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

Top Writings on Sugarbutch from 2013

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

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

essay | Read the whole thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dirty story | Read the whole thing →

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

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

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

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

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

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

journal entry | Read the whole thing →

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

dirty story | Read the whole thing →

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

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

journal entry | Read the whole thing →

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

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

Favorite reads from 2013

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

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

     

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

     

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

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

Most listened to music from 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top posts of 2013 that were published in other years

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

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

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

Comment Zen … Requests & Ideas

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

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

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

Leave a comment

The Best Things I Wrote About Sex, Gender, & Relationships in 2012

Lily at Black Leather Belt is putting together the #SexReader, a new roundup of the best sex blog posts, and the first one is Best of 2012, so I have been looking over the past year.

I haven’t written as much, here, as I have in the past. I’m kind of sad about that, but that’s just the way 2012 was. My year was shaping up to be the Best Year Ever in January & February when Kristen and I were navigating the brand new openness of our relationship and I was falling in love with Rife, but in March when my dad died, everything got thrown off. I threw myself into traveling for my erotica anthology, Say Please, from April through August, and by the time I got back in August, Kristen had lost her job and I was a wreck. I’ve been working to pick up the pieces since then. Though I’ve continued to see Rife every other month or so, I haven’t written a lot about him here.

The combination of personal crises and traveling this year has meant that I have spent a whole lot more time in my inbox, and processing my fucking feelings, than I have spent writing.

Still, there were some notable posts in 2012.

I started the year by writing weekly love letters to Kristen. I didn’t continue them, but I wrote a couple dozen. From Love Letter #16:

It’s interesting to actually put the non-monogamy into practice. In some ways it feels like the most secure a relationship could be, that we both know to the core so deeply that our relationship is so good and solid that it’s totally okay for us to explore with other people. At our good moments that’s how it feels, anyway. In our harder moments, it’s a lot of reassurance—for both of us—that what we’re doing isn’t going to fuck up what we have. That is so, so important to me, to keep us safe and to not do anything that might jeopardize the foundation we’re building and the intensity between us and our sexual spark and all of those things, and if ever you feel like I am doing something that jeopardizes that, I want to know and I want to fix it as immediately as possible. I trust that, deeply; I have faith in us and I think we can figure this out. It’s hard, it continues to be hard, but I’m excited about the possibilities this is opening up and I’m glad we are exploring together.

I came out about opening up our relationship, and dating Rife, and how Kristen and I were dealing with that, in March 2012 with On Opening Up My Relationship With Kristen

I love you (I told her) and I don’t think this has to or does or will take away from that, from us. … Beyond that, I started asking myself and her: How can I love you well? How can I love you better than I do? How can I continue to make you feel special in our relationship, in ways other than exclusive sex? That is only one way, one fairly arbitrary way. What are the things we both need? How do we ensure that happens well?

We came up with some agreements about what I would or wouldn’t do with him, how we’d see each other, what kind of contact we’d have, and how my relationship and sexual connection with Kristen would be kept as the highest priority. It took a long time to negotiate that, to try some things and then try other things, and it’s a working document that keeps changing.

It’s still hard—there is still jealousy and insecurity and uncertainty, but the fighting has basically ceased. There are still complications, and we talk through it. We’ve been negotiating—fairly well, I would say—ever since.

I also wrote a few posts about Rife, like our adventures at IMsL, in Like a Faggot, published in June 2012:

“I like your cock in my ass. I like it. Please, Sir, fuck my ass. Please please please.” His pleading cries became whimpers and I groaned, my hips jerking hard against his in response.

“Good boy,” I muttered as my cock slid in and out. I wrapped my arms around him, held us together, breathing hard, and brought my hand between his legs to his clit again, thrumming it gently, sensitive now. “Mmm, fuck, you feel good. Your ass is nice and tight, feels good on my cock. I like to fill you up. Squeeze me harder, let me feel how tight you are, that’s it, yeah.” He came again, squirting, I could see it darken the blanket as his body thrust forward in contractions.

“Just a little more. Then I’m going to beat you.” I slid in and he moaned deep. He whimpered and shook, straightening his body upright until I pushed him back onto the table.

“Take it,” I growled. “Just a little more. Take it like a faggot. You can do it. Come on, dirty boy, I know you like it.” He didn’t stop shaking, barely holding himself up on his legs, and I thrust in again, and again. I rambled on as I worked up a slick sweat. I wanted to wear him out, warm him up before I started beating him. “Do it for me again, faggot. Come on, boy, come on my cock while I fuck you. Do it. Do it for me.”

Kristen and I had some really good scenes this year, too. The Three Minute Game, June 2012

“For my pleasure …” I swallowed. “I would like you to kiss my feet.” We’ve played with this a little. It is only recently that I have admitted how much I like it—to myself and others—enough to actually experiment with the sensation. It makes me nervous to ask for. But that is partly what this game is for, and it’s only three minutes. I can do just about anything for three minutes.

She nodded, looked at me a little coyly, chin down eyes up lips parted, and said, “And suck your toes?”

My breath caught. “Yes,” I think I managed to say. I think it was audible. So nervous. And it’s something that I wanted to feel, so much.

I set the timer again and she slid down the bed on her belly to take my right foot in her hands and deliver a sprinkling of kisses along the top of it. She ran her tongue along the instep, the most sensitive part, and sucked gently with her lips. She tongued the crease between my big toe and second toe before sliding the larger into her mouth.

I groaned.

Another good Kristen story got really dirty: Dirty Filthy Nasty, September 2012:

I bring the bottle of lube, twist my legs up onto the bed and get on my knees, grab her thighs with my hands and pull her hips toward me so she’s at an angle. I pump the lube twice—once over the lips of her cunt, once on the head of my dick. I rub it slowly with my hand, showing off a little because I know she likes to watch me jerk off. Her legs are open on either side of my knees. Her cunt is mostly bare, her lips are pink and swollen.

“Fuck.”

I grip her inner thighs in my hands and poise my cock with my hips. Taking the cock in my fist, I use the head of my cock to rub the lube along her slit, rubbing it on her cunt, slick and smooth, and then smack her with it a few times, before I slide in. I reach up to her wrists and my hands fit so easily around them, she feels so small. She struggles against me, just a little, pushing back, but I have gravity and more than fifty pounds on her—we both know it’s for show. A request to hold her harder, a request to keep her down. We both shudder as I slide in deeper and put more of my weight down onto her, and she wraps her legs around me, her arms around my shoulders.

I vow to go slow, I keep repeating in my head, go slow go slow slow down go slow, but she feels so fucking good and she’s so wet and slick and pulsing around me so tight, and I’m so hard and deep, my hips start bucking and I don’t restrain them. She moans. I fuck her harder, reaching down with my right hand to lop my elbow around her calf and pull her knee up, her legs apart.

“Baby, baby, baby …”

I wish it was a given that I would fuck her like this until I shoot. I wish it was more consistent, to come inside her, to get off while she writhes.

There was a femme conference in August, and I wrote some about policing the femme identity and what it’s like to go to an identity-based conference: Are You Femme Enough for the Femme Conference? July 2012

I think the bottom line is that it’s incredibly complicated to occupy a socially-recognized identity like butch or femme, because while we have stereotypical versions of what those things “should” look like in our minds, we don’t necessarily have the complex deconstructions (and reconstructions) necessary to be able to see that person as butch or femme and all their other pieces of self too. Or, if the person doesn’t quite look like the stereotype, we don’t recognize them as “legitimate.” These queer cultures still see someone, recognizes them as butch or femme or neither, and draws all sorts of conclusions based on that.

People are probably always going to do this. I don’t mean that in an I-give-up kind of way, just in a this-is-probably-true-and-I-will-have-less-strife-in-my-life-if-I-accept-that kind of way.

And y’know, fuck that. I mean, I completely understand that that is a challenge and hard and sometimes makes me return home defeated after a night and just kinda cry and whine for a while, I also think part of the work of having these identities is recognizing that we are trying to rise them above stereotypes, and that the cultures we’re in still largely use big fat markers to draw pictures of these identities, not slim exact-shaded pencils. And part of our work, I believe, part of the work of occupying these identities, is uncoupling them from the heteronormative gender roles, and making them big enough and accessible to anyone who feels a resonance with them. They can be liberational, and the benefits of identifying with a gender lineage, a gender heritage, feels so important to me, putting me in a historical context with people who came before me, so I feel less alone in my forging forward. I’m not doing it exactly as they did it, I’m doing it my own way and in the context of my own communities and time and culture, but I am able to remake it and make more room for freedom and consciousness and liberation within it because I am on their shoulders, using the tools they left for me—us—to pick up.

That is all to say, you are femme enough to attend the femme conference. Or, you know, if you don’t identify as femme but you have some interest in learning more about femme identity and being around femmes and folks who are puzzling through femme identity, you can come too.

Though by far, the most viewed post was this one: Sugarbutch Star: blckndblue: The Pink Dress, January 2012, which is fiction.

“Was there something that you wanted? Sir?” She adds the last word in a low, sweet voice and my cock pulses. I drop my hand holding the glass to my side. Extending her arms around my neck, she draws closer to me. I can smell the sticky sweet of her lipstick. I lick my lips. Swallow again. My mouth is dry. I lift my arm, take a swig of the whiskey, and it goes down like a knife. She offers me her lips when I drop the glass again, whispering right up next to mine but not touching. She waits. I kiss her and her mouth is like candy, like being enveloped in silk. My knees go weak again and I lean against the wall to hold myself up. Her lipstick is a smear on my mouth and I don’t care. She leaves a trail of lip prints along my jaw and to the curve of my neck and I don’t care. She is devouring me one kiss at a time and I don’t care. My whole body shudders between her and the wall, held up by both.

She pulls on my earlobe between her lips before she whispers in my ear, “I would like to suck your cock now.” It’s almost a question, almost asking for permission, she knows that’s usually how it works, but this time it is more of a statement of intent. I notice she doesn’t say “sir” but I don’t care. She’s calling the shots now. She drags her body down mine and her skirt fans out around her legs as she kneels in front of me. She looks up, hands on her thighs, and waits, lips parted a little, lipstick smeared and thick which makes her mouth look even more swollen. I breathe deep, trying to focus. I’m supposed to do something. I manage to set the glass of whiskey down on the side table nearby and unbuckle my belt, unzip my pants, pull out my cock. She sits up on her knees to get it lined up with her mouth.

She holds the tip of my cock right outside of her lips, breathing, looking up at me, before dropping her eyes and extending her tongue, flat and soft, to lap the underside, and brings her lips forward to circle just the head and suck. She lifts her eyes again. I swoon, my head swirling, the bowl of my pelvis full and trying not to spill over. Her tongue plays down the shaft and leisurely flicks every little ridge. Her lips are soft and warm and I can feel every contour, every smooth curve.

I spent most of the last six months trying to untangle myself from grief. I wrote a little bit about that, like in Grief. Also, Trying to Find My Awesome Place:

Grief is not singular, it is not linear, it usually doesn’t even feel particularly knowable. It’s a mess, (or as I keep saying) a fog. Something engulfing that chokes and invades my lungs.

Grief it is not just about this one loss, either: it is about all losses, everywhere, ever, especially the ones I have felt. People keep reminding me of this, and yet I keep feeling surprised when I turn a corner and get sucker-punched by a memory of Cheryl, of an ex, of my fucking dog when I was seven, of every goddamn time I have to say goodbye to Rife, of those looks Kristen gives me when she’s angry and hurt and it’s my fault.

I know that what I’m feeling isn’t about that, except that it is. I know that what I’m feeling won’t last, except that it is seeping into every pore of me and I know that I am forever changed. (Fuck that sounds so dramatic. Forgive me the drama. It’s what drama was made for: loss, grief, feeling.) But it’s also true: Nothing is the same. It’s taken me months to feel that really sink in. March to August, I might argue. In August, I lost it. Since August, I’ve been trying to get it back. I don’t know how. Kristen doesn’t know how. We are both unsure what to do now, but it’s clear that we can’t quite keep going the way we’ve been going, spiraling down into something awful, me lashing out and angry, so angry. Why am I so angry? I know why I’m so angry. I probably need a punching bag daily.

We don’t know what to do, but also we kind of do. Or I guess I am starting to.

When I look back at the year, clearly the things that get the most visitors are the dirty stories. I’d like to write more of those in 2013. I like writing smut. It’s deeply pleasurable. I’d like to write more about Rife and the deep D/s that that relationship is developing. I’d like to write more about power and relationships and codependency and the ways that things can go so wrong. Mostly, I’ve just been waiting to get through these crisis months.

In this, the darkest time of year, the solstice, the time when we burn the Yule log, I keep thinking about the things I want to leave in the dark, the seeds I want to plant that will start to pop open under the surface in the next few months before pushing through the topsoil, the things that I want to grow.

I want more emotional resilience.
I want more self-confidence, less insecurity. To let go and be less controlling.
I want more radical acceptance of what is in front of me.
I want to date Kristen again.
I want to spend more time loving and less time fighting.
I want more sex. Goddamnit.
I want less railing, clinging, obsession, torture.
I want to leave the black hole of depression and grief here in the deep dark.
I want more love. More lovers. More exploration. More pleasure.

More pleasure. Yes—if I had to sum up my intentions for 2013, that would be it. More pleasure. Less grief.

Anal Week Wrap-Up

Even though I started Anal Week way back in April, I’ve finally gone through all the posts and toys and reviews and things that I intended for it, so here’s the wrap-up.

Reviews:
The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, the guidebook by Tristan Taormino
The Tristan Butt Plug
The Silk anal dildo

Quick Anal Interviews:
Charlie Glickman
Dylan Ryan
Bailey
Tawny
Madison Young
Sophia St. James
Erudite Hayseed
Your turn: answer the questions yourself

Queer Porn:
Dylan & Madison on Everything Butt
Best Anal Scenes in Queer Porn with JD Bauchery
Best Anal Scenes in Queer Porn with Essin’ Em
Best Anal Scenes in Queer Porn

Thanks so much to everyone who let me interview them about queer porn and anal tips! I had a good time doing a slightly more in-depth exploration of this, and I hope it was helpful to you too.

“Is it a trans characteristic to wear a cock?”: Cock-centricity and Gender Identity

Back in April, for Sugarbutch’s third anniversary, I offered up an “ask me anything” thread where readers could ask any burning questions that they’d like for me to answer.

is it a transgender characteristic to wear a cock (with anatomically accurate balls) and feel more complete or like yourself when you are a biological female? you self ID with a lot of labels, but trans isn’t one of them. have you explored this idea? – reader

There’s two parts of this question I’d like to explore: first, my personal identity, and my relationship to “trans”; second, gender’s relationship to cocks, and my personal thoughts on that, too.

I do identify with the term “trans,” to some degree. That’s complicated, because I am not transitioning, and I do not identify as male. I feel strongly that it’s important for me to be female, a woman, lesbian-identified, and to behave and look the way I do (i.e., masculine). But insofar as people with my biological sex most often have a feminine gender presentation (setting aside the societal compulsory prescription of the feminine gender presentation), and I do not, I feel as though I am transgressing gender boundaries by my claim to masculinity and by presenting in a way that is seemingly in conflict with the (societally prescribed) sex/gender assumption. I – me personally, my identity, my work, my discussions – defy rigid, polarizing gender norms, and queer gender. I believe in taking this and that from any sorts of presentations around us and re-creating onesself in ways that make us feel good, empowered, strong, sexy, expressive, and authentic. I think we can all transcend our prescribed roles – no matter what they are, gender or familial or societal – and become ourselves in larger ways.

I don’t usually include “trans” in my list of identity descriptors. When I refer to myself as trans, it’s usually very couched in other things, like “my particular kind of genderqueer masculine-identified trans-ness.” I guess I feel like my use of trans and my inclusion in the trans communities is a bit controversial, as there are plenty of people who will jump (and have jumped) in to correct my use of this term, saying that my use of it invalidates the experiences of “real” trans people who are FTM or MTF and who are transsexual, transitioning fully from one gender to another.

So I tend to claim butch, whole-heartedly and fairly simply, really, and leave it at that. Because that’s what I am (right now, anyway, not that I anticipate that changing, but who knows, it could), and though I do think that the identity of butch includes a sort of trans-ness or a genderqueer-ness of occupying more than one gendered space at once, ‘butch’ accurately describes me much better than the term trans.

Now: about cocks.

Specifically, about cocks with anatomically accurate balls, about realistic cocks, about flesh-colored cocks and really feeling it and claiming it as MY cock, about having a cock as someone whose body doesn’t quite have one, not in the same way that other bodies have one.

I want to disrupt this idea that cocks specifically and penetration in general is a male, masculine, or man’s trait. I mean I get it: when considering human genitalia, the man is the one with the penis, the woman is the one with the vulva. But men have holes that feel good when penetrated, too, and women have fingers and tongues and sometimes clits big enough to penetrate, and a long history of dildoes, and then of course there’s the strap on cock, for when we really want to feel what it’s like to swing from the hips.

I was at a sex blogger tea party here in New York City maybe two years ago, discussing cock-centricty, when I believe Chris of Carnal Nation said (something like): “I know I’m a guy and all, but I’m not as cock-centric as you are. When I fuck, it’s with my hands, or my mouth. I don’t identify with it the same way you do, and it’s not my central sex act.”

This seems like a rather rare perspective for cis men, especially given that our entire (American, white, dominant) sexual culture is pretty much built around penises and penetration and the male erection, etc, but I think it’s more common than we’d expect.

Likewise, I have known some femmes who have been some of the most cock-centric people I’ve ever met. They drive a mean strap-on, as they say. And I’ve known some butches and trans men who are not cock-centric at all, despite that it would seemingly align with their masculine gender to be so.

Maybe this perspective of mine is also partly as a result of coming out as queer into a lesbian community which questioned cocks constantly. I have absolutely heard girls say, “If I wanted to get fucked with a cock, I’d date a man!” (Who I, duh, didn’t sleep with. More than once.) So coming to my own desire for using a cock and my own cock-centricty, while at the same time coming to a butch identity though not transitioning to male, I claimed cocks as a certain sex act that I separated from any particular identity.

Because anything two lesbians do in bed is lesbian by nature of the definition, no matter what act it is.

Unless, you know, it’s not – I certainly don’t want to devalue the experience of being in lesbian relationships and doing a whole lot of cock-centric activities, and for one of them to later come to a male identity. Perhaps for folks who go through that, the act was not exclusively lesbian, but was also male in a way. My point is, I want to squelch the fear that lesbians can’t use cocks in their sex play because it’s “not lesbian.”

That is not to say that strapping on or identifying with a cock is genderless. It interrelates to gender identity, presentation, and celebration – but which ways it interrelates depends on the individual. For me, it absolutely plays on my gender fetish and the way I see myself as embodying a masculine gender, and I LOVE to play with that during sex (as, uh, the entire Internet knows). And femmes who strap on cocks and play with them have told me that they see cocks as part of their gender, too – that part of the turn-on awesomeness of the whole experience is that it supposedly misaligns with their gender, that their sparkly pink harness and dick is all the more sexy to them because it’s femme.

I suppose there are a few kinds of cock-centricty, right – because I’d say Kristin is fairly cock-centric, but she isn’t into wearing one and fucking with one the way I am. For the most part I’m referring to folks who want to be the wearers here, who identify with it as a part of them.

If you’re cock-centric, you’re cock-centric; I don’t think that necessarily should dictate your gender identity. Cock-centricity is not necessarily a masculine or male trait. Gender identity may be totally related, somewhat related, or not related at all – I think that just depends. For me, the interplay of gender and my cock is important, and I love the way it feels to use it, the way I feel when I’m packing, the way it feels to get off while fucking with a cock, the turn-on of dirty talking about my hard dick, the ways it drives me wild to get a blow job. It is part of my masculine sexuality, but I have many other parts of masculinity that are not necessarily sexual, and I’ve explored the line between butch and trans enough that, for now, I know I’m pretty firm where I’m at. I still struggle with some descriptors like “girl,” “woman,” and “daughter,” but the other options of “son,” “man,” and “boy,” don’t fit either. So, for now, I’m sticking with butch.

I’d love to hear what some cock-centric (or non-cock-centric) gay boys have to say about this, I’m not sure how it translates (though I have some guesses). I will have to ask around.

Holiday Ideas for Butches

I know it’s a bit late for this, but here’s five (fairly traditional) ideas for the masculine-leaning butches and bois and boys and transfolks in your life:

1. Belt Buckles

A good solid belt buckle is an essential butch accessory, in my opinion. I’ve always liked belts, but it took me way to long to graduate from regular buckled belts to belts with detachable and interchangeable buckles – they’re heavier, for one, and they look amazing, plus there are so many styles.

Etsy is amazing for buckles – do a search and include a keyword of one of your butch’s hobbies (like bikes or birds or beer) and it’ll turn up some amazing vintage or handmade results, many for less than $20.

(Belt buckle shown from Lucybluestudio’s Etsy store)

2. Cufflinks

I kind of hate to give it away, but Cuff Daddy is my current favorite place for cufflinks. They have everything! I haven’t even searched through all of their little figures and all the fun categories. They have cufflinks that are watches! Levels! Compasses! I’m currently coveting the Superman emblem cufflinks, myself.

Don’t forget Etsy for cufflinks, too. Ditto to the belt buckles, put in a couple key words – pinup, Obama – and you’ll get all sorts of great results.

If she’s already got some cufflinks, and probably doesn’t need more? Consider this cufflinks box in black leather.

(Betty Page cufflinks from Bellamodaartist’s Etsy store)

3. Ties

Uh, okay, Etsy for-the-win of #1 and #2, I should probably say something else for #3, right? Well, you already know that you can search Etsy for vintage and handmade ties – add a keyword and you’ll come up with awesome skull ties, striped ties, butterfly ties, whatever your butch happens to like.

If that’s not quite fancy enough for ya, perhaps consider a Tie of the Month Club. J Crew is doing one now (it’s a 888 number to sign up, I can’t seem to link to it on their website directly). They’ve got some great ties.

4. Pocket knife

Consider a Vintage pocket knife, and perhaps a pocket knife sharpener too.

Or if a knife isn’t really her thing, what about a pocket watch?

5. Shaving Kit

Even if it’s occasional, or for gender play, how hot would this fabulous shaving kit look on her dresser or in her bathroom?

Maybe you can recreate the famous k.d. lang and Cindy Crawford 1993 Vanity Fair photo shoot.

If that’s not enough good ideas for ya, take a flashback to the 2007 Butch/Femme Holiday Gift Guide that I wrote last year, maybe some of those will pique your interest.

Femmes … what would you absolutely love to receive from your friends & lovers this year? C’mon, help us out with some ideas.


A few friends and fans and readers have emailed me about sending me something, and in the spirit of the holidays, here’s a few things you can do for me, if you feel so inspired …

“I’m kind of … insatiable.” My First Date with Kristen

I could’ve fucked Kristen for a few more hours at least. Was just hitting my stride, just beginning to feel confident in the ways her body turns on and gets off. Like how when she gasps more she may actually mean more friction – how she has the type of orgasms that means she can squirt.

Which is why I kept going for orgasm number two, three – because I wanted to feel her do it. I suspected she could.

(I was right.)

I hadn’t planned to take her back to my place, but that didn’t stop me from cleaning my room on Saturday before the date. Unlikely is not impossible. And if my room is not presentable, it isn’t even an option. I like to have options.

I could fist her, I think. She opens in a way that makes it seem possible, makes space inside. I would like to throw her around more, too – she’s small, and so receptive. She went where I put her, stayed, made space for me to enter, to take. My favorite kind of bottom, surrendering.

*

At dinner:

She’s wrestling a little with a femme identity. “Femme and feminist sometimes conflict,” she started to explain.

“I understand that. I saw butch and feminist as conflicting when I started figuring this out for myself too. I was a feminist first, and most importantly. And when you take misogyny out of masculinity, what’s left? Societal roles teach us those are one and the same.”

In case it needs reiteration, I firmly believe that femme and feminist can be simultaneously occupied. In fact, in some ways I think intentionally choosing femme is inherently feminist – as I think Leah said at the Femme Conference, femme is a way of making “girl” not hurt. Femininity can be inherently painful under societal hierarchies and rules, and to recreate it in ways that actually buffer the hurt instead of deepen it is so incredibly powerful.

She talked a little about the ways femme is misperceived, especially as an invitation to men. This is definitely a huge difference in the development of the butch and femme identities.

We barely scratched the surface of these conversations.

This was foreplay.

*

After dinner:

Suddenly Kristen stopped walking and back-stepped.

“Did you just lose your shoe?” I laughed.

She gave me a small smile. “Uh, that’s embarrassing.” I held out my hand so she could balance on one foot, slip her high black heel back on.

“Nah, not embarrassing,” I said, hand against her back as we started to walk to the bar again. We’d just come from dinner and needed a darker, more comfortable place to make out. “It happens to me all the time.”

She shot me a questioning look. “Really?!”

“Uh, no. Not really.” Too deadpan. I turned to face her, stopping her from walking forward, took hold of her jacket at the zipper with both hands. “No, sorry, that was trying to be a joke but it really didn’t work.” I pulled her a little closer. Even in heels she was still shorter than me. “Do forgive me …” I held her gaze and pulled her toward me. Immediately the kiss was electrifying. Delicate and wanting, full of desire. I’d barely touched her yet but now wanted my hands on her, on her waist in that secretary pencil skirt, her legs in those seamed black stockings.

*

At the bar.

A gin gimlet for her, another Maker’s on the rocks for me. Chatting. The topic was activism, mostly – educating those around us. I feel increasingly bold, be it the good conversation or the drinks or the chemistry or the ways she opens her eyes to look at me. My hand finds her waist, her back, and her nerves are electric and so receptive, her body curls every time I touch her.

She gasps a little. I keep talking. “Uh, I’m sorry – I’m not hearing a word you’re saying.” She looks at me with her eyes half-lidded. “But keep talking, please.” I pull her toward me and we kiss again, sparking at the mouth, at my fingertips where our bodies connect.

*

In the car on the way to my place.

She’s got her legs in my lap and if she wasn’t wearing full stockings I would already have my fingers in her. Her ankles are small and my thumb and forefinger close around one, then I take her instep in my hand, grip her heel. Run my hands up her legs and don’t stop, cup her cunt with my palm, catch her gaze with mine and she leans forward to kiss me again.

