This past summer, while rife and I were running the Submissive Playground ecourse (which is open for registration for the January 2015 session, btw!), we kept talking about the path that folks take to discover and enhance their kink identities. For example, what sparks the pursuit of kink? How do we go from a dabbler to a connoisseur? How do we make it a priority in our lives in order to get and keep deeply satisfying erotic relationships? Why do so many people struggle to prioritize it? What is the process that happens?
Always the visual processor, rife drew and took notes and drew some more, until he came up with this: the Kinky Desire Map. It’s a map of the process—to the best of rife’s and my ability to express, anyway—of developing a kinky identity and coming into prioritizing kinky desire. This isn’t the process everyone takes, of course, and it’s not necessarily linear, or exhaustive—but I do see a lot of common progressions with all the folks I’ve talked to about identity and kink, so we’ve tried to capture that here.
So how does it work? Let’s break it down! Start at the lower left corner, and follow along.
1. Interest! Spark!
This is where it all begins. For so many people, their way into kink is witnessing some sort of kinky act in a book, or a film, and it gets our erotic wheels turning. Sometimes it’s a partner who sparks our interest in something, by making suggestions for ways to play. Or it could be our own mind that comes up with something dirty—who knows where it came from, but it’s just always been there. This is the part where we’re saying, “I’m curious about _____.” The interest could be a secret desire that has been held for a long time, or could have just happened this morning like whoa. The interest and curiosity leads to …
This is the time where you play play play, and follow your desire. Sometimes called a “slut phase,” the newness of everything is part of the appeal, and trying even more new things can be a thrill. Experimenting can make more sparks of interest happen, and then you get to experiment with the new spark. Once you’ve done a variety of experiments in a variety of situations with a variety of people, they can lead to actually making conclusions about our desires, what we like and don’t like, and how we’re wired. So this is the phase when we start making declarations: “I like _____.”
3. Pursue your interests!
Find the right tools for the right job.
4. Become yourself!
Sometime in here (though not necessarily in this order), some of us start realizing that this isn’t just a thing I do, it could possibly be a thing that I am, and start forming some identity around it. So this is when we start telling others about it in new ways, explaining that I’m not just a weirdo who likes rough sex, I’m a dominant (for example), and I am actually part of an entire rough sex community. Figuring out how you fit into the kinky communities that are out there is part of this. Then, we also start integrating this kinky aspect of ourselves into our identity as a whole. We start saying, “I am _____.”
5. Prioritize your preferences!
This is when we start saying, to ourselves and others, “I need my partners to be ___.”
This is hard, but completely necessary if you’re going to stop dating in the general population and start filtering specifically for your kinks. You’re not nearly as likely to find a submissive girl at the gay bar, for example, as you are if you go to a kinky D/s meetup for queers. If you are prioritizing your preferences strongly, you’ll have to start making some choices about who you want to be playing with and who you’re looking for in the long run. (Of course, some of us are in open relationships, so that “long run” thing applies a little differently.)
6. Pursue it!
Life happens. We don’t stay the same. While we might have one very well-formed kink identity for a while, it might shift. Your partner’s might shift.
7. Practice, practice, practice!
Life continues, and your Kinky Desire Map does, too. You might have a big breakup—go back to identity and prioritizing yourself and your preferences. You might spice it up with more experiments. You might reach some stagnation and have the identity, but not enough play. Add more experiments! Go back to pursuing interests and keep learning. You’ll find new sparks and start all over again, but this time with more resources, and more foundations. You might fall in love again. You might uncover a whole new slew of kinks you want to pursue. Keep practicing, and advancing your practice, and studying yourself and how you work. Only you are the expert on all of this in your own mind and body and energy, and if you continue to prioritize it and use it as a muscle and a skill, you’ll keep it healthy, and keep growing.
So … Where are you on the map?
Where do you want to be? Where have you been in the past? Maybe it’s time for you to make your own Kinky Desire Map. Figure out where you’ve been, and where you are, and that can help you get to where you want to go.
Ready to prioritize your submission in the new year?
Submissive Playground registration is open! Want to be a better submissive? Want to go from unsatisfied to insatiable? The Submissive Playground ecourse with me (and with lots of help from rife) has all sorts of homework and experiments to help you dive deep into your own version of submission, and get more of what you want. Registration is open through January 16, course runs January 31-March 28. submissiveplayground.com.
This post—and all writings on Sugarbutch—are because of the Patreons who support me. Weekly writings here will keep being free to all, but if you are financially able, please consider giving $2 per post per month. It’ll make a huge difference and enable me to keep this at the center of my work. Thank you!
