Ask Me Anything: Queer Despite the Straight Relationship

rhapsodyblue asked:

I’m a FAAB genderqueer pansexual in a long-term monogamous relationship with a straight cissexual guy. I adore him, he accepts who I am and we have a wonderfully fulfilling and communicative relationship overall, but I occasionally feel strange and almost guilty that I’m in a relationship that masks my queer identity, one where I can “pass” as a straight girl.

That was setup. My question is, how can I best nurture and feel fulfilled and at peace with my queer identity within the context of my relationship with my straight, cissexual sweetie?

Cultivate and celebrate your queerness and queer identity in contexts other than your monogamous relationship, since that is not visibly queer. Become involved in other ways, with a queer book group or queer activism or queer arts or whatever particular flavor of queer culture strikes your fancy. Make friends with other folks who have this difficulty so you can compare notes and identify with each other.

I bet there’s a Fetlife group or two out there for folks in this position.

The guilt and the “passing” is an indication that you’ve got a little bit of privilege, even if you don’t want it. It’s not real privilege, but it is perceived and therefore given to you. This culture will validate your relationship and see you as a certain kind of person in the context of your partner—call it a sort of orientation attribution, the orientation that others attribute to you, even if that’s not how you identify.

So the trick is a reconciliation of the orientation attribution that others perceive and your true orientation, which are different.

There are two big pieces to it, I think: internal and external. Externally, in order to have some peace with this, you’ll need to accept that you will get critique and criticism from queers, who constantly police identity (sad but true). It’s not that you are wrong, though; it’s that they are going along with some very superficial understandings about how queer identity works. And being that you are trying to broaden and radicalize this queer identity label (as being more than just who you sleep with), you will probably be in the position of being attacked for that, for a long time. I think in order to make peace you’ve got to radically accept that, decide how you’re going to react when folks do this, and then let it go. If it really bugs you and gets under your skin every time it happens, you won’t get to a place of peace about it.

Internally, aim to cultivate a place in yourself that deeply knows how queer you are such that their critique won’t knock you off center when it comes, which, sadly, it inevitably will. Practice a couple quick and easy responses when someone criticizes your identity or claims that you aren’t “queer enough” for one thing or another—to be in this queer space, to be consuming queer culture, whatever. If you can stand firm in your response—that they are the ones with a mistake, not you—they’ll look silly. But when you waver and let their attacks bother you, you will appear as if they have a reason to critique and question your queerness.

Internally, ultimately, you’ve got to deeply know that it is their problem, not yours. There is more to a queer identity than just who you’re sleeping with, and while many people don’t understand that, many others do, and you’ve got to understand that deeply in order for others to take what you’re saying seriously.

This is part of being in a (perceived) privileged position: the constant correcting of those around you, and the constant use of passing as a tool for change and deeper understanding. And there are ways to use passing as a tool, despite that it is also incredibly frustrating and invisibilizing.

The bottom line, I think, is that you’ve got to build some Radical Acceptance around your identity: to deeply accept that you are in a radical position, that you are pushing the edges of what it means to be queer, and that most people probably don’t and won’t understand that, so you’re going to get attacked and critiqued because of it. So cultivate your queer identity in areas other than your relationship, since no matter how queer the sex between you or gender roles within that relationship, you’ll probably have an orientation attribution of straight. Cultivate all the dozens of other areas of your life that are and can be perceived as queer, and build those up strong and solid. Work on your own sensitivity around your queer identity, too, so you can feel strong in it.

Ask Me Anything: How Not To Slip Out When Strapped On

MSE asked:

Like Tuesday, I also have a question about strap-on sex. Whenever my girl and I use a strap-on, the cock always falls out because I move entirely too much. We’ve tried numerous positions and restraints (we rarely have sex without them). Got any additional solutions?

The first thing that comes to mind is that you might want to get a bigger cock—at least a longer one. Which one are you using right now?

And maybe she would say she doesn’t want or need any more length inside her, but that’s okay—just because it is 8″ or 10″ doesn’t mean you have to put all of those inches in her. And if you have a longer shaft, you can pull out farther and move around (which is what it seems like you want to and like to do) and still not pull all the way out.

I would suggest one like this one, Bandit, which is 7″ long. It does have balls, but they are very flat, so I think it’s still about 6 3/4″ insertable. It’s made by Vixen Creations and it is one of my favorites.

But, if getting a new cock is not an option, for whatever reason (her comfort, your wallets, etc), here’s a few other ideas.

Try keeping your hand on your cock most of the time while you’re fucking. I do this a lot, also because I don’t want to slip out and can easily do that sometimes, especially when I get going. I find it’s most comfortable for me to either have my hand loosely on the base, or up against her, where the cock is going in, loosely. Sometimes it is very good in this position to be able to stimulate her clit, too (or finger her asshole, or whatever). This is so you can feel when you’re about to come out, you can feel the ridge of the head of your cock if you pull out that far, and you can keep yourself inside.

Try moving less! Seriously. I understand it probably feels good when you do that, but there are other ways to move so you can still feel good and you aren’t slipping out as much. See if you can get a side-to-side movement working well. Practice moving your hips in a circle rather than in-and-out. Or go in-and-out but use a different angle, so you don’t pull out so far. Try five quick strokes in-and-out at about half-length, not all the way, and then five excruciatingly slow strokes where you pull pretty much all the way out.

Try tightening your harness so you can feel any movements better, maybe you won’t need to move around so much that way.

You said you’ve tried other positions, but try more. If she’s on top, she can control the depth and it’s a lot harder to pull all the way out. If you’re on top, try drawing your knees up instead of having your legs splayed out straight so you have more control with your hips.

If none of this works to prevent slipping out, well, maybe you can just accept that you’re going to fuck and buck wildly, and you’re going to slip out. I mean, does that really matter so much? Just put it back in. You might want to create a script that you say—or a couple different scripts—so that it becomes part of the play, and also so that she has a way to tell you that you’ve slipped out without embarrassing you or you feeling silly for having continued to fuck without being actually inside (it’s one of the downfalls of not actually having nerves there). She can say, for example, “Wait, I want you inside me, come back, you’ve slipped, put it back in.” You can tease her and say, “Do you really want it?” and make her beg or say please. Or she can order you around and make YOU beg to put it back in, if that’s more like your dynamic.

Okay, what say you out there reading this? Any other ideas for staying inside? Any more thoughts or suggestions?

Second Annual Butch/Femme Pride Sideshow! June 14th

Join us at Sideshow on June 14th for our second PRIDE month celebration of butch and femme. Readers include Rachel Kahn, Alicia Greene, & Maggie Cee from Boston’s Femme Show, Susan Herr from DapperQ.com, and Grace Moon from Velvet Park Media.

