Update! Sideshow Reading Series has a NEW VENUE

I won’t explain why Sideshow Reading Series now has a new venue, and it doesn’t really matter. Cheryl B. and I are kicking off a reading series on April 13th in New York City, and YOU should be there!

My birthday’s coming up, too (yes I am an Aries), so I am asking friends and family to attend in order to celebrate my 31st year around the sun. Come join us!

Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival
Hosted by Cheryl B. & Sinclair Sexsmith

Premiere Event April 13 @ The Phoenix
447 East 13th Street at Avenue A,
East Village, New York City

Doors, 7pm. Reading, 8pm. FREE!
RSVP on Facebook!
Follow us on Twitter! @sideshowseries

This month’s theme is SECRETS, starring:
Kate Bornstein
Sam J. Miller
Seth Clark Silberman aka PhDJ
Kathleen Warnock

Read the bios of the participants here.

Is That 6″ On Your Arm, Or Are You Just … ?

It arrived! My “Prom Is So Gay” tee shirt from Just Like Jesse James. I feel a little weird wearing it, I feel the need to explain the use of “gay” pejoratively around people I don’t know especially. But I did wear it to The Bulldyke Chronicles (and pimp it when I read a quick poem), and it seemed like the audience understood that it is a reference to Candace McMillan.

And while I’m taking photographs, here’s a shot that caught my new tattoo in it too. It’s a 6″ ruler, positioned 2″ from my palm which means I can measure things to 8″ when I place my palm flat against something. I’ve been thinking about this one for a long time (it even made an appearance in a poem from last year, which was one of three I read at Bulldyke Chronicles).

It’s actually a lot straighter than how it appears in this photo. One could even say it’s the straightest thing about me (ha ha). It is, as I’ve been calling it, an artist’s rendition of a ruler, so it’s not 100% accurate or straight, but it is damn close. Close enough for anything I’d need to measure, certainly. I don’t need to count the picas.

There are a lot of layers of meaning to this, not the least of which is that I’m a graphic designer. Any other guesses as to what it just possibly might symbolize?

Giveaway Winners! Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch Femme Erotica

Comments and entries to win Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch Femme Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino are now closed! The winners are:

bifemmefatale, whose favorite erotica “of all time is Pat Califia’s “Macho Sluts”. It’s female-centric but includes men as well, it’s unabashedly kinky, the Tops are racially diverse, butch and femme, and there’s a wide variety of styles of kink. … The only problem I have with the book is that it raised my expectations too high—I have yet to meet a real-life Top quite as hot as those in its pages!”

And the second copy goes to Irene, who said “I want this book so bad I can’t even think of a coherent comment.”

Will be emailing you both individually, and sending it out to you within a week or so.

And I hope those of you who didn’t win will check out this book, and pick it up! More details about the book here, or order it on Amazon, or from your local feminist queer indy bookstore.

Here’s the screenshot from Random.org:

Review: Sugar High Glitter City (VOD)

I know, I know: I already reviewed Sugar High Glitter City! What am I doing mentioning it again?

Well, it’s worth mentioning twice. Because holy crap, Shar and Jackie. Swoon. I wish they would make some more porn.

sugarBut also, Hot Movies 4 Her (which powers the video-on-demand Sugarbutch queer porn affiliate site) JUST added Sugar High Glitter City to their repertoire. Lucky you! That means you can buy some minutes, check out each of the scenes, and only pay for the minutes you watch—so instead of making the DVD $30 investment (or whatever it is, jeez porn is expensive) you can watch the first few minutes (or the middle few minutes) of each scene and decide whether it’s worth it to see the whole scene. Or fast forward when you’re not into it.

Here’s the HM4H writeup about the porn:

Sugar High Glitter City
Studio: S.I.R. Productions Directors: Jackie Strano & Shar Rednour

It’s the future. Sugar is outlawed. Cane-addicted dykes stop at nothing to get it – even selling their own bodies! The dynamic dyke team of SIR Video slams the dykespoitation genre into fast-forward with this sticky-fingered belly-crawl through Glitter City’s underworld of sugar-pimps and sandy hos. Fabulously diverse cast and multiple dyke sexualities crunch to the center in this fast-paced futuristic farce. Urban-encrusted glam, gutter-glitter lust, and candy-coated sleaze.

And if you click on over to the VOD site you’ll see some of the photos from each of the scenes, too. That first scene—the threesome with two butches and a femme, where Jackie is talking dirty the whole time? Holy crap I love that one. I think I studied it about eight or so years ago when I had a VHS copy of it in order to learn how to talk that way. She’s one of the best dirty talkers in porn I’ve ever seen.

Actually, speaking of dirty talk, S.I.R. Productions also has a “Talk Dirty To Me” film, which I’ve still never seen, but that I hear HM4H will be adding to their collection in the near future. Will most certainly watch that as soon as I can, and report back to y’all how it is.

Mr. Sexsmith’s Other Girlfriend: Prom Is So Gay

My latest column from Sex Is discusses the lesbian prom scandal concerning Constance McMillan. If you haven’t been following, Jesse James has been keeping up with it from quite a few bad ass angles.

