I keep thinking in lyrics lately, sometimes verses that will play over and over in my head until I realize what their repetition means. I think the universe has been trying to talk to me lately through the arts. I’ve been drawing all sorts of genitalia for more inclusivity in our Sex Ed Manual at Masakhane, doing puzzles with friends, sewing, discovering new music, redecorating…but I haven’t been writing. I cannot bring myself to write these days. I wish I could say I don’t know why, but I do.
I can think of so many reasons whirring about, sending me into a panicky malaise when it comes to approaching a blog post. From the ending of an intense semester to the ending of my most serious long-term relationship, I’ve been drained of all desire to speak, wax poetic, theorize…things that typically drive my posts. I’ve also all but completely lost my sex drive to the point where masturbation renders me to tears as I get so caught up in my thoughts and completely dissociate from my body. I find myself attracted to other people, but when it comes to wanting a sexual experience I cannot help but ache for my ex. Breakups, man.
I keep thinking, “Pick a toy, use it, review it, BOOM…content!” and then I also think “Don’t write if your heart’s not in it.” I’m not afraid of showing vulnerability in my work: it’s been one of my greatest strengths and weaknesses in all areas of my life. Those flickers of emotional nakedness where I worry whether I’ve said too much and if it will push people away. That balance, the social cues, the honesty with my fears and passions…they leave me constantly paranoid that people dislike me. And then when a breakup happens, especially a rough breakup, the paranoia seems justified and I just flail.
I oscillate from the need for self-love and reflection to complete isolation and loneliness. I’ll reach out to friends, family, familiar faces for validation and then come home to an empty bed, feeling sick. This weekend I decided to clean all the dust off of my dildo shelf…all the toys that hadn’t been used in months and are unlikely to be used anytime soon. I still don’t have the heart to throw away his Tengas. They’re just sitting in my closet in case I decide to “science” them. I had just bought him a new Fliphole in silver to replace his worn-through white one and I’m pretty sure he never even used it. Looking at my Tantus harness, I think about how excited we were to try it and now it just sits there hanging in wait.
As the moon wanes I want to bless these shelves, make them mine again, reaffirm what they mean to me…but I feel like there’s so much work to do in so many other facets of my life. Ideally my collection would be an arsenal of identity, but right now I feel lost. The least I could do was verbalize where I’m at right now for the sake of transparency. The anniversary of my blog’s creation is this month and I want to do something really special. But again, spoons. My love goes out to those reading this and those who aren’t. Comfort is something I took too much for granted during my almost 3 year relationship, and a redefinition is in due order.
“Can’t change the world by blaming men.” And yes, NOFX is problematic. But they taught me to challenge a lot of fucked up systems at a very young age. I don’t discredit transformation. More on punks later.
I wrote a blog post almost a month ago but waited to post it until I attended the Widener Careers in Sexuality Conference this past weekend. I’m glad I did. It added a whole new perspective on masculinity and hatred towards variations of masculinity in how it intersects with men and maleness. I attended Wesley K. Thomas’s “Lets Talk Effemiphobia: Dismantling the New Homophobia for Black Gay Men” workshop.
A photo posted by Careers In Sexuality Con (@careersinsexualityconference) on
What impacted me most was how much we, as a broad society made up of all our intersecting identities, tend to dismiss mental health in men. Gay men, men of color, trans men, white men, men of all religions and social economic statuses. Mental health is rendered so invisible for men, to the point where when we look at mappingpoliceviolence.org, how many of these folx were battling mental illness at the time they were murdered? How many of them were getting help? How many of them had the health insurance coverage for a treatment plan that covered medications, talk therapy, in-patient facilities, anything they needed to improve their mental well-being?
During Wesley’s workshop we talked about how compulsory masculinity, effemiphobia, and the measures men make to avoid being seen as weak…how these are traumatic and tied to mental illness. It’s all fucking feeding into each other. When feminists hate on men for “acting like men,” we are just reinforcing the structures that could be broken down with discussion, questioning, critique and analysis like Wesley’s workshop. It’s not easy, but WHY are we not trying? Why “build a wall?” Doesn’t that sound familiar? I understand that there is a balance between self-preservation and advocacy, but isolation that resorts to these trendy fucking tumblr posts that make kitschy “radical” (in terms of 90’s radfem nostalgia and a tribute to the lingo of the era) slogans about how men should die and are worthless and expendable, but really? FUCKING REALLY?
