"Lesbian with the attributes of a man: Is a trans history of male masochism possible?





BDSM, trans femininity, masochism, sex wars


This article is an attempt at presenting a case for thinking about male masochism—from its conceptual inception in late 19th century sexology, to its contemporary framing as a sexual practice falling under the umbrella of BDSM—as having close historical connections with the history of transness, and trans femininity in particular. In order to do so, I provide an overview of the way that the idea of male masochism as femininely gendered has been variously posited, contested, and disavowed across 130 years of masochism’s discursive history. Finally, I argue for the necessity of histories of trans femininity to accept speculative approaches as a valid way of thinking about the possibilities of trans history, and ask what political ends have been served by the “cisisfication” of masochism and practices of sexual submissiveness, which is rendering them culturally legible as having nothing to do with their practitioners’ gender.