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.
When I was approached by Liberator to review their Black Label Esse Chaise, I was sort of mystified. Like this blog post and even the Chaise itself, I didn’t know where to start or how to react. I was excited, I was intimidated, I knew the possibilities would be beyond my imagination and I knew things were really up to me for direction and choice.
Now, I’m switchy in all aspects of my life: kink, academia, picking a place to eat…when it comes to fucking on a gorgeous piece of furniture or choosing how to write about it, the same principles apply. Do I take the cerebral road and wax poetic about how this item has led me to reconsider disability, particularly in my anxieties over using it? Do I just get straight into the meat of the review because I think readers would be more interested in the form and function of the chaise for their own personal considerations, particularly given the price-point of the toy and the decisions required to make such an investment? I really don’t know.
I know I could write a really lengthy post about the whole experience, and I’ve only really used the chaise for sex three times after having it for a month, but to be completely transparent, I’m contracted by Liberator to write this free review within 30 days, so time is somewhat a factor. Which plays into the first theme of my thoughts on disability. I’ve never reviewed something for a company before. Every review I’ve ever done has been without contract and that’s sort of alienated me from the rest of the professional blogging community because I fear my work has less value. I worry folks think I don’t put as much care into what I do because I’m not getting paid for it. I’m still not getting paid here, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t get a massively gorgeous $600 furniture kit for the quality of my writing, so here goes:
No, maybe I’m not a legit blogger. And that does do my head in a bit, mental healthwise. Seeing a contract for the first time certainly triggered some unexpected anxiety, and considering my primary partner and I don’t have the most frequent sex, scheduling time between my stressful semester, my back, his job, and our sick kitty to try out the Chaise has been a little tricky. What I have discovered, though, is that this Chaise is great not only for physical disabilities, but has done wonders for our neurodivergences as well.
Being that it is so supportive, grippy where it needs to be, the texture of the faux leather cover, the strong D-rings on the bottom, and the angles of the curves, the Chaise is like a little mental vacation once we get onto it. It’s like a really gentle inversion table at times, except I’m consenting to the bloodflow differential and I have all the fluff and back support I need. The headspace change happens almost the second I touch the Chaise. Just feeling the texture of faux leather in comparison with everything else in my apartment brings me a visceral awareness of my sexuality. It’s not as though I’ve fetishized the Chaise (well maybe I have, a bit), but rather just something about it that fits so appropriately with my identity, physically and spiritually.
I thought it was just me who felt that way, as the first time I used it I masturbated alone while my partner was at work. I worked myself into what felt like ten different positions with my Hitachi. I rarely orgasm that many times from a Hitachi; it’s usually one or two and I’m over-sensitized and blissed out, but something about the Chaise had this organically coaching feeling telling me that I could keep going if I wanted to, and I did. It didn’t cradle me like a bed. It was comfortable, but I didn’t want to just sprawl out and nod off into a sweaty mess like I usually do. I felt a weird out of body experience as the sun shone through the snake tank and onto my beating chest, like I was on display…for myself. It was really erotic and very confidence-building.
My partner had a similar experience when he used it on his own and felt really sexy afterwards, describing an energized state and attributing it to the position he was in, back rested against the higher slope and one foot on each side, toes dug into the carpet. He said that because of this, it didn’t strain him or tire him, but it also didn’t feel like a sleepy wank either, where he usually wants to sink back into bed afterwards.
The angles of the Chaise make it very easy to get out of, even if I’ve got my head at the lower slope and my ass at the highest slope, all I need to do is move one leg with gravity and I’ve got a firm plant on the floor. There is no “turtling” required, which I usually need to do to get off of my back once I’ve been in a sunken bed for a while. The Chaise is firm and supportive, but not stiff, so it holds both my 200 pound body and my partner’s 130 pound body in many different positions. I could be on my knees with this thing and it will barely make a dent. The Chaise really is a solid piece of material.
So the day finally came when my partner and I got to use it together. And it was funny, because we were both just casually showing each other how we each masturbated on it, but watching each other do that was so arousing that a full session evolved from there. Everything felt so good! I was amazed at how easy it was to be on top again, with him lying down and my legs on either side of the Chaise. It was the perfect height, and the dip in the middle gave him a great space for thrusting while I could use my legs to lift myself up and down off of him, plus the slope behind his head was great to grab onto for additional support.
I don’t think sex with me on top has ever been that easy in my entire life. The other position that blew us away because we never get to do it was doggy style. Normally, even off the edge of the bed, doggy style is extremely tiring on his legs, and I can never arch my back properly without it hurting my discs or triggering my sciatica. This has been so disappointing for us as doggy style was always my favorite position, and I used to be able to arch my back to work my G-spot really well. By positioning me in the dip of the chaise with him at the top of the lowest slope, he was able to use physics of all things, the gravity of the cushioning to help spring him back up each time he came down from behind. I’m not sure how much sense that makes, but if I’m laid out, hugging the higher slope with my legs spread, and he’s on the other slope with his legs together, he was able to get a really great entry angle for a virtually inexhaustible doggy style that left both of us very satisfied at the end.
Something I find equally valuable about the Chaise is the many usages for it. Currently it sits in our pet room between two bookcases. I keep discovering new things every day for this lounger. Just this week I needed to flip through about 20 books on sex therapy for a paper, and instead of kneeling on the floor, I luxuriously flopped over the chaise to read Jessica Benjamin’s The Bonds of Love. (Paging Dr. Freud!) My partner loves to steal the grippy pillow that comes with the chaise, as it has all these little nubbins on the back and looks identical to one of those medical lumbar pillows you put on a computer chair…which is exactly what he uses it for. We both love using the chaise as our viewing couch when we feed our snake, Princess Buttercup.