Every time I touch her she lets out a moan, quick, with her breath. “You have to be quiet,” I say, nodding toward the driver. I’ve known dykes who were kicked out of cabs for kissing.

“I’m not quiet,” she tells me earnestly, giving me that under-the-eyelashes shy look.

“I can tell.”

And she’s not. At my place I throw her down onto the bed, hold her down when she tries to get up. Peel off her sweater and skirt, shove my hand in after I’ve pulled her stockings and underwear down to her thighs. She’s gasping already. Each breath a moan, each touch connected to the noises she makes. She is so responsive.

It is wonderful to hear.

I don’t know exactly when I pulled out my packing cock – sometime in the beginning – but then switched to my hands when I figured out she comes that way, gspot orgasms, one after another and I love to feel it inside when that happens. Love the way she thickens and shudders, her whole body twisting, so I hold her down, forearm over her chest, my knees holding her thighs open.

I don’t know when it was that I took off my bondage belt and waited for her to slide her wrists through it. I took hold of the loose strap and curled it around my hand for grip, twisted it a little, her arms over her head, on her back again, just so she could resist, just so she could feel the pressure, my other hand between her legs and shoving inside, fast, hard, or slower, massaging and tender, as she thrashed against the pillows again.

Gorgeous.

*

We lay together and I catch my breath, flex and stretch my fingers. I run my palm along her hips, the sides of her body, and she is all nerve endings and sensitive skin, writhing under my touch, rubbing her feet against the blanket on the bed. I could take her again. Could roll her into her back and listen to her breathe and moan.

I like the way her moaning becomes practically laughter as she gets closer. How she turns her head to the side and strains with every muscle like she’s trying to press all the edges of her, like she’s going to tear her way out of herself, la petite mort indeed.

She shifts next to me, I balance on my elbows on top of her again. I still have my tee shirt, my slacks, on. She’s stripped bare.

“Did I mention I’m kind of … insatiable?” she asks, a little embarrassed, a little shy, a little excited.

I grin. So am I.

My hand between her legs again, my mouth at her neck. “You’re wet.”

“Yes,” she breathes in my ear.

Yes, yes, yes.

*

I could’ve fucked Kristen for a few more hours at least. Was just hitting my stride, just beginning to feel confident in the ways her body turns on and gets off. There is so much more I know I could do to her. I barely got to smack her. Barely used force. There was very little restraint or bondage, very little sensation play, and she could take it, I know she could.

We could’ve kept going. Two hours wasn’t quite enough.

What a wonderful feeling to have coming away from a near-perfect date: that raw potential for more, more, more.

Queer Eye Candy is back!

It’s official – the Eye Candy has moved off of Sugarbutch Chronicles and is now on QueerEyeCandy.com, being maintained by myself and Amber and Denise.

BIG thank you to both of them for helping me out! Round of applause, please!

The focus remains on butch/femme portraits and photos and images. Please continue to submit pictures of you, your sister, your girlfriend, your wife, your gang, your crew, your best friends, your ex, your teachers, your mentors, your lovers.

Portrature – especially self-portrature – was actually a big piece of my own personal identity development, and I think it’s really important to see ourselves reflected, to be able to study photos of myself and say, is that what I look like? really? as I was discovering and uncovering and creating and re-creating my own aesthetic.

I was just looking at some old photos this weekend and found some after I’d cut my hair all off (in 2000) but before I was claiming butch, when I was dying my hair red and still wearing lipstick. I found a photo of me with a daisy chain crown, and no I am not kidding. It was a trip to look through the photos, watch my hair change as my haircuts started getting more and more butch, after I stopped dying it red and stopped wearing low-cut shirts, when I started figuring out what I really wanted my gender to be, what my soft animal body really loved and how I felt most comfortable, most like myself.

As butches and femmes, we don’t see ourselves in popular media, except usually as a stereotype or a (usually unflattering) archetype. I mean we don’t even see lesbians reflected in popular media all that often, let alone queers or genderqueers or butches and femmes – which is partially why we consume and watch and love just about any film that has lesbian characters, just about any book with lesbian characters, just about any crappy TV show with lesbian characters (*cough*L Word*cough*), because we are so starved to see images of ourselves reflected back to us, some semblance of recognition or some flash of similarities between our lives and the lives of the stories we watch and consume.

Aside from the validation of seeing queer eye candy, there’s also the personal revelations of just figuring out what your body looks like, how others might see us externally – shifting the gaze from seeing out through our eyes to seeing what our eyes look like from outside. It’s powerful, and brings, I think, a greater self-awareness and, hopefully, self-confidence.

Speaking of self-confidence: what I said before about requiring comments on Queer Eye Candy still holds true. I don’t write for comments, I don’t expect people to comment on my own things (though I of course appreciate it), but the photos that are sent in are often from people who are not used to having a web presence, are not used to revealing themselves for a queer audience to consume and judge.

Putting images of yourself out there like this is vulnerable. Scary: What if I’m not butch enough? What if I’m not femme enough? What if I’m not really hot? Come on, all of us think that when we see images of ourselves posted.

This is not a “hot or not” project – this is more of a project a la Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink – what does your brain do when you first glance at the queer eye candy photo? Do you think “hubba hubba, omg hot!!”? WRITE THAT. Do you think “holy crap I have that same shirt! I wonder if it looks that good on me?” WRITE THAT. Do you think “Oh good lord, I would marry her on looks alone”? (That’s Bevin’s line I shamelessly stole.) GO FOR IT.

This is about building self-confidence through appearance. About celebrating the myriad of ways that butch and femme get represented through visual styles and identity.

So: Submit photos. Comment on photos. And you will make this top very, very happy.

From the Queer Eye Candy mission statement:

You might be afraid of us, but you don’t know who we are.

We’re hot, we’re fierce, we’re vulnerable, we’re beautiful, we’re in love, we’re horribly ugly, we’re scared, we’re tender-hearted, we’re dog mommies and daddies, we’re parents, we’re children, we’re neices and nephews, we’re married, we’re bachelors, we’re rednecks, we’re blue-collar, we’re construction workers, we’re political pundits, we’re musicians, we’re drag performers, we’re community organizers, we’re angry, we’re activists, we’re just us.

Let’s show off who we are. Let’s show those who don’t know what we look like, let’s show off who we love and who we spend our time with, let’s show off our joyous communities and our heartaches and our hardships and our work and our play and our joy.

Let’s celebrate ourselves, just as we are.

My Father’s Son

The GoatWhen I saw him in September we camped in his family’s cabin. My grandfather built it with his own two hands and gave it to his children; now his own two legs, the prosthetics he got after both were amputated below the knee from diabetes, are the legs of the cabin’s kitchen table.

My two younger sisters and I slept in the cabin’s only room on pillows and dusty weathered couches as Dad woke and stoked the fire. Mornings at the lake are chilly, even at the peak of heat in August when the summer has been baking the water to its depths and swimming is the best. I watched him add kindling and logs and sometimes dozed off. He spread another blanket over me. When I woke I saw a forlorn gaze in his eyes I’ve never seen. What was he thinking? Was he wondering how his oldest daughter evolved into this boy? This big-city dapper masculinity that is too faggy to fit in with him and his brothers and all my older boy cousins as they discuss elaborately the latest football game, the way they fixed their trailers and trucks, what they caught when out fishing, how to clean the geoduck, how to make a perfect sausage-and-egg breakfast for ten, how to put on a wedding, how to give away the bride.

Dad, are you wondering how I got here? How I went from that tree-climbing skinned-knee ragamuffin girl to this prettyboy? From that girl who worked through her teens in your sports card shop, flirting with the boys as my girlfriends came in to seek sanctuary from the juvenile delinquent park hangout across the street when their feelings were hurt, when someone dumped them (again), when they got caught smoking, when they were being sent tomorrow to rehab or summer camp or anorexia camp or gay camp or bible camp.

I never was your tomboy daughter, never got in fights with the boys in the neighborhood, never stood up to the bullies of my younger sisters. I was the artistic one, moody, on my own. Studying my peers as we metamorphosed into our adult bodies.

We used to go on drives sometimes. After dinner restless, this was when neither of us wanted to be home, neither could stomach my mother’s depression. We’d go on drives and this was when you first told me, “I want to open up a store, right there maybe,” pointing at the empty corner lot that used to be a restaurant bar, at the mall on the wharf. “But my dream space,” he whispered, leaning in, “is right by Foodland.”

That was back when we shared our dreams with each other.

It was on one of those drives, too, where he saw a little silver Saab for sale and said, “that’s the kind of car I want to buy you.” I was fourteen and wouldn’t have a license for nearly ten more years. I couldn’t see myself as a driver, just as I couldn’t see myself as a grown woman, a wife, a mother, a panic that plagued my teens.

Recently on a road trip I saw a blue 1970s GTO and remembered some photos from my mom’s college album. “Hard top, 1964,” my dad emailed back. “Midnight blue, the original muscle car. I got it up to 100 easy on the road out to the cabin. I called the car my “Goat.””

Once, I told a lover that I was considering taking T. She had a string of baby trannys, she knew how to break us in over her knee. “You won’t turn into Cary Grant,” she warned me, and stopped at a photo of my father in the hallway. “You’ll turn into him. Look. Is that what you’re thinking you’ll be?”

I didn’t grow up in my father’s footsteps, but suddenly I’ve found myself standing in his shoes.

And now, fifteen years later, he moved his store right next to Foodland, the only grocery store downtown. A prime spot for retail. He has all but retired from the environmental engineering business upon which our family was built and now sorts sports cards, comics, coins from his father’s collection, from when the store opens at noon – so he can sleep in – to six pm, every day except Monday. “I’ve worked enough Mondays for a lifetime,” I’ve heard him say.

Now, fifteen years later, I don’t drive much; I take the subway and taxis but I still miss the stick shift in my hand and the dance of the pedals, just like you taught me. Now fifteen years later I can imagine myself as my father’s grown daughter, this “man” I’ve become, your son.

Three daughters and your wife, our mother, all in one house for nearly half of your life. Did you ever wish you had a son, Dad?

I wonder what he’s thinking, as this fire, his fire, warms our morning. He smiles at me with a look I’ve never seen.

“I sleep just like that,” he says. “With my arm over my eyes. You look just like me.”

A girl: my future wife

She never leaves my side at parties. People come up to talk to me or her or both of us and she has impeccable control over the conversation, a complex harmony of our varied voices with a beautiful baseline that she keeps with her heartbeat. She knows when and how to release us from a topic or person. She does most of the talking. I listen. I like it that way.

She puts her lovely hand on my elbow, my arm, the back of my neck, at small moments: a reassurance and support for which I am always grateful.

She leans in to give me a peck on the cheek near my ear and whispers, “I’m watching the clock. We’re leaving in thirty minutes so you can take me home and fuck me.”

I grin and sip a drink. Finger a pocketwatch, cufflinks, the knot of my tie.

She lets me drive her car. I spin the wheels on wet pavement and work the clutch like a lover: pressure, friction, demand, take. She has her hand on my inner thigh and we both want her to touch the bulge in the crotch but she resists. Her eyes sparkle watching the road.

(This is what I want.)

She sleeps in later than I do on the weekends. I get up, make coffee how she likes it, write for a few hours as she slumbers. Sometimes I take photos of the golden morning sun on her skin.

When she stirs I crawl back into bed with her and we make love, fuck, play until we are satiated and laughing, until our bodies edges are blurred into each other and our heartbeats are synchronized. Her long legs folded, knees touching her nipples. My hand in her thick long hair. Rocking her on the curve of her spine, rocking together.

We make food, replenish, drink coffee over ice and she cooks in the kitchen in only an apron until I lift her onto the counter, arms above her head holding onto the cabinets, bend her over the back of the couch, then again against the cool linoleum.

When I go back to work in the evening she lets me, she directs her energy to her own work, whatever that might be, something physical to balance my mental swirling. We keep each other balanced. She kisses the top of my head or trails her fingers on her shoulders as she walks by, but does not interrupt. She lets me be.

And then there is the reverence, mine.

I sit at her feet for hours and watch her brush her hair. I catch moonbeams in jam jars in an open field in Montana and bring them home to her to use as ribbons to tie around her wrists. I write her poems and she folds them into origami fireflies and strings them around our bookshelves. I tell her every day how stunning she is, how strong; I am breathless with my good fortune at ever gaining her attention.

I stoke the fire inside that shines behind her eyes to keep her lit, keep her going.

I buy her jewelry, not because I know her taste but because I want her to sparkle at her delicate places: her throat, her wrists, her ankles, her fingers, her ears. Every time she shakes her head or signs her name or pulls her hand from her pocket or reaches her arm or places her foot carefully onto the ground she glitters, and she and everyone around her are reminded that someone loves her (and it’s me), that I see everything she does as beautiful, that every time she moves I want everyone to know the immeasurable amount of spark she lends to those of us privileged enough to witness what she does with her extraordinary life.

Letter to myself: enough moping

Dear Mr. Sexsmith:

Enough moping already.

In case you haven’t noticed, it is day three and Barack fucking Obama is still the presidential elect. Hello, even his name is radical! None of that Franklin George James John William. We didn’t just imagine that beautiful acceptance speech in our progressive liberal little heads. He’s already started a fantastic website for his Transition Project at www.change.gov and I have never felt so connected before to my government.

Yeah, maybe the expectations are pretty goddamn low after the most unpopular president in modern history. But still, Obama is positioned to be a fantastic leader and creator of change – and, more than that, an inspiration: not only the first black man elected president but also a progressive, liberal, forward-thinking, grassroots-organizing problem-solver who is positioned to help heal the (supposed) divisiveness of the red-state-vs-blue-state divide in this country.

I, like this country and like the rest of the world, am currently crushed out on Obama – and that doesn’t necessarily last, I know. I’m sure eventually we’ll start discovering that he never eats the heel of the loaf of bread or he always leaves his socks in the middle of the floor or he forgets to put the bathmat down, but meanwhile, the honeymoon phase sure is fun, isn’t it?

And maybe, what if, just possibly, the relationship develops into a solid, steady improvement? What if we have common values, common interests, good communication, mutual adoration?

Ah, courtship. I love that feeling of such raw potential.

Speaking of adoration, I am consistently touched whenever I see President-Elect Obama with First Lady-Elect Michelle. (I bet you can’t really use “First Lady-Elect” like that, but I like it.) They adore each other, and it’s beautiful.

What? What’s that? Oh, that little gay marriage thing? Those millions of people who voted that straight marriage is different than gay marriage? That marriage is a “sacred institution” that gays would defile and corrupt?

Or how about the little bee in all of our queer activist bonnets when we realized that voters care about chickens, but not about gay marriage? Or when voters passed 9 out of 10 marijuana initiatives on Tuesday, but gay marriage is still seen as the destruction “the family”?

Yeah, it sucks.

But HELLO, did you think this was going to be easy? Remember what you’re doing here: dismantling the heteronormative nuclear family through both the institutional religion and bias and tradition of the church AND the monolithic ultimate power of the government.

Did you think that was just going to happen overnight?

Did you think the conservative bigots were just going to hand it to us?

Did you think it would be easy?

On Love, Post-Election

How can I write about anything except politics right now? Obama, Obama, Obama. Fivethirtyeight had the projections almost completely accurate. I didn’t see too many major voting mishaps – aside from the long lines at polling places which, as we all know by now, are the new “poll tax.” Which is reassuring! In the last few days I kept hearing, “things are looking good for us, but remember: they cheat.”

So, thank the gods. I’m glad we all got to vote. I’m glad each of our votes counted. I’m so glad to see Obama victorious.

But … then there’s the gay stuff. Prop 8 in California, Prop 102 in Arizona, Prop 2 in Florida. Initiative 1 in Arkansas. Connecticut and Colorado were victories, but with the other four I’m feeling pretty defeated this morning.

I’m angry about this election. I am so grateful for Obama’s landslide win, don’t get me wrong. He ran a fantastic campaign and he did some incredibly gracious, beautiful things with the entire United States, in every place he visited – he wasn’t purely focused on the battleground states, he wasn’t ignoring the South just because it was a given that it’d go red.

But I’m angry about all the other propositions that passed. The literally millions of people who think that me, my relationship, my love, my orientation, my body’s wiring, my queerness is somehow a threat to them, somehow damaging to their way of life, somehow harmful, somehow detrimental to society, somehow bad and wrong and evil.

I take personal offense to these results.

It’s so hard not to. I try pretty hard to ignore the gay marriage activism that are going on in this country – ever since DOMA I’ve been only increasingly discouraged. I’ve written about this recently – my hesitation to think that the gay marriage fight is the end-all be-all of gay activism, that gay marriage is going to get us accepted into the “normal” club. Well, maybe I don’t want to be in the “normal” club.

But this time, I got involved. I got all crazy with 8 Against 8, I read every post Lesbian Dad kept eloquently writing, I researched the state of gay marriage in the US for weeks. I got invested. I named the puppy. I – in my liberal progressive hippie love-will-prevail idealist brain – was not prepared for such a defeat.

Gay marriage is going to revert to being illegal in California. Californians just voted to legally and specifically discriminate against a group of marginalized people. To explicitly and intentionally make us second-class citizens. Less than.

What about Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin’s widow, who just months ago made their more than fifty-year relationship completely equal, valued, valid, legitimate, in the eyes of California law? God I hope they had a good lawyer who put all sorts of forms and documents in place. How stupid and fucked up and time consuming and wasteful that Phyllis and Del even had to go through that, to do the research to figure out what rights and privileges, precisely, they were being denied because they couldn’t get married, and pay a lawyer to draw up the corresponding papers, and enter into a legal agreement with each other.

[It reminds me of If These Walls Could Talk 2, the first segment, with Vanessa Redgrave. Watch it, if you haven’t seen it. I guarantee it will break your heart, but kind of in a good way.]

I want to go back and study the history of interracial marriage – also called miscegenation, which is a great word I don’t know if I knew until today – and see how it was finally overturned. Was it state-by-state? So-called “activist judges?” Did this country watch as, one at a time, states added their own constitutional amendments banning interracial marriage? Were there Mayors who were radical enough to marry interracial couples anyway? How did it finally get overturned? I’ve never been much of a historian, really, I’m much more interested in what’s happening right now, in front of me, how this current system works – and of course it’s important to know where we came from to know how the current system works, but still, I didn’t understand history until I started studying the history of my people, the queers and gender-variants and radicals and revolutionaries.

But still, I don’t have a firm grasp on this particular American activist history, and I want to know how it worked before, because I want it to work again. Because maybe after I know one storyline’s success, I’ll be comforted. Because I’ll remember that it took hundreds of years to gain that particular right to marry, and then I’ll remember that this fight is young, that, despite our headway, there is much farther to go.

I know there is much to celebrate. Perhaps I am taking Obama’s win too much for granted. I know I have a particularly “biased” perspective because I grew up with activist parents in liberal communities; I spend my times in progressive activist circles and queer communities in big cities. There is a piece of me that is saying, “of course Obama was elected, how could it possibly be any other way?” But I said that about Gore and Kerry too, despite that Gore did win the popular vote (don’t get me started) and I’ve seen cardboard cutouts of people that have more personality than Kerry.

Clearly I don’t have a very good grasp on the reality of this country. On how conservative Republicans are capable of organizing people to vote against their own best interest in the name of “values.”

I’ve seen some posts around today already that say having Obama in office we are poised for a Federal lift on the ban on gay marriage, but honestly I don’t know if I believe that. Of course I’d like to think so, sure, but then there’s DOMA, and “37 states have their own Defense of Marriage Acts [and] … 27 states have constitutional amendments.” (source.)

Make that 30, as of November 2008: Arizona, Florida, California.

Times like these I wish I knew more about politics, and history. How can we lift these constitutional amendments out of the states? Do the voters have to vote again? Who can overturn DOMA at the Federal level? Do we need it to go through the courts, or through voting? Do we need certain Supreme Court members in order to have these things overturned? How do we get a Federal constitutional amendment that protects the rights of minorities?

We couldn’t even get something written into the Federal constitution that says that women are equal to men. Remember the ERA? Failed. Failed, failed, failed. It has been introduced in front of every Congress since 1982, and yet we still do not have anything official that says women are equal to men. Is that really so radical, so influential, that there is such opposition to it?

And correct me if I’m wrong here, I am not a constitutional scholar, but: I thought constitutions were for guaranteeing rights, not for taking them away.

Despite that I do understand what people say about the threat of gay marriage, I don’t really understand. I just don’t. Why? Why why why are we so threatening? On bad days – like this one, when literally millions of people voted against my very personal right, my very personal decision to get married – my heart fills up with emotion and I feel like a little kid after another kid yells, “I HATE YOU!” My eyes well up. I didn’t do anything to you. Just – why?

Here’s what gay marriage is: it’s commitment. Building a family, possibly taking care of children, or dogs or cats or hamsters or fish. Finding someone to share your life with. Taking care of each other. Being better together than you are alone.

And here’s what gay marriage is: love.

The simple act of loving another person. Maybe I forget how difficult love is for so many of us. Maybe I’m forgetting that love is often beaten out of us before we are even able to critically think about the world around us, just by nature of growing up in this culture. It really is revolutionary, isn’t it? Just the act of who I love could change the world, and is changing politics.

Despite my frustration at the horrible steps back that we are taking, there is hope. There is change happening.

Obama’s acceptance speech was especially moving. He slipped “gay” right in there with that long list of American identity descriptors – “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” – as if it belonged. As if it was no better or worse than any of those other things.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

(Full text of Obama’s presidential acceptance speech here, though I do suggest watching the video – he is such an impressive orator.)

I just have to keep remembering: let the soft animal of my body love what it loves. I can do that. I have to do that. I will do that, despite that my government says it’s not good enough. I know, I really do know, underneath it all, under the pink of my skin, in the nest of my heart, that it is enough – that I am enough – that we, my beautiful community, are enough.


UPDATE, 7pm EST: I know, I know, it’s not completely 100% official yet: the No on Prop 8 folks haven’t given up, and a recount has been demanded. But last count, Yes on 8 was ahead 400,000 votes. Not an easy thing to make up.

Legal Groups File Lawsuit Challenging Proposition 8, Should It Pass: “The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a writ petition before the California Supreme Court today urging the court to invalidate Proposition 8 if it passes. The petition charges that Proposition 8 is invalid because the initiative process was improperly used in an attempt to undo the constitution’s core commitment to equality for everyone by eliminating a fundamental right from just one group — lesbian and gay Californians.”

Also: There’s a protest rally tonight in West Hollywood: We Shall Not Be Overlooked. Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 7:00pm – 10:00pm, San Vicente Blvd between West Hollywood Park and the Pacific Design Center (647 N San Vincente Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA).

Marriage is so gay*

Last week, I dreamt of my future wife.

That’s a strange thing to write down and admit, actually, especially publically; but I thought exactly that when I woke: that was my future wife. I still know exactly how she tasted, smelled, how her waist felt in my arms.

I’m not sure how I feel about marriage, really. My mom has always said I should wait until I’m 30 to get married, and thinks too many people get married too young. I don’t really think the government should have anything to do with my personal relationships, and I don’t think the government should value certain kinds of relationships over others – one man + one woman? What about a triad, a lesbian couple, co-habiting straight men? Who cares how people make a household work, as long as they do?

But: I do believe in commitment, in stating publically that you love someone, in gathering friends & family in a ceremony that celebrates and affirms the difficulty, the support, the community around a relationship.

Since I came to be aware of the inequalities of queer relationships in the eyes of the law in, oh, I don’t know, high school? middle school?, it has just been a given that I couldn’t “actually” get married.

“Whatever,” I told myself. “Like I would get married anyway. Like I want The Church + The State involved in My Relationship.”

And the activist circles I ran in were skeptical of marriage as The Gay Rights Issue: “There is so much to be done!” we argued. “Marriage is such an issue of privilege. What about hate crime legislation, discrimination policies for the workplace, queer homeless youth, AIDS, suicide rates, the drinking/drug problems in the queer communities? What about foster kids and adoption and simply BEING KILLED because of gender and sexual orientation? What about cissexism and trans advocacy?”

Unfortunately, the momentum of queer activism isn’t necessarily in the radical queer youth & college students – it’s with the money. And mostly-white mostly-middle-class homos have already decided what The Gay Issue is: marriage.

It’s a symbol, really: not just a symbol for normalcy, but a symbol for a relationship. And that’s what is at the heart of this movement, the heart of the difference in sexual orientation: the right and ability to choose whom we love, with whom we partner.

While my personal beliefs are still a bit more radical than that, I’ve studied the history of social change enough to know that chnage happens gradually, in pockets, a little bit at a time. I also feel like gay marriage activism is a limited scope – like aiming for the mountaintop instead of the sky – because it still defines marriage as two people, right, we’re still talking about working within the monogamy system here. So while many of our poly friends are going “rah rah gay marriage! And PS, what about us?” the gay marriage activits are kind of saying, “Shhh, we can’t talk about your issues right now.”

But then again, it’s easier to go little-by-little than to overhaul the whole system. It’s a classic social change model conflict – after observing a system of oppression, do we a) work from within it to attempt to change it, or b) throw it out completely and start over? My radicalism wants marriage to be thrown out. I mean really, what good is it? But I feel the same way about other institutions that seem to matter to some feminist theorists and reclaimists, such as Christianity. I don’t personally have any investment in the system of Christianity, so I can’t imagine going inside of it to fix and change the oppression and hierarchical marginalizing structures that are in place – but others do have that investment, and are doing the work to include women in clergy, to research the history of more women saints, of queer history in the church, etc. Lesbian and feminist priests and nuns and churchgoers – what they find in the practice must be worth the work of reclaiming and rebuilding, for them.

Actually, I can draw a parallel here: for me, it is language. I am a poet at heart and never cannot be. People ask me why I use language they deem offensive – dyke, fag, pussy, cunt, slut, butch, femme, queer – and I try to explain it is because I love these words. As if they were delicate glass boxes filled with mud, I pick them up from being buried in the compost heap and wash them, dig the dirt from their creases, make their silver shine, make them see-through again. I am invested in the system of language, even though within it -built into the very makeup – is a hierarchy that says certain people are better, best.

Which brings me to my next point: words. Of course “marriage” is not the same thing as “civil union” or “domestic partnership” – the words are different. “Beautiful” is not the same thing as “cute” or “gorgeous” or “attractive” or “stunning” or “elegant” or “handsome,” right? Those all have slightly different connotations, even if their definitions are overlapping and very similar.

