Playground Diary, Part 1: Biscuit Porn, Short Skirts & Special Brownies

Ha. Remember last week when I prophesied that Playground would be “one of the best weekends of my year”? Yep, I was right.

imageMy Playground adventure began with a Thursday-night porn party hosted by the beautiful and wonderful Kate Sinclaire. Kate knows porn: her softcore site Cherrystems and soon-to-launch porn site Ciné Sinclaire are the cat’s pajamas. She showed us some stuff she’d been working on, all of which was hot and fresh and compelling. Then we watched various other clips, including this adorable one in which Zander Storm shows you how to make biscuits, while wearing nothing but an apron. CUTEST.

I got to meet several cool folks at that get-together who I would see intermittently for the rest of the weekend – including Rogue, who has been a Snapchat buddy of mine for ages! Yay!

The next day, I had two psychology exams practically back-to-back, and got through them only by reminding myself that I was going to Playground that night.

imageBex came over to my house and it was sooooo good to see her again. (We last hung out at SHE and, before that, at DildoHoliday.) She waited around for me while I got ready (a recurring theme of the weekend – sorry, Bex) and then went for dinner at my fave, 7 West. From there, we headed over to the hotel where Playground was taking place.

We missed the opening keynote but arrived in time for Tell Me Something Good, the monthly sexy storytelling event which is always one of the highlights of my month. I got to see (and introduce Bex to) a bunch of my favorite folks from the local sex-positive community. We got drinks, listened to stories, and laughed our asses off. (Dan and Tynan are two of the most hilarious people I know.) I even got to tell a story of my own – in a very, very short dress. Whoops.

We went upstairs for a tiny, intimate hotel room party that involved “special” brownies, Truth or Dare, and ridiculous mispronunciations of the word “boudoir.” Ooh la la.


Bex and I began our Saturday morning at a talk on solo polyamory, given by Eva Dusome of Polyamory Toronto. I am just at the veeeery beginning of my foray into poly life, and while this workshop wasn’t the 101-level introduction I probably needed, it still gave me a ton of insight and food for thought about what kind of poly person I might want to be. By the time the session ended, my brain was positively abuzz with thoughts of autonomy, connection, individuality, introversion, the illusion of control, and the ways in which self-care is vital to relationships.

After that, we went to Create Your Own Porn, a panel featuring (among others) Kate Sinclaire, Sophie Delancey, and Taylor J. Mace, three of my favorite pornographers who also happen to be three truly delightful people. Also there was Sonya JF Barnett, whose work I remembered from a feminist porn screening I attended earlier this year. They shared many useful tidbits about the technical and back-end side of porn creation, probably launching the careers of several audience members with porn ambitions!

imageAfter lunch, we had intended to go to the Spit erotic boudoir shoot, but there was a huge lineup (yay, good for them!) so we went back down to the exhibitor room instead. I bought some fancy lingerie from EmMeMa and we also ogled leather kink goods, stainless steel sex toys, and fetishistic femme hair accessories. It was truly a cornucopia of Cool Sex Stuff.

It was fitting that I followed up lingerie shopping with a panel on femme identity. Some femmes on this panel I already knew, and some I didn’t, but all of them brought perspectives to the table that opened my eyes and engaged my heart. This was easily the most emotional session of the weekend for me, because femme erasure, femme competition, and femme underappreciation are all things I’ve experienced and things I’ve felt stupidly alone in. So much of what the speakers said was relatable, not only to me but seemingly to everyone else in the room. The sense of crowd-wide solidarity was palpable and it took a lot of restraint for me not to cry – but I don’t think anyone would’ve judged me if I had.

After that last session, I located Bex and we headed back to my place to get ready for prom night… (This story to be continued in part 2 of my Playground diary!)

Porn Review: Crash Pad Series episode 196

I love Crash Pad Series because their porn is obviously made for the non-male gaze, unlike all mainstream porn – but it lacks the frustrating clichés that tend to show up in “female-friendly” porn.

