The fantasy of submissiveness and dominance makes people whose sexual behavior runs toward the vanilla uncomfortable. For men, the fantasy combines the roles of a dominant woman or man who holds power over the “naughty boy.”
Mutual consent governs the role-play, although the fantasy itself incorporates an element of non-consent.
I received two letters on “Ask the Doc” about cross-dressing. One was from a man who cross-dresses but whose wife now refuses to participate. The other was from a woman whose cross-dressing husband has her at the end of her rope.
These two letters provide a window into this hidden world.
[Both letters are used with permission and have been edited for clarity and to protect their identity.]
* * *
I have no choice but to give up because my needs are ‘perverted.’”
A little more about him
First, I heard from a man who occasionally wants to cross-dress and be submissive to a dominant partner.
Early in their relationship, his wife participated with him. He wrote, “We occasionally would dress in lingerie together and even chat with men online. It made sex so much fun.”
Then, she announced she refused to do anything “perverted.”
They continue to have an active sex life, but he feels disappointed that she cut off the kink. “It feels like she’s getting what she wants, and I have no choice but to give up because my needs are ‘perverted.’”
* * *
A majority of male crossdressers are heterosexual, and most marry.
Crossdressers, transgenders and drag
For some, a submissive role creates part of the pleasure. The submissive man becomes a “naughty boy” who must be punished by the “good girl.”
A majority of male crossdressers are heterosexual, and most marry. They live their public life as men while at times dressing as women in their private lives.
Transgender Identity represents individuals who identify with the opposite gender and feel trapped in the wrong body.
“Drag” performers see it as an artistic outlet above all else. They act publicly as an embellishment of the opposite gender to entertain audiences. Most drag queens maintain an inner sense of being a man. Their flirtatious (and often stinging) interaction with the audience provides any sexual arousal they experience.
* * *
Fetishists can expect that they will experience prejudice from the broader community.
Fetishes are a preferential sexual interest for a specific body part or objects associated with a body part (stockings, lingerie), or particular behaviors of another person. They are used to enhance a sexual experience rather than being a necessity.
Both men and women have fetishes; men have more of them, and men more readily accept them in others.
Clinicians consider fetishes a disorder only when they cause distress, impairment, personal harm, or risk of injury to others. If participants in these alternative sexual behaviors are competent adults who give mutual, informed consent — and the practice doesn’t harm anyone — no right or wrong exists.
In a moralistic society, fetishists can expect that they will experience prejudice from the broader community. Society judges men as demeaning themselves if they dress as women who are considered by some to have a lower social status.
As a young lad, I dressed as a girl for Halloween. I sensed that disapproval immediately after walking out the door of our home.
* * *
Can you be more assertive about your desire to be submissive?
My response to him
Sexual boundaries challenge couples, particularly when one wants something that might be considered a bit kinky or off-limits by the other.
You were right to disclose this early in your relationship. But then, eager to please each other, perhaps you both compromised your inclinations.
You find your wife attractive and reI do not have anyone I can talk to without judgment, guilt, or shamemain sexually active with her. Still, you’d like to use women’s clothing occasionally to enhance your sexual experience. You seem comfortable with that; yet, your partner is not.
Communication is critical if the connection is to survive. You must reassure your wife that you find her sexually attractive, with or without cross-dressing.
Would she be open to a negotiation of the rules if the boundaries are clear? What compromises can you make? Can you be more assertive about your desire to be submissive?
Some women enjoy a dominant role in sexual play. Would she agree to role-play a more dominant position? Would she be more willing to accept it if it is clearly defined as a role-play?
You must reassure your wife that cross-dressing is only a preference, not obligatory, and that she has a choice to opt-out at any time. If she opts-out, you must accept it.
Some couples who engage in this role play expand it to include “pegging,” where a woman performs anal sex on a man by penetrating him with a strap-on dildo. While some men and women enjoy it, not everyone is comfortable with it.
You might also ask her if she would agree to your participation in this fantasy outside of your relationship. Any agreement must include a commitment to safe sex and honesty with her.
* * *
I do not have anyone I can talk to without judgment, guilt, or shame
From a spouse’s perspective
Cross-dressing generally is a brief, private activity, but in some cases, it becomes a person’s only source of arousal. Many people with fetishes must have the object of their attraction at hand or fantasize about it to become sexually aroused, get an erection, and have an orgasm.
I am a 35-year-old mother of four, married for fifteen years. About a year into our relationship, I discovered pictures of him dressed in women’s clothing. When I confronted him, he said it was a Halloween prank.
Now he steals my lingerie, alters it to fit himself, and takes photos. He posts those photos along with offers for sex on a Grindr profile.
I’ve even seen accounts of his sex acts with other men and videos of him using a dildo. He says he’s straight, and he still has sex with me.
