Posts Tagged ‘power dynamics’

Reconciling the Identities of Feminist & Butch Top

June 10, 2012  |  essays  |  4 Comments

Queer Memoir: Butch/Stud Through the Years was fucking EPIC on Friday night, and I’m so honored and thrilled to have been there and to be a part of it. There was the story of the kid’s game “hide and go get it” in Kentucky! There was the revelation of belonging somewhere and that “here take a sticker” moment—”because even though you’re in New York City, you might still be isolated.” There were discussions about feminist topping! There was deep appreciation for butch friends and community and support! There was a fucking marriage proposal!

This is the piece I read, slightly updated from the December 2009 version, about reconciling the identities of feminist and butch top, and what it means to be a masculine person who is also dominant. It is relevant as ever and I still struggle with the intersection of these identities. I have a lot more to say about it, and reading this piece again made me think about what I’d add and what more there is to say, so I’m working on it. Meanwhile, here’s the text of what I read.


A few years ago, a girl I dated wanted me to slap her. To hit her face. She asked for it specifically, I still remember the conversation on the subway and the precise way that she looked over at me and said, I want you to hit me. Something big swelled in me and I wanted to, I wanted to feel the sting of impact on my palm and see her recoil, to do it again before she was ready, to push something so sensational onto her experience that she was jolted to the edges of her skin and had to feel, to feel herself, to feel me, to be fully present.

This girl and I had already done some other light percussion play, using my hand, or even a paddle, me hitting her ass and thighs, the fleshy parts that I couldn’t possibly do damage to beyond some light bruising. She liked it, we both did. It made sense to escalate, at the time, to something new; we were deepening both our romantic relationship – our trust in each other – and our power dynamic, and it was time to push a little, to see where we could go.

I was terrified. After she asked, after we talked about it extensively, I even tried, a few times, when we were in bed and she said, hit me, now, please, and I couldn’t, I’d bring my hand up and chicken out.

I was terrified of what it would mean for me, as a masculine person, as a butch, to be more dominating in bed. To like it. To like to cause someone pain. To like to cause a woman pain. To hit someone in the face. To hit a woman in the face, to sexualize that act and that power dynamic specifically.

I was paralyzed by that terror – I wanted to do it, the idea, the very thought of it, the discussions with her, turned me on, the girl I was dating wanted me to do it, but I couldn’t.

Beyond wanting to do it, this was the kind of sex act that was in the sex life I was dreaming of having. This was what haunted my fantasies and what I looked for in porn that I watched and erotica that I read. And I was on a very serious quest to figure out how to have the sex that I wanted. I’d just gotten out of a bed-death relationship. I was committed to studying sex hard, to figuring out: what I wanted, how to get what I wanted, how to build a relationship with that as an element, how to maintain something sane and hot over a long period of time. That’s precisely why I started Sugarbutch.

I now know that I’m a sadist, and a top. That means I like to dominate. And already there are conclusions being drawn by some of you out there who think well of course you like to dominate, you’re masculine, and that’s prescribed for you or in other words you misogynistic asshole, I already knew you were one of “those” butches who needs to make up for your inadequacies by dominating women. Because that’s what we think, isn’t it? Maybe not consciously, but a little bit, somewhere in our brains, we associate these particular identity alignments – butch equals masculine equals top equals dominating equals men’s prescribed gender role. We’re relieved when they line up how we think they will, or maybe we are challenged and uncomfortable – though perhaps in a stimulated way – when they misalign.

There’s something supposedly anti-feminist about wanting to dominate. There’s something in the feminist rhetoric which says we are all equal especially in bed, so that means I-do-you-you-do-me, or that means we have sex neither above nor below each other, and with no reproduced heteronormative misogynistic patriarchal power dynamic.

But I didn’t want that. I’d had that, with other girlfriends, but it didn’t keep things hot enough to sustain a relationship. And secretly, I wanted to top and control and hit and demean and humiliate and restrain and force and take.

