Five Blow Jobs on the Me & My Boi blog tour

Sacchi Green’s new erotica anthology Me & My Boi is finally out! It’s been multiple years in the making, and it includes one of my favorite stories (about rife), Five Blow Jobs.

The first part goes like this:

I.

After the workshop. I haven’t had enough of you (will I ever get enough of you) and strip you bare, glove my hand, slide two fingers inside you, sideways on our huge bed. The lamplight is different than the bright white of this room during the day, more warm, orange-yellow-gold and more full of shadows, and the shadows and the gold fall onto your skin like paint. In the car on the way back I couldn’t resist (can rarely resist, it’s so hard to resist when part of our dynamic is built around taking what I want) and slide your small fingers into my mouth. You miss the exit. Your fingers are blunt and I trace your jagged nails with my tongue, suck the salt from the pads, taste the day on your skin. I pull your wrist down to your pelvis and take two fingers in my mouth again when my two fingers are inside you, gently pressing, not a lot of motion, and I start to suck you off. Up and down your fingers like a cock. I hold your g-spot and feel it quiver in my fingers. I let your fingers out of my mouth so you can touch your clit, and keep my tongue on the back of your hand. You shudder and convulse against my mouth, your cunt grips my fingers. You slide your fingers back in my mouth, eager, and I taste you, just a little, at the tips, and I do it all over again.

The book is particularly special to me because there’s so little butch-centered erotica out there, and this is one of the rare ones. I believe it’s not exclusively butch/butch erotica, but includes masculine-of-center identities of all kinds, whether they use the word ‘butch’ or ‘boi’ or don’t use labels at all.

As Sacchi writes, in the introduction:

This book is a celebration of all things boi, butch, masculine-of-center, in those who include lesbian as a part of their identities. These are stories of people we love, and people we are, who put their own personal spins on the gender spectrum. Bois who like girls, bois who like bois, bois who like both; those who don’t label themselves boi or butch at all but can’t stand to wear a skirt; screw-the-binary free spirits of many flavors. Cool bois, hot bois, swaggering bois, shy bois, leather bois, flannel bois, butch daddies, and the femmes and mommas and tops and bottoms and even girls next door who wouldn’t have them any other way.

The anthology includes a lot of my favorite queer erotica writers with new works … I can’t wait to read the entire thing!

Blog Tour

June 12—Sacchi Green—www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 13—Annabeth Leong—http://annabethleong.blogspot.com
June 14—Anna Watson— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 15—Sinclair Sexsmith—www.sugarbutch.net
June 16—Jove Belle— https://jovebelle.com/
June 17—Tamsin Flowers— www.tamsinflowers.com
June 18—Victoria Villasenor— https://breywillows.com
June 19—J, Caladine—www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 20—Victoria Janssen— http://victoriajanssen.com
June 21—Dena Hankins—  http://denahankins.net/my-summer-of-boi/
June 22—D. Orchid— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 23—Pavini Moray— https://emancipatingsexuality.com/
June 24—Melissa Mayhew— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 25—Jen Cross— http://writingourselveswhole.org
June 26—Kyle Jones— www.butchtastic.net
June 27—Gigi Frost— www.facebook.com/gigifrost
June 28—Aimee Hermann— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 29—Sommer Marsden—www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 30—Axa Lee—www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
July 1— Kathleen Bradean— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

Oh and also, there’s a BOOK GIVEAWAY

Anyone who comments on any of the posts will be entered in a drawing for one free copy of the anthology. You can comment on more than one post and be entered more than once. The winner will be announced and notified by July 5, if not sooner.

Pick up Me & My Boi from your local feminist queer radical bookstore, directly from Cleis Press, or, if you must, from Amazon.

A Personal History of Best Lesbian Erotica

Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition is out now, and I’m part of the blog tour editor Sacchi Green has organized on it’s behalf. The story of mine that is in this collection, Luscious & Wild, is here on Sugarbutch already, so I thought I’d take you back into the Best Lesbian Erotica series in celebration of it’s 20th.

Personally, I started collecting them in 2001. I fancied myself a lover of smut and a sex-focused person, but frowned at my itty bitty erotica collection at home. So I started frequenting the lesbian erotica section of my favorite used book store, Twice Sold Tales, on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, which was an equally itty bitty shelf near the floor. The ‘Gay and Lesbian’ section towered in the shelves above it, but I was looking for the bottom-shelf stuff. The dirty stuff. I bought every edition I could find, eventually filling in my collection by ordering the few volumes I was missing online, and still order the newest edition the minute it comes out.

The series now spans 20 volumes with as many different guest editors. It can be hard to pick just which ones to read, or where to start. So, here are three of my favorites.

Best Lesbian Erotica 1998

ble98The first one that got me really hooked was Best Lesbian Erotica 1998. The story by Karlyn Lotney (also known as Fairy Butch, if you remember On Our Backs and other late 90s sex/dyke activism) called “Clash of the Titans” remains one of my favorite erotica pieces ever, and blasted open what I thought erotica could be or do. For example, it could be complex emotionally, it could contain activism and politics, it could show switching, it could show vulnerability. Not that I didn’t know that, exactly, I just didn’t … realize it until I read this story, and this whole book. (I wrote about it in this week’s new View From The Top column, titled The First Time I Knew I Was A Top.)

She cut a swath through my flat like Moses parting the Red Sea, and made me feel like a man: all big and dumb and panting. I felt my internal butch cock harden and start its invisible levitation, and the part of my brain that concerns itself with floral arrangements, oranges, and perfect living rooms fell away. Another part took over, the part that found its genesis in my father’s collection of late sixties’ issues of Playboy, benches two-ten, and answers to “Daddy.”
—”Clash of the Titans” by Karlyn Lotney, from Best Lesbian Erotica 1998

The other piece that made me speechless (and come) was “Ridin’ Bitch” by Toni Amato. That story—that includes a hard femme who jacks off a butch’s strap-on shamelessly while they ride from the bar to the butch’s apartment on a motorcycle—was part of what completely convinced me that I loved strap-on sex.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2006

ble06Best Lesbian Erotica 2006 included the first erotica short story I ever published. I have read that edition over and over, mostly because my story is in it, and it thrilled me to no end to see my name in print. (It’s under my legal name, by the way, not under Sinclair.) 2006 was the year I started Sugarbutch as well, but that actually came after this publication was accepted, and I thought Sugarbutch would be a little private side-project, not become my next big thing.

BLE ’06 also includes a beautiful story by Peggy Munson, and one of my absolute favorites by S. Bear Bergman, called ‘Silver Dollar Afternoon.’

I fall in love with her when anyone asks her why she doesn’t wear her beautiful long hair all the way down and she says, with just a hint of coolness: “A woman’s hair is for her husband,” which makes me remember every time she has unpinned her hair for my delighted eyes and even if I’m not quite a husband I still shiver in my blue jeans without fail.
—Silver Dollar Afternoon by S. Bear Bergman, Best Lesbian Erotica 2006

Best Lesbian Erotica 2012

ble12The 2012 edition is probably my favorite, but that’s because I’m the guest editor and so I got to pick all of the stories. I actually went back to Kathleen Warnock, the series editor then, to request more stories after I read all the picks she’d sent me and I didn’t have as many as we needed. They just weren’t dirty enough—she’d picked me really good stories, with characters and plots and development and such, but I want that AND a really excellent, dirty, kinky sex scene. It is largely butch/femme heavy, but I tried to get a good mix of other character types and pairings in there, too.

The introduction that I wrote for Best Lesbian Erotica 2012 is about why lesbian erotica is valuable activism, and it’s here on Sugarbutch if you’d like to dive into my thoughts on that more.

These books of lesbian erotica are not fluff. They are not nothing. They are not frivolous or useless. For queers coming out and into our own, they are a path.” —From Why Lesbian Erotica is Valuable Activism

And now: Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition

BLEOfTheYear_approvedSince Tristan Taormino left, the series has gone through a few different editor’s hands, and I’m excited that Sacchi is responsible for this one. She’s edited many of my favorite lesbian erotica anthologies.

Thanks to Cleis Press for keeping this series going all these years!

I highly recommend picking up a copy of Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition at your local queer, feminist, women-centric, activist-oriented bookstore, or, only if you must, from Amazon.

Here’s the rest of the blog tour, which features the different authors in the book and our story titles. Click around & follow along!

Feb 10, Sacchi Green, Introduction
Feb 11, Rose de Fer, “Dust”
Feb 12, Louise Blaydon, “Ascension”
Feb 13, Megan McFerren, “The Royalty Underground”
Feb 14, Harper Bliss, “Reunion Tour”
Feb 15, D.L. King, “Hot Blood”
Feb 16, Jean Roberta, “Tears from Heaven”
Feb 17, Sinclair Sexsmith, “Luscious and Wild”
Feb 18, R.G. Emanuelle, “Smorgasbord”
Feb 19, Rose P. Lethe, “A Professional”
Feb 20, Anna Watson, “Easy”
Feb 21, Valerie Alexander, “Grind House”
Feb 22, Annabeth Leong, “Give and Take”
Feb 23, Frankie Grayson, “Mirror Mirror”
Feb 24, Cheyenne Blue, “The Road to Hell”
Feb 25, Emily L. Byrne, “The Further Adventures of Miss Scarlet”
Feb 26, Sossity Chiricuzio, “Make them Shine”
Feb 27, Teresa Noelle Roberts, “Tomato Bondage”

PS: Comment on any of these posts for a chance to win a free copy of Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition. The drawing will be held by February 28th and the winner announced by March 5th.

The Girl in the Red Dress (Excerpt from Sex Still Spoken Here)

This story is included in the forthcoming collection Sex Still Spoken Here, the Erotic Reading Circle anthology.

At first I’m trying to ignore her. I have my latest review book, Best Lesbian Bondage Erotica; I have my iPod on to some soothing lofi mix Muse made for me; I have lube in my pocket for a quick jerk-off session before we arrive in New York. I need all the sanctuary and release I can get before returning to that hyper-stimulating city.

But she’s making a big show of her many bags, heavy, designer luggage, and she – being tiny petite thing – seems unable to slip them all into the overhead luggage rack.

The only other person in this car is a man in the back who has been snoring since I got on. I think about telling her to just leave her suitcases on the seat next to her, but her jaw is set, her sensuous mouth twisted in a sneer, and as she begins to climb onto the train seat to reach the rack better, I sigh and, reluctantly, get up to help her.

“Please. Let me,” I say, sliding behind her and putting my hand on her waist to guide her out of the way, then taking the heavy suitcase out of her struggling grip and nudge it onto the metal rack easily. She’s got a great ass in those tight jeans. Her eyes are wide, then she drags her gaze along my arm to my face. I watch her watch me. She looks like Penelope Cruz, all dark hair and big pools of dark liquid eyes.

“Um,” she says. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it,” I answer, a bit dismissively, now offering my hand so she can get down. The train doors buzz and are about to close, we’ll be in motion shortly. I pick up her other bags and one by one put them up into the rack above her seat. She takes off her thin white sweater and sets it with her handbag next to her, and watches me.

I groan a little with the weight of the last one. She notices. “Thanks again,” she says, and I detect a slight accent, French maybe, though she looks Spanish. Her words are a little airy, already pulling Vogue Milan out of her purse and turning her attention to it, a tiny sideways glance at me to see if I’m still standing next to her, waiting for my good-dog biscuit.

I retreat back to my aisle seat. We are facing each other, opposite sides of the train. She is absorbed in her magazine. I put my feet up and crack open my book, start reading through the bondage stories. She takes out a compact and lipstick and fusses with her mouth, repainting, touching her fingertips to the edges of her lips, then wipes microscopic flecks with a tissue. I don’t watch her, but she periodically sweeps her eyes over to me. I rest my hand on my neat little package as I read through the story by Toni Amato, “A Girl Like That:”

She’s the kind of girl who brings out the worst in me. Coming on all hip and cool and all into sex, rubbing some part of herself all up against me every chance she gets. I’m not saying all the things my people taught me about women are so great, but I’ll tell you what, where I come from, that kind of girl is called a cock teaser.

It’s like there’s this small thing, like those stars they talk about, those White Dwarves, sitting deep and low in my belly, and this girl comes along, doing her number, and that son of a bitch just goes nova.

She makes the worst part of me want to do the best it knows how to teach her a thing or two about fucking.

I’m stroking my cock unconsciously through my jeans when I notice someone looming next to me, and it’s her, she’s returning from the bathroom with a clutch in her hand, I didn’t even notice her get up. The girl smiles, almost, and pushes past as though I am taking up the entire aisle, or maybe to show off her gorgeous ass in those tight, tight jeans.

The train lurches and opens its sleepy doors, the man in the back of our train car is moving at half-speed and makes his way off the train.

We’re alone.

She notices too. She’s looking out the window but keeps stealing glances at me. The conductor comes through and says nothing to either of us, just takes the small pieces of paper on our seats, the remnants of our tickets.

I go back to my book. I finger the bottle of lube in my pocket and think this would be a good time to go rub one out, then get absorbed in a story about a dyke cop who is passing as male in a straight club, picks up a girl and takes her, handcuffed, out to her truck. I nearly reach my hand into my pants.

“Um, excuse me?”

She’s standing, still in her seat but leaning forward over the seat in front of her, facing me, ass tipped to the side, front of her button down revealing creamy skin, long dark hair swinging. She smiles when I look up, flashes me an intentional smirky pose that she has practiced in the mirror – her seduction look. “Would you help, I have to … I need … something from that bag.” She glances up at it.

I put my book down and tug at my jeans to cover my hard-on. Clear my throat. “Sure.”

I get up and move toward her. She kneels and reaches for it, her back to the aisle as I come up behind her and reach up.

“This one?” My mouth is close to her ear.

“No, not – yes, that one,” she says as I touch the smaller suitcase. She reaches up to help me, bending slightly forward, as we both ease the weight of her bag down onto the seat. And I swear she rubs right against me, pushing back, just a little. Maybe I’m imagining it. Yeah, sure Sinclair; you just happen to have a boner and this girl offers up her ass on a silver platter.

I back off. Return to my seat. Again.

“Um, thanks!” she calls.

I toss a half-smile over my shoulder. “Don’t mention it.” She pulls a bundle of fabric out of her bag and I don’t watch. I don’t pay attention. I can’t see it. I shouldn’t be watching, but I am. It is slinky and red. She finds a few other bits and tucks her hair behind her ear, gathers an armful of clothing, makes her way toward me, down the aisle, to the bathroom at the back of the car.

She’s in there a while. I try to concentrate on my book, to not wonder what she is doing, what she’s slipping into, who she’s meeting when she gets off the train, not to imagine being that somebody so filled with lust and permission that I’d fuck her right on the platform, couldn’t even control myself long enough to wait until we went to dinner, drinks, a show, whatever it is she’s dressing up for. My breath is quickening and my hands are starting to do that aching thing where they are pulsing with grip, wanting to hold push grab press punch slap.

She makes her way back to her seat like the aisle is a runway, like she’s coming in for a landing. Each step deliberately placed. Legs precisely angled and separated and her gait is sharp, strong. Her red dress swings from her hips, past her thighs, to her knees. A few bracelets jangle from one arm, simple and slim. She’s pulled her hair up high on her head, into some sort of ponytail, then twisted around itself in a beautiful knot.

I watch her as she closes the distance to her own seat. I don’t drool. I am not drooling. I try not to drool at the sight of her ankles, her calves, the hints of the backs of her knees as her dress swings. I wipe my mouth. Her ankles cross just slightly, which makes her hips curl and switch like a figure eight. Like a come-hither finger.

I swallow. Breathe in. And quickly open my book, flustered, and turn it to the page I was reading as she slides onto the train seat and I snap out of my spell.

Of course – of course – I am too zealous and the book slides out of my hand, skittering out into the aisle. I take a sharp breath in and some spit goes down the wrong way, I start to choke, cough, loudly, as I jump up to retrieve the book.

Oh good lord. I get ahold of myself. Straighten up, book in hand. Clear my throat. I don’t look at her. I can’t see her. I am sure I am five shades of crimson and I steal a glance her direction, she’s covering her mouth, that perfect smirky smile, eyes dancing, looking away from me. Obviously she saw everything.

Fuck.

I resettle. Book in lap, adequate breath in lungs. I sneer to myself. Re-open the erotica. Do you have to be so obvious? I yell at myself in my head. You dumbass. Real smooth, Sexsmith.

She’s going through her open case next to her, I can see her arms moving but can’t see what she’s doing. Then suddenly she’s up, out of the seat and back in the aisle, pads down toward me as if she forgot something.

I catch a whiff of her perfume as she walks by. Dizzying, intoxicating. The swish of her skirt. I watch her little toe-heel trot down the aisle. My body acts without my mind and I reach for her. My hand on her hip. Lightly at first, but then she doesn’t pull away and I grab her harder. Both hands and I stand, pull her toward me, her back to me, and she is still. I can’t see her face but I can feel her breath through my hands, she’s holding it. Surprised. Waiting.

I lift her skirt in the back to reveal her perfect ass. A work of art. A combination of genetics and squats and hundreds of hours at the gym. She knows it. She’s bare under her red dress, no panties, no stockings. Perhaps that’s what she forgot. I can’t resist, I palm the apple of her ass, caress the flesh, spreading her cheeks and opening her slit.

She lets out her breath, finally, and it comes with a breathy moan, just a little.

And I’m gone. The slightest noise from her lips and all I can feel is what it’ll be like to be inside her, to feel her body curl around my arm and buck and thrash and grasp as she comes. I’ve got to feel it. Got to make her.

I press against her back. Her neck is bare, hair up, and my mouth is just at the corner of her jaw, below her ear. I reach around her and pin her arms to her sides, pressing her back to lean against me, and she arches, thrusts her hips up, feels the cock behind my fly. She lets her head lean back against me, lets me take her weight.

“Bend over.” Right next to her ear. Barely audible …

***


This is the beginning of my story, “The Girl in the Red Dress,” that is in Sex Still Spoken Here, the Erotic Reading Circle anthology.

Co-edited by Jen Cross, Carol Queen, and Amy Butcher, this erotica anthology is one of a kind as it is not only a collection of erotica stories, but also a how-to guide, detailing how to begin and run your own erotic reading circle, with stories learned from San Francisco’s own erotic reading circle which meets monthly at the Center for Sex and Culture since 2006.

I’m thrilled to have a piece included! And very excited for the anthology. To get your copy and support the book and the 27 authors who have contributed pieces, donate to the Sex Still Spoken Here Indiegogo campaign.

But wait—that’s not all!

Ever wish I would write you a custom story, maybe about you and your partner, or about someone you fantasize about, or about a particular act?

SSSH is running a referral contest right now, and one of the prizes is a custom story from me. (Jen Cross is also writing a custom story!)

(Sidenote: I am currently the top referral, and while it’s fun to write my own stories, it’d be more fun to write yours. I don’t offer custom smut very often—I hope it goes to someone who wants it!)

Click over to Indiegogo to preorder your copy and support this amazing project!

Resiliance and Rebuilding: 2013 in Books, Music, and Writings on Sugarbutch

Top Writings on Sugarbutch from 2013

In order, from most read to least, these are the writings on Sugarbutch from 2013. Which were your favorites?

