Posts Tagged ‘reviews’
S. Bear Bergman has a new book out, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, which is a collection of personal essays, mostly on gender. And to celebrate, Sugarbutch is helping to kick off a virtual book tour! Thanks, Bear! Thanks, Arsenal Pulp Press!
Bear also wrote the book of gender essays Butch Is A Noun, which I’ve mentioned on this site more than a few times. It is one of the only books written about butch identity in the last ten years so it’s certainly influential to my work and philosophies on gender in general. There are some clips and excerpts from Butch Is A Noun available online and I highly recommend them. That first essay, “I Know What Butch Is,” I quote from often and go back to frequently, I just love Bear’s writing and style in that piece.
When I published Top Hot Butches in the Spring earlier this year, Bear was listed as #48 and was one of the factors of me including trans men in the list of butches in the first place. If I excluded trans men, I would have to exclude Bear, and Bear wrote pretty much the only book on butches in the last ten years – did that make sense? Not really. I thought it was extremely important to include Bear, specifically, which opened up the door to include other trans men as well. Of course, not all trans men identify as butch, but at the time I didn’t think I could include some trans men and not others … and the inclusion was problematic. I do not want to start hashing through that here, this is about Bear’s work, after all, but I really appreciated Bear’s supportive emails and contact around the list and that controversy.
Lots has happened for Bear since the publication of Butch Is A Noun. Ze addresses this right away, in the second essay: whereas during the first book, ze was for the most part perceived as a dyke, partnered with a woman, and lived in the suburbs, and now Bear is pretty much perceived as a fag, partnered with a guy, and living in a fairly big city. This transition from “suburban-dyke-me” to “city-fag-me” seems to have altered Bear’s relationship with masculinity a bit, and many of the essays in The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You address this unpacking of masculinity, tracing it back through history and family (I especially liked the discussions of masculinity through the lens of Judaism and his particular family experience of ‘being a man’), and discussing what it means in some new life contexts.
Arsenal Pulp Press provided this lovely little blurb:
Alternately unsettling and affirming, devastating and delicious, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, is a new collection of essays on gender and identity by S. Bear Bergman that is irrevocably honest and endlessly illuminating. With humour and grace, these essays deal with issues from women’s spaces to the old boys’ network, from gay male bathhouses to lesbian potlucks, from being a child to preparing to have one; throughout, S. Bear Bergman shows us there are things you learn when you’re visibly different from those around you―whether it’s being transgressively gendered or readably queer. As a transmasculine person, Bergman keeps readers breathless and rapt in the freakshow tent long after the midway has gone dark, when the good hooch gets passed around and the best stories get told. Ze offers unique perspectives on issues that challenge, complicate, and confound the “official stories” about how gender and sexuality work.
I’m still working my way through the book, I haven’t finished it yet, partly because I’m savoring it. I could zip through it a bit faster than I am, but I really appreciate Bear’s perspectives on all of this and I love having access to someone’s inner thoughts about gender, masculinity, queerness, transitioning, love, life … all of those little things, ya know. Sometimes it feels like my own mind eloquently written down, sometimes the concepts are a bit foreign and I have to stop and go over it again. I don’t agree with everything, and there’s some tension between butch and trans here that I am finding fascinating and particularly hard sometimes, but I am so grateful for Bear’s work.
Aside from the virtual book tour, Bear is on an actual book tour, too! Check out the schedule on sbearbergman.com for dates and appearances in Columbus, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, & more.
Pick up The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, Essays by S. Bear Bergman from Arsenal Pulp Press, or from your local independent (feminist, queer, radical) bookstore.
A while back Kristen decided she’d like to try some different nipple clamps. I had one set, a very basic tweezer set, which she liked to wear but which slipped off fairly easily.
I started looking into other options and whoa there are a lot of different types. I didn’t even know where to begin.
So I approached Eden Fantasys and we picked seven different clamps from their wide selection for me to review, compare, and contrast. Kristen & I have needed about a month to get through all of them, but at this point the winners are clear.
