Well, I’d say it’s been getting easier because it probably looks that way from the outside, but it really isn’t. Every day is sort of a literal/figurative rinse, lather, and repeat with different Lush products to make it seem less repetitive, but it’s still the same process. Running trainings for Planned Parenthood employees, biking 23 miles, somehow managing to visit friends at RennFaire three times… I’m active and it’s valuable but it also distracts me from the biggest realities of missing my ex and wondering what the fuck happened to my sex drive.
I’ve still got it in my head that there’s a purpose for not wanting anyone else, and I think that might be a good move for different reasons, but why the hell can’t I bring myself to jerk off? The times I do, I end up in tears before orgasm, and if I do have that rare orgasm in between, it’s filled with emptiness and dissatisfaction. Have I become one of those people who replaces sexual release with exercise? Someone I thought I’d never be, not because I judge “that person,” but because I never believed I could enjoy exercise.
The only times I do come are in the shower, rocking 5 minute wall sits until my quads are on fire with the shower head pulsing away at my parts. My skin is so hungry, and yet I get nauseous at the thought of anyone touching me. It also doesn’t help that I was just recently diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis and kidney stones, so my body and mind are all over the place. I recognize the dissonance and contradictions in all the circles of my sexuality right now and yet feel completely helpless to do anything. I even tried buying a Crave Flex since I liked the Vesper so much and grew increasingly frustrated at my body’s response. Something didn’t translate, whether it be the silky silicone and bendy tip or the dulling effect the vibrations had as I tried to press them harder onto my parts.
The modes seemed excessive and where I’m at mentally, the process of having to skip through to find the strongest constant vibration was (and is) enough to lose my build. At this point, something so simple as a truck driving past my window can carry away any tenuous desire I have for an orgasm, so the process of experimenting with new toys is just an investment I can’t emotionally or physically handle right now. I’ve had one orgasm in the 5 or 6 times I tried the Flex and it required me to be on my knees, squatted over my Shilo, again becoming increasingly frustrated that here I am, fucking my own dick and trying to pretend it’s his, wishing I at least had him to help me thrust the Shilo. It wasn’t until the burning of my quads kicked in that I could get back into my body and appreciate the increase of heartrate long enough to let go of thoughts and just come.
The Flex is probably amazing for folks, between the multiple vibrations from tip to base and its attached USB charger (so all you need to do is find a laptop or wall outlet without bothering with wires). It’s really nice to look at and still somewhat in the same price range as the Vesper, but something about having the sheer metal and temperature change of the Vesper gives me truly pinpoint stimulation without any power diffusing through silicone. I’d still recommend it, and maybe someday I’ll be able to pull out of my funk enough to truly enjoy it.
Drenched in sweat, starfished on the kitchen floor, the dehumidifier blowing musty air in my face as I come back into my body… it’s the closest I’ve been to anything like an orgasm in what feels like ages and it’s tachycardia. I’ve just installed a new bike seat on the vintage Schwinn my landlord gifted me a month ago, lime green with a hole cutout in the middle, a reminder of yet another accommodation for what’s between my legs, but at least I get to make it green to compliment the purple bars of the bike, a genderqueer tribute to my dysphoria. Biking surprisingly doesn’t hurt my discs, and while the soreness of my groin is the closest I’ll be to a hard fucking in a long time, I lost most desire for sex since my breakup anyway.
I need the new seat otherwise I can’t handle the freedom and endorphins of the 11 mile trail I’ve been blessed with outside my home. Although I loathe the 90 degree weather and humidity signature to Jersey summers, I’m completely claustrophobic with the contexts of this particular July from academic to personal obligations. My mental health is rapidly deteriorating to the point where I don’t even know what self-care looks like anymore. Today it looked like a new bike seat and a quick ride to test it out, but it also neglected hydration and included caffeine; it forgot that I took a Vicodin for my back last night after 10 days of classes sleeping without an actual bed and how opiates trigger my SVT episodes. So my last mile push home included palpitations, followed by a half hour sweat-out on the kitchen floor, my only space left in this apartment currently to sprawl in semi-privacy.
I’d cry if I had the tears, the heart-rate, the spoons, the understanding of what I should mourn first. The cats who aren’t even my cats came to lick the sweat out of my hair as I nudged them away, reminders of what I can’t handle. I looked to the ceiling fan, a snakeskin lightning bolt charm hanging from a chain reminding me of power symbols as I tried to focus my eyes and breath to cut the palpitations. I meditated and affirmed myself as best I could, prayed nobody came into the room and the cats could give me some peace.