Secret PS … Thanks to Lust Cinema, my December sponsor on Sugarbutch. If you’re into beautiful feminist women-centric erotic films (cough*porn*cough), go check ‘em out.build your skills, desire map, ecourse, get your erotic wheels turning, have a better sex life, how to be a better dominant, how to be a better submissive, I need my partners to be kinky!, kink, kinky desire map, prioritize your preferences, read erotica, self-actualization, self-growth, submissive playground, submissive playground registration is open!, watch porn, we don't stay the same; life happens, what are your new year's resolutions?
Want more? You’re insatiable.
On Facebook recently, Mollena asked: “White #SexualityEducators: what are you doing to actively foster inclusivity? Diversify your audience? Support your Peers of Color?” [link.] I’ve been writing and writing and thinking about all of the things I’ve been reading and digesting around #blacklivesmatter and race and inclusion, and this question got me thinking hard, and answering with some clarity, and identifying some places I need to keep working.
1. Read, read, read.
And listen. And pay attention. And shut up. And witness. And try to learn, and unlearn.
2. Pay attention to whose voices I amplify.
I have a small reach, a small field of folks who read what I share, and I pay attention to what I put into that sphere and recommend. When I don’t pay attention, I tend to stay within my white privilege bubble and retweet, link to, and recommend other white folks. This is not because people of color are not saying things that are relevant to me (and to you all) or that they are not brilliant—because duh, they are. Rather, I think I do this because of my personal (and often invisible to me) bias of whiteness. It takes conscious work for me to not default to whiteness, but I want to change that. So I pay attention to who I share and follow and who I surround myself with.
3. Decline to participate in (unconsciously) all-white spaces and events and publications and projects.
To be fair, I’ve only declined a few times, and this is something I’m working on improving. I don’t always think to ask who else is in the book or on the panel before I say yes, especially if it’s something I know of and admire. But recently, a sex education book came out with twenty photos of the white faces of contributors on the back, and Aida Mandulay called it out and WOC Sexual Health Network followed up, it is incredible to me that nobody noticed that before publication, or that if they did, nobody worked to change it. However, I am sure I have been in anthologies that were all-white, but since most of my publications are erotica, photos of the authors are included very rarely. And the sexuality education field is incredibly dominated by white folks (because most fields are, because racism). Personally, I have noticed often recently that many of my small group collaborations are all-white, and I need to think about that more (and to keep noticing that most of my communities are white, and work on the underlying issues of why that is).
4. I pay attention to the language I use.
As a genderqueer non-binary person and a feminist queer, I know how much language matters. I pay deep attention when someone talks about racist language—mine or others—and I do my best to pay attention to the words I use, their origins, and their uses.
a) I love reclaimed language, but when there are words that have been used against a minoritized group, I recognize that I don’t have a claim to use them. I can reclaim words that have been used against me. As such, there are certain words I just don’t use, whose histories are too controversial, and whose communities I respect.
b) There are a lot of words that have snuck into our language which have oppressive and racially-based origins, and often I’ve just never thought about it or made the connection. Recently, with the protests in Oakland and Berkeley, my neighbors and I have watched a lot of the live feeds, and have seen the police show up with “paddy wagons,” and then we all had a brief chat about how that is a derogatory slur referring to Irish folks, and tried to figure out what else to call them instead. And when I hear folks use the word “gypped” to refer to being ripped off (which happens more often than I’d expect) I remind them that comes from the oppression of Roma people. Often, people reply with things like, “Oh yeah, right, I never really thought of that …”
c) Know the words I use and where they come from. The queer reading series I co-hosted and -produced with the late Cheryl B from 2010-2011 was called “Sideshow,” and once, a colleague pointed out that the “sideshow” has a pretty terrible history of showing off the “freaks,” and that they wouldn’t be participating. I liked the feel of it at the time, but I wouldn’t use that word again on a project. Especially because I recognize that as an able-bodied and generally mentally well person, it is not my word to reclaim (see 4A), it is my word to respect and stop using (see 4B). See also: Strange Fruit PR Firm [Changes Their Name] After Getting a History Lesson From Twitter.
d) Very deeply engrained in the english language is the dark/light dualistic binary and the use of the concepts of “shadow” and “dark” for bad, unknown, dangerous, and uncharted territory, and of “light” as all things good and holy. I would guess these concepts have more to do with the human psyche than race—however, when used in a racist culture, they reinforce racism subtly and intrinsically. I want to know more about this and do a bit more research on language and archetypes. Meanwhile, though, I am doing my best to avoid the dark/light dualism to stand in for bad/good, particularly when there are thousands of other more thoughtful and interesting metaphors to use.