I should also mention that the D rings at the base of the Chaise have a distinctly kinky function for bondage, and Liberator was kind enough to send us a pack of their modular ankle and wrist cuffs, but for some reason we were unable to thread them through the D rings. The clips and straps were too thick to fit through, and to be completely honest, were a bit too complicated for our liking. The blindfold was fantastic, though! It even had a little lip of padding at the bottom for cheek comfort and kept me from being able to peek out the bottom (also great for multi-purpose, as my partner uses this blindfold to block out my laptop light when I’m up late nights in bed).
We do like the D rings because they are sturdy as hell. They make lifting and moving the Chaise so easy, and for someone with a bad back, this is so crucial. Lifting by the D rings gives us a great grip on the thing and we have no fear of the cover ripping at all. They’re actually part of the removable cover, as the Chaise has two covers which are simple to take off, and as with any Liberator product, totally washable. Though to be honest, given the smoothness of the faux leather, I think a simple spot treatment should do. Overall I am so impressed with this massive product and would highly recommend the Black Label Esse Chaise for anyone who has the space for it!
Ever since I got to poke my friend’s cephalapod (yes I know that might sound strange on any other blog), I knew I wanted a Damn Average toy of my own. Their range of density in silicone is impressive, from super soft to hard, and their comparisons to gummy candy and erect tissue are spot on. I also love that Sheep, the creator, has synesthesia, because it manifests beautifully in each toy’s color, shape, and texture. Damn Average even has squishy grab bags and silicone stress relievers in all sorts of cool shapes, and as somebody who is really into fidgets and slimes, I’ll definitely be buying one with my next purchase.
Valentime’s Day came and went, and as per usual I did nothing special to celebrate. I usually scourge the shelves of CVS or hit up the Lindt store’s 100 truffles for $30 sale for post-Valentine discounts, but this time I saw a very different discounted chocolate pop up on my Twitter feed. Damn Average was holding a Discount Chocolate Day, with an assortment of amazingly shaped toys all in beautifully marbled colors from mint to shimmered pinks and reds, all blended with rich brown tones to give a chocolatey effect. Talk about synesthesia, the color pours were enough to make my mouth water, and not in one of those cheesy “this sex toy is better than chocolate” type ways. Like, these things actually looked good enough to sink my teeth into. And knowing the gummy consistency of them, unf…
I immediately sent the Etsy page to my partner, since he been on a quest for the perfect butt toy and I knew there would absolutely be something on here to fit his parameters. Nothing pokey. Nothing too firm. Nothing too curved. Not too big or too small. My partner has the Goldilocks of buttholes. He wants something he can “go to town with.” After feeling DA’s super soft density in their cephalopod and seeing the shapes and girths on their website, I knew my partner was going to be like a me in a candy shop. It was tough narrowing it down, but we settled on the soft Lumpy, a semi-phallic dildo with a bit of a glans and several cascading bulges reaching a flared base with a tiny nub for additional stimulation (or grip).
We took one look at this thing and both agreed it needed to be in our butts. A mutual butt toy. The marbling on it looked gorgeous in pictures, described as a pink-gold shimmer but actually appearing very peachy in person. Something about the Lumpy (or “Lumpy Little Fucker, the Devil” as it was originally named by Damn Average), just says “I resemble a dick, a turd, and a delicious piece of chocolate, please put me in your bum ASAP.” Everything about it looks like it’s going to feel amazing, and it translates beautifully into action.
When I received the Lumpy, it was already wrapped in heart-printed tissue paper, an adorable touch, and I’ve never seen my partner so eager to use a toy right away. Usually it takes a few days before one of us uses a toy, but when I went to work that night, I came home to see the Lumpy freshly boiled on the dish rack. Without even asking, my partner went right into it: “It’s perfect! I can bend it in any direction, I can fit my whole hand around it, I was ramming it as hard as I could and it felt so good! I almost came without jerking off; I’ve never done that before!” Clearly, it was my turn.
I wish I could say the Lumpy also had these life-changing experiences for me, but I’m honestly so happy that my partner has finally found his “go-to” anal toy. The Lumpy is still great, don’t get me wrong. But for me, the softness makes insertion a little tricky. I say a little and not a lot because the angle of the tip definitely helps for the initial point of entry, and the length of the Lumpy lets me pinch the shaft and guide it in. It sort of reminds me when I’m being anally penetrated by my partner when he’s like 90% erect. The other thing that surprised me about the Lumpy was my inability to get past the final bulge. I could not for the life of me get it completely in, which was all I really wanted. No matter how many times I orgasmed (and I think I came about 5 times with the Lumpy…it’s still a great feeling toy!) I couldn’t stretch enough to accommodate that last bump.
Comparing the Lumpy to some of my other dildos I’ve used anally, the girth is no thicker than the head of my Shilo and similar in softness. So I grabbed the Shilo and was able to insert it quite easily on my first try. What I’ve come to realize about my preference in dildos is that, while in theory I like the idea of a softer density, in practice they do not offer the thrusting power or insertion pressure I enjoy with firmer toys. They are more difficult to grip and tend to bend in all different directions, and they squeeze to fit my insides instead of pushing against them. While this is great for an anal toy that is meant to comfortably stay in place, for example the Bingo, for a toy I am trying to actively feel, not so much.
It all clicked when I started using the Shilo directly after the Lumpy and appreciated the Shilo’s firm, wide base as well as its dual-density core, which supported more rigorous use. But this is absolutely a case of different strokes for different folks, as my partner dislikes the pressure of firmer silicone and really enjoys the bendy aspects of squishy silicone. One other issue worth mentioning with soft silicone, which we hadn’t experienced until now, was the odor-trapping experience. I had read about it in Lilly’s post, where softer silicone can be more likely to bond with butt smells. Our Bingo, Shilo, and Crista hadn’t picked anything up yet, but after just two uses, Lumpy had begun to get a bit…pungent.
