary. In some cases it may be trauma from male violence, in other cases it may be prejudice against gender nonconformity. I’m not sure I can give a full list, but here’s some other examples: body image issues, lesbianism combined with internalized homophobia, negative views of the female sexual roles caused by porn, periods and other problems with the female body, and autism. Quite often, multiple causes are thought to combine to ultimately become the dysphoria.

Curiously, there’s one cause that’s never seriously considered: autoandrophilia. This is despite the fact that AAP is probably the factor that has the most evidence going for it (not that this says a lot). The reactions to proposing autoandrophilia varies; sometimes they completely reject that it exists, while other times they attribute it to be a mere artifact of some of the other causes. The approach seems remarkably similar to autogynephilia-deniers who try to say that AGP is an artifact of gender dysphoria. (Interestingly, many of the CPGD proponents also seem to attribute autogynephilia to gender roles… but that’s a story for another time.)

I’m able to reject some of the proposed causes right now. For example, body image issues seem to only have a tiny effect on women’s gender feelings. In general, CPGD proponents often think that women hate being women, whereas in reality that is obviously not the case. On the other hand, I find some of them plausible, at least to a degree. It seems imaginable that trauma could cause a form of gender dysphoria, and I seem to have an easier time showing that autism is associated with negative gender feelings than that it’s associated with autoandrophilia. The complete rejection of AAP seems like a major problem, though, when it is likely the biggest cause.

CPGD is associated with “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (i.e. dysphoria caused by social contagion) and many people say ROGD when they really mean CPGD. The theory is that perhaps being a masculine lesbian with trauma from men isn’t itself enough to cause gender dysphoria, but when you then catalyze it with messages that the discomfort with being female is because she is Really A Man, then you can quickly transform relatively-minor experiences into severe gender dysphoria and permanent patienthood.

Basically, the difference between ROGD and CPGD is that while ROGD is proposed to often come from literally nowhere but social contagion, CPGD comes from all the things that radical feminists dislike. Of course, ROGD proponents probably wouldn’t rule out that some of the factors proposed by CPGDers are relevant (and this would be unwise, because nothing about ROGD prevents other factors from affecting things), but they likely don’t consider them necessary or primary.

The evidence on CPGD is… lacking. The concept seems to mostly have been constructed through wild speculation and anecdotes in radical feminist groups, rather than through unbiased gathering of evidence. Unfortunately, I haven’t been working enough on examining the evidence for CPGD, because whenever I’ve engaged with CPGD proponents, we’ve ended up focusing on whether women hate being women or not, or debating the validity of my surveys.

CPGD can also be difficult to study because CPGD proponents tend to actively work to obstruct me from getting into contact with and surveying young CPGD desisters. They have their stated reasons that makes sense to them, but it’s not something that makes me especially sympathetic to their claims. For example, it is difficult to know how to interpret the desisters without knowing whether they still have significantly different gender feelings from the female baseline, whether they in the past have experienced autoandrophilia, and whether this autoandrophilia persists currently.

I think the best evidence against CPGD is that the trans men that they assume transition because of it seem pretty damn autoandrophilic. Of course, this argument doesn’t help much when they think of autoandrophilia as an artifact of CPGD, but there’s not much else to go on.

masculine-embodiment-fantasies

AAP results from my Transmasculine Narratives Survey.

From the perspective of a believer in AAP, the CPGD proponents often have huge model errors. When they see two trans men dating each other, for example, then this is because they are really “lesbians”, rather than because A*P trans people have unusual sexual preferences for being with trans people. They also often rhetorically ask what CPGDs have in common with AGP trans women, and in those cases I want to reply “everything”, even though others might think it’s obviously nothing.

At the same time though, my AAP-based models must seem completely bizarre to people who’re used to thinking about things with CPGD models. In the end, though, the side that ends up right is the one that looks at the facts, and I don’t see many CPGD proponents spend much time working with real data.

What Evidence is Informal Internet Surveys?

