Review: Love Bumper Iceberg

The Love Bumper Iceberg was not as exciting as I expected. I don’t have any sex furniture, but it’s making a big splash out there in the sex toy marketplace these days, and so I figured eventually I’d get around to trying one of the ramps or wedges or whatever else they’re called.

Good Vibrations sent me this one to review. It showed up and sat on my bed for a while, its microfiber faux-suade cover attracting cat hair and dust like a magnet. And it was really hard to clean, since the material is kind of textured, so it catches things. Eventually I cleaned it thoroughly and put a pillowcase on it, which helped, but it looked less sexy and more like an odd-shaped hard throw pillow.

Still, we didn’t much use it. I left it out to be inspired to do so, but just wasn’t. It seemed awkward to try to grab and move her into a different position in order to try it out. I couldn’t really work it into the flow of things.

We did try it, once, eventually. And I found, sadly, that the dimensions are kind of off. I was hoping it’d lift her just a little when she’s on her stomach, but the height is just a little short for the length of my thighs, I think. So someone shorter than me might find it’s the perfect size for them. I’m not that tall, though, and considering it’s mostly marketed toward guys, and most guys are taller than me, I think that’s a bit of a design flaw. It measures 13 3/4″ x 13″ x 7 1/2″, but unless you can really pull it down and try out a few positions with yourself and your sweetie to see if it will be the right size for you, I kind of doubt you’ll be able to tell from the dimensions if it will work or not.

Then again, maybe this is just the small model, and it’s made to make you want to go out there and try the bigger sizes!

But did it inspire me to do that? No, not really. I’m not impressed enough with the option of “sex furniture” that I’m interested in comparing or investigating other products. Worth a try, I suppose, because perhaps I would have always wondered, but to be honest, I wasn’t all that curious in the first place. I do pretty well with positions and support, and when I find myself wanting, I can usually just grab a regular pillow, and we’re good to go.

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The Love Bumper Iceberg was sent to me from Good Vibrations for review. Check out more sex toys, vibrators, and other lovely items at your local feminist queer sex-positive sex toy shop, or online at goodvibes.com.

Review: Dagger: On Butch Women

Countdown to the Butch Voices NYC Conference: Four Weeks

I’m still on vacation. But I wouldn’t deprive you of the Butch Voices countdown! Sugarbutch will resume regular posting on Wednesday, September 1st.

The Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just four short weeks. (And as someone who is part of the organizing committee, can I just say: GULP. So much to do!) And in honor, I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend. Just in case you want to start that butch library you’ve always been saying you might.

Dagger: On Butch Women edited by Lily Burana and Roxxie Linnea Due is, heartbreakingly, out of print. But it still exists out there in the world, especially with all the online booksellers. It was published by Cleis Press in 1994 and remains one of the only anthologies about butch identity out there … in fact, it’s the only one that I know of. There are other books on butch identity (as I’ll feature in the next few weeks!), but nothing quite like this.

I came across it when the Femme Top loaned me her copy and I immediately went out to pick up my own. It remains something I flip through and contemplate frequently, full of interviews, personal essays, analysis, gender dynamics, love letters to femmes, and touching stories of female masculinity out of compulsory femininity.

Pick it up at your local bookstore (who does used book searches, hopefully) or online, if you must, through Amazon.

And don’t forget, there are lots of great events coming up in September around the Butch Voices conference, starting with Butch Brunch on September 18!

Boxers Off! An Evening of Butch Burlesque in NYC

I’m going to be out of town … so you all better go for me!

Photo by Syd London, www.sydlondon.com, from the last Butch Burlesque night at Dixon Place, August 2010

Boxers Off! An Evening of Butch Burlesque
a fundraiser for BUTCH Voices
With your emcee Lea Robinson

Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher St.)
Saturday, August 28th, 2010, 7pm
$10-$15 Sliding Scale

BUTCH Voices is proud to present Boxers Off! An Evening of Butch Burlesque. Join us and explore the representation of butch identity in a bold, new, sexy way. Lea Robinson emcees this evening of hot and campy burlesque from some of New York City’s finest performers, including Becca Blackwell, Dapper Q, Glenn Marla, Luscious von Dykester, Natt Nightly, Kelli Dunham, Drae Campbell & Kimberlea Kressal appearing as SirMamSir and the Missus, Molly Equality Dykeman, Paris, Dom Juan, Daddy T.Y.E, and of course your host Cocoa Chaps!

All funds raised will go towards the BUTCH Voices NYC Regional Conference on September 25th.

RSVP for this event on Facebook. Have a great time! And if you go, report back on how it was, so I can know how it went? I’m sad to miss it (but then I think of the hot springs, and I don’t feel so bad).

Oh Yeah! Butch Voices Conference in NYC

So I’ve mentioned that the Butch Voices conferences are coming up, but I haven’t actually officially done a post and announced it to y’all! So just in case you want to take the day off (I’m looking at you, Ali), mark it on your calendars and work it out.

It’s not a butch-only conference—partners, allies, femmes, genderqueer, and non-identifying folks of all kinds are welcome to attend. Assuming that you have respect for and see value in discussing and paying attention to butch identity, of course, since that’s the focus of there conference.

Here’s the mission statement, and the description about what “butch” means, from ButchVoices.com:

The mission of BUTCH Voices is to enhance and sustain the health and well-being of self-identified Masculine of Center* people by providing activities and programs that build community and empower individuals to advocate for their whole selves inclusive of and beyond their gender identity and sexual orientation.

Who we are: We are Butch Voices. We are woman-identified Butches. We are trans-masculine Studs. We are faggot-identified Aggressives. We are noun Butches, adjective Studs and pronoun-shunning Aggressives. We are she, he, hy, ze, zie and hir. We are you, and we are me. The point is, we don’t decide who is Butch, Stud or Aggressive. You get to decide for yourself.

* Masculine of center (MOC) is a term, coined by B. Cole of the Brown Boi Project, that recognizes the breadth and depth of identity for lesbian/queer/ womyn who tilt toward the masculine side of the gender scale and includes a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, aggressive/AG, dom, macha, tomboi, trans-masculine etc.

So there are four regional conferences in 2010, after the national conference in 2009. There are plans to have another national conference in 2011, every other year and on opposite years from the femme conference. The first regional Butch Voices conference was in Dallas in June, and I hear it was a great success.

Next up is the regional conference in New York City. It will be held Saturday, September 25th, 2010 at the Queers for Economic Justice Performance and Conference Space, at 147 West 24th Street, in New York City. On site Registration will be on the 4th floor.

The day-long BUTCH Voices NYC Regional Conference will include workshops, panels, a butch hospitality lounge as well as a very special keynote celebration of our history and community of butches.

Evening events will also include: Butch Voices NYC 2010 Queer Memoir/Sideshow Mash-Up at Bluestockings Bookstore and Cafe as well as a later Butch Voices Cabaret at a Brooklyn club.

If you’re coming from out of town, please email Kelli Dunham directly at kellidunham(at)gmail.com so we can assist you with any hospitality needs.

I’m thrilled to be helping with media for this conference. I’ve never planned a conference before, actually, so it’s good experience, and the other folks on the steering committee are so experienced and organized and hard-working, it’s been a delight so far. I’m working on putting together the conference program (or I will be, when I get back from vacation) so if you have ideas for queer and/or genderqueer organizations who might want to give us money advertise in the program or sponsor an aspect of the conference, please do get in touch.

I recommend registering for the New York City conference as soon as possible, if you’re planning to come! We have limited space, and we expect it to be full.

