Every time I tell someone what I do for a living, they take it as an opportunity to get some free sex and relationship advice. I don’t really mind because this is what interests me after all. Not only that, but the questions I get asked serve as great fodder for the blog! One of the most interesting questions I’ve been asked lately came from a woman I met at a party who was very concerned that her boyfriend might secretly be gay. Below, I provide a recap of her story and a more elaborated version of my response.
My boyfriend is a masculine guy. He’s a steel worker, which means he’s pretty built and pretty macho. We’ve been together for a little while and have a good sex life. However, the other day, he asked me to put my stockings on him while we were making love. I thought it was a joke at first and played along. But it turns out it wasn’t a joke at all—he really enjoyed it. And I mean REALLY enjoyed it. Now it seems like he wants to wear them all the time. I’m confused. Is he gay or what?
Without meeting your boyfriend or talking to him, I can’t tell you with absolute certainly what’s going on, but my guess is that he’s not gay at all. Instead, it sounds like what’s going on here is that your boyfriend has a fetish for women’s stockings. Fetishes refer to cases where a person’s sexual desires and behaviors are dependent upon the presence of a specific object, such as shoes, panties, or feet (although people can have fetishes for virtually anything). People with fetishes need their object around during sexual activity in order to achieve maximum pleasure. It may still be possible for them to become aroused and achieve orgasm without the object, but sexual pleasure is usually less intense in these cases.
Fetishists connect their objects to sex in different ways. Some people like to fondle, sniff, or lick their items, while others like to wear them. In the case of people who like to wear clothing of the other sex (i.e., men who dress up as women or women who dress up as men), this is known as transvestic fetishism or transvestism. There are varying degrees of transvestism, with some people wearing just one piece of the other sex’s clothing, and others giving it the full Rocky Horror treatment. So although your boyfriend isn’t putting on makeup and dresses (at least not that I know of), the fact that he likes to wear your stocking during sex suggests that he is probably a transvestite.
Here are a couple of important things you should know about transvestism: First, your typical transvestite is actually a heterosexual, married man.1 Contrary to popular belief, a guy who gets turned on by wearing women’s clothes is unlikely to be gay. Second, although transvestic fetishism appears in the DSM, the manual that psychiatrists and psychologist use in diagnosing mental disorders, it is not truly considered a disorder unless it causes personal distress or impairment in one’s life. So unless the desire to wear stockings during sex is causing your boyfriend personal problems, his behavior does not necessarily meet the clinical criteria that would merit treatment. And third, being a transvestite just means you get turned on by dressing up as a member of the other sex--it does not mean that you actually want a sex change (see here for an article about the difference between transvestites and transsexuals).
What you need to decide is whether you’re comfortable with your boyfriend’s sexual behavior. If it’s something that really bothers you or turns you off, there probably isn’t much hope for the relationship. He may be very comfortable with himself and his sexuality, so he may have no desire to change and you do not have the ability to force him to do so. And even if he does want to change, treatment of fetishes can be difficult, so there’s no guarantee that he will lose his penchant for stockings. However, if you think you can live with and accept this behavior, there’s no reason you two can’t have a normal and healthy relationship. In fact, research on cross-dressing married men has found that most wives are actually accepting of their husband’s behavior.2 Some of these women reported going as far as helping their husbands get dressed in women’s clothes—and some even said they helped their husbands apply makeup! As you can see, fetishes don’t necessarily have to be a relationship deal-breaker. You just have to figure out if he’s the right guy for you.
To read more about fetishes and why they develop in the first place, check out this article.
For past Sex Question Friday posts, see here. Want to learn more about The Psychology of Human Sexuality? Click here for a complete list of articles or like the Facebook page to get articles delivered to your newsfeed.
1Docter, R. F., & Prince, V. (1997). Transvestism: A survey of 1032 cross-dressers. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26, 589-605.
2Talamini, J. T. (1982). Boys will be girls: The hidden world of the heterosexual male transvestite. Washington D.C.: University Press.
Image Soure: http://samsthatoneguy.tumblr.com/post/18195918396/intensively-looking-at-the-shadow-in-front-of-the