Butch Please: Sticks and Stones

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


“Butches and their fucking body issues,” she said.

It was too dark for me to see her face, but I know she was rolling her eyes. She was angry because I didn’t want her to touch me. I had many reasons for that, but this was the reason she found easiest to express. My stomach turned because no matter how much it hurt to hear it, there was an aching sliver of truth in that blanket statement.

I’m a stone top. If you want to get under my surface, prepare for the long haul. I am not the kind of fruit that peels easier in hot water. I am the flower that only blooms once every few years, and only under the full moon during a downpour.

Butches and our “fucking body issues,” yes. I wish I had a dime for every question I’d been asked on behalf of the other butch dykes out there. I wish I had a dollar for all the invasive ones, because I’d be writing this article from a yacht. Why do some of us bind? Do we not like our womanhood, are we rejecting our femaleness? Why don’t we just identify trans*, or if we do identify as trans*, why do we still identify as butch? Why do we dress in mens’ clothing? Why do we look like 14 year old boys? Why are most butches tops? Why don’t we like to be touched? What’s wrong with us?

via vintage-kisses.tumblr.com

via vintage-kisses.tumblr.com

I wish I could say that the way in which our bodies exist, or are offered up to each other, to the masses, to whoever needs to approve or disapprove of them in order for us to go on existing, was not just a little bit harder. But it is just a little bit harder, and I’ve fielded a lot of questions about my body lately. These questions were typically asked by people who’d had a little too much to drink, or people who think that my presentation begs to be justified. They wait until I’ve talked a little bit about myself. Maybe I’ve used the term “butch” to describe myself, or maybe I’ve just talked about dressing this way, acting this way, tried to make a joke about my masculinity complex. Maybe I’ve name-dropped some of the actresses I’m in love with and then laughed about how I have such a type*. Whatever I’ve said, it’s led to this. They feel that whatever information I’ve offered means they have the right to question me. It reminds me of people who justify violence against queers because of our flamboyance. If we put ourselves out there, if we’re always “making a big deal about it”, what do we expect?

“So what do you do in bed, then?” they always ask, but what they mean is “I think I already know what you do in bed because you’re a butch who likes femmes, so I’ve made assumptions on your behalf.” What they mean is “You’re ‘the man’, right?” What they mean is “You use a strap-on, right?”

My inner response to these questions comes from a deep and dirty recess in my gut: Where the fuck do you get off? Sometimes it feels like a requirement for queerness is an incredible well of strength to put up with the people who ask you invasive questions about your sex life that would never be presented to the straight couple at the other end of the bar. Besides, when will people learn that you can’t assume a single thing about someone’s bedroom preferences based on the way they wear their slacks, cut their hair, or identify on the gender spectrum? You can’t even make assumptions based on labels, because “top” doesn’t just mean a sex position and “bottom” doesn’t indicate submission. And labels are as fluid as sexuality, entirely up to personal preference, and stand for something different on every body that bears them. Put power in your words, yes, but don’t swear by them as if they are static pillars that will always be there, always meaning the same thing.

“Stone butch” is a term with many connotations just as thick and craggy as their namesake. I sometimes find myself moving away from the label because those connotations can be so firm and unflinching, and because the history of the term is complicated, as social as it is sexual; strange how something can be so aptly named, since my main issue with the identity is that every time I try to fit it to myself, it’s all rough edges. I like to think of my gender as slippery, but sometimes it’s very sticky, and when it sticks it translates to a butch who doesn’t really like to be touched. Stone butch is the best way I know to describe that.

I came to this identity organically, and like all other identities I use in my life, through a bit of stumbling and derailment. I did not enter my sexuality one hundred percent certain of the label. I was not always “this way” nor did I wear it comfortably and confidently from the first. On the contrary, I didn’t think that I was allowed to take on the label. The fact that I did not really enjoy most touching in bed made me come up with a lot of excuses. I thought it was something I would “grow out of” eventually, like a pair of shoes or the habit of biting my nails. My shoe size hasn’t changed since I was 12 and I consider my nail-biting to be a “natural lesbian instinct”.

Some partners have respected my wishes, some haven’t. When you’re a stone top and a butch, you’re a stereotype, a punchline. Some of my partners have seen my stone nature as something that they need to “fix.” They want to be the Reagan to my body’s Berlin Wall, but alas my stoneness is not something waiting to be torn down, and the other side of that wall is not a bleak state in need of upkeep. It is not progress to get me out of my clothes. There’s a reason I keep most of those clothes on, and I promise it’s not going to ruin the moment. I actually gave myself a stick and poke tattoo on my mons pubis as a way of stopping people from undressing me. I don’t tell people it’s there until I feel that we are in a place where maybe, just maybe, they’ll have the opportunity to see it.

via http://www.flickr.com/photos/abigailleake/

via http://www.flickr.com/photos/abigailleake/

When I explain that I’m a stone top, I know from the reactions, even from the things that are said outright, that it’s assumed this comes as a result of trauma, abuse, or another dark place. It’s assumed that I am what I am because of what happened to me. I wrestle constantly with this narrative. The nagging discomfort of physical contact, the specific way in which I derive pleasure, the way that interrupts or contrasts with the way my partners understood intercourse: So many times, I interpreted these as symptoms of a problem. Something, I determined, must be wrong with me. But there wasn’t, and there isn’t, and no matter what you call yourself and what you do with you and yours, please remember: there’s nothing wrong with you. If you’re practicing safety and consent, then there’s no room for shame or guilt in your love life. It might try to budge its way in, but kick it out your bedroom door and lock it out.

Stone tops of the world, let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with us because of the way we fuck. I know that’s difficult to internalize, trust me. Touching is human. I’ve been told that time and time again, that humans want to touch and be touched, that it’s natural to want closeness and that desire means wanting to become one with another body. I wish I could tell you how many people I’d felt I’d disappointed when they’d looked up at me and said “No, I want to make you feel good,” and I’d been at a loss to describe how everything I felt came from how they felt, how my climax is extremely cerebral, my desire concentrated in so much more than my clit. I get my sexual satisfaction from knowing how well I’ve satisfied my partner. I get off on getting my partner off. I do, I swear! I promise I am not making this up, saying it to make you feel better. I’d like to think that tops are magical creatures, that something about the insane amount of pleasure we get just from giving pleasures to others endows us with certain supernatural powers, like changing shapes at midnight, or granting wishes. It would be nice to grant wishes, even if my wish is for less people to ask me stupid questions in public.

Sometimes I’m overcome by a deep guilt for the way I like to fuck. I want to take all of my partners and unite them in a circle, have them hold hands with me while apologies pour out of me like tears. I’m sorry I don’t like to take my clothes off, I’ll say, and I’m sorry that I don’t want you to touch me there. It’s not you, it’s me. The boundaries I have to put up don’t mean that I’m not letting you in. They don’t stand for your failure or my distrust. They’re an invitation to a new narrative, a new way of thinking about sex. I discovered my desire and my ability to communicate that desire to others on my own very queer path, and I wouldn’t change one thing about that. It was beautiful and imperfect and fucking incredible to discover someone else’s body in that way, with no expectations, with very little guidance, with nothing but skin exploring skin. I think there’s a way in which queer sex can subvert and transcend so many things because it is this wonderful free space, and when that translates to actual pleasure… oh, glory be.

* If you ask, I will tell you my type based on all the celebrities I am in love with, yes. You might laugh, though. It is almost too perfect.

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Full-time writer, part-time lover, freelancing in fancy cheese and cider.

Kate has written 130 articles for us.


  1. thank you

    i’ve been very lucky with my partner and her willingness to understand what i need, but even she has trouble sometimes with the concept that i actually do get off on getting her off.

  2. You write gorgeously, and as someone who is neither butch nor stone, but is in the process of figuring out how exactly she *does* sex, I loved reading this.

  3. I’m so impressed with your writing and your ability to put your feelings and yourself into such gorgeous words.
    Even if I don’t have the same identifiers and experiences as you, there always seems to be something in your writing that I can relate to. Thank you for sharing yourself.

    I very much identified with this part:
    And labels are as fluid as sexuality, entirely up to personal preference, and stand for something different on every body that bears them. Put power in your words, yes, but don’t swear by them as if they are static pillars that will always be there, always meaning the same thing.

  4. I wish I had something profound to say, but all I can come up with is thank you.

    It always feels like such a privilege to read your articles – you write so beautifully.