Clipped from: www.edenfantasys.com by clp.ly

Jesse even made “prom is so gay” tee shirts, which are now available at Cafepress. I’m still waiting for mine (pink letters on black) but will certainly model when I get it.

eLust #10: Weekly Sexblog Roundup

Welcome to e[lust] – The 10th edition! 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] #11? 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

Negotiation – Not Nearly As Awkward As Having a Breakdown in PublicAll the worries about getting to know a new person (“Am I dressed ok? Are they gonna like my stories about my grandma?”) get exaggerated when you’re talking about sex and desire…

Dollar Store DommeHe definitely can’t elude the dollops of toothpaste I dab onto his nipples. It takes a delicious second before he feels the cool burn penetrate his flesh. By that time I’m already up and selecting a plastic spatula from the credenza.

The Best of Both Worlds or Lost in Limbo?Whether intentional or unthinking, bisexual denial is a frustrating thing for bisexual, pansexual or ‘fluid’ people to have to deal with.

e[lust] Editress

Navigating Genderqueer in SuburbiaBut pray tell how do the rest of us navigate it? How the hell am I supposed to know if you identify as male or just like dressing like one?

Featured Post (Lilly’s Pick)

The Daddy Issue: Sexualizing AbuseI needed to walk through this fear, and turn it into pleasure. I needed to prove to myself that he hadn’t broken me. That he hadn’t changed who I was to become. That I was not affected by what he did. That he didn’t abuse me.

See also: Pleasurists #69 and #70 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!

Giveaway! Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch Femme Erotica

Thanks to Cleis Press and Tristan Taormino, I’ve got TWO copies of the lovely new erotica anthology called Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch Femme Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino (in which I have a short story). More details about the book when I mentioned it a few weeks ago here.

Shall I mail you a copy of it? Just comment on this post and let me know what your favorite written erotica anthology is, or your favorite erotica writer, or that one erotica story that you always get out when you want to get your blood going. Bonus points if you describe what it is you love about the story. Or comment that you’ve never read erotica, or that you kind of hate it … or something else entirely, the point is just that you comment. I’ll pick two comments at random and notify you by email.

If you’re outside of the US, that’s fine, but I might ask you to kick me a few bucks for shipping. You just have to include a valid email address to enter.

Winners will be picked Friday morning, March 26th.

Thanks Cleis! Thanks Tristan!

Introducing Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival

You may have heard me mention the queer reading series that Cheryl B. and I are starting in New York City. Well, it’s official—it’s starting April 13th at 7pm at Sapphire Lounge in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival
Hosted by Cheryl B. & Sinclair Sexsmith

Premiere Event April 13 @ The Phoenix
447 East 13th Street at Avenue A, NYC
Doors, 7pm. Reading, 8pm.
Free! $4 beer/well drinks special
RSVP on Facebook!
Follow us on Twitter! @sideshowseries

This month’s theme is SECRETS, starring:
Kate Bornstein
Sam J. Miller
Seth Clark Silberman aka PhDJ
Kathleen Warnock

Books That Changed My Life

Back when Sugarbutch was a little baby new blog (did you know it will turn 4 in April?!), I used to write a Sunday Scribblings prompt often. This week’s prompt was “the book that changed everything” and I already happened to have a halfway done list in my drafts, so I figured I’d go back to it and finish it up.

It was going to be a “new year, new you” type of post, which gives away that I started it in January, and which kind of explains the self-help-y list. But of course I couldn’t make a list and show it off here without adding some of my favorite sex books, too!

But first, the stuff to enhance your renaissance-man (regardless of gender!) fabulous self. In alphabetical order:

  1. The Art of Civilized Conversation: A Guide to Expressing Yourself With Style and Grace by Margaret Shepherd. Excellent for dating, deepening relationships with people you already know and like, and generally elevating the discussion around you. I especially remember the part about how conversations between two people should start with facts, move to opinions, and then and only then should you discuss emotions.
  2. How to Cook Everything (Vegetarian) by Mark Bittman. Whether or not you know how to cook, this is a fantastic resource. I got a copy of the vegetarian version over the holidays. Though Bittman isn’t famous for his desserts (pastries aren’t really his strong point, or, let’s be honest, so says Kristen) he has a little bit of everything in here and chances are, it’ll be a great starting point, if not an excellent recipe. Lots of great tips for technique, too.
  3. The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy and Vice by Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro. I have dreams of writing a butch equivalent, but shh that’s a secret. This contains excellent thoughts about conducting oneself socially, manners, conversation, style, how to tie ties, how to order drinks, how to be suave on a date, all sorts of things that a gentleman would want to know. Not impressed with the sex part (cheesy!) but hey you can’t win ’em all. Along with Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Style, this is one of the books about masculinity that I recommend most.
  4. The Power of Less: The 6 Essential Productivity Principles That Will Change Your Life by Leo Babauta. You probably already read Zen Habits, so you know Babauta’s style and simplicity. This book is a lovely collection of philosophies on productivity, minimalism, moving on, getting shit done, and focusing on what you really want to do. Along with The Four-Hour Work Week, this really changed my attitude about my time (a non-renewable resource!) and how I make decisions.
  5. There Is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate by Cheri Huber. Huber is a buddhist monk, founded two zen monasteries in California, has written about twenty books, and travels widely. I found her writing when I was in high school and have been reading and re-reading ever since. It’s kind of self-help-y, yes, but there’s a lot of spirituality, philosophy, and psychology in it too, which the best self-help books contain. She has many other titles that I’d also recommend, The Depression Book: Depression as an Opportunity for Spiritual Growth literally changed my life when I first read it, and Be the Person You Want To Find: Relationships and Self-Discovery is a great book for those of us seeking long-term valuable love relationships. Speaking of love relationships, I can’t not mention If the Buddha Dated and If the Buddha Married by Charlotte Kasl. Both were very life-changing and eye-opening to my own patterns and tendencies, and very useful. Kasl is a buddhist quaker feminist psychotherapist, and her perspective is so full of lovingkindness and sweetness and understanding that you can’t not be drawn in, only to learn about yourself and your tendencies. Though it’s pretty hetero-focused in its example couples, I tend to change the pronouns (or pretend it’s a butch going by him/her and a femme). Kristen and I have been reading through it aloud and discussing it, which can be intense but has been great.