Sid

eshow: The Queer Literary Carnival
Hosted by Cheryl B. & Sinclair Sexsmith
Tuesday, June 14th
at The Phoenix
447 East 13th Street at Avenue A
Doors, 7:30pm. Reading, 8pm
Free! (We’ll pass the hat for the readers)
RSVP on Facebook

Rachel Kahn is a freelance writer, poet, and performer, but spends the vast majority of her time pretending to be a therapist. Her work has been heard at a variety of venues, including the Apocalypse Lounge, the Ear Inn Poetry Series, and The New York Writers’ Coalition ‘Writing Aloud’ series. She has performed at the HOT Festival at Dixon Place in New York City, and makes trouble on and off stage up and down the East Coast. Rachel is not ashamed to tell you that she wrote a young adult novel, but will never let you know what name she used.

Alicia Greene has been a performance-loving, femme dyke diva since she was 10 years old. Spoken word, dance, comedy are some of the stages you may have seen her on. She trained at Kansas State University, the Improv Asylum, Improv Olympic and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts-NYC to just to name a few. Some past performances include: The Chicago Improv Festival, Montreal Fringe Festival, Company One, Big Moves dance troupe, street corners, comedy clubs and open mikes near you. She has also been an announcer for the Boston Derby Dames Roller Derby League as “Lady Oshun-The Announcing Orisha” since 2007. www.bostonderbydames.com

Maggie Cee is an artist, activist, and teacher committed to community, social change, and wearing things in her hair. She is the founder and artistic director of The Femme Show, a ground-breaking touring variety show about queer femme identity. Publications include anthologies Girl Crazy and Second Person Queer and journals Gertrude and Common Ground Review. www.thefemmeshow.com

With dance, spoken word, burlesque and performance art from award winning artists, The Femme Show is the country’s only ongoing touring show exploring all aspects of femme identity. This is queer art for queer people, with a variety of diverse perspectives on femme identity that can be thoughtful, sad, funny, sexy, and fun. The Femme Show is available for performances and workshops at conferences, schools, and community events. www.thefemmeshow.com

Susan Herr is a 48-year-old butch dyke who founded dapperQ.com to build transgenderational bridges between her ilk and younger genderfabs. What will all the photos and videos and narratives contributed by pioneers transgressing men’s fashion — building on the work of folks like Mr. Sexsmith — it’s working! She used to be mad butchphobic and now she can’t get enough of the magic conveyed by simple swagger. Can you?

Grace Moon is the editor in chief of Velvetparkmedia.com an arts and culture social media site for queer women. Moon is also an exhibiting artist and professor of fine arts. She is currently working on a compilation of her columns to be published in an upcoming book.

Ask Me Anything: Strap-On Positions When Someone is Taller

Tuesday asked:

What’s your advice on positions that work for strap-on sex between people of very different heights? especially taller person receiving

Well, if your torsos are different lengths, especially if the one receiving is much taller, it’s going to be pretty difficult to be in the missionary position—or just about any position where you are strapped on and fucking and also simultaneously kissing (on the mouth) and holding each other close.

If your thigh heights are different, then fucking from behind on hands and knees is going to be difficult too. If both your torso and your thighs are different heights, it’ll be almost impossible to get into a position where your entire bodies are pressed up against each other and fucking at the same time.

There are still many other positions you can fuck easily in, but that one is going to be hard, maybe impossible.

Try these:

1. Strap on wearer (giver) seated, receiver on top, straddling

2. Receiver bent over a bed which is at the giver’s hip height

3. Receiver with their knees tucked under them, but leaning forward, so they can hold themselves up at the right height by their thighs; giver behind them

4. Giver on their knees, with the receiver on the bed (or floor or etc) on their back, receiver’s thighs up over giver’s knees; giver stays upright. (I particularly like this one for rough and deep penetration because I can grab on to their thighs and move them against me.)

You may just have to try any or every position, until you find a few that seem to work most of the time, and go for those. Try glancing through one of those positions for sex books—you probably don’t need to buy it, just glance through it—and see if any of them strike you.

You also might want to think about getting some sex furniture. They’re much more solid than regular bedroom pillows, and the microsuade material means that you don’t slip or slide. Sometimes those are excellent for angles and positioning, it might be worth trying (though they are expensive). Take a look at the Liberator Wedge, Ramp (which is the best for multiple positions), or the Ramp & Wedge combo.

Anyone else have suggestions?

Happy 28th Birthday, Kristen!

It’s Kristen’s 28th birthday tomorrow!

I am as ever grateful for her in my life. I’ve never been so in love, I’ve never been in a better relationship, and though we are in some rocky growth struggles, I am confident we’ll get through it and be better people because of it.

This is the third birthday I’ve been able to spend with her so far, and I love the ways that she is growing and blossoming and stepping into her power and doing amazing things in the world, and I know it’s just going to be more exciting to be with her as all her adventures continue.

Love you, darling. Happy birthday.

Mini Interview: Jiz Lee

Porn star, JizLee.com, @jizlee, Facebook

Photo by Nikola Tamindzic (homeofthevain.com) for Fleshbot.

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

My relationship to the word “butch” was integral to my current identity as genderqueer. It’s a verb I like to visit now and then to describe my experiences within androgyny. My butch is generally easy-going, and brings me closest to my casual, gender-neutral life-style. Dress-up occasions tend to bring out the more flamboyant parts of myself, depending on the context, my butch helps me stand apart and express genderqueer visibility.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

Lately I have been enjoying the flexibility of the words genderqueer and queer. I feel like the fluid nature of identity can allow me to feel free and open with others about the complexities of my gender as well as the variations of my lovers’ genders. Also, I’m falling in love with the word “androgyne” again.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I wish I could teach my younger self about sex ed and open relationships, so that my younger self could not only be more responsible, but also help my peers around these issues. I don’t regret anything of course because it’s all added to who I am now, however I wonder what might have changed had I even known the difference between sex and gender as a youth. I’ve met some young adults who were raised in progressive educations and it is so wonderful to observe this openness. It makes me optimistic for a more sex-positive culture.

Babeland’s New Gender Expression Category

Babeland has launched a Gender Expression category! Which includes products for packing, dildos for strapping on, harnesses, accessories like chest binders and stand-to-pee devices, and more.

 

I’ve got a couple of these products lined up to review, including the clit pump and the new Tantus Realdoe, and hopefully a STP (stand to pee) review roundup … and maybe a few others. I’m excited this is being offered and I look forward to the rest of the new things that get added to this category!

Returning from the Power, Surrender, and Intimacy Retreat

I’ve returned from retreat, a three-day workshop at Easton Mountain called Power, Surrender, and Intimacy (PSI) through the erotic energy school that I have studied with for more than ten years. I’m producing these workshops these days, as well as assisting, and while our numbers were a little bit low, the workshop was beautifully smooth and overall very successful. There are some shifts happening at the school, so I’m not sure how many more of these I will produce, but I’m really glad to have done this one.