After the day-long conference, we’ll adjourn to an evening of entertainment, including a very special Queer Memoir/Sideshow mashup “Butch Voices Speak” performance at 7pm at Bluestockings, and then a later Butch Cabaret in Brooklyn. More details about those as I get them!

The weekend after the New York City regional conference is the regional conference in Portland on Saturday October 2nd , then the weekend after that is the regional conference in LA over the weekend of October 8-10. I really hope to make it out to Portland, but I’m trying to figure out how to fund my trip. (Anybody out there in Portland looking for a speaker to visit your college over the first week of October?) I might do a fundraiser of sorts.

If you run a blog or website, perhaps you’d like to put up a sidebar image to help promote the conference? Or write a post on it, telling your readers about it? Mention it on the message boards you frequent? Tweet about it? Put it on Facebook? Send an email to all the people you’ve ever met? Seriously, every little bit helps. This is happening mostly through grassroots effort and word of mouth.

At New York City’s conference, I’ll be moderating a panel on Butches in the Media (mostly, creating our own media and self-promotion) and doing a workshop on Cock Confidence. And of course, I’ll be co-hosting the Butch Voices NYC 2010 Queer Memoir/Sideshow Mash-Up. I’ll let you know what, if anything, I’ll be doing in Portland.

So? Will I see you there, perhaps?

I’m Off to the Desert

For the second year in a row, I’m heading out to the Southwest to do a week-long erotic energy retreat through the school I’ve been studying with for nearly ten years and two of my favorite teachers.

Photo taken by me last year

This year, it’s different because I’ve been the one who is actually coordinating the workshop, doing a lot of marketing and outreach to get participants, then answering any sorts of logistical questions that I can while attendees are planning their travels. It’s been a bit stressful, but I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’m so looking forward to being done with all the coordinating and start in on the relaxing and exploring and erotic energy depths.

I always learn so much on these retreats, about myself especially but also about energy and erotics. Remember last year, I came back with a whole new theory about yin and yang and masculinity? It’s a very different workshop this year, but I’m sure there will be something that will toss my brain inside out for a minute and help me see things anew. Or, if nothing else, to hang and share space and time and erotics with some very fantastic people.

I’m coordinating another workshop in November in New York, this one is for beginner practitioners who are interested in deepening their own connection to erotic energy. It’s a women-identified only residential weekend workshop at a gay retreat center (with a sauna, hot tub, pool, and hiking trails). The workshop itself, which I’ve done many times over the ten years I’ve been working with this school, is very powerful, sometimes life-changing, and now that I’m coordinating I’m trying to encourage lots of genderqueer and queer folks to come and take it. If you want more information about that, email me.

I’ve got a couple things scheduled to pop up while I’m gone, but know that if you contact me I likely won’t get it until I get back to work on September 1st.

Have a wonderful week, y’all, and will chat with you when I get back.

Review: Talula

This is the Talula softskin dildo by the new company Vamp Silicone, who generously sent me two different cocks to review.

Shape:Doesn’t it look like it’s about to blast off? Shouldn’t it be secured to some sling-shot or something? That angle! I was pretty skeptical about how it’s shaped, it seems like it would be really pokey, awkward to wear.

But it’s not. The angle means that it can sit lower in a harness, almost between my legs, and instead of having a slight downward angle like most other cocks, it stays firmly upright. While Kristen and I tried it out she actually started moaning about “that spot right there that spot that spot,” which she almost never does, so it is clear it’s a very effective g-spot stimulator.

Material:It’s softskin—did you catch that in the introduction? So when I ran across this new company I wondered if this would be the Next Big Thing, the new version of super realistic, flesh-like silicone. But before I received them, I talked to a sex toy shop owner who said they didn’t think the softskin was really any different from their regular silicone, so I was prepared to be disappointed.

It’s nothing like that other famous kind of softskin, which, in my opinion, is more realistic-feeling and more fleshy, but it’s definitely softer than regular silicone. In fact, I like it quite a lot.

It was hard to find a good shot of it. The website has a shot of the three different sizes of Talula, in black, all right next to each other, but it’s not quite an accurate shot of what it looks like. I’ve got one in the cream color, shown above, and it apparently also comes in ruby, cocoa, and cafe au lait.

Size:The medium one, which I have, is 6.5″x1.5″, with the smaller one at 5″x1″ and the bigger one at 7″x2″. That must be including the length of the balls, which makes it a bit smaller insertable length. It was a little bit small to be my favorite cock for fucking, but it was just about right for blow jobs. Perhaps if I get my hands on the larger one, it’ll become my new favorite. I can see that as a possibility.

I’m definitely keeping this one at the top of the toy box.

Thanks to Vamp Silicone for sending this to me to review. Pick up your own Talula dildo over at their website, or at your local feminist sex-positive queer sex toy store.

Review: Spur

It’s been a while since I’ve written a review of a cock! The Silk, since it’s so non-realistic, doesn’t quite feel the same as something made of realistic feeling material and in a realistic shape.

Though anal week is long over, Kristen and I have still been experimenting, still interested in find a (or some) good cocks for anal. This one, the Vixskin Spur made by Vixen Creations, is small, but a step up from butt plugs – not quite ready for the Goodfella, though perhaps we’ll work up to that (a la Chase & Dylan in Roulette Dirty South).

And now for The Sugarbutch Cock Breakdown:

Material: Silicone. Non-porous, sterilizable (dishwasher’s top rack, no soap, or a 10% bleach solution, or boil). This one is Vixen’s line of Vixskin, silicone made softer to feel more realistic, but with a hard inner core to still have enough rigidity to fuck hard. Which is my personal favorite and, in my opinion, the best cocks on the market. Et cetera, et cetera, you’ve heard read me say write all this about Vixskin before.

It’s the best quality materials out there—which is why it’s pretty expensive.

Shape: Spur has a little bit of a crooked bend to her, which looks to me more prominent in photos than when she’s all strapped on. As with all of the Vixskin line, it is realistically shaped, with texture and contours and a head and corona on the cock. This one has a nice base to go into O-ring harnesses, but you might need some smaller O-rings to snap into your (hopefully O-ring changeable) harness in order to keep it from slipping out. I used a very small one and it still had some wiggle room.

Size: This one is small! 4-¾” x 1-¼”, which is a lovely size for bend over beginners. Or aficionados, probably; even if you’re experienced this still might be the perfect size for anal play.

It seems silly to even review Vixen’s Vixskin line seriuosly. Their materials are top-notch, I already know I like the look and feel of this kind of silicone. Vixen’s cocks come with a lifetime guarantee: they’ll replace it if it breaks or wears down. The different sizes are a question, I suppose, for reviewers to test out which sizes are good for what, but that also really depends on the person. I know enough about sizes of cocks that I want for a given situation (especially when choosing for myself or Kristen, whose bodies I know really well) that I can generally anticipate what size will be needed for what play. So when I am seeking a new cock in a particular size and Vixen has one around the same dimensions, it’s seems like a no-brainer: I’m going to like it.

Still, it’s always good to be proven right. I guess you never know.

This one is definitely going to the top of the toy box, and I’m looking forward to playing with it more.

This toy was sent to me & Kristen to review from Vixen. Pick up the Spur or other sex toys through Vixen Creation’s website, or at your local independent feminist queer-friendly sex toy shop.

Femme Conference Begins Today! & Countdown to the Butch Voices Conferences

It’s happening right now! Well not quite right now, since it’s earlier in New York City than it is over in Oakland, on the other coast where the sun sets over the water just like it’s supposed to.

