View From The Top: It’s Like 10,000 Femme Tops When All You Need Is A Bottom

Feature image by Tambako the Jaguar via

More than ten years ago now, I was 26, newly moved to New York City, and newly single. I was deep in the puzzle of figuring out how to be the “kinky queer butch top” that I knew myself to be, and I hadn’t quite gotten there in practice. I stumbled into a fun social group of queers, and we supported each other through dating and healing and figuring out how to be grown ups.

Now that I’ve set the scene for you, let’s watch what happened on a typical night:

I pause outside before I walk into another queer bar. I study my reflection in the dark shop window next door, smoothing my hair that came out of place on the walk and subway ride here, tugging down my black button-down over my heavily bound chest, tucking it into my dark blue-brown jeans. I fuss with the knot of my tie, checking it’s symmetrical, smoothing my collar. I take some deep breaths.

Dip me in honey and throw me to the lesbians, says a sign on the door.

There are a few queer folks outside, shoulders up, one hand shoved into a pocket, the other pinching a half-smoked cigarette. Coiffed, stylish short haircuts, skinny jeans, boots — most of the folks inside have a kind of in-between gender presentation, something genderqueer or androgynous. I feel out of place already. I know many dykes think that the lesbian community is full of butches and femmes, but the butch/femme folks I know feel like we are less common, misunderstood and outsiders. I’ve been told “it’s not drag night” by sneering queers checking IDs at the doors of dyke clubs. I’ve been told to stop “acting like a man” or that I should just “transition already and stop fooling yourself.”

I’m here because I’m still single. I know things about myself, solid things, things that seem like they might remain true for a while, though I know academically that gender and sexual orientation are fluid and could fluctuate: that I identify as butch, that I feel most comfortable in very masculine clothing but don’t want to transition, that I want to date and partner with femmes, that I’m mostly stone and definitely a top, that I want to strap on for 75 percent of our sex life, maybe more. I crave intimacy. I crave building something deep, something real, with someone. I crave a partner.

So I’m at another queer bar on another Thursday night. I know some friends inside, when I finally get my heart rate to go down enough to walk in. The crowds make my head spin. The loud music makes my cunt pound. I will order some whiskey on the rocks, but only two at first, I tell myself, because after the third drink, the fourth and fifth seem like a really good idea, and that becomes too many. Maybe I’ll have a third when I know it’s about time to go.

I’m getting better at flirting with girls at bars. Sometimes I dare myself to talk to the sexiest girl in the room. A friend of mine in college told me, “No girls are good at flirting, at showing interest. But that’s why we’re all here, we’re all searching to get laid, or maybe more. So really it just takes the guts to actually make it obvious and ask.” So I practice asking. I practice being obvious.

“Hey, this is kind of forward, but can I buy you a drink?”
“Hey, I noticed your heels, they’re really amazing.”
“Hey, you look familiar, did I just meet you at that party last weekend?”
“Hey, my friends dared me to tell you that I think you’re the hottest person here. So, um, hi.”

Sometimes those opening lines even work, starting a conversation that led to exchanging numbers or emails, or to making out, or to sharing a cab back to her place or mine.

Tonight, I’m exhausted and worn down. I have overdue bills and I’ve clocked too many hours this week. I can’t figure out how to balance my expenses with my income. I can’t figure out how to afford that new strap-on. I have so many things to write about and I don’t know where to start. I accidentally stalked two different exes on Facebook and now I feel stupid and desperate. Not exactly coming from a place brimming with confidence, but I let my friends talk me in to meeting them for a drink before heading home.

I find my friends: a mixed-race femme in a party dress and heels, a white androgynous dyke with a spiky 80s haircut, a handful of single masculine-of-center white queers, and two white femmes who just slept together for the first time last week and can’t keep their hands off each other. I set down my coat. I make the long walk from our back table to the bar to seek a drink, taking in different clusters, looking for sexy femmes who might be scanning the room and looking for someone like me.

As I wait for the bartender’s attention, a stunning tall blonde wedges her way in next to me, also trying to get the bartender’s attention. We look each other up and down through our side glances. She introduces herself with a serious handshake: “I’m Joy.” (That’s not her real name.) We join forces, and clink our two glasses of whiskey together. She works in publishing. I tell her I’m a writer, but she hasn’t read anything of mine. Yet. We know some of the same lesbian writers. She orders me another drink. We find a dark corner and flirt, she touches my forearms and gives me that look from under her eyelashes as she sips her whiskey with a straw. I knock mine back.

Later, after my friends have moved to another bar and I decide to stay to see where this leads, she says it’s about time for her to get going. I get my coat and walk outside with her. “Which train do you need to catch?” I ask.

“Oh, you’re coming home with me,” she says, as she looks out on to the busy street and hails a cab with one raise of her arm. “Or don’t you want to?”

I raise my eyebrows, feeling the familiar tightening in my gut, nervousness: What will this be like? How will our bodies fit together? What will she want to do? What will she taste like?

That night, I am reminded of a lesson I seem to need to relearn every couple of months: When I let girls pick me up, they are not necessarily bottoms. And what I want, what I really really want, is a femme who is a bottom, who wants to submit.

Certainly that isn’t always true — there are plenty of submissives or bottoms who are very good at pick-up play, who are bold and dynamic in their flirting, who know how to flirt, how to get someone’s attention and what to do with it once they have it. Some people think that it’s hard to flirt as a bottom, but I think there are plenty of ways to show interest and still display submission. Besides, social personality doesn’t necessarily dictate someone’s sexual power dynamic preference. Sometimes tops are very shy, and sometimes bottoms are boisterous and commandeering.

But for some reason, when I get into my shy overwhelmed mode, I don’t come across as a brooding top as much as I hope. This isn’t the first time it’s happened — Joy is one of multiple femmes who tends to be aggressive in bed that I’ve messed around with this year, and she probably won’t be the last. While my stone-ness is sometimes challenged, and it takes more navigating and negotiating, it also can be a lot of fun.

Ultimately, when I tell my friends at brunch about it over the weekend, I tell them that it’s not really what I want. It’s fun, but it’s just for now.

“Don’t settle,” they urge me. And they’re right — I’m letting that aching single hole be filled by someone who isn’t quite right for me because something often feels better than nothing, even though the something then takes the space for the thing that I do actually want to show up.

In order to get what I want, I have to say no to things that I don’t want, I write in my journal in big letters. I put it on a Post-it and stick it to my mirror. I read it in the mornings as I get ready, and I repeat it like a mantra and a pep-talk outside of dyke bars.

There’s nothing wrong with having some random play, particularly if it’s clear that that’s all it is. And there’s nothing wrong with playing outside of my comfort zone or preferred power dynamic. The problem is that it’s taking away from me moving closer to what I really do want. While I shouldn’t automatically assume that girls who express interest in me are going to be toppy or switchy, I also need to decide that if I’m going to keep flirting with them, I should probably make it clear that I’m a top, and ask them what they’re into, before I decide if I want to play or not.

