queer as fuck

The real reason I love gender fuckery

Well, the 30-week genderqueer challenge is working for me! This post is inspired by last week’s prompt/post!

Really, the reason I love gender fuckery (and especially the reason why it’s so important to me sexually, sometimes) is as a means to an end.

I want for my body to just be my body, as it is. I want to be able to just be, without the pressure of all of the meanings and value that other people insist on putting on it, and on forcibly making me acknowledge those meanings and values (this is what sexual harassment usually is – not just objectifying a person, but actively making sure they know you are doing it, and trying to elicit a response from them, thus forcing them to participate. It’s disgusting.)

I hate that because I live in a world where this shit is so pervasive that it is is sometimes hard for me to see my own body without seeing it through the lens of cisheteropatriarchy. I hate how hard it is for me to be free of that.

What I really want it to see myself and my body on my own terms. But before I can do that, I need to fuck up the existing scripts I have for understanding my own body.

I need to take what I have been taught – both explicitly and implicitly – about my value and about what having certain body parts (or not) means about who I am as a person and how I am valued by others, and I need to twist it around, and shake it up and tear it to pieces and put it back together again, in every way I can think to. I need to pull the pieces apart and put them back together in impossible, unrecognizable configurations. I need to make new shapes out of the old meanings, over and over and over, until it all stops meaning anything at all, like a word repeated until it is nothing but a series of arbitrary sounds.

I need to fuck with gender, so that gender will stop fucking with me.

What’s your favorite ways of upsetting gender roles / genderbending / genderfucking? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 3

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s question: What’s your favorite ways of upsetting gender roles / genderbending / genderfucking?

The short answer to this is probably “ALL OF THE WAYS!”

I honestly do get a kick out of fucking with people’s ideas of gender and what it means and what gender I am, and what that means, and everything else. But that’s not much of an answer, I guess. So I’ll just give you what jumps to mind immediately:

First, I know that my favourite public moments of gender fuckery are usually the ones when I notice children trying to figure out my gender. For some reason, I put a lot of stock in the fact that children often find me impossible to place within their own sense of the gender binary – I’ve even overheard young siblings disagreeing with each other about my gender. There is something endlessly fascinating about watching them watch me and try to pick up something sort of information that will solve the dilemma for them. But I like it even more when they actually ask. I only wish I could actually engage with them on the question more often, but the adults they are with usually get overly embarrassed on my behalf and try to tell them they’re rude.

I get something kinda similar from moments when adults do something along the lines of calling me “sir… I mean ma’am, sorry” or vice versa. It suggests to me that my efforts to signal my gender effectively are actually working, though I understand that most people don’t know how to read the messages I’m sending, so I take confusion as the best possible evidence that I’m doing it right (in the sense of “how I want to do it”, not in the sense of “this is the sort of response all non-binary people should aim for in their gender presentation” – I see you, femme enbies, masc enbies, and those of you whose bodies get you misgendered against your will no matter what you do, and I love you all!)

The second that that this prompt brings up for me is the way gender (and gender fuckery, specifically) plays a role for me in sex. It’s a thing I’ve never been able to articulate properly, even though I have directly written about it before, but there is a thing where it seems like I can tell when someone who is having sex with me is just interacting with my body as an archetypically “female” one, rather than as my particular, individual, agender/genderqueer body. Even setting aside the cissexism of categorizing bodies this way, if I feel like someone’s interest in my body is directly linked to its “femaleness”, I just can’t.

Maybe it’s that, at some point, if that’s someone’s understanding of my body, then they’ve forgotten about the person inhabiting that body, and are interacting with my parts but not with me (which is just the easiest route to triggering a dissociative episode I can think of!) But also, I do get a kick out of the idea of having kinds of sex that are incomprehensible to hetero-normo folks. Like, my partner(s) and I will fuck however we like, and we will use whatever words to describe the things we are doing that we like, and we will decide what it all means, thank-you-very-much.

…I realize this is part 3 of 30 on this challenge, and I’ve already had two responses that have been semi-coherent at best. This is proving more of a challenge that I thought it would be, and I am hoping that when I am done, I will find that many of these things have percolated themselves into more cogent shapes and I will have more regular-type posts for you on these issues! Onward!

Also, though, seriously, I’d love it if all of y’all told me about your favourite ways of fucking with gender – you don’t have to be genderqueer to answer this question!


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

Valprehension Cross-stitch, y’all

I recently got back into cross-stitch! Not only that, for the first time I ever, I started making my own designs instead of just buying kits and producing pre-made patterns. I also challenged some queer rage into it; it was fun. And I am so super happy with some of the results:

My first free-hand cross-stitch. Burn shit down. queer shit up.

