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 Boy at Summer Camp

It started with an email with the subject line “butch at your service,” and an offer for a blow job. And I thought, hm. Well, you know, I do like those. But I’m not usually attracted to boys. So, we’ll see.

Then at Summer Camp, rife made a point to say hello. We chatted a bit, attended similar workshops. I was surprisingly affected by his energy, his tender sweetness, the way he was clear about what he wanted and owned his desires but still bashful and shy, submissive. I watched him blush and bruise and cringe, and take it, when the person he was serving for the weekend gave him some punches on the arm, and I felt the urge come from down low to see if I could make him respond to me that way.

I’m not usually attracted to boys, but I was attracted to this boy.

The next day, chatting, he said shyly, “What’s your schedule like? I would love the opportunity to play with you.” He wasn’t looking at me when he asked that, and had trouble sometimes maintaining eye contact when we spoke. When I came near him, his voice dropped, quieter, and so did his eyes. His mouth curled at the corner with the slightest little lines of dimples.

I said, “I don’t know my schedule yet, and I need to check with my girl, but I would like that.” Kristen and I had agreed that I could do things to practice skills before she came down and joined me at Summer Camp for the weekend, but that if I was going to be doing any fucking, I would wait until she arrived, and she could be there to witness.

I could tell he was experienced as I watched him get hit for fun, make dates, talk about his adventures at the dining table, and play. I kept my eye on him as I continued teaching and attending classes, and later picked up Kristen at the train station, telling her that I thought I would be interested in playing with him. “He’s really cute,” she said after they met. “I can see why. I don’t have to be involved, but it’s fine with me if you play. I’d like to be there.”

I kept seeing rife all day, but hadn’t quite figured when we could play. In the morning we circled each other and didn’t talk, but I saw him looking at me, and he saw me looking back. The quiet attention got me hard. I made a point to go up to him and grip his upper arm, and whisper in his ear, “Good morning.” Later, I found him at dinner the next night and asked about his evening plans. “See me at the Cigars & Chocolate event,” I said, “and we’ll go do something after.”

He came in after I did, with his crew of folks, and I saw him scan the room looking for me. I got my boots done by a talented bootblacker, smoked a cigar, learned about ashtrays. When the place started thinning out, he came over to me. He and Kristen and I headed up to the barn, which was empty: one big room with a concrete floor, some platform bleachers on one side, and a mat and bondage trestle of sorts in one corner. Kristen sat herself on the bleachers. rife picked up a few unlubricated condoms from the bins laid out on the safer sex table.

I took hold of his unsnapped black shirt lapels, his binder and the skin of his stomach exposed underneath. He inhaled. I pushed with my fists to move him around a little, feeling our legs move together in a dance, feeling how he followed. Immediately he fell in to my direction.

“Anything I should know?”

He didn’t look at me, keeping his chin low and shoulders in a little bit of a shrug, letting me move his body around the room. “Bruises are fine. I like barriers. I’d like to suck your cock.” We said a few more things in negotiation that I can’t quite remember. He was direct and clear, but quiet, keeping his head curled down. I think this is when we kissed. Perhaps I asked if kissing was okay first. Then he asked, “Can I call you sir?”

I grinned. “Yes.”

He shifted his weight and started backing me up, moving me. I followed. “Where are you taking me?”

He stopped at the mat and trestle. “I’m a masochist, but not for concrete floors.” I found the pole of the trestle and leaned against it, pulling him to me and opening his knees a little with mine, finding his mouth again. He shuddered, body pliable, giving in easily and smoothly. There wasn’t a lot of kissing—so intimate with someone I don’t know—but we kept our heads close, him curled into my shoulder while I kept a grip on his body.

“Will you call me a faggot?” he asked quietly into my neck. I didn’t hear, asked him to repeat it.

“That’s what you like, huh, dirty boy.”

“Yes, sir,” he breathed out.

“Unh, god you’re so sweet,” my hands went to my belt, zipper, untucking from my harness. “Are you ready to suck my cock now?”

“Yes,” he didn’t move. I didn’t ask him to do it, but if he was ready.

I fingered the back of his head, his short and soft hair. “Do it,” I growled in his ear, and he dropped to his knees, in a flash had a condom in his hand, rolled it onto the tip and pushed it down the shaft with his mouth. I felt a surge of power and pleasure roll through me, up my legs into my core, as he sucked me in. I fumbled to tighten my harness, moved my hands back to his head.

