14 Knuckles is a series about a scorpio femme of color fucking their way through power dynamics, boundaries, and caregiving, as an exploration of who she is and how she relates to others.
They grabbed my first two fingers and put them in their mouth, then shoved theirs in mine. It was all so visual — the way she performed: sucking just the tips of my fingers before deep throating them and sucking them hard, making me so wet. I brought my left hand down to their soaking boxers and asked to take them off. She nodded and smiled. We’d only slept together a few times and even though we were both so dtf, we were so cautious, too. My mouth found their nipple; I loved licking patterns onto their sensitive nipples and watching them come from that alone. My torso up against her pelvis, her legs widened as they got more and more turned on, they stopped sucking as they lost control of their face, neck, jaw, eyes, and tilted back and moaned.
“Can I go down on you?” I asked, my chin resting on her sternum.
“Yes.” She chuckled. This was her favorite part.
Bee had always been a top. She’d said that there was some kind of fire in me the moment we met that made her want to give me control. Unlike everyone else I’d slept with, she saw me as a hot femme top, not a bottom. The first time we hooked up, I’d been in town for only a few nights. After appetizers and seltzer at a bar, they’d invited me over. As soon as I walked in, I asked to sit on her bed. She later said I moved with such ease that she thought it was natural for me to take the lead. I laughed when she told me that — my family was collapsing, I’d just left an abusive partner, and the stakes of my life were too tumultuous and unpredictable for me to feel any stress from being in the home of an extremely hot, dreadlocked stranger in a button-down shirt that fell so smoothly down their toned frame.
I’d been away for months after that first hook up, but since I’d returned, we were on a schedule of Friday night sex dates. They offered me fancy chocolate and smoked me out. Sometimes, we didn’t even get that far. When I walked in, I was always so hot from the hour-long drive that I couldn’t wait, I wanted to feel their sweat beneath me, I wanted to fuck them with my tongue.
I loved that they thought I was in control. That was a summer when my life was so broken that for me to find a space where I could seem in control to anyone felt like a miracle. I couldn’t be vulnerable with her and I didn’t pretend — I gave her almost no information about my life and I couldn’t bottom for her the way I had with other lovers. That’s not what she wanted from me. She wanted me to worship her, to live between her thighs for as long as humanly possible, to adore her constellation of hidden freckles.
I teased her inner thighs. I watched her pussy bloom before me and I stroked her lips with the tip of my tongue. When I saw her eyes glare down on me, I offered the broad surface of my tongue out to her and licked from her pussy up to her clit, over and over again. She arched her back, I closed my eyes and felt into her, every crevice inside of her as far as my tongue could reach. Up to her clit, I circled and sucked and licked and at some point, it was like she was giving me everything she had to offer and I could live off of her insides alone.
I fucking worshipped her pussy.
I could have lived between their legs and I told them that, often. When I say Bee had always been a top, I mean they’d never had someone pay attention to them, cater to their wants and needs, care about their pleasure. I also mean: they’d never done the work of being truly vulnerable with their body, the internal work of acknowledging they were worthy of pleasure, worthy of receiving, even with another human being involved. She’d succumbed to the bitterness and resentment that so many tops feel, where she felt like her role was always to be giving herself away.
I’d always have to leave. For days after I saw Bee, I’d be riled up. I wanted to talk and text and order her gifts, I wanted to drive down every day of the week. I wanted to be nothing more than a person who gave them pleasure, who figured out what felt good, who could go down on them and know that I did something right with my day.
I knew that wasn’t healthy. I saw in me what other tops had done to me, obsess over me simply because the pussy was good, as a distraction from their own lives, completely ignoring who I was as a person.
My Venus is in Capricorn, so there’s nothing hotter to me than longing to obsess over someone, but imposing rules on myself to prevent it from getting out of control. So, I did not talk and text and drive down every night of the week. I did not want to overcommit and then flake. I made my commitments clear — my life was in shambles and I was extremely emotionally unavailable, but down for weekly sex dates. They’d just left a relationship too and weren’t sure they ever wanted to be in one again. I wanted to be the top I’d never experienced. I wanted to set and hold boundaries, listen to what they said carefully, and act based on what each of our needs were, without neglecting myself in the process.
These are lofty goals.
As we exchanged podcast and reading recommendations about nonmonogamous relationships, I thought we were doing everything right. And yet, the combo of a top who’s never bottomed with a caregiving femme who’s running from her emotional life is a recipe for disaster.
