Archive for December, 2009

Radical Masculinity #3: When Men Wear Skirts

December 31, 2009  |  essays  |  7 Comments

… is up at Carnal Nation!

A little taste of what I discuss:

One of my basic tenets of gender is the deep belief that gender should not dictate one’s personality. Personality traits are made up of hobbies, interests, and activities; one of the classic ways we police gender in this culture is to require that men only do “manly things” and women do “womanly things,” and when a man does a womanly thing, we get all up in arms about it. Ask my sister’s boyfriend: he’s a cop, the man carries a gun for goodness’ sake, but when he started growing sunflowers, he got teased incessantly by his best friends and coworkers alike. Someone—anyone—is extra quick to criticize when one of the activities we like to do is outside of our gender assignment.

Yet it is more socially acceptable for a woman to cross over into seemingly masculine hobbies than for a man to cross into feminine ones (at least at the amateur level—men still dominate fields traditionally seen as “female” such as cooking, baking, and sewing at the professional level, but that is a slightly different topic). The advances that the various feminist movements have made in the last 100-plus years have made it more acceptable for a woman to get really obsessed with NASCAR racing, or World of Warcraft and video games, or pro-wrestling, or environmental engineering, or the stock market, or any of those other supposedly “masculine” interests and hobbies. She may be insulted for these interests, she may be called a dyke (equating her gender identity with sexuality), but she has support. She has other women who have gone through this, she has documents, she has a feminist history to call upon to tell herself—and others—that she can like these things and still be a “real” woman.

However, if a man wants to grow sunflowers or bake cupcakes or learn how to needlepoint or host fancy dinner parties or make greeting cards, there are consequences: the people around him, friends and strangers, will police his hobbies, words, and actions around things seen as “unmanly.”

Head on over to Carnal Nation for the whole thing.

Protected: Kristen’s Homework: At the End of the Year

December 29, 2009  |  journal entries  |  Enter your password to view comments.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

And the Crash Pad Membership Goes To …

December 29, 2009  |  journal entries  |  No Comments

Oops! Sorry about that, I am just now getting the winner chosen for the Crash Pad Series Giveaway.

The winner is: #41, Morgs! Congrats! I will email you and set you in touch with the folks at The Crash Pad Series to get your membership.

Better luck next time, folks! Don’t forget, you can still go get your very own membership whenever you like … click on over to crashpadseries.com.

Welcome back from wherever you went for the holidays. If you’ve got a minute, read the holiday comments on the Crash Pad Series giveaway post, because they are full of details about what queers (especially) go through in dealing with our sometimes very un-understanding families. They’re comforting, actually, in knowing you’re not alone in dealing with some of the hardships of marginalization.

e[lust] #4: Reconciling Butch Top + Feminist in the Top Three!

December 29, 2009  |  miscellany  |  No Comments

Thanks to the lovely judges over at e[lust], my post Reconciling the Identities of Feminist & Butch Top is featured this week in the top three.

I’m glad somebody stepped up to fill the shoes of the former Sugasm. This’ll keep me busy on this freezing cold New York pre-January afternoon.

Welcome to e[lust] - your source for sexual intelligence and inspirations of lust from the smartest & sexiest bloggers! Whether you’re looking for hot steamy smut, thought-provoking opinions or expert information, you’re going to find it here. Want to be included in e[lust] #5? Start with the rules, check out the schedule in the site’s sidebar and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

This Week’s Top Three Posts

  • Interrogation - I looked up at him, feigning cluelessness. “I know you can understand me. So I ask you again. Where are the lenses?” Another strike. I crumpled into the bench.
  • Reconciling the Identities of Feminist & Butch Top - There’s something supposedly anti-feminist about wanting to dominate. There’s something in the feminist rhetoric which says we are all equal especially in bed, so that means I-do-you-you-do-me….
  • Fire and IceThe rain comes down harder around us, the freez­ing drop pelt­ing what­ever skin lies exposed over the sur­face of the water.

e[lust] Editress

  • By the Twinkling Lights… - His lips found my nipples and I forgot about the cold. If a car were to drive by and the passengers were to look past the twinkling lights on the tree, they would have seen a naked woman’s rear end pressed against the glass wall..

