Archive for June, 2008
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha
I’ve quoted that before, but I’m reminded of it again recently. It’s a quality that I always seek in those from whom I wish to learn.
I’ve been using the internet actively for the past fifteen years, since I was fourteen, and that’s not actually exaggeration; I caught a little bit of the BBS days, but really got my feet wet with the telnet chatrooms that were gaining popularity. I’d use the public library’s telnet system and my dad’s engineering computer to chat – live! with people from all over the world! – in Coffeehouse and Shadowlands.
And, as many have said, including Audacia Ray in her recent study of sex on the internet, new technologies are always first used for porn and sex. So, as a teenager, not only discovering a new technology, but also discovering a new sexuality, my primary sexual awakening was online – writing, corresponding, typing out fantasies, and asking questions to a hive mind of various perspectives and orientations and kinks.
I didn’t experiment a lot in person, it wasn’t appealing; but online, I could do anything, and it was safe. Of course, it wasn’t always safe. But I did pretty well for myself. I learned lessons, got smarter.
In 2000, two major things happened for me: I went back to college after taking four years off after high school, and I came out as queer. At college, I further my informal studies of feminism with gender studies, queer theory, and postmodern theory. I have two degrees, one in Gender Studies with an emphasis on social change, one in English with an emphasis on creative writing.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading books, watching films, going to workshops and conferences, seeking out mentors, reading blogs of personal expeirences, going to feminist sex toy shops, talking to friends, about gender dynamics, their personal relationships, queer oppression, social change, labeling, sex, sex techniques, sex toys, seduction, pick-up artistry, androgyny, lesbianfeminism, the 1980s sex wars, intersexuality, transitioning, binding, packing, taking T, putting on makeup, shopping for dresses or bathing suits or earrings or purses, shopping for ties or cufflinks or slacks or a tuxedo, radical acts of subversion, generational differences, strapping on a cock, the history of gender in the US, kink, domination and submission, rope bondage, BDSM, and uh all sorts of other things.
Not to mention that I, personally, have experience with these things in my relationships, my life, and my communities.
When I think about it, all of that history makes sense that here, fifteen years later, I’ve finally settled into this small niche of my varying interests – writing, inner emotional landscapes, sexuality, queer theory, gender theory, feminism, butch/femme dynamics, self-awareness, love, and relationships.
I’m not writing this to brag.
I’m writing this to show where my authority on these subjects about which I write come from.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll continue with all this research into these topics if or when I meet someone and develop a successful, fulfilling relationship, I’ll be disinclined to continue, because I can simply live it, instead of theorize about it all day every day. Perhaps I’ll move on to my next obsessive research subject – building alternative families or aging or performance poetry or who knows what. Perhaps all this has just been my own research into How To Be Me – chivalrous kinky writer, queer butch top, and feminist lover of femmes – In This World. Sometimes I feel like once I “figure it out,” I won’t have to be constantly doing all this work all the time.
Of course, there’s no easy way to simply figure this out, and once it’s “figured out” it’ll probably change, anyway, because it’s increidbly fluid; not only my own understanding of it, but the cultural understanding as well. It’s amazing how much has changed in the past ten years – even five years! Things are moving and growing, and I want to be a part of this activism, this forward motion, this quest for us all to be our highest, best selves, accepted by the world in our freakery.
My point is, I was reminded recently how easy it is to get online and create yourself as an authority about something on which you are not. And it’s sad to me, and disappointing, how easy it is for people to get sucked into something so false.
I know the internet. Know these blog circles quite well, I correspond with hundreds of people, read intimate, detailed blogs, have friends that I’ve never met but whom I’ve followed for years online. There are some amazing, lovely folks here who are using these tools, this digital medium, to express what is the most true and beautiful and real about them.
But that’s not true of everybody. I find I can usually spot those who are not authentic; they stand out, somehow, I go to their site or read their work and think, something’s just not quite right. It puzzles me, because I don’t use the internet that way, and because there’s such a better way to use this digital tool to connect, so why would you do it the other, less effective and more inauthentic way? Probably out of pure ignorance, frankly – but I don’t really know.
