Posts Tagged ‘chivalry’

On Masculinity, Mine

July 5, 2010  |  advice, essays  |  4 Comments

From the Ask Me Anything questions from Sugarbutch’s 4th anniversary:

I’m interested to know how you feel your masculinity and your perceptions of masculinity have changed over the time that you have been writing here, and by this name.—Miss Avarice, of Miss Avarice Speaks her Mind

My masculinity and perceptions of masculinity have significantly changed since I started Sugarbutch four years ago. Or, wait. Maybe it hasn’t exactly changed as much as bloomed, you know? It is different than it used to be, both my own presentation and my understandings of it, but I had the seed of it then, even the bud, I just couldn’t quite manifest it the way I wanted to. (I’d be curious what some photographs of me look like from four summers ago, to do a side-by-side contrast. A lot has changed since then!)

So, first part, yes, it has changed. But you asked how has it changed? That’s harder to pinpoint.

I’m not so apologetic about it anymore.

I’m a lot more confident in the differences between masculinity and misogyny and chivalry. I’ve learned to differentiate between consensual chivalry and forced chivalry, and actively read the (verbal or physical) communication around chivalrous attempts and acts.

I wear more vests and suit coats and belts and suspenders and french cuff shirts. I own a (small) cufflink collection and a (kind of unnecessarily large) necktie collection. I don’t receive flower-smelling bath products as gifts anymore. I donated that box of feminine clothing that I was keeping around because I never bothered to toss it out.

I pay attention to men’s style icons and got (more) serious about my haircut. I stopped feeling guilty for wanting my hair short and liking it short, I stopped saying I was going to grow it out again because wasn’t it compulsory for lesbians to be short-haired? and I didn’t want to be compulsory.

I claimed some firm ground on which I feel comfortable standing.

I researched butch icons and butch history and butch characters in tv shows and on films and in novels. I pay attention when the word butch gets used in articles. I challenge the way the word butch gets used in (many) articles.

I started dating femmes.

I always knew I wanted to, but actively partnering with femmes changed my masculinity, finally gave it something strong to forge itself against, to nuzzle into, to be protected by. Gave it a reason to be the protector, sometimes. Gave me a compliment, an understanding of the ways that I-in-this-form am received.

Plus there’s all those other identity labels I have been actively not only identifying with but developing, challenging, studying, and attempting to embody: like kinky, sadist, top, daddy, dominant. Even non-sexual words like misanthrope, HSP or highly sensitive person, buddhist. Plus that ever-evolving one: writer. And now, trying to make a living as a writer. Interacting with all of these various identities, spaces, versions of myself, and weaving them into each other, has all affected my masculinity and gender identity.

Studying tantra has changed the ways I think about masculinity, too. I’m far from an expert at tantra, I’m just beginning to study it seriously and take it on as a path, but I know that what we in the west have usually been presented as the concepts of yin and yang as feminine and masculine are too simplified and a bit misleading. It has very little to do with men and women, but rather different types of forces of life and energy, and it’s much more complicated than yin/yang = feminine/masculine.

Being in a new, serious relationship has changed my masculinity, has I think softened my edges, has inspired me to open up in challenging and messy ways. It has brought things to question, made me wonder how or if they are connected to my masculinity, and how or if they should change.

Just talking about my masculinity on a regular basis, through spaces like Sugarbutch, through my Carnal Nation column on Radical Masculinity, and through my friends and lovers in recent years, has changed my relationship to my own masculinity and to my observation of others’ masculinity. According to quantum theory, observing an object changes it (I can’t find out if that theory or principle has a particular name, though, and I’ve been reading through Einstein quotes and Googling “copenhagen interpretation” for a while now. If you know what this is called, pass it on, please? I have a whole theory about blogging based around this and I’d like to know what it’s called!)—and I think that’s true of gender and sexuality, too. Just the very act of observation, of watching oneself, of taking note of how one works, will bring about some change and movement and, inevitably, growth.

(Oh, also: For more on this topic, take a look at My Evolving Masculinity series from a few months back.)

Define: Courtly

December 8, 2008  |  essays  |  9 Comments

Back in September, I asked for a word for someone who accepts chivalry. We had a lively discussion in the comments about what that person would be called. I really like the word "courtly" - here's why.

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Sugarbutch Star: Maze – “The Girl in the Red Dress”

October 29, 2008  |  dirty stories  |  27 Comments

The Girl in the Red Dress

At first I’m trying to ignore her. I have my latest review book, Best Lesbian Bondage Erotica; I have my iPod on to some soothing lofi mix Muse made for me; I have lube in my pocket for a quick jerk-off session before we arrive in New York. I need all the sanctuary and release I can get before returning to that hyper-stimulating city.

