Posts Tagged ‘costuming’
a) I often find myself at a loss when trying to slot myself into the femme-butch dichotomy – I don’t feel like I can identify with either. Yet I can’t really pass for androgynous (come on, boobs). so much of what I see in the queer world, in person and online, frames itself around being butch or femme and I feel left out. Is there a movement of queer people who *don’t* align themselves with butch or femme?
b) Some practical advice now…so there’s this girl. :D She’s a friend of a friend and there’s possibly something brewing there. (She knows I’m interested in her, she’s intrigued, hasn’t promised anything yet but would like to get to know me better). She’s overseas at the moment and won’t be back in my neighbourhood till August, baaaaaah. We’ve been chatting over Facebook and I’d like to send her some subtly flirty messages. Nothing too obvious or creepy, but what can I say that won’t either lose the flirtiness (I found that even when I explicitly say something meant to be flirtatious it gets read as normal!) or freak her out? Any ideas?—Tiara the Merch Girl from themerchgirl.net
There is a huge movement of queer people who don’t align themselves with butch or femme, and who don’t identify with androgyny, either. In fact, I think folks who do not identify as butch or femme make up the majority of the dyke/queer communitites.
It’s funny, because especially from the outside, it seems like that’s all lesbian or queer women’s culture is: butch or femme. Both for folks who aren’t a part of these communities and for dykes who are just coming out, that is a really common feeling. But once inside of it, there is tremendous pressure to present more androgynously—lots of pressure for more feminine folks to cut their hair very short, for example. An above-the-ears haircut is practically a rite of passage for queer women. And the tomboy often gets pressured toward body adornment, or comments such as, “If I wanted a penis / a man / a suit, I’d be dating men,” after a particularly short haircut, or a fancy dress-up night, or presenting a new strap on cock. (Not that that’s happened to me or anything. Not that I’m bitter.)
It depends on your geographic location, too. In some cities, queer scenes are dominated by butches and femmes. In others, the norm is more toward androgyny or practicality—I’ve been chatting about gender with a femme who grew up from Alaska and noticed that I did, too, and we both have some similar observations about what it’s like to grow up in a landscape that requires very particular tools to face the weather (like xtra tufs), so the edge of femininity as adornment is seen as very superfluous. And butch as adornment, too—I wore my city boots up there one of the last times I was there for the winter holidays, and complained about how the gravel and salt they constantly spray the streets with were really ruining my boots. Cufflinks, sportcoats, silk scarves—none of that is useful. You need flannel button downs, those very functional paisley handkerchiefs, fleece jackets, thick wool hats. This is the region (well, broadly—the Pacific Northwest) where grunge started, remember?
Point being, some cities are more butch/femme oriented than others. San Francisco’s queer scene is different than Seattle’s, which is different than Chicago’s and than New York’s (and Manhattan’s is different than Brooklyn’s). And the butches and the femmes are often very visible queers, especially since we seem to be the ones who are much more into deconstructing gender than the androgynous dykes. Not always, of course, but often: the current discourse in butch/femme communities tends to focus on why these genders work, why they don’t work, how to break apart identity alignment assumptions, what we’re doing to align with the trans movements, those kinds of things.
(Which is exactly why I am so drawn to this world of butch and femme … was I butch first, and the gender deconstruction came after? Or am I butch because I love gender deconstruction so much? Chicken or egg, who knows.)
And when we talk about a lesbian who is “visibly lesbian,” what do we mean? A lesbian who is butch-ish, or androgynous, leaning toward masculine. Someone not feminine, anyway. But those things aren’t actually the same: lesbian is a sexual orientation, not a gender identity. And until those things are more separated, we’re still going to have the butches (as the most visible queers) and femmes (as the most vocal queers, since if they do not define their sexuality with their words they get mistaken as straight) as some of the most obvious folks in the dyke worlds.
But that’s not to say that the other folks aren’t there. From my own experience, it seems that dykes and lesbians and queers who do not align with butch and femme are much more prevalent and many more than those who do. I’m trying to think if I have any support for this, some statistics I can cite or study I can link to, but I can’t think of anything (anybody else?). I wonder if it only seems like there are more non-butches & femmes than there are butches and femmes because that’s what I align with, so of course I presume that I am an outsider to the dominant lesbian culture. But I don’t think that’s only my perception—I’ve certainly talked to many, many other butches and femmes who feel similarly left out of the larger lesbian culture. Look at some of the big lesbian cultural reflections: AfterEllen, Curve magazine, Go! Magazine, Girlfriends magazine, The L Word, Dinah Shore. None of those reflect butch and femme identity regularly.
