Reading the comments to my previous post helped me clarify my thoughts about this femme fantasy. So I thought I’d do it “out loud” here, too.
I don’t think the fantasy I described of being perfectly domestic, perfectly sexy, perfectly exactly for my lover is the only way I conceive of myself as a femme. I certainly have my own goals and ambitions and social life and tastes and enjoyments, and I certainly want to keep nurturing those and developing myself as a person. (As greg said in the comments, I absolutely need those days of knotting the hair back, donning the cracked boots and jumping in the jeep. Well, I don’t have long hair or a jeep, but that’s the general idea!) Writing here is one of the ways I do that; doing the rape counseling work is another; keeping in touch with my friends, applying for graduate school, playing piano, doing yoga… all of that is stuff I do to continually round myself out and build myself up. And it’s absolutely necessary for me to keep doing that, always. Always.
But the fantasy is there, and I want to explore it. Until now, I’ve been angrily pushing it away, thinking “no! that’s co-dependency! get out!” For example: I feel like baking. What do I bake? Into my head pops the thought: “mi’lady’s favorite is strawberry rhubarb pie…” and I get all warm and tingly and excited at the thought of surprising her with a warm homemade pie when I see her in the evening. But before I get too excited, I cut myself off. “Why do you always want to do what she likes? You don’t even like pie! Bake something you like!” And so I’ll probably end up compromising, I’ll bake something I know she’ll like but that I like too, and I make sure to bake it not with her specifically in mind. So when I see her, it’s “look! I baked cookies today! Have one, they’re yummy!” rather than “look! I baked your favorite pie today, just for you!”
It sounds so selfish. But I guess I’ve thought it to be necessary, as a way of coaching myself to pay attention to my own wants and needs, rather than always catering to other people’s. I think it has a lot to do with vulnerability for me, too. I get angry with myself for giving too much of myself away to someone else. I get afraid that the more I give away, the more I’m allowing her to hurt me. I’m giving her power. And maybe I’ve thought of it too as a zero-sum game — that if I give her the power to hurt me, I’m somehow lessening my own power to heal from hurt.
So, to continue with the previous example, when I bake mi’lady’s favorite pie, just because I know she likes it, I’m making myself vulnerable to her by doing something for her. It’s saying, “you matter so much to me that I’m going to bake you your favorite pie, just because.” And what if it’s not reciprocated? What if she doesn’t like it? Or doesn’t really notice? Or just says, “oh thanks baby, that’s so sweet” absent-mindedly. Clearly if I spend my afternoon baking her favorite kind of pie, then my afternoon was about her. But what if her afternoon wasn’t even remotely about me? What if I think about her more often than she thinks about me? What if what if what if. So stopping myself from baking that pie is a way of holding back, keeping things level.
And that’s what it is, it’s holding back. Because really? I want to bake that pie. I guess I have to throw those what-ifs to the wind. Because she does matter to me that much. And I want her to know it. I want her to feel it. That’s not co-dependent. That’s so far from c0-dependent. What it is is trust.
Love is not a zero-sum game. I need to practice believing that in how I go about loving. There’s plenty to go around. There’s enough for us both. And the main thing I am now slowly coming to realize is, if I do something for her, I’m not necessarily losing myself, or giving myself away. I could be, for sure, depending on the context. But I could also actually just be reaffirming myself. So the next step I guess? Working all of this into my relationship with mi’lady in a way that feels right. Stay tuned, this could be a wild ride.
(Updated to remove weird duping of the post? It doesn’t appear in my editor but I tried to just delete all and re-paste so we’ll see if that works…)
I’ve been learning, lately, how to pay more attention to the little voices in my head. The ones that say “yay!” or “boo!” to all the little things I do. The ones that have the answer to questions like, “do I really love playing piano, or do I just think I love it because I was supposed to love it growing up? because my dad wants me to love it?” or “do I feel like myself when I wear this [insert item of clothing here]?” These voices have been buried in me for a long, long time. Digging them out has been quite an interesting process, and I think they’re still mostly buried, but at least now I know they’re there. And whenever I feel up to it, I can keep digging a bit more, and eventually I’ll have unearthed them all.