He took the length of it down easily, his tongue gentle and persistent as he sucked. I leaned into the trestle, aware that Kristen was getting a show, that she doesn’t usually get to watch me receive from afar. I fingered his neck, cupped his jaw, touched his lips with my fingers and he sucked them into his mouth.

After a moment I broke away and leaned down to kiss him, his mouth wet. “You like that, faggot? Sucking my cock?”

“Yes, yes sir,” he managed, gasping a little.

“You’re good at it. Do it again,” and I slid back onto his tongue. “Mm,” I groaned. His hair was almost shaved all around except a wide mohawk patch on top, which I grabbed hold of to work in and out of his mouth, gently. Kind of.

“That is so good,” I leaned down to kiss him again. My cock was throbbing and hard. “You got me all hard, sweet little faggot.”

He swallowed and whispered up to me, “I want you to throw me down.”

“You do huh.” He was on his knees, thrown off balance with not very far to fall when I gripped his upper arms and pushed him to the floor. No fighting at all, just letting my weight take him, grounding him down into the mat. His eyes closed, he bit his lip, curled his small sweet body as he rearranged himself, getting his legs out from under him, and I worked a knee between his thighs. I held his shoulders down and reached between his legs, a little surprised he wasn’t packing, finding the heat and feeling my own cock harden in response, jutting out from my hips.

illustration by rife

Small sounds from his mouth as he groaned and pushed against me, testing the feeling of being trapped. I gripped his sports bra and ace bandage binder in one hand over his chest and worked the other hand between his legs, over his jeans, and could feel him bucking forward, wanting more. “That feel good on your dick, huh? Getting hard for me?” I asked. He panted. I realized I didn’t have a glove.

“Stay right here,” I said next to his ear, pushing my body on top of his, my arms holding me up on the mat. “I’m going to get a glove. Put your arms over your head.” He did. “Stay like that. I’ll be right back. You alright?”

He nodded, quickly. I didn’t want to get up but wanted a hand down his pants, wanted to feel him, and trusted that staying in this position I’d ordered him in would only deepen his submission. I stood and took the ten or so steps to the supply table, picked up a glove and some lube packets. I looked at Kristen as I went across the room, but in the dark shadows it was hard to decipher her expression. Upset? Okay? Turned on? All three? I trusted she would tell me if she needed anything.

When I returned, I let myself look at rife a moment before bringing myself back down to the floor. His body quivered a little, waiting for me, arms still extended over his head, one hand in the other. “Hi,” I said as I knelt next to him, my eyes scanning over his black button down shirt open, his tight stomach, smooth skin. I ran my hand along the skin that was exposed and pushed at his body again, felt him groan and shudder in response.

I unbuckled, unzipped his jeans, fast, eager, and pulled them down on his thighs, not past his knees, left them high to give some restriction to his legs and thighs, and then pulled on his hips. “Turn,” I said, impatient. “Over.” He did, flat until I pulled his ass up to kneeling, his elbows out in front of him to catch his body weight as I pushed him down into the mat. My gloved fingers easily found his hole and slid in, one then two, then out again and along the whole length of him, feeling how smooth and supple, testing his responses. He was sensitive, back arching at the slightest change in pressure or speed. I slid my fingers back inside, turned my hand over and worked his g-spot, massaging, and he moaned.

Tearing open a lube packet for my cock, I smeared it onto the length and pressed myself behind him, sliding in awkwardly but fully. My jeans and his jeans were in the way, mine not pushed down any farther than his, our legs tangled, the angle wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t get that good drive, all the way in and out, but I wanted him to feel me behind him for a while, taking hold of his hips and pulling him back onto me. His back and neck arched, spine curled. I managed a building rhythm for four, five, six strokes, pushed my hips hard into him, held him to me, shuddering a little as I felt myself diving into him.

He kept breathing hard, mouth open and drooling on the dirty mat. I gripped his hair again, pushed his shoulders down. “That’s it, good boy,” I murmured, thrusting still, opening him up, my hips pulsing. “Fuck.”

I switched to my hand again so I could better feel his muscles, his responses. Fingered his clit and his back rippled. Thrust in hard and he smashed his cheek into the floor.

