You can be your strongest self AND a power bottom

From the moment I met Casey*, it was clear that they were a powerhouse. They ran a non-profit, were involved with leather community events, managed a Facebook group for queer survivors that had thousands of members, and kept up an amazing vegetable garden. I saw them work a room at a kinky happy hour, and I was impressed. They were charming, funny, generous, and so welcoming — and it wasn’t even their event. Casey just naturally exudes confidence and ease, and it’s infectious.

I immediately thought they were a top.

“Everybody always thinks that,” Casey told me later that night, sitting next to me at the bar, both of us waiting for another drink. “I can’t tell you how many times bottoms have tried to pick me up. But I’m not. I’m submissive. But people don’t see that in me, because they expect submissives to be cowering in the corner waiting for a dominant to tell them what to do.”

Casey was so eloquent, speaking about their desires for submission. (And you know me, I’m a sucker for somebody who can use words to articulate what they want and how they work. Yum.) But still, I went away from that thinking, Casey is absolutely right … there is a huge difference between having a submissive personality and having the desire to submit to someone in bed. And I played into those social expectations, too, by assuming their outgoing behavior meant that they were a top.

(I try really hard not to assume people’s power orientation, though it’s pretty much human nature to speculate and put others into categories we understand. I try to lead with questions, rather than assumptions, and to keep any surprise to myself, as best as I can.)

I’ve heard this complaint about being assumed to have passive personalities from lots of other submissive folks, too: from leather girls who are worried that their job is too high-powered, that daddies are all scared off by it. From subs who are convinced that no one can ever tell they are submissive, because they are in charge of too many social groups. From bois who believe deeply that their masculinity will always be read as dominance, and that they will always have to explain that they’re not a top.

I call it …

The Bad-Ass/Bottom Paradox

Based on kinky stereotypes, it seems like being a bad-ass and being a bottom are contradictory. But they’re not — just like being a sweetheart and being a top are not contradictory. Having a core of concern and emotional care for someone else makes that person even better qualified to be a top, just like having a strong sense of self, direction, and desire makes someone an even better bottom.

Submissives are often seen as weak, passive little creatures who don’t have a brain of their own, and whose head gets filled with their dominant’s every whim. Or, perhaps worse, as doormats who are being taken advantage of, controlled, and manipulated.

While this might be true for some folks — toxic relationship behavior and abuse can and does happen in D/s relationships, just like any other — most submissives I know are actually bad-asses. They aren’t empty vessels; their heads are full of managing their own lives — car payments, asking for vacation time off, calendaring the next social events, keeping up with knitting trends on Pinterest (and often, parts of their dominant’s lives, too).

On the other hand, I heard from Jake*, a queer boy who took Submissive Playground, that he was pretty sure he was submissive, but he’d never done much psychological play, though he craved it, because he thought he’d have to give up parts of himself, or make himself smaller in order to be “good” at it.

No. On the contrary.

I actually think submission can help make someone even more of a bad-ass than they already are. Healthy, functional submission requires knowing oneself, holding boundaries, communication, being vulnerable about desires, having good recovery skills when things go wrong — and so many more advanced communication skills. Folks who do have submissive personalities can find themselves gaining inner strength, self-worth, and fortitude after exploring submission deeper.

Submission does not require someone to make yourself small, to turn off your desires, to cater to someone else’s every whim (you know, not unless you negotiate that — but that’s way down the line. Or, way up the power escalator**). It really is possible to be a total bad-ass, and turn your ass up to get spanked, or turn over authority to someone you trust and love. In fact, it’s not only possible — it’ll give you a leg up.

* Not their real names

** As related to the relationship escalator, I use the term “power escalator” to mean that in relationships based on authority exchange or power play that often, both parties assume that as trust builds, they will play with more and more power exchange, but that is not always what the people ultimately want. Stopping anywhere along the ‘power escalator’ is valid, and going all the way to total power exchange 24/7 M/s is not the most “real”, or better, or any more valid than any other place.

Thanks to Crash Pad Series for the image, from Episode 149 with Alani Pi and Nikki Darling


Like this? Want more? Submissive Playground registration opens Monday, September 19th. Download the free Submissive Starter Kit for a sample submissive journal prompt from the course, as well as a video and kinky desire map.

The Case For Not Being A Good Submissive

Pretty much all the books (not that there are very many) about the theories of submission, and pretty much all the writings of various bloggers and folks on various message boards throughout the internet, say similar things, usually starting with: obey your dominant. Put your wants and desires after those of your dominant. That’s what submitting is. Don’t you want to be a “good” submissive?

But there are a couple of essential steps missing in that formula.

Obedience is, of course, important. Open defiance is often enough to get a submissive released from service entirely. I’ve known a Master who had a slave for ten years, and one day, the slave acted up, and the Master ended it, just like that. While Masters and dominants will have a variety of different reactions to that particular scenario (I probably would have sent them away for 24 hours with some assignments to cool off, for example), the point remains: obedience is important.

Don’t get me wrong— minor disobedience, in play kinds of ways, can be fun, and make more friction between folks. It can instigate more sadism in a dominant, and it can be used as “funishment”—faux-punishments which are more for pleasure than because someone actually did something wrong, like, “Oh look how wet your cunt is, you slut, I’m going to beat you now.” Yep, that is good fun stuff. Sometimes folks call this brattiness, though being a ‘brat’ is a debated hot topic in the D/s worlds, with many dominants saying they would never want a brat. Brattiness can be a really good tool — especially if dominant likes it, or if it creates more excuses for play. That kind of “disobedience” is more about obediently playing the game that’s been set up, and it’s legit.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the importance of a submissive doing what they are told to the best of their ability in the D/s context.

The submissive has to be able to mess up without serious blows to their self-esteem, value, and submissive identity.
But what about those times when an order is given, and the submissive thinks they completely understand it, and they go along steps one-two-thee and present the completed task to the dominant, and that was not at all what the dominant had in mind? What about those times when the dominant is completely unclear about the orders, but just doesn’t have time to explain themself thoroughly, and expects the submissive to fill in the gaps themself? What about when a submissive thinks they are doing precisely the thing the dominant would want, since they have wanted that thing before, but is not taking into account these new factors in this particular scenario?

It’s not open defiance, intentionally being disobedient, but it isn’t perfect obedience. Regardless of who is at fault (and finding the ways that both the dominant and the submissive can make sure this doesn’t happen again is perhaps more useful than finding the fault), the dominant often responds with disappointment, and the submissive often responds with deep sadness that they didn’t get it right.

Because that is most often what submissives want, right—to get it right, to be good.

When we find ourselves in that scenario—and we will, if we play with power dynamics, eventually be in that scenario—we have to allow the submissive some wiggle room with being “good.” The submissive has to be able to mess up without serious blows to their self-esteem, value, and submissive identity. Now, I’m not saying that the submissive shouldn’t be punished, or there shouldn’t be an increased amount of discipline next time, but hopefully those things can be done in ways that build up the submissive’s self-value and self-worth, and don’t tear it down.

No matter how much humiliation fetish we may have, having a submissive with no self-worth is bad for everyone. A submissive with no self-worth can stop trying, can stop expecting amazing things of themself, and can stop believing in their value to their dominant. At the core, it is best to have submissives who believe themselves to be strong, capable people.

Submissives who are strong, capable people also tend to have needs, wants, and desires. We all do, of course—dominants are expected to constantly mine their needs, wants, and desires, and find ways to use the submissive to meet those. But submissives are often expected to override their own needs, wants, and desires in deference to their dominant’s. This is often called being a “good” submissive.

For example, there might be some orgasm control rules in place, where the submissive can only have so many orgasms, or none at all. It can be really hot to deny them what they want: “Oh, I see you writhing around, trying to rub your dick on the sheets. Are you trying to come? You know you’re not allowed, little pet; you will get in so much trouble if you do that.” The need for sexual satisfaction is of course valid, but part of sexual satisfaction, for this particular submissive, is being denied and teased with what they want.

There can be other, less sexual, examples of denial, too; if the dominant doesn’t like a particular food, perhaps the submissive never has it at home (there are never mushrooms or cilantro in my household, for example). This is, generally, not a big deal, especially not at first. But denial of something pleasurable, even something the submissive just desires, and doesn’t “need,” can wear them down over time.

When we’re talking about 24/7 relationships, especially authority exchanges which are also primary partnerships, the submissive does have needs, wants, and desires. That’s just a part of reality, a part of being human. The submissive does have core values and core kinks which, if they don’t get met, at least sometimes, they may start feeling unfulfilled, unsatisfied, and even unloved.

The dominant role has many components, but one of them is to monitor and support the submissive’s fulfillment and satisfaction. Many submissives are fulfilled and satisfied by being controlled and denied, but long term denial can break down a relationship. A dominant must pay attention to the submissive’s needs, wants, and desires in order to bolster the longevity of the relationship.

The submissive does have core values and core kinks which, if they don’t get met, at least sometimes, they may start feeling unfulfilled, unsatisfied, and even unloved.
This means that the submissive must communicate their needs, wants, and desires—which means the submissive must know what their needs, wants, and desires are. Instead of shoving them aside when they come up, pushing them away, tamping them down like a “good” submissive is “supposed to,” pay attention. Put a little highlighter mark over them in your brain when it comes up randomly throughout the day, and make a list in your submissive journal. Perhaps you’ll notice some patterns. Perhaps you’ll identify something deep in you that is vying to get out.

Depending on the D/s arrangements that you have, it may be up to your dominant what they do with this information, or it might be your responsibility to assert your needs and boundaries, or to get them met outside of your relationship. My wish for you is that you can both figure out a way to honor your humanity, to acknowledge that submissives (and dominants!) make mistakes, have miscommunications, and differences in styles, and that everyone has needs, wants, and desires that are core to our long-term fulfillment and happiness. Hopefully, the dominant can fold a submissive’s needs into their own, and make them part of the power dynamic—another thing for the submissive to, enthusiastically, obey.


Psst …. Submissive Playground is happening again in October 2016. Registration opens soon!

Femming the Strap-On, Guest Post by Artemisia FemmeCock

I used to think I wasn’t gay enough to have a cock.

I cringe at that now, wondering what the hell it even means to be “gay enough” for anything. My 16-year-old self had some very ingrained assumptions though, assumptions that formed an identity radically different from the one I inhabit so comfortably today.

It seems natural to introduce myself as a “queer femme dyke” now, but to my newly-out teen self, those were three very incongruous things: queer was a slur, femme was the counter-identity to masculine, and dyke was a term reserved for only the most visible, butch lesbians.

These were conclusion influenced by the community I found when I first came out as a freshman in high school, a community that assured me I was a lesbian without ever asking because I am a cis woman attracted to women. It was like a scratchy, ill-filling sweater, but amongst the many other discomforts of high school, it was warming to feel welcome somewhere.

However, this meant that an identity was crafted for me before I could even begin to claim one for myself. Part of that identity was my presentation as a femme woman who was dating a butch woman, which coded me as the submissive and receptive partner, while they were perceived as the dominant, the pleaser, the one who wore the strap-on.

We were swathed in binary stereotypes by others, queer or not, and there were endless jokes about how gay my partner was for being a visible butch woman. The most vivid being when a group of friends attempted to quantify our collective “gayness.” It was decided that my partner constituted two whole gays, while I could only claim one half. I don’t like math to begin with, but when that math is based on the idea that sexuality can be calculated from one’s appearance, I really don’t like math.

I played into this role of “half gay” though, laughing along with jokes that dismissed my sexuality because of my femininity, about being hit on by men or asked if I had a boyfriend because I didn’t “look gay,” and accepting generalized assumptions about my relationship and sex life.

I was so compliant because many of their assumptions were true: I could have had a billboard above my head that read “I’m fucking GAY” and I would still hear the dismissive rhetoric “but you’re too pretty…” and “are you sure?” In my relationship, I was submissive and my partner was dominant, I chose the cock but she always wore it, and she didn’t enjoy being penetrated while I did. Presentation and sex became linked in my mind, and I conceded to the stereotypes.

It wasn’t until I went to college and saw unabashed, gender fucking, non-binary femmes that I began to see my identity as more than half: the half gay, the receiving half, the other half of butch. I started to understand that my presentation isn’t complimentary, it’s individual and multi-faceted. I can like, do, dress, and fuck however feels right to me. So I took off the itchy sweater and all the assumptions that were pinned to it.

From there, I started playing with my femmeness, seeking to reclaim my body as strong and loud and queer. I grew out my body hair and dyed it pink, I gravitated towards bold lip colors and nails, and I found power in ritual: taking time to get dressed, do my hair, apply copious amounts of glitter. I embraced my femmeness in my sex life too, savoring snapshots of deep red lipstick smudged on a silicone cock, masturbating with nails that matched the color of my vibrator, and styling the cutest pony tails to be pulled on.

I found a partner who has shifted and changed with me over the past two years, and though our journeys of sex, sexuality, and presentation are undeniably different, we’re able to express our needs and wants in dynamic ways. For so long, I just didn’t have the language or references or support to communicate in that way, and a large component of my shift in understanding is centered around exchanging that sweater for a strap-on.

femmecock1

femmecock2

My first cock was a milky pastel pink that coordinated so well with my mint and pink lace harness. When I put it on, the wispy hairs on my thighs, two chubby bumps for knees, and slightly pigeon-toed feet all defocused, obstructed by that new view. I began to bob and sway as my hips swung and my legs lifted off the ground. I danced around in my new naked, the weight of my cock against my pelvis, brushing my skin as I shook and spun. It was like the queerest tampon commercial dance montage you’d ever seen, and I would have gladly accepted a trampoline to complete the image.

There was reclamation in that cock, feeling my queer femmeness in something that I had known as a symbol of masculinity and dominance. That was years ago, and since then, wearing a cock has become an ever present part of my life. Literally, it’s in my name, but it’s also my identity. Albeit, a very condensed identity, but it took me years of unlearning a selfhood formed by others in order to get to the point where it seems comfortable to join “femme” and “cock” together in a declaration of who I am.

How I Became A Daddy

I came to be a Daddy in a dominance/submissive context somewhat reluctantly. For years, I’d heard about this kind of play in kinky relationships — particularly among my gay male friends. I felt a certain charge about it whenever it came up in conversation, but my charge mostly felt very negative: Why would people play with that? How was it sexy? Wasn’t it glorifying incest? How was it not about child abuse, on some level?

I remember very clearly the first direct conversations about it, which was about fifteen years ago now: my friend Greg was giving me a ride home, and somehow it came up in conversation. He was (probably still is) notoriously slutty, and always chatty about his sexcapades and adventures. In my memory, he’s the one who brought it up, but it could’ve been me — I’ve often been the one to eagerly stick my foot in my mouth around kink, asking all kinds of personal questions no matter how appropriate. But I like hanging out with other folks who like to talk about kink, and generally, they answer my questions.

“What is up with all this daddy stuff!?” I asked him. “I mean, how is it not about incest?”

Greg, level-headed and at least fifteen years older than me, answers slowly: “Well … it kind of is about incest. But it’s also about having an older male figure, in the gay boy communities. About having a positive male role model, and how so many of us lacked that as young boys, and how we still crave it.”

I sat with that answer for a good eight years, devouring all the lesbian erotica I could find, my favorites of which had daddy/girl overtones. Why do I like this so much? I’d ask myself. This isn’t something I want, it’s just something I like to read about, for whatever reason. My dirty little secret, the erotica I would never tell other people that I like. It’s wrong, I can’t justify it. But still … I must like it, I keep coming back to it.

For a while, a close friend of mine was a femme girl looking for a butch daddy. I remember those conversations with her clearly, too — and I was still pushing, asking poking questions. It seems obvious now that I was deeply drawn to the dynamic and couldn’t look away, but that I was also trying to work it out for myself.

“But what is it about the daddy/girl dynamic that makes it, you know, not incest?” I’d ask her incessantly.

“It’s just different,” she’d answer, somewhat vaguely. “It’s not about that, for me. It’s about power, and strength, and feeling taken care of, and submissive.”

That language, at least, I could grok. She’s the one who insisted I read Carol Queen’s book The Leather Daddy and the Femme, and that helped me get it even more.

Then, a conversation with a femme who identified as a babygirl I had a few brief dates with helped cement it for me. “Think of it as two different definitions,” she told me. “Like the word baby. We don’t mean literally ‘you’re a baby’ when we call our lovers ‘baby.’ But we invoke the sweet tenderness that word implies. Same with daddy. We don’t mean definition one: the man whose sperm helped conceive you, we mean definition 2: a masculine person who nurtures and cares for you, usually in the leather communities, where sex may or may not be part of the exchange.”

As a word person, it helped to parse the two definitions apart. It helped to start conceiving of this whole separate definition of what a “daddy” is, and how that relationship dynamic worked.

That babygirl femme and I didn’t date long, but our conversations around those concepts were a big turning point for me. I knew I wanted to explore them more. I finally thought, oh, I think I like that, that’s why I’ve been so drawn to slash repulsed by it all this time. Amazing how repulsion and desire can sometimes be two sides of the same coin.

So when Sarah and I got together, shared a lot of our fantasies with each other, and started to explore the realms of kink that we’d always wanted to or hadn’t yet, being a daddy came up for me early on.

“I know it’s something that I want,” I told her. I was dating other people when we got together, and I told her I was interested in exploring polyamory. “I’m not saying that it’s something we have to do together. But I am saying that it’s something I want to figure out if I like, and how I like it. I know it’s something I want in my erotic toolbox, so to speak. If that’s not something you feel willing to play with me, that’s totally okay, but I might want to do it on my own elsewhere.”

It wasn’t an ultimatum, but I did think that it might end up being a dealbreaker.

“I just don’t get it. I mean why would I want to invoke my dad during sex?!” she said.

“It’s not about that. It’s only about you and me. And, in my opinion, we already have the kind of sex and play that I’m talking about. I nurture you, I call you baby and girl and sometimes little girl. You like all that stuff.”

“Yeah. I really do,” her eyelashes fluttered. “Really a lot.”

I grinned. “Honestly I think the only difference between what we do now and what I’m asking for is that one word: daddy.”

She looked pensive. “I’ll think about it,” she said.

The next time it came up, in a different discussion about kinks and explorations, and I mentioned again that I was interested in exploring it, she said, “I’ve been thinking about that. And I think I might just … say it, during sex, sometime.”

I had thought it was never going to happen with her. She’d been pretty clear about her disinterest.

She looked at me sideways, slyly. “We’ll see.”

It was a tease, but it totally worked.

A few weeks later, she did it: just casually let it slip from her mouth into my ear while she had her arms and legs wrapped around me, fucking her slow. It tipped me over the edge and I shuddered inside her, grabbing at her hair, toes curling, coming hard.

After catching my breath, she giggled. “I guess we know what you like!”

It was almost embarrassing, so vulnerable to be known and seen like that. To be splayed wide open, even in front of someone I trusted most in the world. But her eyes were warm and I could see that she liked it, too, and that we were in this together.

How rife & I Created Our D/s Protocol. Plus: Invitation to the new Protocol ecourse

Take pictures of five different places you’ve had sex and send them to me with a short (2 sentence) description of each one.

Make a mobile.

Download the 100 Pushups app and go through the program, 3x a week for 4 weeks.

Record an audio mp3 of you masturbating to orgasm.

Write up five scene ideas (short, 2 sentences each) that you’d like to experience.

Before rife and I lived together, our relationship was long distance for almost a year and a half. We both had other partners that we lived with and we’d negotiated open relationships. We were experimenting with D/s and we both craved more intensity, more rules, more obedience, more opportunities to serve.

During this time, rife didn’t so much have “protocol” as he had “tasks”, and I’d send him one (like those above) either with a deadline, or tell him that as soon as it was done, I would give him another. Sometimes that meant he was done the next day. Sometimes it took a few weeks to complete the task.

I see protocol as something done routinely that is triggered by an action. Whenever x happens, do y. For example: Whenever I get home, offer to remove my boots. Whenever we wake up, make the bed. Whenever you need to pee, ask my permission first (if I am available). Before you go to bed, make sure the dishes are done. Whenever you address me, use my proper title.

Sure, there were a few protocols that we had set up while we were long distance—he was always to kneel and kiss my boots/shoes/feet first thing, before we even spoke to each other, whenever we had traveled apart from each other. He was to text me good morning and good night. He would reply to my emails or texts promptly, not keep me waiting. Those kinds of things. But mostly, we did tasks—one-off assignments that would thrill me to receive. I kept a long list of things he sent, the kind of love-gifts one creates in the beginnings of a relationship, and I would take note of the things I loved to receive and ask him to send more of them. It was thrilling for both of us to be giving and receiving orders, to have opportunities for obedience, to make requests and have them be met.

Then, we moved in together

When we moved in together, we wanted to up the protocol significantly. I wanted clear division of the household labor, and to set things up so it was clear who took care of what. I wanted clear schedules, clear date nights, clear ways that we organize our time together, doing work, playing, and apart.

We haven’t kept all of the protocol we set up. (Ask me about rife’s speaking protocol experiments sometime—and why we don’t have any restrictions on speech anymore.) There were times when I gave him too much to do, when I failed to monitor or enforce the protocol I told him to do, and when we both just completely dropped some of the protocol we agreed upon because things going on were just too much. And, eventually, we picked it back up again, I tightened the reigns, we check in, and we keep going.

The protocol part of our D/s was one of the most fun parts to play with, for me. I wanted to set up something really fun, and in-depth, and flexible; something that would keep the protocol as lively as it was when we were long distance and playing with all those tasks. So I started experimenting with forms, and this is what happened.

Making The Training Wheel

We were both a bit obsessed with it in the first year we lived together. We created a “training wheel,” areas of training for rife in his enslavement and submission, which we shorten to the acronym L-SHAFTS: Leather, Submission, Houseboy, Assistant, Fag, Trophy, Service. Each category has a short description of the intended ways that he’s “in training” for that subject, and each one has some ideas of what he’ll do to grow in that area.

rife's training wheel

Making The Protocol Game

After we had the training categories, I set up what we refer to as “the protocol game,” where I made little slips of paper with different protocols on them (roughly the same amount in each of the 7 categories, though some of them are easier for me to make protocol in than others).

It helped that we already had weekly check-ins about our D/s set up. At first, we would go over some specific questions: What was the most fun part of this week? What was the hardest? How did we do with protocol? How could we improve it? We would both reflect on the week past and plan the week ahead, gathering data from the experiments we were doing, and implement new protocol.

I set up a notebook, too, so that we could record the little strips of paper in the book and write a little about what each protocol was like. If there was one we really liked, we would implement it permanently.

protogolgame

Some of them, even though we really, really like them for a week, we don’t want to make into something permanent because they will likely lose their luster. For example, if rife had to wear a butt plug every single time he did house chores, it would get old and become ‘normal,’ but if he only does it occasionally, it’s still thrilling.

Making Protocol For Me

After we created 52 of these protocol slips and ‘played the game’ for a year, we reflected on the year and decided that yes, we did want to do it again, but with some changes. Namely: there were a whole bunch of protocol in rife’s set that were actually protocol that relied on me doing an action. For example, the protocol for rife to “wear jock straps every day for a week” he can do himself. But if the protocol is, “receive bruises every day,” that’s something I actually have to do. And we noticed, more often than not, that I wouldn’t actually do those things when he pulled that protocol.

It’s not that I don’t want to … but, well, between you and me? I’ve been struggling with my mental health balance a lot the past few years. I think it’s getting worse. I’m pursuing all kinds of avenues of support for this, but it’s making it very hard for me to do things I love, like write, work, teach, and be the badass dominant that I aspire to be.

(But that’s kind of a different post.)

So when we set up the second year of 52 protocol slips to pull, I also created a training wheel for myself and 52 of my own. Having my own protocol has been mostly challenging, but there have been some great things that have come out of that too.

Want to join me for an experiment in making your own protocol?

If this process of creating, implementing, and enforcing protocols through this Protocol Game method sounds interesting to you, you’re invited to come join the Protocol Game ecourse that starts this weekend. There will be two webinars, one this Saturday, March 5th, and one the following Saturday, and in between you’ll have a workbook to fill out. I’ll walk you through this entire process where you’ll create a training wheel and 52 corresponding protocol, and then make a way to check in about it and enforce.

Click here and reserve your spot!

If you are a submissive or a dominant or a switch, you’re invited—you just have to want to create 52 protocol. There’s even a price for couples to take it together, and create 104 protocol for both of you.

I could tell you a whole lot more about it, but mostly all the info is over on the Academy of D/s Confidence page for the course—so go check it out.

I’m really excited about it! I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Introducing View From The Top: My BDSM Journey

I’m so excited to have started writing a column over on Autostraddle called “View From The Top,” detailing my BDSM journey from being a bottom (before coming out) to being a master (and monogamish and partnered with a boy/boi and happier than I’ve ever been).

Over on the first column, which just came out and is called “I Started as a Bottom,” I kind of came out as a master. I mean, I know I’ve written about it here sometimes, but mostly kind of buried in posts and I haven’t written about it too too directly (yet). It’s scary! It’s a big word, a very loaded word to use and claim, and I hesitate to use it without a whooooole lot of back story to explain where I’m coming from, that I’m part of a community that uses those terms, etc.

So of course, in the comments of the article, there were questions about the use of the terms master and slave, particularly by someone white. I want to highlight my comment and rife’s, too, because I think this is a really interesting issue of semantics, language, and social justice, and I don’t feel 100% good about it, though it’s the best I have right now.

I wrote:

As the author of the post, to be honest, I’m completely uncomfortable with it. It’s something that I struggle with, precisely for the reasons you stated—primarily because I’m a white person and we have a particular, very very recent history of slavery in the US, where I live, the effects of which still benefit white people and me, specifically, and contribute to systemic racism.

There are quite a few folks who use pairings like Owner/property or Dom/sub instead of Master/slave, precisely because of their discomfort with those particular terms.

I’m about 5 years in to this exploration of what it means to be master and slave, and what it means to be part of that community, and it has been incredibly valuable to learn these skills and actually take part in that community. (Maybe I’ll go into this in a future column? Short version: This set of skills is something I’ve done in relationships unconsciously for a while, which was bad; and now that I’m doing it consciously, things are way better.) I resisted the particular words for a while, but after being part of the M/s world for longer and longer, I’ve grown more comfortable with it because of the difference in definition and usage.

I don’t see a lot of consciousness about this issue in the M/s world, which is predominantly white, though. Which I don’t like and am very uncomfortable with, and try to bring up and point out racist language and microagressions when I can (as I do in pretty much all communities I’m in, but I push myself to speak up a little more in this one).

For now, because it’s the most accurate words I have, I’m choosing to use them … but I’m not entirely unconflicted about that.

As a word lover, I think words can grow and change and morph definitions over time. While I do absolutely recognize the particular history that directly affects me, I also know that the words and concepts of master and slave are not a new invention in human history. The enslavement of African folks is just one of myriad examples throughout history. So I think that is one of the main arguments I hear about it—that the experience of ‘slavery’ is not so unique to that one part of history.

I use these words is because these are the most accurate words we have right now. I’m still new to this community and seeking to recognize others and find more friends who know about this stuff, so I’m using the words that are recognized by others so that we can find each other.

Identity words are complicated—some of them just *fit* better or differently than others. And these particular words fit what my boy and I are doing, particularly within the parts of the kink communities that practice them.

Also, if you ever have the chance to hear sex/BDSM educator Mollena do her workshop on taboos, which includes some of her philosophies about M/s languaging, I highly recommend it.

I think pursuing M/s is very complicated … There are many folks who don’t have an objection to those words based on race, but rather on the fact that enslavement is wrong. It’s complex to start unravelling fetishes that are on one hand, ‘morally wrong,’ but on the other hand, totally get you off and satisfy your life in a way that other things never have and in a bone-deep way you feel you need. I think in the RACK——”risk aware consensual kink”—camps, I understand that when things are done with full enthusiastic consent and taking responsibility for what happens, then it’s okay to fantasize and play. Personally, I want it to be done with a lot of consciousness and in a way that aligns with my values, but I also have to balance that with what sustains me, too.

rife wrote:

As a (white, American) who is identified as a slave, I initially struggled with the word, a lot.

What finally brought me around to it (I mean, other than my obvious erotic orientation to that kind of structured ownership fetish) was the realization that slavery has a long, long history. It has been around almost as long as humans. In some iterations, it was even consensual/contractual, like with certain Roman dynamics.

What I do has nothing to do with race play (although there isn’t anything *inherently* wrong with that). And honestly, if a black person told me they found my use of the word disrespectful, I would probably switch back to the more generic “property” descriptor. But here’s the thing: They haven’t, and I’ve had many soul-searching discussions with black friends, many of whom identify this way as well.

Let’s be clear: unconsensual slavery is abhorrent. Consensual slavery is fine. The two are very, very different. Just like rape is awful and consensual sex (even playing with faux-assault) is fine.

Here’s the other thing: it’s the best word for the job, despite its loaded cultural connotations. What else do you call a human who is owned? If we had another word for that, which wasn’t loaded with the unconsensual cultural history, maybe I would use that. But, we don’t. So I’ve made my peace with it.

I hear that it’s not a relationship structure you’d like to be in, fair enough! But be careful not to judge a relationship’s morals by how much you don’t want to be in it. :)

Though I’ve been stewing on this series for a while, and have already written 4 of the columns, I’m surprised and pleased at the impact it’s had so far and I think it’s bigger and more revealing than I expected. I kind of feel like I’m taking on the task of encapsulating my BDSM journey over the last, oh, 15-20 years, and trying to put it into ten or twelve columns to make a story. Feels a bit daunting, and very exciting. The folks at Autostraddle have been super supportive and the editing has been excellent, I so love working with good editors.

I really appreciate all the comments over there, and I’ve been replying to quite a few. (I miss that kind of comment conversation, where folks check back and actually reply—it’s been quite a few years since that’s happened on Sugarbutch, but I have some guesses as to why.)

If you have any particular questions or ideas of what you’d love to see me write about as I keep writing through this journey, I’d love to know. Questions or comments or ideas welcome.

On the Importance of Queer, Women Centered, & Feminist Sex Toy Shops (Map)

When I was traveling around to toy stores and bookstores across North America for the release of Say Please, I started keeping a list of the best of the best.

And eventually, I made a map of as many as I could find.

This is a totally US-centric map! Mostly because that’s where I live & work. I’d love to add more—what shops did I miss? Which should I add? Tell me in the comments + I’ll include it!

Link to the Google map of queer, women-centered, & feminist sex toy shops (just in case it doesn’t load up there)

I came out in Seattle in 1999, and I was lucky enough to be in close proximity to the first Babeland brick and morter store, where I started attending their workshops and smut readings, and I would go in with my scrimped ten bucks and get the best vibrator I could find. It took a long time for me to fully invest in quality silicone, or a real leather harness, but eventually, Babeland (which also has two stores in Manhattan & Brooklyn), and other stores, like Feelmore 510 in Oakland, became places that I frequented and invaluable resources.

The staff at women-centric, queer-friendly sex toy stores are often not just paid sales staff, but educators. The folks who work there know about safer sex practices, what lubes are good if you’re prone to yeast infections, and what kind of toys go with what kinds of lube or condoms. They can recommend different toys based on your body and your needs. I often find that they have a lot of knowledge about people of size, differing ability, body support, and other kinds of access needs. They often have tried out the newest toys and are up on all the latest goodies, so they can recommend all kinds of stuff.