As I go over the clamps I reviewed and some other clamps which are available, you might notice that most of these clamps are made by Spartacus Enterprise. I didn’t choose them on purpose, though I do know that their products are generally very high quality. They make great leather goods, too.
My rule is, if I can’t put the nipple clamp on my finger (usually my pinky finger, as they usually don’t have wide enough opening to get other fingers into), I won’t put it on my nipple. So two of them were unfortunately ruled out right away:The W-shaped Endurance Clamps are the worst here. They are two overlapping Us, and they meet in the center being held together by tension, as if they do not line up they’ll pop open. Not sure how to describe that exactly. They’re actually very difficult to open! The problem is, the metal that lines up is kind of twisted, and it is so damn painful to even attempt to release the pressure with my finger – my thumb – inside the clamp, I can’t even imagine trying it on a nipple. This would only be for people into EXTREME nipple sensation … and even so, there are others that pinch just as hard that aren’t as poorly made. The other pair, also called Endurance Clamps, though they are higher quality, are also way too strong to be used. It just pinches so hard that I can’t bear to keep it on my pinky finger for more than the briefest moment. No way. I didn’t try these on any nipples, my own or Kristen’s.
Next, we’ve got some decent clamps, which work well, but have some flaws.The Tit Clamps by Spartacus have a handsome thick chain and no black plastic caps on the end of the clamps, which makes them shiny and quite nice to look at. I thought they’d be too strong, but actually they’re quite nice. I like how they look and they’re quite comfortable. The Butterfly Clamps were highly recommended to me from various folks on Twitter when I started asking around about nipple clamps, and from what I’ve read the pinching actually gets tighter when they’re pulled on because of the way they’re constructed. That seems like a great idea! But in actuality, they are big and kind of bulky, not nearly as hot as they seem (though I’ve seen some fetish photographs which use them and they are perfectly lovely … perhaps they’re just too big for Kristen’s rather small breasts and nipples in particular?), and they slip off pretty easily. The tension isn’t quite tight enough and the pads which actually go on the nipple are circular and rather small, so they just don’t quite fit right. Seems like for the right person, these would be great, but they weren’t quite right for me. The Spartacus Adjustable Clamps, the square-ish ones, are pretty simple and straightforward. Very adjustable, though a little bit slippery because they don’t get quite as tight as the others. The adjustability means that they’ll fit larger nipples which are very sensitive and don’t need a lot of stimulation, but these wouldn’t be great for smaller nipples that want tons of pinching.
What the hell: Last but not least, I threw in a couple nipple clamps with attachments because I thought they might be fun. The first, the Y Style with Clit Clamp by Spartacus, is a basic tweezer nipple clamp with an extra tweezer intended to go down and pinch the wearer’s clit. The basic tweezer without the clit clamp is good for beginner nipples especially, and this is the only type of clamp I had before this big ol’ review try-out. Kristen and I couldn’t really get the clit part to work, it either pinched painfully or it slipped right off. We keep saying we need to practice with this some more, but we already tried twice and were disappointed, so I kind of doubt we’ll go back to it again. I wonder if this other Y-Style with Clit Clamp, which are adjustable and not tweezers, would be easier to use on the clit? I might have to get a set of these to try.
The biggest surprise was the Collar with clamps by Spartacus. Kristen doesn’t like her neck restrained and actually actively dislikes choking in porns, usually, so I knew this would be a bit of a stretch, and that she might not even want to try it, but I asked for it anyway because I think it’s damn hot. I know collaring means lots of things in BDSM scenes, but I was hoping Kristen would be willing to try it once, and from all her love of bondage and restriction I suspected that she would like the feeling of restraint.
And she did. We both liked the ways that the clamps fall and curve under her breasts and create this nice curl of chain, the visual is beautiful. I like to be able to pull on the chain and both pull her neck and her nipples. It’s incredibly hot when she wears it around without a shirt. The collar with clamps is the one we’ve gone back to most often, and it’s introduced the collar to us as an option, and as a potential symbol, something that I didn’t expect at all. We haven’t explored this in too much detail yet, but I can tell we both like it.
