Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 263–278 | Cite as

Clinical and Theoretical Parallels Between Desire for Limb Amputation and Gender Identity Disorder

  • Anne A. LawrenceEmail author
Original Article

Desire for amputation of a healthy limb has usually been regarded as a paraphilia (apotemnophilia), but some researchers propose that it may be a disorder of identity, similar to Gender Identity Disorder (GID) or transsexualism. Similarities between the desire for limb amputation and nonhomosexual male-to-female (MtF) transsexualism include profound dissatisfaction with embodiment, related paraphilias from which the conditions plausibly derive (apotemnophilia and autogynephilia), sexual arousal from simulation of the sought-after status (pretending to be an amputee and transvestism), attraction to persons with the same body type one wants to acquire, and an elevated prevalence of other paraphilic interests. K. Freund and R. Blanchard (1993) proposed that nonhomosexual MtF transsexualism represents an erotic target location error, in which men whose preferred erotic targets are women also eroticize their own feminized bodies. Desire for limb amputation may also reflect an erotic target location error, occurring in combination with an unusual erotic target preference for amputees. This model predicts that persons who desire limb amputation would almost always be attracted to amputees and would display an increased prevalence of gender identity problems, both of which have been observed. Persons who desire limb amputation and nonhomosexual MtF transsexuals often assert that their motives for wanting to change their bodies reflect issues of identity rather than sexuality, but because erotic/romantic orientations contribute significantly to identity, such distinctions may not be meaningful. Experience with nonhomosexual MtF transsexualism suggests possible directions for research and treatment for persons who desire limb amputation.


apotemnophilia acrotomophilia transsexualism gender identity disorder autogynephilia. 



I would like to thank Paul L. Vasey for reviewing an earlier version of the manuscript.


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