Over the years, God has used me to counsel quite a number of men who were addicted to pornography. In addition, I’ve had the privilege of having many good accountability partners throughout my life, a couple of whom struggled with pornography. I have found that there are actually a lot of similarities between struggling with crossdressing and struggling with pornography, and lately I’ve also been thinking about similarities between crossdressing itself and pornography itself. Here are some of the similarities in no particular order:
1. Crossdressing and pornography both can easily become sexual addictions that are very hard to break. This is obvious concerning pornography. Concerning crossdressing, we feel a strong “need” to keep giving in to it to the point that almost all crossdressers report that crossdressing is something they cannot live without. It sexually excites us before or during masturbation. Sometimes we do it for sexual pleasure without masturbation happening. (Sometimes it’s not done for conscious sexual pleasure but still the crossdresser feels that he cannot live without it). The addictions become so consuming that we waste hours of our lives every day. They are harmful compulsions that cause us to take risks jeopardizing relationships or jobs. And “Dr. Victor Cline, clinical psychologist at the University of Utah, said that pornography is the gateway drug to sexual addiction.” (Source here). In my experience, crossdressing functions this way too, and it has for many people I have talked to and ministered to through this website.
“Clinical research shows that pornographic images create chemically encoded messages on the brain that can remain through adulthood. Human memory is formed in part by the release of the chemical epinephrine which, upon emotional arousal, leaves behind an imprint on the brain.” (Source here). I would argue that crossdressing for sexual or emotional arousal does the same thing. I obviously have not done clinical research, but in both cases addiction is formed as the brain gets used to certain feelings and neurotransmitters that are experienced during the activity.
2. Pornography and crossdressing both objectify women. Now, in the case of pornography there is an important difference. In pornography, there is an actual woman who is used for her body in order to make the pornography, and this doesn’t happen in crossdressing. But there is a similar objectification of women that takes place. The porn addict becomes infatuated with the ideal female body. He finds sexual pleasure in the body alone or rather images of the body alone aside from an actual female person. Women are viewed as sexual objects and that’s it. The crossdresser does something similar. We become so infatuated with the female body that we are not content with trying to find an actual woman to know and love, but we instead create our own. We disguise ourselves and become attracted to ourselves dressed, rather than loving a real woman. Further, we objectify what it means to be a woman. Being a woman becomes synonymous with a certain look: dresses, skirts, bras, breasts, makeup, high heels, and on and on. Rather than loving a woman with a mind, personality, and soul, we love the externals that we associate with womanhood. We become so consumed with the objects, and look to the objects as the essence of womanhood, that we fail to see how ridiculous we look when crossdressed. We feel womanly because of the objects. No longer do we view being a woman as having a female body, mind, and soul. Being a woman is only about the makeup and the heels.
3. Pornography and crossdressing can both lead to other sexual fetishes/perversions. For guys I have counseled who were addicted to pornography, they were led into other places. Eventually they were being turned on by watching women having sex with other women, and being turned on to sadism and masochism in their pornography and sexual fantasies. The more they gave into their addictions, the more newness and depravity they craved. The same was true for me when I was addicted to crossdressing. The more I crossdressed or read crossdressing fiction, the more I was turned on by strange new things. I was eventually turned on by pictures of men crossdressed, crossdressing stories with homosexual elements, crossdressing stories with forced submission elements, and a host of other strange things that I am not proud of.
Pornography has four stages following initial exposure according to this source. It starts with addiction – the desire and need to keep coming back to the pornographic images. This is followed by escalation – the need for more explicit, rougher, and more deviant images for the same sexual effect. And then desensitization – the material once viewed as really shocking or sinful or taboo is now seen as acceptable or commonplace. Last is acting out – which is the tendency to begin to perform the behaviors viewed whether exhibitionism, sadistic/masochistic sex, group sex, rape, or sex with minor children. In my own life, I have clearly seen this progression with my crossdressing addiction and based on the erotic fiction I’ve read, and real-life stories of crossdressers I’ve read, most others are just like me.
4. Both crossdressing and pornography addictions can take a multitude of forms. Pornography these days is mostly done through the internet with pictures and videos, but strip clubs and magazines also play a role. Erotic fiction and erotic telephone calls can also become part of a pornography addiction. Crossdressing can mostly be done in private with clothing. But often part of it will be crossdressing fiction or TG fiction, as well as crossdressing websites, pictures, videos. And sometimes crossdressing is done with other people, a lover, or with friends. The main point here is that the addiction in both cases becomes so all-consuming that the addict looks for new and different forms to quench the thirst. In other words, the addiction manifests in many different realms of the person’s life, the person needing to consume the addiction in many different forms, through all the different senses.
5. Pornography and crossdressing both have the same emotional aftermath. When one struggles for a while with pornography or crossdressing, eventually one will come a point of deep shame and guilt. This is followed often by a purge of clothing for crossdressers, or a removal of the internet or computer, or getting an internet filter, for those who struggle with pornography. In both cases, it is important for the person struggling to find forgiveness in Christ. It’s amazing to me that crossdressers argue that this guilt should be suppressed, that it is unhealthy. Can we imagine saying that to a porn addict? Guilt and shame are there to tell you that you are doing something wrong and unhealthy.
