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: Taxi Volume I (DVD)


Syd Blakovich & Justine Joli in Taxi Volume I

Finally getting around to telling you about Taxi, which is a web series as well as now two released DVDs. I watched the first volume DVD by myself a while ago and never wrote it up, and Kristen and I watched it last night. I remembered being impressed by it, that it was hot and sensual, and upon the second watch-through I agree with myself about that assessment, but it was so … very … slow. The scenes were longer than necessary and not heavy enough. But don’t get me wrong, they are beautifully filmed. They just could be a little (ahem) tighter, quicker paced. There is absolutely no introduction to the two characters and why they’re fucking in a taxi, though the web series page gives a little bit of backstory about the two. That might’ve been good to read before I watched the scenes.

It features some of my favorite porn stars: Madison Young, Jiz Lee, Syd Blakovich, Justine Joli, and a few newcomers who appear to me like a real-life couple, who were all excellent. There was a lot of your-turn-my-turn sex in the Volume I DVD, and while I’m sure that’s great for some folks, it was a little too switchy. I don’t really care who is topping and who is bottoming, but most of the time I’d like them to make a choice about it, even if it’s only for these five minutes. Many of these scenes went back and forth which felt a little distracting.

I would’ve liked to see more cocks, more rough-and-tumble, less sensual skin touching. But hey, don’t I say that about most of the porn? Taxi is well done, and I’m looking forward to seeing Volume II, or watching the rest of the series online—that three-way DP scene with Nic Switch, Madison Young, & Jiz Lee looks pretty delicious, for instance.

Taxi Volume I was sent to me from Girlfriends Films to review. Thanks!

Black Swan. Just, Wow.

The new film Black Swan opens today.

When the trailer came out and Dorothy Snarker wrote about every detail, I was intrigued. When Kottke posted the international Black Swan movie posters, I was impressed.

And then I was offered a ticket to the screener in New York a couple weeks ago, and I can’t wait to see it again.

Here’s the trailer, if you haven’t seen it.

So, a couple quick things about the film. I’m not going to go on & on about my analysis of it, you should just see it. Though you should know that it’s kind of a horror movie, definitely has some gore, and lots of suspense. They do an amazing job of showing the glamour and beauty of ballet while also juxtaposing the damage that kind of work does on the human body, the reality of starving (or being bulimic), of broken toenails from pointe shoes, of the competition and near-impossible stress the work demands of a body.

And don’t forget that this film is directed Darren Aronofsky, the man behind “Requiem for a Dream” and “The Wrestler.” That should give you a sense of the level of creepy emotionality behind this film (if you’ve seen either of those).

The queer blogs are all painting it as though there’s this huge rivalry between Lily (Mila Kunis) and Nina (Natalie Portman), and the trailer certainly does a lot to back that up. But it isn’t about that so much as it’s about Nina against herself. About coming into her own sexual power, about striving so hard to be perfect that she’s lost her passion and delicious gusto, and is losing her bite, her teeth. Well, I don’t want to ruin it or anything, but she gets it back. Nina’s restraint through the beginning of the film is practically frustrating—but the release and climax is all the more satisfying.

I read a quote about the depth and bredth of female experience that this film portrays, and I really have to agree:

Using loaded code words — from “WHORE” scrawled on a mirror to the suffocating “mother” character, and infantilizing endearments like “sweet girl” and “little princess” to the domineering father figure who blatantly eroticizes her — the film is a hotbed of symbolism and Freudian psychology. Phrases “letting go” and “live a little” are spoken repeatedly. Jealousy, transcendence, paranoia, lust, the decay of the body, fragile self-esteem, self-mutilation — it’s like an early Liz Phair record in its interest in showing the fascinating breadth of the female experience.

And the conceit of the white swan and the black swan—reflected both on stage and off in the costuming of Portman and Kunis (who has black wings tattoed on her back)—provides a perfect visual and thematic metaphor for the warring factions of fear and desire inside a scared girl’s fraught relationship with her body. (Aronofsky explicitly referenced Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion,” David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s “The Red Shoes” as cinematic touchpoints.)

Despite the fact that the film was written by three men (Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin) and directed by another, Aronofsky said that they sought input from nearly a dozen professional ballets dancers, active and retired, to inform the world and the girls’ relationships. He also noted that there were aspects he filtered into his directing from watching how his wife, Rachel Weisz, approaches performing. One also suspects that there was a bit of a meta motivation in casting Winona Ryder in the role of the aging ballerina pushed aside to make room for Portman’s character as the new star.

Portman’s performance is a marvel in that so much of the camera work is done directly in her face. A potent transformation she makes during the story is remarkable, and this will surely do her the twin favors of shortlisting her for an Oscar and erasing any remaining memories of her participation in “Star Wars.” Well, that, and the scenes of her masturbating and having sex with Mila Kunis.

For a graphic sex scene the actresses, who are friends in real life (Portman suggested Kunis for the role of her rival, Lily) suggested that a couple of drinks would help grease the wheels, so to speak. A bottle of tequila was procured for the occasion, and though a day and a half were blocked for the sequence, Aronofsky, feeling guilty, took a half day away and moved on.

from Darren Aronofsky talks about making a ‘disturbing’ ballet film

There are plenty of other things to watch and read about this online if your curiosity is piqued, like the music video trailer and the featurette. And I am a little bit in love with the clutch Natalie carried to the New York premiere on November 30th. But—$1330 for a purse? Really? Even if it is a first edition of Lolita, I don’t think so. I’m told by my trusty Twitter friends that Rebound Designs on Etsy is the first to do those book clutches, and those prices are way better (and great to note with the holidays coming up).

I’m not an expert on these things, but everybody seems to be Oscar buzzing around this film, and I can see why. Natalie Portman is amazing in it. So restrained, controlled, precise. The control and precision of her facial expressions alone, wow.

If you see it, let me know what you think?

Chains and Containment in “Black Snake Moan”

A few weeks ago, when one of my oldest and dearest and favorite-est friends, BB, was in town visiting, Kristen and BB and I had a night at home and sat down to watch a film. Having recently discovered the joys of both Paperback Swap and Swap A DVD, I have some DVDs that I haven’t seen in quite a long time, if ever.