  5. Beautiful.
    Longtime reader, first time commenter, here. I haven’t been with someone who IDs as “stone butch,” yet. Before reading this, I think my concern would have been that, while I ID as femme and (mostly) a bottom, I do get pleasure from “pleasuring” my partner. Reading this has made me think harder about the idea that pleasure looks and feels different to different people. I’m letting that roll around in my head and heart a bit. Thank you.

  6. “I am not the kind of fruit that peels easier in hot water. I am the flower that only blooms once every few years, and only under the full moon during a downpour.”
    I wish more people understood this.

    • you COULD read “stone butch blues” but a lot of people consider it dated, and it’s a memoir-like novel that describes butchness arising from abuse and extreme trauma, so if you read it, remember it is one experience and not a blanket explanation for stone tops. i don’t know how i feel about it. it’s not my favorite work out there but i know it’s something that a lot of people have gravitated toward in the past as a way to work out this side of things, so it might be helpful?

      stone butch as a social identity and a community role has a pretty storied history and can be explored in books like “boots of leather, slippers of gold” and other queer herstory stuff

      weirdly, i don’t think it’s talked about a lot on the internet. i’ve looked for it, and i haven’t found it. the “stone butch” tag on tumblr is about four pages deep, and that’s it. i’m not sure where us stone tops are, but it doesn’t seem like we’re talking very much about what we have in common

      • i’m right now reading ‘female masculinity’ by halberstam, and just came across this comment on ‘stone butch blues’ that i thought was interesting:
        “(…) it is important to recognize the ways in which it represents stoneness as a limit, a response to abuse, a wall that has been built up and could come down with the right femme, but also as a viable sexual subjectivity. (…) Her stone butchness, therefore, is problematic in some places where it represents the residue of abuse, and powerful in others where it constitutes a successful construction of a sexual self.” (p. 128)

        • Oh, Halberstam. Feinberg’s stone butchness is ABSOLUTELY OKAY in some places where it represents the residue of abuse. It’s Feinberg’s experience, not a rule for all butches or anything, but I don’t like the shame-y sound of calling someone’s reaction to abuse that doesn’t hurt anyone else ‘problematic’. Perhaps it hits a little close to home for me, but really. J. “I don’t believe the gender binary is something we still need to address” Halberstam, quit that (I saw them speak. that quote is legitimately a quote).

          I won’t argue with the fact that it is powerful where it constitutes a successful construction of a sexual self.

  7. As a femme, I have such difficulty with this. Not because I don’t understand, but because I think I do. You see, I gravitate to and love strong butch women, many of whom have a very strong top energy (both in a sexual and bdsm sense) and yet I have very strong top tendencies myself. I understand getting off from your partner’s orgasms. I have said that I “don’t do vulnerability well”, and I’ve definitely flipped a few butches (and fucked some femmes, although I’m not really attracted to femmes). And yet, I crave that strength and that toppiness. I want someone I can curl up into. My last relationship, I opened up to her sexually in a way I almost didn’t think was possible for me to do.

    There is such an expectation that femmes are automatic pillow princesses, and I just don’t fit into that comfortably. It’s definitely made trying to figure out who *I* am, and what I want, in relation to my sexual needs and my relationship needs, difficult to say the least. True, as mentioned above, for the right woman, I probably would open up and submit. But my comfort level is first getting her to open up to me, to learn who she is and learn she’s someone I can trust, and then open up myself. I’m starting to realize that the reason femmes hit on me and butches never do is because they see that side of me and feel it and gravitate to it themselves. It’s difficult if you’re a hard femme, I think.

    And yet Kate, I will still say despite reading this, despite talking to my best friend who is more or less a stone butch, and despite my own understanding of it through my way of being, I still find myself wanting to question you and say “why?” because my curiosity and desire to understand isn’t fully satisfied. I’m not going to disrespect you by asking, but the part of me that knows how much I crave connection through sex would find myself in the camp that is frustrated by not being able to at least remove (part of) your clothes. No, I wouldn’t necessarily need to touch you where you don’t want to be touched, but yes, I know I, in bed, would need that skin to skin contact.

    So yes, butches and their body issues are sometimes frustrating for those of us who love those of you, not because we don’t want to respect you, but because we too want to give. At least I know I do. I won’t get started on the closed off emotions I’ve run into as well. Sigh.

    If this is a bit rambling, well, it’s 3am.

    • Ditto to all this. I’m right there with you.

      I’ve actually been working on a piece from my own “hard femme” perspective. It hurts and frustrates me that our labels–the way in which we categorize and identify, the very words we use to make sense of how we move through the world–can sometimes bring unwanted prejudice.

      It bothers me that some people presume certain things about me because they see me wearing my crazy eyeshadow and fishnets (and of course, the same for anyone who seems to fit any other kind of category).

      I consider myself a top-leaning switch. (Meaning: I love being the initiator and jumping into the driver’s seat, but I don’t mind relinquishing control either.) I enjoy giving as much as receiving and while I understand and respect people’s needs/desires not to be touched in certain ways, but it’s hard in the moment when you love/desire someone so much not to express it…

      • Oh wow, I can’t wait to read your hard femme perspective piece. That would be amazing and I’m sure I’m going to sit there and say yes, yes, yes! Honestly? I find myself in a very confused state right now because everything I’m supposed to be as a femme (receptive, submissive, etc), I’m not. Why must butch = dominant or doer and femme = submissive or receiver? I know that’s not fully true, because I can think of two butches off the top of my head who definitely don’t fit that category. More so for me, the issue is trying to find others like me, so I’m really glad you spoke up and responded to my post.

        I too am a hard femme who is a top-leaning switch (thank you for that definition – that perfectly fits me). I recently ran into issues with a lover who is a butch bottom who I’d topped and then we had sex, and, well, the roles switched. Or they should have. Except I then topped her in bed and she’s pretty much freaked since. I feel awful of course, but she won’t even really talk to me so I can understand it from her perspective. It sucks and it hurts. We weren’t serious and we weren’t going to be, but it still isn’t my style to callously hurt someone. I just wanted her to know that I desired her – wholly, completely – desired her, every part of her body, of her essence. I wanted to give her pleasure too. Instead, I gave her anxiety. Lovely.

  8. I have been reading everything you’ve been writing on here recently and it is all so beautiful. I feel like you should be reading it as poetry. You communicate what you mean so well. Thank you, honestly, thank you.

    I just want to add, though, that the lack of understanding of another person’s desire to be “stone butch” is not always because of ignorance or stereotyping. For sure it sometimes is, but sometimes I think it just comes from the simple fact that some people love giving and receiving equally. It’s hard to understand, at first, that your partner does not enjoy receiving as much as you enjoy giving (to them). But, with that said, a person’s desires should always be respected 100% without any explanation needed. Unfortunately, that isn’t always what happens, although I really wish that it was.

    • A person’s desires should always be respected 100%, absolutely yes. I’m less in agreement with the “without any explanation” part. If you’re close enough to someone that you’re ready to be intimate with them, it’s so, so important to be able to communicate openly about your feelings and preferences and boundaries – otherwise it’s far too easy for misunderstandings and resentment to happen.

      Having said that, that’s no excuse whatsoever for people you’re NOT intimate with to be all up in your face with questions.

      • Yes, I definitely agree with you. Communication is very important and communicating your feelings and desires is honestly the only way to make sure the other person is understanding what you want and what you don’t want.

        What I meant by that statement was that you shouldn’t have to explain WHY you don’t want them touching you in a certain way or a certain place or at all. You shouldn’t have to justify yourself if you don’t want to or don’t feel comfortable. And the other person shouldn’t be allowed to assume anything about you (that you were abused or that you don’t like your body or whatever) just because of what you like and don’t like.

        • Definitely nobody should have to justify their desires. I guess what I mean is, in situations like the one described in this article, it’s maybe not so much about explaining WHY you have a certain preference (which you may not even know how to explain), but being clear about the fact that it’s not about the other person.

          My sense (and I may be wrong) is that most people who are told not to touch their partner – without any further insight – would not so much assume something about the partner, but about themselves (“I’m doing something wrong; I’m not attractive enough; I don’t turn them on”, etc.). I know I would struggle not to feel that way – although this article has gone a long way towards helping me re-examine why that would be my first assumption.

  9. Ah! Kate. Well done, indeed. There’s so much to this article: top/bottom politics, gender roles, practicing good consent (or not), butchness and masculinity, boundaries, sexuality–so great!