Language is always changing, and I try to stay flexible in my relationships with words, even if I happen to love them (or have used or over-used them in the past, see 4D). Recently I’ve been discussing the usage of “minoritized” instead of “minority,” for example (still working on that distinction and curious about the reasonings). I’m curious how language changes and moves, how it both reflects and changes culture. This is some of my favorite language-nerdy stuff.
5. I call myself on my privileges.
When I talk about identities as concepts, and my own concepts, I don’t just give my marginalized positions (like queer, kinky, genderqueer, working class, survivor) but I also share the areas where I have privilege and am working to have more awareness (like white, able bodied, american, college educated).
6. When I’m up in front of a group or workshop, I listen when someone challenges my positions, and I call participants out.
I particularly listen when someone challenges me in areas where I am less expertise or have privilege and am less aware of how those oppressive dynamics work. I don’t always know I try to notice it when someone says something that expresses a bias or privilege, and to say something, to call them on it. That’s pretty hard for me and I’m not perfect at it, and I often freeze up or get caught in holding the space of the workshop, and I can’t think of what to say. So I’ve taken to at least saying exactly that: “I heard you just say ___ and I can’t really think of what to say, but I think you have some bias there.” Then I try to move on.
7. I call out (or call in) when I see something.
I do call out when someone I know and feel some closeness with has done something I think has some overlooked bias in it, but I mostly do that privately and offline. I don’t spend much time calling out in the general conversations online, or chiming in when someone else has been called out. I sometimes fear that I should and have some guilt that I should participate in that more, but I also know how I am deeply introverted and more witness is better than more conversations for my energetic ability. I witness other’s calling out constantly and I read read read and listen and try to learn what went wrong, what was going on, and to apply that to my own work. With some folks I’m close to, we have spent a lot of time digesting and thinking about the project and how to do better in the future. See also: Calling In: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable.
8. When I fuck up, I apologize, listen, fix it (if I can), and do better next time.
There’s a fine balance: I am trying to recognize that we’re all human (including me) and I fuck up sometimes, but not to dwell in the fucking up so much that it makes me paralyzed to keep trying, and to still do the best I can to make up for, apologize for, and understand for my mistakes. I am a creator and I want to make art and writing that reflects culture and my inner world, and a huge piece of that is my desire to make it better through social activism. And because I am making things, not just witnessing and critiquing, I have messed up before and I will mess up again. I am doing my best to be okay with that inevitability, and to know that messing up is a necessary part of the process of trying and improving. I have strategies to both protect myself (and my highly sensitive person / high reactive / intuitive empathetic poet self) but also to listen, learn, back up, integrate changes, apologize, and move forward.
I’m sure there’s more I could do.
I am always pondering the ‘more’ of activism and the new, previously unknown parts of my own privilege to which I am still blind. But for now, this is what I’m doing, and I see a lot of room for growth in just what I’ve laid out here and what I’m already doing.
It’s been very interesting to reflect on what I am doing, actually. Reading the original thread on Mollena’s Facebook page gave me lots of ideas and more insight into how I engage the way I do, and what is good for my particular personality and skills. I’d love to hear what you all are doing, too, if you feel like sharing.
Submissive Playground reopens for registration this week!
That’s right: We’ll be back in the Sandbox starting in January. Registration opens December 18 and closes January 16, 2015. More information at submissiveplayground.com.
Registration is filling up for Dedicated to Your Body for Queers.
This post—and all writings on Sugarbutch—are because of the Patreons who support me. Weekly writings here will keep being free to all, but if you are financially able, please consider giving $2 per post per month. It’ll make a huge difference and enable me to keep this at the center of my work. Thank you!
Secret PS … Thanks to Lust Cinema, my December sponsor on Sugarbutch. If you’re into beautiful feminist women-centric erotic films (cough*porn*cough), go check ‘em out.#blacklivesmatter, aida mandulay, as a workshop leader, black girl dangerous, black lives matter, calling out vs calling in, cheryl b., community, deep introversion, fucking up and making amends, holding each other accountable, holding people accountable, language, minoritized vs minority, mollena, political activism vs social activism (I'll write an essay on that sometime), secretly (or not so secretly) racist language, sexuality educators, sideshow, social activism, white privilege, WOC sexual health network
Most of the time, my body has the answer. My own body, this vessel, this corporeal flesh with pulses and nerves and bone, these muscles that move me around and enable me to jump and reach and grasp and squat and pump. This unexplainable, inimitable machine that lets me experience the world through my senses, that gives my brain input about taste and smell and texture.
I’ve learned that there are many more senses than the five we tend to focus on: taste touch smell sight sound. There’s also thermoception, the ability to tell temperature. And magnetoception to sense the magnetic fields around us. And nociception—how our bodies sense pain.