I am a poet. I’ve worked hard to say that sentence. I eat words for breakfast and fall asleep with book after book open on my pillow. I theorize language and meaning and definitions and semantics, revive words that are suffering, influse love and equality and value where I can.

It doesn’t matter how many rights there are in a “civil union” or “domestic partnership,” they will never be marriage, because they are not the same word.

Period.

Mark Twain wrote, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

It is the difference between fire, and a firefly.

Words are not some static, fixed thing. They are living, they have lives and evolutions, they are manifestations of the culture from where they come, in which they are used. We can change them. They do change and evolve and grow to suit the needs of culture – they reflect a culture, but they also shape a culture. A new concept, term, or phrase can define a movement, a change, activism.

Researching all this information about the state of gay marriage in my country recently has really got me thinking about my own future. I don’t come from a very traditional family, I’ve never thought I would have a very traditional wedding – bridesmaids, groomsmen, white dress, any of that. I’ve received some amazing, beautiful, moving photographs from queers over the last few days, and I find a part of me is craving to have some beautiful party, some celebration, where my love and I can costume up and wear cool clothes and be surrounded by our friends looking dashing.

So I have some ideas forming about what I’d do for my own ceremony. No real dealbreakers, just ideas that I like. Although I am really attached to the idea that our first dance would be choreographed – let’s hope my future wife knows how to swing. (Let’s also hope next time I’ll dream her phone number or URL, so I’ll figure out how to contact her.)


* I hate this common use of “gay” and not infrequently call people on it when I hear them say it. But the tension in this sentence – calling marriage “gay” – cracks me up. Kind of like the bumper sticker I saw at Little Sister’s Bookstore in Vancouver, BC many years ago, which read, “Straight people are so gay.” Hah!

8 Against 8: 8 bloggers – 8 days – as much money as we can raise to defeat Proposition 8 in California. Vote no on Prop 8!

Vote NO on Prop 8

8against8 – 8 bloggers, 8 days, $8,000 – Vote No on Proposition 8!

This marks the beginning of 8 Against 8, where 8 lesbian blogs are writing for 8 days against Proposition 8 in California which would render same-sex marriage illegal and raising a goal of $8,000 to defeat the initiative.

Aside from me, the other 7 bloggers participating in this 8 Against 8 are Grace Chu and Grace Rosen at Grace The Spot, Lori Hahn at Hahn At Home, Kelly Leszczynski at The Lesbian Lifestyle, Dorothy Snarker at Dorothy Surrenders, Pam Spaulding at Pam’s House Blend, Riese at This Girl Called Automatic Win, and Renee Gannon at Lesbiatopia.

In addition to California’s Proposition 8 on the ballot in just a few weeks, Florida has Amendment 2 and Arizona has Proposition 102, both of which would amend their state constitutions to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Arkansas also has Act 1 on the ballot, which would forbid gay and lesbian parents – and any unmarried parents – from adopting children.

Every day during 8 against 8 I’ll be featuring some different things against the initiative. Donate some funds NOW, talk to everyone you know about voting in this year’s election (regardless of their location), urge your Californian friends and family and lovers to VOTE NO on Proposition 8.

8against8 – 8 blogs, 8 days, $8,000 – VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 8

On Matthew Shepard, and Not Getting Eaten Alive

On October 6th, 1998, Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming, beaten, and left for dead – because he was gay. He was taken to a nearby trauma hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, and died on October 12th.

I lived in Fort Collins at the time. I was not out, I was living with my high school boyfriend of five years. Nobody I knew was talking about it, aside from the brief acknowledgment in order to look away. There were protesters at the hospital. The Denver newspaper announced that he had died before he actually died.

I remember crying. I remember being so confused as to how this could’ve happened. I remember being terrified to come out in that environment, so I stayed in the closet for two more years.

Years later, after I was living in Seattle and came out and was building an amazing queer community, I saw Matthew’s mom Judy Shepard speak at my college. I’m paraphrasing here, but I remember a few things she said so deeply: “I’m just a mom,” she said. “I’m not an activist, I’m not a historian, I’m just a mom of a really great kid who died because he was gay. People ask me all the time, what can I do, and I always tell them: Come out. Come out everywhere, all the time. People discriminate because they don’t think they know any gay people. They don’t know that the guy they go bowling with is gay, that their office neighbor is gay, that their dry cleaner is gay. They think gay happens “over there” in big coastal cities. Until everyone starts realizing that gay people are just like them, discrimination will keep happening.”

I tell that to people a lot, especially baby dykes (or baby fags or baby queers) who are struggling with coming out. It’s our number one place of activism: to be who we are. To let the soft animal of our bodies love what it loves. It is not easy for any of us, but for some more than others, as there are still very real consequences to coming out and being out, not just with our families and parents (especially) but in our daily lives.

I was searching for some Judy Shepard direct quotes and came across this article from 2001, which relays more of the thoughts I’m trying to articulate:

Matthew came out to her at the age of 18, three years before he died. He decided in his own time and space when to tell his parents about his feelings on his sexuality and how that was important to him. After explaining how she and her husband dealt with Matthew’s coming out, Judy believes that “Your goal in life is to be the best and happiest you can be. Be who you are. Share who you are with the rest of the world.” Come out. Come out to yourself. Come out to your family. Come out to your friends. Be who you are and don’t hide in the closet of fear. Take pride in who you are through and through. […] In closing, Judy illustrated her thoughts that if the corporate world of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals would come out and be true to themselves, their lives, and the world we live in would be a better place. Maybe Matthew would still be here today. ‘It’s fear and ignorance that killed Matthew. If fear is shed, the violence will go with it.’ Acceptance of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals would not allow fear and ignorance to exist as hate.
Erie Gay News report on Judy Shepard at Mercyhurst April 3 2001.

Years after I left Colorado, when I was in Seattle and studying writing, especially formal poetic forms, I wrote an acrostic poem about Shepard. The acrostic is a form you’ve probably played with as a kid, at least – you take a word and make each letter in the word the first letter of the line of the poem. In this case, the assignment was to write an acrostic about a place, capturing both the essence of the geographical space and an event that occurred there. The title is a reference to the date he was attacked.

    MATTHEW 10:6 (Acrostic)

    Framed in thick oak trees, equidistant, streets
    Open to fields marching toward undisturbed horizons
    Regulation-height lawns burn with summer’s oppression
    Tearing boys from youth, from breath. Behind

    Cinnamon foothills, anger and ignorance sprinkle
    Obstructions in the north winds. An easy tragedy
    Laughs. Tail lights disappear, tangled in this inevitable
    Last night – train whistles whisper, keeping company
    Infused with ghosts. Plucked from a fence,
    No one blinks – hospital doors swing shut.
    Shepard boy releases. The world watches the moon set.

On being a (gender) freak in New York City

I am not noticed much in New York City. My recent trip to Washington State’s Olympic Penninsula reminded me of this and I’ve been more observant of it ever since.

Honestly, to most subway commuters, shoppers, service industry employees, I just don’t register on their freak radar. I dress quite conservatively, usually, for one. I’m often in slacks and button-downs, kakhis and a polo, with a gadget bag and an iPod when I am commuting to and from Manhattan, and I just don’t account for as much attention as someone soliciting for money, someone homeless sleeping on the train, someone with a boa constrictor, someone in a wedding dress.

[Maybe it’s a class thing – upper class and working class are noticed, middle class is generally anonymous and neutral?]

I have often noticed that I pass as male here – that people, service employees especially, call me “sir.” But in watching this a little closer I have noticed that it’s not that I’m passing necessarily, I think people are just not paying close enough attention to me – it’s quite obvious I’m female upon just the slightest attentive glance, and I don’t think most people are consciencious enough of genderqueer-ness to call me “sir” by default.

My freak is not in my display of clothing, my costuming, my visible markers – my freak is that my clothing is on this body, that my gender presentation breaks the sex/gender assumption of my societally-instructed gender role. And honestly, the survival skills of New York mean that you don’t – you can’t – pay too much attention to the average Pats and Jamies around you, because you will either: a) get completely overwhelmed by the input, or b) miss observing the dangerous freak and find yourself in harm’s way. It is a skill that, as an empath, observer, and writer, I have had much struggle learning, as I want to be able to observe and notice the things going on around me, and indeed that is one of the best things about New York City, this huge, constant swirl of energy and life. But while it is energizing in small doses, to live inside of it constantly we must develop thick, massive boundaries as to not take in all of the constant comedy and tragedy around us.

When I dress up for a date or for a photo shoot, New York’s reaction to me is slightly different. This is when my masculinity becomes deviant and subversive, even aside from the body it is performed upon, because I start looking like a fag, I add elements of flair and sissy and dress-up and vaudeville, and that is not quite the same conservative masculinity that gets scanned over and does not set off anyone’s freak radar.

So my masculine gender is only “freaky” when it starts to be more feminine, more faggy, more queer. This makes sense now that I’m thinking of it – I just never thought about it like that.

My identity is largely marked by the construction of clothes, costuming, and physical appearance, as I think many butches are, as that’s the most obvious adaptation of the non-normative and subversive gender, and of rejecting the compulsory gender. But strangely I’ve gotten to the point where my construction of this notion of my identity is so “natural” that it doesn’t set off freak radar anymore. It’s only when I take my adopted gender role to more queer places – camping it up, making it more feminine with traditionally feminine colors, adding bold accessories and high contrast – that I start standing out in this city.

about the calendar photo shoot

The New York City Sex Bloggers 2009 Calendar photo shoot took place this past Sunday at the Slipper Room, and it was a huge success.

The Slipper Room, if you haven’t been, is a really amazing venue where the New York Burlesque troupe reherses and performs. It’s got fabulous gold and red curtains, iron art-deco railings, velvet booths – the works. Burlesque Night Club & Cocktail Lounge floor manager and DJ, Ken, was in attendance to help with logistics (thanks Ken!).

I frequently admired photographer Stacie Joy for her toppiness of the entire shoot. “What if possibly we …” “No.” Stacie would cut us off. “This is what we’re doing.” Stacie’s assistant darren Mayhem was running around and taking care of all the crazy details with much grace. We had our own scene stylist, Jezebel Express, who, when we were swing dancing toward the end of the day, revealed that she’s got a degree in dance – and given her burlesque talents I’m not so surprised. Though I didn’t work with them, also significant for the shoot were hair stylist Danny K Style and makeup artist Stormy, who was celebrating her 50th birthday and was a freakin firecracker. I can’t wait to see her perform some of her burlesque, I bet she’s amazing. Makeup and hairstyle make such a difference, it’s still a surprise to me – Mariella, for example, looked so much like a classic pinup – I couldn’t get over it.

Speaking of the beautiful pinup girls:


Elizabeth, Tess, Diva. (Oh I love heels.)

Twanna was an amazing little brown courtisan and she’s got such a great smile. (Her outfit made me feel like such a pervert, and I suppose that’s part of the point.) Audacia was so elegant in two different corsets and gloves, Desiree pulled off Jessica Rabbit like you wouldn’t believe. Diva‘s identity was protected, so she had to cuddle up with me for a few of the shots (aw, such a tough life, Sinclair, you’re thinking. I know. The things I do for art). Elizabeth was rockin’ some feisty heels and amazing fishnets, which was all the more glamorous because she’s rarely dressed up all girly like that. Jamye has an even bigger camera personality than she does in person, and one of my favorite moments was when she was doing one-legged push-ups to get her muscles to “pop” prior to her shoot. Hot! Lux was lovely and a bit smoky/mysterious in lots of black, Rachel couldn’t get away from featuring her great ass – and why would she? May as well show it off if you got it, yeah? Mariella showed off her perfect hourglass figure and looked like such a pinup. The feather boa tipped the tall leggy blonde Riese into a serious model, she had such the perfect smile-with-your-eyes Tyra thing. The sadist in me got off as I watched Tess writhe in pain getting her corset laced even tighter, and I even got a chance to smack her ass at the end for a minute.

Oh yeah, and me … well, I’ll tell you there were some fabulous accessories involved in my shoot, including a pocketwatch and a cigar. We’ll see which ones turn out, I think we’re all still waiting for the proofs from Stacie.

Twanna, Desiree, and Diva have their own round-up accounts, and Tess posted to the Sex Blogger Calendar blog about it too.

Today’s the deadline to buy a day on the calendar, so head on over to the Sex Blogger Calendar blog and pray that your birthday or blogiversary or kinkiversary or coming-out-iversary is still available.

It’s going to be a hellofa calendar.

Her Best Line

This is the first Sugarbutch Star 2008 story, the submission is from Eileen at A Place to Draw Blood Laughing.

Her Best Line

I’ve heard the New York City subway referred to as a “hotbed of sin,” and it’s true, New York has the most attractive people with their most attractive fashion at any given moment.

Tonight, I’m on my way to meet the guys, play some pool, drink more whiskey, share weekend conquest stories. Jesse’s got the night off and will join us later.

She gets on at 9th Street, I notice her immediately. Petite, dark hair, gold glowing skin, big dark eyes, a thin swingy white wrap dress tied at her hip, simple white sandals with a small kitten heel and four straps over her ankles. She sits across from me and doesn’t notice me, she’s absorbed in Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicles.

She’s gorgeous. She crosses and uncrosses her legs slowly, deliberately. She’s got this smoky eye makeup on that makes her dark brown eyes even bigger, liquid and pooling and I haven’t seen her lower her lids and look up under her lashes, but I’d like to.

I wonder if she’s queer. Then I wonder if that matters. Sure it does – it’s more fun to sleep with a girl who knows how to treat a butch in bed. We’re strange creatures, to some, after all. I think what I often think when I see a gorgeous leggy girl, reading some intellectual book, in barely enough clothing: if she’s queer, man, all is right with the world. I keep an eye on her, watching her movements, the way she brings a fingertip to her mouth and laughs to herself, the way her eyes dart, how her palm flips as she turns pages. She leaves her legs uncrossed once and turns her ankle in slightly, an unconscious but slightly submission that makes my hands ache.

I turn up my iPod, attempting to stop staring. She slips me a tiny bit of eye contact, just a sip, and a sideways smile that says she’s known I was there all along.

Damnit.

I shift unconsciously, take my leg down from the seat in front of me and cross my legs, sit up straight. My cock shifted wrong in that maneuver and now it is digging into my inner thigh, but I can’t adjust it – how tacky to go poking at my junk when she’s watching. I can’t shift my position again yet either or she’ll know I am adjusting myself for her gaze. I’m starting to wince from the way the cock is pressing into me, dull pain that may be making a bruise. That’ll be attractive.

I try to look casual and stare out the window as the subway takes the Manhattan bridge into the city. She turns pages, crosses her legs again. I reach into my pocket and finger one of my cards with only my name and cell number, black text on a simple white background. Classic. Minimal. I don’t need adornment. Except maybe her.

At Broadway/Lafayette I adjust my cock – finally, finally – as she shifts and other passengers block our view of each other, then I move to stand above her, holding onto the rail. She doesn’t look up. The train pulls into the station and I place my card in her book. She looks up, startled, and I get that amazing view of her eyes, the one I was waiting for, peering under her long dark lashes, open and big and I could get lost in the way they shimmer. She sees me and blinks.

“In case you want to call me,” I say, then step off the train.

I’ve stopped sweating by the time I get to the bar. My cell rings while I order my first Jameson rocks.

“Hello?”

“Well, if it isn’t Sinclair Sexsmith.”

No caller ID. Could it be her? I gulp. Does she know me? It must be her. So soon? “Yes, who’s this?”

“Jane,” she says. “On the D train. I thought I saw you notice me.”

“… You were impossible to miss.”

I can almost hear her blush. “Are you busy tonight?” she says.

“Out with friends at the moment, but I could be free later,” I say.

“Good. Come out to the bar at 24th and 10th. 10pm. Alright?”

“… Alright.” Why would I argue?

*

The bar is nearly empty, low lights and a few single patrons at the dark counter, quiet. Some low music is coming from somewhere, soft and subtle and electronic. The bartender is polishing pint glasses and laughing low with a woman in red, candles reflected in the glass as she polishes.

“Hey,” I say as I approach the bar, making eye contact with the bartender. “Can I get a Jameson rocks?”

She nods, but continues to wipe the glasses. I shoot her a puzzled look. She nods again – a gesture this time, I catch it, she’s directing me to look behind me.

I turn and she’s there. Jane. Same white wrap dress, same long legs and strappy sandals, same gorgeous dark eyes. She’s sipping a martini. A smile on her face like she’s amused. She has a second glass on her table: whiskey. On the rocks. Ready for me.

I take one, two, deliberate steps to her table. Place both my palms on it and lean over her, still standing, so she has to look up at me.

I tip my chin to the drink. “That for me?”

She swallows, holding back a smile like she’s the cat who got the canary, and nods. Almost nervous, but she’s covering it well. She’s so sexy with her tiny little movements, fingertips on the glass, looking at me shyly from the side. I don’t believe she’s queer. No, that’s not it – I don’t believe she’s the kind of femme who primarily sleeps with women. Yet. She picked me up, sure, but I’m beginning to fear I’m her experiment. Maybe she’s just a fan – but then again, so what? So maybe she knows what I like – am I being taken by the ways femme can undo me? Am I so preoccupied by her smooth legs (oh my hands on her ankles running up to her knees), her big eyes (looking up like she could swallow me), that I become willing? I’m a sucker sometimes. I’m skeptical. This girl clearly knows how to wield her power.

I keep eye contact for just a flicker, say “thank you,” sit down, and take a sip.

*

“I changed it,” she’s saying. “It’s my middle name, really. My grandmother’s. My mom is a second-waver, gave me one of those gender neutral names I always hated. But I never was a girly girl until I started dating butches.”

She leans in, as if telling me a secret. My second Jameson is melted ice and she’s halfway through her second martini. “I grew up a tomboy, I have three brothers. I mean, I was the bully on the playground! I begged my parents to let me play T-ball and little league like my brothers did. I was the only girl in the league, for a while. Others came after me. My first girlfriend in high school, we met on my softball team. I know, so gay.”

We laugh. I knock the ice around in my glass. High school girlfriend. Duly noted.

“I used to dress up for dances and stuff and get made fun of so much. ‘Hey, I thought you were gay!’ So I put my dresses away. Tried to fit into the lesbian uniform.” Jane shrugged, fingering the speared olives in her glass, leaned back again. “But, Sin, seriously – once I finally took my real gender out of the closet, it’s been adolescence all over again. New desires, new awakenings. I feel like a teenager.” The tip of her toes brush against my ankle.

“Is that so.” I lean in, catch her gaze; her eyes are alight.

“’Femme is knowing what you’re doing,’” she says, looking down into her drink, then giving me a penetrating stare. “Isn’t that how you say it?”

She’s quoting me. It’s hot. She gulps the martini, the liquid too much for her mouth, and chokes a little, sputters, then smiles and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. My cock stirs.

“C’mon,” she says, and gets up.

*

Her place is nearby. It’s why she chose that bar – to interview me before taking me home. She planned the whole thing. Those were here best lines back there. She wants me, and she’s willing to work for it. I like that.

She locks the door behind us, positioning herself next to me, taking a few steps like it’s a dance and she’s leading so I follow, and then my back is against the door and she’s sighing and flipping her hair and waiting for me to kiss her.

So I do.

She tastes like cream. Smooth, just a tiny bit of thickness, mostly ease and softness. She waits for me to guide her. To show her how I like to be kissed. She doesn’t rush in and thrust her tongue, just makes herself warm, wet, open, available.

I let desire increase slowly. Start soft as I get a grip on her hips, her lower back cradled in my forearm, fingers eagerly pulling at the thin fabric of her dress. She lets it get stronger in me, slides her ankle against my calf as she wraps one leg around mine low. I start growling a little, that ravaging tone that is not quite a moan, but a hunger, building.

She arches her back, gasps, cries out, leans into me like she’s nuzzling, and starts laughing, delighted. “Fuck,” she says and looks at me, catches my gaze, then gets shy and looks down. She fingers my buckle.

“Unbuckle your belt?” she says. And I take it back – that’s her best line.

I do, swiftly, pulling the button open, popping the fly, taking my cock out as she kneels, knees wide and pelvis tilted like she’s already on top of me and easing down on something big.

She takes me in her mouth tentatively at first, just the head, wraps one hand around it, gauging the length. Can she swallow it all? She’s thinking. She laps her tongue, runs her lips down the shaft, then draws a breath and swallows me whole. It’s too much for her mouth and she makes a little gulping sound, choking a little. Her smoky eyes water and she looks up at me, keeping it in her mouth. I fight the urge to thrust in again. I can feel the tight O of her throat clenching and she tries to get hold of her gag reflex, then pulls her mouth off and puts her hand back. She rocks her pelvis a little as she sucks, the pretty white fabric of her dress between her knees is falling open and I want my fingers there, want to hear her gasp and oh and yes.

Goddamn she feels good.

She keeps hold of my cock at the base, keeps it pressed against me so I can feel everything. She works it good, pressure and speed and oh god I’m going to burst in her mouth. My hands in her hair, on the back of her head. Her gorgeous smoky eyes are smudged and she looks even more beautiful.

I love it when they start to dishevel. Makes me want to tangle her hair, pull at her dress, smear what’s left of her lipstick.

*

“Fuck me,” she whispers, a command, a request, a desperate need, as she pulls me on top of her on the bed and wraps her legs around the backs of my thighs. I drag my palm from her knee up under her dress and push it aside, tear at the tie and it falls away in one neat cascade of fabric. She nuzzles into my neck again, arms around my shoulders as she sucks my earlobe into her mouth and flicks it with her tongue.

I groan. Fuck. Exposing her skin I take her all in, tracing my gaze along her body, her curvy waist and small soft belly, round breasts, small but thick, a handful, cherry nipples and no bra. I catch one in my mouth and encircle the other with my hand. She arches her back, sighs a little, taking a breath in and leaning back, her mouth open, eyes closed, hands at my shoulders, gasping.

I lift up to kiss her. Her mouth supple again and she’s eager, open. I’m hard and a little fierce, desire honed and sharpened and ready. Her noises are muffled by my mouth.

I bring my hand to the back of her neck and take hold of a fistful of hair. A gamble with some girls, but Jane wants to be taken, I can feel it. She responds immediately, like a cat does to a stroke of its back, arching and curling into the touch of a hand. Eyes closed, she’s taking it in. A gasp and she’s still, waiting. I keep my grip. I drag my other fingers down the side of her body, gently, and her nerves are increased from the immobility. She shivers but does not squirm. Waiting.

My hand at her stomach, on top of her thigh, pushing her legs open. I smile. I’m smug in these moments, I can almost start laughing from the waves of power and dominance and pleasure. Go ahead, try me. Go ahead, give in. I’ll take you, I’ll catch you. I’ll make you. Come.

I cup her pussy with my hand and drag my fingers along her lips from on top of her sweet smooth panties, I can feel the outline and she’s swollen. She unhinges her hips and spreads them wide, but I need them together so I can slide her panties off. I twist and pull and toss them aside, pull her up by the wrists so I can push the dress from her shoulders, expose her fully.

My mouth on her clavicle, her skin sweet and smooth.

“Please,” she whispers, airy, her breath hot. “Please.”

I nearly laugh aloud, nearly chuckle, something strong moving deep in me, grinning and restraining myself. I push her gently back down, grab at my cock with my hand.

She reaches for it, lifts her head and shoulders and her stomach flexes. She licks her lips, looks at me. My eyes are on my cock, pushing at my jeans, peeling back the split around the zipper so it doesn’t obstruct. It’s a silicone cock, just boiled, and doesn’t need a condom. I find her cunt with two fingers, my thumb along the shaft, and she’s wet, eyes begging for it, waiting, mouth open, jaw tight, one hand behind her on the bed, grabbing at the blankets and waiting for me, breathing in, trying not to growl or scream or hit me, trying not to roll right off the bed and run with all the energy buzzing under her skin right now.

“So sweet,” I murmur, tip of my cock touching her cunt. “So, so sweet.”

She’s tight, I can feel her contract, thick, around me as I slide in. Slowly, slowly. I get to the base and extend my torso, she’s watching me and I capture her mouth in a kiss as I slide out. Softly, softly. She adjusts her hips. We are quiet. Sounds of breath and bodies. Her brown eyes are smokier than ever, big and open with flecks of gold that catch the light and I swear I can see myself reflected as she gives me the shyest smile.

“Oh – oh – fuck,” under her breath, she leans her head back and her neck is long, stretched, as I pull out quicker, slam back inside. “More –” she gasps, “more.” Right in my ear, a whisper. I shudder, work in her faster.

“Goddamn,” I mutter, a little breathless, my dick swelling and I can feel how she tightens. Her legs around my waist now. Pressing hard against me with resistance, friction.

She bites my shoulder. Claws into my upper back with her hands and I take a sharp breath in, like a splash of cold water, a sudden sharp sensation.

And it’s there again, that urge to laugh, to chuckle low as I regain my breath and control. I take hold of her hair again, position my arm across her chest so I’m holding her down and lift myself to my knees, legs apart and slid under her hips. I get the angle just right. Low and tight. A little room to wiggle and the strap of my harness is hitting my clit just right.

This goddamn girl is going to make me come.

She can feel the shift in me and her eyes widen, gaining a look of intensity, concentration, focus. So much effort, so much work, to let someone in, to trust a stranger to hold you up, even your dirty, dark, private places. I want to. I want to be able to catch her, I feel she’s falling into some other space and her stomach contracts, she clenches everything as I thrust in, and again, and again, until finally it is precisely right, that one perfect spot and pressure and we are both unraveled, bursting, shaking at the seams, simultaneously, all at once, then shuddering, shaking, gasping, reveling in each other’s bodies, and in our own.

“So,” Jane says after a moment, low murmurs in her throat, happy sounds of quiet satisfaction, satiation, saturation. “Indian or Thai?”

“Thai,” I say. My hand traces lazy circles on her hip, over her skin, delicate as lace.

She kisses me, soft again, supple and deep, and gets up to make the call. She doesn’t ask me what I want. She pulls on a robe that barely covers her ass and winks at me as she leaves the room. I tuck my cock into my pants and tidy my perfectly messy hair.

She returns to the bedroom with another whiskey rocks and a glass of white wine, replaces the phone on the nightstand and opens the curtain on her bedroom window, revealing a sliding glass door. She opens it and gestures to me; I follow. It is a lovely view of 10th avenue, a dozen floors up, and we watch the traffic. I marvel at the quiet when I am just above the city.

The quiet is a little long and I should say something. I open my mouth.