And because I can’t make a book list without having sex books on it:

  1. Moregasm: Babeland’s Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex by Rachel Venning and Claire Cavanah, founders of Babeland. I’ve already mentioned this book on Sugarbutch recently, but it’s worth mentioning again. Modern, fun, wide-ranging, inclusive, sexy, kinky, open, welcoming. And the design is just so damn cute. If I had coffee table books, this would be one of them.
  2. The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. I recommend these books constantly to folks who want to get more involved in power play or topping and bottoming roles in their sex lives. So many of my philosophies come from these books, and they are incredibly full of useful tips and ideas about aftercare, safewords, top drop, negotiations.
  3. Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century by Barbara Carrellas. Tantra books are usually way too cheesy for me to even get through, and I have some experience with tantra. But this one is different. Carrellas (@urbantantrika) is as grounded as she is woo-woo, as queer and kinky as she is accessible and open. If you’ve always been curious about tantra, this is a great place to start.
  4. Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino. There are very few smart books written about polyamory and open relationships (The Ethical Slut, now in a new edition, by the authors of the Topping/Bottoming Books, being the classic cannon), and this is the most recent. I’ve admired Taormino’s work for a long time, since her sex column at the Village Voice (collected into a book called True Lust), and she’s done some pretty amazing things in mainstream porn since then. I love that she’s bringing and underground queer feminist perspective to the things she’s doing, it makes her work even more complex and fantastic. Her most recent book (aside from Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica!) is The Big Book of Sex Toys, which I don’t have my hands on yet but will be reporting all about when I do.
  5. Exhibitionism For the Shy: Show Off, Dress Up and Talk Hot! by Carol Queen. The Amazon description says “[e]xhibitionism as a consensual erotic pleasure and a means to overcome shyness and body image issues” and I LOVE that idea! I’m not actually sure where my copy of this has escaped to, perhaps I lost it in a break-up, but there’s a relatively new edition from 2009 that I should get my hands on regardless. Want to feel more sexy, show off, but feel self-conscious? Pick up this book. In case you don’t already know Carol Queen, she’s the owner of the Good Vibrations toy shops and director of The Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco. She also wrote one of my favorite erotica books, The Leather Daddy and the Femme.

Whew! Okay, that should keep you busy for the next few months, hm? I hope at least one of these is interesting and might enhance your life in some way. Books can be so magical like that.

I’ve included the links to Amazon, and while if you click through those links I do get a teeny tiny kickback from your purchases, I still encourage you to visit your local independent bookstore and support them by ordering these books through them. If you want them to be around next year, that means spending your money in their shop. I know they aren’t as cheap as Amazon, and probably not quite as convenient, but you’ll miss them when they’re gone. Or at least, I will. A lot.

So? What books changed YOUR life?

Oh, Hi

I tossed up a couple things yesterday without really giving a proper hello on my return from SXSW and Austin, Texas. Hello!

My (metaphorical) account of the weekend and what I think of Austin and such is up today on my Sex Is column, Mr. Sexsmith’s Other Girlfriend, titled Mr. Sexsmith Goes To SXSW and Takes a Lover.

The Engaging the Queer Community panel at SXSW and the Oil Can Harry’s meet-up were a big success. I hear the panel was videotaped, hopefully the video will be available online sometime soon, I’ll certainly let you know where you can find it.

But meanwhile, there’s some other media and interviews with me floating around the web and new this week:

  • The Feministing Five: Sinclair Sexsmith: “Sinclair Sexmith is a sex blogger who writes the Sugarbutch Chronicles: The Sex, Gender and Relationship Adventures of a Kinky Queer Butch Top. She’s been blogging about sex and gender for several years now, and at Sugarbutch she blogs about everything from getting past old heartbreaks to sex with her current girlfriend to her own evolving masculine identity. When I asked her about how she manages writing for a public audience about such private things, she said, “the sex is actually easier to write about than the emotional complications.” When I asked if she adheres to any ground rules for she discloses about her sex life, she said “there are no hard and fast rules,” at which point I giggled, revealing myself to be twenty-two going on twelve.”
  • Feast of Fun Podcast: Butching it Up with Sinclair Sexsmith: “For gay, lesbian, bi and trans folks telling our stories is vital to our personal growth. The internet creates a safe space for people to discover the sexier side of themselves by reflecting on their experiences with others. Today we continue our series of interviews with well known bloggers who know how make it happen. We have kinky writer, queer butch top, Sinclair Sexsmith of the Sugarbutch Chronicles. Listen as we chat with Sinclair about her journey writing erotica, coming out in your blog and New York City’s Lesbian Sex Mafia!”
  • Queerty: How Can We Shift the Focus of Queer Media From Homophobes and Lady Gaga To Actual LGBTs? – Video interviews with all the SXSW queer panelists. “Looking around the SXSW Interactive’s first-ever LGBT panel, “Engaging the Queer Community”, I saw a shrunken pink-haired woman wearing steel-toed platform boots and green stockings walking past a large-nosed horn rimmed kid with horse teeth and acne scars, and I realized that even though we’re all adults now, we very much remain the theater fags and lunch geeks we were in high school—conflicted and sightly scared people looking for a voice. But why then are our personal stories so often trumped by the like of homophobic senators and, bless her, Lady Gaga?”

