Tag Archives: the queer gaze

Oh, boy…

Inside of an abandoned building with several columns and crossbeams, stylized in black and white

Content note: This post describes parts of a consensual BDSM scene (consent is mostly implied). It contains age play, rough body play, D/S, an unplanned gender switch, knife play, and boot play. Cocks are mentioned twice; none of them belong to cis men.

Perhaps I could have known. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the subtle shift in my attitude once I had changed into cargo shorts instead of my usual skirt or dress for this scene. Perhaps I shouldn’t have dismissed the determination in my jaw or the trace of stomp in my walk through the hallway before we began.

As it was, however, it caught me by surprise.

Our dialogue had spun a loose story of me being in a place where I knew I shouldn’t be and you being there in the hopes of taking advantage of that. It was dark there, and damp and gritty, and the sea was close. I felt young, much younger than my actual years. I was lonely, more lost than I liked, and yearning for someone to find me and tell me what to do. For someone to take care of me. Not out of pity, though, because pity meant someone would take away my power, and I wasn’t going to let anyone do that again. No, I wanted to be seen, to be chosen, to be considered worthy of attention and direction and affection. To be challenged into giving my best to someone who would know if it was. On the outside, however, I wore my disdain for the rules of propriety and tried to wrap myself in a rather threadbare cloak of “I don’t care.”

You were a mysterious stranger with an air of danger around you. I remember the dull gleam of your leather, your heavy boots, your solid stance. The way you looked up into my eyes as if you were actually taller than me.

“How old are you?” you asked.

“Old enough,” I spat back. I needed you to know that I was no clueless child; that I was in this risky place on purpose. That I had chosen this, even though I wasn’t quite sure what exactly ‘this’ was.

You took that response as the invitation it was and got right up into my face. There was some wrestling and then my hands were held together behind my back and my back was pushed against the wall.

Maybe it was the wave of stubbornness that had suddenly risen within me, covering the unexpected vulnerability that had pooled in my stomach and stuttered through my heart.

Maybe it was the way you took away my t-shirt and then made me put my leather vest back on over my bare skin.

Maybe it was the way you looked me in the eyes when you stepped on the toe of my boots, grinding down hard through the delicate layers upon layers of shiny black I had applied earlier with so much tenderness and patience. The exquisite cruelty that lay in the simultaneous recognition and destruction of my work was so beautifully heart-wrenching I almost cried.

None of this was what we usually did with each other. Except for your leather and my willingness to bare my heart to you. Except for our habit to never go where we had initially agreed to go because our scenes always developed a mind of their own. Still, this was unusual, even for us.

Maybe it was the sea. Maybe it was the stories that bubbled up in my memory, the waves of narrative ancestry pulling me under.

I don’t know what it was. But suddenly I was a lot closer to boy than to girl.

It registered with you even before I myself understood what was happening. You said something I have forgotten, then gave your suspicion of my cock an experimental squeeze through the denim. I responded with a gasp as I willed my body to fill your hand.

Then my mind became a kaleidoscope of shattered gender fragments, swirling around in many-layered patterns, never quite settling down again. I almost cried again a little later when you cut my satiny underwear to shreds, rawly torn between wanting to protect the girl I had initially brought to the scene, wanting to save the femme without losing the boy, desperately wishing I wouldn’t feel so utterly disloyal to myself no matter what I decided. Trying to be everything at once and failing to be anything but deeply unsettled by the unsolvable paradox of gender I had stumbled into. Deeply afraid your desire for my boy implied a rejection of my girl when she was less than perfectly girly. Furiously trying to anchor myself on the few solid places in that storm: your leather, the certainty of pain, and my tongue on your boots.

I never fully settled into boy, but I kept hovering close to it for the rest of this encounter. I never quite lost touch with femme, but also never got a hold of its comforting familiarity again that night. Girl floated away into irrelevance at some point. Eventually, I stopped caring and just became a head to lean against your thigh, a chest to dig a boot heel into, a tongue to wrap around your cock, a body to curl up at your feet, a mind at peace.


Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wickedThis is a post for the Kinktober prompt “gender play.”

I’m also submitting it for the Wicked Wednesday prompt “out of character.”


Image source: MaxPixel, color edited by me.

Kink is a community thing (for me)

Child-like drawing of three people in different kinky outfits on a rainbow-colored background

CN: This post briefly mentions some anti-BDSM prejudice; one of the footnotes also mentions TERFs and fascists. There are also brief references to heteronormativity and to the underrepresentation of BPOC and disabled people in the (queer) kink community.

Before we start, an important note on language: In this post, I’m talking a lot about the 1990s and early 2000s and partly use the language we used then to describe groups, events, and media I encountered. It’s crucial to understand that back then, ‘lesbian,’ or ‘dyke’ as a descriptor on book titles, event flyers, and in articles about the community was commonly understood to include not just cis women, but also some trans women as well as some nonbinary or genderqueer identities (as we’d call them today), especially on the butch spectrum. It also included many bisexual/pansexual women. ‘Women’s’ kink communities tried to be more inclusive of the bi/pan women who had been there from the beginning by using ‘women who do BDSM with women’ instead of ‘lesbian’ in event descriptions (and eventually further adapted the wording to be more inclusive of transmasculine people, too). Not everyone in the ‘lesbian’ community wanted all of these people to be included, and their inclusion was often contested and conditional, but they were still there — and were expected to be there by the vast majority of us. Also, all of this language was/is in constant flux, just like the community it described. Please keep this in mind when you read on. [1]

For me, BDSM has always been a community thing.

I was (consciously) introduced to BDSM at a (vanilla) lesbian conference in the mid-1990s. At this event, BDSM (or SM, as we called it back then [2]) was mostly framed as something terrible, abusive, and deeply patriarchal, but nevertheless: the topic was unmistakably present — as well as several dykes in leather and/or fishnets. And while I found those SM dykes way too awe-inspiring to talk to (as the brand-new baby dyke I was at the time), I still noticed that the actual people and their public behavior didn’t seem to have much in common with all the warnings about them. In fact, I distinctly remember them as exceedingly respectful, fun, and, well, attractive. I also learned that they apparently traveled in groups.

After that event, and true to form as a budding sex nerd, I did what I always did when a topic intrigued me: I went to search for more information and more perspectives on the matter of BDSM, especially between women. I first found some feminist books and articles which were almost all against SM [3]. The topic kept coming up every now and then in my lesbian and/or feminist social circle, but the most positive attitude towards BDSM I encountered was something along the lines of “well, everyone does problematic stuff, and SM is just another example of that.” So I kept looking.

Since I was already immersed in lesbian and queer communities, I knew there was a monthly meet-up for SM dykes at the local LGBTQ+ center. I never dared to go there on my own, mostly because I didn’t even know yet if I really was into BDSM or just thought I might be. But when I saw that this group was going to host a public discussion about a BDSM topic at the LGBTQ+ center, I decided that this was my chance and talked a vanilla friend into accompanying me. Two or three real-life(!) SM(!) dykes(!)[4] talked about their kinky life and patiently answered some “BDSM 101” questions from the audience of curious and mostly female queers. The fact that I now at least knew some faces helped a lot with finding the courage to finally go to one of the meet-ups. Which was ridiculously small (I think we were four or five people?). I was a bit disappointed, especially since we had practically nothing in common besides an interest in some aspect of BDSM. I went a few times but ultimately concluded that this particular group just wasn’t my crowd.