“So, Sinclair,” says Jane. “Where are you from?”

I grin, and take a sip of the whiskey, so smooth, and the mouthful goes down easy.

upon returning, a small complaint

I was out of town last week, and now have returned from the other coast, the coast where the sun sets correctly into the water rather than over land, where I was in the Pacific Northwest primarily visiting my very large extended family for five days. I have all sorts of ideas about family and heritage and where I come from, about having kids and having a traditional structure, about how much my sisters and I are the freaks of the family.

Also strange to be referred to as niece, daughter, sister, granddaughter. Those words have never felt so ill-fitting. At some point I went to the bathroom and the door was labeled LADIES and I nearly stopped right there and turned around.

I am not a “lady,” not really. It’s not that I’m necessarily offended by it – I feel lucky to be part of groups of ladies at times, I love that I’m in women’s circles and women’s groups and women’s friendships, but even that word – woman – I’ve never quite felt right about it. I never refer to myself as such.

It’s not that I’m offended by it, it just doesn’t fit. Like too-big clothes or trying to put a hippie in black goth lipstick.

I have a friend who tells childhood stories that always start, “When I was a little girl …” and it struck me when I noticed it that I never refer to myself that way. I’ll say “kid,” as in “when I was a kid.” These days, I say “guy” – “I’m that kind of guy” – when referring to myself. Sometimes I use dyke or queer or butch I suppose, but I don’t ever use woman, lady, girl, or even sister, daughter, niece.

Still, it’s not that I’m transitioning – I’m not – and it’s not that I don’t identify with the lesbian/feminist communities – I do. Maybe I’m too much the poet, too much the semantics theorist, but some of these words just don’t fit.

I suppose this is just one of those frustrating gender binary things, and yet another of the reasons why butch is a trans identity of sorts. And yet another reason why I am still, continuously, inspired to keep doing this work, to understanding gender and creating new language to adequately describe myself and others, to contributing to the community and lifting each other up.

So there was a wedding in the Pacific Northwest, which is what prompted the large paternal family reunion. There are few events that are more gendered than a wedding. I thought it was going to be a small family wedding, as a few of the others had been, but the 20-something family members were actually in the minority and the community of friends and colleagues were abundant. At the church, I got sneered at by the small-town strangers. I was a bit flamboyantly dressed – pink button down, black argyle vest, no tie (I didn’t think it was going to be so formal!). But certainly I was not the only one dressed up, it was a freakin’ wedding!

Just served to remind me that I’m an outsider. I forget that, in New York City, where I don’t generally get noticed walking down the street unless I have a particularly good hair day. I fit in, I don’t stand out really.

The throwing the bouquet / throwing the garter felt like very strong gender-defining moments in the evening. No way in hell I was going to go out there and catch the bouquet – and actually I’m not sure I have ever been to a wedding where one was thrown, now that I think about it. But I did get out there when it was time to throw the garter. I couldn’t stay, though – I was too much on display in a room-full of too many people who had been giving me too many bad looks throughout the day.

I was little more than The Dyke From New York City all weekend.

I’m lucky, I suppose, is what I should take away from that experience – if I lived there, I would not dress as I do, would not have the fun I do with my hair and pink button-downs and vests and ties and belt buckles and cufflinks and jackets. I’m glad I have that opportunity, that I live in a place that not only accepts it, but encourages and, at times, demands it.

I didn’t expect it to be the reason, but really, I came to New York City so I could learn how to dress. Nothing has taught me fashion or style like this place.

Sometimes it is so uncomfortable to not conform to gender roles.

PS: I’m tremendously behind on email and correspondance, forgive me as I catch up.

On Pronouns, Mine

I’ve had almost half a dozen people ask me in the past few weeks about my pronoun of choice, so here’s the deal.

When referring to me as Sinclair Sexsmith, I go by the masculine honorific – by Mr. Sexsmith. That, I do feel strongly about. Pronouns have generally then followed, so I am often referred to as “he” and “him.” That’s fine, and I think the masculine character that I have cultivated here as my alter-ego fits quite well with masculine pronouns. I didn’t expect it to happen and I didn’t quite plan it, and I don’t know if I ever would have asked for my friends or lovers to play with male pronouns in my personal life, and I very much like it, more than I thought I would.

But, female pronouns in referring to me as Sinclair are also totally fine. In fact, in some ways, I like that some people refer to me with male pronouns and some with female pronouns, because I firmly am occupying both spaces. In some ways I like the gender neutral pronoun options like ze and hir (pronounced “here”). The Gender Intelligence Agency introduced the pronouns pe (pronounced “pay” not “pee”) and per, short for person, which I quite like but which is proving incredibly awkward in speech. Maybe I’ll try to write a story with them in it sometime, just to try it out, get more used to it.

Problem with pe and per is that it doesn’t have a third possessive adjective version of the pronoun – the “his/her/its” version. I guess that would be per, again? To borrow wikipedia’s structure, it looks like:

Pe laughed.
I called per.
Per eyes gleamed.
That is pers.
Pe likes perself.

Yeah, I like the philosophy behind that. But looking at the fifteen different gender-neutral pronouns that wikipedia lists as potential options, I hesitate to think that we need more of them. I guess we keep making them because the others don’t quite work, yeah? I kinda wish there was more consensus, but some part of that has to come about organically, about what gets put into use in daily life for a significant piece of a community.

In my offline life, I do not go by male pronouns, at all. As things go on, that is becoming more strange, actually – my sister referred to me recently as her sister, and I thought, oh yeah, I’m a sister to someone. I’m a daughter. Someday I’ll be an aunt, a mother. I think lesbian dad is rubbing off on me that way, in that I don’t know if I’ll ever be “mama.”

I do go by sir, sometimes boy, and other masculine words like that in a sexualized context … but there really aren’t very many of those words for butch tops in bed. But that’s a slightly different post.

So yeah, did I make that clear? Either pronoun of the main two pronouns are fine, neither of them fit exactly – but please do use the masculine honorific (and thanks to jesse james for finding that word for me).

In Praise of Femmes: The Architecture of Identity

This is what I learned at the Femme Conference.

Oh, the Femme Conference. I have so much to say about what happened there, both personally and in relation to this gender work. Oh yeah, and I have some hot stories to tell y’all, too.

First: THANK YOU, everyone who donated money to help me attend. I was able to go because of this website. I may not have gone otherwise because I really can’t afford to travel. Thank you.

The theme of the conference was The Architecture of Femme, and as such many of the panels explored the construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of femme identity. As my background is in social theory and social constructionism, I tend to come from the place that says femme is constructed primarily physically, on the body, that all gender is performative. This means through symbols of femininity – shaving, long hair, skirts/dresses, heels, jewelry, makeup, etc.

One of the major themes I’ve come across in running Sugarbutch is femmes who feel invisible – that they are not read as queer because lesbians are not feminine, femininity is a constructed gender role within the heteronormative paradigm, and the perceived notion that a femme is really either bi or straight.

This misconception has to do with physical symbols of gender, and required alignment of sexual orientation and gender.

The first keynote speaker at the conference, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, said: femmes are not invisible, you don’t know how to look.

And this is point number one that I want to make. I’ll pause here to let that sink in for you.

Femmes are not invisible, the lesbian community just doesn’t know how to look.

That deeply resonated with me. I feel I’ve been trying to say that to femme friends and lovers for some time now – “well, I found you, didn’t I? Do you not go to the clubs, do you not get dates? Of course you’re queer.”

I know it’s not this simple, really – I know there is much difficulty when someone is not recognized by their own community because they are being true to their own sense of gender. That’s not an easy contrast to reconcile, and I don’t move through the world that way so I can’t really speak to the daily experience of what that’s like.

Before the conference, I started a conversation about femme eye candy – remember this? I’ll get back to that in another post more fully, but the relevance is that Muse & I were discussing requesting photos along with some text about how the femme in the photo queers femininity – how her femme-ness is coming through in any particular way that indicates that she’s femme, not straight.

[TO BE CLEAR: this is NOT be about proving queerness whatsoever. I am working on the details of how to write this up, and will explore this much more in-depth in another post soon.]

The point is to use the femme eye candy as a visual lexicon of physical symbols, as an attempt to notice any emerging patterns and begin to record the physical markers of femme identity.


DEFINE: Markers: physical details which indicate that the person is using their fashion and style to construct a queer identity. Examples of usage: Femme markers, butch markers, queer markers, hippie markers …


I have some ideas about what these markers might be – vintage and pinup clothes, hyper-femininity, high contrast, for example – and I must thank Sam and Maggie from Toronto who did a wonderful workshop at the conference on the construction of femme identity through fashion and style, where many of my thoughts on this were refined.

The discussion at the workshop quickly went from “what are some of the femme markers” to “what are ways that femmes construct identity besides through physical markers?”

I kept thinking about these things throughout the weekend at the conference: the markers, and the ways femme is constructed besides markers.

Five things stand out greatly from the discussions as ways to construct femme:

  1. In contrast to butch – the classic in some ways, the stereotype in others. We all talk about how butches lend visibility and how different a femme is perceived and treated alone verses with a butch. The conference brought up the issue of femme history, too, and how hard it is to find femmes, and one of the ways to do so is to find the butches’ visible queerness and search for their partners.I think this is an incomplete, problematic, and outdated construction of femme identity generally, but it is relevant historically and it still applies at moments. Plus, for some of us our own sense of identity is so greatly magnified when in contrast to our particular desire orientation – I am not just a butch, for example, but I am a butch who loves, desires, and partners with femmes, and that is also a key component to my identity.
  2. In community – Maggie, the beautiful dancer and wicked smart femme behind the Femme Show (who has a wonderful girlfriend, I was disappointed to hear, as I developed quite the crush on her over the conference) spoke of how when she is in queer spaces, she expects that she should be read as queer. It should just simply be a given. It is not a given that the feminine girl at dyke night is queer, because the lesbian community is still closed off to the ideas that feminine girls are lesbians. I mean, in some ways that is being shattered – maybe that’s one good thing the L-Word has done for the lesbian communities – but in practice, many many queer women still don’t recognize femmes.(I could also speak to how this is probably engrained in butches especially, in butches who are attracted to femininity, from a young age, because we do tend to go for the straight girl or the L.U.G.s and end up getting our hopes up and our hearts broken when she, inevitably, leaves us for a guy, because, well, she’s straight. I still watch butches go through the realization that femmes exist – that femininity exists in a queer context – and wow that sure can be a revolutionary realization. But this is another topic to discuss later, too.)
  3. Through language – Someone commented to say she has no particular physically queer markers, and in fact she prides herself on that, and would rather constantly construct her queer identity by constantly coming out verbally. But even if a femme does see herself as using many queer fashion and style markers, there is still always an element of constructing identities verbally and through language.This brings up one other idea, which is that I think all of these ways of constructing femme identity happen for everyone, that it isn’t just one or another, that some are stronger for some femmes than others, that there are many different combinations of them that make up each unique femme expression of each person.
  4. Through fashion and style and through markers. There are hundreds – thousands probably – of ways to construct femme through physical feminine presentation. The conference was amazing that way, to see as many different representations of femme as there were femmes in attendance. I loved seeing the similarities, the differences. There was such an amazing array from the fanciest drag-queen femme to the pencil-skirt-and-glasses femme to the pinup girl femme to the punk rock femme to the tomboy femme to the sundress-and-cardigan femme.And the SHOES! Oh good lord, I could write an entire post on the shoes at the femme conference. (Swoon.)Honestly, I never cared for fashion until I began discovering, uncovering, and creating conscious and intentional butch/femme gender understandings. I wish I had a better grasp on fashion and the history of fashion sometimes, some folks were saying very interesting things about the evolution of women’s clothing options during the conference.
  5. Through theory – feminist theory, gender theory, power theory, BDSM and kink theory, postmodern theory, historical contextual theory. The intellectualizing of my own gender has been a key component to constructing my own gender identity, and this resonated strongly at the conference.

I’m going to have to work on the butch version of this idea, the ways butch identity is constructed, though I imagine it is in many ways similar: in contrast to femmes, in community, through language, through markers, through theory. But perhaps there’s more to add, perhaps butch and femme are constructed differently? Ill keep thinking on that; please do add your two cents if you’ve got ideas on this topic.

Two specific questions for you, at the end of this looooong summary of what I learned at the Femme Conference about the architecture of femme:

  • What are some other tools with which you construct your identity, femme or otherwise?
  • And what do your markers look like?

In Praise of Femmes: Hair & Shaving

Thanks, all, for your thoughtful responses and life stories about butch hair in the last post.

Here’s a few of my thoughts about femmes and femininity and hair, and then I’ll ask some questions and open it up to whatever you’d like to say about the subject.

I want to distinguish here between options and personal preference – I talk a lot on this site – especially in terms of femmes and femme identity – about what I like, and I want to make it clear that those are usually my personal preferences, and I’m not trying to say that I think that’s what all femmes should be or that femmes who are not like that are not valid or are not “real” femmes or any of that crap. I hope that’s not how it comes across.

So, let me first say this, about my basic philosophies on hair: hair is a personal choice. It is also a major marker on the physical body used to distinguish gender differentiation in contemporary culture. Short hair on men, long hair on women; shaved legs and underarms on women, hairy men. This of course was not always the case; it used to be seen as very masculine for men to grow their hair long. Hair presentation, length, and social conformity are based largely on culture.

In my (unofficial, limited) cultural observation in the recent years, these differences are just getting more pronounced, although with the inclusion of gay male culture in mainstream men’s fashion, the rise of beauty products for men, the addition of “manscaping” and the metrosexualizing of fashion and beauty, beauty standards for men and masculinity are on the rise. It is not unusual for hetero/cis-women to expect their hetero/cis-men to keep their chest hair under control, to get eyebrow waxes, to keep their hair groomed.

But just because the beauty standards for men are raising doesn’t mean it’s okay for us to keep unobtainable beauty standards for women – or for anyone, for that matter. Honestly I believe we’ve got to turn the beauty culture inside out on our own personal journeys into our own gender identities, whatever flavor they may be, whatever area of the gender galaxy, to really examine what the culture dictates and unlearn the compulsory standards that can be exhausting, unobtainable, and even harmful to our bodies.

What the body does is natural, normal, acceptible, sexy – where hair grows, the stretchmarks, the veins that show through the skin, the moles and freckles, the thickness of the muscles or the tendons or the thigh or the waist or the hair. All these things are beautiful, and real.

And, in my humble opinion, are also turn-ons: the celebration of the beauty of the human body.

If you’ve never explored the potential damage and compulsory standards of beauty culture, take a look at:

So: once we start undoing society’s standards, and treating every possible option as valid and valuable for different reasons in order to make a true choice, we can start exploring what it is that we personally prefer. What turns us on, how our bodies feel the most sexy, what the soft animal of our body loves.

My initial thoughts about femme hair always go to the hair on your head, and the ways it’s worn. Being that I am very attracted to femininity, I do like long hair generally, though I know plenty of femmes who totally rock the chin-length cuts or the boycuts, I’ve even known a few with shaved heads.

I wrote once upon a time about how much I love it when femmes wear their hair up, and specifically the idea that “a woman’s hair is for her husband.” I wrote, “I know there are deep problems with this idea of a husband owning a wife’s hair, but I love the idea of it being so sexual, such a turn on, when a femme lets her hair down, that it’s private, saved for me and me alone.” And that’s just it exactly.

About body hair on femmes … honestly, my personal preference is basically bare. Very little hair, everywhere. I find shaving sexy, I find the rituals of beauty sexy (when they are done with intention and sexual connotations especially). I like to shave my lover’s legs, actually. That’s a scene I haven’t played out in a long time, but I find that intensely erotic.

I do have some guilt about liking the reproduction of traditional femininity. I know I could write pages about how it’s not compulsory, it’s resistance, celebratory, and intentional, but still sometimes I wonder if what my block is that I wouldn’t find hair particularly attractive. But I suppose I can attempt to justify this by saying that I absolutely think it should be culturally acceptible – I hate that it’s dictated as necessary by the beauty rules – but that my personal preference is skin, skin, skin. Is that because of the dominant cultural beauty rules? Yeah, probably. I can’t escape it, I was raised in it, I live in it every day. But I recognize that it exists, what it means, how it operates, and I fully support people who reject that rule and who prefer to have their hair wild and free, or trimmed and neat, or completely bare. All options should be valid.

So, now you:

I know you’ve already got a ton of things to say about femme body hair, but here’s some questions to get started:

If you’re in the transfeminine area of the gender galaxy:

  • Do you shave, wax, pluck, shape? Underarms, legs, thighs, stomach, chin? Why or why not?
  • What was your process in coming to do the hair sculpting and
  • How do you make choices about your hair? Based on sexual preferences? Cultural standards?What your lovers like?
  • How do you keep your pubes? Trimmed, waxed, shaved, au naturale?
  • What comes to mind when you see women who don’t shave?
  • Do you sexualize shaving or body hair removal?

If you are someone who tends to date transfeminine folks:

  • Do you have personal preferences when it comes to hair on the femmes you date?
  • Do you sexualize shaving or body hair removal?
  • Do you prefer hair on her head worn a certain way? Do you tend to be attracted to very specific hair cuts, styles, colors?

I’m also very curious about folks who live outside of the US – clearly my perspectives are very US-centric, and I’m not really sure what gets culturally dictated or compulsorily reproduced in other places. I have impressions, but being an outsider to culture in other places, I won’t presume to speak on it.

Please do elaborate however you’d like. And thank you, for reading and for your comments, I really like that we’re conversing here more and more, getting input from all kinds of people who live in all kinds of ways.

On Butches: Hair

I am a butch who shaves.

Not my legs, inner thighs, stomach, underarms (though I’ll get to those in a moment), but my face. Chin, mustache, sideburns. Every day.

It has taken me years to admit this, to celebrate this. I started shaving my chin about ten years ago, at eighteen, when my-ex-the-boy and I got into a fight and he used it as leverage against me. It was toward the end of our five-year high school relationship and he was increasingly paranoid that I would leave him to come out (which I did), so we used to fight about my perceived dykeness all the time. We were in his car in our driveway, just home from somewhere, yelling at each other. I have no idea what the context was, but I still remember the way he looked over at me and said: “I mean, you have more hair on your chin than me!”

I’m sure I’d noticed the hairs on my chin and upper lip, I’m sure they’d been there for years. I was at that time in denial about most of what my body did, how it looked. I spent as little time as I could with obligatory lipstick and mascara – the only makeup I could master without feeling like a clown, I never could figure out foundation or blush or eye shadow, despite the hundreds of beauty magazines that I studied, attempting to discover and reproduce the secrets of femininity.

It wasn’t until he said that, though, that I thought I should pluck, wax, shave, something, anything, so as not to give away my gender deviancy and gender defiance that seemed to be so certain that it would even come through in my biology. I’m a hippie after all – deep down I believe whatever the human body does is ‘natural’ and that all the hair policing was perpetuating unobtainable standards of beauty for women.

But this wasn’t about beauty, suddenly. It was about gender. It was about being revealed, when I didn’t even realize I was.

I promptly went upstairs, shut myself in the bathroom, took my razor from the shower, and shaved my chin smooth.

That was 1999.

It was only very recently that I let the hair on my face grow, even for a day or two. I’ve often seen dykes in the lesbian communities who sport peach fuzz mustaches, goatees, sideburns, but it never really occurred to me that it would happen if I didn’t run the razor along my face daily.

It was Callie who mentioned it first. It came up with Datedyke, too. I didn’t quite get the appeal at first. It felt gross, even shameful. No, they said. An indication of masculinity.

Oh yeah. Right.

I buy men’s razors now. Made for the contours of a face, not the smooth line of a shin bone or inner thigh. I enjoy buying products so masculine. I do it, head high, boldly; I challenge what the clerk thinks. I am not shy about it. It is a small act of gender celebration, gender defiance, gender activism.

Sometimes I even like my five o’clock shadow. I’ve developed the habit of scratching my chin like the boys do. Feeling when I need a shave. Letting it grow on weekends, on weeks when I don’t have work. When I was in Mexico I didn’t touch it once. Ten days without shaving, I am sure a personal record. I didn’t even know my hair would grow that long, that dark, that thick.

Sometimes, I even like it.

Okay, so, body hair.

Well, here’s the deal. I believe hair is a potential enhancer of sex. A sex toy. That it can be used to increase sensation, both tactile and visual. That the key decision about the hair on my head is for a sexual purpose. That running fingertips from ankle to cunt feels different on an unshaved leg – for both the person to whom the hand belongs and the person to whom the leg belongs. That it is different to fuck with a full bush as opposed to a brazillian.

Whether or not one is better than the other is a purely personal preference. Clearly there are some cultural preferences that correspond with gender role and expectation, but when all options have been examined and stripped of their social meaning and compulsory prescription, we can actually have an opinion about what we prefer, and make a choice.

I’ll get to femme body hair another time. I want to talk about butch hair, here, a bit more.

I know transmasculine folks who shave and who don’t. Who grow their hair long and who buzz it off nearly completely. I know a butch whose hair grows in so light she doesn’t have to shave – though she hates body hair, and would if her own wasn’t so light. I know a butch who had a contest with her friends to see who could grow their hair the longest.

Sure, I personally have preferences – I keep the hair on my head short, #2 on the sides, two fingers on top. I do this for sex, and for gender: I love the feel of buzzed hair under some girl’s fingers. Love how it makes me feel boyish. Love how there’s still enough for her to grab and pull on the top, in the back. Love the physical sensation of her desire as she pulls on it suddenly, when I do something and she responds, a physical communication between us.

I don’t shave my legs or underarms. I like the cultural masculinity of it. I like the surprise and occasional understanding of strangers. I do “manscape,” as the kids are calling it these days. Trim where it grows long, sculpt a little. I figure I sculpt and trim the hair on my head, I can do that for other places too. It is for sexual purposes really. And goodness knows there’s a lot I’d invest for sexual benefits.

So: I covered options, now let’s talk preferences. What kind of hair do you prefer on your butch? Butches & other transmasculine guys, how do you keep your hair? Au naturale? Waxed? Plucked? Is it leftover compulsory hair depletion from your gender-conformist days, or have you examined all your options and made the choice you prefer? Femmes, do you love it / hate it when a butch shaves? When she buzzes her hair or grows it out? When she keeps a mustache?

[ I know there’s a ton to say about femme identity and body hair too – let’s keep this to butches, for now. Start thinking, though, the femme equivalent discussion is forthcoming. ]

The Suspension of Heterosexual Belief (1 of 3)

Part one of three of my review of Spanked

I’m reading erotica and watching porn differently these days. For years – since before I came out – I’ve been an, uh, active reader of erotica and smut collections, with almost exclusively lesbian content.

Lately I’ve had the opportunity to review various things through this site, things I wouldn’t have otherwise picked up, like Crossdressing and Chemistry 3. Books and films which include various orientations; straight, bi, gay men, lesbians, threesomes.

In the past, I would probably not have even considered reading these collections or watching these films. My brain would think, ewwww, flesh-and-blood penises. That’s the “ick factor” right there (more on that in part two). But since I was doing it for research, and for review, I figured I’d give it a go … and it turns out that some of it really turned me on. Sometimes completely unexpectedly.

That was a bit uncomfortable for me, really.

It wasn’t until I read Kate Bornstein’s excellent article on the film WALL-E that I placed it: especially with erotica, I am able to suspend my reading of biological sex and only read gender. Male pronouns and male body parts don’t bother me, even though my orientation is pretty strictly lesbian, because I can get so deeply into the play of gender, I can “suspend heterosexual belief.”

Back to that in a moment. First, more about the film WALL-E and Kate’s (did I say brilliant? brilliant!) analysis of gender presentation, WALL-E: A Butch/Femme Love Story … or, Silly Rabbit! Robots Have No Gender.

… [A] pair of lesbian robots who fall madly in love with each other. WALL•E is nothing short of hot, dyke Sci Fi action romance, some seven hundred years in the future! Woo-hoo! Isn’t that what you saw? No? What movie were you watching? Did you see a heterosexual boy robot fall in love with a heterosexual girl robot? I did… at first. […] [W]hen I first saw the film, I saw a boy robot and girl robot. My question is this: how and why did most of us jump to that conclusion?

Kate goes on to examine the different ways that we determine both “biological” sex and the robot’s heterosexuality:

Is it because of their names? … both names are acronyms for each robot’s prime directive and function. Nothing to do with boy or girl there. … Is it simply by looking at the robots, we can tell? … We’ve got no way to spot those robots as male or female by using secondary sex characteristics. … neither robot has a DNA strand, so there is no way to type them by XX or XY. … Barring hormones – which I didn’t get a whiff of during the entire film – that just about exhausts the physiological basis for determining gender.

Examining some of the ways that we determine sex and orientation – hormones, chromosomes, secondary sex characteristics. And there’s the whole obsession with Hello, Dolly as the only model WALL-E has for romance; it is a campy presentation of sweet courtship, and a classic musical.

So, Kate keeps asking, what is it that is tipping us off? How can they be portraying these very human, very gendered, characteristics, yet still be robots?

Pixar and Disney … knew we’d see WALL•E as boy and EVE as girl. Both of ‘em are gosh-darned CUTE, right? Oh, come on. You know they’re SO adorable, right? How can they be that in nearly everyone’s eyes… gay or straight? I think the answer is that we shift our mind’s criteria for gender when we watch a film or listen to a love song or read a novel. We all blithely switch genders in our minds, the better to identify with the vocalist or character. [Emphasis added]

This is the genius part, in case you missed it. This is the part in the article where I exclaimed aloud, “Dammit, why didn’t I write this!”

There are, sometimes, and especially in art – love songs, films, novels – things that trump gender. When art begins speaking the language of emotion, that can transcend orientation or gender presentation and instead we just get the character’s attraction to each other, their courtship, their surges of emotion and desire for connection. I think this may be especially true for queers, who often do not see ourselves represented in popular media, so we learn to “suspend heterosexual belief” and instead see only the presentation and language of gender.

Kate gives some examples of other media – a Tegan & Sara song, Marlene Dietrich, Justin Bond. But wait, Kate’s not done:

Gender ambiguity — when it’s safely positioned onstage or up on a movie screen — is and always has been sexy to damn near all of us, no matter what our gender might be. … What is it that’s signaling sexual attraction to an audience with such a wide range of gender identities and sexual desires? I think the answer is that WALL•E is butch, and EVE is femme, two genders defined by the expression of strong, respectful, sexual desire.

