“I know I’m submissive. But where do I start?” aka “I just read Fifty Shades of Grey and I want THAT.”

1. Read a fucking book

Read fiction, sure—Carrie’s Story, The Marketplace series, Mr. Benson, The Leather Daddy and the Femme (these are some of my personal favorites)—hell, even Fifty Shades of Grey—read the fiction, but know that it is designed for one thing: Arousal. The reality of it is both much, much sexier, erotic, and mind-blowing and also sometimes very different, full of realistic mundane problems that aren’t sexy at all.

Read non-fiction. There are many good ones: ask a bookseller at your favorite local bookstore for recommendations on where to start if you’re exploring kink (I know, it’s old fashioned, but do it anyway.) Go in to your local feminist queer sex-positive sex toy shop (is there not a good directory for those online yet!?) and ask them for their book recommendations. Go to your favorite queer sex blogger’s list of recommended BDSM books on Amazon and browse around. Go intellectual-butt-sniffing (aka, look over their bookshelves) at your bibliophile friend’s place.

All of those recommendations are worth reading, but these are essential. Consider them assigned to you as homework.

You can do this step while you also do the other steps, but do not skip it.

2. Find a buddy

It doesn’t really matter where you find your buddy, but you gotta have that person you can talk to about this thing that is growing and that you are beginning to voice and give weight and value to. It’s great if that person has lots more information about kink than you do, if they can guide you on the path, if they can be your mentor, but that’s not the most important thing.

They must:

  • Feel safe to talk to
  • Listen to what you’re curious about
  • Be supportive and not judgmental, not shaming of your interests
  • Ask interesting questions

And, most importantly:

When you leave the conversations with this friend, you feel invigorated, empowered, stronger, braver. <— Pay attention to this, to how you feel after visiting with your friends and relations in general. You don’t need anyone else stomping on this new baby-green identity that is just starting to sprout and grow. It needs some scaffolding, a tomato cage of strength and nurturance around it, one that won’t disrupt it’s growth but is there if it needs something to hold on to, some guidance of how to get to the sun, some support if the fruits get too heavy.

Find those tomato-cage friends and lovers and confidants and beloveds. Identify them. They are out there. You probably already know a few of them.

3. Brave up and go to a Thing

BDSM, kink, and fetish events abound. You may not find “your people” or “your community” or your next mind-blowing fuck at the first, second, third, fifth, or even twentieth event you attend—but then again, you might.

Depending on where you live, this might be harder than it sounds. Your Thing might have to be on another coast, in another city, while visiting that one friend from college who is always posts “interesting” things on Facebook.

Look up whatever might be happening in your local kink community on Fetlife. (I wish I knew of another good source for you, but that’s the best I’ve got. And hey, I’ll be your friend!) Yes, you might have to wade through unsolicited solicitations. Yes, you might not have the exact right orientation or gender or fetish event that you’d really most want, in your heart-of-hearts, to attend. But that’s okay. You don’t have to go to the only very most perfect events. Go to the events that kind of weird you out, that you don’t get, that you are totally “meh” about.

Regardless of the Thing, you’ll learn. Pay attention. Put your phone away and really listen. Think about it as if you’re a scientist studying what these kinksters do. Why do they like it? What’s amazing about it? What makes them squirm, in good ways or bad ways? Even if it isn’t for you, you can still observe and learn.

The more brave you are, the more you’ll feel strong and capable and badass, and the more you’ll be able to do.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be in person, though I do encourage you to make sure to attend at least one kinky event every two months. But if socializing is too too hard, if your schedule just doesn’t work, it could be online. Lots of kinksters host online events. I’m just about to launch Submissive Playground for the second time, which is a more in-depth study for anybody who knows they’re submissive (of some kind) and wants to explore more submissive headspace. It’s great for folks who are beginners, for folks who have done so much kinky bottoming that they are practically bored and stagnant, for people without much kink community around them geographically, and for people wanting to dip their toes back in after something hard happened (be it a breakup or a bad scene).

Regardless, the point is to prioritize your kink. Prioritize your submission. It’s important, and nothing to be ashamed of.