The quiz is here! What kind of s-type are you?
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“In preparation for a big project that Rife & I are creating, we looked around to find a really good online quiz that talked about the different kinds of submissive identity and what they meant, but the only ones we found were … well, not so great. So we decided to make our own!”

essay | Read the whole thing

Making Peace: in which I (attempt to) explain what happened over these last eighteen months
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“I want to make peace with you, my readers—and with my friends, many of whom experienced me being flaky, not following through with my agreements, and not showing up in the past eighteen months. I want the ease of interaction back. I want to tell you where I’ve been, to make sense of the significant changes I’ve been through. If I don’t tell you what happened, how can you understand where I am now? How can I understand where I am now? … So: what happened between me and Kristen? What is the matter of fact explanation?”

This post attempts to explain. journal entry | Read the whole thing

“Pick a hole. You know what happens next.”
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““Uhh no please Daddy.” My dick completely fills him. I feel him dripping already. The resistance is palpable as I push deeper, filling him up. His tight little young body tries to push me out, but it just gives you more to push against. I’ll force it in all morning if I have to. He’ll get used to it.

I fist his hair and hold his hole open. “You know I like it when you struggle. I can shove harder that way.” He’ll learn to open up for me, to give that hole, to open up and take it, in time. Right now I don’t mind shoving it in. I work it in and out. So tight.”

Trigger warning: Daddy/boy play, rough sex. dirty story | Read the whole thing →

How to Chomp: Erotic Biting for Pleasure & Pain
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“So, let’s say you have a green light of consent, that this person you’re messing around with in whatever way loves being bit. How do you do that? What are the safety risks? How do you cause maximum pleasure (or pain)?”

That image up at the top of this 2013 roundup post is the illustration Rife made just for this essay. advice / essay | Read the whole thing →

Queer Porn TV Free #PornParty January 31st
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“What is a #pornparty, you ask? Well, it’s a worldwide gathering on Twitter of folks who like queer porn. Simply tune in, press play, and then follow the hashtag #pornparty while you watch for commentary and discussion. … We’ll be watching something through QueerPorn.TV, and viewing this film will be completely free.”

No wonder it’s a popular post, huh? Lots of good free porn. There may be more #pornparty -ing in 2014, we’ll see … review | Read the whole thing →

Under the Desk
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“”Uh huh. I know you like it. You beg for it an thank me after, little one. But this isn’t for you. Just for me. Daddy needs this. Do it right. That’s good. Fuck. Good boy.” You start swelling up and moaning with each cool sucking breath. I know you want it. I know this is what you’re for, and so do you. I shove it in, feeling myself tighten, that delicious pressure building from deep.”

dirty story | Read the whole thing →

Coming Out Genderqueer: An Open Letter to My Family & Friends
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“Dear family & friends,

Especially friends from my childhood and high school years who have found me for whatever reasons on Facebook, and family with whom I’m not particularly close, and coworkers from previous jobs who I have perhaps never had this chat with: I have something to tell you: I’m genderqueer.”

The whole letter was posted on my personal Facebook account, where I tagged most of my childhood friends, work colleagues, and relatives. It was kind of nerve-wracking. And, it’s been amazing what conversations have opened up from it. essay | Read the whole thing →

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Charlie Glickman: “Being poly doesn’t make you more evolved.”
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“[Poly] requires the ability to talk about and process feelings quickly and efficiently. Of course, that skill will benefit any relationship, but when there are multiple people, each with their own needs and desires, as well as their feelings about each other, there are a lot of moving parts. If I could, I’d tell my younger self that the best way to learn how to process well would be to build social networks full of people who are dedicated to open-hearted, honest communication. Yes, therapy helped. Yes, workshops and books helped. But getting to see how other people do it and getting to practice it with lots of friends made it much easier to develop those skills in sexual/romantic relationships.”

Remember the open relationship mini-interviews? They wrapped up very early 2013, it was more of a end-of-2012 project. I still want to make them into an ebook. This interview with Charlie was picked up by The Stranger’s online newspaper, and got a bit of attention. essay | Read the whole thing →

To the femmes on whom I’ve crushed this past year
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“If you think I’m not kicking myself for not making a move when I had the chance, you’re wrong. I wish I made a move. Although really, I wish I had had the capacity to make a move. Explain it through the spoon theory, call it the grieving process, call it heartbreak, call it post-poly trauma and fear—whatever it was, I was not in the place to play, fuck, open myself up, make an offer, make a move, or hell, sometimes even flirt. I wish I had been.”

journal entry | Read the whole thing →

Five Blow Jobs
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““Good boy,” I breathe as I watch your mouth, tongue, lips, my cock down your throat. I let you guide it. I let you slide it however deep you want. I push a little, because that’s what I do, but mostly I just concentrate on the feeling and the sight. I almost come but it’s too much, I get overstimulated and don’t have the right angle so I get up and take my jeans off, my socks and shoes and briefs, and spread my legs wider, get a better grip under the harness. You start in again and I imagine what your mouth would feel like. I know every inch of it, know every ridge of the roof and every tastebud on your tongue and every valley of your teeth with my fingers and my tongue, but fuck how I wish I could feel those with my cock.”

dirty story | Read the whole thing →

Back on the Path
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“These days, I rarely write here about my personal life. I know that’s been an appeal of Sugarbutch for a long time, but the last six months have proven to be the most difficult winter I’ve ever gone through, and I don’t even know how to write about it. Maybe I will, someday. Maybe things will start to make more sense soon. I’ve written about the precursor some, so perhaps some of you can guess the inevitable outcome. But I’m not ready to write about it all yet.

It’s strange to not write it. This place has been my first go-to for relationship changes and processing for years, and it has always been a comfort to reveal and work through things in this way. The biggest problem is that as my audience has grown, the things I am exploring have changed, and many of my own edges are controversial.”

journal entry | Read the whole thing →

This is how we wake up.
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“He drops and shudders again, slow and steady on his hands and knees, disappearing around the corner. I hear him shuffle on the wood floor. I have my cock on and hard when he gets back. He spreads the blanket out and I knock him forward onto the bed, on his stomach, bent over the side. Press my body up against his and he moans, calls out, his neck long, mouth open. Cock pressed between his legs. Feel it? Got me so hard, little faggot. Are you going to be a good boy and take it for Daddy? Huh?

Trigger warning: Daddy/boy play, rough sex. journal entry / dirty story | Read the whole thing →

Favorite reads from 2013

It was kind of a bad reading year for me. I remember early on in the year, wondering why I couldn’t seem to concentrate on whatever book I was reading, and my therapist commenting on how much hardship I’d been going through, and how it makes sense that my brain couldn’t concentrate on other people’s stories. I think it was too busy rearranging to my new reality. Still, I missed reading, so I tried to dial down my books, reading things that were just easy rather than complicated or full of big thoughts. I read a lot of dirty novels, and poems, and tried to get through gender theory (and sometimes did).

These were the very favorites of my year. Things I couldn’t put down, things that changed my world view, things that were notable and I would highly recommend.

     

How Poetry Saved My Life, Amber Dawn; Excluded, Julia Serano; Dark Secret Love, Alison Tyler; Ask the Man Who Owns Him, David Schachter & david stein; Rise of the Trust Fall, Mindy Nettifee; Slow Surrender by Cecilica Tan

     

Real Happiness, Sharon Salzberg; Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknovich; Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman; The Killer Wore Leather, Laura Antoniou; A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki; The Big Book of Orgasms, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I keep track of books over on GoodReads, and so this list is based on my top rated books from 2013. I’ve put forward goals for the last four years on GoodReads, but I didn’t make it last year. I lowered my number again for this year, and am hoping to read more, now that I have more of my concentration back.

Most listened to music from 2013

Some are from 2011 or 2012, but I’m still playing them, or they’re new to me this past year.

I’m not going to put albums by Morphine, KD Lang, and Tori Amos on this list, but they were actually my very most listened to artists in 2013. They’re my top favorites I guess, I go back to their libraries all the time.

aims Bat_for_Lashes_-_The_Haunted_Man_cover Clairy_Browne First-Aid-Kit-The-Lions-Roar Holly-Williams-The-Highway brettdennen

Aims by Vienna Teng (2013); The Haunted Man by Bat for Lashes (2012); Baby Caught the Bus by Clairy Browne & the Banging Rackettes (2011); The Lion’s Roar by First Aid Kit (2012); The Highway by Holly Williams (2013); Smoke & Mirrors by Brett Dennen (2013)

Matt-Nathanson Me'Shell+Ndegeocello-Weather mojojuju PattyGriffin-AmericanKid The-xx-Coexist waxwings

Last of the Great Pretenders by Matt Nathanson (2013); Weather by MeShell Ndegeocello (2011); Mojo Juju’s self-titled first album (2012); American Kid by Patty Griffin (2013); Coexist by The XX (2013); Wax Wings by Joshua Radin (2013)

I’ve been more into music in the past than I think I am now—I keep up with new releases less, and even listen to less music, moreso just going back to the artists I love and listening to my favorites. I still make a lot of mixes, though. This list is largely based on my last.fm account and my itunes and my brain.

Top posts of 2013 that were published in other years

Just in case you want more reads, and these weren’t enough to keep you clicking around the internet for a few hours, here’s some of the top posts on Sugarbutch in 2013 according to the number of times they were read, but they weren’t published in 2013. I’m glad that y’all still go back into the archives sometimes!

Y’all really like the dirty stuff, don’t you. Uh huh. Duly noted as I go forward in 2014.

I do actually have some resolutions this year … particularly, I have some resolutions for “blogging,” for writing here. I think I’ll go share them with the newsletter.

Comment Zen … Requests & Ideas

Oh hey! So you want to comment on this? I’d love that. Here’s some ideas for what you might want to say:

  • What was your favorite writing on Sugarbutch this year? What posts do you frequently go back to, from this year or from other years?
  • What were your favorite books from 2013?
  • What was your favorite new music album of 2013?
  • For that matter, I would love your favorite books or music recommendations of all time, especially books that are beautifully easy to fall into and stay up late reading, which for me is mostly really good fiction. But whatever you found yourself lost in recently, I’d love to know.
  • What do you hope to see more of in 2014?
  • Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?

That should be enough inspirational questions, right? Thanks for reading this far. I hope you found some good reads or some good musical inspirations.

Leave a comment

Why Lesbian Erotica is Valuable Activism

ble14I’m reading some erotica—along with Jen Cross, Carol Queen, Amy Butcher, Xan West, M’kali-Hashiki, Cheryl Dunye, BD Swain, & Jiz Lee—to celebrate the release of Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 this Thursday night. (Details here and here and here.) I’m so excited to have helped curate an amazing lineup, and I am now sacrificing all the luck I have to get a good audience to show up. If you’re in the area, come!

I’ve been thinking about “lesbian erotica” lately, how edgy it is, how valuable it is. There’s a bit of controversy around this particular publication of Best Lesbian Erotica, and while I have a lot of thoughts about that article, I still have a lot of my own feelings about how important lesbian erotica is, and how it helps on the process of building one’s some people’s identities. (“One” here meaning someone FAAB who tends to prefer to sleep with other FAAB people, at least at some point in their life.) [ UPDATE: Katherine commented, “So, why don’t you feel that lesbian erotica is important to building the identity of trans-feminine spectrum lesbians?” And of course that’s a valid point. I’m sorry to have excluded trans women from that statement, and that was an oversight on my part. I was trying to be specific, and ended up being TOO specific. It doesn’t really matter who “one” is in that sentence above, all that matters is that some people use lesbian erotica to develop their own identities, and that’s my point. It is valid for all kinds of genders and orientations, and I never meant to leave anyone out. I’ll try not to write so hastily in the future, and be more careful. See my comment for a bit more of my thoughts. ]

I realized I wrote about my own experience with it, and why I think queer smut (“lesbian erotica”) is valuable activism, in my introduction to the 2012 Best Lesbian Erotica anthology, so I figured I’d share it with you here.

See you Thursday night, right?

Introduction to Best Lesbian Erotica 2012

I know what I want.

I knew exactly what I was looking for when I read the submitted stories for this anthology: dirty, smutty, smart about gender, smart about power, packed full of sex with the bare necessary descriptions of setting and context, and, oh yeah, good writing. It doesn’t have to be dirty in my personal favorite ways—with sultry accoutrements and costuming like stockings and strappy sandals, or with strap-ons and lots of fucking, or with blow jobs and dirty talk. I like stories where the characters are so turned on and lusty that I feel it too, even if it is not my particular kink or pleasure. I like stories with unique descriptions and rolling prose and insatiable narrators and rising and falling action. I like stories where I want to recreate the action for myself, when I am inspired by the delicious positions and settings and words.

Yes, and the words, let’s not forget the words. That’s what these kinds of books are all about, really. If you wanted a quick, easy turn on, you could load up any of dozens of queer porn sites—there is no shortage of real, good queer porn out there these days. But for some of us that is too crass, and a well-done turn of phrase gets us swooning and biting our lips and rubbing our thighs together even more than a dirty video.

I didn’t always know what I wanted. When I was coming out in the late 1990s, though there was a serious lack of queer porn in the video stores, there were plenty of people paving the landscape for what would become the blossoming queer porn of the 2000s. Diana Cage, On Our Backs magazine, Good Vibrations, (Toys in) Babeland, Annie Sprinkle, Susie Bright—and, of course, Tristan Taormino. It was Tristan’s 1998 Best Lesbian Erotica anthology that for me clicked something into place, something I could no longer pretend wasn’t there. I would hide the book in the back of the shelves at the bookstore where I worked so it wouldn’t get purchased, and I’d sandwich it between two others and sneak it into the stock room to read when it was slow. I wore creases into the spine with Toni Amato’s story “Ridin’ Bitch” and Karlyn Lotney’s story “Clash of the Titans.” I was genuinely confused as to why I liked these stories so much. What was this affect they had on me? Why did I love them so much? What did it all mean?

I began to find other books, short stories, and essays that helped move my budding baby dykery along: Nothing But the Girl—oh, swoon. That essay by Anastasia Higgenbotham in Listen Up: Voices From the Next Feminist Generation. Cunt by Inga Muscio. Breathless by Kitty Tsui. And the Herotica series, which was erotica for women before Rachel Kramer Bussel’s prolific erotica editing career.

I bought one of the Herotica books at a little indy bookstore—now gone—on Capitol Hill in Seattle when I visited one summer, before moving there. But it proved to be too threatening to my boyfriend who, enraged some night after yet another argument about my sexuality, stabbed that book and two other lesbian erotica books with the wide-handled screwdriver which I’d used to masturbate since I was a teenager.

These books are filled with three powerful things: 1. women, who are 2. empowered, 3. about their sexuality (which, by the way, does not involve men). Even the books themselves are threatening.

These books of lesbian erotica are not fluff. They are not nothing. They are not frivolous or useless.

For queers coming out and into our own, they are a path.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve managed to snag myself a lesbian bed death relationship, going out of my mind with desire and disconnection. I stopped writing, because the only thing that I was writing was how miserable I felt, how much I wanted out of that relationship—a reality I wasn’t ready to face. I decided that to work off my sexual energy, I would either go to the gym or I would write erotica. Well, I ended up writing a lot of erotica, rediscovering this tool of self-awareness and self-creation that had led me to smut in the first place, and I began writing myself back into my own life, back into the things that I hold most important: connection, touch, release, holding, witness, play.

My first published smut story was in Best Lesbian Erotica 2006. Between the time I wrote it and the time the book came out, I was beginning to end the bed death relationship, in no small part because I’d reminded myself of the value of the erotic, of my own inner erotic world, of erotic words. Between the time I wrote it and the time it came out, I started Sugarbutch Chronicles, which has carried me through these last five plus years, often being my sanctuary, support circle, best friend, and confidant.

Writing these stories, for me, has not been frivolous. They have not been nothing. They are not fluff or useless.

For me, they were a path back to myself when I got lost.

When I was lost, I had no idea what I wanted, aside from the basic daily survivals: work. Eat. Pay bills. Sleep. Shower. But when I wrote, when I connected with my own desire, I felt a little piece of me bloom and become in a bigger way. I felt more like myself.

I turned again to the great books of smut to help me find myself, to help me find a way back to a partner, a lover, a one night stand—hell, even an hour with a Hitachi was sometimes enough. The Leather Daddy and the Femme. Mr. Benson. Switch Hitters: Gay Men Write Lesbian Erotica and Lesbians Write Gay Male Erotica. Back to Basics: Butch/Femme Erotica. Doing It For Daddy. And Best Lesbian Erotica, always Best Lesbian Erotica. I still eagerly buy it every year to see what the guest editor’s tastes are, to see what the new trends are, to read the emerging new writers, to get my rocks off.

I rediscovered what I wanted through reading smut and writing it. Through carving myself a path in connection with a lineage of sex positive dykes and sex radicals and queer kinksters and feminist perverts.

After six years of writing and publishing erotica, I am thrilled to be a guest editor for the series which sparked me into queerness in 1998, thrilled to be choosing stories for the same series that published my very first piece, “The Plow Pose,” in 2006, which helped spark me back to myself. It is so exciting to be contributing to this queer smut hotbed that Cleis Press has helped nurture all these years, and I’m so glad to continue to be part of it in new ways.

I know what I want, now. And lesbian erotica, or as I prefer to call it, queer smut, has helped me not only visualize what is possible, but create a path toward getting what I want.

The stories in tis book reflect my taste, my favorites, my personal hot spots, certainly, but also the best-written stories from a large pile of well-written stories by some of my favorite authors, like Kiki DeLovely and Xan West and Rachel Kramer Bussel. There are some less-well known writers in here whose work you may not be familiar with, yet, but who will leave an impression on you, writers like Anne Grip and Amy Butcher. I found dozens of moments of signposts, signals directing me toward myself, words illuminating my own meridians of ache. With each story, with each act of lust, with each dirty command or submissive plea, I rediscovered my own want.

I hope you find some of what you want within these pages, too.

You can still pick up print copies of Best Lesbian Erotica 2012 via your local queer feminist independent bookstore, or, if you must, through Amazon.

And: Come see me & Jen Cross, Carol Queen, Amy Butcher, Xan West, M’kali-Hashiki, Cheryl Dunye, BD Swain, & Jiz Lee read smut from Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 this Thursday night, 12/12, in San Francisco at the Center for Sex & Culture. $20 at the door includes a copy of the book! Details here.

Writing your story is “an investment in one’s self,” and more from Amber Dawn

howpoetryI published a note about me & Amber Dawn reading some poetry this week earlier today, but I forgot that I have this lovely little interview from Amber Dawn’s publisher, Arsenal Pulp Press.

Interview with Amber Dawn

Q: The format of How Poetry Saved My Life (prose pieces mixed with a variety of poetry forms) deviates from what readers might have come to expect from the literary memoir form. Sections “Outside,” “Inside” and “Inwards” hint at a narrative arc, though the overall structure remains more loose and thematic than chronological. Why did you choose to tell your story this way?

Amber Dawn: I have a great deal of admiration for authors—especially ex-sex workers—who write their memoir as a chronological journey. Some books I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently are Whip Smart, by Melissa Febos and Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, by Diablo Cody. I doubt I’d have the wherewithal to sit down and write my own story in this manner. How Poetry Saved My Life encompasses nearly fifteen years of collected writing. I wrote each piece for different reasons. Some poems had more therapeutic or cathartic beginnings, harken to the book’s title. Some prose I wrote to present at sex worker conferences or forums. It took a while before I realized I had an entire book’s worth of writing, and a bit longer still before I felt brave enough to release these collected stories and poems publicly. I view the account of my experiences as more of an emotional journey, rather than a chronological one. Through this approach I hope readers will make there own personal connection to the book, even if they’re life experiences are different from my own.

Q: The book represents nearly fifteen years of collected writings. You’ve had a very diverse writing career—you’ve edited horror and porn anthologies and dipped into the magical realist genre with your first novel Sub Rosa. How did you come to write a non-fictionalized memoir?