The bigger issue, perhaps, is that unless I’m in dominance-and-submission-focused space, I’m not necessarily going to find submissives. I believe being a top or a bottom is a scale like the Kinsey scale, and most people aren’t pure 0s or pure 6s — the vast majority of people fall somewhere in the middle. Likewise, most queers at any random dyke bar are not necessarily going to be tops or bottoms — they might not even identify as kinky in more than a passing way. They are more likely to be folks who take turns, or who switch, or who like to spice up sex occasionally with kink but who aren’t rooted in it.

But I don’t want someone occasionally dabbling in kink: I want a lifestyle submissive. I want someone who wants to go deep into those D/s identities with me. And I’m going to have to start figuring out a better place to find her.

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Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is “the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queer women” (AfterEllen), who “is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places” (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Sinclair identifies as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor and an introvert. Follow their writings at Sugarbutch Chronicles.

Sinclair has written 43 articles for us.


  1. So much truth. Most places I have been to have a thriving kink community, a big gay (male) scene and few lesbian events. My local area has a lesbian community, but most of the bdsm scene is hetero male/bisexual women. Bisexual women are great, but there are expectations of being involved with a couple. Unicorn hunting is it’s own topic. If some one identifies as a butch, stud or masculine presenting person, that has it’s own set of challenges.

    • I feel that’s the case in most places, that or men(some of whom are not straight) fetishizing trans women.

  2. Omg thank you so so much for this piece ! I think this is the one that resonates the most this far in the series. As a bottom who’s finally confident to go out and ASK for what I want, I struggle with this impression that I have that everyone is a bottom and that I can’t find a top, or they’re all already taken. And as someone who wants to go and be bold and ask, I worry too that it won’t read “submissive” enough.

    The link you provided is gold <3.

  3. “Don’t settle,” they urge me. And they’re right — I’m letting that aching single hole be filled by someone who isn’t quite right for me because something often feels better than nothing, even though the something then takes the space for the thing that I do actually want to show up.”

    Oof, this hit me with too much truth. Thanks. Will be putting up a similar post-it note mantra when I get home!

    • Ditto. I am letting a toxic girl keep messing with my mind because I feel so hopeless. I know it’s stupid and that I know better but it feels better than the complete silence I usually experience ?

    • Was just coming down to the comments to quote that line. Sinclair, that’s a beautiful epiphany. It’s one of those realizations that shakes up your life; it’s definitely worth of a post-it on the mirror. I want to repeat it until I memorize it.

      • I don’t understand how two people who are consent of what they would like would ever be misogyny. I live in a very D/s relationship with my partner and that’s great for both of us. Telling people they shouldn’t be themselves should never be ok. It took me a long time to understand that I’m not a freak for being kinky. Don’t shove people back in the closet, any closer just because you don’t agree with their idea of sex or relationships. It’s two (or more) consenting adults.

      • That too. But this display of arrogance has a context and history I can’t comfortably ignore.

        This person has a gross sense of entitlement… Not just to people in general (which would be creepy enough on its own) but this person acts entitled to specifically femme bodies, which is why I employ the word “misogyny.”

        This is an empty, vapid post full of whining about how the world isn’t giving the author more femme bodies to dominate.

        The femmes in this post aren’t allowed to have alternate kinks or sexualities which the author doesn’t approve of (or any personalities as far as I can tell– who ARE femmes to Mr. Sexsmith besides outlets for his aggressive domineering brand of sexuality?)

        I’m going to watch Lemonade for a while to get this taste out of my mouth tbh

        • Wait this person is a dude? I thought Sexsmith was trans masculine person who used she pronouns.

          • This person uses he, she, and they pronouns from what I have seen.

            Also, maybe she should go after a trans feminine person. They are willing to what you ask.

        • I think it’s interesting that the comments from you reek of arrogance to me. Maybe this is a personal rant from someone who maybe knows Sinclair in real life, but either way, ad hominem attacks just aren’t a good way to get your point across. Not using someone’s preferred gender pronouns is especially a bullshit way to make your point.

          Are you a submissive femme? Because I am, and Sinclair’s writing makes me feel honored. It doesn’t give me the sick feeling in my gut I get in spaces like Fetlife, where submissive = devoid of any personal choices or personality. Where in this essay was there any mention of women not being allowed to have altnernate kinks and personalities, was it where they wrote “And there’s nothing wrong with playing outside of my comfort zone or preferred power dynamic”?

          I’ve been reading Sugarbutch for a long time, and they’ve always let the personality of their beloved partners in their life come through loud and clear. Rife (who is in a relationship with Sinclair and commented below), has such a clear, distinct voice on their blog—despite being in a full time Master/slave relationship together, they (Rife) very clearly are “allowed” to have their own relationship.

          Good luck with your Beyonce, though.

        • Really? This is literally the opposite of what they just said. They are saying that they had to challenge their own views about femmes not always being submissive. In D/s relationships it’s commonly held that the sub has all the power. I can stop everything with one word, one motion. That’s part of what makes real BSDM different then Fifty Shades of Grey.

      • That’s an interesting interpretation, but I feel like we were reading different pieces. I think the nervousness and fear and anxiety described in the story are antithetical to arrogance, which is the opposite; a braggardish confidence in one’s own ability.

        Sexsmith says: “now I feel stupid and desperate. Not exactly coming from a place brimming with confidence.”

        …What is your definition of arrogance?

        • I’d say it’s more self-indulgence (and misogyny) than outright arrogance, it more or less seems to be the transmasculine variation of the straight man’s complaint that all of the women he meets are their own people rather than his idealised version. Hell, it’s self-indulgent and kinda gross for a transmasculine person to even be writing articles on a site about girl-on-girl culture, and it certainly doesn’t say anything good about their/the site’s/the community’s attitudes towards trans women :/

          • (to Al, since the reply button on their post isn’t showing up and I don’t know where it’ll put this…)

            When you have a space, a website, whatever, that’s aimed at women, that shouldn’t include transmasculine people and especially shouldn’t include trans men, ’cause including them is saying that trans people aren’t really the gender we say we are. It’s a more insidious version of the whole “trans women are really men and/or not really women” trope that has plagued women’s/lesbian/feminist spaces for decades (and which often still floats around within those spaces despite formal statements to the contrary).

            It’s related to another thing that a lot of transmasculine people do – asserting access to femininity/womanhood in exactly those circumstances where it benefits them, while still expecting to be treated as men (or at least as not-women) and maintaining access to the lion’s share of male privilege. Trans women are often pushed out of women’s spaces at the mere (and invariably false) suggestion that we might be doing anything like that, while transmasculine people are rewarded for it.

          • As an amab trans queer person I very much agree with what you said, and thankful that Autostraddle is very trans woman positive(though it never hurts to have more trans women writing for the site). Personally, I don’t mind the work from afamb genderqueer folks as it’s still in some ways has helped me better understand who I am.

