identity politics, kink

Telling Her What to Wear

I have in the past thought it kind of funny that girls would ask me to tell them what to wear. My feminist/analytical brain would pipe in with interpretations of beauty, insecurity, self-worth – but I really don’t see it that way anymore.

I see it as part of the larger conversation of gender as a fetish, as a performance, as a subversive display of sexualized gender presentation. And I see it as a very specific toppy/bottomy play, more specifically butchtop/femmebottom play.

It has also at times made me uncomfortable when girls wear things – or buy things – specifically for my tastes. I do have a couple particular enjoyments when it comes to femme clothes & shoes, and it is quite a gift when girls work to dress up for me.

I’m not sure why it’s hard to accept. Possibly because it’s hard for me to accept gifts in general, that giving is easier for me than receiving (I am resisting the connection here to my top identity, though I’m sure you already went there). Possibly also it is hard for my desires, and for me, to really be seen, heard, witnessed, acknowledged, because if I never let you know what I really want, you can never withhold it from me.

But my heart is more open than that old wound and lesson, generally. I like to practice revealing myself. I like to practice being vulnerable, I do find great strength and connection there.

And lately, I’ve had much better language, palette, for my particular desires. This website has helped that tremendously, as has playing with multiple girls over the past two years. I’ve been actually trying to notice and articulate when I find myself aroused into a state of desire; to be mindful of when my internal butch cock stirs and to ask why, to take note of the answer.

So when a girl asks me what kind of femininity display I like, I try to tell her. I explain – without pressure or expectation – what really does it for me, what gets me going, turns my crank. Underlying this conversation is also both of our acknowledgment that femininity – and indeed masculinity – is performed for the purpose of attracting and turning on your partner/lover/date.

And taking it a step farther by telling her what to wear is a step saying, this is how to turn me on. This is how to drive me wild all night. This is how our clothes are tools for flirting, this is how gender is subtle cues and clues and a language for sexuality.

It is a top/bottom game, if looked at this way, and I see it as very empowering to a bottom (you know, assuming being told what to wear is a game she likes playing, and doesn’t feel like it is controlling or patronizing or condescending behavior).

So, where is a bottom’s power? At least in these two places: 1) in enticing desire, and 2) to (actively) giving her power over to her top. In enticing desire, she turns on her top to the point of excruciation, to the point of bottomless desire and power. And when she gives over of her power, she places her power on a silver platter and presents it to her lover on her knees.

(This is why power play is deliberate: the bottom gives her power to the top, the top does not take it without permission. Unless, you know, that’s part of the scene, in which case there is still some sort of underlying permission, some level of giving freely.)

So: I (as a butch top) tell you (as a femme bottom) what to wear on our date (a short skirt, bare legs, strappy sandals, something white). You give power to me by giving up your own choice in what you wear, by obeying a request of mine (something that always turns me on), and by wearing something enticing that follows an aesthetic I particularly enjoy.

This is perhaps where power and surrender for the top and/or bottom gets blurred. Who has the power here? She does – the bottom – because all night I am uncomfortable and turned on because I got what I wanted, writhing at the sight of her in those lovely clothes, turned on by our gender and power foreplay. And then comes a turning point in the night where I stop feeling so reactive and (have to) surrender to the power she’s giving me, to the power and sexual energy I feel building. I give over to it, let it flow through me, let this be a way to tap into my particular well of it.

I love these kinds of power exchanges. I love the push-pull, giving in, giving back, empowering each other to feel sexy, desired, wanted, powerful, beautiful.

[ What I’m really trying to say here is: I have a blind date with a girl who sent me a wonderful photo of her in strappy sandals, and this was my complicated reaction. ]

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.

17 thoughts on “Telling Her What to Wear”

  1. blackandblue says:

    another level of this is for me as a bottom is the delicious fear.. that maybe my top will ask me to wear something outside my comfort zone. Heels a bit too tall, skirt a bit too short, dress in a color or style that makes me feel uncomfortable. The challenge and masochism appeals to me.

  2. saintchick says:

    I love the mind game that goes on when I'm in that situation. Knowing that I have on something that you request/desire/like, something that makes you want to rip it off of me. Something that says your my sir, and I'm just waiting on the command. It surely makes for a great evening in and out of bed.

  3. i just love it when my girl picks out what i wear. there are, of course, aspects of all of what you (and b&b) said in there, but i think those are more present in the 'date', or "this is how i want you" setup.

    mostly, for me, it's very simple. i want to look nice in general, but most of all i want to look good to/for her. and i know some of the things she likes, but if she picks it out, then i'm certain of it. (plus i'm pathetically indecisive…and kind of incoherent in the mornings, so it just simplifies the whole process ; )

  4. Yeah. Agreed. I have no issues at all with being told what to wear – I love it! It definitely does cut down on the "what do I wear?" issue, and it helps me do my important job of enticing the person directing my apparel. How will I know what turns her on unless she tells me? Even when I'm told what to wear, it's easy to make the outfit -mine- while still accomodating the request.