“You’re dripping wet,” I growled into his ear. I slid my arm under his chest and pulled him up to his knees. There was a puddle on the mat beneath him, another damp place where his mouth had been on the mat. We knelt next to each other, his knees apart, jeans bunched under his calves.

He nodded in response.

“What?”

“Yes sir, I’m wet, sir.”

“You didn’t tell me you do that.”

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“No, I like it. I just didn’t know.” The sleeve of my sweater was damp, but I couldn’t tell if it was from him or from sweating. I kissed him again, his mouth open and chest heaving, lips swollen as I ran my tongue on them. I brought my left hand up to his jaw and held him there as we kissed deeper, then slid two fingers into his mouth. He sighed and moaned, swallowed them deeper, bent his head back to open his throat, kept them deep, then slid them in and out.

“Oh, that’s good, faggot. Sweet boy, that is so good.” My own muscles shuddered in response throughout my body, thighs contracting, and for a second I thought I’d fall over. I kept my mouth next to his ear. “Touch your clit with your other hand. Come for me again. Will you?”

He nodded, eyes lidded and mostly closed, and he slowly brought his hand between his legs. I could barely see what he was doing but could feel his body respond, tightening, his stomach crunching in as his hips tightened and thrust, just a little.

“Is that good? Does that feel good?” I teased in his ear. He swallowed and I felt his throat contract around my fingers. “I like being deep in your throat like this. You suck cock really well, little fag. Does it feel good to touch down there? Are you going to come for me again?” I kept going, pushing a little with my voice and my fingers, until his body convulsed and he squirted again, falling against me. “Oh that’s nice, good boy,” I murmured, running my hands along his body as he quieted.

“Is that enough, or do you want some more?”

He straightened up and looked at me, a little sly. “I could … take a little more.”

“Oh, you could, huh.” I could hit him, I thought, but I loved how sensitive he is to touch. Loved how he curls in response, gives in, takes it. I loved watching him come. I pushed him down again, on his back this time, pushed his jeans a little further down, and slid my fingers down his cunt again, still dripping and wet everywhere. I slid two fingers in easily and held his chest down with my forearm, then gripped his binder again, pulling at it, leaning my weight into him.

He held my wrist, groaned. “More,” he managed to say, and I slid another finger in, pushed harder in and out, twisted my hand so my thumb was up on his clit and pinky finger was below his hole, and thrust in. I anchored my hand above his shoulder so I could go in harder. He twisted under me but couldn’t move away from my grip, my knees holding his thighs apart.

“Is that what you wanted? More?”

“Yes sir.”

“Say thank you.”

“Thank you, sir,” he whispered, just barely audible, in my ear.

“Louder.”

“Thank you, sir!”

“Again,” as I thrust harder inside, fingering his g-spot, felt him tightening.

“Thank you, sir! Thank you, sir thank you … ” He trailed off, coming again, pushing my fingers out, and I didn’t let up, flicked his clit as he continued shuddering, mouth open so I slid my fingers back in, working them in and out, fucking his mouth and feeling his tongue swollen on my knuckles. I cupped my hand around him for a moment, then tapped and started slapping, which got a moan from his mouth and more convulsing from his stomach and hips, so I kept going, slapping, and I felt him squirt again, wetness dripping from my hand. Probably I was saying other dirty things while I touched him, I don’t remember. This time I got to watch more directly, and that’s what I wanted. I watched his muscles ripple and settle, ran my hands up under his shirt, clamored up next to him to feel his body along mine.

“You smell like a boy,” I said, his musky scent so different than what I’m used to. He laughed, and had this smile on his face by then, a grin, ecstatic and giddy, and I wanted to kiss him, slap his face, get him back on his knees. The hunger was still palpable, I wanted more. I also figured he had other plans, didn’t want to take up his whole night, and knew I should check in with Kristen. He sat up, pulled his shirt and tangled binder off. I tugged my jeans up, took my sweater off, my button down shirt underneath totally soaked through with sweat. I gathered the condom and glove, ripped lube packets, brought them over to the other side of the room, and grabbed some wet wipes for the mat. He took them from my hand, “Let me, I made the mess,” with that shy little side smile with the lines, dimples, at the corners of his mouth, and we composed ourselves to go back out into the dark night.

He walked Kristen and I back up to our room and went off to find trouble. It’s been an interesting experiment, for Kristen and I to play with other people, and we have been talking about it openly and being interested and careful with each other about it. That’s kind of another post I have brewing, how we are dealing with our particular version of monogamish openness. And don’t worry, Kristen wasn’t left out—she had her own adventures during Summer Camp weekend.

