7 Tips For Flirting As A Submissive

One of the most common questions I get asked from submissives is, “How do I flirt with dominants!?” And while learning some basic flirting tips (like: be curious and ask questions, give compliments, be honest) can be helpful, when you add D/s into the equation sometimes the rules are a little bit different.

Part of the confusion is that we associate flirtation with assertion—someone comes along, declares interest, and asks for what they want. Those can be seen as dominant traits. But it is absolutely possible for a submissive to do them, and to still come across as submissive and respect the dominant’s authority as a dom.

So, assuming that you’ve already established that you are submissive and the person you’re flirting with is a dominant, here’s some tips. (These are some of the things that would work for me.)

1. Establish whether or not they want to be flirted with.

This might seem obvious, but it’s multi-faceted. You gotta figure out if they are available or not—if their relationship allow for flirtation with other people. It might be as simple as figuring out whether or not they are single, but being partnered doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t flirt—it just depends on whether their relationship allows for flirtation or not. And you might also see whether their relationship only allows flirting, and not going any farther than that—which may change your opinion on whether or not you want to flirt, depending on what the goal of your flirting is.

Secondly, you have to figure out if they are available or not right now, meaning if the timing is right. If I’m about to teach a workshop, for example, I am way less likely to respond well to flirtation than if I’ve just ended a workshop. How do you know if the timing is okay? Well, you can always ask—”So, is this a good time to flirt with you?” “Got a minute to flirt with me?” “Hey, if this isn’t a good time, could we set aside some time later and flirt maybe?”

2. If they have a submissive already, befriend them.

While you’re asking around about whether they’re available, also ask whether or not they already have a submissive—then, make friends with the sub. Ask if there’s any service you can do, if there’s some interesting talent or skill you can offer, or what other expression of interest would be welcome. If you establish yourself as aware of the hierarchy in the relationship that already exists, you’ll be a lot less threatening to the submissive, and they are way more likely to hook you up with tips and tricks to get the dominant’s attention.

3. Offer to be of service.

“May I ____ for you?”
As a friend of mine put it, “May I ____ for you?” This is where your keen observational skills can give you big points: if you notice some of the things they always do and offer to do it for them, you put yourself in the position of being very helpful. If being observational isn’t your strong point, offer some of your own impressive skills or talents: May I black your boots, may I gift you some peanut butter cookies that I made.

4. Use their title.

Using words that remind you both of the hierarchies that you like to play with can be a big turn-on, which is always a bonus when you’re trying to be flirtatious. Do some observation, and ask around, and see what kind of titles this person likes to use.

But, don’t use their relational titles. Some people have titles that they only use with a particular person, and those can be way too personal and intimate to use with a new person. Then again, some folks have “Daddy” or “Mistress” right there on their name tag or in their Fetlife user name, and everybody refers to them as such.

There’s no hard and clear rule about which titles are relational and which are respectful, so you kind of have to feel it out for yourself. In general, I’d say “Sir” and “Ma’am” are the most widely acceptable, but those are not universally liked by everyone. You can always slip it into a sentence and then ask permission: “I’d love to get your drink, ma’am—may I call you ma’am?” Hopefully, they’ll respond with the thing they would like to be called, if you guess incorrectly.

5. Be willing to be wrong.

Be willing to hear no. Be willing to be corrected if you make assumptions or mistakes. You might call them by a title and they might correct you—that’s okay. Say, “Sorry about that; thank you for the permission to call you sir.” Being corrected means you are worthy of correction, and it’s a good sign.

Putting yourself out there means taking risks, and when you’re the person who is initiating the flirtatious interaction, it’s kind of up to you to put yourself in a vulnerable position first.

6. Ask for what you want.

And be honest! Don’t ask to black their boots if that’s not your thing, don’t ask for them to beat you if you’re not into receiving sensation. Ask for what you actually want.

It’s always okay to ask for something, but it’s important that you are willing to hear any possible answer to your ask.
The context of your ask is important. If you can do that thing right there and then and it’s appropriate, it’s appropriate to offer it or to ask for it. So if you’re at a kink retreat, it is probably appropriate to offer a blow job or request to receive a spanking, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask for those things if you’re out at a bar (unless, you know, being crass and direct is one of your tactics—in which case, it could work! But know that it’s higher risk.)

It’s always okay to ask for something, but it’s important that you are willing to hear any possible answer to your ask. Of course, we want the answer to be an emphatic “yes,” but it isn’t always. If you’re going to get a little crushed if they say no, perhaps pre-plan the ask to have a friend around after who is willing to comfort you or perk you up.

Use your keen powers of observation and assess what kind of person this dominant is: Do they have public scenes at parties, or are they mostly private? Do they flirt and socialize a lot, or do they tend to keep to themself and their close people? Tailoring your asks to what you notice about the dominant makes it more likely for them to say yes.

7. Offer your contact information.

Assuming you are flirting now with the intention of following up for even more later, offer your info: Your Fetlife account, your cell number, your email address—however you want them to get in touch with you. Giving them your contact information gives them the power to follow up or not. Plus, it puts your vulnerability into a sexy framework: the potential to continue the flirtation, and possibly even more.


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Featured image from Crash Pad Series Episode #188, Valentine & Ember.

Follow your own Kinky Desire Map

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.

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.

10 Tips for Tops

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.

FullSizeRender
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 requires 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!

Dear Tops: Say Thank You

coachred

Dear tops,

When someone corrects your technique while fucking, set your ego aside and say thank you.

Thanks for telling me.
Thanks for making that clearer.
I like knowing your body better, thanks.

You are lucky that she* spoke up—it is a good thing. It means she is capable of communicating about what feels good for her body during sex! I assume—I hope—we can agree that that is an important foundation of good sexytimes.

It also means that she knows what feels good on her body. Believe it or not, this is not a given. Many folks have not had the trust in a relationship (or their own body, or their gender) that it takes to really be able to show up fully feeling their bodies and just play, just explore. It’s rare.

But it doesn’t always feel like a good thing at the time, does it?

It feels like you were doing something wrong. Or it feels like you were being careless or unobservant. Maybe it was your best move, and now it feels like your mad skillz don’t work on this person, so what if the rest of your mad skillz don’t work either?

Or, if you’re doing some sort of power play thing, perhaps it can feel like she is “topping from the bottom,” trying to instruct you on what to do?

Being corrected or given even a little instruction can cause us tops to spin out in our heads with fear and anxiety so easily.

But it doesn’t have to.

It used to happen to me, more often than I care to admit. And even now, when I’m touching someone and they express some request for something to change or for me to stop, sometimes I feel hurt. But I guess I kind of set that aside (and perhaps, if I need it, request some (top) aftercare later), because in the moment, I remember my rule about it: To say thank you.

Even if I don’t say it aloud, I say it in my head. Thank you for telling me. I can relax in the script of what I’m supposed to say and how I’m supposed to react—based on my own morals, not on some imposed social code. That one little “thank you” can sometimes be a stand in for things like: of course, you know your body the very best and only you are feeling what it’s like to feel that, so I would be honored to know more about what works best for you.

I want it to be okay in sex play situations for everyone to speak up and request some sort of change if they need it. Faster, slower, harder, deeper, shallower, not so much on the nipples, you’re pulling my hair too hard, ow your knee is digging into my thigh, ease off the slapping please—whatever it is, I want to know, and I do not want to be so blinded by my sore ego that I make it seem like they shouldn’t say those things.

So I say an enthusiastic thank you, and I mean it.

Any questions? …

But what if you have some sort of power play in place?

So, in a dom/sub situation where the sub is just supposed to “take it” and you, the dom, are doing whatever you want to them, perhaps it’s a little different. But her discomfort isn’t any less important, and it isn’t running the scene any less: The entire point is that she is going to be uncomfortable.

(Some people are into that, myself included. It’s a game of trust and body literacy and self-knowledge and communication, and I find it exhilarating and fun and sexy as fuck. Not everybody’s into this, of course. And if you’re playing with power like this, play safe—negotiate, use safewords, play with folks you trust, check in after, and make sure everyone goes away from the experience feeling good.)

Why would a sub want to just “take it”? Maybe because they want to really play the part of being a good sub, or a good boy, or slave, or pet, or girl, or fucktoy, or kitty, right? Maybe she loves to feel overwhelmed with sensation and needs that kind of push to get her there. Or maybe because she’s trying to earn jerk off rights for the week, or maybe she wants to encourage you in your own edgy dominant territory.

I’m sure there are some other reasons, too. Feel free to leave them in the comments. What’s hot and sexy about “taking it” from your perspective?

From a dominant’s point of view, especially doms who are still getting their sea legs under them, causing someone else deliberate discomfort, for one’s own pleasure, with the disregard for that other person’s feelings or, gasp, physical pain … that can be so incredibly edgy. And some submissives love to play in edgy dominant territory. Still, it is a hurdle that is so hard to reconcile for many dominants and tops. (I’m not going to go too much into reconciliation here, but it’s related.)

So your job as the top in a “take it” discomfort scene (or at least one possible job—there are dozens of ways to do this, I’m sure!), is to find that edge of discomfort and ride it. And what better way to do that than by listening? Start by finding the places where there is so much pleasure, do all those things that you know her body just adores, and then do them just a little too much, or just a little too hard. Ride that edge and play with it, go from the pleasure into the discomfort and back, see how far you can push the discomfort while still bringing them back into the pleasure.

If you enter into the discomfort slowly, each time you cross back into it, you can explore farther, and then you can both get off on how much she is “taking it” just for you.

So when she expresses some sort of discomfort or makes a request—assuming she’s not saying, “Okay stop this, I want out of this scenario now,” or red or yellow or other some such safeword, of course, because you’re not a jerk—you aren’t obligated to do the change she is requesting, but it is always good to have the information about her body and how she expresses. This is a sensitive place for a very careful, calculated move, however, and it takes a lot of confidence and trust in each other to play with this edge. If I’m in a D/s scene and they make a specific request or correction, I usually ask myself, is there still pleasure going on with what I’m doing? If I lose track of the pleasure, most of the time I have basically kinda sorta I have lost the scene. It’s not ruined, but it needs some mending.

So I’ll follow the pleasure, and possibly go back to what I know is very pleasurable for us both. Or, I might keep doing what I’m doing for a couple more blows or heartbeats, just to prove that I can, and throw some dirty talk in to make remind her that she’s mine and I get to do what I want, at least for right now. Y’know, if that’s the dynamic. But I can’t not hear what she said, still. And I do care what it was. So I often still say “thank you,” if only in my mind.

Because see, you don’t just want her to “take it” from you, you also want her to trust you. Building trust is probably the most important thing in a D/s relationship. All that power we’re playing with is based on trust.

But regardless of whether it’s D/s or a one night stand, when she is expressing discomfort or has a request to do something different … set aside your ego, and say thank you.

Is psychological kink play “healthy”?

Recently, I’ve noticed quite a few questions—both in the Submissive Playground course and in the Ask Me Anything box—concerning kink, trauma, and wellness, particularly about psychological kink play like D/s and Daddy/girl dynamics and whether or not they are “good” for you.

After my own recent experience of a D/s Daddy/girl relationship dynamic “going sour,” as I’ve been phrasing it, I have many of my own questions about the ways that these dynamics can contribute to emotional or psychological damage, can play into our past hurts or traumas, and/or can cause further harm.

I do deeply believe that D/s and other psychological kink play can be healthy, but like any relationship, can also be profoundly unhealthy. It’s not the dynamic that determines that health or damage so much as it’s the relationship—and a thousand other factors.

(Even categorizing relationships as “healthy” or “unhealthy” is oversimplified, since I think no relationship is entirely “healthy” or “unhealthy” all the time.)

I realized I needed some other expert opinions on kink and wellness, so I have been reaching out to some of the mental health practitioners that I know who are kink-friendly and knowledgeable.

This is my first interview so far, with Dr. Matt Goldenberg in Seattle. He and I have been friends for more than 10 years, and I am really grateful to know him and have access to his smart brain!

A couple of the resources we mention in the interview:

As I’ve been pondering, and through this interview, this is what I’ve been thinking:

  • I don’t believe any particular act is inherently healthy or unhealthy (except perhaps illegal ones, or ones deemed “morally wrong” by the community at large, which are generally things like non-consent)
  • The same act can be “healthy” and feel great for some people and be “unhealthy” and feel bad for other people, and the same act for the same people at different times could feel healthy or unhealthy depending on the circumstances.
  • The biggest indicators of “unhealthy” scenes or moments in kink are feelings. If things aren’t feeling right, they probably aren’t.

But I still have a lot of questions, like:

  • It is my belief that no fantasy is inherently wrong, and that playing with deep psychological triggers can sometimes be incredibly healing. What to you is the relationship between mental wellness and the practice of kink?
  • How do you know if the kind of kink you’re practicing is contributing to your compulsions or damage, rather than healing it?
  • What are the signs that one should watch for that may indicate someone is in a “danger zone”, playing with things they perhaps shouldn’t be?

As I delve deeper into psychological kink play, the nuances of it are increasingly interesting for me … This may be the beginning of a larger project.

I have a few more psychologists and therapists to conduct interviews with already. Do you have any suggestions for mental health practitioners who are knowledgeable about kink (they don’t have to be kinky themselves, but some knowledge is important), and who may want to talk to me? Have them get in touch, or send an email introducing us: [email protected]

Do you have other psychological kink and wellness questions? Ask me here in the comments, and who knows, I may ask your question in the next interview.

Bored Kinkster Blues

You’ve been an out and proud kinkster—a submissive, let’s say—for years and years. You’ve done all the things. You’ve tried everything. You’ve done all the events. You’ve been done at all the events. You’re bored. Or jaded.

Or both.

But … you still love kink. You still love playing. You wish you could get that thrilling high from scenes like you used to. But you have so many things to do, a job, a life, hobbies, kids maybe, a demanding cockatoo. How can you prioritize your submission now, with all of that? Especially when you’re basically done going to the play spaces and you teach workshops dammit (or used to) so you don’t really want to attend them and “the scene” sucks anyway and is full of people young enough to be your children or jailbait or you just run into all your exes that you have no bad blood with but you’d just rather not.

What do you do? How do you get back to it?

Well, if you want my opinion—and you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this—that’s it, exactly. You get back to it. You re-prioritize your kink identity. You go back to basics. You schedule time (if that is the only way!) to fuck or play, and you make it happen.

You cultivate what the buddhists call a “beginner’s mind,” a place of newness and neutrality where your pride in your well-developed kink identity can be set aside for you to discover what’s real and new and true right here, right now.

At one point, this kink identity was a seriously important part of you. You grew it from a tiny seed in a culture that does not support alternative sexuality identities. You built a little cage around it for it to grow safely and not get smushed. You tended to it. You fed it with nutrients and leather contests and safety classes and play partners and safer sex supplies and yummy-smelling gear. You plucked the fruits and ate them hot from the vine. You paved the way for others. You made an impact.

Maybe you found a Big Love, maybe it didn’t last. Maybe it did. Maybe you’re broken hearted and single and miss your submission like a friend. Maybe you miss it and you’re still with a Big Love lover, but the world has you both pulled in all kinds of directions and when did you decide a mortgage was more important than new floggers? But yeah that happened.

Here’s my advice: Keep going. Start where you are, which is not some new baby-green sprout but a sturdy tree, something with glory and wood and shade. Something with shelter and structure. But each spring you still have to figure out how to leaf again, how to flower, how to dance with the bees and spin seed down down until it finds a divet of soil in which to nestle.

Start where you are, start over. Start again. Go back to basics. What’s it like to kiss for hours? How much can you feel your body when you are touched, when you touch? What nerves have fried from overuse, what nerves need a jolt to be awakened? What’s it like to be deprived of senses and have every hair follicle on every patch of your skin lovingly caressed, tickled, suckled?

What do you need to awaken that submissive desire that used to course through you like spring runoff as the winter thawed? What needs to heat up? What needs to aliven, envigorate?

Sit down and ask yourself. Take the time to interview that part of yourself that is sleepy-tired and now small: how would you like to grow? Use a guide (this is what people like me are for, this is why I take appointments with people, I have ideas, I can support you). Use a buddy. Give it a go with your Big Love and rediscover those parts of you that are different now, are no longer fresh and unknowing, but are wise and kind. Be kind. Especially to yourself. Ease your toes in the water, ease your ankles in the water, ease your whole self down into the water and rest. Submerge for a rebirth.

What really matters now? This is where you are. You are anew, you are invigorated with the knowing of life and of self, you are eagerly ready for your playful submission to come up and out in new ways. Now is not before. You are not who you were. You are better, more full. You are years and hundreds of sleeps and hands worn down and skin gone long unbruised. You are ready for something new. You have all the answers already, I don’t need to tell you what to do, I don’t need to give you advice.

You just need to act.

Submissive Playground’s summer session is almost sold out, and today is the last day to register! There are limited spots left—sign up now and reserve your spot: submissiveplayground.com

PS: The image is from rife’s “Prioritize Your Preference” kinkster roadmap. Download the full image in the Submissive Starter Kit.

Free download: Submissive Starter Kit

Since I know some of you aren’t the type to make the first move, I’m going to be bold.

Here’s a taste, a little tease, just for you.

What’s in the Submissive Starter Kit?

Okay, so maybe you’ve completed these first five steps and you’re still pretty damn sure that you’re submissive or want to play that way sometimes, and you are still looking for more.

But now, you’re asking yourself:

  • How do I get more kinky play?
  • What kind of skills do I need to have or bring as a bottom?
  • How do I flirt with tops?
  • What are my next steps as a submissive?
  • … and more.

So I’ve put together a video (from the Submissive Playground Bondage unit) and submissive journal prompts to support it.

Hey wait! What’s a submissive journal?

It’s the place where you keep all your reflections on being submissive, on service, on scenes, on aftercare, on what things worked and didn’t work, on what to try next time. If you’re in service to a specific person or people, you could keep lists of their preferences in it. I suggest you also bring it to classes or conferences and take notes in it, to keep them all in one place.

You might also keep a list of resources in the back, like books or websites to check out, or people to contact on Fetlife. You can easily tuck some of your cards (if you have them) into it to carry around at events, or tear out a little corner of a piece of paper to write your name and Fetlife profile or contact info on if you meet someone interesting.

Or, in this day & age, you might just designate a page in it to be your “digital business card” with your contact info and name, and invite people to take a photo of it with their phone (assuming they have one that takes photos).

Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, your current or future dominant may give you writing assignments or art tasks, and your journal will come in handy for those things, too.