          • Gatekeeping that transmasculine people aren’t allowed in this space really disgusts me. Autostraddle is explicitly beyond “girl on girl”, from the “What is AS?” page: “We are a trans-friendly website and aim to make Autostraddle an accepting and supportive environment for queer trans women. Although Autostraddle is a website created for and primarily aimed at lesbian, bisexual and queer women (cis and trans) and always will be, as the community evolves we also are starting to include work by and about non-binary-identified folks in our community.”

            So instead of trying to assert that transmasculine people aren’t welcome here, perhaps you’d be better served on a less progressive and welcoming community.

            (Also, Sinclair prefers they/them and does not identify as a man, just really disgusted at all the misgendering happening in this comment thread, that type of disrespect is toxic.)

          • It’s bizarre that you think trans women have the power to do any sort of “gatekeeping”; we do not have and have never had that type or degree of power. In fact, the demise of women’s spaces – either through closure or through alteration into spaces also for transmasculine people – is pretty well correlated with trans women gaining either secure access to those spaces or enough support that continuing to push us out becomes impractical. In other words, it looks an *awful* lot a last-ditch effort to deny us womanhood and limit our ability to assert ourselves to have as strong a right to be in those spaces as any other woman does. As a result we are effectively still denied access to women’s spaces – this time through their destruction and, apparently, people being “disgusted” (a term with one hell of a transmisogynist history, incidentally) with us and declaring us less “progressive” when we speak up about it.

          • Okay cool, so when I said I was disgusted by you misgendering Sinclair, you took that to mean that I’m disgusted by trans people.

            Bless your heart, you’re like ADVANCED level strawman argument troll. A+++ would be trolled by again.

          • cool, dubious allegations of misgendering and trolling are an awesome excuse for ignoring all critique of your transmisogynist attitude, i mean far be it from trans women to have a goddamn opinion about anything

  4. I’m going to say it again.

    This post is a display of gross entitlement… To femme bodies. Which is misogyny and feeds other breeds of misogyny.

    This post is full of whining about how the world somehow owes the author femme bodies to be dominated.

    Femmes only appear in this post as a collection of body parts and sexual proclivities.

    I don’t care about being seen as a troll or being seen as unsexy or un-fun by pointing this out.

    I don’t care if you and your boo have the happiest healthiest BDSM relationship the world has ever seen (and if so why do you need to defend yourself? This post isn’t aimed at you.)

    • This is a great articulation of why this and similar sentiments are problematic. I’ve read some of this author’s other essays before and never understood the appeal. Thanks for being brave enough to express yourself and risk being labeled a troll in a space where we’re all aware a comment like this will be frowned upon, to say the least.

      • It’s fine. Being femme and sex-critical and a survivor is almost never a recipe for popularity.

    • Hi, femme NSFW editor here! To say that the femmes in the post are denied their sexualities is, in fact, to deny them – at no point does the author say that they are the sole person able to approve of another’s sexuality; instead, the point is that it’s hard to find people who match up with you, easy to spend a lot of time with people who don’t, and hard to find what you want out there, especially in this case as a kinky human into specific consensual things. It’s totally okay that you, personally, do not want complementary or similar things – you don’t have to! (It is awful that at one point it seems like someone told you that you had to.) No type of consensual relationship between people with agency is better or worse than any other kind. That’s not the point. The point is that this is one person’s journey to finding their kinky self. I fail to see where in the post you’re reading misogyny, arrogance, or anything similar. Please feel free and encouraged to head elsewhere if it’s not your cup of tea.

    • I’m sorry, but I don’t hear that at all. I don’t hear entitlement, and I don’t hear misogyny.

      What I *do* hear is one person exploring and owning their desire and being willing to take the risk of sharing their personal story with unknown readers on the Internet. That sounds to me like courage, interior freedom, and integrity. Please, I’d like to hear more of that.

  5. What did you come to expect from a site that values trans masculine folks over the voices of real women? Or from a site that is suppose to be about women, but rarely includes real women. Or a site that wants to be radical, but really is just a bad mix of Maxim, Vogue, and Cosmo. I’ve take more radical shits in the past month than this site has posted good articles. And this is a great example of that bad mix. To echo V, this is pretty much upholding the patriarchy and all the awful shit men without repercussions(like asking me if I need help at a store). Not to mention proving straight people ideas that all women in the gay community have the masculine and feminine dichotomy. V is so right! More power to real radicals, and not this entitlement shit.

    • Sure, but trans women are real women to me.

      I wish trans masculine folk (esp. White trans masculine ppl) would remember they’re real men. With all the baggage that entails.

      • As they are to me, but what I mean is people who don’t id as women. Not to mention the slant is from people who don’t id as women, but were assigned female baby, who are into women(like the author here). If that’s okay, then why not articles from people who don’t id as women, but were assigned male baby, who are into women?

        • Uh…huh?

          I don’t mean to get into a whole thing, but a pretty cursory look at AS’s back few pages show that their articles are written by a pretty diverse group of LGBTQ+ people, most of whom identify as female.

    • the rest of your comment aside, we’re aware it hasn’t been our BEST month ever article-wise and we’re working on it, there’s a lot of outside factors going into that situation.

      • Into what situation? The lack of radical aspirations? Or the fact your site is becoming the worse part of a mix of Maxim, cosmo, and Vogue magazine?

        • the situation of it not being AS’s strongest month ever, content-wise.
          i will not be addressing the remainder of your accusations/questions

          • The fact you are even calling them accusations and saying this months articles haven’t been the best, says this site is having some internal issues. Maybe it has to do with some writers, maybe it has to do with something else. But, to deny some of the valid points here is also a problem. Either way for your sake I hope this site improves cause there are so many other places trying to take you down, and it’s slowly working.

          • ummm…. ok, well, we’ve published lots of ridiculously awesome things this month (like this post), i just meant we haven’t published as many ridiculously awesome special mind-blowing things as usual. like we’ve literally published less posts per day than usual. so, math. this is because it’s the month before camp, which means almost our entire staff is doing two jobs at once, most of us only have time for writing and editing our regulars and columns. there are no “internal issues” besides all of us wearing too many hats due to financial constraints, which has always been true.

            and sorry but anybody who would look at a place like this and what we’ve all put our hearts and souls into and talk about other places trying to “take us down” with such malice is not somebody who i imagine truly has our best interests in mind.

          • This feels like the equivalent of Riese showing up to a party and saying “I’m sorry, I only brought beer, whiskey, three types of juice, and gluten-free vegan snacks for everyone. The store was out of champagne.”

    • Sexsmith probs has a wider readership in their main blog, unfort. includes more trolls

      • Glad someone agrees she has problems, I don’t get how autostradle who once called out misogyny in the queer non-men community can accept this trash.