Around the same time, I began to have a bit of internet access in the university computer lab. I found the website of a national network of “women who did SM with women,” which had a small archive, a book list, and a few links to U.S. resources about lesbian/queer BDSM. This is how I found the website of Patrick Califia, one of the most groundbreaking leather dykes in history. Reader, I printed out everything. Then a lover introduced me to Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which had a lesbian channel and a BDSM one in my language (and some people — my lover and me included — hung out in both). Shortly thereafter, there also was a Yahoo mailinglist for SM dykes in my country. That lover also talked about doing BDSM with me, although I still wasn’t quite sure I really was into that. (I was rather slow in understanding that ‘adventurous sex with a power exchange flavor’ also counted as ‘real’ BDSM…)

It was probably through some of the internet links that I first came across explicitly pro-BDSM, sex-positive, and (usually) queer feminism. I also spent a couple of months in San Francisco in the late 1990s, which was nothing short of a revelation for me. I spent much time in second-hand book stores, buying everything I could find from queer (and mostly kinky) authors and activists like Patrick Califia, Dorothy Allison, Susie Bright, Kate Bornstein, Amber Hollibaugh, Carol Queen, Joan Nestle, Samois, and Gayle Rubin (yes, you should look up all of them!). Their writing finally offered a feminist perspective that made sense to me: Choice and consent were crucial elements in judging the ethics of any (sexual) activity. And feminism shouldn’t prescribe just another set of universal rules of ‘correct’ behavior for women to follow. Reading these books felt like tapping into a rich history and ongoing community of like-minded people who had made way for me to be as kinky, consensually non-monogamous/polyamorous, and queer as I wanted to be. These writings deeply shaped my understanding of BDSM, feminism, and queerness; they mentored me, comforted me, challenged me, and supported me at a time when I didn’t have people to do that anywhere nearby [5].

When I wasn’t buying books during my stay in San Francisco, I also took an all-gender queer class on peer education on HIV prevention at the Harvey Milk Institute, went to see non-commercial dyke strip shows, danced at various queer clubs, and met a bunch of gorgeous dykes — most of whom were openly kinky, it seemed. It was a budding queer femme pervert’s paradise. Going back home was like traveling back in time ten years.

Nevertheless, I eventually met some kinky dykes I could relate to. And I finally started doing some BDSM for real (which then meant ‘with proper negotiations and dedicated kink toys’ for me). In the early 00s, I began to regularly go to munches, workshops, conferences, play parties, and other events for “women who did BDSM with women.” Everything was organized and run by unpaid volunteers from this community, nothing was for profit, and the general attitude was “if you want it to exist, create it yourself.” Very soon, I started to get more involved in creating and maintaining dyke/women’s BDSM spaces as well. I helped organize a few play parties, initiated and participated in some discussion events, started and co-hosted a munch, designed and distributed flyers, participated in online forums and mailing lists, held countless private (and often educational) conversations about the topic, and worked for the inclusion of BDSM issues into larger women’s and LGBTQ+ events. I much enjoyed the overall DIY ethos that allowed me to try out lots of things, collaborate with other kinky queers, and use my skills to do something I considered important. I eventually took a break from all things kink for a few years, but as soon as I returned to the community, I immediately went back to volunteering for things. I also began moving into a teaching role and started giving various workshops on BDSM topics within my community (which I still enjoy a lot).

I also began using FetLife, which has become the central online place to find out about relevant BDSM events and occasionally discuss community issues (besides its function as my kinky address book). Despite its terrible search function for writings (and all the other things that are terrible about that platform), I’ve still managed to find some useful information about BDSM there and use the website as an additional source of my ongoing kink education. Last October I’ve begun to get involved in yet another vague community related to kink here in the kink/sex blogging world and on kink Twitter. I’ll admit that I sometimes feel a bit alienated by the predominance of cis male/cis female relationships (many of which seem to be based in marriage and 24/7 D/S) and the at times overwhelming (and usually unthinkingly careless) heteronormativity. And I still wish there were more voices in this world that come from a queer background even a little bit more like mine. But I’ve also found some awesome LGBTQ+ writers, some really nice straight (or hetero-leaning) individuals, and I enjoy getting glimpses into BDSM worlds that often are very much not like my own, especially through the various writing memes (such as Wicked Wednesday, Kink of the Week, Food for Thought, Erotic Journal Challenge, etc.).

As you can see, my actual partners in kink play a comparatively small role in all of this. Not because my relationships and my BDSM practice aren’t important, pleasurable, or influential in forming my own BDSM identity and understanding my desires, but because (most) partners have come and gone, but community has always been there, whether I’ve had a partner, or several partners, or none. And play partners also sometimes were collaborators in my community work (and community fun!). Community is also how I’ve found most of my play partners so far. It’s always been a matter of knowing someone who knows someone they introduced me to, or of attending the same events and starting to talk (and eventually play). I’ve also played a lot at play parties in recent years, more than at anyone’s home.

Both in terms of queerness and of kink, and especially in terms of the intersection of both, I’m a community person through and through. I can’t imagine a completely private queer and/or BDSM life for myself at all. It’s part of my identity as a happy queer pervert to be involved in community work, to do my part in welcoming those who’re arriving after me, in educating others about BDSM, in passing on our history, in working for greater inclusion of those who are still underrepresented (such as Black people/people of color or disabled people), in looking for and promoting ways to handle intra-community conflict that avoid exclusion of anyone as much as possible, and in generally just keeping the community going as a community. These are the people I call on when I need help. These are the people I support to the best of my ability. These are the people who have been around for almost a decade now, and who were still there even after I needed to take an extended break. These are the people who’ve challenged me in the best ways and who’ve let me challenge them. These are the people who’ve seen me at my best and at my worst. This is my family. Which probably explains why I’m so damn protective of it.

So, yeah. Go and find your community (if you want one). And if it doesn’t exist yet, start creating it. Please?


Notes

[1] I’ve briefly considered updating the language to current use, but that seemed deeply ahistoric and potentially even more distorting than just using the terms we used then and leaving them as vaguely and (at times) paradoxically defined as they were then.

[2] Back then ‘SM’ (or ‘S&M’ or ‘S/M’) encompassed the same variety of activities and dynamics as ‘BDSM’ does today. So this is how I’m using it in this post.

[3] The most ridiculous anti-BDSM argument I remember was in one of Sheila Jeffrey’s books (yes, that’s the same Sheila Jeffreys who is a massive TERF). She claimed (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here) that BDSM practitioners would be unable to resist “fascists marching down the streets again” due our fetishizing of uniforms and consensual D/S power dynamics. Even back then, without the two decades of nuanced BDSM education and experience I now have, that seemed a highly improbable prediction. In fact, nowadays, trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) (or ‘gender critical’ ‘adult human females,’ as they like to call themselves) are among the people who most eagerly side with literal fascists. Sheila Jeffreys herself included. Feel free to draw your own conclusions from that.

[4]  Well, technically, one of them was a bisexual woman who was in a polyamorous D/S relationship with one of the lesbians.

[5]  It’s not a coincidence at all that the majority of these writers also wrote about butch/femme dynamics or identified as one or the other. For me personally, butch/femme and BDSM has always been intertwined (which might be a topic for another post sometime), especially since I discovered both of these identities and communities for myself almost at the same time. (Of course this connection is not universal. Not all kinky lesbians identify as butch/masc or femme; and not all butches/mascs and femmes are kinky.)


This is a post for the Kinktober prompt “community.”


Image source: Pixabay (rainbow-colored background figures), cropping and black drawings by me. 

When your dating pool is more like a dating puddle

Someone pokes a twig into a puddle in a parking lot. Clouds reflected in the puddle.