I remember Brené Brown talking about shame and vulnerability in one of her TED talks and how a father and husband disclosed his vulnerability with her at a signing. I remember how that stuck with me just as much as the rest of her talk. We are all together in this. Dr. Jayleen Galarza spoke in her keynote about privileged folx needing to make ourselves vulnerable and do something when we witness all this awful shit happening. One of my classmates mentioned that our Widener department has made zero acknowledgement of the pain or to help us process the endless murders of black men at the hands of police day after day in this country. I am publishing that here. That is something I can do. I am also sticking up for men, in all their beautiful forms on this post today, because while sometimes I identify as male, people keep telling me I’m not, so I’m going to use that position of non-maleness to stick up for men and say that they deserve better than being shit on day in and day out for being too sissy, too powerful, too loud, too ignorant, too rich, too lazy, whatever it is they have been lumped into because of the refusal for one person to see another person as an individual.
Now to the original post from September 11th:
“I see a lot of hate on cis dudes in my various queer and trans communities and it’s never really sat right, like, ever. It’s not to say I haven’t witnessed male privilege or experienced my share of trauma by the hands of men and boys. And it’s not to say the kindnesses I have witnessed on behalf of men and boys excuses the experiences of people who experience and relive their traumas every day. I don’t willingly ignore male privilege. I don’t protect the patriarchy. But I don’t hate men. I grew up with a really honorable father who, in my later years, I am now getting to see as a man with all his own faults as a human being, and it’s a humbling process. I did the thing a lot of people do, mostly having all cismale friends through my childhood and adolescent life, finding little judgement from them, cherishing the ability to have my words taken at face value, and even in my thirties, seeing those friends still bonded and loyal.
I’m coming back from a hardcore show in a New Brunswick basement tonight. It’s a tradition that dates back decades now and there is still so much heart in it. Going to shows has always been a cathartic process for me. Every therapist I have ever been to has always recommended I go to a show when I start feeling emotionally stuck because they know what it does. It’s just this energy, this excitement, uncertainty, positivity, an evolving sense of camaraderie and yet my individual moment of peace. It’s kinetic love and sometimes primal rage. It’s Audre Lorde’s erotic and I feel like I’ve written about my passion for going to shows in my Livejournal and physical diaries of the past, but the fondness of paying tribute to them never grows old.
These shows are usually predominantly cismale. I went to one show once, well more of an arts and music festival geared towards feminism and queerness, and it was one of the most isolated events I have ever been to. Every person looked like they had stepped out of a Delia*s magazine, clutching their cans of Tecate, slumped against the walls or standing by zine tables but not actually interacting with anyone. I’ve totally bought into this 90’s fashion now, two years later, because I am a fucking hypocrite and it gives me an excuse to wear my combat boots with a dress. I still don’t consider this femme for me, despite the feminist Riot Grrl aesthetic it seems to connote for most folks. It’s just kind of a comfortable, witchy genderfuck, and though trendy, it gets me a little nostalgic for an era I missed by a few years and 3,000 miles.
Anyway, back to the shows I like. The sweaty shows, the kinds of shows where if you get knocked to the floor in a pit there are always three people’s hands ready to help you get back up and at least one person to ask if you’re alright. The kind of shows where the band is standing right there on the floor with you, or if it’s not their set, all their members are in the crowd supporting the other bands. The kind of shows where you make fast friends with a skinhead over absolute nonsense only to see that person decades later crowdsurfing in a wheelchair or officiating roller derby with the name “Gimpy McLegsdontwork.”
Tonight, the first band, Weather Lore, started off thanking all the fellow brown and black punks in the room, proceeded to chant in Spanish, “this is not just your world, this is our world, this is our pain” (I speak Spanish so I understood, but I appreciated the concept that maybe as a white person I was not meant to understand), and brought the entire crowd as close as we could get (“don’t be afraid of the Spics”) as the lead singer ran through and started a pit big enough to fill the whole basement. The sheer aggression in addressing racism and the significance of the date, all in combination with the growls and energy with the crowd made for a beautiful set.
The closing band’s bassist shared a personal disclosure of his family’s history with domestic violence on behalf of his late father and how that has brought disarray to his home even now when he visits to see them. He said that nothing has ever been the same and coming to hardcore shows was his outlet, his source of strength for over 20 years, and it became a whole family on its own. He told us to think about each other in this room, and that domestic violence and abuse is so common that there was probably a good portion of us that had or were currently experiencing it, and not to lose that opportunity to reach out to one another and become each other’s family. It reminded me of being 16 years old again when Geoff Rickly from Thursday told the audience he wrote Concealer all about his past history with abuse.
For all the stuffy air and the mattress-blocked windows in that basement, you could practically feel the circulated sighs from each person during this man’s speech, people holding in tears, folks holding hands and patting each other on the back, kids looking around, everything. It was so unifying and moving to know that people were honoring his story and implicitly honoring each other at the same time. These shows, the voices and advocacy, the humility in the men I encounter…I cannot hate them. I love these people. I grew up a punk. I grew up a ska kid. It’s part of my gender identity. I also wonder sometimes if being cismale is part of my gender identity. I really think that’s in me. You grow up in a punk community, a real punk community (whatever the fuck that is), the kids you’re with hate authority. They hate “the man.” They actively squirm at structures that are meant to put people down and oppress marginalized populations. They fight. I love that fight. Audre Lorde’s Uses of Anger RIGHT FUCKING THERE.
