Archive for June, 2010
You probably know Dan Savage’s advice column, Savage Love—it’s printed in alt-weekly newspapers around the country. The podcast is an upgrade, in my opinion, where people call in their questions and Dan records his answers, sometimes calling back to discuss the quandary personally. I’ve been reading Savage Love since I moved to Seattle in 1999, but when I started listening to the podcast my interest and understanding of Dan’s philosophies jumped exponentially.
I’ll admit, I don’t really listen to podcasts. I subscribe to a couple dozen of them in iTunes but I can’t make time to listen to most of them. But I really love listening to Savage Love. I usually put it on the computer while I’m making brunch on Saturday or Sunday morning, pausing here and there to discuss the question with Kristen (or whoever happens to be over, but it’s usually Kristen) before Dan gives his answer. I make time for this one because it’s useful, stimulating, and interesting. I always learn things, even if I get annoyed at Dan’s harsh feedback or at his occasional asshole statements.
Speaking of that. Some of you who have already read some of Savage’s work, or listened to this podcast, or just read about him, know that sometimes he can be really abrasive. Sometimes to the point of being phobic, in fact: he’s been deeply criticized for being size-phobic, using the word “retarded” (which he still does), and occasionally bordering on sexist around women’s bodies. He does that gay male ick factor thing, so sometimes conversations about things like not-good-smelling vaginas freaks him out and he says stupid shit.
Here’s what I have to say about that: I totally agree. Sometimes there are whole podcasts where I’m just shaking my head, saying, “ugh. Daaaan. Really?” I don’t agree with everything he says. Hell, I don’t agree with everything anybody says. And I don’t expect you to agree with everything he says. I do expect you to be critical of him in moments when he is fat-phobic or sexist. But that doesn’t mean that the other 90+% of the time is not useful—it is. His philosophies of sovereignty, relationships, sex, BDSM, kink, negotiation, fetishes, long-term relationships, poly, open relationships, kids, religion, politics, and all sorts of other things are very useful.
So what I’m saying is, even if you disagree with lots of what he says (and I expect you will), there is much to learn from this podcast. I credit it up there very highly with The Topping Book, The Bottoming Book, Tristan Taormino, and Babeland for my background in kinky sex education.
And hey, Savage Love has a new iPhone app! Which I’ve downloaded and it’s pretty awesome. It’s all of his best columns, indexed by topic, plus the podcasts, and you can submit questions directly from the app. No, this is not a paid advertisement, this is just me going off in praise of something that I really support, and that has really changed the way I relate to sex and sexuality and relationships, and something I highly recommend for everyone.
Try it out, listen to a few of the past podcasts and see if you like what he’s got to say. Look beyond your annoyance (if you are one of the ones who gets really annoyed at his methods or his occasional asshole statements), and see the value, the kink-positivity that he encourages.
Read up at TheStranger.com/Savage and check out the podcast, or the app, if that’s appealing. Hope you like it.
UPDATE: A couple commenters have mentioned what Dan Savage said after Proposition 8 passed in California, where he basically blamed black voters for the passing, which was racist and basically unforgivable. I can’t believe he hasn’t apologized for that yet. I do not agree with what he said there and he definitely lost some of my respect. Most of what he addresses in his podcast are issues around sex, sexuality, kink, and relationships, and his advice, as I said, is often really good, and I’ve learned a lot from him. I don’t know at what point these kinds of ignorant, racist, occasionally sexist comments will or should become a dealbreaker, but as long as I am still learning about sex and sex advice, I’m interested in learning from him. I do not listen without criticism, and I do not agree with everything he says. I hope you’ll put on a critical ear too.
Thanks to Cleis Press and Lambda Literary Foundation, I ended up with two copies of Lesbian Cowboys: Erotic Adventures by Sacchi Green and Rakelle Valencia. My overabundance is your gain, however, so let’s have a giveaway.
