Archive for May, 2008

… while they’re hot

May 9, 2008  |  essays  |  2 Comments

Okay, on a lighter note?

I didn’t mention it two weeks ago, when Penny and I had our last date, but we broke my cock that day. My infamous Silky/Mr. Bendy (named differently depending on where you buy it), my very favorite cock – because you can pack with it, and play with it, and it actually works – unfortunately, that’s incredibly rare in the world of cocks.

This was the blue one that Penny broke – uh, I mean, that Penny and I broke, together – and it’s the third one I’ve broken. (Remember broken, breaking? That was the second. The first time I broke it, with Callie, I wrote that up, too, but I can’t find the link.)

Unfortunately, that’s just one of the things about Silky’s reality – it doesn’t last.

So, Eden has a blue or a purple version of Silky, and Babeland has pink or black – but I’ve never actually seen the black one in stock. I’ve ordered it before, only to be sent the pink one. I started thinking it was the unicorn of cocks, a myth, an urban cock legend.

But? It’s in stock. And the one I reordered as a replacement came tonight. Man, they sure all nice all new and hard, spine all bendy and supple. Mmm, this weekend’s date with Penny is going to be fabulous.

If you want a black one, order it now – who knows how long it’ll stick around!

While we’re on the subject of things you should order while they’re in stock, take note of Bear Bergman’s book Butch is a Noun, published by the fantastic Suspect Thoughts – it’s gone into a second printing after being out of stock for a long time. I’ve got plenty to say about this book, I’m very fond of it – remember the video of Bear reading the opening chapter a few months ago? Snag a copy while you can.

On misperceiving someone as femme or butch (again)

May 8, 2008  |  essays  |  7 Comments

A couple heated comments about my last post already, and I want to make a couple things clearer.

First:

I believe it is absolutely okay to not identify with the labels of butch or femme – or any label, for that matter. I think identity categories should be chosen by ourselves, not by others, and if a label is not chosen, it should not ever be imposed.

Period.

(Sometimes I feel like that should be written at the top and bottom of every post, just to make it clear. I want to write it in all caps, in bold, in italics, underlined: I support your identity, whatever it may be, even if it isn’t mine. And I also expect you to support mine.)

Also:

I’m not trying to say that, when someone is called butch or femme and does not identify that way, that that is not a misperception of your own personal identity – of course it is. That’s why the post was called “on misperceiving someone.”

It is insulting and difficult to be misperceived, to be misrepresented. As Daisy put it: “the person saying that doesn’t understand me, and like I’ve failed at gender expression.” I totally understand that – I hate being misperceived (as Daisy also points out, I said it bugs me when people told me “you’re not really butch”), but ultimately, that too is about the other person, not about my own identity. And just because one person misperceives me does not mean that I am not butch, if that is what I am choosing to call myself.

This clarification is important to me because I see many, many folks around me, many readers of this site, many of my friends, who tell me that they deeply want to identify as butch or femme, but are holding back for whatever reasons. Are suspicious of the identities, and are making their way down those paths of understanding how it will play out for them, in their own unique ways. I want to encourage that, when I can, share my knowledge of this identity process, and make it easier for someone else.

Now, on a related sidenote – being misperceived as butch or femme, or as not butch or not femme, is about the social policing of gender. The ways we, as a society and culture, enforce standards of gender on each other, on our friends and communities and lovers and strangers.

Miss Molly commented: “As much as we’d like to say there aren’t different rules in the queer community for butches and femmes, there are many of the double standards that exist for straight men and women.” Sure – there are standards out there, but they’re the same perceived cultural standards that enforce heterosexism and homophobia.

What I find most interesting here is who is doing the enforcing of these double standards. For example, I was in my favorite dyke watering hole not long ago and ordered a vodka cranberry with my usual bartender (who, at this point, calls me “dude” affectionately and shakes my hand when I walk in), and she actually leaned in close to me and said, “Are you sure? That’s awfully … sweet, you know.”

I cringed. Yes, I usually order beer and whiskey. Yes, the drink I ordered was “girly,” and my gender was insulted there, underneath that comment. But: this is about her, not about me. As I joke, sometimes: “I’m man enough to wear pink” – I’m also man enough (ahem, “man” enough, I should say) to order a cosmo or a midori sour or a vanilla vodka cranberry with a cherry if I want one. Yes, I know it’s a sweet drink. I’m aware of what I ordered, and I wouldn’t have ordered the drink if I didn’t want it.

Ultimately, that comment was about the bartender, and her ideas about how gender framework operates, not about me or how I operate. It is not her – or anyone’s – responsibility to police what they perceive to be my gender performance, and I’m at a point in my gender process and identity won’t let anyone else do it for me.

My point about that is this: Who is it that is making these “double standards?” Who enforces them? I read all sorts of things from all sorts of personal online diaries, articles, personal ads, queer media, books, gay culture – and everywhere I hear the same stories about butch and femme: those who don’t identify with butch and femme feel like they are being pushed to do so, and those who do feel like outcasts, like gender freaks who don’t fit in.