Power dynamic theory—stick with me for just a paragraph here—has many similarities to gender theory. Like the gender identities of butch and femme are not reproductions but pastiche copies at best of prescribed societal gender roles, putting on and taking off power roles in power sex play is a pastiche reproduction of power in our lives, of which there are thousands of examples of interaction on a daily basis. And when we can put on and take off these roles intentionally, the act of adopting becomes further proof that the power positioning in our lives is not inherent, or “real,” or immobile, or prescribed, or “normal,” but part of a hierarchical society of social power that can be deconstructed. In that, we can more easily have more power and control in the beneficial ways, and less power and control in destructive ways, as we play with it and engage with it.

As in my experience with coming to a butch gender identity, when I finally came to a power identity that really deeply aligned with something inside me that just clicked and make sense, I felt like I was coming home to myself in a way I hadn’t experienced previously. Through my personality and tendencies and psychology I have my own set of quirks and workings and functions, and for whatever reason, it makes a lot of sense to me to let out some of my power and control issues in the bedroom by being dominating. It is deeply satisfying the way a glorious meal or a delicious book is satisfying, one of my life’s greatest pleasures. I’m not sure I understand why I like what I like, but what I like does not harm others, and is consensual, and I know myself well enough to accept what I like as what I like – and to let that be a simple truth.

How did this change for me? What happened between the time when I was terrified to slap a girl in the face and today, now, where I am fairly comfortable in my identity as a top, and even as a sadist, as someone who enjoys causing extreme sensation (aka hurting) someone else?

Little by little, I had lovers who pushed me, lovers who were more experienced as bottoms than I was as a top, lovers who wanted more from me and who could take more than I was able to give who made enough space for me to walk into a bigger version of myself and occupy it, try it on.

I did come to a reconciliation with my feminist self and my top self. Phrases like men should not hurt women or rather masculine people should not hurt feminine people, or even more broadly that people should not hit each other and violence is bad bad bad … I had accepted those phrases as Ultimate Truths, and I started to understand deeper the ways that sensation was not violence, and hitting was a way to be sparked into the present moment, to release whatever our musculature was holding onto, and to deepen trust between people and in a relationship.

I didn’t realize how little trust I had in others until I started playing deeper with BDSM. Because I would tell myself, it’s okay, she wants to do it, but then I would think, does she really? Maybe she wants to because I want to. Maybe she wants to because society tells her she should want to. Maybe she wants to for fucked-up reasons, like she thinks it’s okay for her to feel humiliated and less than me because of her own internalized misogyny … but that was me not trusting that what she said was true. That she wanted me to hit her face. And that was me, further controlling both myself, her, and our relationship, in unhealthy ways, because I didn’t trust her.

This was an issue of agency, in feminist terms – my not trusting my lover to communicate with me what she wanted, to explain to me how far I could go, and my not trusting that she would let me know if I was going too far or too hard, either with her physical communication or her words or both, was me not trusting in the agency of my lover. I have to trust that she will tell me, she will let me know, if I am going too far. And I have to listen, apologize, understand what I did, and trust that she will accept that it was an accident, a mistake, and that I’ll do whatever she needs to feel safe again.

When I started playing out my control issues in BDSM, in the bedroom, in sex play, the control issues I had in my relationships began to heal.

In learning my way into being a top, I had many, many conversations about consent and intention and communication, I talked to my lovers when things broke down or didn’t seem to work and I learned more about my own tendencies when things went well. I figured out that sometimes, it was really hard for me to be with someone who bottomed so well, and who I trusted so deeply, that I did harder, scarier, bigger things with them that took me even deeper into my topping and dominance and sadism and power, and sometimes that meant I needed to be comforted afterward, to be told I liked that, and that wasn’t too much, and you didn’t hurt me, and that was what I wanted and thank you. Hearing those things is always a relief.

(I give good aftercare too, of course. But top aftercare is less common in the BDSM world – we don’t frequently talk about the toll it takes for the dominant to dominate.)

I practiced, a lot, to be bold and trusting through my topping. I tried scary things and it turned out they weren’t so scary, they were in fact incredibly hot. I got to know myself, and I learned more about the things I wanted to play with, and I talked to smart people whose experiences were similar to what I was going through and who assured me it was possible to come out the other side of it a masculine, queer, butch, sadistic, feminist top.

