Butch Please: Butch Gets Intimate

BUTCH PLEASE is all about a butch and her adventures in queer masculinity, with dabblings in such topics as gender roles, boy briefs, and aftershave.

Header by Rory Midhani

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A butch walks into a sex shop to buy lube… and that’s it, there’s the punchline.

A butch walks into a sex shop to buy lubricant, and immediately shoves it into their backpack. The butch is accompanied by a femme. The butch doesn’t want people to see the two of them with this product and assume things, not because the act of sex that might require lube is a shameful or bad thing, but because the notion of allowing outside parties to understand intimate private acts is to hand over a very small part of the butch that they cannot afford to give. The butch is not great with trust. The butch has some massive trust issues that feel like twin stones tied to their shoelaces.

The butch, of course, is me.

I did, actually, go into the sex shop to buy lubricant, and I bought it. That’s all the information I feel comfortable giving. I would be uncomfortable telling you what kind, or what it’s used for, or why I needed it in the first place. All of those things would make me feel anxious, because it took a fortress of privacy and safety to make me comfortable enough to even have sex, and I’m afraid if I took down those walls, even one brick, I’d never find the plans to rebuild. Maybe this makes me a prude. Sometimes people say it does, and I’m ashamed and anxious all over again.

I have more to say about lube, though.

“Have you ever bought lube?” A straight girl was asking me this question. We were passing by a car garage, so I assume this is what prompted the thought.

I shrugged, pretended to be distracted by navigating the busy sidewalk.

“You need lube for dildos, right? So you probably have lube.” She nudged me in the side. “Oh my god, do you have a dildo? Do you have more than one?”

I laughed and changed the subject. Laughter is a great way to pretend you’re not infinitely bothered by something or someone. That was one of those moments where I was an inch away from pulling up my Twitter account and giving the Internet the verbose gift of “STRAIGHT PEOPLE: SMDH.”

Straight people ask me what I do in bed. They ask you, too, I bet, because it tends to be the first question they ask the first time they get drunk with a queer person. It would take three hands to count all the straight people who asked me about my sex life without me giving them my permission, or even establishing some kind of a relationship first, and those are just the ones whose names I knew at the time.

When straight people ask me about my sex life, I roll my eyes, but I’m not shocked. There’s a part of me that has come to expect this kind of behavior, as I know that changing the way the majority thinks about and acts toward a minority is incredibly difficult and not something I or anyone else can do overnight. I prepare myself around straight people to deal with these questions. I put my body on guard and I keep my walls up as high as possible, knowing that at some point I’ll have to deflect a triggering request or ignore a ridiculous conversation starter. I don’t want to be on edge, but it’s something I have to do.

The thing is that I have to do the same thing in queer communities, too, and it’s hard.

I can’t talk about what I do in bed. I can’t talk about what other people do in bed, either. It makes me really anxious. Sometimes, it makes me feel triggered in a way that sets me off for a day or two, and the idea of someone touching me, even brushing up against my shoulder in public, makes me want to crawl under my bed. The extent to which I’ll discuss anything is to say I’m a top, and I’m a stone top, and even that admission makes me sometimes feel as if I’ve said too much.

I know that whether I like it or not, a great deal of how I see and feel and discuss my sexuality is informed by my past, specifically trauma. I need to say this before I say anything else, because I come to sex from an incredibly specific place, and that place cannot always be translated well. My road to sex and sexuality had some hard fucking angles, and I did not always make it around the turn in one piece. When I say I don’t want to talk about it, I’m not giving you a political brush-off or even making a stand about boundaries or safe spaces. I’m saying that to have a conversation about my sex life is to do some paleontological excavating of all the fossilized parts of me that make up the layers of my past, and some of those fossils are not very fun to look at. Some of them still have teeth.

I know this because my massive trust issues are directly tied to my ability to be intimate with someone. Because the minute I close the door to my bedroom is the minute I consider whether or not the person in front of me is going to be okay when I uncover any part of myself, and I’m always scared they’re going to run from what they see. Because being intimate with someone means showing off the stitches and sutures on my heart, and it’s the difference between scissors and bandages. I have to prepare my body for a person who wants to reopen my wounds or cover them up, and hope for someone who knows those wounds need neither.

I’m not always comfortable in the queer community because I’m not always comfortable with the way we talk about sexual practices and specific sex acts in graphic detail. If I walk into a queer space and we’re having a candid discussion about fisting and the size of our dildos, I’m going to look for a place to retreat. References to genitalia don’t always agree with me – I’m still accepting the fact that part of my body is attached to me, so please give me some warning! Sometimes I have trouble making queer friends because the events and spaces where I would meet them seem to be dominated by explicit sexual imagery, and I’m extra anxious about meeting people where I’d be triggered.

Yet I can’t think of a queer social space where things like sex toys and references to sex acts aren’t thrown around in a casual light. I can’t think of a party I’ve been to, or even a small gathering, where jokes weren’t made and conversations weren’t centered around the things we do in bed, or the objects and body parts that we do them with. Which is not to say that any of this is a bad thing, or a thing that the queer community should cease. After all, we are biting back at a society that told us to be ashamed of our sexuality, and it’s understandable that this form of reaction is also revolutionary. But, as with all aspects of our community, there’s still discussions that need to be had, and people whose needs should be considered.

As a queer community that puts a large emphasis on consent, it seems like it should be extra important to make sure that we’re still being considerate to those of us who cannot always participate in these conversations. There are many among us, especially those who are survivors of trauma, who would not feel comfortable at an event named after the vagina and its parts. There are those who are not comfortable with how often such things appear in conversation, and are triggered by these kinds of casual mentions. How do we accommodate for these kinds of needs without creating another cycle of shame and discomfort?

I understand why this candidness within the community is important and absolutely necessary. I really, truly do. Our minority status as a community is founded on our sexuality, and one way of reclaiming a tool of oppression is to be open and proud of it. We were made to feel ashamed about our bodies and what they wanted to do, so we embrace our desire and our abilities and our activities and we don’t hide them, since that’s what society is constantly trying to do. We promote sexual health and awareness so that the society ignoring our right to exist and thrive cannot prevent us from accessing the ability to do so. These are things that need to happen and causes that have to be supported because it’s too dangerous for us as a community to not have these conversations.