That’s a little heartbreaking to me, every time I get my Google alert with gender keywords in my inbox: yet another email full of “Femme women are noticeably less deviant and have a socially acceptable appearance,” and “a rigid and artificial dichotomy of male/butch/top/dominant and female/femme/bottom/submissive” and “the idea of ‘butch‘ and ‘femme’ is as frakked up as Albuquerque driving” and “all butches want to become men” and “I’m butch I suppose, but I’m no guy” and “all that boy/girl butch/femme crap – it’s not real!”

All over the lesbian/queer/dyke communities – my communities – I see people railing against this, from many perspectives. All I’m trying to do here is share my own stories and my own perceptions, illuminate the process a little bit, discuss it, open it up

I want to also echo Lady Brett’s comment: “If it does piss you off, it’s probably a matter of misperception. So, please, tell me. Give me the chance to fix it before you get offended.”

Yes. Please do tell me if I misperceive your identity. Tell anybody, when they misperceive any sort of identity of yours, not just in your gender identity. I’m not trying to blow off the misperception and to encourage you to just let them go on thinking you’re butch/femme/whatever – it is insulting! and, ultimately, inaccurate. Which makes us not feel seen, not feel acknowledged, not feel validated.

What I’m really getting at with that last post is the times when someone is misperceived, really in any way, and they are deeply insulted by it. There’s more to it than just “you don’t see me as I really am” – there’s this big set of implications because of those loaded words.

But again, I want to stress, I really believe that any misperception and insult is about the other person, not about me or my identity – and I do believe this goes both ways, being perceived as butch or not butch or femme or not femme or foreign or local or a hippie or a punk or bi or trans or anything that we don’t actually identify as.

Maybe I’m getting too Buddhist in my philosophies here. I was just reading Be the Person You Want to Find by Cheri Huber, and I’m feeling those philosophies seeping into my opinions on these subjects.

Identity categories are so personal, so intimate – and the theory around them is so slippery! I mean, if anyone can identify as anything, if social policing means nothing, then what is the real meaning of an identity label? Some theorists would say, ultimately, it’s all basically meaningless. I can get there, can understand those arguments – but I also know what it feels like to be inside of these identity categories, and to know precisely how it works for me, how it’s given me a beautiful structure in which to tinker and fuck around and play.

These topics are really difficult, and anytime I post something that gets heated and emotional, I always take the comments very seriously, and consider my points even harder. I am not claiming to speak for everyone here – man, that is one of the best things about blogs, is immediate discussion and feedback and comments like this. I’m only speaking from my own perspective about my own experience, with hopes that it occasionally is helpful to others. Speaking of the round-bellied-guy, I want to echo a quote from the Buddha that I’ve got hanging on my fridge, and was reminded of this week:

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

On misperceiving someone as femme or butch

May 8, 2008  |  essays  |  7 Comments

I often have conversations with folks who say that they have been perceived femme or butch, and they really don’t like it. That tweaks me a bit, for various reasons, not the least of which is that I spent years flat out telling people, “I identify as butch,” and I would still get the response, “oh, you’re not that butch,” or “you’re not really butch.”

These identities are deeply socially constructed and policed, on all sides – those of us who do claim them, those of us who don’t. They’re loaded, complex, and largely misperceived.

Calling someone femme or butch is not necessarily intended to be insulting – sometimes, it is meant with much love and praise. But if you don’t identify as such, it can feel insulting, regardless of the intention.

This happened again recently, and it got me thinking: here’s why it doesn’t have to feel insulting, regardless of the intention.

1. This is about them, not you

Maybe you don’t identify as “femme” or “butch” at all, maybe you see those labels as confining to who you are and how you want to express yourself. Great! Good for you. Celebrate your whole self, in any way you like, you betcha.

[Hopefully you simultaneously realize that it's possible for others to find liberation and freedom inside of those categories, too, and that you don't force your philosophy of rejecting gender identities onto others. But that still never means that you have to work within that framework.]

This other person calling you these things may simply be working within the framework where they see everyone on the feminine side of the gender galaxy as femme, and everyone on the masculine side as butch.

But ultimately that is not about you – that’s about their framework. That doesn’t make your framework wrong, and that doesn’t make your perspective, presentation, or philosophies any less valid.

This is about them, and their worldview, not about you and yours.

2. Misconception of the terms

My gender-activisty self gets my boxers in a twist, because being called femme or butch is NOT AN INSULT.

These words are loaded – I get that. And sometimes, it can actually be intended as an insult – but we don’t have to take it that way.

But think about what we perceive someone else to be implying when they call us butch or femme. Where is that coming from? Who is filling that in?

It’s like someone calling you a dyke or a fag or a queer. The person slinging the insult could mean deviant, sinner, immoral, freak, but those of us who have reclaimed these words can look beyond that to laugh it off and say, “yep, that’s me. Gotta problem with that?” (Clearly, they do have a problem with that. But that’s not your problem, it’s theirs.)

