Review: The Big Book of Submission

Released this summer from Cleis Press and edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, one of my favorites, it admittedly took me a while to read and review The Big Book of Submission. Why? Well, it’s not really a book made for reading all in one sitting. With a mishmash of genders, D/s dynamics, and points of view, these 69 stories are perhaps best for grabbing on the go one at a time, skipping those that hit your triggers and flipping through for the stories that hit your own submissive buttons.

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Review: Gaysia

gaysia cover

[crossposted from Radically Queer]

When I recently received a copy of Benjamin Law’s Gaysia to review, I admit I was a bit skeptical, given the title. I needn’t have been worried, however. Law blends an accessible journalistic style familiar to fans of travel writing with solid research and investigation into various queer cultures in the countries he visits. Each chapter focuses on a country, and I was happy to find that despite the cheeky title, the coverage is quite comprehensive when it comes to queer identities and communities. Law focuses quite a bit on transfeminine folks of various identities, as well as queer people involved in sex work, silenced lesbians, and even the often-abused wives of MSM in a repressive society, showing a refreshing willingness to consider queer life from all angles. The account is honest, as Law admits his own ignorance going into some situations, and thus particularly accessible to the reader who is interested in but not particularly familiar with queer Asian cultures.  I was eager to ask Law some questions about his process and what he learned in his travels.

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Playing LOTRO for Tolkien Fans

In a few weeks, the course that initially got me playing LOTRO (Lord of the Rings Online) comes back for a second run.  Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative is taught through Coursera by Jay Clayton, a literature professor and rather charming Tolkien geek, and focuses on narrative by comparing LOTRO, The Lord of the Rings, and the Peter Jackson films of the same name. When I first took the course last year, I was a big Tolkien fan but a newbie to LOTRO and to MMORPGs in general, and I imagine I’m not the only one. So I thought this would be a good time, as promised, to cover LOTRO from the perspective of a Tolkien fan–what’s cool about it, and what to avoid. If you’re new to MMORPGs, check out my review of the LOTRO experience before the course starts.

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Fifteen Years of Russophilia in Review

The house I grew up in is cozily cluttered, bookshelves lining many of the walls. My mom, a voracious reader, liked to tell me about her love of Solzhenitsyn and Tolstoy even as a teenager, and many of those shelves were stuffed with Russian classics. It was about my junior year in high school when I first became interested in them, and for a year and a half I carried around a battered paperback copy of The Brothers Karamazov with its work burgundy cover everywhere I went. Ten or fifteen pages at a time, I fell in love with Dostoevsky’s language and characterizations, and came to call the novel my favorite for about five years. It still ranks in my top five classics, but I will admit here something I never told a soul: I never actually finished the novel. Like Les Miserables, another brooding and beautiful master work, I fell in love with the language but couldn’t quite see the relationship through to its bitter end. As a college Freshman eagerly starting Russian 101, I told the class I was studying Russian to be able to read Dostoevsky in the original, when in fact it had more to do with my recent ex-girlfriend and I’s obsession with fake lesbian pop duo tAtU.

I’m currently taking a MOOC on Understanding Russians, and I’m reminded of this theme in my Russophilia: a fascination with the language, the culture, the style, the pathos, alongside an utter lack of commitment to actually delve deep into what Russia is. I’m a Russian dabbler: when I meet a Russian person, I’m as excited as an Anglophile is hearing Tom Hiddleston’s accent, but then I hit the embarrassment of not being able to respond to a simple inquiry in Russian about my studies. Re-learning Russian is somewhere on a to-do list along the 13 other languages I’ve studied, and I have to admit that the Russian culture is not very suited to dilettantes.

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I’m Doing a Thing! Submissive Playground Starting Soon

banner reading Submissive Playground: Your Subby Summer School Starts in July...Come Play With Us!So I’ve been reviewing sexuality and erotica books for a while now, and I’m also looking into opportunities to review toys. But to be perfectly honest, books and toys aren’t where my most amazing sexuality and relationship-related experiences come from, and the same is probably true for you. To add to this part of the site, I’ve been wanting to write about sexuality and relationship experiences: things I can review that are interactive, interesting, and available for you to find out there when you’re looking to go a little deeper in your sexuality and relationship exploration.

The good news is that just such an experience showed up in my inbox recently, and so I’m excited to announce that I’ll be reviewing friend and fellow educator Sinclair Sexsmith’s Submissive Playground, an 8-week e-course that stars in July. Here’s how Sinclair describes the course:

Submissive Playground is an online course with five live calls, eight weeks of creative, sexy explorations, and four learning modules—Bondage, Discipline, Service, and Masochism—all with the goal to take your submission deeper. And, you’ll get to explore it in community, making friends with other s-types through the course, and learning from each other. The entire course is online, and done within your own levels of comfort. Registration is open at www.submissiveplayground.com.