There’s something that’s been peeking out of the ground for a while now, and I’ve finally dug it up. It’s a fantasy, and it goes like this:
I am a nurturer. More than anything, I want to take care of you. I want to support you and give you what you want and be your pillar. I want to stand next to you proudly, “I’m hers.” I want to cook for you, and bake your favorite sweets for you, and clean. I want to notice the little things that make you feel better, and do them for you. I want you to dress me, in whatever you want me to wear. I want to be manicured, and pedicured, and wax my arms and legs, and spend a half an hour every morning and evening on my skincare regimen. I want to wear four-inch heels with peeping toes. I want to iron your shirts and make your bed and stroke your head until you fall asleep. I want to plan little surprises and encourage your passions and turn you on. Making you tick is what makes me tick. So.
As I said, that’s been peeking out of the ground for a while. I kept ignoring it, thinking it’s just another indicator of my co-dependency. My tendency is to want to exist for someone else rather than for myself. And I’ve always thought that that’s because it’s easier to take care of someone else’s wants and needs than it is to take care of my own. (The responsibility of making myself happy? Huge.) So it’s been really easy to write off that fantasy as something unhealthy and something I need to dismiss, something I need to work out. I’ve thought of it as the problem.
But maybe the problem itself is the very solution. Maybe it’s not co-dependency, but in fact a valid form of self-identity. Can this be? I have a lot of feelings about this. Frustration – have I really been working so hard to discover what I really want, only to realize that what I want is, again, just to do what someone else wants? Fear — what does this mean? Will I lose myself even further? Confusion — but I thought I was ambitious and driven and independent! Worry — how on earth will my friends and family take it if I come out to them this way? Excitement — wow! So much to work (and play) with here! Weeee! Intrigue – what would this feel like, to actualize this? what worlds might this open up for me?
So, I think I’m going to try this on for a while. See if it fits as well as it does in my fantasy. I need to keep reminding myself, though, that I’m doing this for me. In the end, I’m not really doing this to sacrifice myself for her. Rather, I’m allowing myself to indulge a fantasy. I’m going for a dream.
Maybe I don’t need to find co-dependency support. Maybe I need to find femme support. How about a Femme for Dummies: How to Make Sure You’re Taking Care of Yourself While Caring for Your Lover (and Others).
Anyone out there? Femme bloggers who’ve written about this sort of journey? Any femmes who read here who want to pop out and say hi? Maybe there is a Femme for Dummies that I just don’t know about? Oh my gosh, I feel so thirsty. Is this what it feels like to know what I want?
(Disclaimer: For me, the word that works best to encompass all this is “femme.” I fully realize that many, if not most, femmes probably don’t share this same fantasy and wouldn’t necessarily identify this fantasy as being femme in nature. For now, just realize that yes, I acknowledge that, and I apologize if anyone feels that their identity is stepped on. As this is all coming to light I’m sure I will write more about this in the near future, because boy do I have thoughts…)
I’ve been thinking a lot about cocks lately.
And no, I’m not questioning my sexuality, haha, thanks for asking. But I am questioning, well, something. I’m just not sure exactly what it is I’m questioning. Mi’lady and I use cock play (for lack of anything better to call it… is there something better to call it?) a lot when we fuck, in various ways. For example: I strap on and fuck her. I strap on, and she gives me a blow job (SO HOT, oh my god I don’t know if I can think of any image hotter than of my cock in her mouth, and her looking sweetly/seductively up at me). Occasionally, she straps on and fucks me. These are all ways that we use real fake cocks in our sex. (I know, real fake is contradictory, but what I mean is there’s a real cock there, a non-flesh one, a dildo, but it’s a real cock just the same.) These are the more straightforward ways of fucking with cocks, and these are the ways that don’t make me think much beyond HOT! TURNED ON! HOT!