Black Snake Moan was one of them, and we decided to put it on.

I saw it once before, as had Kristen, and I remembered liking it. But putting it on, I was nervous. What if it wasn’t feminist enough? What if they thought it was exploitive and weird? What if I thought it was exploitive and weird?

It sure doesn’t seem like a feminist, conscious film on the surface—it seems fucked up, about gender, race, and sexuality. Why would I want to see that? Why would I like that? But it’s more complex than it seems.

Here’s the basic premise: Rae (Christina Ricci) has an extreme sexual appetite. Rae’s boyfriend, Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) is off to the army and while they usually keep each other sane and balanced, she is losing her control and getting in dangerous situations, such as getting completely intoxicated, half-naked, and then beat up by a guy she occasionally sleeps with. Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson), whose wife just left him for his younger brother, finds Rae unconscious on the road near his house and brings her inside, attempting to nurse her back to health. She, though, has all sorts of night terrors, which cause her to run around and scream—while pretty much still unconscious—so he chains her to the radiator. But when she comes to, two days later, he doesn’t unchain her, but decides she’s not healed yet.

I know, I know: I want to start yelling, NON CONSENSUAL! You can’t do that! But the thing is … she’s out of her mind, a little bit. I know it sounds like shaming a woman because she likes sex, but frankly I don’t think that’s what’s behind this. It isn’t that she likes sex too much, it’s that she is destroying herself through her pursuit of sex, which is clearly depicted as compulsive, and absolutely not something she is choosing from an empowered place.

Ricci is bone-thin in a very unattractive way, she looks so strange sometimes, so unlike her for this role. I wanted her to come over so Kristen could feed her baked goods and get a little bit of that glow back. But she plays the role amazingly—I even read a critique that said it was the highlight of her acting career. And Jackson is genius! I love the scenes where he’s playing the guitar and singing, the blues just dripping off of him. Healing music, no doubt.

All through the re-watch I kept thinking, why is this okay? Why is this not totally fucked up? Because it seems like it should be, on the surface—but it’s not, and I love this film. Maybe it’s because it’s so well written? Or well acted? Or well crafted, in general? I could go on and on about the layers of this film and the dozens of ways you could interpret the character’s actions (the Christian angle; the sex is bad angle; the men as savior angle), but really what I want to do is encourage you to see it for yourself, if you like to think critically about consent, feminism, character, and kink.

And oh yes, it is kinky. All the stuff with the chains, well …

I love the way she becomes attached to that chain. There is a part, after she regains consciousness but before she’s healed, where she consents to stay. Where she kind of doesn’t want him to take the chains off. And another part (in that photo, above) where she comforts herself with the weight and restriction of the chains, in part to get through her own triggers, and to break the automatic reactions in which she’s been stuck.

I would argue that hits on exactly what she needs: containment. Not in a repression kind of way, no, but in the tantric sense, that she is all energy and river and no riverbank. (Interesting, though, how she is able to be that container for Ronnie, as stated from the very beginning of the film when he says she saved him, onto the last scene.)

Plenty more happens in the plot after that: Lazarus teaches her things about life and living, she confronts some demons (including her mother), we get some abstract insight into the things that have been haunting her, and she seems to come to a stronger, more capable place. Personal growth, healing from trauma, and breaking through her own samskara: makings of a good film, if you ask me.

And, the chains …

Well, Kristen liked the chains. She has a thing for metal, more than I do I think (I’m more of a leather guy myself—not that I’m opposed to chains). I had, I remembered, received Metal Wrist and Ankle Cuffs from Sextoy.com that I’d never reviewed, nor had we, in fact, ever even used them.

I thought it might be time to break those out.

Yeah, so that was a good idea.

That image is from Griffin Leather & Metal, not the actual cuffs that came in my set. Mine are not nearly as gorgeous as these, but that’s basically how they’re set up. And the photo on the box that mine came in is pretty awful, it is something that would have steered me clear of buying it.

But in fact, it’s very much worth having around.

They’re relatively cheap, but they’re sturdy, and they don’t feel like they’re going to break (unlike some of the other bondage toys I’ve occasionally reviewed). The chains could be a little shorter, especially the chain connecting the wrist cuffs to the ankle cuffs, but that also might be because Kristen is kind of short, so perhaps with someone a bit taller they would be the perfect size.

The product description reports:

Nickel plated heavy duty locking wrist and ankle cuffs. Includes 4 keys. Wrist size up to 7 inches and ankle size up to 10 inches. The chain connecting wrists is 3.5 inches and the chain connecting ankles is 17 inches. The chain connecting ankles and wrists is 16 inches.

Those dimensions don’t seem quite right (longer connection between the feet than from the feet to the hands?), but that’s what the website claims.

And I’d like to tell you all about what we did when we played with them, but the truth is, I can’t remember the details. I don’t know how it started exactly, I don’t know how it ended. I don’t remember how I put them on her, but I do remember holding on to the chain, choking up on it so she couldn’t move. I remember telling her to get up and walk to the other side of the bed so she could look in the mirror. I remember watching her touch herself for a while, while I watched. And I may have snapped a few photos.

You know, maybe.

The Metal Wrist and Ankle Cuffs were sent to me for review from Sextoy.com. Pick up the Metal Wrist and Ankle Cuffs or other bondage toys from sextoy.com, or your local queer feminist sex-positive independent shop.

I’m still thinking about this film sometimes, even now, two or three weeks later, and looking forward to watching it again.

I’m not going to write a blow-by-blow account of the film and all the complex, phenomenal moments (like, “You’ll have to ask the chef.” “Paprika.” And everything about the characters of Miss Angie and Ronnie both), or an elaborate argument on why it might border on offending my feminist sensibilities, but doesn’t actually. I’ve enjoyed the extensive conversations I’ve been having with Kristen about the film since we saw it, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

If you haven’t, perhaps you’d like to watch the trailer for the film, and see if it’s something you’d try out. I was skeptical, but it is much more than what it seems.