Easton Mountain retreat center, aka gay sex camp, where the workshop was held

I’ve done PSI twice before, once as a participant in about 2002 and once as an assistant here in New York in about 2007. The first one I remember vividly—many of the different pieces of it—and I easily can point to that workshop weekend to say that that is when I discovered I was a top. The entire workshop centers around exploring dominance and submission, power and surrender. I found the surrender parts fairly easy but not particularly heated, and I was shocked to discover not only how I liked to be in charge, channeling power, but also that I had an inner sadist ready to be cultivated.

I couldn’t remember the second workshop very well. In the week up to this one I was trying to think of what I had taken away from it, what it had shifted for me, and as this weekend went on I realized that PSI was a huge tipping point in my study as an assistant, as a leader of this work and as someone who is able to hold, ground, and move erotic energy.

The difference between what I am capable of doing now and what I could do then is significant—I felt so connected, and so able to move the overwhelming emotion that came up for the entire group at various times. There were certainly moments where I nearly panicked with the expectation (that I set on myself, mostly) that I would be able to hold or move something, but generally when faced with that responsibility I could meet it gladly and capably.

The most significant moment of this was during two rituals on Sunday, when we started out with a wand of light tantric meditation (which I can’t seem to find any description of online) in order to raise some of our energies so we could go into the next ritual, which was transformative and about shadow, and very intense. The wand of light meditation starts at the root chakra and builds all the way up to the third eye, one chakra at a time, and I could feel it so intensely, especially toward the end, that I was kind of certain my head was going to come off as energy shot skyward and began exploding things.

I, as an assistant (and having had experienced this ritual before, which the other two assistants had not), was expected to go first in the second ritual. The facilitator described that we shouldn’t calculate what we were going to do, but that we would know it was time to come up when we felt a quickening. Oh, I felt it alright. I knew I had to go up there, and do something with this energy which was pulsing through my spine, but I wasn’t really sure what to do or how to do it.

Gravity by Nikki McClure. This image came to mind when I was trying to ground
I tried to describe it to another one of the assistants later. During the meditation part, I felt the energy rush up into me so intensely and come pouring out of the crown of my head that I layed down to get some better grounding, trying to remember that I was held by gravity, but even that didn’t work: instead of going up through my entire body, it started going from my root chakra through my pelvis and up into my cock, which became so incredibly erect and upright and felt like it was going to shoot off of me.

I sat back up, and tried to ground in other ways.

It dawned on me that this wand of light, this energetic connection to the earth, was there all the time, not just now—it’s something that I’ve dropped into numerous times at tantra workshops in recent years, and it always surprises me that it’s still there, and in fact it’s easier to access the next time around.

Realizing and deeply feeling this connection made me think of something another assistant had said on our ride up: that we are not living on the earth, but living in the earth, since the atmosphere is not actually part of space but part of our unique planet. We swim around in it. We would not survive outside of it. We are held upright to the earth by this magical gravity, but we are not separate. In fact, I felt like a puppet, like this wand of light was actually the earth creating me, coming up into me and animating me.

That is what I would have liked to express when I got up in front of the whole group to open the second ritual. But I couldn’t form words. As a writer and poet I find that extremely frustrating. The facilitator even asked: Are there words to go with this? I was shaking with every breath. Filling up with light and energy and then feeling it pour down my spine again as I breathed out, or pour up through the crown of my head. My hands jerked and felt electric.

“I feel like a column,” I managed to say. Really this energy felt penetrative. It felt like I was being fucked by spirit. It felt like it—and I—was rising out of the earth. It felt like the earth was using me to fuck the sky. I had no idea how to form words, it was all I could do to sit still and not explode.

“I don’t know if I can say more.”

And that was just about it. Three minutes were up, quickly, and I sat back down, unsure if my head was still attached. And then I started to panic. Oh fuck. What if I stay like this? What do I do with all of this energy? What is it going to do to me? It doesn’t seem to be working to just let it flow through me—and by “working” I mean it doesn’t seem to be calming me, but rather ramping me up. How do I calm this quickening? I have to work now, I have to assist and support others in their reveal, how am I going to do that?

Words from another facilitator came to mind: When you feel you can’t handle something, give it to the earth. She can handle anything. I would have tried anything right then. So I redirected all that energy that was coming up through me and thought of it pouring down into the ground, and immediately my head cleared. Immediately I felt so solid and stable and grounded. Immediately I no longer felt crazy but powerful, and powerfully alive.

The ritual poured through me, one person after another, and mostly I was so intensely connected and moved by it that tears just streamed down my cheeks for person after person, and I gave it all back to the earth. Help me hold this, thank you, thank you.

I feel like my reveal was sloppy, and that I was in a little bit of a state of panic when I went up there, but it’s clear that the energy was present and that I was a conduit for it. And the ritual happened, successfully, with the transformative energies we were seeking, so clearly something went right. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been able to see outside of myself a little better, and it’s clear to me that what I did was the only thing I could have done at that moment. Perhaps it’s the performer in me who would have liked to have a better translation of my experience into my expression. But I can—or will try—to let that tiny sliver of regret go, and to not let it drive me.

What I learned about grounding was powerful, and I think that will stick with me.

There were a couple other fascinating things I’d like to report to you about, though they were not workshop content so much as things around the workshop that came up, like the debate over where female ejaculate comes from (the urethra) and where it is stored (the paraurethral sponge, I discovered). And the conversations around female/feminine sources of power and how easily that power can be mistaken or misused as manipulation instead of power, and how that flavor of power is even encouraged to be manipulation in this culture. And the conversations about butch identity with the facilitator and the other assistant—how there is a constant butch scale in our heads which compares and contrasts us to each other, and fears that we are the least butch of the group. There are many more things I could write about.

But it’s day three of being back, and I have so many things I need to accomplish, my email inboxes are too full, and I’ve been avoiding some regular tasks the last two days as I have been trying to take good care of myself for this re-entry. Perhaps I’ll write more about those things later, I promise I’ll try.

Meanwhile, I’ll get back to the Ask Me Anything questions, and start working on the next retreat, which is my favorite one (a five-day advanced retreat in New Mexico in late July).

I’m curious if you all might have questions for me about this retreat … do you want to know more about it? Which parts?

Ask Me Anything: Confidence & Getting Girls Off

Babybutch wrote:

My girlfriend totally knows how to get me off, but I’m nervous that I’m not doing enough for her sexually. We’re very honest with each other, but I worry that she’s not saying anything because she’s afraid of hurting my feelings. What kind of sexual activities would you recommend for the relative novice? What did you “start” with when you were just beginning your sex life with women? I think my biggest problem is (lack of) confidence.