But she’s making a big show of her many bags, heavy, designer luggage, and she – being tiny petite thing – seems unable to slip them all into the overhead luggage rack.

The only other person in this car is a man in the back who has been snoring since I got on. I think about telling her to just leave her suitcases on the seat next to her, but her jaw is set, her sensuous mouth twisted in a sneer, and as she begins to climb onto the train seat to reach the rack better, I sigh and, reluctantly, get up to help her.

“Please. Let me,” I say, sliding behind her and putting my hand on her waist to guide her out of the way, then taking the heavy suitcase out of her struggling grip and nudge it onto the metal rack easily. She’s got a great ass in those tight jeans. Her eyes are wide, then she drags her gaze along my arm to my face. I watch her watch me. She looks like Penelope Cruz, all dark hair and big pools of dark liquid eyes.

“Um,” she says. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it,” I answer, a bit dismissively, now offering my hand so she can get down. The train doors buzz and are about to close, we’ll be in motion shortly. I pick up her other bags and one by one put them up into the rack above her seat. She takes off her thin white sweater and sets it with her handbag next to her, and watches me.

I groan a little with the weight of the last one. She notices. “Thanks again,” she says, and I detect a slight accent, French maybe, though she looks Spanish. Her words are a little airy, already pulling Vogue Milan out of her purse and turning her attention to it, a tiny sideways glance at me to see if I’m still standing next to her, waiting for my good-dog biscuit.

I retreat back to my aisle seat. We are facing each other, opposite sides of the train. She is absorbed in her magazine. I put my feet up and crack open my book, start reading through the bondage stories. She takes out a compact and lipstick and fusses with her mouth, repainting, touching her fingertips to the edges of her lips, then wipes microscopic flecks with a tissue. I don’t watch her, but she periodically sweeps her eyes over to me. I rest my hand on my neat little package as I read through the story by Toni Amato, “A Girl Like That:”

She’s the kind of girl who brings out the worst in me. Coming on all hip and cool and all into sex, rubbing some part of herself all up against me every chance she gets. I’m not saying all the things my people taught me about women are so great, but I’ll tell you what, where I come from, that kind of girl is called a cock teaser.

It’s like there’s this small thing, like those stars they talk about, those White Dwarves, sitting deep and low in my belly, and this girl comes along, doing her number, and that son of a bitch just goes nova.

She makes the worst part of me want to do the best it knows how to teach her a thing or two about fucking.

I’m stroking my cock unconsciously through my jeans when I notice someone looming next to me, and it’s her, she’s returning from the bathroom with a clutch in her hand, I didn’t even notice her get up. The girl smiles, almost, and pushes past as though I am taking up the entire aisle, or maybe to show off her gorgeous ass in those tight, tight jeans.

The train lurches and opens its sleepy doors, the man in the back of our train car is moving at half-speed and makes his way off the train.

We’re alone.

She notices too. She’s looking out the window but keeps stealing glances at me. The conductor comes through and says nothing to either of us, just takes the small pieces of paper on our seats, the remnants of our tickets.

I go back to my book. I finger the bottle of lube in my pocket and think this would be a good time to go rub one out, then get absorbed in a story about a dyke cop who is passing as male in a straight club, picks up a girl and takes her, handcuffed, out to her truck. I nearly reach my hand into my pants.

“Um, excuse me?”

She’s standing, still in her seat but leaning forward over the seat in front of her, facing me, ass tipped to the side, front of her button down revealing creamy skin, long dark hair swinging. She smiles when I look up, flashes me an intentional smirky pose that she has practiced in the mirror – her seduction look. “Would you help, I have to … I need … something from that bag.” She glances up at it.

I put my book down and tug at my jeans to cover my hard-on. Clear my throat. “Sure.”

I get up and move toward her. She kneels and reaches for it, her back to the aisle as I come up behind her and reach up.

“This one?” My mouth is close to her ear.

“No, not – yes, that one,” she says as I touch the smaller suitcase. She reaches up to help me, bending slightly forward, as we both ease the weight of her bag down onto the seat. And I swear she rubs right against me, pushing back, just a little. Maybe I’m imagining it. Yeah, sure Sinclair; you just happen to have a boner and this girl offers up her ass on a silver platter.

I back off. Return to my seat. Again.

“Um, thanks!” she calls.

