I Want You to Thrive: How to Use the Submissive Playground “Tracks”

January 16, 2015  |  essays  |  1 Comment

january-subplayAs a Dominant, my job is not to teach you how to submit—other submissives and your own inner wisdom holds techniques and tips for that. (That’s why the course has fourteen guest educators who are mostly switches and submissives.)

My job as a Dominant is:

  1. To create a space for your submission to walk into and feel held, safe, and able to deeply explore.
  2. To set you up with rules to follow, protocol to practice, and goals to meet that are reasonable, clear, and manageable. I want you to go away from encounters feeling awesome, strong, bad-ass, energized, well-used, respected, and maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll both feel a little bit transformed.
  3. To keep checking in to the Big Picture of our mutual goals, and keep tweaking our rules and protocol so that we are doing the best we can to move closer to them.

In Submissive Playground specifically, my goals for the submissive “players” who participate in the course are:

  1. To have fun! To identify and suspend some of the judgment we’ve accidentally absorbed about what “real” submission is and what it means to submit well, and to instead dive into myriad ways to do it, and figure out what works best for us right now.
  2. To do experiments with our bodies (and hearts and minds), to “collect the data” from the experiments, and to keep moving forward.
  3. To connect with community and witness the many ways a D/s path is possible, and to support each other in the different ways that we pursue these arts.
  4. To support you in identifying your “growth edges,” the places you’d like to transform and learn and grow, and to offer resources on your journey. (And to identify some of my own growth edges, too!)

These goals, and this premise, is what the whole Submissive Playground ecourse is built on.

The content in Submissive Playground keeps growing. This is the third time rife & I will be doing the course, and this time I’m adding Maisha Aza and Axe from the Masocast as guest speakers. The guest speakers who have said yes and provided videos so far are primarily white and cis women or genderqueer folks, so I have some particular perspectives I want to make sure to seek out and include. It’s great to have the full course and now be able to hand pick more contributors who have different identity backgrounds.

(I am still specifically looking for submissive-identified folks who are people of color, of any gender, though I do particularly need more perspectives from cis men and trans women. If you are this or know someone you recommend please let me know!)

So the material is vast. We have guest videos from FOURTEEN PEOPLE, we have porn to watch, erotica to read by Jeff Mann from the Daddies anthology and by BB Rydell from Say Please and Kathleen Delaney-Adams from Best Bondage Erotica, we have technique articles by slave david stein, we have an audio interview with Raven Kaldera.

But that’s just the beginning!

In the course, there are also many other ways to interact and get value.

1. The Materials

That would be the dirty stories, how-to articles, and porn that I’ve already mentioned. It’s all the things to read and watch and interact with, the graphics rife has made, a custom-made Lust Language quiz, plus some BONUS materials when rife and I had too many good materials not to include.

2. The Experiment

This is the “go do this activity” part. There’s one per module (and four modules total—Bondage, Discipline, Service, and Masochism) and it’s the thing that you go try out in your life—there are ways to do it with a partner or by yourself.

3. Submissive Journals Homework

The journals part of the homework is thoughtful written responses to #1, The Materials, and #2, The Experiment. It is kind of like discussion questions in a class, a series of questions to get you thinking about and interacting with the materials and your experiment in a deeper way. This has been a big hit for journallers, folks who are into self-reflection and self-examination, and who like writing.

Doing #3 kind of requires that you keep up with #1 and #2, at least in part.

4. All-Player Live Video Sessions

This is the “live” part of the course. All the participants, plus me and rife, meet up every other week throughout the course to talk about all the #1 Materials, #2 Experiment, and #3 Homework, and to share our stories of discovery with one another. This happens in Spreecast, so there’s a chat function and you can come on video (but only if you want to) and talk to me and everybody in the course. These have been so very fun! They have set dates & times:

  • BONDAGE: Saturday, January 31, 10-11:30am PST / 1-2:30pm EST / 5-6:30pm GMT
  • DISCIPLINE: Thursday, February 12, 6-7:30pm PST / 9-10:30pm EST / 1-2:30am GMT
  • SERVICE: Saturday, February 28, 10-11:30am PST / 1-2:30pm EST / 5-6:30pm GMT
  • MASOCHISM: Thursday, March 12, 6-7:30pm PST / 9-10:30pm EST / 1-2:30am GMT
  • WRAP-UP: Saturday, March 28, 10-11:30am PST / 1-2:30pm EST / 5-6:30pm GMT

And they are all recorded so you can go back to them and watch them later if you aren’t able to miss the live calls.

