Posts Tagged ‘media’

Opportunities with the BUTCH Voices Media Team

February 27, 2013  |  essays, on butches  |  No Comments

In addition to teaching workshops and traveling everywhere, one of my other major jobs recently has been working as the Media Chair on the board of BUTCH Voices, gearing up for the 2013 national conference. It’s starting to pick up—we’ve got a lot of stuff going on, and there will just be more between here & the conference.

Most notably, the BUTCH Voices website has a facelift!

Doesn’t it look great? I wish I’d taken a full-screen screenshot of the old website, it looks so different. I’m now the web editor there, and still looking for folks to work with me on the Media Team. I’m really excited about the conference and this is a unique opportunity to work behind the scenes to make it happen, and gain some experience and expertise in the web and media fields.

Media Team (Reports to the Media Chair)

Benefits include: cultivating butch community, discounted entrance into the BUTCH Voices 2013 National Conference in August, service to your community, volunteer time, media experience of all kinds (social media, web content management, print media), working directly with Sinclair, and more!

You should be: masculine of center identified, trans-positive, coming from an anti-oppression framework; have some time to volunteer, self-motivated, able to work on tight deadlines, have a reliable computer & internet access where you can stay in touch at least on a weekly basis.

Tasks include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Responsible for completing tasks relating to the website, social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc), newsletter
  • Design components for print and web using BUTCH Voices branding standard colors, fonts, and logos
  • Respond promptly and keep in contact
  • Available for last-minute tasks and able to complete assignments within 24-48 hours
  • Timely and efficient, hard working, able to take direction and ask for clarification, able to work in a team environment digitally from a home office
  • Reliable internet access, computer access; some HTML skills, WordPress, CMS, text editing, Photoshop, and graphic design skills are a plus
  • Keen eye for detail

Interested? Contact me, [email protected], with your resume and a few brief paragraphs about why you’d like the job and what you can offer. I’m excited to get this team going, to practice my management skills, and to make the BUTCH Voices 2013 conference excellent.

Sexual Autonomy & Freedom

January 23, 2009  |  essays  |  15 Comments

Written for the 15th Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom & Autonomy. Thoughts in response and reflection to my own call for contributions.

Let me say this: I don’t think, in this culture which vilifies sex and punishes especially female sexuality, that I will ever be “done” reaching my own space of sexual freedom and autonomy. It is probably an endless task, a lifetime battle.

Let me also say this: I have crawled up out of shame by my bloodied fingers and I am not going back. I stand on my own two legs, strong-cunted, and I am not going back. I drive the engine of my body hard, glide it through passageways I have previously thought unnavigatable, and I am not going back.

Maybe ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is freedom.

I would not have had the sexual awakening I’ve had if it wasn’t for feminism: the feminist health movement, the theories of consciousness raising, the lesbian sex wars of the 80s that produced porn and smut and BDSM with theories of liberation at their roots.

I am so grateful for all the things that have contributed to my gaining of sexual autonomy and freedom, to my sexual awakening. Nancy Friday’s book My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies. My high school boyfriend telling me kink was great and fun and he respected me, too. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio and Cunt Coloring Book by Tea Corrine and Femalia and Nothing But The Girl; The Blatant Lesbian Image and the entire series of Best Lesbian Erotica (especially 1998). Kitty Tsui and that one scene in Breathless with a knife. S.I.R. Video and Hard Love / How to Fuck In High Heels and Sugar High Glitter City. Babeland, which taught me more than I thought there was to know. Body Electric, which woke me up to my own power, and still does. The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book. The Ethical Slut, which changed how I see relationships. Pink & White, which finally made porn I wanted to own and watch over and over again. My academic studies and my degree in women studies which taught me how social change works. Dan Savage and Savage Love.

The fucking INTERNET. From BBSs to chatrooms to the web to Wiki After Dark to Scarleteen to RAINN to the amazing sexblog communities. The connection to marginalized community despite distance and fear.

Let me say this: I don’t know how any woman grows up and develops her sexual autonomy and freedom, let alone a queer woman, let alone a genderqueer butch or femme. These are not things that are built into us, no matter how progressive our families, no matter how much our parents loved us. There are so many layers to the damage, and the length of the legacy is long and wide, the depth of those wounds are long and wide.

Let me also say this: for me, the first step had to be seeing those wounds, recognizing the damage. By beginning to feel what a “healthy sexuality” (uh, whatever that is) felt like in my body, I could more easily differentiate between the damage and the strength. And I learned to use erotic energy to heal those places in me still reeling, still healing.

Why do you think gender dynamics are so erotically charged for me? I was damaged as a girl. As a girl, I was damaged. And I don’t mean “I was abused when I was young” but rather, that this culture hurt my girlhood. That’s why I turned to feminism as soon as I began to understand the power of social conditioning and gender roles: to learn how to undo the damage.

And why do you think I love femmes something fierce? Our wounds run parallel. We are the same, but opposite; opposing, complimentary, full of traction and friction when we rub against each other. Lay your wounds here next to mine, they fill and warm and comfort each other.

