Archive for August, 2008
They seem to be one of those non-scary toys that folks early in their sex-toy shopping tend to gravitate toward, probably because they’re unique, and at first you think “oh my god, does that go up my … ?” But then you find out they’re just massagers, whew, and start bonging the person you brought with you on this wonderful sex-toy outing, or you start bonging yourself.
I’ve seen the bongers at Babeland for years, and often pick them up, often thought, “oh that’d be nice to try out,” I do like giving and receiving massages, but I never bought a pair. They’re $25, and I don’t usually have an extra $25 hanging around for something that seems non-essential like Bongers. (Especially when I’m in Babeland and every $25 is already planned to go toward some hot cocks or leather or supplies.)
I brought these home recently and I gotta say, I really love them. No, they’re not so kinky really; even in the context of a sensual lover’s massage, they’re kind of unsexy with their bouncyness and being round balls on the end of sticks.
But they feel amazing. No really, amazing!
It took me a while to warm up to them though. After a few weeks of keeping them in my room and feeling unsure what I would even do with the bongers, I brought them out into the living room when my sister and her boyfriend were hanging out, watching tv, drinking some wine.
And oh we had a blast, once we got into them. “Do me now!” “These are so great, my hands aren’t nearly as tired as when I do a usual massage.” “Wait I can’t quite reach you like that … ahh perfect. They take so little effort to use!”
“I wonder if the kitties would like the bongers?”
And yes indeed, they really do. We leave the bongers under the coffee table now, and often get them out when we’re unwinding, relaxing after our long city days. And when the kitties start hearing the bonging noise, sometimes they come running, I’m not even kidding.
Human tested, kitty approved.
Tess at Urban Gypsy brought her bongers to work … I bet my coworkers would get a kick out of ‘em, for sure.
So these might not be the sexiest toy that at Babeland, but it is always an improvement for your sex life to be more relaxed, more calm and connected to your body, right? And if you’re the kind of person who particularly likes to use massage as foreplay, to get connected to each other’s bodies and to relax your own muscles, then this tool could be a really great addition to your toy arsenal.
Me, I think I’ve just found my holiday gift. Bongers for everybody! My parents would love ‘em, my relatives, maybe it’ll be what I bring to my holiday exchange at work too.
A particular place that I really recommend: the bottoms of your feet.
I was privileged to be interviewed by Ellie over at Lumpesse.com for her Bedroom Radio podcast and our discussion went up just last night. Download episode #21 and hear us chat about gender, sexuality, butch breasts, and all sorts of things. (I was sipping on James all through the interview, so in my head I got less and less coherent by the end of the discussion. I haven’t listened to it yet, we’ll see how much that came through.)
Ellie’s podcast is pretty darn great, if you aren’t listening to it; she often reviews toys on her podcast by, ahem, trying them out. And she’s super smart about sex and gender.
Oh, and I read an excerpt from The Diner on the Corner, the winning Sugarbutch Star submission last year during the interview too.
You know the deadline’s coming up, right? September 1st is Monday. I have quite a few submissions so far – get ‘em in soon, I’m already attached to a few of them.
Thanks, all, for your thoughtful responses and life stories about butch hair in the last post.
Here’s a few of my thoughts about femmes and femininity and hair, and then I’ll ask some questions and open it up to whatever you’d like to say about the subject.
I want to distinguish here between options and personal preference – I talk a lot on this site – especially in terms of femmes and femme identity – about what I like, and I want to make it clear that those are usually my personal preferences, and I’m not trying to say that I think that’s what all femmes should be or that femmes who are not like that are not valid or are not “real” femmes or any of that crap. I hope that’s not how it comes across.
So, let me first say this, about my basic philosophies on hair: hair is a personal choice. It is also a major marker on the physical body used to distinguish gender differentiation in contemporary culture. Short hair on men, long hair on women; shaved legs and underarms on women, hairy men. This of course was not always the case; it used to be seen as very masculine for men to grow their hair long. Hair presentation, length, and social conformity are based largely on culture.
In my (unofficial, limited) cultural observation in the recent years, these differences are just getting more pronounced, although with the inclusion of gay male culture in mainstream men’s fashion, the rise of beauty products for men, the addition of “manscaping” and the metrosexualizing of fashion and beauty, beauty standards for men and masculinity are on the rise. It is not unusual for hetero/cis-women to expect their hetero/cis-men to keep their chest hair under control, to get eyebrow waxes, to keep their hair groomed.