Same with butch and femme: these words have deeper, personal meaning to some people, and it’s possible to take the time to go inside of the words and figure out what they hold, figure out their power and their detriments. If we knew more about the way these words worked from the inside, perhaps we would get to a place when calling someone – who doesn’t identify as one of these terms (more on that in a second) – femme or butch doesn’t make us bristle and cringe.

Because it doesn’t have to.

Here’s my basic thoughts on what we think it means when someone calls us femme or butch:

a) Femme does not mean whiny, controlling, manipulative, vulnerable, stupid, weak. Butch does not mean insensitive, thick-headed, macho, violent, emotionally stunted, controlling. Those are sexist misconceptions, and we don’t have to use those categories that way.

b) Just because you look one way one day, doesn’t mean you can’t look a different way another day. Gender is fluid, identity categories are fluid. Unless you’re chosing to identify as one of these categories, no one else can put you into these categories for you.

So, maybe this person calling you “femme” actually does mean that they think you’re weak, controlling, etc – well, then, so what? They are inaccurate on two accounts – i) that’s not what femme means, and ii) that’s not who you are (I am assuming).

They might be implying that they think you’re a high-maintenance bitch, or a thick-headed lug, but that doesn’t mean that you are. That’s just a downright insult couched in genderphobia, and you can call them on their ignorance, not take it so personally, and move on with your life.

3. Identity vs Adjective

We severely lack language to describe gender, and since we largely perceive gender to be a spectrum of masculine/feminine, butch/femme, male/female, calling someone femme or butch is simply an adjective – a way to describe which side of the binary gender scale they are perceived to fall on.

(I wish we had names for all the gender galaxy quadrants and solar systems and orbits and such, but they’re almost too big, too multi-faceted, to categorize and map. Goodness knows that won’t stop me from trying …)

In my opinion, identity categories can only be chosen by those they are describing. I think this applies in various socially charged identities – race, gender, sexuality, class, nationality.

The only time someone calls me butch and it is an identity, not an adjective, is when I myself have chosen butch as a way to describe me.

Again, the speaker here could actually mean it as an identity – but that’s about them, not about me.

Often, describing someone as femme or butch is a simple observation of their physical style – short hair vs long hair, slacks vs a skirt, heels vs boots. (Sometimes it’s much more suble, of course, as someone wearing short hair, slacks, and boots can be seen as femme.)

Usually, I’ve found the use of this word as an adjective is not entirely inaccurate (at least, not at that particular moment). The problem is that it is implying all these other things about behavior and gender performance that are then perceived to be ongoing and permanent within that person, and that’s just not true.

This is precisely the reason why I use the words to describe someone that they chose for themselves, and if I don’t know how they identify, I don’t assume.

So, in conclusion:

It really doesn’t have to be an insult, and using those terms as an insult is, in my opinion, a sexist misunderstanding.

Just because someone else doesn’t understand these categories, doesn’t mean that you don’t – even if you reject them. No need to take it personally, no need to educate them in their misconception – just let it go, don’t let it bother you, move on.

Review of Crossdressing: Erotic Stories

May 8, 2008  |  reviews  |  3 Comments

crossdressingCrossdressing: Erotic Stories
Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

“Some people might call this a fantasy, but it’s my deepest truth.” – from “Temporary” by Tulsa Brown

Cleis is famous for their smart, sexy smut, and Rachel Kramer Bussel’s pansexual anthologies are quickly becoming a huge part of not only my personal smut library, but also most smut collections at bookstores – the girl is constantly producing anthologies full of interesting, new, and complicated stories that turn the reader on – sure, of course they do that, and damn, do they do that – but they do more than that: they’re edgy, intellecutal, and affirming.

Crossdressing is one of those anthologies.

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a gender fetish. I find the polarized categories of male-and-female fascinating, and I find it all the more enthralling and interesting to adopt the roles for sexual play.

The stories in this book do just that, in more ways than I could’ve imagined: a gold-star dyke wondering what it’d be like to be with a man, so her girlfriend surprises her in drag with a realistic cock packed underneath slender slacks. A girl who dresses her boyfriend up in drag, shaving his legs and sharing her clothes. A butch in a vintage evening-gown shop, who strikes a deal with the owner for a beautiful Marlene Deitrich tuxedo and eagerly shows it off on the town. A trans woman performer who ends up in the arms of a macho kitchen worker after a night of singing. A man at a business meeting secretly running the show by the power of his silky bra and panties underneath.

If you pick up this book strictly for stories to get you off, it might not quite be what you expect – specifically because of the pansexual array. Most folks I know don’t get turned on by just any depiction of gender or crossdressing, for example, and your particular orientation might get in the way of you enjoying many of these stories – I, for example, am not so turned on by the stories of male crossdressing, girls dressing up their boyfriends in drag, etc. But I loved reading those stories anyway, from a gender perspective.

Reading through these stories makes me think about my own experiences with crossdressing, though I don’t call it that – I call it part of my gender identity. It’s a wide range, of experiences and orentations and gender expression, and it’s interesting to read some other ways that people play with gender, play with costuming and clothing and all sorts of ways of expression.