The clamps that came with the collar are probably the type I would most recommend – what they call the bull nose type, fully adjustable with a rubber tip to protect the nipple from the metal. These are available in clamps that do not include a collar, too.
There are plenty of other nipple clamps out there, but these cover most of the basic types. If I missed one or two, let me know! I’ll still be on the lookout for types I haven’t tried.
I seem to be up to my chest in queer porn DVDs to review these days. Now that I’ve finished the two S.I.R. Productions DVDs, I’ve got Courtney Trouble’s Speakeasy, Tristan Taormino’s Rough Sex, Bleu Production’s Post Apocalyptic Cowgirls through Hot Movies for Her, and I’m expecting some films from Buck Angel in the near future, too.
Queer porn is taking off like crazy!
I still constantly hear people say that there’s no “good” lesbian porn out there – that it’s all made for men or is girl-on-girl action, not by-and-for real dykes. That is just not true anymore! Dykes are making some of the most amazing, progressive porn out there, and, based on my recent reviews of a few DVDs which are actually almost 10 years old, I’d say we have been making damn good porn for quite a while.
Recently, I had a chance to check out Maria Beatty’s Fetish Films Volume 1, The Black Glove & The Elegant Spanking from everybody’s favorite neighborhood sex toy shop, Babeland. I was intrigued by the film noir images and the heavy BDSM which includes hot wax torture, foot worship, pinwheels, roleplay, and spike heels, and actually my acupuncturist was the one who first asked me if I knew Maria Beatty or her production company, Bleu Productions. I wasn’t familiar with her work, but it didn’t take me long to become so.
Though this DVD collection of Beatty’s two short films came out in 2003, the films themselves are form 1995 and 1996. They are explicitly lesbian and beautifully shot – if you’re into slow, slow buildup and lots of tension, pretty girls doing naughty things to each other, high femme drag, and strong power dynamics, you should consider this one.
I probably won’t watch it again for the purposes of jerking off or getting in the mood, but I can see possibly putting it on in the background at a party – it is beautiful to look at – and I’ve definitely never seen any porn like it. There’s some odd components, like for example a gas mask in The Black Glove. I’ve never really considered a gas mask sexy and while I understand the purpose of regulating breathing, I found it kind of hard to watch. Very interesting, though, and very elegant.
There is virtually no sound in these films – they do have some musical track to them, but they are for the most part silent, with dialogue cards (which are more like revealing the character’s thoughts) like in silent films. I think what I loved best is that Maria Beatty herself is the submissive bottom in both of these films, which I don’t usually expect of the filmmaker – but obviously she knows what she wants, and goes for it. I wonder if she’s in any other films that she made? I’ll have to research that, she was definitely very sexy.
Pick up Maria Beatty’s Fetish Films Volume 1, The Black Glove & The Elegant Spanking at Babeland, or your local feminist sex toy shop.
Oh, Shar. Oh, Jackie. I’ve already waxed poetical recently about my love for the super hot porn pioneer butch/femme couple behind S.I.R. Productions, but here’s another one for you: their second production, Sugar High Glitter City, from 2001.
Like Hard Love / How to Fuck in High Heels, I watched this over & over. My roommate owned a copy of the VHS I used to watch when she wasn’t home. In fact, the first time I saw it, I’d rented it at Babeland‘s Seattle store (not sure they still do rentals) to watch with my first girlfriend, and when finally we had some time alone in my apartment together, I went to the VCR and popped the tape that was in there out – and suddenly I was holding two copies of it, as my roommate had actually purchased it already. That was weird.
Kristen & I sat down to watch this a few weeks ago, and it was even better than Hard Love / How to Fuck in High Heels and better than I’d remembered. The film narration by Honey Lee Cottrell explains that we’re in a different world where sugar is outlawed and sex workers do all sorts of things to get a taste. Then, of course, there are the corrupt cops who shake down the sugar hos for both their sugar and their sex. The outfits are glittery and over the top, lots of makeup and fun really performative costumey items.
Since the whole setting is way over the top anyway, it’s way easier to suspend disbelief and enjoy the occasionally slightly awkward dialogue and scenes, which makes it much easier to get into than Hard Love.