These kinds of stores are well-lit, honest, out in the open, and sex-positive. There’s no flickering florescent blubs and weird backlit rooms for previewing porn videos (I don’t know about you, but that kind of thing was the sex toy store of my youth—and the only kind of sex toy store I knew about, until I found Babeland).

These kinds of stores often have all sorts of knowledge about women’s pleasure, about owning your own desires, about sustaining longer orgasms, about whatever kind of little pickle (ha ha) you might be dealing with in your own sex life. If you bring them your sex puzzles, they will help, is what I’m saying.

Good Vibrations has a Customer Service 800 number—(800) 289-8423 M-F 8am-5pm PST—which has made it into some famous erotica stories (see: this Herotica volume 3 collection from 1994 that I may or may not have read over and over and over and over. MAY OR MAY NOT), and which is staffed by sex educators who will eagerly help you figure out what toy to buy or how to get what it is you’re looking for.

This stuff goes way beyond “retail store” and far into the purpose of “community center” and “resource center.”

Plus, there are often classes and workshops, or erotica readings, at stores like these. If one of them is in your area, I highly suggest you get on their mailing list and keep up with their goings on.

I’m hoping that creating a map like this will be an easy resource for folks who are looking for the great sex-positive sex toy stores near them, and that also it will inspire us to keep patronizing these stores. They are so important + valuable to the sex worlds, and I really want to see them thrive.

If you’re not anywhere near one of these, you could check out some of these amazing shops online, too: Good Vibrations which has many different shops around the San Francisco Bay Area, JT’s Stockroom in LA, Early 2 Bed in Chicago, She Bop the Shop in Portland, Oregon, or Babeland.

Here’s the link to the Google map of queer, women-centered, & feminist sex toy shops that I have so far. Did I miss any? Please leave info on them in the comments & I’ll check them out! Make sure that they are:

  • Welcoming to all genders
  • Discerning about what kind of toys that they carry (e.g., they don’t carry toys made of plastics that are bad for the body)
  • Inclusive of and centered around women’s sexuality
  • Bonus points if they are queer- or woman-owned!

Microagressions & Misgendering: “Right this way, ladies.”

Interacting with service industry folks—in restaurants, at retail stores, at airports, schools, or health care offices—can be daunting and exhausting for genderqueer folks like me. It is so, so common for me and the group of queer folks I’m with to be referred to as “ladies” (which tells you that I don’t spend a lot of time with genderqueer or cis or trans men, which is true actually, I’m very much in a dyke bubble), and I feel so deflated when that happens.

No, no. It’s not just ‘deflated,’ though yes that’s part of it. It’s also a very real microagression. It’s a very real way that the larger culture, made up of thousands of individuals, gender polices us into binary categories and reminds anybody outside of those categories that we are wrong, unseen, invisible, and unimportant.

This has happened to me for years. It’s kind of related to the thing that happens when genderqueer folks have to pee in public and get hassled in both the women’s or the men’s bathrooms (and there’s a variety of pieces of activism and public awareness happening around that one, too—see, for example, Ivan Coyote’s recent Tedx talk We all need a safe place to pee). But while I can actually hold out and only pee in certain (single-stall) bathrooms, and I can have some control over peeing in public, it’s much harder to just not go interact with any service people, so as to avoid this issue.

Look, I get it. Caring that I’m addressed as “miss” or “ma’am” or that friends and I are called “ladies” sometimes seems like a very small thing on a trans activism scale, especially when so many trans women were murdered in 2015. Sometimes I think this issue of language is a tiny, “politically correct” thing that I should just let go and stop caring so damn much.

And I’ve heard folks say, “Hey, I don’t care if they call me/us ‘ladies,’ because at least they’re being nice to us and not kicking us out of this restaurant.” Which also tells you that I have primarily been queer and genderqueer and visibly different in cities and liberal small towns not so much in places more dangerous to queers.

This issue of gendering groups as a microagression has a certain amount of privilege in it. Absolutely.

And, as someone who continues to move in liberal circles, in large urban areas, in trans- and queer-centered communities, this hurts my feelings. Frequently. Daily.

Gender Perception & Getting a Thicker Skin

Part of the answer, I think, is actually to get a ‘thicker skin’, and I think in general folks who are outside of the mainstream do need to develop a good, solid sense of self, bolstered by community and lovers and theory and random strangers on the internet, to just deal with the reality that not everybody gets us. And for genderqueer and gender non-conforming and masculine of center and feminine of center folks, and trans folks who aren’t exactly ‘passing’ to some cis standard, developing a thicker skin is important. I think we also just need to be very discerning about when we want to offer some education, or feedback, and when we want to just go about our lives. Sometimes it’s exhausting to try to change the world all the time, to come up against gender norms, to fight against the binary system. And sometimes I just need to buy some eggs and get off to my meeting, and who cares what that person sees me as or thinks of me or what words they use.

That’s kind of about “gender perception,” right—the idea that part of your gender identity is how you are perceived by others. (The Gender Book has a great page on gender perception, click on the image in the 4th row 1st column here.) Personally, I’ve struggled with this—not that there’s some way I want to be perceived and am not, but rather I’ve struggled with the idea that what other people think of you matter or should affect one’s sense of self at all. It’s taken me some time to see how important it is, and to go through some of my own identity developments where my identities are then somewhat invisible, and aren’t perceived by others, and to have that really piss me off, has helped me understand how valuable it is at times in people’s lives.

Sometimes, I think how others perceive me is very important. Especially if it’s someone I interact with all the time—my family, my friends, my close community; even someone who works somewhere that I regularly frequent. Those are all important, and I do tend to (eventually) say something about gender, or make a comment about my pronouns. But for the person who is checking me out at the grocery store, or the server at a restaurant I rarely (if ever) go to? Most of the time, I just don’t have the energy to have that conversation. I used to, I suppose, but after more than 15 years of this happening? I just don’t anymore.

Okay wait: a note on class

This kind of misgendering most often happens in the service industry, so I want to write something here about class. I hope we are being aware of the class implications of speaking up or attempting to shift the way a server or service provider is gendering you/us. As a working/artist class person my whole life, I am acutely aware of how we treat folks in the service industry, and I think it’s SO important to enter into conversations with service folks with respect. The amount of pejorative, condescending language and tones that are used with service folks is horrible. And there’s a lot of unexamined privilege in folks who have never really been in a service position, or who have been out of the service industry for a long time. They’re a person, you’re a person. So I just want to encourage us all to watch our conversations here, and to do some examining about what we think of the service industry, and to ask ourselves if that’s really true. (For example: That everyone who works there isn’t smart enough to get a job anywhere else, or must have failed at other jobs, or must not be very good at anything. Probably none of those are true, but they are common stereotypes about service folks.)

Also: as a genderqueer/GNC person, I know that I don’t always have the patience and clarity it takes to interact in moments of microagressions with lots of respect and precision. I just don’t—sometimes I snap and it comes out yucky. Which is another reason, I suppose, why I’ve kind of stopped speaking up in most of these moments of misgendering—because I don’t want to be rude to someone who is just doing their job.

But sometimes, I do want to say something. And I do love how there are some new options (I’ll get to that in a minute, I swear—down at the bottom of this post) for conversations and becoming more aware of gendered language.

Ultimately: I want to strive for respecting folks when I am consuming their services, and be aware of the class implications.

Oh hey, here’s another question: I assume servers at restaurants and cashiers at shops aren’t trained to say “ladies” and “guys,” right? I’ve never actually been a server (though I’ve been a cashier for many years), so I’m not totally clear. It’s so SO so prevalent in the restaurant worlds that sometimes I think it must be in the handbook! But maybe it’s just in the culture? Unspoken, uninforced, but somehow we all absorb it? I’m curious about that.

Download the Gender-Neural Language Sheet

So this is a new possible way to interact with this service/misgendered language issue: the Queer Resource Center in BC adapted a card into a “gender neutral language sheet”, and you can download them for free here.

Toni Latour released “Hello There” cards earlier in 2015, in collaboration with Jenny Lynn and James Alexander Kelly. She’s not the first person I’ve heard who had this idea—in fact, when I first saw the image, I thought, drat, I wasn’t fast enough. I’ve had this thought many times, and I even remember sketching up a draft of it in Oregon on a road trip with rife in 2013. But Toni Latour is the one who made them and printed them up.

And now, the BC Queer center adapted Latour’s “Hello There” cards to be more inclusive and less “ladies” specific. Latour’s cards read:

Hello-2

When greeting customers, instead of saying ladies, gentelmen, ma’am, sir, girls, guys, and the like, please consider using gender neutral language. Here are some options: “Good morning folks.” “Hi everyone.” “Can I get you all something?” “And for you?” “Thanks friends, have a wonderful night.” Why? Shifting to gender neutral language respects and acknowledges the gender identities of all people and removes assumption. Join the movement to be more mindful of language. And if you make a mistake and misgender someone, it’s okay, say sorry once and move on. Thank you for making an effort!

The revised cards from QBC read:

hellothere

When greeting others, avoid ladies, gentlemen, ma’am, sir, girls, guys, etc. Consider using instead: “Thanks friends, have a great night.” “Good morning, folks!” “Hi, everyone!” “And for you?” “Can I get you all something?” Why? Shifting to gender-inclusive language respects and acknowledges the gender identities of all people and removes assumption. Be mindful of language.

A note about “guys.”

A lot of folks have said that they use “guys,” and that that is gender neutral. I just want to go on record and say that I disagree, actually, it is not. I do understand that in this culture, we very often hear groups of various gendered people referred to as “guys,” and that it’s presumed to include everyone in the group, not just the young-ish men. I do understand that it is intended to mean “everyone” or “people” or “hey you folks over there.” However, in the realities of language, it is not neutral: it is masculine.

That this society treats the masculine, the male, the man, as the default and indeed as the ‘neutral’ is precisely one of the most sexist issues at play here. When something as fundamental as our language says that men are the norm and the default, and women are the other and the strange, then it affects every other aspect of our culture, too. (There are many writings and resources on this concept out there, I’m sure … I remember studying it extensively in language & gender studies classes in college in 2002. I’m not sure where to point you for more on it, though. Anybody have a good resource to recommend?)

I can often default to calling everybody “guys,” especially when talking to masculine of center queers and genderqueer folks, but I try not to. It’s inaccurate, and frankly it perpetuates the notion that masculinity is the norm, and I don’t want to do that. But, I’m a total nerd about language and gender, so I know that not everybody wants to do that kind of work on how they see the world and interact with words. I’m hoping, though, since you are still reading, that you have that interest and intention.

On Standing Up for Someone Else

Funny enough, this whole thing just happened this weekend, when the server referred to our table—two butches and a femme—as “ladies,” and I had a similar conversation about what we can/should do about it. The femme who was there asked us what our reaction was to it, and if it felt appropriate for her to say something, which I really appreciated. Honestly, when I’ve been in mixed gender groups, often it’s the folks who do not identify as ‘ladies’ who speak up the least, and sometimes having someone else speak up on my behalf makes me feel even more tired and exhausted and segregated and spotlighted—which doesn’t feel good. I think it has in the past made me feel very taken care of, and protected, but these days, it makes me feel annoyed and too singled out to have someone say something on my behalf.

I mean, if you want to speak up about this because it bugs you, by all means please do so, and I got your back. But if you want to speak up because you think that I am insulted and deflated and am now reacting to a microagression and want/need/would appreciate someone else speaking up for me, please don’t.

So if you’re someone who wants to speak up on behalf of someone else, perhaps you could just check in with them and make sure that you are acting in their best interest, and not just projecting your discomfort onto them.

Is this conversation completely among trans/masculine people?

I’m glad that the edits between the first “Hello There” cards and the new Gender Neutral Language Sheet have moved from being less lady-centric, but it makes me wonder: How does this happen in the service industry for folks who are not masculine of center or trans masculine? I imagine similar things happen, getting addressed as “gentlemen” or “guys,” but maybe not? I’ll have to ask around and see what I can find about that.

Most of the dialogue that I’ve seen already around this is dominated by trans masculine folks, so I wonder how we can take up a little less space and ask more questions and talk about this in ways that are relevant to other folks. Or maybe it’s just a very trans masculine issue, and there’s nothing wrong with that really—it just could mean that the conversation is a bit different.

Regardless, I’m curious about why this is so centered on masculinity, and if that’s because of old fashioned sexism and overvaluing the masculine (which is my guess). Still gathering more data about this.

I’m also curious about server’s experiences of this, if you all have been corrected and what you’ve done about it, and where that form of address comes from.

This is not a conclusion

This is not the end of my thoughts about this, but it’s a start. I am curious to see these cards gaining in popularity and making the rounds, and glad to see a second version of them made. I definitely plan to carry some around with me.

Coming to your college campus (spring tour dates!)

Since 2009, I’ve been traveling around, visiting different colleges around the US and Canada, and teaching workshops about sexualities, genders, relationships, and kink. Generally I do this in the spring and fall semesters, so I have the summer and a few months in the winter to work on other things, revamp my classes, and send out even more pitch letters saying, “Hey! Bring me to your school! :)”

I’ll be traveling again this spring to a variety of places! I’d love to come visit YOUR college campus, too. Here’s some info about how to bring me, if you’re interested, and where I’m already planning to be this spring.

  • January 21-25 – Seattle, WA, private retreat
  • February 24 – Los Angeles, CA
  • February 25-27 – San Diego, CA
  • March 4-5 – 5 College Conference, Amherst, MA
  • March 11-13 – San Jose, Butchmann’s Experience
  • March 18-20 – Oakland, CA, Body Trust spring equinox
  • March 31 – April 4 – Asheville, NC
  • April 5-7 – Atlanta, GA
  • April 15-17 – Houston, TX
  • April 29 – SUGARBUTCH’S 10TH ANNIVERSARY (there will be a party)
  • May ? – Twin Cities, MN
  • June 10-12 – Palm Springs, CA for DESIRE Leather Women
  • July 7-11 – Seattle, WA, private retreat
  • July 20-24 – Body Trust’s annual Portals of Pleasure retreat

More details of these events TBA!

If you are near any of these places, I might be able to add on a day or two to stop and do a workshop with YOU (that often means costs are cheaper since I can do ’em in bulk).

This is what a workshop with me is (kinda) like

My most popular workshop is Fucking with Gender, which I’ve done for more than 5 years now and continues to be asked for at colleges all over the US. It’s kinda edgy, and full of genderqueerness and trans things and frank talk about sex and power and the intersectional issues of fighting the kyriarchy. Download the PDF of all the descriptions of my workshops here.

More details about my workshops over here on the workshops page at my portfolio site. Get in touch with Shelly from OUTmedia, who is helping me to organize these travels, at info@outmedia.org if you want to ask more questions or see if I’m a good fit to come chat with you.

The Best Queer Sex Blogs

A friend of mine emailed me this week asking for recommendations for other queer erotica online. I emailed her back with some links off the top of my head, but I’ve been pondering this question since then … where ARE all the queer sex bloggers? The ones who write erotica, I mean, not the ones who are writing sex commentary (because there are certainly some of those) or about butch/femme culture (ditto some of those) or who are reviewing toys (also some good ones) or are actual video/photographic porn (yay, but not erotica) or who aren’t writing anymore (there are a few who haven’t updated in years).

Kinkly has a top sex bloggers ranked list, but they don’t specify if they’re queer or not, or what kind of sex blog it is—and most of the ones at the top are sex toy blogs.

So here’s some recommendations of my personal favorite places to go read smutty erotica words written by and about queers. Am I missing anyone? Leave comments with recommendations, please!

1. BD Swain, www.bdswain.com

stare-hard-1

From the micro-stories on her Instagram to the longer works on her blog, BD Swain has written some of my favorite smut ever. Mostly butch/femme, but switchy, and includes some other pairings occasionally.

Excerpt from Stare Hard:

My fingers on her panties, pushing between her lips, feeling the wet lace between her legs. My own wet fingers on my belt buckle. Feeling like there’s no time. Not enough time. For hours, all night, not enough. Her skin is so soft. I stare down at her as I trace the outlines of her body with my fingertips. Sliding my fingers down each leg and back again to her pussy. “Spread your legs wider,” I say, bending over, “Let me smell you.”

Also, if you like BD’s dirty photos, pick up her custom deck of poker cards. So hot.

2. Xan West, xanwest.wordpress.com

ShowYourselftoMe

Mostly they write about writing erotica, and there are not as many actual erotic stories on their site, but there are excerpts from their upcoming novel “Shocking Violet.” Definitely check out his new book Show Yourself To Me (there’s one story from that book on Sugarbutch, called “The Tender Sweet Young Thing”).

Excerpt from A Tease from Shocking Violet:

She laughed. “So you want a free show, hmm? Well let me do it right, then.” And she slowly peeled off her high-necked black cat sweater. Jax stilled, stopped breathing. A couple of thick straps held up a gorgeous neckline. He could see her bare throat, and her arms. All that skin and ink. And her cleavage…damn. Fuck if she didn’t shimmy again for him, all tease and arched back, a wicked grin on her face.

“Don’t forget to breathe, honey,” she drawled.

She was right. He wasn’t fucking breathing. He licked dry lips and tipped his glass to her before taking a swallow of cool water.

3. Words Can Be Sexy, wordscanbesexy.com

queer quickies

Written by non-monogamous, trans, queer femme Olivia Dromen, hir work is incredibly sexy and detailed and well-written and full of genderqueerness. This is a new link for me, so I’m excited to dive into the archives and devour it all.

Excerpt from [Short] Overwhelmed:

“Take off your panties and lay down across my knee.” Zir voice is very calm, as if this is something we do every day.

It isn’t.

Ze pats zir knees with both hands.

4. Kyle, www.butchtastic.net

cropped-KyleBrowngradient

Butch/femme, butch/butch, writings about gender … Kyle has been one of my favorite bloggers since he started Butchtastic.

Excerpt from I Know What You Been Doing:

“I found your magazines, girl. Found your nasty magazines with their sticky pages. I know what you do with those magazines.” My hips are pressing a little harder against your ass. The hand around your waist has dropped a bit lower, my hand now resting on your thigh. My other hand is tightening slightly across your throat. You squirm against me with a groan. ”You like lookin’ at those men with their cocks hangin’ out, don’t you? You look at those dirty pictures and rub your naughty cunt, don’t you?”

“Daddy… I’m sorry… what… what are you going to do to me?” The mixture of anticipation and fear in your voice makes my clit pulse.

5. CW Toklas, cwtoklas.wordpress.com

cwtoklas

CW’s blog is new, starting fall 2015, but there are already excellent pieces up and waiting for readers. I’ll be watching this as it grows.

Excerpt from Moist Denim:

“Good girl,” she whispered into her ear and continued to ravish her mouth.

Beth couldn’t help it. The kiss was all consuming and she began to rock, leaning forward in order to open herself fully and rub her engorged clit on her mistress’s jeans.

6. Trans Fag Sex Journals, transfagssexjournals.blogspot.com

From the description: “two transfags of color living in a big city, exploring safe anonymous play with bio-boys.” This is new to me, and doesn’t have updates since 2014, but the archives are rich and interesting.

Excerpt from the threesome:

we move to my bedroom. i lie back and my regular begins sucking me off. bottom boy drops his cock into my mouth and i blow him. then they switch places i suck my regular’s cock while bottom boy blows me. i grab condoms. my regular moves between my legs and pushes into me. i sit up so i can suck his boy’s cock while he fucks me. this goes on for a while then my regular asks bottom boy if he wants to fuck me. he nods.

7. Rebekah Weatherspoon, www.rebekahweatherspoon.com/blog

Rebekah doesn’t have a lot of stories online, but she has tons of ebooks and they’re fantastic. Her book “At Her Feet” is a Mommy/girl story, and it’s fantastic. She’s also an avid erotica reader and has tons of recommendations of other titles, and also runs WOC in Romance, highlighting romance written by women of color (not queer, but important!).

8. Kiki Delovely, kikidelovely.wordpress.com

Kiki’s work is mostly in erotica anthologies, but she does have some excerpts on her blog.

Excerpt from Yes, Daddy:

“I’m going to have to shove my big, hard cock inside of you and fuck you until you’re screaming out in pain, our guests watching and waiting. After that, I’ll leave you to them, allowing them to do with you as they please.”

“NO, Daddi!” I cry out before I can catch myself. Your free hand lands severely on my ass, harder this time, my body uncontrollably releasing a violent jerk as I swallow the pain.

“You will take your punishment like a good grrl.”

9. Jen Cross, writingourselveswhole.org

Jen has run Writing Ourselves Whole, writing workshops “at the intersection of sex and trauma,” for a decade, and her work is phenomenal. She doesn’t have a lot of her erotic writing online, but she did undertake a masturbation May project, We Can Come Home, a few years back and that is fascinating to read. Her work explores the very complicated intersection of desire and healing, and much of it is explicit.

Excerpt from Opening the Throat:

Today I did it the new way, me in my shower, back bent against the porcelain, shower head switched to massage and held between my legs, the water hot as I can stand it. I say, Good morning, body. This is for us today. I say, thank you. I float into the conversation with my mother, then pull myself back. That was last night, that was another moment, that is not what I’m here for now. Now I’m in the bliss of your mouth (the water is so much easier to make into a mouth than the vibrator — a new development for my fantasy life), maybe we’re at a fancy bathroom at a fancy party and you shift aside my long skirt to find stockings, garter belt — and nothing else. Then you are asking me to sing, and I moan into the white quiet of my bathroom. I get loud, breathe hard, cry out, oh my god oh my god oh my god. This is a new way, too.

10. Jack Stratton, www.writingdirty.com

Jack writes mostly m/f erotica—and some of my very favorite smut of all time—but he also has a variety of gay erotic pieces, which I find complex and interesting. Not exactly a queer erotica writer, but he’s pretty queer, and you might find things you like in his extensive archives.

Excerpt from The Shaving Lesson:

“You just keep watching her finger fuck herself. You keep your eyes on her and then it doesn’t make it gay that I’m jerking you off,” Adam teased with a cruel laugh.

Henry felt the fear mix with a little anger. It felt like Adam was reading his mind and laughing at him.

“I’ll let you know when I think of an excuse that will keep you straight while you suck my cock.”

Two more!

The exciting thing about publishing lists like this on the internet is that they are totally changeable! Just because I didn’t include these two the first time around doesn’t mean they can’t be added. Since I published this list, I’ve been asking around and trying to find even more amazing queer erotica writers who publish their work online. Here’s two more that you gotta check out.

11. Benji Bright, Underwear Tales

Benji-Bright-by-Johnny-Murdoc-1
Benji Bright’s work was recommended to me by Xan West, and I’m very glad to have discovered it. He has many stories in anthologies and, recently, his own short story collection Boy Stories.

From He Doesn’t Want to Call It What It Is:

He doesn’t want to call it what it is. The words nag at him, but it is easy to shake them off when there’s someone else’s tongue pressed hard against him, slavering, and using the mouth to which it’s attached in order to shape filthy words: ‘I’m going to use your hole,’ ‘I’m going to fill you up with my spit and cum,’ ‘I’m going to fuck you like the beast you are.’

12.

Giselle Renarde, Donuts and Desires

giselle
I adore Giselle Renarde’s work. She is in dozens of anthologies, and has an elaborate page of free smut online at her blog.

From Prude’s Failsafe Advice for Eating Ass:

With a giggle and a growl, Gloria went at my hole like crazy. She licked it up and down, then swirled around in circles. She was forceful about it, too. When she thrust her tongue into my ass, my soul just about jumped from my body. I watched her do it, and still I was in disbelief. If it wasn’t for that slip of latex separating her from me, I’d never have let her do this. I didn’t mind so much, though, knowing she was tasting raspberry and not me.

Gloria made happy noises as she lunged at my ass, fucking me with her tongue. It felt fat inside me, with far more girth than her finger. As she went at me, I reached for my clit and found it engorged, my pussy dripping with juice.

Bonus

  • Also check out the guest post section here on Sugarbutch – mostly the guest posts include the authors I’ve mentioned above, but you still might find something exciting.
  • Someone suggested Archive of Our Own, which is primarily fan fiction but includes quite a bit of queer erotica if you’re willing to dig through the archives.
  • There are a few internet archive sites of erotica that include queer work, like Nifty, which is exclusively LGBT, Literotica, and Lust Stories, but the quality is very hit-and-miss.

There MUST be other gay boy erotica blogs out there, but I don’t know them. I mean there must be other queer erotica blogs in general—please tell me this list is incomplete! Honestly, I have been looking and asking on Twitter & Facebook and this is the best of the best that I can come up with. Who have I missed? Do you write erotica & share it online?

Please let me/us all know in the comments!

The Exact Right Word: National Coming Out Day and Chosen Identities

For #nationalcomingoutday, here are some words I use to describe myself and some identities that I have actively cultivated:

white
butch
queer
writer
survivor
genderqueer
masculine of center
poet
teacher
bookworm
introvert
HSP
hedonist
working artist
social activist
able bodied
Pacific Northwestern American
Daddy
Master
cock-centric
college educated
2nd generation woo
Buddhist
foodie

For a while, I kept a list of words in the back of my journal, making a note to myself anytime I heard myself say, “I’m a _____.” I would write it down and think about it, pondering if I really am that thing or if it was a passing moment of identifying as such. Some of the words that came out of that are survivor, introvert, and hedonist, as well as the more often-used social justice ones, like butch and queer and dyke and gendequeer.

There are some other words—like lesbian, dyke, and trans—that are almost the right word, and which I sometimes use and sometimes identify with, but that aren’t always precisely right.

There are a few more that are complex and I hesitate to list, like yogi and tantrika, because while I do practice yoga and tantra, I haven’t quite been able to reconcile the cultural appropriation that surrounds me with those activities enough to be comfortable to use the identity labels to refer to myself. (So for now, I go with 2nd generation woo.)

There are a few more that I aspire to, but don’t quite have yet … like gardener and runner, which are identities in progress but not quite integrated. I do have a garden (finally!!), but I frequently forget about it. And I did run two 5k races in the past two years (hurrah!) but again, that habit doesn’t feel consistent, and isn’t quite an identity yet, just an occasional burst of interest.

And what’s the word for someone who tends to be depressed, or who struggles with depression? I don’t quite want to say neurodivergent or depressive, those seem too intense. Something a little more mild that says that I tend toward internalizing emotions rather than externalizing, and tend toward feeling down rather than feeling up (anxious). Or maybe this is a case where I have to reclaim a word, or use something that seems overly harsh and is misunderstood (like depressive).

There’s a lot to think about on National Coming Out Day … I’m particularly interested in identities, and what we call ourselves, and how we claim our power in these words and communities, but I also recognize that for many people, being associated with the identities that have marginalized them feels an awful lot like being marginalized all over again.

I believe that we should find the precise right words that are big enough to contain all the multitudes of us, and not sacrifice our selves to fit into labels which constrict. I believe the identity should conform to us, that we shouldn’t conform to it. And I believe that labels and identities and words that describe ourselves should always be the starting place, not the ending place, of the conversation—a place of opportunity to know more and ask questions and listen, not a place to fill in our own assumptions and determine the truths of others.

I’ll leave you of the Mark Twain quote: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning-bug.”

What identities do you claim? What words do you use to define yourself?

“Submission is mine to define for myself.” Interview with Miss Piggy

Miss Piggy was a player in Submissive Playground in 2014, and is signed up to join us again. She is the Social Activities Director of the Society of Janus in San Francisco.

What did you like about the course? What parts of it stand out?

There were a lot of things I liked about the course, but the first that stands out for me is that I felt like Mr. Sexsmith led me through a lot of pondering that I hadn’t done yet, about a variety of topics. I was still/am still very new, and it gave me an organized, thoughtful approach to my own kinks and interests. The quality of the materials was very high – the videos were very informative and entertaining, and I haven’t seen that caliber elsewhere. Mr. Sexsmith and rife are also “informative and entertaining” – you can really see how beautiful and thought-out their relationship is and how that shapes their perspectives.

The other aspect that was very special was the camaraderie with subs from all over the world. Everyone was so different in terms of their dynamics, orientation and interests, but each person was more fascinating that the last! Having people video chat and tell their stories was so cool. I might pay to do the class again just so I can learn from all the next group’s stories.

What drew you to Submissive Playground? Where were you before you took the course?
I was a fairly new submissive when I found out about the Playground. I was reading everything I could get my hands on, taking classes, and getting involved in the local scene. But I needed more, and everything I read pointed me to the Submissive Playground (especially the idea of homework).

What was your favorite part of the experience?
Hearing from submissives of every gender and orientation from all over the world. Having someone share a deep, dark scary secret and several of us all piping in “ME TOO!”

What did you learn?
I learned that I am ok as the submissive I am, and I can strive to become the submissive I want to be. It’s not about the end game, it’s about the journey. The Playground was an important part of that journey.

What kind of skills did you build?
Discovering what kinds of service are important to each of my partners and following through on those things, instead of making myself crazy trying to be perfect with things they couldn’t care less about. And flirting with Tops and Sadists and Dominants (oh my!) while still feeling submissive.

What changed with your relationship to submission?
Realizing it was mine (and my partners) to define for ourselves – there isn’t a right answer.

What changed with your relationship to your dominant?
Watching the assigned videos with Him, or sharing specific readings, was the best part. Further opening lines of communication – me finding my voice to say that something wasn’t working for me (bad pain versus good pain, suffering for His pleasure versus being miserable). Even for a strong, alpha submissive like myself, those are hard things to say aloud to a partner.

What in you feels stronger now than it did before the course?
My trust in my own gut to know when a relationship or scene isn’t right for me. My confidence that as a fat, middle-aged masochist submissive cis-woman, I am a hot catch for the right people and anyone who earns my service or submission better be damn worth it.

How & why would you recommend this to other submissives?
While I got lots of answers to my unresolved questions from this class, I felt more focused on the wonderful questions it brought to my attention. I found myself wandering my neighborhood caught up in a question that came up on a phone call or in one of the videos.

If you are intelligent, thoughtful, submissive (or might be), curious and ideally witty, I think you’ll get a lot out of it, even if it’s not what you think you’ll get out of it. It’s really a bit of a journey – I’m glad I took it seriously.


january-subplay

Submissive Playground
registration is open!

There are only 4 Star Package spots left! Registration is open until September 18; course begins September 24.

Click here to reserve your spot now!

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.


january-subplay

Submissive Playground
registration is open!

There are only 4 Star Package spots left! Registration is open until September 18; course begins September 24.

Click here to reserve your spot now!

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

What the Heck is “Sub Space,” Anyway? Guest Post by rife

sub space (noun):

  1. A feeling of active submission, often in response to a random act of domination. Can be accompanied by weak knees, blushing, or giggling. Ex: That domme can always put me in sub space just by grabbing my arm and growling something sexy in my ear.
  2. A feeling of euphoric abandon during or after heavy physical or psychological play. Can be accompanied by a lack of verbal or intellectual faculties. Necessitates a high degree of trust and previous communication with the dominating partner, or else Bad Things can happen. Ex: I slipped into sub space while being flogged the other night and I’ve been all floaty ever since.

Let’s talk about this.