Gender play is still unusual, and can be deeply empowering, and deeply threatening to those who don’t understand it. Violence against trans folks often comes under the guise of the “deception” of someone’s “real” gender, and violence against queers.

But, at it’s core, gender experimentation and presentation is all about connecting with and displaying aspects of our selves which are deeply personal and very real – it’s about being able to display a more accurate sense of self, a more comfortable way of moving through the world.

And we all want to be able to do that, right?

Maybe it sounds idealistic, but anthologies like Crossdressing actually make us genderqueer folks feel connected, and a little less alone. The complicated gender discussions are clearly part of the smut, of course – but they are also hidden under the guise of simply turning-you-on or getting-you-off, which, I hope, will prompt all the more folks to pick up this book, and perhaps widen their range of understanding about dressing up and playing with gender, in all sorts of ways.

Interview with stylist ariel? ariel!

May 7, 2008  |  essays  |  2 Comments

Ariel has been my style consultant for a while now, and when she’s not too busy being a matchmaker, I’m often asking her basic style questions like “should my socks match my shoes or my trousers?” and ”how do I wear summer clothes and still be cool in Mexico?” and “I’m going on a fancy date. Help!” Masculine high fashion is new to me, and I find it fascinating, but sometimes very daunting. That “not butch enough” feeling comes up in me all the more because I’m not familiar enough with the culture. I’m learning, though, and it’s so fun to have Ariel in my life to talk to about this!

I sent Ariel some interview questions recently, and here are her thoughts. Thanks A! 

I could spend the rest of my life talking about fashion. I love it. I love the act of creating visual codes for gender and how we want to be taken in the world. Fashion appeals to the formalist in me: take a structure, learn to speak it, and then figure out how to make it your own.

Fashion is hard because it is an aesthetic exercise about personal expression. There is a whole school of fashion that says you should just do whatever you want and fuck the rules. The hard part about that is that fashion is how other people code us and gender us, and for a lot of people who will identify with the world of butch fashion I imagine that controlling that gendering is incredibly important. I am of the “you can’t break the rules until you know what the rules are” school of thought; it is important to build your eye and build your ability to analyze what is going on in an outfit — proportion, line, color, pattern, cut — so that you can more artfully manipulate the code to suit your own purposes.

I also have to say this: I am not going to define butch for you. Honestly, my personal fashion has much more to do with how to match your gold lamé neckerchief to your lavender trousers than it does with how to pass or be unremarkably masculine; I also refuse to be in the school of thought that says only more feminine people can wear things like skirts or high heels. I think more knowledge is better knowledge! That said, I am focusing a little bit more on clothing that has been traditionally masculinized, at least in part because I imagine readers of Sugarbutch will find it useful. Images in this post are all menswear because that is what I am obsessed with right now, and also because I think menswear fashion is somewhat less out there than womenswear fashion and it is useful to learn to dissect the pieces of masculine fashion. Mostly, though, it is because I look at that Rykiel Homme jacket 50 times a day and think things like “I can spend twice my rent on one piece of clothing! Imagine how often I’d wear it!”

Seems to me that there are many different subtle styles – athletic, preppie, punk – but that there are not as many variations in men’s styles as there are in women’s. Do you have particular thoughts about how to find your own style?

I think what is exciting about fashion is the way it gives us a visual language to show the world something about ourselves. I am a believer in fashion and I feel like it is an aesthetic language everybody should learn to speak.

Men’s fashion is just as nuanced a language as women’s fashion; it just speaks in different words. The main difference between women’s and men’s fashion, at least as far as I am concerned, is that men don’t usually wear skirts or dresses. Colors, different pant cuts, different styles of shirt; I think the fun of it is mixing and matching. The whole point of fashion is figuring out how you show the world whatever it is you want to say.

suit_1_sartorialist.jpg    suit_2_sartorialist.jpg
Scott Schuman/The Sartorialist 
Two different suits, same fabric –
completely different feels!
Both shot on The Sartorialist.

It is also so important to remember that fashion has a set of rules that it is worth learning — and then worth breaking. I am a believer in anarchist fashion where you do what you want how you want but I think it is important to do it knowing what you are working with. I also want to say that there are many versions of “fashion” — race, class, gender, aesthetic, all of these things combine to make different kinds of looks.

I think the best thing to do is look at people. Look at fashion websites; look at flickr.com pictures; look at people on the street. I am always scouting for great looks on the street. The Sartorialist has great pictures of a certain classic kind of look; men.style.com has pictures from all the shows. And shop but take time shopping, and take pleasure in it — think about what you are drawn to, what you like, and how you want to come across. Do you love the cut of your shoulders? Do you love your collarbones? Your biceps? Your ass? Your lower legs? Your chest? You can highlight all of this based on what you’re wearing. Look at pictures and think about how you want to execute. When I shop I always have a vision of who I want to be and that is who I am trying to dress. Seeing what other people wear is the easiest way to build technique and build your eye so this can happen flawlessly.

What four really basic pieces should butches own & learn how to rock?