My first free-hand cross-stitch. Burn shit down. queer shit up.

Variations on a theme. I let myself get fancy this time!

Variations on a theme. I let myself get fancy this time!

Valprehenders represent!

Valprehenders represent!

And I made myself a Valprehension bookmark! :)

And I made myself a Valprehension bookmark! :)

Future plans include a sampler saying “Fuck allies we need accomplices”.

Also I am wondering if I set up a shop to sell these, if anyone would buy them? I could also do custom work in thus sort of style, so.

“I want to have sex like…”

[This post is inspired by the “I want to have sex like…” series over at Demisexual and Proud, whose writing has been super instrumental in helping me understand myself well enough to even begin to write this. Content note: this post contains references to sexual dominance and submission, masochism, and masturbation]

I have been thinking *a lot* lately about what it is I get from having sex with other people. Or, rather, what I want to get from it, and why I do it at all.

The thing is that I really enjoy the experiences of sexual arousal and orgasm, but I can have those things just fine on my own, no need for anyone else to be involved. (For me) there isn’t some special level of physical pleasure that can only be achieved with other people – I can give myself the best possible orgasms just fine on my own.

But sex with other people is also important to me. When there are other people on my life that I am into in that way it is, anyway.

So, why?

It is clear to me that there is something about the emotional texture of sexual encounters that is vitally important to me, something about the kinds of emotional expression and connection that can happen that is the key to the whole thing for me.

And it is hard to nail down precisely what I want from that, because it isn’t totally stable or always the same, but there are definitely some themes that it is worthwhile to tease out and identify in particular.

The thing about me is that sex is never really about “I want this particular kind of physical stimulation/this particular arrangement of bodies and parts”. It’s almost entirely an emotional/intellectual experience for me, and the physical combinations are just coincidental, almost.

Here goes nothing:

I want to feel desired. I want to feel like my partner’s/partners’ lust is specifically about me and not just a generalized horniness. I want my sexual encounters to be specifically about me and the people I have sex with. This is so, so important. I don’t want to understate it. But also I don’t think it is even remotely enough on its own.

I want to feel taken care of/cared for. Sex is one of many aspects in a relationship where a partner has an opportunity to make me feel special, and valuable, and worthy of effort and care, I really need that. I want my body to be played like a musical instrument, to produce amazing melodies of my pleasure. Though it is actually possible for me to have too much of this, because:

I want to reciprocate that caring. It is, similarly, very important to me to be able to figure out how to give specific pleasure to my partners, to feel a direct connection between what I am doing and their expressions of pleasure. It is such a powerful feeling, that experience. And that alone is often all I need, even, as long as it isn’t the only thing, all the time.

I want us to be in it together. For me, this is about more than just both of us being happily involved and enjoying ourselves, even. Ultimately, it is important for me to know that I and anyone I am having sex with have a similar understanding of the acts we are engaging in, and of their significations when we do them. This is important, and complicated, and difficult, because I will be the first to tell you that there are no acts in sex that have stable “meanings” or imply singular dynamics.

If a partner is hitting me, it could mean that I am being submissive, and I am just absorbing whatever sensations they are choosing to throw at me. It could also be that it is something I have demanded of them, and that they are doing as a form of submission to me. Or it could just be something I asked for from a peer as we collaborate in mutual pleasure. What’s important is that we both understand whichever instance in the same (or at least similarish) way.

I want to be able to explore the different social-emotional permutations of the same things. For me, this is really the heart of queer sex.

I want spontaneity and improvization. I want to throw out every script for what sex is or how it is supposed to work. I want to kill the entire concept of “foreplay” in the fire of a thousand suns. Touching me in ways that turn me on shouldn’t be about getting me aroused so that I can then move on “real” sex.

I want to take the scenic route, and I don’t care if we ever get to whatever destination other people think we should be aiming for. If a thing is working, that should be the thing we are doing, not a stepping stone to some other more expected thing. My positive responses are an encouragement to continue the thing you’re doing, not a magic signal that you get to level up now. There are few things more disappointing to me than having a partner react to my positive feedback by deciding it’s time to move on and try something else.

Really, though, there are really almost no set “rules” for how to make my body respond with arousal, pleasure and orgasm. Trying to set them based on past success and follow them will usually backfire, because the important thing is for things to not be the same all the time. I need spontaneity in order to actually be in the moment, really. And when I am fully present in that way, I am regularly surprised by how my body responds to new or uncommon stimuli, and that’s half the fun.