Of course, I just pulled the above out of my ass. We don’t have one unified kink dictionary yet. Your definition will probably vary, and it seems like many local communities use similar words or phrases to mean vastly different things. Like all ambiguous, sceney words out there, the idea of ‘sub space’ could be improved with a little examination, so when we throw around words with our partners or potential play partners, we have a better chance of being on the same page, and thus having better/safer/more fulfilling play.

And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

So why take on sub space at all? Unlike the other words out there with questionable/changeable definitions, this one hope to the top of my personal pet peeves for unclear language because it is important for Sub Safety.

Public Service Announcement to all the other subs, slaves, and sluts out there: Saying you can’t be trusted to consent/express your own boundaries/say when you’ve had enough while “in sub space” does not absolve you of your responsibility to the safety of the scene.

A vague heads-up is only likely to frighten the pants off the potential domme of your dreams, as well it should. And not in a sexy way, either. Here’s what is more useful: “Hey, sexy top… Can we do a little more negotiation about my boundaries now, before we start the hot and heavy stuff? When I’m all worked up, I know I’m less great at communicating. Here’s what it looks like when I’ve had enough, here’s a secret signal we can use to pause the scene if needed, here are some things I know I’ll regret if we get into, so please don’t do them no matter how much I may beg and plead in the moment… Does that make sense? Okay, thanks, hottie.”

Yes, that takes a little more time and forethought and maybe it’ll be awkward the first time, but this is your job: to communicate your boundaries in a way a reasonable human can understand them. If you know you will be less likely to be able to express them well in the heat of the moment, while gagged and bound and being singletailed (and who could blame you?), it is your job to express them upfront. Period.

Not every boundary ever, mind you. Your casual date probably doesn’t need to know about your hard limits around bestiality and scat play. But saying you have “no limits,” is unhelpful to your top and, frankly, untrue. I am a 24/7 owned slave who has agreed to do anything my Master requests, but even I have limits. My job of protecting my own body and spirit and mind comes first. It’s just part of taking care of Master’s property.

Everyone who plays with submission has this responsibility, regardless if it’s for an hour or a weekend. Dominants who don’t read your mind or pick up on your subtle, mixed, euphoric messages in the heat of the moment are not abusers, they are human. They should not be shunned from play spaces, they should be sympathized with.

It is your job to express your limits. It is the dominant’s job to respect those limits.

Both sides of the slash sometimes fuck up in this. Dear submissives of the world, my community, my people: do your job. We will all have more safe, sexy times for it.

We play with dangerous stuff sometimes. We dance ballet around psychological landmines and put our bodies into compromising positions every day. For fun! Because we are awesome, strong, confident, capable, adventurous individuals. Let’s do it with eyes open, and abandon the “sub space” excuse for (what is, frankly) bad behavior once and for all.

I mean, I’m all for Risk Aware Consensual Kink, and if you decide you do want to go blindly into a scene without safewords or negotiation and let yourself go swimming in the deep end of your sub space without a capable lifeguard on duty inside your own brain, that is your body and your choice. But please, for the sake of your dominant, make sure they are on board with the risk you both are taking. After all, if your [unexpressed] boundaries do get crossed, they share the psychological burden of the effects, through no fault of their own.

After all, we’re not actually victims (though many of us are survivors). We have agency here. That’s what makes kink kinky and not abuse. We are a team with our dominants to create exciting, ecstatic experiences, and it’s about time we took a little more responsibility for our role in maintaining our own wellness, both in-scene and after.


january-subplay

Submissive Playground
registration is open!

And it is already filling up! Deepen your relationship with submission, and with your dominant. Registration is open until September 18; course begins September 24.

Click here to reserve your spot now!

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

You’ll Never Find the Perfect Dominant

You’re right: You won’t ever find a dominant who is your most perfect match.

If you listen way down deep, there’s a voice telling you that. You have very particular needs, desires, cravings, and your submission is demanding, sometimes feeling endless. You want and want and want, and who can fill that up with anything that leaves a mark? You won’t ever find someone as good as your ex. You won’t ever find someone as good as the person who introduced you to submission, who whispered those most perfect dirty things in your ear and told you to get on your knees. You will come on too strong to the next sexiest person you’ve ever seen and they will whisper to their friends about how much you “aren’t a real submissive” or are “topping from the bottom.” You are too much. Too big. Too thick. Too mouthy. Too bratty. You will never get your needs met. You will never find someone who matches your particular specialties in submission, your unique perspectives on service and masochism and giving over your body and will and all the dirt under your fingernails. Your dirty hands are too dirty. Your dirty mind is too dirty. Your next dominant just wants to sit on the couch and have you pour more wine, and where does that leave you? You have to wait, to beg, to crave touch, to sit still with skin hunger that may feel like it will devour you, to be disappointed.

You won’t find the perfect dominant for you.

Unless you Do The Work.

Look at the parts of yourself that are yours and only yours. Excavate some of those unknown places until you can see around them and know why they’re there. Acknowledge what it is that you want and what it is you just won’t settle for, and you will have a much better chance to find (and be) the right partner. Until you know what you want, you may not find it. Until you look deep at your part in your patterns, you will probably keep repeating them. Until you fill your own holes, you may continue to have a bottomless pit of desire and need that you think can only be filled by another person. Define your own cosmology of icons and worship and desire. Define your own dictionary of touch and connection and intimacy. Write the perfect love letter to the universe detailing all of the amazing things you secretly wish hope dream for in a lover and mail it off on the wind to fall and float down a waterfall. You can do it. You have wells of untapped strength.

Submissives are the strongest people I know.

Your demands are reasonable. Your desires are reasonable. Your wants are reasonable. Your unique particular weirdo gender is reasonable, and beautiful. Your too-much-ness is exactly the reason why you will be wanted, why you will be craved when you are not around, why someone who doesn’t even know you is craving you right now.

There is nothing wrong with you, or with the kind of submission that you most secretly, way down in your bones, seek.

I do actually believe that. But you have to believe it, too.

And then you have to go after it, with such vigilance that you won’t accept no for an answer, and your own no is an eager blade to get anything not serving your journey out of the way. Take up arms. Take up protest. Take up your favorite friends as armor, as council, as confidants. Take up your rightful space in the room. Take more dessert than you were served. Take the most amazing gift of yourself to the person who really could use it, right now, today.

Take the next step.

Queer Masculinity in Porn: Heavenly Spire, Stepfather’s Secret, & More

Weekly, rife and I have a private little ritual on Saturday mornings where we make pancakes and watch porn. I’m not sure exactly how it started, we probably did that one Saturday and decided we should do it again. (I have discovered that I don’t really like watching porn while I’m eating, it makes my mouth feel all weird. So the porn and pancakes are separate. Just in case you were wondering.)

I don’t have much of a history of boy-on-boy action, but being involved with this boy has made me more curious about gay porn. I’ve watched a lot of queer porn over the years, with lots of trans folks and genderqueer hotties and butches and femmes, but not a lot of cis guys. (Also, have you noticed that porn with trans women is kind of booming? Maybe it’s just because I started following Chelsea Poe, but I am really inspired by the activism and visibility that’s been happening. And the fucking hotness.)

So the boy and I have been exploring all sorts of fag porn, looking into the things we think we’d like, from leather BDSM porn to daddy/boy explorations.

So far, Stepfather’s Secret on men.com has been my favorite, though “Sexual Education” with James Darling and Allen Silver on Pinklabel also stands out.

I’m surprised how much tenderness is depicted. I suppose partly it’s because of the genres I’ve been primarily watching—leather and daddy/boy—I think those tend to be more tender than average. But I’ve been really touched by the variety of depictions of masculinity.

I’ve also noticed the wide range of types of bodies. Perhaps it’s that the big-ness of men and masculine bodies is what’s fetishized, while with women (and feminine bodies) usually the slightness, thinness, and smallness is fetishized, but I’ve been enjoying seeing the sizes depicted as desirable and sexy.

(I still struggle with this, personally, around my own body. Sometimes I can fetishize the size—that I’m kind of big, thick, heavy, whatever word you want to use—but most of the time I feel bulky and awkward. I know rife and other lovers I’ve had have specifically commented on my size or shape as desirable, so it’s not that I don’t exactly see it reflected, but I don’t feel it. I remember the relief of starting to shop in the men’s department: I went from an XL in women’s to a M or S in men’s, and that just felt like such a more accurate size for me. Plus, the clothes fit my body better, or fit my energetics better, or something, and wow it was such a relief. It’s been more than 15 years now since I officially made that transition to butch.)

Maybe the tenderness in gay porn shouldn’t be surprising, particularly as most of my critique of masculinity comes from the male gender role that tends to be heteronormative, but as a queer feminist butch dyke, I’ve often been critical of the gay depictions of masculinity too, and made assumptions that it was more like the normative male gender role than it was radical and transgressive. But hey, I like to be wrong about things like that! (And certainly there’s plenty of gay porn that reinforces normative gender roles—I just happened not to pick it up during porn and pancakes, apparently. I’ll try harder.)

Really my first introduction to depictions of masculinity in porn was through Heavenly Spire, launched in August 2010 by filmmaker Shine Louise Houston, the director and producer behind the revolutionary queer porn Crash Pad Series. Heavenly Spire is short films, released on Sundays (get it? Spire? Heavenly?) devoted to all kinds of men and their sexuality.

At the time, it was new, raw, and beautiful—and it still is. I don’t know about you, but watching it over the past few years has changed the way I think about male sexuality and erotics.

I interviewed Shine for Carnal Nation when it was first released, but Carnal Nation has since folded and the interview is now only found in the wayback machine. So here it is, reprinted, because the first volume of Heavenly Spire has been compiled and is available from PinkLabel.tv—and it is stunning.


Heavenly Spire: Interview with Shine Louise Houston

Reprinted from Carnal Nation, August 2010

Filmmaker Shine Louise Houston, who brought you the queer porn Crash Pad Series web episodes and the feature-length films Champion, The Wild Search, and Superfreak, has started a new online web project depicting masculine sexualities in a visual medium. Heavenly Spire began in late July. I gladly sat down for a long-distance chat with her about the new site, masculinity, the personal things that had to happen in order for her to embark on this project, and what’s next for her and her growing companies.

Sinclair: I’m excited about Heavenly Spire, the new project! I haven’t seen behind the scenes yet, but the stuff that’s up is lovely.
Shine: The format is different from Crash Pad Series; there are no interviews, no behind the scenes. I’m not too sure if I’m going to do that, I’m going to see how the site goes. We shoot lean on this project, there’s not a whole lot of extras.

What do you mean by lean? You don’t spend a lot of time sitting around, hanging out with them, asking them what they think about sex?
Yeah. The interviews I do for Heavenly Spire are more really about delving into what their sexualities are, what their turn-ons are, has it changed over the years, what do they do now, physically what do they like about themselves, or physically what do they like about each other. I’m approaching it from a totally different angle than I approached Crash Pad Series.

Is that angle also about a focus on masculinity?
Yeah, I really wanted to start thinking about masculinity, and asking whether masculine sexuality is different. Heavenly Spire is a personal project for me. Accepting my own masculinity has really allowed me to feel okay with desire for masculine people. Exploring it on the site really looks at male bodies the way I want to. Maybe not everybody feels the way I do, but this is good for me. For a long time, I just didn’t get guys. But as I got more comfortable, I realized they’re not that different, and they’re not all that scary, and actually they’re pretty cool. And actually, penises are pretty cool. But it’s been a long process, and eventually bringing that to the screen is just where the process is supposed to go.

It makes sense that you would take your own creative medium to explore that sort of thing. What about your own personal masculinity process? What has that looked like for you? Has it been a long time coming, have you always been a tomboy?
It’s been a long process, definitely influenced by time and location. I grew up as a tomboy, but I also remember having favorite dresses. In my twenties, I definitely knew that I liked girls, and I was into the dyke/lesbian identity, but at the time – this was the early 90s in southern California – it was very much anti-butch/femme, pro-androgyny, and that had an influence on me. It was a very cool scene, and things were very open about sexuality. But right after that, mid-90s, I moved to San Francisco, and at that time, it was this huge butch/femme revival.

I knew I was definitely not femme, but I felt a lot of pressure to be one or the other. So the kind of masculinity I kept bumping into within that community was this really intense macho masculinity. I realized trying to put on that performance, that I’m not very macho. I’m really a fag. I went through my fag period, where I dated other fag dykes, but then I think the next big jump for me was realizing that I was into femmes! I remember looking at this girl, and her earrings, and they were kind of … bouncing. And it clicked. So that started me exploring a more masculine, pansexual identity. I’m definitely on the more masculine side, I’m kind of swishy, and I definitely like femmes. In the last six or seven years, I’ve really become comfortable with where I am: my masculinity, my sexuality. I needed to have a strong root in masculinity in order to take on a project and not be freaked out.

Freaked out by worrying about what you were going to be depicting, or not being solid enough in it?
And just not being intimidated by guys! At this point I’m so comfortable with myself, I’m not intimidated to ask guys to take their clothes off.

Do you think the recent work on masculinity has set the stage for this kind of project to be launched? It seems time-specific to me, that maybe we didn’t have enough radical depictions of masculinity, especially not of male sexuality, even four or five years ago.
Yeah, the queer movement, the trans movement – all of the work is completely reshaping what we think about sexuality and how we manage that in our lives. There’s a lot more acceptance for genderqueer and performative genders. The project is a lot about timing—a lot of people have done tremendous work at softening up the ground for it to come along.

Going back to my personal experience, I’m affected by all the waves of thought that have been coming through the Bay Area. There are a lot of people in the porn community who are really changing how they depict sexuality, whether it’s gay, straight, lesbian, bi. This is a drop in the bucket of a larger movement that is sweeping across the porn industry. When I went to Berlin for the porn film festival, I really felt that. I’m not alone, this is going to explode across the industry. And when I got back to the United States, it seemed like maybe it wasn’t here yet, but it’s coming.

It definitely seems like we still need work on the depiction of masculinity in porn.
Definitely. There’s also a new project I’m going to start working on in August that’s definitely going to challenge male homophobia while at the same time satisfying homosexual desire in men who might not otherwise get to experience it. There’s going to be some interesting stuff happening in the next year.

Do you expect some backlash for this? Have you had backlash for including cis men, like Micky Mod, in Crash Pad?
We have a very polite question in the forums in Crash Pad Series, and before I even had the chance to respond, other members of the site said pretty much everything I would have said. And the person who asked the question responded, “Oh, okay.”

And that was it?
Yeah, that was it! I was at the last Feminist Porn Awards, in Toronto, and they screened that scene, Mickey and Shawn. And I answered some questions about them, everybody seemed to like it. But then it won the Viewer’s Choice Award! So I thought, okay, the audience is listening! They loved it.

I also wonder if this is more part of queer women’s culture, not necessarily gay culture. A lot of butch women are watching fag porn. When I started out watching porn, my favorite pornos were fags. This community has been able to really transcend their fantasies, so they can apply to any type of body. They aren’t restricted to just one. In gay culture, which I’m learning more about, they don’t watch dyke porn. We watch fag porn, but they don’t watch dyke porn. So there’s a realm that they haven’t gone into yet, they haven’t applied their fantasies to different bodies yet. Heavenly Spire looks at masculine people, but not every male has a dick. So this is about pushing their boundaries, pushing the male viewer boundaries. I bet they’ll think it’s hot. We’ll see—the site’s been up less than a month.

I’ve only seen the clips so far, and the clips are teasers, but it seems a little less focused on cock-centricity than I would have imagined.
Well—it’s definitely about cock. But what I really want to capture is a person having a good time, really having genuine pleasure, and to translate that into a visual medium. And it’s about building a narrative about the person’s relationship to their own body or to the other person that they’re having sex with. And I’m just having fun with visual language. It’s true, the trailers are very much teasers, and they don’t give you much.

But they’re beautiful.
The clips are, according to porn standards, a little short, but I’ve been struggling with length. So with this, I decided I’m going to cut it the way I think it should be cut, and I’m editing it so the viewer doesn’t get bored. Really picking out the best parts, and splicing the best parts together into a narrative. Sometimes I feel like, yeah, this thing is half an hour long, but is it pretty, and is it working? So this is a bit of a self-indulgent project, because I’m really letting myself go with my ideas, asking myself, how long should it be? What makes it good?

Do you anticipate it having lots of episodes, like Crash Pad does? Or is it a different structure?
No, we update every Sunday. It’s different from Crash Pad, because each week is something new, there’s no behind the scenes, just something new once a week.

If a new performer is coming in, how do you tell if they’re going to be a good porn star? Did you have a sense that Mickey Mod was going to stick around and be amazing?
Not really. Mostly, we have model applications and if we can make a date, we go for it. Some people who work with us find it fun and want to do it again. Dylan Ryan, Jiz Lee, Shawn [Sid Blakovich] all did Crash Pad, and are now doing awesome stuff. We’re the launching pad! Shoot with us, we’re good people, we’re a good place to start.

Is it easy to pair people together? Or do they do that themselves?
For Crash Pad, I work with a booking company who does all of that now. I used to do that, but it’s work. But Heavenly Spire is a different approach. With men, and a gay site, I’m really interested in getting couples who already know each other and already have that connection. People apply, so if you apply by yourself you’re going to be solo. If you want to perform as a couple you have to apply as a couple. I want to make sure the couples like each other. Especially since so much of the gay male porn is all about fucking, I want this to be about connection. I want to see two big dudes who are totally tender with each other.

Are you finding that guys are interested?
As viewers or as participants? We’ve had a decent amount of model applications. We paused the project for a while, but we started to get this influx of models, both trans men and cis men alike, both solo or couples. I have some speculation about viewers, but I’m not 100% sure who is going to be our audience for this new site. I kind of wonder if it’s not going to be straight guys. I think they’ll like it. But gay men, I’m not sure if they’ll like the format. Possibly straight women as well. I’m not sure how it’s going to shape up.

What else do you still want to film?
I have three features I’d like to do, but right now the company is growing, expanding, changing. We’re kind of in the teenage phase, not super big, but not tiny either. So in the future that’ll help us get more what we want with big features. Right now, we’ve got the web projects going on, short videos, and that’s setting the foundation to create these larger features. We’ve really pushed the limits of what porn is. It’ll be self-evident, when I actually announce those projects.

Do you have an over-arching mission for your work, or goals you set out to accomplish? Or was it born out of a love for filming people fucking?
When I first started filming I didn’t realize this was how the mission statement was going to be, but the mission statement came later: We’re dedicated to making really well produced, beautiful images that represent queer sexuality. That was the driving force, but I continue to push myself as a filmmaker, and pornographer (though I identify less with that word). I want to make good stuff, and I want to make good stuff about sex. Everything I do is moving in that direction.

Do you see it as political and social activism?
It is … and here’s the weird thing. I feel that if I approach it as social activism head on, I’m going to do it wrong. I’ll stick my foot in my mouth! So I internalize my own politics, and turn them to the creative mill, and then spit them out and use them in a project. And that way I fulfill certain goals. But if I say, first, that I’m going to do political activism, then I miss the mark of what I really wanted to accomplish. So I take the personal and churn it through my internal politics, and that moves me in the right direction.

Have you had trouble with BDSM being misconstrued as abuse in your work?
Not from people on the site, but at the film festivals. I was at the Hamburg festival, and people walked out. It seems like that’s prevalent in places where they’re not doing the same things we’re doing here. I get really weird stuff about race, and violence. But I feel like ten years from now, it won’t be a problem.

Do you struggle with taking the criticism personally?
I try not to … I think maybe every six months I Google myself. I can’t do it on a regular basis, I have a fragile ego and I’m harder on myself than anyone. There can be fifty great reviews for what I do, but if there’s one bad one, that’s the one I remember. I try to focus on what’s working. If we keep showing at festivals, and people keep downloading it, somebody must like it.

And if you’re satisfied with the work you’re putting out there, how your art is growing, and if you’re continuing to get opportunities, that might be a better scale. But it’s hard! Especially when the work is so personal, when the work we put out into the world is about our own bodies, and our own desires, and our own deepest, splayed open selves, it can be really easy to take in the criticism.
Yeah.

I ask about the problem with BDSM and abuse because I have actually seen queer porn that triggered me—I’m not easily triggered, it really surprised me. But I don’t see that in your work at all.
It might just be because I have such intense aversions to bleed over. Things stay very clear in my own life. I definitely pay attention. If I ever see something that makes me wince, I know it’s not quite right.

I think that exhausts my questions. Is there anything else I should know?
Check out the site! Check out Crash Pad Series, and the new Heavenly Spire.

I’m looking forward to seeing more on Heavenly Spire. It’s a pleasure to talk to you, thanks so much.

Submissive Fantasy vs Submissive Reality, Guest Post by rife

Hi this is rife, Sinclair’s boy. Maybe you’ve read dirty things about me, but that’s not the whole story. So what am I up to when not bent over? Well … I love erotica and porn as much as anyone (honest!), but often when people describe it, we get so hot and heavy talking about the erotic fantasy version of BDSM and the really turned-up power play, and sometimes forget to mention the everyday lived realities and negotiations of it for “24/7” or “live-in” slaves, like me. These real-life submissive moments can be mundane, but also deeply satisfying in ways we might never expect.

So what does that stuff look like? You know, all the boring, in-between times where we try to keep the dynamic hot and tight and present, despite jobs and obligations and sick days and the general upkeep involved with not living in a fantasy world? That’s what I’m here to share. (I’ll try to get your rocks off another time, promise.)

Disclaimer: The following is a true account of my personal experience with live-in submission versus my fantasy version of it. This is only my experience, and please don’t take me too seriously, or assume this is The Way It Is for all slaves or s-types. I’m just speaking for me, here. This is not the right way, just the right way for me.

Submissive Fantasy Morning

7:00 AM Slide out of my spot at the foot of the bed bed before dawn, silently padding out to not disturb the sleeping Dominant.
7:03 AM Shower and shave my cunt with the straight razor, then put on the jock strap that Master left out for me the night before. Wearing only that, I start prepping Master their favorite breakfast, and have it ready on the table when they awake, with ice water with lime, their pills, and morning tea prepared (but not too hot).
8:00 AM Spanking with the wooden spoon over Daddy’s knee because I’ve not cut the onions small enough. Everything else was delicious.
8:15 AM Set up the office for Master’s work day; the heat is up, the shades are drawn, music is on. Sit at Master’s feet and await further orders.
9:00 AM Time for my daily fitness routine. Make sure Master doesn’t need anything, and I go to the little gym equipment in the corner. Master looks up from their work from time to time to watch, singletail in hand in case I should slack off. I make soft, sexy grunting sounds while I pump iron.
10:00 AM Help Master with their website and work tasks, check in on the Submissive Playground forums and emails.

Submissive Reality Morning

7:04 AM First alarm goes off. Wake up warm and cozy in Daddy’s arms, curl around tighter and hit snooze.
7:48 AM Three snoozes later, we stir. We tell each other our dreams and dirty stories, and end up fooling around some.
8:15 AM I groggily ask permission to leave the bed.
8:16 AM Why is it always so cold in this house?! Throw on last night’s PJs from the floor and a big fluffy robe. I go pee, as directed, so I don’t get another UTI.
8:21 AM Daddy finds me staring at the coffee pot and takes over making breakfast. I’m delegated to chopping and fetching duty, out of the way.
8:27 AM I put away last night’s dishes and set the table for breakfast. “Can we eat outside, Daddy?” “No, boy. It’s still too cold out.” “Okay, Sir.” Breakfast is delicious. I thank them lots and apologize for being useless in the morning for about the billionth time. I make the bed like Daddy likes it.
9:00 AM The first round of dishes for today; why does Daddy need so many bowls to scramble eggs?
9:15 AM Planning the day, picking the Most Important Tasks from my boy chores list, and reminding myself, what was that new protocol this week…?
9:22 AM “Daddy, may I use the restroom please?”
9:24 AM Sweep the kitchen floor (didn’t I just do this yesterday? I’m pretty sure I did) and settle in to work.
9:45 AM Email and other admin tasks for my small business, on a cushion in the living room floor, not at their feet, but where Daddy can see me.

Submissive Fantasy Afternoon

1:15 PM Pleasure Master Orally.
2:15 PM Pleasure Master Orally.
3:15 PM Pleasure Master Orally.
4:15 PM Pleasure Master Orally.
5:15 PM Pleasure Master Orally … What do submissives do all day in their fantasies? I.. uh, take a nap maybe? Oh, do some personal grooming! Definitely. And… practice my guitar and other pleasing arts.
6:30 PM – Midnight SEXUAL RELATIONS BDSM FUNTIMES EVERY DAY. Whips and chains and shit in our own personal dungeon in the basement (which is totally not creepy and filled with old mattresses and feral cats, in this fantasy universe).

Submissive Reality Afternoon

1:00 PM Second set of dishes for the day, from lunch and the coffeepot, which is regrettably empty.
1:00 PM – 3:45 PM Work at my job, building websites and mobile apps and stuff. This month I have a variety of fun projects (and the normal cadre of boring ones, too).
3:45 PM “May I use the restroom, Sir?” “Yes, go ahead, boy. Give me a kiss first.” (I also refill their water while I’m up.)
3:48 PM Back to work. Probably time for a tea and fruit break. I offer Master some but they decline.
3:50 PM- 6:00 PM Work, work, work. Small breaks to pay bills and walk the dog.
6:01 PM Freedom!! “Daddy, can we go for a walk? Please, please?”
6:22 PM Night hike around our favorite little lake, followed by dinner at that Thai place I’m not crazy about by Master is really into. Daddy orders for both of us and I ask before sitting.
8:00 PM Catching up on some Downton Abbey. We are way behind. I’m invited onto the couch!
10:00 PM We play cribbage because we are basically old people. Daddy kicks my ass this time.
11:00 PM Where did the time go? I brush my teeth and pick out a bedtime story, strip down to sleep naked and ask permission to get in bed, as I should, grateful for my real-life Daddy and deep spiritual submission. Even when it means doing the dishes 3 times a day.

Okay, so there you have it. My day-in-the-life of your average, everyday sex slave (results not typical. Your mileage may vary). I notice some big differences between the fantasy realm and the real-life versions, namely: hurray! In the fantasy, I don’t have to work because Master supports us both. You know, because writing smut and giving it away for free on the internet is so lucrative (eyeroll).

It hasn’t always been this way, though. The first year and a half of our relationship, we could basically keep the fantasy up, fuck and play the vast majority of our time together. The secret? We only saw each other on weekends, at conventions or hotels (where someone else did the laundry and everything else could wait). I highly recommend long-distance D/s if you want to live your fantasies (and who doesn’t?), it is super fun.

But eventually, we wanted more. The thing about the boring in-between times, the sick days and hours of bad TV and cuddling and cleaning house, is that that’s most of what our lives are made of. And there came a point, at least in my life, where that reality of intimacy with another human became preferable to even my best fantasy. That, my friends, is called winning.

Now, I’m not saying we don’t still have marathon fuck sessions or break out the implements o’ destruction from time to time (because oh, we do). But when I imagine that kind of intensity every day, I kind of lose my boner for it. I remember before we moved in together I was genuinely scared: What if I could just never sit down again because of all the bruises on top of bruises?

We did it anyway, though it was scary as hell. Finally, that “monstrous want” of Master’s calmed down. Don’t worry, it’s still here, but channeled. We found ways to feed it, even on random Wednesdays when we both had to work, that didn’t involve making me purple all over or quitting my job and forsaking all other obligations. We found some kind of… balance.

I’m not going to blather on about my history and congratulate myself on getting here, to “living the dream” of live-in submission. Because honestly, I’m still new at this, and finding my way. But I will tell you this: It doesn’t happen by accident. You have to look for it, hard, for years sometimes (ten in my case!). You have to work your ass off to be worthy of it when it does show up. I wish the same for you, sincerely, that you can make the steps to actualize your fantasies and fantasize the reality, until it’s hard for you to untangle them, too.

Still, I’ll take the reality any day.

—rife

PS: Are you another submissive looking for community? I’ll be active in the forums and chat and video calls during the Submissive Playground. I love it there! No other place on the internet have I found such an active, supportive community of true peers. I’m honored to know all the players. I’d like to invite you to join me there, but you’d have to act super fast—registration closes tomorrow!

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

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

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

Watch it now!

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

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

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

(PS: There will probably be flirting.)

Turn Your Rough Fantasies into Responsible Reality

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

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

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

Here’s some things to keep in mind.

1. Everybody Fantasizes!

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

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

2. Fantasizing about rough, dangerous things is normal!

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

3. Comfort Your Inner Feminist With Consent & Agency

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

4. Get Brazen & Bold

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

5. Get Further Involved with the Kink Communities

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

6. Sharpen Your Kick-Ass BDSM Skills

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

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

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

7. Don’t Forget Aftercare!

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

Rinse, Lather, and Repeat!

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

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

Photo from Unsplash


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

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.

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

On Facebook recently, Mollena asked: “White ‪#‎SexualityEducators‬: what are you doing to actively foster inclusivity? Diversify your audience? Support your Peers of Color?” [link.] I’ve been writing and writing and thinking about all of the things I’ve been reading and digesting around #blacklivesmatter and race and inclusion, and this question got me thinking hard, and answering with some clarity, and identifying some places I need to keep working.

1. Read, read, read.

And listen. And pay attention. And shut up. And witness. And try to learn, and unlearn.

2. Pay attention to whose voices I amplify.

I have a small reach, a small field of folks who read what I share, and I pay attention to what I put into that sphere and recommend. When I don’t pay attention, I tend to stay within my white privilege bubble and retweet, link to, and recommend other white folks. This is not because people of color are not saying things that are relevant to me (and to you all) or that they are not brilliant—because duh, they are. Rather, I think I do this because of my personal (and often invisible to me) bias of whiteness. It takes conscious work for me to not default to whiteness, but I want to change that. So I pay attention to who I share and follow and who I surround myself with.

3. Decline to participate in (unconsciously) all-white spaces and events and publications and projects.

To be fair, I’ve only declined a few times, and this is something I’m working on improving. I don’t always think to ask who else is in the book or on the panel before I say yes, especially if it’s something I know of and admire. But recently, a sex education book came out with twenty photos of the white faces of contributors on the back, and Aida Mandulay called it out and WOC Sexual Health Network followed up, it is incredible to me that nobody noticed that before publication, or that if they did, nobody worked to change it. However, I am sure I have been in anthologies that were all-white, but since most of my publications are erotica, photos of the authors are included very rarely. And the sexuality education field is incredibly dominated by white folks (because most fields are, because racism). Personally, I have noticed often recently that many of my small group collaborations are all-white, and I need to think about that more (and to keep noticing that most of my communities are white, and work on the underlying issues of why that is).