One of my primary ways of learning about this gender stuff is by posting self-made surveys to various places, usually /r/SampleSize. Inevitably, this leads to people complaining that my surveys aren’t “real science” and should therefore be disregarded. But is that fair?

The main problem with this is that the way to learn about things isn’t to require that all information must meet some arbitrary standard of quality before you update your beliefs. All data must be taken into consideration for maximal accuracy, not just the best data. Since we often don’t have data in high quality, this is a very important thing to note, since otherwise you will get stuck with…

With what? What do people do if they don’t use my surveys? Usually, they seem to go with vague anecdotes, personal experiences, and their own political priors. This approach is hardly more accurate than informal internet surveys. It’s much more convenient, of course, because it lets you make up whatever you need for your politics. This is a great way to win, but it’s not going to put you any closer to the truth.

Of course, if there’s quality scientific evidence on some question, then I’m fully willing to use this in addition to my surveys. However, it’s worth noting that most cases I’ve seen people cite science that supposedly contradicted my findings, it turned out to mostly agree. For example, I was once debating with someone who argued that women hate their sex organs, so I mentioned that this contradicted what I’d found in my surveys. She then cited several papers which found… that women are ambivalent-or-happy about them. Which is exactly the same as I found.

There’s also the problem where scientific evidence isn’t necessarily as good as people assume. Take for example Littman’s study of ROGD. I’m sure it follows all the best standards of science and has been made by experienced people. However, Littman never gets data directly from the actual subjects she’s trying to study, and instead collects it from parents that have been recruited on websites that are biased against the claims of the subjects. She doesn’t examine highly relevant factors like AAP, and she doesn’t seem to even consider that the places she’s recruited people might caused bias.

There are all sorts of things that could go wrong with my surveys. There are also all sorts of things that could go wrong with actual science, though perhaps a bit fewer. On the other hand, if you get rid of my surveys, you’re not going to get science, you’re going to get baseless speculation, which is much worse. So I say, let’s do some surveys!

You’re not going to be satisfied with that, right? The followup that always comes after this is that maybe my surveys do provide more accurate information than wild speculation, but the fact that this information is numbers means that we need to hold them to higher standards, because people will respect numbers much more than wild speculation.

It’s possible that this is the case, but then we need to change how people treat numbers, not whether we use my surveys. Numbers are not this magical unquestionable substance, they’re just a useful way to summarize information, and it’s insane to avoid them.

Autoandrophilia Survey Results

In order to get more info on what autoandrophilia usually looks like, I went through all my surveys to find autoandrophilic women who had said that they would be interested in doing a follow-up survey. This gave me a list of 44 women to send the surveys to. Of these, 14 have responded to my survey thus far, giving me the data on this page. Here is a summary of what I’ve found:

The autoandrophilia experienced by the participants seems to take many forms. This include imagining being a submissive man, imagining being a gay man, imagining having a penis and using this in various dominant ways, and imagining being a man in an orgy. I’m sure there are many other ways it could present, considering how few responses I’ve gotten. It also seems unclear whether all of these constitute the same paraphilia, as the women seem to find different aspects of them appealing. This may be an interesting research direction for the future.

The participants were generally pretty happy about being women. To explain this difference from AAP trans men, I think we merely have to look at the amount of AAP. Here’s the results from the women in the survey:

aap-frequency

Contrast this with what I have previously found for AAP trans men in another survey:

masculine-embodiment-fantasies

The fact that they are happy with being women means that they probably don’t have any strong bias towards presenting themselves as being very masculine, being “trutrans”, or similar things that we might worry about when examining groups like AAP trans men.

The autoandrophilia often started early on, with 8 of the 13 respondents being autoandrophilic from the beginning of their sexuality. For example, one respondent wrote “I remember from a very young age (under 10) imagining i had a penis and being turned on by that. I don’t feel like i want to be a man, but in my fantasies, I usually am.”; another wrote “After touching my first hard penis, I wanted to know what it felt like to have one. So I’d read fanfiction to try to imagine it myself.”. This early onset seems similar to the patterns we see in autogynephilic men, which is evidence that autoandrophilia constitutes a genuine paraphilia.

