Posted by Sarah Sloane on May 25, 2011 in Articles
I love doing what I like to refer to as “subversive sex positivity”. It’s the integrating of sex, gender, and orientation-positive concepts into our daily language and actions. It’s the act of informing people about alternative gender and sexuality without preaching (or often even explicitly telling them). It’s the process of normalizing things that most of our culture does not see as normal, simply by treating them as such. And it’s a great way to carry the message of healthy sexual expression out into the world in ways that don’t target us. I’ve made a list of some of the ways that I’ve seen others do this…
1. Ask people what pronoun they prefer, what they refer to their partner as, and how they label (or choose not to label) their relationship. Even if the answers are exactly what you expect that they’ll be, by asking them you show them that you respect them and wish to use words and phrases that are appropriate and welcoming – and you may even end up with them asking you WHY you said that, which gives you a chance to talk about non-normative sexuality & relationships.
2.Separate gender and sex. “He” does not necessarily have a penis, and “She” may not have a vagina. Using terms like “girl parts”, especially around people who may be transgender or non-gender normative can leave them feeling left out and disrespected. And before you say you don’t know anyone who is trans…how do you know you don’t?
3. Use correct terms. It’s a vagina, a vulva, a penis, a clitoris, a prostate, a scrotum. There is plenty of room to use slang terms, but when we’re trying to be clear in our communication, using accurate terms helps.
4. If you’re corrected about something sex or gender related, apologize and move on. If you say “he” and are told that the person with whom you’re speaking prefers “she”, then just say “thank you for telling me” and use the pronoun or name that you’re asked to use. Most people are happy if you do your best to use their preferred names or pronouns (especially if you knew them when they were going by another name), and an apology and a renewed effort to be consistent is the most respectful thing you can do.
5. Make no assumptions. Just because someone has a penis doesn’t mean they like to use it to have sex, or even like it touched. Just because someone has a vagina doesn’t mean they want to be penetrated. Not every gay man likes to receive anal sex. Not every woman has problems with orgasms. Not every man is able to have them in the way that our culture says they should. Allow people the space and room to define their own desires, and the support they would like (if any) in speaking out about it…as well as their right to privacy, should they not feel the need to tell you.
6. Even if you don’t “get it”, don’t shame it. Many people who are happily monogamous don’t understand on a personal level why or how someone can have multiple relationships. Some people don’t understand how anyone could be attracted to someone of the same gender. And some people don’t understand how anyone could be happy having missionary position sex. You don’t have to understand it – but ideally, you will choose to respect their choice and support them in it.
Posted by Sarah Sloane on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized
Dear young, beautiful woman on the cusp of her leather walk:
Please, no matter what is said about the place of women (particularly of heterosexual women) in the traditional leather community, remember that we must live in the reality of the moment. There are voices that call for a return to segregation, a limiting of options, a re-defining of “who qualifies”. And for people who lived in our community as it was decimated by disease and invaded by the internet age, that is a real concern, a real challenge. It speaks to a desire for the “older days” – where there was limited access, a more closed community, and a grittier perspective of what leather was about. The problem is…we can’t go back.
Heterophobia is something that I have encountered in the mens community for a long time; even as recently as my run for IMsL in 2009, I had a few men turn their nose up at me when they found out I enjoy fucking men. However, there have ALWAYS been women who have been keys to the community – including bootblacks. One of the first women I knew in the community that had a national presence was Michael Anne, a past IMsBB; one of the next women I met was Mama Connie who is so highly respected that it’s not even believable. I met Vi Johnson in 1999, and that meeting changed my perspective in profound ways. Just hearing about Jo Arnone, Queen Cougar, Jill Carter, and Glenda Rider gave me shivers – to know that there were so many strong, active women for me to look up to. These are women that give to the community – and that are respected, treasured, and loved by thousands upon thousands.
Yes, there is an issue about using one’s name. I made the decision to use my legal name after about six months in the scene, and mostly due to the men in my leather club. Being a leatherperson is not something I am ashamed of, and I am in a position in my life where I do not have to worry about my name being linked to the community in a way that would be detrimental (no family, no kids, and many supportive friends). I would NEVER tell someone in those positions that they should not use a scene name, but I would ask them to consider the overall effect of a scene name when it comes to them reaching out to others. In some cases, let’s face it – it’s a detriment – but how much of one depends entirely on how each person handles it. Too many people treat this like an SCA or RenFaire environment – and that’s fine, but for so many of us it is the absolute opposite of our truth. Leather is about our lives, not about a role.
What makes someone welcome in the community? It’s their willingness to open their heart and mind. It’s their willingness to challenge their assumptions, and to be responsible for their words and actions. It’s their willingness to offer respect to other people, and to listen to their stories and learn from them. It’s their effort to follow the etiquette of the community, and to truly work to understand the why’s and wherefore’s of that etiquette. It is not to blindly follow; it’s not to just show up, fuck, and leave. It’s about who you are, how you live out your leather life. It’s about your ethics. It’s about your sense of service to the community, your willingness to step forward and do what needs to be done.
You, my sweet, are right there. You may not have the polish of someone who’s been bootblacking since God was a child, but you have the heart and mind of a leather woman, and THAT means that you are welcome. Beyond that – it means that you have a RIGHT to the place you hold in the community. And your work is important – and your work will pave the way for others. You cannot possibly do anything that could ruin the community. You can only add to it, with your knowledge, your love, your respect, and your spirit.
With love and respect,
Posted by Sarah Sloane on May 15, 2011 in Uncategorized
I usually give up something for Lent every year (obviously, I’m not quite as much of a lapsed Catholic as I thought). This year, I gave up F**mville. Yes, really. It was chewing tons of my time each day and I was letting it. I figured that taking a break from it would be good for me…and lo and behold, it was. I think I’ve spent a whopping two hours on it since Easter – and really feel little need to go back to it.
My new project for the year is to go 30 days without something and see how it works out for me. Currently, I’m off of sugar (refined & unrefined, but allowing myself to have fruit, agave, and “fake” sugars). I’m surprised at how my body is handling it – I feel much better than I did before and so far I’m actually dropping a few pounds, which is unexpected, after four months of working out consistently with zero weight loss, but welcome.
I’m finding it to be an exercise not only in mindfulness but in creativity. When your habit is to reach for the keyboard, or not pay attention to what the ingredients list says, you don’t have to think anymore – you just do it without any conscious consideration of the impact on your body and mind. The mindfulness I’ve experienced goes well beyond
And on my list for future 30 day withouts? Reading fiction (in order to focus on nourishing-for-my-brain nonfiction). Eating meat. Driving (that one is going to be HARD). Negative self-talk. Engaging in gossip or criticism. Things that will help me clear out some of the things that I know are blocking me; things that I suspect may be causing my life to be a little less healthy than it could be otherwise.
Then, perhaps, I’ll go for some 30 day “withs”.