4. I pay attention to the language I use.

As a genderqueer non-binary person and a feminist queer, I know how much language matters. I pay deep attention when someone talks about racist language—mine or others—and I do my best to pay attention to the words I use, their origins, and their uses.

a) I love reclaimed language, but when there are words that have been used against a minoritized group, I recognize that I don’t have a claim to use them. I can reclaim words that have been used against me. As such, there are certain words I just don’t use, whose histories are too controversial, and whose communities I respect.

b) There are a lot of words that have snuck into our language which have oppressive and racially-based origins, and often I’ve just never thought about it or made the connection. Recently, with the protests in Oakland and Berkeley, my neighbors and I have watched a lot of the live feeds, and have seen the police show up with “paddy wagons,” and then we all had a brief chat about how that is a derogatory slur referring to Irish folks, and tried to figure out what else to call them instead. And when I hear folks use the word “gypped” to refer to being ripped off (which happens more often than I’d expect) I remind them that comes from the oppression of Roma people. Often, people reply with things like, “Oh yeah, right, I never really thought of that …”

c) Know the words I use and where they come from. The queer reading series I co-hosted and -produced with the late Cheryl B from 2010-2011 was called “Sideshow,” and once, a colleague pointed out that the “sideshow” has a pretty terrible history of showing off the “freaks,” and that they wouldn’t be participating. I liked the feel of it at the time, but I wouldn’t use that word again on a project. Especially because I recognize that as an able-bodied and generally mentally well person, it is not my word to reclaim (see 4A), it is my word to respect and stop using (see 4B). See also: Strange Fruit PR Firm [Changes Their Name] After Getting a History Lesson From Twitter.

d) Very deeply engrained in the english language is the dark/light dualistic binary and the use of the concepts of “shadow” and “dark” for bad, unknown, dangerous, and uncharted territory, and of “light” as all things good and holy. I would guess these concepts have more to do with the human psyche than race—however, when used in a racist culture, they reinforce racism subtly and intrinsically. I want to know more about this and do a bit more research on language and archetypes. Meanwhile, though, I am doing my best to avoid the dark/light dualism to stand in for bad/good, particularly when there are thousands of other more thoughtful and interesting metaphors to use.

Language is always changing, and I try to stay flexible in my relationships with words, even if I happen to love them (or have used or over-used them in the past, see 4D). Recently I’ve been discussing the usage of “minoritized” instead of “minority,” for example (still working on that distinction and curious about the reasonings). I’m curious how language changes and moves, how it both reflects and changes culture. This is some of my favorite language-nerdy stuff.

5. I call myself on my privileges.

When I talk about identities as concepts, and my own concepts, I don’t just give my marginalized positions (like queer, kinky, genderqueer, working class, survivor) but I also share the areas where I have privilege and am working to have more awareness (like white, able bodied, american, college educated).

6. When I’m up in front of a group or workshop, I listen when someone challenges my positions, and I call participants out.

I particularly listen when someone challenges me in areas where I am less expertise or have privilege and am less aware of how those oppressive dynamics work. I don’t always know I try to notice it when someone says something that expresses a bias or privilege, and to say something, to call them on it. That’s pretty hard for me and I’m not perfect at it, and I often freeze up or get caught in holding the space of the workshop, and I can’t think of what to say. So I’ve taken to at least saying exactly that: “I heard you just say ___ and I can’t really think of what to say, but I think you have some bias there.” Then I try to move on.

7. I call out (or call in) when I see something.

I do call out when someone I know and feel some closeness with has done something I think has some overlooked bias in it, but I mostly do that privately and offline. I don’t spend much time calling out in the general conversations online, or chiming in when someone else has been called out. I sometimes fear that I should and have some guilt that I should participate in that more, but I also know how I am deeply introverted and more witness is better than more conversations for my energetic ability. I witness other’s calling out constantly and I read read read and listen and try to learn what went wrong, what was going on, and to apply that to my own work. With some folks I’m close to, we have spent a lot of time digesting and thinking about the project and how to do better in the future. See also: Calling In: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable.

8. When I fuck up, I apologize, listen, fix it (if I can), and do better next time.

There’s a fine balance: I am trying to recognize that we’re all human (including me) and I fuck up sometimes, but not to dwell in the fucking up so much that it makes me paralyzed to keep trying, and to still do the best I can to make up for, apologize for, and understand for my mistakes. I am a creator and I want to make art and writing that reflects culture and my inner world, and a huge piece of that is my desire to make it better through social activism. And because I am making things, not just witnessing and critiquing, I have messed up before and I will mess up again. I am doing my best to be okay with that inevitability, and to know that messing up is a necessary part of the process of trying and improving. I have strategies to both protect myself (and my highly sensitive person / high reactive / intuitive empathetic poet self) but also to listen, learn, back up, integrate changes, apologize, and move forward.

I’m sure there’s more I could do.

I am always pondering the ‘more’ of activism and the new, previously unknown parts of my own privilege to which I am still blind. But for now, this is what I’m doing, and I see a lot of room for growth in just what I’ve laid out here and what I’m already doing.

It’s been very interesting to reflect on what I am doing, actually. Reading the original thread on Mollena’s Facebook page gave me lots of ideas and more insight into how I engage the way I do, and what is good for my particular personality and skills. I’d love to hear what you all are doing, too, if you feel like sharing.

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.

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Image by rife of Rowdy Ferret Design & Illustration

1. Create a Palette of Permission

If it’s hard for you to figure out what to do in a scene, or if your perfect submissive looks up at you and says, “I’ll do anything you want!” and your mind goes blank, this is a good thing for you to focus on. Create a list, on your own or brainstorming together with your submissive, of things that you know you have permission to do, in general, in periods where you are both your fit and healthy selves. (They may not apply when one or either of you are having an off day, are sick or physically unwell, or in different states of consciousness—like asleep or playing with some substances. They probably also only apply in certain places, like when you two are alone or in kink-friendly events. Check in.) Make a Top Ten list of things that generally your sub really loves and could do over and over and over. Trust that you can return to each of these things hundreds of times before either of you will get bored. There are infinite variations. Bonus tip: Make a wishlist of things you want to include in your Palette, but don’t currently know how to do, and start learning!

2. An On Switch For Your Dominance

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

3. Receiving as a Dominant

Sometimes it seems incongruous to receive sexual touch or services from the top or dominant position. I assure you: this is common and makes a lot of sense. It’s difficult to feel “in control” and also at the same time to relax and receive. (Sidenote: This is at times very related to one’s gender, and one’s amount of stoneness. Most cis male doms—as a stereotype—don’t seem to have a problem receiving blow jobs, for example, do they?) One of the best ways you can work on this is by being very vocal with what you want to receive, and continuing to give orders and corrections and suggestions throughout the process. You also might want to work with physical levels, where you are physically above your submissive, to remind yourself that you are still in charge, even if their fist is in your hole. And read the essay How to Top Your Master by Raven Kaldera. Though it’s directed more at submissives, there are many useful things in there for dominants.

4. Got Guilt? More Aftercare

If you feel guilty after your scenes as a dominant, check in about it. Ask yourself: Did I really want to be doing that? Was I having a good time? Was my partner having a good time? Did we all come away from the scene generally glad the scene had happened? Scenes aren’t always perfect, of course (and aren’t always full of happy smiles and sunshine and rainbows). But generally, did it go well? Did you want to be there? Because honestly, if you feel that much guilt, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you’d be better suited to less psychologically intense play. But if that’s not the case, and you really do want to be there (and your partners eagerly consent, of course), then you gotta deal with that nagging guilt from an internalized prescription of egalitarianism. It’s okay to create the relationship you want to be in. Normalize it for yourself by seeking more D/s community and sharing your experiences with others. And make sure you get enough aftercare yourself. You might need down time after, or quiet private time, or reflective time where your sub tells you all about what they liked and how all those dirty things you did made them feel. Or maybe cuddles. Experiment, and find your best aftercare methods.

5. Build Trust Slowly

Build the trust you need from your submissive to know that they are honest and they can follow through on what they agree to.
D/s and power dynamics are completely built on trust. Thats part of what I love about it: It 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!

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

leslieI sit in shock at my desk, though I knew it was coming, knew Leslie Feinberg was sick, and know how deadly lyme disease can be is.

I sit feeling the shock of grief: Leslie Feinberg died this past weekend.

And today is the Trans Day of Remembrance, and that of itself gets me all weepy about all of those we’ve lost, all the hate, all the fear, and how far we have left to go. It makes me think about “butch flight” and the relationships between butch identity and transmasculine identity. It gets me thinking of my lineage, the legacy I am a part of, and where I came from.

For me, Leslie’s book Stone Butch Blues invented butch identity. If I had the word before the book, it was only as a slur, only as something nobody should want to be. If I had the word before Jess’s story and her tortured restraint of passionate love, it was only used to describe ugly women, unattractive and unwanted. It wasn’t until I read Stone Butch Blues that I realized it described me.

I’m not sure I wanted it to, but I knew that it did. That book made me feel exposed, like someone had found me out. Vulnerable, like someone could come along and pluck my heart from my unguarded chest to do with as they pleased. But also, strangely, it made me feel powerful. I could feel the power that came from being butch, the paradox of growing up a girl and then becoming the suited partner of a beautiful woman, the torture of being such a social outcast, and the deep craving hunger for being accepted.

“My life, forever changed because of Stone Butch Blues. And Leslie Feinberg.”
—Felice Shays
I wasn’t even 20 when I read it, wasn’t identifying as butch yet myself, though I was starting to realize that was growing in me. I was barely out as queer. I recognized myself so much in that book that I hid it in the back of my bookshelf and didn’t pick it up again for almost ten years.

But it is potent, and it seeped into me. It inescapably linked the words butch and stone, and for years I thought that being stone was the only way to be butch. It still feels like the butch/femme culture overly values stone in butches, that the stone—by which I mean, not receiving sexual touch—is one of the measures of the amount of gender dysphoria felt, and therefore the more stone a butch feels, the more butch they are. There is so much belittling in queer culture about masculine-presenting folks who want to be touched in bed, or—gasp!—are bottoms, and they are so often chided for not being a “real butch.”

I have been fighting fighting fighting this for years, both as a queer cultural community wound and internalized in my own body.

I have heard so many butches cite this book as their coming out root, as finally recognizing who they are by reading Jess’s story (Leslie’s story), and so many femmes cite this book as finally feeling like they could be queer and crave a masculine partner, or that it’s the “heartbreaking holy grail of butch perspective.” They have told me they see themselves in Theresa’s butch devotion. For so many of us, Feinberg’s book made our secret budding desires make sense.

“Were it not for Stone Butch Blues, I’d still be stranded on a lonely island of inexplicable gender and sexuality. Many of us would.”— Tara Hardy
Stone Butch Blues came out in 1993, but was set in the 1960s, and I wonder if it wasn’t one of the major seeds which planted 1960s butch/femme nostalgia into our heads while so many of us were coming out in the 1990s. It contributed to how we crave the supposedly thriving butch/femme culture of yore.

I understand being nostalgic for a time that is now romanticized—not only in queer culture but in butch/femme lore and history. Beyond that, it is romanticized in the larger US culture as well, as it is the time post-WWII where this country was thriving, and idealized visions were planted in our collective (un)consciousness. But I also want to remember that while it might seem like butches come from that time, and thrived in that time, what we have now—and the myriad gender identity, expression, and presentation options available to us—is much improved.

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

I adore the butch/femme culture. As someone who highly identifies as a femme-oriented butch who is currently dating a trans boy, I adore it even more, and as I have a bit more distance now that I’m a little bit outside of it, I see copious places where the butch/femme culture reinforces the cultural binary gender roles, where it pigeonholes people into boxes of expectation, where people are shaved down to fit labels and not the other way around.

Stone Butch Blues may have invented butch identity for the current queer cultural movements, but we need a reinvention.

We need the new butch.

We need a butch identity where the masculine gender role is criticized and reinvented to include access to all aspects of emotionality, psychology, caretaking, feeling, hobbies, interests, and play.

We need a butch identity where we actively work toward undoing the racist culture that keeps people of color oppressed, their voices marginalized, and their bodies under attack. We need a butch identity which recognizes that butch has been historically a white identity, and that radical queer masculinity looks differently in other cultural contexts.

We need a butch identity where any kind of surgery and hormone taking and body modification is acceptable, supported, and celebrated without commentary on how we knew that butch was “trans all along” or that they are “betraying their womanhood” or teased, “another one bites the dust.”

We need a butch identity where the identity expands to fit who those claiming it, rather than those claiming it shrinking to fit inside of it.

We need a butch identity where it is okay to transition. We need a butch identity where it is okay to wear a dress. We need a butch identity where “butch” is just the starting point of the conversation, and where nobody assumes they know anything about you just because they know you are butch.

We need a butch identity that doesn’t assume topping and dominance as the norm, and that doesn’t put down butches who bottom, who receive touch, who submit beautifully and skillfully and with agency, who crave giving over, who crave being owned. We need a butch identity that doesn’t assume femme partnership as the norm, and that recognizes butches loving butches as a real and valid desire.

We need a butch identity that sees femmes as more than accessories, and that values femininity as solid, legitimate, and radical. We need a butch identity that doesn’t joke that femmes are having “a butch moment” if they fix something or play sports or act tough.

We need a butch identity that embraces the myriad mashup versions of in-between genders, of genderqueerness, male feminity, fagginess, swishiness, and fabulousness. We need a butch identity that rocks glitter and leggings without shame, that encourages purses and boas, and that never makes fun of someone’s “girly drink” or pink button down shirt.

We need new butch icons, we need new butch events. We need to show up at events where butch and femme genders are celebrated and made visible (there are many already out there! Go to them! Participate!). We need to stop prioritizing and privileging masculine versions of queerness. We need to read femme authors like Minnie Bruce Pratt (seriously, have you read S/he? It is one of my top 5 of all time, it’s stunning), we need to work on dismantling white privilege. We need to read trans women like Julia Serano and Janet Mock, we need to listen to Laverne Cox, we need to listen to Ceyenne Doroshow and watch things like the Red Umbrella Project documentary about sex workers, we need to keep refining our activism, we need to work on our own privilege, we need to stay alive.

We need new butch clothes, despite Saint Harridan and Tomboy Tailors and all the other dozen (more?) creators of clothes for dapper queers that have popped up in the last few years, not because we don’t look good in those (damn, we do) but because most of those are suit-and-tie shops, and there are so many more ways to be butch than with a suit-and-tie. Let’s reinvent dapper fashion, let’s never be limited by the narrow masculine options that have existed so far, let’s go farther, let’s have it all.

Even as attached as I am to the word “butch,” we probably need new words. Language evolves as we do. We may even end up turning butch over for some new way to talk about the in-between space we occupy, that tortured passionate place of wanting, that marginalized place of vision and truth.

As much as I would like butch to thrive and live forever, and as invested as I am in this identity, it has roots in dangerous masculine and white culture. I see so much fear that butches are “a dying breed” or that butch/femme culture is dying. I still think it isn’t—Long live the butch!—but if it is, perhaps it is at least a tiny bit in part because we are in a queer culture now that is working to decenter masculinity and whiteness. Perhaps when we fear we are losing butches or losing butch/femme, we are really losing the cultural way we have privileged masculinity and butchness. Perhaps along with this reinvention, we are losing the huge amount of body shame we are forced to carry as butches. Perhaps we are losing the social ostracization that came with butch masculinity and femme femininity.

Perhaps we are moving toward something new, and even better.

I wish we had our own words to describe ourselves to connect us. I don’t want another label. I just wish we had words so pretty we’d go out of our way to say them out loud.” —Jess, p254 in Stone Butch Blues

The Four Stages of Topping

When I started topping, I was self-conscious, nervous, easily crushed, and full of bravado and swagger. (I’d like to think that all of that was somewhat subtle, and that I was being at least a little transparent and honest about all of it, though when I look back at my old writing I think there’s more nervousness than I’d like to think.)

Sometimes, some beautiful girl would come along and our chemistry would be so amazing and the whole evening would just … flow. Then, I felt like there was no game, it was all just authentic interaction, following my energy and hers. Those were the nights I grabbed on to and scrutinized (and often wrote up, play by play, as a way to study them), trying to learn what it was that went well and how I could harness that.

As I gained more confidence, the way that I topped shifted a bit. I started wanting to control more, to push more, to play with more edges. I started wondering why I was so drained after I’d had a scene, and realized I wasn’t getting fed energetically in a way that felt replenishing.

That was mostly my fault, for the record; I wasn’t open to receiving, I was too focused on (fueling my ego by) giving.

I’ve really opened up since then. My style is really different, and I’m a lot less delicate. I have more confidence and certainty in what I’m doing. This is at least in part because I started identifying the kind of topping I was doing, and playing with other styles of topping.

In trying to articulate my own journey from a nervous I-wanna-be-a-top to an actual top (and beyond), I’ve noticed some patterns, and come up with a list of some of the different kinds of topping that we can play with. If you want to become a better top, I’ve found that it’s really useful to identify the area you’re primarily playing in right now, and the areas you’re interested in exploring. That way, you can start to feel your way along the path from where you are to where you’d like to be, and start identifying the barriers to being where you want, the places you need to focus and explore, and the next steps to get you there.

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Please note!

I’m using the word “stages,” but they’re more like “flavors,” different kinds. The stages aren’t necessarily linear. My goal is to make the unconscious more known, so we can start actually deciding if we do want to do the topping (or dominating or daddying or mommying or parenting or mastering or whatever verb you want to use for the person-in-charge) more intentionally. This is not comprehensive.

The Stages of Topping

1. Service Topping from the Bottom’s Palette of Pleasure

In service topping, the bottom lays out the things they like (what I’m calling a “palette of pleasure”), and the top then does those things. The top is the person who is doing the action, and the bottom is receiving, but the bottom is the one basically in charge of the actions that are happening.

Sometimes the negotiations are very specific, like: “So now that you told me what you like, I’m thinking that in this scene, I’m going to spank you over my lap with my hand, then get out the cane, then start fingering you, and keep using my hand on you until you come. How’s that sound?”

Sometimes the palette is picked up through conversation, like: “I really like my hair pulled.” “I can’t wait to suck your cock.” “Please make sure to bruise me up before you get me off.”

Either way, all actions have a specific green light from the bottom for the top.

It’s not that the bottom dictates each move play-by-play: “Okay, now put your hand there. Now hit me this hard. Now flip me over and fuck me hard!” Some folks would call that “topping from the bottom,” which is often meant to be an insult. (More about that another day.)

Sometimes the palette is picked up through conversation, like: “I really like my hair pulled.” “I can’t wait to suck your cock.” “Please make sure to bruise me up before you get me off.”

It can be such a huge relief for a top to have a palette to work from. Topping can be nerve wracking as you’re getting the hang of it: we have to make split second decisions about what to do, when to change something, when to stop or when to keep going, and what else to add. Figuring out what actual things to do on top of all that other stuff can sometimes make us freeze up. Having a palette can help this!

When service topping, the top is not necessarily (and sometimes neglectfully) attending to what they are feeling or what pleasures their body would like. The bottom’s needs are being attended to and they are being played with, but sometimes, service tops crave … more. (I certainly did.)

When I work with new tops who are trying to up their game, this is most often the stage they’re stuck within.

2. Topping from the Top’s Palette of Pleasure

Shifting the focus from the bottom’s palette of pleasure to what the top specifically wants to do right in the moment can be a big mind-fuck for the top. It seems simple, but having to make decisions or be in touch with what we want while also Being In Charge can cause our minds to lock up. If you’re the kind of top who goes along just fine and then when your bottom says, “I’ll do whatever you want; what do you want?” and you draw a total blank, this one might be for you to play in.

Step one here is to start brainstorming about what’s on your “palette of pleasure.” What acts do you totally love and would be thrilled to bust out to do at any given moment—assuming, of course, that you have the permission to do so? You need more than “blow job” on the list, buddy. See if you can come up with 10 things, then see if you can come up with 10 more. These might be things you love having done to your body, or things you love doing to the bottom’s body.

The more comfortable you are with a broad list of options, the more likely you are to come up with the exact right thing to do in the moment, based on consent and what tools you might have with you and the energy between you both.

Even when pulling from all those beautiful favorite things that the top loves, you still has to practice making decisions about what to do in the moment, which can be incredibly hard when there’s a lot of pressure on us, and especially hard when all of the blood is flowing in places other than our brains.

What’s on your “palette of pleasure”? What acts do you totally love and would be thrilled to bust out to do at any given moment—assuming, of course, that you have the permission to do so?
This is still a negotiated, consensual palette of sex acts and kinky explorations, and the bottom is explicitly involved in determining what’s on the palette. But the difference is that the top generates the ideas, and the bottom gives consent (or crosses them off the list).

Of course, a top’s and the bottom’s palettes of pleasure might completely overlap. On the one hand, that’s amazing and you’re very compatible. On the other hand, it makes exploring more complicated power dynamics a little harder. Some power dynamics and authority-based play revolves around being “forced” to do something one doesn’t want to do, but will do because it’s what the top wants.

So let’s talk about playing with edges.

3. Topping the Bottom’s Edges

Once you’ve built some trust, you’ve had lots of sexytimes, you are consenting to each other, you’re both dirty kinky folks who just want to do all sorts of things together, and you’ve done all the things on the top’s palette and the bottom’s palette—twice—but you still have some domination hunger … where do you go from there?

Here’s where edges come in. Find some edges to work. Identify some places where you’re curious. Have your bottom make a list of the 10 most favorite times he ever had sex, and talk about it, see if you can make any connections. Then have the bottom you’ve been playing with make a list of 10 things he’s never tried, but is curious to try. Talk about those, too. Delve into them with your smarty brains and see what is nervous but exciting about them. Read up on those kinks. Learn how to wield a flogger or a cane or a knife or whatever object they’re curious about. Learn how to punch with a roll of quarters in your fist for a deeper hit. Find a topping mentor to show you how. Have some threesomes. Go to a play party. Go to a kink retreat conference.

Whatever those edges might be, take it upon yourself to gently push them, making it a safe experience—emotionally and physically.

This takes a lot of trust, and a lot of ability to tell each other what’s going on between you, verbally and non-verbally. Always be more aware and cautious when playing in new arenas of play that are more unfamiliar. Cultivate impeccable aftercare skills.

When I’m playing with someone else’s edges, by which I mean when they are edges that the bottom has handed to me and asked me to play with, I think about it like this: I have consent to go this far, so I slowly approach that edge, and then back off. Then I do it again. And again. Each time I approach the edge, there is an opportunity for something new to open up, for that place to become a little less edgy and for it instead to be more fun and interesting and playful. Or maybe it doesn’t ever get easier, it stays hard, but it becomes a little less scary just by actually being there with it.

Cultivate impeccable aftercare skills.
I think of that process as somewhat like making an orgasm more intense. If I get out my vibrator and start going at it, I’ll slowly raise energy and pleasure in my body until eventually, most likely, I will come. It’ll be fine, but probably won’t last very long or be particularly memorable. But if I get close to coming, but pause just before I actually do, and then get myself close to coming again—if I edge a few times before I actually let myself get off—my orgasm will be longer lasting and more intense. I’ve inflated my capacity to hold energy and pleasure just a little more, so I end up with a bigger experience.

I think of it that way around kink and top/bottom edginess, too. If I work an edge by approaching it and then letting it dissipate, I can build it up again and again, and get to a greater capacity.

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Illustration by rife

4. Topping the Top’s Edges

It might be easier to work your own edges than to work your bottom’s, or it might be easier to work your bottom’s—just depends on who you are and what your style is like. For me, it was much easier to work someone else’s edges (hello, control issues plus stone identity).

Regardless of the order you’re playing with, another palette to play with when you’re enhancing your own topping skills is with your own edges. Make the same lists: make a list of the 10 most favorite times you ever had sex, and see if you can make any connections. Make a list of 10 things you’ve never tried, but would like to. Make a list of areas of topping and sex and kink that are challenging for you, but that you’d like to be better at.

This is a place where your bottom gets to hold and witness some of your vulnerability with you. It takes more trust and transparency than some of the other stages. But to quote Sini Anderson: “Ask yourself how well you really know them. If someone you know really well asks you to trust them, try to trust them.” The best way to work your own edges is to have other folks there who are willing to support you while you’re taking small or big leaps toward what you want to be doing.

Say, for example, that you want to get better at humiliative dirty talk. Your partner has been asking for it for a while, and loves it whenever you can squeak out something diminutive, but it’s so hard for you to channel that kind of talk because you’re a nice person and you don’t necessarily like to say those kinds of mean things. But, since your partner is super into it, you’ve noticed that it makes you really, really hot to play with it. And it makes your partner hot. So you want to get better at it. But … it’s so scary and hard and edgy.

Make a list of the 10 most favorite times you ever had sex, and see if you can make any connections. Make a list of 10 things you’ve never tried, but would like to.
So maybe you co-create a scene with the bottom you’re playing with and they give you a list of ten different things you could say that are dirty and humiliating. You might even keep the list by your bed or on a post-it so you can reference it if you get stuck. They know that you are trying to get better at this one skill, so they are going to give you lots of positive feedback whenever it shows up in the play. And they are going to wear just the right outfit and say just the right things to encourage you to play your part.

Then after, they cuddle you and assure you that they loved it when you said those things, and that they know you are actually really nice and didn’t mean them and are very good and loving.

Really, we should all cultivate impeccable aftercare skills, tops and bottoms alike.

That’s just one example, but bringing in the bottom’s support and aftercare and ideas is a really good way for a top’s edge to be worked.

Working with your own edges can often be a place to seek if you want more satisfaction in your topping.

There are dozens of styles of topping

Of course, and there’s no one right or wrong way. I don’t mean to say that any of these are better or worse than the others, just that they’re different, and for the most part, we call all of them “topping.” Where are you at in your topping journey? Where would you like to be? Which are really easy for you, which are really challenging? Hopefully by identifying and talking about it, we can identify some of the places where we might be stuck or unsatisfied, and get to a stronger, more conscious, and more fun place to play and explore.

Dear Tops: Say Thank You

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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.

On Gender Perception, or: Break Your Eyes Open to Genderqueers

This essay, as with pretty much everything I write, is purely my own experience and my best understanding. I’m not trying to tell you what you should or shouldn’t care about, just sharing what my process has been around gender perception and genderqueerness.

For a little more than three years, I’ve been using they/them/theirs/themself pronouns. Notice that I’m avoiding saying that I “prefer” they/them pronouns, because, as many gender activists have been discussing lately, it’s not exactly a “preference.” I prefer green grapes to red grapes, I prefer almond milk to soy milk. But the accurate pronoun for my gender identity is they/them/theirs/themself.

Using a pronoun outside of the standard gender binary is a lot of work on a daily basis. Sure, I do spend most of my time inside of genderqueer and trans communities, and many of those folks are super smart about gender and either ask about pronouns or already know mine, and like to call people what they like to be called. I’m surprised how good it makes me feel when people get my pronouns right, actually. And because often I don’t hear people talking about me—which is the only time they really refer to me in the third person—I don’t hear it very often. The recent Sweet & Rough blog tour is a thrilling example: it pretty much brought tears to my eyes every time the folks on the tour referred to me using they and them. My inner kid—you know, the one who thinks I’ll never be understood or seen or valued—gets all hopeful and touched, and feels vulnerable and seen. I think things like, “Really? You see me like that?” and “You get it! Omg you get it!” and “Are you just humoring me? Or do you really get it?” and “Ergh, I hope it isn’t too much trouble for you to understand that!” and … I feel such relief. My shoulders relax and my body lets go of just a little bit of the tension I always carry.

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Am I mad at the system? Fuck yes. Am I working on changing it? Absolutely.
Every day I encounter a world that doesn’t see the in-between, and that either addresses me as “sir” or groups me in as part of the table full of “ladies,” aka queers of sometimes five different gender identities. I suppose worse still is “miss,” but that just gets me on a feminist rant about women having multiple honorifics dependent on their marital status and all men are addressed as “mister.” And then I remember that the second wave popularized “Ms”—oh right, we already fought this fight, except that clearly it hasn’t permeated society enough because this guy in front of me is still calling me “miss.”

Am I mad at the system? Fuck yes. Am I working on changing it? Absolutely. Are these moments microagressions? Fuck yes. Do the little needles that are microagressions add up, becoming a seeping wound by the end of any given day? Yeah. Could I just take my toys and go home and become a hermit to avoid dealing with this? Yeah. And sometimes I do, and sometimes I really want to.

But after three years of really claiming the identity of genderqueer … honestly? Being misgendered doesn’t bother me as much anymore.

I rarely correct the pronouns people use for me. I tell them if they ask, absolutely. I have lots of conversations about why they/them is the best choice for me, why I use it rather than ze/hir or other gender neutral pronouns, or why it’s grammatically correct despite the rules saying it is plural.

(Short version: I believe language is fluid, and our uses of it change over the years. I find it to be the least awkward in speech and written flow because we’re already used to it as a pronoun in other contexts. If people want to prioritize holding tight to grammar rules instead of smashing the gender binary and evolving our language to reflect the changes and include thousands of folks who are in-betweeners, well then, I guess I have to reevaluate just how close I want to be with that person. As much as I get a boner for really strict grammarians, to see the rules as so rigid that they cannot be malleable to include folks who are marginalized out of our language is not the kind of poet activist I want to be.)

When all those folks out there in the world out there misgender me, calling me sir or ma’am or ladies or she or bro or miss or whatever they might be using, I let it go. It might prick me for a moment, so I store that away as fuel for my activism, and then I try to remember: I don’t need their validation.

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It might prick me for a moment, so I store that away as fuel for my activism, and then I try to remember: I don’t need their validation.
I have so much validation from my genderqueer and trans communities, from my family of origin, from friends far and wide, and from folks I never would’ve expected to step up and be an ally. I feel so seen and honored, so often. I recognize that my position is possibly a unique one, where I really haven’t had any fallout from coming out genderqueer to my family or at my job (which, ahem, is what I’m doing right now). I know many folks don’t have that kind of acceptance from their families of origin, or their closest friends, or coworkers, or the communities in the cities where they live, or even sometimes their partners. But many of us do get lots of support, too.

Because I have so much validation from my close, inner circle communities, and even validation from broader queer worlds, and hell, from more and more people even outside of my inner circle, I don’t need the validation of the bus driver or the guy at the deli counter or the barista at the coffee shop. I just don’t. They don’t see me as genderqueer? Okay, whatever. Or hey, maybe they DO see me as genderqueer, but they don’t really have language and words for it, and even though they’re feeling that hey-you’re-not-quite-the-usual-kind-of-person-with-breasts thing, it doesn’t occur to them that that means not to use the term “lady” to address me. I am interested in doing more activism to educate folks in service professions to use words that aren’t so starkly gendered to address people who are in-between. (I even have a super secret project in the works about this.)

But I don’t need them to understand my gender in order for my gender to be real, seen, valid, and honored in the world.

It’s the difference I suppose between “gender identity” and “gender perception.” It’s only in the last 100 years that the concept of one’s “sex” has been divided into “sex and gender.” As gender theory has evolved, there are many words within the concept of “gender” and what it is. Gender identity is generally (I mistyped it as “genderally”) the identity that I see myself as. For example, I see myself as genderqueer, trans, and butch. Gender expression is usually how you’re expressing your gender verbally and with energy, and gender presentation is usually how you have decorated your body and the visual presentation of it. For me, that’s usually butch and masculine.

Gender perception is how others see your gender.

perception
“Gender Perception” page from The Gender Book

I do understand that gender perception is a serious source of distress for many folks, feeling that if the world doesn’t see and reflect that I am a certain gender, then I am not that gender. It can be devastating to not be recognized, I do understand that. But for whatever reason, it’s not that important to me.

Or wait—let me rephrase that. It’s very, very important to me to be seen and recognized and understood by my communities and my lovers and my family, and sometimes it takes a lot of work to educate and inform and correct and encourage folks to do so. But it’s not that important to me that the world at large understand and get my gender identity and pronouns right this minute. I just understand that the majority of people haven’t deconstructed the gender binary in a way where they can even see beyond it.

