The Case of the Girl-a-matic Guides to Sissification
Ph.D D, School of Media and Performing Arts, University of Ulster, UK
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Dr. Dave King: Blending Genders
In this talk, today, I want to focus on what I call 'ungendering'. I will try to set the stage for a dialogue about the relations between 'ungendering' and 'transgendering', with particular reference to the role of the erotic in ungendering. More specifically, I will focus upon one particular web-site - that of the 'Girl-amatic guides to sissification' - in order to illustrate the set of issues I am concerned to unravel and explicate.
The Girl-a-matic guides to sissification are part of the 'Girl-a-matic Corporation' site (Girl-a- matic Corporation, 2002) and consist of four guides to sissification entitled 'How to Sissify Your Sassy Step-son'; 'How to Panty Your VIP'; 'How to Feminise Your Fiancé'; and 'How to Humble Your Husband Into Her-dom'. All four guides feature fantasied 'males' with waif-like androgynous bodies who are emasculated and feminised in order to serve as erotic object-choices - as masturbatory fantasy objects, most usually for other males who may or may not variously identify with them.
The fantasy-male sissies created on this web site raise a number interesting questions about the interrelations between ungendering and transgendering; between sex, sexuality and gender; between fantasy and reality; and between erotic object-choice and identification. It is these four sets of issues I will focus on today.
The site offers a creative and systematic position on a particular sort of male sissy. The site features male sissies who are dressed to look very feminine and 'sexy' (gender display) but whose male genitalia remain intact - locked more or less permanently in a chastity belt or gaff (genital restrainer) - and, who therefore, in certain regards, are neither male nor female. I came across the site in the context of my search for further material in regard to my developing interest in ungendering. In previous papers on 'ungendering' I had focused principally on the work of the English 'ungendering' activist, Christie Elan Cane and the American writer and publisher Debra Rose who details a lifestyle and ideology for a particular sort of male 'ungendering' sissy maid (Ekins, 2001, 2002; Ekins and King, 2001a). However, in neither of these two instances was the erotic stressed. Christie argues that per ungendering is 'nothing to do with sex' (or sexuality) and the Debra Rose sissy moves towards becoming increasingly asexual. Here, with the Girl-a-matic site, was potential source material to develop theory concerning ungendering which placed the emphasis frankly upon the erotic.
I was not to be disappointed. When I contacted the designer of the site, he turned out to be 'Marlissa', who launched the site in 1997. Marlissa has a specific interest in designing internet pornography and regarded the Girl-a-matic site in that light. He initially professed no particular personal interest in the sorts of sissy he depicts on the site (personal communication, 2000). However, after initially claiming that he was a '100% fantasist' who had no personal experience with the genre at all, in a later communication Marlissa said that he did find the fantasies stimulating 'though as a married man, that aspect of (his) sexuality has been fairly sublimated'. He also said that he did 'find the image of a male subjugated (an important element for [him]) in such a way typically exciting.' He regarded issues surrounding domination and submission more arousing and considers this sissy genre to be 'more properly' a sub-set of the dominant/submissive genre. For Marlissa the site was a one-off shot which he has neither updated nor registered with the search engines.
He was, however, amazed by the response to his site. As at August 2000 it had had some 3 million visits. As Marlissa put it (personal communication 2000): 'I think one reason for the site's attraction is the use of fashion photos of waif-like (female) models. With "Heroin Chic" in such vogue, the models exhibit such an androgynous appearance that it is easy to see how a metamorphosis might be accomplished. Unlike pictures of men clearly dressed like women - something that most men interested in this genre find unsettling - the images of "might be boys/girls" are far more palatable, especially for fantasy purposes.
There is no doubt that many of those who access the site take it very much more seriously than Marlissa does. Marlissa receives requests, almost daily, for the kind of 'training' the site promises (both from Mistresses and Sissies) and his respondents are very disappointed when Marlissa tells them the site is 'just for fun'. Significantly, the leading sissy maid writer and publisher Debra Rose (personal communication, 2002) who is so critical of the vast majority of the writings and work on sissies considers the 'site nothing short of GENIUS. . . a complete gem . . . And the simple artistry of the site - getting so much "feeling" across about all this in a relatively short space - is not to be denied.' Significantly, Debra Rose adds: `I guess there is a bit more homosexual bent than I prefer, but that's OKAY - not everyone is the same (even sissies!)'