Those who love sugar will especially get a kick out of this film … I don’t love the sexual fetishization of sugar so much because so much of the film treats sugar as a drug (as it basically is), and I don’t think it’s a good idea to sexually fetishize drugs. But I do like it as a play, as a performance of drug culture, as a commentary even on sex & drug desire.
The other thing of note is the fabulous dirty talk from butch Jackie, especially in the beginning scene “Sugar Cop Shakedown.” Kristen turned to me and said, she sounds like YOU to which I responded, actually, I probably sound like her. Where else do you think I learned it?
I am the biggest fan of Vixskin dildos out there. I should be president of the Vixskin Fan Club. I mean seriously, they are my favorite – well, to be fair, they are kind of everybody’s favorite right now, they are THE MOST realistic feeling cocks on the market. They’re made of this material that is soft and a little bit pliable to the touch, with a firm core, so it is definitely hard enough, but it is silicone, so it is completely sterilizable.
Right there, I’m sold. Any Vixskin cock Babeland offers up, I want to try. (And I have been.)
However, the Lonestar is the first one that I’ve been disappointed in. It’s 6″ long by 1-7/8″ in diameter, a generous girth and just fine length to be sure, but it doesn’t feel like 6″xalmost-2″ when fucking with it.
So here’s what happened. Kristen and I are having a lovely time, making out, my hand between her legs, kissing, feeling each other, having a general romp, when she says, “I want you to tie me up.”
Out come the ropes. Oh it feels nice to have them in place on my footboard again, where they used to live. I was even a bit out of practice – the first thing I did was tie her spread-eagle but all the way taut, with no real room for her to bend her knees or lift her hips. I realized this pretty quickly, I suppose, because uh, if I actually want to get a cock in that girl while she’s tied up, I need a better angle, we both do.
So I loosened the ropes a bit, told her to bend her knees, gave her some extra room.
I couldn’t get a very good thrust going, ever, really. It still slipped out a few times when things got hot & heavy, and I lost the length pretty much every time I pulled out. It’s 6″, plenty long enough for fucking most of the time, I told myself – what’s the problem?
“Maybe it’s the balls,” Kristen said later. Hm, yeah, maybe. It does mean that the insertable length is a bit less. And they’re a bit awkward – they counter-weight the cock down, so it doesn’t have the same kind of upcurve that other cocks (like the Silky/Mr. Bendy!) that are 6″ have.
Then I noticed, when I was snagging the image for this review, that many of the reviews on Babeland mention how it basically points downward, that it doesn’t quite work for many of the reviewers. It’s close – and it seems like it’d be just perfect – but there’s something about the shape of it that doesn’t quite work. Sorry, Lonestar. Better luck next time.
(Don’t worry though – I changed cocks and Kristen and I had quite a good time with her in ropes, being used, being taken, just the way she likes it.)
This arrived in my inbox recently:
I’m transgendered so when I strap although some of the cocks are tempting to buy, I’m not very comfortable with unnatural colors and shapes. I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of a good sized, nice material, and realistic looking cock and a nice and masculine harness. I’ve seen some on your blogs that sound good but i wanted a more personal opinion from someone that actually knows what they’re talking about.
And this isn’t the first time someone has asked me this kind of thing. I write about cocks & harnesses all the time here, but sometimes I think it’s probably a challenge to figure out what it is I’m really using, and what I use often.
So here’s what I wrote back:
I’m glad to throw some ideas your way. Sorry to say, you’re going to have to invest some money in a really nice cock. The ones that are realistic and high-quality are freakin’ expensive. But, the good news is, there are some really good ones available. I totally know what you mean about unnatural colors and shapes, they make me uncomfortable too.
The #1 absolute best realistic cocks out there are by Vixen Creations, their line called Vixskin. The material is some sort of silicone (so it is completely 100% sterilizable) that is made to feel like “cyberskin,” which is the most realistic material on the market. It’s a little bit squishy but still hard. Feels *great*, I highly recommend it. They have lots of different sizes (my #1 very favorite is the Maverick (Babeland calls it the Rodeo Rick) that is 7″x2″) and they all come in chocolate, caramel, or vanilla colors, depending on how light or dark you want the flesh tone to be.