Remember that part in the HBO series Six Feet Under, where Claire, in art school, is trying to “break her eye open,” to see new perspectives and outside of her habits? Most people haven’t broken their eyes open to see more genders, yet.

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Most people haven’t broken their eyes open to see more genders, yet.
When it comes to my communities and inner circles, seeing me and reflecting that they see me is important to me. And that’s partly because of validation, yeah, but it’s also because of intimacy. The more they really see me, the more I feel like we are close and that they really get who I am and how I work in the world. That makes me feel vulnerable, touched, and honored. So really, my genderqueer identity and in-between marginalized place and pronoun use mostly matter for intimate relationships and moments.

I want to encourage that process of breaking your eye open to see more genders for everyone, not just within my communities of radical sex and gender minorities. But the frustration I feel when the larger society doesn’t get my gender stems from my unrealistic expectation. In a way, it’s just arguing with reality.

I’d love to figure out a way to address those misgenderings more easily in the moment, but usually it takes more than just, “hey, don’t call me lady,” for someone’s eyes to break open.

Right now, I can’t change this thing—this problem that the larger culture hasn’t broken their eyes open to more genders yet. I’m doing what I can, and being part of movements that are trying to get that culture broken open, and it is happening right now, the effects are huge and frequent. I can’t change this thing, but I can change my relationship to this thing. I can choose to funnel the pinpricks of not-belonging into more activism and work. I can keep encouraging people to break their eyes open to myriad genders, and I can look to my communities as a source of my validation and intimacy around my gender identity.

Illustration of “Gender Perception” by The Gender Book, reprinted with permission

The Ten Sugarbutch Cock Commandments

I’ve been teaching strap-on workshops for about six years now, and I’ve been strapping on for about fifteen. I also coach people to have more cock confidence (and to find the perfect cocks & harness for what they need). With all of this experience, I have some pretty strong opinions and philosophies about strap-on cocks and strap-on sex, and I have a lot of knowledge about what works for people and what doesn’t work.

But hey, remember that these are just my best ideas for strap-on play and philosophy at the moment. I reserve the right to change my mind and evolve my opinions about them later. Your best ideas may be different, and you might disagree with some of these—that’s a-okay by me. Just take what applies to you, and let go of the rest. If by chance I missed your personal favorite Cock Commandments, I invite you to leave them in the comments!

So here they are …

The Ten Cock Commandments

1. All bodies have holes

Male, female, men, women, queers, trans grrrls, trans fags, genderqueer folks, butches, femmes, fairy boys, bears, leather daddies, lesbians, bend over boyfriends, pro doms—whoever we are, all of our bodies have holes. All of our bodies have things that can fit into those pretty little holes, too: like tongues, fingers, toes, or even factory-installed dicks (if by chance you have one of those). And, because technology is awesome, we have dozens and dozens of options of sexytimes tools that we can add to our adult play time that might possibly feel good in those holes. Playing with penetration doesn’t make you straight, it doesn’t make you gay, it doesn’t make you masculine, it doesn’t make you anything that you aren’t—it only means you like to play with penetration.

Though we all have holes, not all of us like the sensation of things in our holes, for whatever reasons. Some people like lots of big huge things shoved in all their holes at once; some people like only teeny tiny things in this hole, but big things in that hole; some people like only this one hole touched on the outside. The trick is to find what sizes and sensations are just right, for you and for your lovers, and then respect the shit outta that.

2. Use sexy words to talk about it

Just like our factory-installed genitals, we all have different words that resonate for us and that really, really turn us off. Figure out which words work for YOU, share that with your partner, and then call it what you (and they) like to call it.

Here’s some tips: I would suggest against using words like “fake,” “pretend,” “faux,” “plastic,” and “dildo.” While they might be technically the correct terms for the item, once it becomes an extension of your (or your beloved’s) body, let me assure you: it can feel very real, and using words that support that connection rather than separating it can be empowering and validating. Some people like to give it a name—I just heard a poem where a femme kept referring to her cock as “Miss Big Red,” and then later, just “Red,” which was really hot. Some keep the name that the cock came with (Vixen Creations has some awesome names, like “Outlaw” and “Buck” and “Maverick”). Talk about it with your lovers and use the words that you—and they—find sexy and exciting.

3. It is an extension of your body

This tool is more than a toy: It can become an extension of your body. My advice? When you put it on, take a few deep breaths and feel into it. Put your finger on the very tip and see if you can feel your energy all the way into the shaft and weight and length and girth of it. Wear it around the house when you are doing chores or doing homework to get used to it. Put it on and jerk off with it, play with it, include it in your solo explorations. The more you get used to having it on your body, the more easily it’ll feel like an extension of you.

4. Fake it till you make it

But what if you just don’t feel it, don’t feel connected to it? Well, for now, I suggest you just fake it. Don’t lie about it—but make up in your head what it would feel like if you could feel it, and go from there. Experiment. Channel your favorite porn star and the way they drive their beautiful tool with such grace and ease and respect. (Don’t have a favorite porn star who straps on and plays? Maybe you should do some research, and find one!) Really feel into it and see what kind of sensations you can feel, and focus on those. A lot of strapping on and playing and “feeling” a strapped-on cock is mental, so be curious and open to expanding what you thought was possible.

5. A cock can be a top OR a bottom

Just because you’re the one wearing the cock doesn’t mean that you have to be the one in charge of the fuck, or the top or the dominant. Bottoms wear cocks, too! Being tied down to the bed and watching your lover lower themself down onto your shaft, riding and thrusting away on your cock, which is all exposed and hard and ready for the taking? That can be a very submissive place to play with. And if your dominant wants you to strap on and fuck them, aggressively, hard, with fervor? Well, do your service really well and perform just how they ask. Just because you’re the one doing the penetrating doesn’t mean you’re in charge.

6. Wrap your tool

Safer sex protocol applies to playing with strap-ons, too. Know your status, get tested, and increase your awareness of STIs and how to talk to lovers and play partners about them. If you’re monogamous with your partner, you may not need to wear a condom every time, but it’s still a good idea to do a deep clean every once in a while, and make sure you do a quick soap and water wash before you use it, and preferably after, too, to keep your materials in good shape. If you’re a (self-proclaimed) slutty slut and like pick-up play, or if you play with multiple partners, wear condoms on your dick and clean them between partners. Make sure you get good silicone cocks that can be easily boiled. You might want to get harnesses that clean more easily, like rubber, or machine washable materials like spandex and cotton and nylon.

7. Get your own cock

Couples sometimes shop for sex toys together. It can be a fun, sexy outing to go visit the nearest (hopefully queer-friendly, feminist, independent—if you’re lucky enough to have one of those in your area) sex toy store and look at all the goodies. But that often means that the sex toys expire when the relationship does.

Cocks and harnesses can be a little bit different than that. Often it’s not just a cock, it’s your cock. Perhaps you want it to match your particular style, in color or decor or shape. Or you might want to get one that compliments your body frame, your weight, your size, or your skin tone. Keep in mind that making it match your body frame might actually mean that you get a much, much smaller cock than you might ideally want (which is one of the most exciting things about being able to strap on and store your dicks in a drawer—you can have more than one!). Same with harnesses: It is often best to get one that fits for your body, and what is best for your body might not be best for your partner’s body.

I know finance is sometimes a limitation to getting the exact right product for you when you’re in a partnership; of course it’s totally fine to share toys. These products are expensive! But when you do invest as a couple, be willing to have a conversation about what will happen to the dick and harness if and when your relationship ends. Whose will it be? Will you have a little ritual and recycle it through a sex toy recycling program? Will you split up the harness and the cock? Be clear about it. And if you have the means, invest in your own cock.

8. You have a dick, but don’t BE a dick*

Much of the sexual assault and violence perpetrated in this culture is about violating people’s holes. I don’t say that to be a downer and to ruin the sexytimes mood of all this strap-on fun stuff, but rather to encourage you to be mindful and sensitive about strapping on and playing.

It is a rare and intimate thing, to cross the barrier of someone’s skin and actually go inside of them. There are so few places where we do that, generally our skin is a very effective boundary. Doctors, dentists, health care, and sex play are really the only places that happens.

Keep in mind that you never, never have the right to enter another person’s body. When you are lucky enough to have the permission to do so, you better come from a place of deep respect and reverence. I don’t care if you have a 24 carat gold-plated dick, they are giving you a beautiful, intimate, vulnerable gift by letting you come inside their body, and you better respect that. Be kind, be aware, and be responsible.

* For the record, I think we should abolish using the words for genitals to insult people, because I think it tends to reinforce cultural norms that our genitals are dirty and bad. But please forgive me this one time, since I couldn’t resist the word play of that particular title!

9. Your orgasm is your responsibility

Your dick is not a magical instrument that will give people orgasms just by touching them, or just by putting it in and out of their hole. Most of us don’t have bodies who can come from penetration alone, regardless of the hole that is penetrated. Fuck yes, it can feel good, and can lead to a whopping big explosive orgasm, but most of us need some sort of other stimulation at the same time. Maybe it’s a vibrator on our clit, or a mouth on our factory-installed dick, or some dirty words whispered in our ear, or some physical restraint to struggle against. That’s the fun part: What do your lovers need in order to get them tipped over the edge? Ask them, discuss it with them, and experiment!

If you are the one strapped on, you probably won’t come just from having the base of a strap-on pounding against your pubic mound. Experiment with sensation and see if you can reproduce your favorite ways to get off. Do you need something inside you? Something in your ass? Some vibration? More direct stimulation on your clit? There are ways to make that happen and strap on at the same time. You just gotta be creative, and try some things out.

Either way, you’re the one who best knows how you get off and what feels good for your body. Ask your lover to help get you tipped over the edge, but know that your orgasm is your responsibility, and you are way more likely to get what you want if you’re able to articulate what would feel pleasurable for your body.

10. Use the right tool for the right job

Or, at least, make sure you have the right expectations. The different holes on our bodies have different capacities, and what one hole can take might not translate to what another hole can take. Same for multiple partners—some people can take a lot, some people can not take as much. Can you afford ten different cocks so you can pick and choose a long, slender one when you want to do some ass play with this person, and a different thinner, shorter one when you want to receive blow jobs, and a big giant thick one for that one lover who is a size queen? Then lucky you! But most of us can’t afford that. So get a really good, solid, average-size cock (I usually suggest something in the range of 1.25”x6.5”), and adjust your expectations: You might only get to use the tip of it in one hole, or the first half of it in another, and you might want to supplement with some fingers for the hungry holes (or start with your dick and upgrade to your fist, if they really need more).

There are dozens and dozens of cocks, harnesses, and accessories for strapping on and playing. I’ve got a huge archive of reviews here on Sugarbutch, so browse through those to get a feel of what might be the right tool for YOUR specific jobs.

Do rough sex fantasies compromise your sex-positive ethics?

This new essay is also the introduction to my new book, Sweet & Rough: Sixteen Stories of Queer Smut, available September 15th. Preorder it on Smashwords now!

I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong with my personal rough sex fantasies, nor is there anything wrong with your dirtiest fantasies. I believe that because I trust that you and I are adults who understand that fantasy is different from reality, and while we may think one thing to get ourselves off, we probably conduct our sex lives slightly differently.

Erotic stories are fantasies, yes, but they can be more than just that—they can show us a piece of the path, and encourage our erotic selves to blossom. So what’s my responsibility as an erotica writer to make the stories that I write down ethical and responsible?

I am both a sex educator and a smut writer, and sometimes those worlds seem to conflict. For example, in the BDSM and sex education worlds, educators and advanced practitioners stress consent in play scenes. And not just consent—we stress enthusiastic consent, not just an absence of “no” but a ready joyous abundance of informed and eager “yes.” We also stress safer sex practices, barriers, knowing your status, and sexual health and wellness. We stress responsible scenes, and warn about playing while intoxicated.

In some of my erotic fiction stories, these practices that are deeply held values in my personal life aren’t readily apparent. That’s because my stories are fantasies—you know, the things you close your eyes and think about when you’re getting off all by yourself, not necessarily (though perhaps sometimes!) the things you do with lovers. The characters in my stories sometimes don’t negotiate or have a conversation about safer sex, not because things like safer sex or negotiation are unimportant, but because the main purpose of the story is to turn you, the reader, on.

Frequently, in the sexuality education communities and conversations, we talk about how porn and erotica are different from sex education. I discourage people from learning how to give or receive a blow job from porn videos, for example, where deep throating and playing with ejaculate are overly common. (See Cindy Gallop’s online project Make Love, Not Porn for a variety of other examples of the difference.) Similarly, I discourage people from learning about power dynamics from Laura Antoniou’s book The Marketplace (though I happen to love the whole series), and would never suggest recreating a scene from 50 Shades of Grey (don’t even get me started). Both of these books are worlds away from the people who pursue and practice power dynamics, ownership, dominance, and submission in their personal relationships.

But the fantasies? We, as readers, love devouring them. We love the fantasies even more than we love the reality. The reality is messy, with STI scares and condoms breaking. The fantasies are escapist, sensual, and by definition not real.

I think when we start coming into our own sexually, when we start realizing that there’s more to sex than what our completely antiquated and puritanical sex education system taught us as kids, we start familiarizing ourselves with some of the most basic topics in sex positive communities. We learn about consent, agency, negotiations, communication, and safer sex. When we don’t see that reflected in the erotica or porn that we are consuming, sometimes it can seem like the erotica or porn fantasy is discouraging that kind of sex positive responsibility.

I am explaining all of this to you because I don’t want my erotic fantasies to discourage you from being responsible in reality.

I know that the educational workshops I teach encourage sex positive responsibility. But in my erotica? That issue becomes a little more nuanced and complicated, because of the aspects of art and fantasy. For example, I am aware that there are some points in the Sweet & Rough collection of stories where characters protest or resist or drink a lot of whiskey. I think there is nothing wrong with playing with resistance and force, consensually and carefully, but I also think that requires a lot of negotiation, a lot of trust, and safewords, in order to be done responsibly in the real world. That part of the story often isn’t revealed. Like the porn scene that cuts out the part where the fluffer comes on stage and someone else adds more lube, the erotic story often excludes the getting-to-know-you, the subtle body language communication, the character’s histories with each other, and what they have negotiated “off screen.”

I deeply believe that the personal is political and that being transparent about one’s life is a spiritual path. Since writing Sweet & Rough, I have shifted some of my erotica writing to be much more consciously inclusive of things like negotiations and safer sex. Most definitely because that stuff is hot, but also because I want to show more of the reality and less of the fantasy.

However, those things are frequently excluded from Sweet & Rough. And here’s why: These stories are collaborations. Most of the stories in this collection were written and published on Sugarbutch between 2007-2009. Many of them came out of the “Sugarbutch Star Contest” where readers sent in some basics about a scene (who, where, what the characters did) and I wrote up the story.

It was a huge period of growth for my writing, and I pushed myself hard to write the fantasies that were outlined for me. Sometimes, they were much more forceful than I’d usually write, although they more closely resembled my own private fantasies. I am aware of my access to privilege and unconscious entitlement as a masculine person and as a dominant, and it is important for me to stay conscious in my sex play, especially when it comes to gender or power dynamics.

Often, my early drafts of these stories included a lot of internal processing and negotiations, but the fantasies of my collaborators challenged me. I remember when writing “The Houseboy’s Rebellion” (which is a b-side story included on the USB version of Sweet & Rough), when the collaborator read the draft of it, she said, “No way. Make my character more mean. Take out all this negotiation. Just take me.”

Because of how strong the service top in me is, and because I liked it, I followed her desire. And I believe that story—and others, when I received similar feedback—are stronger for it.

The stories in Sweet & Rough are fantasies. I know fantasy erotic writing still greatly influences our real sexualities, and I don’t dismiss that connection. But these fictions are not necessarily models of sexual responsibility. Some of it is “problematic,” and I wouldn’t claim otherwise—but they still have so much value, and can jump-start our erotic engines or show us how much more can be incorporated into our erotic lives.

I encourage you to continue practicing being a responsible, ethical, sex-positive kinkster who operates from integrity. And I encourage you to read erotica stories that are edgy, full of force and lust, from authors whose ethics you trust, and to believe that the responsibilities are filled in behind the scenes, just off the page, stripped out so you can enjoy even more of the sweet sex and rough play that gets you going and gets you off.

Sweet & RoughYou have just read the introduction to my new book of erotica short stories, Sweet & Rough: Sixteen Stories of Queer Smut. It is all ready to go and will be released on Monday, September 15th! Preorder your copy on Smashwords, or if you are attending the Catalyst Conference in LA this weekend, I’ll have special pre-release copies on a USB drive (which will have a special, USB-only b-side story included!)

Let’s Talk About Bleeding While Butch

I have always had very heavy periods. Lots of blood, serious cramps that vary from keeping me flat on my back watching movies until I can stand up again to drugging myself heavily to throwing up from the pain. They’ve always been very regular (which is one of the things that rules out PCOS), and because any conventional doctor I have had wants to put me on supplemental hormones (like the pill form of birth control, usually containing heavy doses of estrogen), and I immediately say no, I’ve never been treated for this well. (I must not be adequately expressing how much pain I’m in when I’m actually talking to the doctor. They dismiss it so easily.)

I’ve tried all the things—from hot baths to raspberry leaf tea, from supplements to hot water bottles to yoga to orgasms. (The orgasms kind of help.) None of it really hurts, but all of them only take the edge off, they don’t actually help the pain. Menstrual pain is kind of like curing the hiccups: everybody has an opinion on how best to do that, but your body may or may not take to any of them. I have routines, my best ideas of what work (most of which involves taking lots of Aleve and watching favorite childhood movies and not talking to anybody), but I’m coming to realize that it’s not enough.

Things have changed a lot for me lately. In the past year and a half, since moving to the San Francisco Bay Area from New York City, my system feels very different. My grieving process has mostly passed, at least the most intense of it has, I’m pretty sure; and I’m no longer in a very high-stress and high-conflict relationship. I’m also no longer living in one of the most high-stress cities on the planet, trying to make it on a shoestring artist budget. Now that my day to day life is significantly less anxiety- and depression-producing, I’m noticing this other thing happening: I am significantly affected by hormonal mood swings. Depression, anxiety, and wacky all-over-the-place emotions in the few days up to when I start bleeding. (Usually, when the bleeding actually starts, things settle a bit.)

I’ve tracked my monthly cycle on and off for the whole twenty years that I’ve had it, and it’s almost always very regular and consistent. It’s also almost always been like this: heavy, with big repercussions on my mood, outlook, energy, and body. The feminist communities I ran around with when I was in my teens and early 20s were very encouraging of things like charting one’s cycle against the moon phases, which I still do and find very fascinating and comforting. It helps me see the Quiet Days coming, the days before I start bleeding when sometimes I am entirely too sensitive to be interacting with people in any significant way.

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So lately, the past year that I’ve lived in this sweet little house with my boy and my cat and the boy’s dog and a little garden and a really good kitchen and a bedroom slash temple, I’ve been tracking. I started being treated by an herbalist in May of this year and that has helped, that has changed things. But even after three solid months taking herbs, my cycle hasn’t really changed, and my periods are still harsh, interruptive, heavy, and affect me deeply.

A few weeks ago, the last time I was bleeding, when I was in tears on the way to an event (and eventually ended up staying in the car crying instead of going to participate because it hurt less to lay flat), I said to rife, “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” I’ve been exploring some other options, and I keep worrying about the side effects, but really? The side effects might be worth putting up with if it helps me with the heavy bleeding and the pain and the moods. I’ve been doing a bunch of reading on the menstrual cycle since I’ve been looking into this lately, and it’s funny: I can’t quite tell what is off-balance in my cycle. Too much progesterone, too little? Too much estrogen, too little? Something other than hormonal releases? I just don’t know, and most of the primary care type of OBGYN doctors I’ve seen aren’t hormone experts enough to be able to tell me.

And then there’s the trans/genderqueer thing, too. I went to get an annual pap exam a few weeks ago (thank you, Obamacare) and as I was waiting in the Women’s Clinic, I thought: What if I didn’t have to go to the “women’s clinic” anymore. Why am I still going to the “women’s clinic”? Am I still not trans enough? What is worth it to me that I don’t go out of my way to go to the places that have good trans care? I almost always went to Callen Lorde, the gay community health center, in New York City, and honestly I got (and witnessed) some pretty shitty care there around my (and others’) gender identity, so it’s not like it’s exactly a given, but it’s a step at least. (I found out after my appointment that the San Francisco clinic, Lyon Martin, takes my insurance and has openings next week. So, yeah, I’ll be there from now on kthanksbye.)

(I could so easily slip into a rant about health care and trans-ness and my experiences and what I’m struggling with, but I’m trying to keep this on topic to bleeding while butch.)

I’m considering an IUD—an “intrauterine device” that would be inserted into the uterus and affects the menstrual cycle. It’s primarily used as birth control, as it’s very effective at getting the egg not to implant, but it’s also good for a variety of other things: like significantly reducing the blood flow during a menstrual cycle (because the uterine walls don’t get a chance to build up blood) and reducing cramps. I’ve been doing research about forms of birth control that don’t interfere with hormones like estrogen and testosterone that the body produces, and long term birth control options that are safe for trans men (or genderqueer folks like me) to use. (I’m not taking testosterone, but I don’t necessarily want to change the hormones in my system. I like my goatee and my sex drive, thanks.)

I’ve come across one in particular that seems to come highly recommended these days: Mirena. It’s progesterone-only, which doesn’t interfere with the estrogen or testosterone in the system, and it’s based in the uterus (as opposed to the implant in the arm or pills, which affect the whole body) so it’s localized. I’m seriously considering it, especially now that I have health insurance (thank you, again, Obamacare).

Aside from that, I have also found a couple of really good tools that I want to recommend if this by chance resonates for you.

Recently I bought a new menstrual cup. This is the third I’ve had in about fifteen years, having started using them when I was about twenty, when the only option was the Keeper, made from rubber. It lasted me about six years, until it started having a smell that I could not boil or tea tree out of it, which seemed to be a common problem. I upgraded to the Diva cup, the only other option on the market (that I knew of, anyway) around 2006. It was better—silicone, and absorbed less scent, but after about eight years it too got a little too stained. It is almost clear silicone, so it started getting stained, which visually started being … just not good enough to continue using. I tolerated the stain for a while, but when it started building a scent, I was done.

So I went online to possibly reorder the Diva cup, and while I was researching it, I realized that the landscape of menstrual cups had changed significantly since 2006 when I last bought a cup. I found a few other options like the Lunette and the Fleur, but the one that got me this time was the Sckoon. I LOVE it. I like that it’s marketed in significantly less feminine ways, and I like the design: They really took into account some of the other design flaws in the Diva and Keeper and Fleur, and they made bigger air holes (so it creates less suction) and fewer ridges (which are hard to clean). I like that it comes in colors, too (mine is red).

The thing about a cup, however, is that I don’t have to buy menstrual products every month. That might seem like kind of a small thing, but the process of buying them really was sometimes dysphoric for me. It’s not that I don’t acknowledge and celebrate that my body and sex is female—I do—but having to engage in realms that are marketed for the socialized feminine gender role just makes me so frustrated and angry and sad sometimes. On my best months, I roll my eyes and just do it, like paying a parking ticket or overpriced gas bill. Argh, but okay. It’s just part of it. But on the bad months … it can send me into a tailspin. Especially with all the hormone-induced mood sensitivities (see above)!

Menstrual cups generally come in two sizes: before childbirth, and after childbirth. The “after” is slightly larger, as you can imagine. But until I saw the Sckoon literature about the difference being how much liquid the cup holds (23 vs 30 ml), it didn’t occur to me that getting the larger size cup would, perhaps, enable me to sleep through the night without having to get up to empty the cup (sometimes more than once). Of course! Heavy flow = more blood! And if I have a slightly larger cup, I don’t have to change it as often!

sckoon
Even the small size cups you don’t have to change as often as tampons. But this new larger size of cup has been making a big difference. I didn’t really think about it as one of the things that supports genderqueer and trans folks who have a menstrual cycle and don’t want to deal with all that “feminine hygiene products” crap, but it has been a really excellent tool for me to use.

Yes, I have to use my fingers and touch my cunt (and the blood). Yes, I have to deal with emptying it in public restrooms, so I have to either be willing to bring the cup to the (communal) sink and empty it and rinse it, or to make do in a stall with a toilet paper wipe. Yes, it is not the most comfortable thing in the world, but whatever—my public bathroom experiences are already full enough of weird looks that I’ve just said fuck it, and gone for it. People are kind of trained to keep to themselves in bathrooms, so I’ve never had a problem, and very rarely has anybody even really looked at what I was doing. Yes, they are kind of expensive—but a $30-40 investment has lasted me 6-8 years in the past, so it’s definitely worth it.

So now you’ve got a couple of my secrets to how I have this monthly blood ritual of bleeding while butch:

  • A moon chart
  • A menstrual cup
  • Quiet Days

… And maybe Mirena, the IUD, in the near future, though I’m still weighing my options. I had some bloodwork done and will hopefully be able to talk to some folks who have more expertise about hormones and the cycle and trans stuff than I do. That stuff is fascinating to me, but come on, my main knowledge is my own body and that one Psychobiology of Women class I took in college—there must be experts I can talk to.

What about you? What are your secret tools for bleeding (while butch, or otherwise)?

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: mrsexsmith@gmail.com.

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

“I know I’m submissive. But where do I start?” aka “I just read Fifty Shades of Grey and I want THAT.”

1. Read a fucking book

Read fiction, sure—Carrie’s Story, The Marketplace series, Mr. Benson, The Leather Daddy and the Femme (these are some of my personal favorites)—hell, even Fifty Shades of Grey—read the fiction, but know that it is designed for one thing: Arousal. The reality of it is both much, much sexier, erotic, and mind-blowing and also sometimes very different, full of realistic mundane problems that aren’t sexy at all.

Read non-fiction. There are many good ones: ask a bookseller at your favorite local bookstore for recommendations on where to start if you’re exploring kink (I know, it’s old fashioned, but do it anyway.) Go in to your local feminist queer sex-positive sex toy shop (is there not a good directory for those online yet!?) and ask them for their book recommendations. Go to your favorite queer sex blogger’s list of recommended BDSM books on Amazon and browse around. Go intellectual-butt-sniffing (aka, look over their bookshelves) at your bibliophile friend’s place.

All of those recommendations are worth reading, but these are essential. Consider them assigned to you as homework.

You can do this step while you also do the other steps, but do not skip it.

2. Find a buddy

It doesn’t really matter where you find your buddy, but you gotta have that person you can talk to about this thing that is growing and that you are beginning to voice and give weight and value to. It’s great if that person has lots more information about kink than you do, if they can guide you on the path, if they can be your mentor, but that’s not the most important thing.

They must:

  • Feel safe to talk to
  • Listen to what you’re curious about
  • Be supportive and not judgmental, not shaming of your interests
  • Ask interesting questions

And, most importantly:

When you leave the conversations with this friend, you feel invigorated, empowered, stronger, braver. <— Pay attention to this, to how you feel after visiting with your friends and relations in general. You don’t need anyone else stomping on this new baby-green identity that is just starting to sprout and grow. It needs some scaffolding, a tomato cage of strength and nurturance around it, one that won’t disrupt it’s growth but is there if it needs something to hold on to, some guidance of how to get to the sun, some support if the fruits get too heavy.

Find those tomato-cage friends and lovers and confidants and beloveds. Identify them. They are out there. You probably already know a few of them.

3. Brave up and go to a Thing

BDSM, kink, and fetish events abound. You may not find “your people” or “your community” or your next mind-blowing fuck at the first, second, third, fifth, or even twentieth event you attend—but then again, you might.

Depending on where you live, this might be harder than it sounds. Your Thing might have to be on another coast, in another city, while visiting that one friend from college who is always posts “interesting” things on Facebook.

Look up whatever might be happening in your local kink community on Fetlife. (I wish I knew of another good source for you, but that’s the best I’ve got. And hey, I’ll be your friend!) Yes, you might have to wade through unsolicited solicitations. Yes, you might not have the exact right orientation or gender or fetish event that you’d really most want, in your heart-of-hearts, to attend. But that’s okay. You don’t have to go to the only very most perfect events. Go to the events that kind of weird you out, that you don’t get, that you are totally “meh” about.

Regardless of the Thing, you’ll learn. Pay attention. Put your phone away and really listen. Think about it as if you’re a scientist studying what these kinksters do. Why do they like it? What’s amazing about it? What makes them squirm, in good ways or bad ways? Even if it isn’t for you, you can still observe and learn.

The more brave you are, the more you’ll feel strong and capable and badass, and the more you’ll be able to do.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be in person, though I do encourage you to make sure to attend at least one kinky event every two months. But if socializing is too too hard, if your schedule just doesn’t work, it could be online. Lots of kinksters host online events. I’m just about to launch Submissive Playground for the second time, which is a more in-depth study for anybody who knows they’re submissive (of some kind) and wants to explore more submissive headspace. It’s great for folks who are beginners, for folks who have done so much kinky bottoming that they are practically bored and stagnant, for people without much kink community around them geographically, and for people wanting to dip their toes back in after something hard happened (be it a breakup or a bad scene).

Regardless, the point is to prioritize your kink. Prioritize your submission. It’s important, and nothing to be ashamed of.

4. Brave up and ask a top to play

Step 0: Go to a kink/bdsm/fetish Thing.

Step 1: Identify the hottest person in the room. If you’re trying to develop your submissive self, then filter for whether or not that person is a top. (Hint: You might not know until you talk to them!)

Step 2: Dare yourself to find a reason to talk to them, and say hi. Maybe it’s to give a compliment (people like compliments!) or ask a question (it’s flattering for someone to be curious!).

Step 3: Find common ground, and elevate the discussion. (This is something my mom taught me and I think about it all the time.)

Step 4: If you’ve talked for 2-5 minutes at the event and are still curious and have more compliments to give, offer your phone number. Ask if they’re on Fetlife and give them your user name. Say that you’d love to be in touch and talk more.

Step 5: If you’re really bold, ask them on a date. If you are less bold, ask them on a date via whatever contact information they give you or when they find you on social media or email you later.

One more note about asking tops to play:

They are not better than you are, they are not (inherently) sexier than you are, they are not more entitled to play than you are, just because they are a top and you are/might be a bottom. Tops sometimes act like they own the scene, but they don’t. They need you just as much as you need them, and they are just as nervous/excited/lonely/wishing for the right person to come along as you are.

Sometimes s-types are nervous about asking for dates or being forward, because that is seen as a trait that dominants or tops have. I say, fuck that. There are absolutely ways to hit on someone from a submissive or bottomy or masochistic perspective. The more you hit on people and the more trial and error you do, the more play you’ll get and the more you’ll be able to read the signs better and better.

Rife has some great tips for how to get more kinky play from a submissive’s perspective—Watch for his video on that later this week!

5. One last tip to help you open up your submissive world:

Recognize that no matter what you consume about submission, there’s no one right way to do it, and your way is just as good as anyone elses. You don’t have to love service, or being hit, or playing in public, or being naked, or having your orgasms controlled, or body fluids, or blood, or ANY thing at all really. Your kinks are okay and your icks are just fine too.

