Archive for October, 2009
Well hello! Hey look! I have an online-writing-project (aka blog)!
It’s not like I’ve forgotten. I never do. I am always writing posts in my head or taking notes or adding to the looooong list of things I want to write about, including reviews of porn films and books and silicone cocks and bondage supplies (and did you see that Kristen just got some lingerie from Liberator?).
The past week has been a total wash for writing, because Jesse James was in town, and we (and Kristen, more often than not) were completely booked, painting the town.
Jesse’s writing up her trip to New York in four parts, and Jess posted about the success of the top-surgery fundraiser party that we attended. I’m really glad I got to spend some time with Leo MacCool and Freedomgirl, Leo and I ducked out of the party to take a loooong walk. Jesse still hasn’t stopped talking about dinner with Greg, and I can’t stop talking about Kristen’s famous pizza-from-scratch and chocolate & butterscotch pudding.
It’s Friday, Jesse left on Tuesday, and I am just starting to feel like I have adequately recovered enough to get my strength back. I’ve got some deadlines (hello, Carnal Nation), I’m so behind on reviews, my email inbox is overflowing (I’ll get to it, I promise!), and my room is still a mess, but I downloaded The Gossip’s newest album Music For Men and thanks to Dita Von Teese I am really into Mayer Hawthorne, so I think I’m going to turn up my speakers and try to get some shit done. Your regularly scheduled Sugarbutch Chronicles will return soon.
PS: Edit! I forgot to mention the ah-may-zing tee shirt that Jesse custom made for me, which is my new favorite thing ever. Here’s the photo.
You may have run into this little site I co-run with Hot Movies For Her called VOD.sugarbutch.net … it’s up there in the “Mr. Sexsmith Recommends” link in the top navigation. Hot Movies For Her hosts streaming porn videos with a focus on women as the consumer, including queers, lesbian, trans, and girl-on-girl stuff. Working with them, I picked some of my favorite porn producers, like Pink & White, Madison Young, Blowfish Video, Trannywood Pictures, Buck Angel Entertainment, Reel Queer Productions, and Bleu Productions.
Bleu Productions you may recognize from the recent review of The Black Glove & The Elegant Spanking DVD – it’s a company run by Maria Beatty, who I actually hadn’t heard of until about a year ago but who has made quite a few lovely lesbian porn films.
So, I sat down to watch Post Apocalyptic Cowgirls through the Sugarbutch VOD a few weeks back.
After the Third World War and global warming have transformed the planet into a desert, what remains? Two post-apocalyptic cowgirls in leather and Stetsons! A delicious submissive hitchhikes on a bleak Arizona highway. A car stops. A tough exotic Amazon with a gun and boots invites her into the car. The chemistry between these two sexy, dangerous lesbian chicks is gonna make you hotter than the desert sun. They spank, lick and play with boots, guns, snakes, and cacti in the dust. Their sex is a dripping wet oasis from the heat!
Which, I admit, is a little silly and unnecessary – but the chemistry and sex is really quite good. I liked the knifeplay. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone pee into someone else’s hands before (clearly I am still not an expert on porn, if that’s true), but Maria Beatty does seem to like that as it’s in another film of hers, too. I love the stockings. In fact, this film may have been the direct inspiration for some of my recent dirty thoughts about stockings. I dig the cowboy hat.
This film features the same two girls throughout, in five different scenes. They aren’t butch/femme, they aren’t particularly gender-anything, but, despite that that is probably my primary fetish, I didn’t mind its lack of presence. There is not a lot of power play – dom/sub or top/bottom – going on here either, which I also find pretty much a requirement of what I’d call good sex these days. One of the girls is more in charge than the other, and could perhaps be called the top or the dominant in this film, but the tables do turn and she does get fucked in the end.
I didn’t love her top/dominant presentation in this film, which is probably another reason I am saying that the power dynamic was lacking. Perhaps those of you who like their tops like her would find this very power-heavy and totally satisfying, but I didn’t think she was very inspiring. The sub/bottom was pretty good, but neither of their power roles felt particularly inhabited or inspired. (Plus, the toppy girl kept doing that sucking-air-through-her-teeth thing that really bugs me.)