I think you’re probably right, that more than anything it is a lack of confidence. My best advice for building confidence is: a) come up with a small script you can say when you get nervous, where she will reassure you in a way that makes you feel more confident and builds you up (this also might involve a post-fucking script with lots of praise over what you did); b) ask her what she likes, let her direct you until you get it right; c) fake it till you make it—not with the moves, but with the confidence. Just pretending you have confidence will get you pretty far, since usually confidence is actually about a mental state rather than any physical action that you do (or don’t do).

This also kind of depends on how toppy or switchy you are—it’s harder to fake topping, I think, and harder to let her direct you if you’re also trying to build dominance too. But you said she knows how to get you off, so perhaps that isn’t a factor with you two.

You also wrote: “We’re very honest with each other, but I worry …” See if you can work on that. You can flat out tell her, “Hey, I know you said it’s okay, but I have the impression for some reason that maybe you just don’t want to hurt my feelings. Now if you tell me that I’m wrong and just worrying too much, I will believe you, but I also want you to know that I can take it, and I’m interested in getting better at fucking you, so I hope you’ll help me do that.”

And if she tells you that it’s okay, then you can choose to believe her. (She can also choose to change her mind later, and hopefully you won’t take that as an affront, or that she was lying—just accept that sometimes feelings about things change, and that she’s being as honest as she can be right now.)

Another issue at play here might be the difference between how many times she wants to touch you vs how many times she wants to be touched (or how many times you want to be touched vs how many times you want to do the touching). Conventional lesbian wisdom says I-do-you-you-do-me, but that doesn’t necessarily jive with everybody. I, for example, am a top bordering on stone, so I don’t want to be touched, barely ever. Maybe 1 time out of 20. But perhaps you are a five-out-of-ten person, or an eight-out-of-ten person. It sounds like her desires—to be the one who mostly touches you—is driving your sex life right now, but that can (and should) be co-created by the couple to figure out what’s best for both of you. Maybe you want to do more of the touching, but your confidence is holding you back? Maybe she’s not so good at asking for what she wants, or giving you permission to just explore and play? Maybe you are both too goal-oriented here—just because you don’t know how to get her off in two seconds, like perhaps she does to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t still a good idea to touch her, kiss her all over, make her feel good.

And yes, it’s possible that she’s overcompensating because of your nerves, being more of the actor than the receiver because you aren’t stepping up. So if you want to step up, do it. I would TALK to her about it—out of the bedroom, on a random afternoon where you’ve had a lovely morning together and you are both feeling loose and open. Say, “Hey, I know I haven’t been stepping up in the bedroom much, but that’s because I’ve been kind of nervous, but I’d really like to work on that. Can we talk about ways we can play so I can try to build my skills?”

And, speaking of skills. You asked for advice on activities for a sexual novice. Ultimately, it all depends on what you like, and what she likes. There are activities that I think are kind of basic and beginner that other people think are really advanced and edgy, and vice versa. Like cunnilingus—going down on a girl—that is something that I do not do with a new lover, mostly because it’s so intimate (and the whole fluid-bonding thing, since I much prefer it without a dam). It takes time to build up to, for me. But then again I can top someone and be dominant on a first date, spanking or using restraints or pulling hair, which some people would think is a much more advanced thing to do.

But, generally? I think to be a good lover, you should be good at these things: 1) kissing, 2) finger fucking, 3) going down, 4) toys, whichever toys you might be in to, be they vibrators or strap-ons or bondage equipment, 5) quickies.

Of course, there’s plenty more things to get good at—anal, bondage, squirting (if either of you tends to do that—or if you don’t, you can experiment and see if you can make yourselves do it), percussion play, penetration, dirty talk, role play … but generally I think those take longer to learn and experiment with, and if you get those others down, you’ll be golden.

Kissing: check out Violet Blue‘s book Seal it With A Kiss (or her ebook, How To Kiss) if you doubt your abilities. Go slow, make it luscious, make it last, don’t use too much teeth or tongue or saliva. You probably know the basics.

Finger fucking: Practice on yourself. I assume you’re good at getting yourself off already. Watch her masturbate so you can see what she does to turn herself on: does she always have her fingers on her clit, and never go inside? Does she start with a lot of fingers in her cunt and only put her fingers on her clit at the very last second? Does she use tons of force, or very light strokes? Are the strokes long and circling, or slow and jerky? Watch closely. Take notes. Try to duplicate it. Ask her for help—”There?” “No, lower, lower—YES. Harder. Left-right instead of up-down. Like that. Don’t stop!” (And then, whenever a lover says don’t stop, for goddess’ sake, DON’T STOP.)

Going down: Check out Going Down: How to Give Her Mind-Blowing Oral Sex which has some excellent tips, or Violet Blue’s Ultimate Guide. I have a whole class on this, so I have more things to say than I will go into here.

Toys: Consider adding a vibrator to the mix if you are worried that your skills aren’t getting her off. Have her hold it and use it while you fuck her, while you kiss, while you talk dirty in her ear, while your fingers are inside of her. I am not huge on vibrators myself, but I do love the Hitachi, and there are a lot of really beautiful high-quality high-class vibes out there these days. Experiment! Ask your favorite sex toy store for advice, I’m sure they can help. I just noticed that Babeland has 20% off of Jimmyjane vibrators this month—that might be worth looking into, those are beautiful (and expensive).

Quickies: For lots of reasons, this is a great thing to work on, to be able to do as a couple. For one, it says to her, “I can’t wait, I have to have you RIGHT NOW, I don’t care if we only have ten minutes,” which is flattering and good for the bond between you. But also, it is good practice for getting her (or your) arousal up to the point where you can come quickly. It takes skill and practice and enthusiasm! If it was me, trying to get better at something like quickies, I would lay it out directly: “Hey, I really want us to be able to fuck quickly. Are you game to try that? Say, every day this week we’ll try to just work in a really quick fuck somewhere other than the bed (or maybe in the bed, too, if that works). Are you up for that?” And see how she feels about that kind of thing. Maybe daily is too much, but maybe it could be daily over a three-day weekend? Or every other day? I like setting specific guidelines or goals around things like that, because then if we both consent to it, it makes it easier to follow through with. But—your milage may vary, do what feels good for you.

Last but not least, you asked how I got started, when I started fucking women. I went to a women’s erotic workshop, one of those that I have been pimping out lately because I’m now coordinating the workshops, before I’d ever slept with a girl. That most certainly helped.

But, thought I had (quite a bit of) experience fucking guys, I didn’t have much confidence and I wasn’t sure what I was doing. The first girl I slept with hadn’t actually slept with a girl ever either, so in that we kind of figured it out together. I remember very vividly how nervous I was, how we both knew what was coming, but neither were sure how to start or, once we’d started, how to proceed. She actually said, “I don’t know what to do,” which, for me, was the permission slip I needed to just go for it, to follow my instincts and to stop holding back what I wanted to do to her, how I wanted to touch her. When she admitted she didn’t know, well, then, there wasn’t much I could do that would be wrong, would there?