6. Pornography and crossdressing both have the strong chance of destroying one’s marriage. Some wives will silently allow the husband to remain in sin, as long as she doesn’t have to see it or hear about it. Other wives will not tolerate it. Even in the cases where the marriage is not destroyed, pornography and crossdressing can both alienate the husband from his wife. Both will probably eventually consume the husband to the point that he barely desires his wife or barely spends any sexual time with her. From what I have heard and seen in marriages throughout my ministry, I would say the final results of both pornography and crossdressing are absolutely horrific to spouses. The stories I’ve heard are so very painful. In the case of pornography, the final stage of acting out in real-life whether through adultery or prostitution or rape will absolutely devastate a wife and most likely end the marriage. In the case of crossdressing, the final stage of acting out will involve wanting the wife to see and tolerate and take part in the crossdressing, or wanting the wife to bear public shame in the husband publicly crossdressing, or the very worst, the husband wanting to live part-time or full-time as a woman and expecting this to somehow be okay with the wife! The husbands don’t want to give up crossdressing, but somehow demand that their wives change in their sexual orientations. The result can only be the husband leaving the marriage to be free to pursue his sin, the wife leaving the unfaithful husband, or the wife accommodating the husband and living in a really messed up unhealthy relationship.
Even in the cases where the husband is fighting his crossdressing problem or pornography problem, the marriage can undergo a lot of stress because of the complications it causes. Even if the crossdressing or pornography is a thing of the past, it can still cause problems in the marriage bed. The husband with a history of pornography addiction might have unrealistic notions of the female body and may have trouble being turned on by his wife. The husband with a crossdressing past may be so consumed with female clothing that he can’t have sex with his wife without thinking of crossdressing fantasies or without his focus being solely on his wife’s clothing and accoutrements. His wife’s naked body might not be pleasurable enough for him, and he might long instead to see her painted nails or high heels.
7. Both pornography and crossdressing give us a false ideal that “THIS” is what women are supposed to look like. We get false views of what ideal beauty looks like. This can cause us to harshly judge our spouses’ looks, or not be as attracted to her. Perhaps it even causes crossdressers to harshly judge their own looks, not happy and content with how they look as a man, and maybe not happy about how they look while crossdressed either.
8. Both pornography and crossdressing can lead to harmful sex role stereotyping. This is how women should act and be, and this is how men should act and be. Pornography has been linked to problems like rape, sexual aggressiveness, and violence. Crossdressing seems often to be linked with unhelpful gender stereotypes, such as that being a woman means being passive, quiet, sensitive, emotional, free, spontaneous, etc. etc. etc., and being a man means being the direct opposite – strong, stoic, rigid, forceful, etc. The truth is that many of these are just stereotypes. We have limited men from being fully human and limited women from being fully human by forcing them into these unhelpful gender stereotypes. To see for yourself how crossdressing promotes unhealthy rigid gender stereotypes, just go read some crossdressing or transgender fiction. Crossdressing is intimately connected to cleaning the house and dressing up like a maid. Crossdressing is linked to being treated like a bimbo or dumb blond (it’s a whole category of stories).
9. Both pornography and crossdressing feel good to those who do it, and it doesn’t seem wrong to them because it feels good. In both cases the people doing it usually don’t see a problem, whereas practically everyone else in their life thinks it is a major problem, or would think it was a huge problem if they knew about it. Addiction never seems like such a big problem to the addict. That is why we need others speaking truth into our lives.
10. Both pornography and crossdressing are used as escapes from reality because of stress or anxiety. While providing temporary relief from the pressures of masculinity or life in general, they both don’t solve the problems causing the anxiety or stress. In my ministry to others, I have seen that both crossdressing and pornography have only served to increase stress rather than alleviate it. The escape from reality takes the place of pondering one’s feelings and life situation, and dealing with the problems or making changes.
11. Both pornography and crossdressing regularly lead to lying, and even stealing and cheating. This happens as we try to find ways to do what we want to do without people finding out. And we have to delete our history, cover our tracks, wash clothing, and make up stories about where we’ve been.
12. Both pornography and crossdressing are perceived to be harmless by those who do it, but both are harmful to oneself, and to one’s relationship with God, and often to other people. They are both sinful and destructive. Why? Because they are both deceptions. They are both outside the sexual boundaries that God has set for us within marriage. They both involve lusting after someone besides our spouse, whether it be a woman online, or a false woman of our own creation. Both activities are sinful, and we need to seek forgiveness through Christ, and we need to vigorously fight against these sins in our Christian lives.
13. Watching pornography or engaging in crossdressing both have the potential to disconnect us from real relationships. They both detach real emotional involvement from sexual experience. Addicts will often turn down spending time with others in order to spend time with their addiction.
14. Pornography and crossdressing involve the same sorts of treatment to fight the addiction. Both can be helped by accountability partners, prayer, recovery groups, removing of temptations and triggers, understanding oneself and why one desires the temptation, finding joy and meaning in other healthy ways, rewards/punishments, feeling loved and forgiven by God, etc.
I was struck writing this at how similar pornography and crossdressing are. Perhaps we as struggling crossdressers have a lot of wisdom to offer to those struggling with pornography and the other way around. Maybe we are all struggling with the same root sexual addiction that objectifies women, but the sexual sin just manifests itself in a different way.