The best thing this film has going for it is it’s aesthetic. It’s artsy. After seeing The Black Glove & The Elegant Spanking, it doesn’t surprise me that the setting, costumes, and filming are another element of seduction for Bleu Productions. They are paid attention to in ways that other porn films seem to overlook – as long as there’s a place to fuck and sexy clothes to take off, others tend to think that’s enough. I like how Bleu and Beatty put together something beautiful to look at.
If you’re a fan of Pink & White, as I am, this film doesn’t really compare. The queerness, gender, power, and skill in Pink & White is so well done and precisely what I love about sex – nobody’s as good as Pink & White. But looked at on its own scale, Post Apocalyptic Cowgirls is fun and sexy, with a bit of unusual edgeplay.
And don’t forget the sexy sexy stockings. Mmmmm.
(images from cinekink)
Rent or purchase Post Apocalyptic Cowgirls from Sugarbutch’s Video-on-Demand site through Hot Movies For Her.
If you live in Seattle, don’t miss the Mentor Showcase at Bent: A Writing Institute.
I studied at Bent for almost six years, when I lived in Seattle and was going to college at the University of Washington getting degrees in both Creative Writing and Social Change. I have been quoted saying that Bent taught me just as much, if not more, about writing than my entire undergraduate degree in creative writing, and Bent’s founder, Tara Hardy, has been one of my most influential mentors. So much of what I know about gender, sexuality, trauma, healing, artistic pursuits, and writing comes directly from my studies with Bent and Tara.
If you’re in Seattle, or passing through, I highly urge you to check out some writing classes or Bent performances.
“All of the LGBTIQ community should lift our ears to receive Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha,” says Bent founder, Tara Hardy. “Her vision stands to rearrange the ways we approach community, creating art, and loving. Every time I’ve heard her read I’ve come away new.”
Bent’s unique Mentor Showcase has become a fall tradition in Seattle. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, a queer Sri Lankan writer, teacher and performer joins a fabulous line up of Bent writers for this year’s annual Showcase. Piepzna-Samarasinha’s work explores the interconnection of systems of colonialism, abuse and violence. Bent is America’s only writing institution for queers.
Tara Hardy has once again assembled the comic, the tragic, the downright magical and wildly diverse Bent writers who join Piepzna-Samarasinha on the Museum of History and Industry stage November 13th and 14th. The annual Showcase production is a wonderful opportunity to experience great writing before it hits national tours. Each of the Bent writers brings a unique voice, history and insight to the stage. Now in our 8th year, the showcase has grown from a class in Hardy’s living room to become a highly anticipated and life-changing community event.
Bent & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Museum of History and Industry, 2700 24th Ave. E, Seattle, WA
Friday November 13 & Saturday November 14
Doors 7:00pm / Curtain 7:30pm
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha Mentor Writing Workshop
Lifelong AIDS Alliance, 1002 E Seneca, Seattle, WA
Saturday, November 14
Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets
LEAH LAKSHMI PIEPZNA-SAMARASINHA:: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer Sri Lankan writer, performer and teacher. She is the 2009-10 Artist in Residence at UC Berkeley’s June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program, a 2009 Sins Invalid performer and the co-founder and co-artistic director of Mangos With Chili. Her one woman show, Grown Woman Show, has toured nationally, including performances at the National Queer Arts Festival, Swarthmore College, Yale University, Reed College and McGill University. The author of Consensual Genocide, her writing has appeared in Yes Means Yes, Visible: A Femmethology, Homelands, Colonize This, We Don’t Need Another Wave, Bitchfest, Without a Net, Dangerous Families, Brazen Femme, Geeks, Misfits and Outlaws, Femme and A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over The World. She has performed her work nationally, in venues as diverse as the National Queer Arts Festival, La Pena, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Bowery Poetry Club and Asian American Writers Workshop to immigrant rights protests, queer youth center benefits and strike lines. She is finishing her second book of poetry and her first memoir, and is happy about the forthcoming publication of The Revolution Starts At Home: Transforming Partner Abuse Through Community Accountability, which she co-edited with Ching-In Chen and Jai Dulani, by South End Press in 2010.
