Ecstasy is Necessary! The New Book by Barbara Carrellas

I’m finishing this up from the plane, 10,000 feet above, on my way to Alaska to be with my family. Good thing I had it mostly written already. More soon.

I am a little bit in love with Barbara Carrellas, so of course I jumped on the opportunity to be part of her book tour for her new book, Ecstasy is Necessary. I admire her in lots of ways, from a presenter to an erotic energy/tantra practitioner to a badass toomuch queer to a coach. Kristen and I have worked with her—together and separately—and her interpretations of what’s going on, advice, and practical solutions are things we have widely incorporated into our relationship.

She’s kinda known for teaching (and experiencing) “energetic orgasms,” and this book takes you through that—from her experience having one in an fMRI machine to the aftercare (appendix) which takes the reader through the steps for doing it ourselves.

This book is also a workbook—or, perhaps as she’d put it, a playbook—with many small exercises for exploration. Call it “My Ecstatic Sex & Relationship Operating Manual,” she writes. So yeah, you might need a little notebook or a blog to accompany your explorations in this book, which for me was an exciting bonus. From “What do you desire?” to “If you know what you wanted, what would it be?” to BDSM yes/no/maybe lists, she takes us readers through all sorts of inner explorations with the goal of greater sexual freedom, an improved sex life, and, yeah, ecstasy.

I read quite a few erotic guides, self-help books, tantric writings, and generally whatever I can get my hands on around these self-awareness subjects, and I particularly love this one because of Barbara’s perspective. She includes all sorts of queer, kinky, gender-forward, non-monogamous, and social media-based examples and insights that really speak to me. So frequently the authorities of these subjects are so normative, and that is just not the case with Barbara.

I get a lot of questions from folks in my email inbox and in that ask me anything inbox about how to have a satisfying sex life, how to overcome shame, how to get what they really want in bed, and I gotta say, this book is an amazing place to start with that. I bet I’ll be recommending it frequently. It’s not just for beginners, though—as I went through the exercises myself, I toyed through all sorts of useful things. I love how she discusses boundaries, radical acceptance, communication, erotic risks, and safer sex; I love her weaving in of the love languages and NVC, both tools that have been very useful for me; I found myself writing down many of her book sources, thinking, “oh I want to read that too.”

Here’s the official blurb for the book, which sums it up clearly:

From Barbara Carrellas, sex expert and author of the best-selling book Urban Tantra, comes Ecstasy is Necessary. This is not your average tips-and-techniques sex book; rather it is an exploratory journey of the sexual self and the infinite possibilities of ecstatic expression. In Ecstasy is Necessary, Carrellas teaches readers how to discover, nurture, expand, and embrace their authentic, ever-evolving, sensual, sexual self.

Everyone goes through different phases of sexual expression and desire, and there are an infinite number of erotic and ecstatic possibilities available at all points along the way. The insights readers will gain in their journey with Carrellas will help them confidently approach sex and relationships in a way that works for them no matter where they are in their sexual evolution. They will get tools for solving the inevitable challenges that arise. They’ll even receive permission not to have sex at all, if that’s what’s right for them, because it is possible to create ecstatic experiences even when sex itself is not possible, available, or appropriate.

Using stories and simple exercises, Carrellas helps readers understand how they are wired for sex and relationships, what their personal warning signs look like, and what they need for optimum care. Plus, they’ll learn how to effectively communicate this information to others so that they can be loved more easily and effectively.

As readers discover their authentic sexual selves, they will learn how to create the conditions that allow more and more of their experiences and relationships to be opportunities for—and invitations to—ecstasy.

Follow along for the rest of the tour, if you are inspired, and check out the book Ecstasy is Necessary and the website ecstasyisnecessary.com for excerpts and more.

1 March Kate Bornstein : Kate Bornstein’s Blog for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws. Alternative to suicide-or simply to a really bad day. Kate’s post is titled Got Ecstasy?

2 March Viviane : Viviane’s Sex Carnival~A Blog about Sex and Sexuality. Viviane’s post is titled BarbaraCarrellas” Ecstasy is Necessary: Virtual Book Tour.

5 March Betty Herbert : Love in the Long Run Today we’ll celebrate the publication of Ecstasy is Necessary in the United Kingdom. Betty’s post is titled Ecstasy is Necessary!

6 March Bevin Branlandingham : The Queer, Fat, Femme Guide to Life. Bevin’s post is titled Get Me Embodied: Ecstasy is Necessary Book Review and Interview With Author Barbara Carrellas.

7 March Kendra Holliday: Striving to bring shy folks out of their shell, and offer a safe haven for those exploring their sexuality and creative side. Kendra’s post is titled Barbara Carrellas” Ecstasy is Necessary.

8 March Sinclair Sexsmith : The sex, gender and relationship adventures of a kinky, queer, butch top. (That’s me!)

9 March Nancy L. HillCultivating a Beautiful Life

12 March Andrea Zanin : Thought on Sex and Life

13 March Rubyyy JonesLove Lust & Light

14 March Jill Boyd: Smart-ass Virgins Make Better Whoopie

15 March Official publication date of Ecstasy is Necessary. Barbara will be live blogging with friends and fans at HealYourLife.com.

Which Side Are You On? (The New Ani Difranco Album)

I’m pretty excited about this album. I caught the preview when it was up at whichside.net and it came out yesterday, now it’s $3.99 on Amazon for the mp3 download if you’re into that kind of thing. And considering I’m trying to figure out what to do with my massive CD collection that is doing barely anything more than collecting dust, I’m not buying any new CDs anytime soon. Even Ani CDs.

I keep seeing write-ups that say—essentially or literally—”I think it’s safe to say at this point that the Ani many of us grew up on and love dearly (the self-titled/Out of Range/Dilate Ani) is dead and buried.” I find this kind of insulting, like saying that Tori Amos’s newest album isn’t Little Earthquakes, or my mom saying, “my little girl is gone” (hypothetically—my mom would never say that). I guess growth is important to me. These aren’t the only comments being made: in this Bitch Magazine interview says, “As I grew up and went on to college, Ani’s music came with me. ” But I hear the other kind of commentary more frequently.

I think there is a larger point attempting to be made with comments like that above, which is if you let go of your old expectations and really listen to the music she’s creating, there are some amazing things here, too, but I guess we as queer communities are holding too closely to the idealized Ani from the 90s. Personally I loved her dissonant sounding string of Evolve, Educated Guess, and Knuckle Down, I loved Reprieve, though I didn’t listen to Red Letter Year much. Not because it was happy, but because the lyrics and music seemed so thin.

But this one … more dense, more things to sink my teeth into. I’m glad to hear her use the word “feminism” in a song, though I question a little bit the nuance of her conversation in “Which Side.”I guess I like seeing the grey in-between things, and less worried about which side of the black or white.

Maybe I’ll get a more nuanced understanding of it after I spend more time with the album. I just downloaded it last night and look forward to having it on repeat today. Curious what your thoughts are—do you love the old Ani? Do you, like Jesse James, think her edge ended when she sang “I’m not angry anymore”? Are you looking forward to this album, do you like what you’ve heard?

I Confess: Favorite Music from 2011

This week, my horoscope said: “You are likely to thrive to the degree that you precisely identify and vigorously harness your obsessions. Please note I’m not saying you should allow your obsessions to possess you like demons and toss you around like a rag doll. I’m not advising you to fall down in front of your obsessions and worship them like idols. Be wildly grateful for them; love them with your fiery heart fully unfurled; but keep them under the control of your fine mind.”

Some of my obsessions are books and music. I know that’s very broad, and I could say that more specifically, I am a bit obsessed with sexuality & gender books, with female singer-songwriters and queer artists, with people making art in this world that is “open and aware directly to the urges that motivate … Keep[ing] the channel open. … [A] queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive,” which is part of a Martha Graham quote I’ve had in my email signature most of this year.

In the spirit of being wildly greatful, of loving with my fiery heart fully unfurled and (at least somewhat) under the control of my find mind, here’s my favorite music from 2011 (books forthcoming!).

When my computer got kinda fucked up this past year and my buddy the genius fixed it for me, we spent a long time figuring out how to combine my external hard drives full of music and get it all onto a new internal hard drive, and one of the consequences was that, for a small period of time, I lost my play counts in iTunes. I use these constantly to gauge what tracks from an album are good, what I want to add to a mix, etc.

Thankfully, I love online services, like last.fm, which has been recording what I listen to since 2005, through three different laptops and three different itunes installations, and those stats are a bit more accurate than the makeshift restored best-possible-option version that I ended up with. So I went over my top artists of the year & top tracks of the year to figure out what I’ve been listening to in 2011.

Albums (somewhat in order):

Alexi Murdoch – Since Kristen & I watched the film “Away We Go,” I’ve been a little obsessed, and downloaded the soundtrack from 2009 and his album Time Without Consequences from 2006. Not a new release, but new to me.

Girlyman, Somewhere Different Now, the live recording, came out this year, which reintroduced me to Girlyman and I’ve been listening to their whole discography, really.

Melissa Ferrick, Still Right Here – Kristen wasn’t really a Ferrick fan, and my theory was that it was because she never saw her play live, and that her albums can’t quite capture her amazing performance ability. We went to see her this year, Kristen for the first time and me for the first time in more than six years, and my love for her music got a jolt. I looked up a few albums of hers I hadn’t heard yet and listened to them all. Freedom is still my favorite, but this new one has some great tracks.

Chris Pureka, How I Learned to See In the Dark – came out in 2010, but I listened to it a lot this year. I’ve never been a huge fan, though many people I know whose tastes are the same as mine in so many other respects love her, and I suspected it might be similar to Kristen’s Ferrick resistance—that I’ve never seen her live. So Kristen and I saw her perform in early 2011, and the show was okay. It did get me to spend much more time with her fine, fine guitar work, though, and to start looking up her lyrics more. She’s grown on me a lot.

Reid Jamieson, Staring Contest – I’m obsessed with his album of Elvis covers, the Presley Sessions, so I keep buying everything he comes out with, because his voice is so perfect.

Schuyler Fisk, Blue Ribbon Winner – I found her because of her duet with Joshua Radin, Paperweight, and this is her second solo album. It’s really beautiful.

Coyote Grace, Ear to the Ground – I love Joe’s voice and Ingrid’s bass. Saw them with Girlyman this year and that show was fantastic. Wish “I’m On Fire” was on this new album. “I’m On Fire” is on their 2011 release Now Take Flight, which is apparently only available on CD Baby (not iTunes or Amazon yet), which is why I haven’t seen it. Downloaded today! (Thanks Ash, for telling me in a comment.)

Meshell Ndegeocello, Weather – I didn’t even know this existed until very recently, but I’ve been waiting for her to release another album like Bitter, and I think this is it. I’m pretty obsessed with Petite Mort—can you tell what she’s saying? “Who’s your daddy? You are. Who’s your daddy now?” Fucken love it.

kd lang and the Siss Boom Bang, Sing it Loud – I Confess was the first amazing thing, but then there was Sugar Buzz (and each time I type that my fingers automatically type “Sugarbutch,” that muscle memory, it’s weird, it can be ahead of my brain’s commands), and then there was kd live earlier this year, and I really love this album. If you haven’t heard “I Confess” yet, though you probably have because I’ve mentioned it here many times, she at one point sings, “I confess / I’ll be your Daddy” and I still. Just. Gahh.

Ellis, Right On Time – came out in 2010, and I downloaded it then, but I still can’t stop listening to it. It’s such a perfect album.

Tori Amos, Night of Hunters. I don’t really like to talk about how much I love Tori Amos. I make cryptic references to it on Sugarbutch sometimes, I put things on tumblr sometimes, but it’s funny, it feels too personal, too private, to write about here and expose. This is one of the most perfect albums I’ve ever heard, a return to her classical roots with a string quartet, and I saw her twice on the world tour, which was incredibly unique and featured many remakes with the quartet. I could say pages and pages more about this, but I’ll stop and be shy about it again now.

Here’s a link to all of them in a playlist on YouTube if you’d like to put ’em on in the background and keep reading or working or jacking off or whatever you’re doing.

Other notable albums, because I can’t not mention them, that I listened to over & over this year: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More, Adele – 21, Florence & the Machine – Ceremonials, Brett Dennen – Loverboy, Monsters of Folk, Wild Flag, Lucas Silveira – Mockingbird, Zoe Keating – Into the Trees, & Balmorhea – Constellations.

Did I miss your very favorite? I’d love to know what you are listening to that you think I might like. Always looking for more good music.

Kate Bornstein’s “Queer & Pleasant Danger”

Thanks for all the comments and discussion on that last post, y’all. I wish I’ve had time to reply to each one, but this week has been nuts, mostly because of the Best Lesbian Erotica 2012 release reading last night, for which I have a few friends in town. And this was the week I decided to start a more strict training program at the gym to improve my running times, too. And the anniversary.

I have lots more to say and I’m still formulating thoughts. Meanwhile, thank you.

(If you want to read it, you can get the password here. Basically I request that you sign up for my mailing list in exchange—you give me something personal (your email address), I’ll give you something personal (access to my more personal entries). I do expect that when you comment on the password protected posts that you leave your actual email address so that I can get in touch with you and converse with you. Anonymous comments on the password protected posts are just rude—I’m giving you access to very personal thoughts of mine, so if you want to comment, you have got to own your comment and be accountable to it. I’m working on a comment policy, actually, because it’s way past time for that. More on that later.)

And now for something completely different!

“A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein is a stunningly original memoir of a nice Jewish boy who joined the Church of Scientology and left twelve years later, ultimately transitioning to a woman. A few years later, she stopped calling herself a woman and became famous as a gender outlaw. A Queer and Pleasant Danger will be published by Beacon Press on May 1, 2012.”

I am a little in love with Kate Bornstein. I mean every genderqueer binary-gender-smashing person out there probably is, I realize this is not really news, but oh mmm. I can’t wait for Kate’s new book.

Review: Sexing the Transman XXX DVD

“Buck Angel, master of redefining gender, brings you never revealed secrets of transmen sexuality. This groundbreaking educational adult film consists of interviews and jack-off scenes with four different transmen (aged 20-35). Each scene starts with an interview in which the performers share intimate details about who they are and why they transitioned from female to male. Removing their clothes, they take you on a thrilling journey as they show you how their sexuality has been supercharged by testosterone.”