I’ve tried everything I can to satisfy him, but now he has trouble getting and staying hard, and he wants me to do some stuff I’m not comfortable with.
I’m crushed, lifeless, humiliated, ashamed, and angry. I need help. He needs help.
I know I will never fulfill him.
I do not have anyone I can talk to without judgment, guilt, or shame.
* * *
You must immediately get tested for HIV.
My response to her
I am so sorry for your pain. First, you must focus on taking care of yourself and your children.
You must immediately get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Men who have casual, anonymous sex are frequently a bridge for transmission of these diseases.
Since he is using dildos, you must assume that he has receptive anal intercourse with others, and that substantially increases your risks. If you continue to have sex with him, insist upon the use of condoms, and speak with your doctor about your taking medications (PrEP) to prevent transmission of HIV.
His preoccupation with cross-dressing may have undermined your self-confidence as a woman. Not being able to satisfy his desires does not mean you are not enough to fulfill the passions of someone else. You deserve to be loved and respected.
Don’t allow your husband to blame you. It is not your fault. His wish to cross-dress isn’t his fault either, but he is responsible for the ways he is mistreating you. You have no reason to feel guilt or shame, but you do have a lot of reasons to feel angry.
You wrote, “I’ve tried everything I can to satisfy him,” so, I wonder how much you feel compelled against your will to participate in his fetish.
People label his behaviors as sick, deviant, and perverted; possibly, you do, too. Perhaps some of your shame is because you think that you’ve done more than your conscience allows.
You did what you did to save your marriage. Once, you may have dismissed his desires and thought that if he has a stable sexual partner, you could fix it. You feel angry and betrayed now that you found you cannot.
Let the past go; don’t second guess your decisions.
You have no perfect choice. I’m sure you have thought of most of them. Your choices are 1. Fix it, 2. Put up with it, or 3. Get out.
Fixing it hasn’t worked so that we can eliminate the first choice. Treatment that tries to eliminate cross-dressing is almost always unsuccessful, and his behavior has become compulsive.
So, what about #2, put up with it?
Can you accept that you will never be able to satisfy him completely through no fault of your own? Can you trust him if he acts on these desires with others? Do you trust him to be honest with you?
Is it possible to establish any boundaries around his behavior that would be acceptable to you? If he will not allow any restrictions, is that enough for you?
It is a pointless exercise to decide if he’s gay, straight, bisexual or some other of the many labels. Heterosexual men can have fetishes related to women’s clothing.
Get out! will almost always be the default response if you talk with others. Perhaps that is one reason you don’t want to talk with them.
I cannot advise you on a decision to leave the marriage, but I am doubtful his behavior will change unless you give him that ultimatum, and you mean it. Divorce is a personal choice for you to make based on your values. You must decide what is in your best interests and the interests of your children.
You are not alone. Many, many others have gone through it. You may find someone to talk anonymously through the Straight Spouse Network.
Never let go of hope; focus on yourself and your children. Let your husband find his answers. The dreams you both had were shattered, but you will recover.
I can’t tell you how this new situation will resolve for you, but I can tell you that it will.
Finding a therapist for yourself would be a good idea, but you should take care to choose the right one.
* * *
Acceptance of yourself as a crossdresser is one matter but having others accept it is quite another.
Cross-dressing is not abnormal. Many crossdressers are happily married to people who accept their behaviors
But some feel guilty and uncomfortable for their behavior and may seek treatment. The best treatment method involves approaching the patient’s cross-dressing behavior without judgment and encouraging them to embrace that part of themselves.
Acceptance of yourself as a crossdresser is one matter but having others accept it is quite another. Sex with a regular partner inevitably means compromise. The question is: How much and how often is the partner willing to accept and join?
But if it becomes a person’s only means of sexual arousal or if the partner is being coerced into participation, then it becomes especially problematic. The partner must always have as much right to opt-out as the crossdresser has to practice their fetishistic behavior.
A therapist may be necessary to help a person accept their unusual desire or to help a couple negotiate the social compromises that it demands.
It can be difficult to find a therapist who has some training and experience with sexual counseling. Unfortunately, some therapists and counselors are not very helpful in these situations. Ask a prospective therapist about their level of experience with helping others work through these conflicts and their methods of doing so.
Cross-dressing is a broad category, and the line between gender expression and means of arousal is often blurred. Perhaps one-day cross-dressing will be accepted simply as a different way of expressing oneself, but we’re a long way from that.
For a couple to successfully enjoy a cross-dressing fantasy — with dominance and submission a part of that fantasy — mutual consent is essential, although non-consent is a part of the fantasy
Previously published on “Equality Includes You”, a Medium publication.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want to join our calls on a regular basis, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: DepositPhoto.com