BENT: Bent Arts, a non-profit organization, is the only queer writing institute in the nation. The mission of Bent is to promote and encourage written and spoken word among LGBTIQ people and in our communities. The concept and work of Bent began August 2000, in the living room of Tara Hardy, Seattle-based writer, performer, and Slam Champ. Since, Bent has grown to a full institute, having served over 200 students, offering a variety of weekly classes and local and regional performances.
MENTOR SHOWCASES: These annual spoken word showcases are a chance to see Bent students, whose works are generating much attention both locally and nationally, perform alongside a writer whose work they look up to and have chosen to honor. Moreover, they are a chance to bring underrepresented voices to our greater communities. The showcases are Bent’s largest annual fundraiser. There have been six other sold-out showcases and workshops since June 2003, with standing-room-only crowds and growing student rolls. The last showcase was housed at Piggot Hall at Seattle University, met with two packed nights and critical acclaim. In these prior showcases, Bent has honored queer writers and mentors: Kate Bornstein, D. Blair, Dorothy Allison, Buddy Wakefield, Juba Kalamka, Justin Chin, Michelle Tea, Ivan Coyote, and Sini Anderson.
This event supported by Poets & Writers, Inc. and GLAmazon
I’ve reprinted the Sugarbutch Star chapbooks from 2007! I know, I know, the 2008 contest isn’t done yet (SBC fans who are familiar with the archives, or the most popular posts which are in the sidebar, will know exactly what I’m talking about. You newbies might have to go familiarize yourself with the contest, which was, at one point, a slight claim-to-fame in the Sugarbutch Empire.)
I have one more story to go in the 2008 contest – I’m only writing up five this year – and it’s about halfway done, but I’ve been distracted by the transition to not working and my column at Carnal Nation and this Evolving Masculinity series and freelance and keeping my life going.
Speaking of which: if anyone out there has an extra copy of the Adobe Creative Suite with print design software (Illustrator, Photoshop, Indesign) for Mac, I would be so incredibly grateful for a trade. I can exchange design work (print, web, blog headers – did you see the one I did for Radical Doula?, blog design, social media consultation, blog organization, flyers, programs, posters, postcards, chapbook layout), or I can write you some smut, or I can come up with a miscellany package of sex toys and books and lube. I’m sure I can come up with something worthwhile, that you’d like, is what I’m saying. Please get in touch!
I’m trying to make a freelance writer’s and designer’s life happen, but I’m also looking for part-time steady work. I think about 20 hours a week would be great for me, then I can concentrate on Sugarbutch the rest of the time. (Just throwing that out to the Universe, thanks.)
That means: if you’d like to support Sugarbutch, this is a great way to do it. Amanda Palmer wrote a great piece recently on her blog called “why I am not afraid to take your money,” which talks about why artists NEED to ask for money and consumers of art (that would be YOU) need to support artists if you want us to continue doing what we do. artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art, remember? And if this work can’t support me to be able to pay rent, bills, eat, and occasionally take a cute girl out for dinner, I can’t work on this site full-time. Isn’t this site more fun when I’m writing every day? Don’t you maybe possibly have $20 you can throw me? Or the cost of a whiskey (Jameson rocks)? Consider buying me a (virtual) drink. Or a coffee, $5. There’s a paypal link over in the sidebar.
There are a few other ways to support this site, too: 1. Click through the advertisements. Those clicks are recorded and advertisers are more likely to re-up their contracts with me! 2. Use the links on this site to buy products through my affiliates, and I get a small kickback from that purchase. 3. Click through and read my artists on Carnal Nation, where I get paid for traffic. 4. Buy the Chapbook! (More about that below.) 5. Donate directly to me, and I’ll gladly send you a love note in return.