Take a look at my review of Lesbian Cowboys if you’d like to see the kind of thing you might expect in this book of erotica … it’s good. Quite good really. Definitely a lot of role play, a lot of gender play, a lot of hot sexy smut based in other time periods. Really worth reading.
To win: leave a comment on this post with your favorite role play scenario, or one thing that’s hot about cowboys (the dyke kind, or another kind, whatever), or the last time you went out west, or something else entirely.
If you’re out of the United States, I may ask you to send me a few bucks for shipping if it’s way expensive to mail it to you. Otherwise, it’ll be on my dime.
I’ll close the comments on Friday to give everyone a chance to chime in. Just make sure you leave a valid email address where I can contact you!
How do you reconcile your feminism with your sadism and desire to (gulp) hurt women? (In a completely consensual manner, of course.)—Cold Comfort
The closest thing I’ve come so far to explaining this was in that essay from December 2009 called Reconciling the Identities of Feminist and Butch Top, but this question, about sadism, is slightly different, and I have the impression I haven’t quite answered it all the way.
“Butch top” is very much related to “sadist” for me, but that’s just because that’s my particular version of butch topping, into which my sadism is built. In fact, it’s only been recently that I’ve been unpacking sadism from topping, being with someone who is much more submissive than she is a masochist. Point being, much of that essay is exactly about reconciling those identities.
Yet still, I don’t feel like that is an adequate explanation on this topic. Besides, the culmination of that essay is basically, “How did I reconcile these identities? I don’t know, I just thought about it a lot and then it was better.” There must be something more articulate to say about that.
I hit on it a little more in the essay Yes, No, and Consent too, about agency, in feminist terms. It has to do with the very simple distinctions between BDSM and abuse, even if they are equated by many anti-porn feminists. And it has to do with the Platinum Rule—not the Golden Rule, the “do to others what you would like to be done to you,” but the “do to others as they would like to be treated,” and the acknowledgement that how you want to be treated and how another wants to be treated may not be the same thing, especially when you add in the complexities of relationship through sex, BDSM, sadism, and masochism.
But, if someone wants me to treat them a certain way and something about it feels funny to me, I trust that, and I take a break and pause and ask questions (hopefully without over-processing or projecting), until I feel like we have resolved whatever was coming up or until I decide there’s too much there to open up without adequate containment or backup.
To go back to the Platinum Rule: for a pop-culture simplistic example, consider the Love Languages! Which, cheesy as they are superficially, I think are a very useful system to think about the ways that myself and my partner may be seeking the same things (like love, comfort, security, passion) but may be in different ways (through words of aspiration, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts). I think we all have some relationship to all five of those ways (and possibly more), but many of us are more focused on some of those ways than others.
All of us are seeking similar things, like love and sex and companionship, but we may be seeking to play with those things in different ways. And figuring out what my own preferences are in playing with those things, and in being in a relationship, figuring out how I best communicate, who I’m attracted to and what qualities I most prefer in someone else, and how to reconcile differences or misunderstandings between us, has been a huge journey, and has been a huge piece of being able to articulate that I want to play with deeper, heavier BDSM, like pain or humiliation, and to trust someone enough to believe that when they say they want to play with that on the receiving end, they mean it, they know themselves well enough to know what they want, they are experienced enough to understand what they’re asking for, they are in touch with themselves enough to tell when they have reached a limit, and they are strong enough to be able to communicate with me around whatever is going wrong (or right).
I’ve worked a hell of a lot on my own issues, particularly on being able to say what I’m thinking, to stand up for myself, and to not get swept up in someone else’s psychology and psyche. I’ve been in therapy for about four years now, and that has helped me greatly with my communication. I’ve also done all sorts of “alternative” methods of healing, such as massage therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, tinctures, supplements, nutritional counseling, bodywork … I’ve done a lot of work on myself and my own issues, and I am continuing to work hard to improve the ways I communicate and relate.
