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Critique Essay Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

The role of the illusion in the construction of erotic desire: narratives from heterosexual men who have occasional sex with transgender women

By Cathy J. Reback, Rachel L. Kaplan, Talia M. Bettcher, and Sherry Larkins, 2016

Little is known about men’s sexual desire for and erotic attraction to male-to-female transgender women. To better understand how erotic desire is constructed, this study examined the narratives of a sample of heterosexual men who had had an occasional sexual encounter with a transgender woman. Open-ended qualitative interviews were conducted with 16 heterosexual men who reported at least one sexual encounter with a transgender woman in the previous 12 months. Using principles of Grounded Theory, three themes emerged: (1) the erotic desire that transpired from a transgender woman’s construction of her femininity, (2) the sexual act that dictated the specific navigation of a transgender woman’s penis, and (3) the sexual dissonance that resulted from being a heterosexually identified man having sex with a partner who had a penis. These themes reflected how participants defined and negotiated their sexual encounters, both psychologically through their understanding of sex with a transgender woman with a penis, and physically through the navigation of specific sex acts. The role of the ‘illusion’ was central to the meaning and construction of erotic desire. These narratives provided another framework for continuing discourse on the complexity of erotic desire.

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