Like, there have been times when I have randomly been brought to (sometimes even multiple!) orgasm by having my head scratched, or my gums massaged, or just from holding my breath. I have even had empathy orgasms from seeing/perceiving/experiencing my partner’s approach to and experience of orgasm. Orgasming because of literally anything other than the expected things is pretty much my superpower. My body is fucking weird and unpredictable and I love it so much. And when someone is willing to really engage with it, to play and explore with me, we have so much fun together!

I want playfulness. All these things I say about deep feelings and intense connections don’t have to be serious business, ok? I am a person who is going to want to laugh when someone’s bodies (or the combination of bodies) makes funny noises. Because it’s funny. Because sex isn’t serious and we don’t need to pretend our bodies aren’t the weirdest frigging things in the world. They are. And the things people do with them in the name of sex are weird (like seriously, I’m gonna put this kinda dangly part of myself into some other part on you, mmmkay? And people like to act like that’s not the weirdest idea ever, but it is, ok?) We are doing weird shit with our bodies, and sometimes it is funny, and that is important to me, too.

Above all, I want sex to be deeply communicative. This sort of runs though all of my other points, too. I want our bodies to be able to converse and understand each other. I want to feel seen and understood, not just verbally, rationally, or intellectually, but viscerally, physically, emotionally and ultimately metaphorically, in ways I can only express non-verbally. And that is a very high bar to set, but it is so worth it when I get it.

And, ok, I mean, that is a *lot* of pressure to put on sex. And anyway, some of these emotional aspects are just generally important romantic relationship things (feeling cared for, desired, and valued; being able to collaborate in mutually pleasurable activities; and remaining spontaneous and continuing to discover new things about each other all have non-sexual relevance). I don’t need all of these things all of the time (I am, in fact, perfectly happy with a purely lustful quickie on occasion!), and some of them are preferences/ideals than requirements. The only things I absolutely need are points 1-3. And those can for the most part be established outside the sexual context.

Really, because I am demisexual, the emotional context of a relationship is where desire begins and ends for me. Loving and being loved are what desire is for me, they are the only way I understand it. The bottom line is that if I don’t feel love, and if I don’t feel *loved*, then I’m not going to be able to access any of the other stuff that makes sex awesome for me. The best I can do is go through the motions.

If I’ve learned one thing from my occasional attempts to have sex with people for whom I don’t feel that kind of desire, it’s that I’d usually much rather masturbate. So.

Gender, sex, and my body

I am beginning to realize that in some ways, I am genderfluid, moving among agender, genderqueer/genderfuck, and boyish identities. And part of what causes this sense of myself to shift around is the way I shift between contexts in my life, and in particular, how different contexts cause me to consider my body in different ways, depending on who is perceiving it.

It turns out that the ways in which I am comfortable talking about my body, and the ways in which I want it to be perceived, vary wildly based on context. Here, I’m just going to focus on three broad contexts to give a sense of what I mean.

My body in a medical context

As I’ve said before, in a medical context, I am generally comfortable identifying my body as “female”. My body has all of the physical characteristics communicated by the word female in that context; it is a short-hand that communicates a lot of information to doctors about what parts my body has, and so I use it as such, and I am mostly ok with it for myself.

I do wish that we had other terms for this – I don’t like that the male/female binary aligns linguistically with the masculine/feminine one. I hate any implication that my body is feminine, so much so that I don’t like selecting a box on forms which only specify ‘m’ or ‘f’, because it is less clear that I am only stipulating ‘femaleness’ in the medical sense.

The point for me here, really, is that my gender is not currently even remotely relevant to me in a medical context, so I just don’t sweat it too much.

My body in a public/social context

When I am in public, it is most comfortable for me to desexualize my body as much as possible. I feel this is strongly related to my demisexuality – because I just don’t ‘get’ primary/physical sexual attraction, it is confusing and troubling for me to deal with other people directing that sort of sexual attention toward me. I don’t know what it means, really, and particularly as a non-binary person, knowing that if someone who doesn’t know me is sexualizing me, they are probably sexualizing me *as a woman*, is deeply unsettling and inherently invalidating to me.

I don’t even want to be androgynous, as that suggests a mixture of binary genders – in a public context I strongly prefer to be read as agender, generally.

This is complicated, though. Because as I just said, I don’t equate my agender self with androgyny. I would honestly really love to be able to wear whatever the fuck I want without it making people think it means I have a fucking gender.

Really I want a body that can wear all kinds of clothes ambiguously. (I mean, really I want to live in a world where other people aren’t constantly making sexual judgments of each other, but y’know…) Mine, right now, doesn’t. I want to be able to feel more comfortable fucking around with my gender expression. In some ways, I want a body that is less clearly medically “female” probably (though really I just want people not to objectify my body). I don’t quite know yet how or if I’m going to go about that.

