Personally, sexual pleasure has always come at a price. I am either incredibly uncomfortable in my body or I cannot partake in the ultimate sexual pleasure. That dilemma has only gotten stronger over time, but it started in my early puberty.
But there was this one moment that got very real to me.
I remember my first semi-sexual conversation with a partner back in my teens. It was everything you would imagine a teenage conversation to be at the time. We were talking about school, city events, but gently started flirting, in a shy, innocent manner. But there was this one moment that got very real to me. She, who had already had a sexual experience while I had not, stated very confidently, “well you know, I like to give too, I am not gonna just lie there.” And actually, that was the most terrifying realization. Someone wanted to touch me the way I wanted to touch them.
What is a stone butch?
As a lesbian, in my previous life, the term “stone butch” felt incredibly appropriate. It describes a lesbian that is not interesting in being on the receiving end of any kind sexual pleasure, but is way more invested in the giving. I remember being sixteen and going through every internet forum dating five to seven years back and hoping to answer the dreading question “Am I normal by feeling this way?” And I had finally found a label that describes me, but most importantly, I finally could find others who feel the same way and ask them. After reading upon it and posting on a few forums myself, I was greeted with support and encouragement from fellow community members, who encouraged me to explore as much as I felt comfortable to do so, but that I am far from alone. At this point, in my adolescent career, I felt rather okay, despite my initial freaking out.
“Am I normal by feeling this way?”
The stone butch life, despite having a label, is not glamorous. I have actually found it still difficult for others to accept. Not difficult in a sense of pure rejection -- after all, it is prioritizing their pleasure -- but in a sense of misunderstanding. Back then, I didn’t have the words to express how uncomfortable I was in my body, to the point that it being touched was almost repulsive. I have gotten the surprised looks from people, especially women that maybe felt valued in their pleasure from this statement, and the confused looks of others, but once again, usually women who didn’t understand how another woman -- at the time -- could refuse sexual pleasure.
Back then, I didn’t have the words to express how uncomfortable I was in my body
After all, women have been outspoken about their experiences fighting for their sexual pleasure to be prioritized and expected as much as men’s are. Women’s pleasure is considered optional in the societal sexual script. Yet, in the middle of that advocacy for women’s equality in the bedroom, I was rejecting that for myself. It almost sounded like I had internalized the script that was expected of me as a woman, regardless of not being heterosexual, that if I was not entitled to that pleasure anyway, I might as well reject it. However, that is not exactly how I felt… but I didn’t know how to put it into words for it to make sense.
Failing to be normal
The stone butch label has impacted my relationships. No one wants to feel like the weird one. And no one wants to feel like the weird one in sex. I hadn’t quite allowed myself to really understand what parts of me fundamentally were out-of-the-question and which parts could be interacted with. This learning curve came with many sudden movements and requests to take a break so that I could recollect myself. Discovering every new boundary felt like I was failing to be normal. At this point, even though I had found my label and should be okay just living as a stone butch, I still felt discouraged every time I proved to myself that I was indeed that way. I knew that other stone butches lived their lives fully, and the problem may be that I am attached to a version of normal that does not exist. So, I would breathe one good time, and move on, trying to give myself more room to accept my own normal.
No one wants to feel like the weird one. And no one wants to feel like the weird one in sex.
One night, it finally came out. My partner admitted to me that this was uncomfortable for them as well. That, part of their conception of sexual pleasure was to share it both ways with each other. That they wished that my barriers could come down so they could show their appreciation for me. I knew this came from a place of love. In their position, it would have been painful to watch my partner struggle with allowing themselves to experience pleasure that is granted to me no questions asked. I understood that they also wanted to show me the power of this experience, the bonding it creates, the trust that could ensue. But, in that moment, that is not how I felt. I broke. Into small pieces. And I started feeling guilty about it for the first time in my life.
I understood that they also wanted to show me the power of this experience, the bonding it creates, the trust that could ensue.
Yes, I had felt pain from being a stone butch. But I considered myself to be the only “victim” of this pain. It didn’t occur to me that someone else may be struggling with it too. The guilt I started carrying still follows me now. When I became single again, it began an internal conversation. Should I even mention that I have hang ups on all of these body parts? Is this list-making worthy? Should I just allow myself once, or at least try, and see what happens? What if I hate it even more? In those questions, I felt lost. No answer was emerging. So, I decided to avoid new sexual partners in hopes to be freed from this dilemma altogether.
Masculinity’s expectations of sex
Fast forward to now. I’m a man. A man who is supposed to expect sexual pleasure. A man to whom sexual pleasure and dominance is societally catered to. I feel like a deer in headlights. I was escaping being the focus of any sexual intercourse, and became the gender that sexual intercourse spins around.
Thankfully though, coming in as transgender did allow me to explain my experiences with my body more skillfully.
My body is still difficult for me to grapple with. I just have new expectations to deal with now. Thankfully though, coming in as transgender did allow me to explain my experiences with my body more skillfully. I am able to vocalize that this is body dysphoria that is paralyzing me from touch. I am able to rationalize that this is not necessarily my preference, but a coping mechanism for the discomfort that I experience. That maybe I was not a stone butch after all, just a transgender man who could not understand himself. Yet, I still wonder how much pleasure I will allow myself to have after transitioning. Something in me doubts that those barriers can ever break.
More conversations, less assumptions
The thing is, I know I am far from the only person to feel like I need a checklist before starting sex. The problem is that there is no normalizing of that conversation. Everything is so expected, that the sexual script is already written. There is no natural moment to stop and talk about it. Truly, anybody who does not fit the standard representations of sex will have their own hang ups. Their own insecurities that stops them from enjoying the act, and fills their minds with distracting thoughts. As sexual intercourse is only shown for certain bodies with a certain narrative, everything and everyone who does not fit is left aside. This has created a culture of silenced discomfort, of self-blame and lack of full trust, particularly amongst younger people that are still trying to understand how sex works.
The problem is that there is no normalizing of that conversation. Everything is so expected, that the sexual script is already written.
The #MeToo movement advocates for a movement of consent. I feel that an added layer is a culture of communication within sex. That, communication will not only further consent and safety, but truly encourage pleasure, bold and fearless pleasure.
As of now, I do struggle a lot with sex. But my feelings around it have slowly changed. My version of sex is still enjoyable. It may not fulfill the script, it may not seem fun to others, but to me, I always felt satisfied giving. The guilt and the pain stemmed from missed expectations, not from literal longing of pleasure. I believe that alternative views of pleasure from the traditional script are as acceptable as any other. We each have different paths to pleasure. The key to fully exploring those, is with communication. Real discussion to address the hang ups, and maybe in time and in trust, those hang ups can be put to sleep.