Whatever you learn through any sources you take in, people or meetings or mentors or books or events or lovers—you get to remix everything into your own identity, and who you are, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, is exactly right.

PS: AMAZING illustration by rife, who drew an infographic for the stages of kink and power dynamic identity development and formation. (I helped with some words and theories.) Watch for the full thing to be posted in a few days!

What you should know about privacy, secret identities, and kink communities

Welcome to the kink worlds of BDSM and reclaimed sluttiness and sex toys!

I see you there in the wings, lurking a little bit, shy and nervous, and possibly fearful of revealing too much and putting yourself or your life in some sort of “danger.” Danger is of course what you are coming here looking for, in a safe and risk-aware context: more edge, more bite in your sex life, more intensity of feeling, more cracking yourself open and seeing what’s inside.

But taking the first steps into the kink communities are a challenge, and you’re almost immediately faced with the question of anonymity. Should you stay anonymous, or be transparent? Create an alter ego, or use your legal name? And what about … pictures?

There are a lot of fears about being “out” as kinky in a world that sees all kinky things as deviant, dangerous, and out of control. Kink is in the mainstream more than ever these days, from Fifty Shades of Grey back to “The Secretary,” but there still can be real consequences to working in sexually explicit fields, or being out as kinky.

Here’s a few examples from my own version of struggling with being out—Just last week, I put up a sale for enrollment into the Submissive Playground ecourse, and after about five hours of it being live, I got an email saying that it had been pulled and I wasn’t allowed to use Gumroad for this project because it violates their terms of service, which excludes any adult content. Fuck. Cue sad trombone.

I was also turned down for a Twitter business ad recently because my business is sex related, and denied entry into the Audible.com affiliate program because my work is too explicit (got some leads on resolving that one, but no guarantees).

Sometimes, this is Just The Way It Is and I can kinda let it go, but other times, it feels like I’m being shamed for being explicit about sex and I get all righteous and pissed about it. I get mad, and then I write furiously, and then I try to formulate these writing furies into actual useful pieces of writing that you get to read, too!

Of course I’m the only one this happens to professionally—there have been a bunch of headlines recently about Chase bank closing porn actors’ bank accounts. It’s not just Chase: Paypal has been making headlines lately too as freezing funds and strong-arming businesses into flagging any “adult” content. My friend Andre Shakti recently crowdfundraised over $500 to travel to the Feminist Porn Awards, but the bank processor Wepay wouldn’t let her collect what she’d raised.

You might be see these headlines around, on your usual Internet wanderings, or on the Facebook feed of that one friend who always shares kinky shit. (Hey, maybe you’ll see this from them, too!) And it makes you wonder … so what about me?

Is it risky to be out as kinky?

Maybe. It’s generally agreed upon that you’re going to have a much, much harder time being any sort of elected official if you’re an out kinkster, so most folks who want to go into politics are really careful about any sort of identity in the kink communities. Some people who have kids are very strict about their kink identities, particularly if they are adopting or going through legal battles—but I’ve also heard that it’s becoming more common for kink to be disregarded in court as related to the safety of children or the capabilities of the kinkster as a parent. But I am not a lawyer! Nor do I work in law—I’m just a kinkster who likes to stay informed. This is just what I’ve heard.

There’s no easy answer here for what to do and how to deal with your new budding kink identity, but there are many, many kinksters who have come before you, grasshopper, who have deliciously happy lives and who do dirty things in consensual privacy. Kink producers—folks who actively work to produce spaces for kinksters to learn and gather and play—work with you to keep you safe and disclose the level of identity that you want to disclose.

Here’s some strategies for you to think about.

Most commonly, people do one of three things to keep themselves as safe as possible and not in a position to be threatened or “outed” as being kinky. They either 1. retain anonymity, using no identifying information about themselves in places that could be used against them, or2. create an alter ego, using a different name and separating their kinky communities from the rest of their life, or 3. go for complete transparency.

Let’s look at each of ’em and see what might fit you best:

1. Stay Anonymous

If you are extra nervous about consequences from being out as kinky, you might want to consider remaining completely anonymous in the kink communities. This usually means taking some sort of non-identifiable name when you are involved in kink events or on Fetlife, but not necessarily building a whole persona behind it—just using it as a screen in front of the “real you.”

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Pros:

  • Most protective of your legal identity and any identifiable characteristics
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Cons:

  • The more you hide, the more you have to hide
  • Some folks end up craving the validation and community that comes with sharing more, and this anonymity isn’t enough to build those deeper connections that are possible
  • Many people won’t recognize your Fetlife avatar, photos, or name if you introduce yourself at an event as one thing and then use a different name as your smokescreen
  • Often there is a big risk of being outed as kinky, which can cause anxiety and stress
  • Sometimes you might really want to a) take photos of you doing kinky amazing things and b) share them, but this option shuts that down
[/columns]

2. The Alter Ego

This is super common in the kinky worlds—for people to basically have two names, one that they use outside of kink spaces and one that they use for kink. They often use this name as their Fetlife profile, on their badge at kink events, or introduce themselves as that at the local munch or BDSM workshop.

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Pros:

  • Nobody who googles your name will find your connections to kink
  • Generally very safe to show up at events, wear a “no photos” marker, and go by your other name—no one will ever know you were there
  • Easy to erase all trace of your alter ego, just by deleting your alter ego’s accounts
  • Relative ease to keeping your other self separate from your kink self
  • Can still put up a variety of identifying things (photos of your face, photos of your tattoos) and be relatively sure that your name is not attached to them. If someone you know is at a kink event or on Fetlife and sees you, well, then in order to out you, they’d have to out themselves, so you are relatively safe.
[/columns] [columns width=”1/2″ last=”true”]

Cons:

  • It can be lots of work to maintain two selves. You have to be very diligent about what you post where, who sees it, and where (if ever) you cross post.
  • The lines start to get blurry. Sometimes your alter ego becomes more you than the rest of your life (see: Sinclair Sexsmith, myself, for example), or sometimes you become your alter ego.
  • It might sometimes feel like fragmenting your Self, if people know you as many names, and can lead to a lack of integrity or a lack of intimacy for friends because they only know parts of you
  • Being “exposed” as this alter ego is a real risk that can sometimes be incredibly scary
[/columns]

Full Transparency

This is where you end up either merging your legal identity and your alter ego, if you started there, or you just always used your own name (or a variation thereof) and used your personal accounts to connect with the kinky communities. Very few people start from here in the kink scene, but it can be liberating and empowering to

I heard a story just recently from a man who used to work at a high-up government office, and as he came into the kink community, he realized that was a potential spot for blackmail. Rather than cease his kink engagement, he called a meeting with his boss and his boss’s boss, and came out as kinky. “I want you to know that I’m a gay man, and I participate in BDSM activities—” he started. They cut him off. “We don’t need to know that!” “But you do,” he persisted. “Because if you know, then there’s nothing for anyone else to blackmail me with.” “Fair enough. Great. Thanks for telling us. Now go back to work.”

(I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.)

I’ve been pretty shocked at how few issues being almost completely out as kinky has been in my own life. I began publishing erotica under my legal first and middle names when I was 27, in 2006, and because my legal name is very specific, it’s easily findable via Google.

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Pros:

  • Integrity! Being who you are!
  • Making your own unique way in the world without apology
  • Significantly reduced shame (Potential for, not guaranteed)
  • Reduced potential for someone to attempt to use something against you as a threat
[/columns] [columns width=”1/2″ last=”true”]

Cons:

  • It’s really, really hard and scary and challenging, and you may sacrifice some relationships, professional contacts, your job, your standing in the community, your career ladder, or other things. It’s more and more rare, but it is still possible.
  • It’s not for everybody! It isn’t always possible (because of perceived/feared consequences or known consequences) to be out as kinky
[/columns]

Most of the folks I know in the community do some sort of combination of these things. I’d say I have an alter ego (“Sinclair Sexsmith” isn’t the name my parents named me at birth, if you didn’t already figure that out), but that I am completely out in my life in general. Pretty much everyone who knows me via my birth name knows that I am Sinclair, and it isn’t hard to find out my legal name if you know my work through Sugarbutch (there’s even a post in the archives for “coming out day” from a few years ago where I come out as my legal name).

When my boy rife and I were talking about this article, he said, “My alter ego is pretty transparent.” Which I think is a very accurate way to describe what both he and I do with our kink worlds.

As a producer of kinky events and a facilitator of kink education in general, I am always interested in and concerned with people’s privacy. I don’t take photos of my classes (unless I get permission from the audience, which I sometimes do). I don’t use anyone’s names or identify anybody who was in attendance (unless I either get permission or know their level of out-ness and transparency). Note—just because I have my own policies that I follow around this doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes fuck up. I have posted photos on Sugarbutch of people I didn’t have permission to post before (and subsequently apologized and taken them down). I have messed up. It happens. I do my best to apologize, reflect, and fix it, if possible.

Take the Submissive Playground course, as an example—many people have had challenges attending because they are not particularly out as kinky. Some folks don’t want to use any sort of credit card or payment linked to their name in order to pay. Some folks have been very concerned with their name and email, worried that their identity would be revealed to the group.

But let me reassure you: We can work around that.

Payment challenges? No problem. You can send me a check—or, even more anonyously, a money order! You can use an anonymous email address. You don’t have to give me your address.

Any information you give me will be protected and for my use to make the course better, and will never be released.

In this particular course, you can be whatever level of anonymous that you feel comfortable being. You can use a pseudonym and an alternative picture for your avatar, no problem. You don’t have to ever go on record and say where you live or what you do. You do have the option to share photos, to go on video to chat with me with the group, or to speak up on our live calls, but you don’t have to.

You might not know about the variety of options that are available to you to keep your identities from being outed as kinky if you are new to the BDSM and fetish and sex toy and slutty delicious worlds, but there are quite a few. Producers of kink events work hard to make the spaces as safe as possible, and for many people to attend, regardless of their anonymity, alter egos, or transparency.

None of these options are better or worse than the others, they are all weighing risks and mitigating the circumstances as best as possible, and everyone has different risks. You are the best gauge of what is right for you—nobody else can make the decision for you.

Think about which of these options feels best for you, and remember—at any time, you can change it. Problem is, it’s much harder to change to more anonymity than it is to change to more openness about your identities. And certain things (like publishing erotica in a Best Lesbian Erotica 2006 anthology under your legal name when you’re 27) don’t really go away, though they do have the potential to lead you to an integrated, kink-forward and well-lived life.

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 mrsexsmith+sugarbutch@gmail.com) 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:

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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 mrsexsmith+sugarbutch@gmail.com) 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.

To All the Tops Who Are Afraid to Make a Move

One of my biggest challenges as a top—and as a feminist dominant, and as someone who is well versed in and vehemently requires agency and consent in my sexytime play—is making assertions of what I want. This is especially hard if I’m meeting or playing with somebody new. I want to be bold, domineering (in good ways), bossy (also in good ways), sexy—toppy. I want to demand and take and get just a little more rough than expected.

But: I won’t do that, until I have consent. Until I have a very, very clear green light that my advances—my dominance, my toppy-ness—is wanted and desired.

Nothing wrong with that, right? I want to do dirty things with the people I date and play with, and I want them to want me to do those things, otherwise I don’t want those things. In fact, one could argue (and I do) that my wanting to do those things is contingent upon them wanting me to do them. I won’t get it up for somebody who doesn’t want me.

But see, sometimes because I am not making big bold moves, or acting with brassy ballsy swagger, people think I am not flirting with them, or don’t like them, or aren’t interested, or am “not that dominant.”

(Well, in terms of that last one, they can suck it—I believe in consensual dominance, and I don’t believe doms (or anybody) has a right to go around spewing their swagger on anybody they come across. I take up my space, you take up yours. Unless we’re in a explicit power dynamic, I don’t assume that I get to be dominant with you. I guess that’s called boundaries.)

But those other things … that depends. Sometimes I really, really, really, like somebody, and I want to do things with them to them for them, but I am not getting a clear green light, so I do nothing.

And this can be crippling! This can mean that a perfectly good top wrings their hands and wonders, wonders, wonders, whether or not they should make a move, but that the other person is simultaneously thinking, I thought they were a top? Aren’t they going to do something?

That sucks, right? Here’s a few ideas.

1. Make it clear you are (kinda sorta completely) inclined to topping

Talk about it. Bring it up. “I tend to like to be in charge in bed.” Talk about topping and bottoming. Talk about the kind of things you like to do. Do you like rough sex? Extensive amounts of bondage? Strap-on sex nine times out of ten? Always being the one who orders at a restaurant? Opening doors? Holding someone down while they struggle?

And … ask them what they like. Talk about it. Get their Fetlife fetish list from their own expressive mouth. Ask again. Ask about specific things. Be fascinated by their answers. Listen closely.

This might be elementary for you, but I find that just about everybody doesn’t talk or communicate about their own desires enough. ‘Cause here’s the thing: They change constantly. Most of us don’t want the same thing all day every day. So it is a constant practice to be in the moment, figure out what we want, and communicate it clearly.

2. Make it clear you are waiting for a green light

Or, explicitly ask for a green light. Many people who are inclined to bottoming or submission, or, often, those who would be into going out with a top, are frequently waiting for the top to make the move. Perhaps they think that the way they’re batting their eyelashes, or the way they shined their leathers, or the way they are rubbing their thighs together, is so fucking obvious that of course you know they want you. But still, you are waiting for that green light.

So tell them that.

“I would so love to kiss you, but I’m waiting for the right sign / you to ask me / the perfect moment.” “I know I said I’m a top, but the only way I get all … toppy with somebody is if I am clear they want me to. Are you into that?” “I have this thing about consent—it’s super important to me. So I tend to wait until I get a really really clear green light to make any sorts of moves. But after I get the green light … ”

(Then do that sexy-ass sly top grin you practice in the mirror. Come on, I know you do.)

And then, pay attention to their reaction.

So if you growl, “I really want to throw you down, right now,” and their eyes get all huge and they start thinking about all the grass stains they’ll get, and they say, “Uhhh…” you will know that is not consent. But when they take a step closer to you and say, “I have a really good mattress at my house,” you’ll know they are at least interested.

I hesitate to talk about how consent can be expressed non-verbally, through physical communication, though I do believe that it can be. It’s just harder to pinpoint and talk about, and much easier to misconstrue, miscommunicate, or mistake. For the sake of nervousness or fear or making big bold topping moves, it is always, always safer to get enthusiastic verbal consent specifically.

Regardless of how much explicit consent they give you, always be paying attention for hesitation in their body language or speech. That probably means it’s time to back up, and slow down, and check in.

This can be used when escalating all sorts of play, by the way, not just the first kiss. It could be useful for that moment when you want to get your strap-on out, or when you want to put them in spread eagle bondage, or when you want to hold them down and rough them up, or when you want to ask them—tell them, demand them—to go into the bathroom and take their panties off and give them to you. Sometimes you just don’t know if it’s the right time to do something new, or to escalate, and you don’t know if you have their consent for it. So ask. Make it clear what you’re looking for, so they can give it to you (or not). They just might not know that’s what you’re waiting for.

Sometimes, when I start getting the feeling that it’s time to move in for a kiss or to escalate physical touch with somebody, I make a move kinda like I’m about to do the thing I want to do, but then I catch myself, and say, “Oh, sorry—I really want to kiss you / put my hands on your stockings / grab your belt / take you down right now. That okay?” (Sometimes I say this in a sexy growly voice near their neck or ear while I decidedly do not touch or kiss them because I don’t know if that’s okay—yet.)

And I wait. For their reaction, response, and enthusiastic consent made clear.

3. Still afraid you’re being an asshole?

Here’s the thing: Asking somebody for something, or asserting a decision or a preference, is not being an asshole. You’re not being an asshole when you say, “I’d love to take you out. How about we meet at this great cafe I love on Sunday for brunch?” You’re not being an asshole when you’re on a wandering-around-the-park date and you say, “I’d love a coffee. Want to duck into this coffee shop for a bit?” You’re not being an asshole when you point at a shady spot under a tree and say, “Let’s go sit there.” You’re not being an asshole when you get back to your place and they are on your couch all sexy and biting their lips and you say, “I can’t wait to play with you.”

You absolutely are being an asshole when you don’t honor their response to your suggestion or offer or preference.

If you say, “Let’s go to this great steakhouse!” And they say, “I’m a vegetarian …” When you say, “Great! Meet you there at 7,” you are being an asshole.

Wah waaaaah. Sad trombone. Don’t do that.

But making the offer? Not an asshole. Suggesting a change in place? Great! Shows your flexibility and thoughtfulness. Requesting a date at a particular place? Not too much (until, you know, they tell you otherwise).

Sometimes, being assertive and suggesting things is a relief to the other person. We often defer to each other (especially people we like), saying, “Whatever is fine!” And we mean it! But when someone drives the social decisions, it can be very useful. What’s not useful (have I made this clear yet?), and is firmly in asshole territory, is overriding what someone else expresses they want or don’t want.

So make suggestions. Request—and get—the green light, so you can be confident that your glorious toppy-ness is fully desired and wanted.

PS: I hope this is clear, but just in case it isn’t: This has absolutely nothing to do with getting someone to do what they don’t want to do. Fuck that. This has to do with communicating enthusiastic consent. Okay, clear? Cool.

Is genderqueer (or butch) a stepping stone to transitioning?

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Question: if you had been assigned male at birth, all else remaining constant, do you still think you would have identified as genderqueer? i.e. how much of it do you think is an innate identity inherent to who you are, and how much of it political? In a hypothetical society where we actually had full gender equality and the boxes of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ were much wider than they currently are, do you think you would still consider yourself genderqueer, or would you then be comfortable being one or the other?

I’m a trans guy who used to identify as genderqueer, but for me it was more of a stepping stone because I was afraid to come out all the way (like gays who falsely identify as bi at first). A lot of what you’re saying resonances with my own gender history, so I’m curious where the difference lies, given that I’m someone who continues to be uncomfortable with misogyny and male privilege but still wants very much to be seen and treated as male. Or is *that* the difference?

—ASQ, on Coming Out Genderqueer

It is definitely true that I don’t have investment in being seen and treated as male, but I DO have investment in not being seen or treated exclusively female. There’s a subtle difference there. And sure, maybe that is the difference between me and a trans guy. Definitely a few of my close trans guy friends have a very similar gender history to mine, too, and then at the final step 128 or whatever, mine says, “and that’s why I’m butch!” and theirs says, “and that’s why I’m a guy!” Being seen or treated as male doesn’t feel important to me or my sense of self, at least not currently. I reserve the right to change my mind on that at any point, if and when it shifts, but that’s been true for almost fifteen years now, so I am starting to relax into thinking it will remain true for a while. Butch feels good. Genderqueer feels good. Trans feels good, but mostly as an umbrella descriptor, as a community membership. More trans-asterisk (trans*) than capital-T Trans, but either are okay. (Kind of like how lesbian and dyke are okay, too, almost good, but mostly just adequate, though not quite accurate.)

I have a LOT of thoughts about all of this—especially how I identify, and my own gender journeys—that are way more complicated than the “Coming Out Genderqueer” article above. That article is purposefully distilled, attempting to talk to people who aren’t in any gender worlds. It’s a rough sketch beginning of all of that, at best, and sometimes broken down more simply than I mean to for the sake of accessibility.

Honestly, there’s no way I could answer “if I had been born male would I still be genderqueer” etc etc. I have no idea. For as much as I study gender constantly, I’m not really sure what being born male would have changed. Everything? Nothing? I just don’t know. I have speculations, but it seems unnecessary to entertain to me. And “if we had full gender equality and the boxes of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ were much wider than they currently are, do you think you would still consider yourself genderqueer, or would you then be comfortable being one or the other?” I have no idea. A society which had wider expression of gender than ‘man’ or ‘woman’ wouldn’t be where I live, so how many other things would have to change too? I’m a buddhist, I believe in interdependence—I don’t think we could change one big thing without a whole lot more changing, too.

I’d say that my most important identification is in being in-between, or outside of, a binary system. Would that still be true if I was male? I don’t know—probably. Assuming that I would have roughly the same personality, would still be a writer, would still really love satsuma oranges, would still crave the ocean, would still get stunned looking at the stars, would still find so much joy in swing dancing—assuming all those personality things were still true, then yes, I assume I would still crave being on the outskirts of things, the margins, where the weirdoes live, on the borderlands (to borrow from Anzaldua). I like the view from here. I get a better view, though it disenfranchises me a bit, too. The edges of things, more than anything else, seem to be where I am drawn. Not to one particular thing—masculinity, or genderqueerness, or transness. It isn’t about those things so much as it’s about being on the edge, for me.

And, a part of me is softly hurt by your comment, of yet another person asking me yet again, basically, if or when I am going to transition. Or rather, if butch is a stop over on the train to maleness. Or, if I was male, would I “have to” be genderqueer. I can’t tell you how many dozens (hundreds?) of people—butches trans men femmes, genderqueer agender androgynous queers, all sorts of genders, over the years, friends and lovers and people who talked about me rudely behind my back, so many of them at one point or another said something, either directly or indirectly, about my—and often, EVERY butches’—inevitable transition. I think butches get this all the time.

I think it’s quite a common story for many trans guys to spend some time presenting as butch, or as masculine identified women in some way, or as genderqueer, or as rejecting gender in some way. Like you wrote—(like gays who falsely identify as bi at first). Yes, that is sometimes part of the story. But it doesn’t apply to everybody all the time, and just because it happens sometimes doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who find a butch identity and stay there, people who never transition to male, who never secretly wish for maleness, or to be seen and treated as male.

Folks in the bisexual identity—to continue to borrow your example—get this all the time too, with people around them assuming, at least for quite a while in the beginning, that bi will be a stopover to gay town. Sometimes it is. But sometimes, it isn’t.

So, is genderqueer a political identity for me? Fuck yes it is. Is it an innate identity? Uh I mean how can we know what’s “innate” and what’s learned, especially when it comes to gender? But say, for a minute, that I do know—I would answer, Absolutely yes. Which one is more powerful? Fuck, I have no idea. That’s like asking me to rank my oppressions, or tell you whether I identify as an Alaskan or a writer first. I can’t hierarchize those. It is a radical, political act to reject the two-party binary gender system, and I like radical acts. I get off on ’em. It also feels like home in my body in a way my body never felt like home when I was dressed up more femininely, and never felt/feels like home when people refer to me by he/him pronouns. They/them and genderqueerness and in-between feels like all kinds of parts of me can be acknowledged—not “the man and the woman,” because for the most part I feel like those don’t even apply. None of the above. But the writer and the Alaskan, the swing dancer and the cockcentric top, the pretty good cook and the freelancer, the stargazer and the reader, the masculinity and the love of ice cream. The traits that I have that are traditionally masculine, the traits that I have that are traditionally feminine, and whatever in between.

I want to be able to pick + choose whichever ones suit me from whatever possible category. And I want others to have that ability, too, should they want it. I think it’s possible.

Also, I’m sorry—I don’t mean to be snappish about this, and I explicitly DID say, go ahead and ask questions. So, thank you for asking. I’m trying to answer honestly as best as I can, and honestly? Part of me is frustrated with that question, and the commonness in the queer worlds. I am heavily invested in butch as an identity all its own, regardless of the other genders or identities that that person carries too. I am invested in butch identity not only politically, not only for other people, but for my own sake. I am invested in my butch identity. Am I going to always be butch? I don’t know. Do I have secret longings to be male that are unrealized? Not currently, from the best that I know about myself, no.

Do I reserve the right to decide otherwise in the future? Fuck yes.

But … I hope, if I do decide I want to transition, to identify as male, to be perceived as male and treated as male, that I will honor the 35+ years (or, I suppose, arguably, the 15+ years, since I was mostly some other figuring-out-puzzling-frustrated version of me until I was about 20) I spent as a female genderqueer trans masculine butch. One of my most touching moments at BUTCH Voices in New York City in 2010 was when someone, during our ritual/keynote, held up a stone and offered: “My commitment to my trans voice is to honor the butch woman I was for 40-some years.” I know that many trans men were never butch, that if they were a masculine-presenting-woman for some length of time it might’ve been part of their transition, part of their path to male, part of survival, the only option they had, or who knows what kind of other things, and perhaps they never fully occupying the claimed identity of butch. And, similarly, some butches are never secretly wishing to be men.

I only speak for myself, but I, for now, am eagerly comfortable and loving the in-between of genderqueer.

The Great Reader Mini-Interview, Part Eight: Creating an Active Fantasy Life, It’s Okay to Be Butch, and “You’re Fucking Gay”

And thus concludes the Great Reader Mini Interview series of 2013!

Thank you, everyone, for your comments and engagement and ideas. I have loved reading every one of your responses and recommendations. I have dreams of compiling a big list of blog URLs and recommended books and sources that changed your lives. We’ll see if I can get that done. I have such limited time and SO many project ideas, ya know? Everything I choose to do means choosing NOT to do something else.

And likewhoa, the Submissive Playground has taken up way more time than I expected. I mean, of course it did, doing a course for the first time always takes so much work to create the curriculum, and having something ongoing means I have even more room to tweak it and change it based on what the participants need, as it goes on. Which has been amazing, but also a lot of work. I am almost seeing the end of the course now, though, since there’s only one more full week of materials to prepare, and then the wrap-up call! (I’m still behind on grading homework, however. That’s on my MITs for today.)

If you sent in a mini interview for this series, and you haven’t seen your name here, I’m sorry! I very well may have overlooked it, somehow. Or maybe it didn’t get into the Google forms spreadsheet, somehow. I promise it was an accident—the only folks I didn’t include were those of you who wrote to me and specifically asked not to be printed. I would welcome you writing me with, “Hey, I submitted a mini-interview, but I didn’t see it; do you still have it?” kind of question if you want to (you probably know how to reach me, but my email isn’t really on the site anymore because I’m trying to get my inbox under control).

I love reading your advice and resources, so much. Thank you, everybody. I would really love to keep the conversations going … do you think if we had a monthly chat, in an online IRC kind of chatroom, y’all would come and talk to me? Rife & I were talking about it like a “fireside chat” kind of thing, so there should be tea or cocktails or something, but y’all would have to provide those for yourself.

Okay! On to the mini-interviews:

—–

What’s your relationship with sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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I started reading your blog over a year ago. I had just come out to a dear friend– a very conservative straight female friend. Being the woman she is, she decided to google many things LGBT and found your site. She asked me about it, and since I hadn’t seen it before, she insisted that I read it and get to “know” you. A true friend.

—Annie Anthony, http://annieanthony.com

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I won a copy of Say Please at a burlesque show and it opened the flood gates. And I’m not just talking about how wet it made me. I realized what I had been missing and the kinky, leather, submissive, masochist inside me would be ignored no longer! After reading The Harder She Comes, and Sometimes She Lets Me and seeing your name in all three I landed here. So obviously my favorite parts of Sugarbutch are the naughty bits. I love erotica because I always get to play the leading lady in my mind when I read.

—Summer, https://www.facebook.com/summer.r.banks

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I have, as you know, been a long-time reader. I began reading Sugarbutch when I was in a hetero-relationship, maybe about 5 years ago (have you been publishing that long? I know you had been around for a little while already because I devoured the archives when I found you.) I was somewhat questioning my sexuality at the time, knew I was attracted to women- and so did my partner- but I was not out to many other people. … It’s been an interesting trajectory, to say the least, and I have also gone through some of the same stuff as you over the same-ish time frame, in terms of leaving my long-term partner and staying with a new partner who I met & started dating while in the long-term relationship. It was through being a reader of Sugarbutch that I first started to create this active fantasy life, including the desire for a Daddy/girl relationship (I believe you introduced this concept to me) which I now am living out with my partner.

Not only was your writing a great outlet for yummy lesbian smut and D/s dynamic when I was not getting any of that kind of sex, but your honest writing about your own relationships and your thoughtful introspection about power/self/learning/loving has been essential to my own growth and moving through what I needed to move through during that time in my life, in order to come out and to be comfortable with who I am.

—cravatica, http://titlesareeasy.Blogspot.com

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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Don’t worry, it’ll all sort out, one thing at a time. Oh, and Lesbians do totally exist; so you are fu**ing normal.

(Just as a small explanation: as a teen I was kind of questioning my gender, since I am a woman attracted to woman but only knew (at the time) that it was not okay to feel this way (hello Homophobia). So I spend a lot of my time thinking about gender, power and such stuff. Which is okay, since it is a really fascinating topic, but I just wished that back than someone would have told me that it is okay to be butch. And that there are a quadrillion ways to express oneself, so you don’t have to become the girl next door stereotype.)

(I hope I made sense!)

—Max Vague, http://droemmelig.tumblr.com

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Don’t spend too much time in relationships with cismen because they aren’t really your thing. You know you’re not satisfied w just girls on the side and you’ll get to the good stuff if you stop cockblocking yourself with cisdudes. Don’t spend too much time with people who don’t want to help draw out & make real your dirtiest desires from your shy self.

YOU ARE (mostly) A BOTTOM; DON’T DATE OTHER BOTTOMS!!!

—keta, http://papismija.tumblr.com

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I would tell myself that there is less need to wait, that you are already whole and that the parts of yourself that feel freaky, incongruent, vulnerable and broken will be amongst your greatest beauties (especially when they awaken compassion). I would encourage my younger self to keep up the sexual self-exploration, that it will pay off in spades. I would encourage that younger self to honor that precocious gender-resistance and keep the girl-boy-girl-feral internal parts in conversation and alive; you’ll find others soon enough. I would also encourage my younger self to open up, share and to trust those few friends a bit more, that healthy, joyful, hot, loving relationships *are* possible, despite what you see all around. Oh, and PS, Austin is full of queers. Call OutYouth Austin, right now.

delightful wigglepuss, https://www.facebook.com/kim.lasdon

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Dear Baby Summer,

You are going to spend a lot of time looking for the right penis. You will be convinced if you just sleep with enough men you’ll find the one that does it for you. You want so badly to find the nice man to marry and make babies with in a gated community. Here’s the thing… you don’t ACTUALLY want that, it’s just the only thing you’ve ever known. The moment that you meet people who have a different model for love and life your eyes start to open. The reason you are obsessed with the movie But I’m a Cheerleader is you’re fucking gay. This was the first example of young, queer ladies you’d ever seen in film and you latched onto it like a fucking gay life saver in a sea of hetero. It still takes you a few years to realize you don’t just “think girls are pretty”. Even after fucking a few you aren’t convinced you want to be in a relationship with a lady. And that’s ok. All in good time my pretty. You will eventually realize the right penis is actually a strap-on cock and while you weren’t sure you wanted to be in a relationship with a lady, being a butch’s girl is right where you belong. You are going to be so happy when you open your mind and your heart. And you’re going to cum a lot more.

—Summer, https://www.facebook.com/summer.r.banks

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Fuck gender; do what you want. Pronouns aren’t the important things, or names, and breasts come off regardless of gender if you find the right surgeon. Love vintage hair cuts because they are comfortable and awesome, and your voice because it can do so much, and being a member of a community of women because there is similarity, strength, vulnerability and kinship there. Don’t worry what labels any of those things earn you; the labels matter to some people, but it’s okay that they don’t. Gender is a myth built around embodied truth, but still just a myth, and your truth can be something the myth-writers never imagined.