We only dated for about a month and slept together only about three times, partially because my mom was in town for a week and partially because I got my tongue pierced the day after our first date. Um, whoops.

Well—that was longer than I intended, but I hope that is helpful!

And now, what about you all out there? What’s your advice for this babybutch? How do you build confidence in the beginning? What were your early experiences fucking women like?

Biggest Sideshow Yet! Genderqueer Tantra! So Much To Do

This month’s Sideshow: Queer Literary Carnival is the biggest yet! We have three poets, three comics, three guest judges, one musical guest, and one host who will be joining us on Tuesday—tomorrow night!—and telling dirty jokes and funny poems for your pleasure.

If you didn’t see Cheryl B.‘s previous reading series, Poetry vs Comedy Variety Hour, you’re in for a treat!

Join us at Sideshow on May 10th for a special revival of Cheryl B.’s previous reading series, Poetry vs Comedy Variety Hour! PVC is not a typical poetry slam nor a regular stand-up comedy show. PVC is a battle of wits and Rhymes where the stanzas and the stand-ups collide.

Performers include Kit Yan, Molly “Equality” Dykeman, Sinclair Sexsmith, Paul Case, Emma Willmann, and Jessica Halem. Celebrity guest judges include Shawn Hollenbach, Livia Scott, and Amanda Goad, Esquire. Hosted by Carolyn Castiglia, this special PvC features musical guest Leibya Rogers!

Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival: POETRY vs COMEDY
Hosted by Cheryl B. & Sinclair Sexsmith
Tuesday, May 10th
at The Phoenix
447 East 13th Street at Avenue A
Doors, 7:30pm. Reading, 8pm
Free! (We’ll pass the hat for the readers)

Now, that’s on Tuesday.

On Thursday, there is a very special Lesbian Sex Mafia monthly workshop, which features my tantra mentor.

Genderqueer Tantra with Alex Jade
Thursday, May 12 8:00pm
LGBT Community Center
208 W 13th St, New York, NY
RSVP on Facebook

Tantra is a school of thought and spiritual practice that allows us to explore the multi-dimensions of spiritual energy in our bodies. Though it often emphasizes the relationship between masculine and feminine, Genderqueer Tantra allows us to PLAY with masculine and feminine energies without getting caught up in rigid gender limitations. Join Tantra and SM practitioner Alex Jade for an interactive workshop that will introduce you to the basic Tantra concepts and invite you to deepen your sexual experiences, increase awareness of the body and mind using sensations from subtle to bold.

Alex Jade, MSW is an erotic educator, sacred intimate, psychotherapist, and student of Tantra. She is on the faculty of the Body Electric School and she has produced and taught independent workshops in Seattle for over 15 years. She has mastery in clothes-off hands-on experiential erotic education and the use of ritual as a healing tool. Alex’s specialties are gender exploration, classical Tantra, SM, and exploring with an open heart and mind.

This coming weekend, after these two (HUGE) events, I will be off in the mini-mountains of the Hudson Valley exploring some shadow through some bdsm and erotic energy play. I’m really thrilled to be doing another erotic energy retreat, and so glad it has come together. It is ever hard to get people to come out to events! Women especially, it seems.

I have more to say about that, and about a dozen other topics, but my brain is kind of fried with these events. They are so time consuming. More writing soon.

What Are Some Sex Positive Words for Women?

Looks like this came from the Dallas Slut Walk—but I’m not sure of its exact origin. I found it on Tumblr.

Since I feel like we’ve been pretty good at actually creating some language after having a need for a word that means something specific in the past, that I’ve incorporated into my vocabulary, I wonder if y’all would like to brainstorm some words with me.

Seriously, what words to we have to describe women in a sex-positive way? Slut, whore, cunt, pussy, seductress, mistress, vixen, cougar … they all have some sense of sexual manipulation in them. I would argue that some of those words are AWESOME, and that there’s been some serious reclamation done with many of them. But still, I want to know: when you meet a woman who owns her own sexuality, who plays with it how she wants to, who has unashamed sex and unabashed desire, what do you call her?

That there is not even a word for that type of woman in our language says something.

So, poet and armchair linguist that I am, if there is not the exact right word for something, I say we make one. Or we reclaim one. What can we use for this?

For the record, it looks like Toronto was the first city to do a Slut Walk, and there is a Slut Walk NYC Saturday, August 20 at 1pm, kicking off at Union Square. There are quite a few in other cities on the list too, if you want to get involved. I’m going to be at the Butch Voices conference in Oakland that weekend, but Kristen already has it on her calendar.

Ask Me Anything: My Favorite Smut

Meredith asked:

I’m excited for the anthology and your turn at editing. I’ve read some of your other published pieces and of course this blog so it begs the question: What is YOUR favorite smut to read? Got a favorite anthology? Author?

Oh sure, I have a few thoughts about that.

My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday changed my life and was significantly formative to my sexuality. I hunted down a copy in the last year or so and was pleasantly surprised that her opening introduction is still amazing and relevant, though that’s also kind of sad—it was published in 1973, it is almost forty years old, yet the limitations, stereotypes, and restrictions placed on women are still relevant. I wish I still had my teenage copy with the spine broken at all the best places.

Amazing single-author smut books are hard to come by, so the anthologies are easier to mention. I love Doing it for Daddy edited by Patrick Califia, Back to Basics: A Butch/Femme Anthology edited by Therese Szymanski (especially “The Trick” by Amie M. Evans), and Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino—but those are very specific to my butch/femme and daddy orientations, so they might not be your favorites. I adore the stories “Poster Boy” by Carol Queen and “Dress Leather” (one of my favorite short stories ever, of any genre) by Robin Sweeney in Switch Hitters: Lesbians Write Gay Male Erotica and Gay Men Write Lesbian Erotica, edited by Carol Queen & Lawrence Schimel. The stories “Clash of the Titans” by Karlyn Lotney and “Ridin’ Bitch” by Toni Amato in Best Lesbian Erotica 1998 edited by Taormino were very formative for me, as I started obsessing over lesbian erotica in the late 90s while I was working up the nerve to leave my boyfriend and come out, and they are cock-centric and butch/femme in a way that made me realize that I still had a lot more to explore.

I’ve also been really into the “sudden sex” stories lately, the super short ones. Often the longer short stories feel like they just drag on to me, especially when I just want to pick something up in order to get off and I’m not leisurely reading. Got a Minute?: 60 Second Erotica edited by Alison Tyler and Frenzy: 60 Stories of Sudden Sex edited by Alison Tyler are great, and Rachel Kramer Bussel just put one out called Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex (which I have a story in, but the book is good regardless). I’d pick up just about anything Rachel publishes, she has great taste and her anthologies are always well done.

