Posts Tagged ‘words’

Ask Mr. Sexsmith Anything: What words compliment a butch lover?

August 29, 2013  |  advice  |  5 Comments

coaching-buttonDear Mr. Sexsmith,

My butch lover refers to me as gorgeous, luscious, beautiful… [but] I just don’t think those kind of descriptive words work for her. What would you suggest? Thanks!

— Sho

Dear Sho,

My personal favorites?

Handsome.
Strong.
Sexy.
Gorgeous.
Hunky.
Powerful.

Some more ideas?

Striking. Charming. Dazzling. Gentleman. Stud(ly). Rough. Tough. Hero(ic). Attractive. Big.

And, do delve a little deeper:

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling someone masculine gorgeous or beautiful or any of those words. (I don’t know if I’d use “luscious” … not sure what it is exactly, maybe it implies curviness to me, and it wouldn’t resonate if someone used that for me. But I can think of some very luscious butches who would probably like that word used to describe them, so don’t take my preference as the norm.) I think we separate complimentary words by gender, and while many people have certain resonances with certain words regardless of their gender identity—and I think those should be respected, and it doesn’t really matter if the words someone likes happen to all fall in one generally gendered category or not—I think it’s good to take a look at why some of them resonate over others, and whether that’s personal preference or cultural habit.

I remember reading somewhere that “men want to be powerful, women want to be beautiful,” and while I think there’s some heteronormative/patriarchal/misogynistic deconstruction that should probably happen around that idea, I also think it is largely true and reproduced in this culture. And, I think we tend to compliment along those lines when we’re talking about complimenting someone feminine verses complimenting someone masculine. So first of all, women are powerful and beautiful, men are beautiful and powerful, genderqueer and trans and butch and femme folks are powerful and beautiful, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being both. In fact, I think it’s a radical act a) to recognize that our gender roles operate by trying to keep men striving for power and women striving for beauty, which reinforces the kyriarchy, and b) to intentionally break those gender roles by complimenting people for the incredible, sparkly, dazzling things that we notice them doing, by which we are touched and changed.

I think this topic of complimentary words warrants a fascinating conversation between partners. E.g., “Hey, when I use words like attractive and sexy and beautiful when I describe you, do you like that? What kinds of words do you like to be called? Are there words that I call you that sometimes bug you? Isn’t it interesting that certain words are reserved for femininity and others for masculinity? Would it feel strange if I called you pretty/strong/luscious/my hero?”

Brainstorm. Make a list. Do some google searches. Ask around to your friends next time you’re out and about and see what kind of lists they make of compliments for their girlfriends/boifriends/partners. Go back to your partner and try out some of those words, see what the response is. Maybe they just don’t like their body to be talked about or commented upon, even if you are in awe of their gorgeousness and want to tell them so every day. Maybe they like certain words to be used and they just don’t know why, but it makes more sense and resonates deeper. That’s okay. Listen to each other.

I like to use words that have the intended effect, and if I intend one thing and they take it another way, it isn’t actually effective, even if I intend it to be so. And regardless of gender identity, I like to call people what they want to be called.

Would y’all like to weigh in on other complimentary words for butches (or for anyone, for that matter)? What words do you call your butch lover? What words have you found that butches like to be called? What compliments stick?

What Are Some Sex Positive Words for Women?

May 7, 2011  |  essays  |  7 Comments

Looks like this came from the Dallas Slut Walk—but I’m not sure of its exact origin. I found it on Tumblr.

Since I feel like we’ve been pretty good at actually creating some language after having a need for a word that means something specific in the past, that I’ve incorporated into my vocabulary, I wonder if y’all would like to brainstorm some words with me.

Seriously, what words to we have to describe women in a sex-positive way? Slut, whore, cunt, pussy, seductress, mistress, vixen, cougar … they all have some sense of sexual manipulation in them. I would argue that some of those words are AWESOME, and that there’s been some serious reclamation done with many of them. But still, I want to know: when you meet a woman who owns her own sexuality, who plays with it how she wants to, who has unashamed sex and unabashed desire, what do you call her?

That there is not even a word for that type of woman in our language says something.

So, poet and armchair linguist that I am, if there is not the exact right word for something, I say we make one. Or we reclaim one. What can we use for this?

For the record, it looks like Toronto was the first city to do a Slut Walk, and there is a Slut Walk NYC Saturday, August 20 at 1pm, kicking off at Union Square. There are quite a few in other cities on the list too, if you want to get involved. I’m going to be at the Butch Voices conference in Oakland that weekend, but Kristen already has it on her calendar.

Define: Masculine of Center

October 27, 2010  |  essays  |  4 Comments

I’ve been throwing this phrase around a lot lately, but I realize I haven’t actually defined it or credited it. For me, it came out of working with and attending the Butch Voices Regional Conferences this year, as we used it frequently to describe the myriad of masculine identities we were seeking to gather and discuss.

According to Butch Voices:

Masculine of center (MOC) is a term, coined by B. Cole of the Brown Boi Project, that recognizes the breadth and depth of identity for lesbian/queer/ womyn who tilt toward the masculine side of the gender scale and includes a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, aggressive/AG, dom, macha, tomboi, trans-masculine etc.