For y’all out there reading, especially about things as completely personal and delicate as your butch/femme gender and sexual identities, this is just a reminder not to believe somebody unless you have reason to do so, don’t take them purely on their word, wait until they prove themselves to you. Identities are fragile, and can get damaged so easily when we don’t have adequate support and validation around them. It’s so easy for one big, painful misunderstanding to put someone off of something entirely, when in fact it is not indicative of how it could potentially function.
Dan Savage had a great call on his Savage Lovecast last week (seriously, it’s now the #1 podcast on the internet, and you’re not listening to it yet?) about developing a bionic bullshit detector, which has also got me thinking about all of this.
Many of us place our trust in people too easily. And when it comes to the very personal and delicate subjects, such as what I discuss here on this site, I really hope you do (respectfully) disagree with me sometimes, I hope you don’t assume I always know what I’m talking about, I hope you question me sometimes, I hope you ask who the man (ahem, “man,” don’t get the wrong idea) behind the site is, I hope you check authority credentials and expect proof of authorty.
I also hope I’ve earned it, from you, from visitors to this site, from readers, from friends, from acquaintances, because I work hard to do so, to stand behind my philosophies by living inside of them, to have a consistent personal narrative, to have reliability in my character, to admit what I don’t know, to speak on things that I know well. In some ways, I’ve made a formal study of these things too, since the one particular ex who manipulated me into such a frenzy.
There’s no easy way to know who’s conning you and who is authentic except to be cautious, I think. (Dan Savage and his caller had a few ideas, too; see, now you really have to download the podcast, don’t'cha?)
As much as I have made a semi-formal study of these topics, and as much as I do have some authority here, I also will always say that everyone needs to figure it out for themselves. I’m thrilled that my process is useful to others, and I’m curious about the processes that don’t look like mine, too. This is me, doing this work, going through the processing, reaching these identities for my own self – now, you go do yours.
In lingerie like tonight. Black stockings, seamed. Strappy sandal heels. Fresh red predicure. Pushup bra.
But unlike tonight: hair tight up off your neck. A clip would be good, chopsticks would be better. A wrap-around dress with no buttons, only ties.
Greet me at your door like this. Have my drink ready – you know what it is. Be ready to bend over for me. Be ready to get on your knees. Be ready to say please in that lovely aching way you do – with desperation, longing.
The Femme Conference 2008, taking place in Chicago in August, is put on by the Femme Collective. Take a look at their mission statement: Femme Collective is committed to creating conferences by Femmes, about Femmes, and for Femmes and their allies. We understand that Femme is more complex than just being a queer person who is feminine; it is a part of how we interact with and shape our world as queer academics, activists, artists, homemakers, parents, professionals, students, teachers, etc.
I really hope to attend the conference … we’ll see if I can make that happen. More information at femmecollective.com.
Here’s the press release:
Queer Femmes from all over the Globe to Gather for Conference
Femme 2008: The Architecture of Femme will take place August 15th-17th in Chicago
(CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 12, 2008) The Femme Collective proudly presents “Femme2008: The Architecture of Femme,” an international conference celebrating queer femininities August 15th through August 17th 2008 at the Chicago Wyndham O’Hare: 6810 N. Mannheim Rd. near O’Hare International Airport. The conference will feature three full days of programming, including keynotes, workshops, panels, performances and even a film festival. Regular registration is $75 through July 15th, 2008 and then registration will go up to $95 for late registration, which is open through the conference. Registration covers all of the conference events and can be made by going to www.femmecollective.com.
How do I love Babeland … let me count the ways.
Well, so first, they asked me if I’d like to review the Papillion vibrator. And of course I said sure, I’d probably review a paper cup for Babeland if they asked me to, and I’ve been looking for a small-but-powerful vibe when I don’t want to power up the Hitachi. The Papillion is a little girly in some ways … the butterfly is not exactly my style, but they don’t really make butch vibrators. But hey, if it works well, it doesn’t matter so much what’s painted on it.
Turns out, part of the proceeds from this sweet vibe goes directly to the Living Beyond Breast Cancer organization, which is pretty darn cool. I didn’t get a cute little butterfly vibe to review, but instead, the fine folks at Babeland sent me a few other treasures – and both in black! Much more butch, I appreciate that.