Oh yeah—I highly, highly recommend dominant/top/D-types have journals, too, where they record pretty much the same things. This isn’t something unique to submissives. I just happen to be focused on submissives at the moment and in this kit.

Start here: Watch the video

Time to get out submissive journal and take some notes of the things in rife’s talk that speak to you.

Here’s your Submissive Journal Prompts for this video:

This is box title

PROMPT #1:
Rife detailed these four tips for getting more kinky play. Write your notes on each- Have you tried this already? How can you use this in the future more? Which is your favorite and least favorite?

  1. Go to classes and workshops
  2. Buy your own toys
  3. Approach tops you’re interested in
  4. Consider switching

PROMPT #2:
Write your own 4 best flirting tips in your submissive journal, and share your favorites in the comments.

This is only one example piece of the homework for the Bondage unit. In the course, there are a variety of questions about the erotica assigned, the other guest videos for the module, and the experiment that players are conducting.

Here’s a little ZIP package of two PDFs & an image:

  • The transcript of rife’s video
  • Select submissive journal prompts for the Bondage unit, including some of your history with bondage and rife’s video above (three pages of prompts!)
  • The full image of rife’s illustrated “Prioritize Your Kink” identity development roadmap
DOWNLOAD NOW

You’re welcome! Hope you enjoy.

There are FOUR days left to register for Submissive Playground’s summer session, and there are limited spaces left! Sign up today and reserve your spot: submissiveplayground.com

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: I’m a sub, but my partner is not a dom. What do I do?

This question comes from Marie:

“My partner and I have come to a difficult place in our relationship. I have long since had the desire and urge to be dominated, to be somebody’s submissive, and to explore the world in its entirety. My partner, however, has no wishes. I’ve sat down with her and tried to explain what it meant, what it meant to me, and what it would mean to our relationship, but she says she can’t bear to hurt me (even if I enjoy it). I’ve been the dominate one, so to say, in our relationship, and I know for a fact that she would never consider me seeking a dom or have an open relationship. I love her, but I’m unhappy. How did you first address all of this? And is there anything else I can explain to her before I have to make a decision? I really want to explore this, and I want to with her, but she really has no budge room, and I don’t want to make her uncomfortable.  All in all, I’m really confused and at ends.”

….. I have one more thing to add that I didn’t say when I recorded the video yesterday, that is whispering to me now that I’m re-reading your question.

Marie, you wrote: “I really want to explore this, and I want to with her, but she really has no budge room, and I don’t want to make her uncomfortable.”

And here’s the thing. You want to explore this with her, but she doesn’t want to explore it. You want to push her a little, because you are very attached to doing this with her specifically and not opening your relationship to some sort of non-monogamy (which is totally understandable!), but you don’t want to make her “uncomfortable.”

But: let me remind you, sweet pea, for a moment, of your own discomfort. You are uncomfortable by not having the kind of D/s relationship dynamic that your secret heart-of-hearts craves. And there is no reason for her discomfort to be more important than yours. Yes, of course, her discomfort is important and consent is important—I’m not trying to say that she should do it anyway and you “win.” But what I’m trying to say is that you have a clashing of needs here, and you two are going to have to figure that out.

You want something. She doesn’t want it.

There’s so many ways to sugar-coat that, but that’s the simplest core of truth.

It’s totally okay to have different wants or needs in a partnership—that happens all the time. What is important is that you two come up with a way to talk about these different needs, be they around sex, or D/s, or monogamy, or what you make for dinner that night, or whether your parents come stay for a weekend, or where you go on vacation.

It’s extra scary to talk about, because it’s sex and extra dirty kinky stuff that you may still have some internal shame or guilt about. Do you have that? Ask yourself, for a brief quiet soft gentle moment: Do you think you should be able to have this deep want? Or are there things in place between you and that want that make it even harder to ask for, to advocate for yourself around?

I mean, if it was … a new car that you wanted, or a puppy, what would you do then? Would you think of those as “legitimate” wants, whereas this is a scary, shadow, selfish want? (I’m just guessing—maybe that’s not how it feels for you.)

I guess what I’m really trying to say is, YOU DESERVE TO HAVE THIS. And it sucks that she doesn’t want to do it with you. That really sucks. I’m sorry. There’s nothing wrong with you for wanting this, but you two might have come to an irreconcilable difference, if she a) won’t allow you to explore it with anyone else and b) won’t explore it with you.

So now comes a very difficult decision on your part, which is precisely why you’re asking me this question: Is your desire for this greater than your desire to be in this intimate, monogamous partnership with her?

Ask yourself that gently, with kindness, as if you are your best friend asking yourself this. It’s okay if the answer is no. It’s okay if the answer is yes. It’s okay if the answer is “I don’t know.”

I know for me, no partnership felt right until I had that D/s dynamic. It just didn’t. As much as I loved them, as much as I wanted it to work, it didn’t, until I had a power dynamic in place. I don’t really know why. For whatever reason, that’s my fetish, that’s how I’m wired. That’s what really makes me pleased and happy and satiated. Sometimes, for me, the love itself—though it was good love and beautiful love and important love and growing love—was not enough.

It sucks that sometimes love wasn’t enough. But it’s true. I needed more. Maybe you do, too.

Got a (different) question?

I’ve got a full inbox, but I love hearing your gender and identity and sexuality puzzles. What’s on your mind? Ask it here! And I’ll do my best to email you when I answer it.

Remember, Sinclair does one-on-one coaching!

I hope my thoughts give you some places to start. If you’re still stuck, remember, I do one-on-one coaching sessions, and I would be very happy to help you with resources, experiments, ideas, support, or just talking in depth through this process. Contact me for more information and pricing.

Comment Zen …

Readers, do you relate to Marie’s question?

If you do, would you share your own story about being in a relationship and not getting the kind of power dynamic that you wanted? What kind of resources helped you on your journey? Books? Anything to recommend for others who are going through this?

Leave your story anonymously if you like; your email address will not be published, and if you don’t want your usual “gravitar” picture of you to show up, just type “+sugarbutch” in your email address (like [email protected]) and I’ll know you want to be anonymous.

And there’s more …

If you want to explore your submissive identity even more, sign up for the Submissive Playground summer school! Registration closes June 30th.

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: I struggle with my feminist beliefs and my bedroom preferences … help!

Dear Mr. Sexsmith,

I am a strong, opinionated, sometimes bossy, lesbian. I have a huge passion for the empowerment, education and advocacy of women. I volunteer as a sexual assault advocate and have been involved as a Planned Parenthood educator. I am very vocal about breaking the cycle of female oppression in our culture.

I feel a personal conflict, as I also identify as femme and am very much a bottom in the bedroom. I like to be dominated and controlled in sexual play and I very much get off on fantasies that boarder on roughness and non-consent. I guess my struggle lies in the dichotomy between my feminist beliefs and my bedroom preferences. I do not consider myself to be a weak or oppressed female, but in the bedroom I love to be controlled, punished and made to serve. Is there a way for the two to be harmonious? I fight for women to have power and to stand up for themselves. Can you help me sort this out?

Tara

I hear you.

I too have come up within the lesbian feminist movements (and in their wakes) with a strong passion for smashing the patriarchy and a vehement dedication to working on less pain for the various gender minorities in the world. And I too like to do dirty, “perverted,” un-politically correct things in my erotic life. I struggle with reconciling my own feminist beliefs with my desire for sadism and wanting to physically cause “pain,” and with my masculinity and dominance and the ways that both masculinity and dominance are seen as corrupted ways of having power in some feminist’s views. I was asked just this morning about my consumption of porn, and my candid talk about how porn is fun and can be useful and good and valuable, and how I reconcile that with feminism. And, oh yeah, I forget that’s a part of that feminist reconciliation process too.

And all of these took a long time, and were long processes.

I have had lots of judgment about sadism, masculinity, dominance, and porn in the past. Some of it was a reaction formation, at least in a minor way, I think. I had reactions and judgment both about other people’s visible execution of these things, and the tendencies in myself—my own desires. I struggled to reconcile those tendencies and how they went with my feminist commitments to gender liberation and my sensitivities to surviving abuse and being in a rape culture.

I think it absolutely is possible to reconcile, to sort this out.

Here’s some of the ideas that I kicked around—for years and years, with trusted friends, at kink conferences, with lovers. It was not an immediate process. It required adopting a new kind of feminism, I think—a BDSM- and kink-friendly feminism that is rooted in agency and consent, and that understands the difference between play and abuse.

Consider these things:

1. Bottoming, service, and surrendering control, comes from a place of great strength and power.

[Bottoming] is absolutely making yourself vulnerable. But vulnerability is not about weakness—it comes from a place of great strength.

People have the idea in their heads that bottoming is weak, but I think that is not true at all. Bottoming is incredibly powerful. Being able to know where your own boundaries are, hold yourself safe, be able to speak up for your own needs, ask for what you want, and negotiate trust with a person who is going to assist your body and self on a journey takes a lot of skill and sovereignty. People who do it well have an extensive amount of intelligence, self-worth, and self-knowledge.

It absolutely is making yourself vulnerable. But vulnerability is not about weakness—again, it comes from a place of great strength.

The notion that bottoming, receiving sensation, and submitting to someone else’s desires is weak comes from a twisted version of what those things really are, versions that show only the completely non-consensual and abusive sides of these experiences. But when done consensually, the gift that is bottoming to another is precious and strong. It’s amazing to serve someone else; we serve community, family, friends, and other valuable relationships all the time. We give our power or authority, or cede our control, away intentionally in order to empower others in a variety of contexts, and we can get great pleasure from doing so. And when we find someone worthy of our trust such that we will put our body into their hands for intense sensation, cathartic release, and the deep pleasure of being in the present moment with whatever is happening … how does that not come from a place of power?

The difference, in my opinion, between it coming from power and strength or from oppression comes down to some simple traditional feminist concepts.

2. Consent makes all the difference. All of it.

When done within a framework of consent, I believe it is possible for just about anything to be empowering.

I would guess that you do not have a fetish for a scenario where you are forced to serve against your will, when you were thrown around aggressively and had your body played with when you didn’t want it. Fuck no! But what you do want is within a safe, negotiated relationship, to be “forced” to serve, to play with giving over your will entirely.

Consent changes experiences completely. In the activist cultures around female oppression, we often talk about consent in a “no means no” way, and stress the value of enthusiastic consent and the “just because they didn’t say no doesn’t mean there was consent!”

But I think an incredibly important piece of examining the feminist concept of consent is also that YES MEANS YES, and that the consent itself is what makes the act possible or okay.

Let me give you an example: I like playing with Daddy/girl and Daddy/boy role play in my sex life. I know that is something kind of extreme to some people, and many people misinterpret it as incest fantasies, which it is and it isn’t (more on that another time). Sometimes I hear people say things like, “But what if you/I/someone crosses the line with an actual young person!”

But for me, that would not happen.

I do not have a fetish for sleeping with and playing roughly with people under eighteen. I have a fetish for sleeping with and playing roughly with adults who adopt a younger persona (usually temporarily) with enthusiastic consent. It’s not about actual incest or actual under-18 youths. No no no no no. It’s about adults tapping in to other parts of ourselves, to open up new experiences.

The consent is actually an essential part of that fetish.

And likewise, I would guess that for you, Tara, you do not have a fetish for a scenario where you are forced to serve against your will, when you were thrown around aggressively and had your body played with when you didn’t want it. Fuck no! But what you do want is within a safe, negotiated relationship, to be “forced” to serve, to play with giving over your will entirely, to be punished for doing something “wrong,” to be used for someone else’s pleasure.

There is a huge, huge difference between the actual thing and some sort of play consensual version of the thing.

3. BDSM—and being punished, controlled, and made to serve—are completely different from abuse and oppression.

And consent is a key piece of that, yes, but there are a lot of other specific, clear, and measurable differences, too.

Read the “BDSM is Not Abuse” list released by the Lesbian Sex Mafia, one of the oldest women’s BDSM groups in the country, based in New York City. I think it articulates things very well:

This is box title
The Difference Between BDSM and Abuse

SM: An SM scene is a controlled situation.
ABUSE: Abuse is an out-of-control situation.

SM: Negotiation occurs before an SM scene to determine what will and will not happen in that scene.
ABUSE: One person determines what will happen.

SM: Knowledgeable consent is given to the scene by all parties.
ABUSE: No consent is asked for or given.

SM: The “bottom” has a safeword that allows them to stop the scene at any time should they need to for physical or emotional reasons.
ABUSE: The person being abused cannot stop what is happening.

SM: Everyone involved in an SM scene is concerned about the needs, desires and limits of others.
ABUSE: No concern is given to the needs, desires and limits of the abused person.

SM: The people in an SM scene are careful to be sure that they are not impaired by alcohol or drug use during the scene.
ABUSE: Alcohol or drugs are often used before an episode of abuse.

SM: After an SM scene, the people involved feel good.
ABUSE: After an episode of abuse, the people involved feel bad.

Souce: lesbiansexmafia.org

Because they are so different, I sometimes think the hyper-articulation of different language is important. It’s one of the reasons that people sometimes use the phrase “consensual non-consent” instead of “rape play,” for example.

The difference between BDSM and abuse goes back to consent, yes; but it goes back to all sorts of other things, too. Like trust, and skill, and agency.

4. Trust in your own agency. Trust in your own experience.

If you negotiate with a lover to get what you want, have an experience, and then everybody feels good after … as long as the experience is “doing no harm” in the world, then I say FUCKING GO FOR IT.

Have some play. Have some ecstasy. Have some screaming release. Have a big bold messy weird experience that maybe other people would judge but it just felt so goddamn good for your body and your mind and your emotions and everything sings a little brighter the next day.

You get to say what happens to your body. You get to have your own experience, and then decide if that was pleasurable or not, enjoyable or not, and whether you’d want to do it again, with this person or with a different person or in a new way or not at all. You get to have your experience of a non-ordinary thing and then, if you feel like fuck yes that was amazing! More more more please! then you can trust that that is real and true. Agency is trusting the answer that you come up with, authentically, when you ask yourself: Does it feel good or bad? Am I left with icky residue or release and joy? Do I feel closer to my play partner, or farther away?

Of course, not every BDSM scene is that easy to evaluate—but some of them just are. Start there. Start with the ones that are easy to tell. Start with trusting your own consent, and agency, and your own deepest experience of what you like or don’t like.

If it matters to you that other people do sometimes see these things you want as contradictory, seek out feminist kink communities. They do exist! This was a topic that came up in the Submissive Playground ecourse quite frequently, actually, and we had a lot of lively discussions about the feminist reconciliation process.

I actually have a dozen more notes about things to say around this process of reconciliation, but this is already more than 2,000 words, so I’m going to call it good for now. Feel free to ask more about specific things in the comments and I’ll do my best to reply!

I hope that gives you lots of places to start. If you’re still stuck, remember, I do one-on-one coaching sessions, and I would be very happy to help you with resources, experiments, ideas, support, or just talking in depth through this reconciliation process. Contact me for more information and pricing.

Got a question for Mr. Sexsmith? Ask it here!

Comment Zen …

Readers, do you relate to Tara’s question?

If you do, would you share your own story about your relationship to feminism and kink? Did you reconcile the two? What was the process like? Slow, fast, hard, simple? What kind of resources helped you on your journey? Books? Anything to recommend for others who are going through this? Do you have any recommendations for feminist kink Fetlife groups?

Leave your story anonymously if you like; your email address will not be published, and if you don’t want your usual “gravitar” picture of you to show up, just type “+sugarbutch” in your email address (like [email protected]) and I’ll know you want to be anonymous.

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: How Do I Use My Girlfriend for My Pleasure?

Dear Mr. Sexsmith,

My butch girlfriend wants me to boss her around in bed. She wants me to think of it as just using her for my own pleasure and nothing more (just this once anyway!). I’m a bit shy about it though, and not sure how to go about it. Do you have any tips or advice for me?

Aiming to Please

I love this kind of play, personally, so I got a little grrr growl and chill-thrill when I read your question. It took me a lot of time, experimenting, sharing fantasies, and permission for me to come to loving this play, however. I have been a top hung up on whether or not to make a move in many, many scenarios.

So, my tips and advice kind of depend on where your stuck point is. Do you have trouble figuring out what you’re going to do to her, for your own pleasure? Are you worried that you’ll go “too far,” and will do something she won’t like? Or do you freeze up when you actually get to the point of actually doing the things you want to do (and know she’ll like) in bed?

I’ll give a few ideas for each of those.

And, before we go any further: A Note About Gender and Power

Just for the record, that she’s butch probably doesn’t factor into this. I love having these little details in the question, so thanks for including it, but for the most part throwing around your butch girlfriend isn’t different from throwing around your genderqueer girlfriend or your femme girlfriend or your trans girlfriend or your unicorn girlfriend. Ask yourself if, by any possible stretch anywhere in you, you believe that a necessary component of masculinity is topping or dominance, and wait to see what answer comes to your mind. Wait. Longer than the first “No of course not!” knee-jerk reaction. Maybe, somewhere buried in some crevice?

It’s okay if there is—I just want you to be able to have a conversation with that little piece, and assure yourself that this other piece of you knows that, through and through, her masculinity and gender identity are not contingent upon a certain position of power, in bed or socially.

Topping a butch (and using her for your pleasure, mmm) is only different because individuals are different.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to do …

Do you want it to be all about your orgasm? Do you want to push her body through lots of sensation and stimulation? Would it give you a thrill to control her orgasms, not allow her to come? Do you want to toss her around physically so you can more easily get to the parts of her body you want to torture, play with, pleasure?

You probably already know these answers, if you’ve been fucking for a while, so ask yourself: Are there places she likes or doesn’t like to be touched? Which, if any, holes on her body does she like penetrated? Does she come over and over again, ping ping ping in a row? Or does she have a looong slow buildup to orgasm? Or does she not usually come, but likes being stimulated and finds sexytime play satisfying (outside of the goal-oriented limiting practice of orgasm)? Does she love receiving pain? Does she take stimulation better after she’s come a few times? Or does she crash after coming?

Once you have a good sense of the kinds of things she likes, and the things her body easily takes and enjoys, then you can go after the good stuff: what YOU like. Because yeah, it’s play, and you’re both pretending that you are using her for your pleasure, because of course it is for the pleasure both of you. But it would be even more awesome if the thing you were pretending was for your pleasure had some authentic pleasure in it for you.

So what of those things would be oh so delicious for you?

