Sex & Business (isn’t that what it’s always about?) February Book Roundup

Can you believe it’s the last day of February? I know there are literally fewer days in this month, but it always seems to zoom by, more than other months. Maybe it’s the beginnings of spring coming back and my eagerness for more spring. Fall is my favorite, really, but that baby-green color that the brand new leaves are? And the first signs—the magnolias, the crocuses, the daffodils? I love that so much.

Aside from it being a quick month, I traveled a lot. Which meant I did have some good time on airplanes and transit to read, but that I was usually using it for other things (like going over my notes for workshops). I’m learning that I can’t really multi-task effectively when I travel. I tend to think of the verb “to travel” as something I do in the background, and other things happen at the same time, but really when “I am traveling,” that’s sometimes all I can actively do.

(I know touring artists have said this kind of thing all the time, but it’s still interesting to discover for myself.)

So, this month, I read:

chokeChoke by Chuck Palahniuk. I picked up a few books by him because his work has been recommended many times over the years, and I thought it’d be an engaging, somewhat light read. This was the one I started with (though I did read Fight Club a while ago, after an ex of mine said it was her favorite book). I can’t say I liked it. At one point I tweeted, “I’m not supposed to like this main character, right?” I didn’t, but I understand he’s supposed to be an anti-hero. I guess I didn’t even like him enough for the anti-hero to work, I wasn’t that sympathetic to his stories and I didn’t like his level of manipulation. I don’t know if I’ll pick up another by Palahniuk. If I do, which do you recommend?

allegiantThen, because the first one was such an easy and fun read last month, I picked up Allegiant by Veronica Roth. Unfortunately, I thought it was the second book in the series, but it was actually the third, and because it’d been about a month since I read the first one (and it was light breezy skimmy reading for me, not deep attention), I was a little lost at the beginning but just went with it. I didn’t even realize until about halfway through the book that it was building up to The Big Reveal of the series. A variety of folks who saw I was reading this series recommended to stop with the second one, because the third was so bad; I didn’t think it was bad exactly, and the twist was somewhat interesting, though of course the science is not sound at all. “Because genes!” is not good. I kinda blew the wad with reading the third one second, so I probably won’t go back to the second one. Still, it was a fun read.

specialtopicsI picked up Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marsha Pessl because I read Night Film last month and loved it, but it was what stumped me. I was totally on a fiction roll until I started this one, and then it was just a liiiiiittle too dense and just a little too smarty-pants for me, and I put it down and stopped. I didn’t finish it, though someday when my attention span is a little better, I’d like to try it again.

switchAfter an absence, I picked up Switch by Astrid Knowles again, which I’d seen some smart quotes from on Tumblr I think and figured it might be a promising BDSM novel. Uh, not really. Thin and trite and not very good writing and not very hot. Still, it’s written from a submissive girl’s perspective, with a lot of dominant worship, so I like that part. Enough to finish the book, though not really enough for it to have made an impression.

protocolsI’m constantly in search of really good power dynamic writings, so I picked up two. The first was Protocols: A Variety of Views (Power Exchange Books Resource Series) by Robert Rubel, which was a disappointment. It’s a collection of essays from a variety of well known M/s and D/s folks, many of whom have excellent credentials and have been instrumental in the leather communities for a long time. I suspect that they as people are amazing, and that they have lots of great ideas that I would love love love to learn from, but they didn’t translate very well to these short essays. A number of the essays started with, “What is BDSM?” which could be useful if you’re writing an entire book about BDSM, but these are short essays on protocol specifically, so I suspect the average reader already has some knowledge. I would’ve loved more advanced ideas and less beginner, and more editing so that the writing wasn’t quite so clunky.

eroticAlong with Protocols, I finally picked up Erotic Slavehood by Christina Abernathy, which is actually two books together: Miss Abernathy’s Concise Slave Training Manual and Training With Miss Abernathy. The first, the slave training manual, is quite good. It is a bit elementary, a beginner-to-intermediate level, but I really liked the writing style, the knowledge, and the smarts of Miss Abernathy, and I don’t say that about very many d/s books. The second half of the book is a training guide with exercises, suggested readings, journal prompts meditations, and all kinds of things for a submissive/slave/s-type to explore. I loved it! I wish I’d read it before Submissive Playground, though perhaps it’s good because it could have been influential. I highly recommend it to s-types, and I promptly passed it off to rife to work through.

journeyabandonmentThe Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life by Susan Anderson … I don’t have much to say about this. I am still grieving, and on any given day somewhere from 10 to 70 percent of me is in some sort of despair process. I assume it’s temporary, I trust it will keep evolving, but it’s been hard lately. So I am trying to learn about the grief process, to lean on the teachings and helpers who have done this kind of thing before, and not just dwell in my own heartbreak hotel.

sexySexy Sailors: Gay Erotic Stories edited by Neil Plakcy was so much more than I expected. Not just better (though yes, better writing than many of the other books I’d read this month) but also more engaging, more interesting, more fascinating. I’m not really into sailors or boats, but there’s a whole language associated with it, and in addition to the language, an entire men’s culture that is quite curious to glimpse into. And, I really liked all the cock-centric dirty parts. I don’t read much gay boy smut, but I think I should change that. I fucking love Cleis Press—any time I pick up an erotica anthology by them, it never fails to have high quality writing, dirty scenes, thoughtful characters, and so much sensual, smokin’ hot language (which is exactly why I pick up erotica instead of watch some dirty scene). It’s so good for sex geeks like me.

startupLast but not least, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau. I was hoping this had business advice in it, but it reads much more like The Four Hour Workweek, which is useful for motivation but not so much for detailed infrastructure implementation, which is the phase I’m currently in. I’m looking to make some business decisions and studies in the near future, so I took a shot in the dark and started here. Not so much. But I’ll keep shooting—I have some other ideas.

If you have any book recommendations, I would love to know them! What have you read lately that’s been amazing? What do you think I’d love?

PS: Photo of me at Feelmore 510 in Oakland is by Lauren Cohn-Frankel.

Devouring Magic: January Book Roundup

Little note: I use Grammarly’s plagiarism detection software because duplications, while sometimes necessary, are never as good as the real thing.

I read seven books in January! I’ve had such difficulty focusing on reading the past few years. I think at first it was because of my weird fogged-out grief-brain, but then this past year I think I was just out of the habit, going instead to my Facebook feed or Twitter feed or Tumblr feed if I wanted things to read.

I’ve also been realizing that the massive stacks of books that I read for work are sometimes really hard to get into and not exactly “pleasure reading.” While I love love love to read relationship theories and gender theories and gender memoirs & narratives and sex education things in general, I also don’t necessarily curl up with those before I go to bed. I used to—but I guess that’s the difference between doing that kind of stuff as a JOB and reading them all for fun.

So around the holidays, I put out the question to friends and started accruing a huge list of indulgent novels to try out and read. I wanted to start with some easy page-turners, those “unputdownables” that I bring to the dinner table and wake up wanting to read. I got some fantastic recommendations.

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I started with Divergent, the first in a YA dystopian trilogy. The narrator, Tris, is in a society that measures by value, and at 16 they are sorted into the faction where they will stay. They do have some choice, but they also take an aptitude test to determine where they would best fit. Excellent premise! I was into it, and excited about the story, and devoured it quickly, but the writing was not so great. Thin and definitely plot-based. I would absolutely watch the film, though, and I may pick up the other two books in the series, especially when I need to remind myself that books are easy to read and I can zoom through them in a couple days.

Tiny aside: Do y’all read through a Kindle or Kindle app? I think it’s kind of fascinating that it tracks how many hours you’ve spent reading any particular book, and then it also tells you how many more hours you have to go in reading it. I don’t track time very well, I am coming to realize, so that was really interesting.

After Divergent, I almost picked up book #2 in the series, but decided to try another YA fantasy-type series instead, and I picked up Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. Holy crap, I thought that book was amazing. From the introductory chapters that normalize Karou’s strange life to her romance and the profound reveal toward the end of the book, I was hooked. I read the second,Days of Blood & Starlight, and then was so ready to pick up the third, Dreams of Gods & Monsters, when I discovered that it’s due out this spring! Noooo! So I picked up the #2.5 novella, Night of Cake & Puppets, which was charming and sweet and fun, and I am even more into Karou’s best friend Zuzanna. I hear it’s going to be a movie, and they are going to be big hits (if Twilight and Hunger Games have any precedence, which they do). I would absolutely cast Kenzi from Lost Girl as Karou, and if they cast anybody else I might hold a protest.

I took a little break from YA fantasy after that series, because I am not sure it gets better than that, at least for right now. So I picked up The Delicious Torment: A Story of Submission, Alison Tyler’s second in her recent trilogy. If you like Fifty Shades type of erotic romance fantasy novels, I highly recommend Alison Tyler. She’s the real deal, with actual experience and solid writing talent.

I picked up Night Film by Marisha Pessl on recommendation from an old friend, one whose fiction opinions I usually trust. I couldn’t put it down. It was more dense than the others I’ve been reading, but I got so deeply engrossed in the story of the eccentric horror film director and the narrator investigative journalist dead set on exposing whatever real horrors the director was up to. The strange cast grows, and I was so impressed with the world that Pessl built. I don’t usually read such suspense or mystery, but it reminded me of the years in high school where I used to read book after book of Christopher Pike and Dean Koontz. Maybe I should try some of their more recent books again.

That is precisely the kind of reading I’m looking for these days—something somewhat light, that I can devour, but with some magic underneath it that keeps me enraptured and entranced.

I finished off the month with Jeanette Winterson’s latest memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. I have read almost all of her books, I think I read everything up to The Stone Gods, though I’m a few behind now. I love her intense writing, her experimental style, the ways she is obsessed with love. Oh, and this book, this book. This book made me want to go back and read all the classics of English Literature A-Z that she talks about discovering, it made me want to theorize about love and loss and the lost loss and healing and grief and how we can ever recover from trauma. I marked all sorts of quotes and cried and wrote things down. I had to put it down and read some of it slowly, connecting deeply to the amount of feeling she is able to convey. After reading it, I feel like I just took a big deep breath. It made me want to pick up many more things of hers, or to re-read some of my favorites, like Gut Symmetries and Written on the Body.

Thus concludes my January book roundup! Follow me on Goodreads and see which books I’ll be reading in February.

What have YOU been reading? Anything amazing lately? Anything to recommend?

This month’s roundup is sponsored by Grammerly. I will receive an Amazon gift card in exchange for that link placed up top, but they had no say over the content that I posted. So that’s only half selling out, right?

Free eBook Download: BDSM murder mystery about dogs & neighbors

During the month of November, in celebration of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), author (and my good buddy) Amy Butcher is giving away ebook copies of her award-winning Nanowrimo novel Paws for Consideration.

Of course, if you get the ebook version, you will miss out on the awesome flip book—illustrated by Amy—in the upper corner of the book, which features Daisy the person zooming around in her wheelchair while Skittles the dog pees on the page numbers.

From Amybutcher.com:

Paws for Consideration won the Gay Category at the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival. That now makes Paws for Considerationan “award-winning novel” . . . who knew?

It’s also National Novel Writing Month. Another cause for celebration not only for all the crazy writing happening but also because that’s where Paws for Consideration got it’s start.

So throughout November, you can download a free copy of Pawsthrough Smashwords. Enter your email in the form [on Amybutcher.com] and we’ll send you the download code. And if you enjoy, please give a shout out on Goodreads.”

Paws is an easy fun read, full of jaunts all over the Mission and Castro in San Francisco. I read it on a plane in basically one sitting last year when it came out, and I laughed out loud and cried when Skittles was found and was moved as the neighborhood characters found a way to come together and puzzle through someone’s death. I like how Daisy navigates through the heretofore unexplored world of BDSM in the Castro, the perspective is sweet and curious and accepting.

Oh yeah, there are play parties and sex and masturbation and flogging scenes and leather dungeons in this book too. And also lots of dogs.

It starts like this:

This is box title
For the briefest of moments, a question hung in the air between two damp noses. Daisy-the-person joysticked her electric wheelchair a little closer to Daisy-the-dog. Daisy-the-dog danced one cautious step backwards in response, slid a long tongue across the tip of her nose and tasted the dampened air, trying to decide if this hulking combination of vehicle and person was to be trusted. Daisy-the-person snorted too, and wiped a sleeve across her own muzzle. “Come on over here, you cutie, and give me some love!” she said, beckoning low with an outstretched hand.

The voice of Daisy-the-person carried way beyond the dog in front of her. She was the morning wake-up call for her neighbors, as regular as the bells ringing out from the steeple of Mission Dolores, only higher pitched. She patted her generous lap again, encouraging Daisy-the-dog to come closer.

To the canine, it wasn’t clear where chair began and person ended. The way this creature moved, the wheels and the whir, were disconcerting. But she smelled good—of oily chicken scents and warm lint—and she wasn’t moving now. Daisy-the-dog decided to take a chance.

Now, don’t you want to read the whole thing? Go download it now.

Free download of Visible: A Femmethology Volume Two

femmethology

Have you read Visible: A Femmethology? No? It’s your lucky fucken day, because Volume 2 is available for Kindle download for FREE from today until the 21st.

(Also: Don’t own a Kindle? No problem! This book can be read with the Free Kindle Reader App for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, or Android Phone.)

It’s true! Homofactus Press sent out the news on their mailing list, and included a little bit about why:

“Please help us push the book to the top of Amazon’s lists. We are a micropublishing company and rely on you to spread the word about our work. Please forward this newsletter to two friends – just two – you know will want to download Visible: A Femmethology, Volume Two for free. And ask those two friends to forward it to two of their friends, and so on.”

I’d say it could be more than two, it doesn’t have to be just two. But either way, download and enjoy!

Visible: A Femmethology Volume Two includes my piece, A Love Letter to Femmes, and many other beautiful essays, praise, and thoughts about femme identity. But that’s not why I’m telling you about it—I’m telling you because it’s a great book and there aren’t that many recent publications out there on femme identity.

“How Poetry Saved My Life” Reading with Amber Dawn (& me!) on Wednesday in SF

I’m reading as a special guest for Amber Dawn‘s San Francisco book release party for How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir this Wednesday night, May 22nd, at 7pm at the Modern Times Bookstore Collective.

Sub Rosa remains one of my favorite novels that I’ve read ever, and definitely in the top 3 in recent years. She received a Lammy in the lesbian fiction category for it and it is well deserved.