1. Button-down dress shirt

If you are going to put yourself on masculine-spectrum clothes, you need to get a button-down dress shirt with a nice collar. Blue, white, or black depending on your style, but this is pretty much masculine dressing 101. Men’s section, women’s section: the only real difference is that women’s section shirts tend to be cut for what are traditionally considered women’s bodies (breast allowances, hip allowances), are cut shorter (they’re not designed to be tucked in most of the time), and button the other way. (Why, you ask? There are tons of different answers floating around; the accepted cultural wisdom is that women used to have people to help dress them, so the buttons went the other way to make it easier for their dresser.)

(Women’s shirt sizing is a opaque mystery involving S-M-L-XL and numbers that at one time meant something but now are just symbolic — exactly what am I 16 or 18 of? I am not even going to try to explain it: start at this Wikipedia article, and then click from there. It is a mess of vanity sizing to make people feel smaller. In general, the more diffuse/downmarket the brand, the larger the sizes will be; a Target size 4 is bigger than a Dolce and Gabbana size 4. For men’s sizes other than S-M-L: the small number is your neck size (somewhere in the teens/twenties) and the large number is your sleeve length, taken from the middle of your neck down to where you want the sleeve to hit on your wrist (somewhere in the 30s.) You can measure this yourself with a friend — here is a guide — or nicer stores will have someone there to measure you. Remember, hips will not be accounted for! Play around with sleeve lengths (because that is really the shoulder girth) and see what fits best for you. Also, different men’s brands and lines have different fits/cuts/amounts of taper: a skinny shirt will drop in further than a relaxed shirt, et cetera, et cetera. Find the one that you love and can depend on; this will take some work probably.

2. Shoes!

You need to have at least one pair of shoes that make you feel amazing. Have a killer pair of sneakers. Have a pair of great boots. Have some baby-soft tassle loafers. Four-inch heels. Your shoes are the foundation you stand on and if you need to be economical you can get away with only having one pair at a time. But think about it: if all you wear are big cargo shorts, you better be very deliberate in choosing to wear them with dress oxfords. Things to pay attention to: what are you going to be wearing the shoes with? If it’s pants, how do the pants break at the shoe? If it’s a skirt or shorts, how will it finish your leg?

dries_van_noten.jpgimage credit: Marcio Madeira//men.style.com
Dries Van Noten Fall 2008 show
Look at these shoes!
This outfit would be fundamentally less interesting but the shoes add fun and punch and take this from sullen to powerful. The cuffed pants and the heathered socks make this feel fashiony and funky to me; it would be a different look with the pants down over the shoes.

3. A great jacket.

It can be hot pink (Marc Jacobs did it!), it can be tweed with elbow patches. Put it over a t-shirt, put it over an oxford, put it over anything, this is a staple and it lets you do so many things AND it will keep you warm. I wish I had more to say about this but I don’t. Women’s jackets are that same sizing mystery as everything else. Men’s jackets are a chest measurement across the widest part of the chest; another good trick is the jacket size should be six to eight inches larger than your pant size (men’s suits come with a six inch difference between the waist of the pants and the size of the jacket).rykiel_homme.jpg

image credit: Marcio Madeira//men.style.com
designer: Rykiel Homme Fall 2008
caption: This jacket kills me. Kills me! It is such classic tailoring but the color is so unexpected. The whole outfit is “almost classic” — the sweater/button down/tie, the cut of the trousers — but look at the density of patterns on the shirt/tie, and the blue and the purple are just right together.

4.  A great accessory

 Pick something: a watch, a scarf, a belt, a neckerchief, lipstick a pipe, a tie, a purse, a hat — have at least one awesome, fun accessory that turns your clothing into an outfit. I believe in signature styles or pieces to decorate and adorn fairly classic looks — pink hankerchiefs with cardigans and t-shirts, neon ties with classic oxfords and trousers. This is how you can buy classic pieces and still look interesting. Look no further than the fashion around men’s suits, which are exercises in subtlety and using details to tell a story, for help on this one.sartorialist_terron_schaefer.jpg

image credit: Scott Schuman/The Sartorialist
Look at that pocket square. Look at the detail! It is such a simple, plain, classic look — with such interesting details that really take it past just another boring suit.

What should butches avoid?

I am never one to tell anyone to avoid anything on a gender-prescriptive basis! I would say avoid things that make you look bad and avoid things you don’t feel confident in. Don’t wear a suit and tie if you feel weird in it! Don’t wear a dress unless you feel you can rock it! Fashion is about portraying yourself. It is all so fraught with gender conformity — even within the queer gender galaxy — and it is hard to have the audacity and fortitude to stick it out and find what makes you feel hottest and most yourself, especially if your body and gender are not the body and gender you are “supposed” to have. Be bold! Be brave! Pay attention to what you feel goes together, and why — think about what you are wearing and how you think it hangs together — but I want every single one of you out there to avoid not doing things just because you don’t think it’s butch enough.

