The Art & Magic of Feminine Illusion

| Apr 28, 2014

Few sights are funnier or uglier than a man “in drag” who is overtly male and couldn’t “pass” as a woman from a distance of 50-100 feet, grotesquely and repulsively so if he is crudely and conspicuously masculine. That’s why crossdressing and drag are typically used for comedic effect. The palpable virility of men’s faces and bodies made more ugly and glaring in contrast with the worst of makeup, cheap wigs and feminine attire.

And if these men in drag act — or try to act —  womanly, ladylike or “feminine” as caricature and burlesque the players are all the more risible, amusing, and entertaining. So males are free to dress and act like women and not be hated and vilified as “fags” and “sissies” and “queers” and “odd-balls” by most males and many females as long as they still look like men and especially if the parody is gross and ridiculous.

But even if many men want to look like women for whatever reasons, sexual and/or emotional, I doubt that most could even “pass” as ugly women because of faces that can’t be feminized by the best makeup and wigs, and bodies whose virility is so salient and distinct that it can’t be concealed or markedly diminished. Whatever the cost, skill and effort, they would all look like men who have been painted and coiffed. How paradoxical and ironic that myriads of conventionally handsome men could never “pass” as women even if they spent thousands of dollars on wigs, cosmetics, feminine attire and makeovers at the best transformation salons, while millions of plain and even ugly men can pass as women who are sexy and attractive, or even lovely, pretty, stunning, gorgeous, and beautiful.

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot.

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in “Some Like It Hot.”

Classically handsome movie and TV stars like Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, James Garner, Rock Hudson,Tom Selleck,Ted Danson, Clint Eastwood, and many others could never “pass” as women given their faces and/or physiques. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis (a handsome man) in Some Like it Hot were ugly and mannish, transparently men in dresses, nylons, heels, wigs and makeup, while Dustin Hoffman, whom no one would call handsome, and many would call ugly, was passable and feminine in Tootsie. Patrick Swayze was sexy and attractive, almost passable in his classy red wig, but his jaw and chin were those of a man — or a women who was genetically masculinized.

Then imagine body-builders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, professional-collegiate wrestlers, football and basketball players, politicians like LBJ and Chris Christie, actors like John Wayne, Kirk Douglass, James Coburn, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Karl Malden, Jimmy Cagney, Craig T. Nelson, Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many others en femme. The horror! One might have nightmares.

And that’s why “passing” as a women is both artful and propitious: propitious in that it requires the luck of having a visage that is feminine, plain or pretty, or can be feminized, transformed into the face of a woman by a close shave and the expert or competent application of makeup, a wig that is feminine and attractive, that accentuates and consummates the illusion femaleness. And, secondly, the luck of having a body that is feminine enough. Having a small frame with bones that are small or not too large and hands and feet that are small and delicate for a man or at least passably feminine with shoulders, chests, back, and legs that are not overtly masculine; a body that can be feminized, superficially, whose mannishness can be hidden or at least minimized.

If one is lucky enough to have the proper physical attributes artful application of makeup, hair and clothing can serve to create the look of an attractive woman. It is a shame how many women, who already have the physical attributes needed don’t bother to get dressed up and instead go around in sweat shirts and drawstring pants. In my opinion an artfully makeup and dressed crossdresser can be more attractive than many women who don’t care to be bothered with glamor.

Feminine Beauty as Cultural Creation

It’s striking and often amazing how the purely natural and unadorned beauty and femininity of women is enhanced by the masks, guises, trappings, and accourtrements of culture: embellishments and adornments that have existed for centuries or decades (e.g., makeup, dresses, high-heels, hairdos) but are always evolving in subtle and dramatic ways (e.g. platform pumps and other styles of feminine attire, cosmetics and surgery to hide,  slow or reverse aging) to improve the looks and enhance the beauty of women. The femininity and beauty of women is to a large extent a cultural creation and “artificial social construct, culturally-derived, imposed and facilitated. Women who are feminine and lovely naturally are rendered more so by cultural adornments and embellishments.

I’m sure you’ve seen photos of beautiful women, of actresses and models, singers and other celebrities, with no makeup. If young, still in their 20s or even 30s, they’re still pretty and lovely but far less beautiful, stunning, gorgeous, ravishing, voluptuous,and resplendent than when madeup. The eyes sans liner, shadow and mascarra are still pretty and lovely but smaller and duller. Not as sultry, radiant and expressive. The lips, untouched by gloss or lipstick, are duller and smaller, not as sexy, sultry and seductive, even if full, pouty and well-shaped. The imperfections and flaws of their skin are visible with no foundation, concealer, and powder. Or, if they can’t be concealed, more salient or even disfiguring.

With older beauties, women in their 40s and 50s and 60s and 70s, the sight of them sans makeup is far more vivid due to the effects of aging. Often such photos can be frightening. The multi-billion dollar beauty industry and all its creations to alter, cover and enhance the faces and bodies of women make it possible for Joan Collins, her sister Jackie, Sophia Loren and other mature women to still look stunning and desirable in their 70s and even 80s. I might not want to see Joan nude in the morning (not that I will ever have the chance) sans makeup with her hair undone and disheveled. But perfectly made-up, dressed classily and elegantly coiffed (usually in wigs apparently) she’s still exquisite at age 81! Expertly painted and coiffed, Joy Behar is cute, sexy and “foxy” and pretty. Sans makeup she looks dreadful, even homely.

And how much more striking and amazing that these masks and guise, trappings and inventions, accoutrements, embellishments and adornments of culture that enhance the femininity and attractiveness of women, permit crossdressers with the right faces and bodies, including males who are plain or even ugly, to appear as women and, for many, to perfect and master the art, magic and patina of feminine illusion, to appear not simply passable but sexy and attractive — often beautiful, ravishing.



Thus, if only superficially, the femininity of crossdressers is real and not illusory: not If one uses the word “feminine” in a purely cultural sense as opposed to it’s biological meaning as synonymous with female embodiment and its purely natural/physical manifestations; not if one thinks of “femininity” as a cultural artifact and “construct” to a large degree rather than a purely biological reality. Femaleness and maleness are natural and biological, and immutable apart from surgery and hormone injections. Femininity is natural and genetic as well as cultural and artificial. For CDs, the appearance of femaleness as opposed to femininity is obviously an illusion. But, inversely, the superficial femininity, sexiness and beauty of many TVs is real, just as real as that of real women.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines metamorphosis: 1 a: change of physical form, structure, or substance esp. by supernatural means. b: a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.

The metamorphosis of “passing” as a female is obviously not a “change of physical form, structure or substance” by either natural or supernatural means. But it’s surely a “striking alteration in appearance”: illusory in respect to “physical form, structure, or substance;” “striking” and actual in regard to appearance.

Do you agree with Serena’s perspective? If you’re signed in use the comment area below to share your thoughts.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Opinion

About the Author ()

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. scalesman says:

    Excellent article. Welcome to CDF. Two quips come to mind when I speculate about passing. First “You can’t make a silk purs out of a sows ear”. Second is the comment from an old football coach “You can’t coach speed”.
    Body type and size have a lot to do with even having an aspiration of passing.
    Being a CD who likes to dress and on occasion go out I think of the admonition of the old hanging judge who when the 65 year old man complained that at his age he could never complete a 40 year sentence simply told the defendant to “Just do the best you can”. I harbor no illusions that I will fool any of the people any of the times but I do the best I can.

  2. mina53 says:

    It is definitely a matter of mastering the art of illusion. I have been blessed or, depending on the point of view cursed with a fairly feminine face and body. If I don’t break the illusion a great many people never look twice at me in makeup.