By now, if you have not fallen asleep, or left the room in dismay at such a topic, you will no doubt be curious to see some examples of the sissy models and the sissy training guides. I would be very grateful if you would monitor the initial impact on you of the pictures that I will show now. What are your thoughts, feelings, and/or memories evoked by the slides? It would be marvellous if you had the time and interest to share them with me.
The pictures of Kimberlee Maykiss and Paulina Prettikov(2) provide two examples of sissified males selected from the site's 'Gallery' of sissies. After leaving these images with you for a few moments, I will then move on to some conceptual issues.
Ungendering is only intelligible in terms of gendering. Gendering, as we know, has diverse biological, psychological and sociological components. Based, initially, on gender attribution at birth - usually on the basis of sight of different genitalia - (bipolar) gender differentiation continues, by self and others, and is maintained throughout the life cycle (Kessler and McKenna, 1978). 'Ungendering' is the term I use to embrace the processes of halting, reversing, or eliminating this (bipolar) developmental differentiation.
Bipolar developmental differentiation takes place in terms of body differentiation (sex), erotic differentiation (sexuality) and gender differentiation (social and cultural accompaniments), all three being implicated within the basic social process of gendering(3) and ungendering.
Ungendering may take place in transgendering trajectories in which it is implicated as a subsidiary sub-process, or it may become the major sub-process, in which case it gives rise to a distinct mode of transgendering. I use the term 'erasing' to refer to components of ungendering which function as a subsidiary subprocess in a transgendering trajectory; and 'negating' to ungendering when it becomes a conceptually distinct mode.
An illustration will make the distinction clear. Transsexual trajectories, for instance, involve permanently 'migrating' across the binary gender divide. In this 'migrating', a number of sub- processes are implicated. The major sub-process is that of 'substituting', whereby aspects of sex, sexuality and gender are permanently replaced by their 'opposite'. Co-opted in the service of this 'migrating' are components of 'erasing', where aspects of sex, sexuality and gender are eliminated. Thus, to give just one example, the migrating male-to-female transsexual, erases her maleness/ masculinity (e.g., penectomy), and substitutes for it aspects of femaleness/ femininity (e.g., vaginoplasty). Here, the erasing - e.g., the penectomy - is in the service of the substituting.
On the other hand, there are transgendering trajectories within which erasing becomes the major sub-process and other sub-processes are co-opted in its service. In these cases, the mode of transgendering becomes that of 'negating'. Negating, to repeat, indicates that major mode of transgendering that tends towards eliminating the binary divide, in the sense of moving to the 'gender-less'. It is in these cases that possibilities for the emergence of various 'gender-negating' identities arise.
It is my contention that the Girl-amatic guides to sissification document one such identity, in that although the sissies are made to look like attractive and sexually desirable young women their particular appeal lies in the fact that they are represented as sissified men. Specifically, their erotic appeal lies in the fact that although they display as young women, they are body-negated males, with non-functioning genitalia that remain permanently gaffed, locked in chastity devices or shrunken through the use of hormones. In short, it is their negating that gives them their erotic appeal. They are neither men nor women.
The Girl-a-matic Guides as Masturbatory Fantasy Material
There is no doubt that many, perhaps most, visitors to the site use the site as a potential source of masturbatory fantasy material. Certainly, the regular visitors that have been my informants use the site principally for this purpose.
I want to use this fact to consider a number of issues. You will recall that the purpose of this section is to illustrate the conceptual section and to indicate something of the dynamic between erotic object-choice and the eroticisation of identification with that object-choice. In particular, I will focus on issues concerning the interrelations between sex, sexuality and gender; between fantasy and reality; between ungendering and transgendering, in the context of what may be termed the object-choice/ identification couple. To illustrate, I focus on the masturbatory fantasies of one of my sissy maid informants. I will call him Sissy Jenny.
