You are on page 1of 4

Volume 70 November 1977 789

Section of Psychiatry
President J D Pollitt MD

Meeting 8 February 1977

Aspects of the Psychopathology Table I
of Sexual Behaviour Elements of a psychopathology of sexual behaviour
Contextual elements
by Professor J P Watson MD FRCPSych, Inanimate environment
J M Annear MRcPsych and M Yaffe MPhil Social environment
Cultural context
(Guy's Hospital Medical School, Relationship behaviour
London Bridge, London SEI 9RT) Personal elements
Gender identity
According to Kraupl-Taylor (1966), 'psycho- Sexual object preferences
pathology' is one of the 'over-long list of psychiat- Arousal, arousability and drive
ric terms which owe their popularity to their
semantic uncertainty'. In this paper, the term
(psychopathology' refers to more than the 'actual be diminished by anything which distracts from
conscious psychic events' of Jaspers (1963) and is immediate awareness of bodily feelings and is
concerned with describing and explaining and - enhanced inasmuch as the subject can attend to or
perhaps also predicting behaviour (using this
- simply be aware of such feelings (see for example
word in its broadest sense). Pyschopathology so Kaplan (1974) on 'pleasuring' and 'genital pleasur-
defined is naturally of interest to the clinician who ing'). A similar notion is expressed when a person
tries to understand and treat people with sexual listening to music says of it 'I am enjoying this'; he
problems. is not, but perhaps just has been.
In this paper we shall first indicate elements of a
psychopathology of sexuality which seem to us to Relationship Behaviour
be important. We shall then discuss in more detail Sexual behaviour is not- understandable except as
variables which may affect sexual arousal and relationship behaviour (unless masturbating
response; and we will indicate patterns of sexual behaviour is in question). Such problems as impot-
arousal and of sexual object choice which may ence and premature ejaculation are not properties
occur in persons with gender identity problems. of individuals, but phenomena which typically
The paper is based upon experience with patients declare themselves in two person situations.
with sexual dysfunctions and with transexualism Construing relationships is a complex matter, but
seen at Guy's Hospital since 1975. we find that a useful starting point in the assess-
ment of a relationship is to focus upon commit-
Elements of a Psychopathology of ment, communication and conflict.
Sexuality (Table 1) In a couple, mutual commitment is essential if
Context sexual and relationship problems are to be solved.
This heading acknowledges that the physical set- This is because such problem-solving requires
ting, the presence or proximity of other people and personal and behavioural change to which there is
the cultural context, are important determinants of resistance - as there is to all changes which may be
sexual behaviour. Inanimate and social environ- evoked by psychological treatment - and only
mental factors provide perceptual cues which may mutual commitment can overcome this resistance.
divert the attention of a couple from their love- Naturally, failure of mutual commitment tends to
making. One of the principles underpinning the precede marital breakdown.
.new sex therapy' is that sexual enjoyment tends to Sex therapy is not successful with two people
790 Proc. roy. Soc. Med. Volume 70 November 1977