Finally sat down with Kristen to watch this video. It’s not the kind of thing I would turn on to get off to—and that is generally what I look for in my porn—so I wasn’t sure how to respond to it, but now that it’s been a week or two, I am still thinking about it and chewing on it. I loved the honest, openness in each of the scenes. I love how bold Buck is to ask probing, intimate questions about gender, sexuality, orgasm, bodies, pleasure, transition, and more. And then I loved how each of the guys in this video answered his questions in their own way. I loved seeing each of them do their thing, touching their body in their own way. It’s quite an interesting study in trans male sexuality. Looking forward to seeing the other non-XXX version, and in seeing whatever Buck does next.

The Sugarbutch 2012 Holiday Gift Guide

Here it is! The sixth annual holiday gift guide for those of you who need some inspiration for the holidays. You’d be surprised how many folks tell me that they (or their partners) are lousy at gift-giving … it is definitely a skill that, like any skill, gets better when worked on, and it’s something that I love being good at. Sometimes my gifts are duds, but I try and have had some good wins this past year.

A tiny piece of advice? The best thing to do is to hone your observation skills, and keep an eye out for things that they covet, and do a little poking around to see what it is about that shirt/dress/accessory/handbag that is so appealing. It took me a long time to figure out that what Kristen loved most about the purses we kept looking at was a kiss clasp (and then a little longer to figure out what the name for that metal closure dohickey really was), but then I found a really great purse for her last year during the holidays.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Occupy movement lately … I think it’s really important to put our money where our mouth is and to shop locally and buy from indie and queer artists as much as possible this holiday season. It really does make a difference to make some specific choices about what to do with your money. Spend the time to find things locally, if you can. Spend the time to shop at independent stores. I know it’s more time consuming, but sometimes it can be really easy.

I’ve tried to link to as many local, small business type of places as possible. Sometimes I’m linking to Amazon not necessarily because you should get it there (though if you do, and use my links, thanks for that—I do get a teeny little kickback), but because I’m trying to show you what the product is so you can go find it at whatever source you might have near you.

Hope it is helpful!

THINGS I’M WISHING FOR

‘Cause Santa, I’ve been a very good boy.


A black leather belt (with a removeable buckle), also called a “belt strap,” usually comes all by itself for around $20. I love belt buckles. I have a bunch of belts, but somehow I am missing a good solid black leather belt—and I mean good leather, I bought one last year maybe that ended up being “man made leather” and has frayed and broken down and warped and feels lousy. So here’s some suggestions: Easy, simple distressed leather belt from Amazon. Beltmaster has some good ones in various styles. A nice one on etsy that comes with a buckle, very plain and simple, comes in nice color options, great to start somebody out with a belt buckle collection if they haven’t started that yet. And last but not least, if you’re looking at this for a kinkster, you might consider scrapping the interchangeable buckle belt and just going for a bondage belt from Aslan Leather. Don’t forget, you might have a local leather store! Shop locally! And if you want to get them started with a belt buckle collection, too, there is every kind of belt buckle imaginable on etsy. Whatever their interests, just put that + “belt buckle” into the search box and you’ll find something rad. (Bird + belt buckle; car + belt buckle; bicycle + belt buckle; you can even get ’em customized.)

probably time to purge a few


Neckties … Kristen at some point said she’d never know which to get me, since I have so many. I said, you know, it’s not so much about getting me some special one that I don’t have as much as it’s about picking out one that you like, which will remind me that it came from you when I wear it. She has since bought me two that I really like, a lavender one with filigree that I wear frequently and a striped bowtie that still needs to make its debut. I would love a few more bowties for my collection. I keep going back to thetiebar.com because they have great sorting options, but there are also plenty of local stores and discount outlets (Filene’s, Century 21) that are excellent tie sources. I tend to prefer non-silk ties these days because the silk ones are a little more formal, but then again a good silk tie is pretty darn great. A good tie bar is also a great thing for someone you know with a tie collection … I’d love one with something fun on it, like a personal message on the back (etsy has everything), or little flame.

some of my favorites, though Maker\’s Mark is currently my #1 choice


A really good bottle of whiskey is always a good gift for me, right size and color, as they say. I like having a little bit of a whiskey collection around … and I haven’t tried the Maker’s 46 yet, though looking forward to that. I’ve been collecting a bit of the whiskey accoutrements lately and have some really nice glasses and a small bitters collection, but I’d still like a big ice cube tray that will make extra big ice cubes. If the whiskey drinker in your life doesn’t have any bitters yet, the Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic bitters are the classic. Pick up an awesome book about bitters while you’re at it.

My cufflink collection is still in progress, I don’t have very many, though the ones I have I really love. I went to get a pair the other day and realized they’re scattered all over the drawer where I keep all my accessories. I could really use a nice box to keep ’em in. And of course, etsy is an amazing source for custom and indy artist cufflinks, they have every type of thing there you could want (and a few you—or I, rather—would certainly not want, like I just caught a glimpse of molar cufflinks). Cuff Daddy has great options, too—I’m still lusting after these Superman cufflinks.

On the more expensive side, I’d love a pair of leather chaps. But I don’t even know where to start to get those … probably the Leatherman here in NYC. That goes on the dream wishlist.

I’m kind of going back to the old staples of butch accessories here, I realize, but these are actually the things at the top of my list this year. I tried to give some ideas and options and not just say “a belt” and “a tie.” Hope that is helpful!

Toys that deserve to be in your toy chest

What’s that? You want to turn it up, buy some explicitly sexy stuff? Oh yes that is a great idea. Here’s a few suggestions for my favorite stuff.

Liberator silk binding sashes. Especially lovely if she (you) likes to be dressed up as a present you (they) can unwrap. Can also be used as a belt for a little black dress. You know, just sayin’.

Aslan Leather Handy Cuff. I am kinda in love with this thing right now.

The new Pete packing briefs from SpareParts (the ones who make that Joque harness that everybody loves). These are comfy and awesome and perfect for a little soft pack. Get ’em at Babeland or your local sex-positive feminist queer sex toy store.

I’m in progress of building a Cock Confidence Product Guide, where I’ll have a bunch of cock-centric stuff listed, like harnesses and accessories, all of which I recommend highly. So if you’re wanting something in that arena as a gift this holiday, know that is coming soon (and why they’re left off here).

See also: 2011 Valentine’s day gift ideas for more sexy things.

things I’ve bought kristen that were a hit

I can’t tell you what I’m planning for her this year (obviously, she reads this site), but I can tell you some of the wins from the past year, and I’ll link to the places I got ’em. Mostly Etsy.

I’ve been keeping an eye on these ever since I saw Natalie Portman’s Lolita clutch while she was promoting Black Swan (remember that? I remember looking it up and it was like $258052) and I found an amazing Etsy store I kept checking back on periodically. Eventually I saw a cookbook, with a checkered cherry lining, and it was perfect. Book purse by prettytheory.

Hanky flowers by Shilo McCabe, aka kinkycraft—she’s on vacation until 2012! But you can be notified when she comes back and this is a necessary gift.

Custom door knocker earrings by bestnamenecklace. Kristen’s say “feminist.” (Sadly, I don’t have a great shot of them and she’s working late today, so I’ll have to get her to model them later.)

Garter Flask by youniquegarters . (That was for our second anniversary. Our third anniversary is coming up in just a couple weeks, and we’ve got a romantic weekend getaway planned.)

Glass cake stand. Tons of places make these, I think I found the one I gave Kristen at Century 21. Here’s one on Amazon. I worried it’d be frivolous and just take up space, but we use it all the time, kind of as a bread box.

Also, Erotica

Don’t forget the dirty books! Makes great stocking stuffers, if, you know, you’re into that.

    
You may also want to check out the gift guides from years past, since often they aren’t date-specific anyway and there might be some good ideas here: 2007 gift guide, 2008 gift guide, 2009 gift guide, and 2010 gift guide.

Alright! That was all I wrote—now tell me, what do you really want this holiday? Any gifts you are particularly lusting after? Any gifts you gave in the past year or so that were particularly well-received? I’d love to know more gift-giving secrets or tips, if you’ve got ’em.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2012 is Here! My Introduction & the NYC Release Party

BLE is here! Kristen’s copy from Amazon arrived last week and we had a toast, read the first and last story out loud, and of course found a few typos. (Can’t have everything!)

As usual, series editor and reading series host Kathleen Warnock is hosting the New York City release party on December 15th at her Drunken! Careening! Writers! series at KGB Bar in the East Village. (When I have the Facebook invite and such I’ll let you know.)

Meanwhile, though, here’s my introduction to this year’s Best Lesbian Erotica. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, there are a lot of great (dirty!) stories included by many of my favorite writers. Pick it up if you get a chance. I really hope you like it, and I’d love to hear what you think after you get a chance to read it.

Introduction
Sinclair Sexsmith

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 this 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. 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.

Take a Tour of Kink.com in San Francisco

Back in August, when I was in San Francisco for the Butch Voices National Conference, I took an afternoon tour of Kink.com and it was rad. I dragged along two butch buddies, BB Rydell (who has a piece in my forthcoming anthology Say Please!) and Amy Butcher (who has a piece in Best Lesbian Erotica 2012, and with whom I’m teaching Owning Your Birthday Suit on December 5th).

We were excited.

The armory building that kink.com occupies is HUGE and incredible! The most amazing part of seeing the inside of the kink.com empire, aside from actually standing in all those places where all those beautifully hot scenes are made, was finally understanding all the work that goes into making the place look so old, dirty, and distressed. That’s all done by their art department—as they said, you could actually lick the walls, because everything gets sterilized after every scene. It doesn’t look like it, but all the rust and wear is all an elaborate paint job. Check it out:

I particularly liked the Upper Floor, which looks like an upscale club and is on a live feed 24/7. You can probably tell as I took about a dozen photos up there, more than the other rooms. I want one of those toy cabinets! And maybe a bar and poker table, too, while I’m at it.

We had a really excellent time seeing behind the scenes and asking questions about what goes on at kink.com. My impression from all the models and porn stars I’ve talked to about it is that kink.com is really ethical and treats their folks really well. I certainly got that impression from the tour and meeting some of the staff.

A tour gift certificate might be the perfect thing for that person on your holiday list, hmm?

Review: The Big Book of Pussy

I returned home from the (very long and amazing) two week trip out west to this book waiting on my desk. I love that shit like this shows up at my house. (Today I got a box full of cocks with HITACHI in huge letters printed on the side of it—more on that soon.)

My job is rad.

This book piqued my interest because Buck Angel on his Twitter stream (the exact tweet I can’t find, but it was probably a month ago) mentioned that he’s featured in it, and I was curious. His interview is in the last chapter, the 2000-2011 decade, and he’s featured in a wig and heavy makeup and fishnets, goatee covered in all of the photos except one. Still, the accompanying text makes it clear who he is, and the interview is pretty good.

Here’s the description of the book:

Editor Dian Hanson delves into the historical significance of this humble os, to show how the yoni has been coveted, feared, reviled, and worshipped by civilizations worldwide, from New Guinea to old Ireland. The text is supported by playful photographs of women exposing their vulvas, from 1900 to the present day. Because depiction of this body part has long been wrapped in unwarranted shame, The Big Book of Pussy reframes the subject, featuring models who expose their most private part enthusiastically, happily, with smiles spread wide as… well, you get the picture. And with 400+ photos the point is made emphatically, in images both naturally furry and stylishly groomed.

Included are interviews with the auteur known as Pussyman, the ex-cop who turned masturbation into millions with a toy called the Fleshlight, Vanessa del Rio, squirter Flower Tucci, vaginal performance artist Mouse, and the singular Buck Angel. Contemporary photographers Terry Richardson, Richard Kern, Ralph Gibson, Jan Saudek, Guido Argentini, Ed Fox and others share their favorite pussy photos, so that by page 372 even the shiest reader will be calling, “Here, kitty, kitty!”

Worth flipping through the next time you’re at Good Vibes or Babeland or whichever local bookstore might be carrying such a thing. Or in my living room, if you ever come over, since I can’t imagine a better thing to leave on my coffee table.

The Big Book of Pussy was sent to me by Taschen Books. Pick it up at your favorite local independent bookstore, or if you must on Amazon. Thanks Taschen!

The Hanky Flower: Femme Flagging

Photographer Shilo McCabe, who took some photos of me while I was visiting the Bay Area in August, also makes hanky flowers—and they are available on Etsy:

“An answer to the question that plagues the flagging femme: How does one creatively flag without back pockets on your outfit (or without an outfit on at all)? How about a hanky flower in your hair, belt, boot, or anywhere else you can think of? Wear it on the right or left to show your colors!”

So of course, I ordered one for Kristen.

I decided hunter green wouldn’t quite look right as a flower, so I went for light pink. (Don’t know the color codes? Look ’em up. I’m sure you can find a few that would suit your interests.)

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but they look great. Kristen gets a lot of compliments on hers when she wears it. Shilo also just mentioned to me that she will be putting up a smaller size, so keep an eye for those in her Etsy store soon.

Review: RodeoH Harness

As of 7/28/15 This product is no longer available at Babeland

It seems like such a good idea, right? A cute pair of briefs with a hole in the middle to double as a harness? So of course I had to try out the new RodeoH.

I suspected they would not be tight enough to fuck with, that I wouldn’t have enough control—but I’m glad to report that’s not true, I didn’t have any trouble. Perhaps after a bunch of times in the washing machine the fabric will stretch a bit (probably worth it to avoid the dryer, to keep the elastic tight, note to self), but for now, it’s great. I am annoyed, however, that they aren’t really brief-cut, they are more like girl-cut undies that look like boy briefs, which, considering I haven’t worn women’s underwear in nearly ten years, feels really weird on my ass. I think I ended up with size L, so possibly if I had an XL pair they would cover a bit more, but that would probably sacrifice the tension and the tightness. Babeland recommends going down a size if you’re between sizes, since having them extra tight is part of what makes ’em work well.

