Gynephilia (gynophilia, gynaecophilia, or gynesexuality; from the Greek gunē, meaning women; and -philia, meaning love) is the erotic attraction to adult females and/or femininity, and its counterpart androphilia (from Greek andro-, "male," + -philia, "love") is attraction to adult males and/or masculinity.
The term androphilia (or androsexuality) was originally coined to describe age aspect of erotic orientation of male homosexuals. The terms androphilia and gynephilia are also used to distinguish attractions to adults from pederasty and pedophilia. These describe types of chronophilia and within that, androphilia and gynephilia collectively refer to two variable forms of teleiophilia.
Later the words androphilia and gynephilia (gynaekophilia) become terms to describe one's sex/gender orientation independently of one's sex/gender; this usage is useful especially for talking about orientation of trans people (regardless of which age range of attraction), as well as for generally studies of attraction to men or attraction to women.
Androphilia (from the Greek andro-, an adjective/adverbial form of male; and -philia, meaning love) is attraction to adult males.
It is believed that the term originated from Hirschfeld's systematics of homosexual males. Magnus Hirschfeld, writing in the early 20th century, offered a threefold age classification system for homosexual males:
- Ephebophiles, "who are attracted to youths from puberty to the early 20s". The term is now used to describe both heterosexual and homosexual attraction to the age range.
- Androphiles, who prefer men from age 20 to 50s. The term is now used mostly to describe anyone with a sexual preference for men.
- Gerontophiles, who prefer older men. The term is now used as a non-gender specific preference for older people.
The term androphilia was useful in describing societies where pederasty was the norm, but where homosexual attraction to adult men was frowned upon.
A book by Jack Malebranche uses the term androphilia in its title: Androphilia, A Manifesto: Rejecting the Gay Identity, Reclaiming Masculinity (ISBN 0-9764035-8-7). The author uses the term to emphasise masculinity in both the object and the subject of male homosexual desire, and reject the gender nonconformity that he sees in gay identity.
Gynephilia (gynophilia or gynaecophilia; from Greek gunē, meaning women; and -philia, meaning love) is the erotic attraction to females.
Gynephilia is philologically inconsequent, as it takes the nominative instead of the root, and would have as its counterpart anerphilia (From Greek anēr, "men," + -philia), not androphilia ; while gynophilia is formed in violation of Greek word formation rules, cf. gynaecology/gynecology (From Greek gynaiko-, "female," + logos)
The term gynophilia is used in some psychotherapy to mean "attraction to adult women", in contrast with pedophilia, with the aim of therapy usually being to replace pedophilic desires with teleiophilic ones.
The age zone of gynephile interests is defined likewise as in case of androphilia.
Use for trans people
The terms gynephilia and androphilia are occasionally (but increasingly) used when referring to the sexual orientation of transgender, intersex, and other genderqueer or intergender people, since the terms homosexual (same-sex) and heterosexual (different-sex) can be unclear. In describing an individual's sexual orientation as homosexual or heterosexual, one is not only saying something about the sex/gender that person desires, but also something about their own sex/gender — specifically, that their sex and/or gender is the same as, or different from, that of those they desire. Difficulties in making these judgements can be seen, for example, in debates about whether female-attracted transmen are a part of the lesbian community. Androphilia and gynephilia are often preferred, because rather than focusing on the sex or gender of the subject, they only describe that of the object of their attraction. This has led to a lesser emphasis on the age based restrictions that androphilia and gynephilia were originally coined for. The third common term that describes sexual orientation, bisexuality, makes no claim about the subject's sex or gender identity.
This use is problematic for trans people because it denies trans people's experiences as their actual sex, but also implies that they are really the sex they were assigned at birth. It is barely controversial that trans people define themselves as gay, lesbian, straight, and bisexual as appropriate, and will reject any terminology that is applied to them but not also to cisgender people. Debates about whether heterosexual trans men are part of the lesbian community, for example, do not typically include those trans men's perspectives.
- For example: "Fa’afafine are a heterogeneous group of androphilic males, some of whom are unremarkably masculine, but most of whom behave in a feminine manner in adulthood.", Bartlett, Nancy H. and Vasey, Paul L. (2006), A Retrospective Study of Childhood Gender-Atypical Behavior in Samoan Fa’afafine, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Springer Netherlands, ISSN 0004-0002 (Print) 1573-2800 (Online), Volume 35, Number 6, December 2006, Pages 659-666
- Dynes, Wayne Androphilia. Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. Dynes, Wayne R. (ed.), Garland Publishing, 1990. p. 58.