I think it’s beautiful and wonderful if you are someone who can be open about sexuality. I love and admire the sexually open among my acquaintances, especially those who are sex educators, who are out there talking about things society has told them should be hidden away. I can’t do that, though, and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be able to or not. I’m not sure if that openness about my sex life and my sex habits is a thing I am meant to aspire to and see as something that is integral to my ability to be sex positive, or if I can still be a “good queer” without wanting to talk about these things. I’m not sure if I’m a “bad queer” for being uncomfortable in spaces where sex is discussed candidly, where so many of the queer events I want to attend and be a part of are centered around references to vaginas and sex acts. I already feel a lot of shame and misunderstanding for being a stone top, for being someone whose idea of sex is more cerebral than physical, who sees climax and lovemaking as something very different than the physical definitions I see for “queer sex.” Sometimes I even feel shame for not being someone who is open about kink, that I’m not queer or radical enough for not favoring certain sex practices over others.

Is there a space within sex positivity for those of us who feel uncomfortable doing what sex positivism seems to ask of us? I’d like to think there is. I want desperately for there to be a space, and to hear more conversations about how to approach sex positivity from different angles, to allow for those of different comfort and experience levels to find their place.

All forms of consensual sex are good and wonderful and I want us all to know that. Sex is beautiful, and so long as you are practicing respect and consent, the sex you are having is sex to be proud of, bar none. But I also want us all to know that it’s okay to be uncomfortable, to have triggers. If you are open about your sexuality, power to you. If you are not open about your sexuality, you are equally empowered. One is not better than the other, just like no sex act or preference is superior or more radical than any other. Be the considerate, conscious community I know we are. That’s a good place to start.


 

Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.

Avatar of Kate

Hard-lovin' butch made of tears, sweat, and spit, in that order. Professional lonesome polecat. Kate is living proof that you can take the hillperson out of the mountains, but she's still probably going to run back to the mountains anyway. Kate prefers the trashy to the classy, and the tender to everything else. Full-time writer, part-time lover. Heart got so big and soggy that she had to cut off all her sleeves.

Kate has written 123 articles for us.

81 Comments

  1. Thumb up 67

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    “Is there a space within sex positivity for those of us who feel uncomfortable doing what sex positivism seems to ask of us? I’d like to think there is.”

    i think i disagree about what sex positivity asks of us.

    i am really shy about sex and rarely want to talk about my own personal sex life in public (with straight or queer people). i’m not butch and i’m not stone, but i get shy and embarrassed and with the exception of a few really close friends (again, both straight and queer) i don’t talk about sex in public. you won’t see me writing about sex for autostraddle (though i respect the fuck outta the humans that do) and i almost died of embarrassment last night when one of my campers asked me what my favorite position is (though i love her and also know she wasn’t doing it to make me uncomfortable at all — i just was!).

    and yet, i know i support sex positivity and i think of myself as an extremely sex positive person. you mention in this post being worried about being perceived as a “bad queer” if you can’t be actively vocal about your personal sex, but i think that is a strawman argument and i would suggest not worrying about that, because anyone who thinks you’re a bad queer for not wanting to loudly talk about sex of any kind if a fucker who is not worth your time. i mean this. being sex positive means believing humans have the right to have good, sexy, consensual sex any way they so choose, and it means going up for bat for those people if anyone tries to shut it down, and it means supporting our fellow queers in the notion that sex is not evil or shameful and that we are not evil and should not be ashamed for any kind of sex we want to engage in, as long as all parties are consenting.

    i guess i just mean that i have never encountered anyone telling me that i am not properly sex positive just because i get shy talking about my own personal sex experiences, and i don’t think you should allow others to make you feel that way either. this essay reads to me as someone who supports their community and their community’s desire to fuck any way in which we choose, and i think that is all sex positivity is asking of you. so yes, there is a space for you here, if you want there to be. i think there is.

    • Thumb up 67

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      i agree with all of what vanessa said. it’s not like being a gay rights advocate means you have to be gay, you know? also there’s a historical context — sex-positive is a term that came about to describe a group of feminists who were arguing against a rising tide of feminists who believed that porn should be illegal (and a radical group of feminists who believed that all sex was rape). they were having hearings to illegalize porn. sex-positive feminists were against illegalizing porn. sex-positive doesn’t mean you want to watch porn — i’m sex-positive, and i never watch porn, and have never actually seen ‘real queer’ porn movies, i’ve never had a conversation about porn with my queer friends outside of the context of editing other people talking about it on autostraddle — it just means you think somebody else has the right to. if i walk out of a sex-related conversation ’cause i’m not into it, that doesn’t mean i’m not a sex-positive feminist anymore. it means i just walked out of a conversation i wasn’t into. sex-positive means respecting celibacy and respecting kink. being sex-positive means that i respect everybody’s right to do what they want sexually with their own bodies and feel however they want to about their own sex lives and talk or not talk about sex at their own comfort levels — including yours. so yes, there is plenty of room. <3

        • Thumb up 6

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          Quote “sex positive” endquote people who insist you must talk about sex all the time and be completely comfortable with it are doing exactly what Rick Perry is doing right now when he says “freedom of religion is not freedom from religion”. And it’s wrong. Just like “freedom of religion” really means “freedom to do whatever you like with regards to religion as long as you’re not mandating that all people do it your way” “sex positive” means “freedom to do/feel whatever you like with regards to sex etc etc”. Even if that thing is not talk about it in public. Cliff Pervocracy did a great piece recently on how she defines sex positivity that touches on this, which is googleable if so inclined.

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          I agree with Riese and Vanessa above but I also understand why you worry. It can be hard to walk out of a conversation without the people you’re walking out on feeling shame. Does anyone have recommendations for how to do that?

      • Thumb up 7

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        I agree! Sex positivity should mean respect for everyone’s sexual history, experiences, and orientation, including the right to privacy! I’ve never been comfortable with the constant sex talk in my little queer community- so many of the things I think make sex sexy is that it’s private. Instead of being annoyed or shallowed by my anxiety, I ask what makes those things so fun to talk about. I realize that how they feel about their sexual orientation, experiences, etc, doesn’t effect me- unless I want to date them.

  2. Thumb up 7

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    I feel like having to be open about our sexual behaviour is just as potentially harmful as having to be silent about it. It all depends on the individual and their level of comfort. All levels of comfort are fine.

    Thanks for another beautiful piece.

    • Thumb up 5

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      I am so, so, so with you both. As someone who keeps coming out every day (sometimes just as “confused about life in general”), I feel really pressured to act a certain way. To choose a label, to carry the stereotypes or not carry the stereotypes, to talk about sex or not talk about sex. I went for us all to get to a place where we can feel comfortable to love each other any way we want to, to talk about what we want and need to talk about, to NOT talk about what we need to or want to not talk about. Being queer doesn’t mean that we have to be anything. Being queer means choosing your labels like you want, not being questioned (and/or interrogated on them), and disclosing what you want. If you say you are queer, the door should be open.