Do you love it? Do you feel hot in it? There you go. That’s all you need.some_kinda_blue_sartorialist.jpeg

image credit: Scott Schuman/The Sartorialist 
Look at it! It’s perfect — suit, pants, turtleneck, hat, pocket square — the color is so bright, but it works and it is undeniably what it is.

(This guy has my heart.)

Ariel spends a lot of time playing the toy accordion and window shopping the expensive floors at bloomingdale’s. she encourages you to go to queer
yenta.com
to find whatever it is your queer heart desires, and ariel?ariel! if you really have some time to kill.

eye candy: triple scorpio

May 7, 2008  |  miscellany  |  2 Comments

eye candy - scorpio

Triple Scorpio. Wanna go for a ride?
These shots come from Diane, who adds:
“My smokin’ hot girlfriend, seven years and counting.”

sex and dealbreakers

May 6, 2008  |  essays  |  7 Comments

I want to add something to my response to the question about how to keep passion from waning in a long-term monogamous relationship. There were a few great comments in that thread, and I particularly want to echo what babygrrlfemme said: “Don’t be ashamed to make hot sex a priority in who you date!”

Man oh man. I should absolutely add that to the list: it’s okay to make sex a priority. It’s okay to ask for what you want (though you usually have to figure out what it is you want, first, which can be a barrier), and sex – or lackthereof – is a perfectly acceptable dealbreaker in a relationship.

That was a hard thing for me to learn, but the four-year LBD relationship taught me this lesson hard. I definitely understand that there is more to a relationship than just sex, and at a certain point, sure, sometimes sex isn’t an option for various reasons – and perhaps I’ll have to deal with that, if/when that happens in a long term relationship for me.

But meanwhile: my sex drive is high, and I want to find someone who will match me in that, someone willing to make sex a priority, someone who wants to experiment and explore. Friendship, intellectual compatibility, emotional communication – all that is important, of course, but the major difference between a lover and a friend is that sexual relationship – and because I am monogamous in my relationships, who I chose to partner with has got to be sexually compatible, pretty much all the time. I expect that relationship to have ebbs and flows, sure – but flat-out no-sex, especially for YEARS? No way. Absolutely a dealbreaker.

what happened in April

May 6, 2008  |  miscellany  |  3 Comments

April was incredibly busy! This past month held my 29th birthday, and the second anniversary 0f beginning to write here at Sugarbutch Chronicles. I was blogging for RAINN, I finished up the Sugarbutch Star Contest, and I started dating somebody new. I also introduced a new category, SSU, which stands for Sinclair Sexsmith University and includes slightly more formalized articles about sex, gender, & relationships.

May’s masthead is up! The quote comes from various conversations, primarily with Colleen and muse, about my gender standards. Photo taken by my younger sister in her backyard in Salt Lake City; if you look closely you can see the orbital in my ear. (The “about” page has the list of past mastheads.)

Sex:

Gender: 

Relationships:

Eye Candy:

Miscellany:

Sugarbutch Star: WINNER!

May 6, 2008  |  miscellany  |  7 Comments

I’m back from Salt Lake City & my short Southwest roadtrip! Lots of catching up to do.  

By a landslide: the winner of the 2007 Sugarbutch Star Contest is Essin’ Em, who submitted the scenario for the story The Diner on the Corner.

Congratulations! And thank you, for the fabulous … submission.

Your prize, darling, consists of the following:

  1. Smut books! A particularly fabulous sex toy store has donated On Our Backs Volume 2 and Best Lesbian Erotica 2007 (in which I have a story).
  2. “I was a Sugarbutch Star” tee shirt!
  3. Chapbook containing all of the Sugarbutch Star stories
  4. Last but not least … a night on the town with me, should you chose to accept it, when you visit this ol’ city next … rest assured, there will be dinner and debauchery.

Shannon’s story The Photo Shoot was the second favorite, and I’ve got a few little things for her, too …

  1. Copy of Switch Hitters, a book of smut stories where gay men write lesbian erotica and lesbians write gay male erotica – one of my personal favorite collections
  2. Chapbook containing the Sugarbutch Star stories

Thank you, so much, to all the folks who sent in story outlines, to all the stories I chose to write up: Lady Brett Ashley, birdAvah, Grey, the Femme TopJennifer, Bad bad girl, Madeline, Jefferson. This was a really fun contest, and though it took me way too long to finish up, I think I may just do it again!

ask me anything: the answers, part 2

May 1, 2008  |  essays  |  4 Comments

I’m in Salt Lake City for the long weekend, so hopefully I’ll have some time to catch up on writing and these questions. Thanks for asking them! Some of them are very complex and I want to give them good thought. 

5. Mm asks: How does one (or more appropriately two) keep passion from waning in a long term monogamous relationship? It’s been done, but how?

Oh man – I won’t pretend to be the authority on this one. I have had two major long-term relationships, one for five years, one for four years, the latter of which was one of those LBD (lesbian bed death) situations. So I seem to be alright at sustaining some sort of time – though ultimately, all my relationships have ended, so I’m not sure I’ve got the secrets here.That said, I do think I have some ideas about what it is that I can and will do to sustain passion in a long-term relationship the next time I get the chance to practice.