The 2010 Femme Conference: No Restrictions begins today and an extravagance of femmes have gathered, including Kristen.

The hashtag for the conference is #femme2010 if you’d like to follow along on Twitter.

How do you like that collective noun, by the way? An extravagance of femmes? Not bad really. There’s a fascinating collective noun site connected to Twitter so that when you tweet your suggestion for the collective noun with the hashtag #collectivenoun it gets automatically updated and counted on the site. Plus, you can “like” other people’s suggestions (which also goes to Twitter). So what say you—what’s the best collective noun for femmes? Tweet it, or leave it in the comments. And check them out as they come in.

Okay, enough of that. You’re dying to know what the femme book is for today, right? Since we’ve got the Butch Voices regional conferences to count down to now, in NYC (September 25), Portland OR (October 1-3), and LA (October 8-10), I figured I’d do a butch/femme joint anthology.

There are other good femme books out there, though, don’t let me mislead you into thinking that Visible: A Femmethology, Femmes of Power, and The Femme Mystique are the only ones. There’s also:

And there’s Glamour Girls: Femme/femme Erotica by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Harrington Park Press; 2006) and With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn by Amber Dawn and Trish Kelly if you’re into erotica. Which, you know, you might be.

So now that I’ve recited pretty much every femme book that I know of and think are worth knowing, let’s get back to today’s feature. The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader edited by Joan Nestle, published by Alyson Books in 1992. It looks like it’s out of print, but you can probably still get it used in various places, like Powell’s online or, of course, Amazon (but only if you have to. Don’t you want independent bookstores to stay in business?).

The description of The Persistent Desire from Library Journal is as follows:

This anthology of stories, poems, and nonfiction accounts pays homage to a host of femme and butch lesbian relationships that have flourished over four decades. The narrators recount their experiences, describing how they met, how they took care of one another, and how they tried–or defiantly tried not–to fit in. The selections themselves bubble with passion and pain. Some dive beneath the surface to explore the varied meanings of gender roles, but most describe highly ritualistic manners of dress, hairstyle, and gesture that at times left the protagonist open to ridicule. In collecting these pieces into one volume, Nestle has made sure that the integrity and diversity of femme-butch relationships will not be lost. She has included narratives from women of many backgrounds and ethnic groups and from outside the United States.

This book was for me, as it was for many people, eye-opening, validating, breathtaking. I found it while I was still trying to articulate my own butch identity, and come into my orientation of dating femmes, and it blew past most of my doubts as if doing 80 on a motorcycle. I wanted to be part of that, I felt so connected to it. It changed the way I thought about myself and the way I thought about femmes.

It’s dated now. It was published almost two decades ago, and it reflects a different era of thought about gender identity and alignment assumptions. And while the trans movements were alive by then, much has happened on that front in the past 18 years since it was published and much transgender theory has affected gender theory deeply in wonderfully deliciously complicated ways.

We’re really due for an update.

And how about that, one is just on the horizon! Partners and butch/femme couple Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman have been working on an anthology titled Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme (see the connection to the first anthology’s title? Smart!) that is due out from Arsenal Pulp Press soon. Not sure what the exact date of publication is yet, but you can be certain I’ll be mentioning it here again. It looks like Ivan just picked up the postcards for the book from her publisher the other day, so it must be coming fairly soon! I will report back as I know.

There are more books, especially more butch/femme books, and more books just on butch identity by itself (look for more of those featured on the upcoming Fridays as we countdown to the Butch Voices NYC conference). I’ve made a new section in my Amazon Store exclusively for butch and femme books, so if you’re curious what else is out there, that’s a good place to start. And if you’ve got suggestions for what I missed, I’m glad to hear ’em!

UPDATE! Persistence: All Ways Butch And Femme has a webpage on Arsenal Pulp Press, a description, and is due out in the spring of 2011. Isn’t that cover great? It’s done by Elisha Lim, who also has a book of her own newly out from Alyson, 100 Butches, Volume 1.

If you see Zena at the Femme Conference, she supposedly has postcards for Persistence, so that’ll give you an excuse to say hi. She’s aka “The Silver Fox” because (guess) of her hair, so that should narrow it down for ya.

(Don’t you just love the Internet? I do. Thanks, Arsenal, for answering those questions.)

Butch Brunch in Photos

Butch Brunch on Saturday was a blast! Thanks to all who came. Mark the next one on your calendars: September 18th, Cafe Orlin on St Mark’s in the East Village. It was pretty loud in there, if we can find a better venue it will change, but right now that’s the best we’ve got.

I’ve got much more to say about it, but I’m running around today, so here’s a great shot of the butches who brunched. Thanks to the lovely femme who took this photo.

     

Queer Memoir/Sideshow Mashup for Butch Voices NYC

Butch Voices NYC Regional Conference
in collaboration with
Queer Memoir
and
Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival
present

Butch Voices Speak: A Queer Memoir/Sideshow Reading Series Mashup

7pm Saturday, September 25th
Bluestockings Bookstore, Lower East Side, New York City

Hosted by Kelli Dunham, Sinclair Sexsmith, Cheryl B., and Genne Murphy

www.queerliterarycarnival.com | www.queermemoir.com
www.butchvoices.com

Call for performers: Butch Voices Speak: A Queer Memoir/Sideshow Reading Series Mashup

Butch Voices New York City regional conference is happening on Sunday, September 25th, and Queer Memoir and Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival have teamed up to bring you an evening of stories, performance, and readings from queer butch voices.

Are you interested in participating? Butch Voices Speak is currently in search of people willing to stand up and tell your quick 6 minute story. You need not have performance or writing expertise, just an interest in telling your story.

QUEER MEMOIR IS an opportunity to give voice to our collective queer experiences, and preserve and document our complex queer history for writers, performers, and anyone with a queer story to tell.

SIDESHOW IS serious literature for ridiculous times, hosting established writers, performers, comics, and storytellers who have literary experience.

Q: Should I submit to Queer Memoir or Sideshow?
A: Is this a personal story written by you about something happened to you? Submit to Queer Memoir. Is it more literary, or are you a seasoned performer or writer? Send it to Sideshow.

To be considered, email [email protected] or [email protected] before September 1, 2010, with your name, website, brief bio, and a brief 1-3 sentence proposal of what you’d like to read.

On Being Left Out of Butch & Femme

From the Ask Me Anything questions from Sugarbutch’s 4th anniversary:

a) I often find myself at a loss when trying to slot myself into the femme-butch dichotomy – I don’t feel like I can identify with either. Yet I can’t really pass for androgynous (come on, boobs). so much of what I see in the queer world, in person and online, frames itself around being butch or femme and I feel left out. Is there a movement of queer people who *don’t* align themselves with butch or femme?

b) Some practical advice now…so there’s this girl. :D She’s a friend of a friend and there’s possibly something brewing there. (She knows I’m interested in her, she’s intrigued, hasn’t promised anything yet but would like to get to know me better). She’s overseas at the moment and won’t be back in my neighbourhood till August, baaaaaah. We’ve been chatting over Facebook and I’d like to send her some subtly flirty messages. Nothing too obvious or creepy, but what can I say that won’t either lose the flirtiness (I found that even when I explicitly say something meant to be flirtatious it gets read as normal!) or freak her out? Any ideas?—Tiara the Merch Girl from themerchgirl.net

There is a huge movement of queer people who don’t align themselves with butch or femme, and who don’t identify with androgyny, either. In fact, I think folks who do not identify as butch or femme make up the majority of the dyke/queer communitites.