      Some of us were the last picked for teams on the playground. Let’s not make that happen now.

  3. Thumb up 14

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    Kate, thank you for broaching this subject with such personal exactitude.

    I, too, understand and appreciate the sexual forthrightness which characterize many LGBT communities. There is an element of satire to much of what we do in carving out a space against the heteronormative hegemon. Pride has a kind of prophetic scandal about it which indicts when directed against that oppressor.

    But there is a difference between that sexual efflorescence and a truly frank sex positivity which heals us of sexual trauma. I think this comes into play most problematically when it becomes just “how we are Queer”, within our own communities. There is an aspect of aggression to “sex positivity”, a fuzzy line between the open permission to be sexually candid and unashamed and the expectation that one has to sexually exhibit. It’s worth examining when our culture shades (heh) too deeply into patterns of behaviour which are perhaps sex positive, but not at all conducive to a culture of consent.

    Consent. That’s what I’ve found most affecting, in a healthy way, about this community. Consent requires consideration. Consideration I don’t feel means you have to own others’ ick. But it does mean you care for that ick, and hope to help others find their voice in the midst of the riotous clamour. Part of that consideration should be that one of the most powerful gifts for some of us is that we had to fight to learn to say “NO”.

    It’s been hard for me to admit to being stone. To, despite all hope, fearing embodiment and the body’s joy. I understand the power of “no”, and why it deserves MUCH more respect in community. Where both roads lead is what happens when the lights are off and we stop laying the bricks for that castle. It’s a grace to have another there in the muddled dark, present to our decisions about the body. That’s where sex postivity matters and works, when with another we dare to say, “This, yes; that, no.” The culture provides hints of the language needed for that moment. Even if we must whisper, it’s a beauty when someone worthy of trust is there to positively listen, consensually touch, and learn to love.

  4. Thumb up 6

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    This is so great. As great as it is to finally feel a part of a queer community I do sometimes feel prudish when the conversation turns to sex and I don’t have a zillion stories to tell (and if I did I wouldn’t want to tell them, necessarily). While part of me wants to revel in the freedom to talk about queerness and queer bodies and non-heteronormative sex acts, part of me still holds sex as something extremely personal and intimate and not something I just want to throw around (but if you want to, great! throw! you do you!) just because I have the freedom to do so. I totally get that, and this piece addresses this issue, merely talking about queer sex flies in the face of a society that wants to us to be ashamed of what we do/how we love. But I just can’t adopt that attitude, I don’t think.

    I think, too, having been brought up very Catholic and having been forced to drink the “no sex til marriage” juice for so many years (which, for gay kids, is laughable at best, and horribly confusing and painful at worst), I feel like I SHOULD want to laugh in the face of that and enjoy (and proclaim) as many sexual exploits as I can, so when I don’t want to do that, I end up feeling like i haven’t quite escaped the clutches of that uber-conservative upbringing, in which “sex” was practically a swear word, prohibited, punishable, taboo. It’s not really about those same values anymore, but rather a desire for sexual intimacy in a way that I don’t see reflected as often in queer discussions, at least in the ones I’ve experienced.

    I guess what I want to say when sex-related topics come up is that, I think sex/intimacy can continue to be extremely private, itimate, sacred even, and that, by my own choosing and not because of the lingering effects of rigid religious beliefs in chastity/purity, I can’t adopt the nonchalant attitude toward sex in my own life. I just wish it didn’t make me feel like a lame/prudish/bad queer who’s incapable of the sort of carefree sexual “success” that I see my friends enjoying. But as long as they’re are smart and safe about it, they’re welcome to be as flippant as they want!

  5. Thumb up 4

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    This is a genuine question, not trying to cause offense: have you ever considered seeing a therapist or a trauma counselor? Emotion-focused therapy is doing amazing things with trauma victims, it might help you. I love your articles all the time and it makes me feel sad that you are so anxious about things.

    • Thumb up 13

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      this is maybe a little bit derailing/offtopic but i’m commenting because i think this is a question that people ask survivors a lot when those survivors come out of the closet or share intimate information, and i think a few people have commented on kate’s articles to ask something similarly, and as a survivor myself i want to make something clear, and it is that i know you have the best interests at heart and that you are trying to help, but it is such a breach of privacy and makes you sound like you are assuming so much when you ask someone if they have considered therapy. not only is therapy a totally private thing anyway, but there is still a lot of stigma around it, and for one thing or another, many, many people feel uncomfortable talking about it to, or even being asked about it by, strangers. some survivors even have trauma related directly to therapy/counseling environments. so please, i want everyone to keep that in mind when you ask someone if they’ve considered therapy, no matter how well-intentioned you feel that you are.

        • Thumb up 13

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          As someone who has been in almost constant counseling since the age of 10, YES, there is a huge stigma around counseling.

        • Thumb up 2

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          Mm, I think there is some stigma around counselling; my psychologist warned me to put the bare minimum I could manage to get the help I need on my university forms.

          On the other hand, lots of the people I know go to therapy – some like it, others contribute to the stigma. I’ve also seen teenagers come into the clinic (for whatever reason, not my business) and their friend(s) wait for them.

      • Thumb up 4

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        Thank you for saying this, Britt. That comment made me really uncomfortable — at best, it’s invasive and unhelpful. And much like sex, therapy/mental health decisions are things that some people are super uncomfortable discussing in public while others are fairly blasé about it.

      • Thumb up 5

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        I’m really glad you said this, too. I’ve always felt kind of weird about these sorts of comments and I couldn’t put my finger on why. It feels like a virtual kick in the gut to make yourself vulnerable and tell your story only to have someone pipe up with “YOU SHOULD GO TO THERAPY.” It seems so dismissive and patronizing, like the person isn’t interested in what you’ve said, they just think you’re defective and should be fixed. (It’s different when someone is asking for help and suggestions on how to deal with trauma, obviously.)

        I know I’ve done it before, though! I am totally a hypocrite. Because I’m a helper and I can let my ego and anxiety get in the way of properly listening. So I understand where these comments come from, but I also know what it feels like and am working on not doing it anymore.

        • Thumb up 4

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          You’ve all said this comment hurts you and therefore it’s hurtful, period. On the other hand (and I’m not putting this out there to get anyone to go to therapy) count me as a blase one about it. My mother’s a psychologist and both my sister and I were in therapy for 1-2 year intervals when we were younger. Even if people are dismissive and patronizing and meaning to inflict something when they mention it, it was really helpful (for me) and after all these years I’m toying with doing it again for a few months. Everything’s cool, therapy or never therapy, you do you, but it concerns me to hear suggestions it shouldn’t be referenced publicly because others use it in a derogatory way or as a code word for “defective.” I (and this is my own choice) choose to speak openly about it, and to acknowledge my positive experiences in it. I will more carefully preface those comments so people realize I’m only talking about me, but I’m certainly not going to pretend I got nothing out of it or wasn’t in it, particularly when talking to a friend in crisis.