“Plenty of fish in the sea!” You may have heard this sentence before. Standard dating advice assumes there are many, many compatible people for each and every one of us out here. And all you have to do to find a match for yourself is join some social groups to pursue your shared interests with a bunch of other human beings and/or make a profile on a dating platform of your choice and go on lots of dates. And sooner rather than later (or so goes the story you’re told), you will almost inevitably meet a great match for a relationship! (And if you don’t, you probably just didn’t do it right.)

But what if that’s not true?

What if you’re limited in your mobility (and therefore your dating radius) due to a physical or mental disability or a lack of money for travelling, or by previous commitments you’ve made (e.g. being a parent or caretaker, or having preexisting partners or a location-bound job you want to keep)? And what if you don’t live in a big city, either?

What if your desires are rather far from the mainstream because your version of kinky is less ‘silk scarf blindfolds and sensual spankings’ and more ‘boot licking and impact play that leaves plate-sized bruises in fifty shades of dark purple or multiple bleeding wounds on a regular basis’ or ’24/7 Victorian-style M/s relationship with a side of pony play’? What if you also don’t switch? And what if you don’t do vanilla sex at all to begin with, so the ‘consensually grow your own kinkster’ approach isn’t an option, either?

What if the range of genders you’re attracted to includes neither feminine cis women nor masculine cis men but nearly exclusively people on the nonbinary or androgynous spectrum? What if your own gender has needed major customized hardware changes and/or continues to require a bunch of workaround hacks and a much-annotated user manual before you can enjoyably get down and dirty with anyone (if you even find someone who is into all of that, “niche product for a discerning market” that you are)?

And what if you’re affected by several of these factors at once? (Not that this list would be anywhere near complete, mind you.)

I’m sure few people would argue that so much intersecting deviation from the dating norm will shrink your dating pool to a size that is more like a dating puddle.

In other words, sometimes, the reality of your dating pool is a lot less like a vast ocean full of exciting and hugely varied fish that you might encounter if you just keep swimming — and a lot more like a tiny aquarium where you’ve already dated at least half of the available and roughly matching ten fish at some point in the past, ruled out another two of the remaining five (because one is already dating your roommate/best friend/boss, and the other is best friends with that ex you don’t talk to anymore, and that’s just too many social complications) and simply have no chemistry with two more of the remaining three fishes. Which leaves exactly one fish who is a match for you. Maybe. If you don’t look at the details of everyone’s needs and desires too much.

And then we haven’t even started looking at things like your politics, any unusual interests (beyond kink) you may have, and all the gazillion other characteristics and preferences that may also play a role in your partner selection (or in other people’s selection of you as a partner). Or any of the many, many places where things can be hard in the world of finding compatible people for romance and/or sexytimes and/or kinkytimes. Never mind the necessity to weed out the creeps and abusive assholes from the group of people who would potentially be a match otherwise.

But hey, don’t just take my word for it. I’ve recently listened to an older podcast that was looking at online dating from an economic perspective. It’s guests explained how being in a ‘thick market’ for dating (that is, a situation where there are lots of theoretical matches) means more options altogether but also requires more screening to find “the right one.” Whereas being in a ‘thin market’ (that is, a situation where there are very few theoretical matches to begin with) means you should probably be less picky. And while it’s true that online dating platforms make it much easier for members of ‘thin markets’ (examples given in the podcast were gay or lesbian people, Jewish people in the U.S. looking for a Jewish partner, or people with “very, very specific sexual preferences”) to find a match at all, that doesn’t change the fact that we genuinely do have a much, much smaller number of theoretical matches to choose from than the average straight, vanilla(ish) person in their 20s or 30s. So I highly doubt that just because it’s online “it’s enormously easy to match on very, very specific sexual preferences” (as one podcast guest claims). Compared to finding a match for highly specific kinks offline and outside of the BDSM community, perhaps. But certainly not compared to finding an online match as a straight, vanilla(ish) person. Especially — as I said above — if we belong to more than one minority category that’s relevant in the dating world (e.g. as a kinky, nonbinary transfeminine person of color over 40 with a chronic illness who is living in a fairly small town[1]).

And I want us to have room to occasionally express our frustration with that reality and perhaps roll our eyes a little bit about people whose biggest problem seems to be that they have too many offers and now need to filter for the ones that aren’t crap. I mean, I am extremely grateful that I’ve so far been spared most of the harassment that seems to arrive in large amounts in the inbox and mentions of everyone else who isn’t a cis man these days. But sometimes I still wish I’d at least get crappy offers instead of almost none at all. (No, this is not an invitation to send me crappy messages.) To give you some numbers: In the past six years, during which I’ve been very active in the BDSM community and went to many, many munches, playparties, and other kink events, I’ve gotten offers for kink/sex from about 20-25 people altogether, both online and in person. And I’m being very generous in counting something as an ‘offer’ here, which means, I’ve included all the random messages of people who clearly didn’t read a single word of my FetLife profile (not all of whom were cis dudes, by the way). Every one of the very few messages I’ve ever gotten on a dating platform has either been strictly friends-only, or (once) a drunk ‘mistake.’ Every other flirty contact, whether it ultimately resulted in play/sex or not, was originally initiated by me (which is ironic, given the fact that one of my kinks is not initiating things). On bad days, this makes me feel like I’m horribly undesirable and far too weird in my erotic tastes to ever find someone who actually wants me as I am, let alone for more than a one-off scene. Even though I know (and my repeat play partners tell me) that this is objectively nonsense. In reality, I’m fucking awesome; I’m just suffering from an extremely ‘thin’ market.

Nevertheless, let’s go back to hypotheticals and say we have indeed found that one match. One ‘fish’ should be enough, right? Let’s not be greedy here. (Then again, why on earth not?) So you try really really hard to make it work with that one fish.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! There’s nothing wrong with investing some time and effort into calibrating communication styles to find common ground. There’s nothing wrong with adjusting one’s own expectations to something a real-life human being can realistically fulfill. There’s nothing wrong with compromising on some things. There’s nothing wrong with realizing that no one person can fulfill our every social, sexual, and kinky need (yes, that’s true even for the monogamous folks).

However, such real, measurable scarcity of potential partners can also reinforce our tendencies to keep trying to make things work that just never will, to keep thinking “we can fix this” against all evidence to the contrary, to keep enduring things that make us feel awful. It can make us accept behaviors and incompatibilities we’d otherwise find unacceptable because we can’t stop wondering if there’ll ever be a next time, a next one at all. Never mind someone who would be an actual good match for us.

It can even create a situation where it becomes even harder to escape an (emotionally, psychologically, and/or physically) abusive partner. Especially when the other person has a lot less structural power/privilege and/or individual ability that would enable them to a) recognize the abuse in the first place and b) get out. Yes, I’ve been there. Yes, that experience has made me even more picky than I used to be, especially when it comes to romantic partners or D/S dynamics that aren’t entirely scene-based.

And still: The puddle is real. And the desire to find a match nonetheless is also real. Megan Stories has expressed it like this:

“And, I am heartsick. For eleven years, I have wanted this thing. I couldn’t have put a name to it at first, but what I’d call it now is abundance. I want sex and play, and the particular kind of emotional connection that comes with them, and I want enough. Enough that there is time and space to learn and explore and grow and try things and make mistakes. To meander into different corners of my desire. To surprise myself by liking things I didn’t expect. To watch my edges shift, to move with them. To have kinds of play that feel comfortable and easy, and others that challenge me. To do things wrong and learn to pick up the pieces.

By and large, I haven’t had this. And today, I am filled with sadness for the things I haven’t done and for the ways I feel alone now.