By the end of it, Bee thought the pleasure they felt in their body was because I gave it to them; they didn’t realize it lived within themselves all along. I was consumed by what I can only term, “I want to buy you a matte black Audi” energy. Every time I drove away from their apartment, it felt like I was floating from my collarbones upward, bringing me a smile I couldn’t feel any other way. My shoulders and chest pulled me towards them every time I wasn’t near and, even if I wasn’t texting constantly, I was always thinking about them — what I’d bring, what I’d wear, what we’d do when we saw each other next. I wanted to dote and caress every moment of every day. I was willing to do damn near anything for them because every time they offered their precious body to me, I was so humbled that I thought the best way to show how much I cared would have been to spend many thousands of dollars on a ridiculous car. Did I mention I know this is not healthy?
While we were still pretending to be casual like Olympic champions, the cracks in the façade were starting to show. The last day before I left for a major cross-continental move, I tried to be honest and said, “My life is such a mess that I don’t think I’m physically capable of loving anyone right now.” Bee’s smile lit up, their face glowed, and it wasn’t until later that I realized they interpreted it as me saying, “I want to love you, but I need time.” They heard what they wanted to hear and I wanted them to be happy, so I didn’t correct them.
After I left, we kept up weekly sex dates through FaceTime. She’d make an extensive agenda and ask to check in, a formal process I thought was endearing. When I finally reached my new city, the accumulated traumas of the year — a close death in my family, massive unprocessed sexual trauma, and leaving my first queer relationship — felt like a swirling unbearable weight. For months, I’d filled every single day consumed with the needs of other people. Now in a new place, with no job and no permanent housing, I couldn’t breathe. I had no one to take care of but myself. I didn’t know how to feed myself, I completely lost direction. I drew tarot cards and read every day, I started therapy, I found new ways to fill my time, but I was lost and depressed like I’d never been before.
When I tried to tell Bee that I didn’t have capacity to do the work that this situationship required — even though it was long distance — she was furious. I was so confused. Didn’t we both say we wanted boundaries? Didn’t we both say we didn’t want a relationship?
It’s dangerous, this, “I want to buy you a matte black Audi” energy. It can trick me and my lovers, into thinking that because I fuck them well, that I will actually give up my life for them. It can trick us both into thinking that having good sex with someone is synonymous with a good relationship. As a femme, I love knowing that I’m taking care of my lovers and that their lives are tangibly improving because I’m in it. There were so many moments when Bee told me that she’d never experienced the kinds of pleasure that she did with me and that made me want to keep going, keep giving.
But, when I took a step back and gave myself the space to have needs, I saw that the dynamic was impossible and unsustainable. And it fucking hurts to be the person to enforce the boundary, to say, “Hey, remember how we both said we didn’t want this to be a relationship? It’s reached that point for me and I can’t do this anymore.” It hurts to become the villain.
As I date, I know that hurting others and being hurt is an inevitable part of human interaction. When I ended things with Bee, I had to reckon with my side of it. I was incredibly transparent with what I had to offer. I did not promise more than I could give. And yet, the energy that I brought to the table, the emotional caregiving tendencies that I’m prone to as a nurse and a femme, set up an expectation that this care would continue to be prioritized above my living my life.
I’m learning how to set boundaries with myself as a top. When I’m getting completely consumed by a relationship to the point where I’m giving myself away, and when I’m embodying a kind of top energy that is wholly unsustainable, I am setting myself up to have my needs ignored and to be taken advantage of. My work as a top isn’t just to fuck someone right, but to move through and past the “I want to buy you a matte black Audi” energy into a place where I can simultaneously get off on giving care to myself.
this was my fave of the column so far!
Oh shit. This is so thoughtful. I really appreciate the care you took in sorting out the weird confusing divide that can come between the words you say and the energy you bring, that it can still trip you up when you’re trying to get it right.
It sounds like there was a real mismatch in what you were saying and what you were feeling inside. That certainly can happen in intimate relationships when we are scared of getting hurt. I can’t help but think how this person’s experience as a black person in this country (I’m assuming they, hopefully, aren’t a white person with dreads) might have contributed to how they weren’t used to experiencing pleasure in their body, or didn’t feel safe to be physically vulnerable as you say…I wonder where that fits into how you think about this connection?