Babeland’s write-up also says “just imagine how close you’ll feel to your partner with only a thin layer of fabric between you,” and I gotta say, I didn’t love that feeling—I much prefer a harness. It felt like I was still wearing underwear, which just doesn’t quite feel like sex. But maybe that’ll just take some getting used to.

Unlike leather or rubber or vinyl, the briefs really absorb liquid! They are easier to wash than other harnesses, so that’s not a big deal, but I really noticed how much lube and spit and come was absorbed.

They seemed to work just fine for the giving part and, according to Kristen, for receiving, but I missed the stimulation on my clit that my one-strap harness provides. It’s hard (if not impossible) for me to get off without some stimulation on my clit, and this harness provides absolutely none—though I suppose it provides easier access to my clit from underneath it than some other harnesses, if that’s what you want. Me, I would prefer the harness do the stimulating so I can actually fuck and get off simultaneously.

It might be a great harness to use something like the we-vibe underneath. I haven’t tried that yet, but I have a shiny new we-vibe (thanks, Babeland) waiting for me to try it out, so that might be a great combination. More on that later, when I have a full report.

Because of it’s design, there’s no way to change the placement of the cock, either, so I can’t bring it lower in order for the base to hit my clit, which I also like, and which helps with stimulation. The O-ring on the harness is not very stretchy, and is built in, so it won’t work with cocks that are particularly big, like my favorite, the Maverick. It’ll still work with others, like my favorite packing cock Silky, but I often want something bigger than that, so it won’t replace my other harnesses anytime soon.

Not sure it’s a harness I’d go to on a regular basis (we’ll see), but I can see wearing it out so I would be ready to slip a cock into it without disrobing once I got home. And I’m glad there’s some new ideas and technology happening in the strap-on world. Worth trying, for sure.

RodeoH has a current contest to win a pair of these new briefs, as well as other prizes. Check it out.



The RodeoH was sent to me from Babeland for review. Pick up other sex toys from Babeland, still my favorite feminist, queer, friendly, educational neighborhood sex shop.

Review: Taxi Volume I (DVD)


Syd Blakovich & Justine Joli in Taxi Volume I

Finally getting around to telling you about Taxi, which is a web series as well as now two released DVDs. I watched the first volume DVD by myself a while ago and never wrote it up, and Kristen and I watched it last night. I remembered being impressed by it, that it was hot and sensual, and upon the second watch-through I agree with myself about that assessment, but it was so … very … slow. The scenes were longer than necessary and not heavy enough. But don’t get me wrong, they are beautifully filmed. They just could be a little (ahem) tighter, quicker paced. There is absolutely no introduction to the two characters and why they’re fucking in a taxi, though the web series page gives a little bit of backstory about the two. That might’ve been good to read before I watched the scenes.

It features some of my favorite porn stars: Madison Young, Jiz Lee, Syd Blakovich, Justine Joli, and a few newcomers who appear to me like a real-life couple, who were all excellent. There was a lot of your-turn-my-turn sex in the Volume I DVD, and while I’m sure that’s great for some folks, it was a little too switchy. I don’t really care who is topping and who is bottoming, but most of the time I’d like them to make a choice about it, even if it’s only for these five minutes. Many of these scenes went back and forth which felt a little distracting.

I would’ve liked to see more cocks, more rough-and-tumble, less sensual skin touching. But hey, don’t I say that about most of the porn? Taxi is well done, and I’m looking forward to seeing Volume II, or watching the rest of the series online—that three-way DP scene with Nic Switch, Madison Young, & Jiz Lee looks pretty delicious, for instance.

Taxi Volume I was sent to me from Girlfriends Films to review. Thanks!

Review: Comparing Two Ejaculating Cocks

I have a confession to make:

I like dirty sex. I mean, you probably already knew that. And by dirty I mean … body fluids. You already know that my girlfriend ejaculates frequently and that I like that very much. But you might not know that sometimes, what occupies my dirty talk is about my own ejaculate, coming inside.

Some of you might be going “ew” right about now, and it wasn’t that long ago that I probably would have been right there with you. But then … I don’t know what happened exactly, but I guess my sex life got a little bit dirtier. And things like that, that before I might have gone “ew” to right away, started getting me kind of hot. And then a lot hot.

I started thinking about what it would be like to have the physical evidence of that kind of coming inside, seeing something, if not me, actually squirt, actually leave a wet spot or a puddle or some moisture on skin. When I mentioned it to Kristen, she was into it. (She’s pretty dirty, too, in case you didn’t know.)

So Eden Fantasys sent us these:

Squirt the Realistic
Squirty Peter

It’s clear right away that neither of these cocks are made to be used in a harness. So that’s the big negative #1. If they’re not made for that, what are they made for? They’re not exactly dyke-marketed, so are they for straight couples? Made to be hand-held? Made for solo use for a (straight) woman? Who uses these? I figured, well, I can try them out hand-held regardless, they’d be more fun with a harness but let’s just try ’em out and see what happens.

When the first, Squirt the Realistic, showed up, as soon as I opened the package it had that plastic chemical stench that permeated the whole room. Not impressed. Usually that smell is indicative of pthalates, or of some other sort of leaking chemically plastic that I’m sure should not actually be in contact with anybody’s skin, let alone be inserted inside of an orifice.

So that is pretty much an automatic out.

Some specifications, though since it’s automatically out that doesn’t matter much: it’s 7″ x 1 7/8″, but it’s got balls and a suction cup, so it’s really only 5″ insertable. Not to be a size king or anything, but that’s a little bit small. It’s especially small if it is strapped on, because you need a bit more length to make sure you don’t pop out, but as we’ve already covered it doesn’t work in a harness, so that matters a little bit less here.

The second, Squirty Peter (really, Doc Johnson? You really use words like “dinger” and “dildo”? Bad choice), is a little better, though still not great. It’s rubber, which does not have leaky plastic materials but is still kind of sticky and annoying, especially when you have pets, because all the dust and hair sticks to it.

This one is 8 1/2″ x 1 3/4″ with 7 3/4″ insertable length. It kind of has a base on it, and I bet I could get it into a harness, but the base is less flared than it looks in the photo, plus it’s got this tube coming out of the end of it which would be a) uncomfortable and b) probably cut off the tube’s pressure and make it harder to actually do the squirting if it had a kink in it—you know, like how a garden hose stops working if the water is blocked. So it’s still not a great harness cock.

Still. I will admit, you know, privately, that I liked it. I liked being able to see the action I sometimes eroticize and fetishize.

Oh, speaking of ejaculate: Mostly I’ve just used water so far, and that’s been fine. I’ve been thinking about picking up a bottle of Liquid Silk lube, because aside from being awesome lube it is a pretty great consistency and thickness and color to mimic come. The packages for both of these cocks suggest using some sort of egg white + sugar recipe, but sugar is actually really bad for the pH of pussy (maybe these are made for gay boys?), so I won’t be doing that. Water’s fine, lube will probably be even better.

It won’t be a frequent toy in rotation, I’m sure—I received it this summer and it’s been infrequent at best—but I’ll be keeping it around. Especially for the affordable $12.99, it’s worth having around.

SPECIAL EXTRA NOTE TO COCK CREATORS & FUTURE COCK CREATORS:

Please make a better one of these. Make one for trans guys, for dykes, for dirty kinksters who actually want it to be able to be strapped on. Why don’t we have a good product like this out on the market? Tantus? Vixen Creations? Who’s gonna be first, hm?

Sex toys - EdenFantasys adult toys store

Squirt the Realistic and Squirty Peter were sent to me for review by Eden Fantasys. Get more cocks or other sex toys over at Eden. Thanks!

Review: Salacious Magazine #2, Voyeurism

The second issue of Salacious, a queer feminist sex magazine that sports “radically sex-positive thought-provoking super-hot porn,” is just as delicious as the first issue—and then some. The format is just a slight bit smaller, but—that’s not true, it’s just the same size, though for some reason as soon as it came I thought it was smaller. I guess the first one was just so bountiful I thought it was bigger than it really is— the beautiful color images don’t lose their luster. I love that they have incorporated illustrations and stories into their content, and I’m sure that’s at least in part because KD Diamond, one of the folks at the helm, is a visual artist, and her illustrations are some of my favorites in the whole magazine.

Issue #3 is due out soon, but you can still get #2, which focuses on the theme of Voyeurism, online or in stores.

Salacious issue #2, Voyeurism, was sent to me from Salacious to review. Thanks!

The Sissy 2012 Wall Calendar

From artist Elisha Lim, who brought you The Illustrated Gentlemen calendar for 2011, the new 2012 calendar will be celebrating all things sissy: “every month brave and beautiful queers talk about sequins, glitter, femininity, insults, courage, happiness and femme pride.”

To help out with printing costs, I’m taking pre-orders. All pre-orders receive two free illustrated greeting cards (+ envelopes). This ends on October 10th, when the pre-orders will be mailed out.

Double the size! This year’s wall calendar is a full size 8×11″ wall calendar in bright glossy full-colour. This is also a Universal Calendar, so it doesn’t state weekdays and can be re-used to preserve special events every year.

This is about the international queer community, and models from London, Berlin, Montreal and Toronto each express their own identities, which I kept in their own words.

Get the new Sissy 2012 wall calendar on Etsy.

Review: Sheets by Vice Merchants

Check out the Poppy Playground 400 thread count, 100% cotton sheets by Vice Merchants. They’re airy, pretty, floral linens (also available in Taupe)—except they’re kinda dirty, too. Check out the pattern up close—naked girls!

“Vice Merchants, headed by artist Miriam Carothers creates using carnality. Like Laura Ashley’s devotion to flora and fauna, Vice Merchants’ emblematic, prints and patterns showcase scintillating sirens and lascivious lovelies engaged in scenes of erotic amour, drawn to torrid perfection in Carothers signature style. This design house is taking a postmodern approach to sexual taboos and appropriating the forbidden as a something to be celebrated in the objects and accessories of everyday life.”

I thought the pink might be a little much, but Kristen said, “Finally! Some femme in the bedroom.” Oh. I thought my dark brown and tan and white and wine colored sheets weren’t too gendered, but apparently they are.

These sheets are beautiful and flirty and so, so soft, and have quickly become my favorites. Thanks, Vice Merchants, for sending them on.

Review: The Tantus Realdoe

I’ve had a Tantus Feeldoe in my toy box for a few years now, and aside from reviewing it, I almost never get it out. There were quite a few things that didn’t quite work, then: that there isn’t enough control without harnessing it, that I don’t love something inside me, that it’s hard to ‘drive’ when on top (without a harness, anyway). I thought it would be good for staying on my back and having someone straddle on top of me, or for times when my harness was just too far away, but the truth is I just have too many good cocks to bother.

But then, along came the new and improved version, the Realdoe, one of the hot new items in Babeland’s Gender Expression category. I kind of expected it to fall into the same category, but it doesn’t. I use it. A lot. Mostly, however, just when I’m alone.

I didn’t expect it to become a staple in my own getting off practices, but I really like it. I guess the combination of using a Pure Wand in the last few years (I love the weight of it) and also wanting to have something to jerk off while I’m getting off that makes the Realdoe excellent.

It probably helps that it’s a bit smaller than the other Feeldoe I have—which, I am reminding myself, they call stout for a reason. The Realdoe one is slimmer (than the biggest one—comparable to the smaller ones) and probably for that reason feels much more comfortable when inserted. And since it’s in a pretty strong V shape, it’s still really easy to get to my clit (which is what I need when I’m getting off).

I have used it to actually strap on and fuck pretty rarely, though once or twice. It is really convenient to have it nearby the bed and be able to just grab it. And because it is actually inserted, I can feel more, and feel more attached to it than when one of my strapped-on cocks is being jerked or sucked on.

It’s become an essential toy box feature, and gets stored in the one right by the bed these days. Definitely recommend it.

The Realdoe was sent to me from Babeland for review. Pick up other sex toys from Babeland, still my favorite feminist, queer, friendly, educational neighborhood sex shop.

Review: Crystal Delights Butt Plug

The Crystal Delight butt plugs are beautiful. They feature a Swarovski crystal at the base and is available in eight different colors. The base is large and stays in place, the pyrex glass makes it smoother than the average plug, and the shape of the plug itself means that insertion is easy and painless.

It comes in two sizes: regular and small. The regular was originally made first, but some folks suggested that the distance from plug to base was too long, and the small was added to the catalog. They are the same size in girth. Personally I think the smalls are too small—you know how when you insert a plug, once it gets past your sphincter it kind of pops into place? The small one feels like it is still half-way in, not deep enough, for my own anatomy, so I find the regular plug to be more comfortable.

They just look stunning when inserted. Like jewelry. I especially recommend turning the lights off and playing with some good mood lighting, lamps or abundant candles, it’ll be even more exciting when the crystal catches the light.

Crystal Delight sent me regular clear plug and the small clear plug for review. Thank you!

Review: I’ll Show You Mine (Book)

I’ll Show You Mine edited by Wrenna Robertson is a beautiful hardcover coffee table book that came out in February 2011 from Show Off Books. It features 120 photographs of 60 women’s genitals, and accompanying each woman’s photos is text written by the woman, detailing her challenges and/or successes as pertains to her relationship with her genitals. According to the website, there are two trans women included in the book (Ashley and Emily), and the book’s introduction says that the range of age is from 19 to 60. I notice a lot of piercings—more than I thought would be included—and that the majority of those photographed seem to be partially shaved or at least heavily trimmed, but there are some very full hairy bushes in there too.

It’s quite a beautiful book. I’m looking forward to bringing it to workshops and having it there for people to leaf through. Thank you, Show Off Books.

 

Review & Giveaway: Double Panel Compression Shirt

I’ve been putting off this review because just about as soon as I received this double panel compression shirt, New York City started that little heat wave called SUMMER, and I have barely worn it since. In fact, while I’ve been working at home the last few days I’ve been topless, and when the time comes to go out in an actual shirt I can barely stand the fabric of a tank top on my skin, so there’s NO WAY I would wear this right now.

But I would gladly wear it, in general. I didn’t connect that it’d be 60-80 degrees while I was just visiting the Pacific Northwest, or I would’ve definitely brought it on that trip. There were a few times I wished I had.