But just because the beauty standards for men are raising doesn’t mean it’s okay for us to keep unobtainable beauty standards for women – or for anyone, for that matter. Honestly I believe we’ve got to turn the beauty culture inside out on our own personal journeys into our own gender identities, whatever flavor they may be, whatever area of the gender galaxy, to really examine what the culture dictates and unlearn the compulsory standards that can be exhausting, unobtainable, and even harmful to our bodies.
What the body does is natural, normal, acceptible, sexy – where hair grows, the stretchmarks, the veins that show through the skin, the moles and freckles, the thickness of the muscles or the tendons or the thigh or the waist or the hair. All these things are beautiful, and real.
And, in my humble opinion, are also turn-ons: the celebration of the beauty of the human body.
If you’ve never explored the potential damage and compulsory standards of beauty culture, take a look at:
- The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf – a bit dated now, and well critiqued, but still holds many core concepts that I believe can be very transformational
- Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty by Nancy Etcoff – Undoes some of the cultural critiques of the beauty myth and argues for a scientific basis of valuing beauty; interesting counter in the nature-vs-nurture debate
- Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy
- The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
- Killing Me Softly, Jean Kilbourne – This video tends to be shown (over & over) in women studies courses in colleges, and there’s a reason why: it can be really eye-opening to see what the culture of beauty dictates for women through advertising. Kilbourne has other videos that are also wonderfully critical of alcohol, tobacco, and thinness. They’re hard to find since they’re educational films, but your library might have them.
- Any other recommendations?
So: once we start undoing society’s standards, and treating every possible option as valid and valuable for different reasons in order to make a true choice, we can start exploring what it is that we personally prefer. What turns us on, how our bodies feel the most sexy, what the soft animal of our body loves.
My initial thoughts about femme hair always go to the hair on your head, and the ways it’s worn. Being that I am very attracted to femininity, I do like long hair generally, though I know plenty of femmes who totally rock the chin-length cuts or the boycuts, I’ve even known a few with shaved heads.
I wrote once upon a time about how much I love it when femmes wear their hair up, and specifically the idea that “a woman’s hair is for her husband.” I wrote, “I know there are deep problems with this idea of a husband owning a wife’s hair, but I love the idea of it being so sexual, such a turn on, when a femme lets her hair down, that it’s private, saved for me and me alone.” And that’s just it exactly.
About body hair on femmes … honestly, my personal preference is basically bare. Very little hair, everywhere. I find shaving sexy, I find the rituals of beauty sexy (when they are done with intention and sexual connotations especially). I like to shave my lover’s legs, actually. That’s a scene I haven’t played out in a long time, but I find that intensely erotic.
I do have some guilt about liking the reproduction of traditional femininity. I know I could write pages about how it’s not compulsory, it’s resistance, celebratory, and intentional, but still sometimes I wonder if what my block is that I wouldn’t find hair particularly attractive. But I suppose I can attempt to justify this by saying that I absolutely think it should be culturally acceptible – I hate that it’s dictated as necessary by the beauty rules – but that my personal preference is skin, skin, skin. Is that because of the dominant cultural beauty rules? Yeah, probably. I can’t escape it, I was raised in it, I live in it every day. But I recognize that it exists, what it means, how it operates, and I fully support people who reject that rule and who prefer to have their hair wild and free, or trimmed and neat, or completely bare. All options should be valid.
So, now you:
I know you’ve already got a ton of things to say about femme body hair, but here’s some questions to get started:
If you’re in the transfeminine area of the gender galaxy:
- Do you shave, wax, pluck, shape? Underarms, legs, thighs, stomach, chin? Why or why not?
- What was your process in coming to do the hair sculpting and
- How do you make choices about your hair? Based on sexual preferences? Cultural standards?What your lovers like?
- How do you keep your pubes? Trimmed, waxed, shaved, au naturale?
- What comes to mind when you see women who don’t shave?
- Do you sexualize shaving or body hair removal?
If you are someone who tends to date transfeminine folks:
- Do you have personal preferences when it comes to hair on the femmes you date?