On Making Sex Last: Cheerleading & Open Relationships

I’ve asked a couple people recently what their secrets were for their successful long-term relationship, how they keep the passion alive, how they keep walking that delicate line of having enough space and still being connected to each other. Coming together, going apart, coming back together, over and over through the years.

One friend answered, “Do you really want to know? We sleep around. We’re both big sluts. The commitment, to me, means that we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. We don’t believe in possessing each other. I am always on the sidelines yelling, ‘Go you!’”

I find possession kind of hot, personally. In a playful way. But I love this cheerleader idea, the ways that a relationship can be built to support each other through our individual personal trials. And as long as the possession stuff can be fun and consensual, and not interfering with each other’s sovereignty, I think the two—cheerleading and possession—aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. It reminds me of the quote in that relationship article I ran across long ago:

“Create for yourself a new indomitable perception of faithfulness. What is usually called faithfulness passes so quickly. Let this be your faithfulness: You will experience moments, fleeting moments, with the other person. The human being will appear to you then as if filled, irradiated with the archetype of his/her spirit. And then there may be, indeed will be, other moments, long periods of time when human beings are darkened. At such times, you will learn to say to yourself. ‘The spirit makes me strong. I remember the archetype, I saw it once. No illusion, no deception shall rob me of it.’ Always struggle for the image that you saw. This struggle is faithfulness. Striving thus for faithfulness you shall be close to one another as if endowed with the protective powers of angels.” -Rudolf Steiner

I think that perspective of cheerleading can also be seen as rooting for the other’s highest self, for what they’re capable of, at their best. So that part, yeah, I totally support.

The other part, though …

I have read all good the books about polyamory, I’ve been a proponent of The Ethical Slut and Opening Up by Taormino, I’m a big fan of Dan Savage who is constantly talking about how frequently monogamy fails, and I remain firm in the opinion that my significant, intimate partnering relationship should be open, but the degree of that openness, I’m still not really sure. In part, that’s where the other person comes in, but another part of me thinks that I am actually interested in a semi-monogamous relationship. Monogam-ish, as someone put it to me once.

I do believe in open relationships because, frankly, I’m a little bit of a slut. I have enough experience sexually to know that sex doesn’t actually have to mean anything, that it doesn’t have to necessitate a precursor to a relationship, that if I want to have sex with someone more than once, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to love them forever and shack up with them and share our lives intimately. And I don’t think that we, realistically, just stop feeling attracted to anyone else, ever, just because we’ve made a life-long commitment to another person. And that physical desire for someone else—or even intellectual or emotional desire—is not necessarily an indication of some deep-seated problem in the relationship.

I know it’s possible to be attracted to or interested in more than one person at the same time, and that one does not necessarily take away from the other. Most importantly, though, I recognize that just if or when I or my partner feels an attraction, I want us to be able to talk about that, to puzzle through it, to figure out if it’s important to go sleep with that person or if flirty coffee dates or making out is enough, or if it’s a temporary infatuation, or if it should become a bigger friendship.

Why do people cheat when they’re in a relationship? They cheat because they, ultimately, are feeling unfulfilled, sexually, emotionally, or otherwise. Because their relationship was sexually (or otherwise) incompatible from the beginning, but they made the decision to commit anyway, or because their relationship used to be sexually fulfilling, but isn’t anymore, because something changed (be it someone’s body, ability, health, sex drive, etc). This often leaves one person extremely unhappy and unfulfilled, while the other is guilty, apologetic, or withholding (or all of the above). But under the strict rules of monogamy, one can’t possibly go seek sex or comfort outside of the committed relationship without doing this awful, home-wrecking thing: cheating. Which is, according to most people, unforgivable.

But what about being so withholding as to not allow your partner their sexual fulfillment? How is that not the thing of which we are unforgiving?

And under the strict rules of relationships in this day and age, it isn’t just the monogamy that’s a problem: it’s the culture that de-emphasizes sex as not important, while simultaneously using it as the be-all end-all status symbol. Think about it: how many times have you heard someone complain that “the rest of the relationship is just fine!” And there’s “only” a problem with the sex part.

As if that was just this little, teeny piece.

