What is it like to be a woman?

Below is a comment I just wrote at The Social Pathologist blog.

I have written a few relevant things here:


This is probably the most relevant:


in which I argue that both hormones and brain wiring would be essential to “feeling like a woman”.

It perhaps relate to that old conundrum about “what is it like to be a bat?”:


(This then leads on to questions about consciousness.)

It must “feel like” something to be a woman. On the other hand, I don’t go around self-consciously “feeling like a man”. Sometimes, when I am sexually interested in a woman, or I notice how powerful my shoulders are, I feel “like a man”; but mostly I just feel like myself as a person.

The cross-dresser I mentioned said that the main things that surprised him were how much time a person dressed as a “woman” has to spend “primping” and worrying about her clothes. And also at how “her breasts” got in the way. But maybe women come not to notice these things over time and with experience. If “being a woman” is a “performance” as gender theorists like to say, it is one that women seem to carry off with aplomb. (I have noticed how very rare it is for a woman to obviously struggle with carrying off her feminine presentation.)

But, despite the media absurdity about “Caitlyn” Jenner, I doubt that a man could feel like a woman in any real sense, especially if, like Jenner, he still has his penis and testicles. The “shemales” who seem most convincing have clearly had hormonal treatment in many cases. (There are some young men who, apart from their penises, look just like girls, and indeed like particular “types” of girl. It is striking to see the way in which a genetic male can use hormones to look like his “shadow” [female self]. One sometimes sees this in families, with both male and female versions of the same basic “look”, and there are some women – not necessarily unattractive – in whom one can see the shadowy lineaments of the man they might have been but for the lack of a Y chromosome).

But those are young people, and “Caityln” Jenner grew to manhood and is not young. Surely too, personal identity includes memories, and I have indeed read complaints from “transsexual” men that they will never be able to look back on the experience of having grown up female. Caitlyn Jenner may have “bolt-on tits” but he never grew breasts as a teenage girl.

I have also written about these issues here.

10 responses to this post.

  1. I should add one point. I suppose it is possible that it “feels like” something to be a woman more than it does to be a man. This might especially be true if there is anything in the claims that men are regarded as normative, and women as deviating from the norm.

    It often only “feels like” something if we stand out in our environment. A very short person or a very tall person must “feel their height” in a way that normal people do not. Similarly, a woman might “feel like” a woman because she is not a man, which is to say the normative human being. A woman stands out simply by virtue of being a woman.

    (Feminists seem especially to resent anything which reminds them they are women.)

    Of course, a cynic might add that women go out of their way to emphasise their being the exception by wearing distinctively feminine clothes, to get noticed and perhaps to get more favourable treatment.


  2. Posted by Jim on July 12, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Bruce Jenner and other “transsexuals” are the way they are because of one thing….they COVET. Bruce is coveting what women have and therefore wants to be one. They are not actually women born in men’s bodies they’re just guilty of being covetous to the point of extreme obsession.


    • There are probably several possible reasons for his behaviour, and it is likely that more than one is in play. Some cynical folk have suggested that he wants attention and money from a reality show, and there may be a bit of that too. A professional athlete might badly miss the limelight. We had a top swimmer here in Australia who was suffering from depression after his career came to an end, and eventually “came out” as a homosexual. Some people expressed their doubts.

      As you imply, he might want to become a “woman” because society is kind to women, even those who are really men.

      He could genuinely have gender dysphoria. There may be a module in a person’s brain that tells them whether they are male or female, and maybe it has misfired in his case (although his apparently keeping his male genitals makes me question this.) He could be a passive homosexual who wants to play the female role. He could have autogynephilia, an erotic obsession with himself as a female. He could be a masochist who craves the humiliation of being “turned into” a woman.

      He could be a cross-dresser.

      No doubt there are other possible explanations.


      • Posted by Jim on July 14, 2015 at 5:22 am

        Nah. I don’t bother with the nonsense psycho-babble. People like that are just coveting. He has a desire to be someone else because he covets what they have. Think about it. He’s not satisfied with what he has or is. So he wants what someone else has.

      • Maybe. I imagine that women are curious about what it is like to be a man. And I have read some of them saying they wish they knew. Certainly there are some uniquely masculine experiences. And I imagine that being a girl could have its good moments too.

        But most people are happy with what they are, most of the time. To choose to “become” the opposite sex suggests more than idle curiosity. Very few men take the route Bruce Jenner took.

        There is more than a hint in scripture, and it is actually explicitly stated in the modern Catholic Catechism, that we should all be content with the sex God made us.

  3. I am reluctant to post this, because it reads so oddly, but for what it is worth:


    ” “A Deathless Suicide”: Man Rues Transgender Choice “


  4. http://thoughtcatalog.com/tucker-max/2015/10/guys-heres-what-its-actually-like-to-be-a-woman/

    (“Guys, Here’s What It’s Actually Like To Be A Woman”, Tucker Max with Geoffrey Miller.)


  5. (“2006 Self Made Man: Norah Vincent chooses Female Privilege over Male Privilege.”)


  6. Then there are women who “perform” femininity in a deliberately extreme or exaggerated way:


    This short interview is my most-viewed “paper” on the Academia.edu site. It has 476 views so far.

    I should note that I never actually met this woman face-to-face. We had a discussion by email. My strong impression is that she is what she purports to be. But of course there is always the possibility that she was misleading me. Her answers seem consistent with her claims as to her lifestyle and background. That said, I suspect 10% at least of everything people claim on the Internet is fantasy.


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