Someone asked me recently if there was ‘anyone special’ in my life. I answered that there were many—the housemates I live with, friends near and far, but as for ‘special’ in the romantic way, no. ‘And you’re okay with that?’ she asked, sort of marveling at it. And the truth is I’m not, really. It’s not what I’d choose for myself if I had the choice. And the other truth is that I am. It is what it is, and I’m proud of choosing to be alone rather than accepting partners (romantic, sexual, play, etc.) who are wrong for me.

But it hurts. It hurts to lack some fundamental kinds of intimacy. It hurts because I am someone to whom desire and intimacy matter deeply, and there are parts of myself that I can’t fully access alone.”

And boy, does this resonate with me these days. Not all of the specifics, but the general sense of wishing for abundance in a situation where there’s anything but that. The sense of wishing even just for ‘enough,’ knowing that that’s probably still too much to ask for.

And then I see yet another instance of people advising each other to “just dump them!” over minor misunderstandings or differences of opinion or taste. And I think that I probably wouldn’t have had a single relationship (erotic, kinky, and/or romantic) in my entire life if I had been that picky and unforgiving with my partners.[2] Because “just dump them!” becomes a lot more difficult than it is for everyone else already if you know with absolute certainty that there aren’t plenty of other fish in that puddle just waiting for you to become available again. And that, if you end this not-quite-satisfying situation, you’re very likely facing an ocean of absence, and not just for a while.

I don’t have a solution for this. I don’t think there is one, beyond accepting the dating puddle and occasionally making some time to grieve the absence of abundance. This post is a part of that.

(So please, keep the dating advice and everything along the lines of “I’m sure you’ll find someone someday!” to yourself today, okay? Other comments are welcome, as always.)


Notes

[1]  These descriptions may sound like exaggerations to some. But while I don’t personally know anyone with this particular combination of marginalization characteristics, I definitely do know multiple people with a similar number of deviations from the straight, white, cis, vanilla(ish), thin, non-disabled, young, middle-class, and living-in-a-big-city norm.

[2]  Which is not to say that there aren’t also many, many cases where I wonder why people are still writing letters to advice columnists or posting on Reddit and haven’t run away screaming three years ago. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Which is also not to say that I myself shouldn’t have run away screaming much earlier than I did in a few cases.


This is a post for the Kinktober prompt “too little / too much.”


Image source: Flickr / Alan Stanton, CC BY-SA 2.0, cropped by me

The perfect loop

Photo of a metal sculpture forming a double loop.

Content note: Brief descriptions of various sexual acts. Body parts, including genitals are named but not associated with a particular gender.

My porn collection consists mostly of GIFs. Earlier this year, I wrote:

“One of the most cherished folders on my computer holds my collection of hand porn GIFs. Hands touching genitals through underwear: clits and dicks of all shapes and sizes, cocks and cunts leaking through fabric in response to that touch. Fingers sneaking into panties, shifting under lace and mesh. Palms stroking cocks encased in soft, worn cotton. Smooth gloved fists sliding into wet cunts. Fingers rubbing hard clits in endless circles, thumbs brushing back and forth across a glans. Fucking. Fondling. Kneading. Tapping. Gliding. Squeezing. Countless variations of hands between legs in infinite loops.

Other GIFs in that folder show hands touching faces, throats, thighs. A gentle caress of a cheek, followed by a harsh slap; a finger trailing down a bent neck, a hand closing around an arching throat; fingers weaving into hair, grabbing, pulling. Spit-covered fingers sliding into mouths. Flat palms resting on chests, nipples held firmly between fingertips; hard hands smacking into large, soft butts. Fingers digging into flesh. And many, many hands moving up under skirts, sliding between legs, pushing thighs apart, invading intimate spaces that open up eagerly under their touch.

Sometimes, there’s a forearm to go with the hand, muscles moving under skin. Sometimes, swollen veins stand out on backs of hands. Finger joints bend, both delicate and strong. Maybe there’s a reaction face included, mouths open in silent gasps, heads thrown back, eyes closed in pleasure.

I could watch these GIFs for hours. And I probably have.”

There are other GIFs in that folder, of thighs sliding against each other, eyes closing, legs falling open, tongues gliding over boots, hips tilting towards hips. Of slow wet kisses, cocks rubbing against cocks, mouths on nipples, necks bending, backs arching, teeth scraping skin. Of lips between legs, cunts riding on thighs, breaths mingling, breasts exposed, panties drawn aside, skirts pushed up. Of loops of rope, threads of spit…

Without a doubt, my favorite type of porn is GIFs. Their content and style varies from hardcore fucking to tender caresses, from reaction faces to genital close-ups, from high gloss to low-res. I like the whole range, as long as it comes as a GIF.

As long as it’s captured in eternal loops of six seconds or less.

Because the loop is what makes GIF porn so unique. There’s something about the endless repetition of the same moment that draws me in. The focus created by seeing the same moment over and over and over. Of being able to really look at that moment, to see every single fraction of it, every element that makes it what it is: an angle, a shadow, the tightening of a muscle, a smile that’s almost out of the frame, that one single gesture. A porn GIF rarely captures the full screen of the original, so it allows me to zoom into the smallest detail and savor it. As often and as long as I like, without ever having to rewind or skip back to a moment before that moment.

A great porn GIF captures something that would get lost in an entire scene of too many other moments to count. I don’t want to watch the whole scene, the whole movie. I just want that one perfect fraction of a scene. Because that one moment, that one movement, that one look, touch, gesture is exactly right. A great porn GIF shows so much more than a still image; it’s not a frozen moment but a transition from one point in time to another. It feels alive, just slower and more focused. It breathes. It moves, shifts, undulates.

I credit Tumblr TV fandom for learning to see like this. For the collective search for the perfect moment, the perfect frame, the perfect time span, the perfect loop. For the ability to enjoy movement in tiny portions that suggest much bigger stories. For the rush of pleasure when in the sea of meaningless cuts and loops, there’s finally another GIF that is it. That is perfect. That I could watch for hours.

Like fandom GIFs, GIF porn often feels like someone carefully chose it, both for themselves and for the world they shared it with: They selected the original source (be it Hollywood movie, TV show, or porn film), they searched it for the perfect moment, they chose a frame and a length and edited it into a smooth loop. The final GIF is a glimpse into what someone else sees, what they think is important in an erotic scene. And because the GIF now exists, I know I’m not the only one to enjoy this moment. Even if I never even find out who originally created the GIF, let alone what the source material is, that creates a sense of connection.

The only thing I don’t like about GIF porn is the fact that it’s almost by definition pirated material that I haven’t paid for. I suspect that several performers also sell GIFs, but I mostly see offers for photos or clips that are much longer than six seconds — and neither of those two hits the spot for me. I’m also incredibly picky about the moments I actually save to my collection, so I tend to scroll through a lot of GIFs that do nothing for me until I stumble across one that pings my synapses. Almost every single one of roughly 1.000 GIFs in my folder comes from a different original source. In most cases, I don’t know what these sources are or how to even search for them (because more often than not, there aren’t even any faces or other identifying features in the frame). I’m not sure how to come up with a payment model that would allow for this much variety in such tiny doses of the original product. I also don’t want to buy a bunch of porn clips and make the GIFs myself. Instead, I want to find them, more or less unexpectedly. That element of chance, of randomness, of unpredictability is part of the joy for me. So for now, I’ve resigned myself to living with a bit of a bad conscience over not paying the creators of the original material (or even the GIF makers) for their work.