    
    

It’s harder for a single author to sustain an entire book, so there aren’t as many of those that I go to when I want inspiration (for writing or for getting off). I am kind of in love with Mr. Benson by John Preston and The Leather Daddy and the Femme by Carol Queen. I have read them both many times. I can’t believe it took me this long to read Mr. Benson.

Cherry by Charlotte Cooper, Breathless by Kitty Tsui, and Macho Sluts or Boy in the Middle by Patrick Califia (or just about anything by Califia, really) are also amazing and worth reading. It’s been a while since I read Cherry but it comes to mind immediately as fun and readable and great.

I also really love Jack Stratton’s stuff at WritingDirty.com, especially What’s in a Name. He’s got an eBook of Writing Dirty volume 1 which I haven’t purchased yet (I should go do that right now), but I’ve read all the pieces on the site (seriously I’m sure I’ve read every single one), so I highly recommend the collection if you’d rather read it on your reader than in a blog-form.

Other things I read online … well, I read a lot of Daddy/girl stories these days. I’ve been quite enjoying the recent Bedtime Stories blog. I still think The Provocateur has some of the best writing ever, but it’s generally more literary and fancy than I turn to when I want to get off. For that, I like the quick and dirty stuff.

Many of these books can be found on my smut bookshelf … and there are more of my favorites in my Amazon A-store.

And now, what about you all? What are your favorite books of smut? Got any recommendations for things that I perhaps haven’t read? What is your go-to story when you want to get off? What do you love in an erotic story?

Ask Me Anything: Origins of ‘Sugarbutch’, and Butch Identity Advice

Kyle asked:

Where did ‘Sugarbutch’ come from? Is it a nickname? A term of endearment? A random word paired with ‘butch’?

And, because I’m feeling greedy/generous, another question, this one a little more serious. What is one piece of advice you’d give to a newly identifying butch. Would it be something about relationships? Or maybe fashion related? Something deeper about identity, gender and sexuality? And if you don’t want to be limited to one piece of advice, go for it.

I’m not sure I have explained “sugarbutch” before. It is a term my first girlfriend used to say, as in, “You’re not really butch, you’re kind of sugar-butch,” as a way to soften the “butch” part. When I started this site I knew I was butch, but I was still having trouble claiming it without any qualifiers or clarifications, which is why I used the “sugar” part. It makes it sweeter (ha ha), less harsh. Five years later, I don’t think “butch” needs to be made sweeter or less harsh, or rather I think the stereotype of butch may need to be, but that I don’t need to present it that way. I can let the complications of butch identity come through just by being who I am rather than qualifying my language.

Secondly … advice. Actually I have a somewhat recent performance poetry piece called “Unsolicited Advice to a New Butch” (also known as The Butch Poem) which I’ve been performing a bit, I did it first at Butch Voices Portland last year (which is why I thought for a second that that was a trick question, Kyle, since you were there! But you couldn’t stay for the spoken word performance, I think you were already headed back to Seattle by then). I haven’t posted it online yet. I’d like to post it as a video instead of as text, but I haven’t had the chance to record it yet.

One piece of advice is hard. I could have one piece of advice on all the topics you mentioned—relationships, sex, fashion, identity. But I’ll just jump into it by saying: Examine your identity alignment assumptions. Examine your misogyny and masculine privilege. Make the label conform to you, don’t conform to it. Gender should not dictate your personality, hobbies, emotional landscape, or interests, so like what you like and don’t worry that it’s not “butch enough.”

Ultimately: do what feels right to you. Deconstruct societal restrictions and listen to your own inner self. Date who you want to date, sleep with who you want to sleep with, keep your hair how you want to keep your hair, wear what you want to wear. Give yourself permission to experiment (especially with fashion and adornment—hair and clothes are very temporary!). Don’t be afraid to expand the definition of a label if you feel like it has some resonance. Don’t be afraid to experiment, collect the data, and then change things as needed in the future. Whatever or whoever you are right now, it could be the same in five or ten years or it could be completely different, and that’s okay. Don’t take it all so seriously. There is more to you than just this identity, this is just one part of who you are. Work on all the parts (like in the integrated life matrix) and commit to evolving into your Self over and over.

I’d be curious to hear other folks’ answer to that question, though—what advice would YOU give to a new butch? What advice do you wish you had? What’d you learn the hard way? What was the best piece of advice you received?

Lesbian Sex Mafia Presents: Genderqueer Tantra May 12th

It is my pleasure to invite you to another event this May in NYC: Genderqueer Tantra at the LGBT Center through the Lesbian Sex Mafia.

One of my favorite mentors, Alex Jade, is going to be in town doing a retreat through the tantra school with which I study, and I asked her to make a stop off in the city and do an event with the Lesbian Sex Mafia before she heads out to the retreat center. I’m thrilled she’ll be doing an introduction to tantra.

A lot of folks aren’t quite sure what tantra is, or a cliche and stereotype comes to mind. Broadly, it’s about energy, often as applied to sexuality—but it is bigger and deeper and much more complicated than that. I’m not a tantra teacher (yet) so I’m not even sure how to describe or explain it, but hey, that’s why workshops like this are fantastic.

Plus, it’s tantra in a queer and BDSM context, which makes it all the more awesome. Hope you can come.

Genderqueer Tantra with Alex Jade

Thursday, May 12 8:00pm
LGBT Community Center
208 W 13th St, New York, NY
RSVP on Facebook

Tantra is a school of thought and spiritual practice that allows us to explore the multi-dimensions of spiritual energy in our bodies. Though it often emphasizes the relationship between masculine and feminine, Genderqueer Tantra allows us to PLAY with masculine and feminine energies without getting caught up in rigid gender limitations. Join Tantra and SM practitioner Alex Jade for an interactive workshop that will introduce yo…u to the basic Tantra concepts and invite you to deepen your sexual experiences, increase awareness of the body and mind using sensations from subtle to bold.

Alex Jade, MSW is an erotic educator, sacred intimate, psychotherapist, and student of Tantra. She is on the faculty of the Body Electric School and she has produced and taught independent workshops in Seattle for over 15 years. She has mastery in clothes-off hands-on experiential erotic education and the use of ritual as a healing tool. Alex’s specialties are gender exploration, classical Tantra, SM, and exploring with an open heart and mind.

About LSM

Founded in 1981 by Dorothy Allison and Jo Arnone, the Lesbian Sex Mafia (LSM) is the oldest continuously running women’s BDSM support and education groups in the country. We are located in New York City, with a membership primarily in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. However, we also have members along the East Coast, across the country and even in Europe!