I kind of miss Austin already. I swear I felt my anxiety and stress level raise to ORANGE ALERT as soon as a woke up the morning after my return to New York City. Hard not to be reminded that there are easier places to live.

Spanking 101

Someone emailed me recently with a question about starting to play with spanking, and after looking around online for a bit, I didn’t find much, so I jotted down my basic thoughts on the subject.

Here’s the question:

I was wondering if you know of any good resources for spanking. I have a friend who wants to get spanked and I said that if he wanted to, I would do it. Any tips? Handouts? Diagrams?

Babeland has a decent How To Spank article, so that’s worth a read. And there’s Rachel Kramer Bussel’s collection of erotica stories called Spanked and the corresponding Spanked blog.

This is what else comes to my mind:

  • Where to spank: Spank the fleshy parts of the ass & thighs, make sure to avoid the parts that are bonier like the little triangle coccyx bone right above the butt crack, the spine, or the kidneys. Basically, steer clear of the low back. Some people like to have sensation on the upper back and shoulder blades (though that perhaps is for later)
  • Start light: Start light with pats rather that swats or hits, jiggle the flesh even, warm it up, gradually increase pressure. Generally when I start I go light and fast, then work up to the big hits later, with full big arm strength, taking pauses and breaks between to press my body close, run my palms along the flesh to sooth it, and whisper sweet things
  • Hand vs Ass: So much of the pain is psychological, not about actual damage. It can hurt, but there are hundreds of teeny bones in the hand, and compared the big pelvis and femurs down there by the ass & thighs, the hand will get harmed way before it could do any real damage to those bones. Which is not to say you can’t bruise—you can—but that’s not the kind of damage I mean. Be sure to be reassuring vocally (or with pleasurable touches) as you’re getting heavier, and warm up slowly
  • Spanking to Sex: I tend to start spanking closer & closer to the genitals toward the end, working in some fingering in between spanks. That can be a nice way to segue from the spanking back to the sex play, and also when someone is turned on they can take a whole lot more sensation, so I tend to be able to hit harder then
  • Positions: Try a couple different positions: leaning over a bed with feet on the floor, on all fours, across your lap on the couch, hands high leaning against a wall. People have different preferences when both giving & receiving, so try out a few different things
  • Toys: My hand usually gives out before her ass does. Consider a little paddle maybe like this one, you can go for longer. ones that are flat and wide tend to be “thuddy” and ones that are thin tend to be “stingy”—usually people prefer thuddy ones, especially if they aren’t so experienced. Same rules apply for paddles

Readers, help me out here. Anything else? Any tips and tricks for taking or giving a spanking? Do you know of any online beginning spanking resources that I’m missing? How did you get into spanking? What’s your favorite way to get spanked? What are your favorite toys to get spanked with? Leave it in the comments!

Lambda Literary Nominees Featuring “This One’s Going to Last Forever”

The Lambda Literary Award nominees were announced today, and as usual I’m making a checklist of ones I’ve read, ones I’d like to read, and the ones I think will win be finalists. And, as usual, the only transgender content is in the specific “Transgender” category, though the “Bisexual” category has split into fiction and non-fiction because, it seems, there are finally enough nominees to warrant it. Are there really that few books on trans and bisexual issues? Puzzling. Overall this year, there are 112 finalists in 23 categories. I’m sure there’s got to be a book or two or five in there that you’d love to read. Check it out.

Special congratulations to Nairne Holtz, whose book This One’s Going to Last Forever (Insomniac Press) was nominated in the Lesbian Fiction category. Holtz has a short story called “Bait and Switch” in Best Lesbian Erotica 2009, an anthology in which I also have a story, and when we were both in New York City at the end of 2009 for the annual Best Lesbian Erotica reading at the Drunken! Careening! Writers! reading series at KGB bar, hosted by Kathleen Warnock (who is coming to read at the very first Sideshow!), and I have had a chance to read This One’s Going to Last Forever. It is a collection of short stories and a novella. Here’s the description:

This One’s Going to Last Forever reflects both the naive optimism of those who have yet to learn about love and the cynicism of those who feel that by now they should know better.

Clara, a university student working at the McGill Daily, discovers that in love and politics, commitment is often more imagined than real. Kelly and Sonya share a bond that has less to do with love than with their dependence on each other and a succession of friends who supply them with heroin. A middle-aged man who performs drive-through weddings dressed as Elvis realizes, as he marries his first same-sex couple, that the only domestic partner he is ever likely to have is his ailing father. But when he ends his latest relationship, an unlikely friendship results.

The characters in these darkly comic stories and novella may be searching for love in all the wrong places, but they are also able to find love in the most unexpected places.

The Lambda Literary Foundation recently relaunched their website and it’s quite spiffy, by the way.

Countdown to SXSW: Tomorrow!

I’ve been so damn busy this week, I haven’t even had time to post about this weekend’s exciting festivities!

