Tag Archives: queer

Review: Show Yourself to Me

show yourself to me by xan west coverI can honestly say that I’ve never read an erotica collection like this before. To me, this book is to other pieces of BDSM erotica as the full, messy, grown-up experience of BDSM play and practice is to the overblown kinky erotica fairytales I read at thirteen in the early days of the Internet, about ravishment as romance and mysterious silent doms who could somehow know everything about their submissives without asking and effortlessly make them fly. As Annabeth Leong writes in the book’s introduction, “[Show Yourself to Me] is about knowing that BDSM really can make you fly, but remembering how sore your muscles may be afterward from the effort of pumping your wings.”

Continue reading Review: Show Yourself to Me

Review: Blackmail, My Love

I’ll admit to some initial skepticism when Cleis Press asked me to review a murder mystery, Katie Gilmartin’s Blackmail, My Love. Mystery is far from my favorite genre, but I was intrigued by Gilmartin’s background as an artist and former cultural studies professor, as well as advanced press promising a deep understanding of post-war queer San Francisco. A well researched piece of fiction, to me, is often as alluring as my preferred non-fiction social histories, and this book was no exception.

I was particularly relieved to find a lack of anachronism in the book’s treatment of gender roles in lesbian as well as gay male subcultures, and further interested in the way Gilmartin treats a broad cast of gender non-conforming characters across the spectrum. Within the foreboding noir tone that frames a plot around blackmail and a murdered brother, there are surprisingly coherent philosophical discussions around trans identity versus drag performance, gender identity over the lifespan, and the relationships between queer community members that might otherwise never meet. I had trouble following all the characters at times, but I really enjoyed the way Gilmartin blends historical accuracy and realistic anti-queer sentiment with a perspective on queer culture that includes racial diversity and more nuance than some accounts of 1950s queer communities might suggest. Gilmartin’s narrative brings alive the voices of very real San Francisco queers forgotten to history in the form of her fictional characters.

Gilmartin will be reading from Blackmail, My Love this Thursday at Good Vibrations in Berkley, 6:30 pm.

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.

Continue reading Review: Gaysia

Coming Out Kinky

Recently on Fearless Press, Viola wrote a post called Pissing on the Oyster about the idea that kinky people should come out as kinky to increase acceptance of kinky sexualities.  Viola does a great job in that post of covering the legal and lifestyle ramifications of coming out as kinky, and I wanted to add a voice to the chorus and talk a little bit about why I have a problem with the idea of “coming out” in the first place.

Coming out can be an empowering experience.  I know many queer people for whom coming out was a blessing, a way to find community, and a way to feel more comfortable in their own skin.  Throughout my own teenage years and early twenties, I found coming out (as bisexual, then as lesbian, as feminist, as queer) to be important because my gender and sexuality were huge parts of how I identified as well as huge parts of my activism.

Continue reading Coming Out Kinky

Does Sexual Identity Make Physical Attractiveness Less Important?

I’ve been asking myself this question, because I’ve been thinking about the difference in how I’ve seen people relate, and go about dating, in the “vanilla” world versus those who claim a queer or alternative sexuality.  My theory is limited at best, I know, but I think that the more of those badges you put on yourself, and the more corresponding requirements you ascribe to a future relationship or sexual partner, the less of a role physical attractiveness plays (at least, some of the time and for some people).

The thing is, belonging to a subculture does limit your dating pool quite a bit.  When I look for a partner, sexual or otherwise, I’m looking for someone who is queer, interested in genderqueer folk and those who have the vulva-and-breasts combination of body parts, kinky and dominant, poly or open to someone who is non-monogamous, and willing to practice safe sex even in the absence of a penis.  I very rarely meet anyone fitting this description in my day-to-day encounters, and it does mean that a certain amount of talk is required before any sex–but also that I can pretty clearly enumerate at least the basics of what I’m looking for in a sexual partner.

If I contrast this to my experience in the heterosexual, vanilla dating world, I’m struck by how much more physical attraction seemed to enter into the picture there.  Currently, it’s low on the totem pole because the people I’m most physically attracted to are unlikely to line up with the above list of essentials.  Before I had this list in hand, physical attraction was a big part of narrowing down the dating field.  If 50% or so of the population is theoretically available to you (narrowed somewhat due to who’s available for dating/sex, but you’re still probably looking at 5-10% of the population, which is a lot of people), then you need something other than labels or identities to go by.  Of course, you can easily end up with a very attractive person that you’re not compatible with in bed, and this is why I actually kind of like my list, even though I’m not a huge fan of labels.  I’ve had enough sex where I was just mentally hoping and praying to have my hands held above my head, my queerness accepted, any little fragment of sexual desire met.  I think it would be helpful if “vanilla” and “straight” people interrogated their sexual desires and then figured out frank, shorthand ways to find sexual partners based on whatever desires are most important to them.  Maybe if this was the norm–if sex positivity and frank discussion about sex were also the norm–physical attractiveness would be phased out as the assumed method of identifying a potential partner in our society.  And I think that would be a step in the right direction.

This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.

Sexuality Is Not a Linear Progression

I’ve written before about the coming out model and how it falls flat, especially in the developing world, because it’s very much based on Western notions on gender and sexuality (and specifically American/European, white, middle class notions).  But it’s also a pretty shitty model in the US, and I think it leads to a lot of problems because queer people end up with the expectation that there should be one formative moment, the “coming out” moment, and then they should know their sexuality, and if they change identifiers, or deviate in terms of who they date or have sex with, it’s a bad thing.  Words like “confused,” and more harshly, “betrayal,” come to mind.

The same is true, I think, in kinky communities.  I’ve come across this idea a number of times that a kinky person is supposed to go through a certain progression in terms of sexual awareness.  First there are inklings that one might like some type of kinky sex, whether very early on or later.  Then there’s the research phase, these days probably mostly online.  Then, at some point, there’s an expectation that you go out into that kinky community, meet people, possibly at sex-free social events, but at some point there is a critical threshold that leads to Comfort at Play Parties.

Of course, not everyone falls into this model.  If you don’t it can be frustrating, for example, to mention that you haven’t actually had very kinky sex before and then have recommendations for 101 resources thrown at you.  Well-meaning, certainly, and the resources may be great, but I always find it kind of funny.  Kinky awareness is not the same thing as kinky activity.

It’s also a bad idea to suggest to someone that public scening is a natural point in the kinky progression, and that if they aren’t comfortable with this sort of space, they just haven’t “arrived” in their kinky evolution.  Not everyone is comfortable with public sex or scening.  Even very sex-positive, sex-aware people can prefer to engage in sex only in private, or only in relationships, or both.  There are many, many ways to skin a cat.

This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.