And I keep watching nothing but the perfect moments. Because GIF porn is porn that allows me to watch only the bits I really, really enjoy, without making me wade through all the rest that is either boring or a turn-off. I don’t have to brace myself for the moment that ruins things for me (and since I’m a very picky porn user, there are a lot of things that can ruin it for me). I can just relax into looking at that one super erotic second over and over again.

You see, the perfect porn GIF feels like a wave, without any harsh jumps from the end back to the beginning. Just movement merging into movement merging into movement. It can swoop me up and take me with it, letting everything else fall by the wayside as I zoom into that perfect moment, into that inevitable arousal.

And I’m still curating my collection of perfect loops.


By the way, it seems that I’m not the only one who likes GIF porn. There are even academic articles about the phenomenon (which I may need to read eventually), with titles like “Giffing a fuck: non-narrative pleasures in participatory porn cultures and female fandom,” “Pornophilia: porn gifs, fandom, circuitries,” and “Fleshy motions, temporal sinks: affect and animated gifs” (because it’s not a proper academic article title if it doesn’t have a pun, a list, an alliteration, and/or a double colon, right?).

Also: I still miss Tumblr how it used to be.


Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked This is a post for the Kinktober prompt “pictures, videos.”

I’m also submitting it for the Wicked Wednesday prompt “Camera.”


Update (12 October 2019): This post has been chosen as one of the top 3 for the Wicked Wednesday prompt “camera.” Molly Moore Rebelle, who selected the top 3, said about my post:

“Turns out I am not the only one with a folder on my computer of porn gifs. Like K and N they are my favourite type of porn and in this piece they capture perfectly what it is about them that works for me too.”

Thank you! I’m especially proud to say that both of my recent two submissions to Wicked Wednesday have been chosen for the top 3 (the other one was this one, which I submitted two weeks ago).


Image source: Needpix / Violetta, cropped and color edited by me.

Collage of various Pride flags, including gay pride, leather/BDSM, polyamory, butch/femme and others.

Queer attractions, identities, and words

Collage of various Pride flags, including gay pride, leather/BDSM, polyamory, butch/femme and others.

Content note: This post briefly mentions the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, femme exclusion from lesbian/dyke spaces, trans hostility and TERFs, and bi erasure. It also quotes some prejudice against people who are receptive-only sexually (‘paper’). None of these topics are discussed in any detail.

It is has been Pride season, and I am was once again sorting through identity labels. (And there are so very, very many of them nowadays!) And since a bunch of people expressed interest in a post about this topic, here we go.

Language changes

I thought I’d be done with most of the identity puzzles after I settled on ‘femme’ for my gender and ‘queer’ (and ‘into BDSM’ and ‘non-monogamous’) for my orientation about twenty years ago, but of course it’s never that simple.

Because words change their meanings over time, and today’s ‘femme’ isn’t the same ‘femme’ I came out as over twenty years ago (and that wasn’t the same ‘femme’ that was around in the working-class lesbian bar culture of the North American 1940s-60s, even though it drew on many writings about that time).[1] Today’s ‘queer’ isn’t quite the same ‘queer’ I adopted in the early 2000s as someone who isn’t a native English speaker (and that wasn’t the same ‘queer’ that was reclaimed in the context of anti-assimilationist, cross-identity coalition-focused LGBTQ activism around the AIDS epidemic [link to YouTube video] in the U.S. 1980s, even though it was definitely inspired by it).

And although there never was a time when everyone around me used or understood femme or queer in exactly the same way (so I often had to explain how I wasn’t like whatever stereotype someone was thinking of), I feel more need to explain myself nowadays. Maybe that’s the result of an ever-increasing vocabulary for the myriads of ways that our genders, attractions, and relationships (or the absences thereof) can deviate from the cis-heteronormative model (what do you mean, there’s now a word for “I’m attracted to nonbinary people”?!). Maybe I just like precision in my language. Or maybe I just like analyzing how exactly I’m queer because that’s the kind of navel-gazing nerd I am.

So let’s go through some identity labels (and the pride flags symbolizing them) I claim as mine (and some I could but don’t), from the well-known to the more obscure.

Disclaimer: In my definitions of the various terms below, I’ve tried to use the understanding that I believe is currently the most common one (if perhaps at times a bit simplified by me for brevity’s sake). Nevertheless, I don’t claim to speak for anyone but myself and my own understanding. I would also like to remind you that the language for queer identities and the meaning of many of these terms will keep changing and that many, if not all of these terms have multiple meanings at the same time, depending on who uses them in what context. So please do your own research and check whether what I’ve said here is still true at the time you read this and whether it applies to a different context/person as well.

LGBTGIA+ / gay / queer

First, there’s the rainbow flag and the big umbrella of LGBTQIA+, or ‘gay’ in the historical sense of the word (which included everyone who wasn’t straight and/or cis). So, while I’m not a fan of the ever-expanding acronym[2] and strongly prefer continuing to use ‘queer’ as an umbrella term for the whole, vaguely defined, fuzzy-bordered accumulation of “us” (mostly because of the history of anti-assimilationist and coalitional politics it reminds me of — see above), I still recognize the rainbow flag as a fairly universal sign for “not straight and/or cis,” which definitely includes me. So I still smile when I walk past a car with a rainbow sticker or see a stranger on public transport with a rainbow badge on their bag. And yes, I occasionally use rainbow accessories to flag my queerness, especially in contexts that don’t allow for lengthy explanations of my identity and desires. I’m aware that my life and the issues that personally concern me are not at the center of the recent or current mainstream gay agenda (which seems to be mostly centered on rights related to marriage and/or having children), but I’m still feeling like a part of a larger queer community and I’m absolutely on board for the general fight against anti-queer and anti-trans discrimination.

When I did some research about terms and flags, I discovered the existence of a separate ‘queer’ flag that has been designed to explicitly include various non-mainstream genders and attractions. I like the look of it a lot better than the traditional rainbow flag, but I don’t think anyone would recognize it outside of the part of Tumblr that has specialized in naming and illustrating every possible non-mainstream gender and attraction (or lack thereof), so using it to communicate anything about my identity to the larger world seems pointless. I do, however, strongly identify with the word ‘queer’ because it’s the only term that encompasses all the ways that my own gender and attractions deviate from the norm (and have done so in the past and may do so in the future). Also, I like being weird, odd, and strange, so ‘queer’ is what I use most often to identify myself in words. ‘Queer’ is where I’m at home. That said, I sometimes struggle a bit with the extremely wide scope of identities and practices that are called ‘queer’ today. While I feel that it’s useful to have an umbrella term that encompasses as many of us as possible (because there is strength in numbers), I also think we need to be careful not to lose track of all the ways we’re different from each other, especially in terms of the (relative, situational, and structural) privileges we have and the (relative, situational, and structural) discriminations and oppressions we face (because these differences matter).[3]

BDSM / leather / kink

My other umbrella-term home is the BDSM community, especially where it intersects with the queer community. I like the traditional leather flag better than the BDSM flag because of its gay history; I romanticize and eroticize (gay) leather culture quite a bit, but my own community and kink practice is still leaning a lot more towards ‘new school’ BDSM than ‘old school’ leather. Kink is something that is woven through my whole life, even though I’m not in any 24/7 relationship. But BDSM culture has informed so much of my thinking about larger issues of consent and communication and choice that it’s always present in the back of my head. As evidenced by this blog, I also really enjoy thinking about BDSM and everything related to it, so I dedicate a lot of time to this topic even outside of going to playparties or munches and having actual scenes. That said, I still bring my queer goggles to the world of BDSM, so I’m not any less baffled by cis-/heteronormativity in kink than I am by cis-/heteronormativity elsewhere.