I haven’t finished How Poetry Saved My Life yet, in part because every time I start reading it, I read it slowly, taking time with each word, and I put it down often to jot down my own poetical thoughts. It’s inspiring.

“I’m asking you to entertain that wish I made earlier. To treat this like a two-way conversation. My dear reader, you’ve caught on by now that this is not really about sex work. Sex work is only one of many, many things we learn we are not to talk about. Sex work is only one of many things we’ve been asked (but never agreed) to keep silent.
This is about the labour of becoming whole … Locate yourself within the bigger, puzzling, and sometimes hazardous world around you. You are invited to do this work.”

I’m working on a new piece, chewing a lot on the connections between poetry and sex work, between gender and sex, between desire and language. I think there are so many overlaps and connections and I’m striving to connect the dots in a poem for Wednesday (tomorrow!) night.

If you’re near the Bay Area, please come! I won’t be reading much more before I head up north for June & July, so this’ll be a rare appearance. And you really want to hear Amber Dawn read from this new book—trust me!

howpoetryAmber Dawn reads from and discusses her new book, “How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir
*Joined by Special Guest Sinclair Sexsmith*
Wednesday, May 22nd: 7PM
Modern Times Bookstore Collective
2919 24th St (at Alabama)
www.mtbs.com

Amber Dawn’s acclaimed first novel Sub Rosa, a darkly intoxicating fantasy about a group of magical prostitutes who band together to fend off bad johns in a fantastical underworld, won a Lambda Literary Award in 2011. While the plot of the book was wildly imaginative, it was also based on the author’s own experience as a sex worker in the 1990s and early 2000s, and on her coming out as lesbian.

“How Poetry Saved My Life,” Amber Dawn’s sophomore book, reveals an even more poignant and personal landscape―the terrain of sex work, queer identity, and survivor pride. This story, told in prose and poetry, offers a frank, multifaceted portrait of the author’s experiences hustling the streets of Vancouver, and the how those years took away her self-esteem and nearly destroyed her; at the crux of this autobiographical narrative is the tender celebration of poetry and literature, which―as the title suggests―acted as a lifeline during her most pivotal moments.

As raw and fiery as its author, How Poetry Saved My Life is a powerful account of survival and the transformative power of literature.

Sinclair Sexsmith (www.mrsexsmith.com) is an erotic coach, educator, and writer. They write the award-winning personal online project Sugarbutch Chronicles: The Sex, Gender, and Relationship Adventures of a Kinky Queer Butch Top at www.sugarbutch.net, have contributed to more than twenty anthologies, and edited Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica. They travel frequently to teach workshops on gender and sexuality.

Amber Dawn is the Lambda Literary Award-winning author of Sub Rosa, as well as a filmmaker, and performance artist. She’s appeared at dozens of universities and literary festivals, both for readings and to sit on discussion panels. She is often invited to speak on topics such as “writing from the margins,” queer identities in writing, and sex-positive writing. She also leads creative writing classes with high-risk youth and/or sex workers populations. She has toured three times with the Sex Workers’ Art Show and is the former Director of Programming for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF). Her website is amberdawnwrites.com.

A Dirty Excerpt from Carrie’s Story [Blog Tour]

carriesstoryToday is my day on the Carrie’s Story blog tour. I devoured this book in the beginning of March as some escapist fiction, hoping for something easy to read that was easy enough to digest without a lot of deep thinking. And while it is easy to read and easy to digest, it isn’t without it’s deep thoughts. Carrie has very little experience with kink and submission at the beginning of the book, but by the end she is an auctioned slave, having gone through trainings from her (temporary) master and trainings from the Madame of the slave auction herself.

I love the little moments where Carrie submits, not because she is comfortable being taken by this person or that person, but because she trusts the woman who created the entire system. And by submitting to the system, she is submitting to that woman in particular. It’s a beautiful explanation of how M/s is larger than D/s, and how M/s is not about individual interactions.

I’ve been more and more interested in M/s theory lately. I’ve got a lot of thoughts about how D/s and M/s are different, and I’d love to write about that more soon here—mostly I’m still chewing on the differences and formulating thoughts. I’ve read through Raven Kaldera and Joshua Tenpenny’s book, Dear Raven and Joshua: Questions and Answers About Master/Slave Relationships, which is amazing and which I may turn around and re-read from the beginning right away. It’s long and detailed, well-organized and easy to read in a Q&A format. Unfortunately (and fortunately) it’s been teaching me a ton of things that I’ve been doing wrong … but I’ll leave that thought for the moment and share you some more details about Carrie’s Story. I highly recommend the read.

Excerpt from Carrie’s Story

Day one had begun with the very chic fortyish woman holding me tightly by the nipple and telling me, “We will all want to use you during these trials, but first, we will want to know how obedient you are, how much self-discipline you have. You are accustomed to being in restraints?”

“Yes, Madame Roget,” I said.

They all laughed a little at this, and she told me that they didn’t believe in that sort of thing for these trials. “We would not mar the woodwork of this pretty room with any of those little hooks and eyes, I think you call them. You will do everything we command, and you will be beaten, and bear it beautifully, without any collars or cuffs, without being tied or held in any way.”

I gulped. “Yes, Madame Roget,” I agreed, though I was terrified at the thought of not being tied down while being beaten. Too bad we couldn’t rig up something using all the hardware hanging off the jacket of her Chanel suit.

Quel jour. I had no idea if I could really do it, and I wasn’t perfect by any means. Twice, that I can remember, and maybe more times than that, my hands flew up to my breasts to protect them. This was at least one of the “technical” things Jonathan hadn’t thought of. He, of course, loved to think of crafty ways to embed hooks and eyes all over his house and so, stupidly, hadn’t realized that the rest of the world might not. I think what got me through it was that I was so pissed at him for not considering that this might happen, and so determined to best the situation in spite of him. Thanks a lot, coach, I remember thinking, seeing him out of the corner of my eye, over there on his delicate little chair. I thought of that creep who brought those terrified little four-foot-eight-inch American gymnasts to the Olympics, to be entirely outclassed by the Russians and Romanians.

That day ended very abruptly, or at least I thought so. I was on my knees in the center of the room, having just thanked the board, one by one, and very sweetly and clearly, though in a bit of a choked voice, for a brisk beating they’d just administered to my breasts and thighs. (Oh, and in French—we switched to French for the afternoons.) And, no, they didn’t hold up any cards with little numbers on them to rate my performance. They hardly acknowledged me at all, in fact, but Madame Roget turned to Jonathan and curtly said, “Bring her around tomorrow at ten, and we’ll continue.”

“Thank you, Madame,” Jonathan replied, getting to his feet and hurrying to help me up. “I will. Thank you all.” He spoke like the well-brought-up little boy he must have been once. And I realized that part of the entertainment, for him, and maybe for me as well, was that he was on trial too.

When we got back to the hotel room, he grabbed me, and, very uncharacteristically, pushed me onto the bed practically into a backward somersault, pulled up my skirt, and started fucking me. My shoes went flying, and I felt a garter unsnap painfully against my thigh. Against my cunt, my belly, my legs, I felt his pants zipper and a million buttons and buckles digging into me. It was silly, clumsy, uncomfortable, but I understood. It was what I needed, too. The long, horny, ritualistic day of trials, subtleties, pain, performing, and politesse had gotten to both of us, and what we both wanted was mindless, exhausting, low-tech vanilla fucking. In and out. Bang bang bang. Friction. I closed my eyes and came a lot, moving however I pleased and making lots of noise and trying to forget that there were such things as rules or form or sensibility.

Still, you don’t forget a year of slave training just like that, so a long while after, when I had recovered enough, I crawled to the foot of the bed and knelt there at attention (although I was unsure what to do about the skirt that was still up around my waist and the stockings down around my ankles). Jonathan looked at me for a while. Then he frowned, sighed, and finally said, “Oh hell, Carrie, I don’t think I can maintain any rules tonight, not after watching those pros do it all day. Let’s just take showers and zone out. Are you hungry? Want to do room service?”

Which was how we passed the next three evenings. We’d come back from the trials, pull off our clothes, fuck real hard, and then eat. During some break in the second day trials, Jonathan had gone out, found an English-language bookstore, and scooped up a shopping bag full of mysteries and sci fi. We weren’t following rules anymore, which meant we could say anything we wanted. But we were afraid of saying wrong or embarrassing things to each other. At least I was. So the books kept us busy during those weird, wired, exhausted, polite, and oddly companionable evenings. We’d dive into them, every so often one or the other of us finishing one, maybe briefly recommending it, or tossing it across the room, proclaiming it a “turkey, guessed it halfway through, don’t bother.”

On the fourth evening, the rock ’n’ roll/cyberpunk story I was racing through reminded me of thrash music and I thought of my Primus T-shirt, packed up with my stuff at Stuart’s. I decided that if I passed the trials I’d tell Jonathan he could have it as a good-bye present. Thanks for the memo- ries, I guess, and for the strange intimacy, even if we’d only had about four real conversations in the space of a year and a half. Good-bye, and thanks, also, for finding me a job that was not just a job but an adventure. So long, accomplice, collaborator, coconspirator.

Just then, there was a knock at the door. Jonathan went to get it. There were two European guys in suits and short squared-off haircuts, looking like the cops in La Femme Nikita. They were from the auction committee, though, and they were here to tell us—well, Jonathan, really—that I’d passed the trials. I could hear that much anyway, though the one of them who was doing the talking, the only one who knew English I think, was speaking very softly. I heard Jonathan tell him, “I’ll fax them the papers within an hour. And I’ll get her for you now.”

I hadn’t known they came for you in the middle of the night. And I don’t know if Jonathan had either. He walked over to me—I was sprawled on the bed in a hotel bathrobe and a pair of his socks—and pulled me to my feet. “You’re in,” he said, “and you’re not allowed to speak anymore.” So much for the T-shirt idea. Or for even a so long. “Take off your clothes,” he continued in an expressionless voice. “You’ll go with these gentlemen.”

They were standing by the door watching without much interest. I felt a little sorry for them; this had to be the dullest master/slave scene they’d ever barged in on. I pulled off the socks and robe, folded my glasses on top of the open book, and walked over to them. They produced a pair of high heels and a trench coat and helped me into them. Then, silently, they hustled me out of the room and shut the door behind them.

 * * *

From Cleis Press: 

Carrie’s Story is regarded as one of the finest erotic novels ever written—smart, devastatingly sexy, and, at times, shocking. In this new era of “BDSM romance,” à la Fifty Shades of Grey, the whips and cuffs are out of the closet and “château porn” has given way to mommy porn. Carrie’s Story remains at the head of the class. Imagine The Story of O starring a Berkeley Ph.D. in comparative literature who moonlights as a bike messenger, has a penchant for irony, and loves self-analysis as much as anal pleasures. Set in both San Francisco and the more château-friendly Napa Valley, Weatherfield’s deliciously decadent novel takes you on a sexually-explicit journey into a netherworld of slave auctions, training regimes, and enticing “ponies” (people) preening for dressage competitions. Desire runs rampant in this story of uncompromising mastery and irrevocable submission.  

Molly Weatherfield, the pen name of Pam Rosenthal, is also the author of Safe Word, the sequel to Carrie’s Story. A prolific romance and erotica writer, she has penned many sexy, literate, historical novels. She lives in San Francisco. You can find Molly on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MollyWeatherfield and on Twitter at @PamRosenthal (https://twitter.com/PamRosenthal).

Blog Tour Schedule

March 24 – Shanna Germain
March 25 – Lelaine
March 26 – Alison Tyler
March 27 – Romance After Dark
March 28 – Romance Junkies and Amos Lassen
March 29 – Sinclair Sexsmith
April 1 – Rachel Kramer Bussel
April 2 – Kissin Blue Karen
April 3 – Dana Wright
April 4 – Erin O’Riodan
April 5 – Lindsay Avalon
April 6 – Laura Antoniou
April 7 – DL King

Carrie’s Story, Slow Surrender, and Other Things I’ve Been Devouring To Distract Myself

So. Yeah.

slowsurrender carriesstory

I’m reading a lot. Light things, but well-written things, because I need something to completely occupy my mind that I don’t have to really think about. I’m journaling most days, but not writing anything worth reading, just a lot of purging. Emotional vomit. Navel-gazing, which I used to sometimes think was a good thing, self-insight, self-reflection, but now seems trite and self-indulgent. I’m waking up and most of the time going to sleep. I’m staying up late and then not being able to wake early. I’m waking early and not being able to get back to sleep. I’m reading reading reading on the subway at the cafe on my breaks when I can’t sleep anytime I need to try to stop thinking all the thoughts that are circling circling circling like predators. Like hawks. Like something big and heavy that you see from far away and it doesn’t look that bad but when they get close your pores start to shake. You start sweating and your pupils dilate. Those kinds of thoughts are still stalking me. All the things I did wrong. All the ways I have doomed myself. All the things that I could’ve changed didn’t change am never going to be able to change. Reminding myself that I am not doomed. Telling myself over and over again that I did the best I could we did the best we could no one is at fault no one is at fault. Sometimes I even believe that. Loss happens. Errors of judgment happen. Perfect storms of chaos happen, all the best movies know how if any one factor in the plot would have slipped out of place, it wouldn’t have happened that way, but that the universe conspired somehow to shatter that rain of misunderstandings and missed connections and opportunities down upon our heads. But I try to remember that sometimes all of creation is conspiring to shower us with blessings too. Could that be true? Could I really believe that people are fundamentally good, at the core? It’s what I say I believe, and most of the time that belief is not tested. This is when I need faith. Hope.

Hope is when you look out the window and you go, ‘It doesn’t look good at all, but I’m going to go beyond what I see to give people visions of what could be.’ —Anna Deavere Smith

I don’t think I can tell the truth yet, because I don’t yet think I know what the truth is. There’s not just one capital-T Truth anyway. There are many truths. My truths and your truths and our truths are perhaps three different truths. I think I’m done believing in objectivity. I don’t think it’s possible. I distrust people who start sentences with, “Objectively speaking …” How can anyone see objectively? Sometimes I can squint and look at things sideways and sometimes, just sometimes, I can take myself out of the way of the experience for a glance, a frame, a whisper of smoke. But usually only long enough to get one thought, one perspective, not long enough to really grasp the three-sixy view.