LSM is a support and information group for all women 18 years of age or older, including transexual and intersexed women who live their daily lives as women and all female-born transgender people who feel they have a connection with and respect for the women’s community. And, who are interested in fantasy and role playing, bondage, discipline, S/M, fetishes, costumes, alternate gender identities and uninhibited sexual expression in a safe, sane, consensual and confidential way.

www.lesbiansexmafia.org

What’s Happening in May

College season is over! I’m still traveling a little bit during the summer, but I am thrilled to be at home and doing more New York-based things for the next few months. There’s still a lot going on, though I have way fewer events than I have had in the last few months.

Here’s the stuff you really should not miss.

Events with Mr. Sexsmith

Thursday, May 5th, 8pmRed Umbrella Diaries: The Boss of Me, www.redumbrellaproject.comHappy Ending, 302 Broome Street between Forsyth and Eldridge, Manhattan, NY

Tuesday, May 10th, 8pmSideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival: Poetry vs Comedy Variety Hour! Performers include Kit Yan, Molly “Equality” Dykeman, Sinclair Sexsmith, and Jessica Halem, with special guests TBA. Celebrity guest judges include Shawn Hollenbach and Livia Scott. Hosted by Carolyn Castiglia, this special PvC features musical guest Leibya Rogers! Details on Sugarbutch, RSVP on Facebookat The Phoenix, 447 East 13th Street at Avenue A in New York City

Thursday, May 12th, 8-10pmLesbian Sex Mafia presents: Genderqueer Tantra with Alex Jade. $5 for members, $10 for non members. Women & trans only. RSVP on Facebook.LGBT Center, 208 West 13th St. (7th/8th Ave) Manhattan, NY

Saturday, May 21stKristen’s birthday! Also the end of the world, or rather judgement day which counts down to the end of the world on October 21st, according to some Christian evangelicals. So we’re going to party like it’s 1999 and dress up like superheroes. (I am considering bleaching my hair so I can be Spike.)

Thursday, May 26th, 6pmLambda Literary Awards ceremony! Can’t wait. School of Visual Arts Theater, 333 West 23rd Street, Manhattan, NY

Queer Memoir is on hiatus, and it looks like Ruckus might not be happening this month, but keep an eye out for their date if they announce it. I’m looking forward to Red Umbrella Diaries, I haven’t been there in the last few months.

Also! I am now booking fall events for colleges and traveling nationally. I’ll be working at home and writing through May and June, and then doing more travel in July, August, and September, including some travels to Seattle in early July, the Butch Voices national conference in Oakland in August, and Dark Odyssey Summer Camp in September. My schedule is kept up on mrsexsmith.com/appearances if you want to see if I’m coming your way.

Last but not least, here’s my 2011 workshop offerings in a PDF so it is easy to download, you can also download my one sheet PDF or high res photos in my press kit). Get in touch if you’re interested in booking me, you can contact me directly—mrsexsmith(at)gmail—or my booking company, PhinLi, at bookings(at)phinli.com.

Poetry vs Comedy Variety Hour at Sideshow May 10th

Well folks, Sideshow time is rolling around again—the next of my monthly reading series that I co-host and co-produce with the lovely Cheryl B. happens one week from tomorrow, on May 10th.

This one is a special one. Cheryl is still in the hospital, where she’s been for almost a month now, and we’re not sure if she’ll be able to attend next week or not (I would guess it is unlikely, but I know how badly she wants to be there!). But this show is a special revival of Cheryl’s former reading series, the Poetry vs Comedy Variety Hour, which was a genius combining of both poets and comics in a hilarious “competition” where the top poet and the top comic go head-to-head in a bonus improv round. Of course, the winning is not the point (but it didn’t stop me from being extra-nervous when performing in this series—I guess it brings out my inner competition that I try to keep managed).

I competed in Cheryl’s series three times, and won twice! I was the first poet to ever win, too—usually the comics were much more of a shoe-in. (But not this time, right Kit? We’ll give ’em a run for their money!)

I dug this photo out from the shoot with Syd London when I was making the graphic for this event, not sure I ever shared it with y’all (unless you went through the Flickr set).

photo by Syd London

I miss Cheryl’s company. I visit her as often as possible, but it’s not the same as kicking around for a day at a coffee shop in Brooklyn and talking about our lives and writing and girlfriends and sex and jobs and goals and whatever. I don’t know if I would have undertaken this Sideshow project if she wasn’t at the helm with me, and I’ve been so grateful for her guidance and help with this show.

So while we’ve been planning this special Poetry vs Comedy Sideshow for a long time, I’m also glad it’s coming along now, and it’s become a bit of a tribute to Cheryl as a community organizer, reading series host, poet, writer, and performer. We’ll be donating what we collect to Cheryl, and hopefully we’ll have someone there videotaping the evening in case she can’t make it. She is doing MUCH better (which is such a relief), but she still has some rehabilitation to go through, and some care and healing for her poor lungs.

I’d really like to rally and send some good energies her way during this difficult healing time. I hope, if you are in New York City on May 10th, you’ll come.

Join us at Sideshow on May 10th for a special revival of Cheryl B.’s previous reading series, Poetry vs Comedy Variety Hour! PVC is not a typical poetry slam nor a regular stand-up comedy show. PVC is a battle of wits and Rhymes where the stanzas and the stand-ups collide.

Performers include Kit Yan, Molly “Equality” Dykeman, Sinclair Sexsmith, Paul Case, Emma Willmann, and Jessica Halem. Celebrity guest judges include Shawn Hollenbach, Livia Scott, and Amanda Goad, Esquire. Hosted by Carolyn Castiglia, this special PvC features musical guest Leibya Rogers!

Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival: POETRY vs COMEDY
Hosted by Cheryl B. & Sinclair Sexsmith
Tuesday, May 10th
at The Phoenix
447 East 13th Street at Avenue A
Doors, 7:30pm. Reading, 8pm
Free! (We’ll pass the hat for the readers)

POETS

Andrea Alton aka Molly “Equality” Dykeman has performed her poetry/burlesque and comedy all over New York with appearances at Comix, The PIT, Arlene’s Grocery, The LGBT Center, The Knitting Factory, Dixon Place, The Bowery Poetry Club and The Stonewall Inn. She’s also performed at The Chicago, DC, San Francisco and Toronto Sketch Comedy Festivals as well as at The Miss Fag Hag Pageant (a benefit for The Harvey Milk School) and Murray Hill’s Miss Lez Pageant. Molly’s play The F*cking World According To Molly was just accepted into the New York Fringe Festival and will be premiering in August. www.mollyequalitydykeman.com

Recently Featured in the HBO Documentary Asians Aloud, Kit Yan tell stories through slam poetry from the lens of a transgender Asian American from Hawaii now lost in the big city of New York. Through touching love poems, dirty sex accounts(optional), and comedic tales of his childhood –Kit takes you on a journey that is raw, real, heart-wrenching, and unforgettable. New York Magazine describes his art as “knockout spoken-word” while Curve magazine says “incredible slam poetry” and Bitch magazine states that: “The eloquence of Kit’s spoken-word delivery lies in the anti-racist, anti-homophobic, gender-inclusive, language that ties his lyrics together.” Kit’s work has been taught at universities coast to coast, from San Francisco State to Harvard. He spoke to over 200,000 from the stage of the 2009 National Equality March, performed on the San Francisco Pride main stage, and earned a spot in as a top three finalist at the National Queer Slam. Kit Yan is the reigning Mr. Transman 2010, the first person to ever hold this national title.