The white men I know at these shows, they talk privilege. I’m willing to bet that they’d have a great conversation about white male privilege if folks just gave them the chance. I see people writing off all cismen, or saying “Ok SOME cismen are fine, but they need to be x, y, z and need to REALLY work at earning respectability.” We all have fucking privilege. We should all be working towards being better people. I’m not going to get into some pissing contest about the Oppression Olympics because my TERF-in-denial ex-girlfriend thinks my gender nonconforming cismale partner is the Paragon of Patriarchy. I don’t love ALL men. I also don’t love ALL people. But goddamn was tonight precious to me, and looking around at this crowd thinking about all the folks that would readily cast them aside for their gender makes me confused and angry. I’m trans. I’m nonbinary. I’m fluid. I’m whatever fucking word of the day that will never accurately describe my weirdass gender identity that is or isn’t male, female, human, or transcendent of language/existence itself. But what I’m not is a manhater.”
With love, my partner and I made this cover tonight. We are now eating cheesy soft-pretzels with shit-eating grins and stuffy noses. We are sending out good energy to anyone reading this right now.
I don’t know what it is about ass talk that makes me either smother it with puns or anthropomorphize all things butt-related. I’ve never been the kid who drew dick graffiti (ok maybe sometimes) or called someone a pussy…my lexicon has always been oriented towards the posterior. I guess I’m just an ass man. Or an asshole. Or just an ass, in general. I still remember having to sing alto in sixth grade Chorale for “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day,” and NEVER being able to make it through the lyric, “Between an ox and a silly poor ass” without losing my shit. That horrible commercial where the guy accidentally calls his interviewer “Dumbass” when his name is actually “Mr. Dumas?” Unforgettable. So yeah, it’s really hard for me to write any review about anal toys, any blog post about anal health, or any commentary on anal sex without getting a little ridiculous. Sorry, but also, maybe a little not sorry? Anyway…
The Vixen Tristan 1 has been in my anal toy repertoire since its days known only as the Tristan, before the Tristan 2 came to be. Given that the Tristan 2 is a little more short and stout when the Tristan 1 is already too girthy and not long enough for me, I don’t think I’ll be buying the Tristan 2 anytime soon, but more on that later. I initially bought the Tristan 1 because it checked off several points of interest for me in a butt plug. It had a seemingly reasonably long shaft, a flanged (flared) base that was meant to fit between buttcheeks comfortably so I could potentially walk around with it or have double penetrative sex more easily with it, it was tauted to stay put and not “pop out,” it was silicone and black, a color I like for anal toys because it doesn’t show any santorum-y goodness after a rough go, and it was named and endorsed by Tristan Taormino herself.
Working in a porn store for 8 plus years, Tristan had become my go-to educator and filmmaker when customers asked me about trying anal sex, comparing it to what they had seen in hardcore porn like Evil Angel’s Anal Acrobats and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I have a serious respect for stars like Proxy Paige and HotKinkyJo who can stretch their anuses with supernatural ability, but Tristan gave a really casual accessibility to education through porn using actual porn stars to demonstrate a less intimidating approach to anal. It’s still mindblowing to look back to the books and films and think they were made from ten to sixteen years ago. What she did was absolutely groundbreaking then, and she continues to work her ass off to this day, educating and promoting sexuality awareness and positivity. I’ll be attending the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit come August, and can’t wait to see her there.
I don’t usually spend a lot of time discussing packaging, but Vixen’s packaging of the Tristan was amazing. It came in this clear plastic cylindrical tub (a photo from Smitten Kitten’s website that gives you an idea) that was perfect for storage. If I didn’t want to display my Tristan on my toy shelf, I would definitely have kept it in here, and I hung onto this container for quite some time, trying to figure out some other use for it because it was just that cool. I can understand why the Tristan comes with this container, though, as the Vixen silicone used to make it is an absolute lint magnet. Granted, most silicone tends to attract lint and dust…my traditional Tantus silicone will snag a cat hair mid air from almost four inches away, but the Tristan, put on the bottom shelf of my toy rack after a wash and dry, will be covered in dust in less than a day. This is definitely an anal toy you are going to need to rinse off before usage each time, or at least have baby wipes handy.