Protected: Using D/s to Address Connection & Power

March 17, 2011  |  journal entries  |  Enter your password to view comments.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

From Not Stone to Stone-ish

June 11, 2010  |  advice  |  8 Comments

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

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

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

(She did, she does.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protected: Occasional Effects of D/s

January 3, 2010  |  journal entries  |  Enter your password to view comments.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

I’d Like To Fuck Her Ass

September 23, 2009  |  dirty stories  |  22 Comments

Since we got together about nine months ago, Kristen and I have kept a verbal running list of Sex Stuff To Explore (okay, not always verbal, we have a shared Google doc, too).

Up pretty high on my list, and one thing that I have mentioned quite a few times, is that I’d like to fuck her ass.

I’ve never actually strapped on and fucked a girl up the ass (how come it’s up the ass but in the pussy? Does one say “up the pussy”? No, that’s awkward. Weird). (I have actually fucked a guy that way, but perhaps that’s different. Or perhaps that’s too much for a lesbian sex blogger to disclose in parenthesis without going farther in depth. Carry on.) I want to. The idea is really hot. I don’t know why exactly – not that the why matters terribly, but perhaps if I could articulate it better she’d be more inclined to try it. Maybe because it’s taboo, maybe because it’s tight and I expect the sensation to be a little different, maybe because I have fantasies of sharing her with another butch (or two) as we all fill her and use her, so she needs the practice. Maybe because DP feels good. Maybe because I know it changes and enhances my own orgasms. Maybe because I know it makes her nervous.

I guess the real hangup is that it makes me a bit nervous too. I don’t have trouble pushing her to do things I want that are things I’ve done in the past, even when she’s nervous, but for some reason we still haven’t done much ass play. Sure, a finger here and there, a small butt plug a few times – but I want it to be my cock, and I want to be wearing it.

I’ll admit, too, that since I started keeping a tumblr log and going through my dashboard as another daily inbox, I’ve thought about it more often. There is no shortage of cock-in-ass shots on that site, the sights of which makes my own imagined cock strain against my slacks every time.

Sidenote: why the fascination with girls assholes, guys? Same reasons for mine, I imagine …

Kristen mention Tristan Taormino’s book The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex For Women the other day, asking if I had it. I don’t. I may attempt to hunt down a copy though, and maybe a DVD or two of hers too. She does, after all, have a butt plug named after her.

I may be getting a Fun Wand from Babeland in the near future (crossing my fingers), which I think will be great to play with. I’m tempted by the Njoy Plug also – I have the Pfun Plug, perhaps I should get that out. (I am a bit obsessed with these stainless steel Njoy toys these days, thanks to my Pure Wand.) I have plenty of other butt toys, though – goodness knows I have no shortage of toys. Slim cocks I anticipate working up to, butt plugs in small-medium-large, thicker, wetter lubes. No problem.

Something still makes me a little nervous, though. It isn’t the shit part, at least not for me – I don’t particularly like it, but it is just part of the reality of things up the ass, and whatever, things happen that are sometimes awkward. I can deal. I know how to clean it up, know how to prep with towels nearby and condoms and wipes and whatever other supplies. I’m not sure what Kristen’s hesitations are exactly – inexperience? pain? shit? – but perhaps it’s time to ask her again.

Fucking up the ass strapped on seems like something that is done for her pleasure, not mine. It’s her body that has to get used to some new invasion, some new and violating way of being taken. The top in me – and the use of a dick with no nerve endings – makes me hesitant to pressure something that is all about her.

But then again: this is a frequent topic for our sex life, actually, and a place in which we have some snags. Nothing big; a few tiny things. We have a complex power dynamic (aren’t they all) in that while I am a top, I am sometimes more of a “service top,” doing things to my bottom because I know she wants them, I know how she likes it, I know what she wants. (I could say much more about this – it is, in fact, the reason the Sugarbutch Star stories were born, and often the way I write smut too. That feels like a tangent, I’ll cut myself off.) Sometimes, as you can imagine, this extends out to me being so focused and attentive to her needs and reactions that I ignore my own. I think this is why (at least sometimes) I have trouble getting off. Likewise, it is challenging sometimes for Kristen to contain, to hold – not to let in or open, those are a bit different (I have an article on these concepts in the works) – and we’d both like her to be better at it. Playing with that concept sexually would be a good way to do so, we’ve discussed this, since it is one place where I can practice being completely focused on me with disregard to her feelings, and where she likes being submissive and bottoming to that kind of degrading, using power energy.