Kristen and I are heading down to SXSW for a few days of the Interactive schedule. I’m on a panel on Saturday, Engaging the Queer Community, along with Trish Bendix of AfterEllen.com, Bil Browning of Bilerico, and Fausto Fernos of Feast of Fun.

Engaging The Queer Community
Saturday, March 13
at 03:30 PM
A discussion on maintaining successful and active blogs and social networking sites that are geared toward the LGBT community and its niches.

Presenters:
Trish Bendix – MTV/AfterEllen.com
Bil Browning – Bilerico Project
Fausto Fernos – Feast of Fun (moderator)
Sinclair Sexsmith – Sugarbutch Chronicles

There’s also a SXSW Homo site which apparently is keeping track of the queer events during the festival.

Kristen & I are crashing with an online friend (whose Twitter handle I can’t currently find) and we’ve been gathering Austin restaurants and mini-adventures to explore while we’re there.

And don’t forget!

SXSW Queer Blogger Tweetup
Sunday, March 14 at 9pm
OilCan Harry’s
211 West 4th Street (walking distance from the conference)
Austin, Texas

  • Live tweetup using hashtag #sxswgay
  • Free wifi available
  • Your favorite viral videos from 2009 playing on the bar’s TVs
  • T-shirt and merchandise giveaways
  • Free* drinks to all SXSW attendees and people who follow Oil Can Harry’s on twitter @oilcanharrys or show their SXSW pass.

* The rumor is that because of Texas liquor laws, you can’t ask for “free” drinks, you’ve got to ask for “the hookup” and provide proof that you are following @oilcanharrys on Twitter, if you don’t have a SXSW badge, by either showing your smartphone or by a printout.

So! Who’s coming? Who will I see tomorrow or Sunday? Seems like it’s going to be a bit of a boy’s club, please assure me that the femmes and genderqueers and butches and trans folks and radicals will be joining me too!

Radical Masculinity: Reinventing Our Icons

“Have you seen the Dockers ads?” someone asked me recently at a conference, after I told them I write about masculinity. “A friend told me he liked those ads, because he is so unsure of what it means to ‘be a man’ right now. Everything has changed. There are no icons pointing men where to go, what to be like.”

I hear this frequently, and I have asked myself this often, too, in my own personal identity development process of coming to a female masculinity as butch. Where are the feminist men? Where are the radical depictions of masculinity? Where are the examples of health and strength and skill and honor that I can admire and emulate? Who can I look to? Who will be a mirror showing me my reflection so that I can push myself in the direction that best fits me? I speak to this when I talk about depictions of healthy relationships in the media, too—where are they? What does that look like? Where are the heterosexual couples with men treating women with respect, value, care? Where is the equality? Where are the conscientious, thoughtful dads?

Things are changing. That is my entire premise of this series of articles on Radical Masculinity: that we are at a precarious time, in transition, finally studying what it means to “be a man” in this culture, much like feminists and gender scholars have been studying femininity and women in the past forty years. Underneath the question of what it means to “be a man,” as queers and butches and trans and genderqueer folks are also asking, is what it means to be masculine. The concepts of masculinity have changed, and is still changing, and while there is no singular meaning (like perhaps the fictional version of the nuclear family and breadwinner in the 1950s), I’m finding that there is no shortage of masculine icons.

Read the whole thing over at my column on Radical Masculinity at Carnal Nation: Reinventing Our Icons.

Review: The Njoy Fun Wand

Let’s have a review, shall we?

I’m way behind on product reviews, I have a list and it kinda just keeps getting longer. I’m moving away from doing reviews, actually, trying to be much more discerning about which sites and which products I take on, especially since I don’t use all that I already have. And of course I’m still taking some products for Babeland, which continues to be one of my favorite toy shops. I’ve probably told my Babeland story a dozen times, but I credit their sex-positivity, queer-friendly staff and products, and endlessly useful workshops with a lot of my own queer sexual awakening. I made a special trip to the Capitol Hill store in Seattle when I moved there in 1999 and, like many first-time visitors, purchased the Dirty Dice before I left. It took me another year or so to actually purchase my first strap-on and attend a spanking workshop, and I’ve been learning from them ever since.

They are such an excellent introduction to the worlds of sex-positivity and sex toys, that is precisely their strength and still something they do better than just about any other queer and feminist toy store, in my opinion. That reminds me—the founders of Babeland, Claire Cavanaugh and Rachel Venning (who are included on the Top Hot Butches list, though I’m told that Clare does not identify as butch, though Rachel does), have a new book out! Moregasm: Babeland’s Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex is out and fantastic. I especially like the design of the book, it’s so much fun to flip through. The graphic design and layout is fantastic, and it’s kind of like the sex ed class that should have been available when you went to college in a book form. The site calls it “a warm, expert, and witty guide to a truly satisfying and exciting sex life. Especially helpful for those at the beginning of their sexual self-discovery, Moregasm combines gorgeous, glossy visuals with real-world advice and the frank, reliable information you’ve come to expect from Babeland.”

On to the toy!

Behold: the Njoy Fun Wand.

I kind of feel like the Njoy toys review themselves. I mean do I even have to say anything about the actual function? I kind of want a fancy stand for it (does anybody make those? Someone should!) so I can display it on my coffee table or on a lighted shelf. It really is as beautiful as it seems.