Sinclair Sexsmith really loves sandwiches, daisies, spiral notebooks, and bourbon. She has performed in dyke bars, libraries, community centers, college campuses, and once, topless in a burrito line. She co-hosts and co-produces Sideshow with Cheryl B., and writes at Sugarbutch.net.

COMICS

Called “bawdy and brave” by Time Out Chicago and “Righteous and Chipper” by the Times-Picayune, Jessica Halem was raised by hippie Jewish artists from the East Coast which was anything but normal – or easy – in small-town Ohio, but did help to foster this very funny “on-your-face” comic who puts her queer spin on everything from Sudafed to Feminism to Glory Holes. Jessica Halem was trained in femme queerness at Sarah Lawrence College; earned her chops as a social justice activist working for Bella Abzug; and as a LGBTQ health guru running the Lesbian Community Cancer Project. Jessica Halem performs at every college, Pride, and bathhouse where she can help find the funny in even the toughest of times.

Originally from rural Maine, Emma Willmann began performing comedy in late 2008. In 2009 she was a finalist in Catch a Rising Star, and in 2010 she won first place in The Boston Comedy Riots. In 2011, she was featured in The Women in Comedy Festival, a finalist in Mohegan Suns Funniest Comic in New England Competition, and became a regular at The Broadway and New York Comedy Clubs. When not doing comedy, Emma is getting a Masters in Media Studies and Entertainment Management at The New School, where she also co – host’s the radio program, “That’s My Theory,” on WNSR New School Radio. Tweet with her @EmmaWillmann.

& special guests TBA!

JUDGES

Actress, comedian & character powerhouse Livia Scott was recently named “One of our favorite 53 comedians” by The Huffington Post. Credits: Honesty on Comedy Central, 7 different characters in National Lampoon’s Dirty Movie, Law & Order and Conan. Currently you can see her on Atom.com playing Courtney Love in the web series Saving Love.

Shawn Hollenbach is a stand up comedian, actor and the gay next door. Shawn is the producer of Closet Cases, a Critics’ Pick from Time Out NY, a Homo Must in HX Magazine and can be heard on Broadcastr. You may have seen him on VH1 or on Gayest Week Ever on Logo’s NewNowNext.com. He’s also been featured on two episodes of Hot Gay Comicson the here! Networks and you may have seen him as the host of Busted, a celebrity gossip podcast. He’s also creator and co-producer of the Miss Fag Hag Pageant. featuring such talents as Caroline Rhea, Leslie Jordan, John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Musto and Hedda Lettuce. Shawn is also a contributing writer for 365gay.com

& special guest TBA!

MUSIC

Mindy Raf (BUST Magazine, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, Women in Comedy Festival) is a writer, comedienne, and musician out of Brooklyn, New York. She will be performing music as her popular alter-ego, chick rocker, Leibya Rogers. Mindy is currently finishing up her first novel which is set to be published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin. http://www.mindyraf.com

HOST

Carolyn Castiglia is a stand-up comedian, writer and hip-hop superstar. You may have seen her on Comedy Central’s Atom TV, NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Nick-at-Nite’s Funniest Mom in America 3, The Maury Show, ABC World News with Charles Gibson and heard her on Sirius/XM Radio. She is best known for her appearances on VH1/ego trip’s The White Rapper Show and Miss Rap Supreme as the lovable and hilarious Miss CKC. Her funny freestyle has won her numerous championship titles at The BEATdown, a monthly showcase at New York’s UCB Theatre.

Ask Me Anything: Non-Cheesy “Self-Help”

J-femme wrote:

Happy Anniversary! I think I’ve been reading almost that long!

You posted something that looked like a pie chart once. It dealt with something like life goals, or values, or time management as it relates to life goals or values–that I remember being really interested in and haven’t been able to find since on your site.

It was like a non-cheesy “self-help” book (sort of). So my question is– do you have any idea what I’m talking about and what the name of the book is? And barring that or with that what are some nonsmut, nonfiction books you use for personal betterment? thank you muchly!

Thanks!

I think I know the chart you mean—it is from the book How to Be, Do, or Have Anything: A Practical Guide to Creative Empowerment by Laurence G. Boldt, called the Integrated Life Matrix. I posted it in 2007.

It’s a lousy title for this book, it is actually better than the sensationalized “how to have anything!” style that the title suggests. It is a step-by-step guide for creating your life the way you want it to look, in many arenas, not just professionally, but also personally, which is where this matrix above comes in.

My favorite non-smut non-fiction book recommendations for personal betterment I have mostly compiled into a self-awareness section of my Amazon A-store, makes it easy to keep track of in a list that way.

I’m a big fan of these kinds of books, actually—I know it’s a huge industry and many of them (70%? 90%? A LOT) are complete crap and useless for me, but even if I just pull one tool out of reading a book like this, that can be helpful and I’m glad I read it. At their best, they can be fantastic personal guides combining spirituality, philosophy, and psychology, three of my favorite subjects. I think it’s kind of silly that we don’t value self-improvement or self-knowledge very much, to the point where these books are put into a very easily dismissible category of “self-help.”

I used to call it my embarrassing indulgence, reading these, or my guilty pleasure. But I’m not so embarrassed about it these days. I’m very picky, and there are terrible books out there in this genre, don’t get me wrong. But there are also some very amazing writers and teachers in this genre who have significantly changed my life and world view.

Cheri Huber’s The Depression Book was completely life-changing for me. I credit Sharon Salzberg with a lot of the sparks of my committing to the Buddhist path and learning to meditate, she is incredibly down to earth and easy to follow, and she is phenomenal at teaching beginning meditation. David Richo has excellent psychology books with a Buddhist bent about healing and relationships. Charlotte Kasl’s book If the Buddha Dated really helped me make good (well, better than I would have otherwise) decisions through the recent period of dating. Many of the books in my A-store are also about creating your own career, carving out your own career path, and figuring out what it is that you want.

All of these have brought me here, to the teaching, writing, studying, and performing that I do now.