    I (a femme top) was asked once by a partner if I was stone. I do (really) like to get fucked/be touched etc., but it can really take some time and/or a few encounters before I’m comfortable enough with someone to bottom or be fucked. Although just about everything about our experiences is different, that feeling of “Nope! Thanks, but no thanks” is something I completely relate to.

    I’m going to go think about this article for a million years. Thanks again for sharing!

  10. Thank you for sharing…I recently came out of a long term relationship and even towards the end our sex life was beautiful, insync, organic, natural…like we have been with one another our whole lives. It was until we were separated that I realized just how lucky I was to have found my counterpoint. We always shied away from labels, but if we want to bring it there…sure she was a “stone butch,” I a “femme/bottom”..didnt mean i was always submissive, didnt mean she never got off, didnt mean we didnt make love, didnt mean we didnt fuck, didnt mean i was lazy, didnt mean she was afraid or ashamed of her body…its who we were, what we liked, and how we became intimate. I appreciate your candid self-expression about the challenges associated with having such a strict “role” because in the opposing I do as well. I experience harsh criticism, odd questions, and doubtful looks when I explain what I like in bed, and what I want my partner to do…etc. Since when do lesbians have to make-love/fuck the same way??

    Its important to remember that while we respect and allow fluidity and freedom, some people just know what they like and that should be ok :)

  11. It’s like every article you write translates directly to something that I’m discovering about my girlfriend. I wish we could be your friends and that she could not be the only person she knows who is like her. I wish there was a way I could bring my experience of not being an arse to other people who undoubtedly in the future will be arses to other people (who don’t fit into perfect little categorised and socially acceptable boxes) just because they don’t know any better. I’m so grateful that you write this column and that I know about it and that I can surreptitiously post it to FB knowing that she’ll read it.

    So. Thankyou, Kate. For helping, and for making me/us/her/people feel less alone.

    I do have a question though: What is the difference between a Stone Top and a Stone Butch? I have never heard the former expression before.

  12. Kade – thank you so much for this post. I look forward to your Butch Please posts. My favorite quote:

    “And labels are as fluid as sexuality, entirely up to personal preference, and stand for something different on every body that bears them. Put power in your words, yes, but don’t swear by them as if they are static pillars that will always be there, always meaning the same thing.”

    It can’t be said any more perfect than that. Thank you for being you.

  13. I enjoyed reading this, even though it was very difficult for me to do so, though probably not as difficult as it was for you to write it and put it out there. And for your courage in doing that, I’m grateful not only that you shared your story but a little bit of your courage. Yeah, that was cheesy, but I didn’t know any other way to say it.

    My first sexual partner, the girl that allowed me to be /sure/ I was gay (and I don’t even think I was unsure before, by most people’s standards), told me once or a few times or it’s hard to remember now, that she didn’t really enjoy being touched, that she got off more on getting others off, etc. Honestly, it totally broke my heart, because /I/ got off on getting her off, too (in addition to also enjoying “receiving”). And it felt like half of my sexual horizons were just ripped from me then and there. Not to mention the guilt, the “what if I’m just not good enough” feelings, the insecurity that has paralyzed me every time I’ve gotten in bed with the (very few) partners that I’ve had after her.

    It’s so interesting but so sad to me that we all get stuck in these traps, that on both sides people feel like there’s something wrong with them, and it’s sad and wrong that people would project these feelings onto you, but I think that’s what a lot of them are doing, projecting their feelings of being broken and inadequate into these things that playground bullies would say or do.

    I wonder if this cycle of self doubt comes from mismatched sexual needs, or chronically insecure personality types (I mean to accuse myself and perhaps any other people in my shoes of this, not you), or the bullying that so often (unfairly of course) accompanies this insecurity, or if it comes from people not understanding and being exposed to different ways of expressing sexuality, from being fed a certain kind of romance and intimacy by movies and books and their friends, or really, all of the above and then some?

    I guess what it comes down to is that we should all be open and honest about what we want and need, talk about it (of course in the context of an actual potential sexual partner, not necessarily some stranger at the bar), and hopefully with greater communication and understanding (which I think this article really facilitates, even if it’s not attempting to solve or fix anything and it’s just one person venting or expressing themselves), we’ll all learn to have more compassion for others and ourselves…

  14. I’m all up for metaphors, but this is offensive on so many levels: “They want to be the Reagan to my body’s Berlin Wall, but alas my stoneness is not something waiting to be torn down, and the other side of that wall is not a bleak state in need of upkeep.”

    Apart from that, interesting article. Personally, I don’t think anyone has the “right” to be offended by someone else’s boundaries in bed. But whereas my rational side knows this, emotionally it’s often a different question…

    • since i chronically dislike reagan, the berlin wall metaphor is meant to be his perspective on things

      aka if she believes herself to be reagan, then she believes my stoneness to be how reagan believed the berlin wall and east germany to be, not in fact its reality. does that make sense?

      • I, too, was first a bit offended by this methapor (though at least it was not David Hasselhoff tearing down the Berlin Wall.)

        It makes more sense now. Thanks for explaining.

  15. I really enjoy this, particularly the section solely on stone tops. Still, I’ve always wondered, as a femme-identified person who also identifies as stone/a top, whether or not I’ll ever be understood by partners, as the predominant assumption always seems to be that only butches can be stone, and no one has ever reacted positively when I’ve tried to explain that make-up and skirts does not automatically equate wanting to be touched. Still I really appreciate this as a whole, wonderfully written.

  16. I really enjoyed reading this article. I think you make so many good points, but my favorite hands down is that queer sex transcends so many things and is this free space to think of things differently. I think its good to discuss with any new sexual partner what their boundaries are and ask respectful questions as needed. Everyone has different boundaries and those are not meant to be broken down, but rather respected and learned from.

  17. So yes to all of that, but… other complication.
    Power dynamics here–
    Getting naked and getting fucked and being really physically lost in all of that stuff is awesome, but it’s also really vulnerable. So when one person’s desire leads them to that place and the other person’s does not, that creates an unequal power dynamic. And I like playing with power dynamics, but I like to have control there.

    I guess I have gotten to a place where I am pretty lost in touching someone else, but not quite in the same way. I don’t know if I could re-imagine sex to a place where I perceive a stone top to be as sexually vulnerable as someone who enjoys being touched.

  18. I’m a masculine always “top” soft butch who usually goes for femmes too and I feel uncomfortable when a woman tries to f*** me. Is sex a complete sex if only one of the parties receive pleasure? I feel like it is not right to be uncomfortable because well I’m a lesbian and lesbians do lesbian sex and that involved getting touched but for some reason I feel being the bottom means being submissive so I feel uncomfortable but then I remind myself that this is a masculinity issue yet straight men do enjoy oral sex from women so they like getting touched, they like getting off. I decided to remind myself of this often. So far I haven’t dated a woman who was disappointed by me being the top all the time but this is an issue I ponder about because if I meet a femme who likes to be the top or wants to pleasure me sometimes I don’t want to turn this into a huge issue and disappoint her because I feel like love and connection is more important than being top or bottom (this is my own personal opinion).

  19. I’m really thankful you wrote about this. I’ve never been with someone who identified as stone and I think that it was important for me to challenge my ideas about what that meant for someone who chose the label, not my preconceived notions about what it meant.

  20. I’ve been, er… seeing… a butch trans woman for a few weeks now (not a relationship exactly, but not NOT a relationship either). Our pillow talk gets into a lot of the things you’ve mentioned here. She has a mixture of dislike for her AMAB body, but she also binds her breasts, dresses in men’s clothes, and is totally a “top” (which is fine by me!).

    When we talk about our insecurities relating to gender, she tells me how she feels like people think she’s “confused,” inept at being a woman, or just not “truly” transsexual. It’s really eye-opening, since my physical sex problems come from same place (hate that my body has been permanently tainted by testosterone) but my social gender problems come from the opposite place, like worrying that being femme and a total bottom is just me giving in to patriarchal stereotypes of what a woman should be.

    It seems like each of us would satisfy the people who use our gender presentation to invalidate us by just acting like the other, but then each of us would just be invalidated anyway for the same reason people invalidated the other. It’s kind of a double-bind. Being trans makes everything so much crappier.

    • I can relate: I float back and forth with gender expression.

      I’ve derived a lot of comfort and inspiration from reading articles and stories about living as a butch, and from butch women who put themselves out there: this article is no exception. From owning my body, without sacrificing my womanhood, to simply feeling less alienated when people try and put me in a corner; every time I’m deliberately misgendered there’s a solidarity there.