I don’t know what happens next. I know I keep trying. I know I keep writing and striving and crying on my sister’s couch in the mornings. I know I stare at the tree’s brittle branches scraping against this window in the wind and wondering which will break off and which will make it to bud and which buds will pop open to that baby green spring. Oh right, it’s springtime now, isn’t it. When things long dormant start to wake. When things waiting waiting for this freeze to thaw start to tentatively uncurl and test the air.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. —Anais Nin

It’s such a risk. Everything is, from this cup of coffee to that service I just cancelled to the appointment I made for next week. No one really knows if next week will exist, but now that this week is here, we proved last week that next week existed, and I am trusting that’ll keep happening, until it doesn’t. That’s all I can do, anyway. I think I have some more trust in me, though it’s thin. I’ve been paving the roof of my mouth with it for months. It leaves a coat all sticky like too too sweet honey. Makes me crave mouthwash, some salt water gargle to cut the aversion of the over-sweet. Some crumbs of sourdough bread. Good thing I’m heading west, back to the salt water where the sun sets over the ocean instead of over the land. Somehow, it has always seemed more correct. And in the absence of light, I’ll look east.

Power in the silence. Power in the sound of a lover’s name.

*

Book notes: Excerpt from Carrie’s Story, when her dominant says he’s going to sell her at a slave auction. Cleis calls Carrie the “thinking readers’ submissive.” Cecilia Tan about the Slow Surrender series: “I would call it the “BDSM billionaire” genre, also known as BDSM romance, also known as “If you liked 50 Shades of Grey, you might like this book.” Buy them through my Amazon store and you’ll toss some pennies my way—see the store for more of my erotica recommendations, too.

Review: Leather Ever After edited by Sassafras Lowrey (book)

leather-ever-aftercover1I’m back in Texas, visiting Rife, and we have had a great time reading Leather Ever After aloud to each other in the hammock.

Once upon a time, in a dungeon far, far away the kinkiest writers in the land were summoned to pervert beloved fairy tales with tales of dominance, submission, bondage and surrender. In these stories twisted princesses take control of submissive princes, witches play with power and fairy tales come to life in our homes and dungeons …

In Leather Ever After, celebrated queer author Sassafras Lowrey brings together some of the most beloved leather writers in an enchanting collection published by Ravenous Romance with a foreword by Laura Antoniou! Leather Ever After is Learn more about about Leather Ever After at LeatherEverAfter.wordpress.com and to get more information about Sassafras and hir work visit www.SassafrasLowrey.com.

It’s a star-packed anthology: the forward was written by Laura Antoniou (if you haven’t read The Marketplace series, I highly recommend them!), and also features stories by Lee Harrington, Miel Rose, DL King, Ali Oh, Raven Kaldera, Sossity Chiricuzio, Mollena Williams, and of course the anthology’s editor.

My favorites have been the ones set with modern language—Lee Harrington’s piece was unexpected and fantastic. I won’t ruin it by telling you which story it is, there’s kind of a slow reveal toward the end as the clues start adding up, but I loved the leather twist on it. It’s been much fun to read and discuss and get turned on and talk about fantasy and fairy tales.

Pick up Leather Ever After on Amazon or order it from your local awesome bookstore.

Paws for Consideration: BDSM Mystery Scavenger Hunt Party Tomorrow in San Francisco

One of my best friends, Amy Butcher, published a mystery novel this summer called Paws for Consideration. It’s about a wheelchair-bound woman named Daisy who lives in the Castro and loves dogs (more than people, most of the time). She stumbles upon a dog whose owner is dead on the street and vows to solve the mystery of his death when nobody else seems to be doing much about it—and stumbles into a world of BDSM play parties and leather and queers.

It’s such a fun read, pretty quick, hard to put down, and full of San Francisco references and internal dog dialogue (I have a theory that pretty much all that any/every dog thinks is, “I’m a dog I’m a dog I’madog,” but Ames is convincing me otherwise). I highly recommend it—it’s on Amazon!

This Thursday—tomorrow!—Ames is doing a big release party/scavenger hunt in San Francisco at the women’s building for this book. I wish I could be there! I was trying to figure out some way that I could, but it didn’t work out. Please go in my place and say congratulations to her for me—you can say I sent you, then you’ll have an excuse to talk to her. (She’s a hot silverfox butch, if you hadn’t noticed that yet, so you might want an excuse to say hi.)

Details:

    Thursday, August 30th
    Audre Lorde Room, The Women’s Building
    (3543 18th Street, San Francisco)
    6:00-7:00 optional scavenger hunt
    7:00-8:30 awesome event!
    RSVP on Facebook

    Join us in celebrating the publication of Paws for Consideration, the debut mystery novel from former Women’s Building board member Amy Butcher. Performers, readings from the book, an optional scavenger hunt with prizes, premier of the book trailer video . . . and more! All proceeds from book sales will go to support The Women’s Building.

    Scavenger Hunt—How to participate:

    The scavenger hunt will take you to real locations straight out of the mystery novel. In order to participate, you’ll need a QR code reader for your smart phone and an old-school paper Clue Sheet. Links for both of these are below.

    At each site you’ll find a placard with a QR code (that’s how you know you found the right spot). Scan the QR code and it will bring up a video. The video will tell you about where you are, pose a challenge to solve, and then provide clues as to your next destination. In all, it should take you about 45 minutes and it should be fun!

    The placards will be in place by 6:00 pm on Thursday, August 30th. Remember to bring your completed clue sheet to the party no later than 7:15 to qualify for great prizes. Doors open at 7:00.

Watch this video for more information.

More details, links, suggested QR code readers, over on amybutcher.com

Does that not sound like SO MUCH FUN? How often do you have the opportunity to attend a scavenger hunt around San Francisco? Hope you can make it, and hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

Announcing “My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B.”

Topside Press announces the release of “My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B” … I don’t know what else to say.

Contact: Katie Liederman
Media Representative, Topside Press
+1 212 457-5660
[email protected]

“MY AWESOME PLACE: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHERYL B” TO BE PUBLISHED BY TOPSIDE SIGNATURE

Official Publication Date October 23, 2012

New York, NY (June 26, 2012) – Topside Press imprint Topside Signature has today announced that October 23, 2012 will be the official release date of My Awesome Place: The Autobiography Of Cheryl B, the highly anticipated book by poet and curator Cheryl Burke based on the manuscript that remained incomplete at the time of the author’s death in 2011. The autobiography offers a rare authentic glimpse into the electrifying arts scene of New York City’s East Village during the vibrant 1990s, through the eyes of the young writer during her rise to prominence as the spoken word artist known as Cheryl B.

In the months following her death, members of Burke’s close-knit writing group, who had met continuously for nine years, worked to compile her drafts, essays and emails into a completed manuscript which was eventually synthesized into its final form by Burke’s close friend, novelist Sarah Schulman. The book’s narrative, from a liminal space between fiction and memoir, tracks her struggle to translate her working class New Jersey roots and define herself as an artist against the backdrop of an unforgiving city, a series of disastrous girlfriends and boyfriends and an intense, intimate relationship with drugs and alcohol. By the time Burke emerged, sober, in 2001, she had witnessed–and made major contributions to– one of the most remarkable artistic transformations that New York City has ever experienced.

“Historians are only just now beginning to deal with the transformations in art and culture that the East Village experienced in the 1990s,” said publisher Tom Léger. “My Awesome Place will quickly earn a place as a seminal text from this turbulent period in American art.”

Cheryl Burke (1972-2011) was a journalist, poet, performer and playwright who came of age in the vibrant 1990s East Village art scene. Her performances at the Nuyorican Poets Café, Bowery Poetry Club, the National Arts Club, P.S. 122, St. Marks Poetry Project established Burke as a young luminary and during her career she performed at venues throughout the US and abroad. Her work was published in Ping Pong, BUST, KGB Bar Lit, Go Magazine, Velvet Park, a dozens of other journals and magazines, and anthologized in Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution (Seal Press, 2007), Reactions 5 (Pen & Inc, 2005), The Milk of Almonds: Italian-American Women Writers on Food & Culture (Feminist Press, 2002), The World in Us (St. Martins Press, 2000), Pills, Thrills, Chills and Heartache (Alyson Books, 2004), His Hands, His Tools, His Sex, His Dress (Haworth Press, 2001), among others. Burke was a graduate of both New York University and The New School. She passed away at the age of 38 from complications related to treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My Awesome Place is her first book.

# # #

Topside Signature is an imprint of Topside Press, and is based in New York City, New York. Topside Signature will publish a select number of superb literary works of exceptional cultural significance to queer and feminist communities. The first title issued will be My Awesome Place and publishers expect to release 2-3 titles per year beginning in 2013.

My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B
By Cheryl Burke
$25.95 (hardcover) / $15.95 (paperback)

Published By:
Topside Signature,
228 Park Avenue South,
New York, NY 10003

Format: Hardcover, paperback
Size: 5.5″x8.5″, 208 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9832422-4-6 (hc) / 978-0-9832422-5-3 (pb)

Date of Publication: October 23, 2012
Distribution arrangements: Ingram

Book Release Party for “My Awesome Place” in NYC

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 7pm
Bluestockings Bookstore
172 Allen Street, New York, New York 10002
Facebook event

The official release event for “My Awesome Place: The Autobiography Of Cheryl B”, the highly anticipated book by poet and curator Cheryl Burke based on the manuscript that remained incomplete at the time of the author’s death in 2011. The autobiography offers a rare authentic glimpse into the electrifying arts scene of New York City’s East Village during the vibrant 1990s, through the eyes of the young writer during her rise to prominence as the spoken word artist known as Cheryl B.

Please join us to celebrate the publication of Cheryl’s first book.

About MY AWESOME PLACE

In the months following her death, members of Burke’s close-knit writing group, who had met continuously for nine years, worked to compile her drafts, essays and emails into a completed manuscript which was eventually synthesized into its final form by Burke’s close friend, novelist Sarah Schulman.

The book’s narrative, from a liminal space between fiction and memoir, tracks her struggle to translate her working class New Jersey roots and define herself as an artist against the backdrop of an unforgiving city, a series of disastrous girlfriends and boyfriends and an intense, intimate relationship with drugs and alcohol. By the time Burke emerged, sober, in 2001, she had witnessed–and made major contributions to– one of the most remarkable artistic transformations that New York City has ever experienced.

The Harder She Comes edited by DL King (Book)

I’m part of the virtual blog tour for The Harder She Comes edited by DL King which just came out from Cleis Press. It’s a butch/femme anthology specifically, which to my knowledge is the first one released since Sometimes She Lets Me, also from Cleis. There aren’t very many butch/femme erotica anthologies out there (is Back To Basics the only other one?), and this adds an excellent new addition to one of my favorite little teeny subgenres.

Here’s the description of the book:

What is it about a pretty girl in a tight skirt bent over to adjust her stockings? Or that hotter-than-hot butch, swaggering into the bar like she owns it, eyes undressing every pretty girl in the place? Some butches worship at the altar of their femmes fatale and many little girls have a need to serve their big, strong daddies. In The Harder She Comes, we meet girls salivating at the sight of well-filled and packed jeans and bois dreaming of having a beautiful girl’s red lipstick smeared across their mouths. D. L. King has curated a singular set of stories filled with sexy sirens luring unsuspecting butches to their demise on the rocky shores of love and hot, confident women in silk and lace during the day who will do anything to serve their daddies’ needs at night. The Harder She Comes is great writing with characters that will stay with the reader for a long, long time —sometimes sweet, always sexy, often romantic, and more than a little dangerous.

I would love to tell you what I thought about each individual story, but sadly I have no time to put that together. I’m at a training all weekend and writing this while I should be sleeping. So please accept my apologies, and here’s an excerpt from my piece in the book, a story called Good Girl, Bad Girl.

Part I.

Sometimes, I am a Bad Daddy: I hate it.

I hate it and I want it and I crave it and I hate that I want and crave it, this, this girl, this way that I use her, this way she uses me. Sometimes I resent it. Her, me, my own desires. Why do they run this way? Where did these wounds come from, or are they scars now?

I have to remind myself not to ask myself too many of those questions. That it’s okay to want what I want. That after the flash of feminist guilt, as Karlyn Lotney once wrote, it is quite the handy little fetish.

And it is a fetish, or maybe rather it is many fetishes wrapped up and tied with a big pretty satin red bow. Power. Gender. Age.

I hate it, but I have never loved any play more.

This is what happens.

I sit on the couch reading a book and drinking tea after the dinner she made. For me. She finishes the dishes, brings her book out too, sits next to me. I don’t watch her as I take another sip of my tea. This is what I practice: Not paying attention. But in not paying attention I still pay attention, I just don’t let her know that I’m paying attention. When I notice I’m focused on her, I try to turn the focus inward. What do I want right now? And I feel something stir.

She inches closer to me. I turn a page. She sighs inaudibly. I turn my eyes to the pages of my book, move them along the words, not reading.

“Daddy?”

I don’t look up, yet. “Yes?”

“Can I …”

“May I.” I correct.

“May I … sit on your lap please?” It comes out in one quick string.

I pull the bookmark out of the back of the book and slide it in between the pages, close the book, set it on the coffee table, look up at her. Her eyes gleam gently. Hopefully. Like she just asked for candy at the grocery store. Her dress is pushed up from how her legs are crossed on the couch and I can see a hint of her inner thigh, and I want my cheek on it, want to bite it, want to feel her squirm and hold her there between my teeth as I leave marks. I breathe in. Keep it under control.

“Yes, sure darling.” With the Good Daddy voice.

She climbs over, sits sideways on my lap, knees bent over my thighs. Wraps her arms around my shoulders and her face buried into my neck and collarbone. Her hair smells faintly of shampoo, clean and bright with a gently fruit-flavored hint. It’s soft and thin and I bring one hand up to the back of her head, play with the gentle curls there.

She settles in and drops one hand to my chest, resting it on my waist. I shift a little, a growl rising in my belly. My arms fold easily around her. I don’t notice the sigh I let out, a low hum, the precursor to the growl.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, darling.”

“I like to sit on your lap.” She snuggles a little closer. I can feel a tightness spreading in my groin. I don’t say anything. “Do you like it?”

“Yes, darling.”

“Does it feel good?” Her voice drops softer.

“Yes.”

“Does it feel good …” she’s whispering now. “In your pants?”

I stir. My cock stirs, jumps. The growl grows. My arms tingle and tense, a sensation I want to let out with a fist. “Yes.” I whisper too. Our mouths are close.