Oh wait! Let me tell you about The Star Chart!

Throughout the course, Star & Mentor Players have access to the Star Chart, which is a place to keep track of the different pieces of the course and what you’re consuming. It’s like having your own sticker chart on the wall where everybody can see how you are doing your chores.

5. Submissive Community

This is the part, more than any of the others, that participants have said was really life-changing. Making connections to folks on a similar submissive path from around the world has been amazing! Friendships have been born and connections have been made. I firmly believe that identity explorations are easier when there’s a community context, because you have not only support but also many representations of how this particular identity manifests. In the course, we have a chat during the live video sessions, there is a message board available for your perusal and in-depth conversations, and you’re hooked up with a “subby buddy” with whom you can dive in and converse more deeply about the course.

6. One on One Sessions

Last but not least, the individual sessions track of the Submissive Playground course is where you and I get to dive deeper into your particular journey with submission and offer some support around whatever your growth edge is. One session is included with the Star Package, and FOUR sessions are included with the Mentor Package (which is why it’s called the Mentor Package, cuz you get some significant mentorship for your D/s path over eight weeks). Anybody in the course can add on additional sessions for a reduced rate, though, so just contact me if you want one. (Note: I’m not really doing 1-1 work with clients this year, instead I’m focusing on teaching and ecourses. So this is a great way to have some 1-1 time with me!)

Oh yeah, and rife is also limitedly available for sessions. After watching his videos in the course and hearing him speak about submission, you might really want some support directly from him and his brilliant submissive theory.

And that’s pretty much the course!

So if you’re not sure you have time to devote to a course, my suggestion is to check out the various contents, decide which one or two or three you are going to prioritize, and leave the rest behind. Sure, you can dig in to them if you find yourself inspired, but you will know you are totally on top of your commitment to the course when you finish up the work for your Track, and you don’t have to feel guilty about not doing more.

Because hey, I don’t want to add to your endless to do list! You’re busy! And you should be out making money and getting laid and changing the world for the better, I don’t want to get in the way of that kind of important stuff.

Plus, many subs are the A+ student type.

You don’t need to put that kind of pressure on yourself on my behalf. You can still get TONS out of this course even if you don’t do half of it. And, you can always download the materials after the course if you want to keep them and do them later!

Maybe your work or home schedule is such that you just can’t make the All-Player Video Sessions, for example. That’s okay! You can watch them later, or you can skip them altogether and dive into the materials yourself. (Sometimes I give a context or some content in those video sessions that I am encouraging us to explore during that unit, but you can do it on your own.)

Does that all make sense? I want this experience to be exciting, fun, and energizing for you, not a drain or an extra obligation. And rather than dropping off mid-course because you aren’t caught up, what if you set lower expectations on yourself and then felt AWESOME when you completed them? This is recreational, for your growth and pleasure.

I want to set you up to succeed, and to thrive.


january-subplay

Registration for Submissive Playground has been EXTENDED to January 23rd, next Friday! There are only a few spots left, but I want to fill ‘em up.

Didn’t win the Submissive Playground giveaway? Aw man! Better luck next time. Meanwhile, I’ve got a discount code for ya: 10MOREWINS gets the DIY package for $100. Only 10 people! And, there are only 5 more Star Packages left! Want one? Sign up quick!

My writing on Sugarbutch is supported by patrons on Patreon, who support me with a couple dollars every post, and I get to keep my job and keep writing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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I just need to use you. (And! Submissive Playground giveaway)

January 8, 2015  |  dirty stories  |  28 Comments

morningContent warning: Power dynamics, ownership/property play. Scroll down to the bottom if you want to get right to the Submissive Playground giveaway.

Sometimes, I just need to use you.

