More Than Skin Deep

I am of the generation that had Athena posters on their walls. I had a number of them over the years but the one I most fondly remember is an Art Decoey black and white backlit studio shot of Marlene Dietrich, silver hair, cheekbones sculpted, seemingly, by the interplay of light and shade. This I proudly displayed on my wall for three undergraduate years, enjoying the admiring glances it attracted, and the knowing looks aimed at me. Marlene had become for me an icon. She remains one and that is why I had her tattooed on my right arm a couple of months ago. Wherever I go from now in, she will come with me.

Whilst doing German A Level at school  we were encouraged to read around and outside the syllabus, to equip ourselves with a fuller and more rounded knowledge of German literature  so that we could set the prescribed books in a wider context and, hopefully, bring a greater understanding to bear on them.  One of these was Professor Unrat by Klaus Mann, the story of a pedantic schoolmaster who attends a club where e hazard his pupils are wasting (his view) their evenings. He becomes besotted by the cabaret’s star singer and this leads him to perdition. He dies alone in the school where he once taught, a broken man, publicly humiliated in the town where he had once been a respectable and highly regarded member of the community.

Reading the book led inevitably to seeing the film “The Blue Angel” in which Dietrich plays the singer Lola Lola with Emil Jannings co-starring as the doomed schoolmaster. This was her most celebrated role in German speaking cinema before she left for Hollywood in 1931. She combines sensuality, eroticism and a cold streak of malevolence which is seen in her palpable enjoyment of the indignities and humiliations she inflicts on the man who has become her husband. In this role she is intoxicating and totally believable.

I fell in love with Dietrich all those years ago but only came to appreciate her fully some years later. She is an icon for me because she was openly bisexual, because she experimented with gender fluidity, because she enjoyed sex and didn’t care who knew it. But she was an inspiration for other reasons. She was a German who rejected the regime that had taken over her country and was to lead it to disaster. She turned down financially attractive offers from Goebbels to  return home to appear in propaganda films (her erstwhile co-star Jannings took the Nazi shilling) and returned to Germany only in 1945, a US citizen in American uniform.

Some Germans never forgave her this “betrayal”. When she toured Germany in 1960, her shows were the target of boycotts and demonstrations. She left Germany vowing never to return. She did return, but only after her death in Paris in 1992. She is buried in a modest grave in Schoneberg Cemetery, in the sandy soil of her native Berlin. Marlene has many visitors, who leave stones, lipsticks, powder compacts, cigarettes, and even occasional flowers. I visit every time I am in Berlin, just to spend quiet time with her, feeling that she would understand the paths my life has taken. She would just “get” me.

My tattoo is, therefore, not just about Marlene and my feelings towards her. It is a statement of who I am. And when I think of Marlene it is above all of her as a lover of women, as I am a lover of women. She will always be there when I make love, she will fire my erotic imagination. She has already made me love my body. And that is the best thing of all.

Sharing our Shit

Considering that a large majority of adult human beings engage in sexual activity at various times and that many of them, possibly more than is generally realised, enjoy what might be termed alternative sexual activity, the prudery of many large internet companies may seem surprising.  I guess we can’t expect any different from politicians on moral crusades but now Patreon have joined the ranks of the digital Dr. Bowdlers and their target is a community of which I am a small part.

This blog is a pretty low-key operation. I work full time, have a long commute  and consequently don’t have a great deal of time to update it.  A number of my blogging friends devote a lot more time to their blogs, have many many more hits and are able to make part of their living, for example by selling advertising.  They will not, however, become rich from this. Any freelance writing (I have dome this and retain my NUJ membership so I know at first hand) is a precarious existence. So, in order to get a more regular income and so o be able to keep blogging, some of them are sponsored via the website patreon.com  And in the spirit of quid pro quo they may offer sponsors extras, a kinky video,  say, or a hot story, that are not made available to other visitors. But now, Patreon have changed their terms and conditions and are forbidding users from rewarding sponsors with free pornographic content. This will cut off an important income steam for bloggers and threaten the ability of bloggers to keep blogging.

The call has gone out for us to share our shit and promote each other. I am not going to do this. There are lots of Twitter posts under the hashtag #shareourshit where you can find a load of awesome blogs which I can recommend.  Instead I am going to talk about why sex blogging is important and why it deserves your support.

My friend Violet Fenn recently wrote a piece for The Metro about the joys of pegging. The comments from readers were quite an eye opener. One man seemed to think that there were “gay” and “straight” orgasms, and that pegging might tum you gay (it doesn’t…trust me). Others could not hide their disgust and seemed to find it hard to accept that other people may have sexual tastes that you don’t, but that it is cool. Live and live or as they say on the BDSM scene YKIMKBYKIOK . It is quite apparent to me that ignorance and prejudice are rife. Sex blogs can be, and I use the word with caution, educational.