      • That’s my guess too – I’m not seeing anything in the post that warrants the reaction it’s getting.

      • Nah. If I want to make 2, or 3, or 50 comments on a post I’ll do it all under my own name because that’s how little I give a shit, honestly.

        • If you wish for us to believe that than try not to make the same grammatical mistakes in the posts of the other screen names.

          • Whatever. Believe what you want. Literally I just said “stop treating femmes like pieces of meat” and y’all aren’t even engaging with that. It’s interesting (lol not really) that you’re accusing me of lying, which is the oldest trick in the book used to silence survivors.

          • That’s cause even in queer lady communities we treat femme women/folks the same way most, if not all dudes treat them.

          • it’s weird that a site staffed almost entirely by femmes, tomboy femmes and femme-of-center folks would be accused of “treating femmes like pieces of meat,” maybe that’s why nobody is engaging? this column specifically is edited by our femme NSFW Editor, so

  6. This article makes me want to know/never know what three adjective shorthand my friends have for me.

  7. These posts are important because they could be speaking to those queer grrls who haven’t figured themselves all out just yet, but are trying to. It’s another voice, another life, that may resonate.

    It’s important to be able to voice desires. There’s nothing wrong with Sexsmith having and owning their desires. D/s is consensual, between two adults. Meaning someone out there does want to be a submissive femme bottom and deeply wants and needs a queer butch Dom. That’s not misogyny. Nothing is assumed here. Sexsmiths attitude isn’t one of entitlement, only one of expressing their desires and being brave enough to not settle for anything less.

    They talk about their own fragility, their vulnerabilities, their raw humanness. That doesn’t look like arrogant misogyny to me.

    Honestly through reading sexsmiths posts over the years I adore their honesty. I adore their voice. And to see the way they sometimes talk about women, it appears to me as a form of worship. Goddess worship, femme worship, something fucking beautiful.

    • Oh my god, there are alternatives to this though. Love does NOT mean more if it is violent, it is NOT deeper or more meaningful that way. The people who treated me the worst were also the ones that called me goddess, queen, beautiful girl, good girl. I endured so much trying to live up to that. Those words were often their way of trying to assuage their guilt at hurting me. You do not have to collect bruises and get smacked or held down or peed on or humiliated to earn respect. You are worthy inherently. You can even be worshiped if you want and it doesn’t have to hurt.

      You do not have to accept this treatment just because it adds an extra frisson to your sex and you’re scared they’ll leave if you don’t give them good sex, the kind they like.

      Behind closed doors a lot of subs will admit they are submissives for kind of scary reasons: because they’re scared of losing the Dom/ because they were raised with abuse and they don’t know how to decouple love and violence/ because the culture around them makes it seem like BDSM is mandatory.

      • Ah! There we go! NOW we get to the heart of the matter. It sounds like you’ve had some really unfortunate partnerships that may have used BDSM as a cover for abuse. There are those of us (and there are *a lot* of us!) that choose to engage in these relationships consensually. I’m sorry that you’ve had the experiences with it that you’ve had… But it’s not appropriate to shit on someone else’s vulnerability and retelling of their history (because this is a look into the past, not current time… You may not know that if you haven’t been reading the column) because your experience was fucked up. Mx. Sexsmith is/was not the perpetrator of your abuse, nor do they, by anything of theirs I’ve EVER read, believe femmes are “an assembly of body parts”, instead they work hard to dismantle butch and queer misogyny both within themselves and within the larger queer culture through their writing.

        On a different note, I think there is this automatic expectation that butches, MOC folk, and transmasculine folk are misogynist just by their nature of being masculine. I find that to be bullshit. Are there misogynist MOC folk? Yep. As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, queer culture is a microcosm, not a utopia. Are all (or most) MOC folk misogynist? Fuck no.

        • “BDSM as a cover for abuse” isn’t really a thing with respect to specific relationships though, it sets up this false idea that BDSM can’t be abusive and the problem lies elsewhere, when BDSM itself can be just as abusive as any other kind of sex/relationship/whatever (and I say this as someone who thinks that BDSM is also capable of being fucking amazing). BDSM-liking people in general have way too much faith in the ability of our consent infrastructure to resist circumvention, distortion, manipulation, and even outright co-option by predators and abusers, and when that happens we’re *really* bad at taking collective responsibility for allowing it to fail people.

          The whole “goddess”/”worship” thing is definitely a red flag to me ’cause it’s often a means of control and manipulation and it’s super-reminiscent of men putting women on a pedestal. I feel like it’s potentially even one of those oppression-shaped things that should only ever be initiated by the person from the oppressed class. Certainly if someone started talking to me in those terms on their own initiative, however tentatively, my first instinct would be to assume that they’re a chaser and to stay the hell away.

          Also my experience as a trans woman is that yes, most transmasculine people are misogynist in general (about the same as cis men) and also transmisogynist in particular (more so than cis men). It may be subtle or it may be blatant but it’s there more often than not. Butch women seem much the same as any other women though, maybe even a little more reliable at standing up for trans women.

          • My implication wasn’t that the BDSM subculture was free from abusive individual (again, microcosm, not utopia). But BDSM is based on consent, period. When it’s manipulated and co-opted, it ceases to be BDSM and becomes abuse.

            Yes, there are times when people within BDSM fail to speak up about abuse. I can’t speak for those people. I *can* speak to the fact I sit on the leadership board for a patched Leather club and also run my own group; in those spaces abusers are not tolerated and I’ve taken pitchforks and torches to drive them out of my community–successfully.

            I’ve not noticed transmasculine folk being “as much or more” misogynist as cis-men… And I’m pretty familiar with that community, as I have a trans brother. This may vary region to region, of course, but that’s been the opposite of my experience. Most transmasculine folk have been considered female for at least some portion of their lives and have felt that oppression, so the ones I’ve encountered tend to remember that sting and keep it in mind, working counter to those systems.

          • Hi T-6000 sending love to you. I can see how gross chasers might use BDSM to express their transphobia. Absolutely awful demonic behavior you’ve just described.

            And yes. You said it better than I could. The BDSM community is not interested in accountability and will often cater to abusers.

          • You can’t just define BDSM to be only the times when it’s not abusive, that’s like if straight people said “it ceases to be heterosexuality and becomes abuse”. Things don’t stop being BDSM, heterosexuality, or whatever else just ’cause they’re being done abusively, and predators are damn good at flipping “if it’s abuse, it’s not BDSM” into “it’s BDSM, so it’s not abuse” and ticking all of the consent boxes without getting anything actually resembling ongoing consent.

            Part of the reason predators are often so capable of manipulating the usual BDSM consent infrastructure is that those consent frameworks look damn good on paper, but both SSC and RACK have been around for a long time and predators have adapted to take advantage of their weaknesses while we’ve been pretty slow about countering that. Some of these weaknesses are related to the standard rape myths (nasty things like “she decided after the fact that she didn’t like it” are deployed way more commonly – and effectively – than we tend to think) but others are specific to BDSM (things like “true subs do/don’t…”, “re-negotiation”, and manipulating some non-predatory BDSM people’s desire for vindication in the eyes of wider society).

