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
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.