My body in a sexual context

[Content note: some explicit sexual language, but no references to specific sexual acts.]

A bunch of things here. In many ways I totally and unproblematically love my body in a sexual context. I love its capacity for for so many different kinds of pleasure, and when I am just just giving myself sexual pleasure, that is all there is to it. Gender doesn’t have anything to do with it.

But it’s not just me. I form sexual connections with other people sometimes, and that means contending with their understandings and perceptions of my body, and the way that is communicated in their interactions with me and my body.

And this is where the idea that my body can comfortably be described as ‘female’ goes out the window. What’s true medically, and I guess in some sort of rationally ‘real’ sense (whatever that means), is absolutely not the right way to approach my body sexually.

My sexual body is very explicitly and particularly a trans queer body and needs to be approached as such. Although there is a bunch of basic wisdom about cis women’s erogenous zones that can be transferred over onto my body, without being able to move past the basic physical facts of my body parts, it would be very easy for a sexual partner to seriously invalidate my own sense of myself as a sexual person, and the ways in which I relate to and perceive my body sexually. It’s… a hard thing for me to navigate effectively, but I’m doing ok.

In part, because I am actually a bit at a loss to describe my experience of gender in sex. More than anything, the way I identify as a sexual person is just “queer,” so I guess genderqueer is pretty ok, but really I want to go even further, I want to be queer *as fuck* y’all, which makes me feel really good about “genderfuck” which packs the kind of rhetorical punch I really want to express here. But then, sometimes I even slip into something that feels more solidly boyish. And also I think even just in writing this that a sense of myself as agender has maybe been sneaking in here for me, at other times. And then other times it’s really just extremely fluid and refuses to settle down into anything.

Fundamentally, the thing I think I need my sexual partners to understand is that despite all appearances, and even while I’m happy to own being a queer agender/genderfuck/boy (such as I am, when I am) with a vulva, my body is not just ‘female’, ever. And I crave engagement with all of me, engagement that understands that sometimes what looks like a vulva, isn’t. Sometimes it’s a cock. Sometimes it’s something else entirely.

I’m not going to explain here exactly what that means, or how that engagement manifests. I’m sure there’s literally a million different ways it can be done. My spouse-person and I are still finding new ways to mash up against each other, so.

And the other thing is, my genitals don’t necessarily matter all that much. When things are going really well for me, my pleasure isn’t located anywhere, it’s everything and everywhere; it’s my whole body, all the parts seen and unseen.

Sexually, my body is best understood outside of the male/female bullshit construct. My body is queer as fuck, and capable of so much more than the either the male or female sexual scripts allow for (which is not to say that this makes me special or whatever; lots of people of all genders benefit from ignoring these scripts and the “normal” ways on understanding, interpreting, and engaging with bodies of different types), and I want it treated as such.

My body and me

Fundamentally my relationship with my body is made problematic by the ways in which other people try to force their own perceptions/understandings/meanings onto it. My body is awesome, and other people so often want to limit its reach and its powers of signification. And my attempts to moderate this tension are what make my non-binary/genderfluid/genderqueer identity what it is, defined to a great extent by what I am not, and defined, ultimately, by the foundational importance of queerness to my politics, and to my aesthetics.

Wanted: Recommendations for some seriously queer reading material

I am in serious need of some fantastic, cathartic, queer reads, but I’m having a terrible time looking for them on my own.

Let me be more specific: I really want in-your-face, aggressively transgressive radical genderfucking queer as fuck characters. Queer “burn-the-status-quo-down” rage and/or joyfully transgressive sex are a must, basically.

Some examples of what I am looking for:

In general:

Joey Comeau’s Lockpick Pornography is my long-standing favourite queer manifesto in fiction format. Or anything like any of Comeau’s writing in general, really. This is sort of the gold standard.

Transgressive/queer relationships/sex:

Miranda July’s The First Bad Man is fucking fascinating and way queer in the sense I am looking for.

Melinda Gebbie and Alan Moore’s Lost Girls isn’t hyper-queer, but the vignettes are varied enough that they hit a lot of the right notes.

Queer Rage:

Raziel Reid’s When Everything Feels Like the Movies has some moments approaching the type of raging queerness I’m looking for, but is also suffers from bi/pan erasure issues, so.

This poem. It is eating up my insides and I want more things like this.

Fiction and non-fiction are both great! Erotica is totally acceptable! I will also accept awesome movie recommendations, really!

On cultural scripts, and reframing ‘vulnerability’ in sex

A big part of a lot of anti-oppression work, as I see it, is wrapped up in reframing or recreating the models of human interaction. In so very many ways, the interactions we, as people, have with other people, are influenced by the normative cultural scripts surrounding those interactions.

Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having cultural scripts for handling various interactions. These scripts can serve many purposes, including making interactions run smoothly, especially when dealing with awkward or hard-to-handle emotional situations. Ozy Frantz recently wrote about the value of having scripts around the mourning process that illustrates some of the value of having this kind of normative script.

But, as with any (formal or informal) cultural (or institutional) process, these scripts can easily be embedded with unspoken (or spoken) cultural biases and oppression. We can see how this can happen in the example of a man in Florida who ran afoul of institutional processes (for assuming the name of one’s spouse) when, in fact, it was a cultural script (that wives take their husbands last name, and not the other way around) that he had broken.

The script I’d like to examine today is based around the idea of vulnerability in sexual contexts. In the (usually) unspoken cultural script for hetero sexual intercourse it is the woman who is framed as the vulnerable party. We see this concept played out in a variety of ways.

For starters, there is a cultural expectation that parents (and especially fathers) must “protect” their daughters from sexual activity. As a corollary, teenage boys in this script are framed as predatory. But this also plays out in the general language we use to talk about sexual activities. I talked about this to some extent in my post on why I love the word ‘valprehension’. The woman in hetero sexual activities is framed as passive, while the man ‘hammers’, ‘screws’, ‘nails’ (are we sensing a pattern) ‘pounds’, ‘reams’, or otherwise commits physically forceful and painful-sounding acts on her body. Woman are conquests (and thus men are victors?) in sex. Women “give it away” while men “get some”. All sexuality is framed as being for men, and for the male gaze

And this script has all kinds of profound implications about the notions for the broader framing of women’s sexual agency and desire, but as those other smart people have covered that pretty well covered, it’s not quite what I want to talk about today.

Today, I want to talk about how limiting this framing can be to our actual expressions of sexual joy, to sexual exploration and to genuine, creative consensual sexual interactions.

Before I say that, though, I want to be very clear that I am not saying that women (or valprehending partners generally) are never, ever vulnerable. Of course being penetrated can be an intensely vulnerable experience, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s very important to point out and acknowledge the vulnerability that many people can and do experience when they are being penetrated.

One of the things that Dan Savage has started pointing out in some of his columns and podcasts in more recent years is the idea that part of the reason straight men seem to have more trouble getting laid when they’d like is the traditional hetero script, which includes the assumption of penetration. Dan intelligently points out that for many people, being horny or wanting sexual satisfaction does not automatically imply that a person’s body (or mind) can handle penetration, especially from a relative stranger.

And the thing is that, yes, penetrative sex is a thing that happens inside the body of the receptive partner. I’m going to say that again. It happens inside our bodies. It’s a very intimate (and often vulnerable) thing, this letting part of another human being inside your body business. If you’re talking about vaginal or anal penetration, the very core of person’s body is involved in the act. And I don’t think that this should be discounted.

What I’ve been working on reframing in my own head lately is the flip-side of this narrative. Because the implication of Dan’s advice here is that sexual activity is not experienced in as intimate or as vulnerable a way by the penetrating partner. And I do think this is true to some extent, (as reflected in our cultural scripts around sex.) In a penetrative sex act, the penetrating partner’s most involved body part is an appendage (whatever appendage you prefer, though usually in the mainstream hetero script, this will be a penis). The penetrating partner has the privilege(?) of having a certain physical distance (up to the full length of the appendage in question :P) from the act relative to the valprehending partner. And in reality, (fears of vagina dentata aside) there is generally less risk of injury to a penetrating partner. And all of this adds up to much less intimacy and vulnerability for penetrating partner.

But here’s the thing. If you really think about it, if someone is putting their appendage inside my body, that is a great show of trust that I will take care said appendage. Allowing part of oneself to be valprehended by another person can be an extremely vulnerable act of giving part of yourself to that person, in a far more literal way than such giving happens in the cultural script of women “giving it away”. Penetrating partners literally give their appendage to the body of their partner for a time. And valprehending partners can have a degree of control over that part while it is inside of them. And when the body part in question is the oh-so-highly-valued (and, let’s face it, physically vulnerable) phallus, this is a truly awe-inspiring act of trust and intimacy, don’t you think?

The thing is that both of these scripts are accurate and true. And neither of them are. It’s all in how you choose to put forth, talk about, experience, and interpret your own sexual interactions with others. I know that for me, suddenly seeing my own valprehensive experiences from this perspective was really enlightening and empowering! It can certainly be fun to play with what various sexual acts mean in the contexts of individual couples/groups of sexual partners and the way they experience their dynamics.