Crash Pad’s founder and director, Shine Louise Houston, understands that just because women may not always like the rough-and-tumble, penetration-focused template of mainstream porn, that doesn’t mean we want our porn to depict only soft, “romantic,” gentle sex. We like rough and kinky sex too – we just want it to be geared toward our gaze.

Crash Pad’s porn is also racially diverse, sexually varied, and features folks from all the way across the gender spectrum. Basically, if you’re tired of mainstream porn’s boring template, by-men-for-men pandering, and racist tropes, you’ll probably dig Crash Pad.

This month I was allowed to review episode 196, which is based on a super interesting premise. Arabelle Raphael and Daisy Ducati are tired and overworked sex workers who have recently spent so much time catering to their clients’ fantasies that they haven’t had much time for the kind of sex they like.

Daisy is wearing the cutest pink sequinned halter dress, while Arabelle’s decked out in leopard print. Their friendship seems very genuine: there’s lots of giggling and finishing each other’s sentences. Arabelle complains about all the cis straight dudes she’s been boning lately, and whines adorably, “I wanna fuck something pretty.” Which, of course, leads to Arabelle and Daisy playfully starting to make out.

The ensuing scene is so much fun, and so unstructured, which is one of the things I love most about Crash Pad scenes. It always seems like the performers are just doing whatever the hell they want, instead of following some pre-ordained schedule of events like so many mainstream scenes do (kissing, BJ, 15 seconds of cunnilingus, then fucking in 3 different positions). Both performers alternate between finger-fucking each other, going down on each other, 69ing, using a goddamn leopard-print Hitachi on each other (!!), sitting on each other’s face, and so on. And they seem to do it in whatever order they feel like, for however long they feel like.

Although this clip is femme-on-femme like most mainstream lesbian scenes, it doesn’t feel like those at all. The performers are clearly actually attracted to each other, obviously have experience fucking other women and know how to do it properly, and they do acts that actually get them off (vocally and repeatedly!) instead of trying to make their scene appealing to a straight male eye.

The one mainstream-girl/girl trope that appears here is super-long fingernails, but Arabelle actually refers to hers and makes sure that she’s not hurting Daisy when she fingers her. This is such a nice touch! I am always terrified of the talons that women subject each other to in so many lesbian scenes.

As per usual for Crash Pad, this scene is shot beautifully. The cinematographic style captures the action without being distracting.

Some highlights for me: Arabelle telling Daisy, pre-cunnilingus, “This is gonna fuck up all your makeup.” Daisy going “Yesyesyesyesyesyes!” as she’s about to come. The aforementioned customized Hitachi. Daisy’s curly red pigtails. Arabelle’s backseam tattoos. The performers telling each other, “Treat yourself!” and “This is better than a spa day!” while they lie in the afterglow.

Episode 196 is damn cute and I think it could entertain and arouse anyone who’s a femme, a sex worker, or both. It’s incredible to see folks on screen who actually represent you and the sex you enjoy having, and that is something Crash Pad Series does exceptionally well.

Party Essentials for Foxy Femmes

It’s that time of year again: FEMINIST PORN WEEK! And you know what that means: I am going to zillions of events.

Seriously. My schedule is so crowded this week that I had to make a spreadsheet to keep track of the time and location of each event, how to get from one to the next on public transit, and what I plan on wearing to each.

I promise I will have a full and juicy wrap-up for you next week, complete with outfit photos – but for now, I’m still meticulously working out my schedule and throwing ensembles together. In that spirit, here are some things I think every femme ought to have in her arsenal for times such as these…

A pair of gorgeous shoes you can dance in

Define “gorgeous” however you please. My favorite shoes in the world are my Frye harness boots: thick black leather, a slight heel, incredibly comfortable, and just sliiiightly sexual (the harness on the side looks like, well, a dildo harness). I happily wear them everywhere except the most formal of occasions, and they serve me very well.

I also recently found this pair of cherry-red Sofft T-strap pumps at a thrift store for $10.50 (CAN YOU BELIEVE?!?) and they are surprisingly danceable. I plan on wearing them to the Feminist Porn Awards gala on Friday.