What do you want the scene to accomplish? Do you want it to be all about your orgasm? Do you want to push her body through lots of sensation and stimulation? Would it give you a thrill to control her orgasms, not allow her to come, or bark commands for her to come right now? Do you want to toss her around physically, moving her body with your body (or with your voice) into positions or placements (either comfortable or uncomfortable) so you can more easily get to the parts of her body you want to exploit, stimulate, pinch, torture, play with, pleasure?

So if you are starting to get an idea (or two or four or a dozen) of what you’d like to do (or maybe you already had a whole bunch of ideas and that wasn’t the hard part), here’s how you start to implement them.

If you worry that you might do “something wrong” …

“I love the idea of bossing you around in bed, I have been thinking about it since we talked about it. I think I want to make it all about me getting off, so you wouldn’t be allowed to. I come best when I’m strapped on and fucking you, so I’d want to strip you down, bend you over the bed, and just go at your hole until I come. So um can we have a date to do that soon?”

If you have any worry that you’d be going too far or doing too much or not doing something that she’d like, tell her about your plan. Say, “Hey, so that bossing you around in bed thing? I’ve been thinking about it. And I think I’d like to tie you to the bed, get you all worked up with my mouth and that toy you really like inside of you, then get up and go sit on your face and ride your mouth until you make me come. Would you be into that?”

Or, “I love the idea of bossing you around in bed, I have been thinking about it since we talked about it. I think I want to make it all about me getting off, so you wouldn’t be allowed to. I come best when I’m strapped on and fucking you, so I’d want to strip you down, bend you over the bed, and just go at your hole until I come. So um can we have a date to do that soon?”

(You can do this via text or gchat or email or snapchat or whatever newfangled technology you kids are using these days. It doesn’t have to be in person, if you are too nervous to say those words out loud.)

Getting her “Oh my god fuck yes please!” face in response will help you feel more bold and less shy, and figure out how exactly to go about it.

(Shoving your hand down her pants right then, just to check, you know, if she liked that idea, is not a bad idea either—assuming you have that kind of relationship where she’d be turned on by that and not triggered. Use your best judgment and smarts about what would be sexyhotfun for you and your beloved.)

You could also share some fantasies back and forth, asking her to tell you what she was envisioning, then telling her some of what you were visioning. Just to, you know, do some research. Brainstorming. Consider your options. (Getting all turned on by the ideas and having some wild sexting or actual sex right then is a bonus.)

Or, if you get stuck when it’s actually business time …

She really wants a better grade on that test, professor, and will do anything you ask to get it.

If it’s the actual bedroom time that is holding you back from going about it, consider putting it into a fantasy context. Doing some pretty simple role play scenarios (with lots and lots of dirty talk, and very minimal props and costumes) (for me growing up a theater kid, role play often seemed like way too much work because I thought it had to be theater, but I’ve found that a choice phrase here or there is more than enough to set the scene) has been an excellent way to alleviate some of my own internal nervousness about throwing someone around and topping for my pleasure. Because then, see, it’s not me doing those dirty dirty things, it’s my job as this particular character to do them, and then when it stops, I come back and get us ice cream and aftercare. Plus, a role play scenario usually should be agreed upon by both people in order to work best, so that means you and she would come up with a scenario that you would then both consent to, and all you’d have to do would be show up for your role.

For example: You’re paying her to use her for what you want, so you get to do anything. She really wants a better grade on that test, professor, and will do anything you ask to get it. You just found her getting off and are now going to punish her for it, and since you know she’s a slut already you know she’ll do whatever you want (though you might have to make her, a little bit).

You could push role play into consensual non-consent realms, too, or coercion, but that might be too much, especially for starting out.

If role play isn’t for you, you could also take a look at The Three Minute Game and consider doing it as a warm up—just three minutes of action for your pleasure. It’s excellent practice for longer scenes.

If I had to boil it down to just two things, I’d say:

  1. Communicate – tell her what you want to do, ask her what she wants to do, work out a vague rough plan on what you want to do together, and then
  2. Experiment – Do the plan, reflect with each other what went well and what didn’t go so well, brainstorm and make some suggestions for what you could do to improve it or if you want to toss it out and never do that again, and experiment some more.

I hope that gives you lots of places to start. If you’re still stuck, remember, I do one-on-one coaching sessions, and I would be very happy to help you through whatever might be in the way of getting to this particular fantasy, or fleshing out the scene in your mind, or actually drafting the email, or just talking it through. Contact me for more information and pricing.

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: Tomboi vs RodeoH brief-style harness?

Dear Mr. Sexsmith,

Have you tried the Spare Parts Tomboi Harness? I saw your review of the RodeoH and agree with the lack of clit stimulation. I was wondering how the Tomboi compares. Would love your feedback before spending $80 on it if you have any!

Luke

Hi Luke!

Yes, I have tried the Tomboi harness. I think it’s better than the RodeoH in fabric and fit—the RodeoH is so much cut like girl panties, not like boy briefs, that drives me nuts particularly. But just like the RodeoH, there’s no particular tight fabric that goes near my bits like on a regular harness (of any fabric), and it really doesn’t do much for my own stimulation. The hole for the dildo to go through is also quite high—most harnesses are made for them to ride on the pubic bone, not get right aligned with the clit or lower, so it’s hard to have sensation from the back of the cock/base of the cock, too.

Your milage may vary, of course! And both the RodeoH and Tomboi leave pretty decent room for good access under a cock for your own bits to be stimulated, so that is a plus for a lot of people.

But for me, I know I need a lot of direct contact, kind of hard, and often repeated, so it’s really hard for me to use any brief or underwear harnesses to have enough stimulation to get off. I definitely think the Tomboi is better quality and will last much longer (I’ve had RodeoH’s fall apart after just one or two times through the washer). Still, it’s a lot. If you are going to invest, I’d wait for one of those sales days that Babeland or Good Vibes has—often online, often around the holidays—and at least cut it down in price.

I do think it’s super fun for packing and wearing a dick out. Oh—and I do think wearing a cock that has balls can sometimes increase the sensation, too, since sometimes the balls hang low enough to stimulate me a little more. Just one last thought

I hope that’s helpful! And hope you find a good harness that works well for you.

Sinclair

tomboi
The Spareparts Tomboi briefs harness

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: What happens to the stuff on the anal toys when you boil them?

Dear Mr. Sexsmith,

Ok, this is a really dumb question. When you clean silicone toys used during anal sex, do you boil them? I know that you can clean silicone toys by boiling, or by soap and water, or 10% bleach, or by the top rack of the dishwasher. But like, if you boil them, does the leftover lube/etc stay on the pot? Do you wash the pot afterwards? Do you have a separate sex-toy pot for sey-toy cleaning? Why bother dirtying something else, especially something else used in food preparation?

Thanks for any help.
Christy

Hi Christy!

I am not an expert on toy cleaning, really—I have my own way of doing it, but I’m not always sure that’s the right way. Since my activities as of late are very low-risk (currently, I have one person I share toys with), what I do feels adequately good enough.

And, I have less knowledge of the healthcare side of cleaning toys and STIs than some of the other sex educators out there. So, instead of stumbling through my own answer, I asked my buddy Sejay Chu what their thoughts were on this question. They worked for Planned Parenthood doing sex education, and are one of the best workshop presenters I’ve ever seen. Their depth (heh heh) of knowledge is astounding. (And plus, they’re super hot, so that’s always a bonus.)

Sejay wrote:

This is box title
(A) Not a dumb question.

(B) Before doing any cleaning intended to sanitize (bleach, boiling, soap, etc.), it’s best to always scrub the surface gunk off first. Kinda like you “clean the dishes before you clean the dishes” for the dishwasher — if you have a dish with globs of food & grease on it, just tossing it in the dishwasher probably won’t get rid of the globs of food & grease very well… get my drift?

Bleach, boiling, soap, etc. is intended to get the microscopic bits and do a good job of it, but it can’t do that very well if it’s blocked by a (relatively) gigantic mound of whateversonyourtoy. So do a preliminary scrubbing to get the gunk out of your sanitizer’s way.

(C) Some people use a sex-toy-only pot, and some just wash the pot afterwards. It’s a matter of preference, not necessarily cleanliness. Things you cook in pots tend to get boiled or super hot in the process of, y’know, cooking anyway, right? But if it “icks” you or the people you live with to eat out of something that boiled a buttplug yesterday, it might be worth the $10 pot. Plus then you can call it a “sexpot,” hehe.

(D) Just FYI, some dishwashers don’t actually get hot enough temperature-wise to disinfect the way you’d want to, so be weary of that.

Thank you Sejay! The number (B) point was basically going to be my point too, which is that I’d use a mild soap to scrub down all the toys before doing the sanitizing of boiling it.

Sidenote:

Sanitize, by the way, is more accurate that “sterilize,” even though most sex educators tend to say “sterilize your toys by boiling for 8 minutes, 10% bleach solution, or washing in the top shelf of the dishwasher.” However, in order to actually sterilize something, you need an AutoClave or some other hospital-strength unit. But as soon as something is exposed to the air, it’s no longer sterile. Regardless, what we’re doing is sanitizing sex toys, which kills most (idk, 99.9%?) bacteria and any STI viruses. (I learned this at Catalyst East in March and I’ve been meaning to write a post about it ever since—that I’ve been saying “sanitize” all these years and all along I had never actually sanitized my toys! I don’t think it’s just me, I think it’s a common mistake of words that sex educators often use. (Or maybe it is just me, and everybody else knows this difference, and I was the one always equating the two.)

Also, if you are worried about the extra santorum* on your toys or on your cookware, I suggest using a condom with anal sex toys, because that will add a protective layer to your toys and make them even easier to clean.

I didn’t know that (D) about the dishwashers. Sejay, do you know what the required temperature is, and how to figure out if your dishwasher gets that hot or not?

And, I love the idea of having a (C) sexpot, but I tend to just use the biggest soup pot in the house. I clean my toys first, and clean the pot after. All good!

* Definition of santorum: that frothy mixture of come and lube and other rectal contents created during anal sex. See: Savage Love, 2003. (I think the word “frothy” is the key part of that definition, personally.)

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: First time with a girl

coaching-buttonHi Sinclair,

I’m in a bit of a pickle. I’ve been out for ages, but for reasons not worth getting into (for instance mostly due to lack of opportunity, not lack of interest or any deep seated issues) I’m still completely inexperienced when it comes to girl-on-girl sex. I have however had a fair amount of boy-girl sexcapades.

But now I have the opportunity to get some girl-on-girl action and I don’t want to tell her it’s my first time. I know I should, but I’m too embarrassed to admit that despite years of being out I’m a 28 year old queer virgin. I want to be a good partner and please her in bed but I need some direction. Will she expect me to go down on her the first time we go to bed together? Any websites or great tips to impart? Any help you can offer would be great.

Thank you Sinclair. You and your words have been helping me get off for ages. Now I’m hoping you can help me got off with a partner.

—Carly

Hi Carly:

As a budding baby dyke, I relied on books. Nothing But the Girl and Best Lesbian Erotica 1998 spring to mind, because in 1998 and 1999 I was obsessed and barely out. I left my boyfriend of six years in August 1999 to move into a crowded little apartment on Capitol Hill in Seattle with a dyke I barely knew, eager to have my own room, my own space, a place for my own desires. It wasn’t until April 2000 that I slept with a girl. She was in my nutrition class, and we had the same birthday. “Did you just say it’s your birthday?” “Yeah.” “It’s my birthday today too!” We talked and started sitting together. I put my hand on her knee under the table, and she let me. Kissed me in front of the school after class when we went our separate way. “You’re bold, touching my knee like that,” she wrote in a note later. “I like bold.” She invited me to her house for lunch.

She’d never been with a girl either, but she like me (and you) knew she was interested and had some sexcapade experience. When we started getting undressed (awkward light from my only bedroom window that faced the parking lot, shaded by a fringed grey shall, moon poster up over my bed, feminist books stacked in every spare space), kissing, oh she was a good kisser, I had no idea what to do or what it would be like or how to please her. But when she paused and said, “I don’t know what to do,” I could feel my relief, at her admission of what we were both feeling, and knowing that she didn’t know what would to do meant I could step in and take the (gentle) lead.

Oh, I thought. I know what to do.

I didn’t, not really. But I suppose in some ways that was the beginning of me as a service top, taking some limited control and having bodily permission to touch in ways that pleased her. That’s all I wanted to do: feel her, please her, touch her in ways that she liked, connect with her.

That’s all sex is, really. Sure, the orgasm part is a really nice added bonus—but not everybody comes at all, not everybody is able to get off with a partner, and almost nobody comes with a new person the first time.

Carly, you wrote this to me in March 2012 (and I am so behind on advice/ask me anything questions, this year has been impossible, see: the Making Peace series and the last 18 months of this site), so I presume you weren’t waiting on my small piece of advice before you went for it. So hopefully, this advice comes too little too late. Hopefully this is all irrelevant. Hopefully, you’ll comment on this saying, Oh! That was me! But I totally forgot I even asked that. I’ve been fucking for eighteen months now, I have this completely different other question now.

But just in case you haven’t, and just in case there are other folks out there who read Sugarbutch and dream about queer sex but maybe haven’t had much of it yet, this is my advice to you.

Will she assume that you will go down on her? I have no idea. Depends on the person. Personally, I think going down on someone is an incredibly intimate act, and I wait quite a while after starting to date someone to do it. Also, I am STI-aware and don’t go down on someone without a barrier unless we are fluid bonded, which also often happens after a few (or quite a few) dates (or never), depending on our agreements and how in-depth we go into our own STI histories and whether or not we have other partners or whether we’re going to go get tested again. I have dealt with this differently with everyone I’ve dated, but the short answer is, I think, no, you shouldn’t assume you will go down on someone on your first date or in the first month or so, and if you decide you want to, it should be after you get to know them more and have some safer sex conversations.

Don’t assume anybody is going to come the first time. I believe you are responsible for your own orgasm—in general, not just the first time—so if you want to get off, assume you’ll be getting yourself off. And make it totally okay for her to get herself off, too. Offer to watch, if she finds that sexy. Or offer to help, in whatever ways would be helpful (lick her nipples? Kiss her? Hold her down? Whisper sexy things in her ear? Shove your cock in her mouth? To each their own …).

Unless you have a strong power identity established already, and do a bit of negotiating, don’t assume who’s going to top and who’s going to bottom. Just feel each other. You’re getting to know each other in a new way: physically, energetically. Go easy, take each other’s cues. It’s a complicated physical dance.

To get ready for your first girlon-girl time (or whatever—y’all know that I mean to extend that to other genders too, right?): Jerk off a lot. Notice what you do, how you touch yourself, what feels good. Try those out on her body.

And pay a lot of attention to how she responds. If you can talk, ask how to touch her, ask what feels good.

Feel into your own body, and follow the pleasure. What would feel good right now? Tell her that, and ask: “I really want to kiss you right now. Is that okay?” “I have this urge to spank your ass, would that feel good for you?” “I have some soft pretty rope just … right there … I wonder if you’d like it if I used it?” “Can I introduce you to my favorite vibrator?” “I really love using a strap-on, do you like penetration?”

As I have been thinking on this answer, I kept saying to myself, Self … damn. If only there was a Girl Sex 101 primer that I could point Carly to for more tips and tricks and ideas about communication and negotiation and following pleasure and how ladyparts are awesome and different and the same.

And then I realized that maybe there’s not a perfect one of those right now, but there’s this:

That Allison Moon and KD Diamond are building, and you’re just in time to get a copy for yourself by supporting their Kickstarter.

What is it? Well …

Girl Sex 101 is a road trip in a book! Combining fiction & comics with solid sex-education, Girl Sex 101 does what no sex-ed book has done before.

A collaboration between author and sex-educator Allison Moon (the Tales of the Pack novels about lesbian werewolves) and artist kd diamond (founder & editor-in-chief of Salacious Magazine) Girl Sex 101 is loaded with fun, color illustrations and entertaining stories that offer far more than the standard sex-ed fare.

Plus, “Girl Sex 101 is a collaborative effort of over 15 independent educators and artists, featuring fun & informative guest viewpoints by sex-ed superstars” like Megan Andelloux, Tristan Taormino, Jiz Lee, Carol Queen, Julia Serano, Tina Horn, Ignacio Rivera and more!

So clearly you should try that too.

I also recommend these books:

  

Take a look at the rest of my women & sexuality category on my Amazon A-store, maybe some of those books will resonate?

I wish I knew of other good resources! So I figure this is a great time to ask the readers. Hey, readers! What do you recommend? What books or websites or sources? What are your best tips for queer sex for the first time?

PS: If you asked for advice from me in the past few years, and never received it, I’m sorry. I know many (hundreds, actually) of you have emailed me questions or asked me questions, and I haven’t replied. It’s because I have not been on top of my shit in the ways I would like to be—it’s not because your question wasn’t fascinating. It probably was. It’s just that I haven’t been on a schedule or replying or corresponding in the ways that I want to be. But, I’m sorry you reached out and said something possibly vulnerable or sweet or real, and never got anything back in return.

If that question (or a different question) is still relevant to you, the way to skip the queue and come to the top of the list is to send me a donation or book a 30-60 minute session with me over Skype or over the phone. I’ll address your question, and more.

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: Help! I want a decent pack ‘n play cock!

coaching-buttonHello Sinclair,

My girlfriend and I have been looking for a decent pack ‘n’ play cock but can’t seem to find any that seem decent, and it’s hard to choose over the internet.

I read your 101 on packing cocks, which was useful and helped me know what to look for. Unfortunately, all your recommendations have been discontinued.

Do you have any more recent cocks you could recommend? (If it’s a UK website, that would be a huge plus as postage can be really expensive to get it over here.)

Thanks very much. Regards,
Sian

In recent years, there have been generally three cocks that are considered “pack and play”: The Silky (aka the Bendy), the Goodfella, and the Tantus VIP Supersoft. All of those are outlined in my Cock Confidence: Pack & Play article here.

However …

Not to be all dramatic about it, except that OMG IT IS JUST BASICALLY THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED TO PACK AND PLAY COCKS EVER, a company called New York Toy Collective rolled onto the scene in 2011 and they are producing a brand new pack n play silicone cock called the Shilo.

And it is really, really good.

shilo

I think it’s so good, in fact, that I have teamed up with NYTC and I have a few of their cocks that I carry around with me and sell myself. That started because I kept RAVING about them in my workshops, but they weren’t in toy stores yet. Now, they’re in many stores, like Good Vibes and Babeland and Smitten Kitten. I don’t know if they’re in the UK yet, though (I don’t think so).