Babeland says it used to be called the Saturn Wand, which to me seems boyish, maybe because Saturn was a god? It doesn’t seem like the Fun Wand is marketed as an anal toy, but that seems like the best use of it, personally. It’s kind of small.

Look at this photo from Babeland’s site of a hand holding the Fun Wand, you’ll see how small it is. Barely larger than a finger, really. The big difference between the Fun Wand and a finger, of course, aside from the hard stainless steel, is the strong curve and the texture, kind of like anal beads, which are um, awesome.

In the months that I’ve had this toy, after trying it out (both on myself and on Kristen, since it is easily sterilizable for sharing), I haven’t used it much. I’m more inclined to use strap-on cocks, harnesses, and bondage toys when playing with Kristen, and though we have started using some anal plugs of sorts fairly regularly, I am more inclined to use my fingers as a supplement to my strap-on than to get out another toy like this one.

I do tend to bust out the Njoy toys during my own solo masturbation play, though; both this one and the Pure Wand. Partly it might be that it does not have a flared base (and therefore makes it a little bit dangerous to play with anally—things actually can get lost up there you know, unlike the vagina which has nowhere to go. Do NOT insert it all the way and be sure to keep a strong grip on the end), and because I only insert it about halfway, it’s not the most comfortable to use when on your back.

Since this review has been half in photographs, I’m going to give you one more:

To be honest, I’ve lost the photographer of this shot. I think I found it on Tumblr, and my best guess (thanks Dacia) is that it’s a shot by Aeric Meredith-Goujon. All I can remember is that I’m pretty sure it was shot by a guy, and that when I found him on Twitter his icon was one of those make-yourself-a-Mad-Men-character cartoon. Going through Aeric’s daily photo blog, I did come across this shot: Ponderosa also, and the style is similar enough that it’s quite likely that is his photo. If you know for sure, or if you have this sourced somewhere else, please tell me! I want to give proper credit! Photograph is by Melvin Moten, aka mErocrush, reprinted with permission. Model: StephyC, taken August 2009 in Tampa during FetishCon ‘09.

Also, it’s a really fucking hot photo. Add to the list of more amazing ideas of what to do with a Fun Wand.

Njoy Fun Wand photos from njoytoys.com. The Njoy Fun Wand was sent to me from Babeland to review. Buy the Fun Wand and other fabulous sex toys at your local feminist sex-positive queer-friendly shop, or, of course, at Babeland.

How Do I Let Go of a Past Hurt?

After some strong realizations about what really is the strength and foundation of my relationship with Kristen, I’ve been thinking a lot about healing past wounds, especially in terms of former lovers and broken hearts.

I often notice some sort of snag or conflict come up between Kristen and I, and using those things I mentioned are the super strong foundations of our relationship, we can usually talk through it, understand where we’re both coming from, and explain how we got there.

My part of that often looks like this: “You did x, and x is very familiar to me because in my past relationship x had this kind of role and did this kind of damage to me, so it’s really hard for me when you do x, because I feel triggered and panicked.”

Another important part of this is: it’s pretty likely that she wasn’t intentionally doing x, or at least she certainly didn’t mean to hurt me; I do keep that in mind. Probably it was a by-product of her attempting to do something else. And usually she can express that explanation and I can hear her and I don’t get mad at her for doing it, generally I understand what she was trying to do.

But somehow I am still stuck in this past relationship, this past me, where that feeling was true and x meant something specific and my reaction is to PANIC. And I am starting to ask myself: is that happening in this relationship, right now? No, usually it isn’t. That is something else, that is in my past, that is an old wound that this new thing is pulling on, but it’s not the same wound. I am not becoming re-wounded there. I am not at danger of falling back into that wound.

So. Clearly, I need to “let go” of that old reaction. But how does one do that? How do you let something go when it feels like it’s so fucking hard-wired into the way my brain works? How do I not be scared and feel triggered and panicked when these things come back up?

This is what I’ve been contemplating lately, as things between Kristen and I are improving after another brief panic. One of the things about relationships that I deeply believe, indeed one of the POINTS of being in an intimate, loving, romantic, sexual relationship, is that they teach you things about yourself that you perhaps wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn, and if they are strong and founded and good, they also can be the space in which you have enough support to actually practice the growing, someone who is patient with you and who recognizes how hard you’re working to rewire yourself, who can gently remind you when you’re falling back into old patterns, and who can support you and encourage you as you try on new ones. Plus, they provide endless opportunities to use those new patterns, since conflict and difficulty and triggers from old broken hearts come up in relationship all the time. Isn’t that lucky!

I think what I’m talking about, in this question of “how do I let go,” is becoming more aware, becoming more mindful of what triggers what and what means what, especially in my relationship. I’m tired of all these old ghosts coming up. I have done a shit-ton of work to put these ghosts to rest, but the pathways in my brain are still carved out in many ways.

So I guess it kind of looks like this:

  1. I have a reaction to something that’s happening in my relationship (usually a negative, bad, “unreasonable” emotional reaction)
  2. I realize where my reaction is coming from (usually a past lover, wound, broken heart)
  3. Let go of the old reaction, be in the present (instead of gripping onto and explaining myself through the past). How to do that?
    1. Well first, I need to be able to release my grip on #2, to be able to ask myself, How did I come to this reaction? Where did it come from, and how did it serve me? What remains unacknowledged about this old wound that means I still think I need this protection? Can I heal that wound and know I no longer need that protection? What is asking me for acceptance?
    2. Then, I need to be in the present. I’ve noticed myself grasping at these old stories, justifying my high emotions, so much that I am not sitting with what is. So I must learn to ask myself: What is happening now? Is this old pattern that I fear actually present?
  4. After letting go of that old reaction, I can have a reaction to what’s happening now, with Kristen, with me, and aim, as always, to respond and react with lovingkindness and care and awareness and openness and love.