As for relationships, as wonderful as it feels to be someone’s whole world, that’s what puppies are for. There are things called “boundaries” and you really ought to develop some or you will lose yourself attempting the impossible. On the other hand, don’t be afraid of heart break. There are worse things than a broken heart.

Finally, there is no such thing as a “failed” relationship; there are just relationships that end (sometimes long after they stop being a positive force.)

—B., https://twitter.com/liminalgamer

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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Hoffman Process, hands down. And I’ve done a lot of work in many forms. It helped me extricate and fundamentally alter the roots of old patterns that were lodged deeply in my somatic and neurological pathways. It offered me tools to continue the work on my own beyond the retreat. It also worked because I was fiercely ready to do the work and surrendered myself to the transformation despite and beyond the aspects that my rational, critical intellect would have dismissed.

—delightful wigglepuss, https://www.facebook.com/kim.lasdon

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Insight-oriented therapy with a smart therapist. It took nine therapists to find one who clicked, but it was so very, very worth it. In addition to the obvious up sides, therapy taught me skills of self-reflection and intellectualization that have been way more adaptive than my previous coping mechanisms. It taught me to listen to my emotions and body, letting them tell me what I needed to care about or work on or empathize with. Even if one is completely emotionally and psychologically healthy, I still think insight-oriented therapy can be useful [since] we aren’t teaching that kind of emotional intelligence to everyone.

—B., https://twitter.com/liminalgamer

Anything else to add?

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Ever think about coming to Ireland Sinclair? Plenty of LGBTQ groups to visit!

—CTD

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I really love your site and the information and passion you share with the world. I’d really love to see you promote yourself more, to a wider audience. I think some of your stories and blog posts are so intelligent that you can appeal to a very academic audience. Yet your subjects are so interesting and fun that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy the blog. I’d love to hear audio transcripts of some or all of your workshops and also see more interactive content, pictures, etc. Overall, highly entertaining and interesting work!

—Annie Anthony, http://annieanthony.com/

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I am awed and inspired by your bravery to share so much of yourself in a medium that can often feel completely one-sided, and I love that you opened up these questions to your readers in order to encourage a different kind of dynamic with your reader. Thanks for sharing yourself so openly for all these years.

I look forward to seeing you in person one day, if you ever come to do a talk in Phoenix, please let me know! I’m starting off my classes in gender and gay and lesbian studies this spring at ASU so if I ever come across an opportunity to bring you to campus for a speaking engagement, you can bet I will be trying to book you!

—cravatica, http://titlesareeasy.Blogspot.com

Resiliance and Rebuilding: 2013 in Books, Music, and Writings on Sugarbutch

Top Writings on Sugarbutch from 2013

In order, from most read to least, these are the writings on Sugarbutch from 2013. Which were your favorites?

The quiz is here! What kind of s-type are you?
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“In preparation for a big project that Rife & I are creating, we looked around to find a really good online quiz that talked about the different kinds of submissive identity and what they meant, but the only ones we found were … well, not so great. So we decided to make our own!”

essay | Read the whole thing

Making Peace: in which I (attempt to) explain what happened over these last eighteen months
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“I want to make peace with you, my readers—and with my friends, many of whom experienced me being flaky, not following through with my agreements, and not showing up in the past eighteen months. I want the ease of interaction back. I want to tell you where I’ve been, to make sense of the significant changes I’ve been through. If I don’t tell you what happened, how can you understand where I am now? How can I understand where I am now? … So: what happened between me and Kristen? What is the matter of fact explanation?”

This post attempts to explain. journal entry | Read the whole thing

“Pick a hole. You know what happens next.”
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““Uhh no please Daddy.” My dick completely fills him. I feel him dripping already. The resistance is palpable as I push deeper, filling him up. His tight little young body tries to push me out, but it just gives you more to push against. I’ll force it in all morning if I have to. He’ll get used to it.

I fist his hair and hold his hole open. “You know I like it when you struggle. I can shove harder that way.” He’ll learn to open up for me, to give that hole, to open up and take it, in time. Right now I don’t mind shoving it in. I work it in and out. So tight.”

Trigger warning: Daddy/boy play, rough sex. dirty story | Read the whole thing →

How to Chomp: Erotic Biting for Pleasure & Pain
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“So, let’s say you have a green light of consent, that this person you’re messing around with in whatever way loves being bit. How do you do that? What are the safety risks? How do you cause maximum pleasure (or pain)?”

That image up at the top of this 2013 roundup post is the illustration Rife made just for this essay. advice / essay | Read the whole thing →

Queer Porn TV Free #PornParty January 31st
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“What is a #pornparty, you ask? Well, it’s a worldwide gathering on Twitter of folks who like queer porn. Simply tune in, press play, and then follow the hashtag #pornparty while you watch for commentary and discussion. … We’ll be watching something through QueerPorn.TV, and viewing this film will be completely free.”

No wonder it’s a popular post, huh? Lots of good free porn. There may be more #pornparty -ing in 2014, we’ll see … review | Read the whole thing →

Under the Desk
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“”Uh huh. I know you like it. You beg for it an thank me after, little one. But this isn’t for you. Just for me. Daddy needs this. Do it right. That’s good. Fuck. Good boy.” You start swelling up and moaning with each cool sucking breath. I know you want it. I know this is what you’re for, and so do you. I shove it in, feeling myself tighten, that delicious pressure building from deep.”

dirty story | Read the whole thing →

Coming Out Genderqueer: An Open Letter to My Family & Friends
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“Dear family & friends,

Especially friends from my childhood and high school years who have found me for whatever reasons on Facebook, and family with whom I’m not particularly close, and coworkers from previous jobs who I have perhaps never had this chat with: I have something to tell you: I’m genderqueer.”

The whole letter was posted on my personal Facebook account, where I tagged most of my childhood friends, work colleagues, and relatives. It was kind of nerve-wracking. And, it’s been amazing what conversations have opened up from it. essay | Read the whole thing →

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Charlie Glickman: “Being poly doesn’t make you more evolved.”
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“[Poly] requires the ability to talk about and process feelings quickly and efficiently. Of course, that skill will benefit any relationship, but when there are multiple people, each with their own needs and desires, as well as their feelings about each other, there are a lot of moving parts. If I could, I’d tell my younger self that the best way to learn how to process well would be to build social networks full of people who are dedicated to open-hearted, honest communication. Yes, therapy helped. Yes, workshops and books helped. But getting to see how other people do it and getting to practice it with lots of friends made it much easier to develop those skills in sexual/romantic relationships.”

Remember the open relationship mini-interviews? They wrapped up very early 2013, it was more of a end-of-2012 project. I still want to make them into an ebook. This interview with Charlie was picked up by The Stranger’s online newspaper, and got a bit of attention. essay | Read the whole thing →

To the femmes on whom I’ve crushed this past year
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“If you think I’m not kicking myself for not making a move when I had the chance, you’re wrong. I wish I made a move. Although really, I wish I had had the capacity to make a move. Explain it through the spoon theory, call it the grieving process, call it heartbreak, call it post-poly trauma and fear—whatever it was, I was not in the place to play, fuck, open myself up, make an offer, make a move, or hell, sometimes even flirt. I wish I had been.”

journal entry | Read the whole thing →

Five Blow Jobs
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““Good boy,” I breathe as I watch your mouth, tongue, lips, my cock down your throat. I let you guide it. I let you slide it however deep you want. I push a little, because that’s what I do, but mostly I just concentrate on the feeling and the sight. I almost come but it’s too much, I get overstimulated and don’t have the right angle so I get up and take my jeans off, my socks and shoes and briefs, and spread my legs wider, get a better grip under the harness. You start in again and I imagine what your mouth would feel like. I know every inch of it, know every ridge of the roof and every tastebud on your tongue and every valley of your teeth with my fingers and my tongue, but fuck how I wish I could feel those with my cock.”

dirty story | Read the whole thing →

Back on the Path
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“These days, I rarely write here about my personal life. I know that’s been an appeal of Sugarbutch for a long time, but the last six months have proven to be the most difficult winter I’ve ever gone through, and I don’t even know how to write about it. Maybe I will, someday. Maybe things will start to make more sense soon. I’ve written about the precursor some, so perhaps some of you can guess the inevitable outcome. But I’m not ready to write about it all yet.

It’s strange to not write it. This place has been my first go-to for relationship changes and processing for years, and it has always been a comfort to reveal and work through things in this way. The biggest problem is that as my audience has grown, the things I am exploring have changed, and many of my own edges are controversial.”

journal entry | Read the whole thing →

This is how we wake up.
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“He drops and shudders again, slow and steady on his hands and knees, disappearing around the corner. I hear him shuffle on the wood floor. I have my cock on and hard when he gets back. He spreads the blanket out and I knock him forward onto the bed, on his stomach, bent over the side. Press my body up against his and he moans, calls out, his neck long, mouth open. Cock pressed between his legs. Feel it? Got me so hard, little faggot. Are you going to be a good boy and take it for Daddy? Huh?

Trigger warning: Daddy/boy play, rough sex. journal entry / dirty story | Read the whole thing →

Favorite reads from 2013

It was kind of a bad reading year for me. I remember early on in the year, wondering why I couldn’t seem to concentrate on whatever book I was reading, and my therapist commenting on how much hardship I’d been going through, and how it makes sense that my brain couldn’t concentrate on other people’s stories. I think it was too busy rearranging to my new reality. Still, I missed reading, so I tried to dial down my books, reading things that were just easy rather than complicated or full of big thoughts. I read a lot of dirty novels, and poems, and tried to get through gender theory (and sometimes did).

These were the very favorites of my year. Things I couldn’t put down, things that changed my world view, things that were notable and I would highly recommend.

     

How Poetry Saved My Life, Amber Dawn; Excluded, Julia Serano; Dark Secret Love, Alison Tyler; Ask the Man Who Owns Him, David Schachter & david stein; Rise of the Trust Fall, Mindy Nettifee; Slow Surrender by Cecilica Tan

     

Real Happiness, Sharon Salzberg; Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknovich; Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman; The Killer Wore Leather, Laura Antoniou; A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki; The Big Book of Orgasms, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I keep track of books over on GoodReads, and so this list is based on my top rated books from 2013. I’ve put forward goals for the last four years on GoodReads, but I didn’t make it last year. I lowered my number again for this year, and am hoping to read more, now that I have more of my concentration back.

Most listened to music from 2013

Some are from 2011 or 2012, but I’m still playing them, or they’re new to me this past year.

I’m not going to put albums by Morphine, KD Lang, and Tori Amos on this list, but they were actually my very most listened to artists in 2013. They’re my top favorites I guess, I go back to their libraries all the time.

aims Bat_for_Lashes_-_The_Haunted_Man_cover Clairy_Browne First-Aid-Kit-The-Lions-Roar Holly-Williams-The-Highway brettdennen

Aims by Vienna Teng (2013); The Haunted Man by Bat for Lashes (2012); Baby Caught the Bus by Clairy Browne & the Banging Rackettes (2011); The Lion’s Roar by First Aid Kit (2012); The Highway by Holly Williams (2013); Smoke & Mirrors by Brett Dennen (2013)

Matt-Nathanson Me'Shell+Ndegeocello-Weather mojojuju PattyGriffin-AmericanKid The-xx-Coexist waxwings

Last of the Great Pretenders by Matt Nathanson (2013); Weather by MeShell Ndegeocello (2011); Mojo Juju’s self-titled first album (2012); American Kid by Patty Griffin (2013); Coexist by The XX (2013); Wax Wings by Joshua Radin (2013)

I’ve been more into music in the past than I think I am now—I keep up with new releases less, and even listen to less music, moreso just going back to the artists I love and listening to my favorites. I still make a lot of mixes, though. This list is largely based on my last.fm account and my itunes and my brain.

Top posts of 2013 that were published in other years

Just in case you want more reads, and these weren’t enough to keep you clicking around the internet for a few hours, here’s some of the top posts on Sugarbutch in 2013 according to the number of times they were read, but they weren’t published in 2013. I’m glad that y’all still go back into the archives sometimes!

Y’all really like the dirty stuff, don’t you. Uh huh. Duly noted as I go forward in 2014.

I do actually have some resolutions this year … particularly, I have some resolutions for “blogging,” for writing here. I think I’ll go share them with the newsletter.

Comment Zen … Requests & Ideas

Oh hey! So you want to comment on this? I’d love that. Here’s some ideas for what you might want to say:

  • What was your favorite writing on Sugarbutch this year? What posts do you frequently go back to, from this year or from other years?
  • What were your favorite books from 2013?
  • What was your favorite new music album of 2013?
  • For that matter, I would love your favorite books or music recommendations of all time, especially books that are beautifully easy to fall into and stay up late reading, which for me is mostly really good fiction. But whatever you found yourself lost in recently, I’d love to know.
  • What do you hope to see more of in 2014?
  • Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?

That should be enough inspirational questions, right? Thanks for reading this far. I hope you found some good reads or some good musical inspirations.

Leave a comment

The Great Reader Mini-Interview, Part Seven: The Journey, Smut, and Black Tee Shirts

What’s your relationship with sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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I started reading Sugarbutch.net back in 2008 when I first started journaling online, and later writing. I love Sinclair’s honesty and realness in everything that is written on this site. Sinclair is always willing to dive deep and ask the tough questions, the risky ones, the ones that challenge everything. The questions that could risk it all. In the end, the reflection of their own journey, becomes inspiring.

The smut. I love the way Sinclair writes smut, with all the realness of human connection, desire, imperfections, and wavering thoughts. Connection, Sinclair is brilliant at it. I’d love to see more of it. Even short snippets.

—DeDe Deylnn, http://www.deviantdyke.blogspot.com

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‘m a fairly new reader. I’m trying to remember how I found your blog, but I can’t recall… I’m glad I found it though. You’re a great writer. You make yourself so vulnerable to your readers and I really admire that. Thank you for sharing such intimate detail with us!

—Daniela Amaya, http://witharmsakimbo.tumblr.com/

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I started reading Sugarbutch in 2009, which was the last summer I had a sustained crush on a straight boy. I think what I appreciate the most is the self-reflexivity; the approach to relationships as deeply valuable and also deeply educational, always. I suppose I’m interested in you doing more of whatever you find interesting and challenging right now. That’s usually what I want interesting writers to do!

—Helena Swann, http://www.cuntext.com

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i have been reading since just before Sinclair and K started dating. i’ve read all this time even though i don’t identify with daddy/girl or femme expression from a top or bottom perspective. i’ve been going through a lot of discover and changes around my gender expression and how i identify. i check in on his blog at least every couple of days, i love the way he expresses his journey, and his style of writing. i love his smut and the elements that focus on the D/s Authority exchange side. i’m looking forward to reading more about his dynamic with rife, since i’m now identifying as GQ primal masculine expressive, looking to find a dynamic/understand more about Sir/boy, Trans/butch dynamics. i wish you’d tell us more about what makes you tick, where you want your journey with rife to move forward towards, more smut.

—dylen, https://fetlife.com/users/592071

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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I’d tell my younger self to write about sex sooner. Eleven years ago I wrote with Jen Cross in her first workshop for Queer survivors writing about sex and it changed everything for me. Writing in this way and later performing changed everything for me. My attitude and experiences of sex and gender and relationships changed. It changed how I parented, how I interacted with my community and lovers. It changed my writing and my views about sexuality and survivorhood and drove me to become a sex educator and writing facillitator.

http://writingourselveswhole.org has had the most impact on me. I would not have become the person that I am without it.

—Renee Garcia, http://queerly.tumblr.com/

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I don’t feel like I’ve grown up enough to give my younger self advice. I kind of admire her for being so bold and kick-ass and take-no-prisoners. When I was younger, though, I figured all women were attracted to other women, and they just repressed all that to be heterosexual. I do still believe a lot of people play that game, but it wasn’t until I was well into my twenties that I realized all those straight women are actually *attracted* to men. Sounds dumb, but it was kind of a revelation.

—Giselle Renarde, http://donutsdesires.blogspot.com

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Relax. Your sexuality is more fluid than you realize. Being queer may or may not be about being sexually assaulted by your boyfriend in high school and either way it’s ok. Being poly will complicate your marriage in good and bad ways. Tread carefully.

—Theresa

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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This isn’t surprising: The Body Electric School’s introductory workshop Celebrating the Body Erotic has been the single most influential resource in my life. This weekend it has been six years (really??) since my first one, and I still find myself stopping to breathe, asking for what I want, and practicing the basic tantric breathing exercise with my partners (in through heart, out through genitals // in through genitals, out through heart). I can honestly say that I was able to handle some big issues in my life very gracefully because of my experiences with the Body Electric School – and not just sex & relationship issues, but various other life circumstances as well. There are just some experiences that have to be processed physically through body instead of through the mind – my first CBE taught me how to do that.

—Miss Avarice, http://missavarice.wordpress.com

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CBT sessions – I know it’s extended but it was where I learned that you are supposed to talk about feelings not just express them in actions and snark.

—john, http://www.facebook.com/jmwallach

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My Dangerous Desires by Amber L Hollibaugh has had the most impact on me and my identity as a queer femme. In one essay she talks about how living out queer desire is radical and subversive because it disrupts the idea that happiness/fulfillment is linked to heteronormativity. I think one reason it took me so long to accept that I was queer was because I wasn’t sure happiness was possible without a husband, a white picket fence and two kids.

—Erin, http://femmenistthought.tumblr.com/

Anything else to add?

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Sinclair, every time I see a black T-shirt I think of you.

—Giselle Renarde, http://donutsdesires.blogspot.com

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I love your reviews and have found so many things useful for my Mr. because of them.

—john, http://www.facebook.com/jmwallach

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I’m pretty excited to check out your other readers. Something deserthooker wrote in one of your open relationship mini-interviews was one of the first things that prompted me to start actively thinking about how, where, and when mental health and D/s relationships overlap, for example.

—Helena Swann, http://www.cuntext.com

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A huge thank you for continuing to share yourself online, there are SO many of that value this, and are here in spirit with you through the difficult times.

—dylen, https://fetlife.com/users/592071

The Great Reader Mini-Interview of 2013, Part Six: Stay for the Smut

Wow, you guys.

Between launching Submissive Playground and helping rife with The Gender Book crowdfunding and planning and executing the Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 release party (which HOLY SHIT was amazing), and then oh yeah the whole holiday thing, I have been swamped with projects lately, and have not kept up with publishing the mini-interviews. But they are very patient, and there they were when I went to sort the next series of answers.

And, you guys … wow. I just love what you have to say. And not (only) because you are saying such incredibly nice things about me and this project, but also because you are fucking smart and thoughtful and touching. I have been chewing a lot lately on how to post more advanced content, how I can talk about the Graduate Studies levels of D/s and cock confidence and healing from heartbreak and all those things I post about (somewhat) regularly, and your answers and engagement makes me think even more that I should step it up. Thank you for all that inspiration.

No wait, let me write that again: THANK YOU for all the inspiration. In these interviews, in emails, in conversations on Facebook & Twitter—with so much. I feel incredibly lucky.

And, that is the SECOND reader who said I should come visit London and they’d buy me a beer, so clearly I should go visit London. (Again. I did a brief study abroad there in 2002 in college, but I’d love to return.) If any of y’all have an idea about how we could put on some workshops there, get in touch!

Okay, on to …

More of the Reader Mini-Interviews!

What’s your relationship with sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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I started reading in 2007-ish when I was at university and just discovering the whole blogging thing. I came for the gender talk, was beyond thrilled to find the smut, and have loved the personal blogging, particularly the ones where you seem so connected with nature and the world around you. Your blogging of your gender identity/journey is also fascinating and feels really important to me.

Oh, and the reviews! I got my first packing cock based on your reviews so there’s a special place in my heart for those – I’d love to see more of that kind of thing.

—ollie, http://ollieroberts.blogspot.com

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I started reading Sugarbutch in 2008 or so. I started for the politics, and stayed for the smut. Seriously, your smut has been hot, your writing about gender has been thoughtful, and your writing about relationships has been encouraging and timely. I’m a bit of a hermit, so have always been on the edges of the dyke and BDSM communities, and your writing has made me feel more connected to them.

—Avery Cassell, https://averycassell.wordpress.com/

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What do I like best? Each component of your writing appeals to me in one way or another. Of course you write exquisite erotica, but more than that, I like your writing voice. I like your willingness to be self-reflective (though I think you think readers think that’s boring? It doesn’t bore me at all.) because you unpack things like I do, you seem to have a need to understand things in a deep way (I identify with that like woahhhh), and I wonder sometimes if you wish you could turn it all off, the way I wish I could shut my brain off even once in a while. I’ve learned a lot about coping strategies from you, I even found the Fluent Self through you! And I loved your photo series (what is the plural of series? Seria? Serieses?) over the summer! I know you felt like you weren’t saying much at the time but I saw the proverbial thousand words through some of those shots. Thanks for sharing those.

—Jacks/JacksofHearts, https://www.facebook.com/jacks.of.hearts

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[I’ve been] a girl who loves sex and has wild fantasies but has never had the guts to explore any of them. Always let others make the moves and lead the way, so girls were always going to be a late introduction to my life. But oh what a lovely addition! Kissing girls is like nothing else. So the past few years i’ve had my head down exploring women. Invariably women much like me and i enjoyed learning how their bodies worked and what makes them tick, and come of course.

And then online i met a woman. We were both looking for something casual. She was clear she doesn’t like to be touched. I didn’t really understand this to start off with and just assumed (in an ignorant arrogant sort of way) that this would evapourate as we went on, and i ‘worked my magic’. But of course, for her being touched intimately just does not work. Someone else touching her is not the exciting electric feeling; its just being touched. This has been a challenge for me as i love touching others. Although what i realise now is that i love giving others pleasure and for most that tends to be a form of touching. I have had to learn a lot about erotic energy and pleasure in order to feel that i was giving her as much pleasure as she gives me.

Sinclair you (maybe its fair to say Sugarbutch.net) have been my place of learning. I have learned about dynamics between people and how this can be as erotic as plain old sex. I have learned that i can give someone pleasure through my words. You have inspired me to write erotic stories to my lover. You have reminded me that the brain is the most powerful erotic organ and that the most intimate connection can be through words, or often in the spaces between words.

—clarkeroyale, https://www.facebook.com/helen.clarke.58118

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I started reading probably about a year ago, and while everything is good in its honesty and daring my favorite thing is probably the essays. I am sure it isn’t the common answer, but they are always interesting and well thought out even when I don’t agree with them which I rather love and find admirable.

—Taylor, http://mckownt.wordpress.com/

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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Go with your instinct… you don’t just “admire” her, you are “in” to her – attracted to her. Be yourself – don’t try to fit in with the other girls – you never will. Relax – every encounter with a woman doesn’t have to be a long term relationship.

—Susan

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Know yourself. Do the back-breaking, heart-wrenching work it takes to know your limits and set up boundaries, because that’s when you can start letting people in.

Stop stuffing your gender identity into a deep corner of the closet because the people you date are too afraid to talk about it. You’ll lose 15 years and end up in the same place where you started–having to acknowledge who you really are. Be honest with yourself the first time around.

—Ian Galeski, https://www.facebook.com/ian.galeski

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I’d tell my younger self–my high school senior self–to stop being such a nervous wreck about sex, to trust that her friends can make their own decisions and there is value in committed relationships and value in a one-night stand. I’d tell my younger self that it’s okay to have casual sex and okay if she tries things she wouldn’t repeat, things that teach her more about what she really needs. I’d tell her that she will have the person who makes her crack apart with every touch and the person who makes her scream “fuck!” and the person it feels too strange to kiss and the person who teachers her to fall in love with giving oral and the person who will never let her forget her fat body is both desirable and beyond the confines of desire and the person who she will want to take her cock and that some of these people will be the same.

I’d tell my younger self that if she ever doubted her pansexuality, she will meet and desire people in such incredible conglomerations of gender that she will never be able to again, that gender is fun, hard, playful, devastating. I’d let her know that every time she thinks she has something pinned down, the entire map will change.

Relationships…about that one, I don’t know what I’d tell her, because no words could have prepared me for the things love can do, and the things it couldn’t.

—Tamara, http://wordsonnapkins.tumblr.com

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I think I would tell myself to recognize the guilt I felt (over having sexual feelings at a young age, having feelings for women, and being interested in non-normative sex practices like bdsm) as symptoms of socially imposed values and not my own shortcomings or sins. I grew up very aware of my sexual self but also very ashamed of it. Now I know all that guilt was for naught and I embrace the healthy pursuit of self-knowledge and pleasure, but it’s been a long and difficult journey full of lots of unsatisfying or only semi-satisfying sex and relationships.

—Amanda, http://superblysituated.tumblr.com

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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http://www.stevepavlina.com. His work has always stoked the fire in me, the part that wants to live like a wild thing and channel all the strength and anger into something productive. It was because of his site that I had the courage to become a sex worker, which led to a more intimate understanding of things I’d always felt but never had words for.

—Katrina Elisse Caudle, http://www.faeriedark.com

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Sacred Pleasures workshop run here in London. Whilst i found it challenging to take part in exercises with strangers by the end of the day i had reconnected with a sacred sexual aspect that i thought i had lost. I also experimented with some impact play, which was a lot of fun! I would highly recommend this workshop to any Londoners reading. … Keep doing it Sinclair. Come to London and i’ll take you to my favourite bar.

—clarkeroyale, https://www.facebook.com/helen.clarke.58118

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A quote from Terence – ‘I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.’ This ever after encouraged me to try and understand the human processes by which seemingly incomprehensible things happened. In turn, that helped me untangle the incomprehensible in myself.

—Lilac, http://drinklilacwine.wordpress.com/

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I think somehow ending up in relationships with really amazing, self-aware people who have been willing to help me see a bigger picture of life has had the biggest impact on who I am and the path that I’m on right now, but that doesn’t make for a very good resource for other people ;) I’d say a great resource has actually been the Savage Love column – sometimes I love his advice, sometimes I’m ready to call and rant about it, but I do often find new resources because of his suggestions. And actually my college health center has had a huge impact – my first experience coming out to a health care professional was a disaster emotionally, but when I first went to the college clinic the intake form actually had questions about the sex and gender of past sexual partners. Not only did it avoid the awkward direct questioning by the nurse, but then the NP was able to walk in prepared to explain the kind of sexual health education I needed rather than a generic memorized paragraph that didn’t apply to my situation. And the best part is that the positive experience helped inspire me to pursue a career as an NP :)

—Jess, http://www.agirlandhercaronanadventure.blogspot.com

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When Someone You Love is Kinky…such a great pansexual resource when your partner is not as much into BDSM as you are…it helps you communicate what your needs are in a precise and sensitive way and honestly, is great practice for overall relationship communication. Great book, experienced authors, excellent resource.

—Nili, https://www.facebook.com/HolisticHealthRnHealthCoaching

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Because I’m thinking about sex and relationships, the website Scarleteen comes to mind. I come from a very conservative town in Texas with virtually no sex ed. Scarleteen was a haven of respectful discussion and factual information targeted specifically at young people in the scary world of the internet. If I had not had that resource growing up, I think I would be in a very different place right now, both physically and emotionally.

—Amanda, http://superblysituated.tumblr.com

Anything else to add?

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Just that I think the way you’ve been engaging with your readership over the past month+ has been really great to see, and I hope it’s been positive for you too! You’ve been going through so much hard stuff for so long now that (I imagine) it’s easy to forget that you have an entire support system built straight into your website, and you can lean on us, you know? We may be inside your computer but support and good vibes and advice and commiseration and empathy and comradeship are the same wherever you find them. On a personal note, thanks for acknowledging my comments to you. It was a lovely surprise!  I’ve really been enjoying this conversation.

—Jacks/JacksofHearts, https://www.facebook.com/jacks.of.hearts

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Please keep your postings and musings going. You are such a fantastic writer and your postings are relatable and heartwarming (or as of recently, heartbreaking). Writing is cathartic and from your most recent break-up, I think you could use a little catharsis right now and us, your followers, are more than happy to listen and sympathize. You strike a cord with me every single time, so thank you for what you do!

—Nili, https://www.facebook.com/HolisticHealthRnHealthCoaching

So what ARE the different kinds of s-types? And more about the s-type quiz

So, the quiz! “What kind of s-type are you?” quiz, that rife + I co-created, was launched November 30th as a fun game, and an interesting tool, and the beginnings of a conversation about how many different ways that submissive folks explore their own submission.

And what the heck do we mean by “submission,” anyway? Do I mean “the person receiving the sensation or sexual touch in a BDSM scene”? Or do I mean “the person who takes the orders in a relationship”? Well … both, or either. And that is precisely the point: To begin asking what it is we mean when we say these things, to think deeper about them, and, ultimately, to make better informed choices about the parts in these power games that we want to play.

Here’s the quiz, in case you missed it:

THANK YOU for all of your thoughts and feedback. It’s been so fun to read and engage with you about this. There are more than 50 comments on the thread where I posted the quiz the first time, and each one I read and thought about … I replied to some, but I get overwhelmed by that level of correspondence sometimes, so I didn’t reply to everyone. I did have quite a few people who identified as kitties or puppies tell me that they weren’t represented, and it’s true that I didn’t include very many “vanilla” or non-s-type options. There was a bit of an agenda with the quiz, which was to determine which of the six s-types we separated out best matched the answers you’d give when you took the quiz. We added the “Not an s-type” option, just to make it a bit more inclusive.

And of course, it’s impossible to actually determine how it is that YOU identify just based on ten questions with seven options each! There is much more nuance to each person than that.

But, overwhelmingly, the response has been that the quiz is fairly accurate! And I love that! I hope it begins some conversations about what the different types of s-types are, and where you fit and what that means to you.

If I did a quiz again, I’d look for a different quiz host that gave the answers in percents, rather than just showed you ONE answer. (70% submissive, 30% servicey, for example.) But for this time, we didn’t do that.

The quiz has been taken more than 2,000 times (wow!). Here’s the statistics about what results were given:

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I find it pretty fascinating. I never would have guessed that Slave would be so common of a result, or that Bottom and Service were the most uncommon.

For the sakes of THIS quiz, the “Slave” answer was determined by a lot of questions that were about ownership and possession, “Bottom” was determined by receiving sensation and play (kind of from a service top), and “Service” was … well, about service. I think many, many s-types incorporate service into other s-type identities, and the service part isn’t necessarily the strongest reaction for them—but that’s just a theory.

Here’s the descriptions of ALL of the s-types that we broke the quiz down into.

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Hey wait, you’re not an s-type!

“] You’re not submissive, a slave, a bottom, service-oriented, a slut, or a naughty minx—you much prefer to be in charge or in an egalitarian relationship. Or perhaps you’re a mix of all kinds of things, a switch, or something else, but for whatever reason, right now you are testing as not an s-type at all. But hey, you took this quiz, so probably you have a little bit of curiosity around receiving, bottoming, submitting, and service. Why don’t you sign up for the Submissive Playground in January and let your inner submissive come out to play?
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Slut by day, slut by night.