If you’d like to participate alongside me, registration is still open until June 30th (that’s this coming Monday), and there’s a sliding scale that includes a package as low as $150 for the eight weeks. I look forward to letting you know what this new-to-me journey is like!

Sex Positive Activism is Dead; Long Live the Sex & Relationships Section!

This is just an FYI for folks who notice that there’s suddenly a flood of posts on this blog dated before this blog technically existed. No, we haven’t been invaded by Time Lords (I wish). I’ve made the decision to shut down Sex Positive Activism, a blog I maintained from 2010 to 2013, in the process of creating this blog, Queer & Now.

Why? Initially, Sex Positive Activism was a distinction that made sense from Radically Queer, my main blog. I wanted to blog about activisty stuff only, and I needed a pseudonym to blog about sexuality topics. Well, in the interim, I got older, and stopped caring who knows what I think about sexuality topics. I also got the idea for this blog, which kept brewing and brewing with not enough time to actually create it.

Now that this blog is a real, live place where I can write about a variety of topics from everyday life to pop culture to geekery, it makes sense to put my musings about sex and relationships right here. And it makes sense to put my sex-focused activism-type posts over on Radically Queer. For simplicity, I’ve moved the entire Sex Positive Activism archive to this blog, and put it in the Sex & Relationships category. Some of the posts are activist-y, or not that much about sex, but it made sense for an archival move. If you’re curious, feel free to poke around the archives, and look forward to more posts on the topic right here in the future!

If you came here from Sex Positive Activism, pull up a chair and add this blog to your RSS feed reader. It’s good to have you around!

Excited About Siri Three Years Late with iOS 7.1.1

Siri screen asking if fat bottom girls make the rocking girl go round, answer "A fine question, Miranda. Now can we get back to work?"I know I’m a little late to this train, but I just got a new iPhone 5s and installed iOS 7.1.1, and I’m loving how Siri fits into my workflow. I resisted the 5s for a little while, excited as I was about the fancy hardware, because I believe both  in using hardware until it’s really, truly, dead, and in avoiding any new shiny until that shiny has been thoroughly tested by early adopters. This time, I feel rather triumphant, as my strategy clearly saved me a lot of headaches and made me a big fan of Siri, a personal assistant app that pretty much everyone seemed to hate in 2012. 

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Is ShoeDazzle a Good Deal?

I’ve been a member of ShoeDazzle for a year and a half or so. Though ShoeDazzle bills itself as one of these premium fashion sites that acts as your personal shopper, it’s more of a standard online shoe store that happens to give you recommendations and deals. That said, some of my favorite and most-commented-on shoes come from ShoeDazzle. They tend to have funky dress shoe styles a bit cheaper than you might find at Nine West or elsewhere, and I’ve found a decent selection from $20 to $40. The last-minute deals are often disappointing, as you won’t find anything in your size (though small-footed people will love it!) and they do sometimes make mistakes. I ordered one pair of shoes in purple that came in black. You can hover over the gallery for my notes: these shoes are no longer available on the site, but you can sometimes find out-of-stock styles at Burlington Coat Factory or on eBay. Most of ShoeDazzle’s styles are very femme, but they have a few more casual options.

My Top Ten Fandom Experiences of 2013

Are you tired of 2013 wrap-up posts yet? Admittedly, being a pop culture podcast enthusiast, I am. But this is more of a personal list to remember my own year in fandom, which includes some common picks of the year as well as some silly things I discovered a bit late. What are your top picks for the year? And what are you looking forward to in 2014?

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Welcome to Queer & Now!

The author on a canoe in a lake, looking over hir shoulder with a goofy grinAfter about three years of considering similar ideas, I am so happy to finally be able to announce the launch of Queer & Now, a new blog for 2014!

Queer & Now is a space to discuss life in the 21st-century from a queer perspective. I’ll be getting into all the things about which I’m totally geeky, from games to TV to fashion to work to technology. You can expect to see app reviews, awkward beauty tutorials, my first impressions of movies everyone else has seen, and a first-hand account of the non-profit work life. But unlike other modern life and pop culture blogs, this one will be written from the perspective of a queer, sex positive, trans disability justice and racial justice advocate who’s trying really hard not to be a dick. So no fat-shaming when I talk about health, awareness of casual sexism when I dive into MMORPGs, and a zero-tolerance policy towards transphobia and transmisogyny. If I make a mistake, then I want to hear about it and make an effort to change!

This blog comes from you from the author of Radically Queer, an activism blog more than five years in the making. This is a platform for me to write from a more casual personal perspective, outside of the tighter focus of Radically Queer. I’ll be actively maintaining both projects in 2014 and look forward to your feedback! Leave comments here or find me on Twitter @queeractivist.

21st century life from a queer perspective