Stone Butch

Friday, June 08, 2007

Question

I don't like to be touched when I am having sex. I am not much for being touched in other situations, as well. My girlfriend is very affectionate and can't understand why I don't want to be hugged or cuddled. Sometimes I let her rub my back, but it's pretty difficult for me to relax and allow this. She doesn't understand that making love to her is the way that I get myself excited. After she has been satisfied, it doesn't take much for me to come, and I would usually rather make myself come by pressing against her thigh or by using my own hand. I rarely let her put her mouth or even her hand on my bare crotch—for some reason, I have to immediately make her stop.

She says she is tired of having sex be one-way, and that she is not a selfish person. She wants to be able to give me the kind of pleasure that I give her, but I just don't think I can go there. I haven't had many relationships. Mostly I have been with straight girls who don't mind if I just do them. I don't want to lose this beautiful and caring, lesbian-identified woman. I have gotten used to having someone else in bed with me in the morning, and I value her companionship so much. I don't think I even knew how lonely I was before she fell in love with me.

As I see it, we have three choices. One: she can accept me as I am, understand that I find our sex life satisfying and don't think she is selfish. Two: She could have sex with somebody else so she could enjoy the feeling of making love to her. Three: I would have to change. We both agree that the second option would damage our sense of being special to one another. I would like the first option; she wants the third. How can we resolve this impasse?

Answer

When it comes to nonsexual touch, most of us develop certain patterns based on how we were treated within our families. If there wasn't a lot of hugging or affectionate kisses or backrubs, people tend to grow up unaccustomed to physical closeness. They may even dislike it. The problem is that this sets you up to be distant even with people you desire sexually or love romantically. If your family is prudish about the human body, insisting that it be covered up at all times, and projects negative attitudes about sexuality, you are going to grow up with that mindset, and it will take conscious work on your part to develop a more open attitude. I have no way of knowing if this applies to you, so let me describe some other causes for physical distance.

One is a trauma history. If you were molested as a child, assaulted as an adult, queer-bashed, or harassed when you were growing up, your body acquired a certain amount of tension. Being touched may cause you to feel in danger or even set off a flashback of events that hurt and harmed you. Avoiding touch is a defense against these frightening experiences. Therapy can help a lot if this is part of your past.

Another has to do with your personality. Some people are more introverted than others. They are cerebral and spend a lot of time wrapped up in their own thoughts. Their idea of a wonderful evening is having time alone to write, read, do arts and crafts, or play with the dog, free from the stress of being social. Being stranded on a desert island doesn't sound like such a bad time to them. Introverts are in the minority, and often get overwhelmed by living in the midst of people who demand what seems like a lot of attention and interaction. They may enjoy relating to animals a lot more than they enjoy other humans.

Being a stone butch can also evolve out of a troubled relationship to your female body. Do you have a hard time identifying with being a woman? Have you ever thought you would be happier of you had been born a boy? These feelings often get tangled up with our culture's sneering attitude toward female sexuality. Sex is seen as inherently degrading to women, and a woman who actually feels pleasure or wants to be touched is characterized as a slut and a whore. Some masculine women who have no gender issues whatsoever find it hard to let themselves go sexually because such behavior is seen as wiping out or invalidating their masculinity.

I agree with you and your partner that option two is not workable for your relationship. But option one and option three may not be as far apart as it might seem. First, make a joint decision about whether there is anything in your past that might need the attention of a therapist. If she feels very strongly that this is a good idea, trust her as a friend who has your best interests at heart, and give it a try, even if you are not sure it's merited. I do not think you need therapy because you are a stone butch; I am not saying it's some kind of mental disorder. On the contrary. Lesbian history has a proud tradition of the stone butch, and these folks have often taken the brunt of persecution for being dykes. I just want to make sure you have a safe place to talk about other issues, not of your own making, that might be hurting your relationship.

Second: Both of you need to accept the fact that you're not going to get exactly what you want. Change is going to take some time. Going slowly will help make each change a positive one. Given how very little physical contact you can tolerate, I think you'll have to set reasonable goals.

I would suggest that you start to journal about your relationship to your own body and your own sexuality. If your body could write you a letter about what it needs and wants, what would it say? You might be surprised by what comes out if you let yourself record what is really coming to mind. Take up some kind of practice that will improve your relationship to your own body. You might want to do yoga or martial arts, or set aside some time for masturbation. When you get yourself off, don't just go for the quick pop. Start touching your own body. Massage your feet, rub some lotion on your arms, stroke your own face. This is the best way to start eroticizing new sensations: when you are by yourself, and you know you can stop at any time, without hurting anybody's feelings, and get yourself off. In the beginning, you may have to decide how much time you are willing to spend on whole-body stimulation (at least five minutes) and set a timer. Otherwise, you're going to think you've been doing it for days when it's only been a few seconds. If any unpleasant images, memories, fears, or thoughts come up when you are doing this, write them down. They are important.

You and your partner should start exchanging daily massages. In the beginning, this may mean a few minutes of rubbing each other's shoulders. Buy a book about massage and practice different strokes with one another. Tell yourself that your partner loves you, and she wants to touch you because you wants to help you to relax and feel rejuvenated. The massage should not take place in the bedroom. Keep it separate from sex, and it will grow more easily into a more complete experience.

Journal about your sexual fantasies and values. What do you think it means if a woman lets somebody touch her? Is that degrading, or can it be beautiful? The average man would laugh his ass off if you told him that his masculinity depended on never letting anybody touch his genitals. So why would lovemaking jeopardize your sense of yourself? There is probably a long and rather painful history of people giving you negative feedback and shaming you into feeling that you are safest when you keep your clothes on and other people's hands off your skin.

During lovemaking, see if you can tolerate your lover's touch over your clothed body. Can she squeeze your crotch in a pleasurable way, or simply put her hand in between you and her thigh when you are climaxing? Then graduate to allowing her to touch your bare skin through loosened clothing. If you absolutely cannot stand to have her touch your chest, it's okay to ask her to stay away from that specific area, but you are also required to tell her someplace that she can touch. Get in the habit of speaking in positives rather than negatives. For example, if you would rather think of your body as male than female, ask her to talk to you about your body that way. She can talk about touching or sucking your cock instead of your cunt if that excites you. Playing with gender is a hot sexual fantasy for many people. It doesn't necessarily mean that you are transsexual. Telling her what she can do will help her to feel closer to you, rather than forbidding her to do this or that.

Keep taking deep, slow, complete breaths and tell yourself that you are safe, you can let go, she loves you, it's okay to have this experience. You're not doing anything bad or wrong. Being butch means whatever the two of you decide it means. For example, I personally know a lot of very butch women who love to get fucked, and it doesn't take away from their identities at all. (I also know femmes who have big issues with letting people touch them.) That's not to say that you want her to fuck you or you should do that; I'm just using it as an extreme example. The bedroom can be a haven from the world's negative judgments. By giving you more freedom, she is standing up for lesbians as much as any stone butch who shoved a heckling straight boy out of a dyke bar. Let her care for you. I guarantee that if you ever let her get you off, you won't look back. There's a whole world of glorious sensation out there, waiting for you.