Featured Post (Lilly’s Pick)

  • Ronjazz: Late Night Rendezvous - Meet me in the parking lot at the post with the broken lamp. 10PM sharp! Do not be late! Stand facing the post, eyes closed. Wear a flimsy dress and heels – nothing else!

See also: Pleasurists #58 and #59 for all your sex toy review needs

All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

Read More

Yes, No, and Consent

December 28, 2009  |  essays  |  10 Comments

In much of the workshops and trainings around sexuality and sexual expression that I have attended, we have often started with one basic concept: saying no.

For example, I have been part of a circle of pairs where the instruction was for the person on the outside of the circle to think of a place on their body that would really like to be massaged right now. Hands, feet, wrists, scalp, shoulders – wherever there might be some great tension released. And the instruction was to ask the person on the inside circle, politely, “would you please massage my ____.” The person on the inside was instructed to say “No.” They could say, “I’m sorry, not right now.” Or, “I really can’t, no.” Or to couch it in some other softer “no,” but the instruction was specifically to practice saying it – even if they actually wanted to give the massage! (There would be time for that, later.)

The point of that exercise is to practice saying no. To know that it’s okay to say no. To have permission to say no – to have instruction, even, to say no. It’s actually really hard! But it’s so, so important, especially when building trust, especially when deepening a relationship, especially when working to assert your own needs and desires, as I feel probably all of us struggle with, in some ways.

The idea behind this, in erotic work is without no, there is no YES. And the YES is what we’d like to get to. The delicious, hungry YES, which is so excited and juicy and ready for what’s coming.

Without the ability to say no, the yes is virtually meaningless. Without the reassurance of my partner or girlfriend or lover or wife or toy or submissive saying no to me every once in a while, how can I be sure that she really can say no? It feels good, to me, to hear someone create limits on something, because then I have a better idea of how far I can go. I hate to discover dealbreakers in the middle of something, that is not good.

That’s pretty explanatory, right? The no-gives-yes-value thing?

This happens in relationships, too, not just with sex. For example, my friend and her girlfriend were planning to do something, one of those big relationship things. The details are a bit unimportant, but it’s something her girlfriend had expressed skepticism about in the past, and my friend was really into it. At the last minute, her girlfriend decided no, actually, it isn’t something she wanted to do. Oops sorry! My friend was mad, for a while. We talked and talked and she was upset. After the dust cleared a little, though, my friend said she was really grateful to her girlfriend for being honest. She was really grateful that her girlfriend wouldn’t be the kind of person who would just go along with something her partner wanted, even if it wasn’t something that she truly wanted herself. How much worse would the resentment build up if she had gone and done it anyway, secretly knowing she didn’t want to! How much more tension and stress would their relationship be under! My friend’s girlfriend risked hurting my friend’s feelings, and risked the consequences of being honest, but also has a lot of trust and faith that they will be able to talk through things, to reach some sort of mutually appreciated conclusion. And my friend has said, many times, since, I value honesty over consistency any day.

They are closer, as a result. Telling the truth doesn’t have to mean being disappointing or disappointed, it doesn’t have to mean steps back in a relationship. I would rather be with someone who I could trust to tell me no when they felt no and tell me yes when they felt yes. And if she never tells me no, can I be sure she really can?

Audacia Ray has said that working in the sex industry taught her to say no. She’s also said, “‘No’ is a complete sentence!” (especially when she and I have talked about how overcommitted we are), which I find myself saying to myself in my head frequently. Lots of the productivity blogs talk about turning things down as a way to really take control over your own time and owning your own sovereignty. This is important in sex play and relationships, too.

I know lots of these concepts around “saying no” are taught in sexual assault, survivor, reclaiming sexuality, and power play workshops all over, but I want to reiterate where it comes from, because the next part is this: about saying yes.

As I have been writing about a bit lately, I have struggled with being a top and dominant in bed. Sometimes, upon expressing to my lover something that I’ve wanted to do, and after they say, excitedly, that they have always wanted to do that too, I still have trouble, I still doubt that it’s okay, I still hesitated.