I am a Bad Daddy. I want my girl to do dirty things; I want to do dirty things to her. I know she’d let me if only I asked, but sometimes the desperation is more fun. The arguing with myself. The attempts at holding myself noble, resisting her sweet girlish body. Feeling dirty for wanting it so much that my palms ache.

There are a lot of Daddy/girl stories in this book in particular … the original title was Daddy’s Little Girl so it drew a particular, um, flavor. So if that’s your particular flavor, you’ll find plenty of it in this collection. It’s definitely worth picking up.

Here’s the rest of the blog tour, check it out:
May 1  D. L. King  http://sacchi-green.blogspot.com/
May 2  Anna Watson  http://dlkingerotica.blogspot.com
May 3  Evan Mora  http://donutsdesires.blogspot.com/
May 4  River Light  http://sapphicplanet.com/blogtour_sapphicplanet.php
May 5  Sinclair Sexsmith  http://www.sugarbutch.net/
May 6  Crystal Barela  http://kathleenbradean.blogspot.com/
May 7  CS Clark  http://bethwylde.wordpress.com/
May 8  Valerie Alexander  http://pomofreakshow.com/
May 9  Andrea Dale   http://lulalisbon.wordpress.com/
May 10  Beth Wylde  http://adrianakraft.com/blog/
May 11  Kathleen Bradean  http://cyvarwydd.blogspot.com/
May 12  Teresa Noelle Roberts  http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com/
May 13  Shanna Germain  http://lantoniou.blogspot.com/
May 14  Charlotte Dare  http://madeofwords.com/posts/
May 15  Rachel Kramer Bussel  http://lustylady.blogspot.com/

Pick up The Harder She Comes edited by DL King at your local feminist queer bookstore, or over on Amazon.

Say Please! April Blog Tour & Reviewers Needed

A big ol’ box of Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica edited by ME and published by Cleis Press has arrived on my doorstep! I am so thrilled to hold this book in my hands and pet it and flip through it, after more than a year of working on it behind the scenes, on my computer, alone, jerking off in bed with the manuscript I mean uh, editing and copy editing and re-editing.

And now … comes the exciting part! The birthing it into the world part! The part where I figure out how to get it into your hands and on your nightstands and between your boxspring and mattress and on your kinky bookshelves. So I’ve got a few things up my sleeve, including six inches a virtual blog book tour and some extra copies for reviewers.

The official promo blurb:

Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica is a fiction anthology edited by Sinclair Sexsmith, to be published by Cleis Press in April 2012. It is available for pre-order at Amazon and will be available for the Kindle and Nook. Email lesbianbdsmerotica at gmail.com if you have any questions; to request a review copy, email Brenda Knight at bknight at cleispress.com. For more information about Say Pleaes series, visit saypleasebook.wordpress.com.

Item the first! Reviewers needed for Amazon

Apparently, book sales on Amazon set the standard for many other buyers these days, and reviews on Amazon (even clicking “like” on Amazon) make a big difference in possible sales. So I’ve got 20 copies of the book to give to folks who are willing to write a review on Amazon. To do this, you must: have an Amazon.com account you’ve made a purchase from, have a US mailing address, promise to review it by April 31st and actually follow through. Will send one to the first 20 people to request it. Email lesbianbdsmerotica at gmail.com with “Amazon” in the subject line, your mailing address. I’ve got more than enough Amazon volunteers! Thank you!

Item the Second! Blog Tour

In April, surrounding the book’s official April 10th release date, I’ll be conducting a virtual blog tour for the book! That means: If you are a blogger, and you’d like a copy of the book to review on your blog on a particular day of the tour, I’ll send you one in exchange for your participation. To participate, you agree to post on your corresponding day; posts can be your thoughts about the book, an excerpt, or an interview with me or another contributor. Email lesbianbdsmerotica at gmail.com with “Blog tour” in the subject line, and include a link to your blog and any pertinent information about the site you run. Deadline is March 31st, but I will fill it as I go, so please email me asap.

Item the Third! Preorder the Book!

If you do plan to buy it, as with all books, pre-ordering them has a dual impact on the book’s sales, meaning your sale counts not just for one book, but means that the bookseller your purchasing from will stock extra copies. All sales are great, but pre-orders are extra special, a heads up as a way to support your favorite authors.

Item the Fourth! In Person Tour in Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, NYC, and More to Come (So To Speak)

I am trying to get all over the place to read from this book … I still hope to visit Durham, Chicago, and Portland, and possibly Philadelphia and DC. If you’re a coordinator or event producer in any of those places, or in a different place!, and you’d like to help me with a reading, I’d love that. Get in touch.

Here are the current planned dates:

April 1 5pm, San Francisco at GV (with Salacious)
April 13 7pm, NYC at Bluestockings
April 22, Boston at a bar (with The Femme Show)
May 2, Seattle at Babeland
November 29, Toronto TBA (Facebook invite to come)

Item the Last! Get the Word Out, Buy a Copy, Let me Know What You Think!

I am beside myself with curiosity about how this book will be received. What do you think of it? What is your favorite story? Which lines stand out? Which authors were particularly impressive, whether you’ve read them before or will seek them out to read again? What themes did you love (or hate)? What did you wish there was more of? I would love feedback about this. After all, it’s the first anthology that is wholly mine, cover to cover, and I would love to do more of these in the future (hope hope).

I hope you’ll find a way to get in touch and tell me your thoughts, I am so very curious.

Open Thread: Empowering Femme Sources Needed

Here’s another question from the Ask Me Anything inbox, and I hope y’all might be able to help me out.

Dear Mr. Sexsmith,

As a new Femme, your blog has been VERY helpful. I am frustrated by, although I completely understand, the focus on femme invisibility. While it’s absolutely true, I need a more empowering story for myself.

As I spend more time with butches and listen to Ivan Coyote’s “To all the kick ass, beautiful, fierce femmes out there,” I have begun to think of femmes as modern day Robin Hoods. We femmes take power (given freely) from those who have it and help to redistribute it to those who have been denied it … sometimes by changing the way the world sees queer, sometimes by simply being changing/challenging how the world sees the person we are with, always by being purposeful about the way we see ourselves and how we accept and carry and use the power and privileges that are granted to us as we walk in, between, and among worlds.

Are there other empowering femme stories out there that I should know about?

—Kim

I humbly submit my own piece, A Love Letter To Femmes, to possibly add to your arsenal, which was published in Visible: A Femmethology Volume II.

I thought I published the whole thing on Sugarbutch but can’t seem to find it; if you follow this link you can download the mp3 of me reading it (thanks Dacia for recording it all those years ago, remember that?).

There are many femme books that I recommend, mostly ones that I have in my Amazon a-store, the classics of the femme canon. Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, A Persistent Desire, Brazen Femmes, Femmes of Power, Visible: A Femmethology Volumes I & II, The Femme’s Guide to the Universe, The Femme’s Mystique (that I mentioned in that Femme Invisibility & Beyond post) and more I’m sure.

I’d love some help here: What femme sources do y’all recommend? What was instrumental in coming to your femme identity or feeling a part of the femme world? What was part of your femme history? What should every new femme read?

Review: The Big Book of Pussy

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

My job is rad.

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

Here’s the description of the book:

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

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

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

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

“Sinclair Sexsmith presents a cornucopia of lesbian kink …” Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica Book Cover, Due Date, & Table of Contents

I’m thrilled to announce the table of contents and cover for my upcoming (and very first!) anthology, Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica, coming in April 2012 from Cleis Press.

The description, via Amazon:

Sinclair Sexsmith presents a cornucopia of lesbian kink — tantalizing tales rich in variety and saucy details of girls put in their place — and held there firmly. A girly-girl reaps a sweet punishment for refusing to mess up her oh-so-pink lipstick and a well-equipped top takes charge. Whether readers dream of surrendering to a lover or of taking control, Say Please offers plenty of erotic inspiration and gives readers exactly what they want!

In “The Cruelest Kind,” Kiki Delovely’s naughty narrator gets her just desserts from her butch girlfriend with some fierce back alley bondage while D.L. King’s domme makes her submissive strip before un unseen audience, binds her to a bench, and gives her a good strapping in “A Public Spectacle.” Anna Watson’ bored housewife gets more than she bargains for in “The Keys” when she follows a lesbian animal trainer out to a queer bar and anything goes in Xan West’s sexy “Strong” when a transgender butch and genderqueer sub engage in some very tough love.

And here are the contents. I am SO thrilled to have so many pieces by amazing writers. Seriously, these are some of the best of the best, I can’t wait to see the whole thing all together.

Introduction by Sinclair Sexsmith

Baseball Cap by Miriam Perez
First Ride by Wendi Kali
A Slap in the Face by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Housewife by Gigi Frost
Call Me Sir by BB Rydell
All of Me by Amelia Thornton
Taking Direction by Vie La Guerre
Black Hanky by Sassafras Lowrey
Spanking Booth by Dusty Horn
The Cruelest Kind by Kiki Delovely
Going the Distance by Elaine Miller
She Spoiled Me by Shawna Elizabeth
Gentleman Caller by Sossity Chiricuzio
Three Weeks and Two Days by Meridith Guy
Counting Love by August InFlux
Purge by Marie See
A Public Spectacle by DL King
The Keys by Anna Watson
Coming of Age by Dilo Keith
Not Without Permission by Sinclair Sexsmith
Feathers Have Weight by Alysia Angel
Strong by Xan West
Unworthy As I Am by Elizabeth Thorne

I’ve created a Twitter account for Say Please, a Facebook page, and a Twitter list to follow the authors, so you can keep up with all of us if you’d like. There is nothing at all at the book’s wordpress site yet, but there will be.

Keep an eye out for a blog tour, book release party in New York, review copies, and readings around the country, including (but hopefully not limited to) New York City, Seattle, Portland, Durham, and Boston.

I am so excited about this!

The “Bring Down the Chandeliers” Winner

… is #23, Sabina! I’ll contact you individually to follow up.

Hope you all get a chance to see Tara Hardy perform, please do seek her out. Sabina, I hope you enjoy the book!

Sabina mentioned Tamiko Beyer as her favorite, another queer femme poet of whom I am a big fan. Tamiko read at Sideshow last year, and I’ve seen her perform a few times around the New York area. Actually, I have a piece in the literary journal that she edits, Drunken Boat, that you might recognize called Rocking Chair Blow Job.

Review: I’ll Show You Mine (Book)

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

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

 

Best Lesbian Erotica 2012, selected & introduced by Sinclair Sexsmith

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

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

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

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

Ask Me Anything: My Favorite Smut

Meredith asked:

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

Oh sure, I have a few thoughts about that.

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

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

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

    
    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J-femme wrote:

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

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

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

Thanks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Reads: More of This World Or Maybe Another

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Reads: Lambda Lit & Publishing Triangle Awards

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

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

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

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

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

  
  

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

Friday Reads: Sub Rosa by Amber Dawn

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

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

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

Arsenal Pulp Press’s description is as follows:

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

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

Friday Reads: Dear John, I Love Jane

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Reads: Best Lesbian Erotica 2011

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

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

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

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

Here’s the description:

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

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

Friday Reads: How To Build A Fire by Erin Bried

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

Here’s the description:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Reads: Sex, Gender, & Erotica By Cleis Press

October and November have kind of gotten away from me, with three conferences and four college gigs and an erotic retreat and travel to three states and a new workshop, and oh yeah that whole new butch project thing. So I haven’t really been keeping up with the “Friday Reads” series I was trying to start, but I’ll just pick up where I left off, how about that.

Good timing, too, because Cleis Press, one of my favorite publishers, is having a winter holiday special: 20% off everything in stock!

We would like to extend a special invitation to Cleis Press & Viva Editions friends, family and colleagues to take advantage of our 2010 Gratitude and Giving holiday special. This is our way of saying we’re incredibly grateful for your enthusiasm, talent and support! From now until December 31st, we offer you and your network (your friends, family, coworkers, colleagues and neighbors) a 20% discount on all titles. Enter special offer code GG on your web order to receive your discount.

Here’s the fine print: Order as many or as few books as you like. Order as many times as you like. Offer good on any book in stock at time of ordering. Order through our web sites to receive discount. Must enter special offer code GG to receive discount. Cannot be combined with any other offer.

So hey, I have some recommendations for books you can pick up, if you don’t already have ’em. And who knows, maybe somebody on your holiday gift list would like some books too, hmm?

Books Which Include My Work:

Many of these aren’t explicitly queer, but the sex is delicious and sensuous and sweet and brilliant, the power dynamics are amazing, the writing is impeccable. So file these under Classics You Should Read:

And last but not least, here’s some notable Queer Titles that I’m not in, but that I’ve read and are excellent:

I know you could probably just order all of these on Amazon, but the publisher and authors benefit greatly when you get ’em from the source. All of these I highly recommend belong in your personal library.

Head over to Cleis Press’s website and browse through their dozens of other titles. If you like reading about sex and gender, chances are you’ll find a book or two you’ve been coveting over there.

Call for Submissions: Lesbian BDSM Erotica Anthology

As if the project (re)launch of Top Hot Butches wasn’t enough, I’ve got some other exciting news: I’m going to be editing an anthology for Cleis Press focusing on lesbian BDSM erotica!

I adore Cleis, I’ve been following their catalogues for years and I frequently jump at their new titles. They’ve published many of my short stories in other anthologies, and I am thrilled to be working with them as an editor. It’s a new venture for me! And I hope it goes well.

There is definitely a lack of the dirty stuff out there—so many of the erotica anthologies I pick up lately have lacked kink. And hoo boy I’ve been reading a lot of erotica lately. Did you know I am now the lesbian erotica editor for the Lambda Literary Foundation’s recently relaunched website? True story. I’m doing a quarterly roundup of the current lesbian erotica, so I’ve been getting all sorts of fun packages in the mail, but unfortunately most of them are just awful and I really hope the authors intended the book to be a joke. But if I can’t tell, then it wasn’t exactly a successful joke.

I can’t wait to turn up the dirty stuff and stick it all out there in a book with actual pages that you can wank off to—that’ll be a nice change from cuddling up to your laptop in bed, or wanking off at your desk, hmm?

A note about the word “lesbian” … it is pretty much necessary to use that word in the publishing world. So it was kind of not negotiable. I don’t feel great about it, and while I don’t not identify as a lesbian, it certainly wouldn’t be my first sexual identity label of choice (I tend to call myself queer).