We are big fans of coconut oil, so I was hoping this would prevent the toy from picking up any smells, but unfortunately even after boiling the toy (actually, especially after boiling…it was particularly stinky when it got warm) the Lumpy still retained a smell mimicking its very shape and color. The odor got stronger if we bent the tip of the head to the left or the right, stretching the silicone a bit. Bleach didn’t help, but some of the smell came out after soaking Lumpy overnight in giant container of white vinegar. There are still faint traces of Anus, but since a.) we know the thing is sterilized and b.) it’s going to remain a butt toy, we’re not too worried about it as long as we don’t hold our noses right up to it. It does give me yet another reason to buy a Lumpy of my own in a harder firmness, though. Marbled March has begun and it looks like Sheep and I both share a birth month…perhaps I may treat myself to a toy or two…
I want to begin this post with a content warning. While it’s super empowering to talk about my disabilities for the next few paragraphs and how they relate to my upcoming review of the Liberator Jaz, they also cover topics of body dysphoria, PTSD, and some allusions to abuse. This entry is my version of self-care. Please do what you need to do for your own self-care. My review of the Jaz will begin with the first image, if you want to scroll ahead.
Phew. So 24 hours and some leftover Chinese food later, let’s see if I can take another crack at this entry. I tried making a post that went a little bit into my various disabilities and how they affected my sexuality and sexual identity, only to realize that “No, Avery, that is not for your blog, that is for your fucking thesis.” I also had no idea how traumatic of a writing experience that would be, thinking I had a conceptual handle on how to frame my disabilities when it always ends up a moving target.
What started out as a breakdown of each disability through different models, discussing diagnoses, language, my social positionality, and a lot of body image issues, kept coming back to this holistic traumatic revelation of how each of my disabilities are so deeply ingrained within one another. How my panic attacks from my degenerative disc disease can also send my SVT into atrial fibrillations. How my ongoing weight gain isn’t just from my bipolar meds, it’s from years of calcium channel blockers and my extremely limited exercise regimen on account of my rottedback. And how it’s a terrifying feedback loop because exercise is the one thing that will help my heart, my back (losing weight eases stress on my lumbar discs), and my mind.
What began to resonate the deepest was discussing my lifelong history with PTSD and how scared I am to talk about it in the blogging world because I don’t want to trigger folks or misuse language. I have been so dissociative with PTSD throughout my life and this past year is really the first time I’ve let things in. I know why, and I’ve discussed this with some people but kept largely silent about it. I’ve tried to speak up when I hear folks praise kink/queer/poly relationships as the highest levels of consent and communication. But I’ve also been very coded with my language. I am not ready to address what has happened to me publicly, but someday soon I will find an appropriate avenue to open up about my abuse.
These last few months have been a blessing in terms of honoring disability. I’m taking a class with Bethany Stevens on Sexuality, Chronic Illness, and Disability, and it’s reintroduced me to amazing writers like Clementine Morrigan, Sunaura Taylor, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, as well as some beautiful performances like those of Sins Invalid. It’s also encouraged me to start bringing more direct approaches towards sexuality into my eldercare group therapy sessions, particularly after I screened Salome Chasnoff’s “Code of the Freaks” and offered a nudity content warning, only to be chided by the group (“What do you think we are, a bunch of prudes?”)
I didn’t think they were prudes, but we also spent the previous 15 minutes talking about curb cuts in their local parish and how the visiting pastor never speaks loudly enough, so I made the terrible assumption that Jesus and erotica were mutually exclusive lifestyles (I mean, yes and no?). So yesterday I went full-in: sex toys. Well, sort of full-in. I segued with the discussion of the Sportsheets line for Veterans with disabilities and followed up by talking about Liberator’s variety of wedges. I’ve disclosed my degenerative disc disease with the group several times…if only they knew how crucial Liberator has been for my own disabilities.
I write this post propped up on my Jaz, relieving my legs from the usual sciatica I get from sitting in bed. The Liberator Jaz has been an assistive device for me in myriad ways. After my microdiscectomy, I was able to use it for at-home physical therapy by propping it under my knees during strength band exercise. It’s great for my posture when I’m sitting at the computer for extended periods of time. Under my 200 pounds, the cushion of the Jaz pops right back into place once I stand up.
Most importantly though, the Jaz helped me reinvent old sex positions I could no longer get into comfortably after surgery and my cortisone epidurals. Missionary tends to be my favorite as there is no twisting or arching like doggy style/spooning, and I don’t get as tired as I would if I were on top. With missionary I can’t tilt my hips as high as I used to without getting a shooting pain through my left hamstring. On really bad days my sciatica can extend all the way down to my heel, and with the Jaz I can prop my hips/ass in the air for better G-spot stimulation without any added strain.
One of my other favorite positions with the Jaz is with my partner bent over it, his ass in the air. By using the thicker side of the wedge to push him up, his testicles don’t get as squished during pegging and he does not have to strain his legs when I peg him from behind. This way, I can put my weight on top of him while I fuck him and he still has the Jaz keeping a comfy distance between his bits and the bed, so if he wants to reach down to jerk off he has the freedom to do so. The angle is also much more pleasurable for insertion as I am penetrating in a way that doesn’t poke his prostate too much.
So this Jaz is a very versatile little pillow. I say little because it’s pretty much the exact same size as my 15″ Macbook Pro. One might think that’s not big enough to have an effect, but I’m 200 lbs, 5’10”, a size 38 mens, and there’s plenty of room for me on the Jaz. My partner is my same height but about 130 lbs and a 28 mens, and the Jaz is still a perfect size for him. I’m telling you, it’s versatile.