        • Thumb up 4

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          “…. but it concerns me to hear suggestions it shouldn’t be referenced publicly because others use it in a derogatory way or as a code word for “defective.””

          I did not suggest that therapy should never be mentioned or hidden away, just that perhaps it might be better to listen to someone rather than to jump in and suggest they seek therapy or do x, y, or z (and yes, when you suggest that someone seek mental health care you ARE implying that they need some fixing up). Unless someone specifically asks for help and advice, or you’re super tight and know each others’ boundaries and personalities, it’s not cool.

      • Thumb up 5

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        The amount of times people (near strangers) have ASKED me if I am a survivor/if I have considered therapy/counseling is in itself a little disturbing, although it is a little different because my answers are no/of course, who hasn’t. I imagine it would be worse if my answers were yes/yes. But asking that kind of completely invalidates who/how people are, because it implies: “that is pathological, don’t you want to go fix it?” Or it says, “you’re just not trying hard enough to be better.”

        Anyway. I get that it comes from a good place. BUT. The next time a non-close friend/family type person learns something about me (stone/top/not into public nudity/non-collector of sex toys/not a fan-who is?-of pap smears/not good at cheek kissing as a greeting) and decides I need therapy….I will start needing therapy. Also: I feel like assuming that I must have experienced trauma sort of trivializes the experience of those who have and who are not like me. The conflation of personality and symptom is problematic for everyone. And I’m talking about my own experience, not the comment thread here, at this point.

    • Thumb up 7

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      Personally I don’t think it’s unreasonable or condescending to make a comment like yours, Emma. I’ve been through a few therapists since I was pretty young, and even though not all of them were able to help me, the ones that could and did made an enormous impact on my life and made it possible for me to keep going.

      If you see that someone is suffering and you think you know a way to reduce their suffering, you will naturally want to tell them about it. Wanting to help each other is a fundamental part of being human. You might be wrong and your suggestion doesn’t help them, or worse, causes them more suffering. This person also might have already tried your suggestion and it didn’t help. Maybe they want to try your suggestion but can’t because of other circumstances.

      Whether you really know how to help someone suffer less is not important. The important thing is that you wanted to help because you genuinely cared about their well-being. (And, based on what you’ve written here, I would say that your first comment was genuine and not a dismissive accusation of being “broken” or “crazy.”)

      I also understand the frustration experienced by people who constantly receive well-meaning advice they didn’t ask for. I’ve been through that myself. Because I have an invisible, chronic illness, I get a lot of useless, ignorant “advice” from people who literally don’t know anything about me or my specific condition, nor do they know as much about my illness as my doctors. Some of this “advice” is as simple as “get over it,” because I “don’t look sick.” Or “just take a Tylenol” because “it can’t possibly hurt THAT much.”

      But most people are NOT trying to be condescending know-it-alls when they tell me “try cutting this out of your diet” or “start taking this vitamin twice a day.” They see that I’m suffering and they want to offer whatever information they have that could help me. I still get pretty pissed off at some of them who seem absolutely convinced that they know something I don’t about my own health, but I’m trying very hard to stop focusing on negative emotions and thoughts like that. Being angry at people who want to help me is unproductive and certainly doesn’t make me feel any better.

      It’s difficult, but I’m trying to teach myself to recognize all of these annoying conversations as evidence that even a total stranger can empathize with my pain and will naturally want to help me in whatever way they can, because maybe people are better than we think they are and humanity isn’t completely fucked after all. THAT definitely makes me feel better.

      So, yeah. That’s my long-winded perspective on why Emma’s comment wasn’t out of line and absolutely shouldn’t cause offense.

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        To me, suggesting that asking someone if they’ve considered therapy is calling them “defective” piles on to whatever stigma is still attached to counseling. I think Emma’s comment was a reasonable one, though I might have worded it differently. Saying “therapy has been really helpful for me” seems more helpful than asking someone if they’ve considered it. I imagine that pretty much everyone has considered therapy and it’s a insulting to suggest the thought hasn’t occurred to them. It’s also a very personal question to ask a stranger in public.

        I’m not saying this is as criticism of Emma’s comment because I know that I’ve asked the same question of friends. I just realized after reading it that I should be wording those comments differently myself.

      • Thumb up 1

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        This is exactly the feelings I was having when I wrote the original comment, you articulated much better than I. And yes, I should have prefaced that by saying that therapy is something that I wholly support and do not see as a negative thing like so many of the responses to my comment.
        I tell everyone to go to therapy, even if they don’t seem to have a specific reason to go, because it helps you become a better communicator and more in touch with your emotions/feelings.

  6. Thumb up 13

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    I pretty much second everything Rebecca said up there, and I also come from a super religious background (Nazarene, the Protestant denomination notorious for not allowing dancing, so you can imagine how they felt about sex). That coupled with being “plus-size” my entire life (speaking of which, remember when plus-size kids’ clothes were called “husky?” Because I have a LOT of issues related to that, but anyway…), I have never felt like I’m ALLOWED to be a sexual person. And then figuring out my sexual orientation and having to look at sex from a new, but surprisingly more comfortable and approachable standpoint… well, it’s been a long road, baby.

    In high school (and beyond, sometimes even now in bars at the age of 25), my sexuality was literally treated as a joke, and I think a lot of fat or “weird” girls may have also had this experience, because boys would “pretend” to be into you (or in my case, dance up on me in the hallways all the time, when I’m just trying to get to lunch, and all their friends are laughing) as a joke. So basically my sexuality was and sometimes still feels like a joke. And once that happens, it’s hard to get over, because sex is a thing that needs your comfort levels operating at 100%, and because I still look the same, and because places where I’m affirmed in my body type being sexy are few and far between, I’m basically operating at a 60% comfort level on a good day (this is legitimate science that I made up). Sometimes these past experiences still confuse me in regards to my gender identity, too. I don’t know if I like dressing in men’s clothing occasionally because it makes me feel good or like myself, or if I just like not being bothered by men or treated as a joke.

    The point is I still blush and laugh uncomfortably when people mention sex, outside of a few certain individuals (I have one friend I keep around almost solely because I feel comfortable talking to her about sex), and any time I appear to be “sex positive” (not that I’m not, because I think people should be able to have whatever kind of sex they want, I just don’t want to fucking talk about it as it relates to me), it’s really just an act. I can’t even listen to sexually explicit rap songs without giggling. I am a mess.

