Posted by: Ophelia | November 11, 2008

When isn’t a penis sexual?

Given our culture, I would hedge my bets on never–oh accept when it comes to trans men apparently:

London: Prosthetic penises that will be supplied free to eligible transsexual men next year are under attack for staying limp.

Authorities justified funding fake penises for aesthetic reasons rather than functionality because rules forbid expenditure on ’sexual aids,’ according to an online Swedish publication .

Starting January 1, transsexual men (females who undergo sex-change operations) will receive a free prosthetic penis from a plastic surgeon, The Local, quoting Ottar, a publication, said.

While transsexual women have long been eligible for free breast implants, hair removal operations and wigs, transsexual men receive no such cosmetic help.

Sexologist Cecilia Dhejne at Karolinska Hospital, Sweden, although not opposed to distribution of fake penises, criticised the decision because they cannot be used to urinate or become erect.

It’s easy to think that it’s pretty strange to approve prosthetics that can’t get erect, because that is after all what penises do – get erections. It would be appropriate to pay for those as well,” she told Ottar.

Immanuel Brändemo, a lobbyist, felt transsexuals were getting a raw deal from the medical community.

“I know girls who even after the operation are met with resistance from their doctors who don’t think that they should have a sex life at all. They should be happy to have a sex organ that looks good,” he explained.

Transsexualism is seen as some sort of disability and ‘handicapped’ people are still not expected to have a sex life.”  (Source)

I suppose there are those that would suggest that transmen not look the government gift horse in the mouth–however, if someone offered you a car to drive that was just a toy, would you be so grateful? With little trouble I found a company based in Germany who state that their goal is “based on respect for the bodies, needs, image, comfort and sex drives of transsexual Men.” So quality prosthesis that function as penises actually do are available. But because the government can’t fund “sexual aids” they can’t give money to realistic penis prosthesis even though that’s what they allegedly set out to do. One wonders why breast implants don’t count–unless they do poor jobs of those so that they’re not too sexually enticing. Perhaps its because they can’t be used for penetrative sex (notably genital surgery  isn’t listed as one of the free options for transwomen either).


Responses

  1. I am thoroughly confounded by this article.

    Some of the problematic assumptions made:

    -sexual penises must be erect
    -breasts are not “sexual aides” but penises are (when erect)
    -sexuality is defined by the act of sex only (a la “penises are for getting erect”)–as if having a penis could have no personal benefit for one’s sexual identity if it can’t get erect.

    If penises are for urinating and erections, then breasts are for lactating and sexual sensation, and breast constructions provide neither. But they do complete the picture of normative femininity!

    I wonder who the object of the “sexual aides” is assumed to be? I mean, if breast construction surgery are covered but penises that can have erections are not, then how do we define sexual aides? I know this seems so negative, but the only thing I can think of is that if women’s bodies are seen as functioning for their partner rather than for themselves, they wouldn’t be seen as sexual aides, right?–if the intended consumer of those parts is not the person having the surgery. But if penises are seen the opposite way–as functioning for the owner, not the partner–then they would be seen as sexual aides.

    This would of course be highly problematic, reductive thinking about sexuality and pleasure, not to mention evaluating sexuality from a sexist point. But it’s the only way I can comprehend the breasts/penis thing.

  2. “notably genital surgery isn’t listed as one of the free options for transwomen either”

    Actually, they are; it just wasn’t mentioned in the article :)

    Genital reconstruction is covered by the general health care insurance, for men and women. The thing is that the surgery available for transwomen usually turn out very well, while the methods used on transmen are so bad that a large number don’t go through them. The risk for complications is rather high – and even if you’re lucky those surgeries still won’t give you a penis that you can use for penetrative sex.

    Transmen also get chest reconstruction, and transwomen may get it as well after a few years if the hormone treatment hasn’t worked out.

    So yes, the genital surgery is covered, but because of the surgery methods a lot of guys aren’t willing to take the risk. That is why the need for prostheses has arised.

    I have to say that I really think you both make very interesting points about the construction of sexuality. Thank you very much; I will think of it in the future.


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