Cleaning is so easy, and I love that it comes with not one, but two covers. I literally just throw the cover in the wash on cold delicates, no fabric softener, and hang it to dry. It comes out perfect every time. You can always spot clean yours but we tend to get ours a little…messy. Also, this thing IS a total cat hair magnet, but I’ve found that those lint brushes (not the sticky ones but the fuzzy ones) pick everything up really nicely. One final bonus about the Liberator Jaz is price. At $54 it’s worth every penny for the durability, ease of use, and innovation. I honestly think it should be in every person’s arsenal, regardless of ability or if they’re going to use it for sex. I guarantee you will find a really good purpose for this thing one day.
Wellllll…the semester didn’t start quite how I wanted it to. A lot of us found out for the first time that Widener is no longer AASECT-accredited and so we do not get automatically certified upon graduation. This was apparently told to us during orientation but many of my classmates and myself remember it quite the opposite. Anyway. Not much I can do about it now with graduation coming in May.
Masakhane is getting really intense now that it’s incorporated into my practicum. I’m super excited for an upcoming Sex Positive Sex Toy Bingo we are hosting at Hell’s Kitchen Lounge in Newark. It’s been a LONG time since we held a fundraiser there and they’re always really fun. Hell’s makes a special “Masakhane” shot and we give away all sorts of goodies; this year all our toys are coming from SheVibe and I made sure they were blue and orange themed (Masakhane’s colors). I did throw twonew Tokidoki products in the mix because they had devils on them…maybe a Hell’s staff can win one or a hockey fan hanging out before the game.
Either way, I’m stoked, particularly after the abomination of a Sex Toy Bingo I attended at Capitoline in Asbury Park last month. They used to host it at Asbury Lanes and it was amazing…we even saw Rubber Doll perform and Bettina May performed some burlesque numbers. What it’s become and the quality of the prizes was gut-wrenching and I really hope Masakhane can offer folks a proper Sex Toy Bingo.
The one great thing about starting a new semester is catching up with my cohort. Two of my best mates in the program did a holiday gift exchange with me, and this past weekend we got to give each other all presents. My two awesome gifts from them were interestingly enough both necklaces with secret functions. One is a tiny glass-blown oil diffuser, currently filled with Jasmine oil (my favorite flower). The other is a Crave Vesper, and well…it functions as a “Holy Shit” machine.
Remembered that Sex Therapy class starts next weekend and one of my classmates is gifting me a Vesper necklace. ::excitement intensifies::
I had wanted a Vesper for a few years now after seeing it in Kink Shoppe and one of my other classmates had one. But despite demoing it on my fingertips I never really understood how it would operate on my nethers, especially being so pinpoint. The price intimidated me, though it has since gone down considerably ($70 for the stainless steel). And though the novelty of having a stealth vibrator necklace seemed cool, I wasn’t gangbusters about it. As a gift however, the Vesper couldn’t fail. It looked cool, it finally gave me the opportunity to try it at no cost, and it looked to be a great conversation starter.
I won’t say I had low expectations for the Vesper, because the vibrations are strong. They tread the border between buzzy and rumbly, particularly at the strongest setting. With three speeds and one pulse function (which is way too fast and also way too weak), I really only use the highest speed of the Vesper. What suspended my hopes was the size of the tip, being that my typical clitoral approach is with broadly applied vibration. Particularly left crural radiating-type orgasms. Where the hell was I supposed to poke this thing? Would I just lay it flat?
Anything I put directly on my clit tends to get really achy or sore, especially as I get hard. The Vesper went against my instincts and indeed worked best with the tip pointed directly onto my clit. It’s shockingly stimulating in a way I haven’t felt since I started using vibrate-y things in high school. To be completely honest, it reminds me of being fourteen years old again and using the bristle-free side of my Sonicare electric toothbrush which then I shamefully hid in the dusty corners of my bathroom cabinet until throwing it out a decade later.
There’s something about the initial jolt of contact that sends my legs twitching and bring me close to orgasm almost right away. It’s not effortless…the stimulation becomes so intense that I need to take the Vesper off of me for moments, creating this building momentum which is again, an orgasm method I haven’t employed since my younger years. So it’s nostalgic in a sense. Frustrating, but in an endearing way, not in a “fuck it, I give up” way. The other thing about the hardness of the stainless steel concentrated against the hardness of my clit is I can feel the tip roll over my boner if I press hard enough, slipping side to side, which is a little uncomfortable. So I have to be precise with my positioning which gets a bit difficult as my legs are twitching and I’m doing this tantric “mounting orgasm” method and contorting my face and hands into all sorts of wacky shapes.
I absolutely love how the Vesper warms up. I definitely think that has something to do with my ultimate orgasm. It’s supposed to warm up, unlike the Jopen Lust 2.5, so I’m able to just let go and enjoy the sensation of increased temperature instead of worrying if I’m about to set my pubes on fire. Fashion-wise, the chain is a perfect length for my neck (bare but censored chest in the link), and the hole in the Vesper is wide enough to fit any chain of your choosing. Any toy with a DIY option makes me super happy, and I can imagine the Vesper looking awesome with a leather slipknot cord.
Cleaning is a little intimidating as the toy is splash but not waterproof, so I try to keep the pad of my thumb over the silicone button when washing it. Charging is really cool, just unscrew the top, screw the charging dongle to the Vesper, and plug it into any USB charger. In all my uses, I’ve never drained the battery completely, and I am pretty diligent about keeping my toys charged, so I don’t foresee any charging issues with this toy.