      Funny how we can be as ease with our bodies but not at ease with how others relate to them: even when I don’t hate the way I look I simply don’t want to be touched in certain places and there are expectations I cannot meet. It’s great to be able to own that, but at the same time it makes the prospect of finding someone compatible that little more disheartening.

  21. “When I explain that I’m a stone top, I know from the reactions, even from the things that are said outright, that it’s assumed this comes as a result of trauma, abuse, or another dark place. It’s assumed that I am what I am because of what happened to me. I wrestle constantly with this narrative. The nagging discomfort of physical contact, the specific way in which I derive pleasure, the way that interrupts or contrasts with the way my partners understood intercourse: So many times, I interpreted these as symptoms of a problem. Something, I determined, must be wrong with me. But there wasn’t, and there isn’t.”


    it’s really hard to draw that distinction. to determine whether you are who you are (queer, stone, etc) because of the trauma or if that’s just how you roll. i don’t know, though, that we can ever really draw a bold line there, between our past traumas and our current identities. who we are now is wrapped up in what happened to us, and that’s always going to be true. but you guys/gays, that’s not a bad thing. we’re all just big jumbles of our experiences and our identities. own your jumble, queers.

    also, this is easily my fav new regular column on autostraddle, not least because it means that kate will be sharing the beautiful words from their brilliant brain on the regular.

  22. As a switch femme who’s only ever done things with switch femmes, this is something I’ve never experienced, but wondered a bit about. As always, thank you so much for opening my eyes a little more. You, and your writing, are incredible.

  23. yes.

    this is so honest and so generously offered. thank you for your beautiful writing that opens all the right conversations. i also like what you and other commenters said about queer sex having a less dominating social script. this thought helps me when i feel all the guilt seeping in at me from outside – from body issues, personal histories, gendered expectations, queerness. in those moments, where logical or empathetic words can sometimes be inadequate, queer pleasure (even if self-administered!) is the corporeal affective fuck-you to some of these demons.

    this is one of my favourite parts:
    “I’d like to think that tops are magical creatures, that something about the insane amount of pleasure we get just from giving pleasures to others endows us with certain supernatural powers, like changing shapes at midnight, or granting wishes. It would be nice to grant wishes, even if my wish is for less people to ask me stupid questions in public.”

  24. I particularly relate to the part about climax being cerebral. I’ve tried being touched, but I’ve never found it to satisfy me in the way watching another person react to what I’m doing to them does.

  25. “I get my sexual satisfaction from knowing how well I’ve satisfied my partner. I get off on getting my partner off. I do, I swear!”

    THIS! This is exactly me. I think I’ve said it like that, word for word, on more than one occasion to various people. Fortunately, my current partner understands this. What is cool though is that I’m not even butch. I would say I’m androgynous or somewhat masculine of center but act like a flamboyant gay man a lot of the time. No one would assume that I’m like this, but I just am. It just further exemplifies the spectrum of sex and sexuality. I don’t like taking my clothes off, I bind, I don’t like penetration or having my chest touched, and I just REALLY get off on getting my partner off. I can’t explain it, that’s just how it is and it makes me happy. :) Thank you so much for this article. I’ve loved every one of them.

    • “…somewhat masculine of center but act like a flamboyant gay man a lot of the time. ”

      Yes, pretty mutch same as me – but I call myself Butch – SissyButch to be precise – One of those Dapper, Dandy, Metrosexual Butches :)

      And I’m a Stone Butch – which though I ‘top’ does not mean I’m always dominant. I like it when a Femme can control me through her responses to my responses to her responses… (loop continuously until final crescendo)

  26. Thank you for this insight, Kate.

    I think that some of what you wrote can fit others who do not identify as “stone butch”. I have a bi- friend who I was FWB with for a few months until recently, and she identifies as femme and very dom. Initially she did not want me touching her more than just her breasts. More than once she didn’t take her clothes off and I had a hard time understanding it. She would always say what you said, that getting her women off was what got her off. She also said she never let women go down on her, which 1) I didn’t understand, and 2) felt like she thought I wasn’t good enough or experienced enough. Over time she did get naked and by the end she did let me finger f**k her once, but if I was getting my face down there too close she would just gently guide it back up.

    I’m the type who always feels like I need to reciprocate anytime someone does something for me, so it was very hard for me in the beginning to not be allowed to give to her in return. It was an ego bruiser for awhile, but eventually we got comfortable with each other and I just enjoyed the ride (pun intended!).

    I will keep what you said in my mental rolodex in case I am in a similar relationship so that I remind myself that we’re all different and enjoy things in different ways. Just because something is different or we don’t understand it doesn’t make it “wrong” and doesn’t mean it needs to be “fixed”.

  27. I am femme bottom and fully respect my butch top. I also struggle to understand how I can “please” her and try to accept her boundaries. I really need articles like this to remind me that she is truly content and satisfied with our sex life.I don’t push her, question her or try to change her. Thank you.

  28. Whyyy is the world so intent on asking what queers do in bed?

    And for reals, I get asked all. the. time., “If you like girls who look like guys, why don’t you just sleep with guys?” ……

    ……… I’ve just stopped responding. -_-

  29. Thank you for this. So beautifully written.
    I need to educate myself on this topic, considerably.
    Please don’t meet this comment with aggression, because this is the reaction I am often confronted with when I try and approach this.
    As a feminine woman who is attracted to other feminine women, I feel as though I don’t fit anywhere. Straight men hit on me, when I tell them I like women, they say “you must be the ‘girl’ then? you don’t look like a lesbian.” which is, of course, uncomfortable at best.
    I also find myself feeling incredibly out of place with among other gay women, which is mostly my own issue. When I was first coming to terms with my sexuality I tried to change my appearance to fit with what I thought a lesbian should look like. After this failed me, I found myself feeling resentful towards “butch” women, and when I come across women who don’t identify as femme, I feel defensive and as though I don’t belong in the gay community.
    It’s reading things like this that I find helpful in moving past the idea that women who are more masculine are just trying to “look lesbian” because I know that isn’t the case, but it is hard to move past issues that develop during a crucial stage in your self descovery.
    So, once again, thank you so much for sharing.

    • I can relate to this. I’m also someone who feels out of place in the lesbian community sometimes. For example, I don’t know anything about these sorts of topics as labels have never really been my thing anyway. Stone Butch Top Bottom Femme Mocha Frappe with no whip. It’s all very confusing to me.

      • I find the myriad labels a bit much sometimes too. That said, I pretty much never come across them in real-life, just online and in articles.

    • Yes, I find myself in partial agreement. I am a femme and am attracted to fellow femmes as well. Luckily many of my les/queer friends are also femmes attracted to other femmes, so I do have a slight “group of understanding,” but at the end of the day, I have noticed an unfortunate common denominator that links us together: we feel inextricably judged and sequestered, backed into a corner of peer-denial, societal disbelief and sly mockery, and made an all around (silenced) caricature. At times I find myself resentful, hurt, and ridiculed but sometimes I stop and think and realize that this must be how it feels for everyone, for those of us who fall under the queer umbrella ⎯ we’re all a little muddled down, ground out, and quite literally left puzzled. We have all of these terms and we have a (sometimes watery) sense of community but, I suppose, every single one of us feels that familiar cloak of isolation. I want more representation; I want to feel comfortable and accepted within “our community” (and outside of it). I want to feel safe and I want future generations to feel the same, to not feel ashamed or humiliated for being femme/femme, butch/butch, femme/butch, interchangeable, et cetera. I just have to remind myself that we all want that and in order to get there it will take time and understanding, even from within our own community. I guess I just have to accept that this purport, in and of itself, will eventually come, slowly but surely. It’ll hurt along the way (doesn’t it always?) but I hold hope in its materialization.

      And Kate, I find all of your articles so beautifully written and moving. This one in particular was especially eyeopening. You are a lovely, wonderful person. Thank you for allowing us all to peak at your exceptional mind.

  30. I have such whirlwind emotions raging in my heart over this. If I had to slap a label on my sexual identity it would probably be femme dominant switch. As a dominant who is very attracted to dominants, however, I’ve certainly run into my fair share of stone tops and I’ve never felt a need to challenge that. I don’t assume. I want my partner to be able to express herself however she wants because I want to please her and pleasure takes many forms.