It’s like what J. said, in a comment on the Reconciling the Identities of Butch Top and Feminist essay:

Recently, my partner and I have been experimenting with some new things in bed and I was constantly asking her if she was okay with what we were doing. I was so worried that I asked her several times in a row, not taking her first yes for what it was. She told me that if I’m going to trust when she says no, I also have to trust when she says yes.

Bingo. I love that explanation of this process – so succinct. Yes, exactly.

As the dominant, I think I can ask whether my submissive is okay with what we are doing (or going to do), even more than once, until I am satisfactorily convinced of her consent, but – BUT! – it is also my job to trust her answer, to believe her, and to let that be enough.

If she consents, and uses it against me later, that is, most likely, NOT MY FAULT and she is a jerk. (See Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast Episode #165 where a guy gives his boyfriend permission to fuck other guys, then gets completely pissed and refuses to see him again after he does. Not okay!)

If I have chosen to date this girl, then personally I do have some sort of assumption that her consent means that she knows herself, and she is able to gauge her own reactions, and has enough self-knowledge that she will know whether being in whatever situation we’re discussing will make her freak out or not.

I can, of course, check in with her during the scene (hopefully in ways that do not break the scene entirely – see The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book for more about that), but I also have to accept that if something was wrong she would tell me or communicate it to me somehow, and that it is not my job to be a mind reader. It is my job to ask when I notice something, it is her job to communicate with me actively.

This is one of those ways that BDSM is actually Relationship Communications 401, way beyond the basics. And this is why I personally have had a tough time playing with people who were not self-aware, people who were not impeccable communicators, and people who were not afraid to be honest and assert what they needed.

This stuff is really damn hard, I know. Sometimes I don’t even know what I want, let alone being able to articulate it. But if we can’t trust each other to say yes, and no, and mean it, then we can’t go farther, we can’t play with consent and force, we can’t establish deeper trust to be able to get to the darker, juicy stuff, like domination and submission outside the bedroom, and role play, and deep, late night conversations untangling some of our control issues. Ideally, a good relationship works to bring parts of you to light that weren’t quite visible before, and supports you as you work through them, and possibly enhance or change them – and I have found no better tool for that than the many varied practices of BDSM.

Review: Midori’s Expert Guide to Sensual Bondage (DVD)

December 26, 2009  |  reviews  |  3 Comments

Midori’s Expert Guide to Sensual Bondage DVD is directed by Tristan Taormino and written & hosted by sex expert and author Midori, and I am familiar with both of them in general, so I knew I would probably enjoy it. When it arrived, though, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a video version of her Art of Japanese Bondage book – I don’t have a copy of it, but I’ve been eyeing it in Babeland for years. I was hoping the DVD would be elaborate, beautiful rope bondage, but it’s not.

In fact, it might be better.

One of the things that has kept me from doing more bondage is that it seems difficult, elaborate, and highly skilled – but that’s really only one kind of bondage, the fancy rope artistry kind. And though I have a few moves (see: Crab Tie), I often just don’t even practice what I know because I feel like it’s time consuming and will interrupt what we’re doing.

Kristen, though, I know, really likes bondage. Really likes to be tied up and tied down and restrained. While she does not love much pain, as a bottom, she really gets into that submissive mindspace when restrained and bound. She has often requested it more frequently and though it is frequent in our play, I could do it more often I’m sure. She has said that every time would not be too often, in fact. And though I often restrain her with my hands, holding her down or holding her wrists or ankles or under her knees, I could do more.

This video very much inspired me to do so.

And, it gave me a whole lot of ideas of things to use aside from elaborate rope ties – in fact, very little rope is used in this film. They use the Under Bed Restraint System (which I highly recommend, I got one for Kristen’s house that I still need to write up and it’s fantastic), wrist cuffs, ankle cuffs, belts, scarves, and some great snap hooks to hold it all together.

Midori’s introduction was pretty basic, had some great solid concepts and guidelines for bondage play, though nothing I wasn’t already familiar with. When she started demonstrating with some pretty purple scarves, I thought, damn, where do I get some like that?! (Lucky for me, I have some Liberator Silk Sashes just begging for Kristen’s return from her holiday family visit.)