  1. Talk about sex. Talk talk talk. It’s fun! It’s sexy, it’s intimate. Let go of inhibitions and let your partner into your dirty dirty mind. Make lists of things you’d like to do. Make lists of things you’ve never done and probably would never do. Fill out sex surveys – like  the purity test, or a BDSM checklist – together.  Fill out the fill-in-the-blank questions, you may be surprised at the answers. Make a list of things you’ve done and didn’t like but might be willing to try again. Maybe this is just my compulsive list-making, but it’s useful information, and it forms a common vocabulary for you two to both discuss your wants, desires, fetishes, interests. 

  2. Do sexy stuff together. Watch porn, or, if you don’t like porn (though I gotta say, dyke porn is getting better and better and better, you’re missing out if you haven’t tried out some of the recent stuff), read erotica aloud to each other. Go to sex toy shops together. Share your fantasies. Plan some elaborate fantasy scene. Explore!

  3. Figure out what turns you on, and don’t be afraid to own that. Look for someone with complimentary turn-ons, or discuss your newly discovered turn-ons with your partner. It amazes me how few people really know what deeply “does it” for them, or, even moreso, who are in relationships with people they can tell about this stuff. (Oh, you should see the email I get sometimes about this.)

  4. If things are working, we’ll both be growing, individually as well as together. In theory, our values will be so tightly aligned that the interests and pursuits that we meander through will keep each other interested, rather than putting distance or difficulties between us. But, that said, don’t assume the relationship will be between the same people in two, five, ten years. One of my favorite novels of all time, The Sparrow, has a quote in it that goes like this: “I’ve been married five times over the last fifty years to five different people, all of whom were named George.” We should grow and change. We just gotta give each other the freedom to grow, and recognize that that means, potentially, that we may grow apart. 

  5. Ultimately, I think, it’s all about sexual openness. The people I’ve seen who have been able to sustain things long-term have been deeply open. Experiment! Try something you’ve never done, then try it again – just because you tried it once and didn’t like it doesn’t mean you’ll never like it. See which edges you can push. Take a class, take a workshop. Open up, let go.

All this advice is sounding very cliché. I don’t like giving general advice as a rule … wish I had some more specific answers for you here. Other readers? Tips for sustaining a long-term passionate relationship? Hell, if you are IN a long-term, passionate relationship, how do you do it? What makes it work?

6. Dosia asks: What would you say is the best way for a girl to approach a hot butch in a bar/at a dyke march/behind the counter in a cafe/in class? How do we make those connections — not just for sex, but for friendship? Hell, it doesn’t have to be specific to butch/femme dynamics, how does it work, this meeting other queer women?

If there’s only one piece of advice to give about starting – and maintaining – conversations with strangers, dykes or butches or femmes or friends or potential hotties or whoever – it’s this: find common ground and elevate the discussion.

My mom told me that once upon a time about my (former) hostile work environment. And I tell ya, it fucken worked.

Find common ground: that is, when you hit upon a topic with which you are both familiar, attempt to deepen it. When you discover you both like art, go inside of that – elevate the discussion. Ask another question: “what kind of art do you like?” “Have you been to that exhibit at the Met?” “Do you paint?” “What kind of medium do you use?” “What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever done?” “What do you wish you could do?” “What made you get into that?” …see what I mean? Once you hit a common topic of interest, deepen the discussion by asking as many questions as you can about the different aspects of it. It’s hard when you don’t know anything about the topic – it’s hard for me to bullshit sports, for example – but when I actually know something about it, I can ask intelligent questions that, who knows, may even compliment my own understanding of the topic.

That said: there are a few good books I’d recommend here. The Art of Conversation and, cheesy as it may sound, The Game, a memoir about pickup artistry.

Certainly there’s not just one way, and the trick is to find your own way, the way that works for you with your unique set of interests and talents. My way and your way are probably different. I know, that’s a lousy answer, but unfortunately it’s also true – what makes you interesting, what do you love to talk about? I am often talking to girls about their gender presentation at bars, and I quickly discover in that conversation which girls share a similar vocabulary for gender that I do (major turn-on), and which are performing some sort of femininity out of some sort of compulsory default (major turn-off).

Lesbians travel in packs, especially to bars, dyke marches, cafes, so it’s really difficult to actually a) gain one’s attention, b) keep one’s attention, and c) have an actual conversation of connection. That’s where the find common ground comes in, but I definitely understand that it’s hard to actually say something, hard to “break the ice,” to make contact.

I mean, I think this is hard for everybody, but particularly difficult because of the ways that lesbians stay huddled with their friends when out at social events, in public. Why do we do that? Maybe it’s a predator-pray kind of instinct, where it used to be so much more dangerous for us to be out on the town, and we remember that, as a community. There is safety in numbers, after all.From the specifically butch perspective, these are some things that would make me seriously take notice:

  • Ask me to light your cigarette (even better if you then say “I don’t actually smoke, I just wanted to talk to you,” because for one, I’m an ex-smoker, and for two, smoking, as romantic as it is (sigh), will severely damage your body and that is, ultimately, a turn-off. I should add that to the list.)