I just love butch/femme as “the expression of strong, respectful, sexual desire.” That’s beautiful.

Butch and Femme are sexy dance steps with unlimited variations. Butch is gallant, femme is gracious. Butch is hail and hardy, femme has wicked cool wiles. Butch is handsome. Femme is pretty. Butch/Femme is all about relating to each other like ladies and gentlemen—no matter our genitals. … Butches can be dominant or submissive, strong or weak, honorable, or complete rats. So can Femmes. Butch and Femme have nothing to do with who makes more money. … There’s no perfection in the dance, there’s only the totality of self-expression and how that self-expression dovetails with someone else’s self-expression.

Yes, EVE is pertly streamlined. EVE’s eyes literally sparkle and dance. EVE giggles, for heaven’s sake. EVE is kick-ass strong and powerful. EVE is performing Femme. WALL•E is rugged and protective and shy and loyal. WALL•E is a sensitive little thing, held together by sheer will and rubber bands. WALL•E is performing Butch.

… And this is the part that gets me teary. I love that butch is a “sensitive little thing, held together by sheer will and rubber bands.” and that femme is kick-ass strong with sparkly eyes. Oh if someone had given me that possible explanation years ago!

Once we begin to look at the characters as Butch and Femme — not male and female — we can assign to them any gender we like. Sure, the film can be about a boy robot and a girl robot. But how about EVE as a sweet femme boy robot, like performer/chanteuse extraordinaire, Justin Bond. And WALL•E is a sweet butch girl robot, with a heart of solid gold, like performer/chanteuse extraordinaire Lea Delaria?

How freakin great is that! I love this way of analyzing popular media. Kate writes, “You’re the audience. You get to decide.” and goes on to mention a few other Disney films – Mu-lan, Pinocchio, The Little Mermaid. I took a “Feminist Interpretations of Disney” class as a gender studies undergrad, I have watched these films and examined the gender in them in depth.

But I’ve never thought about it like this. And I love it. (Writing through this has made me really want to see WALL-E, and some of those others, again.)

As someone who has a background in academic gender studies and feminist theory, I do take a certain amount of pleasure in the reading of texts like Disney films as reproducing the heteronormative, gendernormative binary, so in some ways revisioning media this way makes me skeptical. I don’t think the critical analysis should be discounted entirely, especially when it has such an affect on girls (this calls to mind the Princess Collection and discussions with feminist/progressive parents of little girls who are close to disgusted in their daughter’s obsession with princesses). But I do think it’s another fascinating way to look at popular media through the lens of gender presentation and expression.

So: that’s how a little love story about two robots can be read as butch/femme. And that’s how we can – and already do – suspend heterosexual belief when consuming popular media.

But when we’re talking about representations within the sex industry … written erotica, visual porn, or any smut, there tends to be the aspect of sexual anatomy. And for queers especially, it seems, the reality of a wet vagina for gay boys or hard penis – or, worse, a coming penis – for the lesbians actually grosses us out. It’s much harder to suspend heterosexual belief when the physicality of the different biological sexes is so prevalent – and, indeed, part of the point.

What is this ick factor? How does it work, and how does it affect us? Also, how do we get over it?

That’s part two, coming tomorrow.

The Difference Between Romance and Chivalry

What’s the difference between romance and chivalry?

Colleen and I had an interesting discussion a while back. The two can look nearly identical, we thought – bringing flowers, pulling out a chair, taking a jacket – but something separates them.

I do think some things are not so chivalrous and are exclusively romantic – candlelight dinner, gazing into each other’s eyes, promises of love + affection – but pretty much all the chivalrous actions seem to fall under a romantic umbrella. Like a sub-set of romance.

But see, sometimes chivalry is purely kind and thoughtful, with no romance whatsoever. When I hold the door open for a stranger, or for my mom or sister or a straight girl friend, I do it with no romantic intent.

Ah – so perhaps that’s what differentiates the two: intention. That’s what Colleen and I concluded.

Chivalrous actions are done purely for the sake of doing the action – kindness, thoughtfulness, observation of something that would assist someone else.

Romantic actions, however, are done with a particular purpose: of wooing the other person. Romance does want something in return, and when the relationship changes to “just friends” or ends, the romantic gestures cease.

So the gestures of romance and chivalry can appear the same, but are given with different intentions.

So (here’s the part where I get personal), I’ve always been a romantic. Big time. Love poems, handmade gifts, mix cds, sweet nothings. (I know, you’re shocked.) Lately I have been extremely suspicious of romance and the webs of seduction it spins, but I haven’t let go of chivalry. In fact, my chivalrous impulses have gotten stronger.

Trouble here is, I think my chivalry is often misinterpreted as romance. Paying for dinner, holding her door. I’m told these aren’t things that many transmasculine folks do, so they can be interpreted as grand gestures, even though honestly that’s just how I am.

As with everything else in my dating life, it seems, I need to make my intentions clearer in matters like this. I’m learning, I guess – to have better boundaries, to trust they are in place, to be clear, to listen to others and hear when they are not accepting of the boundaries I have.

Sometimes I feel like the boundaries I have in place are too strong, too much, too thick. Huge cement walls with barbed wire instead of lines in the sand. But the strange thing is, it isn’t until my huge cement walls are accepted – really accepted and acknowledged – that I can start putting up a chain link fence instead, then a picket fence, then a hopscotch chalk line.

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. – Carl Rogers

Update: I also wrote about chivalry on the post for March’s masthead, bringing butch back – specifically the ways that I approach chivalry as deeply feminist.

Sugarbutch Star Contest 2008: launch!

Well, it’s that time again … I’m doing another Sugarbutch Star Contest!

Here’s the deal:

  • YOU send in the details for an erotica/smut story
  • I pick my FIVE finalists, my favorite scenarios
  • I write up those finalists, one at a time …
  • When they’re all written, readers vote!

Want to be a star on Sugarbutch? This is whachoo gatta do:

Come up with a good scenario for me to write out. And I mean good. Read through last year’s, they are elaborate, fun, and hot. The infamous winning entry, The Diner on the Corner, remains one of my favorite smut stories that I’ve ever written

Include in your scenario outline the characters (who is doing the fucking), the setting (where are we fucking), and the plot (who does what to whom).

Here’s the Claire Danes example I used last year:

Characters: Sinclair & Claire Danes. Claire: redhead, petite, great legs. Particularly proud of her pouty mouth, that could be a nice detail somewhere.

Setting: Central Park & Claire’s apartment. We are both in the park to watch a free concert and catch each other’s eye. Claire approaches Sin, flirting ensues, Claire invites Sin to walk her home.

Story: Claire is very bold and asks Sin up for a nightcap; proceeds to seduce her with jazz music, fingers in Sin’s hair, a short skirt. When Claire gets Sin to the bedroom she gives Sin a blowjob and then straddles Sin, fucking until they both get off. Claire then ushers Sin out kinda fast and laughs at her attempt to get her number.

So make it look something like that. The details are key! Especially in the characters, give me some defining clothes they might wear, facial features, hair color, all that, so I can add those details in. But please, make your submission half a page or less.

EMAIL me this description at: aspiringstud at gmail dot com.

Prizes are TBA, but will probably include some good smut books, possibly some sex toys, and maybe even a night out on the town with yours truly.

DEADLINE for entries is Monday, September 1, 2008. Three whole weeks folks …c’mon, give me your best shot.

(You are definitely welcome to reproduce that image on your own blog, and link back here, to www.sugarbutch.net/sugarbutch-star-contest. And hey, thanks!)

Choice feminism & compulsory gender roles

Lady Brett has a new post over at her fabulous blog Don’t Let’s Talk about feminism and housewifery, and I left a rather long-ish comment, and still find myself with strong feelings on the subject.

So hey, why else do I have a blog but to write impromptu non-fiction personal essays about gender and feminist theory?

1. The Value of Domestic Skills

I believe there’s nothing inherently unfeminist about keeping a home, doing domestic things, taking care of people you love, cooking, cleaning, decorating. Those are important, learned skills and talents, often very complicated arts, time consuming, and things which make a big difference in the quality of life.

There’s been quite a bit of reclamation around “women’s work” throughout the second wave and third wave feminist movements, which has revisioned and revalued the work that goes into domesticity as complex, learned skills, difficult, and often incredible works of art.

(See, for example, the art of Judy Chicago, in particular – The Dinner Party in particular, but there’s lots more in that vein. Also see the book Manifesta by Jennifer Baumgartner & Amy Richards. Anyone else have examples? Leave ‘em in the comments.)

Domesticity & housewifery can go against feminist principles when it is compulsory: not optional, expected, unrewarded, and unrecognized as hard work or valuable. The problems come in being forced into this role, when you’re only doing that if what you’re doing feels like what you’re “supposed” to do and not what you really want to do. Figuring out what actually suits you best, your particular talents and personality and inclinations – that is subversive, and empowering.

2. Choice Feminism

Recently, there’s been a rise of this idea of choice feminism, which claims that being a housewife or househusband, staying home to raise the kids and keep the house, is an option available to people if they so choose, and that there is nothing inherently wrong with this choice.

Makes sense, right? Some people – men or women or butches or femmes or genderqueers or whomever – think it would be great to have the luxury of having a partnership (or triad, or whatever) where enough income was being generated by another person (or another source) that someone could stay home and prepare good food and take care of their living space, take care of the kids or plants or animals. To others, this sounds like nothing they’d want to do themselves, they’d hate to be cooped up all day and would much rather go out into the world and socialize, feel like a ‘productive member of society.’

So in theory, it would be great if someone was able to say, hey, I’d really like to be at home, and their partner would say, that’s great, because I’d like to go to work and make enough money to support our family. And then the negotiation of details would happen, and wow, everyone has a great time with their lives, yay.

There are so many factors that go into building this as an option to begin with. For one, it takes a certain amount of education (and therefore access to education), economic capability, and stature in order to be in a relationship that can rely on a single income (and/or a lot of thriftiness!). The folks who have the ability to stay home and take care of their domestic life have to have a certain amount of economic privilege, by definition – they are able to survive without having a traditional, typical 40 hour a week job.

Point being, this isn’t an option everyone has, so it can’t be a “choice” for everyone. Some people cannot ever choose this choice, because of the ways we have been set up inside of economic systems. (If I had more time to research, I would include : all sorts of things on credit card theory, loan sharks, economic poverty, the working poor. Got specific resources for this? Links, books, documentaries? Leave ‘em in the comments.)

I bet someone staying home and claiming the housewife/househusband/etc role works really well in some relationships, and that those choices are totally legit and based in love and care and self-knowledge for the relationship, family, themselves, and their partners.

Problem is, there are still real social consequences to choosing the socially unacceptable, rarer, less compulsory choice. And it isn’t until both options are empowered with equal weight that we’ll be able to actually make these choices fully, and as long as society still deems one choice over the other, presenting it as an “option” sometimes feels to me as more one more way to force people into it compulsorily.

I think it is possible for these particular choices to have equal weight. Both should be equally valued, in my opinion, and it is possible for them to be in the current culture.

Whether or not they do actually have equal weight, however, would largely depend on a person’s perspective, family, culture, friends, and social status. Some people would experience rejection, marginalization, othering, belittling, or outcasting, if they decided to stay at home and “only” take care of their family’s domestic life. Others would experience peer pressure and gender policing for not doing so, for attempting to say that housewifery is valuable, especially when saying this to someone for whom housewifery was compulsory, and whom resents the lack of choice that she herself had.

Two examples:

A) Mona Lisa Smile
The film Mona Lisa Smile, set in the 1950’s at a women’s college, has a major theme of choice feminism throughout, as Joan, a student, struggles between pursuing law at Yale or getting married and starting a family. Her art teacher, Katherine, tries to encourage her to examine both options equally, even saying she doesn’t have to choose, she can have both.

Quote from the scene where Joan tells her art teacher that she’s going to choose to be a housewife:

Joan Brandwyn: It was my choice… not to go. He would have supported it [if I’d chosen to go].
Katherine Watson: But you don’t have to choose.
Joan Brandwyn: No, I have to. I want a home; I want a family, that’s not something I’ll sacrifice.
Katherine Watson: No-one’s asking you to sacrifice that, Joan, I just want you to understand you can do both.
Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I’ll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
Katherine Watson: Yes, I’m afraid that you will.
Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I’m doing and it doesn’t make me any less smart.
[Katherine looks down] Joan Brandwyn: This must seem terrible to you.
Katherine Watson: I didn’t say that.
Joan Brandwyn: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don’t. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You’re the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.
Katherine Watson: [hugs Joan] Congratulations. Be happy.

(source: Wikiquote)

It seems Joan is attempting to make the major point of choice feminism, that Katherine does not think housewifery is a legitimate choice for women. But I’m skeptical of this, because we don’t ever see Joan go through an awakening out of the compulsory gender role, realizing and fully understanding the limitations of her socially prescribed feminine/wife/mother role. Without really knowing that, is it possible for her to consider rejecting it as a legitimate option?

B) Sex and the City, season 4 episode 7, Time and Punishment

In the episode Time and Punishment from the fourth season of Sex and the City, Charlotte is newly married, and informs the girls that she’s thinking about quitting her job so she can begin her domestic duties. They react with significant glances at each other, though nobody says anything overly disagreeing with Charlotte’s news. The next day, Charlotte calls Miranda.

Miranda: Hello?
Charlotte: You were so judgmental at the coffee shop yesterday.
Miranda: Excuse me?
Charlotte: You think I’m one of those women.
Miranda: What? One of what women?
Charlotte: One of those women we hate who just works until she gets married. … The women’s movement is supposed to be about choice. And if I choose to quit my job, that is my choice.
Miranda: “The women’s movement”? Jesus Christ, I haven’t even had coffee yet.
Charlotte: It’s my life and my choice.
Miranda: Okay, Charlotte? This isn’t about me, this is your stuff.
Charlotte: Admit it! You were being very judgmental.
Miranda: I’m dripping all over my bathroom and you’re calling me judgmental. lf you have a problem with quitting your job…maybe you should take it up with your husband.
Charlotte: See, there it is, “your husband.” There’s nothing wrong with having a husband!
Miranda: Charlotte, I’m hanging up.
Charlotte: Don’t you dare hang up! And stop saying Charlotte like that. I am quitting my job to make my life better… and do something worthwhile like have a baby and cure AIDS.
Miranda: Oh! You’re gonna cure AlDS? Good for you. Just don’t be too disappointed if all you wind up with is a pretty ceramic mug with Trey’s name on it.
Charlotte: Take that back!
Miranda: I’m hanging up.
Charlotte: Don’t hang up! I’m interviewing girls to replace me… and I really need you to get behind my choice.
Miranda: You get behind your choice.
Charlotte: I am behind my choice. I choose my choice.
Miranda: I don’t have time for this. I have to go to work. Some of us still have to go to work.
Charlotte: I choose my choice!

(quoted from script of Time & Punishment.)

Problem for me here is that Charlotte is “the traditional one.” The most conservative, the one who blushes at the slightest of sex talk, the one who, throughout the series, is in serious husband-hunting mode. Has she really examined all her choices? Is she buying into the gender role that she’s presenting because she “chooses” it, or because it is compulsory for her?

But even though I am skeptical and questioning these women’s ability to make their own choices, I do come from the perspective that everyone has their own agency. I try – very hard – to let go of my own judgment about what would or wouldn’t be a good choice, and to really believe that another person is the only one who will really know what is in her own best interest.

But while I believe in agency, I also believe in things like laws of self-protection – seat belt laws, helmet laws, fast food regulation laws – because society has proved that people are susceptible, that we do not always make the choice that is in our best interest because of social, political, advertising, or any other number of pressures, and that educators, policy makers, and activists have the responsibility to protect and look out for others. That we are all interdependent, if you will – and that when everyone does better, everyone does better.

So how do we figure out how to have more agency in these complex situations of choice? How do we assure that all options do have equal weight for ourselves, in our own personal lives, even if they do not have equal weight in the eyes of society? How do we take a decision that used to be compulsory – like being a stay at home mom (SAHM, or Shit Ass Ho Motherfucker, if you’re a dooce reader) or, to connect it further to the Sugarbutch Chronicles subjects, adopting an exaggerated presentation of gender like butch or femme – and legitimately choose it?

3. Knowledge & Education

How can we make these choices have more equal weight?

Educate yourself. Study feminism. Study the history of compulsory gender roles, compulsory gender presentation, compulsory heterosexuality.

We can’t make any of these choices without understanding of where they came from, what they mean, what cultural, historical, and political contexts the choices sit within.

In a society that still has so much compulsory roles for men and women, it’s never just as simple as “I choose to be a housewife” or “I choose to work a full-time job outside the home.” There are so many factors – economic status, cultural and familial expectations, personal interests and pursuits, background, education, community.

I guess this is the part where we’re on our own, where we have to figure out the solution to our own gender problems, where we have to take responsibility for our own enlightenment.

One of my favorite quotes about gender is “femme is knowing what you’re doing.” My take on that is not that “all femmes know what they’re doing all the time,” but more like the implications that femme – or femininity, or gender expression in general – becomes an active choice, something that has a context and a history and a cultural understanding for the choices we’re making.

And it is possible to learn those things. Read into the history of gender studies, of compulsory gender roles and gender “deviance,” gender activism, butch/femme culture and society, the women’s and gay liberation movements. Get a sense of yourself & your gender in a larger sociological, historical, political, cultural, geographical context.

I see feminism as quite similar to how I am beginning to understand Buddhism: as philosophies, as world views. That it is a container, a baseline of explanation and understanding for how you see the world, interactions, social hierarchies, marginalized communities, value.

And as such, I really believe that everyone has a place within feminism. That everyone is affected by compulsory gender, by gender policing, by gender roles which oppress and restrict and encourage us to be less than full, open people, with access to the entire range of human experience. And therefore, everyone has the possibility to be liberated by studying the ways that these unspoken rules operate on the very personal, private aspects of our lives.

Here’s some suggestions of tools that have helped me along this search for knowledge and understanding. Add your own in the comments if you have further resources that significantly helped your perspective.

Feminism is For Everybody, bell hooks – amazing basic course in what feminism is, what it means, and where else to start looking. I’ve bought this for various people over the years. Completely accessible and wonderfully written.

The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan – the classic feminist text about compulsory domesticity. Though it’s dated, if this isn’t something that you’ve examined overtly, it might be time to read it.

Creating a Life Worth Living, Carol Lloyd – an artist workbook that guides you through figuring out what kind of life you want to live, what your values are, how you want to be spending your time, and helps you set goals to do that. Might be helpful & empowering in this particular issue of choosing to be a housewife, in that it might help you see where you particular strengths are, and what ways of spending your day will make you the happiest.

Manifesta, Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richards – I’ve already mentioned this, but if you haven’t read it I highly recommend it. Very accessible and fun to read.

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago – is an art exhibit currently housed at the Brooklyn Museum in the feminist art wing. Problematic and highly criticized for it’s white and western-centric focus, but still an amazing piece of art which elevates traditional female domestic duties such as table settings, needlepoint, and ceramics and presents them in the context of a long history of powerful, strong, capable women.

It’s all a long process, right? Of getting to know oneself, of examining the world around us and seeing where we fit in, where we don’t, what we like, what we don’t. Of becoming self-aware. And, ultimately, of finding the bliss that makes our own lives uniquely worthwhile.

4. Let The Soft Animal of Your Body Love What It Loves

Eventually, this is the integrated goal of this process, I think: to “let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.”

It comes from one of my favorite poems of all time, and is a line I often quote. With care and consciousness, I believe this concept of letting myself love what I love to be at the core of my feminist beliefs. And I believe it’s possible to operate from this place, and within a feminist context, with feminist philosophies and outlooks on life.

It isn’t until I unpack all the societal gunk that I can really see, really understand, what it is that the soft animal of my body loves, and what it is that I should do with my wild and precious life.

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

On Butch Style: Briefs

I still remember the day I had an awakening about my underwear, much like my butch breasts / bras moment a few weeks back, where I found some girly undies in my drawer and wondered why I even owned any like this anymore.

This was years ago, now, and any time I bought new undies, they were always briefs – not “boy briefs” from the girl’s section, but men’s briefs. And pretty soon I had a whole drawer full of ’em, save a few that were my favorites. But then I discovered those few favorite pairs, back in the back, lacy or silky or whatever they were, and I realized I hadn’t worn them in years, and that I couldn’t forsee myself wearing them in the future.

So I got rid of them. I haven’t missed them once.

These days, I’m a briefs kind of guy. Yes, sometimes it’s awkward to be the only girl (“girl”) shopping in the men’s section, and I do get looks or stares or scoffs from both other male shoppers and the sales people. That used to bother me, but I’ve come to the realization that I have just as much right as they do to be there, to be shopping there, to buy clothes that I like on my body, and as I’ve developed more and more comfort in this gender-bending space, I see their responses as their issue, not mine.

I do like boxers, but generally I wear them as pajamas or kick around the house kind of wear, not so much underneath slacks or jeans, I find them too bulky. And perhaps because I’m not particularly thin, the hybrid boxer-briefs aren’t really comfortable either, they tend to ride up and I notice them, I tug at them, they itch, they annoy me. And I don’t know about you, but really, my main goal for most of my clothing is that, once I put it on, I don’t really notice it again. I’m not so into fashion, though, that I want people to notice my clothing – I would rather someone look at me and think, “Hey, Sinclair, you look great today,” rather than, “oh wow, Sinclair I love your shirt.” KnowutImean?

So, these are some of my favorite briefs that I’ve found in recent years. Comfortable, cute styles, affordable – briefs I wouldn’t mind wearing on a date. I’ve had a few questions about where I shop for my underthings lately, so here’s the rundown.

Gap basic briefs
$16 for a 3-pack
White, grey, or black

I don’t remember them being this cheap, but that’s what the website says – the ones I have are slightly different, grey and white, and I remember them being more in the $12 each range. I like these three-packs, I may have to go pick some up.

Their fabric is very, very soft, that’s the best thing about the Gap over other brands.

(Real men wear pink.)
American Apparel Baby Rib Men’s Brief
$12 each, 30 colors, XS-XL

Forgive the (cis) boy shot, you know I don’t generally do that. But the awesome colors and white lines of the American Apparel briefs make them still some of my very favorites.

Plus, you can get matching tee shirts for pretty much any of the colors that the briefs come in. Once upon a time, I read an article that claimed that these matching briefs-and-tee-shirt combos from AA are pretty much the lingerie of boy wear, meaning that girls kinda go nuts for it.

And I have to say, in my experience? This has pretty much been true.

H&M’s men’s briefs
Various colors & styles
(photo from andreasmarx on flickr)

H&M is the third store that has my favorite briefs. Unfortunately, they don’t have an online store, and they are pretty limited in their stores around the country (I don’t think they’re on the West Coast at all).

They’ve got some really excellent patterns, great solids, really cute stuff. The fabric is a bit thinner and feels more synthetic than the other two, but they are still smooth and fit well. They carry a lot of boxer-briefs too, actually many more boxer-briefs than regular briefs, so those of you who dig that style might be particularly fond of this place.

Men’s underwear guy has a review of H&M briefs with some decent photos.

So that concludes my brief post (hah) on butch style.

Alright, butches (and other masculine gals) out there: How about you? Boxers or briefs? Where do you buy your undies? Favorite brands or styles?

Femmes (and other folks who date masculine gals), what are your favorite undies to see your boi in? What do you love, what do you hate? What do you always buy your butch for holidays that she never wears? What do you wish she wore? What do you love that she wears?

Creating Conscious Gender

Seems like I kinda stepped in it with this entire intentional gender thing! Lots of comments and emails about that one.

(Almost as bad as I stepped in it when I suggested something like “I noticed your gender from across the room” as a pickup line. Yes, it sounds ridiculous. But there’s just no other way to say that without a) objectifying, and potentially offending or b) assuming a person’s gender and potentially offending. Though perhaps that’s speaking more to my underlying Issue of not wanting to offend people than it is speaking to getting someone’s attention by using gender as a flirtation device. Maybe the more appropriate line for most folks is just, “hey, I think you’re hot.”)

I think the mention of “unconscious” vs “conscious” gender are more accurate descriptors than “intentional” vs “natural” gender. I’ve already mentioned this, but: modern gender theory does not believe gender is “natural” at all, it says gender is socially constructed. It can be constructed consciously, or it can be constructed unconsciously.

But there are ways that I can be more conscious about the ways I carry myself. There are ways that I can study and understand how gender works in this highly, highly gendered society, and figure out and choose the ways I operate within it.

So, here’s a bit of a story about what that process looked like for me:

I was raised in a very feminist household. The rejection of traditional gender roles was instilled in me from very young, by my mother especially, who didn’t take my father’s name, never shaves, never wears makeup or dresses or skirts or heels, was primarily the one to mow the lawn and help me with my math homework, etc.

Though this was deep within my family values, I was particularly susceptible to cultural standards as a teenager (I think we all are, and I have some ideas about why I was in particular, but I won’t go into that here), and I ended up fairly gender-conformist, nearly married – to a cisgendered guy – for five years. I think I had to prove that for me, the model of grown-up relationships really wouldn’t work, that all that society says is actually untrue. Of course, for some people it works just fine to be female-bodied, feminine, and attracted to men – clearly, not so much for me. I think it was precisely because I suspected that this wasn’t true that I had to really prove it for myself.

I’m also firmly based in second wave feminism insofar as I believe every person’s unique life experience is valid and important. I believe each of us is already an expert on our own gender, our own lives. I believe we all have valuable, thoughtful things to add to the conversation of gender (or sexuality, or relationships) regardless of our supposed credentials or expertise or level of study.

That’s the thing about gender – we all have it, we all live in a particularly gendered society, we all have been raised with its influence.

Consciousness-raising groups (in my understanding) started for because there was no formal study of women or the female experience. (I can’t really even imagine a culture that assumed that women’s experiences were included in the male norm, a culture that had no feminist cannon, such a lack of sources to study and know and experience. Thanks, foremothers, for women studies, for feminist studies, for all the work you did!)

So C-R groups created their own sources, using the experiences of the women in the group themselves, treating each like a text, a source, from which they could learn, from which understanding could arise and blossom and grow.

This is how I see this writing project, this community, and all of you who participate and who engage with me – as part of a large consciousness-raising group, where we are all sharing ideas, resources, and experiences to gain greater understanding of our selves, our communities, and the world as a whole.