I thought this video would be for beginners, but I don’t consider myself a beginner with bondage, and I got a lot out of it. It has four basic scenes: Midori’s introductory instruction, a hands-on demo with Midori, Adrianna Nicole, and Mark Davis, a scene with Adrianna and Mark, and a scene with Madison Young and Danny Wylde. Midori has some comments throughout the two scenes, but it’s fun to see some of the bondage ‘in action,’ which is a good way to get familiar with putting bondage on and taking it off during an actual scene.

I was kind of waiting to watch this video so Kristen and I could watch it together, but now I’m kind of glad I watched it on my own – the tricks will be more mine and less like I copied them from an instructional video. (Not that she won’t know that’s where I got ‘em, she reads my posts. Still, she won’t have the visual of seeing someone else do it first.)

There’s a particular moment in Adrianna and Mark’s scene where Adrianna has wrist and ankle cuffs on, and they are cuffed wrist-to-ankle with a double snap ring (like a two-sided caribiner). She is on her back in bed with her head near the edge, he is fucking her mouth with his cock while he’s got his fingers in her pussy. It was nice – I am looking forward to testing that out.

Now I’ve just got to add some double snap rings and wrist cuffs to my toy box. Perhaps I’ll use some of that Christmas money from Grandma and invest in a few of those.

Pick up Midori’s Expert Guide to Sensual Bondage at Babeland, or your local feminist sex toy shop.

Crab Tie (Review: Red Bondage Rope)

December 24, 2009  |  reviews  |  4 Comments


Kristen, tied with the crab tie from Chanta Rose’s book Bondage for Sex.

The red bondage rope was sent to me to review from sextoy.com. Pick up your own red bondage rope or other bondage toys from sextoy.com, or your local queer feminist sex-positive independent shop.

Happy Solstice Crash Pad Series Membership Giveaway

December 23, 2009  |  journal entries  |  71 Comments

Though I did grow up celebrating Christmas, my family is not particularly religious. I’ve been to Christian church services probably less than a handful of times (I can think of twice, off the top of my head). The past few years, I’ve resolved to celebrate the holiday as winter solstice, rather than Christmas – we’re getting more and more broad in our “happy holidays” wishes, more inclusive, I think, in the mainstream, and the difference of celebrating on the 21st instead of the 25th is negligible.

My family still does gifts on Christmas morning, and that’s fine with me – tradition, familiarity, ritual. But being some form of pagan & buddhist, what I’m really celebrating here is the darkest day of the year, and the return of the light.

Winter solstice is an astronomical event. It has to do with the placement of our Earth in the solar system, the rotation of the Earth’s axis, how we spin around the sun. It is the day – in the Northern hemisphere – where the hours of daylight are the shortest, and from here until summer solstice, they build to longer and longer hours of daylight.

The Winter Solstice occurs exactly when the earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun [in the Northern hemisphere] at its maximum of 23° 26′. Though the Winter Solstice lasts only an instant in time, the term is also colloquially used as Midwinter to refer to the day on which it occurs. More evident to those in high latitudes, this is the shortest day, and longest night, and the sun’s daily maximum position in the sky is the lowest. Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time. – Winter solstice at Wikipedia

That last part is especially interesting to me – that most cultures have holy days around this time of year, that many of the festivals involve pretty lights or candles (to signify the darkness and cold days), family gatherings (to signify love and support despite the potential affects of SAD), gifts (to show how we are cared for), and resolutions (symbolizing rebirth and renewal). And to me, the ritual that is the least stripped of human prosthelytizing is the one that celebrates the earth, the seasons, the move around the sun, the changes in our relationship to light.

I’ve often mentioned the Wheel of the Year here on Sugarbutch, and have often said it is something that I’d like to more intentionally observe. And the combination of Kristen’s obsession with eating seasonal, local foods, means that I’d really love to throw four wheel parties next year, at the solstices and equinoxes. (There are four lesser holy-days too – candlemas, beltaine, lammas, samhain – that occur at the midpoint between a solstice and an equinox, and I would love to do something to acknowledge them, too, but I’m not sure what – probably not a whole dinner party, just lighting a candle and acknowledging the day – perhaps with a blog post – would be plenty.)