As far as I know, there aren’t any separate flags for being a bottom, a masochist, or a submissive, but I am all three of those things. I keep looking for ways to visually communicate at least some of these things (at least in kinky contexts), but since I don’t wear collars at all, and few people in my queer BDSM community seem to understand even the meaning of a basic black hanky, or the left/right symbolism [link to YouTube video] of wearing one’s keys, wristbands, or indeed hanky, I haven’t been very successful with that. So I keep returning to words as the main way of communicating my kinky identity — which is fine, if at times a bit exhausting. (In my early kink years, I used to switch but eventually lost all interest in topping/dominating anyone, even though I still have a bit of a sadistic streak at times.)

Polyamory / consensual non-monogamy

I’ve also spent most of my adult life in consensually non-monogamous arrangements of various kinds. I consider myself fundamentally non-monogamous, even though I’ve agreed to be monogamous with two previous partners at their request (ironically, both of them then cheated on me) and have also been monogamous and even celibate in practice due to circumstances. I enjoy having what I would call an ‘anchor partner,’ someone who has been in my life for a really long time with no end in sight, someone I feel at home with, someone who has stayed with me in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health. I also enjoy both of us having various other important connections to other people, including those that involve kink/sex. There’s room for other romantic connections, too, even though they don’t exist for either of us at this time. I cherish being part of an international, queer, kinky network of people who are friends, play partners, roommates, romantic partners, and/or share other connections with each other. Again, I can’t separate my non-monogamy from the queer and kinky context it takes place in (and has almost always taken place in). I’ve never used the polyamory flag anywhere (perhaps because I really don’t like the colors), nor have I ever gone to a polyamory meet-up. But then, the vast majority of my queer BDSM community is some variation of consensually non-monogamous, so I’ve always found my role models, bad examples, and people to talk to about non-monogamy there and haven’t had much need for a non-kink-centered polyamory community besides that. In terms of language, I most often say I’m (consensually) non-monogamous because that seems to be the most neutral term that brings up the least amount of incorrect assumptions in other people and leaves the most room for change. I don’t use much polyamory jargon (such as compersion, comet, relationship anarchy, or metamour) but prefer to describe the connections I have and how I feel about them in a language that is more common.

I’ve also chosen a bunch of flags (and terms) that could describe the more precisely gendered aspects of my sexual and romantic attractions.

Ex-lesbian/dyke

I didn’t add a flag for this into the collage, but I’ve also identified as a ‘lesbian’ or ‘dyke’ (attracted only to women (as a woman)) in the past, and that’s still relevant to who I am today. Lesbian/dyke communities were very important to me for several years. They have provided me with many social and cultural reference points and ultimately enabled my access to a larger queer history and community. However, since more than half of the people I’m usually attracted to are either non-binary people or trans men, that label stopped feeling right a long time ago. Also, ever since I’ve come out as a femme and started to look more feminine in the mid-1990s, the lesbian community has been noticeably less welcoming to me, and once I’ve started having relationships with people who used ‘he’ pronouns (but weren’t necessarily men), my belonging in lesbian/dyke spaces has been questioned even more. Eventually I became tired of always fighting for inclusion where I wasn’t wanted and left to make my home in queerer spaces. Nowadays,[4] there’s of course the added problem of having to check whether a given lesbian/dyke space is actually inclusive of trans women or whether it’s a gathering place for TERFs (in case you don’t already know: that is an acronym for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminists’; aka “gender-critical”). So despite some nostalgic feelings of connection to them, I generally approach lesbian/dyke spaces with extreme caution these days.

Butch/femme (it’s not just for lesbians!)

There’s also butch/femme (specific lesbian/queer types of masculinity/femininity) culture (symbolized here by the logo of the now-defunct butch-femme.com website and forum where I took my first online steps as a femme in the late 1990s, even though it’s not technically a flag). Contrary to some recent claims that butch and femme are “lesbian-only” terms and identities, butch/femme as a lived culture has always included trans men and other masculine-of-center individuals (although they may not have called themselves by these terms), and ‘butch’ has never only referred to people who identified and lived as women.[5] Historically speaking, ‘femme’ has also always included bisexual women who had sex/relationships with women/butches.[6] For me, butch/femme as a dynamic is about mutual desire and the queer eroticization of difference in gender, which is expressed and embodied as variations of masculinity and femininity and their relation to each other. Butch/femme as a culture and community for me has always been about mutual support and shared resistance against the oppression we face (even if we don’t desire each other — and not all femmes desire (only) butches, and not all butches desire (only) femmes). It’s about being in this together, even if we experience the world in different ways and suffer from different forms of oppression. Unfortunately, there isn’t much left of that butch/femme culture around me, and these identities are now often misunderstood to imply “lesbian,” so I’m not referring to butch/femme as much as I used to. Nevertheless, butch/femme remains an extremely important reference point for both my femmeness and my queerness, and has been the first place where I understood and experienced gender as something that is neither binary nor determined by biology.[7]

Incidentally, my strong tendency to eroticize queer gender difference is also the reason why I never call myself ‘sapphic,’ ‘gay,’ or a ‘homo.’ I feel like these terms imply an emphasis on same-gender attraction — and that’s just not me, because I’m rarely attracted to people of my own gender (that is, femme). In fact, I often feel more aligned with ‘heterosexuality’ (attraction only to people of a gender different than your own; usually only understood as attraction between men and women) than with ‘lesbianism’ because of this, and have more than once been tempted to add “into: heterosexual dynamics in a queer context” to my FetLife fetish list…

Into masculine and/or nonbinary people

Even if ‘butch/femme’ has become too limited in current understanding, sometimes I still want to express that I am predominantly into people who are masculine-of-center, no matter how they identify, but usually not cis men. There are a multitude of flags/terms that cover a part of this preference spectrum, but none that covers all of them and nothing else. Nevertheless, let’s talk about some potential terms/flags I might use to narrow down my personal kind of ‘queer.’

There’s ‘androphile’ (attracted to masculinity), which I like because it covers masculinity across a wide range of more specific genders (so butches, trans men, and masculine-leaning nonbinary people are all included). However, I struggle with the implicit assumption that I’m also into masculinity in cis men (which I’m usually not, unless they’re very gay and therefore not at all interested in me[8]). There’s also ‘skoliosexual’ or ‘ceterosexual’ or ‘allotroposexual’ (attracted to nonbinary/genderqueer people), which I like because it finally acknowledges that there are more genders than male or female to be attracted to and actually centers these genders. However, there’s some debate whether it should be used if one is also attracted to binary genders (which I am) and whether people who aren’t nonbinary themselves (which may or may not include me) should use that term at all or whether that’s always implicitly ‘fetishizing.’[9] Beside, as far as I can tell, none of these terms are actually used outside very specialized (and usually online) queer communities. So their usefulness to express the scope of my attractions in my everyday life (the vast majority of which takes place outside of these communities) is rather limited, which is why I usually resort to describing the matter in a more common language.

Into more than one gender

Perhaps ‘polysexual’ (attracted to multiple genders but not all of them) is a more accurate label for me than the ones in the previous section, even though it’s nearly as unspecific as ‘queer.’ I would probably use ‘polysexual’ more often if the term wasn’t so easily confused with ‘polyamorous’ — and if it had any of the political implications of ‘queer.’ Making things even more complicated in the fact that ‘polysexual’ is also currently used in a derogatory way for a type of non-monogamy that is more focused on sex than on emotional bonds (in contrast to ‘polyamorous’). So all in all, that term doesn’t seem like a good candidate for clarifying anything.