If I can just find silence deep enough so that I can listen to what the synapses and blood cells are saying, I have found that my body has the answer. Sit still, she sometimes whispers to me. Or, Get up and move and move and move. Don’t stop. Keep going. Or, Goddamn, you need more root vegetables in your mouth. Make it happen.
The process of transformation is so minute, and so slow. I want it on a time-lapse like an bud opening into a huge white lily and then wilting to drip pollen all over the table. Maybe then we’d actually see how the light inside starts to seep through all the cracks, we’d see the ways that lightening strikes the same place over and over. Maybe it would make me laugh and laugh. Maybe I would feel that itch in my bones like when I am too tired to sleep but my body is overspun and needs dreams to recharge.
So I don’t really know how to explain to you what happened when I went into my first 3-day long weekend workshop when I was twenty, and how that paved a way to the path I’m on right now. I don’t know how to explain how hard it was to save $300 from my $60-week personal assistant job that usually covered my groceries but barely, and that I saved it anyway, and saved up every year after that, to make sure that I got to go back to that space. That space where there were women of all ages (these were all-women’s workshops, before there were queer options offered) took their clothes off and talked about their relationships to their bodies, the trauma and pleasure and amazing things that they have done, like birth and nurse babies, or how they create transcendent orgasmic experiences. I found a circle of women, and while I dabbled in studying wicca and feminism, and I knew hypothetically intellectually the power of women’s circles, I hadn’t actually experienced them until then.
And now I still go back. I crave the clarity that comes in circle, that feeling like I am sitting on top of a volcano and it is filling me from the bottom up, spilling out of the crown of my head and I am part of all that is. I crave the power that is generated by a group—so different and impossible to recreate when alone. We have so much energy in our bodies, so much power and potential that only needs the right outlet to plug into so it can be released, so it can be used to light up an entire city block.
I don’t just go back, though—now I spend a significant amount of my time studying how these circles work and how to lead and how to create the circumstance where the container of the circle is strong. I don’t just show up as a facilitator or an assistant, I create it for days before and close it for days after, spending time in meditation and in masturbation gathering and cultivating my own energy to try to form some temple out of thin air.
Maybe it’s hard to believe, from this point of view, but I have not always been able to ask for what I want. I have not always been able to take and allow and accept and give and receive in the beautiful ways that felt soul-nourishing like diving into the perfect clear mountain lake with shiny colorful soft pebbles at the bottom. At first it was just murky cloudy water, grey like the color of a sky when it can’t decide whether or not to rain. But everything got clearer as my connection to my body got stronger. I can feel more, I can tell what I want, I can tell when I’m hungry or when I’m thirsty, I can tell when I need touch and what kind of touch would be the most satisfying, I can tell when my arms get thick and my shoulders get tight that I just want to bust out my flogger and wail on someone for as long as they’ll let me. I can tell when I crave piercing skin or sliding in slow or being filled as thick and swollen as I can take.
The transformation, that’s the part that’s hard to put my finger on. I can tell you about the before and after, though. I can tell you how scary it used to be to tell a lover that I wanted something else, more, different, in bed. I remember listening to women in workshops talk about what they wanted and who they were and their growing edges, and I wanted what they had, I wanted to be that, to know what they knew. I didn’t know how to become someone who knew what I wanted, but I saw the next stone, the next step in the path, the next light down the way, and I followed and listened and followed, and when a sign post came up that said, Pssst, something useful is down that way, I took it seriously. I invested time and money and energy. I carved out the space, because I needed it, I needed a new way to be me in the world, a way that was less apologetic and desperate, that was more whole and holy and aligned and attuned.
Maybe that’s what I wanted most of all: the state of being so attuned to someone else that I’d feel psychic, or transparent, like all my thoughts were swirling around me in some sort of deconstructed vortex poem. That kind of physical attunement when our cells know each other, where our pulses swell and release at the same rhythm, where our blood pressure matches because we spent so much time with our hearts pumping next to each other. And I wanted that skill, that ability to dive so deep into someone else’s body.
I wanted to learn trust my body to tell me secrets like a conch shell. It’s not like that’s ever done, check, figured it out, it’s more like a work in progress, a pathway I strengthen every day. But at least now, I know what it is, what it possibly could be.
Registration is open now for Dedicated to Your Body for Queers, which is a 3-day workshop in Seattle, January 23-25, 2015. Queer-identified folks only, trans and genderqueer inclusive. Sliding scale available. Register now, there are only 15 spaces available.