Best Anal Scenes in Queer Porn

According to me, anyway. Essin’ Em and JD Bauchery also gave their opinions for Anal Week (which has extended longer than a week, but is still tagged, so it works. You don’t mind, do you?), but at this point, I’ve done enough queer porn watching and research to have gone through the scenes I wanted to and picked a list.

Warning: these photos are NSFW. I don’t post a lot of explicitly nude photos here, I know, I try to keep it at least kind of safe for work, but I just can’t resist putting some really great screenshots in this post, so you know what you’re missing, if you haven’t seen ’em.

All screenshots were snagged by me through Hot Movies for Her, and reprinted only to promote the films.

1. Dylan, Jiz Lee, & Jo in The Crash Pad (Scene 1)
Directed by Shine Louise Houston for Pink & White

I have a special place in my queer-porn-lovin’ heart for the original Crash Pad. It’s the project that launched The Crash Pad Series online, and has raised the bar for queer porn production everywhere. Shine Louise Houston set up a wonderful premise—that there is this mysterious apartment called the Crash Pad, which you can acquire the key for, and go there to fuck—that has led to scenes that are real, not campy, not bogged down in falsified plot, but still capable of some twists and turns.

Like this one: Dylan & Jo are having a good time fucking in The Crash Pad until Jiz and Jiz’s date show up too. Jiz joins in, while her date watches, and the resulting threesome is hot. The Crash Pad also sets up the porn careers for Jiz, Syd, and Dylan, and thank goodness it did. Isn’t the world a better place because we get to watch these beautiful, skilled queers fucking? Absolutely.

2. Syd Blakovich & Jiz Lee in The Crash Pad (Scene 3)
Directed by Shine Louise Houston for Pink & White

Syd Blakovich (credited as Shawn) and Jiz Lee are popping off the screen with chemistry in this one. I’ve heard some of the backstory (some of it they explain in the bonus features of Superfreak), that they hadn’t had sex in a few weeks and weren’t sure if they were going to continue fucking, so this might be their last hurrah. Thankfully for us, it wasn’t, and they’ve gone on to making a ton of queer porn, with each other and on their own.

In this scene, they both look very boyish (boiish?), lean, and super-short hair, and the intensity is riveting. Syd’s rimming is pretty amazing to watch, as is Jiz’s squirting all over Syd, later.

3. Rozen Debowe, Syd Blakovich, Jiz Lee, & Donny in No Fauxxx Roulette (Scene 5)
Directed by Courtney Trouble for Reel Queer Productions

Yeah, it’s Syd & Jiz again—I want diversity in this list, but they are just in so much good porn! So: here we’ve got director Courtney Trouble (who runs No Fauxxx) in a great video collection of scenes. This one is my favorite by far (I don’t even remember the others in this film), I’ve watched it quite a few times. Rozen Debowe—who I think is so incredibly hot and who, I’ve heard, has retired from porn, and who I think should make more—approaches a bartender, spreads her beautiful long legs, and proceeds to get fucked by three butches. Or, three masculine-ish-queers, if they don’t identify as butch.

In this screenshot, Rozen is on top of the bartender, Donny, Syd has a Pure Wand in her ass, and Rozen sucks Jiz’s cock. And, it gets better. Plus, they’re on a pool table.

4. Lorelei Lee, Princess Donna & Dana DeArmond in Superfreak (Scene 5)
Directed by Shine Louise Houston for Pink & White

Lorelei Lee and Princess Donna have done quite a bit of hot queer porn also, appearing in The Crash Pad Series and on various other sites. In this one, they’re joined by Dana DeArmond, and Lorelei is topped with some really hot anal, mostly with fingers and rimming. They’re sexy and clearly very skilled (though I have to kind of ignore all the whimpering of Lorelei and humming that the two top girls do. Maybe you like that kind of thing, I find it distracting). In some of the interview scenes, Donna and Lorelei say, “I wish we could’ve gone all the way,” in discussion of anal fisting. It’s illegal to show fisting on video, did you know? Not on the web, though, so you can find some great stuff in The Crash Pad Series.

5. Dylan Ryan & Trucker Cash in Roulette Dirty South (Scene 2)
Directed by Courtney Trouble for Reel Queer Productions

I couldn’t leave out my favorite porn couple! Dylan Ryan and her real-life partner Trucker Cash are so damn hot in this scene. I love the bright colors, the clothes they’re both wearing, that slightly rickety table that they fuck on, the way Trucker warms up her ass before taking out his cock and fucking her until she comes hard, shaking and swearing.

When Trucker unzipped and I saw he was packing the Goodfella, I thought, wtf? That cock is so small! But then, turns out it is a very good size for anal. Note to self.

6. Nicole Chatte & Peter Danger in Heartland: A Woman’s POV (Scene 1)
Directed by Madison Young for Reel Queer Productions

This last one comes from director and porn star Madison Young. She introduces the scene and explains that she found this couple because they’d contacted her online, and they agreed to be filmed.

I had a crush on Nicole the second she came onscreen. It’s filmed by Peter, I think—or, if not by Peter himself, than from Peter’s point of view of seeing Nicole, so we don’t get too many shots of him (too bad, cause he seems really hot and skilled, I’d like to watch him more), but I did like watching Nicole. It starts off with a beautiful blow job by Nicole, and leads into her getting fucked hard while she’s backwards in this beautiful worn-in leather chair. It’s a bit more amateur-ish than the others, but I especially love the way Nicole guides her lover, saying, “will you start out with the small one, then use the bigger one?” and then, later, “faster, go faster,” which Peter happily obliges. The scene is really sexy and goes on for a while, with various different positions. Nicole even asks Peter to fist her, at some point, but since that can’t be shown on the video, we don’t really get to see it.

Whew! Okay, that covers it, my current favorite anal scenes in queer porn.

While porn isn’t the best place to learn how to do a certain act, it can certainly be inspiring to watch and recognize how much pleasure everyone is having from the things they’re doing. It’s definitely been inspiring to me to try more.

Did I leave out YOUR very favorite scene? Which one looks like the one you’re going to rush out and watch right this minute (or, as soon as you can)? Got any must-see recommendations for me from Essin’ Em or JD Bauchery‘s lists that I haven’t included?