who cannot communicate reasonably well with the sexual response cycle (Masters & Johnson
each other, and marital therapy often focuses in 1966) between individuals and within individuals
detail upon eccentricities of communication. It is over time.
noteworthy that while communication processes
are disturbed in many sexual dysfunctional Sexual Arousal and Response
couples, sexual problems can occur while com- Arousal, arousability and drive are readily seen to
munication is really not at all bad. Impaired be intimately linked to sexual object preferences.
communication and failure of committal can fol- After all, the term 'object preference' refers to
low from conflicts (usually multiple and of long things which tend to evoke sexual responses.
standing), but relationship problems may arise Within a broad category like 'adult of the opposite
from conflict even if persons are mutually com- sex', persons may respond to more or less specific
mitted and are communicating with each other. subcategories. Some men are responsive to a wide
Essential references for the reader who wishes to range of stimulus persons (women of less than
explore these matters further are Crown (1976) and middle age, for example), others to a much
Skynner (1976). narrower band of stimuli (slim white women with
red hair and shapely figures, &c.). Sexual re-
Personal Elements sponsiveness can be very specific indeed in or-
Sexual behaviour occurs in a relationship between dinary people, as in some persons with anomalous
people in a context, but personal characteristics of sexual preferences, notably fetishism. It is easy to
those involved are naturally also of relevance. The speculate but difficult to find hard data about the
rest of this paper is concerned with three such determinants of sexual object preferences, includ-
personal elements, and their relationships with ing the causes of heterosexuality, of homosexuality
each other and with other psychopathological and of the paraphilias. Money & Ehrhardt (1972)
elements. have drawn attention to the possible importance of
imprinting processes in determining sexual object
Gender identity: By this is meant 'the sameness, choice.
unity, and persistance of one's individuality as The following seven headings indicate the wide
male, female, or ambivalent, in greater or lesser range of stimulus characteristics which may de-
degree, especially as it is expressed in self aware- termine sexual arousal and response, and also
ness and behaviour' (Money & Ehrhardt 1972). It emphasize the substantial differences which may
is the private experience of gender role (which is the exist between people.
public expression of it), which refers to everything
a person does which indicates maleness, femaleness Physical attributes: Studies of sexual preferences
or ambivalence to others or to the self. suggest that within a cultural group there will be
general agreement about 'sexual attractiveness',
Sexual object preference: This refers to the kinds but with additional individual differences
of stimulus which evoke sexual responses. The (Mathews et al. 1972). Stimulus characteristics
statistical norm is that adults respond sexually to may generate impressions of beauty and thereby
people who are adult and of the opposite sex and evoke sexual arousal, but ugliness rather than
gender. Variations on this pattern arise when beauty is erotic for some people, while for others
people respond to non-people (bestiality), non- impressions of beauty or ugliness seem to contri-
adults (as to prepubertal children in pedophilia), bute little to erotic responsiveness or lack of it.
or to people of the same sex and gender (homo-
sexuality). In addition, the norm is that people Adornments: Included here are clothes, cosmetics,
respond to whole other people and the anomaly of jewellery, tattoos and other things which alter the
fetishism arises when people respond to parts of perceived anatomical configuration. Their use is,
others. of course, partly determined by fashions or cul-
tural norms and partly by the nature of sexual
Arousal, arousability and drive: It seems likely that ideals - fantasies which are more or less dependent
similar sexual arousal and response processes on culture. Adornments may of course be used to
occur, whatever object preferences are involved. diminish erotic effects (breast binding for instance)
These processes have sometimes been referred to as well as to enhance them.
by terms such as 'libido', but we find it helpful,
following Whalen (1966), to regard 'libido' as Body styles: These contribute substantially to com-
unhelpfully imprecise and to talk instead about munication about sexual arousal and arousability
'arousal' or momentary level of sexual excitement, and about the possiblity of sexual contact. Body
and 'arousability', defined by the increments of style summarizes a person's habitual ways of
arousal produced by successive erotic stimuli. walking, running, sitting, standing and lying.
These terms aid the understanding of variations in People move with varying degrees of ease, and
Section ofPsychiatry 791