I bought a compression shirt a few years back, the same brand—which seems from my knowledge to be the most famous and common brand—and while I thought I was getting the right size, I could not get it on. It did not fit.

So it is still basically brand new, in a box, where it’s been since I got it.

Would you like to have it? It’s size M, black. Leave a comment about one fun thing you’ve done this summer (or something else, just leave a comment) and I’ll pick one comment at random and mail it to you—if you’re in the US I’ll pay postage, if you’re outside of the US you pay postage. I’ll pick a winner on Tuesday, August 9.

This new one, though, I ordered a bit too large, in size XL, and it fits.

It helps tremendously with button down shirts and vests and flattening out my torso in general. I find it hard to breathe in, just a little, which is also why it’s been hard to wear in the last few months, because I’ve been thinking about and witnessing lots of things related to breathing and breath. I have to be a bit strategic about wearing it; I wouldn’t want to put it on for a hike or even a day when I was doing a whole lot of walking around New York City. I can definitely tell when I eat a large meal while wearing it, too.

I am pretty large chested—usually I wear a 34DD, though lately it’s been a 36DD—so I didn’t know if I could wear one of these at all. Glad to discover that it turns out, I can.

And you can bet I’ll be wearing it frequently once it cools down a bit more.

The double panel compression shirt was sent to me from Babeland for review. Pick up other sex toys from Babeland, still my favorite feminist, queer, friendly, educational neighborhood sex shop.

The Best Queer Porn: 100th Episode of Crash Pad Series

So it’s not exactly news that the Crash Pad Series is the best queer porn currently available, and that if you aren’t subscribing, you’re seriously missing out.

The news, however, is that they’ve just hit their 100th episode! This one features the sexy, hot, talented genderqueer star Jiz Lee and the epic porn legend Nina Hartley. “Celebrating our 100th episode with a special 40-minute scene starring Nina Hartley and Jiz Lee! The keymaster writes: “I’m speechless… there are simply no words. My cameras have peeked in on the Crash Pad 100 times! 100! And to think that this time none other than Nina Hartley herself was lying in wait for her newest eager fuckpet, Jiz Lee. And after riding Nina’s giant Maverick cock and expert fist, Jiz one again lives up to their name.”

Here’s a little teaser, in case you need more:

Hot damn.

Visit Crashpadseries.com to sign up for a membership and keep up with all this amazing, (dare I say) revolutionary images of queer kinky sexuality.

Review: A Couple STP (Stand to Pee) Devices

So I mentioned that Babeland has a new Gender Expression category, and I’ve been going through many of the products, trying ’em out. In fact, I’m behind. Mostly because of the event on Saturday and the last month of events, but also because I’ve been so busy USING these things that I haven’t made time to write about ’em!

I still have to tell you about the double panel compression shirt and the pump & cylinder kit. Those will be next.

But for now, Babeland sent me two different stand to pee (STP) devices that I’ve been playing with.

These can be for “gender play,” but they can also just be something useful for many of us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a public restroom in NYC or out in the woods camping or in some port-a-potty somewhere thinking, why don’t I have one of those STP thingers?

Now, of course, I have to remember to bring them with me AND have them on me when I head to a bathroom, but it’s a step.

Here are the two that Babeland carries. There are a few others, but these seem to be the best of the best that are available—the others are more bulky, awkward, or of questionable materials.

1. The Go Girl

Go Girl comes in pink and camelflage. (Really? Gender a product much?) And it’s called “Go Girl.” Is that necessary? Seems like they are kind of cutting out a potential part of their audience—us genderqueers and masculine of center folks—and aiming for the ladies.

Whatever, I can kind of overlook that, it doesn’t really matter if “Go Girl” is etched into the silicone plastic through which I pee.

Plus: Made out of silicone, so it’s easy to clean. Very flexible and thin, so it rolls up into a tiny little carrying case, which makes it easy to carry around.

Minus: It’s kind of hard to get a good seal, and not so intuitive to use. Definitely takes a lot of practice, though it’s possible.

Go Girl is $12 at Babeland.

2. The P-Style

Mine’s green, but I dig the orange one too. The packaging is a lot less gendered, which I like, and it comes in a bunch of colors, like white, blue, and lavender.

Plus: Easy to use. It might take a few tries (I suggest getting used to it in the shower), but eventually the seal feels secure and that’s what has been the biggest difficulty for me, in getting used to these.

Minus: It doesn’t fold up, so it’s a little bit bulky, and doesn’t really have a carrying case, so you might want to come up with something to carry it in so it doesn’t accidentally get lipstick or pen marks or something on it while it’s tossed into your bag. It’s not very easy to slip subtly into your pocket, which is too bad, but I still much prefer the way it works.

This was the clear winner, for me, of the two.

P-Style is also $12 at Babeland.

I actually have one other that is basically a medicine spoon with a hole in the end that I purchased at some wimmin’s event in the late 90s … I don’t necessarily recommend that style, it’s pretty hard to get the placement right and since the medicine spoon is a pretty small volume in the container, sometimes it can get full really quickly.

I have seen a couple of STP packers, also, and I actually purchased one when I was in the midwest this past spring. I’ll have some notes for you on that in another post, eventually. (Basically: it’s pretty rad.)

Have you used an STP of some sort? What’d you think? Is it something you carry around all the time, or use rarely? Any suggestions for other products I should try out? Which one is your favorite?

The P-Style and Go Girl STP devicees were sent to me from Babeland for review. Pick up other sex toys from Babeland, still my favorite feminist, queer, friendly, educational neighborhood sex shop.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2012, selected & introduced by Sinclair Sexsmith

I’m so excited to announce that I am the guest editor for Best Lesbian Erotica 2012 published by Cleis Press and edited by Kathleen Warnock—and here is the amazingly hot cover!

It is due out in December 2011 and it has a fantastic line-up of well-written, gender-smart, dirty, smutty, hot stories (which are very queer, not just lesbian).

I’m sure you’ll hear endlessly about this volume as we get closer to publication, but in the meantime the best thing you can do to support it is to pre-order it on Amazon as Amazon takes pre-order numbers very seriously, and depending on how many are pre-ordered they keep a certain number in stock, which helps for the success of the book tremendously.

I’ll be doing as much promotion as I can, hopefully with a virutal book tour and some copies available for review. If you have any other ideas how I can get the word out about this book and market and promote it, I’m open to brainstorming! What do you think? What would make you run out & buy it?

Friday Reads: Better

Because there isn’t much else to do, I am working.

Reading books, going through to do lists. I’m webmastering for both Butch Voices national conference and

Cialis online orderingcgi?CA=929655-0003&PA=1694067&html=http://femme-cash.com/affiliates/feminist-porn-network/1514″>Perversions of Lesbian Lust, and I’m working on some freelance projects. I’m keeping my inbox as emptied out as possible (sometimes I use it as a place to hold information. I know, the GTD and time management people would not like that. But sometimes it really helps me find that info quick).

I have a lot of reviews to do. There are a lot of products on my desk waiting patiently for me to get ’em out and play with them. A lot of DVDs, quite a few books, some toys, especially from the new “Gender Expression” category at Babeland. I’m excited about these products, but it doesn’t make much sense to toss in a random review post now. I don’t even like that that piercing & body mod post is in the last page of updates. It doesn’t make sense here, not part of the narrative of the last week.

Has it really only been a week? Only barely.

I picked up and finished Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev this week. It’s not quite the same as coping with grief and loss, but it was interesting to think about how creativity can be a tool. In a conversation with my tantra teacher recently, she said some of her most creative growth periods have come out of profound grief.

I picked up Live Through This—or rather, the fine folks at Seven Stories Press sent me Live Through This when they sent me Rose—but I was drawn to it because of the amazing writers included. Seriously, look at that lineup: bell hooks, Patricia Smith, Cristy C. Road, Carol Queen, Annie Sprinkle, Elizabeth Stephens, Carolyn Gage, Eileen Myles, Diane DiMassa, Bonfire Madigan Shive, Inga Muscio, Kate Bornstein, Nicole Blackman, Silas Howard, Daphne Gottleib—and more. I loved Inga Muscio’s piece, but I’ve loved her style and voice and words for ages now and that’s no surprise. I had no idea that Kate Bornstein draws, and I loved the insight into her life that she opened up in her very personal essay. Eileen Myles’s essay freaked me out because it was about teeth, shudder, but it sure was effective. I love Nicole Blackman’s poetry and her piece was incredibly moving.

I’ve also been reading It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living edited by Dan Savage & Terry Miller. I’m supposed to review it for Lambda Literary, but I don’t even know what to say about it; so many people have said so many things. It is such a stunningly successful campaign, and I love what it has done and what it has inspired. I’ve been watching It Gets Better videos this week, reminding myself that it does get better, even when sometimes it doesn’t seem like it will.

I didn’t realize what a stellar line-up the It Gets Better book had in it, either. Ivan Coyote! Kate Bornstein. President Obama. It’s amazing, the list goes on and on. And sometimes the ones that are the most moving aren’t from anybody in particular, just someone who happens to be articulate about their gay experience and what it was like for them to make it better, or how it got better.

I’ve also been mulling over Kate Bornstein’s Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suidcide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws, and over Kate’s addition to It Gets Better, which is the essay that closes the book. It’s still one of my favorites.

So I’m trying to remember to take care of myself, to do whatever I need to stay alive, to keep going. This weekend, I think that’s going to involve cherry picking and watching a movie or two and hanging out with good friends, going outside to feel connected to the earth, reading some more books, eating strawberry shortcake made with our very fresh, very ripe CSA strawberries. And continuing to breathe, one more breath at a time.

Must See Porn: Roulette Toronto & Crash Pad #6

I’ve had these two DVDs sitting around for months now and finally had a chance to watch ’em.

The first is Crash Pad Series #6, the continuation of the DVD releases of the Crash Pad’s online queer porn empire, crashpadseries.com. This one features Carson, Casey Grey, Cyd Loverboy, Dylan Ryan, James Darling, Jiz Lee, Princess Donna, Ray, Tina Horn, Syd Blakovich.

I particularly love Tina Horn’s scene in this one, she’s hot and funny and having a great time while not taking herself too seriously. And there is a reason she is famous for her ass—it is gorgeous, oh my Gaga.

Good Releasing has taken over (limited?) release of the Pink & White films, which I’m happy to see. Crash Pad, and Pink & White in general, are hugely cutting edge in the world of porn, but it can’t hurt to get a signal boost from the Good Releasing folks.

I’m really behind on the Crash Pad series! Clearly I should make more time to keep up with the amazing short films (but there are so many). Crash Pad #6 was nominated for the 2011 Feminist Porn Awards—as was Roulette Toronto, the next flick I’m going to mention.

Roulette Toronto features April Flores, Jiz Lee, Dia Zerva, Dylan Ryan, Courtney Trouble, Tina Horn, Drew DeVeaux, Judy Minx, Scout, Lascivia Liberty, River Turner, and Wordman—and many of these stars are my absolute favorite.

The scene with Trouble and Judy Minx is sultry and edgy and hot, with saturated color and sexy sensation play. The trio of Drew DeVeaux, Jiz Lee, and River Turner is in a dance studio where they all get to show off their moves, before moving on to every possible combination. April Flores and Dylan Ryan get it on femme-style, complete with high heels and April’s amazing bright red hair.

And the music! Queer and dirty radical goodness. It is an impressive collection of scenes from director Courtney Trouble (as if we’d expect anything less of her).

And if that description isn’t enough, here’s the trailer. Do I have to warn you that it’s NSFW?

We haven’t had a #pornparty in a while … do y’all miss it? If I did another one, would you come? What if it was free to tune in and watch that film at that particular time? Would you join us? Are you interested in that continuing?

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Crash Pad Series #6 and Roulette Toronto queer porn DVDs were sent to me from Good Vibrations for review. Check out more sex toys, vibrators, and other lovely items at your local feminist queer sex-positive sex toy shop, or online at goodvibes.com.

Babeland’s New Gender Expression Category

Babeland has launched a Gender Expression category! Which includes products for packing, dildos for strapping on, harnesses, accessories like chest binders and stand-to-pee devices, and more.

 

I’ve got a couple of these products lined up to review, including the clit pump and the new Tantus Realdoe, and hopefully a STP (stand to pee) review roundup … and maybe a few others. I’m excited this is being offered and I look forward to the rest of the new things that get added to this category!

Ask Me Anything: My Favorite Smut

Meredith asked:

I’m excited for the anthology and your turn at editing. I’ve read some of your other published pieces and of course this blog so it begs the question: What is YOUR favorite smut to read? Got a favorite anthology? Author?

Oh sure, I have a few thoughts about that.

My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday changed my life and was significantly formative to my sexuality. I hunted down a copy in the last year or so and was pleasantly surprised that her opening introduction is still amazing and relevant, though that’s also kind of sad—it was published in 1973, it is almost forty years old, yet the limitations, stereotypes, and restrictions placed on women are still relevant. I wish I still had my teenage copy with the spine broken at all the best places.

Amazing single-author smut books are hard to come by, so the anthologies are easier to mention. I love Doing it for Daddy edited by Patrick Califia, Back to Basics: A Butch/Femme Anthology edited by Therese Szymanski (especially “The Trick” by Amie M. Evans), and Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino—but those are very specific to my butch/femme and daddy orientations, so they might not be your favorites. I adore the stories “Poster Boy” by Carol Queen and “Dress Leather” (one of my favorite short stories ever, of any genre) by Robin Sweeney in Switch Hitters: Lesbians Write Gay Male Erotica and Gay Men Write Lesbian Erotica, edited by Carol Queen & Lawrence Schimel. The stories “Clash of the Titans” by Karlyn Lotney and “Ridin’ Bitch” by Toni Amato in Best Lesbian Erotica 1998 edited by Taormino were very formative for me, as I started obsessing over lesbian erotica in the late 90s while I was working up the nerve to leave my boyfriend and come out, and they are cock-centric and butch/femme in a way that made me realize that I still had a lot more to explore.

I’ve also been really into the “sudden sex” stories lately, the super short ones. Often the longer short stories feel like they just drag on to me, especially when I just want to pick something up in order to get off and I’m not leisurely reading. Got a Minute?: 60 Second Erotica edited by Alison Tyler and Frenzy: 60 Stories of Sudden Sex edited by Alison Tyler are great, and Rachel Kramer Bussel just put one out called Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex (which I have a story in, but the book is good regardless). I’d pick up just about anything Rachel publishes, she has great taste and her anthologies are always well done.