It’s funny, because especially from the outside, it seems like that’s all lesbian or queer women’s culture is: butch or femme. Both for folks who aren’t a part of these communities and for dykes who are just coming out, that is a really common feeling. But once inside of it, there is tremendous pressure to present more androgynously—lots of pressure for more feminine folks to cut their hair very short, for example. An above-the-ears haircut is practically a rite of passage for queer women. And the tomboy often gets pressured toward body adornment, or comments such as, “If I wanted a penis / a man / a suit, I’d be dating men,” after a particularly short haircut, or a fancy dress-up night, or presenting a new strap on cock. (Not that that’s happened to me or anything. Not that I’m bitter.)

It depends on your geographic location, too. In some cities, queer scenes are dominated by butches and femmes. In others, the norm is more toward androgyny or practicality—I’ve been chatting about gender with a femme who grew up from Alaska and noticed that I did, too, and we both have some similar observations about what it’s like to grow up in a landscape that requires very particular tools to face the weather (like xtra tufs), so the edge of femininity as adornment is seen as very superfluous. And butch as adornment, too—I wore my city boots up there one of the last times I was there for the winter holidays, and complained about how the gravel and salt they constantly spray the streets with were really ruining my boots. Cufflinks, sportcoats, silk scarves—none of that is useful. You need flannel button downs, those very functional paisley handkerchiefs, fleece jackets, thick wool hats. This is the region (well, broadly—the Pacific Northwest) where grunge started, remember?

Point being, some cities are more butch/femme oriented than others. San Francisco’s queer scene is different than Seattle’s, which is different than Chicago’s and than New York’s (and Manhattan’s is different than Brooklyn’s). And the butches and the femmes are often very visible queers, especially since we seem to be the ones who are much more into deconstructing gender than the androgynous dykes. Not always, of course, but often: the current discourse in butch/femme communities tends to focus on why these genders work, why they don’t work, how to break apart identity alignment assumptions, what we’re doing to align with the trans movements, those kinds of things.

(Which is exactly why I am so drawn to this world of butch and femme … was I butch first, and the gender deconstruction came after? Or am I butch because I love gender deconstruction so much? Chicken or egg, who knows.)

And when we talk about a lesbian who is “visibly lesbian,” what do we mean? A lesbian who is butch-ish, or androgynous, leaning toward masculine. Someone not feminine, anyway. But those things aren’t actually the same: lesbian is a sexual orientation, not a gender identity. And until those things are more separated, we’re still going to have the butches (as the most visible queers) and femmes (as the most vocal queers, since if they do not define their sexuality with their words they get mistaken as straight) as some of the most obvious folks in the dyke worlds.

But that’s not to say that the other folks aren’t there. From my own experience, it seems that dykes and lesbians and queers who do not align with butch and femme are much more prevalent and many more than those who do. I’m trying to think if I have any support for this, some statistics I can cite or study I can link to, but I can’t think of anything (anybody else?). I wonder if it only seems like there are more non-butches & femmes than there are butches and femmes because that’s what I align with, so of course I presume that I am an outsider to the dominant lesbian culture. But I don’t think that’s only my perception—I’ve certainly talked to many, many other butches and femmes who feel similarly left out of the larger lesbian culture. Look at some of the big lesbian cultural reflections: AfterEllen, Curve magazine, Go! Magazine, Girlfriends magazine, The L Word, Dinah Shore. None of those reflect butch and femme identity regularly.

You have a place in these queer communities, lesbian circles, dyke scenes. You are just as legitimately queer, regardless of whether you have one singular gender identity to pull on or not. Don’t worry. You do not have to identify as butch or femme, and there are hundreds of blogs out there by queers who do not, many magazines and films and reflections of ways to be queer without aligning with any sort of gender identity. Check out Genderfork if you need a reminder of how many different ways of expressing queer gender there are out there. Find your own gender presentation, whatever feels perfectly good to you, whatever makes you feel the most you that you can be, whatever attracts the kinds of girls or boys or grrrls or bois that you want to attract.

What say you, Sugarbutch readers? Are there more dykes in the butch/femme world or in the non-butch/femme world? Do you feel left out of these identities? Is there a place for folks who do not identify as butch or femme in the queer world? Or do you, as a butch or femme, feel left out of mainstream lesbian culture? Is there a place for you in the larger queer world?

Second …

This girl thing. Well, it looks like I waited a long time, too long, because now it’s August and she might be back. I’m really slow on these Ask Me Anything questions, unfortunately. So maybe you can give us an update! What’s happening now? Did your flirty Facebook chatting work?

Countdown to the Femme Conference: 1 Week

“When I finally realized that I didn’t want to be a butch, I wanted to sleep with a butch, a whole new world opened up before my eyes.” —Lesléa Newman, from the Introduction: I Enjoy Being a Girl

The Femme Conference 2010: No Restrictions in Oakland is just one week away! And in honor, Sugarbutch is counting down to the Femme Conference, featuring some important femme books that I highly recommend if you haven’t read them already. Femme is part of an ever-evolving, big, knowable lineage, and if you love this identity in any way—if it’s yours, or if it is the gender to whom you are oriented, or if you appreciate it—you should know where it comes from, where it’s been.

News from the Femme Conference this week: the Femme Conference Schedule has been announced, and in addition to Kate Bornstein’s keynote, Moki Macías, a queer femme organizer and community planner in Atlanta, will also be doing a keynote.

And the Conference is only one week away!

So now, on to the book. Have you read The Femme Mystique, edited by Lesléa Newman and published by Alyson Books in 1995?

It was the first book on femme identity that I came across, and I picked up a copy at Powell’s when I was in Portland in July. Re-reading parts of it is kind of like re-reading my own journals from ten years ago, so familiar are the words and perspectives. So I’m particularly fond of this book because of the nostalgia, because of how formative this collection was for me.

One description says, “A fascinating and insightful look at the world of femme identity within the lesbian community. Written by femmes, former femmes, future femmes, femme wanna-bes, femme admirers, and of course, femmes fatales, The femme Mystique explores what it means to be a femme and a lesbian in a society that often trivializes the feminine.”

Coming out into communities which were ruled by queer femmes (well, at least, they sure seemed to be from my perspective), I think I’ve been a little blind to the ways that the queer scenes can trivialize the feminine, but as a women studies student and as someone who is simply aware of sexism and misogyny in this world, obviously that is entirely true and relevant. It continues to surprise me. Like, the doctor at the queer health clinic gave you a pregnancy test, even after you told her you were gay? Really? That just doesn’t even make any sense. But hey, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

The more recent anthologies are much higher quality, I think, both in the choice and arrangement of the essays and the quality of writing, but every once in a while there is a serious gem. Some folks have criticized this as being repetitive, which I also do understand, but that also speaks to how common and communal these perspectives on queer femme identity are. You’re likely to recognize some of the authors—Chrystos, Tristan Taormino, Kitty Tsui—but there are plenty more I’m not familiar with. The book is peppered with photographs, many of them very clearly 1980s versions of femininity (press on nails, lace, extensive makeup) which is interesting, that femme can be so closely tied to female fashion trends. There is a lot of identity alignment assumptions in this collection—a lot of women talking about cooking, cleaning, “traditionally female” activities. It’s interesting how much we as a culture have broken that in the last fifteen years, even.

Even though the women in these photos are probably in their 20s and early 30s, which is my age, they seem so much older … probably because my brain automatically does the calculation: “If they are 25 in 1990, they are 12 years older than me and are now in the early 40s.” It takes some intentional undoing to think, these people in these essays, in these photographs, are my age, and were at that time figuring out the same things I am now figuring out.

