Dear Mr. Sexsmith,
My butch lover refers to me as gorgeous, luscious, beautiful… [but] I just don’t think those kind of descriptive words work for her. What would you suggest? Thanks!
My personal favorites?
Some more ideas?
Striking. Charming. Dazzling. Gentleman. Stud(ly). Rough. Tough. Hero(ic). Attractive. Big.
And, do delve a little deeper:
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling someone masculine gorgeous or beautiful or any of those words. (I don’t know if I’d use “luscious” … not sure what it is exactly, maybe it implies curviness to me, and it wouldn’t resonate if someone used that for me. But I can think of some very luscious butches who would probably like that word used to describe them, so don’t take my preference as the norm.) I think we separate complimentary words by gender, and while many people have certain resonances with certain words regardless of their gender identity—and I think those should be respected, and it doesn’t really matter if the words someone likes happen to all fall in one generally gendered category or not—I think it’s good to take a look at why some of them resonate over others, and whether that’s personal preference or cultural habit.
I remember reading somewhere that “men want to be powerful, women want to be beautiful,” and while I think there’s some heteronormative/patriarchal/misogynistic deconstruction that should probably happen around that idea, I also think it is largely true and reproduced in this culture. And, I think we tend to compliment along those lines when we’re talking about complimenting someone feminine verses complimenting someone masculine. So first of all, women are powerful and beautiful, men are beautiful and powerful, genderqueer and trans and butch and femme folks are powerful and beautiful, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being both. In fact, I think it’s a radical act a) to recognize that our gender roles operate by trying to keep men striving for power and women striving for beauty, which reinforces the kyriarchy, and b) to intentionally break those gender roles by complimenting people for the incredible, sparkly, dazzling things that we notice them doing, by which we are touched and changed.
I think this topic of complimentary words warrants a fascinating conversation between partners. E.g., “Hey, when I use words like attractive and sexy and beautiful when I describe you, do you like that? What kinds of words do you like to be called? Are there words that I call you that sometimes bug you? Isn’t it interesting that certain words are reserved for femininity and others for masculinity? Would it feel strange if I called you pretty/strong/luscious/my hero?”
Brainstorm. Make a list. Do some google searches. Ask around to your friends next time you’re out and about and see what kind of lists they make of compliments for their girlfriends/boifriends/partners. Go back to your partner and try out some of those words, see what the response is. Maybe they just don’t like their body to be talked about or commented upon, even if you are in awe of their gorgeousness and want to tell them so every day. Maybe they like certain words to be used and they just don’t know why, but it makes more sense and resonates deeper. That’s okay. Listen to each other.
I like to use words that have the intended effect, and if I intend one thing and they take it another way, it isn’t actually effective, even if I intend it to be so. And regardless of gender identity, I like to call people what they want to be called.
Would y’all like to weigh in on other complimentary words for butches (or for anyone, for that matter)? What words do you call your butch lover? What words have you found that butches like to be called? What compliments stick?
It’s official! I’m doing a couple different Butch Brunch dates in New York City in the two months leading up to the Butch Voices regional conference on September 25th. Want to join me? Here’s the details.
The first Butch Brunch is coming up on Saturday, August 14th, and you can RSVP on Facebook.
I organized about half a dozen some butch brunches in the past few years, mostly in Brooklyn, mostly just for friends, but we often had fantastic interesting conversations about butch identity and where we came from, and really good turnouts. I’m looking forward to chatting with folks informally, not in the context of planning the Butch Voices conference but instead just socializing, hanging out, theorizing, getting to know each other.
Who can come? Anybody! It’s intended to be a space for butch-identified folks of various identities: butches, studs, ags, anyone masculine-of-center. If folks who are not butch identified would like to attend, that’s fine too, but do realize that we’ll be talking personally about our own identities as we get to know each other. It is not necessary to be butch-identified to attend this brunch, but it is encouraged.
Butch Brunch is co-sponsored by Butch Voices NYC and Sugarbutch, so we are adapting Butch Voices opinions about what butch means. From ButchVoices.com: “We are woman-identified Butches. We are trans-masculine Studs. We are faggot-identified Aggressives. We are noun Butches, adjective Studs and pronoun-shunning Aggressives. We are she, he, hy, ze, zie and hir. We are you, and we are me. The point is, we don’t decide who is Butch, Stud or Aggressive. You get to decide for yourself.”
We don’t have a venue yet—I’d like to keep it pretty centralized in New York City, so any of us coming from any borough can easily get to it. Perhaps somewhere near Union Square? Problem is, brunch places are packed on the weekends.
Anybody have suggestions? I’ll be glad to check them out. But we need to get going! Who’s in?
We’ve got a venue! We’re going to try out Cafe Orlin at 41 St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. It’s a pretty big place and they’ve got a $6 plate of eggs & potatoes & toast, and it doesn’t get cheaper than that in Manhattan. The only catch is that I can’t quite tell by their website if they serve alcohol, but I know I’ve had a glass of wine there at other times.
Please RSVP on Facebook or email me to let me know you’re coming so we can get a head count. They don’t take reservations on the weekends, so I plan on being there early to try to get our name on the waiting list for a big table. I expect about ten people so far.