So, this is how I would reconcile feminism & sadism:
- Acknowledge that people want different things. For example, your desire to hit someone is bad when the person you are hitting doesn’t want to be hit, but when the person you are with wants to be hit, in a playful, controlled, conscious way, that’s called consent and it’s (probably) great. Consider the distinctions between BDSM and abuse, and trust yourself when you know you are on one side or the other. Listen to your lovers when they give you feedback about how your behavior affects them.
- Play with people whose consent you trust, and don’t take responsibility for other people’s consent. And, if they consent, then later uncover that it was actually bad for them, they didn’t like it, or blame something on you, you can certainly apologize and take responsibility for whatever your part of it may have been, but it was not your fault that they consented to an act that you then did. Be willing to process a scene after playing, and listen carefully, but know that trying to retroactively revoke consent is a dangerous move.
- Seek out and understand the background and history and texts on BDSM. Find mentors (if you’re in a city big enough to have a BDSM scene) and take classes, or join online BDSM groups and learn. There is a rich history of writings and teachers who discuss what it’s like to go into these deep, dark realms of physical sensation and psychology, and many of them hold important explanations for how this play works. Studying these arts makes us more aware, which can make us more conscious, and more intentional, and better able to be present in our play.
I’ve always, for as long as I can remember, had a deep connection to feminism. And I believe in it the way I believe in psychology or democracy—that even though there are plenty of people out there fucking it up, there is a kernel, a spark, a rawness at its core that I believe is important, necessary, and is deeply aligned with me and my sense of purpose in this world. I don’t believe that because some people are taking these things and claiming them to mean some things that I disagree with that I need to then step out of the ring and let them take it over. I’m glad that there can be multiple perspectives coming from one singular idea, it strengthens the idea to have multiple angles, I think (even if sometimes I believe they are so very wrong).
I know there are plenty of people who say they are not a feminist, especially those who work in various aspects of sex, and that there are plenty of feminists who would probably say that I am “not a feminist” because of my BDSM play or my masculinity or whatever. But I have enough sovereignty around my feminist identity that I know that their version of feminism is simply different from mine, and that mine is no more wrong than theirs is.
So that’s my last prescription for reconciling feminism and sadism: Ask yourself what your definition of feminism is. If you start digging to discover that you think feminists never, ever hit someone, or humiliate someone, or call someone a bitch, or shove a cock down a girl’s throat, well then, you are going to have some trouble reconciling those two identities. This is where the #3 Research on BDSM will come in handy, because BDSM circles know the difference between play and real life. We know that rape is absolutely not the same thing as playing with consent, as someone yelling out “no no no” during a scene. We know that the things that we play with during scenes, like pain, like giving or receiving pain, are not fun to experience in real life. I would never want someone to spank me or beat me or slap me in the face for real! I would never want someone to do that to my girlfriend! But under the umbrella of play, it takes on other qualities. It might look the same, a slap across the face vs a slap across the face, but the motivation, intention, control, and outcome are completely different.
Growing involves seeing more than the black or white definitions that labels, identities, and systems of thought often prescribe. Lots of feminists have written about how oppressive the sexual culture surrounding the subordination of women is; and that’s important to learn. However, equating ALL acts of some kind of sex, happening between consenting adults, that you or “feminists” deem inappropriate with oppression or non-consent is denying a key part of sex play: agency. Hurting someone, especially sexually, is something (some) feminists shun, but when you add consent into that mix, you’ve entered into something that is not black or white. And perhaps not even gray, since consent puts any act in a whole new category.
Did that adequately answer your brief but loaded question? Are there other follow-up questions from what I’ve posted here?
The inimitable Syd London took some photographs of Cheryl B. and me to use for Sideshow promotion. We shot in the East Village, right around the Phoenix bar where Sideshow is held, on 13th & Avenue A. Some of the shots near the end are actually right in front of the Phoenix, that dark red brick wall with the wrought iron bars on the windows, kind of gothic-looking. And Kristen makes an appearance at the end, as she is the semi-official Sideshow Hostess.