Casting Call: S.I.R. Productions

I am quickly interrupting your Anal Week posts to tell you some very exciting news!

This note comes from the Femmepress Shar Rednour herself, who wrote to me to let me know that S.I.R. Productions—Shar and her partner Jackie Strano, the amazing butch/femme couple who brought you Sugar High Glitter City, Talk To Me Baby, Hard Love/How to Fuck in High Heels, and Bend Over Boyfriend—is casting for a new film!

Read on for the details, what S.I.R. is looking for, and how to contact Shar if, perhaps, you’re interested:

Hey Sugarbutch: thought you should be the first to know that over here on the west coast, [S.I.R. Productions is] casting for a new movie. We did a general call a couple of years ago to see who was out there and interested. We got some hot and fabulous people. But the time just wasn’t right for us personally to make a movie.

Now we are ready and randy to go.

NOW: specifically we need a super hot in love in lust butch femme couple. NO EXPERIENCE needed. not at all. Jackie and I really like to work with people who are hard-workers, fun, NOT wendy-whiners, way into sex and bodies and love and lust and truth and art and feminism and beauty. Furthermore we would love to take your fm virginity. in the end though virgins or pros, just in love and hot. You do NOT need to live on the west coast. I would love nothing more than to cast fabulous folks from anywhere.

NEXT: we are collecting resumes and contact info for people who want to be in our next movie in general. again. NO EXPERIENCE necessary. What we have always done is putting puzzle together-finding the people who really fit a role in the script.

We are casting for a dyke movie and we always are on the lookout for the next Bend Over Boyfriend 3, so tell your freaky-deaky het friends.

And last but not least, I am the wife to Jackie Strano the C.O.O. of Good Vibrations and they are casting as well for Pleasure Ed. I help them out when I can too, passing on a contact that I like or think is appropriate. They are looking for super hot couples with one person who G-spot ejaculates.

So please, Sugarbutch, can you tell your peeps to email SharRednour [at] comcast.net, or befriend me on Facebook, with a note telling me you are interested in casting..

Anything for you, Shar. Hey peeps: want to be in a porn film? Are you a butch/femme couple in love and lust, or do you know one?

And Shar … if you ever want to swap for an evening, I know, ahem, Kristen’s got a mad crush on Jackie.


Shar & Jackie from March, 2004 (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)
via Flickr

Anal Scenes in Queer Porn with JD Bauchery

I’ve been compiling and asking around about the best anal scenes in queer porn, and I’ve got a bit to report.

If you’re one of those folks who thinks that lesbian porn is generally oriented toward men as viewers and producers, I encourage you to think again. Yes, there is plenty of bad lesbian porn, but the amount of queer and feminist porn that is getting made these days is a bit mind-boggling. Personally, I can’t keep up. I’ve got a long list of films to watch that I still haven’t seen, and directors like Courtney Trouble and Madison Young and producers like Good Releasing keep making films faster than I can keep up.

I asked JD Bauchery over at Hot Movies 4 Her for some of her personal recommendations for butt scenes in queer porn, since she is WAY more of a pro at queer porn than I am.

And here’s what she recommends:

Which of these have you seen? Any in particular that you recommend?

Review: Roulette Dirty South (DVD)

It didn’t take me long to watch Courtney Trouble’s new film Roulette Dirty South, I ripped it open the minute I got it in the mail from the production company, Reel Queer Productions. I’ve been looking forward to it since I heard Dylan Ryan was back with her real-life boyfriend Trucker Cash (since they made one of my favorite scenes of all time). And when I saw the trailer, I was thrilled:

Looks dirty, edgy, colorful, and fun—and it is. The film also stars April Flores (aka Fatty D) and Trouble and Pepper Sox, with fantastic music (as you hear in the trailer, Courtney Trouble has a great ear for these things—she was just nominated in the 2010 AVN Awards for Best Music Soundtrack for her former film Speakeasy) by Yes Please, Flexions, Jenny Hoyston in California Lightening, and Tami Hart. Roulette Dirty South also introduces a few other new performers (I particularly liked Charlie’s long brown hair all over her face while giving a blow job. Yes, very nice image).

I mostly watched this for the scene with Dylan and Trucker. I also really liked Pepper Sox—she was damn hot when she got fucked (I will have to find her other scenes. I think she’s Courtney’s partner?). I would watch Dylan’s scene again, Trucker fucks her ass toward the end of it (oops! I don’t mean to give it away) and I definitely liked that, but I doubt I’ll rewatch the rest of the scenes. Not quite my style. Still, the film is gritty and vibrant, and I’m glad to have seen it.


Dylan Ryan & Trucker Cash, photo by Courtney Trouble

Review: The Crash Pad Series: Volume 5 (DVD)

Another quick little DVD review, this one of The Crash Pad Series: Volume 5 which is just now released by Blowfish.

cpv5It is no secret that I am a big, big fan of The Crash Pad Series. Shine Louise Houston and Pink & White Productions have raised the standards in porn film making so high, I think the porn industry in general will be struggling to catch up for a while. (In fact, Kristen and I just sat down to watch a couple films that a particular unnamed (unmentionable) company sent me to review recently, and I was slack-jawed in awe of just how bad bad porn can be. Holy. Crap. No wonder most people have such awful associations with porn, if things like THAT are what they think of or see!) Shine has spoiled me, big time – I expect the porn that I watch to be respectful, hot, full of desire and chemistry, smart, skilled, diverse, queer, and beautifully filmed … I know that sounds like high standards, but blame it on The Crash Pad! They DO that, constantly!

You can get subscriptions to The Crash Pad Series website, or you can purchase the compiled DVDs by volume. This is the fifth DVD, and though it isn’t the one I would recommend if you’ve never seen The Crash Pad before, it’s got some very interesting scenes and one in particular that I would definitely watch again.