Well, if you’re talking about a monogamous relationship, sex is pretty much the definition of what you are going to be doing with this person that you are going to avoid doing with every other person on the planet. And if you accept the premise that you are a sexual being and deserve to have your sexual needs fulfilled (though, I know, that’s a stretch for most folks), then by definition the key component of this monogamous relationship is to be sexually compatible.

But most of this stuff, for me personally, is theoretical-in-the-future. Because right now, my girlfriend and I are sexually compatible, are highly communicative about our needs (and continuing to practice and hone our communications skills), and very committed to both our sex life together and to our individual erotic fulfillment.

So we’re open.

But not because we want to sleep with other people. Well, threesomes, sure—we are both slutty enough and interested enough in interesting new sexcapades that doing sexual things together with other people is totally an option. And, sometimes, we have cashed in on that option, making dates with hot queers who, to our thrills, have agreed to come home with us.  We might be willing to play with other people at a party, and I have dreams of orchestrating a butch gang bang for her, where I just get to sit back and watch. Or maybe be the first and the last in a string of butches who get to take advantage of her.

But what about sex outside of this relationship, sex with another person on our own, without the other person there?

We’ve been talking about this, lately. From the beginning, we’ve claimed that we were open, and for a while that meant we could do whatever we wanted when we weren’t with each other, and we didn’t need to know about it. Then, as things got more serious between us, we decided we wanted to know, which (chicken or egg?) meant that neither of us were sleeping with anybody else.

But what does it mean now, a year and a half into our relationship? I guess we’re still working that out. By “regular” standards, we are open because most folks would consider things like threesomes or making out with another person potentially crossing the lines of monogamy. Oh yeah, and we have both attended erotic energy retreats, which others could (and have, for me) consider “cheating,” but which we are both fine with. And we are open because we are acknowledge that sexual desire for someone else can happen, and we should be able to talk about that, that desire for someone else doesn’t have to have repercussions within our own relationship,  and that sex can be fun and playful and, ultimately, meaningless.

As our lives become more entwined, though, and as we continue to be cheerleaders for more and more things in each other’s paths and trials and triumphs, from our sexual fulfillment to our careers to our emotional hurdles, we are less interested in other people. And playing with other people sexually, alone, without each other, just … doesn’t sound like much fun. We’ve both articulated that, recently. My sex life, at this point, has to do with her, and hers with me, and for a while anyway I want to be sure that she is a part of it.

For me personally, when I sleep with someone, I want to learn something. About myself, about the other person, about sex, about erotic energy exchange. For a long time, I was sleeping with people while looking for a person against which to form myself, I was looking for the particular magical orientation combination of femme-bottom-submissive to match up with my butch-top-dominant, while being in a person with whom I was also emotionally and politically compatible. Someone who would challenge me, someone who brought a lot to their side of the table, someone who took responsibility for their own shit. Someone that I could work on my own shit with, someone I could grow with, someone who will listen if I say, “I’m unhappy, and here’s why, and here’s what I think we should do about it.” Someone fierce, strong, capable.

If it sounds like a tall order, well … it is.

So for a while, I was just trying to find her. Searching and playing and refining what it was that I wanted by learning about what I didn’t want. And now that I’ve found someone like that, all I really want to do is play with her, in that delicious dynamic that I’ve been craving all this time. In our year and a half together we have already come to some fascinating new places in our sex life, and every time I find myself even remotely thinking that I’m bored or unfulfilled, I just quickly ask myself: well, what do you want? I bet whatever you ask for, she would be interested in doing it. And I quickly realize whatever momentary restlessness I felt was not about actually unfulfillment, but usually something else entirely. Usually something old of mine, rearing its ugly head.

And now that I have all of that, now that I have this relationship that continues to blossom and show me new things about myself, her, and the world, why would I go back to one night stands? I look back on my one-night stands, and even two- or three-night stands, and though they were fun, often a delight, they were also occasionally a disappointment. What would I learn, now, by sleeping with someone outside of my relationship?

I suppose it’s true that I am no longer looking for the be-all end-all package of my compatible girlfriend, so perhaps my standards for playful, casual are different, or should be. I think this is the question I should be asking myself: now that I have what I’ve wanted, and it basically works for me, what’s next? How do I continue to deepen my sense of self, my connection to erotic energy, and my connection to my girlfriend? What else can I—or do I want to—learn about sex?

Well, that’s a million dollar question. I will keep investigating.