Though it’s not my favorite collection, it is a classic, and was very important to me personally (and to many, I’m sure, since it was one of the first collections on femme identity). I also really recommend Lesléa Newman’s essay collection Out of the Closet and Nothing to Wear, which is a collection of the femme column she wrote for many years. More information about Lesléa Newman can be found over on her website, lesleanewman.com. (Did you know she also wrote Heather Has Two Mommies?)

Have you read this? What did you think?

And also … are you ready for the Femme Conference!? I can’t wait to hear all about it on Twitter and other blogs! Who’s going to be writing about it? Who’s going to be live-Tweeting? Keep me updated, please!

A Brief Period of Sobriety

I decided not to drink in August. I’ve done a few periodic breaks from alcohol over the last few years, but I haven’t done that recently, so it was about time to try it again.

I like to practice not drinking, not necessarily because I think I have a problem with alcohol, but because at times I can lean too heavily on it to curb the anxiety I sometimes struggle with. It does seem to work, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to deal with it. Well, I know it isn’t the best way to deal with it, but it’s an easy way, and pretty effective.

A quick whiskey on the rocks and I am good to go. That tightness in my chest, the clutch around my heart, the panic, the cloudy mind, all lighten and start disappearing.

Someone told me once that I should be medicated if New York causes me so much anxiety and stress. I snapped back that if it got to that point, it clearly wasn’t healthy for me to be here, and I would leave. And as much as I hate to ever think that she could have possibly had a point, I have to wonder if that might be true. Of course there are things one can do before one medicates. I can change my lifestyle, change my nutrition, change my daily habits, exercise more. I think I’ve been overcompensating with alcohol, trying to avoid the realities of the stress of this city and the lifestyle here.

I remember talking to my therapist about this at some point, wondering if I was drinking too much. I wondered if drinking every single night—not to the point of drunkenness, just to the point of subduing the panic—was something I should look at, be curious about. She said she was more interested in my lack of restful sleep.

Well, now I sleep restfully. Now I don’t have to get up at 7:30 am to commute to a corporate job, and I get enough sleep. The nightmares are less. The insomnia is less, usually. My mind quiets and calms at night, usually.

But I still drink.

Aside from detoxing, aside from possibly dealing more directly with my anxiety, I want to cut down on the calories I take in. You’ve probably seen Kristen’s Twitter stream, she bakes constantly, and cooks delicious food, and while that makes me very happy, it has not been wonderful to my waistline. I’m struggling to squeeze into my old jeans. I’m also 31 now, and I think something happens to the metabolism in the late twenties-ish time, and my body just doesn’t process like it used to. Plus, though I’m no longer sitting at a desk at a corporate job all day every day, that also means I’m not making time on my lunch breaks for a trip to the gym, and I think some of my habits have changed. I need some new ones. I joined a gym, I’m back to jogging and lifting weights, I’m trying to get a regular schedule going.

One of my favorite writing and life mentors, Tara Hardy, has a poem talking about her sobriety, and says “Ask yourself, what would it mean if we all got collectively un-numb? In touch with possibility daily? That’s what I’m asking. Put nothing between you and your disappointment, and your grief, and your rage, and what they want us to believe is dangerous: hope. Desire. Need. Meet your need naked.” I’m thinking about this as I’m nearing the end of week two of this cleanse, this voluntary brief temporary period of sobriety, and as I keep thinking how easy it would be to pop open that beer that’s in the fridge.

I’m experimenting with a more focused and deliberate Buddhist path, too, and one of the Five Precepts is to abstain from escaping from consciousness—traditionally, this stated as abstaining from alcohol, but it can be many things that we use to turn our brains off, from a video game to a joint to whiskey to working out to mindless tv to surfing the Internet. The sangha I attend most often has a very contemporary interpretation of the precepts, seeing them as not so much as rigid guidelines as much as attempting to see their essence, to get at what the rule was getting at, and to apply consciousness to the practice. So it’s not so much about abstaining from alcohol as it is being mindful of the reasons why we are drinking, often the same reasons why I watch episode after episode of 30 Rock, or surf around on tumblr for hours.

I know I use alcohol to escape my mind, my suffering, my emotions.

What would happen if I did that less? What would happen if I had to sit with it more directly? To sit quietly with that pain and suffering, with the dukkha?

So I guess this brief stint of sobriety is attempting to experiment with that, too.

I’m also doing a sacred intimacy/tantra workshop in the end of August, a similar one that I did last year, only this year I am coordinating the workshop and attending as a staff member. I’m thrilled about that, one of my intentions for this year was to deepen my tantra practice, and my involvement with the tantra school with which I’ve been studying for almost ten years now took a leap. Every time I do one of these workshops, they recommend doing a little bit of detox and not ingesting substances like drugs or alcohol for the few days around the workshop, and I often do about a week of sobriety leading up to one of them. This time, I figured I would extend the time to an entire month, as an experiment, and see what happens.

It’s easy to drink. It’s harder not to, it’s harder to sit with what I’m going through and harder to order club soda and lime at a bar, harder to breathe through the social anxiety or excitement or turn down a nice glass of wine at dinner with friends. But it’s temporary. And perhaps I’ll learn something.

I Have Things To Tell You!

… because I don’t have a better title for some randomness that I need for you to know.

First! Sideshow’s Erotica Night was epic!

Do I say that after every Sideshow? I might. But what can I say, the Queer Literary Carnival is beautifully coming together and I love it every month. This time was a fantastic lineup, and the audience was so into it, and all the pieces were great. I’ve got a big ol’ write-up of it over at queerliterarycarnival.com.

Second! Butch Brunch has a venue!

The first 2010 Butch Brunch in New York City has a venue! We’re going to try out Cafe Orlin at 41 St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. It’s a pretty big place and they’ve got a $6 plate of eggs & potatoes & toast, and it doesn’t get cheaper than that in Manhattan. The only catch is that I can’t quite tell by their website if they serve alcohol, but I know I’ve had a glass of wine there at other times.

Please RSVP on Facebook or comment or email me to let me know you’re coming so we can get a head count. They don’t take reservations on the weekends, so I plan on being there early to try to get our name on the waiting list for a big table. I expect about ten people so far, and not everyone who has said they’re coming identifies as butch.

Third! I don’t remember what was third, but I swear there was a third thing. Oy. I’ve been running around all day and haven’t had time to sit down and WRITE in the last week or maybe two … I’ve been working on promotion and events, Butch Voices NYC Regional Conference and the tantra retreat I’m heading to in a little less than two weeks, and Sideshow, and columns for other sites … but I’ve got a big list of essays that I want to work on, lots of ideas brewing and bubbling in my head, lots of things going on as usual. It feels good to have this freelance patchwork career coming together.

The other bad news is that my beloved MacBook is kind of down for the count … it was my own damn fault, I spilled some, uh, hard cider onto the keyboard. Which is so not like me! I am so not careless around electronics, or things of major value! But I have not only cracked my iPhone screen while I was on vacation, I also seem to have fried the battery (or magstrip, or something) in my MacBook. Thankfully, I have superhero willing to help, @rexicon, and if you feel like following her on Twitter I promise she’s funny and way cute in real life. Wish her happy birthday in Florida … and I’ll be quietly being patient and hoping for her speedy return. After she’s all rested and played-out and in a computer-problem-solving mood. It feels so good to know I have somebody to turn to for help with this!

Let’s just hope it gets fixed soon, and I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled Sugarbutch Chronicles.