You have a place in these queer communities, lesbian circles, dyke scenes. You are just as legitimately queer, regardless of whether you have one singular gender identity to pull on or not. Don’t worry. You do not have to identify as butch or femme, and there are hundreds of blogs out there by queers who do not, many magazines and films and reflections of ways to be queer without aligning with any sort of gender identity. Check out Genderfork if you need a reminder of how many different ways of expressing queer gender there are out there. Find your own gender presentation, whatever feels perfectly good to you, whatever makes you feel the most you that you can be, whatever attracts the kinds of girls or boys or grrrls or bois that you want to attract.
What say you, Sugarbutch readers? Are there more dykes in the butch/femme world or in the non-butch/femme world? Do you feel left out of these identities? Is there a place for folks who do not identify as butch or femme in the queer world? Or do you, as a butch or femme, feel left out of mainstream lesbian culture? Is there a place for you in the larger queer world?
This girl thing. Well, it looks like I waited a long time, too long, because now it’s August and she might be back. I’m really slow on these Ask Me Anything questions, unfortunately. So maybe you can give us an update! What’s happening now? Did your flirty Facebook chatting work?
Kristen and I dispute how many times we’ve been to the particular play party that we attended on Halloween. I thought we’d been before at least once, but she thinks it was only one other party in the same space. Perhaps because we also attended a completely different party around the same time (where the rocking chair blow job happened) I am blurring the parties together.
Regardless, we hadn’t fucked in “public” in a long time, and Kristen had the perfect costume for the Halloween play party: this “Secretary” outfit from Liberator.
Okay, you got me: it’s more lingerie than costume. Really it’s just the cuffs and collar that cross it over that line. Not really sure why it’s a secretary outfit, either; I guess because it has pinstripes on it, it is business-y? Whatever. The lingerie is hot. It arrived in a lovely fancy black box in pink tissue paper, and since Kristen tried it on earlier in the week I’d been looking forward to fucking her in it.
This is only the second Liberator item I’ve been sent to review – the first being the Throe, the moisture-proof blanket Kristen and I use pretty much every time we have sex. Well, every time at my house, anyway; we should get a second for her place, too. I’ve been looking forward to more from their product line, particularly some silk pillowcases to see if something higher quality will do less damage to Kristen’s hair, which is inevitably a tangled mess after thrashing against the sheets for a while. (Those of you with fine, baby-thin hair out there may know this problem. So far there’s no cure except conditioner and a shower. Suggestions?)
Instead of the pillow cases, though, they sent us Kristen’s pick for lingerie, just in time for the Halloween party.
It’s kind of hard to order clothes online, especially lingerie, where it should be very form-fitting and specific to a body’s shape. Liberator lingerie comes in x-small, small, medium, large, x-large, and 2x, and the customer service folks told Kristen that it runs small, so she ordered what she thought would be the closest to her size. She seems pretty happy with the fit, but it was a bit of a gamble; we may try a slightly smaller size next time, but it’s hard to say, that one might be too small. Returns to Liberator have to be pre-approved, probably because they do sell all sorts of products for sexiness and they aren’t about to accept used sheets or used sex furniture, but if it’s because the lingerie was the wrong size I bet they would understand. Be sure to ask, though, if you’re not sure.
We dressed at my place; she slipped into it as I got my harness ready under my black slacks, tee shirt, and button-down. When I announced I was ready, she said she was too, and I thought, really? You’re going to wear that out, without anything on top of it? She zipped her jacket up over it, her very short jacket, coming only to her high waist. The garter is almost a mini-mini-skirt, if you stretch your mind a bit, and we were driving, walking only the few blocks from her apartment to the play party. Plus, it IS Halloween, which is practically Scantily Clad Day, and I’d be with her – it’d be okay. (It did make me feel a bit protective, but also hot, that she was willing to venture out into public wearing so little. And knowing I’d probably fuck her later in the same lovely outfit made it all the better.)