This links in to my main point. In a  world where there is still stigma and prejudice, sex blogs can be a window into the world of those who are different and nor ashamed, as I am not. We deconstruct the normal,   share experiences, promote in our different ways safe play, safe sex, care about sexual health and the all important issue of consent. If you are confused, lonely, ashamed of your feelings, fetishes, whatever, reading good blogs can be a path to self-knowledge and self acceptance.

This doesn’t only apply to the readers, of course. My writing has had a major impact on my life, and helped me to understand my own sexuality, accept and embrace my gender identity. Oh and it’s enabled me to meet some totally awesome people to drink cider and smoke cigarettes with…….but that is another story.

 

 

 

Getting The Block

I have had a lot of good sex recently. I have had sex with a cisgendered man, a cis woman, and a trans woman. I suppose I count as pansexual. I have been horny for much of the time and would have had more sex of time permitted. But stuff gets in the way, work, domestic matters, and writing. Writing? I haven’t written anything for a month and it seems almost as if  I need not ti be having much sex to be able to reflect on it and write. Some of this sex has been mind blowing, particularly when my friend Stephanie and I seized the moment in Birmingham’s main lesbian bar. Erotic tension had been hanging in the air as we talked and drank pints of Stella Artois.It was a relief when she took the initiative, pushing me into the outside loo and bolting the door behind us. I kissed her, buried my face in her breasts, then knelt on the cold floor to work her clit with my tongue before pushing my fingers into her cunt, which was wet and dilating rapidly. Four fingers went in and worked up and down, increasing the tempo until, she came with a moan which must have been heard by the several people trying the door.

Just like car sex this was exciting because we courted discovery and had little time. It left me the most amazing high but unable to write. I have had ideas for blog posts which I have discarded, others I have written but feel unable to publish  because  they are born of my darkest, most intimate fantasies.

And then came the call for the Eroticon anthology with the subtext “Truth”. I had a day off work and sat for three hours over my new exercise book. I write nothing. I fantasised, I masturbated, I came but no words were out down in the page.

But last week, with a little distance from this wonderful sex, I got some ideas down. I will get my mojo back. I am going to fuck myself creative. And I hope you like the result.

Girls on Top

When I first had sex with Kelly it seemed natural to kneel before her, kiss her feet before working my way up to kiss the labia, massage her clit with my tongue, kneeling in adoration before she drew me gently to my feet. We kissed before she made me lean over the bed.  She spanked me hard and I was still stinging when I felt cold lube around my anus,  heard the slap of a surgical glove being pulled on before she moved her delicate fingers inside me, probing my back passage. At first, I tensed up, clenched the muscles, before her soothing words helped me relax.  I was surrendering to her, giving her my body to play with. She fingered me for several minutes, pushing in fingers, two then three, moving rhythmically in and out and building up to an intensity I found almost unbearable.

It was with relief that I felt her withdraw, before she lay beside me and I went down on her licking greedily at her pussy , then finger fucking her as she massaged her clit  I played with myself with my free hand, fucking her harder and faster until we came, together.

Then I knelt before her, head bowed, before gently, lingeringly, kissing her feet.  I lowered my head and touched the floor with my forehead. My worship of her was as arousing as the sex that has sparked my adoration. I was horny, so fucking horny. So we did it again before lying together, drinking gin and tonic until it was time for her to go, to get home before her husband.

In those moments I realised , what I had not been fully aware of before, which is that that I am still deeply sexually submissive with women. Dominant and sadistic in BDSM contexts, but in the bedroom with a woman, I need to worship, to adore the beauty of the female body, the most precious flower my lover keeps for me.

With men it is different and my sadism is a key part of becoming aroused for sex with men. I love the different smell of men, the hardness and angularity. But, at a deep level, I want to punish them for not being soft and rounded and beautiful as my female lovers are. The pleasure I get from hurting them as they strive to pleasure me is a doubling of the sensual delight. For them, the pleasure and pain are a dialectic that resolves itself into a synthesis of explosive orgasms; and more. As one male lover put it, rough sex with me had taken him into the kind of sub space he had only previously known in a BDSM context.

He bled, he was bruised, he smelt of the come I had smeared all over his torso. He knew what all men who go to bed with me must learn. Whether fucking me or coming in my mouth after a vigorous blow job, their pleasure will be bought with pain. For that is fundamental to who I am; a lifestyle dominant and sadist who exacts a toll of suffering from any man who would get close to her.