Ultimately, though, it is an anthology focused on female characters, but any and all gender expressions are welcome (and encouraged!) to be represented in this anthology—cis women, trans women, and genderqueer characters who identify with the lesbian community. I will absolutely consider stories with trans men in them, assuming they identify with the lesbian communities, but know that the publisher has the final say over the manuscript and I’m not too certain how they would treat that.

If you’re a writer, please do submit a story. You don’t have to be a published writer, you don’t have to have any credentials, what matters is the quality of your story. You’ve got a few months to come up with an awesome scenario and send it in to me … really looking forward to reading all the submissions.

Please forward this call widely.

Call for Submissions: Lesbian BDSM Erotica Anthology [Title TBA] To be published by Cleis Press in fall 2011

Editor Sinclair Sexsmith is looking for hot, sexy, well-written stories about kinky sex between queer women, from bondage scenarios to power play to role play to sadism and masochism to sensation play for a new anthology of lesbian BDSM erotica. Looking for characters with a range of age, race, sexual experience, gender identity and gender expression: butch, femme, genderqueer, gender-non-conforming, dapper, and others will all be considered. Cis women, trans women, and genderqueer characters who identify with the lesbian community are welcome. Stories should have strong literary voice, characters, tension, and rising action. All characters must be over 18. Prose only will be considered, no comics, graphic stories, or poetry. For examples of what I am looking for, see Tristan Taormino’s collection Best Lesbian Bondage Erotica.

Payment: USD $50 and two copies of the book upon publication.
Deadline: January 1, 2011
Unpublished stories preferred.

How to submit: Send your story in a Times New Roman 12 point black font Word document (.doc) with pages numbered of 1,500 to 5,000 words to [email protected] Double space the document and indent the first line of each paragraph. US grammar required. If you are using a pseudonym, provide your real name and be clear under which you would like to be published. Include your mailing address and a 50 words or less bio in the third person. Publisher has final approval over the manuscript.

About the editor: Sinclair Sexsmith runs the award-winning personal online writing project Sugarbutch Chronicles: The Gender, and Relationship Adventures of a Kinky Queer Butch Top at www.sugarbutch.net. With work published in various anthologies, including the Best Lesbian Erotica series, Sometimes She Lets Me: Butch/Femme Erotica, and Visible: A Femmethology volume 2, Mr. Sexsmith also writes columns for online publications and facilitates workshops on sex, gender, and relationships. Find her full portfolio and schedule at www.mrsexsmith.com.

Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation

You’ve probably read Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein, published in 1995. (If you haven’t, you should.)

To follow it up, fifteen years later Kate Bornstein has teamed up with S. Bear Bergman for a new anthology, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, published by Seal Press.

Kate’s premise in the original Gender Outlaw is that ze is neither a man nor a woman, and discusses hir stories in forming a trans identity. It was one of those books that sunk into my stomach like a stone, that I gobbled up in a weekend, thinking, oh my god there are people like me out there. Not only that, but there are mentors on this path, there are people who have been deconstructing these identities—and building them back up in our own ways, let’s not forget that part—and changing the ways we perceive gender to work in this culture. That book was a revelation, for sure—it is widely used in college classes and read by all sorts of gender outlaws.

But now, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation picks up the premise of the original Gender Outlaw and runs with it, telling stories of the many, many ways that gender outlaws struggle, celebrate, and live.

I could write something about each individual piece, what it meant to me, what I thought about it, how meaningful it was, what I liked or (occasionally) didn’t like. I could mention Katie Diamond and Johnny Blazes’s graphic essay about the many meanings of “trans,” like transgress, transcend, transpire, transform, translate. I’d love to mention pieces by Sassafras Lowery and Tamiko Beyer (both of whom have read at Sideshow), and my friend Fran Varian’s piece about gender and class and respect. I could say something about every piece in this book—even the introduction, a smart and sassy IM exchange between Bear and Kate about the contents of the book, what it’s been like for them to edit it, and the state of gender outlaws in general.

Julia Serano’s piece has been sitting in my head for days as I chew over it. She’s such a genius, I am seriously crushed out on her brain. In her piece, she takes that entirely too commonly heard phrase, “all gender is performance,” and explodes it:

Instead of trying to fictionalize gender, let’s talk about the moments in life when gender feels all too real. Because gender doesn’t feel like drag when you’re a young trans child begging your parents not to cut your hair or not to force you to wear that dress. And gender doesn’t feel like a performance when, for the first time in your life, you feel safe and empowered enough to express yourself in ways that resonate with you, rather than remaining closeted for the benefit of others. And gender doesn’t feel like a construct when you finally find that special person whose body, personality, identity, and energy feels like a perfect fit with yours. Let’s stop trying to deconstruct gender into nonexistence, and instead start celebrating it as inexplicable, varied, profound, and intricate. —Julia Serano, from Performance Piece, published in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation and reprinted in full by Jezebel

Just, chills. I love what she’s saying here. I feel like I have my own piece in conjunction or response to that one. In fact, I feel like I have twenty pieces about gender that I’m itching to write, after reading this book.

I’m so glad I had the chance to check out this book, it’s definitely going to be something I recommend all over the place and mail as gifts. It belongs on my essential reading list, for sure. I’m excited to contribute to the virtual blog tour, as well! It has been amazing—just check out Riot Nrrd Comics’ graphic review, as a great example, and read through the rest of them if you like.

Just in case you haven’t seen it, and if you can’t wait to pick up this book and you want more Kate right now, check out Kate’s contribution to the It Gets Better Project. And you can always follow @katebornstein & @sbearbergman on Twitter. If you’re in the New York City area, you can also come in to Bluestockings Bookstore tonight, Friday October 8th, for a reading from Gender Outlaws!

Pick up a copy of Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation direct from the publisher, Seal Press, from your local independent feminist queer bookstore (if you want them to stick around), or, if you must, from Amazon.

Countdown to the Femme Conference: 1 Week

“When I finally realized that I didn’t want to be a butch, I wanted to sleep with a butch, a whole new world opened up before my eyes.” —Lesléa Newman, from the Introduction: I Enjoy Being a Girl

The Femme Conference 2010: No Restrictions in Oakland is just one week away! And in honor, Sugarbutch is counting down to the Femme Conference, featuring some important femme books that I highly recommend if you haven’t read them already. Femme is part of an ever-evolving, big, knowable lineage, and if you love this identity in any way—if it’s yours, or if it is the gender to whom you are oriented, or if you appreciate it—you should know where it comes from, where it’s been.

News from the Femme Conference this week: the Femme Conference Schedule has been announced, and in addition to Kate Bornstein’s keynote, Moki Macías, a queer femme organizer and community planner in Atlanta, will also be doing a keynote.

And the Conference is only one week away!

So now, on to the book. Have you read The Femme Mystique, edited by Lesléa Newman and published by Alyson Books in 1995?

It was the first book on femme identity that I came across, and I picked up a copy at Powell’s when I was in Portland in July. Re-reading parts of it is kind of like re-reading my own journals from ten years ago, so familiar are the words and perspectives. So I’m particularly fond of this book because of the nostalgia, because of how formative this collection was for me.

One description says, “A fascinating and insightful look at the world of femme identity within the lesbian community. Written by femmes, former femmes, future femmes, femme wanna-bes, femme admirers, and of course, femmes fatales, The femme Mystique explores what it means to be a femme and a lesbian in a society that often trivializes the feminine.”

Coming out into communities which were ruled by queer femmes (well, at least, they sure seemed to be from my perspective), I think I’ve been a little blind to the ways that the queer scenes can trivialize the feminine, but as a women studies student and as someone who is simply aware of sexism and misogyny in this world, obviously that is entirely true and relevant. It continues to surprise me. Like, the doctor at the queer health clinic gave you a pregnancy test, even after you told her you were gay? Really? That just doesn’t even make any sense. But hey, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

The more recent anthologies are much higher quality, I think, both in the choice and arrangement of the essays and the quality of writing, but every once in a while there is a serious gem. Some folks have criticized this as being repetitive, which I also do understand, but that also speaks to how common and communal these perspectives on queer femme identity are. You’re likely to recognize some of the authors—Chrystos, Tristan Taormino, Kitty Tsui—but there are plenty more I’m not familiar with. The book is peppered with photographs, many of them very clearly 1980s versions of femininity (press on nails, lace, extensive makeup) which is interesting, that femme can be so closely tied to female fashion trends. There is a lot of identity alignment assumptions in this collection—a lot of women talking about cooking, cleaning, “traditionally female” activities. It’s interesting how much we as a culture have broken that in the last fifteen years, even.

Even though the women in these photos are probably in their 20s and early 30s, which is my age, they seem so much older … probably because my brain automatically does the calculation: “If they are 25 in 1990, they are 12 years older than me and are now in the early 40s.” It takes some intentional undoing to think, these people in these essays, in these photographs, are my age, and were at that time figuring out the same things I am now figuring out.

Though it’s not my favorite collection, it is a classic, and was very important to me personally (and to many, I’m sure, since it was one of the first collections on femme identity). I also really recommend Lesléa Newman’s essay collection Out of the Closet and Nothing to Wear, which is a collection of the femme column she wrote for many years. More information about Lesléa Newman can be found over on her website, lesleanewman.com. (Did you know she also wrote Heather Has Two Mommies?)

Have you read this? What did you think?

And also … are you ready for the Femme Conference!? I can’t wait to hear all about it on Twitter and other blogs! Who’s going to be writing about it? Who’s going to be live-Tweeting? Keep me updated, please!

Countdown to the Femme Conference: Two Weeks

The Femme Conference 2010: No Restrictions in Oakland is two weeks away! And in honor, Sugarbutch is counting down to the Femme

Conference, featuring some important femme books that I highly recommend if you haven’t read them already. Femme is part of an ever-evolving, big, knowable lineage, and if you love this identity in any way—if it’s yours, or if it is the gender to whom you are oriented, or if you appreciate it—you should know where it comes from, where it’s been.

The book Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities was put together by femme Swedish cultural anthropologist Ulrika Dahl and photographer Del LaGrace Volcano, published by Serpent’s Tail in 2009.

I met Ulrika Dahl at the Femme Conference in 2008, and was excited to get my hands on this lovely book when it came out. It features profiles and essays about femme identity, photographs of femmes with all sorts of varieties of presentation, and discussions of what femme is like in different contexts. It’s a beautiful book, almost a coffee table book, that you can flip through and stare at all the beautiful photographs of femmes. Or you can delve deeper into the text for complex depictions of queer gender identity.

From the synopsis:

What is femme? French for woman? A feminine lesbian? A queer girl who loves to dress up? Think again! Going beyond identity politics and the pleasures of plumage, “Femmes of Power” captures a diverse range of queerly feminine subjects whose powerful and intentional redress explodes the meaning of femme for the 21st century. “Femmes of Power” features both every-day heroines and many queer feminist icons, including Michelle Tea, Virginie Despentes, Amber Hollibaugh, Itziar Ziga, Lydia Lunch, Kate Bornstein and Valerie Mason-John. “Femmes of Power” unsettles the objectifying “male” gaze on femininity and presents femmes as speaking subjects and high heeled theorists.

More information about the book is over on the Femmes of Power Myspace page, and of course you can always order it through your local independent bookstore, or, if you must, Amazon.

Review: Laid: Young People’s Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture (Seal Press)

Laid: Young People’s Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture Edited by Shannon T. Boodram. Seal Press, 2009

Perhaps I had unrealistic high expectations for this book. “The basement smelled like sex,” the book starts. “That thick, musty scent that sits in the air and clings to everything it touches. I inhaled deep and hard, thinking about the heated moments that had just passed. The moments when I was too busy creating the odor to even notice its sticky presence.” Maybe I thought it’d be a bit more upbeat, positive. I have a skewed perspective of sex education and what’s going on with sexually active youth, after all, consuming places like Scarleteen.com and attending queer and kinky events occasionally open to young people.

Laid is separated into five different chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of sex: hookups, positive experiences, physical consequences, date rape, and abstinence. I expected “consequences” and “date rape” to be harder chapters to read, but in truth they were all hard. I kept cringing from the negative, stereotypical information being given out at every turn. But because these stories are full of people’s real experiences and opinions, they can’t exactly be “wrong;” but I cannot recommend this book as any representation of sexual education, as it sells itself as being. The honest, real experiences expressed are valuable to read, but I clearly do not agree with these contributor’s value systems, and many of them I would disagree as plain old bad information.

As I got further into the book, I even doubted the values and knowledge of the editor, as each chapter wraps up with a series of questions about that chapter’s content from the contributors. Questions from Boodram such as “What does lesbian sex include, since it’s not possible to have traditional vaginal/penile intercourse?” (p55), asking a bisexual woman, “Do you have a preference?” (p110), and asking a woman who authored a piece on her abortion, “Why did you decide to abort your child?” (p178) all got me hot under the collar, for both the content and the phrasing.

Boodram admits that a book agent wrote to her, “This book is too negative. Despite having some good information I think the chapter on rape really drags things down” (p185). First, including a quote from an agent’s rejection letter in your book seems like a bad idea. Second, the book is too negative: but not just because of the rape chapter. The “physical consequences” chapter reads like a warning: Don’t Have Sex Or This Will Happen To You. And while it’s true that there are real consequences to sex, and that young people need to be educated about safety and caution, sex is not all bad! Despite the “positive experiences” chapter, the prevalence of scary, negative, and frightening stories was so pervasive that I can’t help but think I would be all the more inclined to agree with Boodram’s encouragement of abstinence after reading through these stories. Boodram used to run the site SaveYourCherry.com, which seems to be down now, and knowing that bit of information makes it even easier to see Laid as an advertisement for her philosophies about waiting to have sex because the consequences are too risky. Save it for the one you love! every chapter seems to shout. Or you’ll end up like me. It seems like a cheap way to use the honest, rare stories that these teens and young adults shared about their sex lives.

Boodram did include some men’s voices and perspectives in this collection of stories, but I found myself disappointed in that, too. In the introduction to the date rape chapter, Boodram admits, “My biggest regret about this chapter is that it does not include the voice of a male who experienced rape or sexual abuse. Twice I was contacted by different men … both expressed that they were interested in sharing their stories, and neither ended up submitting. … I had to give up” (p186). There must be more than two young men out there who have experienced sexual assault and who may be willing to share their stories around it. Rape is more complicated than women as survivors and men as perpetrators, and while that is the most common scenario, I wish she’d looked a little harder to include multiple perspectives.

