Erotic target location error (ETLE) is having a sexual preference or strong sexual interest in features that are somewhere other than on one's sexual partners.[1]

When one's sexual arousal is based on imagining oneself in another physical form (such as an animal, an infant, or an amputee) the erotic target is said to be one's self, or erotic target identity inversion.[2]

The terms "erotic target location error" and "erotic target identity inversion" were first used in 1993 by sexologist Ray Blanchard.[2]


The best known examples of erotic target identity inversions are biological males who experience sexual arousal in response to imagining themselves as women (called autogynephilia), but at least one case of anatomic autoandrophilia has also been reported.[3] In The Beauty Myth (1990) by Naomi Wolf, Wolf writes, "Women tell me they're jealous of the men who get so much pleasure from the female body; that they imagine being inside the male body that is inside their own so that they can vicariously experience desire."[4]

Whereas gynephilia refers to the sexual preference for women, autogynephilia refers to a male's sexual interest in being a woman. Autogynephilia can be associated with gender dysphoria and gender identity disorder, discontent with one's biological sex and the desire to undergo surgery for sex reassignment and permanently take on a role and life of the other sex.[5][6] A male with sexual arousal based on temporarily taking on the appearance or role of a woman is transvestic fetishism.

Several other sexual interests also exist in ETLE forms:

Whereas acrotomophilia refers to the sexual preference for amputees, apotemnophilia refers to sexual arousal in association with having an amputation,[7] although both can be experienced at the same time.[8] Apotemnophilia can be associated with the strong belief or desire that one's external body is mismatched to one's true nature,[9] a phenomenon called body integrity identity disorder,[10] and the desire to undergo surgery to remove a limb. People who temporarily adopt the role or identity of an amputee have been called disability pretenders.[10]

Whereas zoophilia refers to the sexual preference for animals, autozoophilia refers to sexual arousal in association with being an animal. Autozoophilia can be associated with the feeling or belief that one is less than 100% human or that one is an animal trapped in a human body, a phenomenon called species dysphoria.[11][12]

The sexual attraction to plush animals is termed plushophilia.[13] Anne Lawrence has proposed the terms autoplushophilia for the sexual attraction to being or changing one's body to have plush features, and fursuitism for sexual arousal from wearing a fursuit to temporarily resemble an anthropomorphic animal.[1]

Whereas pedophilia refers to the sexual preference for children, paraphilic infantilism refers to the sexual interest in being a child.[14]

The parallels between gender identity disorder and apotemnophilia have been noted,[10][15] as have the similarities between gender identity disorder and species identity disorder.[12]

Sexuality in subcultures

There are many subcultures of people who are interested in transforming themselves to various degrees and interacting in their new role or identity. Such interactions can include sexual interactions with other members of the community. There is debate in these communities regarding whether their desire to transform is based on their sexual interests in the new form or based on feeling like they are part animal.[16]


In a letter to the editor of The Journal of Sex Research, San Francisco-based physician and activist Charles Allen Moser criticized Lawrence' endorsement of the concept of ETLEs.[17] He noted that "there is nothing wrong with creating or expanding a classification system of sexual interests" but believed that Lawrence "pathologizes nonstandard sexual expression" and that "ETLEs are a slippery slope," whereas Moser's view is that all sexual phenomena should be removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Lawrence responded that "Moser's critiques of the paraphilias rely on fallacious reasoning" and that "most of his other criticism...results from his having ignored or misinterpreted my statements, either inadvertently or for rhetorical purposes." She indicated that "Moser correctly observed that such an unwarranted generalization would lead to ludicrous conclusions; but these would be wholly attributable to Moser's ludicrous misinterpretation of what I actually wrote."[18]


  1. ^ a b Lawrence, A. A. (2009). "Erotic Target Location Errors: An Underappreciated Paraphilic Dimension". Journal of Sex Research. 46 (2–3): 194–215. doi:10.1080/00224490902747727. PMID 19308843.
  2. ^ a b Freund K; Blanchard R (1993). "Erotic target location errors in male gender dysphorics, paedophiles, and fetishists". The British Journal of Psychiatry. 162 (4): 558–563. doi:10.1192/bjp.162.4.558. PMID 8481752.
  3. ^ Lawrence, A. (2009). "Anatomic autoandrophilia in an adult male". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 38 (6): 1050–1056. doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9446-6. PMID 19093196.
  4. ^ Naomi Wolf (1990). The Beauty Myth. pp. 127-publisher=Chatto & Windus. ISBN 978-0-7011-3431-0.
  5. ^ Blanchard, R. (1993). "Varieties of autogynephilia and their relationship to gender dysphoria". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 22 (3): 241–251. doi:10.1007/bf01541769. PMID 8494491.
  6. ^ Blanchard, R. (1989). "The concept of autogynephilia and the typology of male gender dysphoria". The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 177 (10): 616–623. doi:10.1097/00005053-198910000-00004. PMID 2794988.
  7. ^ Ryan, C. J. (2008). "Out on a Limb: The Ethical Management of Body Integrity Identity Disorder". Neuroethics. 2: 21–33. doi:10.1007/s12152-008-9026-4.
  8. ^ Preester, H. (2011). "Merleau-Ponty's sexual schema and the sexual component of body integrity identity disorder". Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy. 16 (2): 171–184. doi:10.1007/s11019-011-9367-3. PMID 22139385.
  9. ^ Money, J.; Jobaris, R.; Furth, G. (1977). "Apotemnophilia: Two cases of self‐demand amputation as a paraphilia". Journal of Sex Research. 13 (2): 115–125. doi:10.1080/00224497709550967.
  10. ^ a b c Smith, R. C. (2004). "Amputee identity disorder and related paraphilias". Psychiatry. 3 (8): 27–30. doi:10.1383/psyt.
  11. ^ Earls, C. M.; Lalumière, M. L. (2007). "A Case Study of Preferential Bestiality". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 38 (4): 605–609. doi:10.1007/s10508-007-9285-x. PMID 18157625.
  12. ^ a b Gerbasi, K.; Conway, S.; Paolone, N.; Privitera, A.; Scaletta, L.; Higner, J.; Bernstein, P. (2008). "Furries from a to Z (Anthropomorphism to Zoomorphism)". Society & Animals. 16 (3): 197–222. doi:10.1163/156853008X323376.
  13. ^ Hill, D. (2000-06-19). "Cuddle time". Retrieved 2008-02-21.
  14. ^ Cantor, JM; Blanchard R; Barbaree HE (2009). "Sexual disorders". Oxford textbook of psychopathology (2 ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 531. ((cite book)): Unknown parameter |editors= ignored (|editor= suggested) (help)
  15. ^ Lawrence, A. A. (2006). "Clinical and Theoretical Parallels Between Desire for Limb Amputation and Gender Identity Disorder". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 35 (3): 263–278. doi:10.1007/s10508-006-9026-6. PMID 16799838.
  16. ^ Winterman, D (2009-11-13). "What are the furries?". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
  17. ^ Moser, C. (2009). "A Response to Lawrence's (2009)Erotic Target Location Errors". Journal of Sex Research. 46 (5): 383–384, author 384 385–384. doi:10.1080/00224490903230053. PMID 19787535.
  18. ^ Lawrence, A. A. (2009). "Erotic Target Location Errors are easy to mischaracterize: A reply to Moser". The Journal of Sex Research. 46 (5): 385–386. doi:10.1080/00224490903230061.