- Do you sexualize shaving or body hair removal?
- Do you prefer hair on her head worn a certain way? Do you tend to be attracted to very specific hair cuts, styles, colors?
I’m also very curious about folks who live outside of the US – clearly my perspectives are very US-centric, and I’m not really sure what gets culturally dictated or compulsorily reproduced in other places. I have impressions, but being an outsider to culture in other places, I won’t presume to speak on it.
Please do elaborate however you’d like. And thank you, for reading and for your comments, I really like that we’re conversing here more and more, getting input from all kinds of people who live in all kinds of ways.
In my writings on this site, especially about gender, I keep coming across a little issue about inclusivity. For example, if I write how great the butch/femme dynamic is and how it works for me, I get emails and comments saying, “But I reject gender! That’s okay too! (Right?)”
Of course! Absolutely. Just because I’m saying one thing is good doesn’t mean I’m saying the other thing is bad.
But that’s not how our culture usually works – we operate in hierarchies here, usually. If one thing is good, then the other thing is not as good, is bad, or is second-best.
But that’s not what I mean here. I am seeking to create a space where pretty much all options are valid choices, where if you don’t like the options you see, well, then you can create your own.
I’ve been searching for a word for a while now that would mean exactly that, that all options are valid, that just because one thing is good doesn’t necessarily mean that the other thing is bad.
Recently it hit me: mutually inclusive.
Of course – the opposite of ‘mutually exclusive,’ which is if one thing is right, then the other is wrong. But if things are inclusive then they can all be included, all be correct.
(“Mutually” implies two, somehow, doesn’t it? Which is where this term somewhat breaks down, because I’m talking about dozens of options really, not just one or two.)
So you might see this term pop up in my writing in the near future. I hope it’s useful in this ongoing dialogue and exploration, it helps me articulate some things for sure.
I am a butch who shaves.
Not my legs, inner thighs, stomach, underarms (though I’ll get to those in a moment), but my face. Chin, mustache, sideburns. Every day.
It has taken me years to admit this, to celebrate this. I started shaving my chin about ten years ago, at eighteen, when my-ex-the-boy and I got into a fight and he used it as leverage against me. It was toward the end of our five-year high school relationship and he was increasingly paranoid that I would leave him to come out (which I did), so we used to fight about my perceived dykeness all the time. We were in his car in our driveway, just home from somewhere, yelling at each other. I have no idea what the context was, but I still remember the way he looked over at me and said: “I mean, you have more hair on your chin than me!”
I’m sure I’d noticed the hairs on my chin and upper lip, I’m sure they’d been there for years. I was at that time in denial about most of what my body did, how it looked. I spent as little time as I could with obligatory lipstick and mascara – the only makeup I could master without feeling like a clown, I never could figure out foundation or blush or eye shadow, despite the hundreds of beauty magazines that I studied, attempting to discover and reproduce the secrets of femininity.
It wasn’t until he said that, though, that I thought I should pluck, wax, shave, something, anything, so as not to give away my gender deviancy and gender defiance that seemed to be so certain that it would even come through in my biology. I’m a hippie after all – deep down I believe whatever the human body does is ‘natural’ and that all the hair policing was perpetuating unobtainable standards of beauty for women.
But this wasn’t about beauty, suddenly. It was about gender. It was about being revealed, when I didn’t even realize I was.
I promptly went upstairs, shut myself in the bathroom, took my razor from the shower, and shaved my chin smooth.
That was 1999.
It was only very recently that I let the hair on my face grow, even for a day or two. I’ve often seen dykes in the lesbian communities who sport peach fuzz mustaches, goatees, sideburns, but it never really occurred to me that it would happen if I didn’t run the razor along my face daily.
It was Callie who mentioned it first. It came up with Datedyke, too. I didn’t quite get the appeal at first. It felt gross, even shameful. No, they said. An indication of masculinity.
Oh yeah. Right.
I buy men’s razors now. Made for the contours of a face, not the smooth line of a shin bone or inner thigh. I enjoy buying products so masculine. I do it, head high, boldly; I challenge what the clerk thinks. I am not shy about it. It is a small act of gender celebration, gender defiance, gender activism.