Here’s the description:

The Crash Pad Series: Volume 5 returns to the titular no-holes-barred sex space that caters to an ever-changing group of sexually voracious dykes, femmes, butches, and bois (and even the occasional lucky bio-guy) under the ubiquitous secret surveillance of a mysterious voyeur played by director Shine Louise Houston. This installment features five scenes of wall-to-wall sex, including some dripping candle play, a little bondage, tattooed beauties, strap-on fucking and sucking, and other sundry delights. One standout scene features Kuma (a trans leather daddy with a shaved head and goatee) topping the curvylicious Julie Warren with a pair of floggers, some lashing canes, and an extremely hot choking strap-on blowjob sequence. The final scene has the always-enjoyable Shawn fucking a guy, something of a novelty in the Crash Pad series, though Mickey Mod isn’t averse to sucking Shawn’s big strapped-on cock when the time comes. She rides him vigorously and later rubs one out over his face while he jerks off beneath her — a good time is had by all. The Crash Pad series continues to set the standard for queer indie kinky excellence.

And, though that description of the five different scenes is pretty thorough, here’s my take on ’em:

Scene 1, August and Stacy Staxxx, features hot wax and some switching. Scene 2 is the porn debut of the Essin’ Em we all know and love, under the name Scarlett Chaos, with the cute toppy boi Rex – make note of Essin’ Em’s fabulous femme red heels that she leaves on, I liked that. Scene 3 features Red and Cyd Loverboy, who are both pretty genderqueer and boyish and I liked the top/bottom dynamic here especially.

Scene 4, however, was exceptional. It features Kuma and Julie Warren, who appear to have a fairly strong daddy/girl thing going on, and definitely seem to have played with each other before. There is a beautiful two-handed flogging, and some lovely caning that made me wince (and also made my inner sadist grin). I liked the sadism and masochism in this scene, more pain than sex really, though Kuma does wield a cock very very well. I loved the skill, and I will watch this one again.

The last scene, 5, features everybody’s favorite queer porn star Syd Blakovich in a scene with cis guy Micky Mod. Interesting, and unusual for The Crash Pad Series, but it is very queer and very well done, and clearly they are both enjoying each other.

It’s not my favorite of The Crash Pad Series, but it is quite good, always beautifully filmed, and interesting.

Buy The Crash Pad Series: Volume 5 and other volumes at Blowfish or your local independent feminist queer-friendly sex toy shop.

Sugarbutch Hits 1,000,000! Champion DVD Giveaway!

champion2

If you don’t know about the queer indy porn flick Champion by Pink & White Productions, I bet you haven’t been spending much time around the queer/porn blogosphere lately, because it has quickly risen to the top of many all-time favorite lists. I wrote my own review of Champion back in January 09 if you’d like to see how I enjoyed it.

If you haven’t seen this, you’re missing out.

And now’s your chance! Because see, Sugarbutch’s visitor counter hit 1,000,000 last week. One million! Can you believe it? Stat counters aren’t exactly rocket science, I think that number is probably give-or-take-a-thousand, but still, to see it roll over to seven digits was kinda mind blowing.

Thank you, for visiting, for stopping by, for reading whatever it is you’ve read here on Sugarbutch, for your comments and emails, for clicking through on the reviews or the affiliate links, for clicking through the advertisers, for coming back, for sharing these links with your friends or lovers or girlfriends or wives or boyfriends or mistresses or whomever you might send them to. Thanks for reading. Thanks for thinking about these things. Thank you.

So I’m doing a very special giveaway, thanks to Babeland: the Champion DVD itself. All you gotta do is leave a comment (with a valid email address) and give me one piece of feedback about Sugarbutch, either something you like or something you don’t like or something you wish I did more often or something you miss that I used to do or something I’ve never done or a question you have or a comment about the process or how you found this site or ANYTHING.

I’ll pick ONE single winner at random on Monday morning.

Review: The Black Glove & The Elegant Spanking (DVD)

As of 2/8/16 This product is no longer available at Babeland

I seem to be up to my chest in queer porn DVDs to review these days. Now that I’ve finished the two S.I.R. Productions DVDs, I’ve got Courtney Trouble’s Speakeasy, Tristan Taormino’s Rough Sex, Bleu Production’s Post Apocalyptic Cowgirls through Hot Movies for Her, and I’m expecting some films from Buck Angel in the near future, too.

Queer porn is taking off like crazy!

I still constantly hear people say that there’s no “good” lesbian porn out there – that it’s all made for men or is girl-on-girl action, not by-and-for real dykes. That is just not true anymore! Dykes are making some of the most amazing, progressive porn out there, and, based on my recent reviews of a few DVDs which are actually almost 10 years old, I’d say we have been making damn good porn for quite a while.

beattyRecently, I had a chance to check out Maria Beatty’s Fetish Films Volume 1, The Black Glove & The Elegant Spanking from everybody’s favorite neighborhood sex toy shop, Babeland. I was intrigued by the film noir images and the heavy BDSM which includes hot wax torture, foot worship, pinwheels, roleplay, and spike heels, and actually my acupuncturist was the one who first asked me if I knew Maria Beatty or her production company, Bleu Productions. I wasn’t familiar with her work, but it didn’t take me long to become so.

Though this DVD collection of Beatty’s two short films came out in 2003, the films themselves are form 1995 and 1996. They are explicitly lesbian and beautifully shot – if you’re into slow, slow buildup and lots of tension, pretty girls doing naughty things to each other, high femme drag, and strong power dynamics, you should consider this one.

I probably won’t watch it again for the purposes of jerking off or getting in the mood, but I can see possibly putting it on in the background at a party – it is beautiful to look at – and I’ve definitely never seen any porn like it. There’s some odd components, like for example a gas mask in The Black Glove. I’ve never really considered a gas mask sexy and while I understand the purpose of regulating breathing, I found it kind of hard to watch. Very interesting, though, and very elegant.

There is virtually no sound in these films – they do have some musical track to them, but they are for the most part silent, with dialogue cards (which are more like revealing the character’s thoughts) like in silent films. I think what I loved best is that Maria Beatty herself is the submissive bottom in both of these films, which I don’t usually expect of the filmmaker – but obviously she knows what she wants, and goes for it. I wonder if she’s in any other films that she made? I’ll have to research that, she was definitely very sexy.

Pick up Maria Beatty’s Fetish Films Volume 1, The Black Glove & The Elegant Spanking at Babeland, or your local feminist sex toy shop.