I don’t know how to describe it: Those times when I wake up and your skin is just right there, you’re not allowed to sleep with clothes on anyway and this is exactly why, so that my hunger stirs the moment I wake and realize that your skin is already under my hands. This particular morning I woke with you behind me and immediately wanted your dick in my ass. I rubbed against you, and you got hard. “You’re hard, aren’t you,” I teased. You woke up and moaned. Ready. Always ready, for whatever it is I need, whatever it is I want to take. It’s what you most want, isn’t it? To be told what to do, to be taken, to be used in the ways that I need. As much as that can be hidden in sex, or desire, or kink play, the same need in you would be filled if I decided you would now only be my footstool and never speak, or be my pet curled up on your little pillow bed in the corner, or my sex slave chained to the bed. I own you, and you know it.

It helps me that it’s what you want, because it is so what I want, but I never thought I’d have it. I never thought this craving for devotion in me was going to be allowed, I never thought I could degrade and humiliate and own and worship and demand in the ways that I can with you. I was always too much for other partners—needed too much, demanded too much, expected too much. I’ve said it so many times, but I am still surprised by how much I feel met with you. You step up, you show up, you don’t shy away from what I need, you don’t let my insatiable hunger scare you.

Or maybe it does scare you, a little. Because you know I’m bigger than you, not exactly stronger but certainly when I throw my weight around I can make you do what I want, what I say, what I need. Not that you would need to be physically overpowered. You’d go willingly, shakingly opening all your holes and skin and mind and will to me, even if it makes you shiver and cry. You are so good. And you like it, I know you do. You can resist all you want, but it doesn’t make the outcome any different. And when you gush and come so hard you drip down my thighs, I know you like it.

That’s what you did this morning, isn’t it. You did just what I told you, and you liked it. You took it just how I told you. You gave all that come to me, because it’s all mine, everything you have is mine now. And I can use what’s mine, I like to use it for exactly what it’s for. And this is what you’re for, isn’t it: To be taken and used, filled and opened. You’re all mine, and this is what I need.


Don’t forget! The webinar with me & Sophia Chang is tonight. Sign up here to reserve a spot. Yes, it will be recorded, so even if you can’t make it tonight, we’ll send it out to the folks who signed up.

webinar

There is not going to be a sale on Submissive Playground this time, but there IS going to be a giveaway—and here it is! Want to join me + rife + thirty other submissives in the Playground this time around? Add a comment or tweet about the Playground and enter the contest—check it out below. The winner will be contacted on Monday, January 12, and will get a DIY spot.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My writing on Sugarbutch is supported by patrons on Patreon, who support me with a couple dollars every post, and I get to keep my job and keep writing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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“Healing comes through sex.” Sinclair Sexsmith interviews Sophia Chang

January 2, 2015  |  advice  |  1 Comment

How do I know if this kind of dirty kinky sex is *good* for me? What are the healing aspects of D/s play? What kind of biophysical basis for healing does kinky sex have? And how can the sacral chakra and cellular memory assist with healing, and give your sex life even more power and oomph?

These are the kinds of questions I asked Sophia, and we talk about all this and more in the second video in the Sugarbutch series on mental wellness and kink.

Watch it now!

Can’t get enough of Sophia Chang? Here’s more: http://facebook.com/thesophiachang | http://www.sexmoneyuniversity.com

And if THAT’S not enough, Sophia + I are doing a special Q&A version where we’ll talk about wellness, kink, mental health, liberation, feminism, queerness, straight sex, and even chakras (if you ask). Come join us!

Thursday January 8, 2015
6pm PST, 9pm EST
On Spreecast (link will be sent to you the day of the webinar)
Free! Just sign up below:

(PS: There will probably be flirting.)


Don’t forget! Submissive Playground registration is open for two more weeks—and it’s already getting full! The Mentor package has SOLD OUT. Come prioritize your submission in the new year. More information at submissiveplayground.com.

My writing on Sugarbutch is supported by patrons on Patreon, who support me with a couple dollars every post, and I get to keep my job and keep writing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Weight. Mouth. Rough Sex.

December 31, 2014  |  dirty stories  |  3 Comments

IMG_7932Content Warning: Force, coercion, descriptions of rough sex. Also dominance and submission, and depictions of ownership.

Sometimes I just think of the simplest of things.

Your mouth.

That look on your face, that look, when you’re giving over even more, just a little deeper, giving in to the sensation, giving in to wherever I’m moving your body, however I’m touching you.

Your skin.

The way your hands feel in mine. The way my fingers close around your wrist or throat or earlobe. The back of your head in my palm.

I think of these little flashes of your body, of us.