And then there are ways that are more psychological. One of my favorite ways to get off is orally — her tongue has insane endurance and is oh-my-god so so good. There are no words. She is truly the mistress of licking pussy. Except… sometimes (dare I even say often?), when she’s between my legs licking my clit, I pretend she’s sucking my cock. And something about that psychological trick just turns me on so much that I can come really, really fast after that.
And I’m not the only one who does this. The only way mi’lady gets off is with my fingers on her clit (mmmm I love the feeling of her slick hard clit under my fingers…). And one time last week, I was rubbing her clit and she said “how do I feel baby?” “Slick and hard,” I said, “hard like a cock.” And she literally writhed in her sudden new arousal. “Oh baby yeah, jerk my cock,” she moaned, and for the remaining moments until she came, we dirty-talked cock imagery. Imagining that I was jerking her cock was a profound turn-on.
We talked about it afterwards. Though this kind of cock play is really hot and fun, it definitely brings stuff up for me (and for her as well, in similar ways, but I’m just going to speak for myself on my blog). For one thing, I’ve struggled quite a bit with the whole idea of Authenticity in the lesbian “community.” I’m sure I’ll write more about this at some point; I’ve touched on it a bit in my post “On Femininity” (see link under my Favorite Posts, over there on the left). It’s this whole idea that “gold star” lesbians are the most authentic lesbians, and on down the line until women who have sexual/romantic relationships with men as well as women are often peered at in suspicion, and lack total authenticity. (Along with that, I think, is the notion that women who present intentional or unintentional masculinity are automatically more authentic as lesbians, and women who present intentional or unintentional femininity are less authentic.) So, this whole thing of somehow liking cock in sex… especially as a femme-presenting dyke… brings up issues for me of “can I talk about this? will people doubt my sexuality?” And of course, it doesn’t matter whether other people doubt my sexuality. But it feels oppressive all the same.
But something that’s even more unsettling for me, I think, are questions of patriarchy and heteronormativity. Are we just buying into some sort of hetero-paradigm by including the cock in our own man-free sex? Are we in a way proving people right who think that the ultimate sex acts (“real sex”) have to involve a penis? (Clearly there are many things we do that do not involve the cock or any kind of cock play, but hey, those could be just foreplay!) And… do we have penis envy?? Are we proving Freud right? Women just spend our lives trying to make up for a gaping hole (to be utterly literal)? (It might be relevant to point out here that both of us do not identify as trans or genderqueer.)
As I sort of said above, strapping on by itself never raised these questions for me. I’ve never been uncomfortable with the idea of using a cock. It seems so blatantly and purely not straight, so clearly not pretending to be a man — it’s very much its own thing. So strapping on in itself has never seemed to me to be heteronormative or patriarchal. But somehow, imagining that my clit is my cock starts to make me think there’s a line I might be crossing. I don’t know. It’s hard to articulate. And mostly, I still just think it’s hot. But it makes me wriggle the tiniest bit just the same, in some sort of vague discomfort. Luckily, the vague discomfort isn’t enough to make me want to stop.
A discussion over at LesbianDad these past few days has gotten me thinking, again, about femme identity, feminism, and queer politics. (And I should add that this post is in no way a negative reaction to that discussion; rather, I’m very grateful to LD for inspiring this post and for the commenters there who gave me food for thought. What I write here is actually somewhat tangential to LD’s original post.)
It took me some time to come to terms with my femininity. (An aside: I hesitate to use the word feminine to describe myself, mostly because I don’t think it quite captures the whole picture. Femme-inine allows for a bit more movement, a bit more subversiveness, a bit more, well, queerness. Though of course, the distinction is purely written. But for the sake of clarity, I’ll stick to femininity here.) When I first came out early in college, I went through what I saw as a mandatory transformation. I cut off my long hair, I packed my skirts and girly tees away in the back of the closet, I discarded my jewelry and make-up, I adopted a swagger, and I wore sports bras and Timberlands. I was under the impression, see, that in order to be truly gay, as a woman, I had to be gender non-conforming. This was in the context of a women’s college, where the rugby players were ersatz frat boys and where the “straight” girls who swooned over them were deemed “lugs” — lesbians until graduation (when, presumably, they would once again revert to a hetero life). “Lug,” you have to understand, is not a desirable moniker. Everyone was constantly straining to prove their authenticity.