            Like, it’s great that you’re kicking known abusers out the door and that’s a really important thing to do (and often surprisingly difficult, especially if they’re popular), but there’s other really important stuff that needs to be done too – it’s the job of the whole community, and especially the people in positions of influence – to ensure that everyone feels safe enough to speak out about abuse. When someone doesn’t feel safe speaking out, that’s the community failing, not the person who was abused. In any case, there are enough reports of abuse not being dealt with properly that it’s fair to say that by and large, BDSM communities are dropping the ball, especially on the prevention side of things.

            As for transmasculine misogyny, it’s often hard to spot at first (especially if they’re using the “have been considered female” thing as a shield). Looking out for transmasculine people repeatedly interrupting or talking over women or controlling the flow of conversation is a good start (a slight variation you might see is a transmasculine person waiting for a woman to stop speaking, then saying “anyway…” and going straight back to their own preferred topic). That can sometimes be a warning sign for more serious misogyny. A lot of transmasculine people also tend to co-opt transfeminine language, concepts, and issues when it’s convenient, and/or take over general trans identities (for example there’s very little space for transfeminine people to identify as genderqueer any more because transmasculine people have been so effective at centering themselves within that concept). Needless to say, transmasculine people also massively benefit from misogyny and especially transmisogyny in (formerly) women’s spaces.

        • Yes I was abused. Congrats. My question to you: Why are you choosing to have someone in your life who is violent towards you? (Does the context of sex really make it that different? Never did for me. Sayin.)

          I’ve asked this question many times to other “subs” and never really received a satisfactory answer. Instead I’ve received a lot of defensiveness and then later on after they break up, whoops, turns out they were abusive all along after all.

          How does this happen? The mechanism is violence. It may start out consensual but I’ve never seen it end that way.

          • Probably you’ve never received a satisfactory answer because you’re not interesting in engaging with anyone. You’ve been told again and again here that our choice to be subs works for us and is consensual.

            We believe you that BDSM is not for you. YOU don’t believe that is IS for us.

            What’s more misogynistic, two partners engaging in power play, or YOU telling every woman here that counters you that we can’t possibly be consenting to it? Hint: it’s the latter.

            You can have your opinion, you can have your experience, but you can fuck off with your belief that no one else can have a different experience than you. No one cares that you don’t want to have the kind of sex we have, and no one begrudges you the right to have the sex you want.

          • “Why are you choosing to have someone in your life who is violent towards you?”

            Because receiving a really good spanking is incredibly satisfying.

          • It sounds to me that you don’t enjoy BDSM and have a hard time separating it from abuse, or understanding the people that engage in it. That’s a legit stance, but blasting people that have (repeatedly) said they choose, consensually, to engage in BDSM is denying them their right to autonomy and is the antithesis of feminist (and, for that matter, queer) values. It’s how I (and many others) *choose* to be in the world, and that choice, understood or not, deserves to be respected.

            You asked me why I choose to have someone in my life that’s violent towards me. It’s quite hard to articulate, but I’ll give it my best go. BDSM isn’t just about violence. It’s about give and take between two (or more) people. It’s not someone taking nonconsensually; if they take, it’s because I’ve given them permission to, which is how it is fundamentally different than abuse. It’s about fucking the way I want to fuck and be fucked. It’s about the deliberate exchange of power between someone(s) I trust with my life, and vice versa. It’s a gigantic FUCK YOU! to the systems of oppression that try to box in and snuff out and steal power from those of us it feels are outside of its norms. It’s a reminder that *I* control my life and my body and *I* choose what- and who with- happens to it. Its political. Its spiritual. It’s reclamation. It’s strength. It’s beauty. It’s power. It feels good. Its fucking *HOT*. It’s what gets me harder and wetter than anything else, and as long as it’s between two or more consenting adults, that alone is enough… But it’s so much more than that.

      • This is going to have some personal TMI about sex and genitalia, so please feel free to skip it if you’d rather.

        The goddess worship thing creeps me out, too – a goddess by definition isn’t a human with feelings – and I’m pretty fucking wary of lifestyle power exchange or any sort of BDSM where the two parties aren’t generally equals that like to play some weird-ass games with each other once in a while.

        But people being pressured into doing things they don’t want to do applies across the board. I’m… I’m not sure if dysphoric is the right word, but I wish I didn’t have a vagina, and it’s incredibly unpleasant for me when people interact with my vagina during sex. Being fingered is supposed to be nice for the person it’s happening to, but it is horrible for me. I’ve never been peed on, but if I had to pick between being peed on and having someone put things in my vagina, I’d probably take the pee because it would be over faster. And yet, I’ve let every partner I’ve had put things in my vagina, and sometimes even encouraged them to, because I felt like it was what I had to do in order to be loved. Alternatives (non-violent alternatives, I might add) that did work for me existed, but I kept quiet about them because I thought no one would want to be with me if I couldn’t be normal enough. I did not have a great childhood. I wasn’t sexually abused, but the way I was raised absolutely harmed my ability to tell people no.

        Are people who practice BDSM in the submissive role more likely to be pressured into unwanted sex acts than other people? I don’t know, maybe? There are a lot of horrible people involved in the BDSM scene, but there are a lot of horrible people involved in the general population, too. It’s probably a good idea for people who want to be submissive to approach BDSM with the awareness that a lot of people involved in the community are terrible, and that consent is vital and being aware of your boundaries and being able to assert them is vital, and it’s really, really important to have people in your corner who understand these things and respect you and who you can talk to when you’re worried something is wrong. But… those things are important for anyone who’s having sex or dating at all, even if the sex they want to have falls perfectly within the normal range. The presence of coerced subs isn’t surprising at all, because the BDSM community would have to be better than the rest of the world to have less coercion in it, and given that it’s a demonized subculture, of course it’s going to do the thing that every demonized subculture does, which is protect itself from outside criticism. That sucks, but it’s not unique to BDSM, and people who are really enthusiastic about BDSM and also really enthusiastic about creating a culture of consent exist. I’ve got recs if you’re interested.

        I mean, I’m sex-critical, too, but don’t fall into the trap where the weird stuff has to be better than the normal stuff, and if it doesn’t, it’s bad for being weird. If it involves sex and humans and the patriarchy, it’s going to be awful at least sometimes.

        • I agree with a lot of your comment, but like… unfortunately, there are tops who can get manipulated and coerced too. Idk if it’s as often or less, but yes, you can totally have a relationship in which the bottom would like X sexual act for their pleasure and then blackmail their partner in the “if you don’t do X i’ll leave you” or whatever. That is not a thing that tops are protected from by virtue of their role.