These shots were taken the same night as the last Sideshow, the butch/femme themed Pride show on June 9th, which Syd also photographed for Time Out New York, and which are now up on the TONY blog. They’re gorgeous, check ‘em out!
Syd put a whole bunch of the best shots up on Flickr, shown here in a slideshow.
We haven’t finished choosing the images for our official promotional images yet. I’d love some help in picking out the best ones—Which are your favorites?
Hey! Guess what! It’s that time again, folks: the July SIDESHOW is just around the corner.
This time, we’ve got an amazing selection of poets, performers, and writers, and we’re going to be flying our freak flags high in honor of the flag day that is the American independence day. This is our kind of national pride, I suppose: freaky and queer and feisty and loud-mouthed, and proud of it.
Come out for a great night of performers and readings in New York City!
Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival
Hosted by Cheryl B. & Sinclair Sexsmith
July 13 @ the Phoenix
447 East 13th Street @ Avenue A, New York City
Doors, 7:30pm. Reading, 8pm.
This month’s theme is FREAK FLAG, starring:
Sassafras Lowrey (Kicked Out)
Vittoria repetto (Not Just a Personal Ad)
Thad Rutkowski (Tetched)
Charlie Vazquez (Contraband)
Sassafras Lowrey is an international award winning author, artist and storyteller. Ze is a genderqueer identified high femme with a complicated gender history. Sassafras is the editor of the ‘Kicked Out’ anthology which brought together the voices of current and former homeless LGBTQ youth, and hir stories have been published in numerous anthologies including: Visible: a Femmethology, Gendered Hearts, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generations. Ze teaches storytelling workshops at colleges, conferences, and community centers across the country. You can learn more about Sassafras online at www.PoMoFreakshow.com
Vittoria repetto has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies such as Mudfish, Voices in Italian Americana, Rattle, Lips, The Paterson Literary Review, Italian Americana, Unsettling American: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry, Identity Lessons: Learning American Style, The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food & Culture among others. In 1995, she published a chapbook entitled Head For the Van Wyck (Monkey Cat Press) and in 2006, Guernica Editions published her first full length poetry book, Not Just A Personal Ad; one of her reviewers noted “Poems of intense sensibility and gorgeous imagery are a rarity these days; but this book of verse by a distinctly working class, distinctly lesbian, and distinctly Italian American voice is a must for all readers of good poetry.” Vittoria repetto is the vice president of the Italian American Writers Association (IAWA) and the editor of the monthly newsletter. She has been hosting the Women’s & Trans’ Poetry Jam at Bluestockings Bookstore since its opening in 1999.
Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of two innovative novels and has read his work widely–recently in Hong Kong, Paris and Budapest. He is a one-time winner of the Nuyorican Friday slam, the Poetry vs. Comedy slam, and the Syracuse slam. He teaches fiction writing at the Writer’s Voice of the West Side YMCA and world literature at City University.
Charlie Vázquez is a radical writer of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent. His fiction and essays have been published in anthologies such as Queer and Catholic (Taylor & Francis, 2007) and Best Gay Love Stories: NYC (Alyson, 2006). His writing has also appeared in print and online publications such as The Advocate, Chelsea Clinton News, New York Press, and Ganymede Journal. Charlie hosts a queer monthly reading series called PANIC! at Nowhere in the East Village, which focuses on original fiction and poetry. He’s a former contributor to the Village Voice’s Naked City blog and a retired experimental musician and photographer. His second novel Contraband was published by Rebel Satori Press in April 2010, and his third, Corazón, is wrapping up for future publication.
I’m back in Brooklyn after a ten-day adventure in the Pacific Northwest. It might be the longest trip I’ve ever taken, aside from that semester abroad in London when I was an undergrad. Did you even know I was gone? I mentioned it a little bit on Twitter, but I didn’t make a big post about it before I left, partly because I was so busy preparing to get outta town. I grew up in Southeast Alaska, and took Kristen there for five days to see the little hippie town, and we also spent four days in Seattle, where I went to college, visiting friends and a few of my tantra teacher mentors, and we drove over to the Olympic Peninsula for a day to visit some fantastic friends and some of my relatives. The whole trip was pretty fantastic, though so full of events and people and exciting adventures and mini-events that I’m surprised we did so much.