The other great thing about Vixen is that they have a lifetime guarantee. That doesn’t cover “misuse” but if it does break down, they’ll replace it. They’re all in the $100 range, so you might have to save up a bit, but they’ll literally last you a lifetime and they are so worth it.
Most of the sex positive, feminist, queer sex toy shops carry Vixskin, like Good Vibes, Babeland, Blowfish, etc. You might want to actually go to one of those places and check out their sizes, hold them in your hands, all that, to feel what feels most like *yours*.
The Joque & the Jaguar are not *my* personal favorites, actually, mostly because I really prefer the one-strap harnesses, though it seems like most people don’t. I like the commando, and also the Jaguar G, which is the G-string version of the same Jaguar. the leather is SO beautiful and soft and buttery and I just love the design, super comfortable and incredibly hot. Same as with the cocks, it’ll be about a $100 investment, but Aslan Leather (and some of the other nice harness makers too) come with a lifetime guarantee, like Vixen does, so the investment is totally worth it.
Got a question for me about cocks, harnesses, strapping it on, or something else? Email me – aspiringstud [at] gmail.com – or leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as well as I can.
This was absolutely the first butch/femme porn I ever saw, and it blew my mind. I had a VHS version until a few years ago – not sure what happened to it exactly, actually, haven’t seen it since my cross-country move four years ago.
But: it was made in 2000. And I was OBSESSED with it in 2001. So when Babeland offered it up, I jumped, but wondered nervously: would it hold up? Would it be outdated?
Hard Love & How to Fuck in High Heels consists of two different films: Hard Love, which stars Jackie as directed by Shar, and How to Fuck in High Heels, starring Shar and directed by Jackie.
What’s that? “Who are Shar & Jackie?” Oh, right. I talk about them both on a first-name basis as if I know them, but really I don’t. (I did meet Shar once though. She asked me if I was packing. I was. It was hot, and I blushed hard. Did I ever write that story up on Sugarbutch?) They are a queer butch/femme couple, Shar Rednour and Jackie Strano, who I’ve known of since their porn company, S.I.R. Productions, put out both this film and others (such as Sugar High Glitter City – full review of that one coming soon too). I was obsessed with On Our Backs, too, and I vaguely remember them being featured in there at least once or twice. They were a high-profile visibly queer butch/femme couple when I was a babydyke, and I saw them as mentors and roll models, even if I didn’t actually know them.
(Photo reprinted without permission from The SF Chronicle)
Okay, back to the review:
Hard Love is not just a porn – it attempts a plot, a pair of former lovers who are still intertwined, and the two others they are now currently fucking. There were a few arguments between the characters – which, though I expected them, I found myself asking my computer, “really? I mean I know this is realistic and all, but can’t I have my porn lesbian-drama-free? Must I deal with lesbionic relationship bullshit? I just want to get off …” yet I found myself invested, identifying with the characters (Jackie especially).
I admire the attempt by S.I.R. productions (which apparently stands for Sex, Indulgence, and Rock ‘n’ Roll) to put together a story, but also find it generally unnecessary, and sometimes distracting.
How to Fuck in High Heels is the shorter, second part of this video, consisting of one of Shar’s performance poetry pieces of the same name. It is smutty, and showcases some great femme wear and cocks and heels, but it isn’t porn the way Hard Love is. I do love it, because it’s Shar, because I’ve seen it a hundred times, because it reminds me of queer performance poetry open mics. But it too is dated, and f I didn’t have the history, the relationship, with S.I.R., I would probably be more critical. Still, in the interest of, ah, the evolution of dyke porn, this is a significant piece. And if you dig hot blonde femmes and strong sexy butches, you’ll love it.
I was thrilled by it when I popped in the DVD and saw the familiar opening scene. You know how some movies are just forever embedded in your consciousness? Yeah, this one is. I studied the sex scenes with Jackie, though I wasn’t certain wy she fascinated me so much. Did I want to do her or be her?
