Sex Q&A, Sex Tips

I’m a Cisgender Woman and My Husband Watches Trans Porn: Does That Mean He’s Not Into Me?

April 24, 2020 by Justin Lehmiller

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A reader submitted the following question: 

“I recently discovered that my husband is attracted to transsexuals (MTF – non op). This is the only type of porn that he looks at. He also role plays online with men for sexual play and chat. I discovered this after I started snooping because I had some red flags. He is very embarrassed and uncomfortable discussing it. He has apologized for the online chatting (as we had agreed this was out of bounds for our relationship). He says he likes them because they are feminine but his primary attraction is to women (with female parts). However, I just am not sure I believe him. I am terrified that when we are intimate (which I have to pretty much beg for), he can only do it when its dark and I am fearful he is fantasizing that I have a penis. This bothers me deeply on a number of different levels. Are there men who are only interested in transsexuals? Is it possible he is no longer turned on by my female genitalia?”

There’s a lot to unpack in this question, but let’s start here: over the years, I’ve received several emails from women describing similar stories and concerns, so you’re not alone in feeling the way that you do.

That said, before we get into your husband’s attractions and what they mean, it’s important to avoid shaming him for his sexual fantasies and turn-ons because that won’t help this situation at all. It sounds like he already feels a lot of shame and there are clearly some intimacy issues in the relationship, so in the interest of keeping the lines of sexual communication open and productive, try to show as much care and understanding as you can to avoid adding to his feelings of shame.

As I discuss in my book Tell Me What You Want, the content of our sexual fantasies is very diverse and it’s perfectly normal for partners to sometimes have sexual turn-ons or attractions that are quite different from one another. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re sexually incompatible or that the relationship can’t work, though. Most people have multiple sexual interests, so sexual compatibility is a matter of finding your common ground, while respecting the areas where you differ.  

When it comes to attraction to transgender partners specifically, this isn’t an uncommon fantasy for men to have had before. In the survey of 4,175 Americans’ sex fantasies I conducted for Tell Me What You Want, I found that 20% of cisgender heterosexual men reported having fantasized about a transgender partner before. The number who said this is something they fantasize about frequently was much lower, but the fact that 1 in 5 men reported the fantasy at all tells us that it’s not a rarity.

By contrast, just 5% of cisgender heterosexual women said they had ever fantasized about a trans partner before. So this is a fantasy that appears to be much more common among cis men than it is among cis women. The disparity we see here may help to explain why I’ve received lots of emails from female readers who are concerned about their husband’s or boyfriend’s attractions to trans persons, but I’ve yet to receive an email from a cis man concerned about his wife or girlfriend being attracted to someone who is trans. 

It’s worth noting that most heterosexual men who are attracted to transwomen are also attracted to cis women. In a 2015 study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers hooked heterosexual, gay, and trans-attracted men (i.e., men who reported that they were attracted to transwomen) up to an erection-recording device before showing them three different kinds of porn: man-on-man, woman-on-woman, or transwomen having sex. 

What the researchers found was that both straight and trans-attracted guys showed high arousal in response to lesbian porn, but low arousal when watching gay male porn; by contrast, gay guys demonstrated precisely the opposite pattern. 

When watching porn featuring transwomen, though, only the trans-attracted men demonstrated high levels of arousal. For straight and gay men, trans porn was moderately arousing—somewhere in between how they responded to male- and female-only porn videos.

What this tells us is that, unlike gay men, trans-attracted men don’t seem to be into other men. Rather, they seem to find both cisgender and transgender women to be highly attractive.

The results of this research therefore suggest that your husband is likely telling you the truth when he says that he is attracted to you and to cisgender women more broadly. Thus, it’s important to try not to take your partner’s fantasies as a personal offense and let them detract from the way you feel about yourself. It’s not healthy to set up a mental competition between yourself and your partner’s fantasies.

With that said, it sounds like you’re dealing with multiple issues in your relationship (e.g., infrequent sex, infidelity concerns, your husband’s feelings of shame about his attractions, your own feelings of insecurity, and communication issues). In light of this, the best suggestion I can offer would be to seek some type of counseling or therapy to get your intimate life back on track.

For further insight, I asked a sex therapist, Dr. James Cantor, to weigh in. Here’s what he said:

“I’ve been amazed how often this kind of situation happens: In a male-female couple, the man has a kink or paraphilic interest that he hides from his partner, she discovers it, but even though she would have been willing to work on accommodating those interests, she feels much more offended by it having been hidden from her in the first place.

There do indeed exist men who are attracted to people with a mix of masculine and feminine anatomy, and although we can’t know exactly how common, the most common combination appears to be a feminine body—full breasts and curvy hips—but with a penis.  

To address the specific question: There is no good reason for the letter-writer to believe her husband’s sexuality reflects on her attractiveness, femininity, or other attributes.  In general, men with gynandromorphophilia (the technical name for this sexuality) do not gravitate towards non-feminine or even androgynous women.  That is, they want another penis in the equation, but not other aspects that would suggest manhood.  If anything, they express wanting other aspects of their partners to be extra feminine, which further emphasizes the contrast with the partner’s penis.

When couples come to me with situations like this, we generally take each part of this multi-headed problem on its own.  For the couple, her feelings of betrayal and loss of trust generally need to come first.  Because of the stigma associated with atypical sexualities, she may not feel as able to rely on friends and the social support system one would after discovery of infidelity, and she may need extra time to come to terms with it.  

For the husbands: I nearly always recommend individual therapy on top of couples’ therapy.  He does experience a sexuality profoundly different from other people’s, and he will need to come to where he can acknowledge it and start to integrate into his life in an honest and authentic way.  It is only from there that he will be able to negotiate a satisfying sex life with his wife.  He has a coming out process to go throug
h, but no LGB-equivalent community to help him do it.”

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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