A: I believe a voice is a powerful and privileged resource to possess, especially when it comes to something like sex work, which is constantly silenced and stigmatized. Through performing on both small and larger stages, I’ve found that in every audience there is at least one woman (or man) who not only relates to my story, but feels almost desperate to have silence around sex work and survivorship broken. I feel a duty to speak up.

Q: Is there a piece of prose or poetry in the collection that was particularly difficult for you to write or realize, and in turn share with readers?

A: “Lying is the Work” is a personal essay that juxtaposes a bad date I had during the last year of working in the sex trade with my grandfather’s story of joining the Navy at age 17 to fight in WW2. This is one of very few examples where I bring my family history into my work. I love my family and want to protect and spare them of triggers or “digging up dirt.” While I’m proud of who I am, I acutely understand that survivors and sex workers are stigmatized and that this stigma can impact families and loved ones.

Case in point, recently, my grandfather disowned me when I married my wife—a ceremony that everyone in my family attended but for him. Therefore, I feel I can tell a bit of the story between my grandfather and I—in a dignified and objective way—without worrying about him reading it. As an Italian-American immigrant and Navy veteran he has a tremendous story of survival. It’s bitter sweet that I relate to him as a survivor and yet we have no present-day relationship. This makes the personal essay very difficult for me.

Q: RADAR Productions recently awarded you the 2012 Eli Coppola Memorial Poetry Chapbook Prize for “How I got My Tattoo.” How does the title poem of that particular collection fit into your personal narrative in How Poetry Saved My Life?

A: What an honour to win the Eli Coppola Memorial Poetry Prize, and just before I launch How Poetry Saved My Life! I have a quite a few titles like How Poetry Saved My Life and “How I Got My Tattoo” that are posed like answers to questions. Sex workers and survivors get asked questions all the time. I could over-simplify all these questions to essentially, “How did this happen to you.” I hate that question—the question implies that being a survivor or being a sex worker is outside the norm and needs explanation—when in fact these experiences are very common. Nonetheless, I also sympathize that people need to ask questions and discuss. The titles that I’ve written as answers to questions are there to promote discussion in a proud and creative way.

Q: In the book you cite author Jeanette Winterson and “powerful women whose voices have been cut short” among your inspirations. Would you tell us more about how you have been influenced by literary and activist voices in your life?

A: I was in my teens and early 20s in the 1990s, and was gobsmacked by the Riot Grrl movement. My first serious girlfriend introduced me to the feminist music and zine culture and listing to Team Dresh and Bikini Kill gave me the idea that I too had something to say. Not only where these voices powerful, but they were accessible. I didn’t need education to understand the feminist politicking of Riot Grrl. But after being introduced to feminist art and literature, I wanted to learn more. This was probably the first time I ever wanted to learn or read anything. I began reading Jeanette Winterson, Beth Goobie, Larissa Lai, Evelyn Lau, Sharon Olds, Lucille Clifton, Michelle Tea, Sarah Schulman. Finally, I understood the comfort and solidarity that could be found through books.

Q: You’ve toured with the Sex Workers Art Show, created short films, as well as performed at a variety of venues including the Vancouver Art Gallery. How does your performance and film background compliment or deviate from your writing?

A: Performing at galleries or appearing in my own films has helped me get into my body. Like many survivors, I’m inclined to live in my head, my imagination is a real sanctuary. Performance art has allowed me to embody the themes and emotions of my work and connect more closely with audience. I really feel the work when I’m hurling my body around a stage. In turn, this has helped me sink into a deeper connectivity to my written work.

Q: You now teach creative writing classes—some to queer and at-risk youth. Can you say more about the potential of art to be a survival skill and lifeline to others?

A: Something very palpable occurs when a person writes their story. It doesn’t have to be for future publication, but simply to put memories on paper and/or to read them in a room full of safe, supportive listeners. It’s an investment in one’s self. It’s an act of acknowledging one’s worth. It’s making the unspoken, heard. This can have life-changing impacts on people who have been shut down or silenced. Each time I run a creative writing workshop I see a little bit of change happen. “Thank you for listening,” my students always say to me. They don’t need to thank me; they should thank themselves. They do transformative work when they use their voices.

Opportunities with the BUTCH Voices Media Team

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.

Gaga Feminism Giveaway! And Q&A with Jack Halberstam

I—like, I suspect, many of you—was first introduced to Jack Halberstam’s work in college, where I read Female Masculinity in a gender studies class. Jack’s work has been largely influential on the gender binary critiques and to many people that I have studied and read since, and of course influential on my own ideas about gender and performance and masculinities too.

And, he’s got a new book out! The book is called Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal and it’s published by Beacon Press, officially released yesterday, September 18th. It’s an incredibly readable book—like Jack said in my interview with him for Lambda Literary Foundation earlier this year, it’s on an unacademic press and intended for a wider audience. So even if you’re not a theory buff—and I’m not, though I do love theory—it’s a very good read.

A Few Quick Questions for Jack Halberstam

(It’s intimidating to interview one of your mentors! Thanks Jack!)

1. When you discuss the concept of “gaga feminism,” which you say is a feminism “that recognizes multiple genders, that contributes to the collapse of our current sex-gender systems, [and is] a feminism less concerned with the equality of men and women and more interested in the abolition of these terms as such,” (p25), I find myself identifying deeply. I run in many communities which are more invested in that than in the analyzation of the male-female binary, and often feel disillusioned with the mainstream feminism movements which have less concepts of breaking down the system and more that seem to maintain it. How can gaga feminism help queers and genderqueers and other marginalized communities get our message farther into the mainstream, to continue to influence the larger culture? What barriers keep our gaga feminist perceptions of gender from reaching the mainstream, and do you have any suggestions for how to continue the activism of working to break down those barriers?

Great questions Sinclair! As you say, it is frustrating to see so many people acting as if male and female are totally stable categories and as if all the changes in technology, in social formations, in sexual identities and in the visibility of queer bodies have made no difference whatsoever! I hoped and still hope that GAGA FEMINISM would have some appeal as a more mainstream and readable book and that it would be able to circulate complex ideas about sex, gender and fast-changing technologies of gender in an accessible and fun way. That said, there have been a few books out recently like How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, The End of Men by Hanna Rosin and Marry Him by Lori Gottlieb that purport to be feminist analyses of men, women, marriage, work, love and family but actually they mostly shuffle around the same old cliches about hetero reproduction and hope for the best. GAGA FEMINISM begins with the premise of taking a longer tradition of anti-marriage, anti-capitalist feminism seriously and joining it to new queer theory and queer forms of life.

2. I loved your writings about The Kids Are All Right (which start on p54). I enjoyed that film quite a lot and have had many elaborate conversations about its construction, but you articulated some new things I hadn’t heard. I am especially curious about what you said about depictions of relatively sexless long term (lesbian) relationships, as I have been theorizing a lot lately about keeping the spark going in a long term commitment. You’ve been with your partner for many years now—do you have any tips or suggestions about staying sexually connected and satisfied while building something long term?

Well, my point there was that straight culture likes the idea that lesbian long-term relationships are more prone to “fizzle out” that others because women are the kindling rather than the spark when it comes to romance…pardon the metaphor but you get my point. Heterosexual mainstream conversations about desire love to depict women as the ones who create an environment for love and romance and men as the ones who set the whole thing on fire. For this reason, when you have two women, the old narrative goes, you have a lot of love and cuddling but no real…spark! So, The Kids Are All Right feeds into that narrative and assigns all the sexual energy to the sperm donor dad. But that was just one of many reasons I found the film disappointing. As for tips on staying sexually connected etc…sorry dude, I am a terrible advice columnist!!

3. You talk quite a bit about butches and butchness in this book (p86). I do a lot of organizing around butch identity and community, including some work for the BUTCH Voices conferences (and of course your book Female Masculinity has been a huge influence on my understandings of genders). You mention the concept of stone and melting the stone in particular, which is something that I discuss and think about often. I tend to define stone as “having control over how one’s body is touched,” which is not quite the same as impenetrable or not ever receiving sexual pleasure or stimulation. Have you noticed that the caricature of stone butches as “rigid or immobile or frozen” (p86) has changed as we are entering an age of gaga feminism, with more depth of understanding and multiplicity in our definitions of gender roles in general? How can we continue to break down those frozen stereotypes and build something unique and open, with more room for people to be expressing themselves authentically and not feeling stuck in limitations of labels?

Yeah, definitely. I was just using the example of the stone butch in GAGA FEMINISM in order to say that we assign pathological narratives to masculine behavior when it appears in the butch (inflexibility or impenetrability becomes neurotic) but not when it appears in a man. If the man does not want to be penetrated, then he is, well, normal! And in fact, if he does want to be penetrated, then he is suspect. I think GAGA FEMINISM is about recognizing the rapidly generated new forms of desire, embodiment, orientation that proliferate all around us and developing new systems for naming them, owning them and inhabiting them.

**

J. JACK HALBERSTAM is the author of four books, including Female Masculinity and The Queer Art of Failure. Currently a professor of American studies and of ethnicity and gender studies at the University of Southern California, Halberstam regularly speaks and writes on queer culture and gender issues and blogs at BullyBloggers.

Giveaway! I have one copy for one lucky commenter …

Thanks to Beacon Press, I’ve got an extra copy of Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal to give away. I’ll pick a number at random on Monday, the 24th of September, and the corresponding commenter will get the copy.

In order to enter, simply leave a comment on this post and tell me one influential book you’ve read about feminism, or one book about gender, or something you love about Jack Halberstam, or something else entirely. Make sure you leave a valid email address; anyone can enter. I prefer to mail the book to someone in the US, because I’ll be paying for postage—so if you are outside the US, I might ask you to kick me a few bucks to cover the cost of mailing you the book.

Tomorrow’s Gaga Feminism Blog Tour post will be at The Qu—check it out.

Gaga Feminism was sent to me from Beacon Press to review. Thanks Beacon! Pick up your own copy at your local feminist queer bookstore, or, if you must, from Amazon.

The 24th Annual Lammys Brief Sugarbutch Recap

 

Kristen and I attended the Lammys on Monday night, the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony to celebrate excellence in LGBT literature. I’ve attended the past four years and while neither book that I edited was a finalist this year, I hope Say Please will be next year!

And, in addition to attending and being a judge, which I was last year also, I presented the erotica category with Emmanuel Xavier, and got to rip open the envelope and pronounce the winner of the Gay Erotica category. There were beautiful speeches by Kate Millet and Armistead Maupin, who were awarded the lifetime achievement award, and by Stacey D’Erasmo (one of my favorite writers ever) for the mid-career award. I was thrilled to celebrate Tristan Taormino’s anthology Take Me There, which I have a story in, that took home the Lammy for Transgender Fiction, and I was sad to see Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme not win.

Some notable winners:

  • Lesbian Debut Fiction: Zipper Mouth, by Laurie Weeks, The Feminist Press
  • Lesbian Fiction: Six Metres of Pavement, by Farzana Doctor, Dundrun Press
  • Lesbian Memoir/Biography: When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love & Revolution, Jeanne Córdova, Spinsters Ink
  • LGBT Drama: A Menopausal Gentleman: The Solo Performances of Peggy Shaw, by Peggy Shaw, University of Michigan Press
  • LGBT Nonfiction: A Queer History of the United States, by Michael Bronski, Beacon Press
  • LGBT Studies: Sister Arts: The Erotics of Lesbian Landscapes, by Lisa L. Moore, University of Minnesota Press; Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality, by Margot Weiss, Duke University Press (was a finalist but didn’t win, but I am going to look this one up)
  • Transgender Fiction: Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica, ed. by Tristan Taormino, Cleis Press
  • Transgender Nonfiction: Tango: My Childhood Backwards and in High Heels, by Justin Vivian Bond, The Feminist Press
  • Lesbian Erotica: Story of L, by Debra Hyde, Ravenous Romance
  • Lesbian Poetry: Love Cake, by Leah Lakshmi Piepza-Samarasinha, TSAR Publications

I tossed ’em into my Amazon store if you’d like to sort through them over there:

I am really excited to read these. I’m thinking I might make it a Lammy summer and just go for it. I’m definitely going to send this list to my book group and see what interests them.

It felt a little different this year … it was sold out, I think there were more people in attendance, and I think there were more trans folks, genderqueer folks, and people of color than I’ve seen at previous Lammy ceremonies. I hope that’s true. It also seems like the Lammys are getting way more press than they used to. The first year I attended, I went online after to confirm my notes and couldn’t find any article covering it from any publication, and now there are quite a few online publications covering them. They have definitely stepped it up and it seems to be paying off.

As a former bookseller, they have always been on my radar, but I think they are getting a little more widely noticed. Or maybe I’m just more and more involved in the queer literary scene? That could be true too. Regardless, I had a fantastic time, it was great to run into friends and to meet authors I didn’t know of before.

Here’s a full list of the winners, and I’ll keep an eye out in case they post more photos.

Recent Other Books of Note: New Works by Barbara Carrellas, Kate Bornstein, Diana Cage, & Tristan Taormino

I have been so busy telling you all about Say Please that I have barely even mentioned some of the other recent notable books I’ve picked up. All are fantastic reads and have plenty to offer for the novice or the very experienced kinkster.

   

Ecstasy is Necessary by Barbara Carrellas I’ve already mentioned on Sugarbutch, but it’s worth mentioning again if you haven’t read it yet. If you’re interested in exploring your own sexuality, getting closer to your own desires, having a lovely introduction to some tantric explorations, or taking a good, long reflective look at your sex life and relationship/s, this is an incredible place to start.

Queer & Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein is a beautiful, stunning memoir about Kate’s time as a scientologist (!), then being excommunicated and losing her family, then transitioning and coming out as a kinkster on the West coast, and finally moving to New York. It’s an incredible story and I loved every page.

The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino really is the Ultimate Guide to Kink. There are essays in here from all sorts of mentors and experienced authoritative kinksters, and the book covers all kinds of fascinating topics. I’m especially excited about Barbara Carrellas’s chapter on kinky tantra, the age play chapter, and the “inside the mind of a sadist” chapter. I haven’t finished it yet (I’ve barely started it, actually) but I’m already thrilled. Cleis Press is contributing amazing things to the kink and sexualities worlds and I’ll read anything they put out.

Mind-Blowing Sex: A Woman’s Guide by Diana Cage might look like some basic women’s sexuality book, but it isn’t. It’s a complex commentary on our sexual culture and includes tons of ideas, exercises, and prompts to get you digging into your own sexual self. Kristen read it cover to cover and pronounced, “I’m going to send a copy to my sister.” It’s the kind of book that all our younger sisters should have (after we finish reading it).

There have been so many great books released this spring! I’m also really looking forward to Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel and Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson. I haven’t been all the way through the Lambda Literary finalists, though I like to pick through that list because they are often the best of the best. And of course I’ll be at the Lammys this year! Very excited to continue attending and being involved.

What have you been reading lately? Anything good?

Ecstasy is Necessary! The New Book by Barbara Carrellas

I’m finishing this up from the plane, 10,000 feet above, on my way to Alaska to be with my family. Good thing I had it mostly written already. More soon.

I am a little bit in love with Barbara Carrellas, so of course I jumped on the opportunity to be part of her book tour for her new book, Ecstasy is Necessary. I admire her in lots of ways, from a presenter to an erotic energy/tantra practitioner to a badass toomuch queer to a coach. Kristen and I have worked with her—together and separately—and her interpretations of what’s going on, advice, and practical solutions are things we have widely incorporated into our relationship.

She’s kinda known for teaching (and experiencing) “energetic orgasms,” and this book takes you through that—from her experience having one in an fMRI machine to the aftercare (appendix) which takes the reader through the steps for doing it ourselves.

This book is also a workbook—or, perhaps as she’d put it, a playbook—with many small exercises for exploration. Call it “My Ecstatic Sex & Relationship Operating Manual,” she writes. So yeah, you might need a little notebook or a blog to accompany your explorations in this book, which for me was an exciting bonus. From “What do you desire?” to “If you know what you wanted, what would it be?” to BDSM yes/no/maybe lists, she takes us readers through all sorts of inner explorations with the goal of greater sexual freedom, an improved sex life, and, yeah, ecstasy.

I read quite a few erotic guides, self-help books, tantric writings, and generally whatever I can get my hands on around these self-awareness subjects, and I particularly love this one because of Barbara’s perspective. She includes all sorts of queer, kinky, gender-forward, non-monogamous, and social media-based examples and insights that really speak to me. So frequently the authorities of these subjects are so normative, and that is just not the case with Barbara.

I get a lot of questions from folks in my email inbox and in that ask me anything inbox about how to have a satisfying sex life, how to overcome shame, how to get what they really want in bed, and I gotta say, this book is an amazing place to start with that. I bet I’ll be recommending it frequently. It’s not just for beginners, though—as I went through the exercises myself, I toyed through all sorts of useful things. I love how she discusses boundaries, radical acceptance, communication, erotic risks, and safer sex; I love her weaving in of the love languages and NVC, both tools that have been very useful for me; I found myself writing down many of her book sources, thinking, “oh I want to read that too.”

Here’s the official blurb for the book, which sums it up clearly:

From Barbara Carrellas, sex expert and author of the best-selling book Urban Tantra, comes Ecstasy is Necessary. This is not your average tips-and-techniques sex book; rather it is an exploratory journey of the sexual self and the infinite possibilities of ecstatic expression. In Ecstasy is Necessary, Carrellas teaches readers how to discover, nurture, expand, and embrace their authentic, ever-evolving, sensual, sexual self.

Everyone goes through different phases of sexual expression and desire, and there are an infinite number of erotic and ecstatic possibilities available at all points along the way. The insights readers will gain in their journey with Carrellas will help them confidently approach sex and relationships in a way that works for them no matter where they are in their sexual evolution. They will get tools for solving the inevitable challenges that arise. They’ll even receive permission not to have sex at all, if that’s what’s right for them, because it is possible to create ecstatic experiences even when sex itself is not possible, available, or appropriate.

Using stories and simple exercises, Carrellas helps readers understand how they are wired for sex and relationships, what their personal warning signs look like, and what they need for optimum care. Plus, they’ll learn how to effectively communicate this information to others so that they can be loved more easily and effectively.

As readers discover their authentic sexual selves, they will learn how to create the conditions that allow more and more of their experiences and relationships to be opportunities for—and invitations to—ecstasy.

Follow along for the rest of the tour, if you are inspired, and check out the book Ecstasy is Necessary and the website ecstasyisnecessary.com for excerpts and more.

1 March Kate Bornstein : Kate Bornstein’s Blog for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws. Alternative to suicide-or simply to a really bad day. Kate’s post is titled Got Ecstasy?

2 March Viviane : Viviane’s Sex Carnival~A Blog about Sex and Sexuality. Viviane’s post is titled BarbaraCarrellas” Ecstasy is Necessary: Virtual Book Tour.

5 March Betty Herbert : Love in the Long Run Today we’ll celebrate the publication of Ecstasy is Necessary in the United Kingdom. Betty’s post is titled Ecstasy is Necessary!

6 March Bevin Branlandingham : The Queer, Fat, Femme Guide to Life. Bevin’s post is titled Get Me Embodied: Ecstasy is Necessary Book Review and Interview With Author Barbara Carrellas.

7 March Kendra Holliday: Striving to bring shy folks out of their shell, and offer a safe haven for those exploring their sexuality and creative side. Kendra’s post is titled Barbara Carrellas” Ecstasy is Necessary.