We arrived at the play party a bit late; it was packed and going strong. Someone recognized me upon my entrance (who were you? I could barely hear or see, I apologize) and Kristen and I made the rounds, watching the various scenes in progress already: someone holding onto the bars of the “jail cell,” two pairs of dykes giving/receiving blow jobs, someone on a leash being led around by someone very mistressy, a girl with lovely curves face down being smacked by her top in a cowboy hat. Every once in a while the music would quiet just a little and I’d hear someone screaming or yelling or moaning and go investigate – I do love that it is a safe space to come and be naked, be vulnerable, be exposed, and be hot and sexy.
We didn’t stay long, but we wanted to play at least a little. I like to show her off. I like for others to watch her and see how ridiculously sexy she is when she comes or how good she is at her particular talents, like sucking me off.
I’m not sure how it started; with a kiss, I think (isn’t that always how it starts?). I love the way she kisses, from subtle, supple energy to hard, insistent, demanding. I love how she meets me, pushes me for more, mouth and lips and tongue so sweet and open, lovely, tender. I can’t even explain it without resorting to cliche flower metaphors.
Somewhere in the winding labyrinth of little black nooks and crannies I leaned against the wall, feet apart shoulder blades pressing back, cock already tucked into my slacks when I was in the other room, not a packing cock but a fucking cock so it is straining at my zipper and pulling at my belt already. She presses against me and can feel it, rubs up against it, which makes me groan. She winds her fingers through my hair. Puts her mouth to my neck. I feel myself coming undone, coming thickly into my body and connecting to her, those invisible strings that pull us to each other becoming taut.
She wants to be somewhere more public. I want to be somewhere quieter, we were right under the speaker and I can’t hear her noises, can’t hear her breathing. I lead her into the back room, full of signs that read “BDSM and sex only – no chatting please,” where Crash Pad is playing in the background, and I find a chair. We keep kissing before I sit back into it, just enjoying reconnecting and building the sensuality between us.
To be honest, we hadn’t fucked in a while. A few days, probably. Maybe there was some morning making out in there, some quickies, but no half-day laze in bed like we are used to. We kept disconnecting, we’d traveled and had visitors and then were decompressing from a week of socializing, we weren’t arguing but I was particularly exhausted and not communicating that well or being very attentive. It was a relief to let the world fall away outside and just be with her, just feel her back and shoulders and waist, her ass all round and squeezable in that gorgeous high-waist garter.
We kissed for a long time. Standing, arms wrapped around each other, melting a bit, finding the edges of each other again. Finally I pulled back to say, “there’s a chair behind me. I’m going to get my cock out, you’re going to get on your knees. Got it?”
She nods. I kiss her again, so sweet, savoring her lips, and drop back to the chair behind me as she drops to the floor. It is doubtlessly good whenever she ventures to put her mouth on me, but this time was exquisite, the kissing still reverberating on my mouth, still feeling her tongue and pillowy lips, how is it that after nearly a year it just keeps getting better? (I ask myself this regularly.) She kisses the head of my cock, softly. I feel it jolt through my body. Her tongue running along the corona. I shiver, swelling. She pulls it into her mouth deeper with suction and my eyes roll back in my head, I nearly fall out of my chair.
I love to watch her this way. I let her go on, watching the room watching us a little bit, dykes over by the doorway biting their lips and sucking on their fingers absently, eyes fixed. Enjoying them enjoying the view of her ass, her back curved, leaning forward.
The couple in the far corner leaves and the swing is unused. I pull her mouth off my cock with my hand on her chin and kiss her. Her mouth is wet.
“Let’s go back into the corner.”
I tug on my slacks so they don’t fall down around my ankles, lead the way. I undo my button down and slip it off, set it on the bench next to the wall, by the swing and the table that is suspended by chains from the ceiling. She stands next to me as I drop down to my knees and unhook her garter belt to slide her black panties down her legs, then hook up the belt again.
“The swing?” I ask her. “Or the table?” Both are free. She looks over to the table coyly and we take a few steps over to it, maneuver her up onto it. Kind of hard to do without proper leverage. There was a couple fucking right here as we watched earlier and it’s kind of a thrill to do something similar to what they did. She lays back, grabs the chains for leverage, wraps her legs around my waist as I lube up my cock and slide it in. I work it in and out a little, softly, she’s quiet and not nearly responsive enough. I can’t reach her to kiss her from this ninety-degree angle at which we’re fucking.