    I hate that you’ve been treated like that, Kate. I don’t think anyone has the right to make a partner feel uncomfortable with their body or desires. Talking about desires and needs should be done before/outside the bedroom. Personally, I’m pretty choosy about my lovers. If I want to sleep with you, then I have mad respect for you, think you’re absolutely beautiful and amazing and I genuinely want to please you. I won’t hold back from saying I want to touch you if I do. But if you don’t want to be touched, why on earth would I push you to go to a place where you’ll be uncomfortable and unhappy in my bed? We all have hard limits that should never be pushed. If those hard limits clash, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t fit well as lovers anyway.

    There is nothing wrong with being a stone top. If a stone top wanted to learn to be touched, she would say so. Trying to guilt/pressure someone into something they don’t want to do is disrespectful, hurtful and not very consensual (and consent is sexy). Maybe this is from my experience in kink, where all kinds of people have all kinds of desires and I’m a big believer in *enthusiastic* consent, but pushing limits is never acceptable.

    I also feel like pressuring a stone top to receive isn’t about giving the stone top pleasure. She doesn’t derive pleasure from receiving. I get off on pleasing my partner. I mean… I really get off on it. But that doesn’t always mean topping. If my partner gets off topping me then I get off on being the best darn bottom ever. The orgasms are great, but the look in her eye, the sound of her gasp when she makes me moan or involuntarily arch my back is what’s doing it for me. I *am* giving her pleasure. And I’m doing it without touching her (which makes me feel super powerful ;) “Look ma’, no hands!”) It also helps if she doesn’t care if I’m a dominant bottom.

    People should be free to be who they are and experiment (or choose not to experiment) however they want without judgement. If we just didn’t make assumptions and didn’t expect to get more than we were promised, our sex lives would be so much better. Guilt doesn’t belong in the bedroom. Respect, passion and enthusiastic consent does.

    • “I also feel like pressuring a stone top to receive isn’t about giving the stone top pleasure. She doesn’t derive pleasure from receiving. I get off on pleasing my partner. I mean… I really get off on it. But that doesn’t always mean topping. If my partner gets off topping me then I get off on being the best darn bottom ever. The orgasms are great, but the look in her eye, the sound of her gasp when she makes me moan or involuntarily arch my back is what’s doing it for me. I *am* giving her pleasure. And I’m doing it without touching her (which makes me feel super powerful “Look ma’, no hands!”) It also helps if she doesn’t care if I’m a dominant bottom.”

      This. *snaps*

  31. I love this so much. I’m not butch, but I do identify very strongly as a top, and that means a lot of times happen to be stone because getting someone off is less vulnerable and more satisfying than being touched myself. I also struggle with wondering how far trauma has gone in shaping my boundaries in bed, and with dealing with partners respecting that crossing certain lines will be triggering and there is no “fixing” that, because I don’t need those lines “fixed,” I manage just fine thankyouverymuch. Great article. I might just print it out, highlight it, and keep it under my bed for next time I need to explain parts of myself to someone.

  32. Beautifull written, as always, Kade. This has given me lots to process, even if our sexual preferences are different. Every person has a different combination of what they like for sex, and when things don’t jive, it can be frustrating – it’s important to remember how to step back and understand that no, it’s not *my* fault or it’s not because of “x” criterion or “y” variable or the time of day or mood or temperature or whatever just because Person A doesn’t want sex the same way as Person B.

  33. Oh my godLauna I need to talk to you more because I’m coming to realize how much of a dominant personality I am nd although I identify as a switch, it’s making so much sense to me in how I’ve related to sex before. The question I have for you is this – if you’re being the bottom in bed but you’re dominating, isn’t it hard to really enjoy it? I have the worst time letting go and just enjoying what someone is doing to me. Let’s not even get into the pressure to orgasm. Yes, I enjoy showing my partner how much their ministrations feel good, but actually going into the subspace/laying back and being “done” is difficult and rather impossible. I’m not sure what I’m asking per se but I guess the closest I can figure is how to top from the bottom sexually and have everyone be happy.

    • **DISCLAIMER: I’m speaking from general experience and using words as I and a handful of other people I know understand them. Obviously everyone sees and feels things uniquely and I don’t mean to speak for everyone.**

      I think what might be confusing you is how a lot of people seem to link “dominant” and “top” together as the same thing. Like Kate mentions above, “‘top’ doesn’t just mean a sex position and ‘bottom’ doesn’t indicate submission.”

      I personally use the words “top” and “bottom” to indicate the physical acts of giving and receiving sexual acts, while “dominant” and “submissive” are more mental. Dominants are just that: dominant. They call the shots. Submissives obey. I like the feeling of power I get from being in charge. (Though, admittedly, I do enjoy giving up power from time to time… but that’s very rare and only when I’m in a long term relationship.)

      If I’m being a bottom and dominant, I’m not just “laying back and being ‘done'” because when I’m dominant, I’m calling the shots. I’m telling my top what to do to me to please me and actively engaging in the process. For example, one of my favorite lovers was stone but found that, while she didn’t want to be touched, she really loved being told and shown what to do. Our dynamic often became top submissive/dominant bottom and it rocked.

      TL:DR: It’s about mind sets as much as physical acts. I recommend you think about what turns you on. What physical acts, but also what mental states. Find lovers who are compatible with what makes you happy and feel good. Don’t ever feel like you have to do something you don’t like just to please your partner. Have fun. :D

      • “Our dynamic often became top submissive/dominant bottom and it rocked”

        HOLY SHIT EPIPHANY. I think this is almost exactly the dynamic that is growing between myself and a stone(ish) trans dude lover of mine. Yes! *dances around* I’m not jazzed because nowI have a label to put on our dynamic so much as I am THRILLED to have some language to describe it. Thinking of myself as a dominant bottom switch helps me understand what I thought were my contradictory and confounding sexual kinks, but now I GET IT!!

        Thanks Launa, for unintentionally giving me this epiphany. Thanks Kate, for writing such a great article thy sparked this conversations. Thanks autostraddle, for curating this incredible Internet space that allows for nuanced self discovery.

        • Yay! Glad to help :) Though your post somehow got “A Whole New World” from Aladdin stuck in my head.

          Labels aren’t everything, but sometimes having language you feel comfortable using can be empowering. Glad you found something you needed.

      • Precisely this. I find it kind of amusing that I refer to myself as a “submissive top” which most people deem a paradox only because everyone assumes top = total controlling dominance.

      • YES to dominant bottoms!!! I see being the “bottom” (such a misnomer because of people’s stupid assumptions, but whatever) to be a *very powerful* role. You’re essentially being pampered, cared for, your desires are paramount, someone is serving you by giving you what you want, and you don’t have to move a damn finger if you don’t want to. How is that *not* being dominant?

        Also Launa as a dominant-leaning switchy sort who is also attracted to other dominants…hell yes. power struggles are fun ;)

      • Thank you so much for responding! I apologize, I got pretty sick and just didn’t have the energy for online stuff.

        You make a good point in regards to top and dominant. As much as I (think I) understand them, I still seem to use them both when I should use one or the other. I think I’m still coming to be comfortable with being dominant. It’s such a new thing to view myself this way, even if I’ve always sort of known it to be true.

        For me, I have a hard time receiving oral sex. I don’t like all the attention focused on me, so I get anxious and usually try to make it stop. Occasionally, I can go there and enjoy it, but I have never allowed myself to relax enough to really let go. Yes, I know it’s possible to be a dominant bottom, and maybe what would help me enjoy it is bossing the top/giver around a bit. I have no idea.

        Given that’s a mainstay of lesbian sex, it makes for a lot of confusion for me. That said, I also LOVE giving oral sex. If I couldn’t do that to a partner ever, I would feel rejected and hurt and turned off. What I’ve been trying to understand is how much of that is a dominant/submissive issue, how much of it is a top/bottom action thing, and how much of it is just my own personal narrative coming into play.

        Thank you very much for that last bit. That’s really sound and great advice. I’m in an experimental and learning phase of my life so I will definitely keep that in mind. I appreciate your answering my post. Looking forward to yours.

  34. Thank you so much for this article.

    I am not butch (or femme for that matter). But I guess I am a little on the stone side of things. I prefer not to be touched, I get off getting my partner off. What the heck to call myself? Who the hell knows.

    My ex was determined to reciprocate with me, and although I let her – and sometimes enjoyed it- it never felt right or natural to me.

  35. “…alas my stoneness is not something waiting to be torn down, and the other side of that wall is not a bleak state in need of upkeep. It is not progress to get me out of my clothes. There’s a reason I keep most of those clothes on, and I promise it’s not going to ruin the moment.”