I’m technically also ‘bisexual’ (attracted to people of more than one gender / attracted to people of my own gender and of other gender(s)). However, apart from a short time as a teenager when I sort-of claimed to be bisexual (and actually had genital sex with a woman before I had genital sex with a man), I’ve never identified with that term. I can’t relate to the strong association the word ‘bisexual’ seems to have with attraction to cis men in most people’s understanding, and I’ve always felt rather alienated from the kinds of explicitly bisexual communities I’ve come across (so I was interested to see that mirrored in Sinclair Sexsmith’s recent post about bisexuality). That said, as someone whose attractions don’t fall neatly into either the ‘homosexual’ or ‘heterosexual’ category, I am still affected by many kinds of anti-bi prejudice and bi erasure, no matter how I actually identify (but that’s another text for another day). So I try hard to stop automatically distancing myself from that category (I don’t like it, but apparently, some old ‘lesbian’ habits die hard!) and to stand in solidarity with all kinds of bi-identifying people.

I haven’t included the pansexual (attracted to people of all genders / attracted to people regardless of gender) flag because I’m clearly not into all genders (for example, the vast majority of femininities does absolutely nothing for me erotically, no matter how much I sometimes wish this was different). Neither am I attracted to anyone without much regard for their gender — on the contrary, gender is one of the most relevant aspects of attraction for me, and I care very much about it and about the gender dynamic(s) between me and my partners.

And then there are the ways in which my desires and attractions deviate from the norm even more…

Receiving, responding, reacting

I have added the flag for ‘iamvanosexual’, aka ‘paper’ or ‘pillow queen/prince(ss) (wants to receive sexual/genital touch but doesn’t want to give it — the complementary terms are ‘placiosexual’ and ‘stone’) to express that I have a strong preference to be on the receiving end of sexual/genital touch (with the possible exception of sucking cock). There is quite some stigma attached to this preference (and also to its counterpart): people like me routinely get called “lazy,” “selfish,” and (especially if we are cis femmes) often have our queerness questioned if we don’t ‘give’ as much as we ‘get’ (as if receiving was a passive, uncommunicative, and one-sided activity!). Therefore, I’m still in the process of claiming this preference as a part of my identity, but there is no denying that receiving and responsing are where I am most at home in terms of my sexuality (or my kink, since this also ties in with me being a bottom and a masochist). My interest in seeing and touching other people’s genitals used to be a lot bigger, but has almost ceased to exist at all these days (I still want my sexual partners to touch my genitals, though!). And even when I still enjoyed being a lot more “active” sexually, stone partners have always been a very comfortable fit for me and I never felt like my sexuality with them was lacking anything. In terms of language, ‘iamvanosexual’ is useless for me because almost no one knows what it means — I couldn’t even find any information about its etymology or origin. ‘Paper’ is sliiightly more known, but doesn’t work for me as a metaphor at all (I’m not passively lying there for someone else to do something to me nor am I a blank slate…). I am somewhat nostalgically fond of ‘stone femme’ (in the sense of: a femme who desires stone (butch) partners), because that’s the context where I first encountered the concept. However, the same term can also refer to a femme who’s stone herself, so it’s not very clear. It also seems to imply that I only desire stone partners and/or only butches (neither of which are true for me). Just out of spite, I would like to reclaim ‘pillow princess,’ though, despite the fact that neither the ‘pillow’ and the ‘princess’ part don’t exactly match the type of bottom I am. But I really fucking like reclaiming words that have been used against us and turning them into a source of pride and strength.

I could also put my tendency towards responsive desire here (that means, I often need to be in an erotic context already before I remember that feeling desire is even an option), or even my experience that sometimes my erotic attraction to people only kicks in after they have expressed their erotic attraction to me (as far as I know, there isn’t a separate identity label for that particular experience, yet). I’m not going to expand on these aspects today, though (again, that’s another post for another day).

Demisexual, maybe? (Or gray-asexual?)

I’ve also tentatively added the demisexual (sexually attracted only after an emotional connection has been formed) flag, even though I’m still not sure this label fits my experience. Here are some of my thoughts about this so far: I never look at a picture of someone I don’t know personally and feel sexually attracted to them. I might appreciate their visual appearance (aesthetic attraction). I might even feel sexually aroused from depictions of sexual situations (aka porn), but I can’t remember a single instance in my entire life of thinking “I wish that person would fuck me instead of their fellow porn actor” or “I’d absolutely be down for having sex with that good-looking person I have never interacted with.” Maybe it’s because I’m so deeply involved with the queer BDSM community that I can’t even imagine sex without a previous lengthy conversation and (hopefully) a resulting emotional connection of some kind (although I don’t remember this being any different when I was still living a vanilla life). Maybe I’m just one of those people for whom kink comes first and sex comes second (unless there’s no sex at all) and sex without kink doesn’t exist (so I should try thinking through this in terms of ‘kinky attraction’ rather than ‘sexual attraction’ anyway). Maybe my disinterest in fucking without talking first is due to my responsive desire (see above) and the lack of people/situations who’d spark said desire. Maybe it’s just that I have a low libido these days and therefore don’t feel much like having sex altogether. Maybe there just aren’t very many people whose gender (and kink role) matches my attractions and who’d at least be open to erotic interactions with someone of my gender, and that’s why I think I rarely experience sexual attraction at all. Maybe I’m just — for lack of a better term — ‘sapiosexual’ (attracted based on an ‘intellectual’/mental connection) and confuse that with an emotional connection. Maybe I’m just a sexual prude who isn’t interested in hook-ups and one-night-stands (but is fine with kinky pick-up play). Maybe gray-asexual (being somewhere between asexual and allosexual/non-asexual) is a better description for the way my sexual attraction works. Maybe it’s a combination of some or all of the above. Or maybe I am indeed demisexual and my sexual attraction to someone doesn’t kick in before I feel some kind of emotional (and mental) connection to them. Then again, there have been a few people with whom such a connection was almost instant and I knew within the first five minutes of talking to them that I also wanted to make out with them and possibly have sex later. There have been people whom I probably didn’t just find aesthetically attractive, but also considered erotically interesting. And then there have been times where I most definitely felt a strong sexual attraction to someone, usually after we’ve already had at least one pleasant erotic/sexual encounter with each other and I very much wanted there to be more. I also wonder what counts as an “emotional connection” in this definition of demisexual: Does it have to be long-term? Does it have to be romantic? Does it also have to include life outside of kink/sex? At which point does the term become so watered-down it becomes meaningless? And then there’s the fact that how I practice my BDSM often results in an extraordinary intimacy and intensity (even with a near-stranger) that may not necessarily translate into everyday life but that is still real and meaningful and may result in sexual attraction and desire on my part after we’ve started with the pervy stuff. So, for the time being, this one still has a big question mark for me. I may need to talk to more kinky demisexuals, and kinky gray-asexuals, and kinky allosexuals with responsive desire to compare experiences and figure this one out…

And I haven’t even started to discuss gender…

I’m not going to elaborate on my own gender because this post is focused on desire/attraction, even though I actually have a hard time separating my own gender from everything I wrote about here. For now, I’ll just briefly note that there is more to say about the nuances of femme as a gender and how it is and isn’t related to ‘female’ and ‘feminine.’ There’s more to say about how femmeness intersects with all the identities and communities mentioned above. There’s also more to say about whether I’m cis or nonbinary or possibly both, depending on context. Some other time, though.