    
    

It’s harder for a single author to sustain an entire book, so there aren’t as many of those that I go to when I want inspiration (for writing or for getting off). I am kind of in love with Mr. Benson by John Preston and The Leather Daddy and the Femme by Carol Queen. I have read them both many times. I can’t believe it took me this long to read Mr. Benson.

Cherry by Charlotte Cooper, Breathless by Kitty Tsui, and Macho Sluts or Boy in the Middle by Patrick Califia (or just about anything by Califia, really) are also amazing and worth reading. It’s been a while since I read Cherry but it comes to mind immediately as fun and readable and great.

I also really love Jack Stratton’s stuff at WritingDirty.com, especially What’s in a Name. He’s got an eBook of Writing Dirty volume 1 which I haven’t purchased yet (I should go do that right now), but I’ve read all the pieces on the site (seriously I’m sure I’ve read every single one), so I highly recommend the collection if you’d rather read it on your reader than in a blog-form.

Other things I read online … well, I read a lot of Daddy/girl stories these days. I’ve been quite enjoying the recent Bedtime Stories blog. I still think The Provocateur has some of the best writing ever, but it’s generally more literary and fancy than I turn to when I want to get off. For that, I like the quick and dirty stuff.

Many of these books can be found on my smut bookshelf … and there are more of my favorites in my Amazon A-store.

And now, what about you all? What are your favorite books of smut? Got any recommendations for things that I perhaps haven’t read? What is your go-to story when you want to get off? What do you love in an erotic story?

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

J-femme wrote:

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

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

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

Thanks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Reads: More of This World Or Maybe Another

I finished More of This World Or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson recently for the monthly queer book group I’ve been in for almost five years, and it was phenomenal. At April’s meeting we all agreed it’s one of the best books we’ve ever read in book club—even the usual folks who hate all the books or don’t generally like fiction really enjoyed it.

It is incredibly well written. I was at times in awe of her sentences. It’s a collection of short stories, but they are all linked with the same characters, switching perspectives and sometimes decades to show the interconnectedness of a small southern community in New Orleans.

It is at times violent and heartbreaking. The abuse is awful. A child is forced to slaughter a pig and I found that part unreadable, because it was so well done. The lovely relationship between Delia and her partner is so real. I kind of miss these characters, now that I’ve finished the book.

I have much to do today, so I must cut this short and get to it. Just want to encourage you to pick up a good book over the weekend, be it this one or another.

Oh, one more quick bit of news: The Publishing Triangle’s annual award ceremony was last night, you can check out all the winners over on their website if you need more recommendations for good stuff to read. Wish I’d attended but my week was too busy (it’s free and open to the public!). Lambda Literary’s award ceremony is coming up on May 26th and I wouldn’t miss it, I was a judge this year and I just interviewed Val McDermid for the program (!!). I’m especially excited to meet Amber Dawn who wrote Sub Rosa.

Pick up More of This World or Maybe Another at your local independent bookstore, or over on Amazon if you must.

In Your Dreams …

I have to go move the car, and I only have about an hour of battery time on my computer so I can’t really be online today until I go swap out my power cord, it looks like my old one is dead, and I have about ten hours of work to do, and Sideshow is tonight, and we’re planning to do something special for Cheryl who is still in the hospital, and I’m already dressed to go to the gym—so what I’m saying is that I can’t sit here and write you a post, but then I got this via email and I just had to share it, because Kristen is a huge Stevie fan.

And hey look, her first album with new material in a decade. And it’s beautiful. The first single is already out—Secret Love—and the full album is due May 3rd. Now, to get tickets to the New York City release show!

Friday Reads: Rose: Love in Violent Times by Inga Muscio

I won’t lie: Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, Inga Muscio’s first book, changed my life. In fact, when I got Rose: Love in Violent Times in the mail last week, it made me want to pick up Cunt, and I started talking about it even as I was reading Rose. Kristen picked up Cunt this week (can you believe she’s never read it? I would have gifted her a copy two years and four months ago had I known that, I just assume everyone has) and has enjoyed reading it on her morning subway commute (and then I get to hear the stories later—love that).

While Kristen has been reading it this week, she remarked on how dated it seems, and I realized that it was published 13 years ago. Not only that, but it’s a very western American perspective, which struck me from reading Rose, how western Muscio’s voice and perspective is. It makes me a bit nostalgic, to be honest, and homesick, missing the culture on the west coast.

Rose is a bit different. Just released by Seven Stories Press, they describe the book with this question: “Rose breaks new ground in answering a fundamental question in most feminist and antiracist writing: how do we identify, witness, and then recover from trauma—as individuals, as families, as communities, and as a country?” I love this, it is fascinating and deep and hits on many of the things that I’m interested in exploring, especially around queer and gender stuff, but Muscio tackles larger (primarily US-focused) questions of war, rape, and abuse. I found it hard to read, because it was so direct and descriptive in the wrong-doings that surround us in this (western, US) culture. Of course, that’s also precisely the point, so though it was difficult to read, it was also quite successful.

I wish I could say that those questions of witnessing and recovering from trauma were addressed, though I think the “love” section of this book was a bit lacking. Maybe I just read it too quickly, maybe I wasn’t taking it to heart the same way I took in the “violence” section. I do think it’s important to participate in the healing process, not just for myself but for the culture, and Rose did a great job of inspiring more hard work towards those lofty goals, which I appreciate.

I’d be less inclined to pick it up again, however. Not like I am inspired to pick up Cunt or even Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil, Muscio’s second book. Still, all of her books are worth reading, and I adore her style and tone. But Cunt is the one I go back to again and again. As soon as Kristen’s done with it, I may just re-read it myself, it’s been a few years.

Rose: Love in Violent Times by Inga Muscio was sent to me by Seven Stories Press to review. Pick it up at your local independent queer feminist activist bookstore, or directly from the publisher, or order it online from Amazon, if you must.

Tomcat’s Barber Shop

It’s been a long time coming, this ode to my favorite barber shop in New York City. It took a while to find it, but now that I have I don’t go anywhere else.

When I moved to New York City, I went to the barber shop around the corner, which happened to be on 2nd avenue and 3rd street. It was a reasonable place, the guy who owned it, I think, he was always there cutting hair and was nice enough. I never witnessed any overt homophobia or weirdness about me being in that space, though it was clear it was a dude’s space, with Maxim and Playboy and other kinds of girly magazines on the tables near the waiting chairs and with an eventual upgrade to big-screen TVs that were always playing exploitive (or so it seemed to me, anyway) music videos or sports events. Sometimes the guys in there, who were obviously the barber’s friends, carried on elaborate conversations I would have rather not overheard. Most of the time there weren’t any mentions of queer folks, but very frequently they were talking about women in ways that I didn’t like.

It was affordable, and convenient, and reliable—he would almost always give me a good haircut. Maybe not amazing, but good, and that’s important.

Later I saw a shot from Sophia Wallace‘s “Bois & Dykes” series (which I can’t find online anymore, someone point me to the link if you’ve got it) (which fimgfound on the GAQ, thank you!) of someone getting her hair cut in that same barber shop, with that same barber, which I thought was pretty cool. I’m glad they are known, at least a little, to be cool and warm toward queers.

But then I moved to Brooklyn, and it became a huge challenge to find a place to get my hair cut. Maintaining this kind of short hair takes a cut about once a month, so I had plenty of time to try out places, (sometimes) get horrible cuts, and try out somewhere else.

I knew I needed some hip, reliable place to go, but couldn’t find it.

So I started asking around. I decided that when I saw someone with the kind of hair I wanted, I would ask them where they got their hair cut.

The first time that happened, I was on the subway on the way to Brooklyn. He had a pompadour of some sort, slicked back and poufy in the right spots. That, I thought. That’s what I want.

He got up from his seat to get off at the next stop, and I swallowed, told myself it was now or never. I don’t like talking to strangers. “Excuse me,” I said, “Sorry to bug you, I’m just wondering if you’d mind sharing where you get your hair cut? Love it.”

Tomcat’s Barber Shop,” he answered easily, and exited the train.

I looked it up. It is in Greenpoint, near Williamsburg, known as The Hipster Neighborhood. Hm. Not sure that’s where I want to go. I continued to go to other barbers, even made a special trip down to the East Village to go to my old barber because he was reliable enough. But the cut wasn’t great. A little too quick, a little too short, not quite styled enough, just average. It was fine when I was getting faux hawks and all-short-with-a-little-bit-flippy-in-the-front, but now that I wanted something more retro and stylish and grown up, it wasn’t quite right.

Then I saw a guy in a big department store one weekend. Also with a pompadour of some sort, this time with tattoos and a motorcycle jacket. Okay, maybe it was time to step up my rockabilly look. Maybe it was time to push my style.

I kept catching glances of him at the ends of aisles, or passing each other, but not quite near enough to ask him a question. Then, magically, we both got in the same elevator to get down to the street level after we’d checked out.

“I have to ask—your hair is amazing,” I said to him. “Where do you get it done?”

“This retro barber shop called Tomcat’s,” he answered.

Another vote for Tomcats. Clearly I had to try it out.

So I did. And I’ve been going there ever since, for more than two years now.

Actually, I’m not sure when I started going there. I’m sure it was before Kristen and I got together, but not sure how long before. Maybe a year? So maybe it’s been more than three years I’ve been going there.

I have never had a bad cut from Tomcat’s. I’ve had cuts that weren’t exactly what I asked for, but they were still awesome. I’ve had cuts from Katja (though she doesn’t work there anymore), Joey, and Derek. Erin and Chris are great, too. I always ask for Joey, but I would recommend anyone on staff.

The cuts are $20 and they will do a wash and razor shave on your neck if you want (you might have to ask, I rarely get a wash, but they will do it). You’ll also get a beer while you’re waiting, if you want that.

This is how they describe themselves:

Tomcat’s Barber Shop specializes in Classic cuts (pompadours, 50’s biker cuts, Blade cuts for the Psychobillys, Mods, Glamrockers, Punks etc) military cuts, and shaves, and any of the modern cuts. Tomcats is known in NY as the premier Rock ‘n’ Roll barbershop.

They moved around Halloween last year, but just across the street, and the new venue is gorgeous. I’ve taken various shots the last times I’ve been there and I’d love to do a photo shoot there, eventually. I love the feel.

A few months ago, when I went in, Joey, the owner, who seems to like to talk while he’s cutting hair, was talking about his clients and how he’s still hiring barbers for the new place. “I have all kinds of barbers working here,” he said to me. “But what I don’t have is a girl with a flat top and tattoos.”

(If you know of a queer barber looking for a chair, this might be a place for them to try out!)

So he’s keeping an eye out for more queer clientele to come in, and I told him I’d tell my story and tell y’all to go check them out. I know plenty of you have regular places you already attend, but I am telling you, this place is an experience.

If you’re visiting New York from elsewhere, think about stopping here on your first day—then you’ll have a killer coif in all your vacation photos. They have all the (affordable!) products you need to keep it waxed and pomped and defying gravity, and the cuts are only $20.

I’m overdue for a cut myself, but I’m trying to grow it out for the Gay Ol’ OpryDapperQ requested I pomp my hair up for it so I’m letting it grow. I’ll get it done later this week, probably before I leave on the birthday weekend trip, so it’ll be all set for the event on the 7th.

I have fifteen more stories to tell you about barber shops and hair and my gender and masculine spaces where I feel safe and product, but perhaps I’ll leave those for other times. Tell me, folks, where do you go get your hair cut? Is it an important event for you? Do you cut your hair yourself? What’s your barber/salon like? Is it queer (friendly)? What have you witnessed there?

(Perhaps this would be a good Butch Lab Symposium topic.)

Oh, and if you stop by, tell Joey I sent you.

Review: Taormino’s Rough Sex 2 & 3 (Release Party Tonight!)

It occurred to me while I was thinking about the Rough Sex 3: Adrianna’s Dangerous Mind party that is happening in New York City tonight that I still haven’t commented on Rough Sex 2. So hey, let’s do that.
I never wrote up Rough Sex 1 with Sasha Grey and Derrick Pierce (as well as others, but they stood out), but I remember it well. Especially Derrick’s scene, though the premise of the whole film series by feminist queer pornographer Tristan Taormino is also awesome, and I love the way it unfolds on screen.

The scenes are based on the female performer’s fantasies, where they get to choose what they do and who they do it with. The interviews and descriptions about what the porn stars want to do, how they establish trust, and why they like to play rough are interspersed with some clips from their scenes before you watch the whole thing. It’s great—what an intentional, articulate way to not just explore but also record this kind of rough play.

Here’s the description about the series from Tristan’s website:

The scenes are based entirely on the real fantasies of female performers, which run the gamut from dominance to submission. Through deeply personal interviews, you’ll discover their definitions of rough sex, why they love it, how they establish trust with their partners, and what they need to feel safe to play on the edge. With scenes that are part documentary and part erotic vignette, Rough Sex dares to challenge conventional wisdom about the fantasy lives of women.

They create the scenes. They choose their partners. They control what happens. Each woman shares her most intimate desires, tests her own boundaries, and rides the seductive line between pleasure and pain. Witness female sexuality at its most extreme: raw, rough, and real.

Rough Sex 2 is directed by Tristan Taormino, starring Claire Adams, Chayse Evans, April Flores, Sinnamon Love, Adrianna Nicole, Dylan Ryan, Bobbi Starr, Madison Young, Mark Davis, James Deen, Shane Diesel, Richard Mann, Nathan Menace, and Orpheus Black. The scenes are described as: Mistress Claire takes her pet April on an unforgettable ride. Bobbi tastes total submission at the back of her throat. Ponygirl Madison gets trained. Chayse and Mark double team slave Adrianna. Madison bakes a cake for her Mistress with interesting results. Sinnamon serves her Master (and his friends) at a poker game.