But that’s the problem with a “sexual education” book based on real experiences: it is much harder to include content to create a full, varied, and wide representation of experience, since the editor may be limited to the contributions she received. And it’s difficult, as a critic, to disagree with someone’s personal experience.

Contributor Anthony writes in his story, “Teenage Pregnancy,” that he “never saw abortion as an option. I also know how selfish it may seem because I wasn’t the one carrying the child, but I don’t regret how firm a stance I took” (p180). This is a tough position on which to take a stance, controversial even, and while perhaps it makes sense to include multiple perspectives on the same situation, there was no corollary young woman with a feminist stance, saying she has the right to choose over her own body and that her boyfriend (or one night stand or hookup) was supportive, but understood that it was more her choice than his. In fact, there was kind of the opposite: another abortion story by Lorie who writes, “I did not include my partner in my decision. This I regret. I truly felt that the child was as much mine as it was his: thus, the decision should have been as much his as it was mine” (p178). I’ll skip over the part where she calls a fetus a “child,” and give her the benefit of the doubt that he was a great guy who would have listened and negotiated with her about what to do after they both got into this situation together. Hopefully, he would not have taken such a firm stance as Anthony, described above, forcing upon Lorie that abortion was not an option for her.

Perhaps abortion decisions are never so simple. Perhaps if Lorie had had a partner she could trust and confide in, she would have felt that pregnancy and birth was an option. Perhaps she wouldn’t say things like, “I get sad when I see a little girl who looks like me, or when I see pictures of a fetus. … I almost feel as though I’m not worthy to have another child because I let one go” (p179). But what about the flip side of that experience? What about when women have abortions and they feel okay about it, even good about their decision? What about the women who do not feel guilt? What about the right to exercise one’s choice? Those women are out there, that perspective on abortion is out there, but the sad regretful stories are far, far more prevalent in cultural narratives.

These experiences are clearly important, valid stories, real scenarios that these real people have gone through, and their real thoughts and feelings about them. I wouldn’t tell Lorie that her response to her abortion is “wrong” any more than I can tell someone else that theirs is “right”—I can only say that I know there are other responses out there, too, and when a book like this is touting itself off as an educational resource, I am not impressed.

There was one part I quite enjoyed: at the very end, almost as an afterthought with no bolding or italics, Boodram includes Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier, and those points were right on. Those ideas, concepts, and general content I could get behind. “Sex is not just put it in, take it out. … Everyone thinks they’re good at sex without even really knowing anything about it. … Demand the truth about sex from your teachers and make sure they take adequate time to talk about myths verses reality. … Be confident and deliberate, especially when it comes to your personal life” (p278-279). She even includes Things the Contributors Want You To Know, a similar list of inspiring statements and personal revelations. Now this, this is useful. What would a book based on those ideas look like?

If it were simply a collection of essays on young people’s experiences with sex, it would have been an interesting essay collection. If it had been only a sexual education book written by Boodram, it may have stood up a bit stronger, and not had to answer to the long, real-life scenarios by her contributors. Regardless, there are better essay collections and much better sexual education books available; skip this one.

Thanks to Seal Press who sent me this book for review. Order it from them or from your local, independent, queer, feminist bookstore, or, if you must, from Amazon.

Review: Good Porn: A Woman’s Guide by Erika Lust (Seal Press)

Good Porn: A Woman’s Guide by Erika Lust, translated by X.P. Callahan. Seal Press, June 2010

It’s difficult for me to critique this book: Lust consumes porn in similar ways that I do, and we have a similar history with viewing porn, so most of my responses to this consist of, “yeah, so what?” It’s not new information to me, nor would it be to anyone who is aware of the ways that the porn industry is rapidly changing to include more female directors, more perspectives from and by and about women, and more woman-oriented pornography.

Really we’re talking about films here. Porno films, from kink and gonzo to erotic documentaries: Lust writes about ‘em all.

If you’re a woman who doesn’t like porn, or who has seen some porn and thinks that it is all the same, icky, unrealistic, performance-y, useless, and not even sexy, this is a great guide to finding directors, stars, and content that you may enjoy. There is a world of new porn available, even in the last five years, and if you can suspend your judgment for a bit to open up to the new materials that Lust describes, you might be greatly rewarded, discovering some new ways to explore your own sexuality through finally some videos of sex that are actually made for your consumption.

I can’t imagine that readers of Sugarbutch—or Carnal Nation, where this review will be cross-posted—will find this new information, however. In my experience, most of the readers understand this new world of porn films, as I might argue that both Sugarbutch and Carnal Nation are part of that new world, perhaps on the fringe, as we don’t produce video content, but as cultural commentary, certainly.

So who needs to pick up this book?

Those women who, though they have already made up their minds about something, are willing to be surprised. Women who believe that porn could possibly be good, that the definition of porn is not “exploiting women” but that the industry has had a lousy history in the hands of repressed men who will sell any act of a penis pounding a vagina to make a quick buck, and that if women or queers or respectable men were making porn, it could be better. It possibly could be interesting, even. Women who believe that it is not porn itself that is the problem, it is not taking video of people having sex, enjoying their sexuality, and getting off that makes porn bad, it is the perspective and the industry in which most of these videos have been made that is problematic. And look—there is a whole industry and perspective popping up, thanks to the feminist movements, queer movements, and the rise in sexual information, sex education, and the Internet.

Ah yes, the Internet. It’s a challenge to write about the Internet in a book. Books are somewhat fixed documents, the Internet changes all the time. Long lists of web addresses in books are not so appealing, since they aren’t hypertext and I can’t click on them, and I have to be really inspired to actually go look up the URL on my computer from a book. Plus, I spend a lot of time online, reading information about sexuality, keeping up with the feminist- and queer-positive directors of porn, and following the new big releases from Blowfish or Good Releasing, so the information in Good Porn wasn’t new or shiny or opening my mind in any major (or minor) way. I was hoping Lust would tell us more about the worlds of women’s porn in Europe, since she’s Swedish and in fact this book is translated into English for it’s release on Seal Press, but there was very little content and description of films that I wasn’t previously aware of. It seems that the major impetus for this new women-centered porn world is here, in the US.

If you need some convincing that porn for women is real, happening, and, yes indeed, valuable, check out what Lust has to say on the subject. But if you are already part of this world, while I recognize that it’s good, solid information and important to write about, it may not keep your interest.

Thanks to Seal Press who sent me this book for review. Order it from them or from your local, independent, queer, feminist bookstore, or, if you must, from Amazon.

Giveaway! Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch Femme Erotica

Thanks to Cleis Press and Tristan Taormino, I’ve got TWO copies of the lovely new erotica anthology called Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch Femme Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino (in which I have a short story). More details about the book when I mentioned it a few weeks ago here.

Shall I mail you a copy of it? Just comment on this post and let me know what your favorite written erotica anthology is, or your favorite erotica writer, or that one erotica story that you always get out when you want to get your blood going. Bonus points if you describe what it is you love about the story. Or comment that you’ve never read erotica, or that you kind of hate it … or something else entirely, the point is just that you comment. I’ll pick two comments at random and notify you by email.

If you’re outside of the US, that’s fine, but I might ask you to kick me a few bucks for shipping. You just have to include a valid email address to enter.

Winners will be picked Friday morning, March 26th.

Thanks Cleis! Thanks Tristan!

Lambda Literary Nominees Featuring “This One’s Going to Last Forever”

The Lambda Literary Award nominees were announced today, and as usual I’m making a checklist of ones I’ve read, ones I’d like to read, and the ones I think will win be finalists. And, as usual, the only transgender content is in the specific “Transgender” category, though the “Bisexual” category has split into fiction and non-fiction because, it seems, there are finally enough nominees to warrant it. Are there really that few books on trans and bisexual issues? Puzzling. Overall this year, there are 112 finalists in 23 categories. I’m sure there’s got to be a book or two or five in there that you’d love to read. Check it out.

Special congratulations to Nairne Holtz, whose book This One’s Going to Last Forever (Insomniac Press) was nominated in the Lesbian Fiction category. Holtz has a short story called “Bait and Switch” in Best Lesbian Erotica 2009, an anthology in which I also have a story, and when we were both in New York City at the end of 2009 for the annual Best Lesbian Erotica reading at the Drunken! Careening! Writers! reading series at KGB bar, hosted by Kathleen Warnock (who is coming to read at the very first Sideshow!), and I have had a chance to read This One’s Going to Last Forever. It is a collection of short stories and a novella. Here’s the description:

This One’s Going to Last Forever reflects both the naive optimism of those who have yet to learn about love and the cynicism of those who feel that by now they should know better.

Clara, a university student working at the McGill Daily, discovers that in love and politics, commitment is often more imagined than real. Kelly and Sonya share a bond that has less to do with love than with their dependence on each other and a succession of friends who supply them with heroin. A middle-aged man who performs drive-through weddings dressed as Elvis realizes, as he marries his first same-sex couple, that the only domestic partner he is ever likely to have is his ailing father. But when he ends his latest relationship, an unlikely friendship results.

The characters in these darkly comic stories and novella may be searching for love in all the wrong places, but they are also able to find love in the most unexpected places.

The Lambda Literary Foundation recently relaunched their website and it’s quite spiffy, by the way.

How to Wear Red Lipstick, from How to Sew A Button Author Erin Bried

buttonI was lucky enough to catch the book release party for Erin Bried’s new book How to Sew A Button and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew this past week, which was much fun. Erin interviewed grandmothers to gather all this knowledge, and the result is a lovely little book, easy to thumb through and includes useful and interesting things for any reader.

Though it’s marketing seems to be pretty girly, there are plenty of tips for butches like me. (I did pick up a copy for myself.)

Here’s Erin’s first little blurb from her website’s blog, which I think sums it up well:

If you’ve thumbed through the first couple of pages of my book, How to Sew a Button, then you know that until recently, I was pretty hopeless on the home front. Case in point: I actually once baked a strawberry-rhubarb pie, using strawberries and Swiss chard. (I mean, chard does look a little bit like rhubarb, right? Let me tell you, it sure doesn’t taste like it.)

Anyway, after baking that lousy pie, I had an epiphany: Not knowing how to do stuff for myself is not only disempowering, but also, especially in this crap economy, downright irresponsible. So, in writing my book, I set out to learn everything I needed to know to feel confident, simplify my life and save money.

And who better to turn to for that advice than our grandmothers, especially those who’ve survived The Great Depression? They certainly know how to make due with what they have. From interviewing them, I’ve learned important lessons about cooking, entertaining, saving, and loving—and I’m going to keep learning more stuff everyday.

She also has some video demos! I thought some of you might particularly like these.

How to Wear Red Lipstick:

How to Tie A Tie (on somebody super cute):

A few more demo videos – like how to make a pie and how to fold a fitted sheet – are on the How to Sew A Button site.

Pick up How to Sew A Button on Amazon.com, or your local independent bookseller (if you’d like them to be around next holiday season too).

The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman

exitS. Bear Bergman has a new book out, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, which is a collection of personal essays, mostly on gender. And to celebrate, Sugarbutch is helping to kick off a virtual book tour! Thanks, Bear! Thanks, Arsenal Pulp Press!

Bear also wrote the book of gender essays Butch Is A Noun, which I’ve mentioned on this site more than a few times. It is one of the only books written about butch identity in the last ten years so it’s certainly influential to my work and philosophies on gender in general. There are some clips and excerpts from Butch Is A Noun available online and I highly recommend them. That first essay, “I Know What Butch Is,” I quote from often and go back to frequently, I just love Bear’s writing and style in that piece.

When I published Top Hot Butches in the Spring earlier this year, Bear was listed as #48 and was one of the factors of me including trans men in the list of butches in the first place. If I excluded trans men, I would have to exclude Bear, and Bear wrote pretty much the only book on butches in the last ten years – did that make sense? Not really. I thought it was extremely important to include Bear, specifically, which opened up the door to include other trans men as well. Of course, not all trans men identify as butch, but at the time I didn’t think I could include some trans men and not others … and the inclusion was problematic. I do not want to start hashing through that here, this is about Bear’s work, after all, but I really appreciated Bear’s supportive emails and contact around the list and that controversy.

Lots has happened for Bear since the publication of Butch Is A Noun. Ze addresses this right away, in the second essay: whereas during the first book, ze was for the most part perceived as a dyke, partnered with a woman, and lived in the suburbs, and now Bear is pretty much perceived as a fag, partnered with a guy, and living in a fairly big city. This transition from “suburban-dyke-me” to “city-fag-me” seems to have altered Bear’s relationship with masculinity a bit, and many of the essays in The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You address this unpacking of masculinity, tracing it back through history and family (I especially liked the discussions of masculinity through the lens of Judaism and his particular family experience of ‘being a man’), and discussing what it means in some new life contexts.

Arsenal Pulp Press provided this lovely little blurb:

Alternately unsettling and affirming, devastating and delicious, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, is a new collection of essays on gender and identity by S. Bear Bergman that is irrevocably honest and endlessly illuminating. With humour and grace, these essays deal with issues from women’s spaces to the old boys’ network, from gay male bathhouses to lesbian potlucks, from being a child to preparing to have one; throughout, S. Bear Bergman shows us there are things you learn when you’re visibly different from those around you―whether it’s being transgressively gendered or readably queer. As a transmasculine person, Bergman keeps readers breathless and rapt in the freakshow tent long after the midway has gone dark, when the good hooch gets passed around and the best stories get told. Ze offers unique perspectives on issues that challenge, complicate, and confound the “official stories” about how gender and sexuality work.

I’m still working my way through the book, I haven’t finished it yet, partly because I’m savoring it. I could zip through it a bit faster than I am, but I really appreciate Bear’s perspectives on all of this and I love having access to someone’s inner thoughts about gender, masculinity, queerness, transitioning, love, life … all of those little things, ya know. Sometimes it feels like my own mind eloquently written down, sometimes the concepts are a bit foreign and I have to stop and go over it again. I don’t agree with everything, and there’s some tension between butch and trans here that I am finding fascinating and particularly hard sometimes, but I am so grateful for Bear’s work.

Aside from the virtual book tour, Bear is on an actual book tour, too! Check out the schedule on sbearbergman.com for dates and appearances in Columbus, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, & more.

Pick up The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, Essays by S. Bear Bergman from Arsenal Pulp Press, or from your local independent (feminist, queer, radical) bookstore.

