Posts Tagged ‘ask mr. sexsmith’

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

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

March 19, 2014  |  advice  |  2 Comments

Dear Mr. Sexsmith,

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

Aiming to Please

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 3, 2014  |  essays  |  11 Comments
Question: if you had been assigned male at birth, all else remaining constant, do you still think you would have identified as genderqueer? i.e. how much of it do you think is an innate identity inherent to who you are, and how much of it political? In a hypothetical society where we actually had full gender equality and the boxes of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ were much wider than they currently are, do you think you would still consider yourself genderqueer, or would you then be comfortable being one or the other?

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

—ASQ, on Coming Out Genderqueer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: Didn't you mention a marketing or business ecourse recently?

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: Didn’t you mention a marketing or business ecourse recently?

January 8, 2014  |  advice  |  1 Comment

Dear Mr. Sexsmith,

This is a terribly mundane and sadly unsexy question but I swear I saw you post a link or a mention in the past few months of a marketing/PR/development website you had taken an ecourse with and I remember being really interested. Today when I went to scour the sugarbutch archives I couldn’t find it.

Am I making this up? And, if not, could you send me the information or maybe any sort of other similar information about ecourses you’ve been taking that inspired Submissive Playground? I’m particularly interested in those related to building branding or business at the moment but other suggestions are welcome. I am a big fan!

Ziggy

Hi Ziggy—

Sometimes the mundane and unsexy questions are the easiest to answer!

I think I mentioned the course on Twitter/Instagram—it was the IttyBiz “Fast Track to Fully Booked” course at ittybiz.com. They’re pretty amazing, definitely recommend signing up for their newsletter (and reading past issues) and keeping up with their blog—all of that is a ton of free content.

I have been studying ecourses for a few years now, partly with the idea of building my own eventually. I haven’t taken a “how to build an ecourse” course, but two things were massively influential:

Jennifer Louden & Michele Lisenbury Christensen‘s course Teach Now was highly influential for my identity as a teacher

and

I bought the Puttylike “Multipassionate Must Haves” bundle. I mostly bought it because it had so many different examples of ecourses in it, but many of the courses themselves are really good, and I recognized a lot of the teachers. I definitely recommend looking up the teachers included in that course, I’m sure many of them would be good examples of ecourses, and have ecourses themselves that would be inspiring and awesome.

Jennifer Louden also has a course in there called Creating Your Own Mastermind Group, which I took and then implemented last year. I’ve been part of an amazing queer creative business group, meeting since August, including Jen Cross of Writing Ourselves Whole, Sade Huron of Cariad Healing, and Amy Butcher of Amybutcher.com (you may recognize her as the author of Paws for Consideration or from, you know, around).

Other folks whose work has influenced me:

  • Tara Gentile – highly recommend for building your business things
  • Susannah Conway – love her photography and writings on grief, she has some courses but I haven’t taken them. she also has a “Unravelling the year ahead 2014″ ebook that just came out which is really great
  • Jennifer Lee – Right Brain Business Plan is awesome, and she’s got a product launch course which is great too
  • Marketing for Hippies
  • Heart of Business

I don’t know of ones that are specific about branding, mostly because I’ve been a brand consultant in the past, and a designer, so those don’t catch my eye, though I’m sure those are around. But marketing? Ittybiz is the best, hands down.

Hope that’s helpful.
Sinclair

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

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

November 27, 2013  |  advice, reviews  |  13 Comments

Dear Mr. Sexsmith,

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

Luke

Hi Luke!

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

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

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

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

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

Sinclair

tomboi
The Spareparts Tomboi briefs harness

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

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

September 20, 2013  |  advice  |  3 Comments

Dear Mr. Sexsmith,

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

Thanks for any help.
Christy

Hi Christy!

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

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

Sejay wrote:

(A) Not a dumb question.

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

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

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

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

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

Sidenote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 6, 2012  |  advice  |  5 Comments

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

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

Kristen & Sinclair Answer Your Questions, Episode 2: “How To Have a Successful Threesome”

June 11, 2012  |  advice  |  6 Comments

Following up Episode 1, “I Want to be Taken”, Kristen and I answered another question for y’all, this time about threesomes.

Raven asks, “Any advice for occasionally bringing in a third? While still maintaining full commitment to one another and with no one getting hurt?”

Hope it’s useful!

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

May 29, 2012  |  advice  |  14 Comments

So Kristen and I have a new experiment …

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

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

References from the video:

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

PS: Isn’t Kristen pretty?

PPS: Bonus photo outtake:

Femme Invisibility & Beyond

January 15, 2012  |  advice, essays  |  15 Comments

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

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

—Sweets

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

Femme Invisibility Is Real

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

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

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

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

Stop Arguing With Reality & Find Some Radical Acceptance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of People See You!

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

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

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

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

Know Your Femme History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because that is your struggle.

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

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

Strive to Move Us Beyond Visibility

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

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

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

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

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

Last, But Not Least

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

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

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

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

It’s the least we can do.

Ask Me Anything! No Really

September 28, 2011  |  advice  |  No Comments

I’m starting to write a new column on SexIs Magazine, this time it’s an advice column called Mr. Sexsmith Says. The first one came out today, about stone identity and butches, and they’ll be published every other week.

I have a pretty decent stack of index cards from my workshops, as well as some unanswered questions from emails and from the Ask Me Anything Sugarbutch anniversary thread, so I already do have a lot of fodder for this new column.

However! I still get questions pretty frequently, and now that I have a place to put them, I invite you to ask me about things you’d like to know. No seriously, ask away. I can’t promise to answer all of them—I have no idea if I’ll get two or two hundred, so you know, I’ll have to do some experimenting here—but I will do my best.

So now there’s a sugarbutch.net/ask-me-anything URL, and a place specifically to submit questions. Please feel free to ask away.