But why have I not connected this with fucking her up the ass before? I want to; I am hesitant because I feel like it’s “for her pleasure” and not for mine. But it is for mine, maybe not physically, but in other ways. Obviously! Weird to think I still have a small hangup there. This particular act it is a great symbol of this issue of me taking, selfishly, something for me and not necessarily for her (with, hopefully, the side effect of her liking it). I have pages more to say about this issue, really; I feel like I’m only scratching the surface, but perhaps I’ve written around it enough in the past that you know what I’m talking about.

Kristen, baby, that means you’re going to give me that sweet ass of yours, and soon. You’ll do that for me, right? I thought so.

Folks, Kristen reads the comments – leave some support, wouldja? Tell her being fucked up the ass is not that scary. Tell her it is hard at first but you get used to it. Tell her why you LOVE it, tell her why it’s fun and hot, tell her it makes your orgasms better, tell her your story of when you first tried it. Tell her it’s worth the work. Tell her your story of learning and practicing ass fucking. Lend her some support. Share some resources.

You know I’ll certainly appreciate it.

How do you get a dominant to dominate?

June 1, 2009  |  essays  |  11 Comments

Unspeakable Axe interviewed me for his podcast Masochast a few weeks ago (I’ll let you know when the interview goes up), and one of the questions he asked really got me thinking, and I still don’t have a very good answer, so I’d like to pose it here to see what you think.

Most of us tops know that there are certain things you can do to get someone to be more submissive, to surrender, to let go, to move into that bottomy headspace. Like pull someone’s hair, for example, or slap their face, or bind their hands, or giving them orders, or having them kneel. Everybody’s a little different, but there are certain themes and similarities that I bet many of you submissives would agree upon get you into that space faster and easily.

But, Axe asked, what can one do to get a dominant to dominate? So I was thinking about it, specifically: what kind of action or look entices dominance in me?

I have some ideas, but nothing that really makes me think, yes, that, exactly. It’s a hard question – there definitely isn’t one simple thing that always does it.

Things like closely-shaved legs, straps on her shoes that lace up her ankles, short skirts or flowy skirts that go down to her knees, hourglass dresses with pinched waists, hair up and off her neck (just begging to be pulled down), definitely give me that growl in my stomach. Looking up at me or sideways at me under her eyelashes, yes. Sometimes (I said this on the podcast) having her be a little resistant of me gives me the cue that I should take her a little more forcefully, a little stronger – but it’s not about bratty resistance, it’s about keeping the tension strong between us.

Yes, that’s it: tension. She can do things that increase the tension, and that builds the dominance in me. It’s the ways that she gives me her power, then takes it back, then gives it over to me, then takes it back. I think I’ve heard Dylan Ryan call what she does “active bottoming,” which of course implies that bottoming is sometimes “inactive,” which is probably where we get the same stereotype of “pillow princess” – which is a little problematic.

I don’t exactly have a cultural history of submission at my fingertips, but I feel like this is a rather new idea. Or maybe it’s just an unthought known – something that has been around for a long time, but that sexology and kinksters are just starting to observe and name in a theoretical, observed kind of way.

But, back to “active bottoming.” That’s the kind of thing I look for – someone who will push back against me. Not necessarily in an attempt to resist what I’m doing or break out of my restraints, but someone who knows how to keep the friction alive between us, someone who heightens the tension as we give-and-take the energy we’re raising and dispersing. That’s what gets me feeling more powerful, that’s what makes me more dominant.

Though I’m not sure I’m hitting on everything here. Still feels like there’s something else at play. I’ll keep thinking.

What about you? What are the ways that someone can entice dominance – or submission – in you? A look, a glance, a bit of clothing, a particular gesture, the flash of a body part?

Wait for me on your knees.

January 29, 2009  |  dirty stories  |  25 Comments

I pull her up from the table and cradle her close, her naked body against me, still fully clothed. Kiss her tender and run my hands along her skin. "Now: down." I command. "On your knees." She didn't quite respond quickly enough, still looking at me heavy-lidded and getting her brain to catch up with the sensations in her body. I push on her shoulders. "Down." And she slides to her knees. I take a fistful of her hair. "Put your hands behind your back." She does, eyes shining, blinking. "Wait for me. Be right back."

Read More