Review: Sugar High Glitter City (DVD)

As of 2/8/16 This product is no longer available at Babeland

Oh, Shar. Oh, Jackie. I’ve already waxed poetical recently about my love for the super hot porn pioneer butch/femme couple behind S.I.R. Productions, but here’s another one for you: their second production, Sugar High Glitter City, from 2001.

Like Hard Love / How to Fuck in High Heels, I watched this over & over. My roommate owned a copy of the VHS I used to watch when she wasn’t home. In fact, the first time I saw it, I’d rented it at Babeland‘s Seattle store (not sure they still do rentals) to watch with my first girlfriend, and when finally we had some time alone in my apartment together, I went to the VCR and popped the tape that was in there out – and suddenly I was holding two copies of it, as my roommate had actually purchased it already. That was weird.

sugarObviously it wasn’t just me but many dykes who were excited about Shar & Jackie’s second release!

Kristen & I sat down to watch this a few weeks ago, and it was even better than Hard Love / How to Fuck in High Heels and better than I’d remembered. The film narration by Honey Lee Cottrell explains that we’re in a different world where sugar is outlawed and sex workers do all sorts of things to get a taste. Then, of course, there are the corrupt cops who shake down the sugar hos for both their sugar and their sex. The outfits are glittery and over the top, lots of makeup and fun really performative costumey items.

Since the whole setting is way over the top anyway, it’s way easier to suspend disbelief and enjoy the occasionally slightly awkward dialogue and scenes, which makes it much easier to get into than Hard Love.

Those who love sugar will especially get a kick out of this film … I don’t love the sexual fetishization of sugar so much because so much of the film treats sugar as a drug (as it basically is), and I don’t think it’s a good idea to sexually fetishize drugs. But I do like it as a play, as a performance of drug culture, as a commentary even on sex & drug desire.

The other thing of note is the fabulous dirty talk from butch Jackie, especially in the beginning scene “Sugar Cop Shakedown.” Kristen turned to me and said, she sounds like YOU to which I responded, actually, I probably sound like her. Where else do you think I learned it?

Worth it.

Pick up Sugar High Glitter City at Babeland, or your local feminist sex toy shop.

New film out soon: Steam

I haven’t seen this yet, but the DVD is coming out from Wolfe Films on September 29th, 2009, and I’m looking forward to it. I still have a thing for Ally Sheedy (how can you not?), and I don’t know who this Kate Spiegel is, but whoa she’s cute.

Have you seen it? Was it any good?

Here’s the synopsis:

Steam tells the stories of three very different women, whose lives are linked only by the steam room at the local gym. The women seem “stuck” in life. They are unable to overcome what is keeping them from growing and thriving in their lives, until each embarks on a relationship that will lead them to themselves.

Celebrated veteran actor Ruby Dee (American Gangster) plays Doris, a lonely widower who is in deep mourning for her husband. She has spurned her old church community, where once she sang and played piano. Unexpectedly, Doris finds a new love when she meets the outgoing August. But her new happiness is immediately threatened by August’s family, who suspect her of being a gold digger.

Ally Sheedy (The Breakfast Club, High Art) plays Laurie, a “soccer mom” whose ex-husband has not only hooked up with a much younger women, but who is also shamelessly trying to turn their son against her. The bitter divorce and custody battle has very much dampened Laurie’s spirits, but her life is revived when she gets involved with a much younger man. Chelsea Handler (The Chelsea Handler Show) plays Jacky, Laurie’s best girlfriend, who comically encourages Laurie every step of the way in this risky relationship.

And Kate Siegel (The O.C.) plays Elizabeth, a college co-ed who is living on campus, but is still very much dominated by her strict parents, who live nearby and demand that she attend church with them every Sunday. In her Gender Studies class, Elizabeth meets and falls for the fiery activist Niala (Reshma Shetty of USA’sRoyal Pains). When the two women become lovers, Elizabeth must face her parent’s wrath head on.

Vote for the lesbian film “Pariah”

I just saw the trailer for the film Pariah, which looks amazing. It’s part of the Netflix Find Your Voice competition – it needs to be in the top five to move on to the next round, and at stake is a package worth $150,000 in cash and $350,000 in services that go toward producing the feature film.

The trailer looks amazing, check it out:

It looks beautifully done, complex, and emotional, and I’d love to see the full-length film get made. I haven’t heard of Dee Rees, the director, but clearly she’s one to watch.

If you like the trailer, go over to Netflix Find Your Voice and vote FIVE STARS for it to move forward in the competition, and, hopefully, eventually, become a full feature film. Take a look at the Pariah website or more information about the film. (Thanks, Jenni, from butch.org, for sending on the link.)

Review: Barcelona Sex Project (DVD)

bsp

The fabulous Blowfish has just released the Barcelona Sex Project, a documentary-style porn which interviews subjects about their lives, their interests, their sexualities, their turn-ons and turn-offs, before filming them (beautifully, in fact) while they masturbate.

Kristen & I watched it a few weeks ago, after the DVD arrived, and I have to say, I was not so impressed. We fast-forwarded through the last few because we lost interest. It is beautifully filmed, and a really interesting idea that gives the viewer much more of an intimate experience with the visual erotic images of this person getting off than most porn does, which is new and interesting. Yet … I guess my main complaint is the lack of diversity represented. ALL five of the people in the film – the guys and the girls – are completely clean-shaven, for example. Everyone is very “ideal” in terms of body size – pretty slim and fairly muscular. There wasn’t much a range of gender representation, either – the girls were girly, the boys were masculine.

I do admit that I fast-forwaded the end, though, so perhaps there was some content that I missed, more queerness or genderqueerness that I didn’t catch because I got a little bored. So maybe there’s more on here than I realize.

It’s beautifully filmed, I do have to say that. The interviews are interesting, the cinematography is sparse and quite beautiful. I like the way the masturbation scenes were filmed, mostly with very minimalist props or furniture, which was visually interesting – and at times stunning. The girls did use some vibrators, but I didn’t see any actual dildos or much kinky stuff. But hey, what about a range of age? Everyone was so young. What about a range of race or ethnicity?