I can’t hear her, either. The music is too loud, plus there’s porn playing on the TV behind us, and other people fucking nearby, so any joyful noise, so to speak, could be coming from anywhere. I can’t hear her. I can barely see her, it’s so dark in here, a windowless basement with only bare colored dim light bulbs from the ceiling and the light from the TV. It’s not enough for me to tell what’s going on with her, but I can feel it, something’s not quite right.
“You okay?” “Yeah.” She wants it to be okay. (So do I.) But we can both feel something is off.
We mess around for a little while, I hold her, hold her down, push her ankles onto my shoulders so her legs are up, touch her clit, she gets off once or twice. But her heart’s not in it, and she forces it a little, makes it happen faster than necessary. I suspect she wants to go.
I lean down to wrap around her for a moment and she responds immediately, softens and pulls up into me. “Let’s get out of here,” I say. She nods into my neck. We get up, clean up the area, put our clothes back on, I tuck my shirt in.
It was fun, thrilling to debut her lingerie in public, fun to show her off a little, thrilling to watch her go down on me in front of a room full of people. But it isn’t quite enough. We haven’t had enough connection lately. I need some cuddling and intimacy and kisses all night long, wrapping around each other and sleeping late, making breakfast and laughing and leisurely lazing around on the couch watching reruns of 30 Rock, holding hands. I need some quiet to ourselves, with the world on the outside shut off and put away. I need to catch up on the last week, decompress together, let her know what I thought of the parties and people and fun times and her cooking and all the events we’re sharing. I need things to just slow down so I could catch my breath.
I pack up my cocks, we get our jackets, venture back out into the cold, and walk the few blocks back to her place, where we whisper sweet nothings quietly before falling asleep together.
I especially like what Janie said – that eyebrows “should be sculpted minimally to best feature one’s eyes.” Uh, so, how does one do that?
And you’re going to have to educate me I’m afraid: wtf is this “threading” business? I thought it was similar to waxing. Why recommend it in particular for butches? What’s the difference? I’m confused.
PS: I promise I won’t turn this blog into a mirror of what I’m doing on twitter. There are much smut and omphaloskepsis and media reviews and gender explorational writings in progress.
I know it’s a bit late for this, but here’s five (fairly traditional) ideas for the masculine-leaning butches and bois and boys and transfolks in your life:
A good solid belt buckle is an essential butch accessory, in my opinion. I’ve always liked belts, but it took me way to long to graduate from regular buckled belts to belts with detachable and interchangeable buckles – they’re heavier, for one, and they look amazing, plus there are so many styles.
Etsy is amazing for buckles – do a search and include a keyword of one of your butch’s hobbies (like bikes or birds or beer) and it’ll turn up some amazing vintage or handmade results, many for less than $20.
(Belt buckle shown from Lucybluestudio’s Etsy store)
I kind of hate to give it away, but Cuff Daddy is my current favorite place for cufflinks. They have everything! I haven’t even searched through all of their little figures and all the fun categories. They have cufflinks that are watches! Levels! Compasses! I’m currently coveting the Superman emblem cufflinks, myself.
Don’t forget Etsy for cufflinks, too. Ditto to the belt buckles, put in a couple key words – pinup, Obama – and you’ll get all sorts of great results.
If she’s already got some cufflinks, and probably doesn’t need more? Consider this cufflinks box in black leather.
(Betty Page cufflinks from Bellamodaartist’s Etsy store)
Uh, okay, Etsy for-the-win of #1 and #2, I should probably say something else for #3, right? Well, you already know that you can search Etsy for vintage and handmade ties – add a keyword and you’ll come up with awesome skull ties, striped ties, butterfly ties, whatever your butch happens to like.
If that’s not quite fancy enough for ya, perhaps consider a Tie of the Month Club. J Crew is doing one now (it’s a 888 number to sign up, I can’t seem to link to it on their website directly). They’ve got some great ties.
4. Pocket knife
Or if a knife isn’t really her thing, what about a pocket watch?