So, wait, backing up. Let me introduce you to the Shilo:

shilo2 shilo3

Made out of silicone, with a “proprietary core” (which apparently means “we can’t tell you what’s in it, but it has layers of silicone and other plastics”) that makes it bendable. BENDABLE. So you can tuck it down into your pants and then bend it back up straight and fuck with it well. I mean well.

It is 6 inches of insertable length, and 1.5 inches in girth. Which is a great size. A really really good size. A slightly larger than average size when it comes to cis penises, but perhaps slightly on the small side when it comes to strap-on cocks. Let me assure you that it is excellent for a) blow jobs, b) anal sex, and c) um all the other holes and fucking too. I often switch to a slightly (or massively) bigger cock when I want to really go at it for a while, but it is excellent for fucking. And because it’s very bendable, you can get it right to the g-spot or p-spot really easily.

Clean it like you’d clean any silicone: place in boiling water or on the top shelf of the dishwasher (no soap!) or wipe down with a 10% bleach solution.

Shilo is available in 4 skin tone colors, because more choices help you pick a shade that is closer to your skin tone. AND it now comes in blue/black, pink/blue and fierce pink!

So you can buy them online from various stores now, or from nytoycollective.com, or you can buy them right from ME. I’m selling them for $135, and I would much prefer to sell them in person, but I am willing to mail them to you. That’ll be $135 plus shipping (which varies depending on where you live. If you’re in the US, it’ll be flat rate priority mail).

Email me, [email protected], if you want one with the color and your address, and I will bill you via Paypal.

Or, of course, you can pick it up at your local queer feminist sex-positive sex toy store, which hopefully you already patronize frequently and support in many ways, or online from NY Toy Collective directly.

Ask Mr. Sexsmith Anything: What words compliment a butch lover?

coaching-buttonDear Mr. Sexsmith,

My butch lover refers to me as gorgeous, luscious, beautiful… [but] I just don’t think those kind of descriptive words work for her. What would you suggest? Thanks!

— Sho

Dear Sho,

My personal favorites?

Handsome.
Strong.
Sexy.
Gorgeous.
Hunky.
Powerful.

Some more ideas?

Striking. Charming. Dazzling. Gentleman. Stud(ly). Rough. Tough. Hero(ic). Attractive. Big.

And, do delve a little deeper:

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling someone masculine gorgeous or beautiful or any of those words. (I don’t know if I’d use “luscious” … not sure what it is exactly, maybe it implies curviness to me, and it wouldn’t resonate if someone used that for me. But I can think of some very luscious butches who would probably like that word used to describe them, so don’t take my preference as the norm.) I think we separate complimentary words by gender, and while many people have certain resonances with certain words regardless of their gender identity—and I think those should be respected, and it doesn’t really matter if the words someone likes happen to all fall in one generally gendered category or not—I think it’s good to take a look at why some of them resonate over others, and whether that’s personal preference or cultural habit.

I remember reading somewhere that “men want to be powerful, women want to be beautiful,” and while I think there’s some heteronormative/patriarchal/misogynistic deconstruction that should probably happen around that idea, I also think it is largely true and reproduced in this culture. And, I think we tend to compliment along those lines when we’re talking about complimenting someone feminine verses complimenting someone masculine. So first of all, women are powerful and beautiful, men are beautiful and powerful, genderqueer and trans and butch and femme folks are powerful and beautiful, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being both. In fact, I think it’s a radical act a) to recognize that our gender roles operate by trying to keep men striving for power and women striving for beauty, which reinforces the kyriarchy, and b) to intentionally break those gender roles by complimenting people for the incredible, sparkly, dazzling things that we notice them doing, by which we are touched and changed.

I think this topic of complimentary words warrants a fascinating conversation between partners. E.g., “Hey, when I use words like attractive and sexy and beautiful when I describe you, do you like that? What kinds of words do you like to be called? Are there words that I call you that sometimes bug you? Isn’t it interesting that certain words are reserved for femininity and others for masculinity? Would it feel strange if I called you pretty/strong/luscious/my hero?”

Brainstorm. Make a list. Do some google searches. Ask around to your friends next time you’re out and about and see what kind of lists they make of compliments for their girlfriends/boifriends/partners. Go back to your partner and try out some of those words, see what the response is. Maybe they just don’t like their body to be talked about or commented upon, even if you are in awe of their gorgeousness and want to tell them so every day. Maybe they like certain words to be used and they just don’t know why, but it makes more sense and resonates deeper. That’s okay. Listen to each other.

I like to use words that have the intended effect, and if I intend one thing and they take it another way, it isn’t actually effective, even if I intend it to be so. And regardless of gender identity, I like to call people what they want to be called.

Would y’all like to weigh in on other complimentary words for butches (or for anyone, for that matter)? What words do you call your butch lover? What words have you found that butches like to be called? What compliments stick?

Kristen & Sinclair Answer Your Questions, Episode 3: “How Can I Be More Open About Kink?”

Kristen & I answered Laura’s question on video this morning from Seattle … hopefully our colds don’t make us sound too weird.

Laura asks: “I am a kinky queer femme bottom/sub and have read your blog for a long time. The thing that strikes me most is how open you, and also Kristen, are about your explorations and your celebration of your gender and sexuality. I am only 23 but have known I was queer and a submissive since pre-adolescent years, and it feels like I will never be comfortable fully expressing myself or finding my voice except with my partners, because I still get ashamed/embarrassed about all of it sometimes, especially when I think about my family or straight and/or vanilla friends finding out. How did you overcome those feelings to be more open, if you ever had them?”

Kristen & Sinclair Answer Your Questions – Episode 1: “I Want To Be Taken”

So Kristen and I have a new experiment …

I’m no longer writing an advice column for acompanythatshallremainnameless, so I have this spreadsheet full of questions (65 of them at the moment) and nowhere to really put the answers. Sometimes I run them by Kristen before I write about them, or just to spark casual conversation, and we have fun bantering about the advice that we’d give. So at one point we thought, hey, what if we do a little video recording of these?

In this episode: Emma asks, “I’ve just started dating someone new, and at the same time I am figuring out that I might be submissive. How do I let her know that I want to be, well, taken? Thanks.”

References from the video:

Mollena Williams
The Topping Book & The Bottoming Book (weren’t actually mentioned but I meant to suggest them)
Savage Love

PS: Isn’t Kristen pretty?

PPS: Bonus photo outtake:

Femme Invisibility & Beyond

I’m still receiving questions in the Ask Me Anything form; most of the time I am turning them into pieces for my advice column over on SexIs Magazine, but sometimes they are things I’d rather tackle here at Sugarbutch. So here’s one of those.

As a very feminine femme, I pass for straight more often than not, and I’d like to know your thoughts on femme invisibility, and why every time I smile/greet/nod at butches I am largely ignored. Even when I am out with my (butch) lover, a polite nod of recognition, or “Nice tie …” coming from me is not acknowledged. What gives?

—Sweets

Oh, femme invisibility. This is a big, constant topic, and I have lots of thoughts about it. Probably mostly I’ll say the same things that I said in 2009 when I wrote this piece, “On Femme Invisibility,”, but I have a few new things to say, too.

Femme Invisibility Is Real

Femme invisibility is a real thing. It happens all the time. Queer women who are feminine get seen as straight—by straight folks, other queer folks, and sometimes even queer femmes themselves—because this culture expects dykes to reject gender roles automatically when rejecting a heterosexual orientation. As if those two things go together inseparably.

For many people, they do go together. But for other folks, they do not.

Assuming that they do go together—that a rejection of heterosexuality also includes a rejection of masculine/feminine culturally-defined gender roles—assumes that the only purpose of those gender roles is for heterosexual gain (attraction, stimulation, and reinforcing patriarchal dominance). One of the things I particularly love about the butch/femme dynamic is that it disproves this. It fractures the concepts of “gender roles” into multiple things, including archetypes and perhaps some sort of “inner gender” (a concept trans theories have been flirting with, but I haven’t seen articulated perfectly, yet). Meaning: yes, these gender roles are societally dictated, but they are also more than that, bigger than that, and if we can strip down the societal restrictions that keep us oppressed and marginalized and compartmentalized (for example, break our identity alignment assumptions and separate gender roles from our hobbies, interests, and personality traits), we can come to some understanding that gender is fun and more than just a way to keep wives subordinate to husbands or to keep men in power (over, among other things, the awe-inspiring phenomenon that is women’s ability to bear children).

Masculinity, femininity, genderqueerness, or any sort of gender presentation is not inherent to a sexual identity. Femininity is not just for straight women. We’ve accepted that masculinity is for dykes and femininity is for fags because, well, this culture is homophobic and sexist, and we assume that a rejection of heterosexuality is also a rejection of gender roles. But many combinations of gender and sexuality exist—probably more than I could even name, probably more than I comprehend. (This is one of the reasons why, when people look at a guy who is even slightly feminine and declare him a closet fag, I think: that’s sexist. He certainly might be a closet fag, but there are also many straight men who have feminine gender performances, and that does not mean he’s gay. Ditto for slightly masculine women—I mean, how many of us have said, how many dozens of times, that Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica must be gay? But why is that? Well, it’s because she has some swagger, never because she has displayed any sexual or romantic interest toward other women.)

Stop Arguing With Reality & Find Some Radical Acceptance

This culture tells us all these things, and this culture is wrong. It is not correct that feminine dykes are really straight girls. It just isn’t. In fact, it’s rooted in sexism and homophobia, and a little bit ignorant.

But also? It’s just real. It’s not right, and I channel all sorts of righteous indignation when I come across something that is just wrong and nobody seems to get, so I’m not trying to discount that it sucks. But if you expect it to be another way, you are simply arguing with reality, and you can (and, dare I say, should!) do some radical acceptance around this issue. That doesn’t mean you just passively accept that this is how things are and move on, it can certainly mean that you do your own work to make this issue less painful for the many people involved.

But it’s just true. In this culture, physical markers of queerness are accepted as certain things (like short hair, baggy androgynous or slightly masculine clothes, comfortable shoes—i.e., not femininity). Your struggle to be accepted as a queer person by visual sight alone is probably going to continue, as long as the culture continues to have those same queer markers.

Since Your Queer Identity Isn’t Portrayed Visually, You Have To Portray It In Other Ways

Since many femmes don’t have those same visual queer markers, since your identity isn’t constructed in a way that portrays your sexuality (according to the culture) visually, you will have to find other ways to construct and communicate your queer identity.

I don’t know how, exactly. Seems like many femmes do this in different ways. After the 2008 Femme Conference, which was called The Architecture of Identity, I compiled my notes and identified a few different ways of constructing identity, such as in contrast to butch, in community, through language, through fashion and style, and through theory, and I think those still hold true.

Language is a big one for me. I would much prefer to befriend and sleep with someone who doesn’t “look gay” but who can talk about queer history, culture, or theory to someone who you would visually peg as a dyke immediately but doesn’t have any context for her identity any day.

There’s constant talk about making some sort of universal femme marker—a tattoo, or a hanky flower, or some way that the pin-up look is queered so that everybody knows it’s not heterosexual, but as far as I can tell, there’s almost no way to universalize one singular symbol. At least, not yet.

And I’m not sure we really need one (though I’m not the one going through the struggles of this, I recognize). Because, let’s be honest: I see femmes everywhere. Whatever you’re doing with your visual markers, it’s working, when you know how to look.

Lots of People See You!

At the Femme Conference in 2008, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha said in her keynote address, “Femme invisibility is bullshit. You just don’t know how to look.”

Don’t forget: Lots of people see you. I feel like I can spot a femme on a crowded subway car even when there are three dozen people between us. It’s not just that she gives me an extra-long stare and big smile (though that happens, sometimes), but it’s also something energetically, something I can’t quite even put my finger on, that says to me, “Whoa, there is something special about her.”

There are lots of femmes out there. There are lots of butches and genderqueer folks and trans folks and other masculine of center identified people and femmes who love to date femmes, and who see the one femme in the dyke bar not as a straight impostor, but as our crush for the evening, our next girlfriend, our fantasy.

It is a real problem. And I know it causes mass frustration. But there are many people who get it, and who don’t question a femme’s identity as queer. And there are big movements adding on to the many, many conversations about femme invisibility that are already out there.

Know Your Femme History

Read up. Read blogs, read books. I suggest, to start: Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, A Persistent Desire, Brazen Femmes, Femmes of Power, Visible: A Femmethology Volumes I & II, The Femme’s Guide to the Universe, The Femme’s Mystique … and oh probably two dozen others. Take strength and pleasure from knowing others have come before you, and have struggled too: that you are not the only one who has had difficulties with this.

Find some femme friends. Seek out femme community. There is tons of this happening online these days, for example, so even if you live somewhere kinda small or in a city that doesn’t particularly value the butch/femme dynamic, you can still talk to people about this.

If you don’t have a big community in your city, travel. No seriously, I mean that. Come to New York City. And for fuck’s sake, attend the Femme Conference in Baltimore this August. This is exactly what a femme conference is for: to make friends, to come together, to give voice to the common struggles and to start seeing our own experiences as valid and real.

This Is Your Struggle, But Remember: It’s Not Your Problem. It’s Theirs

Just as the main conflict in a butch’s identity—in my opinion—is sexism, misogyny, and masculine privilege (yes, I just said that), this is one of the main conflicts in a femme identity (others big things, from my perspective, being the mean girls thing, and escaping the beauty myth).

But if you really know and understand why other queers don’t see you, and why you pass as straight, and how to start constructing your identity in ways that aren’t reliant upon physical markers, you may just start to realize that it isn’t your problem. It isn’t something you are or aren’t doing right or wrong. It isn’t that if you just tried a little harder, smiled a little bigger, wore a different dress, that you would be recognize and validated as queer. It’s a cultural problem, a problem in our queer communities that is replicating gender norms and assumptions from the larger culture. It isn’t your fault, and it isn’t your problem. It’s theirs.

If someone doesn’t accept that you’re queer when you are a) in a queer space, b) with a visibly queer partner, or c) telling them that you are queer, well, then, fuck them, or rather don’t, because they don’t deserve to keep talking to you. Find somebody who does accept your combination of femininity and queerness. And keep working, yourself, on the reconciliation and supposed cultural conflict between the two.

Because that is your struggle.

How are you going to deal with it? How are you going to own your history, understand the sexist, misogynistic ways that this culture sees femininity, and overcome? How are you going to reconcile that not every visible queer you see will see you? How are you going to learn to communicate with a look and a smile, which, six times out of ten, might work? How are you going to articulate your own identity to others when they question it? What are the words you are going to say? How are you going to build a group of people around you that you know you can turn to when all you want to do is go, “ARGHHHHH!” and be angry that the world doesn’t see you as queer enough? How are you going to help build your femme friends up when they go through this? What can butches do (aside from learn how to recognize you, I know that’s a big one) to support you? How will we all reassure each other? What can we learn, here? What alliances can we make?

And perhaps most importantly, how can we move beyond this?

Strive to Move Us Beyond Visibility

There is more to femme identity than being visible. There is nurturance and caretaking, there is internalized homophobia, there is the mean girls complex that pits femmes against each other, there is the pervasive understanding that femme is nothing more than lipstick and heels (um, wrong!), there is some sort of hierarchy in the femme world as indicated simply by the still widespread use of the phrase “high femme,” there is the identity alignment assumption that all femmes are submissive bottoms and whoa is that incorrect, there is transmisogyny and the still troubled dialogue between cis and trans queer women, there is racism, there is a classist element that says that femmes have to or should buy their gender, there are dozens of other gender stereotypes that still pressure femmes to drink girly drinks and be homemakers and bear the children and stay at home and bake cookies, and oh there are probably two dozen other things I could list if I kept going.

There is more to femme identity than visibility. In fact, today in New York City there is a big day-long event going on right now called Beyond Visibility: Illuminating and Aligning Femmes in NYC, featuring a skillshare, roundtable discussion, and caucuses, all of which are femme-only, and then later an ally-invited reading and dance party (and you bet your beatle boots I will be attending that).

Being and becoming visible as a queer femme is a real thing that, it seems to me, almost all femmes struggle with. But as I’ve known more and more femmes for more and more years, I’m also starting to see that many femmes don’t struggle with it after years of working on it. Many have some radical acceptance and some understandings of how the queer world works, and are working on fighting other things.

Tara Hardy, one of my major mentors and a queer femme poet, has this line in one of her pieces: “I no longer get sad if they ask me at the door if I know it’s dyke night: I get mad. I mean, how much pussy do I have to eat before you let me in the club?” It’s a subtle shift, perhaps, from sad to mad, but it matters. It is the shift from internalizing the culture’s sexist bullshit to fighting back against it.

How do we overcome this issue and begin to elevate the discussion? I don’t know, but I’m curious to do that. And it seems that we, as a community, are beginning to, if only by the title of today’s event. I’m really excited for the Femme Conference in Baltimore this year, I think and hope that will continue to elevate the discussion.

Last, But Not Least

Also, let me say: I’m sorry. I’m sorry you are not acknowledged by the butches you are reaching out to, making bids that go unseen or unacknowledged. I don’t know why you are largely ignored. Could be many things: many butches are kind of used to straight girls hitting on us and using us for attention, and if you are being misread as straight, these butches could be resisting that. Perhaps when you’re out with your butch girlfriend and attempting to be acknowledged, they see you with your partner and don’t want to step on any toes or get into some sort of “hey man, you looking at my girl?” confrontation. It seems unlikely, but it’s possible. Maybe they fear that acknowledgment of your “nice tie” or big smile would be seen as flirting (I don’t think that would be a bad thing, but other people seem to).

Maybe they are just in their own world and just aren’t registering their surroundings. I mean, I’ve had friends of mine show up on a subway platform and try to get my attention while I was commuting, and I just had all my surroundings blocked out until they were literally waving a hand in my face. If you’re doing this in a big city, they could just be in their own world and not very observant.

I don’t know why, exactly. That’s kind of just the way it is, I think. For all those reasons I yammered on about above. That’s not okay and it’s not right, and I’m doing my own part to encourage femme visibility and work on our sexism in queer communities.

Butches, transmasculine folks, genderqueers, and all you other visible queers out there: listen the fuck up: LEARN TO RECOGNIZE FEMMES, even if you don’t date them, because they recognize you.

It’s the least we can do.

Ask Me Anything: What to Wear to a BDSM Weekend?

Via email, Katy asks:

I will be going to my first BDSM convention next weekend … I have a question. I’m not particularly a fetishwear kinda guy… What would you wear? I feel like you and I have similar style and kinks.