This brings up the question for me, though, which I think about in terms of Sugarbutch a lot – what responsibility do artists have to represent many experiences or a wide range of diversity? I know I have a fairly slim representation of girls on my site, for example, partly because I know what I’m attracted to and I tend to write about my experiences with those girls (who are femme, duh, and bottoms, duh again, and tend to be smaller than I am). I explain that by saying that this is a personal project – so maybe I should look at Barcelona Sex Project the same way? As a personal representation of what the filmmaker would like to see, and not necessarily as a representation of all of Barcelona or all sexualities and genders or all folks who are into sex. Of course, it couldn’t really be a representation of all of those things, there is way too much inside of sexuality & gender to fully represent anything.

Maybe diverse representation of human bodies and sexualities is not a realistic expectation for a DVD … folks like Pink & White do it, but they also have dozens of clips and dozens of models and actors involved in their work, which makes it easier than working with only six.

Interesting things to think about, I suppose. Regardless, it’s quite unlikely that I’ll be watching this again, and I wouldn’t really put it on for jack-off material or in the background to set a mood. Still, it’s beautifully done, and a new interesting concept which combines a lot of intimacy and destigmitization with erotica/porn and masturbation, which I’d like to see more of in general. Perhaps that makes it worth checking out.

erika-lust
Swiped this image from Urban Junkies Barcelona (thanks!)

About the Barcelona Sex Project, new from Blowfish Video:

Barcelona Sex Project is a smart, funny documentary about half a dozen sexy twenty- and thirty-somethings living in Barcelona, Spain. Director Erika Lust is adept at drawing them out, getting them to tell their life stories (including cross-continental moves, divorces, sexual fantasies fulfilled, career dreams and career realities, etc.). While there’s a fair bit of talk about sex, the emphasis isn’t exclusively erotic… until the sex scenes, of course. These are people you’ve gotten to know through their interviews, making it that much more real when they strip off their clothing and masturbate. There are three men and three women, all of them quite beautiful and relaxed when it comes to self-pleasure for your viewing pleasure. Cute, pierced, and tattooed, 20-year-old Silvia is adorable in stripey stockings and oversized headphones, while Brazilian transplant Dunia has a delectable dark and luscious body, and geek-girl Irina enjoys herself with a toy. The boys are all buff, smiling, and well-hung. Stripper Joel is the most theatrical, stroking himself before a full-length mirror and finishing with a cumshot on his own reflection, while the unselfconscious Joni has a sweet session and finishes by spurting on his own belly. It’s a masturbation video with a twist, providing a fascinating look into the psyches of the subjects before you get a look at their more physically intimate moments. Nominated for the 2009 Feminist Porn Awards.

Trailer: QuickTime formatWindows Media Player format. (2008, 112 min.)

Also check out Barcelona Sex Project.com for more information, clips, and photos from the film.

Review: Pink & White’s Champion

To all of you who just complained that there are no butches or real sex on the L Word.

To all of you who don’t have a favorite porn star.

To all of you who think that lesbian porn is hetero-made and consists of two pretty girls with French tips tongue-kissing.

To anyone who likes hot butches, bois, trans guys, femmes, and other genderqueers.

Watch this film.

Buy it, and watch it, and tell your friends about it.

Watch it, and praise it, and buy and support the other amazing things that Pink & White does, too.

Queer porn director Shine Louise Houston’s new indy flick CHAMPION was released on DVD by Blowfish this week, and last night I sat down and turned it on.

I twittered some of my immediate reactions:

  • oh my god, the noises that Madison Young makes. oh. my. god.
  • what cock is it that Syd & Madison are fucking with in this second scene in Champion?
  • I am loving the original score on this Champion film.
  • @blowfishtwitter oh I <3 you.
  • :O what is that behind-the-knees spreader bar used on Dylan Rion?!? oh I so need one of those.
  • shit – it’s a golf club? and rope!? jesus, note to self.
  • why isn’t there more dirty talk in porn? just lots of moans & grunts … that’s sexy too, but c’mon, let’s hear some good words.
  • I actually had a dream that crash pad series #4 was already out and published. dammit. at least there’s #3 and Champion!

Toward the end of the flick, my jaw still hanging open in awe and having barely moved from the spot where I sat down, I realized: no one but Syd Blakovich could’ve played the lead role of Jessie. I imagine it was made for her – she’s worked with Houston in the past, and so Houston must know about Blakovich’s MMA and Ultimate Surrender credentials, plus precisely how skilled Blakovich is as a top in scenes.

I loved the training sequences, Blakovich’s punching and kicking at gym equipment with hard, concentrated looks on her face, muscles straining and rippling. Especially juxtaposed with the sex scenes – almost all of which feature Blakovich – the bodily similarities were heightened and the fighting sequences were amazingly erotic.

Speaking of sex:

Blakovich pairs with an amazing cast of porn stars throughout. Her real-life partner Jiz Lee makes more than a few appearances (as Jessie’s ex), and it is so obvious that they know each other’s bodies.

The scene with Blakovich and Madison Young is amazing. Amazing. If Champion had a spine, I would surely break it right at that scene. Young has orgasm after orgasm, and I actually wondered at one point if she was going to be torn apart from the intensity – Blakovich does not let up, and oh my god what Young can take as a bottom blows my brain. The power and strength with which Blakovich was pounding away at Young’s inner thigh, at one point – and Young just opened and took it, gasping, and holy fuck it was hot.

Morning after, Blakovich delivers my favorite line to Young: “No one’s keeping you here, honey.” I gasped at the screen. Did she just kick Madison Young out of bed?! Shit.

(Remember that time I wrote about Avah fucking Madison Young? Yeah, me too.)

Blakovich is also, eventually, paired with her character’s rival, Dallas (playing Violet), at the end of the film (not to, ahem, give away the plot or anything). The scene is more tender than others, but still very hot. I really love the way Dallas makes noise, very low-pitched and incredibly hot.

Blakovich is not the only one who gets to fuck – Dylan Rion gets her chance with Javier, in a hot hot scene in a van involving an impromptu spreader bar at her knees made of (I think?) a golf club and rope. She’s one of my personal favorite bottoms in all the porn I’ve seen, so that scene definitely sticks out.