Now that I’m back, I just want to curl up. I don’t really want to face all the stuff that is here on my desk waiting for me, the hoops I need to jump through, the things I need to tick off of my to do list. Though some of the things waiting for me on my desk do include new harnesses from Aslan Leather, a new glass toy from Don Wands, and a blindfold from Babeland—and those are really exciting, a little less of a bourdon and more of an adventure. I’ve also got a lot of books to read! I hope I can spend some nice down time on the couch with the air conditioner cranked up high (it’s in the 90s in New York, which is an instant reminder about why I want to move back to the west) with a cocktail.
And of course, the minute I get back online to work on Sugarbutch, one of the first things I did was break my theme by doing an automatic upgrade. Stupid, I know, that I didn’t back it up first. And now I’ve spent the last two hours fixing it, and it doesn’t look like it used to, I know. But it gave me a chance to implement a few things that I meant to do long ago, and it looks okay, I think.
Aside from this extra work I made for myself, I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do. I am itching to write, I’ve got some columns I’m working on, some anthology submissions, and have a long list of inspired posts, and I really want to write some erotica. I haven’t done much of that lately, have I? I’ve been spending most of my time trying to figure out how to get my life going, since I don’t sit at a desk employed by someone else all day anymore. And since I don’t spend as much time daydreaming, since I can just go grab my sweet girl if I want a sex break. I know, I’m way spoiled. It’s great. I highly recommend it.
Meanwhile, here’s a photo I snapped from my mom’s house, looking out over my little hometown. I do love that place, there are so many things that feel so right and calming, but it’s good to be back to my life.
“‘Cowboy’ is a calling, a vocation, not a gender,” starts the book Lesbian Cowboys: Erotic Adventures by Sacchi Green and Rakelle Valencia, published by Cleis Press. And the first review of it I saw online (which now of course I can’t find) said, “This book has nothing to do with gender.”
But of course, I have to disagree. It has everything to do with gender.
I know what they both mean, though—they mean men and women, they mean cowboy does not necessarily mean a cisgender man. But this collection of erotica is full of genderqueer cowboys, dykes, crossdressers, even possibly a trans guy, though the characters in these stories never identify themselves as such, partly because some of the stories are period and set in a time when this language didn’t exist. Possibly also because the authors, or even the characters themselves, do not have this kind of language.
None of the stories came across as particularly smart about gender theory or politics or identity, but all of them have specific life experience of what it’s like to be different, masculine and a “woman” in a man’s world and a man’s profession, or feminine and a woman in a man’s profession. There are femmes and butches, women who pass and those who don’t want to, women who feel the need to prove themselves capable despite their gender, trans male characters who go by he and him as his chosen pronoun, even a leather “phallus” strap-on in a scene in a brothel.
I am quite fond of “The Hired Hand” by Delilah Devlin, which is sexy and tense, about a woman who comes looking for work at a ranch and proves she is just as capable as any man would be. In many of the stories, I like the tough American accents, vaguely southern but also just western, I like the descriptions of the landscapes and rodeo circuits, the mountains and connection to the land.
It’s a lovely collection, and if you like gender play (and butches or masculine women) in general, there aren’t a lot of lesbian erotica collections exploring those dynamics, and this is definitely one of them.
And, as an exciting side note, this collection won the 2010 Lambda Literary Award in the Lesbian Erotica category!
“Excuse me, could you pass me my penis?”
This is something NOBODY wants to say, especially not in a men’s bathroom, especially not in a women’s bathroom, especially not in ANY bathroom to any stranger whatsoever. And if you, like me, have used those lovely cute little soft packers to have that extra weight and bulge in your undies, you may have experienced that little phenomena that happens when you pull your pants down and they roll and tumble right out of their nice little packed spot and … onto the floor.