So, Kristen made dinner: butternut squash soup with ginger, garlic, and peanuts, kale with garlic and butter, baked sweet potato fries, and cardamom-orange sugar cookies, on Monday, December 21st, in celebration of solstice, and we talked about the rebirthing process, the things we wanted to allow to blossom in our lives as the days get longer through to the summer solstice.

This is the post where I wish all my best to YOU all, readers and visitors, friends and strangers. Thank you for reading, for following along, and I wish you the best and brightest in this dark time of year.

Oh, but my spiritual beliefs probably aren’t why you’re reading this post. What you really want to know about is the giveaway, right?

Well here it is: to warm your midwinter, I’m giving away one single two-month long level 2 membership to The Crash Pad Series, which I am constantly touting as THE BEST QUEER PORN available. Hands down. No contest. Anytime Kristen and I watch anything else, we usually say, “well, it’s not Shine, but …”

I made up this rule for myself oh, about ten years ago, that I would never pay for porn on the internet. And it’s pretty easy to keep that rule, with all those big amateur porn sites and an easy enough Google image search and all the trailers and freebies at the good porn sties, sure. But as soon as I got a Crash Pad membership, I kicked myself: why didn’t I do that sooner?! It really is that good. It might not even be the best queer porn, it might be the best porn, PERIOD. The skill and smarts and aesthetic and filmmaking … even the premise! I love it. I anxiously await the next episode.

There are so many different types of queer folks depicted in their scenes, no matter what kind of queer you are attracted to, or what kind of sex you like to watch, there is tons of it in The Crash Pad Series. Strap ons. Vibrators. Punky girls. Tattoos. Piercings. Shaved heads. Femmes. Butches. Long-term lovers. Skilled rope work. Belts. Flogging. Slapping. Fisting. Anal. Knives. Force. Negotiation. Melted wax. Punching. Threesomes. Squirting. Sweet lovemaking. Begging. Dirty talk. Oh yeah, there is a little bit of everything.

For some of my favorite scenes from The Crash Pad Series, check My Favorite Scenes in Porn Flicks. And if that’s not enough, watch this teaser, featuring Julie and Michelle Aston.

The Crash Pad Series also puts out DVDs, many of which I have reviewed here on the site, but for about the price of the DVD, I’d recommend instead a one-month level 3 membership, which has permissions to download the videos that you like. Then you can test it out, go through and find the ones you want, and download them. The DVDs generally have about 5 scenes on them, but with a site membership you get access to every episode, and can save your favorites.

Tell ‘em Sinclair sent you. (That’s the same as using that link < —- to purchase a membership, since if you do it through my links on this site, I get a little bitty kickback from the purchase. I’ll even do my Elvis impression for you: thank ya, thank ya very much.)

How generous of The Crash Pad Series to offer a membership to one of you lucky folks! Thanks!

So, to enter this little giveaway:

Leave a comment with one thing about the holidays: why you love them, what your favorite family ritual is, how hard it is to be queer and deal with extended homophobic family (h/t Essin’ Em), the ways you keep your kinkiness under wraps in order to be “appropriate,” your blessings for brightness in the wintertime, your favorite thing about winter, the way you celebrate this time of year, or something else entirely. You get the idea. The winner will be chosen at random from the comments on Monday, 28 December, after we’ve all had a chance to eat with our families and come back to our queer lives.

Protected: Kristen’s Homework: Holiday Version

December 22, 2009  |  journal entries  |  Enter your password to view comments.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Reconciling the Identities of Feminist & Butch Top

December 18, 2009  |  on butches  |  16 Comments

I received quite a few questions about my recent post, Kristen’s Homework, especially around how the power imbalance asymmetric balance of power works when adding our gender dynamics into the mix. It’s really hard to explain, and sometimes hard for me to feel like what I’m doing is in question. I do want to keep writing about how my relationship with Kristen is evolving, and this is precisely one of the reasons I haven’t been writing about the sex we’ve been having as much as I used to – because we have entered into some domination and submission in lots of aspects of our relationship, and I’m just not sure how to express that well, yet.