I have never believed that dominance and submission, or sadism and masochism were polar opposites.  I think there is something of both in all of us.  I remember, a couple of years ago, reading a brilliantly insightful BDSM based short story whose heroine was as professional dominatrix who, in her private life, was the 24/7 submissive of another woman.  I identified as a submissive before discovering my dominant vocation. But I retain submissive urges. My female lovers have enabled me to transfer them to the bedroom. And for that, I will worship them all the more.

BREAKING BOUNDARIES

I’m not a big fan of portmanteau words and I have to say that cisheteronormative is a spectacularly ugly word.  Nonetheless it is a necessary one if we are to have any kind of inclusive definition of sex and sexual activity. For, as Meg John Barker and Justin Hancock point out in their book Enjoying Sex, standard sex advice is precisely that, centred on PIV sex and technique and performance. They, instead, focus on the individual and their needs. These include the need to be freed from the dead hand of social norms.

The cisheteronormative is pervasive and influences so much that we think about sex, even those of us who like to identify as sex positive, who live alternative sexualities, and who blog about these things. Two excellent Smutathon posts by Coffee and Kink and The Other Livvy deconstruct the concepts of foreplay and virginity.

If PIV sex is privileged and defines as normal or, worse, the only “proper sex”, the question  arises of where this leaves LGBT people, disabled people, even people who simply don’t enjoy penetration? Then there are those who do not have sexual partners and have solo sex. This particularly has been the target of stigma, shaming, religious taboos and, inevitably, medical pseudo-science. I looked at some of these issues in this post. Rereading it I can see that I, too, fell into the trap of seeing masturbation predominantly as a means to an end rather than as a legitimate and enjoyable activity in its own right.

For the elimination of shame and stigma requires the idea of “normal” sex to be challenged. And, as the authors point out, this perceived normality is actually an ideological construct rather than something objectively rooted in biology.  For there is always more than one way of looking at the same thing. A penis, for example, can be seen as both a complement to a vagina (emphasising the difference) or as a male equivalent of the clitoris (and, up to a relatively stage in the development of a foetus, they are the same thing.

The problem for most of us, I suppose, is that the cultural and social norms we grew with are so pervasive that it takes real effort to get outside their boundaries to think things new. That, or life changing experiences. In truth even gender transition or the discovery of BDSM only took me part of the way.

I will talk in a forthcoming post about the different ways in which I interact with male and female sexual partners. For now I want to say a little about what I have learnt about sex from two and a half years of living as a bisexual transgender woman.

I had fondly imagined that, being bi,  I would see no difference, that I would carry on with the same lovers, in the same beds, that……yet the first time with a woman was very different to what I had expected, and set me off on a wonderful journey of discovery.  Having decided that, pre-op, I did not want to penetrate  sexual partners, I was prepared for difference but not the total delight of exploring a woman’s body for its own sake rather than as a build up to the “main” event, feeling her engage with my trans body in new ways, and finding new ways of giving me pleasure.

Sex had become for me something amorphous, or a journey without a destination. This is how I experience sex with women. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no  linear progression. Sit jist is.  And when I am having sex with a woman, I am, to draw on another theme of the book, in the moment.

I actually relate sexually to men and women in very different ways, and I will say a little more about this in a forthcoming post. But with my male partners I am still not quite getting there. I think I will give them the book to read. It will help us both to break the boundaries that still constrain our thinking.

Of course, none of this implies that there is anything wrong with penis in vagina sex. I have had a lot in my time and enjoyed it.  The problem is when it is seen as a norm.

Another theme of this book is consent. The authors define this in ways that go beyond conventional definitions, and suggest that non-consensual sex can include making assumptions about what  partner enjoys, lack of communication, a lack of care.  As a BDSM practitioner I thought I had a relatively sophisticated understanding of consent but this gave me food for thought. I need to write about consent too, as way of gathering my own thoughts.

This, then, is a book with important messages, messages that I could relate to my own experience  and which helped draw together threads from ideas I had forming in my head from other bloggers’ writing. It has helped me to understand myself, to accept myself. It has empowered me.  And I loved the idea that by, for example, pleasuring yourself as you read a smutty story you are engaging sexually with the author. Because this means I have engaged with some awesome, awesome people.

 

Down to a T

I recently read a piece (I can’t remember where so can’t provide a reference) in which it was argued that the T in LGBT I was out of place since gender is a distinct phenomenon from sexual orientation. On one level this is true although we might point out that if a change of gender does not entail a change in sexual orientation this would mean that the act of transitioning the T actually entails the L or G since a straight man transitioning becomes a lesbian.