I toss a half-smile over my shoulder. “Don’t mention it.” She pulls a bundle of fabric out of her bag and I don’t watch. I don’t pay attention. I can’t see it. I shouldn’t be watching, but I am. It is slinky and red. She finds a few other bits and tucks her hair behind her ear, gathers an armful of clothing, makes her way toward me, down the aisle, to the bathroom at the back of the car.

She’s in there a while. I try to concentrate on my book, to not wonder what she is doing, what she’s slipping into, who she’s meeting when she gets off the train, not to imagine being that somebody so filled with lust and permission that I’d fuck her right on the platform, couldn’t even control myself long enough to wait until we went to dinner, drinks, a show, whatever it is she’s dressing up for. My breath is quickening and my hands are starting to do that aching thing where they are pulsing with grip, wanting to hold push grab press punch slap.

She makes her way back to her seat like the aisle is a runway, like she’s coming in for a landing. Each step deliberately placed. Legs precisely angled and separated and her gait is sharp, strong. Her red dress swings from her hips, past her thighs, to her knees. A few bracelets jangle from one arm, simple and slim. She’s pulled her hair up high on her head, into some sort of ponytail, then twisted around itself in a beautiful knot.

I watch her as she closes the distance to her own seat. I don’t drool. I am not drooling. I try not to drool at the sight of her ankles, her calves, the hints of the backs of her knees as her dress swings. I wipe my mouth. Her ankles cross just slightly, which makes her hips curl and switch like a figure eight. Like a come-hither finger.

I swallow. Breathe in. And quickly open my book, flustered, and turn it to the page I was reading as she slides onto the train seat and I snap out of my spell.

Of course – of course – I am too zealous and the book slides out of my hand, skittering out into the aisle. I take a sharp breath in and some spit goes down the wrong way, I start to choke, cough, loudly, as I jump up to retrieve the book.

Oh good lord. I get ahold of myself. Straighten up, book in hand. Clear my throat. I don’t look at her. I can’t see her. I am sure I am five shades of crimson and I steal a glance her direction, she’s covering her mouth, that perfect smirky smile, eyes dancing, looking away from me. Obviously she saw everything.

Fuck.

I resettle. Book in lap, adequate breath in lungs. I sneer to myself. Re-open the erotica. Do you have to be so obvious? I yell at myself in my head. You dumbass. Real smooth, Sexsmith.

She’s going through her open case next to her, I can see her arms moving but can’t see what she’s doing. Then suddenly she’s up, out of the seat and back in the aisle, pads down toward me as if she forgot something.

I catch a whiff of her perfume as she walks by. Dizzying, intoxicating. The swish of her skirt. I watch her little toe-heel trot down the aisle. My body acts without my mind and I reach for her. My hand on her hip. Lightly at first, but then she doesn’t pull away and I grab her harder. Both hands and I stand, pull her toward me, her back to me, and she is still. I can’t see her face but I can feel her breath through my hands, she’s holding it. Surprised. Waiting.

I lift her skirt in the back to reveal her perfect ass. A work of art. A combination of genetics and squats and hundreds of hours at the gym. She knows it. She’s bare under her red dress, no panties, no stockings. Perhaps that’s what she forgot. I can’t resist, I palm the apple of her ass, caress the flesh, spreading her cheeks and opening her slit.

She lets out her breath, finally, and it comes with a breathy moan, just a little.

And I’m gone. The slightest noise from her lips and all I can feel is what it’ll be like to be inside her, to feel her body curl around my arm and buck and thrash and grasp as she comes. I’ve got to feel it. Got to make her.

I press against her back. Her neck is bare, hair up, and my mouth is just at the corner of her jaw, below her ear. I reach around her and pin her arms to her sides, pressing her back to lean against me, and she arches, thrusts her hips up, feels the cock behind my fly. She lets her head lean back against me, lets me take her weight.

“Bend over.” Right next to her ear. Barely audible.

I release her from her hold. She turns her head just a bit and her face is quizzical, open, lustful, a tad resistant. I run my hand up under her dress firmly, continue to drag it up her back, then press, hard, on her shoulder blades, bending her over the train seat in front of her.

“I said bend over.”

Faster now. Unbuckle and unzip. The dress pushed up to her waist, one hand on her lower back to keep her hips tipped up to me. Her asshole is dark pink, a burst between her cheeks, perfectly smooth, and her ass is perfectly round, my thighs are already quivering and hips pulsing, so ready to fuck.

I grab one of the condoms I always keep tucked into the inner pocket of my bag. Roll it on. Spit into my palm, and again, lube up my cock. Spit again at my two fingers and shove them at her hole.