Sissy Jenny, now aged 48, has identified as a sissy maid since first reading the writings of Debra Rose (1993a, 1993b) some nine years ago. A number of years after identifying as a sissy maid, he was introduced to the 'Girl-a-matic' guides to sissification and soon began to incorporate selected aspects of the guides into his favourite masturbatory scripts.
In discussions with Sissy Jenny, it became clear to me that there were three principal tendencies in the sissification guides, which variously appealed to him at different times. These tendencies I term the scopophilic (following Freud), the intimate and the Oedipal (following Freud). The scopophilic tendency includes those aspects of the scripts where the primary focus is on 'looking'. I include the site user as 'looker', and those parts of the script which focus on the sissy looking at himself and others looking at the sissy. The looking is voyeuristic and is essentially a solo activity on the part of the looker. The site user obtains sexual gratification from these various 'lookings'. The intimate tendency refers to the (fantasied) girl-to-girl interactions between mistress and sissy. I have written elsewhere about 'intimacy scripts' in the context of transvestism (Ekins, 1996). Their feature in sissy scripts is pleasure in the dyadic relationship of the sissy with his Mistress. As Sissy Millie puts it: 'The Mistress/maid relationship is quite special and unique . . . A real bond grows up which I don't think you could establish in any other way' (Ekins, 1997, p. 101).
Finally, the Oedipal tendency refers to those parts of the script which focus on the threesome of mistress, sissy and boyfriend - or potential boyfriend. The boyfriend may be the Mistress's or (potentially) the Sissy's, but the feature of the Oedipal tendency is the presence of one or more Oedipal triangles (threesomes). The Sissy might prepare Mistress for a date, or might observe his Mistress and her partner 'making out'. Alternatively, as in the Girl-a-matic guides, Mistress might train the Sissy for a male partner, teaching him how to dress and behave. The Mistress will be ever present variously as choreographer of the Sissy's date, for instance. She may lend some of her clothes to the sissy. She will talk about how the date went, and so on.
I asked Sissy Jenny to describe his favourite masturbatory fantasies that incorporated the Guides and have selected one image from each of the three tendencies as he described them to me. I will discuss the detail of how various aspects of the image are incorporated into his masturbatory script.
'Put on your new wig, little wimp' - From Step 1 of Sissification Guide: How to Put Your VP in Panties (Getting Dressed)
Sissy Jenny's favourite image of those primarily scopophilic is entitled 'Put on your new wig, little wimp'. Sissy Jenny's use of the image demonstrates something of the dynamic of the interrelations between the trans-gendering and ungendering elements that he finds sexually arousing. Initially, his object of desire is the image of a 'young woman' in skimpy underwear. However, the model is not a young woman. Rather 'he' is represented in the sissification guide as an 'arrogant yuppie' male boss who has been caught embezzling business funds by his (female) secretary, who is forcing him to become her substitute 'female secretary' in return for her silence about the embezzlement. The first frame of the series is titled ''Put on your new wig, little wimp'.
In Sissy Jenny's masturbatory fantasies he focuses on the model's body dressed only in a bra and thong. First, he `sees' a sexy woman fixing her hair in front of the mirror. He lingers on 'her' thong and bra, oscillating his focus between her rear view, and front view as reflected in the mirror (The model is looking at 'herself'). He 'disavows' any thought of female genitalia. Rather, he dwells on those parts of the script that emphasise that the model is, indeed, a sissified male. He relishes the fact that the model is becoming like a female secretary: 'Do secretaries really have to go through all this bother every day?' However, now aroused by the fact that the 'girl' before him is in fact a sissified male, he reflects upon what is under the skimpy thong. These thoughts lead him to thoughts of his own penis. It is semi-flaccid - just as it should be for a sissy, he thinks. He reflects on how he would like to be that sissy in the picture, how his penis is useless like 'hers'. These thoughts enable him to ejaculate. His ejaculation comes as a 'sissy' dribble. He feels such a pathetic sissy. Oh! How he would like to be the sissy in the picture. A neither male nor female sissy - neutered and feminised - a plaything for his Mistress, and so on.