    Yes, this. So much!

    Beautifully written, as always, and with so much heart.

  36. This… is just… I have no words. Beautiful and elegantly written, as always.

    I just wanted to come here to say, as a femme, I find “stone” butches to be incredibly attractive. There is nothing wrong with owning your sexuality and your sexual preferences. In fact, there are many people in this world, like me, who find people attractive specifically BECAUSE of those preferences. Knowing yourself sexually, finding intense pleasure in giving pleasure and being able to pleasure your partner skillfully, IS INCREDIBLY HOT.

    Sex is about loving and caring and understanding that your partner needs room to be who they want to be, especially in the bedroom, where we can feel the most vulnerable.

    Reading this article really reminded me of a specific quote from Ivan Coyote’s beautiful ode to femmes, “Some of them think I am queer because I am undesirable. You prove to them that being queer *is* your desire.” For some of us, one is not desirable *despite* of their sexuality but because of it – and that can be a powerful thing.

  37. Kade, this was beautiful. Your words touch the tender bruised heart of my own experience, and articulate things I haven’t had the words for. Thank you.

  38. Thank you for putting into words something I didn’t know how to express. Glad to see I’m not the only one – ha!

  39. I harbor so much respect for the sense of self that you’ve cultivated, and for your solidarity in the face of intimacies that you simply can’t get down with. I love all of it, and your writing is just so beautiful.

    I have to say that I’m the person sitting on the other side of the bed though, (if you will). I’m thinking that I probably understand and definitely respect when and why stone butches put boundaries in place. But having developed a sense of self that is more feminine, and being able to count on my hand the times in which I’ve presented myself as masculine-of-center and been satisfied with it, I can’t say I’d like to have a relationship with someone who could never open to me sexually, even with time and love.

    It would be a disappointment to not be able to love someone the same way they’ve showed me love, though, and I wish I could say that nicer. But I wouldn’t ever want to see such a wonderful, eloquent, kind soul like Kate stand in front of me and try to offer an apology based on the fact that they can’t open up to me in that way. I would want to avoid that expressly. Because it’s shitty, having to justify yourself, and I know all about that.

  40. Kate, I love your sometimes sassy column!

    I am a self proclaimed lover of female masculinity and thought I knew a good deal about it. Wrong, it turns out! Being with a transgender lover who chose to acknowledge and love the female side of her being taught me some important lessons.

    We seem to carry so many preconceived notions about what ____ sex is like that we never open ourselves up for vulnerability and exploration. Vulnerability is really scary but sex is a pretty vulnerable act between people.

    If I was with a person less in touch with their feelings, I would continue to carry with me strict notions about how I should be fucked every time. I like to be dominated, it makes me ridiculously hot BUT when I was given the opportunity to experiment and dominate someone, I felt so empowered! Unacknowledged parts of my sexual being surfaced and I felt slightly foolish initially but good in the end.

  41. wow – well put and beautifully written – you coagulated my thoughts for me, and I think I now have a better way to explain myself

  42. I love your articles. So beautifully written and always so insightful. Very personal and very relatable, and not necessarily on an obvious level. And I’m sorry, but I have to ask: What is your type based on the celebrities you’re in love with?
    Much love, Yasmin.

  43. In one way, I can completely understand your perspective. I totally get off on getting other people off. But in another way, I feel torn. You are exactly the kind of girl I would be drawn to, but I couldn’t be with someone if I couldn’t touch them. I would respect boundaries, but it would be very hard to maintain a relationship with someone who denied me something that fulfilled me sexually.

    I get it though. People shouldn’t push you to do things you don’t want. And they certainly shouldn’t make sweeping statements about butches and their body issues. But depending on the circumstances, I could understand their frustration. Not their unkind words, but their feelings, yes.

    • “but it would be very hard to maintain a relationship with someone who denied me something that fulfilled me sexually.”

      Mm, this.

      And now to say my own piece of mind:

      There are some roles that I’m more comfortable with sexually than others. Like, I’d be most comfortable being submissive, I’d be more comfortable being a bottom. But I’d like to think with time and patience and practice I’ll get to expand my horizons a lot. Taking charge still doesn’t feel “natural” but it can feel nice. Really nice. And I’m gonna keep on fucking until it comes like second nature, because damn if I don’t want to have everything. I find it frustrating when people’s boxes are SO specific. Like, pillow princess? Really? You actually like…embrace that? As your core sexual identity? Sigh.

      It’s weird, cause I don’t really see that there’s a thousand fish in the sea. It’s hard enough finding a girl that’s gay/queer/bi/etc. to begin with. Then you have to connect mentally, which is another hurdle. By the time you get to sex, if it turns out it doesn’t work because there’s some fundamental incompatibility (i.e. one partner likes giving but their partner doesn’t like receiving), it’s like, fuck it all to Hell and back, you know? The next time I get laid might be 2 months or 2 years from now. I guess the harsh words come from people who made compromises because they didn’t know how many more hurdles they could take, if they could get back out there and do the race again or if they’d just fall exhausted before the first jump.

      Or maybe they’re just assholes. You can’t really excuse being an asshole. But I could see myself making that mistake. This sex shit is too hard.

  44. Thank you for this. So much of what you wrote resonates with me, even though I’m coming from a different perspective. Especially this:
    “Besides, when will people learn that you can’t assume a single thing about someone’s bedroom preferences based on the way they wear their slacks, cut their hair, or identify on the gender spectrum? You can’t even make assumptions based on labels, because “top” doesn’t just mean a sex position and “bottom” doesn’t indicate submission. And labels are as fluid as sexuality, entirely up to personal preference, and stand for something different on every body that bears them. Put power in your words, yes, but don’t swear by them as if they are static pillars that will always be there, always meaning the same thing.”

    I get judged because I’m more on the femme side of the spectrum (yet I don’t even find that label to be that accurate for me). People assume they can top me just like that and that I will let them. Not the case. I’ve definitely surprised a few self-identified butches and tops, which as time goes on, surprises me. Why would any of us assume anything about each other just because of our appearances and/or labels? Isn’t that one of the awesome things about being queer? There is no one way to be. (Please forgive the cheesiness of that last bit. :) )

  45. thanks for the article. i am wondering does this idea of not being touched primarily exist for women or those identified as trans or queer? in general conversations about sex with friends of all orientations, this not wanting/needing to be touched has never come up with (non-queer) heterosexual men, for example. however, i more often have heard of women (femme and otherwise) in both queer and heterosexual relationships who have more restrictions on where or if they are to be touched or prefer keeping certain items of clothing on, etc. it just seems like these preferences come up more often for women and/or those in queer contexts. this could be more closely examined because clearly one could imagine social, cultural, historical– in addition to the personal– reasons for this.

  46. Kate, thanks for another well-written, thoughtful and eye-opening article! I look forward to this series and you don’t disappoint. Thank you for your willingness to be so open with your experiences and feelings. That can’t be easy to do. So, thank you!

  47. Your ability to deal with the world’s heaping bullshit and still bring your honest and vulnerable voice to your writing literally gives me butterflies. Thank you for your truth. Thank you for your strength.

    And as a femme who dates butches, who (not through design but maybe by type?) loves women that cannot be topped, I just want to say that this article is familiar and painful and beautiful; it reminds me of re-learning intimacy with each new partner as we dance around our respective boundaries, and I’m sad not everyone you’re with can respect your limits. Because you’re 100% right that “If you’re practicing safety and consent, then there’s no room for shame or guilt in your love life.”

    I hope you can find love that sees the selflessness in unreciprocated sex. You probably will, because half of the gay internet is in love with you already :)

  48. Does anyone know any stone straight people? I’ve never really heard of the concept outside of the queer community, but I don’t see any reason there wouldn’t be heterosexual stones. I think I was fairly stone (without knowing the word) before I realized I was bi…

    Another thing, does anyone have any thoughts on the relationship between stone and asexual? They seem sort of related to me, but not the same… and my brain isn’t forming any more sophisticated thoughts on the topic right now.

    • On the relationship between asexuality and stone sexuality: yes! I have been trying to articulate this relationship for many months now.

      I’m a grey-ace nonbinary person, and a lot of that “grey” area for me is the desire to please a partner. I had never heard of stone identities until I started doing some academic research on asexuality in literature (in fanfiction, actually…) and I almost went on a total tangent spiral trying to parse out the relationship between the two but ended up abandoning it. I don’t know! I wonder if in some cases “stone” is an older word for what we’re now coming to understand as ace spectrum identities.