Some of the respondents reported a later onset of AAP, but they did not seem to remember anything notable about this onset. The AAP did not seem to be caused by social contagion or obsession with sex change, since the onset was very early. Only one participant related to social contagion as an explanation, and the main thing she wrote as an argument for that was “I do have a lot of trans and or non binary friends”.

Despite the fact that the autoandrophilia seemed like a genuine paraphilia, it was common for the participants to know transgender and/or nonbinary people, with them on average knowing 4.1 such people. Compare this with Littman’s findings that trans men tend to have about 3.5 friends come out at as trans at a similar time as them. Littman attributes this to social contagion, but the fact that this sample of AAP women knows 4.1 trans/NB people despite not being affected by social contagion shows that it is likely instead caused by AAPs clustering together in similar social groups. (Perhaps because of shared interests?)

The participants reported a variety of sexual orientations, with the most common being bisexual. However, even those who reported monosexual orientations generally reported some degree of flexibility.

Some of the women tried to repress their AAP, but it didn’t seem to work. However, this doesn’t mean much due to survivorship bias; we wouldn’t have heard about it if it did work. I found one of the responses about AAP repression interesting, though: “I watched pornography without any men or realistic phallus. If these things appeared in my fantasies I would replace them. I began to feel that men were disgusting and I idolised women.”. This woman was also the only person in the sample who identified as a lesbian, and her response makes me wonder if the lesbian identity for some AAPs is caused by attempts to repress the AAP? This seems like an interesting research direction for the future. Her feelings that men were disgusting also sound like a mirror image of misogyny that stereotypically appears among some men who try to repress their AGP (though it is worth noting that I found no statistical evidence of such misogyny in other surveys, so it may be a myth).

There didn’t seem to be any consistent patterns in the causes that the participants proposed for their autoandrophilia.

Most didn’t have strong opinions on the idea of it being an erotic target identity inversion. The ones who disagreed with it as an explanation mainly seemed to do so because of their lesbian orientation.

It was common but not universal to feel that a desire for control was a contributing reason for the AAP; however, some participants had a more submissive variant that they didn’t feel could be explained this way. I think it would be interesting to examine the differences and similarities between dominant and submissive AAP further. They did not seem to have especially negative feelings about being around men, but I don’t have a baseline to compare with, so I don’t know for sure. Those who did have bad experiences with men generally didn’t feel that these were the cause of the AAP, despite feeling that the AAP was related to a desire for control; one participant even wrote the opposite: “I would not link my experience to my autoandrophilia. If anything, that experience made me more feminine (non-androphelic)”.

It wasn’t uncommon for the participants to have instances of childhood autoandrophilia or gender nonconformity. For example, one participant wrote “I used to ask my older brother and dad why I didn’t have a penis. One time my brother got so annoyed he told me my penis was ugly so the doctors chopped it off at birth. I was a young kid but still cried extra heavily about it” (she seems to feel better now); another wrote “I would dress as a boy and pretend that I was someone else. Some nameless boy part of the male groups. I dreamed of participating in their male exclusive activities (roughhousing, sleepovers, talking about girls)”. This seems similar to the anecdotes of autogynephiles who have AGP childhood experiences.

The participants reported varying degrees of gender nonconformity. It’s unclear how it compares to the baseline, though in my surveys I haven’t found much of an effect of AAP on GNC, so there might not be much here either.

Most participants hadn’t ever acted on their AAP in a sexual situation. Some participants had a lot of other paraphilias than AAP; others didn’t. There didn’t seem to be any clear themes in what people liked.

There’s a lot of interesting things in the survey that I haven’t covered yet, but going into more detail will have to wait for another time.

Lesbian Autoandrophilia?

For natal females, attraction to women is associated with transness due to the HSTS etiology. This makes it tempting to assume that all gender feelings among women who report preferring women is HSTS-spectrum. However, this is dangerous, as it seems possible that some women identify as lesbian due to autoandrophilia.

lesbian-aap

(This diagram is based on data from my Survey on Gender and Valued Experiences, Personality and Miscellaneous Questions Survey, Micro Gender Survey+, Survey On Traits You’re Attracted to or Would Like To Have, Broader Gender Survey, Gender and Psychology Survey, Thorough Genderbending Survey, and Amazon Mechanical Turk Survey.)

