Ask Me Anything: Confidence & Getting Girls Off

May 10, 2011  |  advice  |  7 Comments

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

May 3, 2011  |  advice  |  14 Comments

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”

May 2, 2011  |  advice, reviews  |  2 Comments

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

April 29, 2011  |  advice  |  No Comments

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.

Happy 5th Anniversary, Sugarbutch! And: Ask Me Anything

April 29, 2011  |  advice, miscellany  |  25 Comments

Charles Demuth, The Figure 5 in Gold

Today is Sugarbutch’s 5th anniversary—I started this little personal online writing project five years ago, on April 29, 2006.

Oh so much has changed since then!

Though while I’m going back to see what I wrote last year, for the 4th anniversary, I’m still on that same path as I was then. Though my columns at CarnalNation.com and SexIs have ended, I’m still writing for AfterEllen.com, the Lambda Literary Foundation, and Good Vibes Magazine. I’m still keeping up with MrSexsmith.com for my speaking gigs, travels, and tracking my guest posts and interviews elsewhere, and still playing with Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. I’m trying to figure out what it is I’m trying to build, and where I’m going, but I have some ideas and things are coming together, I think. I’m still writing about my main relationship and the turmoils—and thrilling joys—of constant intimacy.

The biggest news, perhaps, is that I’m editing a book of lesbian BDSM erotica for Cleis Press, which I am thrilled about. Actually, that manuscript is due this weekend, so I have officially declared today “Smut Day,” because I’m editing and compiling and putting all the last minute details together.

I woke up wondering whether Cleis includes a dedication standard in their book, so I flipped through some books from my smut library to see what I could find.

my (abridged) smut library

(You’ll just have to buy the book to see whether I am able to include one or not.)

I’m really enjoying this erotica anthology editing process, and I think the collection is going to be fantastic. I can’t wait to share the final product with you all! I don’t have a publication date yet, but you will be the first to know as soon as I do. I hope to do more of these, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself—this one isn’t even done yet. (Getting closer!)

I’ve got some other things in the works, but I’m mostly just focused on writing columns elsewhere online doing some more editing, and traveling to do workshops and speak. I’ve got some exciting gigs coming up this summer!

And now, on to the Sugarbutch anniversary tradition: Ask Me Anything.

I get a lot of emails asking for advice or help or clarification or what my opinion is on something, and though I’ve never formally written an advice column (though I would be interested in doing so—anybody want to hire me for that?), I have kept up this “ask me anything” tradition for a few years now, so perhaps that’s where y’all get the idea to email me questions. I always put those emails in a special folder that I swear I will get to, when I have time, but y’all, I never have time. I’m sorry. I feel bad not replying to your personal crises, and sometimes I write back to say “I’m sorry I can’t answer this,” but there are only so many hours in the day and any of those extra ones I would like to spend kissing my beautiful girlfriend rather than answering even more emails.

This is why I do not have an “ask me anything” on tumblr. They are very time consuming.

But! This is your opportunity! Got a question you crave to hear my advice about? Did you email me and I never answered (sorry)? Here’s the deal. Leave a comment on this post and ask me whatever you like. You can ask anything, from personal details about my life that you’ve always wondered, to questions about advice for sex toys or your relationship, to philosophical musings on identity, gender, or sexuality theory. The shorter and more specific the question, the better.

I will answer every single question asked by the end of May. That is my vow to you, especially since last year they dragged on and I didn’t answer them until the end of October. Read back on some of the former “ask me anything” questions if you like.

Apparently the 5th anniversary tradition is wood, so, well, try not to make too many jokes about that.

So go ahead—what do you want to know? What are you curious to read my thoughts about? What have you always wondered? What kind of dirty things will you get me to reveal?

Ask Me Anything: Being Recognized & Dreaming About Sex

October 8, 2010  |  advice  |  2 Comments

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

October 7, 2010  |  advice  |  9 Comments

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

October 6, 2010  |  advice  |  6 Comments

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

October 5, 2010  |  advice  |  26 Comments

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

August 13, 2010  |  advice, essays  |  9 Comments

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?