Want to Hear Some Erotica Tonight? Come to Sideshow!

TONIGHT, August 10th, over in the East Village of New York City, come see some very fine readers as we talk about the more fun version of a heat wave: erotica. Yum.

Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival
Hosted by Cheryl B. & Sinclair Sexsmith
August 10 @ The Phoenix, 447 East 13th Street @ Avenue A
East Village, New York City
Doors, 7:30pm Reading, 8pm
Free! But we’ll pass the hat for the readers
@sideshowseries

August’s theme is HEAT WAVE EROTICA, starring:
Tamiko Beyer (Drunken Boat)
Rachel Kramer Bussel (In The Flesh)
Mildred Dred Gerestant (OUTMusic Spirit Award)
Kit Yan (Mr. Transman 2010)

RSVP on Facebook!

Stories from My Youth

From the Ask Me Anything questions from Sugarbutch’s 4th anniversary:

When you were a teenager, how did you feel about your body? Can you tell a story about coming out as gay to friends or family members when you were younger? Did you ever go to summer camp?—Dora

1.

As a teen, I think I was mostly just confused about my body. I developed breasts early and was curvy, though a bit heavy-set, as I still am. When I hit middle school, suddenly my friend circle shifted away from the ones I’d grown up with, as our different class backgrounds became a problem. They could suddenly afford things I couldn’t, and somehow understood this world of being a girl that I didn’t. I was a reader, on my own, a little bit of a loner, and started hanging out with more and more marginalized crowds, like the girls who also developed early and then, later, the drama kids and the smokers.

It was around then I started getting made fun of for my clothes and lack of “style,” I started getting bullied a little, I started getting made fun of extensively for my breast size. So I got a little obsessed with girl culture, whatever there was of it in the early 1990s, which certainly looked different than it does today. I subscribed to YM and Sassy and then Seventeen, obsessing over makeup and style and shoes, always completely unsure of what I was doing.

It’s only recently I’ve been revisioning this part in my own history a bit, seeing it anew. I kind of figured that was a typical process, this obsession with femininity, these attempts to fit in, the obsession with shoes, the way I hoarded makeup so I could claim to have an extensive collection and know all about it but never used it, my extensive dangling earring collection. Recently, a friend said to me something like, “That makes sense: you’ve always been dapper, even if it wasn’t as masculine.” And I think there might be some truth to that.

I think, too, there is truth to the outsider complex I felt around femininity, especially as a teen. I was terrified of what my life would be as a grown “woman.” I remember having panic attacks when I considered what my life after high school would be like. Not that I loved high school—I just couldn’t understand what was next. That was why I ended up in a very stereotypical hetero relationship, one where we both reproduced everything on TV we thought we were supposed to, which was very comforting: at least I knew what was expected of me.

But that’s a different story.

After a certain about of obsession over clothes and hair and makeup and femininity, and after the teasing and bullying just kept getting worse, I kind of just gave up. I cut my wardrobe down to black, and that was basically it. Black turtlenecks, black jeans. Which I wore year-round. Which I could do, in Southeast Alaska, where it’s mid-60s and 70s in the summer.

The new solid black wardrobe was a bit of a hit, and I fell in with the drama crowd, with more nerdy outsiders like myself, with the folks who were interested in sex and psychology.

I started feeling better about my body. Perhaps because I was covering it up, perhaps because I was getting a bit older (fourteen! fifteen! so different than twelve) and things were evening out, I didn’t feel quite so awkward in my own skin. But I did, of course, and continued to, for years really, until finally arriving at this gender identity, and getting rid of my dresses, moving on from undies that never quite fit my ass, non-apologetically donating my (few) pairs of heels.

I think most teens have awkward relationships to their bodies. Most of us don’t know what to do with ourselves for a while, and need time to grow into the changes. I certainly was no exception. I wonder if I’d stumbled on butch earlier, if I would have been happier.

2.

It’s strange, I don’t really have any specific coming out stories. I definitely told my crew as early as middle school that I was pretty sure I was bisexual, and I don’t remember it being a big deal. We didn’t talk about it, but they knew, and sometimes I would talk about kissing a girl or other classmates who were known to be bisexual. Some of my teachers were gay, a few different women I can think of, though no men that I know of. My band teacher for three years had a flat-top haircut and never wore skirts. (I wonder if she was out, happy, partnered. I don’t know anything about her personal life.) There was a lesbian couple who lived across the street from me, and another down the street. There was quite a bit of gayness around, I guess.

I came home one winter holiday and wore a rainbow necklace with two intertwined woman symbols—you know the kind. I remember my mom asking, “Are you trying to tell us something?” I laughed and said no. It was just what I wore, every day, constantly, at that time. But I guess I was telling them something … perhaps I thought it wouldn’t really matter to my parents, so I didn’t need to make a big deal out of telling them. So I didn’t. I probably should have. It was probably a way to avoid confrontation, even if I didn’t expect it to be negative.

Not as though it was a secret—I told them as soon as I was dating someone new, my mom and I especially remained quite close and knew a lot about my life and what I was doing. We started having elaborate, extensive conversations about feminism and women’s history as I worked on my Women Studies degree.

I feel like I should have some better coming out stories than that! I’ll keep thinking. But I think that was the extent of it: I never made a big deal out of it, and nobody else did, either.

Well, somebody did: my ex-boyfriend, Mike. Late in our six-year relationship he became a bit obsessed that I was going to leave him so I could come out, and, well, I did. I don’t recall any specific conversations about my sexuality, but once I did leave him, he and I both knew I was coming out.

3.

Yes, I attended fine arts camp for a few different summers, maybe three, which isn’t quite what most folks think of as “summer camp” but is the closest I’ve got. It wasn’t residential, and was at the high school, so it isn’t quite what most people’s sense of summer camp is. I studied writing, art music, singing, drama, and dance, and attended a couple different summers. In other summers I took a theater intensive only, then later started working at my dad’s store during the summers.

I don’t remember a lot of kids going to summer camp—perhaps it was the isolated nature of my hometown, which is land-locked and only accessible by boat or plane, or perhaps my friends, especially later in high school, were from families who weren’t particularly well off financially—but I (and other kids) did attend the Methodist Camp that was out the road. I never attended it through religious organizations, it was rentable by others and the only time I was there was through school.

Camping is just The Thing people do in the summers in Alaska, especially in my hometown, so I spent a lot of time hiking with friends, camping out, renting cabins for the weekends, building fires on the beach, and much of those other campfire summer camp activities that it seems are common for you lower-48-ers.

And what about you all? Did you go to summer camp? How did you feel about your body as a teen? What was it like to come out to friends or family or both?

Countdown to the Femme Conference: Two Weeks

The Femme Conference 2010: No Restrictions in Oakland is two weeks away! And in honor, Sugarbutch is counting down to the Femme

Conference, featuring some important femme books that I highly recommend if you haven’t read them already. Femme is part of an ever-evolving, big, knowable lineage, and if you love this identity in any way—if it’s yours, or if it is the gender to whom you are oriented, or if you appreciate it—you should know where it comes from, where it’s been.

The book Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities was put together by femme Swedish cultural anthropologist Ulrika Dahl and photographer Del LaGrace Volcano, published by Serpent’s Tail in 2009.

I met Ulrika Dahl at the Femme Conference in 2008, and was excited to get my hands on this lovely book when it came out. It features profiles and essays about femme identity, photographs of femmes with all sorts of varieties of presentation, and discussions of what femme is like in different contexts. It’s a beautiful book, almost a coffee table book, that you can flip through and stare at all the beautiful photographs of femmes. Or you can delve deeper into the text for complex depictions of queer gender identity.