This too is where my love for narrative fiction overlaps, where reading someone else’s story enhances my understanding of the world, where I feel less separate and more connected and, ultimately, where every story has value, especially the voices to marginalized communities, experiences, bodies, and lives.

So: growing up in a feminist household with rejection of gender roles, then going out into the world and living in a hetero relationship where we were playing out very stereotypical gender roles, then coming out as queer – all this lead me to start studying feminist, queer, and gender theory, seeking out language, concepts, and similar stories to help me explain my own experiences. And within gender theory and studies, I finally found places to get some of my questions – gender roles, gender compulsivity, gender norms, gender within relationships, the intersection of sex & gender – articulated, and then answered.

Such as:

What is gender?
How does it work?
Why are we confined to a binary? Why don’t we have three or eight or fifteen genders?
How does the sex/gender binary function?
What purpose does it serve?
Who benefits? Why, how?
How does it get enforced?
How has it changed over the years?
How is it connected with race, class, sexuality, nationality, religion, etc etc?

And once I started getting ideas about how to answer these questions, I started asking more personal questions of myself, and where I fit in to this huge, permeating, practically invisible system of hierarchy, power, and value.

Such as:

How do I feel comfortable?
What makes me feel powerful?
How do I want my hair?
What looks good on my particular body?
What fits with the way I carry myself, how I treat others, how I see myself?
What type of gender am I attracted to?
How does this relate to my sexuality?

I was simultaneously starting to come into my own as butch, partly because of the lesbian initiation process of rejecting femininity and cutting off your hair (which worked for me, though certainly doesn’t work for all lesbians who go through this), and partly because I started immediately liking femmes who dated butches and who recognized a sort of masculine ‘energy’ in me.

Actually claiming the label and identity category of butch was a more difficult quest for me, one I’ve written about a few times, specifically in terms of masculine posturing and rejecting – as a feminist and lesbian – the things that I see are so problematic with compulsory masculinity in both cisgendered men and in masculine-identified women. (More on that another time.)

Regardless of my questions and hesitations about butch/femme roles and labels, the process was definitely underway. And as it has unfolded deeper and deeper, in more and more aspects of my life, I have found such a home in it, in ways that have been seriously transformative to the ways that I operate in the world.

The basic feminist principles of inherent equality, the wide range of human experience, and celebrating the self as it is are applicable to many, many aspects of gender exploration. But I’ve found that these principles aren’t quite so active in most of the lesbian communities. Yes, there are people doing this work, but we are not the majority – compulsory gender in lesbian communities is usually a sort of gender rejection, an androgyny.

And that works for many people – which is excellent! I will always say you should go with what feels good to you, what makes you feel sexy, powerful, beautiful. For many of us, it is not androgyny that makes us feel good about ourselves, it’s another type of gender expression. There’s a huge gender galaxy out there, a huge range of expression and celebration, and so much to play with.

I don’t pretend that I have all the answers to questions or issues on gender. I have concepts, ideas, and resources, and I have reached some understandings, about both the world and system at large (macro) and my own personal place within it (micro).

I also don’t think my answers will necessarily be your answers.

I encourage you to find your own answers. To ask these questions, to decide consciously where you want to be within this pervasive system.

There have been many of you who have emailed me or commented about my recent writings about conscious vs unconscious gender, and here’s the part where I start to actually take an opinion on this: I think it’s very important to discover, stumble upon, find, or create a conscious gender. Doesn’t matter how you come to it, really, but it does matter to me that we do.

What that conscious gender might look like, of course, is highly varied – perhaps all it’ll take is a moment’s consideration, and a recognition that yeah, I’m where I want to be, that’s enough for me. Maybe it’ll take years of deep exploration and personal omphaloskepsis and meditation and therapy. Maybe it’ll take reading lots of books about the subject, or lots of blogs. Maybe not.

I don’t pretend to know what that process looks like for everybody, all I know is how it looks for me – and how important it has been for me to go through that process, which is, obviously, why I am encouraging it in others.

Look, I know not everybody has the interest in this that I do. And I don’t think everyone needs to start a blog (that becomes their part-time job) and dedicate a big portion of your free time to studying how gender works and what it means to you personally, but I really do think we would begin to move forward if we have some small moments of awareness about gender, about compulsive behavior and categories, about discriminating against butches or femmes or trans folks or androgyny.

When we understand (at least a little) how the system works so that we can begin to see how we fit inside it, and we can be empowered to make the choices that are in our own best interests, rather than in the best interests of those for whom this system is designed to benefit.

But it’s not just that. It’s also because when everybody does better, then everybody does better. It’s also because sometimes I’m lonely out here doing gendered work with a small handful of community. It’s also because, though some small circles of consciousness-raising activists are happening, most gender is still compulsory and not letting up anytime soon. It’s because this binary compulsory gendered system hurts us. It’s because trans and gay kids are getting beat up and murdered. It’s because boys who wear dresses are shamed. It’s because tomboys who want to run around shirtless are shamed. It’s because women are not safe walking alone on the streets of Manhattan at night. It’s because I am not safe walking alone on the streets of Manhattan at night. And we should be able to be safe, I want us to be safe, all of us.

And plus? Underneath some of the hard work here, it’s really fun. It’s dress-up, it’s activism, it’s subversion, it’s sexy. It’s a deep celebration of you, of me, of our interaction with the world, and with each other.

Review: Packing Cocks 101

One of my particularly favorite sex toy stores sent me a slew of packing cocks to review – cocks that aren’t necessarily hard enough to fuck with, but which you can wear around and feel that weight between your legs, to tuck into jeans and rub up against your honey when you go out dancing, to get a little squeeze on the ride home, to fuck with gender, to feel more complete, to feel more powerful, just for fun.

Even before I begin this review, here are two cocks that Eden sells that I discussed with the fine sex educators at Eden which we decided that were not even worth reviewing because they’re awful toys.

  • The Soft Touch Penis: appears to bend like my favorite Silky, and is realistic, so I was curious. I’m told it is made of awful material which has pthalates (which can cause all sorts of bad things), smells funny, doesn’t really bend, and is not harness compatible.
  • The Blush: Though it has a slew of reviews at 5 stars (?!! Who are these people?), the material – Ultra Realistic – is awful. If it comes into contact with your skin, it can give you yeast infections. Just reading the descriptions of the material makes me nervous: “extremely porous, dirt can easily hide.” “Dusted in a powdery material” to keep it soft, but that means it needs constant maintenance. “Store each toy separately in a plastic zip bag or thin sock because the porous surface can absorb dyes from other materials. These materials are also very incompatible with many substances.”

The Futuristic Flexi-dong I did receive to review, but it’s made with this same substance. As soon as I took it out of its packaging I knew I could never insert it, and I didn’t even want to slip it into a harness and see how it packed because I didn’t want the material anywhere near my cunt. I didn’t even want to hold it in my hand! I stuck it back in its plastic bag, and I’ve barely even played with it. Sorry, Flexi-dong, but that’s a great big FAIL.

Moving on, though, to the fun stuff.

I am reviewing these packing cocks in four different categories: material (of which the above FAILED), packing, playing, and realisticness.

Mr. Limpy – I know, I know, stupid name, it’s as if they have to camp-up the fact that people without penises are making their own, you know, because that’s a step UP in the hierarchy of gender power. Mr. Limpy is pretty darn cool. This material is Superskin, which, though porous, is non-allergenic and doesn’t leak chemicals like the Ultra Realistic. So that’s the material.

Mr. Limpy packs excellently. Mwah – it’s practically perfect. It’s very limp, obviously, but that means it fits so comfortably in just about anything I wore, from tight tight briefs to loose boxers by themselves. I’ll speak to packing straps when I talk about Mr. Right, below, but I do want to note that the easiest way to use Mr. Limpy is to just tuck him into some tight briefs. You just have to be slightly cautious if you go to pull your briefs down, for whatever reason – it’s possible that Limpy will tumble out, and that wouldn’t really be good. Not only might it tumble onto some dirty floor (public restroom), but it also might be very embarrassing to have your penis roll around on the floor.

I love the way this one feels; it’s lightweight, but still has enough of a tug when it sits in my briefs that every once in a while, I remember it’s there, and I feel … comforted by my little secret tucked away.

This is the packing cock that I reach for most weekends, it’s become part of my undergarments, like a binder.

Playing … uh, no. Unless you get a particular enjoyment of receiving blow jobs on a totally flaccid cock, this is not a cock to play with.

Mr. Limpy is realistic, to a degree, but it only comes in this funny cotton-candy pink color. I don’t mind the pink terribly, but partially that’s because it’s fairly close to my beige/caucasian color, close enough that when the lights are low it doesn’t look completely detached from my body. Still, people of color would probably be disappointed with the lack of flesh-tone, and some folks who don’t like pink (I know you’re out there) would probably be put off by that.

Next up is Mr. Right & his packing strap. This is, in many ways, the packing cock that everybody’s been waiting for, and of course it was made by the amazing Vixen Creations, who make some of the very best cocks out there, and are very gender-forward.

The material is silicone. That’s right, silicone. Silicone is pretty much the gold mine of sex toys, because it can be completely sterilized, it doesn’t carry funny leaking chemicals, it can be used with multiple people (because you can sterilize it in between). Aside from Silky, which is not silicone (sadly), I haven’t spent money on a cock that wasn’t made out of silicone in many years. It’s a really great material, it’s got a little give to it, though not as much as the ultra-realistic or elastomer or “vixskin,” but enough that it’s a little bit floppy.

It is very easy to pack with Mr. Right because you can pick up this fantastic packing strap by Aslan leather that was specifically made for Mr. Right. It’s elastic around the waist, so it has some give, and the back of the little pouch is leather. The problem with the strap is that the leather backing is quite wide. I prefer my balls to hang fairly low, almost between my legs, and because the leather is wide, it doesn’t fit there, it has to be worn higher. That’s a bit annoying, I’ve found.

You don’t need the packing strap to pack with Mr. Right, though – you can tuck it into your (semi-tight, I’d recommend) briefs and be good to go.

Also, because Mr. Right is silicone, it doesn’t have the give that the Superskin of Mr. Limpy does. I also find that I hang right, by which I mean, my cock tends to get tucked on the right side of my body at the crease of my hip. Mr. Right is much more rigid and can only really comfortably pack the way it looks in the photo, because that’s the way it’s molded

All that said, though, if you’re new to packing, you can probably get used to how Mr. Right feels – it’s just because I’ve been packing with other products and prefer my cock to feel certain ways that I have a bit of a hesitation here. Despite my critique here, though, It’s still probably the best packing cock out there, and I wouldn’t give it up, I’m so glad to have one in my toybox.

It’s kinda hard to play with Mr. Right. Sure, he’s a bit harder than Limpy, but he’s still not hard. At best, you could probably give/receive a blow job, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to ask someone to suck such an unhard cock, even for a review. Sorry, just too awkward and a little ridiculous of a request.

Mr. Right is the most realistic of all the cocks I reviewed. It comes in vanilla (pictured, with a nod to acknowledging the race-hierarchy), caramel, and chocolate colors, which are a pretty good range of human skin-tone. The flexibility isn’t perfect – it doesn’t have the hardness of Silky or the softness of Limpy – but it’s a great middle.

Last, but certainly not least: my buddy the Silky. Those of you who have been reading me a while know how much I love this cock, so it’s kind of biased of me to even attempt to review it here, but I’ll try to put it in terms of comparison against the other two.

The material is elastomer, which is pthalate-free (whew!) but still porous, and must be used with a condom every time, because it can’t be sterilized. Keep it clean, people!

It packs well. It doesn’t pack as comfortably as either of the other two cocks, meaning it is bulky in the trousers, and sometimes the base is kind of awkward. It’s semi-hard because it has an internal spine, but that’s also part of what makes it great. The elastomer material is actually quite squishy and gives a little at a squeeze of a hand or mouth, it’s just the spine which makes it a little more awkward to pack with, because it doesn’t mold against the body in the same way. The spine, though, means that it can bend in just about any direction that you like, so I can (and often do) hang right and tuck this under whatever harness strap I’m using to hold it on.

Oh, you do kind of have to use Silky in a harness. It wouldn’t really sit in your briefs comfortably, and it doesn’t fit in packing straps (usually packers are held in packing straps by their balls slipping into a little pouch). I recommend a really small harness like Bare as you Dare because it’s such small material under clothes. Many of the leather ones are hot and uncomfortable when wearing under slacks or jeans.

It plays – oh gosh, does Silky play. It can be bent slightly up to have a wonderful g-spot curve, which I like. It’s a fabulous size for a blow job cock, not too big, but still significant. I’ve found that it’s a very easy size for most girls to take, not too big, not too small (though for marathon sex days I tend to find that girls want something slightly bigger, eventually).

It’s the only cock in this review that you can actually strap on and fuck with. Thank you, oh internal spine of Silky!

Here’s the catch though – the elastomer material combined with the internal spine means that the spine breaks, or even, sometimes that it actually rips through the material. I have never had the spine rip through the material, and I’ve been packing with this cock for about 4 years. I have had the spine break – in fact, I’m currently on my fourth Silky – but I have never had it break during sex. It’s broken when I’ve been packing (probably bending it the same way over & over doesn’t help), and broken when I fell asleep wearing it. But don’t let this discourage you: at this point, I just accept that the cock will last about a year, and then I’ll probably have to replace it. Yes, it’s more expensive than a silicone cock which is pretty much a lifetime guarantee, but you can’t pack-n-play with a silicone cock like you can with Silky.

There’s just nothing else out there that is comparable.

Silky is only somewhat realistic – it is fairly realistically shaped, I like the ridges on the cock, the head. But it has no balls (boo), and it only comes in funky colors – Eden carries blue and purple only. It also has a teeny little smiley face on the underside of the head, which I forget is there and tend to completely ignore. I’ve seen that commonly in from toys made in Japan.

Alright folks, there you have it – six cocks, three useless, three on a very nice scale of pack-to-play, all having their own pluses and minuses. Any questions?

If you pack, what do you use? If you decide to buy one of these to test out, leave a comment or write it up on your blog and share how it goes. We could use more discussion of this type of stuff in the genderqueer sex-positive blogosphere.

Intentional vs ‘Natural’ Gender

I did not ever mean to attempt that there is some hierarchy in having an “intentional gender” verses a “natural gender.” Actually, I’m kind of mad that anything I wrote even sparked those two differentiating terms, I really don’t like that distinction.

Contemporary gender theory says that there is no such a thing as “natural” gender, that all gender is a performance of some sort of impression of what gender is, of what physical cues for mating, attraction, sex, and physical communication between people.

Some people spend time studying gender, some do not. One of these things is not better than the other. I am not better because I study gender than someone who does not. It’s just something that I do, something others do not do.

I find it to be a fascinating, near endless, relevant, and insightful pursuit. But others may disagree with me – others, still, say that flyfishing, or American football, or taxidermy, are fascinating, near endless, relevant, and insightful pursuits; I don’t necessarily find that any of those things resonate with me, so I don’t study them.

But in choosing a romantic partner, a sex partner, a (dare I say it) girlfriend, I have some requirements. Yes, I know my standards are probably ridiculously high. But what can I say; I haven’t been single all that long (Callie & I broke up just over a year ago – it continues to feel like it’s been five years, three years, two years at least!), and I am not in any hurry to get heavily involved (read: monogamous) with someone. One of the requirements that I have – at this point – is that someone I date have things to add about all of this gender stuff that I kick around on a near-daily basis. I’d like those conversations to be collaborative, or at least complimentary. A slow building of an understanding of how this specific language of physical codes and symbols works.

I’m going to say it again, here, just in case it wasn’t clear enough: there’s nothing wrong with not being “intentional” with one’s gender.

I mentioned Penny’s lack of intentional gender not with judgment but thinking that this is something that I require in my relationships, and that perhaps it is not an interest she wishes to spend her time on and explore. We are both interested in sex, my interest and expertise is gender, and her interest and expertise is in relationships (she wants to go into couple’s counseling). Actually, I probably know about as much about relationships as she does about gender – I know quite a bit, in some ways, I’ve read many books, I’ve taken classes, I’m even familiar with much of the psychological theory, but it’s less my field of focus. Ditto to her and gender. She’s read the books, taken the classes. But it’s not necessarily a tool she uses to see the world on a daily basis.

As a small footnote, I had that difficult conversation with her on Friday, and we spent a lovely weekend together. We talked openly, things deepened, we got closer. I was half-expecting things to end, but instead, they got much better.

I’m working on writing up some sex stories from the weekend. I’m increasingly impressed with Penny’s kink, eager exploration, drive, and sexy fucken mouth … as a friend of mine said tonight, not only is she keeping up with me, she’s giving me a run for my money.

Lesbian stereotypes, reclaiming language, and activism

Yet another case in point: Butch, skinhead, wife-beating, pint drinkers? “Butch, femme, dyke – what kind of lesbian are you? Jeni Quirke explores the negativity surrounding lesbian stereotypes.”

Hey, sounds like a pretty good idea, exploring negative lesbian stereotypes, yeah? Right away, I’m skeptical of her inclusion of “butch” in that title, but I’m curious. Let’s read.

[L]esbians and bisexual women are also guilty of holding stereotypical generalisations and assumptions about each other based on appearance and personality. The words ‘dyke’, ‘baby-dyke’, ‘lipstick lesbian’, ‘pretend lesbian’ and ‘political lezza’ are too often thrown about the lesbian community, at work, in the pub or even from a friend to a friend in a jokey and cheeky way.

So why is this still happening, in a supposedly very tolerant and gay friendly society? It’s quite straightforward for all involved – stereotypes[.] … [W]hy do lesbian and bisexual women also carelessly use the terms ‘butch’, ‘femme’, ‘dyke’[?] … Is it internalised homophobia? … most women don’t even realise they have it or are displaying it.

So, when words to describe lesbian identity categories – such as dyke, baby dyke, and lipstick lesbian – are used by heterosexual or gay men who are excluded from and based in ignorant assumptions about the group, it is because of stereotyping, but if lesbians actually use these terms, it is from a place of internalized homophobia.

The use of words such as ‘dyke’, ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ from a lesbian individual or group are almost always meant in a negative way. Often, the only positive times you will hear the words spoken will be from a lesbian who is referring to herself, such as ‘Yeah I’m a butch dyke, but so what? It’s who I am.’ For the individual and for onlookers this proud and defensive statement will seem a very noble and bold thing to say. This it is, but it could also encourage the use of such stereotypes by heterosexual and non-heterosexual people.

So here she’s saying, when I define myself and call myself what I want to be called, when I reclaim the words for myself, it appears to be “very noble and bold,” but really it’s encouraging stereotypes. Who cares if it’s empowering to me in a development of my own gender identity, in putting myself in a historical and cultural context where I recognize the gendered struggles of my foremothers and forefathers and and forebabas and forepapis, really it’s just an invitation to oppress me. Not buying it.

If we are using offensive terms to one another in our own community, then what chance is there that straight people and gay men will stop using them? Are we re-enforcing the terms? And if so why are we doing this to each other and to ourselves? … Possibly the thought that ‘stereotypical’ lesbians such as ‘butch dykes’ are re-enforcing people’s generalisations and giving lesbians a bad name. … Could it be that society on the whole has become addicted and accustomed to using labels or labelling[?]

So now this author claims that butch dykes are giving lesbians a bad name and reinforcing stereotypical lesbianism. Oh, I recognize this tune.

And also, a word about labels: where we are in our cultural identity history, right now, in the West in the early 21st century, we reject labels. Pretty much entirely. Constantly, people are saying “don’t box me in,” “don’t restrict me,” “I’m bigger than that box,” “I’m more than a label,” et cetera. We are not addicted and accustomed to labels. I absolutely think it’s true that labels can be restrictive and limiting when applied without any leniency, and I think it’s true that culturally, we used to have more of a sense of defining people by their gender, age, race, economic status, ethnicity, family history, class, social status, religious beliefs, et cetera – by all of the factors of social hierarchy. But this is precisely what the various activist movements of the 20th century have been working to change, and in many ways, it absolutely has changed. Labels are generally now seen as bad and restrictive.

The well-known and common female stereotypes such as femme , butch and dyke are only there so other people and sometimes even ourselves use to categorise all the ‘types’ or ‘breeds’ of lesbians neatly away into a fileable drawer. [Emphasis added.]

Oh, now I’m just sad. The only reason butch exists is so others – or “sometimes even ourselves,” (implying, of course, how sad that is, that our internalized homophobia is so bad that we limit ourselves so awfully) – can categorize us?

Goddammit, this is just so inaccurate. There is a long history of butch, femme, and genderqueer WARRIORS who are changing laws, making strives, marching in protests, fighting for rights, being visible, working hard, raising kids, making families, contributing to thriving communities, loving, living, and being ourselves.

And now, this perspective of the author of this article becomes even more transparent: the things she is saying here are flat-out gender-phobic. Probably out of ignorance, rather than intentionally malicious, but still. This author clearly cannot imagine that any femme, butch, or dyke would ever be authentically empowered by these labels (as opposed to falsely empowered through internalized homophobia) or claiming them out of some sort of intentional, conscious, educated, contextualized narrative of queer culture, life, identity, and empowerment.

I haven’t even started about the power of reclaiming words, here, which this author completely discounts as even remotely possible. Yes, the word “dyke,” for example, has been used by outsiders to marginalize and oppress people within that group. But part of the process of legitimizing that identity is to take the words that have been used to oppress us and revision them to be valuable, which, by proxy, revisions the identity as valuable as well. This also deflates the potential of the insult: if the word no longer has any negative connotations, and someone shouts “dyke!” from across the street, we can recognize that he’s a) being blatantly and ridiculously homophobic, b) attempting to insult us, and c) stupid and ignorant if he thinks homophobia is acceptable. It’s much easier for this type of encounter not to sting, and not to be taken seriously, when we are used to throwing around the words that are attempted to be used as insults.

Aside from that, there’s the linguistics of it all: “lesbian” sounds like the technical term, like dentifrice instead of toothpaste. It sounds like something you could contract or pick up, it’s long – three syllables – and fairly awkward in the mouth. “Dyke,” however, is short, powerful, with strong, shit-kicking consonants that pops on the tongue. Stronger, tougher, thicker, more powerful.

The author of this article closes with this:

We should all join and work together to end other people’s preconceptions, generalisations and stereotypes by not doing it in and to our own community.

Yes, I agree in part – we should end preconceptions, generalizations, and stereotypes. But what this author is describing is not “doing it in and to our own community” necessarily. People – everyone, women and lesbians and yes, even dykes – have our own agency, our own ability to define for ourselves who we are and what we are doing with it. To speak from outside of a community who uses this language intentionally about the choice of using this language is belittling and offensive, implying that I couldn’t possibly know what I’m doing by using this language.

And I know some of you are thinking, “well, Sinclair, you’re a bit different than the average butch, after all,” but ya know what? I haven’t found that to be true. I have found that most butches I know are incredibly intentional about their identities, and have beautiful things to say about what it’s like to navigate the world as a butch-looking woman, often even if they don’t identify with the label, culture, or politics. Same with the femmes. Butch and femme are no longer default identities to which one gets shoved into the minute one comes out as a lesbian. Queer, dyke, butch, femme – those words are marginalized, othered, looked down upon in many ways. It takes work to come to them, work to claim them, and work to keep them functioning.

This author, like the majority of folks out there – lesbian communities notwithstanding, unfortunately – are missing some key elements and understandings of the history of gender radicalism, what it means to reclaim language, and what it means to adopt these identities. Articles like this really get my boxers in a twist because they appear to be a conscious, intentional analysis of what’s difficult or challenging within the lesbian communities, but in fact, they are reinforcing gender misunderstandings and further marginalizing those of us who do play with gender intentionally, celebrationally, and beautifully.

authority on the internet

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha

I’ve quoted that before, but I’m reminded of it again recently. It’s a quality that I always seek in those from whom I wish to learn.

I’ve been using the internet actively for the past fifteen years, since I was fourteen, and that’s not actually exaggeration; I caught a little bit of the BBS days, but really got my feet wet with the telnet chatrooms that were gaining popularity. I’d use the public library’s telnet system and my dad’s engineering computer to chat – live! with people from all over the world! – in Coffeehouse and Shadowlands.

And, as many have said, including Audacia Ray in her recent study of sex on the internet, new technologies are always first used for porn and sex. So, as a teenager, not only discovering a new technology, but also discovering a new sexuality, my primary sexual awakening was online – writing, corresponding, typing out fantasies, and asking questions to a hive mind of various perspectives and orientations and kinks.

I didn’t experiment a lot in person, it wasn’t appealing; but online, I could do anything, and it was safe. Of course, it wasn’t always safe. But I did pretty well for myself. I learned lessons, got smarter.

I started my first personal web pages in 1996, and have had open diaries, livejournals, javascript notebooks, and finally, blogs, online ever since then, in various forms of anonymity. Sometimes totally anonymous, sometimes under my real name. I understand how these communities build and fall and swell and fade, I’ve watched many of them, I’ve built some of them, I’ve heard stories from others who are interested in these things.

In 2000, two major things happened for me: I went back to college after taking four years off after high school, and I came out as queer. At college, I further my informal studies of feminism with gender studies, queer theory, and postmodern theory. I have two degrees, one in Gender Studies with an emphasis on social change, one in English with an emphasis on creative writing.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading books, watching films, going to workshops and conferences, seeking out mentors, reading blogs of personal expeirences, going to feminist sex toy shops, talking to friends, about gender dynamics, their personal relationships, queer oppression, social change, labeling, sex, sex techniques, sex toys, seduction, pick-up artistry, androgyny, lesbianfeminism, the 1980s sex wars, intersexuality, transitioning, binding, packing, taking T, putting on makeup, shopping for dresses or bathing suits or earrings or purses, shopping for ties or cufflinks or slacks or a tuxedo, radical acts of subversion, generational differences, strapping on a cock, the history of gender in the US, kink, domination and submission, rope bondage, BDSM, and uh all sorts of other things.

Not to mention that I, personally, have experience with these things in my relationships, my life, and my communities.

When I think about it, all of that history makes sense that here, fifteen years later, I’ve finally settled into this small niche of my varying interests – writing, inner emotional landscapes, sexuality, queer theory, gender theory, feminism, butch/femme dynamics, self-awareness, love, and relationships.

I’m not writing this to brag.