          • Right. Bottoms would also have to be better than literally every other population to never sexually coerce anyone ever, so it’s no surprise they do it sometimes, too. I didn’t mean to imply that they didn’t, or that bottoms couldn’t be coerced.

          • Thank you for your support, and I’m glad you enjoy what I have to say, but my gender issues aren’t beautiful, and neither is sexual coercion.

      • I am very sorry those things happened to you.

        I am a submissive femme bottom who has not had any of those experiences (which I realize makes me fortunate). Many of us do come to our sexuality authentically and not out of fear.

  8. Indont usually write on the link posts (probably due to some internalized shame about my attraction to kinky sex that I need to work through), but given the debate happening here I just wanted to chime in:

    I loved this essay.

    I’ve loved every essay in this series (and in accompanying series about being a bottom) that has been published so far.

    I find Sinclair Sexsmith to be an engaging, and most relevant to the conversation happening today- a RESPECTFUL- writer.

    I identify strongly as a femme, some would even call me a high femme. But I don’t think that embracing masculine traits has to be associated with mysoginy. And I’m always uncomfortable in queer spaces when that type of blurring happens, so. There’s that.

    I understand myself as femme and it’s important to me. So I have no problem with someone who identifies as butch or stone butch or AG or stud. If that person is respectful and kind, then that is what matters. Especially in bedroom play, or 24/7 Ds lifestyle. But also outside of those spaces as well.

    Anyway, I always find Sinclair’s writing to be insightful. I often also find it incredibly sexy.

    So those are my 25cents on the issue.

    • Grr! I should’ve done a proof reading. Lots of autocorrect sabatoge in this post, but hopefully my point and support of Sinclair still came across.

    • I mean, if anything, this article was written like an erotica piece, or the intro anyway, I recognized and enjoy the style

  9. Thank you so much for writing this. It’s helpful to know that other tops can be shy, nervous and overwhelmed too. I don’t usually show it, but it’s often there inside.


    I’m sorry, I’m such a dork.
    I hear you on this SO much. Finding space for genuine D/s identity exploration (not just dabbling in it occasionally, making it a real part of one’s relationship) between queer women is an impossible combination it seems sometimes. Most kink spaces are very binary, and as a bottom whenever I go to a munch, as a femme presenting bottom it’s assumed I’m straight. But then in queer spaces, it’s always that “one never knows” when you’re going out courting if the person you’re interested in will be receptive to kink…not just receptive, but actively a willing participant.
    I also am sorry that there is still such internalized discrimination of butch women. The community needs to be more grateful to the women like you who have the strength (and struggle) of constant visibility, and who back in the day started it all making a name for us as a community…we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for old school butch/femme dynamic paving the way.

    This is an amazing article. You are not the only queer woman feeling frustrated and perplexed by this. I truly wish there was greater visibility of butch and queer women in kink spaces, (selfishly because those are the Tops I adore) but largely also for sake of visibility, to show that there can be space for our many intersectional sexual identifies…that kink isn’t limited to binary, and queer space can be safe to explore things like D/s.
    (And uhhh…if you want to chat serious kink with a high femme experienced submissive…I’m on FL :)

      • (I mean I was also like *raises hand, waves* at this article…)

        And although I am bi, I only ever manage to pull straight male tops at kink events. Femme invisibility I guess.

        I really appreciated the link re: flirting while subby.

        (Also on FL if you want to chat!)

  11. I love this series and really appreciate how willing the author is to show their vulnerability. Beautifully written as always :)

  12. I belong to a part of the BDSM community that doesn’t get a lot of time or even respect, particularly from “purists”, I’m a SWITCH (hate the fucking name, but it’s the easiest and more recognizable word around).

    Both Sexsmith and Alaina had helped me a lot in the fight against my self-rejection and that internalized shame I’ve always felt whenever I walked into a scene. I really thank you both for this. I’m still dealing with this fight so that’s the reason why I don’t comment a lot on these posts.

    As a switch I can testify that consent is the most powerful thing you can ever find. And it’s not a “meh” or “kinda” thing, it’s an absolute.

    For me, putting the Sexsmith name next to words like misogyny, abuse and such is a far-fetched deranged idea.

    PD: is there some kind of trolls invasion on AS? Because lately I’ve seen a bunch.

  13. i’m really lovin that we are exploring both the femme and butch dynamic. Reading comments made at sinclair, it was like i’d stepped into l chat or something. is this a thing now? dumping on bi, trans and butch/studs? rude

  14. I have no idea what’s going on with the Vs, but it does sound like Sexsmith was looking for something very, very specific in maybe not the best way. It’s fine to have preferences, but make enough non-negotiable demands and you’re ordering a partner like you would a pizza. She has to be femme, she has to be submissive, she has to be so into BDSM that she sees it as a lifestyle, she has to be up for sex involving strap-ons at least 75% of the time… The person described in the article isn’t exactly the person writing the article – it seems to be more about the way they were when they were younger, and checking their blog, it looks like they’re currently dating a masculine person – but the person described in the article is certainly someone I’d be uncomfortable with. It sounds like what they wanted was a cute girl who’d lie back and let them do whatever they wanted to her, or maybe do whatever told her to do. Where is the space for this person to have her own preferences and needs? Was that person hoping for a partner to magically appear who had no needs aside from meeting their needs?

    Leaving aside the BDSM context, this is a mistake that plenty of people make when looking for someone to date. It’s not about looking for a person within your scope of attraction who you could be compatible with in and out of bed, it’s about wanting exactly the partner you’ve already decided would be perfect for you, hoping to find that imagined person in a real person, and acting like everyone who isn’t exactly that imagined person is nothing more than a name crossed off a list. The person described in the article didn’t have to date Joy if they didn’t feel a connection to her, but look at what was written about her: “it’s not really what I want. It’s fun, but it’s just for now.” And like, it’s fine if you feel that way, but this sounds more like a description of a mediocre massage wand than a description of a relationship with a person with feelings.

    I hope the future of this series involves the author’s journey toward realizing other people have feelings and preferences also.

    • This isn’t really a place to leave aside the BDSM context though. The author is looking for a submissive – someone who needs to submit to their needs and gains pleasure from that.

    • I feel compelled to comment up and down on this essay because I’m a submissive femme who is real sick of this idea that any top/dom is unaware of their partners wants and needs and that bottom/subs lie back and take it. That misses the entire appeal of power exchange: both people must be fully engaged to make it work and communicate before, during, after play.

      So, personally, I go into bars looking for someone who must be butch, dom, wanting to strap on 75% or more of the time, and into BDSM as a lifestyle. This is actually my—and other’s—wet dream. I’m not sure why wanting a compatible sex partner makes Sinclair unaware of anyone’s feelings or autonomy.

      I have had relationships where the above wasn’t fulfilled. It was shitty for both of us. I will never go into a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to dominate me 99-100% of the time because otherwise I won’t be fulfilled, resentment grows until both our hearts are broken.