In contrast to transmasculine, which was the last catch-all masculine identity label that made the rounds, masculine of center doesn’t necessarily imply a linear progression or hierarchy, I even think of it as a circle, kind of like a color wheel where the center point is gender-less or genderfluid or all genders and all the various kinds of gender expression and identity dance around it. And while “masculine of center” is definitely in contrast to “feminine of center,” it isn’t necessarily in opposition, as they play off of each other, interdependent and interwoven.

Seems like a useful term, to me, to describe the breadth of masculine identities to which I sometimes want to refer. What do you think?

Word of the Day: Antevasin

February 12, 2010  |  miscellany  |  No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

Like this:

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

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

Yesterday, I came across this:

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

—Eat, Love, Pray by Elisabeth Gilbert, p203

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

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

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

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

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

Define: Spectrum Banging

January 7, 2010  |  essays  |  6 Comments

I’m not sure exactly where the term spectrum banging came from—my friends and I used it in college, I have a feeling someone made it up. Google doesn’t seem to use it the way I do.

I find it a useful concept, though, and use it frequently. Spectrum banging is when you go from one end of the spectrum to the other so fast and furiously that you bang yourself against the other end.

For example, you date someone who is a little bit loony tunes, and that ends badly, and the next person you date is a completely uptight and prim-and-proper. Spectrum banging.

Or, you come out of the closet and come to your queer identity in college, suddenly away from your birth family unit and able to explore yourself, and you completely cover your dorm room in rainbows, and exclusively go to gay bars, exclusively watch gay movies, exclusively listen to gay music, etc etc. Spectrum banging.

I’ve used this in lots of other examples, too, not just sexuality or dating. I was just discussing it last night in some of the aftercare and fallout from d/s, and the ways my own triggers cause me to spectrum bang and have really strong reactions (that are sometimes too strong).

I tend to be pretty resistant of the concept of spectrums in general—I think things are usually more multi-faceted than a binary, usually at least three if not a whole galaxy. But often the reaction to something is specifically a spectrum, and we tend toward the opposite, perhaps so far unable to see the other possible paths or responses.

Sometimes, there is a sense that where you “should” be on the spectrum is somewhere in the balanced middle—but that is not necessarily the case. Sometimes banging the spectrum can result in the spectrum becoming bigger (or 3D, or some other format), and perhaps that “banging” is actually where you—or your friend or ex or whomever—will end up. What spectrum banging refers to is often a phase, sure, but it is also sometimes a real transition, so be careful about the judgment attached to this phrase.

Is this term useful for you? Got an example of this you can think of?

Definitions of Butch & Femme

September 11, 2009  |  essays, on butches  |  22 Comments

Way back in April, for Sugarbutch’s third anniversary, I offered up an “ask me anything” thread where readers could ask any burning questions that they’d like for me to answer. Given that I’m writing so much these days my pencils are worn down to nubs, and that this summer has been a challenge, I’m behind on answering many of those questions.

Here’s one that I’ve thought about since I read it.

What are your working definitions of “butch” and “femme”?

I know that’s a tricky and possibly annoying question; I ask because I’m currently moving into the recovery phase of a recent gender panic/gender identity crisis. I’m in the process of moving to a more masculine gender presentation and (hopefully?) social role (thank God), and my girlfriend is femme (and I pretty much only like femmes), but then I don’t feel like my gender issues and vibes are very similar to those of the butches I know, and… I’m just really confused.

- Daisy

I do have somewhat of a working definition of these terms: usually I say, in the broadest sense, butch and femme are intentional reclamations and recreations of gender. There’s more to it than that, of course, and these identities are policed by all sorts of social and gender forces. But that’s a start.

But that’s just my brief two cents. I want to know: what are your interpretations of these butch and femme? What are your working definitions?

Say you run into someone who has no knowledge of what being part of butch/femme culture and what identifying as butch or femme means (which, I don’t know about you but, is very frequent for me). Or someone who has only come across these terms as pejorative? What do you tell them?

Or, think about it this way: living in New York City has taught me the strong value of the elevator pitch. Everybody’s busy, everybody’s got somewhere else to be, someone else to talk to, which is more interesting than you. So you’ve got to hook them in with something strong and solid.

So what’s your butch/femme elevator pitch? How do you explain the basics in one sentence?

I’ll have to keep thinking about mine. I’ll chime in in the comments.

Consider it “The Sugarbutch Hot 100″

June 26, 2009  |  essays  |  25 Comments

So, now that the trans discussion is calming down a little bit, I’m starting to get a slew of feedback about calling the *other* people on this list “butch.” Either saying, these people are not butch, they are femme, or saying it is non-consensual to label people as butch on a list.

I hear you.

This is because of the name, “Top Hot Butches,” which implies that EVERYONE on this list is “A BUTCH.” And that is just not true. Come on people, of course that’s not true! That is why the subtitle included also androgyny, genderqueer, stud, AG, and trans men. A lot of people have a very specific vision of what “A BUTCH” is, myself included!, and many of the people on this list do not fit that.