  • Compliment me on my gender (no, I’m serious!) – “hey, I noticed your gender from across the room.” “hey, you look like a old-school butch / faggy butch / dapper dandy / prettyboi – do you have a particular word for what it is you do?” “Your gender is quite noticeable.  You got a gender philosophy?” 

  • Offer to buy me a drink. It’s an easy excuse to get somebody talking. Say, “I wouldn’t want to presume to insult your possible dominant or chivalrous abilities, but can I buy you a drink?” Boy howdy, that’d definitely get my attention. (I’d say: “No. But you can allow me the pleasure of buying you one.” And then you’d giggle, and we’d talk and flirt until I eventually took you back to your place and fucked you in the foyer. Hey wait, how’d this become a sex story?)

These are things that would absolutely appeal to me, not sure how butches-as-a-whole would really respond. But that’s all I can speak to, really, is my own experience – other butches (and any folks who don’t identify as butch): what would get your attention? Don’t be afraid to be a little bold. Lesbians rarely are, but it’s my experience that we respond extremely well to boldness.Also, after you get to talking, it’s okay not to have a plan. And it’s also okay to let your nervousness come through as charming. “Uh, that was my one idea for a conversation. Now I’m drawing a blank ‘cause you’re kinda cute.  Got any topics for discussion?”

7. Cyn asks:

(see the first batch of answers)

8. Duck asks: Could you explain how the remaking of femininity has been “successful?”

Still working on this one ….

9. Miss Avarice asks: Have we yet figured out the subtle differences between straight girls and femmes at first glance? Does it really come down to a hunch in the end? Also, has writing SB changed you?

The only way I can say that I know the femmes from the straight girls is that, sometimes, I “just know.” And hell, I’m not even right all the time! I err on the side of caution, though, assuming someone is straight until proven otherwise – although “proven otherwise” is a broader and broader category, often as broad as “she’s talking to me, must mean she’s queer (in some form).” So yeah, it comes down to a hunch – it’s more than just a hunch though, it’s an energy. It’s gaydar, it’s a sixth sense that I can’t put my finger on. I wish I knew! I’m working on some writings on “gender energy,” we’ll see how those go.

Writing Sugarbutch has absolutely changed me. I was just looking back at where I was two years ago, and while I knew I was butch, I was so much less articulate and able to claim it in ways that I do now. Sugarbutch has been key and essential to my own personal development of gender identity. It’s plateauing a little bit, in the last year or so, but I still have some realms to explore (the “sex” part and the “relationship” part, namely). One big way Sugarbutch has measurably changed me, especially in terms of gender identity, is that I – as Sinclair – exclusively go by male pronouns. I write “Mr. Sinclair Sexsmith,” and in the few interviews I’ve had, I’ve asked to be called by the set of he/him/his. I don’t go by male pronouns in my non-pseudonymed life, though I really love being able to play with both.

It’s changed me in other ways, too, though; I’ve been able to let a persona wander free and explore lots more of that toppy/butch identity, and it’s definitely strengthened my own expression of it.

10. Zoe asks: How did you develop boundaries for your blog? How do you decide what to write about vs what to keep private? Who would you be most worried about finding it?

I established the boundaries early on, with the tagline “sex, gender, and relationship adventures” – that’s what I write about. Occasionally I get the impulse to post links, or media, or general bitchy writing, but I ask myself: is this about sex, gender, or relationships? Otherwise, no. Axed. (I suppose I should add “self-awareness” to that list, though really, usually it’s self-awareness about sex, gender, or relationships, so it applies.)

I don’t have hard rules about what to write vs what to keep private. Sometimes, a date or a situation or a new revelation just begs to be written about, and I do. It’s instinctual, I guess. Occasionally, I hesitate – usually in those situations I write it all out anyway, and then ask one of my trusty advisees to tell me whether or not it’s appropriate to post. Most often, they say no, for whatever reasons, and confirm my suspicions.

Who would I be most worried about finding Sugarbutch … I suppose I wouldn’t want my boss at work finding this blog, especially considering how many hours I spend on it while I’m at work. And while there are many of these entries I’ve written that I would send to my mother, I wouldn’t particularly wish her to find it, either – though, my family being what it is (completely non-confrontational) I’d probably never know she’d run across it.

I would never want to get an email from Callie with her comments about what I’ve said about her on this blog (note to self: when are you going to get around to password protecting the old Callie entries?). I don’t actually know for sure whether or not Callie knows about this blog. My logical self says yes, of course she does, how could she not; but, on the other hand, I can’t imagine she wouldn’t have mentioned it. I guess we had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” thing going on. 

I’m really open about this stuff – sex, gender, relationships – and most people in my life know that I write here. I used to keep it much more of a secret, but as it’s been developing from a personal journal blog to a more thorough non-ficiton-essay blog, I share it more and more. Plus, I spend so much time on it, I like to talk about it and bounce ideas around.