Okay. About the chapbook:
So. You remember 2007′s Sugarbutch Star contest? The one where I wrote up a baker’s dozen stories, including the famous winning story The Diner on the Corner, based on scenarios that readers submitted. This chapbook compiles all 13 stories in one place, and is much easier to shove under your mattress than your laptop or printed out pages from this website. Plus, the pages are specially water- and stain-resistant, so you can come all over them and it won’t get damaged (uh, just kidding).
You know how hard it is to bring your laptop or computer to bed with you, and jerk off? This chapbook makes that a whooooole lot easier. Portable! Fits under your mattress or in your nightstand!
Couple different options for the chapbook – $10 will get you a book by itself, $20 and I’ll customize it for you. $50 is the Fancy Chapbook Package, which includes a nice gift of a book or a sex toy, and $100 is the I <3 Sinclair Package, where my package might just love you back. That’s the one where I show up with a boom box over my head and profess my love outside your window. No, not really. That would be creepy and stalkerish. BUT I will include a signed chapbook, a book or a sex toy, and something custom and fabulous yet to be determined.
Thanks so much, everyone, for the bits of feedback in the Champion DVD giveaway. I have asked for feedback on the site, what you think or what you’d like to see more or less of, before, but I’ve never had this great of a response. I so appreciate it.
I’ve got some things to say in response to the critical feedback especially, but perhaps not now. I was surprised to see the mentions of “I don’t always agree with you, but” – I’m glad that it’s still useful to engage with my work, even if you don’t agree, and I’m very curious about the things you don’t agree with me on! Please do consider this an invite to dialogue more, if you feel so inspired. Also, someone mentioned safer sex, especially in my fiction, and I hear you. I have some thoughts on that, but it’s also duly noted.
Many of you mentioned that my introspection is some of what you really like. I haven’t been writing a ton about my personal struggles here lately; as the audience of this site grows, it feels too revealing for me to have my struggles so much in public. I still want to write about that stuff (and journal on my inner personal workings daily). I appreciate hearing that the self-awareness struggles are useful, though, and I’ll try to include those here in ways that are safe for me, and still telling the story for you.
Oh, right, the winner! #56, femme in butch clothing. Congrats! (I sent you an email.)
Gratuitous Syd Blakovich as Jesse in Champion photo:
Those of you who didn’t win, sorry … you should consider picking up the Champion DVD anyway, because it’s HOT.
If you don’t know about the queer indy porn flick Champion by Pink & White Productions, I bet you haven’t been spending much time around the queer/porn blogosphere lately, because it has quickly risen to the top of many all-time favorite lists. I wrote my own review of Champion back in January 09 if you’d like to see how I enjoyed it.
If you haven’t seen this, you’re missing out.
And now’s your chance! Because see, Sugarbutch’s visitor counter hit 1,000,000 last week. One million! Can you believe it? Stat counters aren’t exactly rocket science, I think that number is probably give-or-take-a-thousand, but still, to see it roll over to seven digits was kinda mind blowing.
Thank you, for visiting, for stopping by, for reading whatever it is you’ve read here on Sugarbutch, for your comments and emails, for clicking through on the reviews or the affiliate links, for clicking through the advertisers, for coming back, for sharing these links with your friends or lovers or girlfriends or wives or boyfriends or mistresses or whomever you might send them to. Thanks for reading. Thanks for thinking about these things. Thank you.
So I’m doing a very special giveaway, thanks to Babeland: the Champion DVD itself. All you gotta do is leave a comment (with a valid email address) and give me one piece of feedback about Sugarbutch, either something you like or something you don’t like or something you wish I did more often or something you miss that I used to do or something I’ve never done or a question you have or a comment about the process or how you found this site or ANYTHING.
I’ll pick ONE single winner at random on Monday morning.
I’ve been doing some housecleaning around Sugarbutch since I now have some serious time on my hands. Perhaps you noticed by, for example, the four posts in a row on Monday and the articles (like My Evolving Masculinity Part Two from yesterday) that I’ve been promising for ages.
I also keep meaning to post some of my upcoming events, and a personal invitation to you reading to come and join me in New York City and beyond.