I hear her gasp – “ah” – just once – and she glances back over her shoulder, eyes heavy-lidded and dark. I push on her upper back again.

“Head down.”

Her body shudders at my voice and gives in. A ripple of submission through her backbone and I feel to my toes the way it makes every hair on my body stand up, clench, awaken.

Cockhead at her asshole, I enter her easily, so smooth. So tight. The resistance of her ass is just more friction and tension between us and I want to tear into her. Split her apart. Harder now. Faster and she’s taking it so well, “so good baby,” I whisper to myself, fuck it’s so good. She keeps her legs strong and pushes back against me. It’s not enough lube and I remember the bottle in my pocket and laugh to myself. What kind of pervert am I to carry lube on the train?

I pull out and squirt it right on my dick, smear it, and ease back into her.

Oh yeah, give me that ass. Give it to me.

The girl in the red dress has her arms braced against the seats, bracelets jangling. We hit a rhythmic sliding stride and she brings her forearm down in front of her, leans forward, brings her other hand between her legs. Immediately I feel her knees weaken and press together, back arch and spine curl and oh it’s beautiful. I bring my hand up her spine to her shoulder blades, then her neck, take a handful of hair and keep her steady. She pulls against me, not to get away, but to heighten sensation. Struggling has such varying degrees. She doesn’t want out, she wants more.

I take grips on her hip and hair. Slam against her hard, pull out slow. Slick where my cock is fat inside her, swelling and eager. Resistance and tension. She tips even further forward onto the seat until she’s held up by it, lifted at the waist, hand furious between her legs, thighs pressed so hard together, on her tiptoes straining up and tipping forward more, further, until she lets one foot come up off the floor and bend at the knee, toes curling.

She is starting to let go, really let go, become undone at the seams, and she can’t keep the tension in her muscles so she stops resisting my hand in her hair, my palm against the flesh of her ass, holding her cheeks apart, fingers gripping her hipbone. But I don’t let go, I just hold her stronger, tighter, take her a little deeper as she opens, opens deeper, opens hard, and every hinge in her body loosens, I feel it from inside pulse and ripple and again, and again, until she is gasping, chest heaving, crying out, gasping for air. And I ease up, slide in slow, press hard and sweet against her as orgasm fades, shudders, and her body rebuilds itself anew.

I pull out and let her rest. We are quiet a moment. I release my hand from her mess of hair and caress her neck gently, let my hand drape across her hips and thighs, even find her hand, wet and warm from her own liquid, touch her fingertips gently.

Her breathing calms. She sighs, once. Reaches up to brush her hair from her face and I stand, tuck my cock, zip up, run my fingers through my perfectly messy hair to assess the damage.

She stays where she is, leaning for support over the bench seat. I pull the skirt of her dress down over her hips with a shit-eating grin on my face and smack her ass once, a little harder than I meant to, but playful, and she gasps and tenses, then stands. Her makeup is smeared. Her face is still open and sweet from the release but it changes as she watches me. I gather my book and pocket bottle of lube and put them back in my bag, pick up my jacket and slide my arms into the sleeves.

She’s still watching. Eyes wide. Breathing.

“We’re here,” I say. The train is slowing and I can just make out the tunnels of Penn Station as we arrive in New York City. She blinks. Opens her mouth to say something.

I grin. Lord she’s cute. I kiss her cheek as I slip by her and remove her heavy suitcases from the overhead racks. I notice strappy black high heel shoes at her seat and my mouth waters.

Heaving the last of the bags down, I turn to her again. She’s still by my seat, now empty, one finger in her mouth, looking a little shy. I smile and nod, once, a goodbye-take-care-have-a-nice-night gesture, and turn to the door as the train comes to a full stop.

“Um!” she calls after me. I look back. “Thank you?”

I give her a long glance from her ankles up to her legs to her hips and belly and breasts, the disheveled red dress, hair tumbling from its neat design on her head. She’s stunning, really. Delicious.

“Don’t mention it,” I say, and step off the train.

define: need a word for …

September 10, 2008  |  essays  |  31 Comments

Now that I’m on the subject of definitions, I have a request. I need a word for something.

Sometimes the English language fails us; we really don’t have enough words for the precision of things. (For example, I’d love to differentiate between the “I’m sorry” that means empathy vs the “I’m sorry” that is an apology, especially since those two things are widely different and it makes it difficult to communite your true intention when language falls short. But that’s a sidenote.)