Overall I’m really tickled by how much I liked the Vesper…here I was thinking it would be another Lust 2.5 situation, a vibrator that was too pinpoint to make me orgasm on my own, something I’d need to use in the heat of the moment with a partner. And what I have is a really great quality pinpoint vibrator that I’d happily use on my own by itself as a standalone. This year has definitely been one of discoveries, between realizing how much I love girth to now learning that I may enjoy pinpoint stimulation after all. So thanks Crave, for teaching me a little bit more about my body. Ah, the beauty of good sex toys.
I feel like 2017 has already been a year of anticipation for many folks. In good ways and bad. I’ve had wonderful moments to celebrate, opportunities to reconnect with old friends, beautiful sessions with clients, and many new toys on the way. I’m also about to begin a new semester at Widener this weekend, one potentially full of improvements and chances to connect further with the rest of my cohort. But it’s already been a bit of a FOMO year for me, missing out on the amazing Creating Change conference in Philadelphia as well as today’s Women’s March on Washington. Both powerful gatherings of celebration, resistance, reflection and exchange, sending messages of not only tolerance but unabashed need for awareness as a means of survival in ongoing generations of misinformation and hate. I am and will absolutely be there in spirit and will do what I can from my emotional and physical locations to support and reciprocate the positive energy of these movements.
At this time, it feels cosmically organic for me to review the NS Novelties Pride Dildo, a realistic phallic-shaped dildo striped with rainbow colors. So many of the workshops I teach use rainbows. From color therapy glasses to rainbow Mr. Sketch markers to mixing rainbows in Oobleck to theming subject matter around chakra colors, rainbows have been thematically elemental throughout my entire life for their multitude of representations. Spectrums, diversity, pride, vibrancy… everything I can possibly associate with rainbows always enhances my well-being. During my “Beyond LGBTQ 101” workshops, I love teaching folks what the colors of the Pride Flag signify: sexuality, life, healing, sunlight, nature, magic, art, serenity, harmony, and spirit. The takeaway of the discussion usually ends up being how each of us, no matter our identity, has the profound capacity to value and cherish each of these symbols. And so when I use my Pride Dildo, I do it mindfully. And when I review it today, I want to do it mindfully, because today is a day when symbols of hate and intolerance are all over my television, all over my computer screen…I would much rather wield my rainbow dick and align my chakras through a patriarchy-smashing orgasm than pay any attention to that man behind the curtain.
I used to be repulsed by dildos that resembled dicks. I disowned them with indignant disdain until I realized I could use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house and that language and symbolism can perpetually be reclaimed. This dick is nobody’s dick but my own, and it can represent whatever I want it to. So when I got the large Pride Dildo and saw that exactly how “realistic” it was, asymmetrically shaped with a bit of a curve, a smaller head, vascular but not grotesquely so, even a scrotal raphe, I was actually kind of stoked. Granted, the Pride is huge in length and girthy in some spots of the shaft, but I felt like I had gotten an actual mold of someone’s cock. The subtle wrinkles of insinuated foreskin underneath the glans hold onto lube nicely, particularly coconut oil (my lube of choice), which can get runny during warmer application.
I love having the extra length as an option for deeper penetration, and my partner likes the stripes because he can see how deep he is going inside me according to what color he has gotten to. The silicone is relatively matte and doesn’t attract dust like a lot of my other toys, which is an added bonus. I do wonder how this dildo would have felt if the silicone were a softer shore. Not complaining though, the density of the silicone, similar to Tantus, gives the Pride plenty of oomph. Plus it’s reasonably inexpensive and comes in a smaller size, which I’m honestly debating on buying for my nonprofit to use during condom demonstrations.
The suction cup at the base is rather floppy, so not really gripping material, but since the testicles are nice and hard, I ended up using them for a handle. The suction cup is the strongest I’ve experienced in any sex toy. Despite the weight of this toy, the cup held it firmly onto everything, from textured linoleum tiles to drywall (I know…how?!). I thought I’d really have no purpose for a suction cup until I remembered how much I used to enjoy orgasming on my knees. I have now discovered a new orgasmic witching hour, 2 o’clock in the morning on the kitchen floor while my partner is soundly snoring in the bedroom. I’m really fucking satisfied with this dildo and and pleasantly relieved it was able to fulfill my expectations. I highly recommend it and am so glad to add it to my ever-growing rainbow collection of toys.
With a dildo collection ranging towards the eclectic, it was only a matter of time before I began venturing into the wonderful world of fantasy dildos. My ex has an extensive Bad Dragon collection and though I admired these creations, they were really intimidating in size and shape (I’m only now realizing how much I love girth, and sort of totally regret never trying any of their larger wares while we were still together). I was never squeamish with what these dildos represented, from werewolf wangs to dino dicks, and was even really turned on by the tentacle-y toys.
I previously encountered the now defunct Whipspider Rubberworks’s Ghost dildo at a birthday kidnapping play party for my ex back in 2010 and loved their entire line. Bad Dragon was in overwhelmingly huge production and so widely memefied that I was sort of turned off by the company even before I heard about their shitty customer service and transphobic behavior. Not to mention nearly every fantasy dildo (no matter the company) I’d come across was incredibly expensive, and for the most part, rightly so. They are ornate, uniquely designed, hand-poured with unique color combinations, and come with different densities. But my budget could only afford one-offs or flops, (Frisky Beast calls them “Aberrants”) products which had nicks, bubbles, or other inconsistencies which made them less expensive.
Last semester I scooped up a “Cold-Brew” cephalapod butt plug from Damn Average for my best schoolmate who works at a coffee shop. It had a little divot in the tip which blended in really well with the rest of the suckers, so I only paid 24 bucks for a really beautifully poured and creative toy. Naturally, I got the first squeeze to see exactly HOW soft Damn Average’s “Super Soft” was, and holy shit was this thing jiggly. I’ve since asked my mate how insertion was with silicone that squishy (literally the softest silicone I’ve ever felt…like gummy candy) and they said it was a little difficult getting in. Still, one thing I love about fantasy dildos is the density options, and I really wanted to get my hands on a toy with a similar but not quite-so-squishy shore.
