identity politics

Butch/femme as a Disruption of the Heteronormative Paradigm

This whole sex/gender conversation has had me skipping around today & yesterday with the singsong voice, saying, my readers are smarter than yours.Seriously though … I love love love that I am part of this conversation. Thanks for contributing, bouncing ideas off of me, bringing your thoughts.

Talk nerdy to me, baby.

I fucken love gender theory. This is reminding me of just how much. I did some reading yesterday and today, reminded myself of some of the other arguments in the dialogue on the butch/femme disruption of the heteronormative paradigm.

  1. The butch identity, particularly, though both the butch and femme genders, can be argued as an illustration for the deconstruction of the sex/gender alignment – that is, the assumption that gender and sex are the same thing, that gender comes from some sort of “essential” place based in biological sex – because if the codes and symbols of masculinity can be adopted by women (who, it could be argued, in some cases, can perform gender “better” than biological men), then gender is therefore something learned, not something innate. And thus butch/femme is a disruption and subversion of the hegemonic paradigm
  2. The femme identity particularly, but both the butch and femme genders, also draw attention to the performatibility of gender and how the symbols and codes can be adopted and learned. Specifically, since femme is a verison of femininity and is used not for the attraction of men but for the attraction of other women, femme challenges the very basic function of the feminine gender (attraction/pleasing of men), which, we are taught, is the sole purpose for these essentialized characteristics of the sex/gender binary.
  3. As much as the butch/femme dynamic is subversive to the dominant sex/gender system, I actually believe that it is also an imitation, at times. It must must must be extensively analyzed and carefully adopted because of the ways that the gender hierarchy can infiltrate our own sexual and relationship dynamics, and honestly, I might be more second wave about this than others, but I do strive for equality, I do strive for equal value in a relationship. I want to play with the power and gender and submission and control in sex, sure – but when it comes to value within the relationship, I do think it’s important to be on equal ground.

Okay, this concludes my gender rant for today. I have more to say – much more – and will write more on this as my thoughts get clearer. Thanks again, though, to those who have contributed to this conversation. Let’s keep it going, eh?

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

9 thoughts on “Butch/femme as a Disruption of the Heteronormative Paradigm”

  1. pomegranate says:

    I am completely smitten with your blog.

  2. Ms. Avarice says:

    I <3 gender theory tooooo.

  3. Dylan says:

    Ah gender/queer theory. My favorite as well. These are great points, the ones I had focused on in my butch/femme paper and was going to bring up. I think the point about femininity, as proven by femmes, not being for men is so important. Such a key piece on why femmes aren't just gay women who pass and benefit from that mask… but instead how powerful and subversive they really are.

  4. femmecolleen says:

    Christ, am I a freak that reading this stuff constitutes foreplay? Sheesh.

  5. birdonthewirenyc says:

    feel better? better get a bucket! heh.

  6. Jake says:

    Hey Sin: I told you I'd let you know if I got my anonymous blog up and running, and I have, so here it is :) I adore the erotica you've been posting btw. That contest was a great idea. Please keep it coming.

  7. Shannon says:

    Rawr, this *is* virtual foreplay…

  8. sinclair says:

    oh yes, agreed. gender theory is such a turn on.

  9. Lolita says:

    Oh, no, Jefferson did not cut me! My cutting was done by Sharrin Spector (

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