8 March Sinclair Sexsmith : The sex, gender and relationship adventures of a kinky, queer, butch top. (That’s me!)

9 March Nancy L. HillCultivating a Beautiful Life

12 March Andrea Zanin : Thought on Sex and Life

13 March Rubyyy JonesLove Lust & Light

14 March Jill Boyd: Smart-ass Virgins Make Better Whoopie

15 March Official publication date of Ecstasy is Necessary. Barbara will be live blogging with friends and fans at HealYourLife.com.

Friday Reads: Better

Because there isn’t much else to do, I am working.

Reading books, going through to do lists. I’m webmastering for both Butch Voices national conference and

Cialis online orderingcgi?CA=929655-0003&PA=1694067&html=http://femme-cash.com/affiliates/feminist-porn-network/1514″>Perversions of Lesbian Lust, and I’m working on some freelance projects. I’m keeping my inbox as emptied out as possible (sometimes I use it as a place to hold information. I know, the GTD and time management people would not like that. But sometimes it really helps me find that info quick).

I have a lot of reviews to do. There are a lot of products on my desk waiting patiently for me to get ’em out and play with them. A lot of DVDs, quite a few books, some toys, especially from the new “Gender Expression” category at Babeland. I’m excited about these products, but it doesn’t make much sense to toss in a random review post now. I don’t even like that that piercing & body mod post is in the last page of updates. It doesn’t make sense here, not part of the narrative of the last week.

Has it really only been a week? Only barely.

I picked up and finished Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev this week. It’s not quite the same as coping with grief and loss, but it was interesting to think about how creativity can be a tool. In a conversation with my tantra teacher recently, she said some of her most creative growth periods have come out of profound grief.

I picked up Live Through This—or rather, the fine folks at Seven Stories Press sent me Live Through This when they sent me Rose—but I was drawn to it because of the amazing writers included. Seriously, look at that lineup: bell hooks, Patricia Smith, Cristy C. Road, Carol Queen, Annie Sprinkle, Elizabeth Stephens, Carolyn Gage, Eileen Myles, Diane DiMassa, Bonfire Madigan Shive, Inga Muscio, Kate Bornstein, Nicole Blackman, Silas Howard, Daphne Gottleib—and more. I loved Inga Muscio’s piece, but I’ve loved her style and voice and words for ages now and that’s no surprise. I had no idea that Kate Bornstein draws, and I loved the insight into her life that she opened up in her very personal essay. Eileen Myles’s essay freaked me out because it was about teeth, shudder, but it sure was effective. I love Nicole Blackman’s poetry and her piece was incredibly moving.

I’ve also been reading It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living edited by Dan Savage & Terry Miller. I’m supposed to review it for Lambda Literary, but I don’t even know what to say about it; so many people have said so many things. It is such a stunningly successful campaign, and I love what it has done and what it has inspired. I’ve been watching It Gets Better videos this week, reminding myself that it does get better, even when sometimes it doesn’t seem like it will.

I didn’t realize what a stellar line-up the It Gets Better book had in it, either. Ivan Coyote! Kate Bornstein. President Obama. It’s amazing, the list goes on and on. And sometimes the ones that are the most moving aren’t from anybody in particular, just someone who happens to be articulate about their gay experience and what it was like for them to make it better, or how it got better.

I’ve also been mulling over Kate Bornstein’s Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suidcide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws, and over Kate’s addition to It Gets Better, which is the essay that closes the book. It’s still one of my favorites.

So I’m trying to remember to take care of myself, to do whatever I need to stay alive, to keep going. This weekend, I think that’s going to involve cherry picking and watching a movie or two and hanging out with good friends, going outside to feel connected to the earth, reading some more books, eating strawberry shortcake made with our very fresh, very ripe CSA strawberries. And continuing to breathe, one more breath at a time.

Friday Reads: Rose: Love in Violent Times by Inga Muscio

I won’t lie: Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, Inga Muscio’s first book, changed my life. In fact, when I got Rose: Love in Violent Times in the mail last week, it made me want to pick up Cunt, and I started talking about it even as I was reading Rose. Kristen picked up Cunt this week (can you believe she’s never read it? I would have gifted her a copy two years and four months ago had I known that, I just assume everyone has) and has enjoyed reading it on her morning subway commute (and then I get to hear the stories later—love that).

While Kristen has been reading it this week, she remarked on how dated it seems, and I realized that it was published 13 years ago. Not only that, but it’s a very western American perspective, which struck me from reading Rose, how western Muscio’s voice and perspective is. It makes me a bit nostalgic, to be honest, and homesick, missing the culture on the west coast.

Rose is a bit different. Just released by Seven Stories Press, they describe the book with this question: “Rose breaks new ground in answering a fundamental question in most feminist and antiracist writing: how do we identify, witness, and then recover from trauma—as individuals, as families, as communities, and as a country?” I love this, it is fascinating and deep and hits on many of the things that I’m interested in exploring, especially around queer and gender stuff, but Muscio tackles larger (primarily US-focused) questions of war, rape, and abuse. I found it hard to read, because it was so direct and descriptive in the wrong-doings that surround us in this (western, US) culture. Of course, that’s also precisely the point, so though it was difficult to read, it was also quite successful.

I wish I could say that those questions of witnessing and recovering from trauma were addressed, though I think the “love” section of this book was a bit lacking. Maybe I just read it too quickly, maybe I wasn’t taking it to heart the same way I took in the “violence” section. I do think it’s important to participate in the healing process, not just for myself but for the culture, and Rose did a great job of inspiring more hard work towards those lofty goals, which I appreciate.

I’d be less inclined to pick it up again, however. Not like I am inspired to pick up Cunt or even Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil, Muscio’s second book. Still, all of her books are worth reading, and I adore her style and tone. But Cunt is the one I go back to again and again. As soon as Kristen’s done with it, I may just re-read it myself, it’s been a few years.

Rose: Love in Violent Times by Inga Muscio was sent to me by Seven Stories Press to review. Pick it up at your local independent queer feminist activist bookstore, or directly from the publisher, or order it online from Amazon, if you must.

Friday Reads: Favorites from 2010

2010 was the first year I was pretty diligent about using GoodReads to record what I’ve been reading, and it tells me I read about 50 books in 2010—I think that’s not quite right, but I’m going to try to be even better about it this year. In fact, I’ve made it a “goal” on GoodReads to read 100 books—given that I’m reviewing lesbian erotica for Lambda Literary Foundation, editing two books, am a judge for a literary contest, and my monthly book group, and just that is more than 50 books, I think I can make it.

2011 Reading Challenge

Sinclair has

read 16 books toward her goal of 100 books.

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Looking over the books I have listed on GoodReads as read in 2010, these are the ones that stand out. Not all of these are queer explicitly, though queer novels remain my favorite thing to read. And not all of them were published in 2010.

All are linked to Amazon for research purposes, but please do order and buy them from your local independent bookstore—Support booksellers! Support local culture!

In alphabetical order, because it’s hard to compare:

Aud Torvingen trilogy: The Blue Place, Always, & Stay by Nicola Griffith. I remember when Stay came out while I was working at the bookstore in Seattle (where I worked for almost 5 years as a bookseller), many people recommended it to me, saying I would like it. I think they assumed I would like it because I’m queer and it has a queer protagonist, but whatever. I (mistakingly) thought it was science fiction, and wasn’t so inclined to pick it up, but I finally picked up The Blue Place a few years ago (GoodReads says I read it in June 2009) and I was impressed. Well, first I kind of hated Aud Torvingen, the know-it-all, independently wealthy, accomplished-at-everything ex-cop turned private investigator who was trying to get her life together. But the end of the first book is so heartbreaking and good, I couldn’t just leave the characters suffering, so I had to read the other two in the series. I got hooked. And they just kept getting better. Easy, deep reading that I got lost in. I would read all of these again from the beginning.

Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser. I’ve been a little obsessed with books about healing and trauma the past few years, and I ran into this in a bookstore and picked it up from the library right after. Frequently my favorite books in about this kind of thing take a very Buddhist perspective (like When Things Fall Apart, Radical Acceptance, and When the Past Is Present), and while I love that, I also know that until I had a pretty strong base in Buddhist philosophy, I didn’t quite understand what they were talking about, and I found them difficult to read. Not this one, though. Broken Open talks about trauma, loss, grief, and healing from lots of different perspectives, weaving in stories and techniques from her workshops over the years. Very readable and very inspiring.

Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work is Done by Susan J. Douglas. It’s not out in paperback yet, so I’ve still got the hardback copy from the library and have renewed it about 25 times now. I keep thinking I’ll get to a full review of it on Sugarbutch, and so I should go back and look through my notes and dog-ears to figure out exactly what I want to say. So here’s the paragraph version: I have thought about this book often since I read it. The descriptions of the 1990s especially made me realize I grew up in a unique time, full of the closest we’ve gotten to the manifestation of the feminist and gender equality movements, and the 2000s have brought plenty of backlash—but in a more subtle, twisted way than the backlash of the 1980s and early ’90s. Now, the backlash makes feminism look like it is outdated. Feminism? Pshaw, who needs that, women are equal now! But through various examinations of entertainment, celebrity, films, TV, and other pop cultural artifacts, Douglas argues that it’s far from over. It changed the way I am looking at feminism, and gave me some new ways to talk about what’s going on now. Now excuse me, I want to go re-read it.

Lynnee Breedlove’s One Freak Show by Lynn Breedlove (Manic D Press, 2009). Just, awesome. I’m a fan, but I had no idea Breedlove is so funny! And readable, and smart, and clever. I identified with many of the struggles within the queer communities about gender, and loved the bits about cocks and sexuality. It was more than I expected, and made me feel like Lynnee is my buddy. I was able to be there when Lynn won the Lammy for in the Transgender category last year, and it was a thrill to hear a few of the best lines in the book delivered in person. My full review is up on LambdaLiterary.org.

Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation edited by S. Bear Bergman & Kate Bornstein (Seal Press, 2010). Things have changed since Kate Bornstein’s book Gender Outlaw, and this is the updated proof of the celebration and liberation that’s happening within the trans landscape right now, and the proof of how much further we have to go, and what else we need to work on. I would put this on my “required reading” list, and I bet a lot of other people out there would too. It’s a beautiful anthology. I especially love Bear and Kate’s introduction, which is a conversation via internet chat. My review on Sugarbutch and my companion piece, Ten Ways I am a Gender Outlaw.

Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon. A personal account of gender and masculinity insights throughout life, with illustrations of various relationships—friendships, marriage, kids, parents. I really love his writing, he has such a beautiful way of constructing a sentence, and I was really moved by his descriptions of feminism. Though maybe I shouldn’t be, I was surprised to find a straight white cis man writing so eloquently about gender dynamics and providing insight into so many of the difficulties that are imposed upon us in gender roles, and I think his accessibility brought these concerns to a lot of people since this book was published. It’s a great starting place for examining masculinity in more depth (which is one of the things I hope to do this year, and I have about five books waiting for me).

Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel. I didn’t expect to like this one as much as I did—I thought it would be pretty elementary, but it had some great insight into American culture and relationships. Perel is not American, and that outsider perspective was at times really interesting and useful. Of course, it is 99% heterosexual, and when she tries to include queer couples it doesn’t really account for any sort of difference in culture, but glosses over the difference and goes right to “all relationships have their difficulties, doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight,” which I get, but I think there’s a little more to it than that and it’s a little bit of a privileged position to be able to dismiss the queerness as just a personality trait akin to liking sports or being into cooking. Nevertheless, the tips and consciousness around building a long term relationship that remains sexual are important, and I’m glad I read it. My full review on Sugarbutch.

Missed Her by Ivan Coyote (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010). It wasn’t until I was telling a friend about the book that I realized that “Missed Her” is often mistaken as “Mister” in speech. What can I say about Ivan? She’s a masterful storyteller. She and I grew up in a similar region, and her tales about her childhood and her extended family feel so familiar and nostalgic and articulate in such a beautiful way. I love the descriptions of her new relationship love. I will continue picking up every book she puts out, and I’ve never been disappointed.

Mr. Benson by John Preston (Cleis Press, 2004). How is it possible that I did not read this book until last year?? I can’t believe I missed it. And now that I’ve read it, any time I mention it to queer folks—especially ones older than me—they all know about it, and know it well. So: It is a gay men SM novel first published as a serial in 1979, and then in full in the early 1980s. It’s from a time before the AIDS crisis. More good stuff on John Preston over at GLBTQ encyclopedia, if you want to know more context. The book is dirty and full of power and strength and dominance. The actual storyline is a little boring (I just wasn’t as invested in the human trafficking/exploitation part as I was in the beautiful D/s scenes), but the book does need something to keep it going. Apparently the book was so popular that there were both “Looking for Mr. Benson” and “Looking for Mr. Benson?” tee shirts all over in the ’80s, though of course they are not around now, at least not that I could find. I handed the book to Kristen as soon as I was done and she zoomed through it, then had a “Looking for Mr. Benson?” tee shirt made for me for winter solstice. It prompted me to think a lot about how I play with dominance, especially in my domestic life with Kristen, and we have talked about it frequently while trying to iron out difficulties between us in that play. And who knew piss play could be so awesome?

Origami Striptease by Peggy Munson (Suspect Thoughts Press, 2006). I’ve had this one on my shelf for a few years, not sure where I picked it up but I didn’t know much about it. I started reading it and was hooked: It is so ethereal, so surreal, at times it reads like poetry. The intention and clarity behind the word choices are so specific. It reminds me of Rebecca Brown or Jeanette Winterson, two of my favorite authors. I love getting lost in words and images like I did while reading this. Looks like it’s a little bit out of print now, which is too bad. Maybe the publisher still has it directly.

The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue. Historical fiction that recounts a divorce trial in the 1860s. I’m not so in to historical fiction, though on occasion I find it fascinating—particularly when I find it relevant, which, for the most part, I don’t find the genre, but I have found some of the recent books, like Sarah Waters’s novels, with lesbian content. I read this one for my book group, and I was skeptical—it took a while to really get into it. The first half of the book is elaborate descriptions of the two women’s friendship, and the details that lead up to the divorce, then the divorce trial happens for another 1/3 of the book (which I found terribly dull, though my lawyer friend thought was fascinating)—but the very end made it worth it. Though I was a bit triggered by all the psychological manipulation one of the characters continues to exhibit, I have still been recommending this quite a bit. It’s pretty fascinating to hear about the politics of marriage, family, cheating, and legality from 150 years ago—really not that long ago, but it exposes some of the ways we have directly evolved from those cultural standards.

Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch Femme Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino (Cleis Press, 2010). Call me biased if you like, because I have a story in this book, but this is my favorite erotica collection to come out for a long time. Not only because it’s butch/femme, but also because the stories are just good. Editor Taormino had a decade worth of Best Lesbian Erotica collections to pull from, and she picked the best of the best of the best, in my opinion. Plus, there aren’t very many explicitly butch and femme erotica anthologies, so I’m glad we’ve got one more. This one is still on my nightstand. My review on Sugarbutch.

Toybag Guide to the Taboo by Mollena Williams (Greenery Press, 2010). I’m a fan of Mollena‘s work in general, and when I saw her at the Lesbian Sex Mafia for her workshop Taboo Play and Working Through Extremes in early 2010 I admired her even more. This book is kind of the written version of her workshop, with many of the same stories and philosophies about what it’s like to be exploring the “taboo” sides of sexuality, like incest play, bestiality, force, and race play, and it is thoroughly thoughtful. Obviously Mollena has been thinking about these things for a long time, and it shows with her respect, care, and detail.

Follow my author profile over at GoodReads if you’d like to see more of the books I’m reading.

So let’s hear it: What were YOUR favorite books of 2010? What are you reading right now? What else do you recommend that I read?

Friday Reads: Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica

In keeping with the tradition I started this summer, featuring a butch or femme book on Fridays to countdown to the Femme Conference and then the Butch Voices regional conferences, I’m going to keep that up and continue featuring books on Fridays.

I was going to write about The Well Of Loneliness, Gold mentioned it when I wrote up Crybaby Butch last week and I thought, “Of course! Why didn’t I have that on my list?” It’s such a classic butch book. I expected it to be droll and depressing, but when I finally read it (in a british women writers of the ’20s class in college) it was incredible—so engaging, so well written, so articulate in the feelings of this “mannish” woman’s love for another woman. I definitely recommend picking it up, if you haven’t read it.

But … in light of the ridiculous amount of depressing news this week, let’s not even go there, let’s not mention a book called The Well of Loneliness, let’s not fall down a well of loneliness ourselves. Instead, let’s move on to something much more fun: smut.

I know I’ve mentioned it here before, but it’s worth revisiting. Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica, edited by Tristan Taormino, is a collection of the best butch/femme stories from the 16 years Taormino was the series editor for Best Lesbian Erotica. There are very few smut books specifically and exclusively with butch/femme content; this is the most recent, and, arguably, the best.

It is steaming hot.

“Butch/femme is erotic iconography. Butch/femme is bulging jeans, smeared lipstick, stiletto heals, and sharp haircuts. It’s about being read and being seen. Sometimes it’s about passing or not passing. It’s about individual identity and a collective sense of community. It’s personal, political. It’s a sexual electricity and power exchange. It’s the visceral space between the flesh and the imagination.” — from the introduction by Tristan Taormino

Here’s the description from Cleis Press:

Does the swagger of a sure-footed butch make you swoon? Do your knees go weak when you see a femme straighten her stockings? A duet between two sorts of women, butch/femme is a potent sexual dynamic. Tristan Taormino chose her favorite butch/femme stories from the Best Lesbian Erotica series, which has sold over 200,000 copies in the 16 years she was editor. And if you think you know what goes in in the bedroom between femmes and butches, these 22 shorts will delight you with erotic surprises. In Joy Parks’s delicious “Sweet Thing,” the new femme librarian in town shows a butch baker a new trick in bed. The stud in “Tag!,” by D. Alexandria, finds her baby girl after a chase in the woods by scent alone. And the girl in a pleated skirt gets exactly what she wants from her Daddy in Peggy Munson’s “The Rock Wall.” Sometimes She Lets Me shows that it’s all about attitude — predicting who will wind up on top isn’t easy in stories by S. Bear Bergman, Rosalind Christine Lloyd, Samiya A. Bashir, and many more.

Includes contributions by Alison L. Smith, Joy Parks, S. Bear Bergman, Amie M. Evans, Samiya A. Bashir, Rosalind Christine Lloyd, Kristen Porter, Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, D. Alexandria, Anna Watson, Shannon Cummings, A. Lizbeth Babcock, Sparky, Elaine Miller, Isa Coffey, Skian McGuire, Jera Star, Toni Amato, Peggy Munson, Sandra Lee Golvin, and Sinclair Sexsmith.

Pick it up at your favorite local independent feminist queer-friendly bookstore (if you want them to stay in business, that is), from Cleis Press directly, from Powell’s books in Portland (hi, #bvpdx!) or, if you must, from Amazon.

The Butch Voices NYC Conference Starts Today!

The Butch Voices NYC Regional Conference is almost here!

The conference itself is tomorrow, Saturday the 25th, with registration opening up at 9am and workshops beginning at 10am. I’m doing a Cock Confidence workshop at 1:30pm tomorrow, and I have two Aslan Leather harnesses, three Vixen Creations cocks, and another Tantus cock to give away. I’ll also be showing off the brand new hot-off-the-presses VIP Super Soft pack-and-play cock that is barely even released.

I’m also modering a panel called “In the Public Eye: Visibility in Media” with some fabulous folks: Denise Madison from GirlzParty, Grace Moon from Velvet Park Media, Gina Mamone from Riot Grrrl Ink, and Dasha Snyder of The D Word fame who writes at Digital Goddess.