I’m frequently clicking through Etsy, especially the dildo selection ranging from bigger indie companies like Split Peaches and Godemiche to newer ones just being created. I had my eye on two pieces from Necronomicox and TailsandPortholes when suddenly, a new shop popped up on my radar. With a kickass Black Friday sale and a COLOR-CHANGING silicone pour. Back during the Heatwave/Coldfront sale on Frisky Beast, I had once entertained the possibility of buying a color-changing dildo but never found it to be really affordable. But here I was, looking at a $40 fantasy dildo with glitter and shimmer and the option to choose what color my silicone changed to. All my dreams were about to come true, thanks to a little company named PhoenixFlameForge.
I had the choice of Monty the Manticore or Skoll the Werewolf 1.0 or 2.0. Though both Skolls looked more satisfying in girth, Monty had a more industrial, less phallic appearance (no glans or furry-textured testicles). It also had a really pointy tip and I was ready to find out if this was going to be the cervix-poking experience I feared or if the softness of the silicone would provide some give to a seemingly sharp end. I was also curious as to the functionality of a tapered end for anal penetration, and for such a low price, I could actually answer some of these questions. My Monty came in a week, despite the made-to-order estimates saying it would take much longer, so +1 for super fast shipping. It changed from a dimensional black and deep gray when cold to a cobalt and pale blue when warmed up. SO beautiful.
The bottom fourth of Monty’s shaft is definitely the girthiest of my collection, but I wasn’t really expecting for a full insertion anyway, since this dil doesn’t have a dramatic flare or suction cup. I knew I’d need to hold onto something, and this was likely going to be the lower quarter of the dildo. Being blessed with huge hands and grabby piano fingers (I can palm a basketball and hold it in one hand), I’m able to get my whole hand around the base during use with no problem. I have seen some negative reviews of Monty for not having a distinguished base, which I get, especially since I sacrifice insertable length for whatever I’m holding onto. But seeing as how I was never going to get that hilt (I wouldn’t quite call it a knot as I’ve seen in other fantasy dildos or even the Skoll) inside me anyway, it makes for a good enough grip.
The remainder of the shaft is similar in girth to Godemiche’s Adam, but because the silicone is so squishy (not nearly as squishy as Damn Average’s cephalapod, but much softer than Funkit’s Crista), it doesn’t fill me up as much as the Adam. And it definitely doesn’t go as deep. Which is actually a plus, because that pointy end ends up curling upwards ever so slightly against my g-spot and stays far away from my cervix. The width of the base and how my hand holds it makes additional clitoral stimulation a bit tricky, but when my partner uses the Monty on me, I’m able to use a vibrator easily.
As far as anal penetration goes, the squish of the Monty makes it slippery for insertion, and I definitely need to start with a few other toys before I work my way up to this. I find that once I’ve used my Shilo I can graduate to the Monty within a matter of minutes, but I can’t really use it as vigorously. It’s an intense anal experience, one that I could definitely see some folks enjoying and some folks saying “This is just too much!” My partner is slightly intimidated by it, though he insists he will provide feedback one day. Overall, for the amazing price-point, beautiful color-changing aspect and gorgeous pour, plus finally getting my hands on a great quality fantasy dildo, I’m supremely satisfied with PhoenixFlameForge’s Monty and would highly recommend their work.
Walking the halls of the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center on a warm Thursday in August, full of curiosity, anxiety, anticipating the cusping Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit about to break into full swing all around me, I found myself clinging, quite often literally, to the familiar comforts of display tables and free samples. I hoped to strike up conversations, but knew if promoters were busy or engaged in other business I still had the safety net of looking at, and with permission, handling the goodies on each table. I had the pleasure of grabbing some lube sachets, stickers, free mints (thank god, my blood sugar was so low from not eating), and even finally testing the amazing strength of Doxy’s line. Suddenly a glimmer of light caught something, which my eyes darted immediately to like a fish to the lure. Clear sex toys, with ribbons and swirls of color inside of them, wooden paddles with rainbow gradients that put Microsoft Word Art to shame.
I had seen semi-translucent silicone with Tantus’s Flurry and Cush, and had seen some of Godemiche’s decorative pours, but never a company that used clear silicone as their primary medium to display the burst of color inside. (Lilly has a great post on clear silicone here). No one was sitting at the table at the time, so I didn’t dare touch them, just admire them really, really closely. Later on during the evening Sex Geek Salon hosted by JoEllen Notte, I was hanging out my dear friend Christoph who had just led an amazing workshop earlier in the day called “From Stonewall to Nursing Homes: What’s It Like to be back in the closet after so many years?” (It was SO good). We were joined by a bubbly intellectual fellow with a “Peg the Patriarchy” shirt and some rockin’ sideburns and spent our evening playing a bunch of games, coloring, and having nerdy conversations. Though never formally introduced, I kept seeing this gentleman workshop after workshop, socializing with all different people. I don’t know if it was the whir of everything around me, but it wasn’t until day two where I realized this was Kenton, the creator of Funkit Toys, the brain and artist of all those gorgeous silicone pours I had been gawking at in my very first hours of the conference.