Other times, a more elaborate story.

What happens when I pick you up and drive you somewhere deserted and quiet, an empty kind of creepy parking lot where no one is around, no other cars, and lock the doors before I force your head into my lap. You struggle against me, but you know I will have my way, no matter what you do. You know it’s better to go easy, but not too easy, because then I’ll beat you for liking it.

I don’t really need an excuse to take you, or to hurt you, or to use you. It is so comforting, so deeply validating, to be able to have you in this way. To know that if you are in arm’s reach, I can use you for anything I may need, from fetching me a glass of water to your hands as an ashtray to your holes for my cock or fingers or tongue or whatever I might want to do with them.

Lately, I think a lot about rough sex. Pressure and strain and resistance and using my weight against gravity to hold you down. I think about going too far, pushing too hard, making you gag, spit, sputter, making you cry out and bleed, bruises under my fingers holding you so tight, making you beg and cry, making you take it anyway. There’s something about the release on that level that is different—deeper?—than most other releases for me … knowing I can just pour into someone else and they can hold it, they have to. I love how you do this for me.

You release me in so many other ways, too, though. Moments of energetic intensity come to mind, times we’ve been outside with your hand in me in some way, the earth underneath shooting up and connecting me with … everything. I miss being somewhere with places to fuck outside.

I think about what it’s like to force you, use you, disregard what you’re feeling in your body or your mind. Why is that such a fetish, such a kink of mine, when I am so obsessed with consent and permission and pleasure and connection? Maybe I’ve just answered my own question. And knowing that we are both guided by a deep craving here—me, the craving to play with taking and owning and destruction, and you, the craving of being used and coerced and owned—is what makes the play possible, of course. Without that deep craving underneath the play, it would be completely different, and unappealing.

Fuck, I am so grateful for how our wounds/gifts are attuned.

Lately, I think a lot about your sucking mouth. Maybe that is the equal and opposite of thinking about pounding into your open holes: instead, having this sweet suckling softness draw it all out of me. I think of you sucking your thumb or sucking my toes or nipples or cock, even the uncut packing cock, my current favorite. I get hard with just the thoughts. The way you can nestle in and cuddle up to my thighs, sigh, and relax.

Somehow, when I’m deep inside you, when you’re slowly drawing me hard and all of the things pent-up inside start drizzling out, that’s when I can best let go, feel the tightness in my shoulders unravel, and relax, too.


Submissive Playground registration is open until January 16! It is already filling up, limited spots available. More information at submissiveplayground.com.

My writing on Sugarbutch is supported by patrons on Patreon. They pledge to support me with a couple dollars every post, and I get to keep my job and keep writing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

PS … Yes, you really do need that packing cock from New York Toy Collective. Use the code SUGARBUTCH to get $5 off (free shipping!).

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Turn Your Rough Fantasies into Responsible Reality

December 29, 2014  |  essays  |  No Comments

unsplash5225-2
Everyone has them: Those rough fantasies that involve some sort of thing that you aren’t sure you would ever actually do, but that really, really does it for you. And maybe, just maybe, you would like to explore some of them.

Maybe you even feel a little guilty for liking it so much.

Maybe you really have to shove aside your inner feminist that tells you that the force play and the kind of rough, degrading sex that fill up your rough fantasies are bad and wrong. But there are ways to play with these rough desires that your mind keeps circling around to, and to play with them in responsible, ethical, contained, and safe ways.

Here’s some things to keep in mind.

1. Everybody Fantasizes!

It’s true. Men, women, genderqueer folks, trans and cis folks, lesbians, gay guys, dykes, queers of all flavors and stripes—pretty much all of us have some sort of inner erotic life where we fantasize. I’m of the opinion that anyone who tells you they don’t fantasize is either lying—or, of course, asexual. And it is really, really common to fantasize about things that we might not even want to do, or might not be possible to do.

Still not convinced? Here’s your homework: Read this book—My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday came out in 1973 and details hundreds of women’s fantasies. It’s totally eye-opening, and will help you see how common rough fantasies are.

2. Fantasizing about rough, dangerous things is normal!

Why do we love rough fantasies? Because power. Because the inner wild sexy animal beast isn’t necessarily tamed, and you don’t necessarily want it to be. Because playing deep in your physical body makes us feel really alive, which is really, really sexy.