But aside from my own involvement in the panel, there are many more things going on! Tonight is a social event to meet & greet conference attendees at Speed Friending/Dating at Dixon Place, tomorrow is a special Queer Memoir/Sideshow Reading Series Mash-Up at Bluestockings Bookstore, and there’s a special Butch Voices Submit play party in Brooklyn late tomorrow night.

I don’t know if I’ll make it out to play, but I’m really looking forward to meeting people, hanging out, and talking about butch things all weekend. Kristen is baking her “face off,” as she is prone to saying, making her famous rosemary sea salt chocolate chip cookies, savory corn and cheddar muffins, and a special treat for someone’s birthday tomorrow.

If you miss these events, there’s another Butch Brunch on Saturday, October 16th which will be a nice follow up to the conference for those who miss the company of other butches.

To tie up this nice countdown, I’m featuring a recent novel from 2004 called Crybaby Butch by Judith Frank, published by Firebrand Books. It won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Debut Fiction in 2005. My (lesbian) book group read it about a year and a half ago, and we all liked it quite a bit—which is hard, usually novels especially are hotly contested. I remember there being some disapproval of how the femme partners were depicted (as controlling, fairly stereotypical “women”, perhaps with not enough depth) but we liked the butches.

Here’s the premise, from the publisher’s website:

Drawing on her experience as an adult literacy tutor, Judith Frank’s first novel traces the difficult and sometimes hilarious connection between two butches of different generations – a middle-class, thirty-something adult literacy teacher and her older, working-class student. With a disparate group of adult learners as the backdrop, Frank examines, with warmth and wit, the relationship between education and gender, class, and racial identity. Judith Frank is a winner of the Astraea Foundation’s Emerging Lesbian Writer’s Fund prize in fiction. A professor of English at Amherst College, she lives and writes in western Massachusetts.

There are not very many books out there with “butch” in the title, and even fewer of them published in the last ten years. It’s a good read that is complex and interesting, engaging and emotionally enthralling. A few folks mentioned Crybaby Butch in the comments when I featured Stone Butch Blues two weeks ago, all of them with praise for the book.

Buy it directly from Firebrand Books, from your local independent bookstore, or, if you must, from Amazon.

So now that I’ve gone through some of the major butch books, tell me, which ones did I leave out? Are there others I should have featured?

Review: Female Masculinity by Jack Halberstam

Countdown to the Butch Voices NYC Conference: 1 Week!

I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend because the Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just a week.

If you haven’t registered yet, you better get to it! We probably have something like twenty tickets left, and it’s filling up fast. The workshops and the schedule, and don’t forget that there are other events on Friday and Saturday nights. More information on those events (open to the public!) shortly.

This week’s book is the classic text Female Masculinity by Jack Halberstam. See how I called it a “text” instead of a book or a pile o’papers? Well that’s ’cause it’s pretty academic. But don’t let that stop you—it’s an important, classic piece of writing on masculinity and femaleness, and deconstructs gender in ways that paved the way for gender activism and theory in the years after. It was first published by Duke University Press Books in 1998.

I know it sounds like it’s unreadable and intimidating, but it’s worth struggling through. I haven’t read it since college but it kind of blew my mind. I should add it to my list of books to re-read, especially with all this butch stuff coming up, I’m inspired to delve into the theory again.

Here’s the description of the book:

Judith Halberstam’s deft separation of masculinity from the male body in Female Masculinity. If what we call “masculinity” is taken to be “a naturalized relation between maleness and power,” Halberstam argues, “then it makes little sense to examine men for the contours of that masculinity’s social construction.” We can learn more from other embodiments of masculinity, like those found in drag-king performances, in the sexual stance of the stone butch, and in female-to-male transgenderism. Halberstam’s subject is so new to critical discourse that her approach can be somewhat scattershot–there is simply too much to say–but her prose is lucid and deliberate, and her attitude refreshingly relaxed. Essential reading for gender studies and a lively contribution to cultural studies in general.

In addition to this book, Halberstam is the keynote at Butch Voices LA on October 9th! She’s scheduled for 1:30 – 2:30pm on Saturday, and boy I would love to be there. I had to pick between the LA Butch Voices conference and the Talking About the Taboo conference at the CSPH, and with other travel I’m doing, it made sense to stay in the region. Plus, Megan is kickass and the lineup at the CSPH conference is going to be fantastic, and I’m attending two other Butch Voices conferences, so … not much of a contest. But if you’re going to LA, know that I am envious! And I hope her keynote is amazing and inspiring.

Jack Halberstam currently writes online at Bully Bloggers. Here’s her recent bio, lifted from there:

J. JACK HALBERSTAM, Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity and Gender Studies at USC. Halberstam works in the areas of popular, visual and queer culture with an emphasis on subcultures. Halberstam is the author of Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke Up, 1995), Female Masculinity (Duke UP, 1998), In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (NYU Press, 2005). Halberstam was also the co-author with Del LaGrace Volcano of a photo/essay book, The Drag King Book (Serpent’s Tail, 1999), and with Ira Livingston of an anthology, Posthuman Bodies (Indiana UP, 1995). Halberstam is currently finishing a book titled “Notes on Failure” and beginning another on “Bats”…yes, the ones with wings and teeth.

Pick up a copy of Female Masculinity from your local independent queer feminist bookstore (if you want it to be around next month, ya know), or, as usual, if you must, from Amazon.

Review: Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

Countdown to the Butch Voices NYC Conference: 2 Weeks

Did you see that? Does it really say “2 Weeks” up there in the title. Um, reality check. So much to do! And I’m going camping with Kristen this weekend. She’s already made her famous (or what should be famous) potato salad. Which seems like a bad plan (the camping, not the potato salad) because there is so much to work on. But I’ve been working all week, and am still re-integrating after the New Mexico trip, so this will be good for me, I know. And we’re going to our favorite campsite that we’ve visited so far, still on the hunt for the perfect one, far enough from the city that it’s quiet and spacious but not so far that we have to drive all day to get there. I think I will be sneaking away during the days to find a coffee shop with wifi in the northwest Catskills so I can spend a little bit of time on The Smut Machine, aka my laptop, working on Butch Voices media.

Meanwhile: I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend because the Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just two weeks. If you haven’t registered yet, now is the time! We are very near capacity and can only hold so many folks in the space, so make sure you put your name down if you want to come. The workshops and the schedule have been announced, and they look fantastic, it’s going to be a great day. Stay tuned for the full announcements of events around the conference, on Friday and Saturday nights.

I’m really talking about classic butch titles here, so I can’t not talk about Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg. How many of us have had someone give us a copy of this book, early on, perhaps before we even know ourselves, and say, “I think this is you”? How many of us first felt like we were tapping into something larger than our own struggle when we started reading about Jess.

I had the opportunity to hear Leslie speak here in New York a few years ago, for her newer book Drag King Dreams, and it was thrilling. I love that about New York, that sooner or later, everyone does some sort of gig here, everyone comes through. It’s a magnet for some of the most amazing writers and activists and I do not discount the value of that (even in all my complaining about the big city).

If this book has been on your list for years, if you always meant to get around to it, if you kept meaning to read it, consider this a sign: it’s time. Go pick up a copy from Paperback Swap or your local indy bookstore or heck, even Amazon.

From Alyson Press, the publisher:

Published in 1993, this brave, original novel is considered to be the finest account ever written of the complexities of a transgendered existence. Woman or man? That’s the question that rages like a storm around Jess Goldberg, clouding her life and her identity. Growing up differently gendered in a blue–collar town in the 1950’s, coming out as a butch in the bars and factories of the prefeminist ’60s, deciding to pass as a man in order to survive when she is left without work or a community in the early ’70s. This powerful, provocative and deeply moving novel sees Jess coming full circle, she learns to accept the complexities of being a transgendered person in a world demanding simple explanations: a he-she emerging whole, weathering the turbulence. Leslie Feinberg is also the author of Trans Liberation, Trans Gender Warriors and Transgender Liberation, and is a noted activist and speaker on transgender issues.

Leslie Feinberg’s website has some other great information about the book, including the covers that were published in countries outside the US, a video of her reading from the book, and her afterward to the 10th anniversary edition.

When I was at the Lambda Literary Awards last year, the honored Leslie Feinberg, but she was too sick to appear and give her speech—someone else, her publicist I believe, gave it for her. So she hasn’t been doing many appearances, but I hope she is still writing.

She has been publishing quite a few photographs through Flickr and Twitter (@lesliefeinberg) if you’d like to follow her there. And of course more information about her work is over on her site, transgenderwarrior.org.

Pick up a copy of Stone Butch Blues directly from Alyson Books, or head out to your local independent queer feminist bookstore, or, as usual, if you must, from Amazon.

Review: Butch Is A Noun

Countdown to the Butch Voices NYC Conference: 3 Weeks

The Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just three weeks. And in honor, I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend.

Butch Is A Noun, S. Bear Bergman’s first book, has been re-released by Arsenal Pulp Press just in time for the fall series of regional Butch Voices conferences. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a personal collection of essays about what it’s like to live outside the binary gender system, in more ways than one, and what the identity, word, noun, verb, and adjective “butch” means to Bear.

The first chapter of Butch Is A Noun, “I Know What Butch Is,” is one of my favorite essays that I think I have ever read. Bear has a PDF of it over on hir website, if you’d like to read it as a preview to perhaps buying the book, and there’s also a great video of Bear reading the first chapter (that I have posted before, but it’s time to post again):

(Just ignore the girls in the background. Seriously.)

One of my favorite comments about the book comes from Kate Bornstein, who says: “Butch Is A Noun is a book that… a) should be required reading in any gender studies curriculum, b) femmes should read whenever they’re feeling unloved, lonely or misunderstood, c) butches should read, d) all of the above. The answer, of course, is d. Thank you, dear Bear.”

There’s lots in there for not just butch-identified folks, but also for folks who love butches, regardless of your gender.

Here’s the description of the book from Arsenal Pulp Press:

Butch is a Noun, the first book by activist, gender-jammer, and performer S. Bear Bergman,won wide acclaim when published by Suspect Thoughts in 2006: a funny, insightful, and purposely unsettling manifesto on what it means to be butch (and not). In thirty-four deeply personal essays, Bear makes butchness accessible to those who are new to the concept, and makes gender outlaws of all stripes feel as though they have come home. From girls’ clothes to men’s haircuts, from walking with girls to hanging with young men, Butch is a Noun chronicles the perplexities, dangers, and pleasures of living lifeoutside the gender binary.
This new edition includes a new afterword by the author.

There’s lots of ways to connect with Bear online—read hir livejournal, follow @sbearbergman on Twitter, and of course sbearbergman.com.

In case you don’t know about it, Bear also has a new anthology, co-edited with Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation just released from Seal press. Pick that up directly from Seal Press, at your local independent queer feminist bookstore, or, if you must, from Amazon.

Pick up a copy of Butch Is A Noun directly from Arsenal Pulp Press, or head out to your local independent queer feminist bookstore, or, as usual, if you must, from Amazon.

Review: Dagger: On Butch Women

Countdown to the Butch Voices NYC Conference: Four Weeks

I’m still on vacation. But I wouldn’t deprive you of the Butch Voices countdown! Sugarbutch will resume regular posting on Wednesday, September 1st.

The Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just four short weeks. (And as someone who is part of the organizing committee, can I just say: GULP. So much to do!) And in honor, I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend. Just in case you want to start that butch library you’ve always been saying you might.

Dagger: On Butch Women edited by Lily Burana and Roxxie Linnea Due is, heartbreakingly, out of print. But it still exists out there in the world, especially with all the online booksellers. It was published by Cleis Press in 1994 and remains one of the only anthologies about butch identity out there … in fact, it’s the only one that I know of. There are other books on butch identity (as I’ll feature in the next few weeks!), but nothing quite like this.

I came across it when the Femme Top loaned me her copy and I immediately went out to pick up my own. It remains something I flip through and contemplate frequently, full of interviews, personal essays, analysis, gender dynamics, love letters to femmes, and touching stories of female masculinity out of compulsory femininity.

Pick it up at your local bookstore (who does used book searches, hopefully) or online, if you must, through Amazon.

And don’t forget, there are lots of great events coming up in September around the Butch Voices conference, starting with Butch Brunch on September 18!

Femme Conference Begins Today! & Countdown to the Butch Voices Conferences

It’s happening right now! Well not quite right now, since it’s earlier in New York City than it is over in Oakland, on the other coast where the sun sets over the water just like it’s supposed to.

The 2010 Femme Conference: No Restrictions begins today and an extravagance of femmes have gathered, including Kristen.

The hashtag for the conference is #femme2010 if you’d like to follow along on Twitter.

How do you like that collective noun, by the way? An extravagance of femmes? Not bad really. There’s a fascinating collective noun site connected to Twitter so that when you tweet your suggestion for the collective noun with the hashtag #collectivenoun it gets automatically updated and counted on the site. Plus, you can “like” other people’s suggestions (which also goes to Twitter). So what say you—what’s the best collective noun for femmes? Tweet it, or leave it in the comments. And check them out as they come in.

Okay, enough of that. You’re dying to know what the femme book is for today, right? Since we’ve got the Butch Voices regional conferences to count down to now, in NYC (September 25), Portland OR (October 1-3), and LA (October 8-10), I figured I’d do a butch/femme joint anthology.

There are other good femme books out there, though, don’t let me mislead you into thinking that Visible: A Femmethology, Femmes of Power, and The Femme Mystique are the only ones. There’s also:

And there’s Glamour Girls: Femme/femme Erotica by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Harrington Park Press; 2006) and With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn by Amber Dawn and Trish Kelly if you’re into erotica. Which, you know, you might be.

So now that I’ve recited pretty much every femme book that I know of and think are worth knowing, let’s get back to today’s feature. The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader edited by Joan Nestle, published by Alyson Books in 1992. It looks like it’s out of print, but you can probably still get it used in various places, like Powell’s online or, of course, Amazon (but only if you have to. Don’t you want independent bookstores to stay in business?).

The description of The Persistent Desire from Library Journal is as follows:

This anthology of stories, poems, and nonfiction accounts pays homage to a host of femme and butch lesbian relationships that have flourished over four decades. The narrators recount their experiences, describing how they met, how they took care of one another, and how they tried–or defiantly tried not–to fit in. The selections themselves bubble with passion and pain. Some dive beneath the surface to explore the varied meanings of gender roles, but most describe highly ritualistic manners of dress, hairstyle, and gesture that at times left the protagonist open to ridicule. In collecting these pieces into one volume, Nestle has made sure that the integrity and diversity of femme-butch relationships will not be lost. She has included narratives from women of many backgrounds and ethnic groups and from outside the United States.

This book was for me, as it was for many people, eye-opening, validating, breathtaking. I found it while I was still trying to articulate my own butch identity, and come into my orientation of dating femmes, and it blew past most of my doubts as if doing 80 on a motorcycle. I wanted to be part of that, I felt so connected to it. It changed the way I thought about myself and the way I thought about femmes.

It’s dated now. It was published almost two decades ago, and it reflects a different era of thought about gender identity and alignment assumptions. And while the trans movements were alive by then, much has happened on that front in the past 18 years since it was published and much transgender theory has affected gender theory deeply in wonderfully deliciously complicated ways.

We’re really due for an update.

And how about that, one is just on the horizon! Partners and butch/femme couple Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman have been working on an anthology titled Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme (see the connection to the first anthology’s title? Smart!) that is due out from Arsenal Pulp Press soon. Not sure what the exact date of publication is yet, but you can be certain I’ll be mentioning it here again. It looks like Ivan just picked up the postcards for the book from her publisher the other day, so it must be coming fairly soon! I will report back as I know.

There are more books, especially more butch/femme books, and more books just on butch identity by itself (look for more of those featured on the upcoming Fridays as we countdown to the Butch Voices NYC conference). I’ve made a new section in my Amazon Store exclusively for butch and femme books, so if you’re curious what else is out there, that’s a good place to start. And if you’ve got suggestions for what I missed, I’m glad to hear ’em!

UPDATE! Persistence: All Ways Butch And Femme has a webpage on Arsenal Pulp Press, a description, and is due out in the spring of 2011. Isn’t that cover great? It’s done by Elisha Lim, who also has a book of her own newly out from Alyson, 100 Butches, Volume 1.

If you see Zena at the Femme Conference, she supposedly has postcards for Persistence, so that’ll give you an excuse to say hi. She’s aka “The Silver Fox” because (guess) of her hair, so that should narrow it down for ya.

(Don’t you just love the Internet? I do. Thanks, Arsenal, for answering those questions.)

Countdown to the Femme Conference: Three Weeks

The Femme Conference 2010: No Restrictions is happening in Oakland, CA in just three short weeks. There’s still time to register!

I attended in 2008 in Chicago and it was a pretty amazing experience. I took away so many conversations about identity development and expression, about visible physical markers and femme fashion. I would love to attend again, maybe next time.

Recently, I was chatting with a femme friend who was in from out of town about being in leadership or facilitator positions within this gender world, and how many baby femmes and baby butches feel lost and alone when they’re coming to these identities. “I always tell them, read your history!” she said. There are lots of books out there, actually, that discuss the same things we are going through. Sure, they might be a little dated; sure, we might have a better sense of how to break identity alignment assumptions than those writing thirty years ago. But we do not have to reinvent the wheel: much of this work has already been done for us, and even has already been recorded and written about.

So, as a countdown to this fantastic conference, I’m going to feature a couple of different femme tomes that are really important in the heritage of the femme world—or that have been to me. If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend it.

The first, and most recent publication about femme identity (as far as I know) is the two-volume set Visible: A Femmethology edited by Jennifer Clare Burke and published by Homofactus Press.

Visible: A Femmethology is a collection of personal essays from over fifty contributors who explore what it means to be a queer femme. Award winning authors, spoken-word artists, and totally new voices come together to challenge conventional ideas of how disability, class, nationality, race, aesthetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, and body type intersect with each contributor’s concrete notion of femmedom.

Though the book launched more than a year ago, the book’s website still has some very valuable stuff, including a large list of contributors, if you’d like to look up some inspiring writers, and mini-interviews with them about what it means to be femme.

The cover was a bit controversial, when it came out, but there are some male authors in this book who explore their femme identity, so I can understand that they intended to show that femme is not something that exclusively belongs to cis women.

I’ll admit, I’m a little biased with this book, because I have a piece in Volume II called A Love Letter to Femmes. Dacia recorded it for me last year, when the book was coming out, so there’s an audio recording of me reading it, if you’d like to hear it. But even if I didn’t have a piece in it, the collection is a great read and will I think inspire any femme to feel less alone. Most of the focus in this anthology, probably because of the title, Visible, is on the invisibility of femme identity and the ways that, particularly, straight folks assume femmes are also straight. I have my own thoughts about invisibility, mostly about sovereignty and the outsider complex that many of us feel, but regardless of my own opinions, I know visibility is something that pretty much all femmes feel at various times, so it’s an important thing to study and bring light to and discuss.

Order the two volumes directly from Homofactus Press (if you’d like the small indie press to get the most benefit), from your local independent queer feminist neighborhood bookstore, or, if you must, from Amazon.

Review: Please, Sir (Book) & Book Tour

Please, Sir edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago and I was thrilled to see it. Right away I noticed how luscious and vivid the cover image is … Rachel always has great covers, but it’s one of my favorites. Her bright, open eyes and the colors of her skin and corset (!), digitally smoothed no doubt, but stunning.