As the 180 finally went back to 60 bpm, I opened my palms to the ceiling and noticed my right arm had been touching my No-Face backpack of books the entire time. At first I went to push it away with disdain and then recognized the conflict of this action. How my academics are the source of my frustration and strength, how my love and hate and fear and insecurity are all blended together through my journey and academia is what taught me to blend my heart and my brain. How appropriate I chose No-Face as my bookbag for all the character represents and how placeless I feel in life all the time, how dependent I am on others for my own existence, how the familiarity of this hard kitchen floor brings back the warmth I felt sleeping on wood during my stay in Philadelphia and how I thought my self-care this week would include solitude but it really requires comfort around positive people.
I still firmly believe my heart thrives in nature, that I cannot handle living in a city for all the infinitely unique thoughts of people buzzing directly around me, but right now I feel so ungrounded. My skin hunger is nauseated but present, my boundaries of self-in-world are blurring, and there is so much I want to do but here I am: starfished on a kitchen floor trying to figure out my next move.
Recently I’ve noticed a lot of sex bloggers posting about how sometimes the most recommended items in the sex industry may not work for everyone. And I’m finding so much comfort in this. I remember the moment I read JoEllen’s post about the Womanizer and why it was crucial to talk about how highly-hyped toys can really affect people’s self-esteem; no words can describe how that article spoke to me.
Just recently Epiphora and Lilly went on an awesome search to find water-based lubes without aloe, citric acid, parabens, or propylene glycol, which made my heart sing and sink at the same time because the market is so limited for this. To think of it as such a “strangely” specific request to help “some” people makes me feel, well…”strange.” Do my needs represent a strange minority or are they just different needs? I really don’t know, but I think the language needs to change. I do know that Piph just posted an awesome tweet about why glycerin shouldn’t be in lube anymore and the first response was in essence: “YEAH! Sliquid all the way!” Which, along with lots of other reasons, leads me to my post.
“But it’s ___! Everybody likes ___!” Well guess what? My fronthole is not everybody’s fronthole. My butt is not everybody’s butt. There is nothing worse feeling as a neurodivergent human who already gets excluded from general life things for their GSM and disability identities to also feel excluded because they don’t get mindblowing orgasms from seemingly universally-lauded sex things. So I’ve decided to make a list. Instead of blogging entry-by-entry on the things that “shoulda, coulda, woulda” gotten me off, I’d rather have a massive “cleanse post” because frankly, I’ve been in that mode lately. Call it “spring cleaning.”
These are the items that gather the most dust on my shelf. And while I dusted them off for one last try, I was still left mostly underwhelmed, angry, even sometimes downright dysphoric. So this massive review is going to come with a bit of a content warning. But then again, there are some positives, so I really don’t know. A bit stream-of-consciousness here…please bear with me:
Let’s start with an easy one. And by easy I mean a gratingly painful torture device that frequently turns into battery acid and breaks in ten different ways. Satisfyer contacted me a little more than a month ago, and being the naive blogger I am, I thought it had something to do with my recent Liberatorposts or all the circulation my handle had been getting in a Twitter thread on trans and non-binary bloggers with disabilities. I thought I actually started making a name for myself, but no.
Satisfyer contacted literally almost every sex blogger in the fucking industry. As in, I’m genuinely curious how that mailing algorithm worked, because every blogger I followed on every form of social media got a Satisfyer kit. A hell of a pitch, I thought. Also incredibly suspicious, but whatever, I’ll take free toys with no contract attachments. I also knew I’d hate the thing since I once tried my ex girlfriend’s Womanizer and screeched in pain after a 30 minute attempt to orgasm. I figured this thing would be no different, and it really wasn’t.
A couple more modes of suction intensity, which were even more difficult to figure out. Buttons even further away from the flimsy Satisfyer 2 handle, almost impossible to discern, whatever. It still provided the most painful orgasm I have ever experienced. Have you ever had a UTI where you felt like you might be horny but really you just needed to pee really badly? And then, of course, because it’s a FUCKING UTI you don’t actually have any pee, just burning and throbbing sensations of HELL by your urethra? Yeah, that’s the Satisfyer 2 for me. That’s pretty much any of these Satanic suction devices for me. They feel like a goddamned UTI. I’ll pass.
Speaking of UTI’s, YI’s, BV, and all that awesome fun that happens because hey, I LOVE having a fronthole NO I DON’T WELL OK SOMETIMES BUT MOSTLY NO: enter Sliquid. Sliquid is the “do no harm” of the lube world. It took me years working at the sex shop to get them to stock it, and it was my pride and joy once they did. I introduced my mom to Sliquid Swirl and she was so thankful for it. At one point in time my body actually really liked Sliquid Sea. But hey, at one point my body also liked KY Yours and Mine, so I think I’ve just ritualistically trained my parts to hate anything but self-produced lubrication now.
Are there any water-based lubes that have NONE OF THE FOLLOWING: aloe, citric acid, parabens, glycerin?