First, the Laya Spot vibrator. It’s small, cute, discreet, easy to control, pretty powerful. It’s got three different “buzz patterns,” gentle pulses of vibration that are pretty fun to play with. Still not as powerful as the almighty Grandmother of vibrators, the Hitachi (you have one of those, right? It’s up there with the bunny as Toys That Should Be In Every Toy Box). It’s kind of an upgrade to the Silver Bullet – better looking, much more suave, better vibration power, better grip. It’s like the Silver Bullet’s suave older brother who has his own car and comes home from college on the weekends with a different blonde and his laundry. Still needs something else to really get the job done, but it’s a great start, and coupled with a few other goodies – like jacking off with the Share – mmmhoney yes.
Okay, so. The Share double dildo. I reviewed Feeldoe’s version of this dildo recently and wasn’t particularly impressed, but the Share has subtly altered a few things that make a big difference.
The material is much nicer, for one. The Share is silicone, as is the Feeldoe, but the Share is a kind of matte finish which is silky and lovely, where the Feeldoe feels like slick plastic (not so sexy).
I’m pretty particular about how I want to have control of a cock with which I fuck, so controlling a double without a harness was very difficult. The internal part of the Share – the one that goes inside of me – is thicker than on the Feeldoe, and differently shaped such that it stays in much easier. I still have to exercise my kegels a bit, but I can tell that I have a much easier, better grip on it, which – hopefully – will mean that my precision will be better with this one.
Can’t tell you yet, exactly, because I’ve only used it to jack off so far. I probably won’t be busting out the Share with Penny – it’s too long, too thin. And honestly, I don’t know any girls who prefer to get fucked long rather than in girth; it’s that feeling of being stretched open that, in my experience, female-bodied folks want. If a cock is too long, it starts hitting against the cervix, which actually can be painful.
Long & thin is really great for anal play, though … hmm, ideas.
I’ve got a few more things coming from Babeland soon, I hope, which I’m excited to keep exploring. They are very queer- and gender-friendly, many of my friends have worked there in the past, their staff is really super smart and knowledgeable. They’ve gone through some changes in recent years, but they still have tons of great books, resources, and a sex-positive environment to explore sexuality, sex toys, gender, play, sensation. And yes, I know they’re sending me toys and all, but I’ve always adored them – when I moved to Seattle ten years ago their store was one of the first things I sought out. I credit them with much of my adult sexual awakening, and love the work they’re doing.
Thanks, all, for the feedback and comments on that last post. Butch breasts and binding and female masculinity are all so deep in this topic, and as one reader mentioned, too, this is also an issue relating to females with large breasts in general. Sure, the gender stuff adds a slightly different dimension, but many women go through this and are challenged by having the right, comfortable bra.
A few more tips, and also some recommendation, since I’ve had a few emails about where to get these butch bras.
First: get the right size of bra. Sports bras obviously are a little less precise in their sizing, but even if you don’t intend to wear any regular bras anymore, figure out your size. It’s amazing how hard it is for us to figure that out. There really is a difference between a 34D and a 36C, and they are not the same size. This seems to be a particularly difficult one for many of the butches I know, because bra shopping is just about The Scariest Thing Possible, and going in there and asking a professional to help figure out what size you really are is pretty much like walking into hell. But, let me just say, it has made a really big difference in my bra-buying since I actually got measured properly, figured out why the sizes are different, and what size I really am.
Now, some product recommendations:
- Title Nine store has a variety of great sports bras divided by size and by “barbell,” telling you the no-bounce factor. The Frog Bra is particular famous for binding.
- Come As You Are has some great genderqueer products such as binders and packers (and my infamous Silky), and has two of the major compression vest brands, the Double (made in Thailand), and Underworks.
- I personally run into a slight problem with many of the sports bras or compression vests because I have some shoulder issues and if the straps are too much of a racer-back shape, it can cause further problems with my shoulder injuries. So for that reason, the best one I have found is a Champion Powersleek sports bra (I found mine at Macy’s – their site doesn’t seem to list it any more, but I think this is quite similar). Also, because it has a clasp, instead of being pulled over my head, I can actually buy a size that is slightly smaller and tighter, which I love.
Bras & binders are primarily held in place with material like elastic, and the stretch on those does give out pretty easily. I’m finding that I need a new one every few months (although, I suppose if I had more of them, I wouldn’t wear them out so quickly!).
Suggestions? Recommendations? What products do you all use? Any particularly good online resources for figuring out your bra size, or that explains why the sizes are different?