Friday, 16 October 2009 – Feminist Sex panel discussion
With Abiola Adams, Audacia Ray, & Sinclair Sexsmith
Moderated by Shira Tarrant, PhD
7 pm, 172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington
Lower East Side, New York City
Sunday, 19 October, 2009 – Kink on Tap Podcast
Broadcast LIVE on Sunday nights at 8pm EST, 5pm PST
Maymay, Emma, and I will be talking about all sorts of things, from pronouns to images as activism to masculinities to power dynamics. We’ll follow along the Kink on Tap chat room so you can ask questions and participate in the conversation.
Tune in at live.kinkontap.com
Saturday, 24 October, 2009 – Jess’s Top Surgery Fundraiser & Party
with me & Kristen! Freedomgirl & Leo MacCool! Of course, the hosts, Jess & Tina! And all the way from the West Coast, special guest Jesse James!
Can’t make it? Don’t worry, you can still donate!
9pm on in Norwalk, CT
Friday, 6 November, 2009 – Sex Blogger Calendar Release Party!
Remember the outtakes from my calendar shoot by Amanda Morgan with Audacia Ray? Come and see the final shot revealed! Celebrate the release of our Limited Edition 2010 Calendar! Meet your favorite sex bloggers and the hot photographers who shot them, get a free gift bag and maybe win an amazing raffle prize donated by on of our many sponsors and supporters. Support Sex Work Awareness with a $20 calendar purchase.
6:30 – 9:30pm at Fontana’s, 105 Eldridge Street, New York, NY
13-14 November, 2009 – Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois
Monday, 16 November 2009 – Conversio Virium
Gendering Power: How to Spice Up Your Role Play
A Workshop with Sinclair Sexsmith
An interactive workshop on how the addition of gender to power dynamics in sexual role play scenarios can increase desire, vulnerability, and intimacy, as well as explore deep inner personal gender identities.
Columbia University’s BDSM Student Group, www.conversiovirium.org
302 Hamilton Hall, 1130 Amsterdam Avenue on 116th Street
Friday, 20 November 2009 – Trans Day of Remembrance
Thursday, 3 December 2009 – Smith College
If you’d like to book me for an event at your college or in your town, contact my booking company, Phin Li, at (646) 418-5152 or bookings (at) phinli (dot) com. Some of my workshop offerings and bio are up on Phin Li’s website.
And while you’ve got your calendars out, also make note of these. They aren’t my events, but I do plan to be there.
22 October 2009 – April Flores’ Love Toy Art Show
join Sex Work Awareness and muse April Flores at the Museum of Sex, 233 Fifth Ave at 7 pm for the one night only Love Toy Art Show. Examine the work of 20 artists, including Molly Crabapple, Erika Keck, George Pitts, and Eli LIvingston, who have painted the new April Flores love toy to their liking. $10 at the door. Money raised from the raffle goes to support the work of Sex Work Awareness.
Sunday, 1 November 2009 – S. Bear Bergman, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You reading
7:30pm (Doors open at 7pm)
Presented by Derivative Theater Company
45 Berry Street, corner of N 11th St, Brooklyn, NY
(Subway: L to Bedford or G to Nassau)
pay what you can, suggested donation $15 includes snacks
Thursday, 5 November, 2009 – Sex Worker Literati
Hosted by Audacia Ray & David Henry Sterry
Happy Ending, 302 Broome Street between Forsyth and Eldridge, in New York City
Doors at 7 pm, reading from 8-10, 21 and up + FREE
Portion of proceeds from the bar supports sex workers rights groups
S. Bear Bergman has a new book out, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, which is a collection of personal essays, mostly on gender. And to celebrate, Sugarbutch is helping to kick off a virtual book tour! Thanks, Bear! Thanks, Arsenal Pulp Press!
Bear also wrote the book of gender essays Butch Is A Noun, which I’ve mentioned on this site more than a few times. It is one of the only books written about butch identity in the last ten years so it’s certainly influential to my work and philosophies on gender in general. There are some clips and excerpts from Butch Is A Noun available online and I highly recommend them. That first essay, “I Know What Butch Is,” I quote from often and go back to frequently, I just love Bear’s writing and style in that piece.