And Cleis Press does such a nice job with these titles of Rachel’s. She’s got like a million published by now, I’m sure you’ve seen them if you’re an erotica reader, which you probably are, since you’re reading this site. Most of them are pansexual—written from various orientations, gay, straight, bi—and focused around a particular topic or theme, like shoes or spanking or short-short stories or, in the case of Please, Sir, “erotic stories of female submission.”

They are strictly from the perspective of the female submissive, and so the stories are written by women. Most of the contents are heterosexual, with the dominant in the story being a guy. They are not so gender-forward or radical, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t lovely: they are. And that doesn’t mean that a queer like me didn’t enjoy the book: I did, very much.

It’s kind of like Kate Bornstein’s WALL-E theory—that it’s possible to superimpose your desired gender combination into stories and songs and art, even if it isn’t what the author initially intended. And in this case, it’s not so hard to consider that this “guy” is a butch who goes by male pronouns (at least for this scene), and to read it with a queer eye, imposing my own desires and orientation and gender identities on top of the dominants.

Reading it this way makes the stories really hot, actually. Whereas it’s still kind of a challenge for me to read stories of male dominance and female submission, since I suspect so easily and quickly the ways that dynamic is prescribed and unquestioned, when I imagine it a butch and femme, or more of a queer dynamic, I can quickly see the dynamic as a parody of itself, an intentional play upon the prescribed roles, and that is, for whatever reasons, precisely what I like.

A couple stories stand out: the one by Kissa Starling, about the brat, the woman in a little girl role acting out by flirting with other guys while her Daddy is observing her, then punishes her, ultimately asking her what it was she really needed, why she was acting out. There were a couple rather complex concepts explained in there that I connected with. (I didn’t love the end, where it seemed like the girl didn’t actually learn anything but was going to simply continue acting out, but the rest of it had some good stuff.)

I really appreciated Rachel’s introduction, too. Here’s a snippet:

Introduction by Rachel Kramer Bussel: Risk and Reward

If you ask me, submission is an art form. It requires dedication, focus, commitment and desire and there’s no single way of doing it. It’s about unlocking something within yourself so you can reach beyond your normal limits, exposing your body and soul in order to go somewhere you cannot get to alone.

I had a lover who always told me that the key to life is “High risk, high reward.” The same is true about kink, and this is evident throughout the stories in Please, Sir, which explores female submission and male dominance from the sub’s point of view. When these characters take risks, they are rewarded…even when those rewards look like “punishment.” They are rewarded in all kinds of ways, from being bound to being praised to being choked, spanked or put on display. They are rewarded by being tested again and again.

Hot, eh? This whole book is like that, intentional and beautiful in its descriptions of submission and surrender. Sometimes I don’t get enough of that perspective in my own work, I get so involved in topping and in describing the topping and dominance that sometimes, it feels strange that anybody would not want to be the top, or be the dominant, since that is so clearly what I want and what I like. It feels deeply validating to be reminded that there are people out there who need to submit in similar ways to how I need to dominate, that our desires run parallel and complimentary, that we fit into each other. This book is a really lovely validation. I’ll certainly pick it up again and thumb through it on occasion, finding more gems of stories, connecting to new ones each time I read or re-read.

Kristen and I brought it on our camping trip a few weeks ago, and read a few stories aloud to each other, which was a lovely way to spend an evening curled up in a tent. I also love reading erotica aloud on road trips (though Kristen can’t read while in a car, and I tend to drive, so we don’t do that often).

As if that isn’t enough to encourage you to check out this new publication, here’s the amazingly sexy book trailer that Rachel put together:

Yeah, okay, so that’s all that needs said.

Check out the rest of the Please, Sir blog tour on pleasesirbook.wordpress.com, and buy it at your local, independent, feminist, queer activist bookstore, or, if you must, on Amazon.

Review: The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex For Women (Book)

One of the first things I procured when Kristen and I decided to undergo an anal sex educational adventure was Tristan Taormino’s book The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex For Women. It is clearly THE definite guide on the subject, she is, as Time Out New York quotes on the cover, “the go-to girl on anal sex,” and she is a fantastic writer.

So we picked it up. Kristen tore through it quickly, absorbing what she needed to, but I took longer, picking it up and reading a chapter here and there for the past few months. I’ve been around in sex positive circles and sex education circles long enough that none of the information was particularly new, but regardless, it was really helpful to see it all laid out clearly again, in a quick and easy guide type of style.

It’s really well-constructed, too. It starts with Myths About Anal Sex and moves into Anal Anatomy, both very specific basics to cover. And since Kristen and I both are pretty (okay, extremely) analytical, we like to do our research. We like to have all the information.

Tristan’s third chapter was especially a good one for me, which is “Beyond Our Bodies: Emotional and Psychological Aspects of Anal Eroticism,” and covers talking about it, fear, and trust. I think some of what Kristen and I come up against is some hesitation around this, the fear and trust, and struggling with wanting to do something (like take a cock up the ass) and having that actually be uncomfortable, but feeling bad that it doesn’t feel better. Well, it’s certainly possible that it won’t actually feel better, that you just don’t like that sensation, that you don’t come more easily from anal than from vaginal penetration (unlike Madison Young, for example). But it’s also possible that we just keep going slow, and I know some of the things we do are very pleasurable, and perhaps eventually we’ll build up into something even more so.

I’m writing a little cryptically in the plural and second person here, but probably you already know that what I’ve been talking about is me fucking Kristen’s ass. And she (and everyone else on the entire Internet) knows that I’m interested in doing that … but I am, first and foremost, interested in it feeling good. (I know some of the things we play with don’t directly “feel good,” like getting slapped, but there’s a release there that is not about discomfort. That’s not the same thing.) I don’t care how soon, or if EVER, we get to the point of playing where I can actually be strapped on and fucking her ass.

On the other hand, I know she likes it, sometimes, when she’s really turned on and I work just one knuckle of my finger in … and I know she’s interested in exploring more, she’s told me such explicitly. I’ve got to remember to be clear that this isn’t about the destination, but about the journey, and about the exploring.

I’ve kind of successfully avoided talking about the, perhaps, elephant in the room surrounding anal week: what about my ass?

Yeah. Well.

That’s actually really hard for me to write about! Which is why I haven’t yet really gone there. Even with my review of Tristan’s Anniversary plug (ooh la la) last year, I avoided talking about how I actually used it and how it felt.

It feels pretty intimate to reveal, I guess … and you all know that I do bottom, sometimes, or at least, I used to. I have, in the past. Quite a bit, in fact. And I have a lot of experience with anal sex, my high school ex-boyfriend of five years (whom I think I’ve referred to as Mike here on this site?) used to love it and we had quite a good time with it.

I know, I know! Wait, what? Not only am I talking about things going into my own ass, I’m talking about being fucked by a cis guy! Maybe I’m deflecting. You know, “Hey Mom, I have cancer. Just kidding, I’m gay!”

Anyway.

My own ass has been pretty much left out of the equation here, mostly because, these days, frankly, I’m a little bit stone. Not entirely, and I don’t have specific rules about the parts of my body that she can or cannot touch, but usually I actually ask for things done to me, and she doesn’t usually assert what she wants to do or make requests. Which I very much like. Nine times out of ten, or maybe more like ninety-five times out of a hundred, I don’t want to be touched, don’t really want the focus on me. Or, I want it to be directed by me, and focused on me in the ways that I choose it to be. It’s taken me a while to get here, and I like it. I’ve never been so sexually satisfied with a partner.

But … that’s not to say that I wouldn’t like something in my ass on occasion. I wonder if having a butt plug in while wearing a harness would make me come easier, in fact. It’s a subject I haven’t talked to Kristen about much (ahem, really, at all), but something worth playing with.

Speaking of trust, and fear.

Back to the review:

Tristan covers freakin’ everything. Hygiene, shaving, enemas, safer sex, lube, toys, masturbation, analingus (or, as Dylan reminds us, rimming), penetration, anal pleasure for men, BDSM, long-term butt plug wear, anal fisting … everything! She has nice little sidebars featuring questions from readers, which she answers expertly and clearly. AND it has great cartoon-y drawings of toys, people doin’ it, gloves, and all sorts of things that need visual representation.

So nice to have such a great resource available, eh?

If you’re interested in anal sex, either a beginner or a frequent lover of the activity, this will deepen your play, offer you lots of support for any questions or qualms you’re having, and maybe even give you some new ideas of hot things you can incorporate and play with. Absolutely worth reading.

I hear she’s also got a great DVD series, Expert’s Guides, featuring The Expert Guide to Anal Sex, which I’m going to do my best to get my hands on next.

Sex toys - EdenFantasys adult toys store

The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women (2nd Edition) was sent to me for review by Eden Fantasys. Get more books, anal toys, or other sex toys over at Eden. Thanks!

Anal Sex Week Starts Today

It’s long overdue, I know.

Remember back in September, I posted something about how I’d like to fuck Kristen’s ass? Then there was a bit of controversy, people thinking I was trying to use the Internet to get her to do something she didn’t want to do. Clearly that is not the case.

(Not to open an old can o’worms or anything.)

Even so, there was a follow-up post with some more details about what this meant for us and what I was intending when I put the first post up. There are some great tips from commentors for folks interested in getting started or having more anal sex, too, which I do recommend you read.

We are far from pros at this whole anal sex thing, but it’s been working quite well between us, and we’ve both got comfortable enough with it that I can slip it in (ha, ha) at various times when we’re doing other things, already playing, and we do that somewhat regularly.

I did get out the lovely Tantus Silk cock, that I got from Babeland, and strap it on and fuck her ass with it, but so far that’s only been once. We both express interest in doing that again, I guess from my perspective it just takes a bit of warm up, and preparation, and I tend to stick with what works. I get impatient, is what I’m saying.

But clearly that should change if I want to continue to help push our sexual explorations into new territory.

In the past six months since I first put that post up, I have collected a host of anal toys and resources that I want to share with y’all. Some of them I’ve already mentioned or written up, like the Njoy Fun Wand and Tristan’s famous butt plug, but there are more goodies that we’ve explored since and I want to share them with you, too.

So, in the next week, I’ll have for you a review of the Tantus Silk cock, perfectly sized for ass fucking; a beautiful glass butt plug from Good Vibes; and Tristan Taormino’s legendary book The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex For Women, sent to me by Eden Fantasys. I’ll write up some lubes that are particularly good for ass play, some tips for beginners, some of my very favorite anal scenes in queer porn, and write up a dirty story or two about what the anal exploration has been like here at Chez Sexsmith.

What about you out there? What are your favorite anal scenes in queer porn? What are your favorite toys to use? What’s your favorite lube? What position do you just love to be in? Let’s get the conversation going while I focus on the upcoming posts.

Review: Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence (Book)

I’ve been reading Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel this past week, and it was an interesting enough read to mention it here. I have written quite a lot about my own path to pursuing and finding a fulfilling sexual relationship, as this site was started primarily because I found myself in a lesbian bed death relationship with my ex and was trying to write my way out of it, and to a new sexuality.

Though the cover looks all mainstream self-help-y, it isn’t. Perel is a seasoned therapist and it is mostly full of psychological examples of her clients’ complications in keeping their long-term relationship strong while still having their sexual needs met.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

One of the world’s most respected voices on erotic intelligence, Esther Perel offers a bold, provocative new take on intimacy and sex. Mating in Captivity invites us to explore the paradoxical union of domesticity and sexual desire, and explains what it takes to bring lust home. Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire. Through case studies and lively discussion, Perel demonstrates how more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships. Wise, witty, and as revelatory as it is straightforward, Mating in Captivity is a sensational book that will transform the way you live and love.

Perel quotes many authors I’ve read (and liked), has a very open minded view about kink and fantasy, and grew up largely outside of the US, which gives her a perspective on our achievement-oriented culture that I appreciate. She does include some gay and lesbian couples in her examples, and her examples and suggestions aren’t heteronormative.

The Amazon description reads: “Some of the proposals Perel recommends for rekindling eroticism involve cultivating separateness (e.g., autonomy) in a relationship rather than closeness (entrapment); exploring dynamics of power and control (i.e., submission, spanking); and learning to surrender to a “sexual ruthlessness” that liberates us from shame and guilt.” YES. Isn’t that precisely what I advocate here on Sugarbutch, in fact? Especially within lesbian cultures, the codependency that comes with the “merging” is so normal it’s practically expected, and I feel like we constantly have to fight against it to avoid it. Somewhere Perel has a line about keeping the spark going, how in order to have the spark you have to have friction, and in order to have friction you have to have a gap between you. That is autonomy, right there, and if one or both of the folks in the relationship don’t have enough of it, the spark won’t be cultivated. Obviously I explore a lot of the dynamics of power and control, and I write about why that stuff can be fun and liberating instead of reproducing some sort of dangerous power dynamic. And shame and guilt? I wish it was possible to just wave a magic wand and take away the shame and guilt about sex from this culture—wanting sex, wanting kinky sex, wanting more sex, our carnal desires in general.

To quote Tara Hardy: “This is the sweet glory reason for a body in the first place.”

I really believe that. Now, if only I can find a way to help teach the undoing of that shame and guilt. (I know, I know, that’s lofty. But hey, why not aim high?)

Perel has some great concepts around the conflicts between the dichotomy of love vs lust, stability vs passion, security vs adventures, occasionally misunderstood as a mutually exclusive binary, but, she argues, is really a “paradox to be managed” instead of a “problem to solve.”

It is a puzzle. Can you hold the awareness of each polarity? You need each at different times, but you can’t have both at the same time. Can you accept that? It’s not an either-or situation, but one where you get the benefits of each and also recognize the limits o each. It’s an ebb and flow. Love and desire are two rhythmic yet clashing forces that are always in a state of flux and always looking for the balance point. —p84

I’m not sure if “you can’t have both at the same time,” I think you can love someone and still feel passionate. But you can’t necessarily have security and adventure at the same time … though what if you’re on a backpacking trip with your sweetheart? You’re having an adventure, but you’re with your lover, so you feel the stability that that relationship can cultivate. And sometimes when I’m having kinky sex and talking all kinds of dirty with Kristen, what’s streaming through the back of my mind is I love you I love you I love you

Still, I get the point. And I really appreciate Perel’s encouragement of treating sex like a hobby, like something you pursue, like grown-up play—that’s what it is.

I was kind of hoping I’d come away with a better sense of how to “unlock” my “erotic intelligence,” but I can’t say I feel like that skill was cultivated so well. (Or perhaps I’ve already done that, for the most part, and while there’s more to do, a book aimed at a general audience might not be teaching me what I’m trying to learn.) I wouldn’t say I had any grand revelations from Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, but it’s very well-written, open minded, and articulate, and it feels very much in line with the work I’m trying to do. I will likely recommend it in the future.

Books That Changed My Life

Back when Sugarbutch was a little baby new blog (did you know it will turn 4 in April?!), I used to write a Sunday Scribblings prompt often. This week’s prompt was “the book that changed everything” and I already happened to have a halfway done list in my drafts, so I figured I’d go back to it and finish it up.

It was going to be a “new year, new you” type of post, which gives away that I started it in January, and which kind of explains the self-help-y list. But of course I couldn’t make a list and show it off here without adding some of my favorite sex books, too!

But first, the stuff to enhance your renaissance-man (regardless of gender!) fabulous self. In alphabetical order:

  1. The Art of Civilized Conversation: A Guide to Expressing Yourself With Style and Grace by Margaret Shepherd. Excellent for dating, deepening relationships with people you already know and like, and generally elevating the discussion around you. I especially remember the part about how conversations between two people should start with facts, move to opinions, and then and only then should you discuss emotions.
  2. How to Cook Everything (Vegetarian) by Mark Bittman. Whether or not you know how to cook, this is a fantastic resource. I got a copy of the vegetarian version over the holidays. Though Bittman isn’t famous for his desserts (pastries aren’t really his strong point, or, let’s be honest, so says Kristen) he has a little bit of everything in here and chances are, it’ll be a great starting point, if not an excellent recipe. Lots of great tips for technique, too.
  3. The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy and Vice by Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro. I have dreams of writing a butch equivalent, but shh that’s a secret. This contains excellent thoughts about conducting oneself socially, manners, conversation, style, how to tie ties, how to order drinks, how to be suave on a date, all sorts of things that a gentleman would want to know. Not impressed with the sex part (cheesy!) but hey you can’t win ’em all. Along with Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Style, this is one of the books about masculinity that I recommend most.
  4. The Power of Less: The 6 Essential Productivity Principles That Will Change Your Life by Leo Babauta. You probably already read Zen Habits, so you know Babauta’s style and simplicity. This book is a lovely collection of philosophies on productivity, minimalism, moving on, getting shit done, and focusing on what you really want to do. Along with The Four-Hour Work Week, this really changed my attitude about my time (a non-renewable resource!) and how I make decisions.
  5. There Is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate by Cheri Huber. Huber is a buddhist monk, founded two zen monasteries in California, has written about twenty books, and travels widely. I found her writing when I was in high school and have been reading and re-reading ever since. It’s kind of self-help-y, yes, but there’s a lot of spirituality, philosophy, and psychology in it too, which the best self-help books contain. She has many other titles that I’d also recommend, The Depression Book: Depression as an Opportunity for Spiritual Growth literally changed my life when I first read it, and Be the Person You Want To Find: Relationships and Self-Discovery is a great book for those of us seeking long-term valuable love relationships. Speaking of love relationships, I can’t not mention If the Buddha Dated and If the Buddha Married by Charlotte Kasl. Both were very life-changing and eye-opening to my own patterns and tendencies, and very useful. Kasl is a buddhist quaker feminist psychotherapist, and her perspective is so full of lovingkindness and sweetness and understanding that you can’t not be drawn in, only to learn about yourself and your tendencies. Though it’s pretty hetero-focused in its example couples, I tend to change the pronouns (or pretend it’s a butch going by him/her and a femme). Kristen and I have been reading through it aloud and discussing it, which can be intense but has been great.

And because I can’t make a book list without having sex books on it:

  1. Moregasm: Babeland’s Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex by Rachel Venning and Claire Cavanah, founders of Babeland. I’ve already mentioned this book on Sugarbutch recently, but it’s worth mentioning again. Modern, fun, wide-ranging, inclusive, sexy, kinky, open, welcoming. And the design is just so damn cute. If I had coffee table books, this would be one of them.
  2. The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. I recommend these books constantly to folks who want to get more involved in power play or topping and bottoming roles in their sex lives. So many of my philosophies come from these books, and they are incredibly full of useful tips and ideas about aftercare, safewords, top drop, negotiations.
  3. Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century by Barbara Carrellas. Tantra books are usually way too cheesy for me to even get through, and I have some experience with tantra. But this one is different. Carrellas (@urbantantrika) is as grounded as she is woo-woo, as queer and kinky as she is accessible and open. If you’ve always been curious about tantra, this is a great place to start.
  4. Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino. There are very few smart books written about polyamory and open relationships (The Ethical Slut, now in a new edition, by the authors of the Topping/Bottoming Books, being the classic cannon), and this is the most recent. I’ve admired Taormino’s work for a long time, since her sex column at the Village Voice (collected into a book called True Lust), and she’s done some pretty amazing things in mainstream porn since then. I love that she’s bringing and underground queer feminist perspective to the things she’s doing, it makes her work even more complex and fantastic. Her most recent book (aside from Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica!) is The Big Book of Sex Toys, which I don’t have my hands on yet but will be reporting all about when I do.
  5. Exhibitionism For the Shy: Show Off, Dress Up and Talk Hot! by Carol Queen. The Amazon description says “[e]xhibitionism as a consensual erotic pleasure and a means to overcome shyness and body image issues” and I LOVE that idea! I’m not actually sure where my copy of this has escaped to, perhaps I lost it in a break-up, but there’s a relatively new edition from 2009 that I should get my hands on regardless. Want to feel more sexy, show off, but feel self-conscious? Pick up this book. In case you don’t already know Carol Queen, she’s the owner of the Good Vibrations toy shops and director of The Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco. She also wrote one of my favorite erotica books, The Leather Daddy and the Femme.