I’ve returned to earth – mostly – from the altered state of consciousness of the Power, Surrender, & Intimacy workshop by Body Electric that happened here in New York City over the weekend. I have so very much to say about it, but that’ll have to wait for now, I need more time.
What I do want to write about is breasts. Specifically, mine – more generally, butch breasts.
Last week, I went for one day without my binder, which is really just a tight sports bra that clasps in the back rather than being a solid over-the-head slip-on. I wanted it laundered for the workshop, since I’ve been wearing it practically every day since I bought it.
I wore a backup bra that day, and all day long I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror, in storefront reflections, in my button-down work clothes, or when I looked down. I remembered how I used to hate the uniboob problem, which many of my friends and lovers deemed unsexy or mannish, and it’s not that I like the uniboob look particularly, but as my gender has changed and grown and dropped into itself, the uniboob doesn’t look like a uniboob anymore: it looks like a chest.
It is not that I want to do away with my breasts. Don’t misunderstand me here: I think breasts are butch, just as I think the menstrual cycle is butch and pregnancy is butch and cunnilingus is butch – everything the female body does can be butch, because butch (in my use of the word*) has to do with masculinity on a female body.
And because I believe that the things a female body does are butch, and because my gender philosophies are deeply rooted in love and acceptance of my body as it is and in not classifying human experiences as owned by one gender or another, I have been holding back my desire to delve farther into my own masculinity. I’m afraid of it. I’m afraid it means I’ll be leaving my roots in female-ness behind, I’m afraid of being seen as reproducing the heteronormative paradigm or embodying penis envy. I’m afraid of being rejected by feminist and lesbian communities for being too masculine, for becoming the ‘enemy,’ for rejecting femininity instead of reclaiming it.
Breasts are a big piece of this fear for me. Mine are not so small – part of why I rarely pass: a 36DD, and have been since middle school. I’ve said since I was a teenager that a breast reduction is the only surgery I would consider. I read about Jess’s surgery – or others’ surgeries and body alterations – and I’m jealous.
But I’m afraid of what it means to want that alteration, to want to physically change my body to better fit a gendered idea.
After that day last week of wearing a regular bra, I started wondering: why do I even have this in my closet anymore? Why do I own this? My exploration of my own masculine/butch/boy/male embodiment is young – I’ve been calling myself butch since 2001, but only in the last three years have I really embraced it and actively, consciously developed it. And now, the farther I get into my explorations of gender, the farther I want to go.
It takes time to cycle through a wardrobe, and I don’t quite have the disposable income to go purchase all new bras – but I certainly won’t be buying any regular ones anytime soon. I’ve gone through this with my underwear already, years ago now, have cycled through all the old girl undies and haven’t owned any of those in years, only have boxers and briefs now. But that feels less obvious than binders and sports bras – no one can tell I wear only briefs except my lovers, I guess, but everyone can tell I bind my chest.
And see, what’s what it is now: my chest. Very different than boobs, breasts, tits. I have those, sure, but they’re underneath, they’re the other layer, the inner ring, something that now gets protected and covered, not out of shame or denial but simply out of layering, complexities, performance, a rich inner life, a duality, a whole person – me.
* Some say men can be butch, that “butch” is a term for a queer masculinity, or a non-traditional, progressive masculinity. I’m not certain I agree, but we definitely lack language to discuss different types of masculinity, and I have definitely observed some men who have a sense of butch energy.
Wear a short skirt or dress, the shortest you have. Nothing underneath. Bare legs. Bare feet.
The extent of force will be up to you. If you want me to enter unannounced, unlock the door to your apartment at 9:28. I’ll be arriving at 9:30.
If you want to let me in, keep the door locked, and I will knock. But we won’t speak. No small talk, no chit-chat. You can say things in character – however much you like. You don’t have to pretend you don’t know me, you can still ask what are you doing and you can say no. You can struggle.
But I won’t stop.
You have a safeword now. You’re going to have to use it.
“Harder,” she whispered. “Fuck me harder, please, please.”
In a dingy bathroom in the downstairs of a Tibetan restaurant. Her cheek against the peeling greasy paint, legs kicked apart, stockings pulled down just to below her ass, dress shoved up around her waist, in front of the filmy bathroom mirror where she could see my arm flexing as my fingers – two, three – thrust inside her. Photos of the Dalai Lama on the wall. Penny joked about her being a bad Buddhist.