I’m writing this to show where my authority on these subjects about which I write come from.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll continue with all this research into these topics if or when I meet someone and develop a successful, fulfilling relationship, I’ll be disinclined to continue, because I can simply live it, instead of theorize about it all day every day. Perhaps I’ll move on to my next obsessive research subject – building alternative families or aging or performance poetry or who knows what. Perhaps all this has just been my own research into How To Be Me – chivalrous kinky writer, queer butch top, and feminist lover of femmes – In This World. Sometimes I feel like once I “figure it out,” I won’t have to be constantly doing all this work all the time.

Of course, there’s no easy way to simply figure this out, and once it’s “figured out” it’ll probably change, anyway, because it’s increidbly fluid; not only my own understanding of it, but the cultural understanding as well. It’s amazing how much has changed in the past ten years – even five years! Things are moving and growing, and I want to be a part of this activism, this forward motion, this quest for us all to be our highest, best selves, accepted by the world in our freakery.

(I digress.)

My point is, I was reminded recently how easy it is to get online and create yourself as an authority about something on which you are not. And it’s sad to me, and disappointing, how easy it is for people to get sucked into something so false.

I know the internet. Know these blog circles quite well, I correspond with hundreds of people, read intimate, detailed blogs, have friends that I’ve never met but whom I’ve followed for years online. There are some amazing, lovely folks here who are using these tools, this digital medium, to express what is the most true and beautiful and real about them.

But that’s not true of everybody. I find I can usually spot those who are not authentic; they stand out, somehow, I go to their site or read their work and think, something’s just not quite right. It puzzles me, because I don’t use the internet that way, and because there’s such a better way to use this digital tool to connect, so why would you do it the other, less effective and more inauthentic way? Probably out of pure ignorance, frankly – but I don’t really know.

For y’all out there reading, especially about things as completely personal and delicate as your butch/femme gender and sexual identities, this is just a reminder not to believe somebody unless you have reason to do so, don’t take them purely on their word, wait until they prove themselves to you. Identities are fragile, and can get damaged so easily when we don’t have adequate support and validation around them. It’s so easy for one big, painful misunderstanding to put someone off of something entirely, when in fact it is not indicative of how it could potentially function.

Dan Savage had a great call on his Savage Lovecast last week (seriously, it’s now the #1 podcast on the internet, and you’re not listening to it yet?) about developing a bionic bullshit detector, which has also got me thinking about all of this.

Many of us place our trust in people too easily. And when it comes to the very personal and delicate subjects, such as what I discuss here on this site, I really hope you do (respectfully) disagree with me sometimes, I hope you don’t assume I always know what I’m talking about, I hope you question me sometimes, I hope you ask who the man (ahem, “man,” don’t get the wrong idea) behind the site is, I hope you check authority credentials and expect proof of authorty.

I also hope I’ve earned it, from you, from visitors to this site, from readers, from friends, from acquaintances, because I work hard to do so, to stand behind my philosophies by living inside of them, to have a consistent personal narrative, to have reliability in my character, to admit what I don’t know, to speak on things that I know well. In some ways, I’ve made a formal study of these things too, since the one particular ex who manipulated me into such a frenzy.

There’s no easy way to know who’s conning you and who is authentic except to be cautious, I think. (Dan Savage and his caller had a few ideas, too; see, now you really have to download the podcast, don’t’cha?)

As much as I have made a semi-formal study of these topics, and as much as I do have some authority here, I also will always say that everyone needs to figure it out for themselves. I’m thrilled that my process is useful to others, and I’m curious about the processes that don’t look like mine, too. This is me, doing this work, going through the processing, reaching these identities for my own self – now, you go do yours.

More on Butch Bras

Thanks, all, for the feedback and comments on that last post. Butch breasts and binding and female masculinity are all so deep in this topic, and as one reader mentioned, too, this is also an issue relating to females with large breasts in general. Sure, the gender stuff adds a slightly different dimension, but many women go through this and are challenged by having the right, comfortable bra.

A few more tips, and also some recommendation, since I’ve had a few emails about where to get these butch bras.

First: get the right size of bra. Sports bras obviously are a little less precise in their sizing, but even if you don’t intend to wear any regular bras anymore, figure out your size. It’s amazing how hard it is for us to figure that out. There really is a difference between a 34D and a 36C, and they are not the same size. This seems to be a particularly difficult one for many of the butches I know, because bra shopping is just about The Scariest Thing Possible, and going in there and asking a professional to help figure out what size you really are is pretty much like walking into hell. But, let me just say, it has made a really big difference in my bra-buying since I actually got measured properly, figured out why the sizes are different, and what size I really am.

Now, some product recommendations:

  • Title Nine store has a variety of great sports bras divided by size and by “barbell,” telling you the no-bounce factor. The Frog Bra is particular famous for binding.
  • I personally run into a slight problem with many of the sports bras or compression vests because I have some shoulder issues and if the straps are too much of a racer-back shape, it can cause further problems with my shoulder injuries. So for that reason, the best one I have found is a Champion Powersleek sports bra (I found mine at Macy’s – their site doesn’t seem to list it any more, but I think this is quite similar). Also, because it has a clasp, instead of being pulled over my head, I can actually buy a size that is slightly smaller and tighter, which I love.

Bras & binders are primarily held in place with material like elastic, and the stretch on those does give out pretty easily. I’m finding that I need a new one every few months (although, I suppose if I had more of them, I wouldn’t wear them out so quickly!).

Suggestions? Recommendations? What products do you all use? Any particularly good online resources for figuring out your bra size, or that explains why the sizes are different?

On Butch Breasts, Binders, & Bras

I’ve returned to earth – mostly – from the altered state of consciousness of the Power, Surrender, & Intimacy workshop by Body Electric that happened here in New York City over the weekend. I have so very much to say about it, but that’ll have to wait for now, I need more time.

What I do want to write about is breasts. Specifically, mine – more generally, butch breasts.

Last week, I went for one day without my binder, which is really just a tight sports bra that clasps in the back rather than being a solid over-the-head slip-on. I wanted it laundered for the workshop, since I’ve been wearing it practically every day since I bought it.

I wore a backup bra that day, and all day long I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror, in storefront reflections, in my button-down work clothes, or when I looked down. I remembered how I used to hate the uniboob problem, which many of my friends and lovers deemed unsexy or mannish, and it’s not that I like the uniboob look particularly, but as my gender has changed and grown and dropped into itself, the uniboob doesn’t look like a uniboob anymore: it looks like a chest.

It is not that I want to do away with my breasts. Don’t misunderstand me here: I think breasts are butch, just as I think the menstrual cycle is butch and pregnancy is butch and cunnilingus is butch – everything the female body does can be butch, because butch (in my use of the word*) has to do with masculinity on a female body.

And because I believe that the things a female body does are butch, and because my gender philosophies are deeply rooted in love and acceptance of my body as it is and in not classifying human experiences as owned by one gender or another, I have been holding back my desire to delve farther into my own masculinity. I’m afraid of it. I’m afraid it means I’ll be leaving my roots in female-ness behind, I’m afraid of being seen as reproducing the heteronormative paradigm or embodying penis envy. I’m afraid of being rejected by feminist and lesbian communities for being too masculine, for becoming the ‘enemy,’ for rejecting femininity instead of reclaiming it.

Breasts are a big piece of this fear for me. Mine are not so small – part of why I rarely pass: a 36DD, and have been since middle school. I’ve said since I was a teenager that a breast reduction is the only surgery I would consider. I read about Jess’s surgery – or others’ surgeries and body alterations – and I’m jealous.

But I’m afraid of what it means to want that alteration, to want to physically change my body to better fit a gendered idea.

After that day last week of wearing a regular bra, I started wondering: why do I even have this in my closet anymore? Why do I own this? My exploration of my own masculine/butch/boy/male embodiment is young – I’ve been calling myself butch since 2001, but only in the last three years have I really embraced it and actively, consciously developed it. And now, the farther I get into my explorations of gender, the farther I want to go.

It takes time to cycle through a wardrobe, and I don’t quite have the disposable income to go purchase all new bras – but I certainly won’t be buying any regular ones anytime soon. I’ve gone through this with my underwear already, years ago now, have cycled through all the old girl undies and haven’t owned any of those in years, only have boxers and briefs now. But that feels less obvious than binders and sports bras – no one can tell I wear only briefs except my lovers, I guess, but everyone can tell I bind my chest.

And see, what’s what it is now: my chest. Very different than boobs, breasts, tits. I have those, sure, but they’re underneath, they’re the other layer, the inner ring, something that now gets protected and covered, not out of shame or denial but simply out of layering, complexities, performance, a rich inner life, a duality, a whole person – me.

* Some say men can be butch, that “butch” is a term for a queer masculinity, or a non-traditional, progressive masculinity. I’m not certain I agree, but we definitely lack language to discuss different types of masculinity, and I have definitely observed some men who have a sense of butch energy.

In Praise of Femmes: Trust

I’m going to attempt a new series of writings in praise of femmes. This is the first officially, but it follows in line with in praise of stretchmarks.

This past weekend and some amazing time with Penny (more on that later) has me thinking about trust and femmes. I wrote recently in a dramatical moment, “I just don’t trust femmes anymore” – with immediate caveats and retractions – and I want to expound.

It is femmes that I perhaps trust the deepest. The way I am received – not just cock-and-cunt, not just my fist inside the muscular bowl between your legs, but all of me: when my strong hands weaken and flutter, when I cry, when I laugh too loud, when I give up give in let go, when I feel my power slipping and you put it right back into place with a gentle flick of your wrist.

It is within your embrace that I make the most sense. Callie was the first femme I ever dated, the first relationship where my affections were returned tenfold (before that, I’d loved a femme, my best friend, for years, but that was tragedy. After that, The Ex, who I thought was more femme than she was and that caused constant tension between us).

I know who I am around you. My carefully manufactured, deliberately manifested masculinity suddenly has a purpose, a function, a use, and it excites you, makes you cry out and give in and let go, turns you on. My gestures are held by you, witnessed, caught gently and cradled, and oh my god thank you for that.

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

This dynamic runs deep in me. Who knows why – nature, nurture, socializing, fetish. I need it, ache for it, me a teenaged pretty-boy (you say), you a powerful goddess. And you must know I never use words like goddess to describe women (too cliché, too overused) but yes that really is what I mean here: magical, strong, miraculous, seductive, creational.

I was made against you. I can think of a couple of you specifically against whom I break and become myself: Callie. DateDyke. Muse. Strong enough to catch me, strong enough to let me sharpen myself against you.

And it is this power that scares me, that now brings these feelings of mistrust. Because I love this dynamic so much, fetishize it even, it touches deep primal nerves in me. I become carried by it and have trusted it – the dynamic – more than I trusted the person. I let her use her femme-ness to get what she wanted, I let her use beauty, seduction, soft skin and flirty submissive eyes. I watched it, I even knew what was going on, and I let it happen anyway.

I know better now, I guess, I hope. I should pay attention to the red flags of constant “conflict,” I shouldn’t have gone to Mexico, I should’ve been more honest, I shouldn’t have fucked her if I didn’t have the aftercare in me.

I’ve said it before – it is one of my greatest flaws: I trust what people tell me. I am convincible.

There really are charms that only femininity, only femmes, only queer femmes who know how to treat sugarbutches like me, possess. Charms that unravel me deeply, that pull me apart. When it’s good, it clears out the cobwebs, shines light into every dark corner, exposes all the cracks and flaws and structures that hold me up, and then, even, fixes them, or attempts to. I am made more whole, more complete. When it’s bad, I have been destroyed foundationally, or attempted to be. Piece by piece picked off and explained in a new way that suited her. My dick in a mason jar under a sink, punished. My every action her fist closed tight around.

It is good I am strong. I come from a strong family who gets along, a queer lineage of kisses, teachers who respected and taught me, who sheltered me and pushed me hard, who said I was worth something, who said we all are, who said stories of marginalized groups and communities must be told, who said I could and should change the world, who said I could do anything, who encouraged me to come alive, who said they liked what I had to say. And I have this place – this personal writing project I refuse to call a “blog” because it is so much more than that, it is revolution, it is community, it is self-awareness and witness and a very lighthouse.

I have built up these tools around me so I don’t fall prey to this problem of trusting femmes. It is because femmes are who I love, who I partner with, for whom I deeply ache that they are capable of such unraveling. If I partnered with butches it would be a problem trusting butches, if I partnered with straight boys or trans women or blondes or tennis players it would be a problem trusting them. And perhaps this is why women as a whole – and femininity – are seen as untrustworthy, sneaky, manipulative in our culture: because men – hetero men – are the ones who partner with this, and men are the ones who have held the pens to write our histories, to write their great love stories, which have involved many broken hearts and many malicious women, because love is scarce and precious and delicate.

Femmes are not untrustworthy. Femmes are who I trust the very most, with whom I make the very most sense, with whom I am more myself than anywhere else.

I am scared, and skeptical, about what it may mean for me to trust, to explore, especially around the specific ways that I can lose my head in this dynamic. It’s new to me, and it affects me deeper than any relationship ever has – I’ve never lost myself so completely in a lover before. So now comes the fusion: the combination of the intense, passionate sexual dynamic that comes with gender play, and the knowledge of relationship tools that I have been collecting and building upon since I began dating fifteen years ago (half my life, now. Amazing). I have the support, the community, the friends, the knowledge, the inner strength.

So.

Bring it on.

On misperceiving someone as femme or butch

I often have conversations with folks who say that they have been perceived femme or butch, and they really don’t like it. That tweaks me a bit, for various reasons, not the least of which is that I spent years flat out telling people, “I identify as butch,” and I would still get the response, “oh, you’re not that butch,” or “you’re not really butch.”

These identities are deeply socially constructed and policed, on all sides – those of us who do claim them, those of us who don’t. They’re loaded, complex, and largely misperceived.

Calling someone femme or butch is not necessarily intended to be insulting – sometimes, it is meant with much love and praise. But if you don’t identify as such, it can feel insulting, regardless of the intention.

This happened again recently, and it got me thinking: here’s why it doesn’t have to feel insulting, regardless of the intention.

1. This is about them, not you

Maybe you don’t identify as “femme” or “butch” at all, maybe you see those labels as confining to who you are and how you want to express yourself. Great! Good for you. Celebrate your whole self, in any way you like, you betcha.

[Hopefully you simultaneously realize that it’s possible for others to find liberation and freedom inside of those categories, too, and that you don’t force your philosophy of rejecting gender identities onto others. But that still never means that you have to work within that framework.]

This other person calling you these things may simply be working within the framework where they see everyone on the feminine side of the gender galaxy as femme, and everyone on the masculine side as butch.

But ultimately that is not about you – that’s about their framework. That doesn’t make your framework wrong, and that doesn’t make your perspective, presentation, or philosophies any less valid.

This is about them, and their worldview, not about you and yours.

2. Misconception of the terms

My gender-activisty self gets my boxers in a twist, because being called femme or butch is NOT AN INSULT.

These words are loaded – I get that. And sometimes, it can actually be intended as an insult – but we don’t have to take it that way.

But think about what we perceive someone else to be implying when they call us butch or femme. Where is that coming from? Who is filling that in?

It’s like someone calling you a dyke or a fag or a queer. The person slinging the insult could mean deviant, sinner, immoral, freak, but those of us who have reclaimed these words can look beyond that to laugh it off and say, “yep, that’s me. Gotta problem with that?” (Clearly, they do have a problem with that. But that’s not your problem, it’s theirs.)

Same with butch and femme: these words have deeper, personal meaning to some people, and it’s possible to take the time to go inside of the words and figure out what they hold, figure out their power and their detriments. If we knew more about the way these words worked from the inside, perhaps we would get to a place when calling someone – who doesn’t identify as one of these terms (more on that in a second) – femme or butch doesn’t make us bristle and cringe.

Because it doesn’t have to.

Here’s my basic thoughts on what we think it means when someone calls us femme or butch:

a) Femme does not mean whiny, controlling, manipulative, vulnerable, stupid, weak. Butch does not mean insensitive, thick-headed, macho, violent, emotionally stunted, controlling. Those are sexist misconceptions, and we don’t have to use those categories that way.

b) Just because you look one way one day, doesn’t mean you can’t look a different way another day. Gender is fluid, identity categories are fluid. Unless you’re chosing to identify as one of these categories, no one else can put you into these categories for you.

So, maybe this person calling you “femme” actually does mean that they think you’re weak, controlling, etc – well, then, so what? They are inaccurate on two accounts – i) that’s not what femme means, and ii) that’s not who you are (I am assuming).

They might be implying that they think you’re a high-maintenance bitch, or a thick-headed lug, but that doesn’t mean that you are. That’s just a downright insult couched in genderphobia, and you can call them on their ignorance, not take it so personally, and move on with your life.

3. Identity vs Adjective

We severely lack language to describe gender, and since we largely perceive gender to be a spectrum of masculine/feminine, butch/femme, male/female, calling someone femme or butch is simply an adjective – a way to describe which side of the binary gender scale they are perceived to fall on.

(I wish we had names for all the gender galaxy quadrants and solar systems and orbits and such, but they’re almost too big, too multi-faceted, to categorize and map. Goodness knows that won’t stop me from trying …)

In my opinion, identity categories can only be chosen by those they are describing. I think this applies in various socially charged identities – race, gender, sexuality, class, nationality.

The only time someone calls me butch and it is an identity, not an adjective, is when I myself have chosen butch as a way to describe me.

Again, the speaker here could actually mean it as an identity – but that’s about them, not about me.

Often, describing someone as femme or butch is a simple observation of their physical style – short hair vs long hair, slacks vs a skirt, heels vs boots. (Sometimes it’s much more suble, of course, as someone wearing short hair, slacks, and boots can be seen as femme.)

Usually, I’ve found the use of this word as an adjective is not entirely inaccurate (at least, not at that particular moment). The problem is that it is implying all these other things about behavior and gender performance that are then perceived to be ongoing and permanent within that person, and that’s just not true.

This is precisely the reason why I use the words to describe someone that they chose for themselves, and if I don’t know how they identify, I don’t assume.

So, in conclusion:

It really doesn’t have to be an insult, and using those terms as an insult is, in my opinion, a sexist misunderstanding.

Just because someone else doesn’t understand these categories, doesn’t mean that you don’t – even if you reject them. No need to take it personally, no need to educate them in their misconception – just let it go, don’t let it bother you, move on.

Revised: Music To Fuck To

I posted a sexmix last year, in August, but I’m constantly revising my playlists. This is the current sexmix tracklist.

This is not, however, the music I put on for a day of sex – I’d rather have a few albums on shuffle. The current favorites are Me’Shell N’degeOcello’s Bitter, as much Morphine as I have on my hard drive (especially the albums Like Swimming, Yes, and Good), and Chris Isaak’s album Heart Shaped World.

Here’s the sexmix:

  1. Come – Kinnie Starr
  2. All Your Way – Morphine
  3. Sexual Animals – Sarah Fimm
  4. Right Now & Right Here – Keren Ann
  5. Sweet The Sting – Tori Amos
  6. Wrong To Love You – Chris Isaak
  7. Slow Like Honey – Fiona Apple
  8. Beautiful – Meshell Ndegeocello
  9. Volcano – Damien Rice
  10. You Look Like Rain – Morphine
  11. Alright – Kinnie Starr
  12. Grace – Jeff Buckley
  13. Tear You Apart – She Wants Revenge
  14. Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums – A Perfect Circle
  15. Forty Six & 2 – Tool
  16. Sexyback – JT
  17. In Tha Mood – Esthero
  18. Satisfy – Meshell Ndegeocello
  19. Swing It Low – Morphine

So, lay it on me: what would you add? What’s your favorite music to fuck to? What’s the best seduction music? What tracks just need to be on this list?

The Red Tie Night, Six Years Ago

I ran across some photos this week of me and jesse james and georgia from almost exactly six years ago – I remember that night vividly. Aside from georgia’s very grabable curly hair, spaghetti strap tank top, and long string of gin+tonics (that I kept drinking for her), my gang of friends – including jesse james, and Maverick – decided we’d go out “in drag” that night, which meant slacks, button-downs, binding our breasts, ties.

(Interesting how men’s business wear is drag for masculinity, and women’s lingerie is drag for femininity – clearly some cultural values coming through there eh?)

I took many photos that night as we got ready to go – even the preparations were significant, the rituals of masculinity, hair slicked back, knotting and re-knotting my tie. It was one of the first times I wore a tie and packed out in public; in the photos I’m wearing a black shirt, black slacks, and red tie. I’m not even sure where I got that tie, now that I think about it. It just seems like I’ve always owned it. A red tie, solid – my favorite.

Interesting how, then, it was drag, it was rare, it was deliberate performance – I was so self-conscious going out like that, I felt stared at, noticed, in a new way. And I was, particularly by georgia’s attention, the clear lust in her eyes and fingertips as I lit her cigarettes and held her drinks and attempted to kiss her (with little luck – she had a girlfriend back then).

Looking at these photographs from six years ago, though, I catch a glimpse of the gender I grew into – I don’t always recognize myself in photos from that time, but in those … yeah, I think, that’s me.

It took such a long time for me to come to comfortably sit in this butch identity, for me to (if we’ll continue the metaphor) navigate the gender galaxy, and find a comfortable orbit around an identity label. Some of us don’t ever settle into that – some of us are radical little spaceships that explore treasures from all sorts of different worlds and words that we orbit. I guess the trick is, in my opinion, to simply find the routes that are the best to navigate (not necessarily the easiest, but the most satisfying), the orbits where there is plenty of oxygen, the alliances that create treaties and share resources and have excellent adventures.

We basically have to make our own gender galaxy maps. And while some gender mapmaking tools – queer theory, gender theory, postmodern theory, queer literature, smut and the language of lesbian desires – while some tools help immensely, I still couldn’t quite escape the praxis, the application of the theory, because of the ways that the social constraints and social policing affected my own process deeply.

The same friends who went out with me on that infamous red tie night – jesse james & Maverick – were very influential, and I had a lot of criticism about how they performed their own flavors of female masculinity. I don’t remember a lot of discussions about the label/term/identity of ‘butch’ specifically, but we definitely knocked the term around sometimes – mostly I remember saying, “I don’t know. If I’m butch, then am I all these other things that come along with compulsory masculinity – like misogyny?”

I remember one particular time when jesse james and Maverick were joking about attending a community class for and about femmes – identity, privilege, passing, visibility. And they kept speaking of it like it was a place to go pick up chicks – I eventually snapped at them: That’s a special place for femmes! That’s not a convenient pick-up ground! You’re like the boys who heh-heh-heh and sign up for women studies.

[I know it says “women studies” and not “women’s studies,” and that’s deliberate. The apostrophe implies that these studies belong to women, that it is women who study them. When it’s women studies, singular, then the implication is that it is the study of women. This is how my undergraduate Women Studies department operated & how I still describe that particular academic discipline.]

I’m not sure if they got it; maybe they did. I quickly gained the reputation as the hard-core feminist of the gang, and jesse james especially loved to push my buttons about it, to get a rise out of me, to make me laugh, to frustrate me with a scenario. They used to tease me endlessly.

But looking back at it, it was an integral part of my gender identity development. Because feminism, and deep respect for women, and deep rejection of the “oppressive male gaze” and gendered hierarchy, came first, I was terrified of objectifying women, of disrespecting women – and, most importantly, of adopting misogyny as part of a masculine identity. And I kept wondering, over and over: If I reject misogyny as part of masculinity, part of “butch,” then what’s left? Masculinity is, in so many ways, simply defined as not-woman; what else does that identity hold? And what does it mean for me to adopt it, to become it, to be it?

My solution, at least temporarily, was that I could look butch – hence the ties and button-downs and packing – but that I would maintain my hard-core feminist values, my inner emotional landscapes, my interests and personality traits. I didn’t know how far I could take this new idea of a masculine gender. For years, my friends & peers would say, “well, yeah, but you’re not really butch.” I didn’t like that, but I didn’t know how to only pick and choose the traits that I wanted, intentionally, within masculinity. I didn’t know it would mean to have be butch in other ways – for example, emotionally.

Even still, this puzzles me. There is something inward about gender, a sort of “gender energy,” internal traits that run through displays of female masculinity – but I still struggle with articulating that. It starts to run into the grey areas of where gender overlaps with personality, and I start feeling cautionary, not wanting gender to dictate things like hobbies and interests.

I’d like to figure this out, though. It’s on my list of Things to Explore Further.

Incidentally, jesse james – formerly known as The Closet Musician here on Sugarbutch – was known as Ice (from Iceman) back then; Maverick and Ice even had flight suits for Halloween one year. Then we had Mitchell, who joined our gang on occasion, and there were the femmes, Pepper (Maverick’s girlfriend and, later, wife) and Lola (who I was madly head-over-heels about). Who knew all those nicknames were such fabulous practice for anonymous writing?

I never had a nickname that stuck, I always wanted one. Perhaps that’s part of why I created Sinclair all these years later.


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How to take butch cock seriously

I often get asked about how to start playing with strap-on sex, how to get your partner to stop laughing during strap-on sex, how to take your partner’s cock more seriously, how to strap it on and not feel like an idiot.

I’ve written a lot about my own experiences here, but I haven’t written a lot of the more straight(ha)forward advice on it – advice seems so variable based on the individual situation, so it’s hard to distill. So, here’s some of the ideas about cock-centricity, cock confidence, and taking butch cock seriously.

For the record: there are many femmes who strap on, many genderqueers who strap on, many who have a cock and don’t call it “butch.” I don’t mean to butch-centricize the gender play, but it is my own experience and that’s primarily the perspective of this writing project of mine. So, for the purposes of this post I’m writing it from the perspective of the butch as the wearer, and the femme as co-conspirator to this gendered sex play. But hell, some of the most skilled strap-on wearers I’ve ever seen were femmes – I certainly do not intend to leave anyone out!