I would probably wear jeans, a button down shirt, a tie, and nice shoes, because that tends to be what I wear. Definitely a belt, I never wear a button down shirt without a belt, I always think you need a belt if you’re going to be tucking in a shirt, and these days I wear a belt with everything, it makes the outfit seem much more pulled together.

Sometimes I fetish that up by wearing a bondage belt or wrist cuff, but generally a tie is enough. Oh, but if it were me, I would definitely get the right color hanky and flag according to the hanky code.

I’d say that you should wear what makes you feel most sexy and hot, not necessarily something fetish-y but something that makes you feel attractive and confident.

(If I was fancy, I’d do up an image for this outfit dooce-style, but I have to get some workshop prep done. Next time!)

Ask Me Anything: How to Give Blow Jobs Without Feeling Stupid

Newbie asked:

My partner and I are new to strap-on sex. We both love the idea of blowjobs, but I have no idea how to go about it without feeling supremely stupid. Help please! Could Kristen maybe give her perspective on learning to do it well?

Here’s Kristen’s answer:

How to suck butch cock: some advice.

Here’s the thing about sucking silicone cock: you have to pretend it’s real and remember that it’s not, both at the same time.

1. Pretending it’s real. This is most important: you have someone’s cock in your mouth, and you need to take care of it. Treat it like the beautiful and powerful instrument that it is, regardless of whether it came from a factory. Start slow. Put your lips on the tip. Lick around the head. Lick all the way down one side. Put it in your mouth for a minute, then take it out and lick it again. Eventually, once your mouth produces more saliva, you can suck it in deeper. Look up at your partner so they can see that you like it, so they can see the pleasure you’re giving them, even if they can’t exactly feel it. Act like you know what you’re doing, whether you actually do (hello, grateful college boys you might have practiced on) or you’re making it up as you go along. Vary your speed: don’t just repeat the same movement over and over, unless your partner gets into it and wants that. (Face-fucking is great, once you’ve gotten the hang of a basic blowjob.) Watch porn: even the free crappy stuff on Youporn is helpful here, because you can see facial expressions and technique and just mimic that.

2. Remembering it’s not. You’re not going to get physical indicators that tell you you’re doing a good job. You won’t be able to feel it getting harder (or limper) in your mouth, you’re not going to be able to feel when your partner is close to coming, you’re not going to know if you’re using your teeth too much. You have to do that work yourself: listen to your partner’s breathing, pay attention to their muscle contractions/their hands on your head/gasps of pleasure. You have to do the work of making it the most amazing blowjob they’ve ever gotten, even if they can’t feel every movement of your tongue. But that’s the fun part: you can do pretty much whatever you want to make that happen.

What do you think? Got any other advice for how to give blow jobs that don’t make you feel supremely stupid?

Ask Me Anything: What To Do With Old Sex Toys?

Q asked:

do you have any ideas for what to do with lightly used sex toys and accessories? They don’t seem like the kind of thing you just sell at a yard sale! But it seems a shame to just chuck something so expensive and that someone else could get a lot of pleasure out of. If you don’t think it makes sense to give them away (and I mean give, I certainly don’t want to sell), is there a way to recycle them or otherwise dispose of them properly?

Thanks!

Yes, generally you’re right, people don’t want used sex toys, even if they can be sterilized. There are some—glass, metal, silicone—that I would say you can offer to good friends, or people you might think could handle a little use. Some leather/BDSM gear you might be able to swap or give away, but it depends on the condition. But if they’re very broken in (you know how silicone gets after it’s been used a bunch, it kind of starts disintegrating) I think it’d be best to recycle them.

The jelly plastic or other plastic insertables or vibrators … probably there’s nothing to do with them except recycle them.

There is a sextoyrecycling.com place, but it looks like it’s not legit. I haven’t been able to contact anyone from there to get confirmation that they are running.

I did hear from ScarletGirl.com, they have a sex toy recycling program that will give you $10 credit, but more importantly, they won’t end up in the landfill.

Dan Savage has recommended sending your old sex toys to representatives in states where sex toys aren’t legal, which I think is a good idea for activist purposes, but what happens after the politicians receive those toys? Probably they will end up in a landfill. So if your purpose is to be green moreso than to have some impromptu activism, you might want to just write a letter (or an email! Save paper) and send your sex toys off to be recycled.

Some of the sex bloggers who do a lot of toy reviews have set up the Toy Swap Network for toys that are not old, broken, worn-out, etc., but are new and that you just don’t want to keep around.

It is by invitation only, so you can send in a request, and the network itself is on Ning.

Any other recommendations for what to do with old sex toys? Perhaps Folsom East has some leather swap events, anybody know?

Ask Me Anything: Strapping On For the First Time

ExperimentallyCurious asked:

What was your first time strapping like? What advice do you have for strap-on virgins? My butch just placed the online order for her first cock, and I have no idea of what to expect.

Go slow. Use lots of lube. LOTS of lube. More than you think you might need, especially at first. It’s just a little messy, which is always better than having not enough. DON’T use silicone lube, as it’ll screw up your silicone toys.

Talk to each other, be as vocal as you can—even “ooh yeah ooh yeah” type of vocalizations will help give cues to each other about what feels good and what is not quite working.

Don’t be afraid to slow each other down or stop. It might just click and work and be amazing, but you also might want to just do it as something to try and to play with, at least for now, so don’t expect one or both of you to get off, especially not at first.

If you’re not used to penetration during sex, you might want to mess around with getting yourself off (or her getting you off, using her hands on your clit I mean) while she’s inside, but without much in-and-out motion, at least for now, while you’re getting used to the feeling of her cock.

The typical porn positions are the best, in my opinion, which is why they are so frequently used—missionary, and doggy style from behind (in various incarnations, like leaning over the bed, or with your head down on the bed instead of on all fours). In missionary, also try it with her sitting up on her knees, with her thighs under your thighs, that is often a really good angle.

Don’t be afraid to touch it, kiss it, lick it, suck it—that stuff can be really hot, though that can also be kind of delicate, so see how your girlfriend feels about it. Sometimes it seems to me, as the strap-on wearer, that I am expected to be the one who does all the action once I put it on, but my point is that you can do things, too. If you aren’t sure if she wants you to touch it (or kiss it or suck on it), ask. “Would you mind if I …” “Wow, I didn’t expect to want to … , but I do, please may I?”

Personally I think just about any sex act is all the more hot with someone saying what they are doing (or want to do), regardless of what it is. Maybe that’s me—I really love language.

Most women can’t come from penetration alone, which I assume the two of you know, but just a reminder that you both might want to start practicing touching your clit while she’s fucking you, either with your hand or, if she can reach comfortably, with hers. It takes some practice to be able to fuck with a cock and use your hand at the same time, but it’s possible! And worth figuring out how.

And from her side … it is possible to get off while strapped on, but that might take some time and practice. For me, I like the harness to be VERY tight, tighter than is all that comfortable around my hips, because I like to be able to feel every stroke against my cunt while I’m fucking. I like the stimulation of a one-strap (g-string style) harness better than a two-strap (jock strap style) harness, but that seems to be the minority opinion, so your milage may vary. She can try adding bullet vibes or butt plugs or the We-Vibe to increase stimulation, though I find those are more distracting than helpful. But if she really likes a vibration on her clit or something in her ass, that might be just the push she needs to be able to fuck and come.

Other than that, in my experience, to be able to come while strapped on, just following the sensation—when you find a spot that feels good, rub up on it, over and over, and see how far that can take you.

Consider anything you do in playing with it an experiment, and collect the data of that experiment. Did it work? Would it work better if one variable was different? Would you try it again? Or was it a complete fail and did not feel good? Gather the data and figure out what you like and don’t like, what was luke-warm and what you might try later if things were a little different.

Did I mention lube?

And … the first part of that question was, what was my first time strapping on like? Well, to be honest, my first time strapping on was to peg a guy, my boyfriend of about 5 years that I was with in high school. I bought a strap-on when we broke up, and I came out as a lesbian, and it was a tiny silicone thing that was very hard silicone and black and narrow. I do still have it, actually, I keep thinking it might be a good size for anal sex, but then again, now that I have the Spur why would I use a cock that was so hard?

We then went cock shopping together and bought a cock that was roughly the size and shape of his, which was what I pegged him with. It was fun enough to peg him, but it also made me realize that I was (really really for sure) a dyke and wasn’t that into it.

I did fuck my first girlfriend with a strap-on, but we were more of the I-do-you-you-do-me type of couple, so we took turns. It took quite a few more years before I felt like I had a cock that was mine—really not until I ended the relationship with my college girlfriend and started dating femmes exclusively. Which I have widely chronicled here!

It’s been a long journey to claiming my cock-centricity and cock confidence. Actually, I teach workshops on Cock Confidence now, in case you’d like to attend one—I’ll be doing it next at Good Vibrations in San Francisco in August.

Anything else y’all would recommend? Any other tips for first-time strap-on users?

Ask Me Anything: My Favorite Spanking

A.A. asked:

Can you tell us about your most favorite spanking you have ever given?

Hm. I’m not sure I have a favorite spanking that I’ve ever given. That’d be like choosing the best time I had sex or something. Some of the spankings that come to mind were early on in my kink life, when I started figuring out how to be kinky with women (after spending much of my teens being kinky with men. Or rather, boys). I went to a spanking workshop at Babeland once, probably in 1999 or 2000, which was very memorable and awesome, and I very strongly remember the Power & Surrender workshop (much like the recent one) that taught me how to flog. That was probably 2002.

Recently, though … well, I did some flogging at the recent Power & Surrender retreat, which was lovely. I like to spend a long, slow time on warm-up, then use my whole body to whomp for a while. I noticed I was even doing a little bit of a jump to get more of my body weight behind the flogger. I still want more practice flogging—every time I see Lolita flog I want to take classes from her.

Also, Kristen’s birthday was last weekend.

So of course there were spankings. I even got my heavy wooden paddle out. But there could perhaps be more spankings. I’d like to figure out how to leave big heavy bruises on her ass, I don’t tend to do that, but I think it’s time to try.

Ask Me Anything: Queer Despite the Straight Relationship

rhapsodyblue asked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MSE asked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday asked:

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

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

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

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

Try these:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone else have suggestions?

Ask Me Anything: Confidence & Getting Girls Off

Babybutch wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle asked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J-femme wrote:

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

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

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

Thanks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Me Anything: Smut Day

Jen asked:

How are you going to celebrate official smut day?

By finishing this anthology! Or at least, finishing the manuscript to send to the publisher so we can go on to the next stages, which are probably critique and more editing and contracts and accounting and marketing and all that. Which means editing my introduction and finishing one of the pieces I’ve been writing as possibilities for inclusion in this anthology, but I am feeling way stuck and not sure which one to pursue. I want it to be dirty dirty dirty and quintessential BDSM and unlike anything else in the anthology and good. No pressure, right? Maybe I should work on it being a shitty first draft, first. Right now I’m going to go back to the knife play piece that involves cutting holes in her stockings until I rip them off and fuck her.

So that probably means I’ll be taking breaks to “gather my energy and inspiration,” which means jacking off.

But now that you ask that, maybe I should make it more official and fun and do something, like getting Kristen to read smut aloud to each other when she gets home. I’m just hoping she’ll bring some cupcakes in honor of Sugarbutch’s anniversary.

Ask Me Anything: Being Recognized & Dreaming About Sex

Here’s the last of the questions from the Ask Me Anything post on Sugarbutch’s 4th anniversary! Thanks, everybody, for the comments and questions, and I hope you liked the responses.

Your blog is under a pseudonym, but you do post pictures. Etiquette wise, if you are in a queer setting and someone recognizes you from your pictures or blog, are you comfortable with being approached? —J-Femme

I’m fairly comfortable being approached—especially if I’m out socializing at a queer event, I’m happy saying hello to people or having a conversation with folks who know my work. If I’m on a date or alone, it’s probably still okay to say hi, but I’d just ask you to use your own discretion and not necessarily plop down at the table next to us and chat us up for hours, since perhaps we wanted to have some alone time.

But in queer social space, sure—I love talking to people about their experiences, and I’ve met some amazing people because they were readers of mine first who quickly became friends.

And last but not least …

Given that you think and write so much about sex, do you dream about sex? What are your sex dreams like? Do you get ideas for awake sex from dream sex?—femme in butch clothing

Yes, sometimes I dream about sex—it varies, like anybody’s dreams, to sometimes being very realistic, sometimes being very surreal, or sometimes being very extreme (almost uncomfortably so). I don’t remember ever having a dream and thinking, “Oh, wow, I should make that happen,” but it can often lead to inspiration to play in general, though not necessarily to reproduce what I’ve been dreaming about.

What about you all? Do you dream about sex? Just curious … (or voyeuristic, one or the other).

Ask Me Anything: Coming Out at Work

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

I’m completely femme and work in a very straight environment. A few of my co-workers know that I’m gay, but I haven’t come out to all of them, and I’ve been at this work place for a year. I don’t usually hide my sexuality, but it’s been extremely hard for me to relax at this workplace. I hate that, and my partner is somewhat hurt that I haven’t been open about it and talked about her. I want to be able to do so, and I want to be strong in myself and come out with it. Any ideas on how to do it? The longer I wait the more awkward it is.—Tuesday, from tuesdayateleven.blogspot.com

It’s been months since you wrote this, so this might be an outdated question at this point—have you changed things? Did you start slipping your partner into conversation more frequently? Did you out-right come out? Did you let it leak to the office gossip?

Telling your co-workers things about your personal life can be tricky, especially since you’ve already been there for a year and you still haven’t said anything, because now, when the reveal happens, it will seem out of place. So how do you start bridging this gap between yourself and your co-workers, such that you can reveal more personal things? Maybe it’s time to have a happy hour after work, or host a weekend event, if you’re comfortable doing those things. Maybe it’s time to invite someone out to lunch and open up a little about your lives.

You don’t have to start with, “By the way, I’m gay,” you might want to start with the more impersonal. In The Art of Civilized Conversation, Margaret Shepherd says that conversations start with facts, then to opinions, then on to feelings. There are a lot of facts you can gather about each other that I bet you don’t have, if you’ve avoided any discussion of your partner so far. Where do you live? Where did you go to school? Where did you grow up? What’s your family like? Why did you move to where you are now? What do you do in your spare time, what are your hobbies?

I think it’s also in that book that she says the way people deepen with each other is to start revealing little things about themselves in the conversation, and then guaging the reaction of the other to see if it’s safe to continue revealing.

My mom always used to say, “Find common ground, then elevate the discussion.” See if finding some common ground about other topics makes you feel more comfortable talking about more personal things. Ask questions of them, too—as you find out more about them, you might feel more safe revealing things about yourself.

I kind of hate to say this, so I’ll tack it on at the end here, but it also could be that you are dealing with a little bit of internalized sexism, and some complicated feelings about your own femme in/visibility. I don’t know you, so this could be happening a teeny tiny bit or a ton or not at all, but I figured it’s worth throwing out there because I spent the last few paragraphs on one direction, but it might not have anything to do with that. You might be a very open, revealing person in the workplace, but have this particular snag when it comes to your own sexual orientation visibility. That’s a complicated thing to work with, as a femme who can, if she chooses, “pass” for a straight girl in the larger hetero world. There are many ways that femmes construct identity which are not strictly through visual markers, however, and articulating that identity—namely through speech and communication—is a big one. It might be a hurdle to examine and investigate in yourself a little more.

What say you all? Do you have more advice for this person in coming out at work? Are you out at work?

Ask Me Anything: Becoming More Dominant

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

What are some tools/techniques that help someone to “try on” a dominant persona? … How can I help her to get into the right mindset? How would you advise a new, and perhaps, reluctant dom to become more comfortable with her power? —Sophia

Great question. Wish I had had some guidelines, or someone who could’ve given me some pointers, when I was starting to come into my own dominant/top orientation.

I think it’s important to have conversations, outside of the bedroom, about your interest in playing with domination and submission, and to do some assurance that you want to be submissive—that you really really want to be submissive, and oh aren’t you so lucky that the two of you can play with that together. You might have to continually assure them of your desire to submit—before, during, and after. I know from my own experience, it sometimes boggled my mind that someone would let me do all those things I wanted to do to them, but I still felt that twinge of guilt and worry that I was going to hurt them, somehow. Assure them that they will not hurt you—or rather, that a) you want them to hurt you, and b) if they hurt you too much, or in a way that you don’t like, you are fully capable of using your safe word and getting out of the situation. They have to trust that you can take care of yourself if things get to be too much. You have to be fully capable of saying no for the yes to have any meaning.

Talk about what might happen if they do hurt you in the wrong ways—that you’ll stop, that you won’t both jerk away and get all distant, but that you’ll have a minute to talk about it, assure each other that it was not intentional and you both know the other wouldn’t do something that was too much on purpose. Apologize, and try to understand why it was too much, if it was just circumstantial (we’ve done this other times and right now it just wasn’t right) or if it was the actual thing (you tried this new thing and it went too far), or something else entirely.

There are some exercises you can do around this, if you want to. For example, you could do some light play with the intention of safewording out of it, at some point, to practice. And when you do safeword out, practice that moment of coming back together, taking care of each other’s needs, and then getting back into the play. A safeword doesn’t have to mean “stop forever and ever I need hours to recover,” it could just mean “okay I really need a break from this for just ten minutes and they don’t seem to be letting up.”

Say things like, “I liked this and this and this that you did, but this one small part was just too much for these reasons.” Assure and re-assure, especially in the beginning. Tell them what you liked, what was working.

Remember that your safeword can also be no or “stop” or “enough” if you aren’t playing with power exchanges where those words are used to arouse.

It really helps to have some parameters when playing with dominance or topping and trying to bring about a more dominant persona in bed. Those parameters can be various things: time, clothing or costume, dirty talking, or assuming another role with certain expectations.

Using time as a parameter can be a great way to start. Put a timer on and say, “I’m going to spank you for 5 minutes, and then we’re going to make love.” Or count: 30 spanks with my hand, 5 minutes of warm-up with the flogger and then 10 really hard strokes, 5 strokes with the cane.

Sometimes certain clothes can really enhance an exchange, and sometimes just one key item can transform a scene from “us” to “play.”

Dirty talk has been key for me in getting more comfortable with my dominant persona. Not only was it key for me to hear a semi-constant reassurance from people I was sleeping with that they liked what I was doing, it is also a way for us to keep in better contact during play, because we’re engaging our brains instead of possibly zoning out.