Sometimes I even like my five o’clock shadow. I’ve developed the habit of scratching my chin like the boys do. Feeling when I need a shave. Letting it grow on weekends, on weeks when I don’t have work. When I was in Mexico I didn’t touch it once. Ten days without shaving, I am sure a personal record. I didn’t even know my hair would grow that long, that dark, that thick.
Sometimes, I even like it.
Okay, so, body hair.
Well, here’s the deal. I believe hair is a potential enhancer of sex. A sex toy. That it can be used to increase sensation, both tactile and visual. That the key decision about the hair on my head is for a sexual purpose. That running fingertips from ankle to cunt feels different on an unshaved leg – for both the person to whom the hand belongs and the person to whom the leg belongs. That it is different to fuck with a full bush as opposed to a brazillian.
Whether or not one is better than the other is a purely personal preference. Clearly there are some cultural preferences that correspond with gender role and expectation, but when all options have been examined and stripped of their social meaning and compulsory prescription, we can actually have an opinion about what we prefer, and make a choice.
I’ll get to femme body hair another time. I want to talk about butch hair, here, a bit more.
I know transmasculine folks who shave and who don’t. Who grow their hair long and who buzz it off nearly completely. I know a butch whose hair grows in so light she doesn’t have to shave – though she hates body hair, and would if her own wasn’t so light. I know a butch who had a contest with her friends to see who could grow their hair the longest.
Sure, I personally have preferences – I keep the hair on my head short, #2 on the sides, two fingers on top. I do this for sex, and for gender: I love the feel of buzzed hair under some girl’s fingers. Love how it makes me feel boyish. Love how there’s still enough for her to grab and pull on the top, in the back. Love the physical sensation of her desire as she pulls on it suddenly, when I do something and she responds, a physical communication between us.
I don’t shave my legs or underarms. I like the cultural masculinity of it. I like the surprise and occasional understanding of strangers. I do “manscape,” as the kids are calling it these days. Trim where it grows long, sculpt a little. I figure I sculpt and trim the hair on my head, I can do that for other places too. It is for sexual purposes really. And goodness knows there’s a lot I’d invest for sexual benefits.
So: I covered options, now let’s talk preferences. What kind of hair do you prefer on your butch? Butches & other transmasculine guys, how do you keep your hair? Au naturale? Waxed? Plucked? Is it leftover compulsory hair depletion from your gender-conformist days, or have you examined all your options and made the choice you prefer? Femmes, do you love it / hate it when a butch shaves? When she buzzes her hair or grows it out? When she keeps a mustache?
[ I know there's a ton to say about femme identity and body hair too - let's keep this to butches, for now. Start thinking, though, the femme equivalent discussion is forthcoming. ]
She is great at spoiling and loves to make me feel special.
Who wouldn’t love to get lost in that stare of hers. – Shelly
(I noticed Shelly has more photos from Kristy’s shoot over at flickr, including the famous butch lean and some sexy shots of sunglasses. Tag your photos with “sugarbutch” on flickr to show off your eye candy!)
The winner of the delicious new anthology by Rachel Kramer Bussel is saintchick, with this submission about a great time she was spanked:
My ex had to work late one evening at school, so I thought I would surprise her by showing up. Her fave black dress, no undergarments except for the black and red garter, and black patten leather stilettos. Knocked on her classroom door and walked in, she was expecting me and from the look on her face I was in for some trouble. We made some small talk, and by small talk I mean she grabbed my hair and brought me close to her. Her lips barely touching my ear, telling me the exact things she had in store for me. I had only one rule to follow since I had already been a good girl. It was not to look back.
With that said I pretty much flung myself onto her desk, knocking off books, term papers, paper clip holders. She lifted my dress just so my cheeks were visble. Then I heard it, the sound of her opening her desk drawer. My legs started to quiver. I knew better to look back, but I so wanted to see the look on her face. She then placed her hand on the middle of my back to hold me down, and I felt the ruler graze my cheek. She then began alternating between the wooden ruler and her hand. She has this way about her. She would bring me just to the edge when I thought I could not take anymore and then would bring me down gently just to work me up all over again.
Once she admired her work and let her fingertips move over the fresh red marks, she let me up. With one long deep kiss, and one perfectly placed hand I came. On her and her desk. It was one of the best times ever.