Two of those really stand out: Madison Young’s pony play scene, and Sinnamon’s poker game. I don’t have any interest in pony play, myself, but watching that scene was fascinating, in part precisely because I don’t have much interest in it, and because Madison Young is such an amazing performer that we can actually watch the desire grow and build in her facial expressions and in her body, which gave me a different understanding about why that kind of play would be intriguing. See some shots from that scene on Tristan’s tumblr if you are intrigued. Sinnamon’s poker game was intense, and I can clearly tell why she chose that dom. He was precise and deliberate, and so obviously experienced. Here’s some shots from it on Tristan’s tumblr, where she also says, “There is so little black on black BDSM in mainstream porn that I am especially proud of this scene for its groundbreaking representation.”

Rough Sex 3: Adrianna’s Dangerous Mind I haven’t seen yet, but I have been following Tristan’s tumblr as she’s posted many shots from the scenes: Adrianna Nicole & Jiz Lee, “Cash” starring Adrianna Nicole & Ramon Nomarxxx, Adrianna Nicole & Jada Fire, and “Jock” Nat Turnher, Danny Wylde, Keni Styles & Evan Stone give Adrianna Nicole a workout.

The release party is tonight in New York City and features free hard cider from 7-8pm, gift bags, a raffle when you buy a copy of the DVD, and more. Stop by if you’re around. It’s FREE tonight, Tuesday, March 22, 7-10 pm at Fontana’s, 105 Eldridge Street (between Grand & Broome) in NYC. No RSVP Required.

Review: Belladonna’s Strapped Dykes (DVD)


I’ve had a copy of the 2-DVD set Belladonna’s Strapped Dykes for months, and still haven’t managed to finish it. That’s because it is damn hot. I keep getting distracted! Two whole discs of fucking? How can I last that long?

Clearly I need a new strategy. I’d like to get an external monitor for my laptop (someday) so I can watch porn while I work, but then again that might be too distracting.

This set features (pretty famous) porn star Belladonna, who has quite the empire of her own, though I don’t really follow the mainstream porn world so I know very little about her. Turns out she’s quite good at queer sex, and she brings along well-known queer porn favorites Jiz Lee & Syd Blakovich to help out in this film.

Also stars April Flores (who we are watching in Wednesday night’s porn party!), Bobbi Starr, and Sinn Sage. Aside from April, I’m not familiar with any of those porn actresses but they are quite fun to watch.

It’s clear everybody here is having a really good time. The fucking is dirty and real, with great noises from all involved—clearly they are enjoying it all. Especially worth checking out are Jiz Lee’s opening scene with Belladonna, which includes some very impressive throat fucking and finger (um, fist) sucking, and Syd Blakovich’s scene with Bobbi Starr which opens the second disc. In fact, the whole second disc features scenes with Syd, so if you’re a fan of her work—and hey why wouldn’t you be? She’s hot and talented and inspiring to watch as a porn performer—I especially recommend this for you.

Glad it’s in my library.

Belladonna’s Strapped Dykes DVD was sent to me from Babeland for review. Pick up other sex toys from Babeland, still my favorite feminist, queer, friendly, educational neighborhood sex shop.

Friday Reads: Lambda Lit & Publishing Triangle Awards

This week, the Lambda Literary Awards and Publishing Triangle Awards announced their finalists for their 2011 prizes.

I was a judge this year (can I reveal that yet?—I won’t tell you what for until I know for sure) so I’ve been reading reading reading many books in the past few months. I read a lot anyway, but this has been a crunch. It was exciting to have a part in choosing the best ones.

The Lammys award ceremony will be held Thursday, May 26, 2011 at the School of Visual Arts Theater in New York City (333 W. 23rd St), followed by a private after-party nearby. I’ve attended the last two years (and wrote about them both for CarnalNation.com), and I’ll be attending again this year. It’s such a pleasure to show up and be familiar with so many of the books and authors, so many of the presenters and judges, and to feel like I’m really part of the queer literary community.

(And next year, I’ll have my own book out!)

I encourage you to look through these great lists and pick a couple to read, even if you don’t usually read queer stuff, even if you don’t care about the awards, just to show your support. I still have quite a lot more I would love to read, I haven’t read any of the poetry this year, and there are many that I haven’t Here’s a couple of my favorites—out of the ones that I’ve read, anyway—that I highly recommend.

  
  

Two of the nominees even include my stories: Best Lesbian Erotica 2011 and Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica.

Friday Reads: Sub Rosa by Amber Dawn

Written by Amber Dawn, a queer femme (among other signifiers—she says, “when I say “myself” I mean a queer, kinky, femme, survivor, Canadian small-town born, poor, sex-worker, feminist with a strong passion for experimental artwork and transgressive identity-based art making” in this interview with Shameless Magazine), Sub Rosa published by Arsenal Pulp Press in 2010 is a masterpiece I couldn’t put down.

It’s creepy and odd and confusing and strange, but touching and smart and beautifully crafted. Oh there were so many sentences that made me stop reading just to sigh at the beauty of their simple and elegant construction.

I read it in two days. It’s kind of hard to describe, since it has a bit of world-building and you just kinda have to dive into it in order to understand it. But that is the style of some of my very favorite books (The Sparrow, The Time Traveler’s Wife)—a book where the reality pretty much follows all the same rules as this one I live in, but there are a few key twists which make it able to better comment on the state of things. I love that.

Arsenal Pulp Press’s description is as follows:

Sub Rosa’s reluctant heroine is known as “Little,” a teenaged runaway unable to remember her real name; in her struggle to get by in the world, she stumbles upon an underground society of ghosts and magicians, missing girls and would-be johns: a place called Sub Rosa. Not long after she is initiated into this family of magical prostitutes, Little is called upon to lead Sub Rosa through a maze of feral darkness, both real and imagined―a calling burdened with grotesque enemies, strange allies, and memories from a foggy past.

So perhaps that will give you an idea. It’s creepy, don’t say I didn’t warn you, but it’s worth it. And Amber Dawn’s style is amazing, I will gladly pick up anything else she writes.

Happy Birthday, Shine! And Recommendations For the Best Queer Porn

Purely for fun, and because a little birdie told me it’s Shine’s birthday today, here’s some of my favorite Crash Pad Series episodes.

I’ve said this before, but I can’t really stress enough that if you aren’t watching the Crash Pad Series you are missing out on the best porn out there, period. Not just in the queer porn category, but in the broader sense of the people-having-sex-on-camera world in general. In fact, I think even calling it “porn” turns some people off to what it is—I mean yes, it is sex on camera, but the word “porn” for most people who aren’t so versed in the huge variety of things that fall into that category calls to mind bleach-blonde silicone-implant girls and bow-chicka-wow-wow soundtrack and awkward movements and no actual plot.

Not that I think you necessarily need a plot, just that some sort of context or reason for these two people to be fucking on camera is kind of important, mostly because otherwise it looks so incredibly awkward to go from sitting next to each other on a couch to screaming orgasms.

And hey, what do you know, Shine took care of that with this simple premise of her series: The “crash pad” is a place where you can go and have sexy escapades with someone who’s already there or with the person you bring. Or, hell, by yourself (there are some solos available in the vast library). Just putting this one thing in place has meant that Shine (from her voyeuristic position of the secretly installed cameras in the crash pad) has completely bypassed the awkwardness of “plot” in 90% of porn.

You could even look at the Crash Pad Series as a cultural artifact: This is how queers are having sex in the 2000s and ’10s. This is authentic and real. This is what we like to do with each other, this is how we like to explore our bodies, our sensualities, our sensations, our energetic meridians, our love, our desires.

To paraphrase some conversations I’ve had with Barbara Carrellas, queers are more deeply in touch with this stuff. I’m not sure why (though I’m sure if Barbara and I sat down we would have some interesting theories to discuss), maybe it’s that we have to un-learn the biggest cultural assumption about sex (that we’ll sleep with the opposite sex) that we can more easily open up and explore other aspects of it, too.

We queers are damn good at fucking.

Maybe you’re one of those people who believes that there’s so much free porn out there, that you can’t afford to pay for it—which I understand, I have made that oath to myself in the past. But as I get older, and as the Internet gets older and as big business owns so much of the art that we all consume, I believe more and more in paying artists and supporting queer community ventures—not just by attending or promoting or sharing the cool things, but also with my dollars. Syd London and I were just talking last night about radical capitalism and how every one of our dollars is a vote, and every one of our votes adds up. It’s part of why I’m a vegetarian, it’s part of why I purchase albums from my favorite indie singer/songwriters (even though it’s inconvenient to sometimes have the iTunes restrictions on them) and go to their concerts.

If we support these artists, then they will be able to continue doing what they (we) do. Not just because we will be able to pay our bills, but also because we will feel like what we’re doing has a valuable place in the world, and specifically in these communities in which we run.

It’s like Jiz Lee has said: “The ONLY time I’ve felt exploited in porn is from people pirating my work.” Or like Tori Amos said (to me, actually, in direct answer to my question) once, “If I taste wine, and I like it, I’m not going to put the bottle in my purse, because I want them to continue making that wine.”

So I know $20 a month for a Crash Pad membership seems like a lot to pay for porn, but how much do you pay for your smart phone? Or your cable? Or the beers you have on the weekends? I’ve come to think it’s pretty important to put my money where my mouth is, as they say, and order artist’s work, to pay good money for art.

And this is really worth it. I promise. Give it a try for just one month and see what you think.

Shine has been documenting, directing, recording, and showing off the many, many ways we fuck and play and explore through the Crash Pad and other projects of hers, and I am ever glad she is part of this world and doing what she does. Happy birthday, Shine. Thank you for sharing your hard work with all of us!

On to some of my personal favorite episodes, the ones I go back to over and over.

Season 1 Episode 1, Starring Dylan Ryan & Trucker Cash: Still my very favorite. I love the fisting and Dylan’s outfit and mm everything. They were a real-life couple so the chemistry and connection is there.

Season 1 Episode 5, Starring Shawn (Syd Blakovich) & Rozen DeBowe: Because Rozen is one of my favorite porn crushes. Doesn’t seem like she’s doing much lately, but I do like going back to this one. Rozen mostly tops Syd in this one, lots of cock sucking and fucking.

Season 1 Episode 6, Starring Princess Donna & Jake: Dirty knife play in a kitchen, with ice and a blindfold. Sexy. Donna’s profile says she’s usually a top, but she does quite a nice job giving in here.

Season 3 Episode 21, Starring Princess Donna, Jake, & Lorelei Lee: Good threesome (and decidedly not awkward! I should take some tips from this one). They are all sexy and lots of hot play.

Season 4 Episode 24, Starring Ex & Muscle Beach: Long-time lovers, which is clear in their joyous smiles and giggling and sweetness toward each other. Lots of pain play, I’m inspired by Ex’s badass toppy-ness.

Season 5 Episode 33, Starring: Carson & Syd: Who are apparently lovers off-screen too. SO much chemistry. And Syd is so fucking badass. I love watching her top.

Season 5 Episode 35, Starring Mickey Mod & Syd: The Crash Pad’s first cis guy, and it is SO so queer. See Micky Mod also in Heavenly Spire.

Season 7 Episode 44, Starring Julie Warren & Kuma: Kuma is a leather daddy, Julie is femme, they’re a real couple and it’s clear. Knife play, stockings, garters, caning, flogging, cocksucking, and it’s SO sweet and tender and hot.

Season 12 Episode 83, Starring Tina Horn and Roger Wood We watched this as part of the Crash Pad Series Twitter #pornparty and it was my favorite of the night. These two are skilled at their play and it shows. Plus, three words: Tina Horn’s ass. Oh my god.

Season 13 Episode 89, Starring Hilt and Rusty Nails: Love the ripped up fishnets on Rusty, and I love the noises she makes. Hilt clearly knows what he’s doing.

Season 13 Episode 91 Starring: Arabelle Raphael and James: Arabelle speaks French and teaches James some naughty phrases. She leaves her stockings, garter, and shoes on. Pretty switchy scene, they go back and forth. Arabelle is so hot, I would watch any of her scenes.

I haven’t kept up with as many of the episodes after Season 8 or so—Clearly I need to catch up! And now that Kristen is working during the days, I’ll have a lot more time to do that. File under: things to do right before she comes home.

So I’ve told you about my favorites … What about you folks out there, do you have favorite episodes? Which have you seen? Do you have the DVDs, are there certain web episodes you go back to? Which ones am I missing? Which from Season 8 onward should I be sure to watch? Who’s your favorite Crash Pad “character”?

And hey, be sure to wish Shine a happy birthday, on Twitter or elsewhere.

Friday Reads: Favorites from 2010

2010 was the first year I was pretty diligent about using GoodReads to record what I’ve been reading, and it tells me I read about 50 books in 2010—I think that’s not quite right, but I’m going to try to be even better about it this year. In fact, I’ve made it a “goal” on GoodReads to read 100 books—given that I’m reviewing lesbian erotica for Lambda Literary Foundation, editing two books, am a judge for a literary contest, and my monthly book group, and just that is more than 50 books, I think I can make it.

2011 Reading Challenge

Sinclair has

read 16 books toward her goal of 100 books.

hide

Looking over the books I have listed on GoodReads as read in 2010, these are the ones that stand out. Not all of these are queer explicitly, though queer novels remain my favorite thing to read. And not all of them were published in 2010.

All are linked to Amazon for research purposes, but please do order and buy them from your local independent bookstore—Support booksellers! Support local culture!

In alphabetical order, because it’s hard to compare:

Aud Torvingen trilogy: The Blue Place, Always, & Stay by Nicola Griffith. I remember when Stay came out while I was working at the bookstore in Seattle (where I worked for almost 5 years as a bookseller), many people recommended it to me, saying I would like it. I think they assumed I would like it because I’m queer and it has a queer protagonist, but whatever. I (mistakingly) thought it was science fiction, and wasn’t so inclined to pick it up, but I finally picked up The Blue Place a few years ago (GoodReads says I read it in June 2009) and I was impressed. Well, first I kind of hated Aud Torvingen, the know-it-all, independently wealthy, accomplished-at-everything ex-cop turned private investigator who was trying to get her life together. But the end of the first book is so heartbreaking and good, I couldn’t just leave the characters suffering, so I had to read the other two in the series. I got hooked. And they just kept getting better. Easy, deep reading that I got lost in. I would read all of these again from the beginning.

Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser. I’ve been a little obsessed with books about healing and trauma the past few years, and I ran into this in a bookstore and picked it up from the library right after. Frequently my favorite books in about this kind of thing take a very Buddhist perspective (like When Things Fall Apart, Radical Acceptance, and When the Past Is Present), and while I love that, I also know that until I had a pretty strong base in Buddhist philosophy, I didn’t quite understand what they were talking about, and I found them difficult to read. Not this one, though. Broken Open talks about trauma, loss, grief, and healing from lots of different perspectives, weaving in stories and techniques from her workshops over the years. Very readable and very inspiring.

Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work is Done by Susan J. Douglas. It’s not out in paperback yet, so I’ve still got the hardback copy from the library and have renewed it about 25 times now. I keep thinking I’ll get to a full review of it on Sugarbutch, and so I should go back and look through my notes and dog-ears to figure out exactly what I want to say. So here’s the paragraph version: I have thought about this book often since I read it. The descriptions of the 1990s especially made me realize I grew up in a unique time, full of the closest we’ve gotten to the manifestation of the feminist and gender equality movements, and the 2000s have brought plenty of backlash—but in a more subtle, twisted way than the backlash of the 1980s and early ’90s. Now, the backlash makes feminism look like it is outdated. Feminism? Pshaw, who needs that, women are equal now! But through various examinations of entertainment, celebrity, films, TV, and other pop cultural artifacts, Douglas argues that it’s far from over. It changed the way I am looking at feminism, and gave me some new ways to talk about what’s going on now. Now excuse me, I want to go re-read it.

Lynnee Breedlove’s One Freak Show by Lynn Breedlove (Manic D Press, 2009). Just, awesome. I’m a fan, but I had no idea Breedlove is so funny! And readable, and smart, and clever. I identified with many of the struggles within the queer communities about gender, and loved the bits about cocks and sexuality. It was more than I expected, and made me feel like Lynnee is my buddy. I was able to be there when Lynn won the Lammy for in the Transgender category last year, and it was a thrill to hear a few of the best lines in the book delivered in person. My full review is up on LambdaLiterary.org.

Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation edited by S. Bear Bergman & Kate Bornstein (Seal Press, 2010). Things have changed since Kate Bornstein’s book Gender Outlaw, and this is the updated proof of the celebration and liberation that’s happening within the trans landscape right now, and the proof of how much further we have to go, and what else we need to work on. I would put this on my “required reading” list, and I bet a lot of other people out there would too. It’s a beautiful anthology. I especially love Bear and Kate’s introduction, which is a conversation via internet chat. My review on Sugarbutch and my companion piece, Ten Ways I am a Gender Outlaw.

Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon. A personal account of gender and masculinity insights throughout life, with illustrations of various relationships—friendships, marriage, kids, parents. I really love his writing, he has such a beautiful way of constructing a sentence, and I was really moved by his descriptions of feminism. Though maybe I shouldn’t be, I was surprised to find a straight white cis man writing so eloquently about gender dynamics and providing insight into so many of the difficulties that are imposed upon us in gender roles, and I think his accessibility brought these concerns to a lot of people since this book was published. It’s a great starting place for examining masculinity in more depth (which is one of the things I hope to do this year, and I have about five books waiting for me).

Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel. I didn’t expect to like this one as much as I did—I thought it would be pretty elementary, but it had some great insight into American culture and relationships. Perel is not American, and that outsider perspective was at times really interesting and useful. Of course, it is 99% heterosexual, and when she tries to include queer couples it doesn’t really account for any sort of difference in culture, but glosses over the difference and goes right to “all relationships have their difficulties, doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight,” which I get, but I think there’s a little more to it than that and it’s a little bit of a privileged position to be able to dismiss the queerness as just a personality trait akin to liking sports or being into cooking. Nevertheless, the tips and consciousness around building a long term relationship that remains sexual are important, and I’m glad I read it. My full review on Sugarbutch.

Missed Her by Ivan Coyote (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010). It wasn’t until I was telling a friend about the book that I realized that “Missed Her” is often mistaken as “Mister” in speech. What can I say about Ivan? She’s a masterful storyteller. She and I grew up in a similar region, and her tales about her childhood and her extended family feel so familiar and nostalgic and articulate in such a beautiful way. I love the descriptions of her new relationship love. I will continue picking up every book she puts out, and I’ve never been disappointed.

Mr. Benson by John Preston (Cleis Press, 2004). How is it possible that I did not read this book until last year?? I can’t believe I missed it. And now that I’ve read it, any time I mention it to queer folks—especially ones older than me—they all know about it, and know it well. So: It is a gay men SM novel first published as a serial in 1979, and then in full in the early 1980s. It’s from a time before the AIDS crisis. More good stuff on John Preston over at GLBTQ encyclopedia, if you want to know more context. The book is dirty and full of power and strength and dominance. The actual storyline is a little boring (I just wasn’t as invested in the human trafficking/exploitation part as I was in the beautiful D/s scenes), but the book does need something to keep it going. Apparently the book was so popular that there were both “Looking for Mr. Benson” and “Looking for Mr. Benson?” tee shirts all over in the ’80s, though of course they are not around now, at least not that I could find. I handed the book to Kristen as soon as I was done and she zoomed through it, then had a “Looking for Mr. Benson?” tee shirt made for me for winter solstice. It prompted me to think a lot about how I play with dominance, especially in my domestic life with Kristen, and we have talked about it frequently while trying to iron out difficulties between us in that play. And who knew piss play could be so awesome?

Origami Striptease by Peggy Munson (Suspect Thoughts Press, 2006). I’ve had this one on my shelf for a few years, not sure where I picked it up but I didn’t know much about it. I started reading it and was hooked: It is so ethereal, so surreal, at times it reads like poetry. The intention and clarity behind the word choices are so specific. It reminds me of Rebecca Brown or Jeanette Winterson, two of my favorite authors. I love getting lost in words and images like I did while reading this. Looks like it’s a little bit out of print now, which is too bad. Maybe the publisher still has it directly.

The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue. Historical fiction that recounts a divorce trial in the 1860s. I’m not so in to historical fiction, though on occasion I find it fascinating—particularly when I find it relevant, which, for the most part, I don’t find the genre, but I have found some of the recent books, like Sarah Waters’s novels, with lesbian content. I read this one for my book group, and I was skeptical—it took a while to really get into it. The first half of the book is elaborate descriptions of the two women’s friendship, and the details that lead up to the divorce, then the divorce trial happens for another 1/3 of the book (which I found terribly dull, though my lawyer friend thought was fascinating)—but the very end made it worth it. Though I was a bit triggered by all the psychological manipulation one of the characters continues to exhibit, I have still been recommending this quite a bit. It’s pretty fascinating to hear about the politics of marriage, family, cheating, and legality from 150 years ago—really not that long ago, but it exposes some of the ways we have directly evolved from those cultural standards.

Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch Femme Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino (Cleis Press, 2010). Call me biased if you like, because I have a story in this book, but this is my favorite erotica collection to come out for a long time. Not only because it’s butch/femme, but also because the stories are just good. Editor Taormino had a decade worth of Best Lesbian Erotica collections to pull from, and she picked the best of the best of the best, in my opinion. Plus, there aren’t very many explicitly butch and femme erotica anthologies, so I’m glad we’ve got one more. This one is still on my nightstand. My review on Sugarbutch.

Toybag Guide to the Taboo by Mollena Williams (Greenery Press, 2010). I’m a fan of Mollena‘s work in general, and when I saw her at the Lesbian Sex Mafia for her workshop Taboo Play and Working Through Extremes in early 2010 I admired her even more. This book is kind of the written version of her workshop, with many of the same stories and philosophies about what it’s like to be exploring the “taboo” sides of sexuality, like incest play, bestiality, force, and race play, and it is thoroughly thoughtful. Obviously Mollena has been thinking about these things for a long time, and it shows with her respect, care, and detail.

Follow my author profile over at GoodReads if you’d like to see more of the books I’m reading.

So let’s hear it: What were YOUR favorite books of 2010? What are you reading right now? What else do you recommend that I read?

Cock Confidence: Pack & Play

See also: My Packing Cocks 101 on Sugarbutch

Speaking of pack & play cocks: There just aren’t very many available right now.

The technology that enables cis men’s penises to soften and get hard (which is flesh & blood) is quite difficult to reproduce. You’d think we had better tricks for it, Batman-style tricks like how his cape gets taut to enable him to fly hang-glide. But as far as I know, we really don’t.

Maybe there are things available for thousands of dollars that I don’t know about? But there’s a reason I don’t know about them—that is really not accessible to me. And probably not to most other gender exploring queers, either.

So the problem is, either good soft packing cocks are too soft to play with, or good solid fucking cocks are too hard and big to pack with (and end up giving you a tent pole in the pants rather than a modest bulge).

Here are a few that you can actually do both—pack and play—because they are bendable enough and still hard enough.

Also, before I get to the cocks, here’s an important packing tip: Unless you’re going for the big bulge in the pants—which hey that can be fun, but most of us want it to be more subtle than that—make sure you wear loose, even baggy pants or skirts while packing. Your tightest jeans, though hot, will absolutely show off what you’re packing. Try loosening the harness just enough to tuck the cock under one of the straps, and wear tight undies to keep it in place.

So what’s available out there for packing and playing?

Tantus VIP SuperSoft
VIP SuperSoft by Tantus

The VIP SuperSoft by Tantus, Inc. is the newest pack & play cock that I’ve seen, and it works quite well in my opinion (and experience). I’ve heard that a few toy shops aren’t carrying them because it’s too obvious and not packable enough, and well, yes, it does create quite the bulge in your pants. But if you know how to wear that well, or if you don’t care if it’s obvious, this is a good option. Since it’s silicone, it’s fully sterilizable (top shelf of the dishwasher with no soap, boil it for 5 minutes, or a 10% bleach solution).

What makes this special: The curve is great for g-spot play, and the “SuperSoft” silicone material specific to Tantus is great. Love the shape for both stimulation of the wearer and the receiver.

Drawbacks: It is kind of floppy. Not great for the heavy pound-pound kind of fucking, it will slip out pretty easily, so make sure to stay in communication with each other if (when) it does. It’s not widely available (yet … perhaps it will be, eventually).

Specifications:
6.5″ (5.5″ insertable) long by 1.7″ in diameter
Silicone (sterilizable)
Made by Tantus, Inc
Available in vanilla, caramel, and chocolate colors
Cost: $60
My review on Sugarbutch
Buy it directly from Tantus, Inc.

Goodfella by Vixen

The Goodfella by Vixen Creations is part of their Vixskin line, which is my favorite material for cocks. It’s soft and touchable silicone, so it is fully sterilizable (top shelf of the dishwasher with no soap, boil it for 5 minutes, or a 10% bleach solution), yet it still has a strong inner core that makes it hard enough to fuck with.

What makes this special: The balls go in front of the O-ring! That is quite unique and awesome. Watch the video on how to back it into a harness, since you can’t put it in from behind like most cocks.

Drawbacks: It is slim and pretty short, especially when you take into account that it is really only insertable up to the balls. Pretty good size for ass play and blow jobs, but for folks who like anything sizeable, this one is going to be pretty small.

Because the balls sit outside of the O-ring, it’s pretty hard to pack comfortably. In order to pack it, the cock part needs to be bent under the harness strap to hold it back, which can make the base pinch your sensitive flesh.

Unfortunately, it is also very expensive. But it comes with a lifetime guarantee from Vixen, which means if it gets damaged, if your dog finds it and chews it up, you can replace it easily. Whoops, sorry—I’m wrong here, let me clarify. Or rather, let me quote you what Kitty from Vixen emailed me: “The Goodfella is one of the only products not covered by warranty (another is the Mr. Right) This is mentioned on the commercial packaging. It simply cannot take being bent back-and-forth on a daily basis as the Vixskin is rather delicate. Our warranty actually mentions NOT being able to return things since your pet ate them.”

You can read the full warranty statement, which says: “Vixen Creations, Inc. wants you to be completely satisfied with your silicone dildo, plug or attachment, which is why we offer an unbeatable lifetime replacement guarantee on damaged items. Please note that damage resulting from misuse of our products is not covered by this policy. For example, “My dog or cat ate it,” “I forgot it was on the stove,” “I bit it,” “My girlfriend left me and took the dildo,” do not qualify for product replacement.”

(Thanks for the clarification!)

Specifications:
7″ (5.5″ insertable) long by 1.5″ in diameter
Silicone (sterilizable)
Made by Vixen Creations
Available in vanilla, caramel, or chocolate colors
Cost: $100-120
My review on Sugarbutch
Buy it at Babeland, Eden Fantasys, The Stockroom, or directly from Vixen Creations.

Silky Pack & Play Cock
Silky aka Mr Bendy

The Silky by Vibratex is the first usable pack and play cock I ever found, and I love it. It’s my favorite of these three.

What makes this special: The internal spine means it is flexible enough to completely bend sideways (or down) for packing, but perk right up when it’s time to fuck. Great size, not too big or small, excellent for blow jobs and for fucking. This one is my favorite.

Drawbacks: Not silicone. The elastomer material is phthalate free, but it is not sterilizable. It’s easy to clean with soap & warm water, but do not boil it, and always use a condom since it cannot be sterilized.

Because it has an internal spine, which is bendable, it will probably break. Mine has—in fact, I’ve gone through probably eight or so of these, about one per year. The spine has never broken through the elastomer plastic, and it has never hurt anyone, and in fact I’ve never heard someone say that theirs has broken the skin, either (though many people who I know who have used this have broken the spine at some point). That’s just what happens when you bend a bit of plastic at the same place over and over—it weakens the plastic, and eventually breaks. But like I said, mine lasted about a year, and if I had not packed it in the exact same position every time it might have lasted longer. After breaking two, I decided it was worth it to keep investing in a new one every year or so, that I just had to look at the $40 cost as a temporary investment that would last me a finite amount of time, not forever.

Some folks have said that they keep using theirs, even after the spine breaks, and this works too—it’s just not quite as perky or bendable as it used to be. From my experience, after it breaks it is not dangerous, and the spine part probably wouldn’t poke through the plastic to harm your delicate parts.