This post—and all writings on Sugarbutch—are because of the Patreons who support me. Weekly writings here will keep being free to all, but if you are financially able, please consider giving $2 per post per month. It’ll make a huge difference and enable me to keep this at the center of my work. Thank you!attuned, attunement, body secrets, body trust, embodiment, erotic embodiment, fifteen years of study, how I became me, how I got here, in touch with desire, knowing what you want, my body has the answer, personal growth, transformation, vortex, workshops
There are many styles of dominance, mastery, and topping, from the paternal to the viciously mean, but regardless of where you are, I believe you can be better. I believe this exploration of power dynamics can be a spiritually fulfilling path, and that it can lead us to many lessons and areas of growth.
Those of us who are on this side of the D/s slash, we who are the People In Charge, have a lot of challenges to building a healthy version of this identity, particularly when we are doing it in a context of social activism, intersectional oppression, and general awareness of institutionalized power imbalances. Here’s some of the best tips I have for folks who want to up their topping or dominance game, and be stronger, more resilient, and more compassionate while they are pursuing this work.
Image by rife of Rowdy Ferret Design & Illustration
1. Create a Palette of Permission
If it’s hard for you to figure out what to do in a scene, or if your perfect submissive looks up at you and says, “I’ll do anything you want!” and your mind goes blank, this is a good thing for you to focus on. Create a list, on your own or brainstorming together with your submissive, of things that you know you have permission to do, in general, in periods where you are both your fit and healthy selves. (They may not apply when one or either of you are having an off day, are sick or physically unwell, or in different states of consciousness—like asleep or playing with some substances. They probably also only apply in certain places, like when you two are alone or in kink-friendly events. Check in.) Make a Top Ten list of things that generally your sub really loves and could do over and over and over. Trust that you can return to each of these things hundreds of times before either of you will get bored. There are infinite variations. Bonus tip: Make a wishlist of things you want to include in your Palette, but don’t currently know how to do, and start learning!
2. An On Switch For Your Dominance
Use your favorite words or positions that make you both feel empowered, deliberate, and sexy.
3. Receiving as a Dominant
Sometimes it seems incongruous to receive sexual touch or services from the top or dominant position. I assure you: this is common and makes a lot of sense. It’s difficult to feel “in control” and also at the same time to relax and receive. (Sidenote: This is at times very related to one’s gender, and one’s amount of stoneness. Most cis male doms—as a stereotype—don’t seem to have a problem receiving blow jobs, for example, do they?) One of the best ways you can work on this is by being very vocal with what you want to receive, and continuing to give orders and corrections and suggestions throughout the process. You also might want to work with physical levels, where you are physically above your submissive, to remind yourself that you are still in charge, even if their fist is in your hole. And read the essay How to Top Your Master by Raven Kaldera. Though it’s directed more at submissives, there are many useful things in there for dominants.
4. Got Guilt? More Aftercare
If you feel guilty after your scenes as a dominant, check in about it. Ask yourself: Did I really want to be doing that? Was I having a good time? Was my partner having a good time? Did we all come away from the scene generally glad the scene had happened? Scenes aren’t always perfect, of course (and aren’t always full of happy smiles and sunshine and rainbows). But generally, did it go well? Did you want to be there? Because honestly, if you feel that much guilt, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you’d be better suited to less psychologically intense play. But if that’s not the case, and you really do want to be there (and your partners eagerly consent, of course), then you gotta deal with that nagging guilt from an internalized prescription of egalitarianism. It’s okay to create the relationship you want to be in. Normalize it for yourself by seeking more D/s community and sharing your experiences with others. And make sure you get enough aftercare yourself. You might need down time after, or quiet private time, or reflective time where your sub tells you all about what they liked and how all those dirty things you did made them feel. Or maybe cuddles. Experiment, and find your best aftercare methods.
5. Build Trust Slowly
Build the trust you need from your submissive to know that they are honest and they can follow through on what they agree to.
6. Two-footing a Scene
This is a concept I learned from Xan West, which is the idea that generally, in a scene, the top is completely “in” the scene and present while still holding the boundaries of the negotiated agreement and some awareness of the surrounding space (though whether you’re at a busy dungeon or home alone would make that slightly more or less challenging)—that’s two-footing, being both in the scene and in the reality. Most of the time, it’s just a given that the top is the one who is doing this two-footing. But some activities really cause us tops to lose our footing. (Has that ever happened to you?) Make a list of activities that you think could cause you to tumble so deep into the scene that you have trouble keeping a hold on reality. Lean on your submissive for support, perhaps ask them to hold the boundaries and negotiations of the scene so you can lose yourself. Bonus: Make a list of realities that keep you so engaged that its hard to dive into the scene at all, like for example a crowded dungeon.
