From Not Stone to Stone-ish

I’m finally getting around to the Ask Me Anything questions from Sugarbutch’s 4th anniversary. I hope to get through them all, though it might take a little bit of time!

My question: How do you relate or not relate to stone identity? To what extent do you ID/not ID as stone and how do you feel about that? Maybe you’ve written about this here before and I missed it … I’ve had a big process going from not stone to stone-ish to stone, and I’m curious about how other butches feel. —Bond

I haven’t written much about this, I don’t think. I don’t identify as stone, but I do identify as stone-ish. I’ve never been all the way stone, but I do remember on my first date with Kristen I said, “I’m basically stone,” as I was trying to describe the ways that I was a top and wanted to be in charge perhaps ninety percent of the time. I’d told this to other lovers on other first dates, but it didn’t always make sense to the other person, and I was trying to put it out there stronger and more specifically this time, lay everything out clearly as early as possible in hopes that she’d get it.

(She did, she does.)

But that is really new in my history—I’ve dated girls even in the past four years that I’ve been running Sugarbutch that were tops, or toppy, and to whom I bottomed. My first long-term relationship with my ex-boyfriend of five years was kinky, in a kind of entry-level kink way (light bondage, light percussion) and we experimented with some switching, but mostly I was bottoming to him. As our relationship drew on, we started taking some classes on kinky sex (at places like Babeland) and I started learning more and more about topping. It wasn’t until I got out of that relationship entirely and had a series of revelations that I started realizing I was more of a top than bottom, and that perhaps I’d never really been submissive as much as bottoming.

I’m mentioning all this because stone is tied to topping, for me, because I’m not stone so much as I’m a top. I’m not opposed to being touched or penetrated, and I don’t have strong emotional reactions to those things, as I know some other stone folks that I’ve talked to do. (I don’t think that’s the only way to be stone, but in my experience stone often goes along with a gender dysphoria and a disagreement of gender between body and mind.) As I’ve been dating (and chronicling my dating here), I started getting more and more specific about who it was I wanted to date, especially in terms of identity keywords like bottom and submissive, and I did start describing myself as stone or stone-ish to girls I was flirting with or on first dates. I wanted to see what their reaction was, what their relationship to stone was, and whether or not they knew what to do with that. More than one girl seemed to understand and then behaved differently in bed, which was not what I wanted.

There is a relief that comes along with not being touched (very much), though. It means I don’t have to try so hard, I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’m going to get off ‘that way’, whatever way she’s touching me, it means I don’t have to be in that particular position of surrender when I often (at least nine times out of ten) do not want to be. I much prefer getting off while strapped on and fucking … and yes, I suppose that does have something to do with gender, that I prefer my orgasms to be related to my cock and not necessarily while being penetrated.

I don’t always prefer to get off that way—I was just writing about masturbation and My Ultimate Masturbation Toys, one of which is that genius Pure Wand, which is just the right size and shape for me. And sometimes, especially it seems right before I start my period, I crave getting fucked, sometimes hard. That tends to be when I ask to be fisted. I don’t do that often, maybe three times in the last year and a half relationship with Kristen, but when I have, I think they have all been around that time of my cycle.

But generally, when I’m with someone else, when I’m with Kristen, I want to get off through fucking, through my cock. I want to be dominant, in some way, using some sort of physical strength that tightens my muscles and makes the getting off all the more intense. I want to be using my gender fetish, which I don’t ever fuck without, anymore. I want there to be a gender component and a power component, with me in particular places on those spectrums, and usually, that involves me strapped on, on top.

That doesn’t quite make me stone, at least not the way I understand it. But there’s something useful in the language of stone that helps get across that top identity, that dominant identity, and that butch identity, so I have relied on stone in the past to help me make all those identities come together.

What about you? Do you identify as stone? Stone-ish? Not stone? Why or why not? What’s your relationship to the identity of stone? What do you define it as, what do you think it means?

Re-Valuing Masculinity

It is no secret that I like identity categories. Anyone who has read around on Sugarbutch knows I identify strongly with some of these labels – hell, even if all you ever read here is the masthead, my chosen categories are listed right there – kinky queer butch top – which is also the chronology of their development.