Whew! Okay, that should keep you busy for the next few months, hm? I hope at least one of these is interesting and might enhance your life in some way. Books can be so magical like that.

I’ve included the links to Amazon, and while if you click through those links I do get a teeny tiny kickback from your purchases, I still encourage you to visit your local independent bookstore and support them by ordering these books through them. If you want them to be around next year, that means spending your money in their shop. I know they aren’t as cheap as Amazon, and probably not quite as convenient, but you’ll miss them when they’re gone. Or at least, I will. A lot.

So? What books changed YOUR life?

Word of the Day: Antevasin

I’m not one who tends to read bestsellers. In fact, when I do pick up—and like—a bestseller such that I actually want to carry it around with me and read it, I am often way embarrassed to be seen reading it on the subway. As if I am one of those people who only read popular books.

But of course, sometimes bestsellers are bestsellers for a reason: they are very, very good. I would argue for the Harry Potter series, and for The Time Traveler’s Wife (though against the Twilight series).

What made me pick up Eat, Pray, Love by Elisabeth Gilbert, aside from my sister‘s strong recommendation, was her talk on creativity from the TED lecture series.

I’ve probably watched this four times now, and a new part of it sinks in every time. This really jives with many of my conceptions about creativity works, and I really appreciate the shared responsibility of creation. YES.

So I picked up Eat, Pray, Love. And … it’s beautiful. Seriously. I hesitate to call it One Of My Favorite Books because who knows, I haven’t finished it yet, maybe it’s just speaking to me at a particular time about a particular thing and everything is just so resonant and perfect right now.

Like this:

Maybe the best thing to do with favourite films and books is to leave them be: to achieve such an exalted position means that they entered your life at exactly the right time, in precisely the right place, and those conditions can never be re-created. Sometimes we want to revisit them in order to check whether they were really as good as we remember them being, but this has to be a suspect impulse, because it presupposes is that we have more reason to trust our critical judgement as we get older, whereas I am beginning to believe that the reverse is true. —Nick Hornby, Shakespeare Wrote For Money

I had it out from the library, and I ordered my own copy from paperbackswap.com (my current guilty pleasure, though I suck at getting to the post office to do the mailing-out part). I’m looking forward to reading it again, and marking it up.

Yesterday, I came across this:

So I saw it during my last week at the Ashram, I was reading through an old text about Yoga, when I found a description of ancient spiritual seekers. A Sanskrit word appeared in the paragraph: ANTEVASIN. It means, ‘one who lives at the border.’ In ancient times this was a literal description. It indicated a person who had left the bustling center of worldly life to go live at the edge of the forest where the spiritual masters dwelled. The antevasin was not of the villagers anymore-not a householder with a conventional life. But neither was he yet a transcendent-not one of those sages who live deep in the unexplored woods, fully realized. The antevasin was an in-betweener. he was a border-dweller. He lived in sight of both worlds, but he looked toward the unknown. And he was a scholar.

—Eat, Love, Pray by Elisabeth Gilbert, p203

And oh my god that word is just so … potent. Perfect. I immediately saw it as an elaborate cursive tattoo over my collarbone or on my upper arm. That’s my word.

Then I started thinking: this is everybody’s word. That’s why this book is a crazy insane-o bestseller. Everybody thinks they live on the borders. Nobody thinks they fit in. And, sure enough, when I searched for “antevasin” online, many of the results are from personal blogs saying, “I recently read a book that described the word and I felt like it was describing me,” and “In one of the many books I am reading at present I came across a word and an idea that really resonate.” (Funny how they don’t necessarily identify the book. Or perhaps it’s just obvious enough that they don’t have to.)

Maybe not everybody thinks they are at the borders, not fitting in. Maybe there are some people, like my girlfriend claims, who know they are the status quo and average and buying in to pop culture and like it that way. I guess it’s mostly just that “my people”—the queers and the misfits and the artists and the writers and the thinkers—are the ones who surround me, and of course we all tend to have this deep, deep belief that we never fit in, that we probably never will, and that we’re straddling multiple worlds, being border-dwellers.

But I guess my question is … if the majority of us are the ones who think we don’t fit, aren’t the ones who ‘fit’ actually in the minority, making them, by definition, not fit?

And also … how do we truly, deeply, believe that we do in fact fit, perhaps not into a problematic hierarchical oppressive society like this one, but in our own communities, in our own subcultures, in our own families, in our own lives, in the larger universal human family? I really do believe that we all belong, we are all valid, we are all just where we are meant to be: right here.

New Book! Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch Femme Erotica

Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch Femme Erotica Edited by Tristan Taormino is due out February 16th, and I have a story in it! (I believe it is The Diner on the Corner, also published in Best Lesbian Erotica 2009.)

There are very few books exclusively focused on butch/femme erotica—Back to Basics edited by Therese Szymanski is the only one I can think of—and I’m thrilled to see another one come into print. Cannot wait to get my hands on it!

“Butch/femme is erotic iconography. Butch/femme is bulging jeans, smeared lipstick, stiletto heals, and sharp haircuts. It’s about being read and being seen. Sometimes it’s about passing or not passing. It’s about individual identity and a collective sense of community. It’s personal, political. It’s a sexual electricity and power exchange. It’s the visceral space between the flesh and the imagination.” — from the introduction by Tristan Taormino

From Cleis Press’s page about the new book:

Does the swagger of a confident butch make you swoon? Do your knees go weak when you see a femme straighten her stockings? In Sometimes She Lets Me, Tristan Taormino chooses her favorite butch/femme stories from the Best Lesbian Erotica series.

Even if you think you know what goes on in the bedroom between femmes and butches, these 22 stories will delight you with erotic surprises. In Joy Parks’ delicious “Sweet Thing,” the recently arrived town librarian shows a butch baker some new tricks in bed. On a chase through the woods, the stud in “Tag!”, by D. Alexandria, find her baby girl by scent alone. And the girl in a pleated skirt gets exactly what she wants from her Daddy in Peggy Munson’s “The Rock Wall.”

Includes contributions by Alison L. Smith, Joy Parks, S. Bear Bergman, Amie M. Evans, Samiya A. Bashir, Rosalind Christine Lloyd, Kristen Porter, Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, D. Alexandria, Anna Watson, Shannon Cummings, A. Lizbeth Babcock, Sparky, Elaine Miller, Isa Coffey, Skian McGuire, Jera Star, Toni Amato, Peggy Munson, Sandra Lee Golvin, and Sinclair Sexsmith.

Tristan Taormino is an award-winning author, columnist, editor, and sex educator. She is the editor of Hot Lesbian Erotica and fourteen editions of Best Lesbian Erotica series as well as the author of The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women. Tristan is a former columnist for the Village Voice and currently has a column in Taboo; her writing has appeared in Velvet ParkVibeSpectator,The Advocate, and more than 15 anthologies. She has been featured in more than 200 publications, including the New York TimesRedbookCosmopolitanGlamourEntertainment WeeklyDetailsNew York magazine, Men’s Health, and Playboy. She has also appeared on CNN, MTV, Oxygen, the Discovery Channel, The Howard Stern Show, Real Sex, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Scarborough Country, and over 50 radio shows. Tristan directed the adult videos the Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, Tristan Taormino’s House of Ass, and the Chemistry series. She lives in upstate New York. Visit Tristan at www.puckerup.com.

Free Copy of Ivan Coyote’s book Loose End

looseendIvan E. Coyote, Top Hot Butches Number Six and amazing storyteller, writer, and performer, has a new book out this year from Arsenal Pulp Press called The Slow Fix. I just picked it up when Kristen and I were in Philadelphia about a month ago at Giovanni’s Room, which, by the way, was one of the most amazing queer bookstores I’ve ever been in. Such a wonderful collection of books there, I could’ve bought twenty – I settled on three.

And, I just heard from Arsenal Pulp Press that they’ve got a promotion going on through September 30th – “FREE Ivan E. Coyote Book, Loose End, and with this download, you are also entitled to a SPECIAL 25% DISCOUNT off the purchase of any or all of Ivan’s books, SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR.

I think I have all of them, but I might be missing one. I’ll have to double check. Hmm, maybe this is a good holiday gift – who’s on my list that would like Ivan’s books? I’m sure I can come up with a few.

How To Begin Playing with BDSM

Recently, this came into my inbox:

I’m in a relationship now with a wonderful person and I’m really intrigued and turned on by BDSM, but have very little idea of where to start. I’ve put up a plea on my blog for help from people who know more about these things, you can read my post for more background, but basically, where do we start? How can we segue into BDSM play? Dominance, submission, pain? How can we bit by bit, toe first, test the cold water and then gradually get used to it and then eventually just dive in and revel in it? I just have no idea. I live in San Francisco, so I don’t expect you to know of any local resources, but do you know anyone in San Francisco who I might be in touch with? Anything like that? Internet resources? Early blog posts of yours about your first forays into BDSM?
Alphafemme

So I figured I’d write a little about it, tell you what I think, then also open it up to you lovely readers who might have specific San Francisco resources, your own stories, or more suggestions to share in the comments.

How do you start playing with BDSM? You jump in somewhere that feels exciting and hot, you talk about what you want to do, at least a little, then you do it. I don’t actually have any early blog posts about BDSM because I’ve been playing with it for a very long time – my first high school boyfriend and I used to do some light BDSM, like spanking, a little bit of topping & bottoming, and tying-to-the-bedpost kinds of bondage. My “kinky queer butch top” identity labels are roughly in order, actually, of when I came into them; I’ve been playing with kink (albeit lightly) for a long time.

I do suggest starting out light – though “light” for some people is heavy play for others, so just pick something that seems accessible and doable and try it out.

Some more specific suggestions:

  • Take a class on something (like spanking) from Babeland or your local feminist sex toy store. In San Francisco, I’m sure Good Vibes has events all the time.
  • Read The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book. Both of you should read both of them, even if you already know which role you are more likely to occupy, since learning about the other will teach you even more about yours. These books significantly changed and formed the ways that I think about dominance and submission and many incarnations of BDSM. Highly highly recommended.
  • Fill out the BDSM checklist and compare answers. Highlight the things you are most excited about and see what you have in common! (Hopefully you’ve already been talking about this kind of thing, you might even have an idea of what each other would like to explore.
  • Make a shared Google doc and brainstorm a list of what you’d like to try. (Kristen and I actually have one of these … )
  • Check out the BDSM section of the Sugarbutch Amazon store for more books you might want to pick up, or check out of the library, or borrow.

There are some more simple, less risky, very playful, and safe things you might want to try if you’re new to BDSM to begin to whet your appetite, such as:

  • Spanking. Don’t worry, your hand is WAY more delicate than her ass – think of all the little tiny bones in there, as compared to the lovely muscle & flesh. Her butt can take way more you’re your hand can give, actually – your hand will hurt and get tired and sore way before you will do any real damage. But, you still should be a bit careful – here’s how to start: 1. start out slow, make sure to warm up her flesh (and mind) so she can take deeper, harder slaps. 2. DO NOT slap or hit her sacrum, that triangle bone above the crack of her ass. That can bruise and be very painful. Keep it to her ass cheeks and thighs, the fleshy parts. 3. Make sure she is relaxed, and keep going softly until she starts writhing and moaning and liking it.

  • Bondage. Try some light bondage with whatever you’ve got lying around the house – clothesline, men’s ties, scarves … you can look up Two Knotty Boys on youtube for MANY great videos on how to tie knots, but really you can just tie with a plain ol’ granny knot, like you tie your shoes. Don’t leave her tied up for extended periods of time, however, and make sure to get the rope tied tight enough so that she can’t escape, but not tight enough to cut off circulation.
  • Dirty talk. Sometimes adding speech to your sex play is incredibly erotic, highly sexually charged, and very dirty. Sometimes you can keep going with whatever you “normally” do, but add some verbal descriptors of what you’d like to do, and it adds a great element of play and gets the minds going. Whisper in her ear while your fingers are inside her: “You know what I’d really like to do? I’d like to tie your ankles to the footboard so you can’t move your legs. I’d like you to struggle against the ropes so you can feel how you’re opened up for me. I’d like to feel how wet that makes you. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Yeah, I thought so …” and ask her about it later, outside of the moment, and see if it’s something she’d like to perhaps try.
  • Power & Surrender. Hold her down, pull her hair, hold her wrists above her head, bite her shoulders, bite her breasts, hold your knees on her thighs to force her legs open, push her onto the bed, get a little rough with her. Maybe she wants to fight back and see if she can take YOU down, instead – wrestling for who gets to be in control could be fun, too.

For me, things like elaborate role play – and even dirty talk – was a lot harder than some of these basics. And these are practically endless – I’m sure one could play with various elements of just these four things and have a very exciting sex life.

A little bit about safewords: Unless you are playing with non-consensual play, you probably don’t need a safeword. That is to say, you can use, “slow down,” “wait,” “back off,” “hold on a minute,” “don’t,” and “stop,” and things like that to indicate that something’s going wrong, instead of negotiating one special specific word which would stop the scene. Unless you want “no” or “don’t” or “stop” to be part of the play, those words will work just fine.

So, what do you think? What is your advice for beginning to play with BDSM? Anything you’d like to add or correct from my list? Any suggestions you have? Are there resources in San Francisco you’d like to recommend? Let her – and all of us! – know in the comments.

Sexual Autonomy & Freedom

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

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.


In Praise of Femmes: Hair & Shaving

Thanks, all, for your thoughtful responses and life stories about butch hair in the last post.

Here’s a few of my thoughts about femmes and femininity and hair, and then I’ll ask some questions and open it up to whatever you’d like to say about the subject.

I want to distinguish here between options and personal preference – I talk a lot on this site – especially in terms of femmes and femme identity – about what I like, and I want to make it clear that those are usually my personal preferences, and I’m not trying to say that I think that’s what all femmes should be or that femmes who are not like that are not valid or are not “real” femmes or any of that crap. I hope that’s not how it comes across.

So, let me first say this, about my basic philosophies on hair: hair is a personal choice. It is also a major marker on the physical body used to distinguish gender differentiation in contemporary culture. Short hair on men, long hair on women; shaved legs and underarms on women, hairy men. This of course was not always the case; it used to be seen as very masculine for men to grow their hair long. Hair presentation, length, and social conformity are based largely on culture.

In my (unofficial, limited) cultural observation in the recent years, these differences are just getting more pronounced, although with the inclusion of gay male culture in mainstream men’s fashion, the rise of beauty products for men, the addition of “manscaping” and the metrosexualizing of fashion and beauty, beauty standards for men and masculinity are on the rise. It is not unusual for hetero/cis-women to expect their hetero/cis-men to keep their chest hair under control, to get eyebrow waxes, to keep their hair groomed.

But just because the beauty standards for men are raising doesn’t mean it’s okay for us to keep unobtainable beauty standards for women – or for anyone, for that matter. Honestly I believe we’ve got to turn the beauty culture inside out on our own personal journeys into our own gender identities, whatever flavor they may be, whatever area of the gender galaxy, to really examine what the culture dictates and unlearn the compulsory standards that can be exhausting, unobtainable, and even harmful to our bodies.

What the body does is natural, normal, acceptible, sexy – where hair grows, the stretchmarks, the veins that show through the skin, the moles and freckles, the thickness of the muscles or the tendons or the thigh or the waist or the hair. All these things are beautiful, and real.

And, in my humble opinion, are also turn-ons: the celebration of the beauty of the human body.

If you’ve never explored the potential damage and compulsory standards of beauty culture, take a look at:

So: once we start undoing society’s standards, and treating every possible option as valid and valuable for different reasons in order to make a true choice, we can start exploring what it is that we personally prefer. What turns us on, how our bodies feel the most sexy, what the soft animal of our body loves.

My initial thoughts about femme hair always go to the hair on your head, and the ways it’s worn. Being that I am very attracted to femininity, I do like long hair generally, though I know plenty of femmes who totally rock the chin-length cuts or the boycuts, I’ve even known a few with shaved heads.

I wrote once upon a time about how much I love it when femmes wear their hair up, and specifically the idea that “a woman’s hair is for her husband.” I wrote, “I know there are deep problems with this idea of a husband owning a wife’s hair, but I love the idea of it being so sexual, such a turn on, when a femme lets her hair down, that it’s private, saved for me and me alone.” And that’s just it exactly.

About body hair on femmes … honestly, my personal preference is basically bare. Very little hair, everywhere. I find shaving sexy, I find the rituals of beauty sexy (when they are done with intention and sexual connotations especially). I like to shave my lover’s legs, actually. That’s a scene I haven’t played out in a long time, but I find that intensely erotic.

I do have some guilt about liking the reproduction of traditional femininity. I know I could write pages about how it’s not compulsory, it’s resistance, celebratory, and intentional, but still sometimes I wonder if what my block is that I wouldn’t find hair particularly attractive. But I suppose I can attempt to justify this by saying that I absolutely think it should be culturally acceptible – I hate that it’s dictated as necessary by the beauty rules – but that my personal preference is skin, skin, skin. Is that because of the dominant cultural beauty rules? Yeah, probably. I can’t escape it, I was raised in it, I live in it every day. But I recognize that it exists, what it means, how it operates, and I fully support people who reject that rule and who prefer to have their hair wild and free, or trimmed and neat, or completely bare. All options should be valid.

So, now you:

I know you’ve already got a ton of things to say about femme body hair, but here’s some questions to get started:

If you’re in the transfeminine area of the gender galaxy:

  • Do you shave, wax, pluck, shape? Underarms, legs, thighs, stomach, chin? Why or why not?
  • What was your process in coming to do the hair sculpting and
  • How do you make choices about your hair? Based on sexual preferences? Cultural standards?What your lovers like?
  • How do you keep your pubes? Trimmed, waxed, shaved, au naturale?
  • What comes to mind when you see women who don’t shave?
  • Do you sexualize shaving or body hair removal?

If you are someone who tends to date transfeminine folks:

  • Do you have personal preferences when it comes to hair on the femmes you date?
  • Do you sexualize shaving or body hair removal?
  • Do you prefer hair on her head worn a certain way? Do you tend to be attracted to very specific hair cuts, styles, colors?

I’m also very curious about folks who live outside of the US – clearly my perspectives are very US-centric, and I’m not really sure what gets culturally dictated or compulsorily reproduced in other places. I have impressions, but being an outsider to culture in other places, I won’t presume to speak on it.

Please do elaborate however you’d like. And thank you, for reading and for your comments, I really like that we’re conversing here more and more, getting input from all kinds of people who live in all kinds of ways.

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.

Choice feminism & compulsory gender roles

Lady Brett has a new post over at her fabulous blog Don’t Let’s Talk about feminism and housewifery, and I left a rather long-ish comment, and still find myself with strong feelings on the subject.

So hey, why else do I have a blog but to write impromptu non-fiction personal essays about gender and feminist theory?

1. The Value of Domestic Skills

I believe there’s nothing inherently unfeminist about keeping a home, doing domestic things, taking care of people you love, cooking, cleaning, decorating. Those are important, learned skills and talents, often very complicated arts, time consuming, and things which make a big difference in the quality of life.

There’s been quite a bit of reclamation around “women’s work” throughout the second wave and third wave feminist movements, which has revisioned and revalued the work that goes into domesticity as complex, learned skills, difficult, and often incredible works of art.