Once I straightened out her desk, wiped her desk off (Thank God for Clorox wipes). I kissed her goodbye and just walked out of the classroom. As my stilettos clicked down the hall, a smile on my face, the security guard just looked up at me and managed to say nnnnight ma’am.
Good lord that’s hot. Makes me want to fuck in a classroom, or buy a fabulous ruler, or perfect
(Thanks to the anonymous semi-famous guest judge, you know who you are.)
Sorry I was so behind last week! My ‘real’ work is getting hugely in the way of my posts here. (Want to help me make Sugarbutch my full-time job?) Many posts on their way, including, of course, some butch eye candy, the call for femme eye candy, writings about the architecture of femme identity or what I learned at the Femme Conference, a post about strap-ons, follow up to the Spanked review about the ick factor, more poems, and oh gosh just a whole bunch of stuff. If only the day had more hours.
What’s in your box of darkness?
[ Leave a comment, or write it up on your own blog & leave a link. ]
Part one of three of my review of Spanked
I’m reading erotica and watching porn differently these days. For years – since before I came out – I’ve been an, uh, active reader of erotica and smut collections, with almost exclusively lesbian content.
Lately I’ve had the opportunity to review various things through this site, things I wouldn’t have otherwise picked up, like Crossdressing and Chemistry 3. Books and films which include various orientations; straight, bi, gay men, lesbians, threesomes.
In the past, I would probably not have even considered reading these collections or watching these films. My brain would think, ewwww, flesh-and-blood penises. That’s the “ick factor” right there (more on that in part two). But since I was doing it for research, and for review, I figured I’d give it a go … and it turns out that some of it really turned me on. Sometimes completely unexpectedly.
That was a bit uncomfortable for me, really.
It wasn’t until I read Kate Bornstein’s excellent article on the film WALL-E that I placed it: especially with erotica, I am able to suspend my reading of biological sex and only read gender. Male pronouns and male body parts don’t bother me, even though my orientation is pretty strictly lesbian, because I can get so deeply into the play of gender, I can “suspend heterosexual belief.”
Back to that in a moment. First, more about the film WALL-E and Kate’s (did I say brilliant? brilliant!) analysis of gender presentation, WALL-E: A Butch/Femme Love Story … or, Silly Rabbit! Robots Have No Gender.
… [A] pair of lesbian robots who fall madly in love with each other. WALL•E is nothing short of hot, dyke Sci Fi action romance, some seven hundred years in the future! Woo-hoo! Isn’t that what you saw? No? What movie were you watching? Did you see a heterosexual boy robot fall in love with a heterosexual girl robot? I did… at first. [...] [W]hen I first saw the film, I saw a boy robot and girl robot. My question is this: how and why did most of us jump to that conclusion?
Kate goes on to examine the different ways that we determine both “biological” sex and the robot’s heterosexuality:
Is it because of their names? … both names are acronyms for each robot’s prime directive and function. Nothing to do with boy or girl there. … Is it simply by looking at the robots, we can tell? … We’ve got no way to spot those robots as male or female by using secondary sex characteristics. … neither robot has a DNA strand, so there is no way to type them by XX or XY. … Barring hormones – which I didn’t get a whiff of during the entire film – that just about exhausts the physiological basis for determining gender.
Examining some of the ways that we determine sex and orientation – hormones, chromosomes, secondary sex characteristics. And there’s the whole obsession with Hello, Dolly as the only model WALL-E has for romance; it is a campy presentation of sweet courtship, and a classic musical.
So, Kate keeps asking, what is it that is tipping us off? How can they be portraying these very human, very gendered, characteristics, yet still be robots?
Pixar and Disney … knew we’d see WALL•E as boy and EVE as girl. Both of ‘em are gosh-darned CUTE, right? Oh, come on. You know they’re SO adorable, right? How can they be that in nearly everyone’s eyes… gay or straight? I think the answer is that we shift our mind’s criteria for gender when we watch a film or listen to a love song or read a novel. We all blithely switch genders in our minds, the better to identify with the vocalist or character. [Emphasis added]
This is the genius part, in case you missed it. This is the part in the article where I exclaimed aloud, “Dammit, why didn’t I write this!”