I love the scene when the femme is getting fucked in the kitchen. I love the scene where Jackie’s ex meets up with her boi and does a striptease. I love watching Jackie jerk off while her lover eggs her on with dirty talk. I love Jackie’s enthusiastic jump into the tub to be with her, later.
I loved it, but I hesitated to show it to Kristen. The clothes and hairstyles and shoes were dated. The camera work wasn’t great, either – not compared to the recent high quality dyke porn. I worried she’d be critical of it, and I worried I had too much invested in it, given that it’s imprint is burned on my brain like the burnt in ghostly imprint of text on an old monitor.
Eventually, Kristen and I did sit down to watch it, and her reaction was much as I suspected. We didn’t make it through the first scene, but I insisted we forward it to the dirty talk/jerk off session. “Don’t you want to watch Jackie come?” I enticed, knowing how much she appreciates a butch orgasm. She watched with interest, lips parted. I watched her. Then she insisted we turn it off and go fuck.
I’d say it’s still got it’s charm.
Stay tuned for reviews of Sugar High Glitter City, S.I.R. Production’s 2nd butch/femme porn, and a porn giveaway of both of those DVDs!
Review written by Kristen.
I’ve been putting off this review for awhile. Sin asked me for a draft and I said, “Five words: nothing compares to Mr. Sexsmith.” Which is true, but there are occasions where I need to get myself off. So as a substitute, I’d say the Hitachi Magic Wand is adequate but not life-changing.
At first I wanted to use it three or four days in a row, to test the theory that it would numb your clit with repeated use. But that test didn’t happen. The electricity in my subleased bedroom didn’t work for a week – seemingly irrelevant to this review, but it reinforces a basic problem with the Hitachi: it’s not as reliable as my hands, which are available and functioning 24 hours a day.
I’d used a Hitachi before, somewhat warily. As you might, um, already know, I come easily – “You just need a stiff breeze,” a friend joked recently. I like that about myself and I don’t want it to change. I don’t want to be so accustomed to high-power humming on my clit that I can’t get off any other way. That said, the two or three times I’d borrowed Sinclair’s – we’re fluid-bonded, people, it’s ok – I kind of liked it. And by that I mean I came in seconds and wanted to keep going.
But actually owning a Hitachi is different, and I worried it would become the guaranteed-get-me-off machine. I want to be able to get off when it really counts, i.e. when Sinclair’s fucking me. So I used it once, when Sin was out of town, and it, um, worked. I used my fingers first, had a quick orgasm, got myself wet so I’d feel the vibration a little better, and went to town. I found that the first couple of orgasms came easily from the low setting, but I thought I’d try the higher setting to see if I could handle it. Some people find the high setting is too intense, but after the first few times I came from the low setting, I wanted more – and I could handle it just fine.
And then I brought it with me on a trip out of town – and didn’t use it. I think I wanted a more prolonged, less intense orgasm than I felt it could give me – I wanted a long, slow build instead of a burst of pleasure. That’s not to say I couldn’t have a massive orgasm from a Hitachi, given the right conditions (long, hot fantasy on an afternoon by myself; Sin using it on me while I’m tied up and can’t protest). But nothing beats my hands for a solid 45-minute jerkoff session.
Kristen, featured here with the spreader bar, Liberator Throe, leather ankle cuffs, and Spartacus leather paddle. You can’t see it in the photo, but her hands are tied together and to my headboard.
Though I know photographs are worth a thousand words, I have one thing to add about the spreader bar: because it does not have attached cuffs, you need hooks (shown here with carabiners) and cuffs (or rope) of your own in order to secure a person to the bar adequately. This also means that she’s not exactly held in place, there is a lot of room for her to move around and does not hold her securely in place. If I bought another spreader bar (which I might, I really do love the immobilization) I would purchase one with cuffs included, so there wasn’t as much wiggle room for the person being tied down.
But certainly that doesn’t mean that it’s not beautiful to feel her strain against the force of being spread open.