But I would like to try. I’m working on an introduction to what we do, and our basic relationship assumptions, as we explore d/s more and more, so hopefully that will fill in some gaps.

Meanwhile, here’s some more back story to how I got to where I am.

I wrote this piece for Shira Tarrant‘s recent Feminist Sex reading for her book Men & Feminism (Seal Press, part of Seal Studies) at Bluestockings radical activist bookstore here in New York City. In brainstorming about the concept of “feminist sex,” most of what came up for me was the conflict around being a feminist and being someone kinky, specifically someone masculine, a top, and a sadist. This piece begins to try to explain how I’ve reconciled those identities. I do feel like I’ve made peace with their coexistence in me, but I am still struggling with how to articulate how that happened and what it means now.


Feminist Sex: Reconciling the Identities of Feminist & Butch Top

A few years ago, a girl I dated wanted me to slap her. To hit her face. She asked for it specifically, I still remember the conversation on the subway and the precise way that she looked over at me and said, I want you to hit me. Something big swelled in me and I wanted to, I wanted to feel the sting of impact on my palm and see her recoil, to do it again before she was ready, to push something so sensational onto her experience that she was jolted to the edges of her skin and had to feel, to feel herself, to feel me, to be fully present.

This girl and I had already done some other light percussion play, using my hand, or even a paddle, me hitting her ass and thighs, the fleshy parts that I couldn’t possibly do damage to beyond some light bruising. She liked it, we both did. It made sense to escalate, at the time, to something new; we were deepening both our romantic relationship – our trust in each other – and our power dynamic, and it was time to push a little, to see where we could go.

I was terrified. After she asked, after we talked about it extensively, I even tried, a few times, when we were in bed and she said, hit me, now, please, and I couldn’t, I’d bring my hand up and chicken out.

I was terrified of what it would mean for me, as a masculine person, as a butch, to be more dominating in bed. To like it. To like to cause someone pain. To like to cause a woman pain. To hit someone in the face. To hit a woman in the face, to sexualize that act and that power dynamic specifically.

I was paralyzed by that terror – I wanted to do it, the idea, the very thought of it, the discussions with her, turned me on, the girl I was dating wanted me to do it, but I couldn’t.

Beyond wanting to do it, this was the kind of sex act that was in the sex life I was dreaming of having. This was what haunted my fantasies and what I looked for in porn that I watched and erotica that I read. And I was on a very serious quest to figure out how to have the sex that I wanted. I’d just gotten out of a bed-death relationship; I felt like I barely escaped a noose. I was committed to studying sex hard, to figuring out: what I wanted, how to get what I wanted, how to build a relationship with that as an element, how to maintain something sane and hot over a long period of time. That’s precisely why I started this site, Sugarbutch.

I’m a sadist, and a top. That means I like to dominate. And already there are conclusions being drawn by those of you out there who think well of course you like to dominate, you’re masculine, and that’s prescribed for you or in other words you misogynistic asshole, I already knew you were one of “those” butches who needs to make up for your inadequacies by dominating women. Because that’s what we think, isn’t it? Maybe not consciously, but a little bit, somewhere in our brains, we associate these particular identity alignments – butch equals masculine equals top equals dominating equals men’s prescribed gender role. We’re relieved when they line up how we think they will, or maybe we are challenged and uncomfortable – though perhaps in a stimulated way – when they misalign.

There’s something supposedly anti-feminist about wanting to dominate. There’s something in the feminist rhetoric which says we are all equal especially in bed, so that means I-do-you-you-do-me, or that means we have sex neither above nor below each other, and with no reproduced heteronormative misogynistic patriarchal power dynamic.

But I didn’t want that. I’d had that, in early girlfriends, but it didn’t keep things hot enough to sustain a relationship. And secretly, I want to dominate. In bed. I wanted to top and control and hit and demean and humiliate.