  49. Thought provoking and sometimes beautifully soulful. I tend to shy away from reading articles aimed specifically at butches/gender queer women but I’m very glad I read the ones you’ve written Kate. Thanks.

  50. Thanks for this article. I would consider myself fairly sheltered (I have a whole TWO LGBTQ friends irl [well, three if you count my OH. She counts, right?] and I’m very non-scene) so it’s articles like this and the following comments that help me learn, not just about other members of my community but about gender and sexuality in general. (Holy crap, there’s a lot more to it than the talk at school about a man and a woman in a loving married relationship! :D )

  51. I want to say I’m surprised at the amount of self-identifying sexuality slang this article has included and prompted in comments. I’m in my first girl-on-girl relationship (even though I’ve been a passive member of the autostraddle community for years ;]) so I admit I’m new to a lot of things regarding insider views of alternative lifestyles. I find it intriguing that community members are so willing to admit their preferences in bed but also somewhat restrictive. I don’t doubt that most have given ample more thought to the subject than myself, but I veer in favor of letting some stones go unturned. (!)
    Regardless of if I identify as queer, bisexual, or pansexual, my sexual preferences remain undisclosed. I’m not uncomfortable with the topic of sex, but I agree with Kate’s point that most people wouldn’t question a straight couple with such intimate details of their motives for between the sheet rumblings. I realize this is where porn doesn’t provide all the answers, most of which are lies and misrepresentations (obv..), and sex-ed certainly won’t address it either. For this, I am thankful that someone can explain these terms or use them in such a well written piece where I can grasp their meaning on my own. I don’t see labeling myself as a particular sexual type in my relationship any time soon, but it pleases me to know that so many of you are familiar with such a variety of roles one can play in the bedroom and that others are relying on people like you to inform the less enlightened.

  52. Thank you for writing this. From a femme’s perspective, you’ve really helped shine some light on a previous relationship of mine.

  53. So, one key thing here, I think, is this whole “strap-on” issue. I’m a stone butch (using my female pronouns, and not at all IDing as trans), and I would never in a million years call my cock a strap-on. It’s mine, it’s me; it’s not pretend, and it’s not a toy. Touching it is touching me.

    • I shudder, not in a good way, at the term “dildo,” a little less so at “strap-on,” but I think of it as my partner’s cock and, as you said, as a part of them.

  54. I have never had a problem teaching stone butches how to cum with me sucking their (silicone, please) cocks, or while they are fucking me — clothes on, cock (not “strap-on” but more alive-than-life cock) hard and inside of me, hands loving to touch my body and open me up. There is nothing hotter than the kinetic distance between a stone butch’s clothes and my body when the heat is turned up: it makes rubbing bodies in a same-same configuration seem to base to me. Don’t change a thing, because I am a stone femme (that is, a femme who loves stone butches) who doesn’t want to stick anything in a butch (sorry, so not my thing and not hating on those who like this) and my gender is as real as yours. We may be a rare and misunderstood breed, but people are damn lucky to find us in a darkened room.

    • Thank you! More stone butch women need to know that women like us exist! many of my butch exes did not understand my need to suck their cocks as part of my sexuality. Their bodies didn’t have the stone butch connection with that part of the anatomy and they, not always, judged me as ‘closet hetero’!
      Seriously, FemmeFireball, you sound just like I do when I talk to my friends and, I can’t speak for you, but I have these conversations more easily with my straight friends (male & female) than with my lesbian friends!!

  55. Really thoughtful piece! [much mulling] The thing that really resonated with me was “Sometimes it feels like a requirement for queerness is an incredible well of strength to put up with the people who ask you invasive questions about your sex life that would never be presented to the straight couple at the other end of the bar.”

    As the partner of trans*masculine person, I have ALL of the feelings about this. There’s something about queerness (difference) that somehow makes people feel as if they have the right to ask questions that they would never in a zillion years ask any straight person. I’ve actually be asked, “so, um, how does that ‘work’ for you?” (referring to our sex life). The person even continued to push me for answer after I replied that I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it. Sigh. One starts to feel like an oddity on display for the curiosity of others.

  56. When you called nail biting a “natural lesbian habit”
    I was actually biting my nails.
    you write so beautifully. I am so glad I came across this article.

  57. Most of the time when I’m hooking up I don’t like my partner to touch me, but when I’m in a relationship I really enjoy being touched – just not as much as touching her. I actually orgasm when touching my partner very easily. Most girlfriends aren’t happy with that, which is great, and I love everything about sex. #aimless outpouring not really a response

  58. So *thats* what the nail biting thing is, hmmm. Seriously though, this is an awesome, thought-provoking article. Thank you kindly.

  59. “I get off from getting my partner off.”
    Thank you. This means more to me than you realize that someone else feels the way I do.

  60. Kate, you are a perfect Stone Butch. It’s a gift.

    No guilt – ever!

    We are not alone – Stone Butch is totally natural sexuality. Embrace it and love yourself.

  61. For 7 years I thoroughly enjoyed pleasing my partner by being the one who was pleased. Amazingly, in-fact. *grins*

    Hold fast. There’s many of us out there that get it, who will get you.

    Beautiful words, beautifully put.


  62. I don’t know of another way to say this but your writing gives me hope. I have spent my entire life seeking out and loving stone butch women. I often feel that stone butches are under-appreciated and I have no idea how to find them. I wish I could wear a sign that said ‘I will love you with your clothes on and will never try to make you change.’ (But would they believe me anyway? LoL)
    I have been with butch women and stone butch women and, as a femme, I know that many of my butch exes were hurt & disappointed that I was uncomfortable with them NOT being stone – I had expectations that were not based on who they were,
    Reading your post gives me hope that there are stone butches in the world and that I will find one again! I love women and I love stone butches more than all other women. In the modern ‘queer’ world I feel as if the ‘classic’ stone butch/femme dynamic is being judged as lacking and antiquated.This makes it that much harder to connect with a woman who is stone and not, mistakenly, a gender-queer bottom (not my cup of tea). Is it coming to the point that we have to start using handkerchiefs again to connect with other compatible women?!

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  64. I wanted to let you know how much this piece means to me, as a stone butch. There are so few of our words out there, talking about our experiences from our own point of view. So, thank you for being brave and putting it out there.

    This post has been a tremendous resource to me. In fact, I’ve quoted it in my classes on stone identity and my own blog posts about stone because your words are eloquent and resonate so deeply. (You can find them at xanwest dot wordpress dot com, if you want to take a look.)

    Thanks again.

  65. I know this article is a couple years old…but I still can relate to this more than I can explain.
    I honestly can get myself off from getting a partner off as well,and I do identify as butch/soft butch (depends on the day) as well so I really do know the feeling….but honestly? I prefer receiving. I love knowing that someone else is satisfied by knowing that I reached the moon thanks to them.
    I just get uncomfortable with receiving at first due to a lot of bad experiences, so it’d take me time to get to know someone before I can actually say, “lay it on me, I’m ready.”

  66. I love Stone Butches:-) You all captivate my High Femme heart with your hot sexuality. There is a perfect exchange between Stone Butches & those that get it.

  67. LOVED this article. It’s interesting how queer sexualities and queer dialogues can unearth so much about communicating consent; giving, asking, respecting.

  68. Thank you for this! I am something like this (i look like a soccer mom, but I guess I am maybe a mostly stone top who presents femme 85% of the time lol), at least with my current GF, who identifies straight. I do let her touch a bit, but i hadn’t been able to figure out why i have gotten so butch/toppy, since everything I have heard echoes the trauma/pathology ideas. You put the cerebral orgasm/pleasure from pleasure concept into words beautifully. I can twiddle my own sexy bits whenever needed; she & I are not together very often and I don’t want to waste our time on anything but her, especially since I am her first woman partner.

    It is actually a bit selfish of me…like you, I am really really really being honest…giving feels AMAZING, i get true, visceral & cerebral, pleasure from it for days after.

    I am learning to discard labels and the “shoulds.” Thank you for putting so much into words.

  69. This is a curious issue that, before today, I didn’t even know was present in the first place. The interpersonal dynamic, that is. Not the lack of any desire to be touched. If that’s your thing that’s your thing and I’m /fairly/ certain that touching someone’s groin when they don’t want to be touched there is sexual assault. All in all, I see this as broadening my vision to encompass more viewpoints and for that I thank the author, the commenters, and the homosexual community that has fostered this dynamic. I must say though that, as a straight (albeit deviant) male, I do feel rather out of place here. So many issues that I have no experience with whatsoever. Ah well. Gotta make the experience you can with what you were given, yeah?

