Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica
So, I sometimes forget that reading erotica and looking at BDSM queer porn in the library of an Ivy League university is not necessarily standard practice. Lucky for me, I go to Brown, where I’m concentrating in Gender and Sexuality studies, and have somehow managed to legitimize studying sex manuals with postmodern theory in order to (supposedly, so they say) get a degree next year. Along with my academic studies and personal intrigues, I am also active with various events and groups on campus explicitly related to sexuality, so am known on campus for… well, let’s just say, when I pulled out Tristan Taormino’s Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica in the middle of the bustling Science Library lobby during the mad rush of studying for midterms, I got simply passing (mostly jealous) chuckles from friends venturing down into the depths of the stacks with unread textbooks in their arms.
This exciting collection of twenty-three stories is edited by author, director, and educator Tristan Taormino, and is a part of the Best Lesbian Erotica series, which has won three Lambda Awards. Cleis Press, who published the book, focuses on queer sexualities, putting out various sex guides, gender/queer theory texts, and works of fiction.
As the publisher notes, Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica is about “dispelling myths, realizing fantasies, and delivering outstanding writing with distinct contributor voices.” In the introduction, Taormino expresses the desire to “queer gender throughout the spectrum,” viewing gender as multilayered, constantly changing, and problematizing the reductionist and prescriptive discourses around butch/femme identities:
Butch/femme is bulging jeans, smeared lipstick, stiletto heels, and sharp haircuts. It’s about being read and being seen. Sometimes it’s about passing or not passing. It’s about individual identity and a collective sense of community. It’s personal, political. It’s performance and it’s not. It’s the visceral space between the flesh and the imagination.
The stories focus on the separation and convergence of the personal and the political, the body and fantasy, and address some examples of what really goes on in bed between self-identified butches and femmes. As a new reader of butch/femme lesbian erotica, I was surprised about the diversity of relationships, identities and desires, and found that while some of it was a real turn-on for me, others not so much. But that is okay. In the end, the appeal of the collection is about the confidence and attitude that exudes from the authors as they own their own identity expressions, desires, and pursuits of pleasure.