But seriously though, Sliquid. Come on! You’re supposed to be the best of the best! The gentlest! The friendliest! Citric acid and aloe? It’s so burny! As someone with a sensitivity to garlic and onions, the aloe really does me in. When I say sensitive I mean sensitive: if you take the onions off a salad I will still have onion breath for the next two days. If I touch a piece of garlic, my fingernails will smell that way for a week minimum. So nowadays if I use a Sliquid with aloe, my nethers are a flaming Greek Salad for a week. It is beyond upsetting. One of my biggest dysphorias about that part of my body is the smell. I can pack and wear all the briefs I want, but it’s still going to smell like something I enjoy on other people, but not myself. And for a lube which is supposedly so body-positive, it makes me feel incredibly negative not only about my body, but about my gendered body as well.
On the upswing (pun intended), I’ve recently found a reason to not entirely dislike my Feeldoe. At first I was absolutely going to jump on the bandwagon of “It doesn’t work like it’s supposed to!” but then I realized that sex toys shouldn’t really be proscriptive to begin with. Yeah, you’re shelling out a lot of dough for a hard silicone two-fer that might look like it’s meant for a particular type of partnered penetration.
But a.) I bought my Feeldoe secondhand from an r/sextoys exchange for a whopping $60 (yes, boil and bleach), b.) I love Tantus’s hard silicone and am realizing hard silicone really is my jam after all, and c.) I am really enjoying the Feeldoe as a trans-identified person. For one, blowjobs are great with it. I love that I can stretch my partner’s mouth, that the slickness of the dildo lets them give me really sloppy blowjobs where I can watch their spit drip all the way down the glossy shaft. I love that the shaft is extra long so I don’t have to worry about their face getting too close to my mons when I’m feeling dysphoric. I love that they can jerk me off during a blowjob to stimulate me and they can fucking cradle my balls too.
For me, the Feeldoe is just blowjob gold. I also discovered during solo play last night that the Feeldoe is actually really amazing for jerking off. I already knew I liked jerking off the way I use my Jopen Vr6, and with a We-Vibe Tango popped in to the Feeldoe, I can actually feel the vibrations through the ribbed part. Jerking off felt extremely affirming, all the way down to the angle of it, how I’d hold my cock pointed towards me instead of going straight up. So yeah, if I’m walking around, the Feeldoe’s going to fall out. If I’m trying to peg with it, the Feeldoe’s going to fall out. But if I’m getting head or having a rough wank, which doesn’t seem to be a main narrative surrounding Feeldoe reviews, this toy is fucking great.
Which transitions to the Tango. Another toy I was ready to fall in love with and then…didn’t. I won the Tango through Ninja Lunabelle‘s awesome Great Dildo Weigh-In Giveaway and was so excited. I’d never won a giveaway before, let alone for something I really wanted! I even got it in blue, which excited me even more. Everything about the Tango sounded perfect. The wedged tip, the smooth acrylic, the rumbly motor, the various features. Literally every one of the perks people praised were the things I loathed. The plastic was far too hard, giving me no grip for my fingers or my flesh, the motor, while rumbly, had an even worse dampening effect than the Lust 2.5, and the features were cumbersome to cycle through.
There is literally one speed on the Tango that comes close to getting me off, and that is with some serious effort. I was probably the most let down by the Tango, a toy with such history and typically recommended to people who want a small toy with strong vibrations. I could not believe how much those vibrations dampened to almost virtual silence upon skin contact. It wasn’t until I put the Tango inside the Feeldoe that the vibrations actually transferred properly. Up until last night I was afraid I’d have no use for the Tango anymore, but now I’ve found a really good one.
A fitting end to the favorites would be the Njoy Pure Plug. I bought mine in medium, as the small looks teensy and the large looks like it would be a bit of a struggle for me. The medium, however, goes in smooth. Too smooth. As in I barely feel it. There is no pressure, no stimulation on insertion, none of that satisfying stretch you get when you’re slipping a plug in and taking a deep breath. It just pops right in and I’m left going, “That’s it?” Except then I’m not, because about one minute later I get an intense stabby feeling in the front wall of my rectum as the Pure Plug angles itself with its own weight.
If I become too aroused, I swell up and it pinches. If I sit up, it pinches. If I use a toy in my fronthole, it pinches. If I turn the handle so it’s not blocking said fronthole with vertical alignment, it pinches. There is really a limited amount of what I can do with the Pure Plug. It’s not particularly good for thrusting, more like a wiggly toy, and even then I have to be careful not to hit an uncomfortable spot. I thought it might be good for prostate play, but the two prostatepeople who have tried it have also said it gives a rather “pointy sensation.” So I don’t know, really. Love the company, really wanted to love this toy.
So that’s pretty much it. A collection of toys and lubes that may be majority favorites, but don’t really do it for me. Which isn’t meant to be discouraging, but rather a reminder that we all have different minds and bodies and that we should remember this not only as consumers providing feedback but also as companies who are constantly looking to innovate new products with inclusive designs.