From the synopsis:

What is femme? French for woman? A feminine lesbian? A queer girl who loves to dress up? Think again! Going beyond identity politics and the pleasures of plumage, “Femmes of Power” captures a diverse range of queerly feminine subjects whose powerful and intentional redress explodes the meaning of femme for the 21st century. “Femmes of Power” features both every-day heroines and many queer feminist icons, including Michelle Tea, Virginie Despentes, Amber Hollibaugh, Itziar Ziga, Lydia Lunch, Kate Bornstein and Valerie Mason-John. “Femmes of Power” unsettles the objectifying “male” gaze on femininity and presents femmes as speaking subjects and high heeled theorists.

More information about the book is over on the Femmes of Power Myspace page, and of course you can always order it through your local independent bookstore, or, if you must, Amazon.

E[lust] #18: Summer Sexblog Reads

I know: for the most part, the e[lust] roundup isn’t a very useful thing for readers. I think most of you ignore them. I don’t submit posts very often to the roundup, but every once in a while, I like one of my smut stories quite a bit, and it doesn’t really get much attention, and I want to show it off a little, so I send it on over there.

This time, it was Sweat & Summer . I love the way that turned out, and it got so few comments. I can never tell what will incite comments or not, I guess that’s one of the mysteries of the Internet.

So, I promise these submissions and interruptions to your Regularly Scheduled Sugarbutch will be infrequent. Meanwhile, check out the top three, if you’ve got some time to kill. They’re usually quite good.

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] #19? Start with the rules, check out the schedule and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

This Week’s Top Posts

  • Off Limits for 30 Days“You don’t listen very well,” I heard her hiss. “That’s off limits, damn you.” And there was a crack and fiery agony clawed into my back.
  • The Joy of Sucking CockI wonder at times if that is why I am such a “good little cocksucker” as W calls me. When I am deeply into it, I almost enter this place where I am both the sucker and suckee, and it is as though it is MY cock being sucked on.
  • This intensity gets me riled when I am tied up (photo story)James picked up that evil strap again. I watched helplessly as he positioned himself to use it on my pussy… Ever so lightly he started. Flick, flick, flick.
  • e[lust] Editress: Ask Lilly: How do I know if a sex toy has phthalates in it?The studies going around are saying that phthalate exposure can damage all sorts of organs, and can possibly cause cancer. There are a lot of harmful things in our world these days that we can’t avoid – so when we CAN avoid something like toxins in our sex toys, we should.
  • Featured Post (Lilly’s Pick) Portal. Confession #493It truly is a spiritual give and take, these sexual relationships I form. I can cross the threshold and see however much of someone that I choose to see, with whomever it is that I am involved with.
  • See also: Pleasurists #88 and #89 for all your sex toy review needs.

Butch Brunch in New York City

It’s official! I’m doing a couple different Butch Brunch dates in New York City in the two months leading up to the Butch Voices regional conference on September 25th. Want to join me? Here’s the details.

The first Butch Brunch is coming up on Saturday, August 14th, and you can RSVP on Facebook.

I organized about half a dozen some butch brunches in the past few years, mostly in Brooklyn, mostly just for friends, but we often had fantastic interesting conversations about butch identity and where we came from, and really good turnouts. I’m looking forward to chatting with folks informally, not in the context of planning the Butch Voices conference but instead just socializing, hanging out, theorizing, getting to know each other.

Who can come? Anybody! It’s intended to be a space for butch-identified folks of various identities: butches, studs, ags, anyone masculine-of-center. If folks who are not butch identified would like to attend, that’s fine too, but do realize that we’ll be talking personally about our own identities as we get to know each other. It is not necessary to be butch-identified to attend this brunch, but it is encouraged.

Butch Brunch is co-sponsored by Butch Voices NYC and Sugarbutch, so we are adapting Butch Voices opinions about what butch means. From ButchVoices.com: “We are woman-identified Butches. We are trans-masculine Studs. We are faggot-identified Aggressives. We are noun Butches, adjective Studs and pronoun-shunning Aggressives. We are she, he, hy, ze, zie and hir. We are you, and we are me. The point is, we don’t decide who is Butch, Stud or Aggressive. You get to decide for yourself.”

We don’t have a venue yet—I’d like to keep it pretty centralized in New York City, so any of us coming from any borough can easily get to it. Perhaps somewhere near Union Square? Problem is, brunch places are packed on the weekends.

Anybody have suggestions? I’ll be glad to check them out. But we need to get going! Who’s in?

We’ve got a venue! We’re going to try out Cafe Orlin at 41 St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. It’s a pretty big place and they’ve got a $6 plate of eggs & potatoes & toast, and it doesn’t get cheaper than that in Manhattan. The only catch is that I can’t quite tell by their website if they serve alcohol, but I know I’ve had a glass of wine there at other times.

Please RSVP on Facebook or email me to let me know you’re coming so we can get a head count. They don’t take reservations on the weekends, so I plan on being there early to try to get our name on the waiting list for a big table. I expect about ten people so far.

August is Heat Wave / Erotica at Sideshow

Don’t forget! Just one week from today, Sideshow in New York City will feature a lovely erotica night.

Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival
Hosted by Cheryl B. & Sinclair Sexsmith
August 10 @ The Phoenix, 447 East 13th Street @ Avenue A
East Village, New York City
Doors, 7:30pm. Reading, 8pm.
Free! But we’ll pass the hat for donations to the readers
@sideshowseries
RSVP on Facebook!

August’s theme is HEAT WAVE EROTICA, starring:
Tamiko Beyer (Drunken Boat)
Rachel Kramer Bussel (In The Flesh)
Mildred Dred Gerestant (OUTMusic Spirit Award)
Kit Yan (Mr. Transman 2010)
Read more about the readers.

Mentor Series #2: Free Will Astrology by Rob Brezny

I’m not one of those people who is obsessed with astrology, though I’ll admit that I’ve had waves of getting really into charts and types and analysis from books. I know I’m an Aries with a Cancer moon and Taurus rising (though I don’t know that off the top of my head, I had to look that up to find my rising sign), I know I have four major planets in the 12th house, and I have a copy of my psychological horoscope which I go back and re-read sometimes.

So when I say I’m a bit skeptical of astrology, know too that I see it as a useful tool. I am a fan of pretty much any method, any system, any mailing list, that can be a tool for a better understanding of myself, people I care about, and the world around me. I think chart reading is slightly different than the weekly horoscope newsletters, too; the charts tell you much more about an individual than just grouping all people together by sign and having one little drop of wisdom for the week apply to all the Cancers or all the Geminis.

But I take them much like I would take a fortune or advice from a friend or a random story on the Internet: if it resonates, and applies to me, great. If not, disregard it.

Much like Savage Love, Free Will Astrology by Rob Brezny is also syndicated in alt-weekly newspapers across the country, and with good reason: it’s smart, psychologically complicated, and often incredibly relevant. I’ve only recently resubscribed to his weekly newsletter, and I have been looking forward to receiving his forecast for the week and meditating on it.

This week’s was particularly interesting, which is what sparked the inspiration to write about him in this mentor series:

Free Will Astrology, July 29th 2010. ARIES (March 21-April 19): Success coach Tom Ferry says our ability to pursue our dreams can be damaged by four addictions: 1. an addiction to what other people think of us; 2. an addiction to creating melodrama in a misguided quest for excitement; 3. an addiction to believing we’re imprisoned by what happened in the past; 4. an addiction to negative thoughts that fill us with anxiety. The good news, Aries, is that in the coming weeks you will find it easier than usual to free yourself from addictions 1, 3, and 4. On the other hand, you may be extra susceptible to addiction 2. So take action to make sure you don’t fall victim to it! What can you do to avoid distracting adventures and trivial brouhahas?