Community vs. behavior

One thing became very clear for me as I thought my way through all this: In choosing what terms to use to describe aspects of my queerness, community and politics matter a lot more to me than technical correctness. I need to feel like I share (some of) the values and cultural references of a community to feel like I belong to it. I also need to feel like (the relevant-for-me part of) a community accepts me as a valid member. And I need to feel like I’m at least not completely at odds with the politics associated (at least in my own head) with a community/term. This, more than anything else, explains why I’m so much more comfortable with ‘queer’ than I am with ‘bisexual.’ It explains why I still hold on to my identity as a femme with an origin in butch/femme culture (even though the actual scope of my attractions is a lot broader than that) and not as a “normal” counterpart to trans men, trans women, and/or nonbinary people. It explains why I keep using ‘kink’ as a synonym for ‘BDSM’ and not as a word to describe sex that goes beyond the penis-in-vagina model but is otherwise entirely vanilla. And so on. Because context and history (both large-scale and individual) matter, and there is no objectively right way to put our attractions and desires and identities (and activities and genders) into words. There’s just what makes the most sense for each of us at any given point in our lives. I for one still reside comfortably in “queer kinky femme.”

I hope you have enjoyed this journey through my assorted attractions and desires and the identity terms I use and don’t use to talk about them! Could you relate to any of this? Did you learn anything new? Do you know of any useful resources about the lesser-known identities/attractions I’ve discussed here? Please leave a comment if you like!

Bonus content: Here are all the identities superimposed on their respective flags:

Collage of various Pride flags, including gay pride, leather/BDSM, polyamory, butch/femme and others. Overlaid with the identity terms attached to each flag.


Notes

[1] Yes, that’s when ‘femme’ started to be a queer term (although it was more commonly spelled ‘fem’ then). No, Anne Lister’s bisexual lover Marianna Lawton was not the first queer person to be called a ‘femme’ – unless you want to also count everyone else who has ever been addressed as a ‘woman’ in French. Yes, there were still predecessors to what later became butch and femme identities and relationships both in Europe and North America (and presumably elsewhere, but I don’t know enough about that to even make educated guesses), and I would count Anne Lister and her lovers/partners among them.

[2]  I also believe no variation of this acronym will never be able to include all of us unless we literally just use the entire alphabet. Besides, I still hope that just using ‘queer’ will stop the endless circular debates whether all nonbinary identities are included in the ‘T’ or whether we should add an ‘N’ for them somewhere; whether pansexuals are included in the ‘B’ or whether we need a separate ‘P’ for them; whether the ‘A’ stands for asexuals, aromantics, allies, or all of them; whether the ‘Q’ is for ‘queer,’ for ‘questioning,’ or for both; and in what order these letters should be arranged and what that order implies about everyone’s importance. (At least the debate whether ‘transgender’ and ‘transsexual’ can share the same ‘T’ seems to have died down due to overall changes in queer language use in the past 10-15 years…)

[3] Even if everyone in this example is white, middle-class, and non-disabled (and in reality, we really, really aren’t), there is a relevant difference between being a bearded cis guy who exclusively has romantic relationships with feminine cis women and who sometimes wears a bit of nail polish or some glitter when he goes out to a have a wild night and a lesbian trans woman who is fighting to be legally recognized as the mother of her biological child and who has a bunch of committed relationship partners, neither of whom she is married to. There is a difference between a feminine bisexual cis woman who is monogamously married to a cis guy and occasionally fucks him in the ass and a butch cis lesbian who is married to another cis dyke and has never had any of the implicit protection from street harrassment or job/housing discrimination that often comes with being more gender-conforming and having a (cis) male partner. There also is a difference between an androgynous cis lesbian or a moderately-masculine gay cis guy whose rightful presence in LGBTQIA+ spaces is never questioned by anyone and a nonbinary person who has been assigned male at birth or a bisexual cis femme who always have to justify their presence in these spaces and prove that they’re “queer enough” to be allowed in (let alone accepted). Mind you, I’m not saying any of these fictional people are more or less queer than the others. I’m just saying that different kinds of queernesses come with different privileges and oppressions (sometimes dependent on the context), and that it is important to keep those in mind and not brush them away with “but we’re all queer, so our differences shouldn’t matter!”

[4] I’m using “nowadays” not because TERFs are a new phenomenon (they have unfortunately existed at least since the 1970s), but because I used to be much more ignorant of trans women’s concerns when I was younger and therefore didn’t ask these kinds of questions.

[5]  This is evidenced for example by the fact that “FTM/TG” is still included in the search options of a butch/femme dating website that has been online for over twenty years. For an even older example, I suggest reading Leslie Feinberg’s semi-autobiographical novel Stone Butch Blues [free pdf available at the link], the oral history study Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline Davis, and/or the latter part of the essay On Rereading “Esther’s Story” by Joan Nestle.

[6]  Here I refer once again to Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline Davis as one record of how lesbian and femme identities were understood in the 1940s-60s. I also would like to remind everyone that until at least the 1970s, ‘lesbian’ was commonly understood to include all women and female-assigned nonbinary people who had sex and/or relationships with women, whether or not they also had sex/relationships with (cis) men as well. Today’s microscopic nuance in language for LGBTQIA+ identities is a very, very recent thing, so when you read older texts, please don’t assume that ‘lesbian’ in the 1950s or ‘dyke’ in the 1990s meant the same thing as ‘lesbian’ does today.

[7]  I’m skipping all the things I could say about femme as a gender in and of itself and as an identity independent of butch (I may delve into this topic another time, though). For now, I just would like to say that ‘femme’ is not a synonym for ‘woman,’ or for ‘person who was assigned female at birth,’ or even for ‘feminine.’ It is a deeply queer term and identity, and I really fucking resent its trendy use by straight people and its rampant appropriation by fashion companies.

[8]  Yes, I’ve much enjoyed Carol Queen’s The Leather Daddy and the Femme. No, I don’t think any of it is even remotely likely to happen to me, for a variety of reasons (my own lack of genderfluidity and the high degree of separation between gay male kink culture and everyone else’s kink culture in my area being just two of them).

[9]  Yes, transfeminine people in particular have very good reasons to be wary of (mostly) cis men (aka “chasers”) who like them as sex partners and/or porn performers but would never get romantically involved with them. Yes, transmasculine people in particular have very good reasons to be wary of (mostly) cis women who treat them as ‘masculine or androgynous lesbians’ and don’t actually respect their maleness/lack of femaleness. I’m not denying that cis people’s attraction for trans/nonbinary people can be highly problematic. However, I don’t think we’re doing anyone a favor when we treat any kind of sexual attraction from a cis person to a trans/nonbinary person as something that can only ever be exploitative or disrespectful of their identity. I believe that if we can say we’re “into women” or “into men” without anyone protesting that this is ‘fetishizing,’ we should also be able to say we’re “into nonbinary people.” Surely, the scope of real-life variation encompassed by the category “woman” (or “man”) is not much smaller than the scope of variation encompassed by the category “nonbinary” — and no one is into literally all women (or men), either. (Of course I say this as a cis-ish person who has been drawn to people on the transmasculine spectrum as my sexual, kinky, and romantic partners for about fifteen years, so I’m not exactly a neutral observer here…)


This is a post for the Kinktober prompt “symbols / labels,” even though the emphasis is not actually on the BDSM-related terms I use for myself. That’s because I initially started writing the post in July (hence the Pride reference at the beginning) and have now gone back to it to finish it. 


Image source: I found the individual flags in the collage on various websites which I unfortunately didn’t bookmark. I redrew the butch/femme logo from a low-res image, put the collage together, and added the overlay and text in the second image.