7. Recovering from Fuck-ups
Some of us have really strong reactions to fucking something up. We beat ourselves up about it, our confidence crumbles, and we shirk away from whatever it was we fucked up for a long time after. If you want to up your dominant game, you gotta get good at fucking up, because here’s the thing: You will fuck something up. I don’t mean something huge and irreparable (hopefully not), but more so small things that will stop or delay a scene for a while until you can get things back on the rails. The measure of someone (a dominant or partner or sub or just about everybody, I think) isn’t whether or not they fuck up, it’s what they do and how they respond to that fuck-up. So ask yourself: Do you take responsibility? Sincerely apologize? Understand what went wrong? Integrate that into your being so you will remember not to do that same thing again? And then, when the other folks involved are ready to move forward, can you let it go? Work on your ability to recover from fuck-ups and your scenes will be smoother.
8. Dive Deep into Theory
Read all the books and blogs you can get your hands on. Find your local resources and study those, too.
9. You Are Not An Asshole
If you—like me and like many thoughtful, feminist, and sensitive dominants—have fear that what you are doing is “bad” and “wrong” and difficult to reconcile with your moral code, here are some ideas. First, make sure you really understand the concept of agency. You fully trust someone’s no, right? You can trust their yes, too. You can trust that they, not you, know what they want. Second, remember that everyone fucks up, and work on your ability to recover; don’t expect to be perfect and never make mistakes. Third, take a good, strong look at what you think being an asshole in this context would be, and actively work toward not being that. Remember: Most people who actually are assholes do not spend much time worrying about whether or not they are assholes. That you are concerned and aware tells me that it’s 95% likely that you are not an asshole. (That other 5% is for folks who are not so self-aware. So hey, build that muscle, and follow Socrates: Know thyself.)
10. Masturbate More
Are you getting stuck building scenes, finding creative new ways to use the toys you have, or creating dirty experiments for your sexytimes with your submissives or playmates? There’s an easy place to start for that one: Masturbate more. Spend more time with porn and erotica to fuel the fires of your erotic self, but also make sure you spend some significant time letting your mind wander into erotic territory and exploring whatever may show up there. Take notes and highlight things you’d actually like to try!
This post is brought to you by the Patreons who support Sugarbutch. THANK YOU. Click here to donate a couple of bucks a month to support my work and get access to journal entries, sneak peaks, and more.
Last Chance: The Epic 2014 Demographic Survey
I’ve had almost 300 responses to the epic survey! THANK YOU. This is giving me all sorts of fascinating data (that I will share with you all, if you are interested) and I am excited to give you more of the kind of content that YOU want to see in 2015. (Which, btw, is overwhelmingly that the dirty stories are your favorites. Who knew? Dirty readers!)
Last chance to fill it out, and I’ll be expiring it this week. Won’t you please help me make Sugarbutch even better by letting me know what you love, what you’d love to see more of from me, and where you’d like to see this project go? It only takes about 10 minutes, and at the end you can be entered to win some queer porn from Pink & White and the Crash Pad Series as a thank you!aftercare, becoming a better top, becoming a dominant, beyond stereotypes, books you really should read, build trust, corey alexander, d/s, dear raven and joshua, develop your mad skillz, dominance, dominance/submission, feminist guilt, feminist kink, getting better, guilt, laura antoniou, m/s theory, masturbate more, palette of permission, permission, power dynamics, raven kaldera, receiving as a dominant, recovering from fucking up, self-improvement, self-improvement for dominants, slavecraft, submission, the marketplace, tips for tops, topping, two-footing a scene
I sit in shock at my desk, though I knew it was coming, knew Leslie Feinberg was sick, and know how deadly lyme disease
can be is.
I sit feeling the shock of grief: Leslie Feinberg died this past weekend.
And today is the Trans Day of Remembrance, and that of itself gets me all weepy about all of those we’ve lost, all the hate, all the fear, and how far we have left to go. It makes me think about “butch flight” and the relationships between butch identity and transmasculine identity. It gets me thinking of my lineage, the legacy I am a part of, and where I came from.
For me, Leslie’s book Stone Butch Blues invented butch identity. If I had the word before the book, it was only as a slur, only as something nobody should want to be. If I had the word before Jess’s story and her tortured restraint of passionate love, it was only used to describe ugly women, unattractive and unwanted. It wasn’t until I read Stone Butch Blues that I realized it described me.
I’m not sure I wanted it to, but I knew that it did. That book made me feel exposed, like someone had found me out. Vulnerable, like someone could come along and pluck my heart from my unguarded chest to do with as they pleased. But also, strangely, it made me feel powerful. I could feel the power that came from being butch, the paradox of growing up a girl and then becoming the suited partner of a beautiful woman, the torture of being such a social outcast, and the deep craving hunger for being accepted.
“My life, forever changed because of Stone Butch Blues. And Leslie Feinberg.”