That seems fairly straightforward, actually. I think that is possible.

I spoke with a lovely friend and mentor recently about this exact problem, and she suggested a fairly simple rephrasing of relationship needs. I think that too will help in conquering this “how to let go” question. For example, if I notice this process happening, and get to step #2, realizing that I’m being triggered because it’s relating to a past hurt of mine, if I go on to say, “Okay, I need you to not be x like my ex,” that brings a lot of baggage into the conversation, a lot of layers and complicated past ghosts and old wounds and old ways of working and whoa suddenly it’s a whole lot more than just me and my beautiful girlfriend trying to talk through a little snag in communication or interaction.

Let me be a little more specific for this example, I think it’ll make more sense that way.

So one of the things that triggers me heavily is when someone in a relationship with me is withholding. It reminds me of my former lesbian bed death relationship, among others, and I get panicked that I’ll never again know what’s happening in her head and will spend years trying and it will eat me up. Ahem.

But this plays on other ways I work too, especially in that I am a very insightful, observant person who often knows what’s going on with another person’s emotional landscape even better than they do (especially if they aren’t too self-aware), and I have the tendency to constantly check in with them (silently, emotionally) to see where they’re at. If they aren’t telling me where they’re at, and in fact are deliberately putting up a wall and withholding that information, saying “I’m fine,” or “I don’t want to talk about it,” when I ask, I tend to assume something is brewing and will bubble up and explode later, which makes me way anxious.

I know, this is a totally unique situation that nobody else has ever been in, right? Nobody else has this problem, ever.

So, instead of having the reaction of “I need you to not be withholding like my ex!” I can rephrase it to something like, “it’s really important for me to know what’s going on with your mental/emotional landscape.” Not that we have to spend hours processing that, but I can briefly explain why I need that, and if she can just say, “oh, I’m feeling anxious about work, but I don’t want to talk about it,” that’s enough. Some broad-stroke explanation of what “that feeling” is that I am reading on her face but she’s not expressing.

Knowing what is going on with someone else’s emotional landscape one of my basic relationship needs, in fact! And in some ways it has nothing to do with my ex, it has to do with ME. It just reminds me of a time when this basic relationship need wasn’t met (and was probably taken advantage of), and what’s important is that the need be acknowledged and get met, not that there was a time in my past when it wasn’t met. (I mean, that’s important too, but I have done enough healing to hopefully not stick a rock in that wound to keep it open.)

Whew. That feels like a lot, but it feels like a relief, and like I’ve hit on something important.

One of the things about the ways that I work, and the ways I grow and change and get over capitol-i Issues that plague me, is that generally, as soon as I can articulate what’s going on for me and write—that’s the key here, WRITE—out a possible solution, or at least a path to try, I often find that I can rewire myself through that process. By time I articulate it, by time I name it and label it and say OH that’s what’s going on, and OH here’s what I can do to do that differently, those skills and awareness have kind of already integrated. This isn’t a 100%-true-always theory, but I have noticed that this tends to be true, and that too feels like a relief.

Okay so: how about y’all? How have you addressed this problem of past hurts in your current relationships? Any tips for me? Any tricks to keeping your own mindfulness and awareness up while dealing with things that are triggering and hard? Anything I might be missing here? Does this make sense? Can you relate to it? Or does it seem like I’m way off base?

PS: A teeny colophon note: I’ve been making some changes to this site’s sidebar and structure in general. A little bitta spring cleaning, if you will. And as such, the category formerly known as SSU has been renamed Critical Theory. It might change again, there are an awful lot of C categories over there in the list, but that works for now. Do not be alarmed, it’s still there.

Also, if you aren’t following my Tumblr log, mrsexsmith.tumblr.com, you might be missing out on some of the things I used to frequently put on Sugarbutch, like for example calls for submission for queer and kinky and feminist anthologies, eye candy photos of hot butches and femmes, media like youtube videos, announcements for other events, and more. It’s easy to subscribe by RSS or pop over there and check out what’s going on.

Desperation & Dominance

“Want to know what I was thinking about when I got off yesterday?” she asks. We’re lying in bed, tangled limbs and sheets, a little sweaty, breathing heavily still, hearts calming. She’s nude now. I’m still in boxers and an undershirt. I’ve taken advantage of the ongoing permission I have to fuck her, take her, if I wake in the middle of the night or before her in the morning, as I often do, like this morning, hands on her, fingers in her, forearm holding her down by her collarbone until she thrashed and came and muffled a scream into my shoulder.

“Yes,” I answer, arm under her neck, the other hand on her hip and curved under her thigh and ass as she drapes herself over me partly.

“I was thinking about … you using me,” she starts in a small voice, quiet, by my ear. I can feel her breath. “Filling me up. Fucking me and fucking me without caring how it was for me. I was thinking about tears streaming down my cheeks, and you not stopping, just … taking me, until you get what you want, and you come.”

I bow my head a little to find her mouth by feel in the dark bedroom. “I like to use you like that,” I say. She nods. “Let’s play later.” She nods again, pulls closer to me.