      It’s healthy to know how to articulate and differentiate the deal breakers and the “nice-to-haves” in a relationship. You seem to be missing that people are allowed to express deal breakers up front and it’s when they fail to do before getting involved with someone that they’re acting irresponsibly.

      • This! I have many times left that I would have to comprise on what I wanted to get someone to be with. Don’t do it. It’s a trap. Relationships were you don’t get want you’d like are terrible for everyone involved. Learning not to comprise your needs should be taught as a life class. So much heart break saved!

    • The beauty of the kink and BDSM community is precisely that it values everyone’s preferences. A femme domme or sub or power bottom gets the same opportunity to consent to things and express desires. The context here is literally everything.

      I think it can be easy to conflate Sexsmith’s desires with misogyny because they’re masculine of center/butch and dominant. It would be misogyny (and terrible boss politics) to take what is not explicitly given to you from a femme/woman, with strangers or otherwise. All good tops know this, and all good non femmes know it.

      But as someone who is deeply switchy, I can speak to the fact that sometimes it feels fucking good to let someone do what “they want” to me (while they simultaneously know that’s what I want). And when I am bossing someone around? It’s again the illusion of power. The submissive is always in control because they have the power to stop and negotiate anything that’s going on. The difference between a good dom and a bad one is that a good Dom knows how to make that exchange of consent seem invisible.

  15. I’m really confused about getting “I’m an entitled misogynist” from “I have specific interests and want to find someone I’m attracted to with compatible interests.”

    • Idk, I think it’s misguided but I get where they’re coming from. A couple years back I was really avoidant and resentful of butches, especially dominant butches who were into a butch/femme dynamic.

      There were several reasons for this: because I was/am a femme person (came out as genderfluid, still strong femme 70% of the time), I felt like I was being obliged to engage with butches as a “lesbian rule”. I didn’t want to, and I was specifically interested in a femme top bc I feel safer and more authentic with femmes (some of it is preference, some of it is trauma). I was also resentful of the fact that they enjoyed a masc person privilege. (and also, very very deep down, I was envious of them being able to be publicly gender non-conforming while I was in the closet about my gender).

      Now, I’ve come to understand that, well, some people are just into that dynamic, and it’s fine! There is no rule saying that *I* have to be into it, and understanding that gave me peace. The question of privilege is also that, well, we all have different types of privilege, and people have relationships across privilege boundaries and make it work. If I felt uncomfortable with the privilege gap in a relationship with a butch, that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean other people don’t have respectful relationships of that kind.

      Like I had that knee-jerk reaction of feeling like all butches were misogynistic, but eventually, I just chilled. Also, Sexsmith also writes femdom erotica that flutters my heart, so I feel certain that they get that masc is not inherently a dominant thing.

  16. I have always been impressed by Sinclair’s thoughtfulness, by their care to avoid overarching statements that exclude people, and to encourage readers/listeners to explore and seek out the lives they want with a balance of bravery and care both for themselves and their partners. I found nothing in this piece to contradict that impression. The only entitlement I see here is the entitlement to say no to relationships and sex that don’t help them make the life they want–an entitlement I hope everyone shares and which I’m fairly certain Sinclair wants us all to have as well (and absolutely certain the public persona of Sinclair wants us to have–I can’t claim to read another’s thoughts, only their writing, but I see no reason to expect those not to match up in this case).

    I also think there’s a difference between seeking out people who fit a set of criteria you have about them and seeking out people who are going to find important parts of you desirable. Of Sinclair’s list of things they were looking for in a partner I really only see one thing that fits solidly into the first group–that they be femme (which criteria they seem to have quite happily disregarded when they met someone they were attracted to who didn’t fit it). All the other things on the list are about who Sinclair had learned themselves to be and what kinds of sex and relationships they wanted. I agree with Alice that having too many criteria for who the other person should be can make it hard to see the wonderful people in front of you, but I also think that part of what Sinclair is saying is that sometimes looking at the wonderful people in front of you can make it hard to see your own self honestly–you can start to distort yourself and your desires to make them look like good matches when they’re not. You have to be able to say no to people you’re attracted to if the price of being with them is setting aside essential parts of yourself or the life you want.

  17. I had to sit on this for a day to be able to process what was upsetting me.

    I love Sinclair’s message that we shouldn’t settle. However, there seems to be anger in here toward the women who “look like they should be submissive bottoms but aren’t.” It’s fine to have your preferences, but it’s not other peoples’ jobs to make their physical appearance match their sexual tendencies.

    • I feel like that was the conclusion of the article, though — kind of like “I have been going about this a bit wrong & need to clarify D/s interests before we dive in.”

      • Absolutely.
        I think throughout though there’s a general level of objectification though, from “looking for sexy femmes who might be scanning for someone like me”…even to the way Sinclair describes their own friends. I think Sinclair has deeper intentions (the ones you mentioned above) but they don’t necessarily come across for me.

        • Nonetheless, it’s heartening to see someone be completely honest about what they want for themselves!

  18. I’m pretty sure that this is a safe space so if this person wants to express their ideas about sex, they shouldn’t be judged for it.
    With that said, I would like to give my opinion about BDSM culture in general. I think it comes from a very unhealthy place in society. I’ve read some books about evolutionary sexuality and they pretty much concluded that women have been oppressed for such a long time that their brain configuration changed. Now that women have more freedom they manifest that desire to be dominated in their sexual relationships. Also, and this is a generalization, I’ve noticed that doms are usually more masculine and bottoms more feminine. People are just trying to keep the pattern.

    • You know what? I think it would be cool if, at some point (I know you guys are strapped for resources! I’m pitching this as an idea for the future!) Autostraddle also had a column with femme tops and butch bottoms. I think it would bring to the table a perspective that’s not always valued in the community and it might quell some anxieties about BDSM being inherently misogynistic (see above comment).

    • what about Dominant women though ? Submissive men ?

      Like, BDSM isn’t just male tops or masculine presenting tops and femme bottoms !

    • Am I incorrect in reading your comment to say: evolutionary sexuality says that women want to be oppressed, but since feminism came and took away their overt oppression we’ve turn to BDSM in order to fulfill that deep need to be oppressed?

      Hoo-boy, that’s an…interesting…interpretation of evolutionary sexuality, and super condescending to every person here who has expressed with preference for BDSM.

      FYI, “safe space” != a space for you to yuck someone else’s yum by applying sweeping generalizations.

    • Were these academic texts? Because I *am* a psychologist with a focus in sexuality and I can say that no academic text I’ve ever read says this! There are bogus books made to present material in a way that appears academic, but isn’t, that may say this, but there is *no* scientific backing for this stance.

  19. I enjoyed the story that this article was telling. I also think it was an honest look at how the narrator in the past assumed or did things that the narrator in the present wouldn’t do anymore, and that even very popular queer people weren’t birthed on this earth knowing exactly what to do or how to interact with people.