If comfort and mobility are what you’re after (and they should be), I recommend a Mary Jane, T-strap or ankle strap style. The extra support will keep the shoe on your foot more securely, making it easier to walk, run, dance or whatever without too much pain. (To be real with you, though: I’ve never met a pair of heels that didn’t hurt at least a little. I consider them a worthwhile/necessary evil for how cute they make me feel, however.)

A long-lasting lipstick that makes you feel radiant

Few things can light up your face like a well-chosen lip color. For parties, make sure you go with a longwear formulation so you can drink and/or kiss to your heart’s content. (Depending on the formula, some color might end up on your glass or your date, but if you choose well, it’ll stay on your face nonetheless!)

For parties, I tend to go with either a classic red or a hot pink. Kat Von D’s “Outlaw” is a total vixen red and Bite lipstick in “Violet” is the creamiest shocking pink I’ve ever found. If you like something a little subtler (or cheaper), trot down to your drugstore and grab one of those Revlon “balmstains” that look like oversized crayons; their balm-like formula can be worn lightly or heavily for different effects, and they really do stay comfortable and colorful all night long. (I think “Smitten” is the prettiest shade.)

A convenient bag containing everything you’ll need

By “convenient,” here’s what I mean: it should be small and light enough that you won’t be annoyed or in need of a massage by the end of the night, but it should be big enough to carry your crucial stuff. It should have a strap (shoulder, crossbody, or wrist) so you will have full use of your hands all evening (FUCK CLUTCHES, am I right?!). And, convenience aside, it should go with your outfit – which is why most of my “party bags” are an easy-to-match color like black or silver.

Here’s what you should pack for a party: your phone, a couple pieces of ID, whatever you need for travel (Metropass, car keys, etc.), slightly more cash than you think you’ll need, debit/credit cards, a camera (if your phone’s camera doesn’t meet your photographic standards), your lipstick, any other cosmetics you might need to reapply, a small mirror, condoms (even if you don’t need one, someone else might), and any medication or other necessary objects you need to have with you for safety reasons. You can bring more than that, if you want, but it probably won’t get used, so you might as well leave it at home.

Cute underwear

This is for two reasons. Firstly, you never know when someone attractive might see you in your skivvies. Secondly, you will feel more confident and adorable if you’re dressed well under your clothes. (Just ask Tori Amos if you don’t believe me.)

Fun hosiery

There are few things more delightful than having a new pair of kneesocks or thigh-high stockings to rock. Good legwear brings something extra to an outfit and is worth investing in, if you are femininely inclined.

American Apparel does my favorite stay-ups (which actually STAY UP, even on my chubby thighs! Hallelujah!) and I hear wonderful things about the socks and tights at Sock Dreams. I’m also ride-or-die for Hue opaque tights, which come in lots of fun colors and are just the best-quality hosiery I’ve ever found (I have pairs that I’ve owned for years without rips or runs!).

Fellow femmes: what clothes and makeup do you always have in hand in case of a Party Emergency?

4 Ways to Bring a Little More Gay Into Your Life

As the Pride festival nears, I’m spending a lot of time pondering my queerness. Specifically, where my queerness fits into my life as a person in a “straight” relationship.

Being bisexual has always been a bit of a struggle for me, identity-wise, because ever since I came out I’ve always hated the idea of being mistaken for straight or gay (both of which have happened to me countless times). I wish people would just “read” me as bi, but it rarely seems to happen.

And now that I’ve been dating a man for over two years, and have a gender presentation that’s as cis and femme as ever, it seems my queerness always gets lost in the shuffle. Even in queer spaces, I don’t always feel understood or seen. I’ve gotten booed for kissing my boyfriend at Pride events, I’ve had people try to explain basic LGBTQ concepts to me as if they’d be totally foreign to my mind, I’ve had people give me stares that say “What are you doing here?” It makes me sad.

Bleeding-heart complaints aside, I know that there are other people who feel the way I do – people whose identity straddles some line(s) between hetero and queer, and who feel skewered on that fence. Here are some suggestions for how you can re-access the gay side of yourself, if you’re feeling like you’ve lost it a little bit.