5. Shaving Kit
Even if it’s occasional, or for gender play, how hot would this fabulous shaving kit look on her dresser or in her bathroom?
Maybe you can recreate the famous k.d. lang and Cindy Crawford 1993 Vanity Fair photo shoot.
If that’s not enough good ideas for ya, take a flashback to the 2007 Butch/Femme Holiday Gift Guide that I wrote last year, maybe some of those will pique your interest.
Femmes … what would you absolutely love to receive from your friends & lovers this year? C’mon, help us out with some ideas.
A few friends and fans and readers have emailed me about sending me something, and in the spirit of the holidays, here’s a few things you can do for me, if you feel so inspired … Read More
BIG thank you to both of them for helping me out! Round of applause, please!
The focus remains on butch/femme portraits and photos and images. Please continue to submit pictures of you, your sister, your girlfriend, your wife, your gang, your crew, your best friends, your ex, your teachers, your mentors, your lovers.
Portrature – especially self-portrature – was actually a big piece of my own personal identity development, and I think it’s really important to see ourselves reflected, to be able to study photos of myself and say, is that what I look like? really? as I was discovering and uncovering and creating and re-creating my own aesthetic.
I was just looking at some old photos this weekend and found some after I’d cut my hair all off (in 2000) but before I was claiming butch, when I was dying my hair red and still wearing lipstick. I found a photo of me with a daisy chain crown, and no I am not kidding. It was a trip to look through the photos, watch my hair change as my haircuts started getting more and more butch, after I stopped dying it red and stopped wearing low-cut shirts, when I started figuring out what I really wanted my gender to be, what my soft animal body really loved and how I felt most comfortable, most like myself.
As butches and femmes, we don’t see ourselves in popular media, except usually as a stereotype or a (usually unflattering) archetype. I mean we don’t even see lesbians reflected in popular media all that often, let alone queers or genderqueers or butches and femmes – which is partially why we consume and watch and love just about any film that has lesbian characters, just about any book with lesbian characters, just about any crappy TV show with lesbian characters (*cough*L Word*cough*), because we are so starved to see images of ourselves reflected back to us, some semblance of recognition or some flash of similarities between our lives and the lives of the stories we watch and consume.
Aside from the validation of seeing queer eye candy, there’s also the personal revelations of just figuring out what your body looks like, how others might see us externally – shifting the gaze from seeing out through our eyes to seeing what our eyes look like from outside. It’s powerful, and brings, I think, a greater self-awareness and, hopefully, self-confidence.
Speaking of self-confidence: what I said before about requiring comments on Queer Eye Candy still holds true. I don’t write for comments, I don’t expect people to comment on my own things (though I of course appreciate it), but the photos that are sent in are often from people who are not used to having a web presence, are not used to revealing themselves for a queer audience to consume and judge.
Putting images of yourself out there like this is vulnerable. Scary: What if I’m not butch enough? What if I’m not femme enough? What if I’m not really hot? Come on, all of us think that when we see images of ourselves posted.
This is not a “hot or not” project – this is more of a project a la Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink – what does your brain do when you first glance at the queer eye candy photo? Do you think “hubba hubba, omg hot!!”? WRITE THAT. Do you think “holy crap I have that same shirt! I wonder if it looks that good on me?” WRITE THAT. Do you think “Oh good lord, I would marry her on looks alone”? (That’s Bevin’s line I shamelessly stole.) GO FOR IT.
This is about building self-confidence through appearance. About celebrating the myriad of ways that butch and femme get represented through visual styles and identity.
So: Submit photos. Comment on photos. And you will make this top very, very happy.
From the Queer Eye Candy mission statement:
You might be afraid of us, but you don’t know who we are.
We’re hot, we’re fierce, we’re vulnerable, we’re beautiful, we’re in love, we’re horribly ugly, we’re scared, we’re tender-hearted, we’re dog mommies and daddies, we’re parents, we’re children, we’re neices and nephews, we’re married, we’re bachelors, we’re rednecks, we’re blue-collar, we’re construction workers, we’re political pundits, we’re musicians, we’re drag performers, we’re community organizers, we’re angry, we’re activists, we’re just us.
Let’s show off who we are. Let’s show those who don’t know what we look like, let’s show off who we love and who we spend our time with, let’s show off our joyous communities and our heartaches and our hardships and our work and our play and our joy.