3. Comfort Your Inner Feminist With Consent & Agency

Consider these concepts: Agency is the ability to have control over your own self, and to decide what happens for yourself. Consent is usually taught as the ability to say no, but it also includes the ability to authentically say yes. And if you buy into these two feminist concepts—which I most certainly do, and which I believe are the foundation of good rough fantasy enactment—you gotta believe that when someone is authentically saying yes to something, authentically and resoundingly consenting, and you trust their agency, then the things the two of you are doing together are not wrong or anti-feminist, but are in fact deeply within a feminist framework. (See what I did there?)

4. Get Brazen & Bold

If you want to turn more of your rough fantasies into reality, it’s really important to figure out how to communicate openly about sex and desire. You gotta be able to talk about what you fantasize about in order to make it happen. If you don’t do this at all right now, start slow—go to a kinky class at your local sex toy store, or read an erotica book aloud.

5. Get Further Involved with the Kink Communities

It helps to feel like this is a normal things to crave, desire, and pursue when the people around you have similar fantasies. And let me assure you: No matter how rough or dirty or perverted or “wrong” your fantasies might be, there is somebody out there with much more rough dirty perverted and wrong fantasies. It is much more likely that you are in the middle of the bell curve, and that your rough fantasies are quite a bit like everybody else’s.

6. Sharpen Your Kick-Ass BDSM Skills

Take it from Napoleon Dynamite: “Girls like guys who have great skills.” (Substitute “people” here and that’s more what I mean cuz I am a queermo like that.)

You can actually do some damage when you’re doing dangerous rough fantastic sexytimes play. Don’t use impact toys that you don’t know how to use, don’t do dangerous play that involves breath or cutting the skin without getting some training. People out there in the kink communities are very, very skilled and experienced, and they can teach you.

If you’re a bottom, and fantasize about wanting to receive some of those dirty dangerous things: Play with trustworthy tops. Build trust slowly before doing extremely risky scenes, or play in public.

7. Don’t Forget Aftercare!

Especially when you’re playing with rough, risky (emotionally or physically), or edgy fantasies, make sure everyone feels good afterward. Check in with each other, schedule some cuddle time or chatting time or casual fun time to connect and bring things up if anything needs talked about. Talk about ways to comfort each other and how best to

Rinse, Lather, and Repeat!

Keep experimenting with your own pleasure. Follow the heat. You may not know where it leads ultimately, but you can usually figure out just the one next step. Listen to your body and your mind and that special inner place in you that knows stuff.

If you learn how to do these rough fantastic things you fantasize about, and communicate openly with folks who will be willing play partners and collaborators in your fantasies, you’ll be responsible AND have some fun hot sexytimes. It really is possible!

Photo from Unsplash


Submissive Playground registration is open! That’s right: We’ll be back in the Sandbox starting in January. Registration is open now and closes January 16, 2015, and it is already filling up! Limited spots available. More information at submissiveplayground.com.

Check out our guests:

My writing on Sugarbutch is supported by patrons on Patreon. They pledge to support me with a couple dollars every post, and I get to keep my job and keep writing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Bonus PS … I am still jerking off to Lust Cinema, my December sponsor on Sugarbutch. Did you find any good ones over there yet?

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Follow your own Kinky Desire Map

December 18, 2014  |  advice  |  2 Comments

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.

Subplay kink_exploration
[Download the big version of rife’s image here]

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 …

2. Experiments!

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.

This is where you know what you like, so you start building your skills and experience. Watch porn. Go to workshops. Take an ecourse. Read erotica. Practice. Find the right tools for the right job. Find a mentor. This is when we can start saying, “I’m pretty good at ____.”

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.

If you keep prioritizing your preferences, pursuing your interests, and building your skills, you will find people who can meet you. Don’t settle. You can If you’re going at this kink thing solo, ask yourself: What will I pursue? What will I say yes to? What will I turn down? If you’re in a relationship and trying to pursue more kink, ask: How do our kinks fit? How do I find the overlaps? What do I do about the places where we are incongruous? Talk to each other about what’s going on. Express and share fantasies and keep experimenting and stay open and watch for the changes. Because of course, 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. Integrate change as best as you can and keep going.

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.

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Things I, as a white sex educator, do to foster inclusivity in this community

December 16, 2014  |  essays  |  8 Comments

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.