'Fetch my slippers, wifey' - From Step 8 of Sissification Guide 3: How to Feminize Your Fiancé (Sissy intimacy scripts)
Whereas the focus on the previous slide is on multiple 'gazes', in this second slide the focus becomes the intimacies of the 'girl to girl' dyad.
It is part of 'Step 8: Learning His New Wifely Duties' of the 'Guide to Sissification: How to Feminize Your Fiancé', which traces the trajectory of the progressive sissification of a man by his fiancée. Sissy Jenny's favourite image in this series is 'Fetch my slippers, wifey'. In it we see the fundamentals of the intimacy centred round female clothes, being the woman's help mate and housemaid, and his 'feminine' sissy interest in soap operas.
Sissy Jenny takes a particular pleasure in the thought of the sissy ironing his fiancée's blouse. It is the woman who has the 'big meeting', while her fiancé stays at home as 'housewife/sissy maid'. He is physically close to his fiancée. 'Be a pet and zip me up. Good girl.' However, in close proximity to his fiancée, the sissy, unlike the 'real' man, is not led to thoughts of sexual conquest. Rather, he is deflected to intimacy with his fiancée's underwear. 'Today I want you to thoroughly organize my panties - by color and type.' As Sissy Jenny reflects on this he dwells on what an incredible sissy he is, to so identify with this. He savours the image and masturbates to his usual perfunctory (sissy) climax.
'Service your beau, Sexy!'- From Step 10 of Sissification Guide 3: How to Feminize Your Fiancé (Oedipal - The Boyfriend)
For Sissy Jenny, dressing the fiancée for her life outside the home raises thoughts of the fiancée's involvement with men. As she is a healthy woman (thinks sissy Jenny), she will naturally seek relationships with 'real' men. He disavows any interest in a relationship with a 'real' man himself and is reassured by the website sissies' occasionally-mentioned repugnance at the idea of such a thing.
Step 10: 'Introducing your boyfriend - and his', states:
'He'll be crushed, of course. There's no avoiding it. But if you've taken the time to properly educate him about your needs, he'll accept the inevitable. When you introduce the new man in your life, introduce your sissy as your "favourite girlfriend" - then mention how "lonely" "she" is. Maybe he has a gay friend who . . .'
This then leads on to Sissy Jenny's favourite 'Oedipal' image. As we see in the slide,'Service your beau, sexy', 'Heather; is with 'Tony' ('her' new boyfriend). Sissy Jenny's thoughts oscillate between the visual image and the script. He is confused, but his confusion is 'resolved' at the point 'Heather's little weeny is locked away. There's only one man in the relationship - and that's you! (referring to Heather's partner) who is (now) 'not a fag'! Note that his fiancée is ever present. She has trained Heather in the wiles of femininity - all part of his 'sissy' intimacy with her. They can be 'girls together', more and more, albeit with him as the sissified neither male nor female 'wifey' to his fiancée.
Erasing and negating are conceptualisations of social processes of ungendering. As an aspect of transgendering, erasing features as a subsidiary sub-process in all modes of transgendering and erasing features as the major sub-process in the negating mode of transgendering.
It has been my purpose in this paper, to draw upon the Girl-a-matic guides to sissification to illustrate a particular type of ungendering best conceptualised as an example of the negating mode of transgendering. Of the variously named tendencies and components of the guides - enforced feminisation, sado-masochism, humiliation, transgendering, ungendering, and so on, Sissy Jenny privileges the body ungendering and the erotic ungendering of the guides' sissy protagonists. That is to say, he privileges the erasing - the gaffed and restrained male genitalia and the restrained sexuality of the sissies. The erotic transgendering gender display and 'body femaling' (Ekins, 1997) of secondary sexual characteristics (the substituting) of the sissies are then co-opted in the service of the negating.