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      It’s reasons like these I’m glad I went to an all-girl secondary school and didn’t have to be faced with boys other than my brothers for most of my teen years, though I remember it was already starting to happen towards the end of primary school, boys pretending to be interested in me just to get a laugh and make me uncomfortable. It had a really lasting effect in that even now I have trouble believing anyone who seems like they’re attracted to me.

      I sort of further complicated things by being really interested in sexology, while not having personal experience to back any of it up, so when people are talking about sex I want to join in but also feel a little uncomfortable when asked anything about my own sex life.

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        “It had a really lasting effect in that even now I have trouble believing anyone who seems like they’re attracted to me.”

        Oh god, same. I always wished I’d gone to an all girls school. But even now I think that girls are just doing the same thing boys used to do to me because they can tell I’m gay and pretend to be interested just for a laugh. It hasn’t happened, but it’s always at the back of my mind. I just can’t genuinely believe that someone would like me like that, ever.

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          It sucks even more that I would absolutely date a girl who was plus size, but can’t believe anyone would want to date me. I have my first ever date next week, but since I met her online there’s a voice in the back of my head saying she’ll be disappointed when she sees me in person.

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      “I have never felt like I’m ALLOWED to be a sexual person. And then figuring out my sexual orientation and having to look at sex from a new, but surprisingly more comfortable and approachable standpoint… ”

      I can relate to this so much also coming from a fairly conservative Protestant Christian background (technically the Methodists are supposed to be one of the more liberal denominations, but that doesn’t count for shit in rural North Carolina). While I may not have the gender identity issues that you mentioned I was very much (and still am a bit in that I’m not über-feminine) a tomboy, and anything less than pageant princess was kind of looked down upon. Combining that with my extreme shyness and the expectation that girls were supposed to be completely pure and chaste until marriage made for an incredibly awkward and uncomfortable relationship with sex. I was almost repulsed by the idea of having sex. And then, it finally hit me my last year of high school that the reason it repulsed me wasn’t that I didn’t want to have sex, I just didn’t want to have it with boys. It wasn’t until I left for university and I spent the next four years far away from home (and church) in much more liberal place where nobody really cares what you do as long as you don’t bother them that my anxiety about sex started to ease.
      And, admittedly, while I have yet to partake in anything of a sexual nature I know that when it does happen (with a very lovely lady, no less) any anxiety that I may experience will be due to my overall shyness, and not because I think it’s some taboo that will lead to eternal damnation.
      I don’t really know what my point was going to be (I kind of lost it while I was trying to make myself sound semi-coherent), but I just though I’d share that.

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        Oh, Methodists can be really conservative around here, too. “Liberal churches” just don’t exist THAT OFTEN in the South/rural areas, in my experience. And to clarify, I don’t want to co-opt “gender identity” to refer to myself, because I would also identify more as a tomboy, and if I wear men’s clothing, it’s usually in a feminine-ish style, paired with other articles of clothing from the women’s section. I guess I’m just saying I take extra special care to look a little more masculine sometimes (at my job, when I go to bars) because that identity makes me feel safer in those situations.

        I wish I could chalk my sexual awkwardness up to shyness, but I’m an extrovert and thus have a hard time saying I’m “shy” because I don’t really feel it that much. “Awkward,” yes. “Shy,” not so much. Although I would say I have gotten past the whole “I’m going to be eternally damned for thinking sexual thoughts” thing; I think I’ve mostly thrown over my religious insecurities and a lot of the remaining sexual insecurities I have stem from my size, which is stupid and I’m working on it. But yes, so much this: “And then, it finally hit me my last year of high school that the reason it repulsed me wasn’t that I didn’t want to have sex, I just didn’t want to have it with boys.” It hit me late in my collegiate career, but that is so how it happened.

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      I don’t have the religious background that you have, but can I ever identify with not being allowed to be a sexual person. Mine’s from a combination of CSA, strong anti-sex messages from my parents, and being fat my entire life. Along with the constant body-shaming, I was teased a lot by my family and peers about having crushes, because isn’t it hilarious that someone as repulsive as Smilla would have a crush on someone? As I got older the teasing came with a tinge of pity, which was worse. I’m ten years older than you are and I’ve never had a real relationship, because I’m too ashamed. I’m ashamed of my body and assume that absolutely no one could ever find it attractive, I’m ashamed of being in my 30s and never having a relationship, and I am afraid of the shaming and humiliating comments that would be heaped on me by family and friends if I ever did enter a relationship.

      I have also been shamed and scolded by queer, fat-positive, and feminist friends for not wanting to talk about sex and not being comfortable with my body. If I voice my discomfort I get horrified, intrusive questions about if I’m a virgin, if I’ve been abused. Ughh. I’ve had sex, I’ve been traumatized, and it’s nobody’s fucking business. Also I don’t think I’m defective or weak for hating a body that our society vilifies and that has attracted years of verbal abuse. I mean, I can’t even go to therapy, somewhere that’s supposed to be safe, without being fat shamed. “Have you tried Weight Watchers?” “Maybe if you lost weight your body anxiety would dissipate.” “You’re not going to get better unless you exercise for two hours a day.” “You’re not going to make it to sixty unless you lose weight.”

      I’m pretty much still in the closet – not because I’m ashamed about being queer (I’m not), but because talking about that would mean outing myself as a sexual person.

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        Even my mother said she had worried before that I’d been abused purely because I have never had a relationship. It was also the reason she started wondering if I was gay, before I even identified as it. I feel like its just coincidence I did end up identifying as gay, I was bi til I was 23 so I would have had relationships with guys up until then if it wasn’t for my weight.

        It’s nice to rant and have people understand you, I think we need to start a fat Autostraddlers support group!

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          I’m really sorry you’ve had to deal with that kind of anxiety, and I’m also sorry that people made you feel guilty about it. I hate when people tell me I shouldn’t be afraid of something. I know when my fears are less than rational: that doesn’t make them any less real, or any easier to overcome.

          I’ve also been asked whether I’ve been abused in response to my extreme anxiety around sex. Although the question was probably appropriate(I was asked by a gynecologist when I had to explain that I was a twenty-something virgin), I felt so uncomfortable that I started crying instantly. In that moment I wanted to be able to say yes, to give him a reason, to say something that would make my discomfort understandable to myself and others. I know that’s horrible, and I know how lucky I am not have been abused – I have close friends who are survivors, and I felt guilty immediately even having such a thought. The truth is that I have had social anxiety for as long as I can remember, and it’s more chemical than environmental. Years of work mean I have pushed it back to the point that it is nearly absent from my professional relationships and manageable in my friendships. Intimacy, however, remains a struggle, and while I have since dated and had sex, I’ve yet to have a real relationship.