Oops. Man that sucks. Not only do I not want to put it back in my pants before cleaning it (bathroom floors, ew) but now I might have to either ask someone in the next stall to pass it back to me, or go in there and fish it out myself.
(I don’t think I’ve actually ever lost my packer in a public restroom. But I will totally admit to having had that nightmare, and even the occasional jiggle when I am trying to piss makes me nervous as hell.)
Point is: I love packing straps! I’ve had the cock sock for many years now, it was an easy cheap investment for like fifteen bucks that makes me feel sooo much better about wearing a packer. The Mr. Right packing strap is out there, too, but only really works with Mr. Right, which is a little bit hard for me personally to pack with (see my review here), I like the squishier packers, they’re more comfortable.
I was kind of skeptical. It attaches with velcro to the front of your underwear, and that seems a little weird. I want my packer to feel like it’s attached to me, not to my underwear. And I wasn’t sure the velcro would be enough—is just a regular underwear elastic enough for velcro to grab onto?
Turns out, yes. It doesn’t go anywhere when you just give the velcro a little press. I tend to use not the smallest (mini) but the small soft packer, and it was pretty easy to get into the pouch and is comfortable to wear.
I think I prefer the other packing strap called the Cock Sock a little more than I like this one, just because I prefer that it’s attached to me and not to my underwear, but then again sometimes if I’m already dressed and decide that I want to pack it is kind of a pain to get it on (either I have to stretch out the elastic to pull it over my jeans, or I have to undress. Annoying), and with this Packing Pouch I can just slip it in whenever I think of adding it to my outfit. Both are easily hand washable, and while I can’t say how long the Pouch is going to last, I know the Sock has lasted for quite a long time and it seems that the Pouch is slightly higher quality material. Hm, it’s a toss up, I’m not sure which one I like better.
Definitely worth trying if you like to pack, and if you use the soft packers.
Even though I started Anal Week way back in April, I’ve finally gone through all the posts and toys and reviews and things that I intended for it, so here’s the wrap-up.
Thanks so much to everyone who let me interview them about queer porn and anal tips! I had a good time doing a slightly more in-depth exploration of this, and I hope it was helpful to you too.
Nearly six months ago, Babeland sent me the Silk anal dildo by Tantus to review while I was collecting things for anal play, trying many options to see what Kristen and I would like. I had visions and fantasies of fucking her ass, strapped on, like I would her pussy, but see, sometimes fantasies don’t quite work in real life.
So, I have used this Silk cock once. No, maybe twice—before the night I had it strapped on, I think I had it out a few times, as an option, and once may have used it with my hand.
Gotta work up to things sometimes, ya know?
So I’ve been avoiding writing this review, thinking I needed more data, that I needed to use it a few more times, that I might have a hot story to share about it, eventually.
And it was hot—the once I used it—don’t get me wrong, but sometimes with something so new, the newness of the act distracts from the use of the toy and what that was like.
On one hand, I don’t have a lot of other toys to compare this to. I do still have the first cock I ever bought, a slim, hard black silicone one that I’m not sure is around anymore, and that is just about the right size for ass fucking, but it is awfully hard. You know that hard silicone that is so hard you can’t bend it, it doesn’t give at all? Even the silicone that is not Vixskin these days is not as hard as this first cock is.
The Silk is hard, too, but not that hard. It’s very, very smooth and, um, silky. Especially slick with some lube on it, which of course should always be used with anal play. It is so hard, though, that I’m not sure it’s great for anal play—it seems kind of pointy and pokey, and doesn’t give at all. (I have my eyes on a Spur as a replacement.)
At this point, six months later, I had to just give in a little and write up something, since now my not using it for so long is part of the review. It is a fine cock—good material, good shape, decent size for anal play, but nothing special, and not something I rush to use excitedly.