But it is potent, and it seeped into me. It inescapably linked the words butch and stone, and for years I thought that being stone was the only way to be butch. It still feels like the butch/femme culture overly values stone in butches, that the stone—by which I mean, not receiving sexual touch—is one of the measures of the amount of gender dysphoria felt, and therefore the more stone a butch feels, the more butch they are. There is so much belittling in queer culture about masculine-presenting folks who want to be touched in bed, or—gasp!—are bottoms, and they are so often chided for not being a “real butch.”
I have been fighting fighting fighting this for years, both as a queer cultural community wound and internalized in my own body.
I have heard so many butches cite this book as their coming out root, as finally recognizing who they are by reading Jess’s story (Leslie’s story), and so many femmes cite this book as finally feeling like they could be queer and crave a masculine partner, or that it’s the “heartbreaking holy grail of butch perspective.” They have told me they see themselves in Theresa’s butch devotion. For so many of us, Feinberg’s book made our secret budding desires make sense.
“Were it not for Stone Butch Blues, I’d still be stranded on a lonely island of inexplicable gender and sexuality. Many of us would.”— Tara Hardy
I understand being nostalgic for a time that is now romanticized—not only in queer culture but in butch/femme lore and history. Beyond that, it is romanticized in the larger US culture as well, as it is the time post-WWII where this country was thriving, and idealized visions were planted in our collective (un)consciousness. But I also want to remember that while it might seem like butches come from that time, and thrived in that time, what we have now—and the myriad gender identity, expression, and presentation options available to us—is much improved.
“Losing Leslie Feinberg is a gut blow. Hir work has been instrumental in my own life, & the lives of so many queer & trans folks.” — Corey Alexander
I adore the butch/femme culture. As someone who highly identifies as a femme-oriented butch who is currently dating a trans boy, I adore it even more, and as I have a bit more distance now that I’m a little bit outside of it, I see copious places where the butch/femme culture reinforces the cultural binary gender roles, where it pigeonholes people into boxes of expectation, where people are shaved down to fit labels and not the other way around.
Stone Butch Blues may have invented butch identity for the current queer cultural movements, but we need a reinvention.
We need the new butch.
We need a butch identity where the masculine gender role is criticized and reinvented to include access to all aspects of emotionality, psychology, caretaking, feeling, hobbies, interests, and play.
We need a butch identity where we actively work toward undoing the racist culture that keeps people of color oppressed, their voices marginalized, and their bodies under attack. We need a butch identity which recognizes that butch has been historically a white identity, and that radical queer masculinity looks differently in other cultural contexts.
We need a butch identity where any kind of surgery and hormone taking and body modification is acceptable, supported, and celebrated without commentary on how we knew that butch was “trans all along” or that they are “betraying their womanhood” or teased, “another one bites the dust.”
We need a butch identity where the identity expands to fit who those claiming it, rather than those claiming it shrinking to fit inside of it.
We need a butch identity where it is okay to transition. We need a butch identity where it is okay to wear a dress. We need a butch identity where “butch” is just the starting point of the conversation, and where nobody assumes they know anything about you just because they know you are butch.
We need a butch identity that doesn’t assume topping and dominance as the norm, and that doesn’t put down butches who bottom, who receive touch, who submit beautifully and skillfully and with agency, who crave giving over, who crave being owned. We need a butch identity that doesn’t assume femme partnership as the norm, and that recognizes butches loving butches as a real and valid desire.
We need a butch identity that sees femmes as more than accessories, and that values femininity as solid, legitimate, and radical. We need a butch identity that doesn’t joke that femmes are having “a butch moment” if they fix something or play sports or act tough.
We need a butch identity that embraces the myriad mashup versions of in-between genders, of genderqueerness, male feminity, fagginess, swishiness, and fabulousness. We need a butch identity that rocks glitter and leggings without shame, that encourages purses and boas, and that never makes fun of someone’s “girly drink” or pink button down shirt.
We need new butch icons, we need new butch events. We need to show up at events where butch and femme genders are celebrated and made visible (there are many already out there! Go to them! Participate!). We need to stop prioritizing and privileging masculine versions of queerness. We need to read femme authors like Minnie Bruce Pratt (seriously, have you read S/he? It is one of my top 5 of all time, it’s stunning), we need to work on dismantling white privilege. We need to read trans women like Julia Serano and Janet Mock, we need to listen to Laverne Cox, we need to listen to Ceyenne Doroshow and watch things like the Red Umbrella Project documentary about sex workers, we need to keep refining our activism, we need to work on our own privilege, we need to stay alive.
We need new butch clothes, despite Saint Harridan and Tomboy Tailors and all the other dozen (more?) creators of clothes for dapper queers that have popped up in the last few years, not because we don’t look good in those (damn, we do) but because most of those are suit-and-tie shops, and there are so many more ways to be butch than with a suit-and-tie. Let’s reinvent dapper fashion, let’s never be limited by the narrow masculine options that have existed so far, let’s go farther, let’s have it all.