It also took me another day or so to make the connection that his special rainbow pour, named the Crista, was in honor of sex educator, blogger, and all things rainbow, Crista Anne. After my recent purchase of the BS Bingo, I decided I needed another rainbow toy in my life, and the Cristas were absolutely fucking gorgeous in all their spectral variety. Funkit’s website has the option to order a custom toy with up to 3 colors swirled in it, but there were no more Cristas in the form of a G-Spot dildo, what Funkit calls their Swing. I messaged Kenton and asked if he’d be willing to custom make me one. He got back to me the following day saying he’d be glad to, and together we worked on making a Crista with each color to my liking. I especially wanted one with a decent amount of purple, and Kenton was so accommodating towards this request.
The speed of this process was head-spinning. One day I had made the custom order, and a week later, it was in my hands. Kenton kept me updated every step of the way, literally taking me on a wilderness journey via Snapchat to watch my dildo being shipped out. So now I have my very own Crista, made just for me, and it feels really, really special. I’ve never had such a unique experience with a sex toy company. Given my previous review and the recent climate surrounding the sex toy industry, company ethics, interaction, and approach is more important than ever. I felt the story of my experience with Funkit and Kenton just as worthy as the review itself because inclusivity is a really big thing for me in this industry and the field in general.
Now for the actual review! The Swing has an outstanding curve to it, to the point where I can’t figure out the physics of how it stands independently due to its near perfect C-Shape. It actually does have a little trouble standing on account of Funkit’s unique base, which is cut on both sides to enable suction but a little thin material-wise (and I’ll get to this in a bit). So while the dildo can stand up on its own, it’s just a little precarious. For folx who like to put their dils on display or stand them up after use so lube doesn’t get everywhere, the Swing may be a little tricky.
The girth tapers a tad narrowly towards the bottom which I find makes it easier for my fingers to grip, but with the shore and the density of the silicone, makes it the shaft a bit floppy and bendy. The top gets much thicker in density, which is good, because it pushes against my G-Spot, but it’s not overly bulbous. There are a series of ridges from top to base, which I don’t necessarily feel during thrusting, but they are really essential for grip and also for getting a tactile sense of how far the dildo is when it’s inside of me. The Swing is not a long or thick dildo by any means. It’s modest, and combined with the pliability of the silicone, makes it versatile for potential anal play. As in, I normally wouldn’t put a G-Spot dildo in my butt because a stiff curve gets a bit pinchy for me, but I have a feeling the Swing, like the BS Bingo, will flex to fit comfortably inside of me, so updates to come.
As far as G-Spot stimulation, the Swing is great, particularly if I angle it downwards or have my partner do that for me. I find that I don’t insert the Swing very far, just enough to hit my G-Spot, and both my partner and I prefer using the shaft of the Swing itself to thrust rather than the base. Funkit’s bases are really unique for their multi-functionality. They offer really strong suction, you can plunk them on the base of another dildo or even one of their Swats and you have a double-ended toy that is not going to pry apart unless you want it to. And this works for almost any dildo base that is big enough to match Funkit’s diameter. We tried it on all my Tantus dildos, my Doc Johnson silicone dildos, my Godemiche Adam, and the Swing didn’t budge.
The base itself stays nicely in an O-ring for my harness, mostly I think because of how my Swing tapers and because is not extremely top heavy. Unfortunately, because of how the base is structured, it has flaps that bend down and this makes it tricky to grip if I’m using the dildo on its own. I know Funkit advertises the flaps as making it more grip-friendly, but with lubed fingers, active kegels, and rigorous thrusting, the flaps slip right out of my tightly pinched digits. I tried to grab the base with my fingers perpendicular to the fold as to not bend the base, but it’s still thin enough that I mush it together. Funkit’s thought of everything, though. They specially make “Hubs” to attach to the bottom of each product, reinforcing them for a sturdier grip. I know some other silicone artisans make swatch-type stress relievers or firmness samples in disc shapes (Damn Average has seasonal themed “Squishy Grab Bags” for $20 max with all sorts of fun shapes to squeeze). Split Peaches even makes glow-in-the-dark silicone “Stress Reliever Boobies,” and how fun would it be to have a glowing boob attached to the base of my Crista to reinforce my grip? All the DIY fun creative ideas, ALL OF THEM.
So I talk about the damn thing enough, maybe it’s time I write a review about it. I say this with the utmost affection because it is my absolute favorite toy in my entire history of sex toys, and this is saying a lot. This is coming from someone with over six years working at an adult store, buying every toy my paycheck could buy, then coming to my good senses and buying better quality toys elsewhere, and still, this is my favorite toy in the world. This is the toy that will inevitably weasel its way into other reviews, stories, even discussions of identity because it has taught me more about my body and given me more orgasms then I ever thought possible. This is the Vr6.
Now I know there’s a Vs6 out, and the only other Vanity item I own is a 2.5 which overheats and dies after a minute (I still need to see if I can get an exchange on this from SheVibe, because it’s not a terrible mini-vibrator and I’d love to do a review on it). But I bought the Vr6 in my final years working at the adult store, so it must have been around 2010 or 2011. It just crapped out on me last year after my partner accidentally split the charging port with the needle-like charger (I love this charging method in the Vanity series for all of its waterproof-y goodness and how much it reminds me of the bioports from ExistenZ [don’t look that up if you’re easily squicked], but if you’re not precise with insertion, it can be tricky).
I emailed the company, told them how long I had loved this toy, and Jopen still honored my warranty, even without its packaging. Not the first time Jopen has been stellar in a Vr6 crisis, either. When I moved to Oakland in 2012, my car window got smashed with a rock and my laptop bag full of charging wires was stolen. Of all things, my Vr6 charging wire was spaghetti’d in with this mix, which meant my time with a charged battery was limited. Before the battery even died, Jopen had sent me a new charger.