There are, sometimes, and especially in art – love songs, films, novels – things that trump gender. When art begins speaking the language of emotion, that can transcend orientation or gender presentation and instead we just get the character’s attraction to each other, their courtship, their surges of emotion and desire for connection. I think this may be especially true for queers, who often do not see ourselves represented in popular media, so we learn to “suspend heterosexual belief” and instead see only the presentation and language of gender.
Kate gives some examples of other media – a Tegan & Sara song, Marlene Dietrich, Justin Bond. But wait, Kate’s not done:
Gender ambiguity — when it’s safely positioned onstage or up on a movie screen — is and always has been sexy to damn near all of us, no matter what our gender might be. … What is it that’s signaling sexual attraction to an audience with such a wide range of gender identities and sexual desires? I think the answer is that WALL•E is butch, and EVE is femme, two genders defined by the expression of strong, respectful, sexual desire.
I just love butch/femme as “the expression of strong, respectful, sexual desire.” That’s beautiful.
Butch and Femme are sexy dance steps with unlimited variations. Butch is gallant, femme is gracious. Butch is hail and hardy, femme has wicked cool wiles. Butch is handsome. Femme is pretty. Butch/Femme is all about relating to each other like ladies and gentlemen—no matter our genitals. … Butches can be dominant or submissive, strong or weak, honorable, or complete rats. So can Femmes. Butch and Femme have nothing to do with who makes more money. … There’s no perfection in the dance, there’s only the totality of self-expression and how that self-expression dovetails with someone else’s self-expression.
Yes, EVE is pertly streamlined. EVE’s eyes literally sparkle and dance. EVE giggles, for heaven’s sake. EVE is kick-ass strong and powerful. EVE is performing Femme. WALL•E is rugged and protective and shy and loyal. WALL•E is a sensitive little thing, held together by sheer will and rubber bands. WALL•E is performing Butch.
… And this is the part that gets me teary. I love that butch is a “sensitive little thing, held together by sheer will and rubber bands.” and that femme is kick-ass strong with sparkly eyes. Oh if someone had given me that possible explanation years ago!
Once we begin to look at the characters as Butch and Femme — not male and female — we can assign to them any gender we like. Sure, the film can be about a boy robot and a girl robot. But how about EVE as a sweet femme boy robot, like performer/chanteuse extraordinaire, Justin Bond. And WALL•E is a sweet butch girl robot, with a heart of solid gold, like performer/chanteuse extraordinaire Lea Delaria?
How freakin great is that! I love this way of analyzing popular media. Kate writes, “You’re the audience. You get to decide.” and goes on to mention a few other Disney films – Mu-lan, Pinocchio, The Little Mermaid. I took a “Feminist Interpretations of Disney” class as a gender studies undergrad, I have watched these films and examined the gender in them in depth.
But I’ve never thought about it like this. And I love it. (Writing through this has made me really want to see WALL-E, and some of those others, again.)
As someone who has a background in academic gender studies and feminist theory, I do take a certain amount of pleasure in the reading of texts like Disney films as reproducing the heteronormative, gendernormative binary, so in some ways revisioning media this way makes me skeptical. I don’t think the critical analysis should be discounted entirely, especially when it has such an affect on girls (this calls to mind the Princess Collection and discussions with feminist/progressive parents of little girls who are close to disgusted in their daughter’s obsession with princesses). But I do think it’s another fascinating way to look at popular media through the lens of gender presentation and expression.
So: that’s how a little love story about two robots can be read as butch/femme. And that’s how we can – and already do – suspend heterosexual belief when consuming popular media.
But when we’re talking about representations within the sex industry … written erotica, visual porn, or any smut, there tends to be the aspect of sexual anatomy. And for queers especially, it seems, the reality of a wet vagina for gay boys or hard penis – or, worse, a coming penis – for the lesbians actually grosses us out. It’s much harder to suspend heterosexual belief when the physicality of the different biological sexes is so prevalent – and, indeed, part of the point.
What is this ick factor? How does it work, and how does it affect us? Also, how do we get over it?
That’s part two, coming tomorrow.
“Debs is incredibly handsome & strong. She is chivalrous, passionate, brave and loving. She loves life, riding her motor bike and pinning me down! Lucky me! What a woman!” – Rose
(Rose sent a second photo, too, with a better shot of the bike. I’ve got serious motorcycle envy here.)