But there is a deeper problem with this way of thinking. It simply has an excessively narrow view  both of gender and sexuality and  ignores the ways in which they have been intertwined in gay and lesbian subcultures.

I began to think about this whilst at Tate Britain last week,  visiting the exhibition Queer British Art 1861 to 1967, held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales.

For, from the Victorian era, experiments with gender fluidity were part of the artistic expression of gay and lesbian identity. Everywhere where there is androgyny and this was something that was clear to contemporary observers.   Clothes, make up, hair,  the use of beautiful young men as models for female figures from  classical mythology, this even before we get onto pantomime dames and  drag queens. In short, those who identified with alternative and stigmatised sexualities, sought to perform their sexuality in ways that also challenged gender stereotypes. Look, for example, at the photograph of Quentin Crisp in the exhibition or the iconic portrait of Radclyffe Hall.

And maybe the words gay and lesbian are out of place here too. At the start of the period represented by the exhibition medical science had still to invent and define hetero- and homosexuality as concepts. As categories they can be restricting too. Science seeks to define and classify. Art doesn’t.  Art like this serves to undermine the neat order of science’s categories. It points the way to which allow us can live art through our sexuality and through our performance of gender. Queer art is saying that sexuality is elusive, a range of possibilities, a range of pleasures, and gender a stage for our self-representation. Seen through the prism of art, rigid definitions of gender are as constraining as heteronormative binary views of sexuality and, in a sense, underpin them.

There were parts of this exhibition I found deeply erotic. Some of the exhibition was wickedly funny. Take a look at the library book covers doctored by Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell, an act for which the state exacted vicious revenge with six month prison sentences.  All of it was empowering, much of it beautiful. I left, thinking that sexuality and gender form a space where can express ourselves, a space where we can be free.

Sexy Summer Book Club

I am pretty undisciplined when it comes to reading. I usually have seven or more books on the go at any one time, read on the loo, on the bus, while stirring porridge, often just a page or two at a time, before I put the book down and move on to something else. I do plenty of reading but seem to take ages to finish individual books.  It is not unusual for a book for a book to lie untouched for several weeks and, when I pick it up to resume reading, I find I have lost the thread.

For this reason, I am great joiner of book clubs. I regularly attend the Birmingham Feminists Book Club and have read some wonderful books by the likes of Sarah Waters, Maya Angelou and Angela Carter. Book clubs make you read to a deadline and think about what you are reading so that you can contribute to the discussion.  In short, it gives you discipline.

Strange as it may seem, I don’t read nearly as much smut as I ought to.  So I thought that the Sexy Summer Book Club might be an opportunity. We began with the sexual reminiscences and reflections of Girl on the Net. Now I have known GoTN for a few years, having originally met her at Eroticon. I got to chat to her quite a bit as we were often to be found outside the building with the smoking crew. And bonding over a cigarette is a great way to bond, at least with people you are probably never going to go to bed with.

But I had never read very much of her writing. Partly this is because I don’t read a lot of blogs and things online. After a day in the office mired in Excel spreadsheets I just don’t like spending much time reading from screens in the evening. Book Club seemed like a good opportunity to make good the omission.

And I totally loved How a Bad Girl Falls in Love. The GoTN who came off the page was  the same GoTN I love smoking and drinking with. Witty and clever, with a sharp eye for the detail or observation that saves five hundred words, forthright in her opinions, a big personality.

Yet there is more here than opinion, humorous asides and fab sex (although there is plenty of all those). She also writes about her struggles with anxiety and low self-esteem and this, too, is something I can relate to.  I sometimes think it goes with the territory for those of us who became aware, possibly at a young age, that we were different in terms of our sexuality.  The journey away from shame and self-loathing towards an acceptance of who you are and the confidence to simply be yourself is a long one. And even when you find soul mates, in the kink scene or the sex blogging community, for example, the black clouds never quite leave you. Maybe life would be untroubled if all my sex was vanilla, if I didn’t know what a spreader bar was or a dildo?

But ultimately we are who we are. And in my darkest moments  I know that they are people lime GoTN  who will get me, will not judge, will give me love. Which I will reciprocate. Because that is one of the great things to come out of the book for me, the realisation that GoTN is not just a companion in nicotine and cider, but, in all her complexity, a soul mate.

I also understand where she is coming from sexually and why she likes the particular pieces of writing of mine that she does. And some of the writing in this book is hot. I read the book in the gym and had to interrupt my workout on one occasion to go to the Ladies and play with myself. And that, dear reader is the acid test, isn’t it?