  70. This was the first Autostraddle article I ever read, and the first article that ever made me consider I might be a lesbian… Thank you for writing this.

  71. I wish more people understood. I hope you know how much us Pillow Princess, High Femme types love you. I’m always hoping I’ll meet someone to balance me out. I love how feminine I am and I want someone just as masculine. Many girls won’t understand you and they don’t understand why I’m not attracted to long hair or feminine girls. You’re amazing and there are girls like me waiting for you. Keep being who you are. We love you just like that.

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  73. i’m seeing a stone butch now, this makes such perfect sense. thank youuuuuuuu i thought it had to do with me. good insight!

  74. I clung to your every word. This cannot even begin to articulate how much I needed this. Thank you for sharing :)

  75. I have been reading this post a couple of times now. I keep coming back to it, because as much as I understand the butch identity, I can’t seem to get my head around the stone part. My gf is a butch. She is/were stone. We have a long distance realationship and have a lot of phone sex, where I’ll masturbate and she will talk dirty. After I’ve expressed that pussy exites me too, and I would love to touch her too(phone sex, and irl when we meet), she even started masturbating too over phone sex, which she never did before, and she said she enjoys it now that she knows I enjoy her to do it.

    Thats my point, if you get off by pleasing your parter, then why can’t you see that part of your partners sexual gratification is to see you naked and touch you? Also like you said, your pleasure is more than just located in your clit. Then you’re the ignorant one who think us femmes get off by getting purely fucked. Sounds like what the traditional man gets off to. How would you feel if I were to tell you how my heart would pound, and my body tingle by the thought of touching my partners most private area and letting her feel good, how good I would feel mentally, emotionally, and how much faster it would make me climax myself?

    I dont want to get fucked one-sided. I want to make love, be intimate, and get naked and vulnerable together, having your clit rubbed isnt just enough to have an amazing sexual experience with someone. The same applies to everyone, not only stone butches.

    You didnt really explain why stone butches dosent wanna get naked and touched. The only reasoning I see you’re making is “I just dont like it” and you blaming your identity being sticky? Which is not valid, because like you said, someones identity dosen’t determine what they like in bed. There are even trans men(FTM) who likes to get penetrated in their vagina. (If you dont believe me there is a trans man on youtube who spoke about that.) And of course some transmen who has too much gender dysphoria to even recognize they have a vagina. But a female identifing butch woman, shouldn’t have that kind of dysphoria, and then if thats the reason, then yes, having a dysphoria isn’t healthy, you are sick, and that’s something to be fixed, sorry to say.

    If its about insecurities, how can you justify to not confront your insecurities, by giving yourself such a label like “Stone”, should that label even exist? How selfish and unfair would that be to your partner. Would you still feel the same about not getting touched if you were a guy with a penis?

    Youre saying “I promise, it’s not going to ruin the moment” well guess what, it does. Isn’t the story you started this article with a good example of that?

    You’re right, there’s no room for guilt as long as you act right.
    Of course you can do what you want for whatever reason, but don’t expect to have a good sex life and an understanding partner if your reasons aren’t valid.
    As long as you dont play around with people youre not sexually compatible with. Those of you, should make sure your partner dosent mind you not getting naked, some people could feel used and empty after that kind of one-sided sex. Let them know on beforehand. Dont go to bed with them and touch them and then refuse them to touch you, it can be very damaging to someone.

    As for the situation of my gf, it was about being insecure, and she also admitted that. She expressed concerns of not being a guy, not having a penis, and not being good enough. And she also have a pretty fucked up view in general about what women needs, we had many discussions, as she even claim that the only way to pleasure a woman is by penetration, etc. That’s making me highly offended, and it makes me offended to read here as well that you think the way to get us off is by physical stimulation. I find that you contradict yourself, it’s not really that you get off by pleasuring us, as when you cannot get naked and let us touch you when that’s what some of us gets pleasure from.

    Is there anyone else who can explain to me why some people are like this, set aside its not about insecurities or being narrow-minded about gender roles etc, and given that they have no gender/genitalia dysphoria? Because for me “I just dont like it” is not good enough.
    I hope nothing I said was too offensive, I tried not to judge, and I’m not saying that you are selfish or insecure or close-minded, but I have a hard time to see the reason, so I’m open for a lecture on that, so someone please help me understand that.
    Thank you.

    • How is it not selfish/unfair of the partner to expect to be able to touch someone? I touched on it in my comment below this thread, but basically: society’s culture instills in us a “norm” for body language and encourages those who do not fit into the box are wrong/problems/puzzles/contain deficits/etc. There are many more ways to express intimacy, and if yours is solely through touch, you’re essentially handicapping yourself.

      In regards to the first part of your comment: the author didn’t seem to imply that she was going into sex with people unaware, but rather that the woman quoted at the beginning knew and was insistent upon changing her.

      It’s about seeing the world through someone else’s experiences. But, of course, if you don’t want a partner who doesn’t want you touching them where you want to touch them ,the obvious solution seems to be to not be with them in the first place (at least, if you see no changing on your end).

    • Whoa, I know you wrote this years ago, but I just wanted to leave a reply in case others are still reading.

      Basically what you’re describing is that you enjoy both giving and receiving. Congrats, this puts you with the vast majority of lesbians, so go date one of them. No one is telling you that you shouldn’t enjoy sex that way, have at it. At the same time, you need to respect that not everyone on the planet is wired the same way as you, and that doesn’t make them bad people, they’re just different.

      My partner is a stone butch and can’t figure out why. The why doesn’t ultimately matter though, she just is. Your text sounds kind of like an angry straight man pressuring a lesbian to date him, saying “but you haven’t given me a good enough reason that you won’t date men, so I’m not going to take no for an answer.” No is a complete sentence, people don’t owe you some psychological explanation that satisfies your curiosity in order to be allowed to live their lives the way that makes them happy.

      The way I try and relate to my partners boundaries is to remember that I have boundaries as well. I’m not interested in any kind of anal sex. It doesn’t matter to me that other people love it, it just doesn’t feel good physically or psychologically. If I was with a partner who kept badgering me for it, calling me selfish and uninterested in making them happy, we’d break up in a second.

  76. This is something I relate to a lot — I’m not any sort of butch (I don’t know what I am, because I’m not super feminine?). But in autistic, and so I understand that being touched can be weird. I’m not so great at touching other people, either, and so I don’t understand it when others get upset over stone butches not wanting to be touched. I only learned about them last month because I read about someone upset because she couldn’t “fix” her girlfriend, but…to me, it’s a no-brainer. I feel like the world puts a lot of pressure on what is considered normal in terms of touching others, too — I mean, it’s body language — and encourages us to see people who don’t want to be touched in whatever circumstances as deficits/puzzles to be solved/objects to be fixed.

    Intimacy extends beyond sex and being touched, and if this is how you receive pleasure and all that jazz, well, right on. ??

    • Also, if what brings you pleasure is pleasing your partner, how is that such a bad thing? That’s what I don’t understand. ? (I guess because I would be fine with it, so long as kissing and holding hands weren’t off the table.)

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  78. I feel like there’s a chasm between getting off on getting your partner off and not wanting to be touched. The former doesn’t necessarily have to do with the latter, I call it being a ‘service top’. Not wanting to be touched by another person is 100% abnormal (not in a bad way, just literally not the norm). Doesnt mean that it shouldn’t be respected, I’m a sex-repulsed asexual and hate being shamed for being intimacy-repulsed, but it definitely isn’t just a normal thing that you can be born with. Asexuality can (and often does) exist separate from intimacy repulsion, because intimacy repulsion is learned. I’m rambling at this point, so my point is that service topping and intimacy repulsion aren’t the same, and that intimacy repulsion is 100% something abnormal but that doesnt mean one should be shamed for feeling that way.

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  80. Thank you so much for this post!
    You’ve described how I feel when making love to my partner perfectly!
    I’ve only recently discovered this about myself. I thought there was something wrong with me, this whole time. These whole 33 years. But I think it’s beautiful how I’ve come to the conclusion when I hit 33 tomorrow. Beautiful how the Universe works. I also finally told my current gf, and she’s the first person Ive ever been able to talk to about this with. It was always something in the back of my mind. So thank you again!

  81. You are a beautiful writer with a wonderful gift!! Kudos to you. Keep doing what you love! And keep being yourself!

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