Why is gender so erotically charged for me? Because it has been the site of so much discomfort, so much damage. Not just for me: for my friends and lovers, for my sisters, for my parents, for the one boy I ever slept with, for our collective unconscious. So when I take it and corral it and tame it, when I become the Gender Whisperer and see the thoughts in its head despite our different languages, when I learn its language and teach it mine, I become strong. I take the lead. I win.

I know, I’m supposed to be writing about sexual autonomy and freedom – so let me tell you this: I cannot untangle gender from sex from power. They are all the spiraling sugar-phosphate backbone in the DNA of my sexuality, and it wasn’t until I unlocked my gender that my sexual liberation truly lived in my body, that my sexuality was truly realized and in practice. It wasn’t until I had a cock – no: it wasn’t until I had a girl who knew what to do with my cock.

My gender is the language of my desire, my attraction. The ways I communicate physically.

Say gender is a drag, but also say this: I wasn’t me until I discovered my own gendered space. Butch – but not just butch, high butch – but not just high butch, capital-H High capital-B Butch. My body has never made as much sense as it does, now, in button-downs and ties, in sweater vests and cufflinks, hell, even tee shirts and jeans feel right now that I buy them in the department that cuts them to fit my body, square, even lines, corners, dark colors.

It’s not that I want society at large to treat me as male. It’s not that when I put on men’s clothes, I liked the way I was subsequently treated differently – though I was. But the difference was greater than that: I gained autonomy. I gained agency. I gained my own voice, my own stride, my own body, my own control. And I love the disconnect that most people see – female body, masculine presentation – I love witnessing the subtle struggle of random passers-by.

Just by living in the world, walking down the street, I set out a challenge. I work hard to make this masculinity, this presentation, an acceptable way for a woman to live.

Say gender is constructed, but also say this: something in me lines up and sees clearly when I get to express myself just the way I want to. I know how to deconstruct – I know how to break down and examine and look from various angles and research and consciousness-raise and bounce ideas around. And I’m learning how to construct, how to create, how to make myself anew from the inside, all the way out.

Film screening: The World Unseen

October 22, 2008  |  miscellany  |  No Comments

Here’s a brief little break in the political activism of this week to bring you a small announcement about a (free!) film screening TOMORROW in Los Angeles. Might be just what the doctor ordered to get our minds off of politics for a minute, eh?

The World Unseen is “an amazing story of race, love, and strength set in 1950′s South Africa.” The synopsis is as follows:

In the pressure cooker of apartheid South Africa, two women meet and their worlds are turned upside down. Miriam is a traditional Indian mother – hardworking and self-effacing. Amina breaks all the rules by driving a taxi and setting up a cafe with a local black man. In the face of outraged disapproval, their friendship flourishes. But the price, for Miriam, is the discovery of impossible truths about her marriage. In a system that divides white from black, black from Asian and the women from men, what chance is there for an unexpected love to survive?

More information on the film – including some beautiful, beautiful stills of the film – at www.theworldunseenmovie.com

The film is screening in LA tomorrow:
Thursday, October 23 at 7:30PM
Regent Theatre (614 N. La Brea Ave), Los Angeles
Shamim Sarif , the writer/director, and Sheetal Sheth, star of the film, will be at the screening to do a Q&A following the movie.
If you’d like to attend, RSVP to 310-967-7286

See more photo stills from the film, they look just beautiful. I’m excited to see it! Fans of queer/lesbian films might also recognize Lisa Ray – one of the leads – from Water, which is also fantastic.


The Suspension of Heterosexual Belief (1 of 3)

August 19, 2008  |  essays  |  2 Comments

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.

tough guise: compulsory masculinity

May 16, 2008  |  essays  |  5 Comments

This video, Tough Guise: Violence, Media, & the Crisis in Masculinity narrated by Jackson Katz, was something I first watched in college that significantly changed the ways I viewed masculinity and men.

I’m continuously thinking about masculinity, what it means, how we learn it, who enforces it, and this film was a key aspect to where I’ve come to in my understanding.

This is a small trailer version of the entire film. The whole thing may be kinda hard to hunt down, I’m not sure how to get hold of a copy aside from through the Media Education Foundation, but they’re priced for colleges and high schools, not individuals. Perhaps your library has it?

fisting in time out

October 3, 2007  |  miscellany  |  No Comments

Sinclair Sexsmith – ahem, that would be me – has been quoted in this week’s Time Out New York magazine (thanks to Viviane) about fisting.It’s under the Pick-a-fetish megachart, the penultimate of the list, almost at the end.

Not a bad quote, entirely:

“Go slow, slow, slow and use lots of lube,” says Sinclair Sexsmith, a Bed-Stuy-based sex blogger and femme fister with seven years’ experience. “It’s gonna be messy. Just put a towel down and get over it.”

It’s kinda hard to give someone beginning fisting advice without getting too much into the down-and-dirty. It’s so hard to be quoted, I would’ve chosen other things to highlight. And while I did say water-based lube is often slicker, in my opinion, it implies that the lube should be thin rather than gel-like, which is backward: I find the gel-like lube often stays wetter longer, though I do like how I can kinda pour the liquidy lube into my cupped hand and get things all nice & slick without pulling my hand out entirely. That’s helpful.