I know, I know, wasn’t Jopen originally a part of California Exotics? Whatever, I honestly don’t fucking care. I did a whole presentation about this and it’s been a thorn in my ethical side for some time now, that yeah, some companies are really icky (and sometimes not so icky, CalExotics has been making a Packer Gear line, which some aspects I’m all for…though a bunch of its silicone products are foam-filled), but some companies use that association to help their business model, be it visibility, product improvement in better factories, wider clientele feedback, more money to innovate new toys, or even lowering the price-point of original products. Some companies are just utter leeches and grub onto the industry corruption and let their products go down the toilet despite a once reputable brand name. Not looking to point fingers…today.
But Jopen has this little place in my heart, particularly with the Vr6. It was the first dual stim/rabbit-styled toy that ever worked with my anatomy (the arm fits snugly against my clit!), it taught me how to squirt, it helped me understand my g-spot better than my fingers ever did, and using it helped me reconcile some gender dysphoria I was having with my genitals for quite some time. I’m not a huge fan that the default sex toy color of our generation has gone from pink to purple, but there’s something so neon and visually assaulting about the Vr6’s purple. It’s even different from some of the other Vanity purples…it just screams “fuck me with your 90’s nostalgia” and simultaneously doesn’t show a lot of crud on it even on my most cruddy days.
It took me a long time to work up to using this thing internally when I first got it, that bulb is, as I say repeatedly in my Bingo video, “severe.” But I think it’s exactly this girth and drop-off of an internal bulb that my g-spot loves. My use of the Prism V only confirms it with each inevitable squirtfest (“Babe, if you grab that one, you either grab the puppy pads or sleep in the wet spot.”) The difference between the Prism V and the Vr6 when it comes to squirting is that I need to take the Vr6 out of me when I’m ready to squirt. The bulb is just a little too big and the neck a little too thick to let my Skene’s glands get around it. Which is totally fine, it makes for a much more dramatic projection, and with the dual stimulation of the little arm I actually get a clitoral orgasm before I ejaculate, so everything’s groovy.
The vibration of the head is a little more rumbly than the arm, but the frequencies aren’t far off. I have two Vr6’s (don’t ask how I got that lucky), and I have noticed that both of them have a point of vibrational dissonance if you get to a certain speed with each button. As with most Vanity products, you simply hold down the button to get stronger vibrations, but I’ve noticed that if I have one exact strength of vibration in the arm and the head, the two seem to bounce off each other and it makes a weird rattly noise. I don’t remember this ever happening in my original Vr6 from 2010, but the two new ones do it…so maybe it’s just how they are manufactured these days. It doesn’t really affect me, but it might suck for anyone who gets off with those particular strengths and has to deal with a really loud vibrator with out-of-sync vibrations. Normally this thing is so quiet. Like, I have to put it up to my ear to see when the battery is dying, and I can listen to the hum get slightly weaker. THAT quiet. And when you consider how strong the vibrations are, phoo.
Now, the Vr6 isn’t completely silicone. It’s got a silicone skin, but has a ton of machinery inside (don’t boil it), including a lithium ion battery. It holds a charge for what feels like days. I can go on hour marathons with this, no problem. The silicone material itself has some drag to it, not in a sticky way, it’s really sort of a silky texture, actually, but if you were to take this to a delicate area of skin without lube and pull it along, it would move the skin with it. This isn’t really a problem when I’m just using the bulb for external clitoral stimulation, as the bulb is just big enough to hit all my favorite parts of my crura if keep it in one spot, but I definitely need lube if I’m going to put it inside me. I’ve had no issues with using coconut oil with the Vr6’s silicone, but would always recommend something more universally compatible with both toys and bodies like a water-based Sliquid.
Solo, I’ve found that using the Vr6 internally quite literally mimics the sensation of jerking off. I get to grip my hand around its base (fortunately the buttons are not so sensitive that any touch will change the speeds), and work my body into an orgasm that puts me in a really gendergooey headspace. It is so glorious, and every partner that has seen me use this toy has noted that I sometimes go into total “boy” mode, particularly if I’m on my knees using it to squirt. It’s a really empowering toy for my gender identity. Partnerwise, I’ve found that some partners either get it, or they don’t. Vulva-bearing partners could never bring me to orgasm with this toy because they didn’t fuck me roughly enough with it, didn’t push the arm up into my clit enough (especially on the left side, despite communicating this preference), or they played with the buttons too much, messing up my rhythm. To be fair I remember one of these exes not enjoying the Vr6 when I used it on them, either. Like, the grippiness of the silicone arm, regardless of lube, pushed their hood up and the vibrations were way too strong even on the lowest setting. So while it felt great for about .02 seconds, it was really irritating and frustrating for them the rest of the time. I know Lilly has a bittersweet fondness for the Vr6, where the arm was way too clampy, but the internal bulb had some really nice rumbles.
The cismale partners that have used this on me have almost unanimously gotten it without any guidance. I even had one partner show me a whole new way of using it, by tilting the handle so far down that the bulb pushes incredibly high up into my g-spot, which I can’t do alone. My current partner likes to wiggle the arm really slightly against my clit when he feels me get hard as he’s fucking me with it, sort of a thrust-and-doorknob-turn type motion which is so fucking good and again, I do not have those motor skills to do that on my own. I’ve said in previous reviews that the curve of the neck and the size of the bulb in the Vr6 make it pretty tricky for double penetration. It just seems to take up a lot of space once inside me, and even trying double penetration with a biocock ends up being really uncomfortable and pinchy for partners. Seriously, though, if that’s the biggest complaint I have about this toy, you can see why it’s my favorite. I remember recommending it to a woman when I worked at the adult store and she was really hesitant because of the price, but a few weeks later she came back, not even to buy anything, but to emphatically thank me for convincing her to get that toy. Like, slapped her palms on the checkout counter, opened her eyes wide, and said “Oh my god, you weren’t kidding.” No ragrets.
“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.