sexual dysfunctions are often accompanied by linked with gender identity. The points to be made
difficulty in moving easily, let alone enjoyably. here are exemplified from our personal series of
fully assessed transexual patients, who at the time
Language: Language which may stimulate sexual of writing are 13 in number.
arousal ranges from obscene talk to 'sweet The typical transexual is the anatomical male of
nothings'. In some couples, verbalizations during female gender who describes heterosexual attrac-
arousal lead to further arousal. In others, no tion toward gender and anatomical males, or the
speech occurs during coitus. Sometimes, of course, anatomical female of male gender who describes
people make love quietly because they do not wish heterosexual attraction toward gender and
to disturb children, parents or neighbours; concern anatomical females. We have also seen the gender
about such matters usually inhibits sexual female with male anatomy who describes homo-
enjoyment. sexual attraction for females, but not yet the
gender male with female anatomy who wants to
Fantasies: Some people have a rich sexual fantasy relate homosexually to males.
life; others seem to have no fantasies at all. Male to female homosexuals feel they are
Masturbation may be associated with fantasies, women, or feel like women or feel they would like
but may occur without any image or conscious to be women. Our patients stress their feminine
fantasy. There are very great differences between feelings and behaviour; their relating to others as
people in the extent to which sexual arousal, during female, or others treating them as female; or just
coitus and also in other circumstances, is as- not being male, or a wish for a new life style.
sociated with erotic fantasy. LH (Case 1), aged 32, desired to be female in
relationships. He wanted his physical appearance
Sexual materials: A wide range of stimuli may such that 'people enter relationships with me
evoke sexual responses accompanied by any of supposing me to be a woman'. He said 'in this way
numerous emotional reactions - positive, negative I feel I am perfectly free to express my own natural
or both, including anxiety, fear, anger, pleasure, tastes, abilities, and values'. TG (Case 2), aged 21,
disgust, curiosity and shame. This heading refers to said 'I feel as a woman should feel, I'm emotionally
writing, drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and a woman, my mind thinks as a woman, I don't feel
the like; private performances, recorded or masculine at all'. Neatly and with childlike clarity
spoken; performances for an audience (such as he puts the conflict in a sentence 'I feel like a
recitations, plays, dances, religious rites); perfor- woman when I'm with someone of my own sex'.
mances in which one is a participant; mechanical The preoccupation can become near delusional.
sexual aids (e.g. vibrators or penile rings); and even AM (Case 3), aged 44, said 'I wanted to change sex
surrogate partners. Pornography is a term often for a couple of years, I'm interested in women's
used in this context; it may be defined as material clothing for a long time. I try to act like a woman, I
which produces sexual excitement, comprising re- masturbate like a woman with my legs wide open.
presentations of sexual objects and erotic situations, Can anything be done about my Adam's Apple?
rather than the objects or situations themselves. My chest is getting bigger, want to see it?'
The principal uses of sexually explicit materials are Several patients took deliberate active steps for
to provide images upon which individuals can many years to oppose their feminine natures. TG
focus during masturbation or which may poten- (Case 2) signed on in the Army at age 18 mainly to
tiate later intercourse. follow his boyfriend of ten years standing, but also
to make a man of himself. The Army was not
Taboos: A sense of danger such as can be derived entirely unsuccessful. Now dressing and working
from awareness of the possible consequences of as a female 'she' retains multiple body tattoos,
committing an illegal act can lead to sexual excite- attends martial arts instruction and plays snooker,
ment. Sometimes, however, a sense of danger leads raising 'her' leg and both little fingers in exag-
to anxiety and thereby to impotence. gerated female manner when using the cue.
This is not an exhaustive list, but sufficiently Of our 11 male to female patients, 4 have been
extensive to indicate the range of enquiry required married, one of them twice and one thrice; 2 others
to understand the problems of patients complain- relate sexually mainly to females, 4 relate to males
ing of sexual difficulties. and 1 to no-one, but in fantasy to males. Both
female to male patients relate mainly to females
Aspects ofGender Identity Disorder and at present are in stable relationships, one with
We turn now to focus on persons with gender a common law wife.
identity disorder. Our aim is to indicate not only Our 13 patients have reported variously deviant
that sexual arousal and response are intimately object relationships. The male transexual may
linked with object preferences, as emphasized in marry a wife he can identify with, or one with
the previous section, but that both are closely whom he can engage in mutual gender role re-
792 Proc. roy. Soc. Med. Volume 70 November 1977