          Please know that you are not alone in your anxieties, and that no one should make you feel ashamed for having them. It’s one thing to tell someone they are beautiful and deserve love – I’m sure that’s true of you, and I hope it’s true of me, even if I can’t always believe it – it’s another to tell something that they’re not allowed to feel they way they feel. We all have our own struggles, and we should be supporting one another, not making each other feel guilty about our insecurities.

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      I don’t think you’re alone in your sexuality being seen as a joke to some. Being asexual myself, I found it quite annoying when, after I got a gf and we’d been together a while, a friend said she was glad I “got over that asexuality thing.” As she was once married to a man before coming out as gay, I found it particularly insulting. Does that mean she was straight when she was with her husband? Of course not.

      People that do stuff like that, take your sexuality or orientation or gender, as a joke are quite often just totally uncomfortable with it. And that’s their problem, not yours.

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    “I can’t do that, though, and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be able to or not. I’m not sure if that openness about my sex life and my sex habits is a thing I am meant to aspire to and see as something that is integral to my ability to be sex positive, or if I can still be a “good queer” without wanting to talk about these things.”

    Echoing commenters above saying that however *you* define “good queer” is what good queer is. There may be a “supposed to” out there somewhere, but screw that- you do you. But there’s also a distinction between “can’t” and “don’t want to”. Only you can answer for yourself which one it is- if it’s legitimately something you would like to be able to do and can’t, or it’s something you just have no interest in ever doing. (and you can always change your mind, in either direction!) The former is an area of potential growth (which doesn’t have to be immediate, or even ever, according to your preference), and the latter is a preference best dealt with by surrounding yourself with other people who share that preference (at least some of the time).

    Figuring out where the line is between “can’t” and “don’t want to” not easy or quick, and something I’m still trying to figure out in several aspects of my life.

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    I really love this. It is really hard for me to talk about sex, but I was a modest person (because of my faith and upbringing) before I even knew I liked women and I guess the idea was that it would be somehow easier to talk to women, even groups of women about sex and about enjoying sex. I think it is great if you can, actually it might be one of the hottest traits in a potential partner because it seems like a skill to be that comfortable with yourself. I am not stone or entirely butch and sometimes I don’t feel sex positive enough, but I am trying while also maintaining my boundaries.I wasn’t raised to believe that all sex is rape, but that sex acts themselves were reserved for married people and anything outside missionary was probably perversion. Also if you have sex you might contract something and die was a popular fear and dominated my thoughts during the safest of sex acts for years. Unfortunately when you’re a prude people think you might be a little weird about sex, but there is just a lot going on and I respect you for shedding light on it.

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    U GET ME KATE
    but no seriously

    there are times and there are people with whom i feel okay about opening about sexuality but those people are one in a zillion, and i have had so many experiences when i’m in a room full of queer people whom i may or may not love and the conversation turns to sex and i’ll, like, engage, because little old people pleaser me can’t show she’s totally fine with everything, but a childhood of trauma and purity balls and a lifetime of horrible self-image and late blooming does not make me comfortable with sexuality in the least. it took me months not to blush when i saw queer people holding hands. it’s better in small gatherings but things like pride events make me viscerally uncomfortable because everyone is expressing their sexuality in ways that are SO OUT THERE (not like, weird or whatever, but out there like a message sent from satellite for the world to see out there) to me and i’m like uh guys i just want to eat this free popsicle okay. man, my tumblr is even sometimes vaguely sexual and full of ladies in lingerie and THAT feels more like intimacy with strangers than any other utlrapersonal post i could ever make. sometimes i’m incredibly ashamed that i can’t just let go and be a free sexual person, because somehow i’ve internalized this message that being queer means being openly sexual and that it is the only way to truly Work for the Cause. even if intellectually i’m like, no, that is so silly, but it’s still something i feel so strongly sometimes. anyway so what i’m saying is this article is really personally important for me.

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    There’s a group of people in my life who talk about sex and body stuff in a way that I get an underlying competitive sense from. There’s some one-upping subtly going on, as if the most explicit and kinky and poly wins the most radical sex-positive award. It’s that attitude that I sense in those conversations that make me uncomfortable more than the content. It doesn’t create a place that feels safe to talk about sex because it doesn’t create a place that feels safe from judgments. This is a friend group sort of once-removed from me, they’re my friend’s friends, and while a couple of them I’ve gotten to know individually, I just tend to avoid hanging out with the group of them. I fall silent when they talk about sex and bodies and worry they think I’m prude. (also they talk about other women’s bodies in ways I find extremely distasteful, such as “oh yeah so and so has great boobs but no ass”)

    I actually REALLY love talking really openly about sex, but I will only do it with people I have a lot of trust built up with. Then I revel in speaking 100 percent openly and frankly.

    I am thinking about how Kate wrote that queer social space and events are uncomfortable for her due to how sexually open the conversation and themes are and I wondering how to balance having those elements and also creating events and spaces that don’t have those elements.

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      When I think of openness about sex I often think of the sort of commentary on women’s bodies that you are describing and it makes me so uncomfortable. I have heard people say things like “She looked hot until I saw her naked and her body wasn’t that great.” I’m all for discussing sex lives but not like that..

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        I had a GF who talked like that – the annoying thing for me was that I really don’t think the body’s that important – it’s more the brain that’s inside the body. Brains, now they are seriously sexy (and people generally don’t objectify them – bonus!).

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      this, this, a million times this! the competitive atmosphere that sometimes develops around sex talk (which should be judgment-free, respectful, and absolutely optional) can be really discouraging– it feels as if you have to prove your worthiness or justify your place in the queer community by having lots and lots of kinky, graphic sex stories that you’re super comfortable sharing.

      as a college student who’s still a virgin (and has experienced two attempted assaults, one on my college campus), even though i’m super comfortable being open about my sex life/experiences in an actually judgment-free space, this one-upping attitude is incredibly alienating. it also contributes to a divide between older and younger folks in the queer community on my campus, which means that a bunch of kids (many of whom are just coming out) in need of acceptance feel pushed away from the people they’d most like to be with and learn from.

      tl;dr i love what robin wrote and added that this effect can be magnified (and really unfortunately so) along age lines.

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      This kind of stuff is NOT OK. When men do it, it’s deplorable, and sometimes we queers (especially when we’re younger–this was the atmosphere in several social spheres in my college) think we can do it, too.