When I published Top Hot Butches in the Spring earlier this year, Bear was listed as #48 and was one of the factors of me including trans men in the list of butches in the first place. If I excluded trans men, I would have to exclude Bear, and Bear wrote pretty much the only book on butches in the last ten years – did that make sense? Not really. I thought it was extremely important to include Bear, specifically, which opened up the door to include other trans men as well. Of course, not all trans men identify as butch, but at the time I didn’t think I could include some trans men and not others … and the inclusion was problematic. I do not want to start hashing through that here, this is about Bear’s work, after all, but I really appreciated Bear’s supportive emails and contact around the list and that controversy.
Lots has happened for Bear since the publication of Butch Is A Noun. Ze addresses this right away, in the second essay: whereas during the first book, ze was for the most part perceived as a dyke, partnered with a woman, and lived in the suburbs, and now Bear is pretty much perceived as a fag, partnered with a guy, and living in a fairly big city. This transition from “suburban-dyke-me” to “city-fag-me” seems to have altered Bear’s relationship with masculinity a bit, and many of the essays in The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You address this unpacking of masculinity, tracing it back through history and family (I especially liked the discussions of masculinity through the lens of Judaism and his particular family experience of ‘being a man’), and discussing what it means in some new life contexts.
Arsenal Pulp Press provided this lovely little blurb:
Alternately unsettling and affirming, devastating and delicious, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, is a new collection of essays on gender and identity by S. Bear Bergman that is irrevocably honest and endlessly illuminating. With humour and grace, these essays deal with issues from women’s spaces to the old boys’ network, from gay male bathhouses to lesbian potlucks, from being a child to preparing to have one; throughout, S. Bear Bergman shows us there are things you learn when you’re visibly different from those around you―whether it’s being transgressively gendered or readably queer. As a transmasculine person, Bergman keeps readers breathless and rapt in the freakshow tent long after the midway has gone dark, when the good hooch gets passed around and the best stories get told. Ze offers unique perspectives on issues that challenge, complicate, and confound the “official stories” about how gender and sexuality work.
I’m still working my way through the book, I haven’t finished it yet, partly because I’m savoring it. I could zip through it a bit faster than I am, but I really appreciate Bear’s perspectives on all of this and I love having access to someone’s inner thoughts about gender, masculinity, queerness, transitioning, love, life … all of those little things, ya know. Sometimes it feels like my own mind eloquently written down, sometimes the concepts are a bit foreign and I have to stop and go over it again. I don’t agree with everything, and there’s some tension between butch and trans here that I am finding fascinating and particularly hard sometimes, but I am so grateful for Bear’s work.
Aside from the virtual book tour, Bear is on an actual book tour, too! Check out the schedule on sbearbergman.com for dates and appearances in Columbus, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, & more.
Pick up The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, Essays by S. Bear Bergman from Arsenal Pulp Press, or from your local independent (feminist, queer, radical) bookstore.
Part Two in a series of five. See also: Part One, Introduction
Beyond the Concepts of Yin & Yang
I was introduced to many new concepts at the 5-day tantra retreat I attended over the summer of 2009, but the one I’ve been constantly chewing on and talking about and sharing and using to analyze myself and others has to do with yin and yang.
Most of us are familiar with the concepts of yin and yang – and many of us who study gender may call bullshit immediately, saying it is a binaristic, dualistic system that does not account for the gray areas, just the black and white. But as much as postmodern theory wants to deconstruct the binary and create and celebrate a multitude of options, there’s a part of me that thinks outright dismissal of the binary is just unrealistic – we are bipeds, we have a long human history of constructing the world in twos, in binaries, in this-and-not-this. Yes, we need more than two options, do not get me wrong. Especially when it comes to gender, there are so many more expressions and experiences than ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ But that said, there is something basic about the binaries – light/dark, in/out, hot/cold – that is useful to structure the world around us.