Even as attached as I am to the word “butch,” we probably need new words. Language evolves as we do. We may even end up turning butch over for some new way to talk about the in-between space we occupy, that tortured passionate place of wanting, that marginalized place of vision and truth.
As much as I would like butch to thrive and live forever, and as invested as I am in this identity, it has roots in dangerous masculine and white culture. I see so much fear that butches are “a dying breed” or that butch/femme culture is dying. I still think it isn’t—Long live the butch!—but if it is, perhaps it is at least a tiny bit in part because we are in a queer culture now that is working to decenter masculinity and whiteness. Perhaps when we fear we are losing butches or losing butch/femme, we are really losing the cultural way we have privileged masculinity and butchness. Perhaps along with this reinvention, we are losing the huge amount of body shame we are forced to carry as butches. Perhaps we are losing the social ostracization that came with butch masculinity and femme femininity.
Perhaps we are moving toward something new, and even better.
I wish we had our own words to describe ourselves to connect us. I don’t want another label. I just wish we had words so pretty we’d go out of our way to say them out loud.” —Jess, p254 in Stone Butch Blues
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Announcing: The Epic 2014 Demographic Survey!
I have been for years running Sugarbutch on what I think you want. What I assume your preferences are. What my best guesses of your desires, hopes, dreams, struggles, and wishes are. But I want to do better than that! I want to know. I want some proof!
Won’t you please help me make Sugarbutch even better by letting me know what you love, what you’d love to see more of from me, and where you’d like to see this project go?
I read so many things about queer folks and trans folks and genderqueer folks about dating and sex and how the person you love doesn’t love you anymore and how you really want the new binder or surgery or just ran out of your HRT dose or how your heart is breaking or how fucking good your sex was last night or how lucky you are to be in love or how hard long distance relationships are or how abusive M/s and D/s can be or how much you crave something other than what you have or how you’re being overlooked for some good thing yet again. Every day I read the internet, read read read the internet, my Tumblr feed full of college students and poets and dirty pictures, my Facebook feed full of my most favorite people in the world and at least 2,000 people I’ve only met once and had some sort of desire to connect with deeper, I read Twitter and all of your briefest of thoughts about what’s going on in the world.
(I don’t read RSS anymore. Do you? It seems the overabundance of social media has replaced following specific blogs and reading everything they write. I am much more inclined to see what link ten of my friends has shared and click through to read that article, regardless of the source. We are in the internet age of the group blog, where things go viral, where good writing has so little place on blogging platforms but rather blogs are built with bullet-pointed bolded subheading lists, bite-sized revelations we can easily quote. Little nuggets of truth and wisdom. I don’t know what to do with my “real” writing in the online blog world that only values (virals) those. And see, I do it too, only listing my bite-sized social media readings, not any significant articles. So interesting, how morning habits evolve.)
I think about you, my people, my tribe, my lineage, my students, my friends, my lovers, all the time. I read through what you’re saying and I want to sit down with you, I want to say: Hello, how are you. What’s going on for you today? How is your heart? Are you going to make it to the next holiday, your next birthday, with more dove-grace and courage than the last one? Are you building anew the ways to remake yourself? Are you gathering tools so this world doesn’t crush you?
I guess I am. Sometimes I think that’s all I ever do. And while it’s you I am reading, your words and thoughts and heartaches between the lines, your hard-ons and dripping soaking through pleasures, your mouths open yawning gaping hungry, your words screaming hoping for someone to listen, really it is that inner kid of mine that I am looking for, listening for, my fourteen year old self who was shattered by the process of coming into an adulthood with no models, no context, for what I was becoming.
So I read all of you, but really I am listening for the ghost of her, and I see her everywhere.
All that is to say that when I read your words, this Hafiz quote always comes to my mind: “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
I wish there was some way I could show you the astonishing light of your own being. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish I could show myself that, too, on my bad days, on the days when I am betrayed or betrayer and struggle to live with what I know I’ve done. It’s all projection, you’re all mirrors for what I am trying to tell myself, I know that. And I know the struggles. I know it’s not that easy. I feel it too. I straddle the worlds and some mornings cannot get out of bed for the softness of the sheets and the purring cat and the empty space next to me. I am no stranger to having one’s chemistry betray one’s ambition, I know how it feels for one’s body to be the thing standing in the way of everything else.
But still: there is light. I know there is. (There has to be.)
And when I can see it … oh, it is, it truly is nothing but astonishing.
This post is brought to you by the Patreons who support Sugarbutch—you know who you are! Thank you!
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