I have been so busy telling you all about Say Please that I have barely even mentioned some of the other recent notable books I’ve picked up. All are fantastic reads and have plenty to offer for the novice or the very experienced kinkster.
Ecstasy is Necessary by Barbara Carrellas I’ve already mentioned on Sugarbutch, but it’s worth mentioning again if you haven’t read it yet. If you’re interested in exploring your own sexuality, getting closer to your own desires, having a lovely introduction to some tantric explorations, or taking a good, long reflective look at your sex life and relationship/s, this is an incredible place to start.
Queer & Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein is a beautiful, stunning memoir about Kate’s time as a scientologist (!), then being excommunicated and losing her family, then transitioning and coming out as a kinkster on the West coast, and finally moving to New York. It’s an incredible story and I loved every page.
The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino really is the Ultimate Guide to Kink. There are essays in here from all sorts of mentors and experienced authoritative kinksters, and the book covers all kinds of fascinating topics. I’m especially excited about Barbara Carrellas’s chapter on kinky tantra, the age play chapter, and the “inside the mind of a sadist” chapter. I haven’t finished it yet (I’ve barely started it, actually) but I’m already thrilled. Cleis Press is contributing amazing things to the kink and sexualities worlds and I’ll read anything they put out.
Mind-Blowing Sex: A Woman’s Guide by Diana Cage might look like some basic women’s sexuality book, but it isn’t. It’s a complex commentary on our sexual culture and includes tons of ideas, exercises, and prompts to get you digging into your own sexual self. Kristen read it cover to cover and pronounced, “I’m going to send a copy to my sister.” It’s the kind of book that all our younger sisters should have (after we finish reading it).
There have been so many great books released this spring! I’m also really looking forward to Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel and Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson. I haven’t been all the way through the Lambda Literary finalists, though I like to pick through that list because they are often the best of the best. And of course I’ll be at the Lammys this year! Very excited to continue attending and being involved.
What have you been reading lately? Anything good?
I kind of hate the word “dildo.” But I didn’t let that stop me from checking this one out, after I heard that it’s extra-flexible—flexible enough for packing and playing, maybe?
From the description:
Available exclusively at Babeland, the Double Agent is ready to go anywhere, anytime. Made of premium-grade silicone and harness ready, this flexible dildo is designed with a firm base and silicone core that runs up a third of the shaft. The realistic phallus delivers a feeling of fullness during penetration and is flexible enough to bend into truly twisted and unexpected positions. The Double Agent is designed for both packing and strap-on sex. Available in one color, more colors coming soon.
See that part about how it’s “designed for both packing and strap-on sex”? Intriguing, I thought! But in practice, it has the same problems as both the Goodfella by Vixen and the VIP Supersoft by Tantus, which is that when it is bent to one side or the other, which is required in order for it to be pack-able, the base of it really digs into my pubic bone because of the pressure.
It’s a good size, though, and great materials, decent shape I think. The Double Agent would be great for putting on before a play party when I know I’m not going to be wearing it (in my zipped-up pants) all night, but I wouldn’t put it on to go to dinner and dancing and be ready by the time I got home after the date. For that, I go back to the Silky, which still is my go-to cock for packing.
I caught Lindsay Fuller playing with Amy Ray a few weeks ago at Housing Works in New York City, and they are both on tour now supporting Amy’s newest solo album Lung of Love and Lindsay’s album You, Anniversary which comes out today.
Ever since seeing her in concert I have been eagerly awaiting this album, especially so I could hear the title track again, which is based on a WS Merwin poem “For the Anniversary of My Death. The idea is that every year, we pass the date of our death, but we won’t know what day that is. Her chorus repeats, “Ohh, when’s it gonna be.”
Speaking of her voice, I really love it. She sings on four tracks on Amy’s new album, but I’ll admit I’ve been listening more to Lindsay’s back catalogue than to Amy’s newest. She’s got this great low southern croon, and she was so sweet and fantastic on stage. She had a few other songs that she gave us the backstory to, based on I already pre-ordered You, Anniversary on Amazon and it’s only $5.99 for the mp3 download, and out today. I also found it streaming on soundcloud if the title track above didn’t already convince you.
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.
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.
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. Hill : Cultivating a Beautiful Life
13 March Rubyyy Jones: Love Lust & Light
14 March Jill Boyd: Smart-ass Virgins Make Better Whoopie
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?
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.
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.
“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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.