Cal For Submissions: Headcase

HEADCASE: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, And Queer (LGBTQ) Writers and Artists on Mental Illness Edited by Teresa Theophano, LMSW

Headcase will be an anthology comprised of 15-20 nonfiction pieces by writers and artists both established and new, exploring the theme of mental health, mental illness, and mental health care in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) community. The book is currently being considered for publication by a major queer press.

The anthology seeks essays, poetry, and comics by queer consumers of mental health services or queer individuals who have been diagnosed, but do not identify as patients, with mental illness. Works should explore the intersection of queerness and mental health and can include topics such as psychotropics; Gender Identity Disorder and its acceptance or rejection as a legitimate mental disorder; conventional v. holistic treatment; experiences in therapy, groups, and/or institutions; how race and ethnicity, class, sex, gender identity, age, and disability impact access to treatment; addiction, self-medicating, and recovery.

Modest compensation provided upon publication to contributors whose pieces are chosen.

Guidelines:

* Pieces should be between 750 and 1500 words (approximately 3 to 5 double-spaced pages).

* While the deadline for a 2010 publication date has not yet been established, submitting your piece by December 1, 2009 is recommended. Descriptions of pieces in progress are also welcome.

* Submissions should be sent as a Microsoft Word document, double-spaced, 12 pt. font, Times New Roman font.

* Please provide a brief (100 words or less) bio with your submission

Teresa Theophano is a licensed social worker, out queer mental health consumer, and the author of Queer Quotes (Beacon Press, 2004).

Please send submissions/project descriptions to her at headcase_anthology (at) yahoo.com

Define: Sovereignty

A few weeks ago, Miss Calico tweeted about the craziest thing in her feedreader. For obvious reasons, neither she nor I would call most of the sex stuff that I’m sure we both read on a daily basis “crazy,” so what does that leave really? LOLcats? Perez Hilton?

Well … one of my indulgences, which I’ve mentioned before, is that little stepchild genre of self-help (which I stand by is a combination of spirituality, psychology, and philosophy, some of my favorite topics), and there are of course an abundance of blogs writing on those kinds of subjects. Most of them never stick around in my reader for more than a few weeks. I get bored, I get the idea, I move on.

A recent addition to my little indulgence via RSS has been The Fluent Self by Havi Brooks. The Fluent Self might be the “craziest thing” in my reader. I mean, she co-owns her company with her duck, Selma, and often talks about being the pirate queen of her pirate crew. So you have to be the kind of person who appreciates someone else’s slightly wacky reality in order to connect with what she’s doing.

Havi mentioned “sovereignty” in an entry the other day, and then again today, and it’s so relevant to my emotional work, I’ve got to write on it for a while.

Sovereignty […] is the quality of owning your space. It’s feeling so safe being you, that you can’t be shaken from yourself. […]

Your most important job? Take care of yourself. Because when I’m looking out for my physical and emotional well-being, I can do my best work. And when I’m depleted and exhausted, it sucks for everyone. My external systems — just like my internal practices — keep me grounded so that I can keep working on the sovereignty thing. It all comes back to taking care of yourself. And safety. And finding ways to access that canopy of peace.

Sovereignty cassarole. And more about shoes. By Havi Brooks on The Fluent Self

I love discovering words to explain emotional states that I’m working on. If there’s a word for it, it feels like it’s a real thing, like it’s a little button I can push to dispense that particular kind of strength or flexibility or whatever that I’m working on. I mentioned “grace” recently, too, and the new definition of that word that I came across (also in a self-help book). If I’m having a strong reaction to something, having the shorthand of “have some sovereignty here” or “just need a little grace, a little grace, a little grace,” is really helpful. It’s the ability to take a whole big giant concept and distill it into a single word, which makes the mantra easier to grasp in moments of need.

This state of sovereignty is one I’ve been working on extensively. I don’t know why exactly (though I have some guesses), but for whatever reason, I have been really prone to giving that up – to letting others make choices for me, to allowing myself to be imprinted upon, to be taken over. I didn’t know I was doing this. If you asked me five years ago, I would have probably said I had no idea what you were talking about and of course I don’t do that. But, sigh, that’s what Saturn Return is for, after all.

Later, Havi writes, one of the things that helps stay in this state of sovereignty is to know your triggers. “For me and my HSP self, it’s loudness that sets me off.” She’s mentioned this before lately, as she’s currently battling jackhammers, and I was thinking about this just the other day. I went with Kristen and my sister to a taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and they were having some technical difficulties, so it was more of a wait than usual, and they had the music completely cranked up so loud I could barely hear Kristen sitting next to me, and I started to panic a little. I wanted to leave. Suddenly I felt so claustrophobic and anxious and like I would rather be anywhere else. This feeling calmed down and left as soon as they turned it off – but it just got me thinking, and made me remember, that when my senses are assaulted, I don’t deal well. There are times when it’s okay, I guess, I like going dancing in clubs, I like concerts (though not all concerts – ask me about the AC/DC story sometime). My senses are just so often under assult here in New York City, it’s hard for me not to have that panicked assaulted feeling constantly. Earphones help. Books help. Using my commute and transportation as a meditation helps. I guess I just have to keep building in self-care around this overload of the senses, and try to get some systems – internal and external – in place to keep myself grounded and unshaken – in sovereignty.

Queer Books Saved My Life

I have a new piece on Carnal Nation called Queer Books Saved My Life. An excerpt:

I have always been a reader. I don’t remember learning to read: I was three, my mother says Sesame Street taught me. Books have always been my go-to when I don’t understand something. Even now, in this digital age, though I do utilize Google faster than you can say “you should Google that,” my second go-to is nypl.org/books and finding a title to put on hold, to pick up at my nearby Mid-Manhattan library.

I don’t remember a time when that wasn’t my answer to any given question plaguing me.

Before I was out, and before I was an “adult” with one of those “real” jobs, I worked in independent bookstores. My specialty and sections were always social sciences. When the shelving had been done, when the desks were tidy and the isles were mostly empty of customers, I would sneak into the slightly secluded corner with psychology, eastern religion, relationships, sex, and gay & lesbian studies, and pull the queer books off the shelves.

Read the piece in its entirety over at Carnal Nation.

The piece is basically the story of my coming to a queer identity, and the ways that books influenced that process. During that time I was living in Fort Collins, Colorado, working at an independent bookstore, and with my high school boyfriend of four years. We split after we both moved to Seattle and I left him, and came out. Meanwhile, I bought the biggest bookshelf I could afford and read everything I could on queer culture and lesbian fiction, and finally felt like I fit in, like I belonged, like I made sense.

I’ll be writing a column for Carnal Nation monthly in the future on Radical Masculinity, which I’m really excited about! If you’ve got topic suggestions or comments, I’m compiling my first few in the next few weeks, please let me know.

Review: Reclaiming Eros (book)

eros1Reclaiming Eros: Sacred Whores and Healers has won an Independent Publisher Award in the New Age (Mind-Body-Spirit) category! Congratulations to the co-authors, Susanne Blackburn and Margaret Wade.

I picked up this book probably about two years ago, primarily because I recognized some of the names of the people it features work with the Body Electric School, which I’ve been involved with for about eight years now. The main content of the book are extensive interviews with and statements from healers who primarily work with sexual energy, like Betty Dodson, Annie Sprinkle, Rudy Ballentine, Joseph Kramer, and Alex Jade. They’re sex workers, kind of, but many identify as sacred healers, or sacred whores. The language conversation that threads through the book is definitely interesting – who are you, what do you do, and what do you call it? There is a long history of being sexual healers in this society, but it’s a profession that has been so heavily shamed and weighed down with our leftover puritanical ideals.

There’s a chapter at the end which also discusses how to get involved with a healer, what to expect, what you might want to do, what questions to ask, which I highly recommend. This whole book will give you a better idea about erotic energy work, right from the mouths and brilliant brains of many of the pioneers and trailblazers of the industry and movement. It’s beautiful, and I highly recommend it if you’re intrigued by sexual healing and if you want to know more about what is going on with this work now.

Visit reclaimingeros.com for more information about the book.

Femmethology Reading on Wednesday in NYC

mainfemmecover1

Come join us at the book release party in NYC!

Visible: A Femmethology
New York City Release!
April 29th, 7pm
Bluestockings, 172 Allen St. in the Lower East Side

Featuring contributors: Ryn Hodes, Sinclair Sexsmith, Sassafras Lowrey, Cameron Whitley, Leslie Freeman, J.C. Yu, Hadassah Hill, & Miel Rose

Visible: A Femmethology is a two-volume anthology edited by Jennifer Clare Burke and published by Homofactus Press of personal essays from over fifty contributors who explore what it means to be a queer femme. Award winning authors, spoken-word artists, and totally new voices come together to challenge conventional ideas of how disability, class, nationality, race, aesthetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, and body type intersect with each contributor’s concrete notion of femmedom.

Not in New York City? Check the Femmethology events page to see if there’s a release party in your area. They’ll be in Vermont, Vancouver BC, Atlanta, & more!

Femmethology Giveaway …. Winner!

Aaaaand the envelope please:

The winner is …. Miss Ida! Comment #3.

Congrats! You’ll receive a signed copy of Visible: A Femmethology Volume Two, which includes my essay Love Letter to Femmes, as well as another book of your choice. What’ll it be, hmmm? Visible: A Femmethology Volume One? Best Lesbian Erotica 2009? Secret Slaves: Erotic Stories of Bondage (The Fetish Chest)?

Let us know!

Sexual Autonomy & Freedom

Written for the 15th Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom & Autonomy. Thoughts in response and reflection to my own call for contributions.

Let me say this: I don’t think, in this culture which vilifies sex and punishes especially female sexuality, that I will ever be “done” reaching my own space of sexual freedom and autonomy. It is probably an endless task, a lifetime battle.

Let me also say this: I have crawled up out of shame by my bloodied fingers and I am not going back. I stand on my own two legs, strong-cunted, and I am not going back. I drive the engine of my body hard, glide it through passageways I have previously thought unnavigatable, and I am not going back.

Maybe ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is freedom.

I would not have had the sexual awakening I’ve had if it wasn’t for feminism: the feminist health movement, the theories of consciousness raising, the lesbian sex wars of the 80s that produced porn and smut and BDSM with theories of liberation at their roots.

I am so grateful for all the things that have contributed to my gaining of sexual autonomy and freedom, to my sexual awakening. Nancy Friday’s book My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies. My high school boyfriend telling me kink was great and fun and he respected me, too. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio and Cunt Coloring Book by Tea Corrine and Femalia and Nothing But The Girl; The Blatant Lesbian Image and the entire series of Best Lesbian Erotica (especially 1998). Kitty Tsui and that one scene in Breathless with a knife. S.I.R. Video and Hard Love / How to Fuck In High Heels and Sugar High Glitter City. Babeland, which taught me more than I thought there was to know. Body Electric, which woke me up to my own power, and still does. The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book. The Ethical Slut, which changed how I see relationships. Pink & White, which finally made porn I wanted to own and watch over and over again. My academic studies and my degree in women studies which taught me how social change works. Dan Savage and Savage Love.

The fucking INTERNET. From BBSs to chatrooms to the web to Wiki After Dark to Scarleteen to RAINN to the amazing sexblog communities. The connection to marginalized community despite distance and fear.

Let me say this: I don’t know how any woman grows up and develops her sexual autonomy and freedom, let alone a queer woman, let alone a genderqueer butch or femme. These are not things that are built into us, no matter how progressive our families, no matter how much our parents loved us. There are so many layers to the damage, and the length of the legacy is long and wide, the depth of those wounds are long and wide.

Let me also say this: for me, the first step had to be seeing those wounds, recognizing the damage. By beginning to feel what a “healthy sexuality” (uh, whatever that is) felt like in my body, I could more easily differentiate between the damage and the strength. And I learned to use erotic energy to heal those places in me still reeling, still healing.

Why do you think gender dynamics are so erotically charged for me? I was damaged as a girl. As a girl, I was damaged. And I don’t mean “I was abused when I was young” but rather, that this culture hurt my girlhood. That’s why I turned to feminism as soon as I began to understand the power of social conditioning and gender roles: to learn how to undo the damage.

And why do you think I love femmes something fierce? Our wounds run parallel. We are the same, but opposite; opposing, complimentary, full of traction and friction when we rub against each other. Lay your wounds here next to mine, they fill and warm and comfort each other.

Why is gender so erotically charged for me? Because it has been the site of so much discomfort, so much damage. Not just for me: for my friends and lovers, for my sisters, for my parents, for the one boy I ever slept with, for our collective unconscious. So when I take it and corral it and tame it, when I become the Gender Whisperer and see the thoughts in its head despite our different languages, when I learn its language and teach it mine, I become strong. I take the lead. I win.

I know, I’m supposed to be writing about sexual autonomy and freedom – so let me tell you this: I cannot untangle gender from sex from power. They are all the spiraling sugar-phosphate backbone in the DNA of my sexuality, and it wasn’t until I unlocked my gender that my sexual liberation truly lived in my body, that my sexuality was truly realized and in practice. It wasn’t until I had a cock – no: it wasn’t until I had a girl who knew what to do with my cock.

My gender is the language of my desire, my attraction. The ways I communicate physically.

Say gender is a drag, but also say this: I wasn’t me until I discovered my own gendered space. Butch – but not just butch, high butch – but not just high butch, capital-H High capital-B Butch. My body has never made as much sense as it does, now, in button-downs and ties, in sweater vests and cufflinks, hell, even tee shirts and jeans feel right now that I buy them in the department that cuts them to fit my body, square, even lines, corners, dark colors.

It’s not that I want society at large to treat me as male. It’s not that when I put on men’s clothes, I liked the way I was subsequently treated differently – though I was. But the difference was greater than that: I gained autonomy. I gained agency. I gained my own voice, my own stride, my own body, my own control. And I love the disconnect that most people see – female body, masculine presentation – I love witnessing the subtle struggle of random passers-by.

Just by living in the world, walking down the street, I set out a challenge. I work hard to make this masculinity, this presentation, an acceptable way for a woman to live.

Say gender is constructed, but also say this: something in me lines up and sees clearly when I get to express myself just the way I want to. I know how to deconstruct – I know how to break down and examine and look from various angles and research and consciousness-raise and bounce ideas around. And I’m learning how to construct, how to create, how to make myself anew from the inside, all the way out.

with what and where would you like to be spanked?

Naked before me in the middle of our living room, blindfolded and tied to a chair, her delicate toes gracing the insides of my favorite shoes, her beautiful ass raised high in the air. I had left any sense of my integrity at the door.