In the above diagram, I’ve plotted the amount of autoandrophilia (normalized to standard deviations from female average) that I’ve found in lesbians, with each point representing one group recruited for surveying, using two separate definitions of lesbian. “Strictbians” are women who report SOME attraction to women and NO attraction to men. In the surveys where I’ve asked about attraction to androgynous men, I have also required NO attraction to androgynous men. Meanwhile, “broadbians” are women who report more attraction to women than to men.

Strictbians are much rarer than broadbians; on average in the surveys above, I’ve only had 3.4 per survey, whereas I’ve had 18.3 broadbians. This makes them very difficult to study, but aggregating the data this way suggests that they are genuinely different, and that I can’t just assume they will be similar. Strictbians seem less AAP than the average woman (my weighted average suggests d~-0.21), whereas broadbians are more AAP (d~0.37). This leads to a total difference between the groups of d~0.59 (which is really an underestimate, because strictbians are a subset of broadbians, and thus drag down their average).

How does this tie into practical things? Unfortunately, I don’t usually ask people about their sexual identity (i.e. whether they consider themselves to be lesbian or not). This is a problem, because it means it is difficult to apply either of these two categories to the cases you most often encounter, where you merely know their identity label rather than knowing the specifics of their attraction patterns.

I have sometimes asked people about their sexual identity labels, so I do actually have something to work with for that. One source of data suggests that the broadbian concept is the closest match:

female-sexual-identity

(From my Personality and Sexuality Survey.)

There are only four exceptions in this case; three asexuals who’d be considered strictbians, and a gay woman who’d be considered a flexbian. This data suggests a pretty good fit, but… it assumes people will only have one sexual identity label! Since people were asked to pick only one label from a list of identities, it cannot take into account women who identify as both bisexual and lesbian depending on the context. Here are the results from a survey where I had a more-flexible system:

lesbian-id

(From Thorough Genderbending Survey.)

The responses here suggest that strictbian is too strict but broadbian is too broad. Of course, this threshold leads to an entirely different result than the other two, namely that the lesbians are as AAP as the women in general.

Let’s try to better approximate people’s identity better by making the following changes:

  • We exclude the asexuals by requiring more attraction to women than just a little. In practice, this cashes out to requiring them to report “sometimes” or “frequently” being attracted to women.
  • We do not allow more than “rare” attraction to men.
  • Those who do have “rare” attraction to men must be “frequently”, rather than merely “sometimes” attracted to women.

How does the lesbian AAP situation look then?

lesbian-aap2

Still elevated rates! The average is d~0.3, though I suspect this may be an overestimate. For example, perhaps AAP women are less likely to identify as lesbian given the same reported degree of attraction to men and women. Still, this has practical implications, in that AAP is likely also important for understanding women who report being attracted to women.

AGP in Cis Women is a Distraction

Some people claim that some cis women experience the same sort of autogynephilic things that trans women do. This claim has some serious problems, but so does its negation. However, let’s suppose cis women do experience such things. Does that mean the typology is bunk?

No. To some degree, autogynephilia in cis women threatens certain aspects of the model, such as erotic target identity inversion as the explanation of AGP, since this means we would not expect it to be possible to straight women to experience autogynephilia. (That said, women seem more bisexual in some sense, so it’s not a disproof of ETII…) However, ETII is only one aspect of the typology, and many useful things can still be derived without it.

However, what about everything else? Does it suddenly prove that AGPs and HSTSs are somehow the same? Or that AGPs are feminine? Not really. We could imagine any number of reasons for why cis women might experience autogynephilia. For example, consider Michael Bailey’s model of female sexuality. He argues that women don’t truly have a sexual orientation, so that they can be attracted to women if coincidences permit it, and he argues that this lack of orientation extends to the auto/allo dimension of sexuality. I doubt he would buy the argument that cis women are autogynephilic, but if cis women are potentially-gynephilic and potentially-auto(andro)philic, then it seems like there’s nothing that would prevent potential autogynephilia.