This story contains Daddy/girl roles in sex play, some domination and submission, and lots of tender loving care. Continue reading with that knowledge, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And the Lezzy Goes To …

The 2009 Lezzy Awards are over, and you all voted Sugarbutch as the Best Sex/Short Story/Erotica site for the second year in a row!

Thank you so much to all who voted and all who mentioned me in the promotions … I’m honored and humbled and promise to keep up the sex and erotica writing. I was a finalist along with my fabulous femme friend Essin’ Em and the lovely lady behind Scintillectual, who I don’t actually know, but I’m certainly going to be reading now. Both blogs are excellent. Jeez, I am so glad to see the abundance of butch and femme and genderqueer and queer sex blogs out there! Nearly four years ago, when I started Sugarbutch, there were very few queer sex blogs.

The competition was fierce this year, and the final winners are all heavy hitters. If you don’t read ’em regularly, you’re missing out.

Best Entertainment: Dorothy Surrenders
Best Humor: Grace the Spot
Best Parenting: Up Popped a Fox
Best Engagement/Wedding: My Big Fat Gay Wedding
Best Feminist/Political: Feministing
Best Personal: Peaches & Coconuts
Best Out Later in Life: Making Space
Best Sex/Short Story/Erotica: Sugarbutch Chronicles
Best New Lesbian Blog: Autostraddle
Best Podcast: The Lesbian Lounge
Lifetime Achievement: AfterEllen.com

Sincere thanks to all who voted, thanks specifically to Kelly who runs The Lesbian Lifestyle. I continue to be amazed and touched by the support for and the recognition of this site and my efforts, thank you so much for being a part of these larger communities of queer, feminist, sex, and gender explorations.

Love Letter #4 (Growing Pains)

“Relationships take work,” they say. But as someone who now knows I spent way too long in failed or failing relationships, desperately clinging to any fragment of hope or chance of ‘making it work,’ as someone who stayed with abusers, bought their bullshit and was convinced by their smooth-talking blame-the-victim manipulations, as someone trying to wake up to my own power and control and confidence (and yes, maybe I’m spectrum-banging there a little bit, but I think sometimes that’s how I learn), as someone finally finally able to say, “I feel when you because,” and “you’re right, I’m sorry,” as someone who is still prone to overgiving and overwhelm and losing myself, my tendencies go the other way: to RUN. That this, this one, this time, this sign is The Sign, that any red flag is a Red Flag and is grounds to be a dealbreaker, that in six months I’ll look back to now and say there, that’s when it all went to hell, that was the point of no return, I should have listened to my gut, why’d I stay, why’d I trust her, again, how did I get here, I lost myself again, I swore that would never happen and here I am …

But that is not this relationship.

I am still skittish. I am still prone to explosions of emotion when I get scared. I am still unsure—not so much of her, or of this beautiful shiny strong relationship we are building, but of myself, my own ability to keep myself strong, solid, taken care of, whole.

It comes up again and again, especially lately, since she’s been in crisis and I want to help. I am a helper, and a service top, after all. My job is to take and care (but not caretake). My role is to comfort and protect. And when we both started realizing it was too much, and our parts in that, that I took on too much responsibility for her well-being and that she was leaning on me too much and not taking care of herself, I was left unsure of my standing.

What does she need me for, if she doesn’t need me for this?

Then came the silence, and look we stumbled upon another one of my many triggers: withdrawing. And we discovered containment doesn’t mean withdraw, and that I still need to learn how to listen without giving advice.

I need to remember who it is I am dating: her, this girl, only her, not any of my exes. How does one undo triggers, once they’re found? Or will they just always be there, like an old skiing injury, something to be constantly aware of and work around?

I need to remember this, rely on it: here are the things she and I are particularly good at:

  1. Telling each other, as openly, kindly, and honestly as possible, how we feel about where we’re coming from
  2. Taking responsibility for the parts that we own, and not blaming the other person
  3. Being totally willing to work on ourselves individually, and the relationship
  4. Being quick, thorough, vigilant learners, willing to do extensive research to get somewhere faster

I have never had any of these things, truthfully, in practice, in previous relationships, though I and my exes have often given lip service to many of them. Some of that was certainly my fault—it really is only recently that I was capable of executing them, the first one especially.

She keeps saying, “we love each other, we’ll get through this,” but that is not as comforting as those four traits, to me. This is about skill, this is about commitment, this is about patience. And yes sure, this is about love, too, and I am way too in love with this gorgeous, fierce, extraordinary person to stop the hard work it may take to get through these growing pains. They are as much mine as they are hers, and when we get through to the other side, we will know each other and ourselves better, we’ll be stronger and have more tools and skills to weather the changing emotional landscapes of love and relationships.

This continues to be a huge opportunity to grow and evolve and unstick the stuck places, and what better way to take that on than with a kind, loving person who knows me practically as well as I know myself? Together we are more than the sum of us separately, together we are stronger, bigger, more capable, more supported, buoyed by the magic strength that is sharing one’s life with another. Nothing cuts through the muscle, the bone, exposing the marrow, like love, does it? There is never so much to lose, so there is never so much to gain; with the highest stakes come the highest rewards.

I know relationships take work. I am willing to do the work, I just have to be certain that the work is worth doing. And perhaps for the first time, really, for the first authentic time, for the first awake and aware and really fully known time, I have someone who knows this takes work, who is certain the work is worth doing, and who is willing to do the work to be with me, too.