Power dynamic theory has many similarities to gender theory. Like the gender identities of butch and femme are not reproductions but pastiche copies at best of prescribed societal gender roles, putting on and taking off power roles in power sex play is a pastiche reproduction of power in our lives, of which there are thousands of examples of interaction on a daily basis. And when we can put on and take off these roles intentionally, the act of adopting becomes further proof that the power positioning in our lives is not inherent, or “real,” or immobile, or prescribed, or “normal,” but part of a hierarchical society of social power that can be deconstructed.

As in my experience with coming to a butch gender identity, when I finally came to a power identity that really deeply aligned with something inside me that just clicked and make sense, I felt like I was coming home to myself in a way I hadn’t experienced previously. Through my personality and tendencies and psychology I have my own set of quirks and workings and functions, and for whatever reason, it makes a lot of sense to me to let out some of my power and control issues in the bedroom by being dominating. It is deeply satisfying the way a glorious meal or a delicious book is satisfying, one of my life’s greatest pleasures. I’m not sure I understand why I like what I like, but what I like does not harm others, and is consensual, and I know myself well enough to accept what I like as what I like – and to let that be a simple truth.

How did this change for me? What happened between the time when I was terrified to slap a girl in the face and today, now, where I am fairly comfortable in my identity as a top, and even as a sadist, as someone who enjoys hurting someone else?

Little by little, I had lovers who pushed me, lovers who were more experienced as bottoms than I was as a top, lovers who wanted more from me and who could take more than I was able to give who made enough space for me to walk into a bigger version of myself and occupy it, try it on.

I did come to a reconciliation with my feminist self and my top self. Phrases – like men should not hurt women or rather masculine people should not hurt feminine people, or even more broadly that people should not hit each other and violence is bad bad bad – I had accepted those phrases as Ultimate Truths, and I started to understand deeper the ways that sensation was not violence, and hitting was a way to be sparked into the present moment, to release whatever our musculature was holding onto, and to deepen trust between people and in a relationship.

I didn’t realize how little trust I had in others until I started playing deeper with BDSM. Because I would tell myself, it’s okay, she wants to do it, but then I would think, does she really? Maybe she wants to because I want to. Maybe she wants to because society tells her she should want to. Maybe she wants to for fucked-up reasons, like she thinks it’s okay for her to feel humiliated and less than me because of her own internal misogyny … but that was me not trusting that what she said was true. That she wanted me to hit her face. And that was me, further controlling both myself, her, and our relationship, in unhealthy ways, because I didn’t trust her.

When I started playing out my control issues in BDSM, in the bedroom, in sex play, the control issues I had in my relationships began to heal.

This was an issue of agency, in feminist terms – my not trusting my lover to communicate with me what she wanted, to explain to me how far I could go, and my not trusting that she would let me know if I was going too far or too hard, either with her physical communication or her words or both, was me not trusting in the agency of my lover. I have to trust that she will tell me, she will let me know, if I am going too far. And I have to listen, apologize, understand what I did, and trust that she will accept that it was an accident, a mistake, and that I’ll do whatever she needs to feel safe again.

In learning my way into being a top, I had many, many conversations about consent and intention and communication, I talked to my lovers when things broke down or didn’t seem to work and I learned more about my own tendencies when things went well. I figured out that sometimes, it was really hard for me to be with someone who bottomed so well, and who I trusted so deeply, that I did harder, scarier, bigger things with them that took me even deeper into my topping and dominance and sadism and power, and sometimes that meant I needed to be comforted afterward, to be told I liked that, and that wasn’t too much, and you didn’t hurt me, and that was what I wanted and thank you. Hearing those things is always a relief.

(I give good aftercare too, of course. But top aftercare is less common in the BDSM world – we don’t usually talk about the toll it takes for the dominant to dominate.)

I practiced, a lot, to be bold and trusting through my topping. I tried scary things and it turned out they weren’t so scary, they were in fact incredibly hot. I got to know myself, and I learned more about the things I wanted to play with, and I talked to smart people whose experiences were similar to what I was going through and who assured me it was possible to come out the other side of it a masculine, queer, butch, sadistic top feminist.

And whatdayaknow, here I am.