versal. He may sustain sexual relations, typically 'consecrated virginity'. Others, however, are signi-
with himself in the male inferior position, by ficantly sexually active and wish to remain so or to
transexual fantasy, possibly including fantasy of become increasingly active. Most patients mastur-
the wife being the male in the partnership. bate to transexual fantasies of possessing a female
Alternatively the male may like women and body, often in the image ofspouse, female acquaint-
dislike men, identifying with and wanting sex with ance, or magazine picture. Some patients have
women 'as lesbians'. This may be accompanied by fantasies which involve masochistic or other para-
a range of sexual experiences. RW (Case 5) has philic activity. One reported the logically incon-
liaised with countless prostitutes for over thirty sistent experience of orgasm with ejaculation to the
years and has had 3 or 4 girlfriends; the third was a fantasy of having the penile organ removed. Some
Swedish divorcee whom he fears he upset by patients report penile pleasure even when stimu-
having intercourse with her once. His first relations lated by transexual fantasy; others locate their
with prostitutes were straight; later he paid special pleasure in perineum or anal region.
prices for active followed by passive coitus with a It is clear that, in order to understand the
prositute using a dildo. He likes troilism and has transexual and 'his' sexual behaviour, the clinician
occupied middle position on a few occasions. RW must attend both to the behaviour and to the
wants a sex change to become a lesbian. transexual and 'his' own view of it. The observer
Cross dressing is, of course, one of the features must attend also to the behaviour of the
of transexualism. All our cases have cross dressed, transexual's partner and to 'her' view of it. One
and at least half of them have, for long periods of male to female described a sexual relationship with
time, worn female underwear beneath male top a female to male patient which would have looked
clothing. Garments are sometimes an emotional to a third party like ordinary coitus but which was
comfort: TG (Case 2) said 'dressed as a man my satisfying to the participants because each could
feelings go haywire, I feel like hiding in a corner. enjoy the fantasy of being the other, knowing of
Even with only one item of female clothing I feel the other's fantasy.
more comfortable emotionally'. As a schoolboy
TG took his mother's underwear to school in his Comment
satchel for this purpose. Sometimes the importance This is a paper which attempts to provide a
of cross dressing is mainly a tactile matter - RW framework for approaching problems in an area
(Case 5) has worn tights and knickers ever since where clinicians sometimes feel that they lack such
asking a prostitute for them twenty years ago. He a framework. We have listed some of the en-
said 'I feel at home in them, with the feeling of vironmental factors which can contribute to erotic
nylon against your skin, fitting against you'. experience and described some aspects of tran-
Occasionally cross dressing is associated with erec- sexualism to indicate ways in which personal fac-
tion. GC (Case 4) used to remove his mother's tors can also contribute to erotic behaviour. We
silken underwear from the linen basket; wearing it have emphasized that in order to understand
produced genital arousal. sexual problems it is necessary to be able to
Cross dressing occurred in the first decade of 9 of enquire into very specific details of most intimate
our first 12 cases, in the second decade in 2 and in activities.
the fourth decade in 2. During childhood and REFERENCES
adolescence cross dressing is usually covert and Crown S
concealed, although it was performed openly in 2 (1976) In: Recent Advances in Clinical Psychiatry, No. 2. Ed.
K Granville-Grossman. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh;
of our cases. Usually cross dressing begins and is pp 200-226
continued at the subject's own initiative, but it may Jaspers K
be encouraged or even started by the activity of (1963) General Psychopatholgy. Translated by J Hoenig and M
W Hamilton. University Press, Manchester; p 2
another person, ordinarily female. Mother, sister, Kaplan H S
girlfriend, acquaintance and prostitute have each (1974) The New Sex Therapy. Active Treatment of Sexual
been involved in this way with patients. Sooner or Dysfunctions. Brunner/Mazel, New York
Kraupl-Taylor F
later, other people eventually become involved in (1966) Psychopathology. Its Causes and Symptoms.
the transexuals' dressing and 'passing'. Spouses Butterworth, London
may windowshop with them, advise on clothing Masters W & Johnson V W
(1966) Human Sexual Response. Little Brown, Boston
and cosmetics, and assist in dressing them. This Mathews A M, Bancroft J H J & Slater P
kind of support seems emotionally important to (1972) British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology
the transexual, even though he knows the re- 11, 35- 43
Money J & Ehrhardt A A
lationship with his wife or ex-wife will end. (1972) Man and Woman, Boy and Girl. John Hopkins
Transexuals may be sexually active or inactive. University Press, Baltimore; p 4
Some wish essentially for the removal of sexuality Skynner A C R
with reassignment, even if they would not go as far (1976) One Flesh: Separate Persons. Principles of Family and
Marital Psychotherapy. Constable, London
as one of our patients who aspired to a life of Whalen R E (1966) Psychological Review 73, 15-163