There is the possibility of distinctive gender identities emerging within each of the four major modes of transgendering, and it has been a further purpose of the paper to indicate this example of a gender-negating identity that places emphasis upon the eroticisation of ungendering. The fantasy sissies on this site are not seen as men who have become women with male genitalia. Rather they are seen as neither men, nor women. They are seen as sissified 'gendernegating' men.
The significance of ungendering and gender-negating identities has yet to be appreciated. Many commentators find the concept of negating difficult to grasp. When confronted with aspects of ungendering that I use to illustrate the concept of negating most people, at first, read the phenomena in terms that they are already familiar with. I will highlight three major alternative readings of what I wish to conceptualise as conceptually distinct.
You will recall that the designer of the site considered the girl-a-matic sissy to be a sub-set of the sado-masochist genre. The sissies are forced into emasculation; their bodies are forcibly changed; their male genitalia rendered functionally useless, and so on. Pretty sadomasochistic stuff! It is, of course, open to a commentator to highlight one aspect of phenomena and read the whole phenomena in its light. However, from the standpoint of the major modes of transgendering, sado-masochistic components may be variously operative in each mode. This component in no way distinguishes the mode.
The second reading focuses upon the fact that the Girl-a-matic sissies tend towards the waif-like and adolescent. There is something juvenile, even childish, about them. Their bodies are adolescent. They can administer (or provide) sexual pleasure to others, but they have no sort of 'adult' sexual life for themselves. Their masturbation is infantile. Their self-pleasures are not consummated in any 'mature' sort of way. From the standpoint of ungendering (as both erasing and as negating) this focus highlights an important point. The development of bipolar gender differentiation (gendering) in the Girl-amatic sissies is, indeed, variously halted, reversed and eliminated. In particular, the site valorises a particular stage of gender differentiation - that prior to mature differentiation and gives that stage of differentiation a transgender aspect. The transgender aspect is, however, a major aspect. The site does not valorise young men or women, per se.
Thirdly, I give the example taken from my discussions with Anne Lawrence, the clinician and researcher who has written about autogynephilia (Ekins and King, 2001b). Lawrence's argues that as the site uses female models (albeit fantasised as males), the sissies on the site are more appropriately conceptualised as examples of the 'migrating' mode of transgendering. She considers that insofar as the models used are birth-assigned females, the feminised male sissies the site represent could be said to have 'migrated' more fully, indeed, than the conventional m- to-f transsexual. In particular, she privileges the sissies' erotic gender display (for others), their displayed secondary sexual characteristics and their powerlessness, over their lack of genital conversion.
Clearly, texts may be read in multiple ways. However, if we are to pay the proper respect to contemporary transgender diversity, it behoves us to try to avoid reading diverse phenomena in terms of favoured a priori categorisations and conceptual schema. Better rather to generate new categorisations and conceptual schemas to account for the ever-increasing diversity the post- modern world is likely to confront us with. New media technology - the internet - has enabled a single pornography enthusiast to design what might be seen as a postmodern site, which creates fantasy 'real' women, impersonating fantasy 'real' men, impersonating fantasy neither 'men' nor 'women'.
New gender identities may emerge around any number of different configurations of the interrelations between sex (the body), sexuality (the erotic) and gender; lay, member and scientific knowledge; and self, identity and social worlds (Ekins, 1997). My point is that the attempt to 'force fit' the Girl-amatic sissy's particular configuration of these interrelations into the migrating, oscillating or transcending modes of transgendering is to obfuscate the understanding of transgender phenomena. Despite the systematic sissification, the sissy can never migrate permanently across the gender border. He does not intend or wish to; neither does his emasculator (negator) wish or intend him to. Nor does he oscillate to and fro across the border - far less transcend it. He is stuck in his endlessly negating, sissy state (See figure 6). Therein lies his distinction and - to many - his erotic appeal.
Citation: Ekins, R., (2002), The Case of the Girl-a-matic Guides to Sissification, GENDYS 2002, The Seventh International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester England.
Web page copyright GENDYS Network. Text copyright of the author. 19.07.06 Last amended 10.02.11