Most of us are familiar at least in a broad way with the yin and yang concepts. Yin is receptive, dark, fluid; yang is penetrative, light, pointed. Yang enters, yin receives. Yang inquires, yin observes. Associating feminine and masculine with yin and yang is a challenge because I do not want to seem prescriptive – if you are feminine, you are not required to be yin, for example. Gender expression does not necessarily line up with these types of energy breakdowns.
Yin is traditionally associated with femininity, and yang masculinity. It’s probably clear why: the penis/vulva intercourse description inherent in the penetrative/receptive delineation easily dictates how the energies are divided. Together, yin and yang are called the Stabilizing Energies, as they need each other in order to be strong. Without something to hold, yin is empty; without somewhere to rest, yang cannot stand up by itself.
When broken down, yin and yang Stabilizing Energies are the Masculine Yang and the Feminine Yin.
The second type of energies, which was the part of this that is all new to me, are the Transformative Energies, which are the Masculine Yin and the Feminine Yang.
The Feminine Yang is also called spanda or shakti in tantra, the equivalent of ‘life force.’ But not life force in an ommmmm prana/breath way – more like a violent life force, the ripping open of legs and cunt to push a baby to be born. The spontaneous expressions of joy and energy that overcome us. A lava flow, a rushing river of rapids. Pure force, pure energy, intense and wild.
Her counterpart is the Masculine Yin. He is the riverbank to her river. He is the container, the thing that keeps her safe. But not in a controlling, overbearing way (that is perhaps indicative that the masculine yin in someone is imbalanced or poorly developed) but in the way a father coaxes a wild child to redirect their energy, like martial arts, taking the opponent’s force and deflecting it, using it against them. The Masculine Yin is a firm, nurturing hand, the container in which the feminine yang can rest and grow and feel safe. Without the container, she is explosive, sometimes wild. She needs the gentle guidance to be transofrmative.
Though these qualities are associated with gendered words, they are by no means prescriptive or restrictive, and in fact tantra presses that everyone needs to have a balance of all of these energies, and even has some methods by which to develop the areas where one is weaker.
Because, well, this is my personal online writing project (a.k.a. “blog”), I am going to take a minute to explore these four categories and how they relate to me and especially my evolving masculinity.
Feminine Yin – Growing up the child of two feminist hippies, and discovering things like Ms. Magazine, wicca, and feminism as a teenager, gave me a very strong base in the feminine yin. I did not grow up a tomboy like many transmasculine folks, I wore dresses and skirts and makeup (much to my feminist mother’s chagrin) in my teens. When I did begin taking on masculinity, my respect for femininity stayed steady and firm and did not really change – what changed was only my own presentation. I still saw a lot of value in the caretaking qualities of the feminine yin. In fact, perhaps more than feminism (which, one might argue, sometimes values the feminine yang over the feminine yin), my base with the feminine yin comes from my mother, who is an early childhood educator and extremely receptive, sometimes to a fault. And while there are some ways I could improve my feminine yin receptivity (i.e. sexually – though I’d rather have a different kind of sex, more on that later), for the most part my issue here is that I am too receptive, too hyper-sensitive, too eager to take in the world around me. I don’t necessarily have a deficit, then, but I do perhaps have an overabundance.
Masculine Yang – I have spent at least the last five years very intentionally developing my masculine yang. That is the energy that more than any others was left out of my family, so I didn’t know intuitively how to reproduce it, and the examples in culture are generally negative, overbearing, misogynistic, even dangerous. I took a lot of time learning how to penetrate, how to be inquisitive, how to investigate, how to externalize my desire. I even moved to arguably the most masculine yang city in the United States – New York. So much forced learning happens here, at times painfully. I don’t think New York creates problems so much as it exacerbates and explodes what is already there, and in my case, New York would not let up, would not let me turn away, and I had to develop and strengthen my masculine yang to keep myself safe and whole. I feel good about the changes I’ve made – I was clearly lacking some masculine yang, and I think I’ve adopted it in ways that are strong and stabilizing, not necessarily in offensive, violating external ways.