  5. Peggy Sue says:

    Hot diggity, your post resonated with me.

    This part in particular:

    "I see it as part of the larger conversation of gender as a fetish, as a performance, as a subversive display of sexualized gender presentation. And I see it as a very specific toppy/bottomy play, more specifically butchtop/femmebottom play."

    I am a *huge* fan of using my femme sexuality as a tool of subversion. Nothing to me is more twisted and kinky than choosing to wear a skintight gown (with appropriately slutty shoes and accessories, natch) to a dyke event. It's a double delight: one, I'm giving the finger to straight men because it's NOT for them, oh HELL NO and two, I'm actively trying to parade around my sexuality to every butch in the place. And not because I want to fuck them all, no, but because I want them, the boys, to see me as I need to be, the girl. That reflection back to me of my femme identity is crucial to my innate sense of self.

    And thank you for detailing how you explain, sans pressure, what turns you on when a girl asks you what she should wear. Having a clear consciousness about your process around that issue is really fucking cool. Bravo.

    I shall now quit because I am at risk to gush. Needless to say, I am now a regular reader.

    Peggy Sue

  6. d says:

    what happened to Penny?

  7. Harri says:

    the femme i'm involved with has been out of the country for almost two months. while she's been away we've had a delicious, long exchange via email about the specific things we like about dressing, and enacting, her femme identity.

    yesterday, after watching gok wan (do you have him there?) styling models for an hour on the television, i exasperatedly wrote on her facebook wall: "come home, i need to dress you", and today i went out and bought her underwear that we'd picked out together online a few weeks ago to take as a gift when i go and visit her on her return.

    i think you've hit the nail on the head here sinclair.

  8. muse says:

    I adore being told what to wear. I love coming up with my own outfits too, of course. but if you take the time to specify something, there's no question as to whether it'll get you hot, or whether I'm doing it for your pleasure (I am.) it shows that you are getting off on my gender as much as I am.

    plus, I love being a good girl, and how can I show just how good I am unless you order me around a little? ;)

  9. AveshaDee says:

    what a lucky, lucky girl… bold and going on a date with you.


  10. dana says:

    I like to be surprised! lol! I am not picky about outfits– I just like to see what she comes up with!

  11. Emma says:

    Wait? A blind date? What happened to Penny?

  12. Bad Man says:

    Not something I've ever done, and I'm not entirely sure why. It's such a simple thing, even. Now, however, it's on my mind.

  13. Kitcat says:

    Mmm. I totally agree. Clothes, as well as hair, makeup, shoes, etc. are all just tools in the game. Hell, if a certain outfit I have REALLY gets you goin' then I want to know about it and yes, I will use that to my advantage!!

    Good luck on the blind date Sinclair. Hope it's hot as hell…

  14. Samantha says:

    Hmm…I must say, when it comes to my clothing, I am one controlling femme. My style of dress, sense of style, is very specific. The fit of clothing on my body is important to me. I don't like frilly things. I have a very modern/clean line eye. It would be extremely hard for me to let someone else dress me. That isn't to say I wouldn't give it a go…However, one must know that me doing this is me giving up a lot. A LOT.

    [Well, it could always start small – "wear something blue," "wear a short skirt," not necessarily laying out an entire outfit head-to-toe. Most femmes I know are pretty particular about their clothes, and they definitely know more about what looks good on them than I do! So perhaps I should also add, this takes a certain level of trust, understanding, and consciousness, so I don't say "wear a high waisted dress" when you in fact know that that's the worst style for your body. My own way of doing this is slightly more subtle I think … it's more about revealing, for example that I'm a sucker for legs, so if you wear fishnets & garters, or a short-short skirt with bare legs, I'm going to be gulping and pulling at my collar and trying not to stare all night. :) – ss]

  15. muse says:

    Samantha, just to clarify – the game isn't so much about having someone dress me head to toe or dictate my style – not at all. it's more about my butch highlighting something that turns her on, enough that she thinks to request it specifically.

    like: "wear a skirt, fishnets, and garters, but no panties." or: "greet me at the door in your flowered robe, with nothing underneath." usually, such requests mean she has plans for me. (lucky me!)

    but even if she didn't, and was just stating a preference for a particular moment in time, I love knowing which things of mine are her favorites.

  16. Amy says:

    This imagery hit the 🎯. I’m tall and slender and the butch who is stocky and strong having my willowy frame jacked up to the ceiling butt and all in a short flared full skirt being so open below feels almost like an invitation for him to do things under my skirt. ” Oops I dropped my keys. My butch says I’ll get those for you”

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