Kinky and queer came easily to me. Well, let me clarify. Not easy, exactly, but without much social stigma. It took me a few years to get out of the relationship with my high school boyfriend and come out, for example, but once I was out, I was out and didn’t really look back. Kinky, too, was generally easy to adopt.

Butch was much harder for me. I’ve written about that some, and many folks have pondered and asked me about the amount of work that I seem to put into it, as if questioning whether or not all this work is worth it. These questions asked to me are often followed by things like I just don’t get it, I am what I am, I’m just me, I don’t fit any one category.

Two things about that.

First, I like the work. I get off on it, I find it hot and engaging and fascinating, and interconnected to so many of my interests.

Also, I don’t fit into any singular thing either. I have a long string of identity labels – and even still, the whole is more than the sum of its parts, right? So even if I told you I am also a pianist, a photographer, a yogi, an Ears with Feet, you still don’t actually know me. You have to meet me, interact with me, see me in different situations, hear my history and future aims.

I wouldn’t ever force labels on anyone else. Call yourself or don’t call yourself whatever you like; just because I feel strongly connected to these things doesn’t mean I think you have to. I study post-identity politics, I understand that identity categories have issues.

I recognize that I am in the minority here, and even that I have a gender fetish. I love these categories and language that they provide when discussing gender. It is tightly connected to activism, for me, and I strongly believe in the ways that gender diversity is liberating and subversive. (Back to that in a minute.)

I run into many people, lesbian and queer women especially, who say, “I don’t fit in,” “I don’t know what I am,” “I don’t want to limit myself,” “am I femme/butch if I _____,” “I’m not really femme/butch, look at the ‘real’ femmes/butches out there, I don’t look like them.”

I would never presume to put my gender fetish on you. If I want to reject the labels and categories, or if you want to call yourself and your gender “blue” or “leopardish” or “the eleventh hour” or nothing at all or whatever, I don’t care. Do whatever you like, do whatever feels good to you.

And, if it feels good to you, I will gladly talk to you about it, explore it, lay down some of my concepts like the gender galaxy and the dress-up test and my theories on separating gender from personality.

The people I’ve done this with have generally been very interested in gender play and categories and theory, but were wary of being policed by the community about it. They don’t feel femme “enough,” or like a “real” butch.

Quite often, I find that the people who want to talk to me about this stuff want to identify with a gender identity category, but fear the social policing. Maybe it’s just part of human nature – to organize, categorize. I’ve said before, I don’t think one should conform to a label – any label, especially not gender – I think the label should conform to you.

All that said: generally, I do want to encourage more dykes to adopt the labels of butch femme – if they want to – primarily because I know how liberating it has been for me.

But I also want to encourage gender identity labeling, specifically butch/femme dynamic – because the primary contrary argument I hear to these labels is that they are limiting.

And this is where the activism comes in: I believe we need to go inside these labels and expand them.

We’ve actually done a pretty good job re-valuing feminine/female/femme in this culture, which has (in my opinion) everything to do with the three waves of the women’s liberation movements, and, especially, the Third Wave feminism of the 80s and 90s that questioned the notion that gender causes oppression, which was a major assertion of the Second Wave, and instead said that hierarchizing the male/female binary meant that femininity was inherently defined as “not as good as,” which should be examined and changed.

And, I would argue, generally, it has.

For more on that I suggest Manifesta by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards – a very readable feminist book covering third wave politics and theories.

But: We have yet to have a gender re-valuing for men and masculinity. It is starting – and the fags and butches and drag kings and FTMs are on those front lines, for sure – but it is far from full force. This is, I think, particularly why there are so many more femmes than butches out there in the queer communities these days – to quote Team Gina, “there’s like one of them and thirty of us.”

We need this. Men and fags and butches and FTMs and people need a revaluing of masculinity.

And this is why I want to encourage more lesbians to identify as butch – because the more who do, the wider the understanding of the label becomes, and the more range the label has. If we say, I’m not that, because butch is this tiny limited thing, and that’s not me, then we are allowing it to be this tiny limited thing instead of going inside of it and exploding it, opening it up.

And that’s one way to add more acceptance to the range of masculinity.