The material is SO squishy. I had felt Vixskin in my partner’s neon green Mustang they affectionately named “Patient Zero,” but the squish and give of the Tristan, even with a solid inner core, made it really difficult to insert, especially when lubed up. It has a very rounded head with only a slightly pointed tip, so my ass is very hesitant to take it and I can’t really apply firm pressure to squeeze it inside of me without the neck of the toy bending and slipping the bulb out of place. With enough breathing and a vibrator on my clit, more often than not I am able to get the Tristan inside of me, and it is THEN that the softness of the silicone feels amazing. The clenching of my sphincter makes the silicone conform nicely to my insides and it’s super comfortable. This feeling usually doesn’t last very long, however, as when I use a vibrator and bring myself to orgasm, the way my bits swell does not work together with how the bulb rests inside of me. It’s almost like it’s too short, like if the bulb were just a half inch higher, my ass would have something more to grab onto while everything swelled and contracted during orgasm and it wouldn’t feel so achy and painful.
And while Tristan’s right, it doesn’t pop out during orgasm or contractions the way a lot of my other butt toys have, this one goes flying when I am double penetrating myself with something else. Even the slimmest and softest of dildos will make the Tristan immediately slip out of me when I insert them vaginally. I do love how the cut of the base fits between my butt cheeks, but conversely, it does mean this is less material to grab onto if I want to wiggle the butt plug slightly in and out of me while I hold a vibe on my clit. And given that the Vixen silicone is so soft to begin with, I can’t really get much of a grip on the flange to work the butt plug, so the Tristan really is just one of those plugs that has to stay put once it’s in me.
I feel like if they made a Tristan 3 with a longer neck, more of a taper to the head, and more of a severe graduation from the bulb to the neck so it truly stays put during things like double penetration, I’d have a new favorite butt plug. But for now, the Tristan takes a little too much work to make it worth it for me.
I will say, though, that the Tristan stretched me out just enough to take my Shilo really comfortably tonight, and although my primary partner didn’t enjoy the Shilo for pegging his butthole, I am telling you, that toy is amazing in my ass. Like holy shit, I have a dick in my ass (technically my dick in my ass, which is even hotter). If my boyfriend took his dick out of my ass and put the Shilo in already warmed up, I swear to Bowie I wouldn’t know the difference. I was so fucking impressed. So while the Tristan may not be my favorite anal toy, I may have just now found my new favorite pegging toy. So thanks Tristan. I couldn’t have discovered this without you! <3
First things first, play the above song while you read the following post to get an idea of the moods I’ve been in for the last six hours while creating playlists on Spotify. Or, if you don’t multitask (for example, my brain can NOT listen to lyrics while I’m reading something else), listen to the song before you start reading further.
Music can have a really profound effect on emotion and energy, particularly when it comes to sexuality. It can put me in an entirely different headspace, bring back waves of nostalgia, motivate me to “do the thing!” or even leave me so confused as to who could possibly enjoy what I’m listening to (how is there a Kidz Bop 32 now?).
So, I have zero musical talent. But apparently I have a finely tuned skill at making mixes which began in the sixth grade when I used to record radio songs onto tapes and give them out to my friends. To this day, I still have that god awful stereo I painted in multicolor nail polish and I occasionally make cassette mixes for my one friend whose Crown Victoria uses a tape deck. In my late teens and early college years I discovered CD burning and Napster/Kazaa/Limewire/The Pirate Bay (I mean, the iTunes store?) and proceeded to woo my potential lovers with really well thought out mixes that somehow applied to our relationships. To this day, my mixes contain lyrical significance and have deliberate song orders.
I’ve noticed my sex mixes usually have three or four different themes. I have my “Dark” mixes, which usually include heavier, angrier music that helps put me in a kinky headspace, my “Chill” mixes which usually consist of slow beats, someone singing seductively, and an occasional synth beat, and my “Tender” mixes which are a whole blend of lyrical mushy business and variations of your typical I–V–vi–IV progression (aka the love song riff). I notice that no matter the mix I choose, they all make me very toppy, whereas if I fuck in silence I’m sort of aimless, easily distracted, and less confident.
Back when I was still working at the adult store and using my birth name, my dear friend Lynn from Homoground (we met back during the dyke_riot community days on Livejournal 10 years ago) posted one of my mixes here. Yes, that is a bandolier of vibrating bullets I’m wearing. I seriously had SO much fun making that mix.
These Spotify compilations include some songs that I’ve been fucking to for over 15 years. Some are songs I’ve just discovered by listening to the Nice and Slow channel on Google Play music. I am a little bummed that Spotify didn’t have Tattle Tale’s Glass Vase Cello Case so I’m including it here because it’s that important to me. After I saw But I’m A Cheerleader in high school this became one of my favorite songs for really intimate moments.
So what songs get you in the mood? Do they fit into any genres? Comment with some songs and I’ll make a Palimpsex Reader Playlist on my Spotify!