So, I went through a vaguely uncomfortable and intensely self-conscious androgynous dyke phase. It didn’t feel right. But I wanted so badly for it to feel right, because I thought that otherwise, I would never be accepted by the queer community. But I would never belong to the straight world either. I would be in some sort of gender and sexuality purgatory.
Now, of course, I’ve come back to myself. A lot of that has to do with time passing, girlfriends coming and going, and general introspection. Everything that I realized I was not could help me figure out who and what I was. Here I am in my 20s, still not with a full picture, but at least with a more whole sense of self and a body I feel I own.
But a lot of it also has to do with reading and processing, feminism in particular. I’ve come to be able to articulate what I see as a central dilemma in feminism today: how can we both value and strengthen femininity as a valid realization of self and undermine it as an arbitrary set of patriarchal standards for women?
See, feminists in the 2nd wave (and forgive my gross oversimplification) accomplished a lot — they realized that a society in which men dominated women set the standards for how women were supposed to be. And the brave women of the 1960s and 1970s struggled to break free from those standards, to say, look, we can do and be all these other things. We don’t have to follow your prescriptions for how we’re supposed to look — we can let our body hair grow. We don’t have to act how you expect us to act — we can be assertive and aggressive and stalwart. We don’t have to be limited by what you think we should be — we can be professors and athletes and construction workers and business people. In a nutshell, “look at all these things we can be! We can be everything you can be, and more.”
The problem with that is that it makes femininity unenlightened. It reduces feminine women to women who haven’t yet liberated themselves from the confines of patriarchal standards. And it judges those women, too. It’s complicated, of course, because I’m sure there are many women who don’t have so-called “enlightened” visions of their gender presentation. I, too, have a slight discomfort with heterosexual women who seem to buy into the ultimate heteronormative notion of Family (dad works, mom stays home and watches the kids; dad talks politics and finance, mom talks interior decorating and child-rearing; etc.). It does seem to me that many of these women aren’t making much of a conscious choice about their gender roles; they’re not really challenging (either personally or socially) the rigid structure they’ve been socialized in. And I do think it is important to work on this, to figure out: how can we undermine patriarchy, and enable women to make decisions about their lives, their bodies, their desires, their families?
But the thing is, we need to do it in a way that doesn’t preclude femininity from also being a part of the solution. A feminism that relegates femininity to the lowest rung of self-expression, that says “but you can be MORE, you can be BETTER!”, that assumes that femininity is just a first step for women — this kind of feminism is complicit with patriarchy. It continues to buy into the notion that masculinity is better. Femininity is still undesirable.
We need — I need — a feminism that instead emphasizes the value in all expressions. A feminism in which weak and passive are okay, because they are just companion traits to strong and assertive. Chattiness and bared legs and emotions and sensitivity and make-up are okay. A feminism that calls for self-discovery, empowerment, and finding the way to true expression of the self, a feminism raises up femininity, celebrates femininity, enables femininity in all humans is a feminism that is for me.
But how do we do this? How do we strike the subtle balance between empowering women to be ourselves and celebrating femininity where we see it? How can we say, “you don’t have to be this way, you’re not limited to this expression of your identity” without implying, “you need to move on, break free, leave this antiquated self behind”? How do we recognize unempowered femininity and aim to empower it, while also strengthening and supporting those women who are purposefully and intentionally feminine? How can we do any of this without messy judgments and hurt feelings and alienation?
I don’t know. I’ll get back to you on that one. In the meantime, if YOU have any idea, please do tell.