But I couldn’t resist.
An hour, more, of discussion: I’d send her a BDSM checklist about possible things to play with; we spoke about how much anger came up for her last weekend when I was hitting her; we spoke of my upcoming workshop and the BDSM techniques I’m hoping to practice with her, she was especially interested in the breast rope-binding ritual.
I imagined her, bound. Wrists behind her back, whimpering.
(Witness of that moment of giving in stirs something in me that nothing else does.)
I couldn’t get the angle right. I know well enough now to know how she likes to get fucked, to know the pressure she needs to come. Palm of my left hand holding her tailbone, working three fingers inside, right hand reaching around on her clit, pressing between the two like I’m cradling her pelvis.
She was up on her toes in her heels. Hands pressed against the wall, gasping, pressing back against me.
“Goddammit,” I swore softly into her hair, her neck, biting her shoulder, pressing into her harder, faster, “you’re going to come for me. Do it.”
She moaned. Couldn’t. It wasn’t going to happen. She needs a deeper bend in her hips, bent over or legs up. Something about how the muscles stretch and open.
But oh she was open for me last night. And I love the way she lets me shove her against walls, lets me fuck her in bathrooms in restaurants, up against trees in parks, up on my roof looking at the Manhattan skyline, Prospect Park, the South Brooklyn police precinct three doors down. Cars on the BQE whirring by, her hair dishevled against dark blue sky.
She’s even more of an exhibitionist than I am. This makes me want to test her limits, and mine. To find the places she won’t go and challenge her.
What an honor, such an honor, the ways she lets me in.
We attempted to leave the restaurant smoothly, the walk of shame past steaming plates of hot food and waiters and waitresses eyeing us suspiciously. Outside I caught her hand, laughing down the East Village streets, occasionally twirling her into my arms for a deep kiss. Supple, she gave in so easily, so eagerly, so sweetly at times my knees went weak and my throat growled with power.
She knows how to make me feel strong. Which makes me want to take her down all the more.
These mid-week dates are the tease, the warm-up. They get me going and keep me hard for days until I get to fuck her, for real, bent over something, on her back, head banging the wall or falling off the bed, arms up and grabbing for the headboard behind her, pressing against something, anything, for better leverage and pressure and power, oh the way she gives in.
Like last Friday, after mojitos and making out on the roof, she walked slowly, deliberately, into my room and bent over the edge of my bed, forearms in front of her. I think she would’ve stood up fairly quickly, really, but time slowed and the desire that swelled up in me in those few tiny moments were enough to keep me going for hours.
Swiftly I came up behind her and smacked her ass. “Bending over for me, are you? Just so eager to get fucked.”
“Yes,” she whimpered, barely audible.
I shoved her panties down – cute, a muted vintage pink and cream, lacy on the edges – fast, was ready to rip them apart, her dress up above her hips, held her cunt open while I unzipped and pulled my cock out, quickly unrolled a condom, spit on my hand, thrust inside her. Fast. Hard. Not even my fingers first.
I like the noises she makes when she’s caught off-guard. Thick moans from deep inside somewhere.
And did I mention the dress? Summery, cream-colored, halter top that tied behind her neck and behind her chest, shoulders bare, two knots, skirt below her knees. I kept hold of the ties and pressed her into the bed. Head down.
Hand pressed around her hips and onto her clit, just how she likes it, slow and soft as I fuck her hard and deep, and as soon as I started working her clit harder, faster, I could feel it swell, could feel her body shuddering, and she came, fast and hard, still working my hips to stay thick inside her, until she collapsed with her low hums of oh god ohh baby ohhh.
It’s the release I crave to hear the most. The letting go. The body stores things hidden inside joints, muscles, sinewy tendons, veins. How else to get the energy, the prana, moving again than to up the heart rate, force you into all the edges of your skin, sensation everywhere, pleasure bursting from the core of you?
What an honor, such an honor, to be received. To be allowed to go inside and touch those untouched, unlandscaped places which hold secrets, soft and dark, and dangerous raw beauty.
The Sugar Butch in the photo is Azaan Kamau – the author and publisher of
In The Midst of My Blackness. Azaan loves jet skiing, writing, boating,
taking photos, and fighting for LGBT Rights! (Photo Credit: Azaan Kamau)