      I used to think that just because I, personally, was not a dude and, furthermore, knew I do respect every person I’ve been with as more than just a body, it was ok to casually talk about sex/body parts I had known and loved because it is weird, dramatic, and fascinating, really; something I am nowhere near done learning about.

      The thing is that this world is too polluted and we can’t have those conversations without calling up power dynamics in the minds and souls of at least SOME PEOPLE. It takes some careful work to unlearn all the disrespectful ways of talking about sex that we’ve grown up hearing, and sometimes people are so accustomed to these conversations meaning disrespect and/or abuse that it is way too easy for them to hear those things.

      I’m super careful/wary of this these days and err on the side of not saying anything (this is me, though; I know silence/not talking can be triggering for some people). I know which of my friends I can go to for real, respectful conversations about sexuality, and everyone else, well, I’m not going to feel obligated to use my personal life to add to the excitement of your evening.

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      YES. There’s a group where I live just like you described, and it’s unfortunate because they sort of run the local queer organization, so it doesn’t do much for the community because a lot of queers avoid it. I am not polyamorous, I am not kinky, I’m incredibly “vanilla,” and when I started dating a person who was a part of that group, there was A LOT of judgment from them, as if I wasn’t evolved enough a person or sex positive enough or open minded enough because I wasn’t polyamorous or into BDSM or anything. So that was fun.
      I think sex positivity should be universally positive, not just positive of one tiny subset of the sexual population, and I don’t think it should be a hierarchy. Positivity for all!

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    “I’m saying that to have a conversation about my sex life is to do some paleontological excavating of all the fossilized parts of me that make up the layers of my past, and some of those fossils are not very fun to look at. Some of them still have teeth.”

    That was beautiful. I might quote that next time friends are playing “I have never…” or similar sorts of drinking games. I’m not butch, but I am a survivor, and you’ve hit the nail on the head.

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    Hello Kate– I’ve just started following your work recently, and your work is so honest and genuine. Than you. First of all, you are a fantastic writer, hands down. Secondly– I’ve noticed a lot of comments especially on this post from people trying to sort out how they currently feel about sex in relation to past conservative backgrounds, which I actually have been mulling over and writing about lately. Thank you Kate for opening up this conversation. http://smalltasks.wordpress.com/

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    I find it a bit obnoxious when people automatically assume someone has a sex life to start with, as I know people that don’t, nor do they want one. But I find it to be crossing a line when people think they automatically have permission to ask questions about what happens in your bedroom. The way I see it is whether or not people have sex, or don’t, and what they may or may not do, is between the people involved. How intimate can something be when you’re sharing it with anyone and everyone? Yeah, I guess that makes me a prude. I’m okay with that. I’m not saying that talking about sex is a bad thing; I’m just saying that people shouldn’t automatically assume that everyone wants to share, and people that make the choice not to should still be respected.

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    Oh goodness, I’m the same way. I can’t for the life of me talk about intimate things, and that makes things really hard when I’m in bed with someone and I don’t want them doing certain things because I can’t bring myself to say the words. It makes me soooo uncomfortable.
    I’ve decided it’s a result of my religious and patriarchal upbringing, which both sort of affect the other. Little girls were taught to remain sexually in action and speech, and there was so much shame heaped on any girl who broke those rules. Boys got away with things because “they can’t help themselves.”
    I like to think I’m sex positive, but I do think sex positivity in an extreme sort of way is pushed on feminists and queers. I’m never going to be fully comfortable talking about my sex life in public, or hearing about others’, I’m not at all big on public nudity (for instance, a friend of my person pulled out their penis to show someone something while we were all hanging out the other night and I was NOT okay with that), I’m just a modest sort of person. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think I have the right to keep some things private.
    I don’t know. It’s good to know there are others out there like me. The queer community around here sure makes it seem like there’s not.

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    Thank you,
    I’m a very shy 30 year old bi lady who has a hard time being ‘gay enough’.
    I love reading your posts knowing that there’s more than one way to be attracted to women.
    Before reading this I didn’t know what a ‘stone top’ was or that the concept even existed.
    Truth is I don’t want to be touched, and I thought any woman I was with would be upset or judgemental about it; even though I really want to pleasure them.
    Maybe I can feel a bit more confident now.

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    Once again Butch Please hits all the right notes. You’re a delightful writer, Kate.
    There is something so disconcerting about queer communities in which people discuss bedroom details at brunch without considering whether or not a former/current sexual partner even consents to this.
    Looking at people’s descriptions of what sex positivity means to them, I see what I WISH it could be but it rarely lines up with the queer/radical scene where I actually live. It’s nice to see I’m not the only one who feels this way…

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    I was recently anxious over the prospect of possibly sleeping with someone who knows someone I once dated for some two weeks (who I did not ultimately feel super respected by, sexually and otherwise, and am not in touch with), mostly over the potential for being talked about. I figured out the only two things I was nervous about being discussed were

    A. I’m pretty damn submissive and
    B. I was not quick enough to have sex, and not at home/comfortable enough with some of the things she liked

    So I was simultaneously feeling ashamed for being too sexual and for not being sexual enough. Fucking ridiculous world we live in.

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    You do you is pretty much what I’m learning to live by. You NEVER have to apologise/feel bad for what you do/don’t like to talk about. No human has the right to demand you participate in their discussion, particularly if it’s centred on an intimate subject.

    It sounds like you need to be kind to yourself, Kate. And appreciate that what you’re feeling is far more important than what people think if you avoid/straight up refuse to answer a question.

    lots of luv xxxxx

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    My girlfriend and I have been asked extremely personal questions (“How many fingers do you use? Do you use fingers or a strap-on?” etc.) by far more gay men than by straight people. Most of them were friends of ours, but not extremely close friends, and some of them were people we had only met a few hours before. The first time it happened, I was a little surprised to find that I got very angry about it.

    I am not a survivor, but I have a lot of issues surrounding sex and my body, and I’ve been trying very hard to redefine sex in accordance with my own experience and not whatever is deemed “normal,” even when it comes to queer sex. It makes me very uncomfortable when others assume anything at all about my sex life, including the assumption that I am having sex at all.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed this article, as I do all of the Butch Please articles.

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    So I’m a queer identified, androgynous leaning towards butch presenting, female type. I also happen to be happily married to a guy. (I was as surprised as everybody else when that happened, just for the record)

    People assume all sorts of things about us, and get very curious about our sex life – all of which I am not really equipped to handle conversationally, especially when the conversation starts to topics of gender. I just don’t trust anybody enough to let them into that part of our life, and I don’t think I really need to.

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    Maybe my friends and acquaintances have an exceptional amount of respect for boundaries, but I must state that I have never been asked unsolicited, intimate questions about my sexual activities by anyone, straight or otherwise.