(See, for example, the art of Judy Chicago, in particular – The Dinner Party in particular, but there’s lots more in that vein. Also see the book Manifesta by Jennifer Baumgartner & Amy Richards. Anyone else have examples? Leave ‘em in the comments.)

Domesticity & housewifery can go against feminist principles when it is compulsory: not optional, expected, unrewarded, and unrecognized as hard work or valuable. The problems come in being forced into this role, when you’re only doing that if what you’re doing feels like what you’re “supposed” to do and not what you really want to do. Figuring out what actually suits you best, your particular talents and personality and inclinations – that is subversive, and empowering.

2. Choice Feminism

Recently, there’s been a rise of this idea of choice feminism, which claims that being a housewife or househusband, staying home to raise the kids and keep the house, is an option available to people if they so choose, and that there is nothing inherently wrong with this choice.

Makes sense, right? Some people – men or women or butches or femmes or genderqueers or whomever – think it would be great to have the luxury of having a partnership (or triad, or whatever) where enough income was being generated by another person (or another source) that someone could stay home and prepare good food and take care of their living space, take care of the kids or plants or animals. To others, this sounds like nothing they’d want to do themselves, they’d hate to be cooped up all day and would much rather go out into the world and socialize, feel like a ‘productive member of society.’

So in theory, it would be great if someone was able to say, hey, I’d really like to be at home, and their partner would say, that’s great, because I’d like to go to work and make enough money to support our family. And then the negotiation of details would happen, and wow, everyone has a great time with their lives, yay.

There are so many factors that go into building this as an option to begin with. For one, it takes a certain amount of education (and therefore access to education), economic capability, and stature in order to be in a relationship that can rely on a single income (and/or a lot of thriftiness!). The folks who have the ability to stay home and take care of their domestic life have to have a certain amount of economic privilege, by definition – they are able to survive without having a traditional, typical 40 hour a week job.

Point being, this isn’t an option everyone has, so it can’t be a “choice” for everyone. Some people cannot ever choose this choice, because of the ways we have been set up inside of economic systems. (If I had more time to research, I would include : all sorts of things on credit card theory, loan sharks, economic poverty, the working poor. Got specific resources for this? Links, books, documentaries? Leave ‘em in the comments.)

I bet someone staying home and claiming the housewife/househusband/etc role works really well in some relationships, and that those choices are totally legit and based in love and care and self-knowledge for the relationship, family, themselves, and their partners.

Problem is, there are still real social consequences to choosing the socially unacceptable, rarer, less compulsory choice. And it isn’t until both options are empowered with equal weight that we’ll be able to actually make these choices fully, and as long as society still deems one choice over the other, presenting it as an “option” sometimes feels to me as more one more way to force people into it compulsorily.

I think it is possible for these particular choices to have equal weight. Both should be equally valued, in my opinion, and it is possible for them to be in the current culture.

Whether or not they do actually have equal weight, however, would largely depend on a person’s perspective, family, culture, friends, and social status. Some people would experience rejection, marginalization, othering, belittling, or outcasting, if they decided to stay at home and “only” take care of their family’s domestic life. Others would experience peer pressure and gender policing for not doing so, for attempting to say that housewifery is valuable, especially when saying this to someone for whom housewifery was compulsory, and whom resents the lack of choice that she herself had.

Two examples:

A) Mona Lisa Smile
The film Mona Lisa Smile, set in the 1950’s at a women’s college, has a major theme of choice feminism throughout, as Joan, a student, struggles between pursuing law at Yale or getting married and starting a family. Her art teacher, Katherine, tries to encourage her to examine both options equally, even saying she doesn’t have to choose, she can have both.

Quote from the scene where Joan tells her art teacher that she’s going to choose to be a housewife:

Joan Brandwyn: It was my choice… not to go. He would have supported it [if I’d chosen to go].
Katherine Watson: But you don’t have to choose.
Joan Brandwyn: No, I have to. I want a home; I want a family, that’s not something I’ll sacrifice.
Katherine Watson: No-one’s asking you to sacrifice that, Joan, I just want you to understand you can do both.
Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I’ll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
Katherine Watson: Yes, I’m afraid that you will.
Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I’m doing and it doesn’t make me any less smart.
[Katherine looks down] Joan Brandwyn: This must seem terrible to you.
Katherine Watson: I didn’t say that.
Joan Brandwyn: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don’t. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You’re the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.
Katherine Watson: [hugs Joan] Congratulations. Be happy.

(source: Wikiquote)

It seems Joan is attempting to make the major point of choice feminism, that Katherine does not think housewifery is a legitimate choice for women. But I’m skeptical of this, because we don’t ever see Joan go through an awakening out of the compulsory gender role, realizing and fully understanding the limitations of her socially prescribed feminine/wife/mother role. Without really knowing that, is it possible for her to consider rejecting it as a legitimate option?

B) Sex and the City, season 4 episode 7, Time and Punishment

In the episode Time and Punishment from the fourth season of Sex and the City, Charlotte is newly married, and informs the girls that she’s thinking about quitting her job so she can begin her domestic duties. They react with significant glances at each other, though nobody says anything overly disagreeing with Charlotte’s news. The next day, Charlotte calls Miranda.

Miranda: Hello?
Charlotte: You were so judgmental at the coffee shop yesterday.
Miranda: Excuse me?
Charlotte: You think I’m one of those women.
Miranda: What? One of what women?
Charlotte: One of those women we hate who just works until she gets married. … The women’s movement is supposed to be about choice. And if I choose to quit my job, that is my choice.
Miranda: “The women’s movement”? Jesus Christ, I haven’t even had coffee yet.
Charlotte: It’s my life and my choice.
Miranda: Okay, Charlotte? This isn’t about me, this is your stuff.
Charlotte: Admit it! You were being very judgmental.
Miranda: I’m dripping all over my bathroom and you’re calling me judgmental. lf you have a problem with quitting your job…maybe you should take it up with your husband.
Charlotte: See, there it is, “your husband.” There’s nothing wrong with having a husband!
Miranda: Charlotte, I’m hanging up.
Charlotte: Don’t you dare hang up! And stop saying Charlotte like that. I am quitting my job to make my life better… and do something worthwhile like have a baby and cure AIDS.
Miranda: Oh! You’re gonna cure AlDS? Good for you. Just don’t be too disappointed if all you wind up with is a pretty ceramic mug with Trey’s name on it.
Charlotte: Take that back!
Miranda: I’m hanging up.
Charlotte: Don’t hang up! I’m interviewing girls to replace me… and I really need you to get behind my choice.
Miranda: You get behind your choice.
Charlotte: I am behind my choice. I choose my choice.
Miranda: I don’t have time for this. I have to go to work. Some of us still have to go to work.
Charlotte: I choose my choice!

(quoted from script of Time & Punishment.)

Problem for me here is that Charlotte is “the traditional one.” The most conservative, the one who blushes at the slightest of sex talk, the one who, throughout the series, is in serious husband-hunting mode. Has she really examined all her choices? Is she buying into the gender role that she’s presenting because she “chooses” it, or because it is compulsory for her?

But even though I am skeptical and questioning these women’s ability to make their own choices, I do come from the perspective that everyone has their own agency. I try – very hard – to let go of my own judgment about what would or wouldn’t be a good choice, and to really believe that another person is the only one who will really know what is in her own best interest.

But while I believe in agency, I also believe in things like laws of self-protection – seat belt laws, helmet laws, fast food regulation laws – because society has proved that people are susceptible, that we do not always make the choice that is in our best interest because of social, political, advertising, or any other number of pressures, and that educators, policy makers, and activists have the responsibility to protect and look out for others. That we are all interdependent, if you will – and that when everyone does better, everyone does better.

So how do we figure out how to have more agency in these complex situations of choice? How do we assure that all options do have equal weight for ourselves, in our own personal lives, even if they do not have equal weight in the eyes of society? How do we take a decision that used to be compulsory – like being a stay at home mom (SAHM, or Shit Ass Ho Motherfucker, if you’re a dooce reader) or, to connect it further to the Sugarbutch Chronicles subjects, adopting an exaggerated presentation of gender like butch or femme – and legitimately choose it?

3. Knowledge & Education

How can we make these choices have more equal weight?

Educate yourself. Study feminism. Study the history of compulsory gender roles, compulsory gender presentation, compulsory heterosexuality.

We can’t make any of these choices without understanding of where they came from, what they mean, what cultural, historical, and political contexts the choices sit within.

In a society that still has so much compulsory roles for men and women, it’s never just as simple as “I choose to be a housewife” or “I choose to work a full-time job outside the home.” There are so many factors – economic status, cultural and familial expectations, personal interests and pursuits, background, education, community.

I guess this is the part where we’re on our own, where we have to figure out the solution to our own gender problems, where we have to take responsibility for our own enlightenment.

One of my favorite quotes about gender is “femme is knowing what you’re doing.” My take on that is not that “all femmes know what they’re doing all the time,” but more like the implications that femme – or femininity, or gender expression in general – becomes an active choice, something that has a context and a history and a cultural understanding for the choices we’re making.

And it is possible to learn those things. Read into the history of gender studies, of compulsory gender roles and gender “deviance,” gender activism, butch/femme culture and society, the women’s and gay liberation movements. Get a sense of yourself & your gender in a larger sociological, historical, political, cultural, geographical context.

I see feminism as quite similar to how I am beginning to understand Buddhism: as philosophies, as world views. That it is a container, a baseline of explanation and understanding for how you see the world, interactions, social hierarchies, marginalized communities, value.

And as such, I really believe that everyone has a place within feminism. That everyone is affected by compulsory gender, by gender policing, by gender roles which oppress and restrict and encourage us to be less than full, open people, with access to the entire range of human experience. And therefore, everyone has the possibility to be liberated by studying the ways that these unspoken rules operate on the very personal, private aspects of our lives.

Here’s some suggestions of tools that have helped me along this search for knowledge and understanding. Add your own in the comments if you have further resources that significantly helped your perspective.

Feminism is For Everybody, bell hooks – amazing basic course in what feminism is, what it means, and where else to start looking. I’ve bought this for various people over the years. Completely accessible and wonderfully written.

The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan – the classic feminist text about compulsory domesticity. Though it’s dated, if this isn’t something that you’ve examined overtly, it might be time to read it.

Creating a Life Worth Living, Carol Lloyd – an artist workbook that guides you through figuring out what kind of life you want to live, what your values are, how you want to be spending your time, and helps you set goals to do that. Might be helpful & empowering in this particular issue of choosing to be a housewife, in that it might help you see where you particular strengths are, and what ways of spending your day will make you the happiest.

Manifesta, Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richards – I’ve already mentioned this, but if you haven’t read it I highly recommend it. Very accessible and fun to read.

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago – is an art exhibit currently housed at the Brooklyn Museum in the feminist art wing. Problematic and highly criticized for it’s white and western-centric focus, but still an amazing piece of art which elevates traditional female domestic duties such as table settings, needlepoint, and ceramics and presents them in the context of a long history of powerful, strong, capable women.

It’s all a long process, right? Of getting to know oneself, of examining the world around us and seeing where we fit in, where we don’t, what we like, what we don’t. Of becoming self-aware. And, ultimately, of finding the bliss that makes our own lives uniquely worthwhile.

4. Let The Soft Animal of Your Body Love What It Loves

Eventually, this is the integrated goal of this process, I think: to “let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.”

It comes from one of my favorite poems of all time, and is a line I often quote. With care and consciousness, I believe this concept of letting myself love what I love to be at the core of my feminist beliefs. And I believe it’s possible to operate from this place, and within a feminist context, with feminist philosophies and outlooks on life.

It isn’t until I unpack all the societal gunk that I can really see, really understand, what it is that the soft animal of my body loves, and what it is that I should do with my wild and precious life.

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

tough guise: compulsory masculinity

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?

Mr. Bendy Strap-On Cock Broke, Again

Okay, on a lighter note?

I didn’t mention it two weeks ago, when Penny and I had our last date, but we broke my cock that day. My infamous Silky/Mr. Bendy (named differently depending on where you buy it), my very favorite cock – because you can pack with it, and play with it, and it actually works – unfortunately, that’s incredibly rare in the world of cocks.

This was the blue one that Penny broke – uh, I mean, that Penny and I broke, together – and it’s the third one I’ve broken. (Remember broken, breaking? That was the second. The first time I broke it, with Callie, I wrote that up, too, but I can’t find the link.)

Unfortunately, that’s just one of the things about Silky’s reality – it doesn’t last.

So, Eden has a blue or a purple version of Silky, and Babeland has pink or black – but I’ve never actually seen the black one in stock. I’ve ordered it before, only to be sent the pink one. I started thinking it was the unicorn of cocks, a myth, an urban cock legend.

But? It’s in stock. And the one I reordered as a replacement came tonight. Man, they sure all nice all new and hard, spine all bendy and supple. Mmm, this weekend’s date with Penny is going to be fabulous.

If you want a black one, order it now – who knows how long it’ll stick around!

While we’re on the subject of things you should order while they’re in stock, take note of Bear Bergman’s book Butch is a Noun, published by the fantastic Suspect Thoughts – it’s gone into a second printing after being out of stock for a long time. I’ve got plenty to say about this book, I’m very fond of it – remember the video of Bear reading the opening chapter a few months ago? Snag a copy while you can.

fisting in time out

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.

Gender Is A Sex Toy

My favorite part of last night was the way she said please. Please, please, like a whisper, or a prayer. At the bar, she told me was disappointed I hadn’t emailed her back.

“Ah,” I said. I didn’t have a good excuse. But when I discovered she’d be at this party I made note, and made sure to be there.

“I kind of want to go talk to her,” I told my friend, who I’d arrived with.

“Do it, chickenshit,” she said, “just go do it, no big deal … ” and proceeded to say something else supportive, made to boost me up, but I got distracted: she walked up to me, put her hand on my arm, and said, “Sorry to interrupt …” Oh no, no problem. We were only talking about how I should go talk to you, anyway.

I told her I’d Googled her after we met. She was embarrassed. She had Googled me as well, made a reference to the video of my spoken word she’d found.

I told her I’d been up to my knees in gender theory this week, trying to uncover and then articulate the reasons why butch and femme were subversive. I asked if she identified as femme – I would put her in that vague category, red strappy sandals, silver hoop earrings, but I know some people hate being categorized.

“I suppose I look femme,” she said, “but I don’t think I really act femme, and I certainly don’t fuck like a femme.”

We got interrupted, but I wanted to ask her what she meant. Or rather, I didn’t want her to tell me, I wanted to find out. I took it to mean that she’s not a “pillow queen,” which most would say derogatorily when referencing a femme in the bedroom. And that is a moment where butch/femme is operating under the assumption as a reproduction of the heteronormative paradigm, and not necessarily a re-visioning of the compulsory gender hierarchy.

And this also reminds me of another point I haven’t yet discussed during this gender conversation – what I believe gender is and what kind of role it should play in my life. (More on both of these soon. There’s so much to say and explore about gender.)

Another friend of hers said she wasn’t so into gender. “I hate it when it takes girls like three hours to get ready,” she said. “I’d rather spend two and a half hours enjoying your company, and half an hour getting ready.”

“I can get that,” I said, “but I also want to acknowledge how much fucking effort it takes to be femme. It isn’t just roll-outta-bed, tussle-the-hair-with-product like it is for us” – I indicated myself and the friend – “it takes a lot more work. And I gatta say, I love what that work creates. It’s an art form, a creative expression. And, not to sound egotistical, but I also kind of see it as for me, something to get my attention, get me going, and I love that – love that I’m worth that effort.”

“Plus,” I added, “I can enjoy her company while she’s getting ready, can’t I?”

Clearly, this was the foreplay.

“So,” she said later, after we’d been sharing life stories, still drinking pints at the bar, “when are you going to kiss me?”

Then my hand on her cheek. Soft lips, and oh she tasted fantastic.

I felt oh so rude, having pretty much completely ditched my very good friend and a gaggle of other queer girls (some of whom I knew, and others of which seemed fantastic! I wanted to meet them, hand out, socialize! So easily distracted by the hot girl … ), but I didn’t let that stop me, and we took a cab to my house.

We were both tipsy. She looked at my bookcases, went through my iTunes (Animaniacs, Gretchen Wilson, Dolly Parton, Garrison Starr … and I discovered that my sexmix is seriously outdated. Seriously. I should’ve just put on Morphine. It was laughable, honestly). And then we were naked, in my bed.

“Lube?” she asked.

“I’ll get it … ”

“No, let me. Where?”

“In the toolbox, under the bed.”

“The toolbox. Of course.”

I leaned over to pull it out. She fisted me easily, though it was too much to sustain for very long. But oh it is sometimes so lovely to be filled, stretched.

Later, fingers not enough, I said: “Can I get my cock out yet?”

“Oh god yes. Please.” That please again. The way she whispers it. Makes my stomach contract as if punched.

I like the way she moved. The way her body curved, the way she wasn’t shy but would put herself where she wanted to be. I would probably call her more of a top, though we didn’t discuss those identities. And it made me realize – or perhaps remember – that I don’t really surrender well. My impulse is to take, to overpower, to do the throw-down. I have a harder time as the one being thrown down. Not sure why. There are certainly times that I can let go, give in, get fucked – but honestly, if I hadn’t made her come yet, I feel distracted by the want of that, the desire to do so.

Given the option of me getting off and not her, or her getting off and not me, I would be much more satisfied with the latter. I get such satisfaction out of making girls come.

It was hard to get her off. “We’ve learned a valuable lesson about alcohol,” she said. “Four beers is too many?” I asked. “Four beers was what it took for me to ask you to take me home,” she answered, “so it was necessary.”

[Another tangent: I actually find that I rarely get off – or get her off – the first time I’m with a girl. There’s a learning curve to discovering her body and what she likes. Which is yet another reason why I’m not so good at one-night stands, I like to build that understanding, that communication, between our bodies.]

Pillow talk consisted of our favorite books. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel, Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and Crush by Richard Siken, I said. I talked about sci-fi and fantasy, her genres. What I liked and disliked. She said she had one in particular I needed to read. This means I just may see her again.

I walked her to the subway at two am to wait with her because I knew it’d be a while before the train came. As we walked, I switched sides with her so her heels wouldn’t get caught in the sidewalk subway grate, and it was a beautiful little gender dance, gender connection, my brief protection of the ways she presents her sexuality and desire through her gender.

I really love those moments. Gender is such a sex toy.

someone slightly more articulate

[O]ral histories have demonstrated that butch-femme couples were seen in America as far back as the turn of the twentieth century [… But] the lesbian feminist movement beginning in the early 1970s, dismissed butch-femme culture as politically incorrect. […]

Criticism of butch-femme was usually based on the claim that these identifications are an attempt to replicate heterosexuality by designating one member of a couple as male (the butch) and the other as female (the femme). Even today this argument is frequently aired. However, it is highly problematic because of its own underlying assumption of heteronormativity–that is, the tenet that heterosexuality is normal, and that all other forms of sexuality are only weak imitations of it. Butch-femme need not be an imitation of anything; it is a unique way of living and loving.

from the entry for Butch/femme in the GLBTQ encyclopedia

See also:

Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity by Chloe Brushwood
Butch Is a Noun by S. Bear Bergman
Dagger: On Butch Women edited by Lily Burana, Roxxie, and Linnea Due
Femme/Butch: New Considerations of the Way We Want to Go by Michelle Gibson and Deborah T. Meem
The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader edited by Joan Nestle
… and don’t forget the upcoming Visible: A Femmethology edited by Maria Angeline