And plus? Rion leaves her heels on.

Even Houston makes an appearance, briefly, as a reporter.

Pink & White – Houston’s production company – and Houston herself – have been hailed again and again as innovative, cutting edge, and authentic, and though it is starting to sound redundant, I can’t not praise her vision: she directs real genderqueer porn, with butches, femmes, bois, and trans folks, in real scenarios with real sex that both inspires and reflects my own sex life. I never saw myself reflected in porn until I started watching Houston’s work – and for that, I will pick up every DVD Houston releases, to support her.

Buy the DVD from Blowfish or from your local women-owned sex-positive sex shop.

Watch the NC-17 version of the trailer, or the PG-13 version, below:

The two Crash Pad memberships go to …

#5, Becky
and
#22, Bettina!

Thanks, everybody, for commenting and starting this discussion about our favorite porn stars. I know it was a completely informal poll, but I may make up a list from it so we who are very unfamiliar with queer porn can do a bit more, ahem, “research” …

You can always head over to Hot Movies For Her and download 20 minutes of hot queer porn — that’s 10 extra minutes than you usually get when opening a new account at HMFH. I don’t know how much longer that special link will last, so get in there while ya can!

Also: still two more give-aways to come (and then NO MORE for a long time): sex toy cases from For Your Nymphomation, and a gift basket from Come Together.

Two Crash Pad Series Website Memberships – For You!

Oh, Crash Pad. Oh, Shine Louise Houston. How do I love thee, let me count the ways.

… What’s that? You’re not familiar with the original Crash Pad DVD, or the subsequent THREE DVDs of episodes compiled from the Crash Pad Series website? If only someone would give away a membership for the lonely, cold month of January!

Oh hey! That’s exactly what I’m going to do!

The Crash Pad is the hottest porn I’ve ever seen. Hands down.

I mean, I’m not actually an expert on visual porn – when I came out about ten years ago, I started renting lesbian porn and was incredibly disappointed (with perhaps the exception of some s.i.r. productions films, like Hard Love/How to Fuck in High Heels and Sugar High Glitter City), and I kind of lost interest in the genre.

Well … until it became increasingly obvious that dyke-made-dyke-porn-for-dykes was booming, and butch/femme queer porn was, uh, the hottest thing I’d ever seen. In my wildest dreams I hadn’t fathomed someone could videotape something so goddamn hot.

Uh, yeah.

(I’ll be in my bunk.)

Ahem.

The fabulous folks over at Pink & White (thanks to a suggestion from Jiz Lee) have offered up two Level Two (video!) membership to the Crash Pad Series website for the month of January for me to give away.

Whatcho gotta do:

Leave a comment answering who is your favorite porn star and why? If you don’t have a favorite star, make it your favorite porn film. If you don’t have a favorite porn film, well – you really need to win this contest! Leave a comment anyway.

Two winners will be chosen randomly on Thursday morning, 18 December.

Milk: In the Footsteps of Gandhi and King

After You Cannot Live on Hope Alone, the folks at Causecast.org have made a second short film about Harvey Milk.

The life of late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk in the context of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. This animated documentary charts a time-line of the life of the first openly gay man elected to public office in between events in other civil rights struggles. Produced by Causecast for Focus Features, the piece celebrates the release of the film MILK, in theaters November 26.

I haven’t seen Milk yet – or read many reviews, because I’m waiting to see it for myself first. Hopefully I’ll go this week.

Have you seen it? What’d you think, what were your reactions?

Excellent Queer/Lesbian Films

Hey Janet – thanks to the Random Number Generator, you are the winner of the copy of She Likes Girls 3 from Wolfe Video!

Everybody else, She Likes Girls 3 comes out on December 2nd – preorder your own copy, it’s going to be great.

Janet writes at Mid-life Clarity. Congrats! I’ll be in touch with you via email.

In this completely informal poll that wasn’t even really a poll, here are some of the queer films that you all answered when I asked what is your favorite lesbian/queer film of all time?

Top favorites:

Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love (7)
But I’m a Cheerleader (6)
If These Walls Could Talk 2 (5)
By Hook or By Crook (4)
Better Than Chocolate (3)
Bound (3)
Fried Green Tomatoes (3)
Imagine Me & You (2)
High Art (2)

One mention each:

All Over Me
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Itty Bitty Titty Committee
Little Darlings
D.E.B.S.
Paris is Burning
Tipping the Velvet
Boys Don’t Cry
The Alley Cats (by Radley Metzger – “1960s lesbian sexploitation at its finest”)
Derek Jarman’s “The Garden”
Puccini For Beginners
Show Me Love (aka Fucking Amal)
Saving Face
Fire
The Gay Bed and Breakfast Terror
Go Fish
Antonia’s Line
Aimee & Jaguar
Kissing Jessica Stein

Films that weren’t mentioned (but probably should’ve been):

Desert Hearts
Chutney Popcorn
When Night is Falling

Perhaps you know some young gay folks who might just love to have their little queer worlds rocked the way ours were when we first saw some of these films, when we first saw ourselves reflected on screen, given that it’s the holidays and all.

And speaking of the holidays – want to be a Gay Santa for Sylvia’s Place, homeless queer youth services?

—please forward widely–

Expand Your Shopping List This Christmas – Be a Gay Santa MCCNY/Homeless Youth Services is seeking volunteers for our “Gay Santa” program. Gay Santas respond to letters written by the LGBT youth in our program requesting gifts. Gifts are mailed or dropped off at the shelter so that each young person has a gift to open Christmas morning. Interested? Contact: [email protected]

Masculinity Depictions in Disney Films

I ran across this short film about depictions of masculinity in Disney films recently and was interested and impressed. Of course there are all sorts of problematic things happening with gender roles in popular media, and Disney films have no shortage of criticism written about them in general, but most often I see those critiques from the perspective of femininity and women, less so with the emphasis on masculinity and men.

I’m glad this work is becoming more commonplace, we really need more revisioning and reclamation of masculinity in our culture.

The Suspension of Heterosexual Belief (1 of 3)

Part one of three of my review of Spanked

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

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

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

That was a bit uncomfortable for me, really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s part two, coming tomorrow.