Bonus gif of Ollie batting away a Hitachi similarly to how I might. The way it vibrates into my femoral artery freaks me the fuck out sometimes.
So my birthday recently passed on March 31st, and despite living that typical Aries life for now 32 years…firey, stubborn, willing to get into fights with “high-horsed” folx, I’ve also heard the Zodiac has changed and supposedly I’m a Pisces? Which, to be honest, sort of makes sense. The water to my fire, the manic depression of my life, my tendency to socially withdraw but also want to flow and enjoy the fluidity of existence…even the way I write with ellipsis because I find discomfort in the permanence of a period. My living space has gradually taken on water themes in my places of relaxation, namely the bathroom and bedroom. (Interestingly enough my living room has always had red and blue themes…fire and water perhaps?) So I know the Zodiac is often what we make of it and many folx are saying the new shift is kind of BS, but if I could pick any other sign to replace the Aries I’ve strongly identified with for all these years, it’d probably have to be a Pisces.
After finally diving into the world of fantasy dildos with my Phoenix Flame Forge Monty the Manticore, I wanted to continue my collection, but also learned through my Damn AverageLumpy that soft silicone just wasn’t for me. I knew Tails and Portholes had so many beautiful nautically-themed pieces that came with dual density options, but was hesitant to shell out the doubloons right away. When the announcement came that Brandie would be closing up shop for good, the choice was made. The Leviathan I’d been scoping out needed to become a reality. I picked my colors (Mermaid’s Tail, a beautiful swirl of glittery blue and green), selected the dual density option, and waited for my loot to arrive.
What came in a lovely organza pouch was my Leviathan, a squishy, intricately detailed work of art with a gorgeous gloss and an extremely wide base. This is easily the most beautiful toy in my collection now. Every sucker, every ridge, every dip is so deliberately and brilliantly placed all the way down to the logo at the dorsal base of the toy. SO much thought went into the exterior design of this toy and I wish I could find more ways to show it off because it seems tragic to have it sitting on a shelf all day.
As far as function goes, I found myself expecting the wide tip and expansive shaft to leave me feeling full, which didn’t quite happen. During thrusting, the Leviathan just sort of mushed into me, and while the flayed head does give me that initial G-spot shock of “oh hello” when it pops inside, once I get to a thrusting motion I find myself wanting more. I tried using the Leviathan as a G-spotter to orgasm by pulling the head slightly out of me instead of thrusting it, but the softness of the head conformed to the shape of my G-spot instead of stimulating it.
Even with the dual-density, the silicone was just too soft to offer enough pressure, and the dual-density itself does not reach the G-spot tip. When I use it vigorously, I’m just wiggling it all over the place, going left and right but not really in and out. The Leviathan is acharacteristic from my experience with dual-densities like the Vixskin Mustang, Tantus’s Mikey, or my NYTC Shilo. Because The Leviathan’s dual-density doesn’t flare throughout its extremely wide base, the base itself gets a little floppy and bends when I try to get a grip. Even though the base is still really nicely designed, (there’s even a little thumb-dip) something still isn’t working and I think it might just be the large base circumference combined with the softness and overall weight of the toy. If my hands were a little bigger or my grip a little stronger this might work but right now I just keep cramping up.
The advantage of the dual-density core not reaching the base, however, is that I am able to curl the Leviathan once it’s inside of me in order to rub all of the tentacle suckers against my bits. I can bend it in all different ways to meet different angles of my anatomy in order to stimulate my sensitive parts. It’s pretty electric for someone who doesn’t normally use texture for clitoral stimulation. (This is giving me a newfound curiosity towards Funkit’s Signet project). The suckers also make great sounds for folks into auditory stuffs, kind of like really yummy sex as each tentacle catches a bit of air and lube and flesh. It’s sort of a slurpy sex feeling I wasn’t really expecting, so added bonus! The suckers also work as little lube trappers, keeping the Leviathan from getting too slippery but somehow making it slick enough once the shaft is inside me.
For science’s sake, I used Phoenix Flame Forge’s Monty the Manticore directly after The Leviathan to see what the difference in orgasms would be like. While I had difficulty orgasming with The Leviathan because of penetration frustration, I noticed that the Monty’s density was actually a bit firmer and Monty’s pointy tip actually gave me great G-spot stimulation as it held form during thrusting. Because of Monty’s slickness and shape, however, it was even more difficult getting a grip once fully lubed.
Whereas The Leviathan’s flayed tip and bumpy texture kept it snug inside of me during orgasm spasms, the Monty went shooting out the moment I started pulsing. Both toys have their pluses and minuses. Overall, I continue to learn that I just really am not a fan of soft silicone, but given the beauty and now the rarity of The Leviathan and the incredible work Brandie does for Tails and Portholes, I am so proud to have this new addition in my home.
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.
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.