4. Brave up and ask a top to play

Step 0: Go to a kink/bdsm/fetish Thing.

Step 1: Identify the hottest person in the room. If you’re trying to develop your submissive self, then filter for whether or not that person is a top. (Hint: You might not know until you talk to them!)

Step 2: Dare yourself to find a reason to talk to them, and say hi. Maybe it’s to give a compliment (people like compliments!) or ask a question (it’s flattering for someone to be curious!).

Step 3: Find common ground, and elevate the discussion. (This is something my mom taught me and I think about it all the time.)

Step 4: If you’ve talked for 2-5 minutes at the event and are still curious and have more compliments to give, offer your phone number. Ask if they’re on Fetlife and give them your user name. Say that you’d love to be in touch and talk more.

Step 5: If you’re really bold, ask them on a date. If you are less bold, ask them on a date via whatever contact information they give you or when they find you on social media or email you later.

One more note about asking tops to play:

They are not better than you are, they are not (inherently) sexier than you are, they are not more entitled to play than you are, just because they are a top and you are/might be a bottom. Tops sometimes act like they own the scene, but they don’t. They need you just as much as you need them, and they are just as nervous/excited/lonely/wishing for the right person to come along as you are.

Sometimes s-types are nervous about asking for dates or being forward, because that is seen as a trait that dominants or tops have. I say, fuck that. There are absolutely ways to hit on someone from a submissive or bottomy or masochistic perspective. The more you hit on people and the more trial and error you do, the more play you’ll get and the more you’ll be able to read the signs better and better.

Rife has some great tips for how to get more kinky play from a submissive’s perspective—Watch for his video on that later this week!

5. One last tip to help you open up your submissive world:

Recognize that no matter what you consume about submission, there’s no one right way to do it, and your way is just as good as anyone elses. You don’t have to love service, or being hit, or playing in public, or being naked, or having your orgasms controlled, or body fluids, or blood, or ANY thing at all really. Your kinks are okay and your icks are just fine too.

Whatever you learn through any sources you take in, people or meetings or mentors or books or events or lovers—you get to remix everything into your own identity, and who you are, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, is exactly right.

PS: AMAZING illustration by rife, who drew an infographic for the stages of kink and power dynamic identity development and formation. (I helped with some words and theories.) Watch for the full thing to be posted in a few days!

Fantasy, Gardens, & Politics of Butch Identity in April’s Book Roundup

Late. Because April was somehow nutso. Traveling to Seattle plus my birthday plus the boy’s birthday plus IMsL plus the Gender Book launch party at the CSC plus I took a temporary social media consulting gig plus it’s SPRING plus we took a swing class plus the new venture (now called Body Trust) had a strategic planning retreat and officially launched www.bodytrustcircle.com and the August Portals of Pleasure retreat and that took so much time and energy and planning. Also I am this close to having a space to do bodywork in San Francisco and I’m really excited to gear up for more one-on-one sessions.

So I didn’t read as much this month. Or at least it feels like that—my GoodReads account reports 8 titles, which is about as much as other months.

rightbrainI picked up and read the Right Brain Business Plan book by Jennifer Lee a few months ago as part of my personal study through the queer creative business group I’m involved in, and found it useful. I picked it up again because the author was on Creative Live doing the Right Brain Business Plan workshop for three days, and I tuned in to it mostly in the background as I was working, but I’d go back and forth to the exercises as I was getting other things done. It was great to think hard about some of the business plan things and I do like her approach.


blue I’ve heard a lot about the film adaptation of the graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Color, but I hadn’t heard as much about the book. I picked it up from the library as an ebook, which was interesting, to read a graphic novel on my iPad, and it worked pretty well. (Also I love the library!) I had heard a lot about the extensive 10 minute lesbian sex scene (“there’s rimming!”) but I also heard it was a) depressing and b) kinda by or for straight people, and not particularly by and for queer people, so I haven’t rushed to see it. I’d be curious to, now that I’ve read the book. Mostly I was really struck by how immensely fucking tortured the coming out process was/is for this particular young lesbian protagonist living in France. I am so lucky to have a supportive family, and have prioritized queerness in my life and thus lived entrenched in queer communities, so I have never experienced it so torturesome … but I do understand that people still go through that kind of process. It was a good reminder to me of the emotional depths that can happen in an identity formation, but also part of me, while reading, was more like, “Really? This seems awfully over-exaggerated.” I’d be curious what the relationship is of the story to the author—I don’t think it’s memoir.