We could imagine lots of other models. Perhaps the causes of AGP in natal males and natal females isn’t even the same. However, there is one model that seems dubious, and it is the model which asserts that femininity is the cause of AGP in both natal males and natal females. Why is this problematic? Well, HSTSs and gay men don’t seem especially autogynephilic, despite being unusually feminine.

So, why do some people care so much about arguing that cis women experience autogynephilia too? I think they feel that the autogynephilia argument goes “Some MtFs experience AGP, therefore they aren’t women!”, and I’m sure some people use an argument like that, so it’s not an entirely unjustified reaction. However, the goal for me isn’t to decide whether trans women are women or not (my takes on that can be summed up as “transition is legitimacy”); instead, I’m trying to understand and predict people’s gender feelings, and by far the best model for this is autogynephilia.

The alternative model that some propose is that “trans women are women, and this explains both the autogynephilia and the desire to transition”. That’s not a real answer, though! What aspects of womanhood causes this? How do we know? Autogynephilia is a much more effective and justified explanation here.

What is Unfalsifiability?

The typology is often accused of being unfalsifiable. This is of course quite a significant claim, and it’s worth considering. But first, we need to consider what unfalsifiability is and why it matters.

The main way to move forward epistemologically is to test various hypotheses. For this to work, we need experiments to distinguish the true hypotheses from the false ones. This requires us to be able to test the hypotheses and possibly end up with the result that they are false – that is, the theories must be falsifiable.

What does an unfalsifiable hypothesis look like, then? The obvious guess is that it’s a theory that permits everything. However, that’s not quite true. For example, suppose we were trying to understand some sequence of bits. In that case, a theory that permits everything might assign equal probability to each possible sequence. An opposing theory might say that the sequence is alternating between 0 and 1. How do we test which one is true?

Well, we observe the sequence. If it goes “0101010101…”, the opposing theory consistently makes correct predictions, whereas the theory that permits everything… well, it doesn’t get it wrong, but it assigns much lower probability to the correct options than the opposing theory, so it rapidly loses credibility.

Of course, it might have been right. Perhaps the sequence is highly unpredictable. In that case, the opposing theory would quickly get disproven, whereas the one that permits everything would survive.

In practice, we can never predict anything perfectly, so the opposing theory would probably assign some moderate probability to non-perfect flips, so that “010110101…” or “0101011101…” are also quite likely. However, this would still not make it unfalsifiable, as it would still have to compete with the other theories.

But if this is not what an unfalsifiable hypothesis looks like, then what is? I’m inclined to say that unfalsifiability is not a property of specific hypotheses, but instead of families of hypotheses. Generally, you don’t work with a specific hypothesis, because there are parameters that you are still uncertain about; instead you work with a parameterized hypothesis which depends on some variable. For example, you might have a family which says that 1’s occur stochastically at a rate of X. This depends on X and so is not a specific hypothesis yet.

Usually, this is no problem. The family I mentioned above can often be falsified by finding a better predictor than this, but of course it is more general than the original one. The problem arises when you allow the parameter to fit the hypothesis to arbitrary data.

As a toy example, you might say that the sequence begins with some specific sequence of bits, followed by stochastic values. This family can fit to any data that you see, making it impossible to test. Of course, real-world examples are hardly as transparent as this, but the basic pattern is the same: they fundamentally change their predictions to exactly match the data, regardless of how justified this is. For this to work, they often stay vague about their mechanism, so it becomes difficult to truly call them out on it.

So, there’s assertions which work based on noise, which are fully falsifiable, and assertions which work based on overfitting, which are not. How can we recognize the difference? I have some thoughts:

First of all, I think the ones which invoke noise still tend to have consistent macroscopic patterns. Noise is local, it only affects the individual that it’s relevant for, so a focus on general patterns instead of specific instances is important. Of course, the noise may be a result of specific repeating phenomena that it’s useful to study, but a failure to mention specific big patterns that clearly arise from the model is a red flag.

