Male Femaling: Stereotypes in Gender Change Fiction
I started off intending to write this article as a straightforward review, but instead I found myself looking at the larger issue of gender change fiction and the aspects it often focuses on. Unlike gender swap fiction, where a character is suddenly put into a body of the opposite gender, gender change fiction is when a character either willingly or unwillingly takes on the gender aspects which is opposite to their own, more often men becoming women than vice versa. That may come from simply dressing as the opposite gender or taking on entire physical aspects. However, I’ve noticed a prevalence of that male femaling being focused on the elements of fetishism more than any other type of exploration.
One has merely to look at sites such a Fictionmania to see how active the aspect of gender change fiction is online. In many cases, when the change is not willing, the male character is dominated by a stronger female and forced to take on the role of a submissive. The theme seems to indicate that the female gender equates to being willing and being dominated. It leads one wonder why this stereotype is perpetrated through this type of fiction. As the permeation of fiction in gender change archives such as this is focused on the eroticism of changing gender roles, does it ruin the fantasy to bring reality or equality into the situation? Is the notion of a strong female character in direct opposition to the ideal of femininity, so much that men becoming women must give up that aspect of their personality?
Another prevalent theme of gender change fiction is the focus on the material trappings of what it means to be a woman. The book “Virgin Bride” by Thomas Newgen & Barbara Deloto illustrates this quite well. In the novel, a wife forces her husband to start dressing and acting like a woman, at first under the guise of going to a costume party but later it’s relied on for the aspect of domination. Meticulous detail is given during the first parts of transformation to focus on the clothing that he must wear and how that makes him feel sexually. Silk and satin is equated to femininity and that femininity is both a source of arousal as well as accepted identity. If he looks like a woman and acts like a woman, then he can become a woman. Asserting any type of resistance is seen as masculine, so he must take on the submissive role of willing female. Again, this type of novel is targeted towards the eroticism of gender change, of becoming someone you’re not to the point of being accepted within that role, so reality has no place in disrupting the fantasy created.
These types of stories serve a purpose to those who read them. It’s another type of pornography, but in literary form since it’s an area that cannot be easily explored through visual means. However, it also must be considered for what it’s portraying. The idealized woman in these situations is one that likes to be dominated, who must act and dress a certain way to appeal to the societal roles they are inhabiting. It reiterates the feeling that femininity cannot coexist alongside being a strong, independent person, and that’s what’s most detrimental of all. If we perpetuate the stereotype, even within fantasy, how will that translate to what we seek within reality?
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