1. Volunteer for an LGBTQ organization. There is surely one in your area, so get Googlin’! I’m using the word “organization” broadly here – you could do fundraising at your local nonprofit, get in contact with school administrators to see if you can help set up GSAs, join the street team for your city’s Pride festival, or even see if your local LGBT yoga group needs help washing mats. It can be enormously nourishing to meet new people from your community and to do good work for that community. (And baby, if you ain’t got no time, maybe you could give some money instead.)

2. Consume queer media. If you do this already, do it more! Some recommendations: books by S. Bear Bergman and Ivan Coyote, porn by Courtney Trouble and Shine Louise Houston, documentaries about the LGBT community, and The L Word in its entirety.

3. Wear a queer talisman. Granted, plenty of LGBT folks think it’s tacky as hell to wear a rainbow bracelet or gay suspenders or what have you. But, honestly, when I’m going into a situation where I absolutely do not want people to mistake me for straight, sometimes it makes me feel a whole lot better to adorn myself in one or two loud-and-queer accessories. My talisman of choice is usually my rainbow wristband – it goes with every outfit!

4. Re-read old journals/blog posts/love letters from when you had your first same-sex crush. Remember how weird that felt? How scared and yet excited you were? Remember all the concerns these new feelings raised for you – how/when/whether to come out, what label(s) fit you best, what it all meant? Those seminal experiences paved your path into a queer identity and (hopefully) community, so they’re worth revisiting if you’re feeling a little cloudy on those topics.

I know there will inevitably be people who want to tell me something like, “Just be who you are! It doesn’t matter whether people think you’re straight or whether you’ve ‘got enough gay in your life.’ Just live your life.” And they’re right, to a certain extent… but hey, queer folks should know better than anyone that sometimes you gotta engage in some self-care in order to feel okay about how people are reacting to you. And this is some of mine.

Photo credit: Sue Maguire.

Public Service Reminder: Sexual Orientation is Internal

I’ve been engaging in a lot of conversations lately about various aspects of queer sexuality – what else is new? – and it occurred to me that a lot of people hold a huge misconception about sexual orientation.

Many people think you can tell a person’s sexual orientation from how they look, move, or speak. This could not be further from the truth.

In fact, you can never actually know someone’s sexual orientation unless they tell it to you in no uncertain terms. It’s just not something that can be definitively read. Doesn’t matter how good you think your “gaydar” is, or how much you think you know the “signs” – there’s literally no way to know for sure how someone identifies, unless they tell you themselves.

This extends to gender identity and trans* status, too. I’ve heard all too many people claim they’ve “never met a trans person,” but the thing is, they don’t know that. There aren’t any foolproof, telltale signs. Thinking you know whether someone is trans is as ignorant as thinking you know someone’s STI status just by looking at them – you don’t. There’s no way you could.

As a queer femme in a relationship with a dude, I get misread all the time. I understand perfectly well why it happens – I “look straight” (i.e. girly and not particularly “alternative” in any way), and I’m often holding hands with a member of the opposite sex. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. I recall the time I got booed at a Pride event for kissing my boyfriend, and how hurtful that was. That person assumed I was straight. They don’t know me and they don’t know what’s in my heart, but they thought they did, and that hurts.

But the thing is, practically everyone does it. I did it myself, the other day. A guy I volunteer with, who I’d always assumed was gay because he’d been telling me about the man he was seeing, suddenly mentioned that he doesn’t identify as gay. I still don’t know how he does identify, but it was a great reminder that we all need to stop making so many assumptions and just have the courage to ask if we’re curious. It’s been my experience, in queer and trans* communities, that asking someone “What do you identify as?” or “What pronouns do you use?” or “What kind of person are you usually attracted to?” is not frowned upon, but instead, almost always welcomed. People love to talk about themselves, especially if asked in a respectful, genuinely interested way.

How do you identify? Where do you lie on the Kinsey scale? Do you ever get misread for an identity that doesn’t fit you? How do you deal with that?