DTYB is a 3-day workshop in Seattle, January 23-25, 2015, put on by Body Trust. Queer-identified folks only, trans and genderqueer inclusive. Sliding scale available. Registration closes January 1.

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.

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Vortex Poem, Or: What I learned these last 15 years of studying embodiment

December 8, 2014  |  poetry  |  No Comments

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.


Do y’all know that I’m 1/4 of the new collaborative organization Body Trust? True! We just launched our new website, www.bodytrustcircle.com.

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!

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10 Tips for Tops

November 30, 2014  |  advice  |  2 Comments

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.

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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.

Many tops and dominants who play with power exchange during scenes, but whose reach and sphere of control don’t extend into other areas of their submissive’s life, need a way to have an “on switch” for their dominance (and an “on switch” for their submissive’s submissiveness, too). Consider building a D/s ritual that will, eventually, when repeated enough times, serve like a kind of Pavlovian symbol for you two stepping into those roles, something you both have a visceral response to. This ritual can be things like: You stand and your sub kneels at your feet; Your sub picks three toys and lays them out on the bed, then gets into a “present” slave position, and you enter the room; You recite a back-and-forth agreed upon (simple) phrases or promises to each other. 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.

D/s and power dynamics are completely built on trust. Thats part of what I love about it: It requieres so much deep knowing and intimacy. It takes work to keep it safe, protected, and intact. When the relationship is going well, the work can feel effortless. But this trust doesn’t just show up when a submissive kneels and offers themself to you. You gotta build this trust between you slowly. Most of us do this intuitively, but it’s helpful to do it consciously too. Not only are they building the trust they need from you, since they are putting their body and psyche into your hands, but also you are building the trust you need from them, which includes the ability to trust that they are honest with you if they get overwhelmed or need to stop, trusting they mean what they say, and trusting for them to reach out for support. Trust builds slowly and is earned over time. Don’t rush it.

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.

The power exchange subject isn’t an abundant one, but there are books out there, and really good theorists who from whom you should absolutely learn. Raven Kaldera runs Alfred Press, and they have dozens of books about cooperative power dynamics, limitations, and real scenarios for living D/s and M/s. Andrea Zanin’s writing is largely compiled at sexgeek.wordpress.com and every piece is worth reading. (She also has a fantastic list of kink resources, including many specific power dynamic books.) I highly recommend these: 1) Dear Raven and Joshua: Questions and Answers about Master/Slave Relationships by Raven Kaldera and Joshua Tenpenny, 2) Slavecraft: Roadmaps for Erotic Servitude – Principles, Skills and Tools by a grateful slave with Guy Baldwin 3) The Marketplace Series (The Marketplace, The Slave, The Trainer, The Academy, The Reunion and The Inheretor) by Laura Antoniou.

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!

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Long Live the Butch: Leslie Feinberg & the Trans Day of Remembrance

November 20, 2014  |  essays, on butches  |  6 Comments

leslieI 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.”
—Felice Shays

I wasn’t even 20 when I read it, wasn’t identifying as butch yet myself, though I was starting to realize that was growing in me. I was barely out as queer. I recognized myself so much in that book that I hid it in the back of my bookshelf and didn’t pick it up again for almost ten years.

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

Stone Butch Blues came out in 1993, but was set in the 1960s, and I wonder if it wasn’t one of the major seeds which planted 1960s butch/femme nostalgia into our heads while so many of us were coming out in the 1990s. It contributed to how we crave the supposedly thriving butch/femme culture of yore.

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

Because here’s the thing: There are a lot of problems with those idealized versions of butch/femme relationships. A lot of problems. Beyond the linking of stoneness with butchness, there is an overvaluing of queer masculinity and undervaluing of femininity. This isn’t just in Stone Butch Blues, though it is there—it is all over mainstream culture, and we queers haven’t escaped it: it has permeated queer culture to the core. It has at times felt present even in the articles I’ve read about Leslie Feinberg’s death, where her partner, poet Minnie Bruce Pratt, has often been skipped over. The scholars I know who are studying femmes have a hard time locating them in queer archives, and have often best identified them by looking for their more visible butch partners. This is not good. This is a version of butch that puts femmes as an accessory, as a tool to validate and enhance butch masculinity.

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?

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