  1. Call it a cock, dick, prick, pecker, schlong, johnson, even penis. But don’t call it “fake” – it’s not. (Calling it a “dildo” or “plastic” aren’t really turn-ons, either.)
  2. Touch it. Caress it, taste it, lick it, kiss it, suck it, fuck it. Treat it like it’s a part of me – it is.
  3. It’s not silly to suck butch cock. (I mean, sure, laughing during sex is fun – but really? If you giggle through the blowjob? I’ll probably loose my hard-on, especially if that’s what you’re laughing at.) I have plenty of nerves in my cunt that I can feel when you press it against me; you have plenty of nerves in your mouth where I can fill you, can slap against your tongue, pop into the back of your throat. And the mental turn-on I get seeing you in that position makes me crazy with desire. Don’t underestimate it’s power.
  4. As a lesbian, loving butch cock does not make you straight. Let me say that again (and perhaps you should repeat after me): loving butch cock does not make you straight any more than wearing one makes me a ‘man.’ There’s more to an identity than one act. It’s okay to be cock-identified! Just because you don’t to sleep with (bio/XY/flesh-and-blood-penises) men doesn’t mean you have to reject cock from your sex life. Our bodies have holes, and our muscles and nerves respond to them being filled and played with. That’s okay, and you’re still gay as a three-dollar bill, I promise.
  5. Consider getting a flesh-colored, realistic-looking strap-on cock. I know this is practically the biggest faux-pas of lesbo-land, as we’re supposed to reject men and therefore penises, and strap-on cocks are only okay when they’re swirly marbled colors or shaped like dolphins, but if you want to play with gendering a cock, consider something more realistic. It will enable you to take it much more seriously. Consider Vixskin (silicone, so you can boil/sterilize it! Feels real – even gives a little in your mouth, mmm), consider a thin leather or barely there harness, consider it yours.
  6. Packing: do it. It’s hot. Nothin’ like being able to pull your cock out at any time, and I think all y’all know how hot it is to feel it in your pants (or your partner’s pants) all night long. Get the right tools for it, though; you can’t just strap-on with your thick leather harness with all the buckles and belts with your favorite hard cock. My vote is still the infamous Silky, which bends and will fit comfortably close to the body in briefs, but is still hard enough to fuck with.
  7. If you don’t pack, then you will probably have to navigate That Moment of Strapping On. That can be tricky: the making out starts getting all hot and heavy, and I always felt so awkward even bringing up the idea, especially with someone new – let alone someone I knew well. I tend to use the phrase, “so, can I get my cock out yet?” which gives the impression that of course we’ve both been waiting for it, but it also lets her call the shots if in fact she just wants to make out (or trib, or fingerfuck) a while longer. And! – when it’s you’ve seen that gleam in her eye and it’s time for you to strap it on, don’t be embarrassed, apologetic, or shy. At that point, she’s gotta wait for you to disrobe (possibly) and re-buckle, test the weight between your legs, get comfortable. Don’t rush. Take your time. Savor this part; remember that you’re both salivating at the idea of what’s to come. Let her see you pulling it on and getting it all ready, if you can – that’s part of this whole process of your female body becoming able to fuck her. [And for goodness’s sake, once you’re strapped on, go back to the making out, don’t just attempt to slide it in & start goin’ to town. You already know that, though, right? Right.]
  8. You don’t have to – and shouldn’t – apologize for liking it, for wanting it, for craving it, for asking for it.
  9. Muse says: “Femmes who like cock are not unicorns – they’re everywhere.” Same goes for butches who like cock. There is a bit of stigma around gender play in lesbian communities; it might take some work to find someone who understands how to take butch cock seriously. But don’t fret, you will.
  10. Our gender and sexual identities don’t exist in a vacuum – especially butch/femme, I think, relies so much on the experience of the other complimentary person to bolster and develop and enhance our own identity. So what do you do if you don’t have someone with whom you can play with a cock? You can still play with it and learn to take it seriously – strap-on and learn to jack yourself off. Wear it all day Saturday when you’re cleaning your apartment, running errands. Learn to appreciate the weight between your legs, learn how to shift it right or left when it gets sweaty or itchy or uncomfortable. Give yourself permission to play with it, explore it, even if it’s on your own. Build your own cock confidence!
  11. This is a particular kink that not everybody likes – and that’s okay. When you’re selling it to someone, remember that it’s an asset of yours, a strength, something fun that you get to experiment with – not a weakness or a bad thing. You’ll find somebody who will appreciate you not just in spite of it, but precisely because of it.

Got more tips for building cock confidence, taking butch cock seriously, or re-valuing cock-centricty? Leave ’em in the comments.


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Tips for Dating via Personal Ads

I’m trying this dating thing again, and I’ve answered a couple of personal ads on Craigslist in the last few weeks. No dates so far – seems the flirtation dies out pretty quickly, and frankly, I could pursue it, but I’m not willing to do all the work. Some, yes, but you’ve got to make it worth my while, you’ve got to pique my interest. I’m definitely more picky than I used to be, and I’m not so willing to compromise – hell, I’m not quite even sure I’m ready to date, I’m still dizzy from the ending of that last relationship with DD. I’m not in a hurry, but I am getting just a wee bit anxious to get laid.

Meanwhile, we’ve coined some new terms: DND, definitely not dating; email chemistry, for what kind of feeling you get from someone via writing; small-r vs big-R relationship.

I’ve noticed a few patterns in this dating adventure. Here’s some things that keep coming up for me. Got any tips for me, or for others? What have you learned by dating on the internet? Lay it on me, I can use all the help I can get.

  1. When placing an ad, make sure you have time in the next two weeks or so to go on follow-up dates. Clear your date nights – Friday and Saturday – or, if you can’t do that (if you work those nights, for example), have a few other options open, brunch on the weekends, or typical happy hour time for those who may be doing that 9-to-5 office thing. You don’t have to go out with everybody who answers, of course, but you want to be able to pick two or three of the good responses and be available to actually meet in the near future.
  2. When sending photos of yourself:
    a) ask your friends to help you pick out the shots that actually look like you, even if they aren’t what you consider to be your most flattering photo;
    b) include a shot of your face and a shot of your body;
    c) do not include photos of you with your ex. Have your friends take new shots of you if those are the only ones you have;
    d) resize your photos to somewhere around 600px by 400px. Attaching huge, giant photos directly from the camera is very inconvenient for the recipient, and are hard to see.
  3. Your social networking site is also a personal ad. Send on your Myspace/Friendster/Facebook site upon sending your name or your photograph (your potential date will probably Google you anyway). If you use your Myspace profile for something else (keeping an eye on your kids, connecting with your high school students) make a profile that just highlights you, where you can actually write things. No need to be smutty and intimate and TMI, just have it be an authentic representation of you. This profile should be PUBLIC, with some photos that you haven’t already sent onto your prospective date, because why else would we be looking at your profile? To gauge whether or not you are physically interesting & attractive. That doesn’t necessarily mean “conventionally beautiful” – it means, whether or not I’m intreagued by the way you look. If you need to keep this private, for whatever reason, then after your prospective date sends you a request to be added, please follow up on that quickly.
  4. When you set a tone in your personal ad, it’s best to follow up with that tone too. You created a persona for yourself in your ad, if you can’t follow through with it, best to put up a persona that you can follow through with. Sounds cheesy to say “be authentic,” but, come on. Be authentic, even if that authenticity is NSA dating & sex. That’s authentic too.

In Response to a Rant Against Female Masculinity

Dear Angry Anonymous Girl on Craigslist,

The Closet Musician is so right about thickened skin. Reading your posts, I feel the hatred you carry, but only down to a certain level before it just simply stops. Your words hit my bullet-proof armor and don’t penetrate any further. And that armor is made up of years of self-examination, of friend’s and lover’s support and care, of gender theory and feminist theory and queer theory, of reading memoirs and listening to my community’s stories. I haven’t internalized any of what you’ve said about female masculinity, about butches, bois, tomboys, about ME – which is good, that’s an improvement.

Perhaps sometimes I’m not as sensitive as I think.

But I know that you’ve hurt others, deeper than me. I know how fragile it is to come to and then embody this female masculinity, how fragile these gender identities are, how easy it is to sometimes tear them down. You’ve hurt my friends, my lovers, my people, and that is not okay.

In the tone behind your words I can tell you really mean what you’re saying. You actually believe this hatred, you actually believe that masculine-identified female-bodied folks are responsible for discrimination against lesbians, that this type of female masculinity is ugly. That surprises me – that kind of deep-seated hatred always surprises me, on anybody, for any group.

This post of yours, the subsequent comments on Craigslist and on the various lesbian blogs, have reminded me how radical it still is to exist outside of gendered norms. How subversive it is to break the sex/gender assumption that dictates that female-bodied folks must be feminine and male-bodied folks must be masculine. How dangerous it is for me to walk around in men’s clothes, get my hair cut at a barber shop, buy cocks and pack.

Gender is still the dirty little secret in the worlds of activism and social change. It is still possible to deflate a female women’s rights worker by calling her “mannish,” still possible to discredit gay male activists by calling them “flaming” or “fairy.” There are consequences to subverting the paradigm of the sex/gender binary.

And you know what? That must mean that us activists, us queers and butches and bois and femmes and drag queens and fags and radical fairies and trans guys and girls and genderqueers – we must be doing something right. We’re a threat. If we were that easy to dismiss, if we were that marginalized and insignificant and deviant, we would not have to be called out as “ugly” on a public forum by a cowardly anonymous genderphobe.

That revelation I feel in my bones, past that armor, all the way down to my defenseless bloody organs. A vibration of hope, a vibration of power.

Last night, I said to The Closet Musician that I was grateful for all the comments that have come after the original post, I’m grateful that my community of genderqueers are not taking this lying down. I’m grateful for all of the comments here on Sugarbutch, for all the reactions of surprise and love and care, for all the angry rants and the articulated defenses. Here are a few:

It’s in the way that they are both gallant…and in / private moments raunchy, sexy and hot, that makes me shudder / It’s the Butch Mystique, which I would never pretend / to know, but that I understand and love.

It’s too bad you can’t appreciate the beauty of female masculinity, the amazing variety of genders in the queer “community”, and the sheer fun of fucking with gender.

I know for a fact that there are plenty of attractive, femme women who love their butches. Objectively hot women, even by glossy magazine “normal people” heterosexual standards. … Even hot women are occasionally rejected (there’s always another hot one somewhere down the line) so the argument that someone would like a butch for no other reason than she can’t do any better really doesn’t work. And what makes you think butches aren’t picky?

For many of us, there is simply nothing hotter than a really butch woman.

u don’t like masculine women but who died and said u can dictate who a individual is and how they should look. … im not a butch but I LOVE THEM because they are the bravest of our kind to put themselves out there and be who they are. I think you should find out who you are and stop judging what u don’t know. Remember lesbians in general have to struggle to be accepted and its more than effed up to kno that 1 of our own is holding us back. I hope ur proud of yourself ur famous.

The entire post was pure internalized homophobic spew. Nothing sickens me more than a member of a disenfranchised community further discriminating against others … we are the ones on the front lines, as much now as then. … It has been our fight, our visibility and our scars that have allowed you to have increased freedom and safety. … The next time you want to put down butch, maybe you ought to think a little harder about your history.

But even so, I wish we were at the point where even though you are thinking these awful, prejudiced things about female masculinity, you would never, never voice them to others, because gender discrimination would be a faux pas, so politically incorrect that you would never put it out there into the world, because there would be huge social consequences.

Wait, I just realized something. What you’re saying is hate-speech. It’s prejudice against a group of people, and it violates Craigslist’s Terms of Use:

You agree not to post, email, or otherwise make available Content: a) that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, or is harmful to minors in any way; […] c) that harasses, degrades, intimidates or is hateful toward an individual or group of individuals on the basis of religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, age, or disability.

Like many of the posters have said, I don’t care if you aren’t attracted to butches. Just like I don’t care if you are or aren’t attracted to men, to redheads, to big breasts, to high heels. Attraction is personal, yours is yours and that’s just fine. But I do care that you’re taking your personal preferences and turning them into hate speech, to discrimination. Your hatred is fuling gender discrimination and transphobia, both of which have very serious consequences in our society. I am so tired of seeing yet another headline for a trans person murdered in a hate crime, and your hate crime, your post, is precisely the same kind of misunderstood, misguided hatred that fuels these crimes.

But, like they say, karma’s a bitch. If you have any desire to cover your ass, I suggest you educate yourself. Figure out your own internal shit. Live and let live. Stop spewing such hatred. And while you’re at it, donate to the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, a non-profit organization that “works to ensure that classrooms, communities, and workplaces are safe for everyone to learn, grow, and succeed – whether or not they meet expectations for masculinity and femininity. As a human rights organization, GenderPAC also promotes an understanding of the connection between discrimination based on gender stereotypes and sex, sexual orientation, age, race, and class.”

Perhaps I will practice some lovingkindness meditation and think of you – may you live in safety, be happy, be healthy, live with ease. Maybe through that practice I’ll come to some new place of generosity and be able to forgive your ignorant prejudice. I’d like to be able to do that. I’d like to be that generous.

For now, I wish you peace in your heart.

Sincerely,

sinclair

Femininity & Heterosexism

Figleaf did an interesting experiment with Google over on Real Adult Sex, putting in “attractive,” “beautiful,” and “worthy” along with “man” or “woman” and comparing results.

He wrote about what sparked this idea, saying he noticed a particularly attractive woman:

I thought it must be inconvenient to attract so much attention, and then wondered what it would be like if I could attract that kind of corner-of-the-eye attention, and then I started thinking about the old “men first initiate, women then decide” courtship convention and wondering about how that creates a perhaps unnecessary imposition on women to attract attention (since they weren’t allowed to simply ask for phone numbers). […] [G]rowing up male it’s unspoken but totally obvious that women are about attracting us; meanwhile we grow up blind to the also-unspoken molding to be worthy. The climax of the Sleeping Beauty fable says it all: she’s not only beautiful but *in a coma!* He needs his shining armor to reach her through the thorn-overgrown castle. His kiss awakens her.

Man o man. Very well said. This makes my head spin a little, and strikes me as relevant to this discussion about femmes passing that we’ve been having lately – particularly, to answer the question of why femmes attract male attention, which leads to the sometimes-necessary conversation of outing onesself, which leads to the potentially dangerous situation of having been seen as ‘deceptive.’

Of course, it’s because femininity is seen as an invitation, a deliberate request for male attention.

(And this is precisely why using femininity to attract other women is a subversive identity. It messes with the entire premise, the entire purpose, of gender roles.)

Even though we’ve come a long way, baby, and women can now ask for phone numbers, can come on to men, can wear trousers! can vote!, some of these old subscriptions about how men and women must work are still carved deep into our subconsciousnesses. And one of those things is that the purpose of femininity is to attract men, male attention, the male gaze, the general hetero mating process.

So really, hitting on a feminine girl – queer or married or otherwise – taking how she looks as an invitation – is a form of heterosexism. It’s the foundation of the “she asked for it” defense.

Of course, some girls want to be hit on. I don’t mean to discount that femininity is used for attention – it’s a powerful tool that women (and some men, yes?) have in this heterosexist society. And most people are flattered to be noticed if the hitting on is done with respect, right? I mean, it’s a compliment – the problems arise when the guy (or whomever is doing the hitting-on) is relentless, won’t let up, pushes boundaries and doesn’t take hints. I suppose this is the place where the hit-ee needs to be firm and direct, as opposed to kind, though of course that doesn’t always work.

Maybe this small insight seems obvious – sure seems obvious to me, now that I am writing it out – but I appreciated the sociological perspective Figleaf added to my explorations of the subject.

Nostalgia for the Butch/Femme Dynamic

Sometimes I hear people say they wish they lived in the 50s and 60s so they could experience the butch/femme dynamic, or they “miss” it even. Team Gina has that line in their song: “Sometimes I miss the butch/femme dynamic / ’cause only girls in carharts make me panic.” When I think about it, it’s kind of odd, coming from a couple of twenty-something girls. It’s an interesting sort of nostalgic feeling for a time that we didn’t actually witness.

Can you really miss something you didn’t actually live through? Seems like there’s a better word for it than “miss” or “nostalgia,” because it’s actually longing for another time. But it’s deeper than that – it’s a historical connection to that time, an inhereted lineage that I really do miss and sometimes long for.

Though the gender revolution/s that are currently happening – especially around butch/femme – are a resurrection of something of the past, maybe it’s actually more more accurate to call it something new – a similar idea resurfacing in a new way.

I certainly didn’t grow up with any sort of model of the butch/femme dynamic, not in my own family – where actually there was a strong rejection of gender roles, falling on the not-rare 70s feminist argument that gender inequality is based on gender difference and gender expression. And yet, I feel connected to the butch/femme dynamic, I feel like a part of it, both currently and along some sort of historical axis.

I’ve been reading Riki Wilchin’s book Queer Theory, Gender Theory lately, and one of her major arguments (so far) is that gender activism got pushed out of both the feminist and gay liberation movements of the mid-1900s because of the ways that the conservative right backlash was using gender deviation as personal attacks against the people in the movements. Now that both of those movements have come so far, and been so successful, we are finally able to unearth this genderphobia that has been prevalent all along and attempt some activism around that.

What’s interesting about that to me is the ways that genderqueerness had to go underground, hidden, shameful, through these liberation movements, and now we – quite often it’s the folks like me, twenty-something, queer, children of the revolution movements of the 60s and 70s – are picking up the torch in our own, new way. And hell, the gender revolution happening seems more radical now than that butch/femme nostalgic time for which some of us long – look at the trans movement, the trans rights, the genderqueer and intersexual activism and knowledge that is getting more and more mainstreamed.

On Privilege & Gender (Part Two)

One more thing:

To Belle, and to the femmes I’ve dated and fucked and longingly admired: Thank you.

Thank you for swooning over my neckties and collared shirts, my perfectly messy short hair, my heavy belt buckles and swagger and the way I order wine for you. Thank you for having my favorite whiskey at your house for me, just for me, thank you for dressing up and looking your best, celebrating the costume of femininity, for putting time into your hair and makeup and outfit and shaved legs and stockings and lingerie straps that bite into flesh and shin splints from high heels and freezing legs from short skirts and the eyelash batting and the way I feel like a million bucks when I’ve got you on my arm.

I appreciate your gender expression, deeply, because I make more sense when I’m next to you. To quote Cody: “Let’s be honest: we need femmes.” I didn’t get who I was until I started dating femmes. This identity does not exist in a vacuum, and, for me, requires the duo dynamic inherently.

I have so much reverence for the femme aesthetic. Am I occasionally jealous of your ability to pass? Yes. But I understand – at least a little – the burdon of it, too, and I want you to share that with me. Femininity is assumed to be for the benefit of straight men, and to subvert that can sometimes mean consequences.

Yeah, I get tired of being on the front lines of visibility sometimes. But when I have a femme on my arm, strutting down the street, freshly fucked and we’re melting into each other, everyone who sees us knows what we are, and I love the second glances we get. I love the tiny revolutions that happen in the faces of strangers passing by.

Passing is not always a privilege. Some femmes I know have even said to me that passing is never a privilege, in fact. (I’m not sure I agree entirely, but I understand the argument.) To force someone to admit that it is a privilege is to force a hierarchy, such a power play, such an insecure I’m-better-than-you kind of move.

I’ve joked occasionally that femmes and other passing queers get to hear what straight people say when they don’t know a queer is listening. My lovers have occasionally told me stories of what they heard at work or school and I’m shocked – especially in PC-Seattle where I used to live, I never heard people saying homophobic – or even homo-ignorant – remarks around me, because I am visibly queer, they knew I was listening. As a writer, as an activist, as an observer of human character, I am fascinated by those conversations and interested in access to those places where I cannot go. Likewise, I sometimes find I have access to intimate (bio-hetero-) male conversations, where they let me in as one-of-the-guys and bitch about their wives, tell sexist jokes, or fawn over girls at the bar. A straight girl – and probably femmes – would probably not have access to these conversations.

I’m remembering a conversation I had with my friend and femme spy once upon a time, where she strongly asserted that there is no privilege in passing as straight, especially because sometimes, when she is presumed straight and then outs herself, she actually finds herself in more danger than she was previously and, I believe she argued, she’d be in more danger than someone visibly queer – a butch – because of the perception that her passing was actually deception.

I definitely see her point there, and it makes me feel highly protective and posessive of femmes, to think of the occasional dangerous situations they may be in. I still think there is some privilege in the femme identity – as there is some in the butch identity, some in an androgynous or genderqueer or any other gender identity, isn’t there? If there was no benefit, what use would it be? I suppose “privilege” here though is not the same as “benefit;” one implies a hierarchical gain within social structures.

Maybe I need to back up here. What is privilege? How do we define it? How do we know when we have it, when we don’t? And what, if anything, do we do with it when we have it? What are our responsibilities with privilege, how do we meet them? How do we avoid abusing our privileges?

Uh, I’ll think about that and get back to you. Chime in your two cents if you feel inspired, please.

Ultimately, though, I really want to stress that comparing degrees of oppression is fruitless and purposeless. Who does it help? Do you really feel better after forcing someone to admit that they have privilege? It’s one thing to have a discussion about it, to acknowledge the intricate complexities within identity hierarchies – it’s another thing to play these I’m-better-than-you games.

Passing, Privilege, & Butch/Femme

In response to what Belle wrote about privilege, guilt, and butch/femme:

I can’t speak (write) for all butches, and I do get that some of us have awful things to say about femmes and passing and privilege. I don’t know what to tell you about all of that, except that I think that it’s bullshit. It comes from a misogynistic bullying place where the one who is bullied and oppressed turns around and bullies the femme who is littler than you.

This is male privilege. This is the heteronormative hierarchy.

I don’t feel “more oppressed” than any given femme, and I resent that game of who has more hardship than whom. Division and in-fighting are ways that our marginalized communities stay broken apart instead of banded together. C’mon, remember Lord of the Rings?

Yes, butches are more visible, and therefore, in some situations, easier targets. But femmes are targets, too, and discriminated against. Hell, there are so few of us who even fall into this butch/femme dynamic – why make enemies of each other?

This past week I appeared as a guest on the Diana Cage Show on Sirius OutQ radio, and she’d had a whole segment of conversation before my part (where I performed some poetry and chatted about breakups, smut, and femmes, what else) where she was talking about “butch training,” I shit you not.

“Who trained you?” she asked me.

“I don’t think I was ‘trained’ … do all butches get trained?” I was confused.

“Oh yeah,” she answered.

“What about femmes?”

“Oh, no, they don’t need to be trained.”

Oh man, did my mind boggle. I don’t think she’s right about that, but let’s say, for a minute, that she is. In what do we need training? Was I doing something wrong? Did I need to be trained? Had I already been, and didn’t know it? Who had trained me?

“I’m not sure I was trained …” I said skeptically.

“Yeah, true, you’re a chivalrous butch. An old-school butch,” she said, as if this meant maybe I didn’t need ‘training’ after all?

“Yeah, I am. And a feminist, hardcore.” But I kept thinking. “Maybe my first big love trained me,” I said. She was the first femme I knew and she whispered in my ear, I think you’re butch, and I came a little and threw up at the same time. I watched how she wished her girlfriends would treat her and tried to be that.

And when I thought about it more later, I think it was my mother, my parents, who probably most deserve credit for “training” me in the ways that I take care of myself and others. Isn’t that what we’re speaking of? How we love, how we care, how we expect the partnership dynamic to work? And, fundamentally, if I may interpolate here, I think the “training” refers to those butches who often have grown up tomboys, one-of-the-guys, with a socialized masculinity. Those butches that treat femmes – and women – and, hell, people – with disrespect and dishonor, and I think it has everything to do with the “tough guise” of masculinity.

My point is, this is often the same type of butch (as much as I shudder to sub-categorize) I’ve heard this “femme privilege” argument come from, too. And I resent it, deeply. It saddens and angers me. I don’t know how to encourage a more wholistic, human range of experience in that type of butch (again, I shudder), wish I did.


But. This is what I have to say to Belle, or to any femme who endours that forced guilt about femme privilege:

Yes, passing is sometimes a privilege, but not always. Just like my visibility is sometimes a privilege, but not always. Tell me about times it was a privilege for you, and times it wasn’t, and then ask me about my stories, too. Tell me what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Let me learn from your experience. It’s hard sometimes to be a queer in this heterodominant society, and it’s hard to be a butch or femme in a lesbian community rooted in androgyny and which associates gender oppression with gender expression.

Fuck, can’t we share this burdon? Can’t we pass this weight around, let it be a little lighter between us? I mean, I know I’m a hippie-feminist-do-gooder-pacifist and all, but I believe in the power of community, deeply.

ask for what you want

I want you to only address me as Sir.

I want you to start playing with your clit ten minutes before I arrive, but under no circumstances are you allowed to come.

I want you wearing high heels and a short skirt with nothing underneath.

I want your safeword to be carnation, which means, you can yell no all you like, but I will not stop.

I want you ready to bend over my lap struggling as I spank you. Lift your dress up and turn your ass-cheeks red until my hand hurts. And then you’ll kiss it, suck my fingers, make it better. I’ll scold you for making me all hard and wanting, and you’ll straddle me and ride.

I want your explicit consent. I want your permission and submission.

I want you to know how to draw it from me. I am afraid of my own power. I want you to pull these cruelties from me, to beg for them. I want to take your energy and mine into one huge fireball that I will weild and you will receive. I want your surrender. I want you to make me feel like the biggest, baddest top in the room, even if I’m not.

Can you do that for me?

if that’s what you’re into

I’m exploring this conversation about GGG – good, giving, and game. Dan Savage describes it this way:

Dan Savage and his readers often use the abbreviation GGG. This stands for “good, giving and game”, and generally refers to Mr. Savage’s ideal for healthy human sexuality: that a partner should be “good, giving and game” when presented with a person’s fantasy, however kinky or unusual. In his March 1, 2007 column, Savage summarized “GGG stands for ‘good, giving, and game,’ which is what we should all strive to be for our sex partners. Think ‘good in bed,’ ‘giving equal time and equal pleasure,’ and ‘game for anything—within reason.'”

And so I’m taking a lesson from Flight of the Conchords:

Top 10 things I love about femmes

  1. Strappy sandals, roman sandals laced up the ankle, legwarmers, flowery skirts – the legs, the legs, the legs

  2. The moments of subversion when I expect gender to be aligned with compulsory femininity, and I am surprised

  3. Delicate jewelry, fingernail polish, pierced ears, garter belts, purses, glasses

  4. The way she walks in high heels

  5. The under-the-eyelashes fuck-me look

  6. The feminine curves of cleavage and the clavicle

  7. The struggles with not being visibly out, which also brings the privilege of hearing what people say when they don’t know someone queer is listening

  8. Holding the door open, holding your umbrella, ordering for you, pulling out your chair, that moment when you take my arm, carrying your heavy burdons, cradling your delicacy …

  9. The examination, overhaul, and eventual reclamation or rejection of “traditional femme hobbies”

  10. When a boy actually turns you off … but I turn you on