I fully understand that “butch” is a specific gender identity, that it is not necessarily the same as androgynous or tomboy or genderqueer or stud or AG or trans man, that nobody else should have the right to pin a particular gender identity on anyone. That concept itself is a very firm, basic, and important foundation to the gender activism work that I do.

And I’d like to get back, for a minute, to the original intention of this list, which is to showcase a big part of the lesbian and queer communities which is often completely invisible in mainstream lesbian culture: masculinity, and gender diversity. A mainstream lesbian publication would actually call Joan Jett or Jenny Shimizu or Katherine Moennig butch, despite that there are many, many of us who are working to construct butch as something alltogether different, and that we would scoff at their excessive use of eye makeup. But still: masculinity and gender diversity in lesbian and queer culture is underrespresented, while femininity is still held as the standard of hotness.

This is what the Top Hot Butches list was seeking to address.

I’ve been viewing “Top Hot Butches” as a brand name more than a gender identity descriptor of the list. And I know that you can’t really use “butch” as a brand name in this way, because the word is defined as a gender identity descriptor, and if I redefine it as a brand name but the entire rest of the fucking world is recognizing it as a gender identity descriptor, my own redefining of it is kind of useless.

But still: It wasn’t until last night that I realized the distinction, in this specific project, between brand name and gender identity descriptor. Someone made a comment, saying, “Would there have been anything like this furor if – without changing anything else about the descriptors, explanations or rules – the list had been entitled ” The Sugarbutch Hot List”?”

And the answer is, probably not. I mean, “butch” would still be in the title of the project, so certainly that would still be a problem, but “Sugarbutch” is much more of a brand name, and it would’ve been much easier to distinguish that I am not attempting to call everyone on the list butch, trans men included!, and that I was simply compiling a list of hot people.

I considered calling it something like “the Sugarbutch Hot 100″ before I did the project, but not very seriously. I thought it would be too small in scope, I didn’t necessarily want it to be part of Sugarbutch, I wanted it to be a separate project. I didn’t think it would matter. I want Sugarbutch to be my personal online writing project, though I’ve been joking for a while that I’m building the Sugarbutch Empire. Hell, maybe it would’ve been better for the “brand” to be associated in this way. Another reason I wanted to separate it a little was because it was catchy – “Top Hot Butches” would get a lot more attention than “the Sugarbutch Hot List” and look at that, it has. I guess you could say I’m taking baby steps toward taking my work a bit more mainstream, and this was one of the ways I decided to do that. That is going to be a very hard transition, if I do it at all, especially judging by this past week.

So: there’s some finer points of gender and identity theory that are being brought up in response, to which I want to say, people, chill out. This is a Hot List, and those are by definition inviting controversy. Bottom line is, I am not attempting to claim that everyone on this list is butch.

I’m still thinking about changing the title. I know the “brand” intention is unclear in the name “Top Hot Butches.” And the internet is oh-so-fluid, after all.

One last thought though … would I have wanted to avoid all this furor and conversation and rallying and fine-tuning? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t want to have missed out on everything that’s happened in the last couple days. It’s been a learning process for me, and I am glad to have gone through it. Though I have learned that the next time someone says, “well, this could be controversial,” I will probably rethink it in some way, rather than say, “BRING IT.”

Define: Courtly

December 8, 2008  |  essays  |  9 Comments

Back in September, I asked for a word for someone who accepts chivalry. We had a lively discussion in the comments about what that person would be called. I really like the word "courtly" - here's why.

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Define: Identity Alignment Assumptions

December 2, 2008  |  essays  |  17 Comments

An identity alignment assumption is the assumption that one's identity categories align with what is either a stereotype or a dominant compulsory cultural norm.

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Define: Cisgender

September 10, 2008  |  essays  |  8 Comments

In the recent past, gender activists have tended to use the term “bio” to define non-trans folks. As in, bio-male, bio-women, bio-guys.

But let’s think about this a minute eh? There’s nothing non-biological about trans folks.

The words cisgender and cissexual are becoming more and more prevalent for describing non-trans folks – folks whose subconscious/internal sense of your own gender identity generally matches that of your biological sex.

The word has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis, meaning “on the same side” as in the cis-trans distinction in chemistry.

Julia Serano has been significantly altering my own perception about cis/trans issues, particularly within feminism. Though I haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend her book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, and I will be writing up a review of it eventually. I also recommend Serano’s recent article Rethinking Sexism: How Trans Women Challenge Feminism from AlterNet on August 5, 2008 (beware, many comments are hard to read – attacking, misunderstood, incensing). Serano was one of the speakers at the Femme Conference, and it’s clear her work is really cutting-edge of the gender activism and theory, and I’m really excited to read more of her philosophies.

I’ve got a thousand things to say about cis privilege and the social construction theories that have been prevalent in gender studies thusfar. Sadly, I haven’t finished writing that up yet. But I hope to, eventually.

See also: The Cisgender Privilege Checklist over at Questioning Transphobia.