“] You’re a slut. You like sex—and when I say you like sex, I mean you REALLY like sex. Giving, receiving, topping, bottoming, serving, whatever—you are happy as long as you’re getting your rocks off. Service, humiliation, pain—you may be into those things, but those aren’t the main course for you. The sexual play, attention, and pleasure is what matters most for you. If you want to develop more of your service skills, kink knowledge, and expand your palette of sexual adventures, come sign up for the Submissive Playground in January and take your sluttery to new places.
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Naughty, naughty, naughty

“] You love to entice. Teasing, testing limits, pushing boundaries, cajoling, begging, breaking rules—you love to see exactly how far you can go, and you love to be punished. But it’s not really punishment—“funishment” is the name of the game to get you to take a lot of physical sensation play. Sometimes, people call you a “brat,” but that’s because your naughty tendencies are misunderstood as disrespectful, when in fact they are part of how you like to keep things interesting. You love to push your top’s buttons, and they love you all the more for it. Naughty minxes like you are a challenge for Dominants and Tops sometimes—come sign up for the Submissive Playground course in January 2014, hone your naughty skills, and find the d-types that are the best match for you.
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Bottom’s Up

“] You are clearly a bottom. Though submissive s-types like psychological play, and slave s-types seek to be owned and controlled in addition to psychologically submit to another’s will, bottoms like you are driven by the love to receive sensation. You might love pain, you might love service, you might love sex—but primarily you like to receive. Bold, stingy, thuddy, feathery, light, soft, big, biting—you might have preferences, but it’s clear that you like it all more than most. Are you ready to expand deeper into the realms of psychological submission, and play deeper with giving up power? Sign up for the Submissive Playground in January 2014 and you’ll have lots of opportunities to expand your palette.
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Service

“] Alfred from Batman. Mr. Carson from Downton Abbey. Lurch from the Addam’s Family. Riff-Raff from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. These (and other) butlers are like to be your service icons. You are a service-oriented submissive, through and through. You like show your love and affection by keeping up with the chores, making sure your Dominant’s favorite hot morning beverages are always perfectly made, and anticipating their next desire—sometimes even before they do. You have likely been working on this skill of giving service with all kinds of people in your life for many years, not just in your intimate, romantic, or sexual relationships. The Submissive Playground course in January 2014 has an entire unit on practicing service, and while you’re clearly already a pro at it, the Playground will give you a place to hone your skills, and to branch out into other realms of submission, and make sure your extraordinary service skills are being placed in the right hands.
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Slave

“] It’s not just a BDSM cliche—some of us, like you, are actual consensual slaves. You want to give over access to your entire self: body, time, will, and more. Though you may love to receive sensation, give good service, and submit psychologically, you also get off the very most by being owned, controlled, and possessed. Your deepest pleasure derives from someone else taking their deepest pleasure from encounters with you, and everything else is just icing on the cake. You love to be asked to do things that are not for your pleasure, just so you can have a chance to exercise your own devotion to your path as a slave. Come join the Submissive Playground course in January 2014—you can play with many aspects of a slave’s path and fine-tune your submissive toolkit while you’re practicing all of your skills.
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Classic Submissive

“] You clock in as a classic submissive. You like giving over to your Dominant’s will, not just submitting to a Top’s sensation. You have a few boundaries and limits to what you will or won’t do, but you are eager to do what it takes to please and pleasure the one to whom you submit. You may love pain, or love to give service, or adore sex, but your desire for giving over is what drives you the strongest. For a deeper dive into all of your submissive tendencies, join the Submissive Playground course in January 2014 for four weeks of creative, sexy explorations.
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Whatcha think? Do you still think the quiz results you got were the most accurate description of you? Do you agree with my write-ups of what each one means?

It’s been a fascinating experiment! Thanks for playing!

Why Lesbian Erotica is Valuable Activism

ble14I’m reading some erotica—along with Jen Cross, Carol Queen, Amy Butcher, Xan West, M’kali-Hashiki, Cheryl Dunye, BD Swain, & Jiz Lee—to celebrate the release of Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 this Thursday night. (Details here and here and here.) I’m so excited to have helped curate an amazing lineup, and I am now sacrificing all the luck I have to get a good audience to show up. If you’re in the area, come!

I’ve been thinking about “lesbian erotica” lately, how edgy it is, how valuable it is. There’s a bit of controversy around this particular publication of Best Lesbian Erotica, and while I have a lot of thoughts about that article, I still have a lot of my own feelings about how important lesbian erotica is, and how it helps on the process of building one’s some people’s identities. (“One” here meaning someone FAAB who tends to prefer to sleep with other FAAB people, at least at some point in their life.) [ UPDATE: Katherine commented, “So, why don’t you feel that lesbian erotica is important to building the identity of trans-feminine spectrum lesbians?” And of course that’s a valid point. I’m sorry to have excluded trans women from that statement, and that was an oversight on my part. I was trying to be specific, and ended up being TOO specific. It doesn’t really matter who “one” is in that sentence above, all that matters is that some people use lesbian erotica to develop their own identities, and that’s my point. It is valid for all kinds of genders and orientations, and I never meant to leave anyone out. I’ll try not to write so hastily in the future, and be more careful. See my comment for a bit more of my thoughts. ]

I realized I wrote about my own experience with it, and why I think queer smut (“lesbian erotica”) is valuable activism, in my introduction to the 2012 Best Lesbian Erotica anthology, so I figured I’d share it with you here.

See you Thursday night, right?

Introduction to Best Lesbian Erotica 2012

I know what I want.

I knew exactly what I was looking for when I read the submitted stories for this anthology: dirty, smutty, smart about gender, smart about power, packed full of sex with the bare necessary descriptions of setting and context, and, oh yeah, good writing. It doesn’t have to be dirty in my personal favorite ways—with sultry accoutrements and costuming like stockings and strappy sandals, or with strap-ons and lots of fucking, or with blow jobs and dirty talk. I like stories where the characters are so turned on and lusty that I feel it too, even if it is not my particular kink or pleasure. I like stories with unique descriptions and rolling prose and insatiable narrators and rising and falling action. I like stories where I want to recreate the action for myself, when I am inspired by the delicious positions and settings and words.

Yes, and the words, let’s not forget the words. That’s what these kinds of books are all about, really. If you wanted a quick, easy turn on, you could load up any of dozens of queer porn sites—there is no shortage of real, good queer porn out there these days. But for some of us that is too crass, and a well-done turn of phrase gets us swooning and biting our lips and rubbing our thighs together even more than a dirty video.

I didn’t always know what I wanted. When I was coming out in the late 1990s, though there was a serious lack of queer porn in the video stores, there were plenty of people paving the landscape for what would become the blossoming queer porn of the 2000s. Diana Cage, On Our Backs magazine, Good Vibrations, (Toys in) Babeland, Annie Sprinkle, Susie Bright—and, of course, Tristan Taormino. It was Tristan’s 1998 Best Lesbian Erotica anthology that for me clicked something into place, something I could no longer pretend wasn’t there. I would hide the book in the back of the shelves at the bookstore where I worked so it wouldn’t get purchased, and I’d sandwich it between two others and sneak it into the stock room to read when it was slow. I wore creases into the spine with Toni Amato’s story “Ridin’ Bitch” and Karlyn Lotney’s story “Clash of the Titans.” I was genuinely confused as to why I liked these stories so much. What was this affect they had on me? Why did I love them so much? What did it all mean?

I began to find other books, short stories, and essays that helped move my budding baby dykery along: Nothing But the Girl—oh, swoon. That essay by Anastasia Higgenbotham in Listen Up: Voices From the Next Feminist Generation. Cunt by Inga Muscio. Breathless by Kitty Tsui. And the Herotica series, which was erotica for women before Rachel Kramer Bussel’s prolific erotica editing career.

I bought one of the Herotica books at a little indy bookstore—now gone—on Capitol Hill in Seattle when I visited one summer, before moving there. But it proved to be too threatening to my boyfriend who, enraged some night after yet another argument about my sexuality, stabbed that book and two other lesbian erotica books with the wide-handled screwdriver which I’d used to masturbate since I was a teenager.

These books are filled with three powerful things: 1. women, who are 2. empowered, 3. about their sexuality (which, by the way, does not involve men). Even the books themselves are threatening.

These books of lesbian erotica are not fluff. They are not nothing. They are not frivolous or useless.

For queers coming out and into our own, they are a path.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve managed to snag myself a lesbian bed death relationship, going out of my mind with desire and disconnection. I stopped writing, because the only thing that I was writing was how miserable I felt, how much I wanted out of that relationship—a reality I wasn’t ready to face. I decided that to work off my sexual energy, I would either go to the gym or I would write erotica. Well, I ended up writing a lot of erotica, rediscovering this tool of self-awareness and self-creation that had led me to smut in the first place, and I began writing myself back into my own life, back into the things that I hold most important: connection, touch, release, holding, witness, play.

My first published smut story was in Best Lesbian Erotica 2006. Between the time I wrote it and the time the book came out, I was beginning to end the bed death relationship, in no small part because I’d reminded myself of the value of the erotic, of my own inner erotic world, of erotic words. Between the time I wrote it and the time it came out, I started Sugarbutch Chronicles, which has carried me through these last five plus years, often being my sanctuary, support circle, best friend, and confidant.

Writing these stories, for me, has not been frivolous. They have not been nothing. They are not fluff or useless.

For me, they were a path back to myself when I got lost.

When I was lost, I had no idea what I wanted, aside from the basic daily survivals: work. Eat. Pay bills. Sleep. Shower. But when I wrote, when I connected with my own desire, I felt a little piece of me bloom and become in a bigger way. I felt more like myself.

I turned again to the great books of smut to help me find myself, to help me find a way back to a partner, a lover, a one night stand—hell, even an hour with a Hitachi was sometimes enough. The Leather Daddy and the Femme. Mr. Benson. Switch Hitters: Gay Men Write Lesbian Erotica and Lesbians Write Gay Male Erotica. Back to Basics: Butch/Femme Erotica. Doing It For Daddy. And Best Lesbian Erotica, always Best Lesbian Erotica. I still eagerly buy it every year to see what the guest editor’s tastes are, to see what the new trends are, to read the emerging new writers, to get my rocks off.

I rediscovered what I wanted through reading smut and writing it. Through carving myself a path in connection with a lineage of sex positive dykes and sex radicals and queer kinksters and feminist perverts.

After six years of writing and publishing erotica, I am thrilled to be a guest editor for the series which sparked me into queerness in 1998, thrilled to be choosing stories for the same series that published my very first piece, “The Plow Pose,” in 2006, which helped spark me back to myself. It is so exciting to be contributing to this queer smut hotbed that Cleis Press has helped nurture all these years, and I’m so glad to continue to be part of it in new ways.

I know what I want, now. And lesbian erotica, or as I prefer to call it, queer smut, has helped me not only visualize what is possible, but create a path toward getting what I want.

The stories in tis book reflect my taste, my favorites, my personal hot spots, certainly, but also the best-written stories from a large pile of well-written stories by some of my favorite authors, like Kiki DeLovely and Xan West and Rachel Kramer Bussel. There are some less-well known writers in here whose work you may not be familiar with, yet, but who will leave an impression on you, writers like Anne Grip and Amy Butcher. I found dozens of moments of signposts, signals directing me toward myself, words illuminating my own meridians of ache. With each story, with each act of lust, with each dirty command or submissive plea, I rediscovered my own want.

I hope you find some of what you want within these pages, too.

You can still pick up print copies of Best Lesbian Erotica 2012 via your local queer feminist independent bookstore, or, if you must, through Amazon.

And: Come see me & Jen Cross, Carol Queen, Amy Butcher, Xan West, M’kali-Hashiki, Cheryl Dunye, BD Swain, & Jiz Lee read smut from Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 this Thursday night, 12/12, in San Francisco at the Center for Sex & Culture. $20 at the door includes a copy of the book! Details here.

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

The Great Reader Mini-Interview of 2013, Part 5: In which you recommend Stone Butch Blues & Fried Green Tomatoes, and give good advice

What’s your relationship with sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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I started reading about two years ago when I really started coming out as gender non-conforming and exploring my queer identity. At the time I was in a poly relationship and so a lot of the material resonated with me. I really have always appreciated the open discussions about sex and gender presentation and some of the more utilitarian posts about clothes, etc.

—Alison, http://a1tg.tumblr.com

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I stumbled upon Sugarbutch from a link in an Autostraddle post nearly 4 years ago and immediately spent every waking second that summer reading the entire archive. I felt like I had come home. Not only was someone writing about the sex I had always wanted to have (and that in and of itself had a huge impact on my sex drive and partners and play and whatnot) but they were doing it beautifully and well and consciously.

I still think some of my favorite posts are erotica, but I also know that the theoretical posts have changed my life in a completely literal sense and now that I am growing into my own versions of an alternative gender identity and kinky identity, they are more important to me. But mostly, it’s just the whole thing. Everything you do lets me know that somewhere in this world are people that think like me.

—Roux, http://www.queerlyroux.com

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That would be “Handprints on the Hotel Window.” My girlfriend emailed it to me shortly after we began dating. On out first trip to New York City together, she booked a room that had floor-to-ceiling windows so we could reenact the story. Tres hot. I’ve been a fan ever since!

—Dawn, http://southernfriedfemme.blogspot.com/

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I started reading around 4 years ago? Right around when you started writing about Kristen. I was just starting to identify as a femme and was desperate for anything anyone was writing. I’d read your posts praising femmes over and over again, reassuring myself that this identity I was claiming was real and true and that someone, some day, would want me. And I mean your smut really helped me get through several stressful days during undergrad…

—Emily, https://twitter.com/EmLuft

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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You’re allowed to want things, even if you feel like your partner doesn’t. That doesn’t make you bad or wrong or broken. There are other people who will like you and also enjoy those things. You don’t have to be perfect, and making mistakes can only lead to improvement and giggling. Gender is hard and exhausting, and you are never going to satisfy anyone but yourself. So have fun and try not to talk other people’s opinions too seriously.

—kaj, http://distractionsandproblems.tumblr.com/

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Women appreciate authenticity. Don’t ever tone yourself down because you’re scared you’re too butch. Also, there is more than one femme in the world, even when it feels like the only one was the last one.

—Meg, https://www.facebook.com/megan.mceachin

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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The book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Something about that book grabbed me when I was in my early 20’s…I read it 5 times in one week after I bought it. It was the dynamic of Idgie and Ruth’s relationship. The people, place and setting of the book, drastically different from my life, but very similar in other ways. The way Idgie and Ruth lived, spoke to each other, the activities they participated in , the running of their cafe. I still read that book once a year (sometimes more) and it is always like visiting an old friend. In my mind I greatly embellished their relationship, which is left a bit ambiguous in the book, and maybe that is why I keep going back.

—April

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Stone Butch Blues. I was sixteen, not out to my parents, and it was the first queer book I’d ever read. It changed everything in my life. I learned that “butch” wasn’t a dirty word, that (somewhere?) there were women who might like me, and, most importantly, that people like me had a history.

—Meg, https://www.facebook.com/megan.mceachin

Anything else to add?

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I think you seriously underestimate the amount of people in this universe who have ridiculous crushes on you.

—Roux, http://www.queerlyroux.com

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I’m so excited to see where Sugarbutch is going to go in the next months and years. I’ve read this site for years and never commented-truly embodying “lurker syndrome.” But this website and your writing has meant a lot of important things to me at different times in my life, and I’m grateful to see a rededication to it from you. Thanks for all that you do and give. It does not go unappreciated-I promise.

—Emily, https://twitter.com/EmLuft

How to Chomp: Erotic Biting for Pleasure & Pain

“I’m surprised more people don’t talk about biting. It’s pretty practical – I think it should be a conscious part of a dom’s tool kit. When I first apply pressure, her whole body goes tight like a bowstring. It makes me feel like I control every inch of her in that moment, and she’s balanced, waiting for my next decision. All this without any equipment, with both hands free? Awesome.” —K

I love biting during rough sex. Love it.

It’s something I do so automatically that I’ve learned I need to make sure to explicitly ask anybody I mess around with in a BDSM/play context or a sexytimes context a) whether or not they like to be bit and b) if it’s okay for me to leave bite marks. And if it is okay to leave bite marks, to be clear precisely where those marks should or rather should not be left. This negotiation is also about the time that I request that if I do leave marks, that they send me pretty pictures of them the next day. (That’s my favorite part. Well, that, and the actual biting part.)

I basically learned all of that the hard way—messing around with girls and starting to bite, then having them stop me mid-bite with some anger or frustration or safeword. Don’t do it that way. Ask if you can bite. You don’t have to sit them down before you start kissing and say, “So, I really like to bite, preferably somewhere on the fleshy part of your chest or on the top of your shoulder, how do you feel about that?” You can do it while you work your mouth on their neck, shoulders, fingers, mouth. You can do it when you start to go get gloves or condoms or your cock or flip the lights off (or on).

You should ask about hickeys and leaving marks from sucking on someone’s skin, too. Don’t leave marks unless you know you can. Figure out how to suck to leave marks and how to suck to not leave marks. Practice on someone who will let you practice on them. And remember, each person’s skin is different, and marks differently. What marks on one person may not mark the next, and vice versa. So go slowly. Learn to recognize the way skin looks when it starts changing, and be smart about it. Stay within consent.

Okay, enough of that leaving marks / consent PSA. You get the point, right?

Oh! Another thing I love about biting is that I always have the tool with me, my mouth, and I can use it anytime anywhere. I don’t need to set it up or get it out or do anything special, it’s just right there, and conveniently placed. It’s a wonderful tool for a sadist, or for someone who wants to display some possession—either by leaving marks or by making them squeal and squirm and stay in a submissive space through some masochism. A good bite at the right time can tip somebody over the edge and make them come that much harder. But, there are some things to be cautious about.

So, let’s say you have a green light of consent, that this person you’re messing around with in whatever way loves being bit. How do you do that? What are the safety risks? How do you cause maximum pleasure (or pain)?

Where to Bite

Technically, you can bite anywhere on the body, but some places are more suited for deep bites than others, and some places are pretty dangerous if you bite hard. You can cause internal damage, and nobody wants that. Generally, if you know about impact play and where to hit somebody, you can translate that to biting: The places on the body with big muscles and lots of flesh are best to bite, the places with less flesh and more bone or less padding on the organs are not good to bite.

If you haven’t taken a beginner BDSM class that teaches the places on a body to impact, I highly recommend that. Most BDSM groups have a Safety Orientation type of meeting. Go to it! Meet some cool people, while you’re at it.

And because I couldn’t find a decent image of the Where To Impact Body Map online anywhere, rife made a beautiful drawing and color coded it to indicate where and where not to bite.

wheretohitabody

Click to make it bigger! and/or Click here to buy a print!

This is not necessarily meant to be a comprehensive chart, and please consult a BDSM educator AND YOUR PLAY PARTNER for the places their body likes and doesn’t like to have heavy impact. Each person is different. Use caution and your best judgment.

Personally, I find the places that my mouth kind of naturally lands to be the best places to bite, and for me that tends to be the upper chest, shoulders, and upper arms, and the inner thighs and butt. I have a tendency to bite when I’m coming while strapped on and fucking someone, so that often means their my mouth is in line with their shoulders, either their upper chest if we’re face to face or their upper back if I’m behind them. I know how to gauge my bite in this position, either biting a little recklessly and hard or just a slow close down of my mouth so I have something to do with my jaw while coming.

But, those are all examples of biting for my pleasure. Perhaps you’re doing it as part of a display of possession or more from a service topping perspective, which is also awesome. The first thing you want to do there (after the 0 step of CONSENT of course) is to find the bite.

“Finding the bite” is something kd diamond spoke of when we talked about biting tips when I was hanging out with her in New York City last weekend. The idea being that while you explore their body with your mouth, you start upping the impact of your teeth, starting with some nibbles, and if they seem responsive to that you keep going, and you find the spot on their body that yields well, and that they give you a very noticeable response (moaning, sounds of joy and pleasure, leaning in to your mouth). Once they do that, you know you’ve found a good spot, and rather than moving on, bite deeper right there.

How Hard to Bite

Deeper? How much deeper should you go? As with everything else, it depends on the person, so always listen to them and their body.

I attended Felice Shays’s Playing in Dangerous Neighborhoods: Advanced Rough Sex workshop through LSM in New York City when I visited last weekend, and she had some great things to say about biting. We talked about it a bit after, too, and I took notes.

First, she stresses the difference between speed and intensity. Most of us tops or sadists or dominants or D-types want to have maximum impact when we’re doing something thrilling like biting, and so often we do that by going really fast, but that actually taps out the receiver much quicker than if we do something slow and deep. Slow and deep can open up new channels and let the s-type bloom into the submissive space. Quick and hard can be shocking, cause flinching and even panic. Felice highly recommends intensity over speed.

Which is not to say that speedy hard bites are never okay to do—they can be, sure. Just know that it’ll be a different impact on the person you’re biting than if you go slow and deep. Depends on what the purpose of your bite is.

So once you’ve found the bite, and you want to go slow and deep, what do you do with your mouth?

Different Ways to Bite

Let’s distinguish between a couple different kinds of bites:

  • Slow bite: Close, then sink your teeth slowly. You can go deeper with this kind of bite, because you are slowly upping the intensity and letting the receiver of the bite get used to it. If they start having more of a pulling away reaction than a leaning into it reaction, that’s your cue to back off a little (or stay right where you are) and not up the intensity any more.
  • Dragging teeth: This was a good tip that Felice mentioned specifically about biting genitals. Genitals are amazing sensitive places and some people really like them being bitten, like a lot. A) Consent (duh), and B) every body is different, and C) if you’re going to be putting your teeth directly onto someone’s genitals, you should have some conversations about being fluid bonded. But after that: Go for it. This is probably not a very good place to chomp, and not a very good place for a deep slow close (though some places, like the inner thighs or the pubic mound, might be okay for that). But delicately clasping their bits in your teeth, and then dragging your teeth, could be immensely pleasurable.
  • Chomp: That’s the speedy hard bite I was just mentioning. With little or no warning, you just open your mouth wide and chomp down on someone’s body. This can be lovely and have a wonderful effect, particularly if the person you’re biting likes to be surprised, likes the big adrenaline spike of pain, and likes to feel the bruise throb after you remove your mouth. But generally, I wouldn’t suggest this with someone you haven’t played with much, and with someone that you don’t know likes this kind of bite. The people who like it really like it, but I think I’d argue it’s the least universally enjoyed type of biting.
  • Other kinds of bites? I imagine there are many more kinds (like “love nibbles”), but these are three of them. Got more ideas?

As the Receiver of Biting …

You can help the person biting you by being honest about your reactions, not enduring things you don’t like (unless enduring something is your fetish, but that’s a slightly different conversation), and giving lots of feedback, either verbally or with your body language.

If you can, use the numbers or colors systems to give feedback, by rating a bite 1-10, 1 being “I barely felt that” and 10 being “that is as much as I can take bordering on STOP RIGHT NOW.” Remember that what feels like a 6 today might feel like a 3 tomorrow and a 9 next Thursday, and depending on where you are in the scene, and how erotically stimulated and aroused you are, bites (or any kind of body impact) can feel different. Keep your feedback coming, however you can.

The colors system is using the words red-yellow-green to let your biter know how you’re doing, like a traffic light: Green means go, yellow means caution (and often means “pause / back off / please stop what you’re doing but don’t stop the scene”) and red means STOP everything now and check in. It’d be very useful to hear “yellow!” if a bite was getting waaay too deep and you needed it to stop, or if you were really enjoying a deep slow bite to hear “green green greengreengreen,” as an indicator that you are requesting the biter keep going.

When During Sex to Bite

Depends … people like different things, of course, so check in with the person you’re playing with. (I know, I know, that’s my constant disclaimer, but it remains true. For that matter, you probably shouldn’t ask me when during sex or where on their body they want to be bit—ask them. Ask them. No seriously, ask them. I know it’s hard to bring up, but talking about it is so important.)

I’d say there are two main times during the sexytimes act that I’d encourage biting: Toward the beginning, during the ramp-up to bigger, rougher, deeper play, and during orgasms.

In the beginning of the play, biting can be a great way to explore someone’s body. Often as we’re warming up and making out and getting into more and more foreplay, we do a lot of kissing of the neck and shoulders, sometimes the chest, so that can be a great time to try out some light biting and to slowly ramp it up.

And if you know you have someone who likes moments of sensation or release as a way of tipping them over the edge, you can strategically place a bite on one of those places you found before when they are getting closer and closer to orgasm, and it could sometimes be the thing that sends them over the edge. It probably takes some practice to do this, but the reaction and release (and beautiful bruise you may get to see later or the next day) is an amazing reward.

bruises
Bruises from biting on rife. Left: bite marks on his upper chest and upper arm (bruises on his chin are not from biting). Top: Bite marks on his upper back. Bottom: Bruises on his ass from punching and paddling, and one big dark bite mark.

Dangers of Biting & Safety Tips

There are some places on the body you don’t want to bite hard, both for safety (like the possibility of damaging an internal organ or tendon) and for pleasure (biting down on the tendons of the neck is not pleasurable for most recipients, for example). Take a Where To Impact On The Body kind of class, ask your local BDSM pervert educator, and know the person you’re playing with.

Do not bite arteries or tendons. That is unpleasant, and dangerous. Aim for the fleshy, meaty, bite-able parts of the body.

There is also the risk of breaking the skin if you are a hard biter. Breaking the skin is bad. The human mouth is generally a very dirty place, with all sorts of bacteria, and a human bite can be more easily infected than a dog bite.

Know your mouth. Notice if your teeth are generally completely flat on the bottoms, or if some of them have edges or chips or points. Those teeth are more likely to break skin. For example, I’ve never full-on broken skin with a deep bite, but I have one particular tooth that is very pointy (my “vampire tooth” canine) and it often leaves more of a red mark than the others and has drawn a teeny tiny bit of blood in a puncture on a rare occasion. Know which teeth are sharp. Do you have braces? That’ll change your impact as well.

If you do break the skin, clean it well and monitor it closely. If anything looks out of the ordinary, see a doctor. Get it checked out. It’s an easy treatment, but it can be bad if not treated.

What about bruises?

Bruises are not necessarily bad for you, not harmful to you or your muscles, and will heal well on most people without much specific care. But again, know your body. If you’re anemic, you may bruise a whole lot easier than someone who is not, for example.

Some people swear by things like Arnica, a homeopathic cream meant to help heal bruises and bumped tissue. After Miss Calico did a bruising and Arnica experiment a few years ago I’ve been more skeptical of Arnica’s value, but as the kid of some hippie parents, I still often take it orally if I’m trying to heal my body from bruising.

Keep an eye on the bruises as they heal. Usually, healthy bruises will go from a slightly red mark at the time of impact to dark purple or black as they bloom, and then fade to shades of lighter blue, sometimes green, yellow, and back to your regular skin color. It’s harder to see the fading process on people with darker skin, easier to see the fading process on people with lighter skin. Know your body. Get to know the process of how you bruise and how you heal. If anything looks out of the ordinary, get it checked out (preferably with a kink-friendly doctor so you can say things like “happily consensual!” with a big smile and they will get it). It is normal for a bruise to “travel” a little bit as the tissues and blood vessels slowly repair.

If the bruise gets lumpy or hard, get it checked out. If it stays dark and doesn’t seem to be fading, get it checked out. If anything seems out of the ordinary, get it checked out. And share the knowledge that you learn with the people/person you are playing with—it’s helpful for them to know your body, too!

In Conclusion ….

Biting is one of my favorites. For control, sadism, possession, sensation, and leaving marks, it’s a fantastic tool, and one I use often. Get consent. Know your body, and get to know your play partner’s body. Every body is different, but if you get to know each other you can figure out what will cause maximum pleasure (or pain) (or both) and impact and beautiful bruises. Know the risks that you’re taking and keep yourself and your partner as safe as you can.

That about covers my thoughts on bruising! What are your thoughts? Do you love it, hate it? Agree with my tips, or think I’m wrong? Did I leave something critical out? Any other types of bites or safety tips or things I’m missing? I’d love to know.

The Great Reader Mini-Interview, Part Four: “Shut up and get hit,” Communion, and fun erotica

What’s your relationship with sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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(As a brief addendum, I publish the above blog anonymously! I’d love others to see it, but am a little nervous, as I have a fairly conservative day life. How have you reconciled your public and private lives intersecting? I’m always curious.)

I’ve been reading you on and off for about four years now. I love your erotic writing and, as a fellow butch, have felt a kindred sense of discovery with you as I’ve come into my own. It’s refreshing to read your perspective as it mirrors some of my own experiences.

PS: I saw that you were attending QI in Hartford. So am I, and fuck, I’d love to suck your cock.

—J, http://camionneuse.wordpress.com

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Started reading 4-5 years ago. Most frequently repeated quote: “shut up and get hit.” Seriously, your life. Never stop writing about it for public consumption.

—Simon Hoardash

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I just came across Sugarbutch a week or two ago, and wish I’d found you sooner! I’ve been skimming through your archives whenever I have some free time. I’ve been thinking about sex/uality, gender, and relationships a lot lately, and thirsting for more discussion of them. I’m especially interested in the D/s dynamic since that’s something I’m currently exploring, from a framework of being queer, poly, and in committed partnerships with two people of different genders. And of course I love your dirty stories.

—elspeth, https://fetlife.com/users/2485909

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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ohgod. calm down. it’s okay to not know (anything). thinking too much about what other people are thinking (and inventing what you think they are thinking/feeling/doing) is the absolute fastest way to create totally unnecessary drama. if you don’t know, ask. when you can identify that you are making an assumption, especially about what someone else is thinking/feeing/wanting, STOP IT, and ask.

—Kat Heatherington — http://yarrowkat.livejournal.com

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That my pleasure in and relationship with my body is the starting point of sex, not an extra. That it should be closer to communion (with self and other) than performance (totally externally focused) in order to be nourishing. I would congratulate myself on not shaming myself about trying lots of things, and suggest not shaming myself about my body shape. I’d suggest trying less hard to please unattainable people, and know that such advice at that time in my life would have meant nothing to me.

—Shereen, http://twitter.com/ShereenSamuels

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Femme is not a bad thing. It’s actually really, really powerful. I know you’ve somehow fallen into the mindset that to be Femme is to be weak or not queer enough, but that’s utter bullshit, darlin. You’ll eventually embrace Femme as an identity, and you’ll finally start to feel as strong and badass as you are. And red lipstick is the best armor you will ever find.

—Ashlee, http://femmeandfists.tumblr.com

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I would leave a link to your website and other queer friendly spaces on my computer for my 18 years old self. I struggled a lot with desire to begin with. I struggled even harder to come to terms with my same sex desires. Feminist and queers spaces have really helped me become a person I much more like.

— Gladys, https://www.facebook.com/gladys.is.awesome

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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Body Electric. because it has opened me up to listening to myself in a way I have never really done before.

—Kat Heatherington — http://yarrowkat.livejournal.com

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The Artist’s Way. It was such a lovely, creative, non-prescriptive way into figuring out lots of things about myself. Many years ago in my early twenties, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah turned my whole world upside down – even though Richard Bach turned out to be something of a self-involved dick, the book changed how I saw and interacted with the world.

—Shereen, http://twitter.com/ShereenSamuels

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This might be a bit of a cop-out of an answer, but recently, Tumblr has had the biggest impact on me. I’ve found some amazing radical queer people and blogs who’ve all been a big part of helping me shape my activist identity. Tumblr also happens to be full of badass Femmes, gorgeous queer people of all identities, and some really, really fun erotica and smut in general.

—Ashlee, http://femmeandfists.tumblr.com/