Role play can be a fantastic way to try on a dominant persona and get more comfortable inside of it, because you can hide behind both the fantasy and the role. Most role plays requre some sort of negotiation before hand, especially if you’re talking about what you’re doing (or what you’re doing in the fantasy). Say you decide that you’ll be a student and they will be a teacher, and you’ll do anything to get a better grade on that test, even bend over the desk. You’ve established a power dynamic, it’s within these specific constraints (because you’ll just go back to being yourselves when you’re out of these roles, you don’t have to own the desires quite as much when you’re stepping into another persona), and you’ve already established some guidelines about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to yeild that power such that your partner consents (“anything” for that better grade, even bend over the desk). They know this, because you already talked about it.

That kind of scenario gives someone permission to play with variations on a theme. They know they can bend you over the desk—but what happens if they try to get you on your knees first, or to sit on their lap? They know they have permission to do these kinds of things (especially if you’re good at the dirty talk, egging them on: “What do I have to do? Tell me, I’ll do it, you just tell me what to do. I have to get a good grade, I have to pass this class, I just have to.”).

So: negotiate, talk dirty, role play, fantasize together, work on your trust.

And don’t forget to assure and re-assure. Do it sincerely, don’t push it too hard, but step up and express the things you loved, the ways you felt, what you’d like to do again or more of. Write it down in email or chat (or a shared Google document) if it’s hard to do in person. Do it in pillow talk right after, if your tongue is more loose at that time.

Hope that helps.

Ask Me Anything: Standards of Beauty

While I was on the plane to Portland for Butch Voices this past weekend, I dug through my files and responded to the last of the questions from the Ask Me Anything questions from Sugarbutch’s 4th anniversary. Expect more of them posted throughout the week.

From some of your posts I think I’ve made an assumption that most of the women you date tend to be conventionally attractive/attractive by dominant culture’s standards of beauty (i.e. not fat, not particularly full figured, Eurocentric features, etc) So my first question is – is that accurate? And if it is, is that something you interrogate within yourself – as part of redefining masculinity (or the social concept that one way to prove your masculinity (in the dominant culture) is to have a (conventually) hot chick on your arm)?—J-Femme

No, that’s not acurate. I have dated girls of various sizes, with various ethnic backgrounds, who often have not fit into the dominant culture’s standards of beauty. I am definitely attracted to femininity, and those who are submissive in bed, but there are many unconventional qualities I look for in a date or a lover or a relationship, and the things I need in someone I date have nothing to do with conventional beauty—self-awareness, self-acceptance, empowerment, embodiment, expression. I date people I’m attracted to, and always have, regardless of cultural beauty standards (or, sometimes, regardless of what I know about my own orientations—which is how I have ended up dating femme tops, on occasion).

I haven’t always stated what the girls look like exactly, and I haven’t written about all of the girls that I dated in the last four years—some of them didn’t want to be written about, for example. I decided purposefully to leave out much of the physical body descriptions, partly because I was telling true stories from my dates and relationships, and, for a while, while I was still writing online anonymously, I didn’t want to expose myself. After I was out, and honest about writing about the people I was sleeping with (a lesson it did not take me long to learn), I asked permission to write about someone, and I respected what they wanted, which usually was to keep them as anonymous as possible.

Also, I decided deliberately to leave out many physical body descriptions about body size, shape, skin color, and hair qualities in order for the readers to superimpose themselves and their own experiences as much as possible onto the story. It’s a challenge to portray things like body size or ethnicity in writing without fetishizing it, in general and for me specifically, and especially as I started writing more and more erotica, I adopted that as a deliberate stylistic choice.

This policy of not describing women’s bodies in unconventional ways in my erotica hasn’t always worked the way I wanted it to, though. I’ve been criticized before for not including more full-figured women in my erotica. Sometimes I want to point out the stories that I’ve written and ask someone to point out where it says that they are thin—but I also recognize that by not stating it, I’m riding by on some assumptions. I’m letting people believe what they want to believe, and our brains tend to assume certain things, which usually line up with the dominant cultural norm, unless otherwise stated. That is not particularly effective activism.

But this is not necessarily activism—these are my fictional(ized) stories. This is art, and this is the thin line between art and activism. The activist in me wants it to be one way, driving home points about unconventional beauty and body size and features, but the artist in me reads those descriptions and cringes, because they feel unnecessary, surpurfluous, forced, awkward. I’ll keep flirting with that line, and hopefully find a place where the stories can rest, instead of pushing something into it that doesn’t belong, or ignoring an important opportunity for celebrating unconventional standards of beauty.

Secondarily: Yes, it is very important to me to interrogate the ways that the dominant culture views someone as more masculine if they have a conventionally beautiful woman with them. I have certainly done a lot of thinking about that in my relationships and my own orientations, and I’m frequently thinking about it in terms of what I’m representing through my erotica. My stories about Kristen have been criticized because of how I depict her multiple orgasms—people saying that most women don’t come like that, for example. Yes, I know that. I know that not only from the mountains of feminist and women’s sex books that I’ve read but also from my own experiences over the past ten years dating and fucking women. But here’s the thing: that’s what happens. Kristen is a real person and that is our real sex life, and that is the way she really comes. A dramatization or slightly fictionalized version of our sex life, sometimes, yes, but always based in truth.

Yes, I tend to be attracted to femininity. Yes, I tend to be most turned on by girls who are a little smaller than I am—I like to be able to throw them around. But I know butch tops who are really into girls who are bigger than they are, because it makes them feel all the more like a badass top. But there have been occasional femme tops who turn my head, some of whom I’ve dated. And there have been occasional butches or guys who got me all crushed out, too.

It’s a delicate balance between knowing myself and understanding that certain things just work for me more than others, and also being open to trying something if a sparkle comes along and surprises me. I don’t want my orientations—sexual, power, gender, or otherwise—to get in the way of a good fuck, or potentially good date or relationship. I try to keep myself challenged that way. It’s tricky because some of the things I am most oriented toward do line up with some conventional expectations—butch top / femme bottom, for example—but not because it is unexamined. In fact, it might be more because it is over-examined, because I know so much about gender and sexuality that I fetishize the conventional.

I don’t care about having a “conventionally hot chick” on my arm—what I do care about is having a girlfriend, a sexual partner, someone to play with that I am attracted to, with whom I can communicate, who is commited to our sexual growth, both separately and together.

On Being Left Out of Butch & Femme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second …

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

Stories from My Youth

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

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

1.

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

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

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

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

But that’s a different story.

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

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

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

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

2.

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

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

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

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

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

3.

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

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

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

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

On Masculinity, Mine

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

I’m interested to know how you feel your masculinity and your perceptions of masculinity have changed over the time that you have been writing here, and by this name.—Miss Avarice, of Miss Avarice Speaks her Mind

My masculinity and perceptions of masculinity have significantly changed since I started Sugarbutch four years ago. Or, wait. Maybe it hasn’t exactly changed as much as bloomed, you know? It is different than it used to be, both my own presentation and my understandings of it, but I had the seed of it then, even the bud, I just couldn’t quite manifest it the way I wanted to. (I’d be curious what some photographs of me look like from four summers ago, to do a side-by-side contrast. A lot has changed since then!)

So, first part, yes, it has changed. But you asked how has it changed? That’s harder to pinpoint.

I’m not so apologetic about it anymore.

I’m a lot more confident in the differences between masculinity and misogyny and chivalry. I’ve learned to differentiate between consensual chivalry and forced chivalry, and actively read the (verbal or physical) communication around chivalrous attempts and acts.

I wear more vests and suit coats and belts and suspenders and french cuff shirts. I own a (small) cufflink collection and a (kind of unnecessarily large) necktie collection. I don’t receive flower-smelling bath products as gifts anymore. I donated that box of feminine clothing that I was keeping around because I never bothered to toss it out.

I pay attention to men’s style icons and got (more) serious about my haircut. I stopped feeling guilty for wanting my hair short and liking it short, I stopped saying I was going to grow it out again because wasn’t it compulsory for lesbians to be short-haired? and I didn’t want to be compulsory.

I claimed some firm ground on which I feel comfortable standing.

I researched butch icons and butch history and butch characters in tv shows and on films and in novels. I pay attention when the word butch gets used in articles. I challenge the way the word butch gets used in (many) articles.

I started dating femmes.

I always knew I wanted to, but actively partnering with femmes changed my masculinity, finally gave it something strong to forge itself against, to nuzzle into, to be protected by. Gave it a reason to be the protector, sometimes. Gave me a compliment, an understanding of the ways that I-in-this-form am received.

Plus there’s all those other identity labels I have been actively not only identifying with but developing, challenging, studying, and attempting to embody: like kinky, sadist, top, daddy, dominant. Even non-sexual words like misanthrope, HSP or highly sensitive person, buddhist. Plus that ever-evolving one: writer. And now, trying to make a living as a writer. Interacting with all of these various identities, spaces, versions of myself, and weaving them into each other, has all affected my masculinity and gender identity.

Studying tantra has changed the ways I think about masculinity, too. I’m far from an expert at tantra, I’m just beginning to study it seriously and take it on as a path, but I know that what we in the west have usually been presented as the concepts of yin and yang as feminine and masculine are too simplified and a bit misleading. It has very little to do with men and women, but rather different types of forces of life and energy, and it’s much more complicated than yin/yang = feminine/masculine.

Being in a new, serious relationship has changed my masculinity, has I think softened my edges, has inspired me to open up in challenging and messy ways. It has brought things to question, made me wonder how or if they are connected to my masculinity, and how or if they should change.

Just talking about my masculinity on a regular basis, through spaces like Sugarbutch, through my Carnal Nation column on Radical Masculinity, and through my friends and lovers in recent years, has changed my relationship to my own masculinity and to my observation of others’ masculinity. According to quantum theory, observing an object changes it (I can’t find out if that theory or principle has a particular name, though, and I’ve been reading through Einstein quotes and Googling “copenhagen interpretation” for a while now. If you know what this is called, pass it on, please? I have a whole theory about blogging based around this and I’d like to know what it’s called!)—and I think that’s true of gender and sexuality, too. Just the very act of observation, of watching oneself, of taking note of how one works, will bring about some change and movement and, inevitably, growth.

(Oh, also: For more on this topic, take a look at My Evolving Masculinity series from a few months back.)

Consuming Porn of Other Orientations

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

My question is more on the philosophical/political side of things.

Do you feel that, as I am a male, it is exploitative for me to enjoy queer porn so much?

Porn is filled with many different dynamics, and it is within it’s nature to exploit the ‘exoticism’ of anyone who appears in it. We’ve seen this a thousand times, especially with Asian-American women ( forced to play up an exaggerated stereotype in order to get work ), and I wonder if I myself am guilty of such a thing. Queer porn is this amazing, foreign thing to me. I love it dearly. And I understand that, as far as the exploitation from the production side goes, it is nearly nonexistant, but I worry.

I’m always on the road to improving myself and trying to further myself from the patriarchy, and this question has kind of been tickling my brain as of late.

And, since we’re on the subject: Favorite porn star? Like, if you’re given the chance to have one night of just no holds barred fuck, who are you choosing?—Erudite Hayseed, Confessions of a Southern-Fried Kinkster

I think only you can answer whether you’re being exploitive by enjoying queer porn. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying porn where the people in it are an orientation or sexuality or gender identity that you are not—I have watched my fair share of gay male porn, and I don’t think that makes me exploitive of them or their sexualities at all.

I think the exploitation comes in perhaps about how you interact or react or treat queers outside of consuming our porn. If you look at queer people and see nothing but our sexualities, that might be a bit of a problem. If someone was consuming queer porn in secret and feeling guilty and gay-bashing, uh yeah, that’s a problem. But paired with some understanding of queer culture or history or struggle, and as an ally of this movement, I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about watching the kind of porn they like to watch.

Being the analytical & processing person that I am, I would probably ask myself what it is about this kind of porn that is so appealing. Other folks in the kink community might disagree with me about this—some people say we just like what we like and do not need to come up with an explanation for it, and in fact should not examine it too hard, nor ask others to explain the ‘source’ of where their desires come from. Plenty of desires don’t have a ‘source,’ so perhaps that’s a worthless pursuit, regardless. But when it comes to really loaded play, or the consumption of certain types of porn, like for example, as mentioned above, exclusively watching Asian-American women in porn, I think it’s probably worth asking the question of why. Why is this something that I am consuming? What do I get out of this? What am I projecting? Someone may uncover the racial assumptions or associations they are making, which may be good to untangle.

This could also be true of consuming queer porn, or porn of other orientations. Perhaps a queer person always consumes straight porn because they have some hang-ups about their own sexuality. Perhaps a lesbian always consumes gay male porn because gay male porn tends to depict no-strings-attached fucking, and this lesbian has experienced lesbian sex as too emotional and not hot and lusty enough. These are untrue assumptions, however; they are based in stereotypes, and though they may be

I don’t know if I want to speculate on what a straight cis male consuming queer porn could mean. I do know plenty of “lesbian” porn is geared toward straight men, and often those porns are pretty gross, in my opinion, and I could take a few guesses at what the straight men who consume that type of porn are looking for. But I’m not sure what a straight, kinky, cis guy consuming the recent smart queer porn means … aside from that that is some of the very best porn available, in my opinion. Don’t discount the possibility of the answer being “nothing,” too—it might just be what you enjoy, and that’s fine.

Also, take a look, if you don’t already, at Jack Stratton’s Writing Dirty, since he’s a mostly-straight kinky cis guy who does occupy some space in the queer worlds, and does it quite well, and respectfully, in my opinion. (Besides, his writing is just good, and hot.)

And to answer your second question …

That’s a tough one. Madison Young, Dylan Ryan, Carson, and Joline Parton all come to mind. How could I choose between them? Carson is pretty damn toppy, so probably I’d rather chose someone who is a bottom. Dylan is quickly becoming a friend of mine, and after a certain point, fucking a friend is kind of weird for me. So that leaves two beautiful, curvy redheads, Madison & Joline. Madison would probably be incredibly intimidating, since she’s so experienced and so into pain, so I might go with Joline, she seems a little more shy, and I like that. It seems like she’d be great to throw around, she’s got great curves, great legs, and that cute mouth. Okay, final answer.

Reconciling Feminism & Sadism

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

How do you reconcile your feminism with your sadism and desire to (gulp) hurt women? (In a completely consensual manner, of course.)—Cold Comfort

The closest thing I’ve come so far to explaining this was in that essay from December 2009 called Reconciling the Identities of Feminist and Butch Top, but this question, about sadism, is slightly different, and I have the impression I haven’t quite answered it all the way.

“Butch top” is very much related to “sadist” for me, but that’s just because that’s my particular version of butch topping, into which my sadism is built. In fact, it’s only been recently that I’ve been unpacking sadism from topping, being with someone who is much more submissive than she is a masochist. Point being, much of that essay is exactly about reconciling those identities.

Yet still, I don’t feel like that is an adequate explanation on this topic. Besides, the culmination of that essay is basically, “How did I reconcile these identities? I don’t know, I just thought about it a lot and then it was better.” There must be something more articulate to say about that.

I hit on it a little more in the essay Yes, No, and Consent too, about agency, in feminist terms. It has to do with the very simple distinctions between BDSM and abuse, even if they are equated by many anti-porn feminists. And it has to do with the Platinum Rule—not the Golden Rule, the “do to others what you would like to be done to you,” but the “do to others as they would like to be treated,” and the acknowledgement that how you want to be treated and how another wants to be treated may not be the same thing, especially when you add in the complexities of relationship through sex, BDSM, sadism, and masochism.

But, if someone wants me to treat them a certain way and something about it feels funny to me, I trust that, and I take a break and pause and ask questions (hopefully without over-processing or projecting), until I feel like we have resolved whatever was coming up or until I decide there’s too much there to open up without adequate containment or backup.

To go back to the Platinum Rule: for a pop-culture simplistic example, consider the Love Languages! Which, cheesy as they are superficially, I think are a very useful system to think about the ways that myself and my partner may be seeking the same things (like love, comfort, security, passion) but may be in different ways (through words of aspiration, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts). I think we all have some relationship to all five of those ways (and possibly more), but many of us are more focused on some of those ways than others.

All of us are seeking similar things, like love and sex and companionship, but we may be seeking to play with those things in different ways. And figuring out what my own preferences are in playing with those things, and in being in a relationship, figuring out how I best communicate, who I’m attracted to and what qualities I most prefer in someone else, and how to reconcile differences or misunderstandings between us, has been a huge journey, and has been a huge piece of being able to articulate that I want to play with deeper, heavier BDSM, like pain or humiliation, and to trust someone enough to believe that when they say they want to play with that on the receiving end, they mean it, they know themselves well enough to know what they want, they are experienced enough to understand what they’re asking for, they are in touch with themselves enough to tell when they have reached a limit, and they are strong enough to be able to communicate with me around whatever is going wrong (or right).

I’ve worked a hell of a lot on my own issues, particularly on being able to say what I’m thinking, to stand up for myself, and to not get swept up in someone else’s psychology and psyche. I’ve been in therapy for about four years now, and that has helped me greatly with my communication. I’ve also done all sorts of “alternative” methods of healing, such as massage therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, tinctures, supplements, nutritional counseling, bodywork … I’ve done a lot of work on myself and my own issues, and I am continuing to work hard to improve the ways I communicate and relate.

So, this is how I would reconcile feminism & sadism:

  1. Acknowledge that people want different things. For example, your desire to hit someone is bad when the person you are hitting doesn’t want to be hit, but when the person you are with wants to be hit, in a playful, controlled, conscious way, that’s called consent and it’s (probably) great. Consider the distinctions between BDSM and abuse, and trust yourself when you know you are on one side or the other. Listen to your lovers when they give you feedback about how your behavior affects them.
  2. Play with people whose consent you trust, and don’t take responsibility for other people’s consent. And, if they consent, then later uncover that it was actually bad for them, they didn’t like it, or blame something on you, you can certainly apologize and take responsibility for whatever your part of it may have been, but it was not your fault that they consented to an act that you then did. Be willing to process a scene after playing, and listen carefully, but know that trying to retroactively revoke consent is a dangerous move.
  3. Seek out and understand the background and history and texts on BDSM. Find mentors (if you’re in a city big enough to have a BDSM scene) and take classes, or join online BDSM groups and learn. There is a rich history of writings and teachers who discuss what it’s like to go into these deep, dark realms of physical sensation and psychology, and many of them hold important explanations for how this play works. Studying these arts makes us more aware, which can make us more conscious, and more intentional, and better able to be present in our play.