Let’s celebrate ourselves, just as we are.
Clare & Jack, September 2008.
Says Clare: “I am wearing a vintage dress and hat from the 30′s (note the vintage strappy heels as well ;), my daughter is wearing a vintage dress from the 50′s and Jack in wearing a super-fly new suit (yum!) . We have some domestic partner benefits here, and we creep closer and closer to legalization every year In Washington state, but we are not legal yet. Hopefully it will move up the coast from California.”
I am not noticed much in New York City. My recent trip to Washington State’s Olympic Penninsula reminded me of this and I’ve been more observant of it ever since.
Honestly, to most subway commuters, shoppers, service industry employees, I just don’t register on their freak radar. I dress quite conservatively, usually, for one. I’m often in slacks and button-downs, kakhis and a polo, with a gadget bag and an iPod when I am commuting to and from Manhattan, and I just don’t account for as much attention as someone soliciting for money, someone homeless sleeping on the train, someone with a boa constrictor, someone in a wedding dress.
[Maybe it's a class thing - upper class and working class are noticed, middle class is generally anonymous and neutral?]
I have often noticed that I pass as male here – that people, service employees especially, call me “sir.” But in watching this a little closer I have noticed that it’s not that I’m passing necessarily, I think people are just not paying close enough attention to me – it’s quite obvious I’m female upon just the slightest attentive glance, and I don’t think most people are consciencious enough of genderqueer-ness to call me “sir” by default.
My freak is not in my display of clothing, my costuming, my visible markers – my freak is that my clothing is on this body, that my gender presentation breaks the sex/gender assumption of my societally-instructed gender role. And honestly, the survival skills of New York mean that you don’t – you can’t – pay too much attention to the average Pats and Jamies around you, because you will either: a) get completely overwhelmed by the input, or b) miss observing the dangerous freak and find yourself in harm’s way. It is a skill that, as an empath, observer, and writer, I have had much struggle learning, as I want to be able to observe and notice the things going on around me, and indeed that is one of the best things about New York City, this huge, constant swirl of energy and life. But while it is energizing in small doses, to live inside of it constantly we must develop thick, massive boundaries as to not take in all of the constant comedy and tragedy around us.
When I dress up for a date or for a photo shoot, New York’s reaction to me is slightly different. This is when my masculinity becomes deviant and subversive, even aside from the body it is performed upon, because I start looking like a fag, I add elements of flair and sissy and dress-up and vaudeville, and that is not quite the same conservative masculinity that gets scanned over and does not set off anyone’s freak radar.
So my masculine gender is only “freaky” when it starts to be more feminine, more faggy, more queer. This makes sense now that I’m thinking of it – I just never thought about it like that.
My identity is largely marked by the construction of clothes, costuming, and physical appearance, as I think many butches are, as that’s the most obvious adaptation of the non-normative and subversive gender, and of rejecting the compulsory gender. But strangely I’ve gotten to the point where my construction of this notion of my identity is so “natural” that it doesn’t set off freak radar anymore. It’s only when I take my adopted gender role to more queer places – camping it up, making it more feminine with traditionally feminine colors, adding bold accessories and high contrast – that I start standing out in this city.
Her birthday was actually last weekend, but it’s taken me nearly a whole week to recover from all the goings-on from the past week, and I finally realized I never posted this, even though I prepared it to be posted for her birthday.
Muse’s girlfriend and I threw a little cocktail party last weekend – Waistcoat & Crinoline party – with some fantastic food and small group of good friends. The Sock Hop is Muse’s signature when she’s not drinking prosecco – a drink that up until recently was unnamed, but Bevin suggested the Sock Hop and it stuck immediately. This was the first obvious choice for our cocktail party drink menu.
The second drink was suggested by my new roommate – since of course we were going to have copious amounts of prosecco, so he suggested adding Elderflower liqueur and muddled strawberries. Turns out this is a delicious concoction! And it has now been officially cristened “The Muse.”
Muse looked amazing, she was in her best naughty June Cleaver outfit complete with pink stilettos. Most of the other guests were in vests and ties, myself included.
Read through a few of her guest posts and perhaps send some love her way, or encourage her to write more (she’s a little shy about her writing). And join her in wishing her happy birthday, will ya?