Masculine Yin – When I first heard about this concept, this is the one that clicked. Oh. Fuck. That’s what I need. In fact, that’s what I’ve been trying to develop recently, for a few years now even, though I never had a specific name for it. The funny thing is, I am very skilled at being a container and holding space in many aspects of my life – I would say this site does a lot of that, for example: creating a safe space for people to come and interact and explore complicated, personal ideas. I do it in my sex life all the time, pushing the girls I sleep with to a bigger, deeper release, and then holding them through it and bringing them back to a place of safety and care. This happens with Kristen especially quite often; I feel blessed and privileged that she trusts me that much, and that she’s willing to let me guide her through some of these dark, complicated, occasionally painful places, and as our sexual relationship continues to deepen I think we’ve both been able to explore the ways that I contain her and hold space for her experience in bed in bigger ways. And yet … and yet. I can’t seem to do this for myself in the ways that I want to. I sometimes get frightened of my own capacity for “big-ness” and hold back because I’m not sure I can contain it. I need to have better corral over many aspects of my life (my paperwork, my clutter, my calendaring, my obligations) and I know I need a firmer, heavier hand to come along with gentle strength and say no, no, no, to more things than I do now.
Feminine Yang – I’m not sure I trust my feminine yang. I feel it bubbling up in me sometimes, but I’m not sure I – or the world or my partner or my friends or my community – can hold the bigness and chaos that I fear will spill out of me. At the tantra retreat, for example, when I was thinking beforehand about my intention and what I wanted to get out of it, I really wanted to leave my New York crazy life behind, to forget my to do list and the million things that were weighing on my mind, and really find some deep calm and be able to be present in that new delicious space. That, however, wasn’t a problem at all – the whole world and my whole life dropped away from me as soon as I entered the beautiful zen center hot springs space, and I stepped into a deep calm and sense of self that was just under the surface. The challenge, however, was with what came out of that deep calm – this overwhelming power and strength and WHOOSH that sometimes took my breath away. I always felt like I had to back off from it, to not indulge or give in to it, but to contain and control it. I don’t think I ever quite let it out. So I do need more practice with this one, definitely.
If I think about it, it seems to make sense that in a butch top/femme bottom sexual relationship the butch top would occupy more external, explosive yang and that the femme bottom would take in the receptive, containing yin. But in our case, she is feminine in both ways, in both the reception and the explosivity, and I am masculine in both ways, in the penetration and simultaneous containing. I think this is at times one of the frustrations of our sex life, one of the ways it limits us, because I’d like to be able to be more explosive and big in the feminine yang, and for her to be able to hold me through her own masculine yin. We’ve had this conversation, we’ve discussed it in depth and it continues to come up as we explore all sorts of other things, and as I explore my evolving masculinity.
How I Need To Grow
One of the tantra teachers on the retreat shared with me this story, when I went to her specifically about the Masculine Yin, saying, that. Yes. That is what I need. How do I get that?
She said that as her masculine side was pretty weak when she began this work, and specifically did some rituals to strengthen it. At some point, after a ritual, she was so heavily embodied in the Masculine Yang that she felt like she would just fuck anything that moved. She immediately went back to her teacher and said: “help! I am definitely embodying masculine yang, but it feels like I am an out-of-control teenaged boy! How do I control and contain this? What happens between the ages of sixteen and thirty, for men, in their masculine development, that they can handle this wild energy?”
Her teacher said: we grow our balls.
That was such an A-ha! moment for me. Yes, of course: Masculine Yin is all about balls, and, as a dyke, I have a particular aversion to balls, and most of my strap-on cocks don’t include them.
Balls are the literal counter-weight to the cock, the thing that keeps the cock grounded and balanced and in check.
I know my Masculine Yang. I feel pretty good about the ways I occupy it, too. But as my masculinity is evolving, I need to move into a more adult, grounded, Masculine Yin sense of masculinity, and I think if I could embody that more completely and wholly, my masculinity would feel better, and I would feel better.
The next part of the My Evolving Masculinity series is Part Three: “Daddy”, to be posted in the next week.