I’ve always, for as long as I can remember, had a deep connection to feminism. And I believe in it the way I believe in psychology or democracy—that even though there are plenty of people out there fucking it up, there is a kernel, a spark, a rawness at its core that I believe is important, necessary, and is deeply aligned with me and my sense of purpose in this world. I don’t believe that because some people are taking these things and claiming them to mean some things that I disagree with that I need to then step out of the ring and let them take it over. I’m glad that there can be multiple perspectives coming from one singular idea, it strengthens the idea to have multiple angles, I think (even if sometimes I believe they are so very wrong).

I know there are plenty of people who say they are not a feminist, especially those who work in various aspects of sex, and that there are plenty of feminists who would probably say that I am “not a feminist” because of my BDSM play or my masculinity or whatever. But I have enough sovereignty around my feminist identity that I know that their version of feminism is simply different from mine, and that mine is no more wrong than theirs is.

So that’s my last prescription for reconciling feminism and sadism: Ask yourself what your definition of feminism is. If you start digging to discover that you think feminists never, ever hit someone, or humiliate someone, or call someone a bitch, or shove a cock down a girl’s throat, well then, you are going to have some trouble reconciling those two identities. This is where the #3 Research on BDSM will come in handy, because BDSM circles know the difference between play and real life. We know that rape is absolutely not the same thing as playing with consent, as someone yelling out “no no no” during a scene. We know that the things that we play with during scenes, like pain, like giving or receiving pain, are not fun to experience in real life. I would never want someone to spank me or beat me or slap me in the face for real! I would never want someone to do that to my girlfriend! But under the umbrella of play, it takes on other qualities. It might look the same, a slap across the face vs a slap across the face, but the motivation, intention, control, and outcome are completely different.

Growing involves seeing more than the black or white definitions that labels, identities, and systems of thought often prescribe. Lots of feminists have written about how oppressive the sexual culture surrounding the subordination of women is; and that’s important to learn. However, equating ALL acts of some kind of sex, happening between consenting adults, that you or “feminists” deem inappropriate with oppression or non-consent is denying a key part of sex play: agency. Hurting someone, especially sexually, is something (some) feminists shun, but when you add consent into that mix, you’ve entered into something that is not black or white. And perhaps not even gray, since consent puts any act in a whole new category.

Did that adequately answer your brief but loaded question? Are there other follow-up questions from what I’ve posted here?

From Not Stone to Stone-ish

I’m finally getting around to the Ask Me Anything questions from Sugarbutch’s 4th anniversary. I hope to get through them all, though it might take a little bit of time!

My question: How do you relate or not relate to stone identity? To what extent do you ID/not ID as stone and how do you feel about that? Maybe you’ve written about this here before and I missed it … I’ve had a big process going from not stone to stone-ish to stone, and I’m curious about how other butches feel. —Bond

I haven’t written much about this, I don’t think. I don’t identify as stone, but I do identify as stone-ish. I’ve never been all the way stone, but I do remember on my first date with Kristen I said, “I’m basically stone,” as I was trying to describe the ways that I was a top and wanted to be in charge perhaps ninety percent of the time. I’d told this to other lovers on other first dates, but it didn’t always make sense to the other person, and I was trying to put it out there stronger and more specifically this time, lay everything out clearly as early as possible in hopes that she’d get it.

(She did, she does.)

But that is really new in my history—I’ve dated girls even in the past four years that I’ve been running Sugarbutch that were tops, or toppy, and to whom I bottomed. My first long-term relationship with my ex-boyfriend of five years was kinky, in a kind of entry-level kink way (light bondage, light percussion) and we experimented with some switching, but mostly I was bottoming to him. As our relationship drew on, we started taking some classes on kinky sex (at places like Babeland) and I started learning more and more about topping. It wasn’t until I got out of that relationship entirely and had a series of revelations that I started realizing I was more of a top than bottom, and that perhaps I’d never really been submissive as much as bottoming.

I’m mentioning all this because stone is tied to topping, for me, because I’m not stone so much as I’m a top. I’m not opposed to being touched or penetrated, and I don’t have strong emotional reactions to those things, as I know some other stone folks that I’ve talked to do. (I don’t think that’s the only way to be stone, but in my experience stone often goes along with a gender dysphoria and a disagreement of gender between body and mind.) As I’ve been dating (and chronicling my dating here), I started getting more and more specific about who it was I wanted to date, especially in terms of identity keywords like bottom and submissive, and I did start describing myself as stone or stone-ish to girls I was flirting with or on first dates. I wanted to see what their reaction was, what their relationship to stone was, and whether or not they knew what to do with that. More than one girl seemed to understand and then behaved differently in bed, which was not what I wanted.

There is a relief that comes along with not being touched (very much), though. It means I don’t have to try so hard, I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’m going to get off ‘that way’, whatever way she’s touching me, it means I don’t have to be in that particular position of surrender when I often (at least nine times out of ten) do not want to be. I much prefer getting off while strapped on and fucking … and yes, I suppose that does have something to do with gender, that I prefer my orgasms to be related to my cock and not necessarily while being penetrated.

I don’t always prefer to get off that way—I was just writing about masturbation and My Ultimate Masturbation Toys, one of which is that genius Pure Wand, which is just the right size and shape for me. And sometimes, especially it seems right before I start my period, I crave getting fucked, sometimes hard. That tends to be when I ask to be fisted. I don’t do that often, maybe three times in the last year and a half relationship with Kristen, but when I have, I think they have all been around that time of my cycle.

But generally, when I’m with someone else, when I’m with Kristen, I want to get off through fucking, through my cock. I want to be dominant, in some way, using some sort of physical strength that tightens my muscles and makes the getting off all the more intense. I want to be using my gender fetish, which I don’t ever fuck without, anymore. I want there to be a gender component and a power component, with me in particular places on those spectrums, and usually, that involves me strapped on, on top.

That doesn’t quite make me stone, at least not the way I understand it. But there’s something useful in the language of stone that helps get across that top identity, that dominant identity, and that butch identity, so I have relied on stone in the past to help me make all those identities come together.

What about you? Do you identify as stone? Stone-ish? Not stone? Why or why not? What’s your relationship to the identity of stone? What do you define it as, what do you think it means?

Spanking 101

Someone emailed me recently with a question about starting to play with spanking, and after looking around online for a bit, I didn’t find much, so I jotted down my basic thoughts on the subject.

Here’s the question:

I was wondering if you know of any good resources for spanking. I have a friend who wants to get spanked and I said that if he wanted to, I would do it. Any tips? Handouts? Diagrams?

Babeland has a decent How To Spank article, so that’s worth a read. And there’s Rachel Kramer Bussel’s collection of erotica stories called Spanked and the corresponding Spanked blog.

This is what else comes to my mind:

  • Where to spank: Spank the fleshy parts of the ass & thighs, make sure to avoid the parts that are bonier like the little triangle coccyx bone right above the butt crack, the spine, or the kidneys. Basically, steer clear of the low back. Some people like to have sensation on the upper back and shoulder blades (though that perhaps is for later)
  • Start light: Start light with pats rather that swats or hits, jiggle the flesh even, warm it up, gradually increase pressure. Generally when I start I go light and fast, then work up to the big hits later, with full big arm strength, taking pauses and breaks between to press my body close, run my palms along the flesh to sooth it, and whisper sweet things
  • Hand vs Ass: So much of the pain is psychological, not about actual damage. It can hurt, but there are hundreds of teeny bones in the hand, and compared the big pelvis and femurs down there by the ass & thighs, the hand will get harmed way before it could do any real damage to those bones. Which is not to say you can’t bruise—you can—but that’s not the kind of damage I mean. Be sure to be reassuring vocally (or with pleasurable touches) as you’re getting heavier, and warm up slowly
  • Spanking to Sex: I tend to start spanking closer & closer to the genitals toward the end, working in some fingering in between spanks. That can be a nice way to segue from the spanking back to the sex play, and also when someone is turned on they can take a whole lot more sensation, so I tend to be able to hit harder then
  • Positions: Try a couple different positions: leaning over a bed with feet on the floor, on all fours, across your lap on the couch, hands high leaning against a wall. People have different preferences when both giving & receiving, so try out a few different things
  • Toys: My hand usually gives out before her ass does. Consider a little paddle maybe like this one, you can go for longer. ones that are flat and wide tend to be “thuddy” and ones that are thin tend to be “stingy”—usually people prefer thuddy ones, especially if they aren’t so experienced. Same rules apply for paddles

Readers, help me out here. Anything else? Any tips and tricks for taking or giving a spanking? Do you know of any online beginning spanking resources that I’m missing? How did you get into spanking? What’s your favorite way to get spanked? What are your favorite toys to get spanked with? Leave it in the comments!

Dear Mr. Sexsmith: Packing

Hi Sinclair,

I have a soft packer, which I can carry around in my briefs with no problem. But, when strapping with a cock like Maverick for later use with my girl… it was so uncomfortable because of the way it was pressed down or upwards and the pressure from the base of my cock (which now was at an angle) on my pelvic bone left me sore and bruised. Plus, it looked like I had a huge hard-on. My pants were fairly loose, but it was so obvious that ‘something’ was in my pants… I was very self conscious that it looked like I had a boner and it was extremely hard to relax. I even went so far as to wrap the thing with an elastic bandage around my groin to hold it down. Every time I sat down…pain from my skin being tugged by my cock and the bandage pulling it away from the strap. Not to mention the inconvenience of having to ‘unwrap’ so we could fuck in a bathroom… I have even tried Silky (minus the bandage) by just bending it up or to the side(still looking like a hard-on), and once again, the base doesn’t sit flush when bent and puts a lot of pressure on the pelvic bone. It sort of takes the fun out it, which sucks, because I really having my cock with me and ready to go.

Is hard packing comfortably a fine art or is there really a trick to it?

Thanks in advance!
WrencHer

WrencHer –

Yeah, I hear you there. That’s like the #1 issue of packing, nobody’s really invented a cock that is soft enough in your pants and hard enough to fuck with yet.

I totally know what you mean about packing with something hard and having the pressure dig into your pubic bone, ouch. That does happens to me sometimes. Packing is a bit of a fine art, might just take a whole lot of trail and error. I pretty much only ever pack with either a) packers, soft and not made for fucking or b) Silky/Bendy. The harder/bigger ones like Maverick just don’t work, in my experience – VERY rarely I’ll put one on before I’m at home watching a movie or something, but that’s for when all I’m wearing is boxers and nobody can see me (’cause hello, tentpole!).

I’ve been packing with Silky/Bendy for like four or five years now I guess, and I’ve figure out the angle pretty well for that one so it doesn’t dig into me anymore, I can wear it around easily for a day. I do have to readjust sometimes, but generally I can get it to stay put. I guess having it really tight in the straps around my waist helps, so then it doesn’t shift or move around, but then I keep the straps between my legs looser.

What kind of harness are you using? Maybe try a different one, that might help? I definitely think Silky/Bendy can pack comfortably, so it might just take some more practice. There are two that seem to be the most popular and recommended: the Jaguar (leather, though they also have a vegan one, by Aslan) and the Joque Spare Parts. The Joque & the Jaguar are not my personal favorites, actually, mostly because I really prefer the one-strap harnesses, though it seems like these are favored by most people. Personally I like the commando, and also the Jaguar G, which is the G-string version of the same Jaguar. The leather is SO beautiful and soft and buttery and I just love the design, super comfortable and incredibly hot.

Same with the cocks, it’ll be about a $100 investment, but Aslan Leather (and some of the other nice harness makers too) come with a lifetime guarantee, like Vixen does, so the investment is totally worth it.

Sinclair

Dear Mr. Sexsmith: Harnesses for Plus-Sized Women?

Dear Mr. Sexsmith:

Can you recommend a company or a website that makes strap on dildos for plus sized women? i’ve seen this one on adameve.com, but it’s not aesthetically pleasing at all (i’m not really a fan of the leather diaper look) plus the dildo it comes with is purple, and I would much rather prefer a more realistic looking cock. If you can recommend anything, please let me know. I’m a size 24/26 if that will help you at all. Thanks so much!

Lauren

Lauren –

There are definitely some harnesses out there that would fit & be comfortable, much better than a “leather diaper.”

I tweeted your question the other day and got a lot of ideas. Responses were:

I can definitely speak to the Joque (aka Spareparts) – that’s the one everybody loves these days. it’s not my favorite personally, but it’s extra comfortable and really easy to use, and machine washable. Lots of good things. Outlaw is a fantastic company, they make both the Syd and the Missy-G, and those are kind of feisty, lots of personality.

Eden Fantasys has very good data on all their products in the “overview” part in the left-hand sidebar, including the maximum waist size.

Hope that helps! And hey, readers: what’s your experiences with harnesses for folks who have a bit of extra girth? Got any recommendations, or comments about the harnesses that were mentioned?

“Is it a trans characteristic to wear a cock?”: Cock-centricity and Gender Identity

Back in April, for Sugarbutch’s third anniversary, I offered up an “ask me anything” thread where readers could ask any burning questions that they’d like for me to answer.

is it a transgender characteristic to wear a cock (with anatomically accurate balls) and feel more complete or like yourself when you are a biological female? you self ID with a lot of labels, but trans isn’t one of them. have you explored this idea? – reader

There’s two parts of this question I’d like to explore: first, my personal identity, and my relationship to “trans”; second, gender’s relationship to cocks, and my personal thoughts on that, too.

I do identify with the term “trans,” to some degree. That’s complicated, because I am not transitioning, and I do not identify as male. I feel strongly that it’s important for me to be female, a woman, lesbian-identified, and to behave and look the way I do (i.e., masculine). But insofar as people with my biological sex most often have a feminine gender presentation (setting aside the societal compulsory prescription of the feminine gender presentation), and I do not, I feel as though I am transgressing gender boundaries by my claim to masculinity and by presenting in a way that is seemingly in conflict with the (societally prescribed) sex/gender assumption. I – me personally, my identity, my work, my discussions – defy rigid, polarizing gender norms, and queer gender. I believe in taking this and that from any sorts of presentations around us and re-creating onesself in ways that make us feel good, empowered, strong, sexy, expressive, and authentic. I think we can all transcend our prescribed roles – no matter what they are, gender or familial or societal – and become ourselves in larger ways.

I don’t usually include “trans” in my list of identity descriptors. When I refer to myself as trans, it’s usually very couched in other things, like “my particular kind of genderqueer masculine-identified trans-ness.” I guess I feel like my use of trans and my inclusion in the trans communities is a bit controversial, as there are plenty of people who will jump (and have jumped) in to correct my use of this term, saying that my use of it invalidates the experiences of “real” trans people who are FTM or MTF and who are transsexual, transitioning fully from one gender to another.

So I tend to claim butch, whole-heartedly and fairly simply, really, and leave it at that. Because that’s what I am (right now, anyway, not that I anticipate that changing, but who knows, it could), and though I do think that the identity of butch includes a sort of trans-ness or a genderqueer-ness of occupying more than one gendered space at once, ‘butch’ accurately describes me much better than the term trans.

Now: about cocks.

Specifically, about cocks with anatomically accurate balls, about realistic cocks, about flesh-colored cocks and really feeling it and claiming it as MY cock, about having a cock as someone whose body doesn’t quite have one, not in the same way that other bodies have one.

I want to disrupt this idea that cocks specifically and penetration in general is a male, masculine, or man’s trait. I mean I get it: when considering human genitalia, the man is the one with the penis, the woman is the one with the vulva. But men have holes that feel good when penetrated, too, and women have fingers and tongues and sometimes clits big enough to penetrate, and a long history of dildoes, and then of course there’s the strap on cock, for when we really want to feel what it’s like to swing from the hips.

I was at a sex blogger tea party here in New York City maybe two years ago, discussing cock-centricty, when I believe Chris of Carnal Nation said (something like): “I know I’m a guy and all, but I’m not as cock-centric as you are. When I fuck, it’s with my hands, or my mouth. I don’t identify with it the same way you do, and it’s not my central sex act.”

This seems like a rather rare perspective for cis men, especially given that our entire (American, white, dominant) sexual culture is pretty much built around penises and penetration and the male erection, etc, but I think it’s more common than we’d expect.

Likewise, I have known some femmes who have been some of the most cock-centric people I’ve ever met. They drive a mean strap-on, as they say. And I’ve known some butches and trans men who are not cock-centric at all, despite that it would seemingly align with their masculine gender to be so.

Maybe this perspective of mine is also partly as a result of coming out as queer into a lesbian community which questioned cocks constantly. I have absolutely heard girls say, “If I wanted to get fucked with a cock, I’d date a man!” (Who I, duh, didn’t sleep with. More than once.) So coming to my own desire for using a cock and my own cock-centricty, while at the same time coming to a butch identity though not transitioning to male, I claimed cocks as a certain sex act that I separated from any particular identity.

Because anything two lesbians do in bed is lesbian by nature of the definition, no matter what act it is.

Unless, you know, it’s not – I certainly don’t want to devalue the experience of being in lesbian relationships and doing a whole lot of cock-centric activities, and for one of them to later come to a male identity. Perhaps for folks who go through that, the act was not exclusively lesbian, but was also male in a way. My point is, I want to squelch the fear that lesbians can’t use cocks in their sex play because it’s “not lesbian.”

That is not to say that strapping on or identifying with a cock is genderless. It interrelates to gender identity, presentation, and celebration – but which ways it interrelates depends on the individual. For me, it absolutely plays on my gender fetish and the way I see myself as embodying a masculine gender, and I LOVE to play with that during sex (as, uh, the entire Internet knows). And femmes who strap on cocks and play with them have told me that they see cocks as part of their gender, too – that part of the turn-on awesomeness of the whole experience is that it supposedly misaligns with their gender, that their sparkly pink harness and dick is all the more sexy to them because it’s femme.

I suppose there are a few kinds of cock-centricty, right – because I’d say Kristin is fairly cock-centric, but she isn’t into wearing one and fucking with one the way I am. For the most part I’m referring to folks who want to be the wearers here, who identify with it as a part of them.

If you’re cock-centric, you’re cock-centric; I don’t think that necessarily should dictate your gender identity. Cock-centricity is not necessarily a masculine or male trait. Gender identity may be totally related, somewhat related, or not related at all – I think that just depends. For me, the interplay of gender and my cock is important, and I love the way it feels to use it, the way I feel when I’m packing, the way it feels to get off while fucking with a cock, the turn-on of dirty talking about my hard dick, the ways it drives me wild to get a blow job. It is part of my masculine sexuality, but I have many other parts of masculinity that are not necessarily sexual, and I’ve explored the line between butch and trans enough that, for now, I know I’m pretty firm where I’m at. I still struggle with some descriptors like “girl,” “woman,” and “daughter,” but the other options of “son,” “man,” and “boy,” don’t fit either. So, for now, I’m sticking with butch.