I’ve been thinking about chivalry lately – which is not rare – and in a few discussions recently I’ve been kicking around the idea of someone who receives chivalry, and how that too is a skill.

Some women don’t much care for chivalry, and some do; those who do have a different kind of interaction with it, an appreciation and understanding that definitely alters the dynamic of the exchange. It’s actually kind of complicated to allow someone to pull out your chair, take your coat or help it on, to take their hand or arm or elbow. Those are skills, too: how to receive chivalry.

I think we need a word for this. It has been suggested to me that perhaps we can use the same word – as in, “that femme is chivalrous, she knows how to accept chivalry from me” – but that doesn’t quite convey what I’m trying to say. I keep thinking of other forms of nouns for two people in a give/take relationship – gifter/giftee, inviter/invitee – but that doesn’t quite make sense with the structure of the word “chivalrous” and “chivalry.” Makes me wish I knew more about the origins and structure of language.

Got ideas?

romance vs chivalry

August 11, 2008  |  essays  |  16 Comments

What’s the difference between romance and chivalry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

march masthead: bringing butch back

March 20, 2008  |  essays, miscellany  |  5 Comments

A few weeks back, Muse & I went to a meditation group and I held her jacket for her when we were heading outside. She dipped down to let me more easily slide the coat up onto her shoulders, and I laughed.

“You’re not supposed to move,” I said. “Just let me do the work. This chivalry thing is designed to make you look good.”

She laughed too. “Ah, right. How would I know that? Nobody holds my coat for me. You’re bringing butch back.”

I like that. I like the alliteration, three b’s in a row, and the second epitrite of poetic meter in the phrasing. I really can’t take credit for bringing butch back – honestly, I don’t think it ever went anywhere, I think if anything it just went a bit underground during the gay and women’s rights movements, and many folks are now reimerging to problematize and celebrate gender, myself included. And youth these days are more open to gender and sexuality differences than we ever have been, so aside from some old-school activists coming out of the woodwork, the youth also have a hand in opening up these conversations, refusing to be limited by labels or definitions, and yet finding value in the historical contexts of labels and words as well.

Chivalry is deeply feminist to me. When in femmes, I expect femininity to be deliberate, done with the whole knowledge of the compulsory heteronormative restrictions which dictate that women must be and do certain things, particular that we must wear high heels, delicate cloth, restrictive clothing. Femininity is not made for comfort or movement, it is made to accentuate the sexualization of a woman’s body – and that’s why things like holding her doors open (so she doesn’t dirty her white gloves or expensive manicure), pulling her chair out (so she doesn’t have to awkwardly move a bulky piece of furniture, and risk getting it caught on her skirt or stockings and ripping something) or holding her coat (so she doesn’t have to reach around and risk ripping the tight seams in her shoulders or upper back) are necessary to me, as an acknowledgement of how restrictive femininity can be, and of how difficult it is to walk around the world in these clothes, as a celebration of the beauty of femininity on the body, and with deep respect for the courage to costume and perform femme to begin with.

There’s a long history of these gender roles, these accentuations of the body as a flirtation, as a mating ritual, as peacocking, to attempt to attract a lover.

All this is to say, I’m really not taking credit for “bringing butch back.” But I like the phrasing, and I’d like to think that I’m encouraging it. I’ve written it before (& I’ll write it again): I would never tell someone what their identity is, I would always wait for them to tell me how they choose to identify. But because I’ve found such play and liberation and fun and self-empowerment inside of butch, I do want to encourage and support it.

So, I made a masthead. Those are my hands and the bird tie, in a portrait taken last summer by Bill Wadman. With a nod to dooce, in theory the mastheads will rotate monthly with a different tagline. 

I tend to follow the wheel of the year, so I wish you a happy spring equinox today:

The Spring Equinox celebrates the return of life and growth to the thawing earth.  For the first time since the Fall Equinox, the time of light and dark in a single day are equal. From this day forth, Spring will arrive, and with her, a wild spurt of growth begins. Shoots of young grass appear, leaves sprout on trees, birds and their songs return. Winter and the dark time have finally been put behind us, and the season of growth has begun. This holiday is truly a celebration of life and nature.

Since the Spring Equinox represents new life and growth, this is the perfect holiday for planting seeds of your own on the path of your life.  New ventures may be aided by the spirit of life and growth that abound, and many people decorate eggs at this time with symbols of fertility. All is new and possible. In addition, this holiday is an ideal time to break the last of the chains that may halt our growth.

So that’s what I’m thinking about today: what chains may be halting my own growth, and how to let them instead be little sprigs of pure green.