That list of four things that can damage our ability to pursue our dreams is something I’m going to have to write in my journal and make into an image to print out and hang over my desk or something, because that really explains a lot. I can say I am particularly susceptible to 1 and 3, though I have had my share of melodrama and anxiety, certainly.

But see what I mean about tools? This weekly horoscope just gave me a little bit of a structure in which to contemplate my own addictions, behavior, and tendencies, and that’s what I love about it. I really should pick up his book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia. I’ve been on the library waiting list for quite a while, but his writing is so good, maybe it’s just worth owning.

Certainly Brezny is not the only weekly horoscope writer. Michelle Tea was writing for the San Francisco Bay Guardian for a while, now it’s done by Jessica Lanyadoo. Oddly enough, Town and Country magazine also had an amazing horoscope for 2009 that I still often think of, but they don’t seem to have updated one for 2010. Do you have any other favorite horoscope writers to recommend?

The Ongoing Quest to be Sexually Fulfilled

That’s where that whole online writing project (aka blog) of mine started, really: in an attempt to write myself into a better sex life, and into personal relationships about my own sexuality, gender identity and expression, and sustaining relationships. For the first three years, I was attempting to write myself into a long term, stable, sane relationship, in part because I wanted to have a better sex life and in part for all the rest of the good stuff that comes with intimacy, cohabitation, and love.

And now, I’ve found the girl I’ve been with for a year and a half, Kristen. And the longer we’re together, the longer it seems we’ll last.

So, now what? Is my quest for a fulfilled sex life over?

To some degree, yes—many of the problems and questions that plagued me as a single butch top, such as, “When am I going to get laid next?” and “Who’s it going to be with?” and “How do I know if she’ll be into what I’m into?” are no longer a factor. I love that I am with someone as open and eager to explore sex as I am, if not more so. I love that our sex drives are pretty well matched. I love that I am with someone whom I can try out new toys with (it was much harder to be a toy reviewer when I was solo, that’s for sure).

But that is not necessarily a recipe for perfect sexual compatibility, or ongoing sexual fulfillment. Note the key word there: ongoing. A sex life is just that—a LIFE—which means it happens every day. And like any other aspect of life, it is interwoven tightly with all sorts of other aspects, and can be different, feel different, or present unique new obstacles at any time.

How does one navigate fulfillment with all sorts of other things—bills, work, health, family, projects, friends—are also vying for attention? How do you keep the spark going?

Perhaps this relates to my theories around general relationship intelligence and the lack of depiction of many stable, sane, healthy relationships in the various storytelling arts. Most romantic comedies or dramas, for example, focus on the part of a relationship story where the couple is overcoming obstacles in order to begin their life together. At the beginning of the film, the couple is not together; the dramatic action focuses around their miscommunications, struggles, possibly sex, expectations, who called (or didn’t call) who, and who can get over their issues in order to fully embark on a committed monogamous relationship; then the end of the movie shows the couple, triumphant, and we are happy, having been rooting for them all along.

But we see very little of what happens next in the relationship. How the couple communicates, negotiates, reaches consensus, struggles, forgives, fights, and maintains a balance between their individual separate selves and their collective togetherness. So rare is a film where the couple is together at the beginning and the end, where the dramatic action centers around the relationship trials or the couple coming together to solve outside problems.

Without such good models of problem solving in long term relationships, and with such high divorce rates, meaning that for folks my age it is rather rare for our parents to still be together, or even to have an older couple in our lives as mentors, how can we be expected to have the relationship skills to sustain our own long term relationships?

And isn’t it similar with sex: when we are single, we expect getting into a relationship will fulfill our sexual needs. The smarter folks among us know that getting into a relationship isn’t quite enough, but that we need to get into a relationship with a person with whom we are sexually compatible. A subtle but key difference!

Yet still—life happens. Even if you find that special someone, there is still ongoing navigation to keeping it up and getting off. And sharing a life with someone means distractions, miscommunications, unforeseen occasional tragedies, and our ever-changing bodies and lives.

This is what I have been puzzling through in my own relationship, as we are increasingly sharing space and continually sharing our lives.

My relationship with Kristen started as almost purely sexual. She lived a few hours away from me, and worked in another state, and would come visit on weekends. She’d lived in New York City before and planned to move back, which is how we met in the first place. We spent whole weekends in bed, rarely leaving my apartment, rarely leaving my room except to eat and shower and rest our bodies. After she left, I would spend the whole week playing over and over the last weekend, often writing about what we’d done, how we’d played, and planning some new ways to play when she came back.

I would pounce on her as soon as she walked in the door. Already hard packing and waiting anxiously to feel her again. Not even letting her put her things away before shoving her up against something, so eager and grateful to have someone who let me play with dominance, someone who was open to play.

It was erotic, connected, passionate, heated sex, full of longing and relief and release. Plus, we continued falling in love, discovering all the ways we enjoyed each other’s company outside of the bedroom.

It’s easy to look back and see the bliss, but equally present was the ache of longing, the fear of the fragility of a new relationship, those days when we would have given anything to come home to each other, all the fetishizing and idealizing of a shared domesticity. I brush over those feelings now because that wish was granted, I no longer have to long to share other parts of my life with her, as our lives are increasingly entwined.

Now we have the new obstacles of sustainment: Am I getting what I want in bed, in this relationship? Are we having sex often enough for me? Are we having the kind of sex I want, or am I longing for something else, something new? How do I ask for more, or different, sex? How do we keep the spark of eroticism, passion, longing, and eagerness when we are available to each other, in so many ways, constantly? How do we keep it fresh and new when we’re willing to do, and have done, so much experimenting already?

Maybe this sounds like a trite problem, especially to those who don’t have partners, don’t get laid, or don’t prioritize sex as a serious hobby the way Kristen and I do, but I suspect many people in reasonably satisfied relationships ask these questions at some point or another.

I’m sure all of our relationships have a unique set of circumstances behind these questions. For me, it seems to be that my girlfriend would like to have sex more often than we do, and in part because of our dynamic and the sexual roles we like to play with of Daddy/girl and domination/submission, she has a hard time asking for more. She feels greedy and unwarranted. I know I also have a hard time allowing myself to be seduced, so even when she does feel bold enough to make her desires clear, I don’t always respond with what she wants. I adore our dynamics and they are a key important part of this relationship, roles I have been eager to explore for years and I am grateful to do so. But precisely those dynamics erase my own desire for the chase, since she is constantly available to me, sometimes my desire runs a little low. I crave some denial, something to conquer, something to come up against in order to create friction.

We have discussed this; and of course I don’t want her denying me just for the sake of denying me, of turning me down when what she’s really interested in is playing, but we are still working out the details of dynamics we have chosen.

I’m pretty confident that we’ll figure this out, but I’m not exactly sure how. For now, we’re talking about it (though hopefully not too much), being open with each other, being honest about where we’re both at and what we want, and of course, working on our own shit in therapy. Every relationship is complicated. Every relationship has triumphs, low points, complications. I don’t know how things will get resolved, but things are improving, we are talking well to each other, still having great sex, and enjoying each other.

Really, does it get any better than that?

This post first appeared on the Good Vibrations Magazine.