Specifications:
7″ (6″ insertable) long by 1 5/8″ in diameter
Elastomer (Phthalates free, Hypo-allergenic, latex free)
Made by Vibratex
Available in pink, purple, blue, and black (the pink and blue seem to be the most commonly available)
Cost: $40-50
My review on Sugarbutch
Buy it at Babeland, Eden Fantasys, The Stockroom, or Good Vibrations.

So, am I missing any particular cocks that you think I should try out, or include here? Have you heard of others that work for packing and playing? Have you used any of these? What did you think? Any other recommendations?

Extra Sexy Valentine’s Day

So Babeland did this sweet Valentine’s Day gift guide, and it got me thinking about what sexy toys and gifts I would highly, highly recommend, above all others, for you to pick up for your sweetheart (and, uh, yourself) for this Valentine’s Day.

I’ve been reviewing products for more than two years, and these are some of my personal favorites. The queer porn is especially good as a Valentine’s Day gift I think … plus, if you get a year-long membership, or even a month-long, that will be an ongoing present, one you can enjoy together and that might help take your sex life to a new level. It’s much easier to point to some sex act or product on screen and say, “So what do you think of that?” in order to open up conversation than it is to say, “Hey, I want to try …”

Hope you find something you like, and that the day is fun, regardless of how you celebrate.

You can also check out more of my favorite toys over at Good Vibrations, where they have various celebrity picks.

So let’s hear it: what are you getting your sweetheart, or yourself, this year? How, if at all, are you celebrating? What are your very favorite toys that I might have left off this list?

Friday Reads: Gotta Have it: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex

It’s out!

I just received a copy of the newest erotica anthology, Gotta Have It, which includes my work, this time it is The Dirty Things She Says which is a piece in a lot of dirty talking dialogue that’s only about two pages long. All the pieces are extra-short, which is why they’re called “sudden sex” stories in the title—they’re short-short stories, which in my opinion make the erotica extra-condensed and hotter than usual. Not nearly as much wading through character and plot. And personally, I like that kind of thing in erotica.

Well, I mean, I still think the literary elements are important, but generally I think people spend way too much time being sure to establish those things in an erotica story. Most of the time, why are we reading the erotica? To be turned on, to get off. Of course, that’s just my opinion—plenty of other people really want to have context and plot and non-sexual build-up. But have you ever read Micro Fiction, or another short-short anthology? It’s a brilliant example of how literary you can be in very, very few words, embedding plot and character into every phrase, having each sentence hold two or three or four levels of meaning for the story. I still find them fascinating.

And the good stories in this anthology do that, too.

It includes some of my favorite erotica writers, including Cecilia Tan, Kiki DeLovely, Teresa Noelle Roberts, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Kristina Wright, D.L. King, and Maria See, and I’m sure once I read through it I’ll have a few more favorites to add to the list. So, I know what I’ll be doing this weekend.

Rachel Kramer Bussel edited this anthology (I haven’t mentioned that yet), and put together another one of her brilliant and fun book trailers for it, this one including video or audio of many of the contributors reading a piece of their own story.

Lots more information about Gotta Have It is over on Rachel’s Gotta Have It official book website, including a copy of her introduction, the table of contents, the author’s short bios, and announcements about readings.

Cleis Press, who published this anthology (and who publishes all of the best erotica anthologies, in my opinion, and I don’t just say that because they’re putting out my forthcoming lesbian BDSM anthology), has a special going on: “To celebrate this February 14th, receive 14% off all orders! Enter discount code HEARTS14 on your web order to receive your discount.” So pick up Gotta Have It over at www.cleispress.com, or at (or order it from) your local independent bookstore (assuming you want them to be around next year).

Review: Aslan Silicone Ball Gag

I’m totally sold on Aslan products in general, so it’s no surprise that I love this Aslan silicone ball gag. Aslan’s leather is beautiful, finely made, soft and buttery, and consistently high quality. Their toys are superb. I don’t really have anything bad to say about the company, or their toys.

Years ago I picked up one of those cheap, typical red ball gags with the single-buckled nylon head straps. It basically did what it was supposed to do, to keep someone’s mouth open and impede their speech, but it wasn’t particularly pretty and it would slip. It felt cheap in my hands.

Which is the complete opposite of this one. It feels high quality. It looks pretty buckled around my girlfriend’s jaw. It is adjustable and it stays in place. The ball is just the right size, maybe even a little bit small.

Though Kristen is very oral, she hasn’t expressed much interest in gags and early on even said that she didn’t like them and didn’t want to play with one. I didn’t expect her to like them—but it turns out that her sexual interest continues to evolve (as does mine, but that’s a slightly different post). I would’ve thought that it’d be too much for her, even a year ago, but she’s more interested in having her body parts restricted and restrained than she used to be, and combined with her continued oral fixation, playing with a gag makes a lot of sense.

Though to be honest, I really like it when she talks, so I don’t get this gag out very often. But I’m happy to report that when the urge strikes, this beautiful gag is right there waiting for us.

I didn’t expect to like it as much as we both do, but upgrading from that former cheap red gag opened up the new possibilities of playing with gags that neither of us expected. I’m even interested in another type of gag, one that has an o-ring instead of a ball gag, so things (fingers, cocks) can be inserted into her mouth while it has to stay open. It’s a bit more intense, and I’ve seen o-ring type gags that are made of metal, too, which I think are called spider gags?, that look even more intense and less attractive, but that might be something worth exploring eventually as well.

I had no idea this would become a thing for us to explore, but I trust Aslan’s products, so it was easy to pick up and try out.

The Aslan silicone ball gag was sent to me from Babeland for review. Pick up other sex toys from Babeland, still my favorite feminist, queer, friendly, educational neighborhood sex shop.

Review: X-Harness

The first time I tried on a chest harness was at a leather festival. I put it on over my tank top and quickly admired myself in the mirror looking like a gay boy leather daddy top, which is really my only association with those x chest harnesses. As much as it seems like they would be worn by bottoms, and used for restraint, it seems like they are more commonly associated with the tops doing the restraining.

Maybe that’s just me, and I’ve somehow superimposed my own biases on the whatever images I’ve picked up along the way.

I was planning to use this x harness in a photo shoot, but that has yet to happen. I still think it might, someday, and I think these harnesses look particularly bad ass, so it could be a useful prop. I have a particular vision of how I want to be posed when I have this photo taken, but what I visualize and what turns out to be the best shot aren’t always the same, so who knows what’ll happen when I actually get around to capturing some images. That’s partly why I’ve had this harness for such a long time but still haven’t written it up—I thought I’d post a photo, since how much is there to really say about this type of object?

Really I’m not sure what kind of uses this harness has aside from as a prop in a photo. Or maybe as a fetish outfit to a play party, if I remembered it and dressed up ahead of time. I haven’t taken it out during sex, well, ever, and I’m not sure I would. But I still like having it in my toy box, and hopefully I’ll come up with some good uses for it aside from just to look pretty. Any ideas?

The X-Harness was sent to me to review from sextoy.com. Pick up the x-harness or other bondage toys from sextoy.com, or your local queer feminist sex-positive independent shop.

Friday Reads: Dear John, I Love Jane

Seal Press recently released a much needed addition to queer identity narratives in the anthology Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre.

What do you think of when you think about a coming out story? Typically in this culture, the main character of a coming out narrative tends to be a teenager, either pre-teen or late teens, someone who either has always been a bit different or is suddenly hit with the sexual revelation that they might be gay. Despite that coming out as a teenager seems, to me, to be actually a somewhat recent phenomenon, and that people coming out even ten or fifteen years ago were more likely to be college-age rather than high school age, which I would largely attribute to the rise of the Internet and the vast amount of information easily accessible by just typing “gay” into a search engine or, at this point, speaking one word into a search program on a smart phone, there is still a significant lack of literature available about people who come out later in life. Though the coming out process continues to happen younger and younger, the dominant stories are still about people in their tumultuous twenties, which is frequently when we formulate and articulate our adult sexual identities, often for the first time.

But what about someone coming out in their late thirties, forties, fifties? What about someone who has spent most of their life heterosexual, married and raising kids? Often, these stories are not reflected in queer literature and culture. We tend to value and legitimize the folks who express that we “always knew” that something was off about us, queer identities that started giving hints in childhood and were full-on signs by our adolescences.

Which is why this anthology is a much needed addition to the body of work on queer identity; we have so few stories about what it’s like to form these identities later in life. In this book, “later in life” is defined quite broadly, as some of the participants are still quite young and have, in my mind, had fairly typical coming out experiences.

While I was reading through these essays, I felt that it was important to keep in mind that they are personal reflections about the authors’ own experiences, and while there is great value in telling those stories, and this book is beginning to fill a neglected gap, they are not necessarily radical or particularly theoretical, and in fact perpetuate many stereotypes about lesbianism and gender in particular. In fact, the consistent commentary on gendered lesbian stereotypes in so many of the essays made me wonder if those stereotypes were a reflection upon the editors’ beliefs. Perhaps the reader was meant to assume that these were former stereotypes that the narrators held, and that their understandings have deepened and become more complex, but none of the essays directly addressed the vast inaccurate outsider observations toward the lesbian communities and none of the essays directly took on any sort of understanding of how complex gender identity and expression is in the queer and lesbian worlds.

I know that a complex understanding of gender is a lot to expect, and that I am particularly critical of representations of gender that are heteronormative and perpetuating stereotypes, but I was disappointed in the consistent portrayal throughout this book. I do think it is an important to add to the dominant paradigm of coming out and coming to queer identities, and certainly it gives a solid base on which others can now build. But I am cautious in recommending it, since I think it perpetuates more stereotypes than it challenges.

The Illustrated Gentleman: 2011 Calendar

You can still pick up a copy of the 2011 calendar The Illustrated Gentleman by artist Elisha Lim.

“A 12 month calendar of handsome dandy queers from January to December. Full colour images and comics feature sartorial queer style, shopping anecdotes and strategies, and a celebration of walking proud in what you wear. The comics feature excerpts from “The Illustrated Gentleman” and “100 Butches” and contain a hand-drawn monthly schedule for each month. It is a quaint, trim 5.5″x7.5″ on glossy calendar stock.”

They sent Butch Lab a few images from the calendar to entice us:

Buy The Illustrated Gentleman on Etsy.

Anniversary Sale at Cocksexual

To celebrate Furry Girl’s 8th year creating porn online, she’s doing a special: get a month for $8 for the first 8 days of January. She never do trials, so this is the only time of year people can join at such a low price. If you’ve been curious about Cocksexual, maybe now is the time to check it out!

Here are a couple of my favorite shots from Cocksexual so far, featuring a few of my favorite porn stars, Courtney Trouble & Tina Horn.

Friday Reads: Best Lesbian Erotica 2011

I had the pleasure of reading at Kathleen Warnock‘s New York City literary series Drunken! Careening! Writers! on Thursday night in celebration of the new release from Cleis Press, Best Lesbian Erotica 2011, in which I have a story.

Kiki DeLovely, Xan West, Charlotte Dare, D.L. King, Theda Hudson, and I all read excerpts from our pieces included in this year’s book, and Kathleen read from her introduction (and was her all-around amazing hostess self).

It was a blast of an event. It’s become a little bit of a holiday tradition, since BLE always comes out around this time of year and Kathleen has hosted the official New York City kickoff for quite a while, for as long as I’ve been in New York anyway. Kathleen always jokes, “Pick one up for grandma. Perfect gift.”

It’s my favorite erotica series. The quality is always amazing, and the 2011 edition is no exception. I think Kathleen said there are contributors from six different countries this year! I had to mention it in my recent Cliterotica: Lesbian Erotica Roundup for Lambda Literary Foundation, regardless that I have a story in there it’s an incredible anthology.

Here’s the description:

Edited by Kathleen Warnock, Selected and introduced by Lea DeLaria. In Best Lesbian Erotica 2011, women find love and lust in all the right places – kitchens, cars, dance clubs, dungeons, and even a flowerbed. This year’s guest judge is the anything-but-shy Lea DeLaria, the multi-talented writer, stand-up comic, singer, and actor. She has selected work from some of the best-known writers of lesbian erotic fiction as well as debuts of startling new talents. A 1958 Mercury Park Lane rides like a sexual time machine in D.L. King’s “Walk Like a Man.” In Betty Blue’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” a lost boi encounters a firespirit on a romantic celestial plane. In Kiki DeLovely’s “The Third Kiss,” a woman discovers it’s not a good idea to tell your crush your dreams about her – unless you want them to come true.

And remember, there’s a 20% discount on orders by December 31st. Or you can always pick it up from Amazon if you must.

Friday Reads: How To Build A Fire by Erin Bried

Remember Erin Bried’s first book, How To Sew A Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew? This week she releases her second book, How To Build A Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew. One of those things might be just right for that person on your holiday gift list you haven’t bought anything for yet, hmm?

Here’s the description:

As members of the Greatest Generation, our grandfathers were not only defined by the Depression but also by their heroic service to the country in World War II. Courageous, responsible, and involved, they understand sacrifice, hard work, and how to do whatever is necessary to take care of their loved ones. They also know how to have a rollicking good time.

Sensible, fun, and inspiring, How to Build a Fire offers a rare glimpse into the hearts and minds of grandfathers near and far by sharing their practical skills and sweet stories on how to be stronger, smarter, richer, and happier. Inside are more than one hundred essential step-by-step tips for fixing, leading, prospering, playing, and hosting, including how to

• buck up and be brave in the face of adversity
• play hard and break in a baseball mitt
• bait a hook and catch a big fish
• look dapper and tie a perfect tie
• get a raise and earn more
• write a love letter and kindle romance
• change a flat tire and save the day
• stand up and give a sparkling toast
• play the harmonica and make your own music

Loaded with charming illustrations, good humor, and warm nostalgia, How to Build a Fire is the perfect handbook for guys or gals of any age. The first of its kind, this collection of our grandfathers’ hard-earned wisdom will help you build confidence and get back to what’s really important in life.

I haven’t had a chance to read it all yet, really, but it’s so much fun to flip through.

Check out howtobuildafirebook.com or follow Erin on Twitter @niftybutton.