edible The Edible Garden came from Cleis’s life imprint, Viva. Now that I actually have a backyard (first time in my adult life!) I am pretty excited to try to grow some stuff. Preferably some food stuff. So I’ve been doing a little bit of garden tending, getting it ready to plant, and this month kicked into for reals spring gear, so rife and I stepped it up a bit. We planted kale, cherry tomatoes, some spring onions, sugar snap peas, and a few other things.



growgreat I liked looking through The Edible Garden—and the other one, Grow Great Grub—but it didn’t have all that much useful information in it. For example, some bird keeps eating our sugar snap pea leaves and tops, but neither book said anything about how to keep pests from eating your delicious food. They are both more inspiration than practical advice, and while I still appreciate the pretty pictures and the inspiration to go dig outside, I am starting to get to the point where I need the reality advice part even more. Which is kind of a neat sign! Grow Great Grub came to me as a holiday gift from my aunt (via my Amazon wishlist).



pregnant I read the graphic memoir Pregnant Butch by AK Summers this month. I heard about it through a Lambda Literary review and was intrigued. I think it’s worth reading, but to be honest I was less interested in the pregnancy part than I was in the extensive commentary about butch identity, and sometimes the extensive commentary about butch identity was infuriating, heartbreaking, or depressing. The author—who I assume is the same as the protagonist, Teek, though their names are slightly different—is a bit older than me, maybe 10 years even, so they come from a slightly different generation of butches, and the content about younger butches being extinct, butch flight, and the prevalence of butches transitioning to men was hard to read. At one point Teek explicitly referred to herself as—and drew herself as—a dinosaur. It bugs me to see butch being presented as an antique, out-of-fashion, and outdated identity—I really don’t think it is. But then again, I kind of straddle the old school butch generation and the younger trans- and genderqueer-inclusive crowds, and kind of always have. But I don’t see butch disappearing! I do see it changing, revisioning, but I don’t think it’s as gone as is sometimes portrayed. I also think butch flight is a bit of a myth—but I do understand that there is more of a prevalence of previously-identified-as-masculine-of-center-women transitioning to men. (There are at least five people on my Facebook feed going through the early stages of transitioning right now.) I have lots and lots to say about that topic, but that’s all I’ll say for right now. I took some notes and hope to expand my ideas into more essays later. Or maybe a book.

chaosstars I didn’t finish The Chaos of Stars. It’s kind of that YA fantasy/myth genre that I sometimes devour, but I didn’t get too deep into this one so I put it down after my standard try (of 65 pages, which is 100 minus my age, which is a rule I learned from Seattle librarian extraordinaire Nancy Pearl). The whole thing was full of Egyptian mythologies with a curious modern twist, which I was totally intrigued by but then couldn’t follow very well. If you’re into Egyptian mythologies, perhaps it’d be easier to get into.


loveglobal I didn’t finish Love in the Time of Global Warming either. I love love love the Weetzie Bat books, and I have read a handful of Francesca Lia Block’s other novels and find them engaging and fun, so I thought she’d be a good one to pick up while I keep flexing my reading chops. I have a hard time with world-building sometimes though, and I didn’t get very deep in to this one. I think the biggest problem was that it became due at the library, but I certainly could’ve renewed it. It just didn’t grip me.



mermaid Michelle Tea’s newest novel, Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, however—THAT gripped me. I read it fast, in just a few days, and I got really into it. I love the protagonist, love the girl power, love the pass-out game, love the symbols that thread through it. When I went back out into the world for a run the day after I finished it, I looked at flocks of pigeons very differently. It ends on a cliffhanger, which is a perfect way for the first of a 3-part book series to end, and I can’t wait to read the others.