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    Thanks for writing that.
    I would really love to say something more, although I think everyone else here has already shared most of what was on my mind, so just a thanks, huge thanks, for sharing that with us.
    Your really brave :)

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    You know, this post just reminds me of a really great quote I read, even though, EVEN THOUGH, it’s written by a white dude. It’s from Robert Jensen’s book, Getting Off:

    “What if instead of desperately seeking hot sex, we searched for a way to produce light when we touch? What if such touch were about finding a way to create light between people so that we could see ourselves and each other better? If the goal is knowing ourselves and each other like that, then what we need is not really heat, but light to illuminate the path…. But what would it mean in a culture obsessed with sexual heat to suggest that we think a bit about what it might mean to truly touch, to touch lightly, to touch with light? What would it mean to accept that there is inevitably a mystery to sex that we should acknowledge and honor? If we were to do that, what might we feel? What might we see? Where might it lead us?
    I think that path leads to a place beyond pleasure and towards joy. “

    I think that’s sex positivism. I think it’s important to recognize that perhaps sometimes intimacy should remain in the realm of the secret rather than the realm of the public domain. I suppose it depends on the kind of person you are.

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    This. all of this, oh my god, thank y’all.
    I’m on medication that makes my libido almost non-existent (I actually thought I was asexual for a long time.) For me, sex and emotional connection are closely intertwined, and I can’t feel attraction to people I don’t care about deeply, so I have a really hard time with these types of conversations, because I can’t contribute to them. I have no sexual experience whatsoever, and I’m a bit ashamed of that. I know I shouldn’t be, but sometimes I feel like a “bad feminist” because I’m not out having radical queer sex with all the people. (I know, that’s an extraordinarily limited definition of feminism, but brain and emotions don’t always communicate super well.)
    Sex positivity should support all forms of consensual sexual expression, though. And the consent part of that means that you must respect other people’s right to say “I’m not comfortable with this.”
    Pointers on how to actually say this in a Real Live Conversation without becoming the token prude would be incredibly welcome, though.

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    Oh my gods, so, this is tangential and really kind of embarrassing but… You mentioned being a “stone top” and I, uncultured queer that I am, was like “What’s that mean? Is it related to ‘stone butch’? Hell, what’s stone butch mean anyway, I’ve heard the term but never looked it up” and so I Googled and… What. That’s a thing?? Like that is enough of a thing that there’s a term for it? Like I’m not just defective or incompletely queer or something? I HAD NO CLUE.

    (The embarrassing part is that I’m really not actually a baby gay, I’ve been queer-identified and been having sex with women for seven years or so. I just have avoided queer culture out of insecurity related to being “not queer enough”, so there are lots of terms I’m only just now learning.)

    More directly on topic… Oh I so feel you on this. I’ve been striving for years to become more comfortable with sexual discussion but the best I manage is keeping a steel-calm exterior while my guts do their best impression of SNAKES ON A PLANE. The snakes part, not the people part. And if I actually try to talk about sexual anything that involves me personally, I get rapidly more obtuse and clinical and stilted in my language out of distress and an attempt at distance.

    (Though an ex-girlfriend said if I couldn’t talk explicitly and directly about sex, then I shouldn’t be having it. Which after reading this post and the comments, I’m realizing is, um. Hmm. Maybe a little problematic as a statement. I’d just forced myself to use sexually explicit language with her and felt so completely dysregulated each time. But I don’t reeeally have any sexual trauma/abuse (maybe some minor stuff arguably here and there but hard to say if it qualifies) so it’s maybe just really distressing levels of discomfort and I should just deal? Ugh, I don’t know.)

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      Every sexual act has to be consensual– and that includes sexual speech. Really distressing levels of discomfort isn’t something that you need to “just suck up,” regardless of whether you have trauma or not. If you’re uncomfortable with anything sexual, whether it’s physical or verbal, it’s not okay for someone to pressure or guilt you into it.

      (This is unrelated, but I really really love your Snakes on a Plane metaphor and I may steal it, if that’s okay. Also, rereading the above, I realize I came off really blunt, and I don’t really know how to soften that. I apologize in advance.)

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    Apologies for the fact that I’m replying now, so long after you originally made this post, but I am relatively new to Autostraddle and am slowly making my way through the posts.

    In my opinion, your post is its own form of sex positivism, because what you’ve done is speak out about something that others like me can relate to. You’ve given a voice to those like me who have experienced trauma, and probably also others who find discussing intimacy difficult or anxiety provoking for other reasons.

    Personally, I could strongly relate to some parts of what you said, and less so to other parts – but no matter how similar or different our stories are, what you’ve done is made me feel less alone, so I want to thank you for that. I think you’re very brave and I appreciate your post very much.

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    Thanks for writing this; given what you said, it can’t have been easy.

    I was bullied in high school for being a ‘prude’ and was interrogated daily about all kinds of sexual topics I didn’t want to be discussing. It took me a while to figure out that these kids were definitely out of line. Fortunately, I developed good enough composure to just look at people who ask me those questions like they asked me for my social security number. I’m a big fan of making it awkward for a minute, because they did something inappropriate, and they deserve to feel awkward. But it takes a lot of guts.

    I never quite know what to do in those sexual show-and-tell spaces; there are some friends with whom I’ve very open, but I’m very reserved with strangers about my sex life. As a person whose sexuality (kinky, enthusiastic, high-drive) is valued in those spaces it makes it easier to be reserved and feel comfortable. Maybe if I’m in a space, being reserved and calm around these conversations, other people can feel that they can be reserved without everyone judging them. That’s an aspect of sexually open spaces that can be changed, and while it doesn’t solve the problem it’d be a good start.

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    I would like to feel able to be open about the fact that I have no sexual experience, but I haven’t got there yet. The other day a colleague was asking me slightly intrusive questions about being bi, culminating with ‘So you’ve had sex with men, and you’ve had sex with women, and you can’t decide which you like best?’
    And I was like, ‘yeah, but it’s not quite like that, I just like people really…’ bla bla bla. Part of me was worried that my bisexuality wouldn’t be seen as valid if it wasn’t based on sexual experience. which I know is nonsensical, but sometimes that’s how it feels, like we can’t just like people or be attracted to them, it has to go further for it to be ‘real’. Like our romantic preferences have to correlate with sexual activity. And part of me is still ashamed of never having had a relationship at the grand old age of twenty-five.

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    Also, thanks so much for your articles. The way you write is so open and brave and inspiring and it gives us all the chance to have as really important conversation which is still going on almost a year later, it is very helpful to be able to talk about these things, thankyou so much.

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