    The only caveat I would add (although I know that this probably a feature of this article being in Past Sinclair’s perspective) is that femmes aren’t necessarily girls. Plenty of femmes are nonbinary and some might even have completely different genders and gender presentations from one moment to the next.

  20. I was wondering if this conversation was still going on, and oh look! It is.

    They don’t really need a defender, but since no one has mentioned this, Sinclair Sexsmith is very willing to, and has spent a lot of time, thinking critically about kink and BDSM. They’re written extensively and articulately, pretty much all over the internet, about how to craft a life in which they can live this way ethically. Based on their body of work, they have no time for abuse or abusers, and by participating in many years of workshops, relationships, doing lots of what basically amounts to scholarship etc., they’re able to really clearly and easily articulate the difference between a healthy D/s situation and an abusive one.

    I used to read some of Sugarbutch Chronicles, and it was when I came across scenes I found triggering that I decided to learn more about kink and D/s and where Sinclair was coming from, and that’s what I found – a clear understanding of healthy, ethical kink, and a willingness to engage with people to help them understand what that is.

    • Exactly. They don’t need your defense.

      They have all the power here, institutional and personal, they’re well-known and well-respected and the author of the article and defended vigorously by the staff.

      I’m (and some other people) are just anonymous commenters who don’t like BDSM. See? No big deal.

      • I love your insistence that we’re all brainwashed and that Sinclair is like a puppet master pulling the strings on us all. That’s totally the most logical conclusion, there’s no way people are rebutting your (frankly, baldly stupid) comments because we actually believe that it’s possible to enjoy BDSM without being in an abusive relationship.

  21. But also, When this person who was not for you says “Oh, you’re coming home with me” I melted a little, I’m the butch *she* was looking for

  22. Wow, I’m amazed at the attention generated here. Thanks for all of the thoughtful & supportive comments.

    It makes sense that some folks aren’t into BDSM and don’t want any part of it, and don’t understand what I’m writing here. I don’t have any judgment about BDSM/kink relationships being better—I think people should figure out the kinds of relationships they want to have, and have the ones that make them feel most like their best selves and happiest. Sometimes that involves lots of kinky sex, domination, submission, play, & intensity … sometimes that is completely asexual.

    Personally, my ideals do involve kink, and do involve D/s. I think what someone wrote above is super important—that you can’t actually say “BDSM aside, …” and read this article. That’s the entire point: It is about BDSM and it is about D/s and kink. Yes, totally true that sometimes people objectify others, that people have a laundry list of requirements where they don’t budge and are holding impossible standards, totally true that sometimes BDSM relationships are abusive. But that’s not what’s happening in this personal essay—these are consensual, intentional interactions that I’m describing.

    Someone on my Facebook page also wrote, “Desire doesn’t equal entitlement.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I’m reading a lot of folks who are misinterpreting what I’ve intended (or perhaps my writing isn’t clear enough—I’m thinking about how to make it clearer, too). I don’t think I have some sort of “right” to femme bodies. I don’t think the universe owes me something. But I have identified my own desires, and I think that’s an important part of examining one’s sexuality and having healthy adult kink relationships—or it was for me, anyway. And being able to identify that desire is not the same as believing I’m entitled to it. It does have me setting up my life such that I can manifest that desire, but hopefully it is coming from respectful, thoughtful, and intentional places.

    It is totally not true that submissives/bottoms can’t have their own desires. Absolutely they do, and I want them to. Talking about what we want is some of my most favorite flirtation and foreplay and dirty talk. (Swoon.)

    I want to also remind folks that me (and other writers on Autostraddle and elsewhere) are people, too, and we’re all just doing the best we can. I am, anyway. I’m not perfect, I make mistakes and learn and screw up, just like anybody. But I’m doing my best to articulate my own truths, and putting them out there in hopes that it’s supportive and helpful to other people’s processes of growing and identifying their own desires.

    • In terms of your writing being clear enough… It’s crystal clear (and appreciated by!!!) the audience it was intended for and directed at. While I understand the inclination to 2nd guess yourself in the face of of overwhelming vitriol. Please don’t stop sharing your writing. Your words resonate. Deeply. Your community needs access to your voice. You know what it’s like to be in the small towns and villages where you can feel alone. Even in the ‘big city’ it can feel isolating to have overlapping identities that go beyond ‘just’ being gay. Your column here led to me finding your other writings and that has made all the difference. Keep sharing your thoughts and experiences. Please.

  23. For the record, since there were some questions: I identify as butch, and I see butch as a genderqueer identity and under the trans umbrella. I use they/them pronouns, and the honorific Mr. and Sir.

    (In the past I’ve used other things, so there are still some sites/bios that say ‘she’, but currently I’m comfortable in they/them and that’s the best fit.)

  24. I think if you look at sexuality as “fluid” vs “fixed”, people who are strongly into BDSM and power-exchange are more on the “fixed” end of the spectrum. They generally are not going to be fulfilled sexually by a primary relationship unless their it involves their kink. Someone who has a more “fluid” sexuality might dabble in kink but they don’t really *need* it, so their relationship with it is very different. For a fluid person, it might come across as demanding to be so particular in what you want in a partner. But particularity is not entitlement. Perhaps entitled people seem particular in their demands, but that doesn’t mean particularity by itself is entitlement.

    To a strongly Dominant or submissive person, it’s just true that that is how they are wired. And a submissive should be just as particular in finding the right Top for them, because their desire works the same way in that it is fixed, just fixed to the opposite power-exchange pole.

    To me this piece is saying, “It’s hard to be a sexual minority, and it can be a struggle to wait and search for what you really desire when there is a wide variety of available encounters that are OK but not what you really need to be satisfied”. This is true of any sexual minority.

    I think for people who aren’t strongly into BDSM, they don’t have a personal experience of why a relationship could just not work if it doesn’t have that element. But I would hope that they could give people that do the benefit of the doubt.

    As to why kink and D/s is often expressed along lines of oppression, that is an interesting question that has inspired rich and complex inquiry, but is outside the scope of this article. I hope that people reading this who are not into kink can refrain from leaping to quick conclusions or judgements based on superficial understandings of what kink appears to be and take the time to understand it better or simply allow people to be who they are and love the way they want to love even if it doesn’t make sense to you.

  25. Oh man, I really like the post-it note on the mirror idea. I feel like I should write a similar/reversed statement up there, like “it is okay to be looking for a lifestyle-type dom, someone with those interests is interested in your whole non-binary queer femme sub thing, keep looking for that thing.” Thanks as always for your food for thought ;-)

  26. I loved reading this. I relate to telling yourself to not do things you don’t want to do. At some point in the past few years I had the same realization: do what I want to do and don’t do what I don’t want to do. Sounds simple but it isn’t always, especially at first. Best of luck to you, sounds like you have what it takes to find what you’re looking for. You know what you offer, what you want, and what’s not working, and that’s a great place to be.

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