Secondly, as a followup to the above, the anecdotes must be thought about in the context of the greater patterns, so a big focus on specific contradictory anecdotes is dangerous. This is especially true if the anecdotes focus a lot on self-reports, as these can be unreliable. Data is more important than cherry-picked exceptions.

Third, it’s much easier to be unfalsifiable if you’re vague about your mechanism, because it makes things much harder to call out.

Fourth, those who have unfalsifiable theories will be hostile to empirical research, since it ends up requiring a lot of work and propaganda to refit things.

I would argue that the trans typology does quite well at avoiding these pitfalls; the explanation for exceptions to the typology are usually more like noise than unfalsifiability.

On the other hand, the competitor, which I’ve started calling Magical Innate Gender Identity (coined by my friend Trent), doesn’t do very well. There is hardly any focus on the macroscopic patterns, and the patches that get applied to MIGI are to a large degree about fixing its prediction failures there, rather than being relevant to specific individuals. The use of questionable anecdotes with unknown statistical support is heavy, and there’s very little consideration for the accuracy of them. The mechanism is incredibly vague, and it has little empirical basis. That is just not a workable starting point!

Of course, there is a very important counterargument here. It goes like this: If we don’t know the true mechanism of transness, then of course it looks like we’re working from an unfalsifiable starting point, but really we’re just looking for enough data to justify the conclusions. I take that argument seriously, and I’ve made it myself before I became convinced of the typology, but I think the effectiveness of the theory makes it dubious. If this was true, then the typology would not be as powerful as it is.

The Typology is Invaluable

I would claim that you can’t think about transness without the typology. Not really, at least; you can do vague analogies and generalizations, but you will quickly get stuck in any real question.

Consider some basic questions that people may ask. The first one is “Am I trans or is it just a fetish?”, which the typology has an easy answer to, whereas there is absolutely no consensus on how to answer it without. Do non-trans AGPs exist? Do some of them want to be women? If so, how can you tell the difference? Does it matter? There are no answers to this without the typology. Some people will claim to have the answer, but they generally don’t have any underlying theory to back up their answer.

In fact, for most trans people, the typology provides huge shortcuts for questioning. Are you considering whether you are trans for some odd, non-trans-related reason, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, or internalized sexism? No, it’s obviously the A*P. Without the typology, it’s hard to see how you can provide a proper, theory-based answer to this. How about this one: are you fake trans because you showed no signs as a kid? No, it’s the HSTSs who usually show such signs.

I do surveys, and in those surveys a lot of people report that they want to be the opposite sex. How do I interpret these answers? How can I know whether they are “trans-spectrum”, in the sense of having related traits to actually transitioning people, or just being weird outliers? Heck, how can we know this with other groups, such as nonbinary, genderqueer or genderfluid people, who seem to be similar in some but not all aspects to trans people? The typology provides the answer: look into whether they are gay or A*P, and if they are, they’re on the trans spectrum.

How’s the progress on making trans people transition earlier? Well, we’ve got a bunch of youngsters on puberty blockers. Will this eventually be the situation for the majority of trans people? How do we make it the situation? Turns out, there’s two kinds, and we’re only really catching one; this is a clear spot that needs innovation, and the typology helps identifying the relevant patients.

What about people who know they’re trans-spectrum, but need to know whether to transition. How does the typology help them? Well, it gives them clear definitions of the intensities of their situations, and tells them which trans people to compare themselves to. It also helps research into the outcomes of non-transitioners, as it tells you who exactly these are. This is useful for evaluating the alternative options to transition.

There are a lot of questions that the typology still leaves open, but it also provides a basic framework for researching them. Under what circumstances should you transition? What’s up with the transkid “desisters”? How about the new big wave of AFAB transitioners?

I used to believe in magical innate gender identity and brainsex and bodymaps and all of these ad-hoc ideas, but they are just not comparable in terms of raw usefulness to the basics of the typology.