I’d love to hear what some cock-centric (or non-cock-centric) gay boys have to say about this, I’m not sure how it translates (though I have some guesses). I will have to ask around.

Cocks & Harnesses Recommendations

This arrived in my inbox recently:

Dear Sinclair,

I’m transgendered so when I strap although some of the cocks are tempting to buy, I’m not very comfortable with unnatural colors and shapes. I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of a good sized, nice material, and realistic looking cock and a nice and masculine harness. I’ve seen some on your blogs that sound good but i wanted a more personal opinion from someone that actually knows what they’re talking about.

– J

And this isn’t the first time someone has asked me this kind of thing. I write about cocks & harnesses all the time here, but sometimes I think it’s probably a challenge to figure out what it is I’m really using, and what I use often.

So here’s what I wrote back:

I’m glad to throw some ideas your way. Sorry to say, you’re going to have to invest some money in a really nice cock. The ones that are realistic and high-quality are freakin’ expensive. But, the good news is, there are some really good ones available. I totally know what you mean about unnatural colors and shapes, they make me uncomfortable too.

The #1 absolute best realistic cocks out there are by Vixen Creations, their line called Vixskin. The material is some sort of silicone (so it is completely 100% sterilizable) that is made to feel like “cyberskin,” which is the most realistic material on the market. It’s a little bit squishy but still hard. Feels *great*, I highly recommend it. They have lots of different sizes (my #1 very favorite is the Maverick (Babeland calls it the Rodeo Rick) that is 7″x2″) and they all come in chocolate, caramel, or vanilla colors, depending on how light or dark you want the flesh tone to be.

The other great thing about Vixen is that they have a lifetime guarantee. That doesn’t cover “misuse” but if it does break down, they’ll replace it. They’re all in the $100 range, so you might have to save up a bit, but they’ll literally last you a lifetime and they are so worth it.

Most of the sex positive, feminist, queer sex toy shops carry Vixskin, like Good Vibes, Babeland, Blowfish, etc. You might want to actually go to one of those places and check out their sizes, hold them in your hands, all that, to feel what feels most like *yours*.

Harnesses … there are two that seem to be the most popular & famous: the Jaguar (leather, though they also have a vegan one, by Aslan) and the Joque Spare Parts

The Joque & the Jaguar are not *my* personal favorites, actually, mostly because I really prefer the one-strap harnesses, though it seems like most people don’t. I like the commando, and also the Jaguar G, which is the G-string version of the same Jaguar. the leather is SO beautiful and soft and buttery and I just love the design, super comfortable and incredibly hot. Same as with the cocks, it’ll be about a $100 investment, but Aslan Leather (and some of the other nice harness makers too) come with a lifetime guarantee, like Vixen does, so the investment is totally worth it.

– Sinclair

Got a question for me about cocks, harnesses, strapping it on, or something else? Email me – aspiringstud [at] gmail.com – or leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as well as I can.

How To Begin Playing with BDSM

Recently, this came into my inbox:

I’m in a relationship now with a wonderful person and I’m really intrigued and turned on by BDSM, but have very little idea of where to start. I’ve put up a plea on my blog for help from people who know more about these things, you can read my post for more background, but basically, where do we start? How can we segue into BDSM play? Dominance, submission, pain? How can we bit by bit, toe first, test the cold water and then gradually get used to it and then eventually just dive in and revel in it? I just have no idea. I live in San Francisco, so I don’t expect you to know of any local resources, but do you know anyone in San Francisco who I might be in touch with? Anything like that? Internet resources? Early blog posts of yours about your first forays into BDSM?
Alphafemme

So I figured I’d write a little about it, tell you what I think, then also open it up to you lovely readers who might have specific San Francisco resources, your own stories, or more suggestions to share in the comments.

How do you start playing with BDSM? You jump in somewhere that feels exciting and hot, you talk about what you want to do, at least a little, then you do it. I don’t actually have any early blog posts about BDSM because I’ve been playing with it for a very long time – my first high school boyfriend and I used to do some light BDSM, like spanking, a little bit of topping & bottoming, and tying-to-the-bedpost kinds of bondage. My “kinky queer butch top” identity labels are roughly in order, actually, of when I came into them; I’ve been playing with kink (albeit lightly) for a long time.

I do suggest starting out light – though “light” for some people is heavy play for others, so just pick something that seems accessible and doable and try it out.

Some more specific suggestions:

  • Take a class on something (like spanking) from Babeland or your local feminist sex toy store. In San Francisco, I’m sure Good Vibes has events all the time.
  • Read The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book. Both of you should read both of them, even if you already know which role you are more likely to occupy, since learning about the other will teach you even more about yours. These books significantly changed and formed the ways that I think about dominance and submission and many incarnations of BDSM. Highly highly recommended.
  • Fill out the BDSM checklist and compare answers. Highlight the things you are most excited about and see what you have in common! (Hopefully you’ve already been talking about this kind of thing, you might even have an idea of what each other would like to explore.
  • Make a shared Google doc and brainstorm a list of what you’d like to try. (Kristen and I actually have one of these … )
  • Check out the BDSM section of the Sugarbutch Amazon store for more books you might want to pick up, or check out of the library, or borrow.

There are some more simple, less risky, very playful, and safe things you might want to try if you’re new to BDSM to begin to whet your appetite, such as:

  • Spanking. Don’t worry, your hand is WAY more delicate than her ass – think of all the little tiny bones in there, as compared to the lovely muscle & flesh. Her butt can take way more you’re your hand can give, actually – your hand will hurt and get tired and sore way before you will do any real damage. But, you still should be a bit careful – here’s how to start: 1. start out slow, make sure to warm up her flesh (and mind) so she can take deeper, harder slaps. 2. DO NOT slap or hit her sacrum, that triangle bone above the crack of her ass. That can bruise and be very painful. Keep it to her ass cheeks and thighs, the fleshy parts. 3. Make sure she is relaxed, and keep going softly until she starts writhing and moaning and liking it.

  • Bondage. Try some light bondage with whatever you’ve got lying around the house – clothesline, men’s ties, scarves … you can look up Two Knotty Boys on youtube for MANY great videos on how to tie knots, but really you can just tie with a plain ol’ granny knot, like you tie your shoes. Don’t leave her tied up for extended periods of time, however, and make sure to get the rope tied tight enough so that she can’t escape, but not tight enough to cut off circulation.
  • Dirty talk. Sometimes adding speech to your sex play is incredibly erotic, highly sexually charged, and very dirty. Sometimes you can keep going with whatever you “normally” do, but add some verbal descriptors of what you’d like to do, and it adds a great element of play and gets the minds going. Whisper in her ear while your fingers are inside her: “You know what I’d really like to do? I’d like to tie your ankles to the footboard so you can’t move your legs. I’d like you to struggle against the ropes so you can feel how you’re opened up for me. I’d like to feel how wet that makes you. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Yeah, I thought so …” and ask her about it later, outside of the moment, and see if it’s something she’d like to perhaps try.
  • Power & Surrender. Hold her down, pull her hair, hold her wrists above her head, bite her shoulders, bite her breasts, hold your knees on her thighs to force her legs open, push her onto the bed, get a little rough with her. Maybe she wants to fight back and see if she can take YOU down, instead – wrestling for who gets to be in control could be fun, too.

For me, things like elaborate role play – and even dirty talk – was a lot harder than some of these basics. And these are practically endless – I’m sure one could play with various elements of just these four things and have a very exciting sex life.

A little bit about safewords: Unless you are playing with non-consensual play, you probably don’t need a safeword. That is to say, you can use, “slow down,” “wait,” “back off,” “hold on a minute,” “don’t,” and “stop,” and things like that to indicate that something’s going wrong, instead of negotiating one special specific word which would stop the scene. Unless you want “no” or “don’t” or “stop” to be part of the play, those words will work just fine.

So, what do you think? What is your advice for beginning to play with BDSM? Anything you’d like to add or correct from my list? Any suggestions you have? Are there resources in San Francisco you’d like to recommend? Let her – and all of us! – know in the comments.

Sadism, and the Study of Pain

i have noticed elsewhere online that you have added ’sadistic’ to your lineup of adjectives. i was very interested in your explanation of how you came to claim those words as part of your identity (forgive me if this is not accurate), and would be interested in hearing a similar description of how you came to claim sadistic as well.

Yes, I have added “sadistic” in a couple of my taglines or bios or descriptions recently, and it is an identity label that I claim, at least to a degree. I think the identity of “sadist” is understood much less – outside of kink communities and circles – than the other identity tags I use (queer, butch, top), and it can be incredibly off-putting for folks who don’t understand it.

There’s just so much stigma around it – you like to give others pain? You enjoy that, you get off on it, it turns you on? That’s seen as, well, kind of fucked up by a lot of people.

And it kind of is fucked up, if that’s the way you’re looking at it. But the details of how sadism works a lot more complicated than that – at least, it is for me.

It’s taken me a long time to come to claim a bit more of a sadistic identity, and it’s still something that I say with a little bit of reservation or even shame, partly because I don’t want it to come on too strongly and freak someone out.

First: playing with sadism, for me, must be consensual and intentional. I do not enjoy being cruel in general, and actually it is sometimes very difficult for me to treat someone I love with humiliation or damage, to hit them, to slap someone in the face. I’ve had to go through the feelings of top guilt and, to a greater extend, sadist guilt, when I started exploring this. Those feelings aren’t completely gone, but I know what I’m doing more now and I have more confidence in my perspective and standpoint, so I don’t have as much guilt about it.

I remember precisely when I realized I was a sadist: it was 2002, and I was in a Body Electric workshop called Power, Surrender, and Intimacy. (This is going to get a little bit sacred sex/spiritual, just to warn you.) We had been discussing power, dominance, and sadism – and receiving that with surrender, submission, and masochism – and had been doing exercises all relating to tapping into those feelings. We were in the middle of a ritual (I won’t go into details) when someone had a very strong reaction, and began crying. I was going through my own experience and starting to really feel myself come into some power and dominance in a new way, and I was flooded with the witness of her release. It was a solo ritual, so we weren’t working together or touching, and she probably wasn’t even aware of me, she just started sobbing, loudly, in her own world of release, and I felt the energy as the grief and emotion flooded through her, I was so attuned to the shifts of energy in the room, and started realizing that I was incredibly turned on by her release. It was beautiful – pure and unhindered, just letting go of some really deep things that she’d been carrying and holding on to for who knows how long. I wanted to coax her through it, support her, and in my mind I was soothing her, cradling, holding the space around her so that she herself could have room to be safe and release. I loved the feeling of doing that for someone (even though I wasn’t really doing that for her, I was just imagining the scenario where I would do that) and I got such a rush and release myself from witnessing someone else get into that space of deep release, deep surrender, and then come back, smiling and whole.

So there’s a lot of psychology to it for me: we carry around all sorts of grief, pain, shame, anger, rage, distrust, disassociation, and guilt, especially about our physical bodies and our sexualities. And one of the ways that BDSM and power play and pain play taps into that is through acknowledgment and, ultimately, release – which is why we can feel renewed, refreshed, energized after a deep scene.

We also just don’t have very good tools for release and replenishment available to us. We’re not exactly taught how to remake ourselves and let go of some of our deep grief, and I believe this kind of emotional release is one of those ways.

Aside from the psychology, I also like pain. And as much as I talk about being a sadist, I have spent many years as a masochist also – I’ve been beaten, flogged, caned, whipped, pierced, cut, and slapped; I’ve had 13 piercings (only one of which I wear anymore); I’ve had some experience submitting and surrendering, and using pain as a way to get more present in my body, and then to let go.

There’s a degree to which, though, at this point, I feel like I’ve had enough of that kind of release, I seek something else now. I know how to get myself into a state of deep body release, mostly through yoga or meditation or masturbation or running, and I wanted to explore other things related to that kind of bodily release – namely, guiding it in others. I get more out of the experience of taking someone through it than I do going through it myself, these days. I don’t expect that to be permanent, but I don’t expect it to change either – for now, I know I’m a top who really likes to play with my sadistic side, and that really works for me.

So, after this series of revelations and after some further investigation, and being very sure that I wanted to get deeper into this kind of play, I began studying it more intentionally: how to get someone into that state, how to keep them safe when they’re there, how to encourage the release (but not overwhelmingly so), and how to bring them back from it.

There’s also that moment … how do I describe it. Where put your hand in water and you can’t tell if it’s super hot or super cold – how our senses cross-fire sometimes when sensation is so deep and heavy and stimulating that we can’t tell if it’s pain or pleasure.

I love playing with that line, partly because it is a way to practice pain without suffering – a way to practice pain without being hurt, but to experience it as a release, change, and growth. I think pain play can do a lot of that, too, and it is very interesting to me, as someone who is interested in algology (the study of pain), and someone who studies the cessation of suffering, how to encourage these moments of transformation where pain becomes pleasure, useful, and a methodology of study.

What I’m saying is: sadism is the intentional use of pain, discomfort, and other dark emotions to find deep release, move energy, and renew the self. As someone who is deeply interested in dark emotions, the messy stuff, the hard stuff, and personal transformation and self-awareness, this is a tool that I find incredibly useful.

Answers to some questions

Do you have a top five list of toys/accessories that you love and recommend?

People’s sexualities are so different, so what’s best for me might not be best for you, so this isn’t so much what I recommend as it is my personal favorites. My top 5 desert island toys – meaning the ones I would absolutely have to have if I was stuck on a desert island – are:

  • Hitachi – the lesbian grandmother of all vibrators. Because hey, if I’m going to have a vibrator, it may as well be the best. We’ll just have to pretend my desert island has power outlets.
  • Silky aka Mr Bendy – best & only cock on the market that you can pack with, then fuck with. Not sterilizable (always use a condom). A little small for hours & hours of fucking, though, so I need an upgrade.
  • Vixskin Maverick aka Rodeo Rick – The upgrade. This might be the most perfect cock ever made. (I do wish it had balls though … I think that’s the Bandit? But balls sometimes create distance between harness strap and my clit, which would make it harder for me to get off.) Silicone, realistic, excellent size.
  • Spartacus harness – my current favorite. Simple, versatile, comfortable. I removed one of the two straps to make it a one-strap instead (which makes it easier for me to get off).
  • Maximus lube – because my sex life is so cock-centric, and because I like to go for hours, lube is a necessity. Regardless of how wet she gets and stays, I use it, if only because then I won’t have to wonder or worry if she’s getting dryer. Maximus is thick, stays slick, comes in a pump bottle, is kind of gel-like and won’t slide around your hand while I’m getting it from the bottle to my cock.

Aside from the Hitachi (and the lube), those are toys for partner sex; so I’d also add one bonus, which would be a very hard, g-spot curved insertable, either glass or metal (Pure Wand, maybe – I’d put the Pure Wand on there in a second, except I don’t actually own one).

Why do you list fingernails as a ‘turn off’ for you?

Perhaps I should explain, so thanks for asking. I like painted fingernails, I like the classics (of course) of red and pink and French tips. I love them femme-length, as short as they can be and a little squared off. I like how it enhances someone’s hands, so delicate and feminine. The part I don’t like is if they’re long. I don’t like scratching, I can’t stand it when someone taps their nails on a desk or counter, that tick-tick-tick sound makes me cringe. Maybe it’s from being in New York City where everyone’s are fake and thick and long, or maybe it’s just too much of a straight association.

How, exactly, do you determine what makes a bathroom in a bar “fuckable”?

  • Privacy of stalls – are they ceiling-to-floor? Huge gaps under the door? Short doors that a tall person could see over?
  • Strength of walls in the stalls – are they all hinged to each other in one unit, or are they individual? Would they shake if you knocked into them?
  • Size of the stalls – are they wide enough for two people to stand comfortably side-by-side, or is it hard to walk past each other and open the door?
  • General ambiance – is it harsh bright florescent lights, or recessed lighting? Are the stalls plastic, or hardwood? Is there some particular accents of decor, or is it as plain as a public park bathroom?
  • Cleanliness – in general, how is it kept?
  • Whether or not it’s monitored – some (many) gay boy bar bathrooms have signs – “one at a time ONLY” – or people who will actually knock if you manage to slip a 2nd person past them.

Personally, I like the bathrooms that are clean, with some slightly unusual ambiance, good lighting, nice décor, wide stalls so I can navigate, privacy … but others might prefer it to be more seedy, hinges loose and grubby floors, perhaps the naughtiness of the dirty scene would be their preference.

While I’m at it, here’s three amazing bathrooms to fuck in New York City:

  1. Therapy, gay boy bar in midtown east. Hands down the best bar bathrooms I’ve ever fucked in. gay boy bar, fantastic décor, good drinks, great snacks. If you date me, I will probably fuck you here at some point. Tricky to get past the bathroom guards, but it’s possible.
  2. Song, thai restaurant in Brooklyn. Not always super clean (especially during dinner, they are very busy) but the restaurant is incredibly loud and the bathrooms are shadowy and kind of swanky.
  3. Whiskeytown, east village. Straight bar, not my favorite clientele, but fantastic drinks. Bathrooms are private with the sink outside, good lighting.

Got any other recommendations?

Have you ever entertained the possibility of breathplay? (I’m NOT talking autoasphyxia, but the choking/restraining your loved one kind of breathplay.)

Sure. I don’t have much experience with it, which is why I have never written about it in my fiction. I’ve never come across a lover who said she was interested in playing with it, and as a top it seems like the kind of thing that I wouldn’t necessarily impose on someone else, since it isn’t an act that is ‘for me’ the same way other toppy things are (fucking, cocksucking). I’ve noticed that Kristen often holds her breath while she’s about to come, though, so maybe eventually we’ll get to more breathplay between us – but she doesn’t seem into it when we’ve seen it in porn we’ve watched. So, it’s not something I would probably seek out without someone else being into it, but I’m GGG, if it came up and someone was interested I would give it a try.

Since 2003, have you ever heard anyone utter the words, “Do you…(fill in the blank)?” and not thought of Cher? If so, how is this possible?

Maybe not “Do you…”, but “Do you believe in … “ yes certainly, the only way to end that sentence is “life after love.” And, not that you asked, but yes, I do believe in life after love.