Yeah, I felt like shit. But I couldn’t take anything back. Not a fuckin’ thing. And the thought of this made me whack her hard with that skateboard, landing just underneath her ass on the meaty part of her thighs. She cried out this time, without a saucy backup line to follow. The cry teetered between pleasure and pain, a perfect balance of both. I needed to do it again. Swinging the board up high, I aimed at the dead center of her buttocks and caught it just right. This caused the entire chair to move, and the flesh on her ass sprang back and forth again. A rush of air escaped from Logan’s lungs.

– from Logan by Rosalind Christine Lloyd

Rachel Kramer Bussel’s new anthology Spanked is out and making the blog rounds on a blog book tour – and today is my day.

I have all sorts of elaborate notes for an article that includes my review, but I was at the Femme Conference in Chicago all weekend and am today so exhausted and catching up on work that I will not have time to write all three parts.

On the plus side, one of the reasons that I’m so exhausted is because I was up until past the sunrise on Saturday night (Sunday morning), and had the opportunity to flog the cutest cheerleader wearing a gorgeous pinup-style bathing suit over the edge of a hotel bed.

So until I can get a little more caught up, consider this the introduction to the upcoming series of posts on reading pansexual erotica anthologies, smut, and this spanking anthology in particular. The other parts go like this:

  1. The Suspension of Heterosexual Belief
  2. The Ick Factor
  3. Review of the pansexual erotica anthology book “Spanked”

Since I don’t have much to review today, Rachel says I can give away one copy of the book, so here’s what you gotta do to win it:

Leave me a comment and tell me either:

  1. a great place you were spanked
  2. a great implement with which you were spanked
  3. somewhere you’d like to be spanked
    or
  4. something with which you’d like to be spanked

UPDATE: I really didn’t mean to make this so damn bottom-centric. Actually as the results came in, I kept thinking, where are the tops? Then I re-read and realized oops, it is quite pointed toward bottomy answers. So, you of course can also respond by saying:

  1. a great place you spanked someone
  2. a great implement with which you spanked
  3. somewhere you’d like to spank someone
    or
  4. something with which you’d like to spank

I guess I am a little bottom-centric at times, oops. But I don’t mean to be! I was dashing this off as fast as I could while at work today and didn’t write through all the options. It’s just cause I was salivating at the idea of reading some great bottoming stories … but of course, top perspectives on the spanking stories are so welcome too!

So, leave me your comments and I’ll get a guest judge to help pick the hottest answer tomorrow.

Don’t be shy; just give me the first one that comes into your head. It doesn’t have to be long – just a few lines of the key details.

Keep following the Spanked book tour as it makes the rounds. The book also has it’s own blog, and tomorrow’s review will be at Breathing In and Breathing Out.

review: Lipstick on her Collar

The most recent Pretty Things Press anthology called Lipstick on Her Collar and Other Tales of Lesbian Lust landed on my desk recently, and I took my time reading through it.

I love lesbian erotica books … I think for many queer women, it’s one of the first places where we begin to access the languages of lesbian desire and sexuality, and as such they can be very powerful, transformative books, not just jerk-off material but also an introduction to entirely new concepts and ideas. I’ll never forget some of the early books that did that for me, like Breathless: Erotica by Kitty Tsui and Best Lesbian Erotica 1998, which became roadmaps and secret-tellers.

I’m a bit picky about my erotica these days, though. There’s more and more of it out there, and what turns me on is butchtop/femmebottom aligned writings, fairly exclusively. I can read through other anthologies and appreciate the writing, the characterization, the plot lines (no, seriously!), but I don’t tend to find myself putting the book down to go jack off.

This book, though, has an impressive number of butch/femme scenes. This is partially because, I imagine, the anthology includes “lipstick” in its very title, thereby encouraging more of the gendered play than many lesbian erotica anthologies usually include.

Three, in particular, stand out: Kingdom Cum by Scarlett French, about a femme seducing a drag king after a drag show; Femme Princess by Ellen Tevault, about a femme in a bed death relationship who answers a butch’s personal ad and reawakens her sexual desire, seeming to uncover her own gender fetish at the same time; and Now and Then by Barrett Bonden, about a butch’s return to her long-term femme lover, which ranges from quite smutty and dirty (especially in the dialogue – “Get up on the bed, slut. Hands and knees, ass in the air.”) to very sweet and long-term lesbionic.

Don’t get me wrong, the whole book is not butch/femme oriented stories. But there are a few great ones, as well as some femme-femme scenes, a decent story dealing with body ability where one of the characters is in a wheelchair (its inclusion made me realize how very little body-ability diversity there is in these types of anthologies, in general), some strangers, some long-term lovers, and a couple of my favorite lesbian authors, including Skian McGuire and Rachel Kramer Bussel.

It seems Alison Tyler is doing some great books with Pretty Things Press, and I’m glad to see a lesbian anthology with more gender included in their catalog.

review: Bonk by Mary Roach

You may remember Mary Roach from the book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, which made a big splash a few years back, especially relating to her ability to make scientific research incredibly readable and interesting to average folks. She also wrote Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. (Her titles, though clever, now after book 3 seem slightly formulaic.)

Now, in Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, she tackles sex. I was intrigued! And what I remember from Stiff is still true: her work is incredibly readable. She makes pig inseminations in Denmark, penis reconstructive surgery in Thailand, and sexual reflex studies in Cairo seem relevant and interesting. I read through chapters on testicles, erectile dysfunction, and penis implants, amused by her stories and laughing, following along with Roach’s investigation of human sexuality.

I kept wondering when gay people would start coming up. Especially when she starts discussing a guy whose genitals were “the size and shape of a navy bean,” (p159) I started wondering if that person was probably in fact intersexed, born with ambiguous genitalia. From what I can tell, this account was in the early 1900s, but I expected Roach to launch into some explanation of why someone might be born with small-to-minuscule genitalia and what and how they would be dealt with today (which would probably be with surgery, although that would depend on the awareness of your doctor). But no: no mention whatsoever of any sort of intersexuality or between-sexes options.

She discusses penile reconstruction and again, no mention of the science behind sex change surgeries like phalloplasties. Page 67 is the first place she even mentions homosexuality, and it’s only in passing, in describing Princess Marie whose husband, Prince George of Greece, was “a latant homosexual.” By page 188, her 2nd mention of homosexuality in parenthesis – “He had never had sex, never had a girlfriend (or boyfriend)” I was beginning to suspect that Roach doesn’t think of homosexuality as more than a tiny side-note.

Then, after reading through three chapters on male reproductive functions specifically (testicles, erectile dysfunction, and penis implants), we get to two chapters on women, “The Lady’s Boner: Is the Clitoris a Tiny Penis?” and “The Prescription-Strength Vibrator: Masturbating for Health.” She mentions a clit pumping device, and I found myself yet again thinking, wow, this subject leads directly into the field of trans men who opt against genital surgery but whom enhance their genitals – often their clit – with a small penis pump (or large clit pump) and encourage their clit to get larger, to become a tiny penis. That stuff is fascinating, and wouldn’t it be great if she lent her investigation, research, and accessible writing skills to that subject?

But again, no. No mention of anything remotely related. I know, these topics could absolutely be books unto themselves, but that she either a) ran into the material and deemed it completely unimportant, as to not even warrant a mention, or b) did not run into these studies or material at all, makes me think that she either wasn’t looking very hard or was deeply heterocentric in her research. If she did run across it, why not mention it? She didn’t have to go into the subjects in depth, especially because the topics of trans, gender, and homosexuality obviously intersect in well, pretty much every single place along the study of sexuality, but simply some acknowledgment of these things existing is, I think, necessary.

So, this is what I’m thinking about halfway through the book. I keep reading the chapters on the female genitals, and then the science of orgasm, and I come across female ejaculation in a footnote. I kid you not, the ONE AND ONLY time she mentions female ejaculation is in a footnote. A FOOTNOTE! A long footnote, comparatively, but still! Isn’t there more science to female ejaculation than simply one footnote? Maybe not – maybe that one footnote is seriously the only scientific study she could find on female ejaculation. But hey, isn’t that significant? Isn’t that an interesting cultural commentary on sexuality, where she’s spent almost an entire chapter on male ejaculation, sperm count, what it is made of, how far it shoots, how much comes out?

But Roach skips over all of this.

She does note, in a footnote again, on p197, that there are “351 ways to say penis … and only three for clitoris: bean, button, and the little man in the boat.” She goes on to make note that the “authors [of this study] felt this reflected society’s disregard of human pleasure, which is probably true, but I simply bemoan the lack of useful synonyms.” Well, the reason there aren’t ‘useful synonyms’ reflects the value in the culture, doesn’t it? It’s not as though we have any shortage of small, round objects in our lives – pennies, marbles, pearls, gemstones, pebbles come to mind. So what does it reveal about a culture that we don’t have a language to describe the primary source of female sexual pleasure?

That’s not what Roach is writing this book for, though, clearly. As I got into the last third of the book, though, I had to wonder: why is Roach writing this book? What’s her point? She doesn’t seem to do much except summarize scientific sex studies with a distinct lack of feminist, gender-positive, sex-positive (see chapter 10, “Masturbating for Health,” and her implied judgment when mentioning “Mr. Fred Jelly Dongs” and “Vibrating Port-A-Pussies” as examples of sex toys), and trans-inclusive perspectives. As I kept reading, I found myself wondering why it was I was trusting this person’s perspective, considering that clearly our values were in such different places.

By the end of the book, much as I had enjoyed her witty writing, I was convinced of it. She begins the last chapter describing a Masters and Johnson study called Homosexuality in Perspective in 1979, which actually addresses directly what lesbian and gay men do in sexual partnerships and how it compares to hetero couples. The penultimate paragraph, though, takes a turn for the worst when Roach writes:

Sadly, the main thing people recall about Homosexuality in Perspective … is that Masters and Johnson spent the second half of the book touting a therapy for helping homosexuals convert to heterosexuality. The team went out of their way to assure readers that they screened clients carefully, accepting only those who had turned to homosexuality after a traumatic experience with heterosexuality (rape or abuse, for instance).

… But let’s give Masters and Johnson their due. … The laboratory study of sex has never been an easy, safe, or well-paid undertaking.

Yes, they are due some credit in modern sexuality studies, certainly. But hey, why don’t we address this blatant homophobia? Is Roach assuming that we are so far beyond homophobia in our culture, and in her readership, that we don’t even need to address how damaging and dangerous perspectives like those are? Perhaps Masters and Johnson were under other pressures from homophobic fundors, perhaps there were political difficulties getting human subjects review board approvals for seemingly “encouraging” homosexuality – there could be various explanations for why they spent half of their book discussing the “cure” and how to “convert” homosexuals.

And then, to end the entire book with these paragraphs, given the blatant disregard of gay and lesbian sexuality, sex-positivity, or progressive gender understandings, leaves me with an awful sense of injustice.

Mary Roach, I love your writing. I really do. But there were many ways to validate and acknowledge perspectives that you do not understand without actually incorporating our experiences into your study of human sexuality. You were so very broad that you missed some huge, gaping holes. Hope your next study is more honed, thoughtful, and inclusive.

review: tantric sex for women

My Tantric Sex for Women book review went up over at Eden Fantasys today.

I really wanted to like this book, I did – I want to know more about tantra and I’m even open to the woo-woo new agey aspects of it, but I just couldn’t get over the ridiculous aspects used in the exercises in this book (which is what makes up the majority of the content). There are some interesting things, but ultimately it’s not worth it.

Read my full review, and, if you feel like helping me out by upping my “reviewer rating” by commenting on or rating my reviews, I certainly wouldn’t mind.

Review of Crossdressing: Erotic Stories

crossdressingCrossdressing: Erotic Stories
Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

“Some people might call this a fantasy, but it’s my deepest truth.” – from “Temporary” by Tulsa Brown

Cleis is famous for their smart, sexy smut, and Rachel Kramer Bussel’s pansexual anthologies are quickly becoming a huge part of not only my personal smut library, but also most smut collections at bookstores – the girl is constantly producing anthologies full of interesting, new, and complicated stories that turn the reader on – sure, of course they do that, and damn, do they do that – but they do more than that: they’re edgy, intellecutal, and affirming.

Crossdressing is one of those anthologies.

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a gender fetish. I find the polarized categories of male-and-female fascinating, and I find it all the more enthralling and interesting to adopt the roles for sexual play.

The stories in this book do just that, in more ways than I could’ve imagined: a gold-star dyke wondering what it’d be like to be with a man, so her girlfriend surprises her in drag with a realistic cock packed underneath slender slacks. A girl who dresses her boyfriend up in drag, shaving his legs and sharing her clothes. A butch in a vintage evening-gown shop, who strikes a deal with the owner for a beautiful Marlene Deitrich tuxedo and eagerly shows it off on the town. A trans woman performer who ends up in the arms of a macho kitchen worker after a night of singing. A man at a business meeting secretly running the show by the power of his silky bra and panties underneath.

If you pick up this book strictly for stories to get you off, it might not quite be what you expect – specifically because of the pansexual array. Most folks I know don’t get turned on by just any depiction of gender or crossdressing, for example, and your particular orientation might get in the way of you enjoying many of these stories – I, for example, am not so turned on by the stories of male crossdressing, girls dressing up their boyfriends in drag, etc. But I loved reading those stories anyway, from a gender perspective.

Reading through these stories makes me think about my own experiences with crossdressing, though I don’t call it that – I call it part of my gender identity. It’s a wide range, of experiences and orentations and gender expression, and it’s interesting to read some other ways that people play with gender, play with costuming and clothing and all sorts of ways of expression.

Gender play is still unusual, and can be deeply empowering, and deeply threatening to those who don’t understand it. Violence against trans folks often comes under the guise of the “deception” of someone’s “real” gender, and violence against queers.

But, at it’s core, gender experimentation and presentation is all about connecting with and displaying aspects of our selves which are deeply personal and very real – it’s about being able to display a more accurate sense of self, a more comfortable way of moving through the world.

And we all want to be able to do that, right?

Maybe it sounds idealistic, but anthologies like Crossdressing actually make us genderqueer folks feel connected, and a little less alone. The complicated gender discussions are clearly part of the smut, of course – but they are also hidden under the guise of simply turning-you-on or getting-you-off, which, I hope, will prompt all the more folks to pick up this book, and perhaps widen their range of understanding about dressing up and playing with gender, in all sorts of ways.