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Trans Sex: Banging Beyond the Binaries
One of the sessions at the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference a couple of years ago, Trans Sex: Banging Beyond the Binaries, introduced us to the steps we need to take, to have our best possible sex lives. The speakers on this panel were Sex Educators Jamie Joy, and Lucie Fielding. The non-profit that I covered the conference for never published this even after the moderators read and approved it, but it’s educational as hell, so I’m gonna do it!
Thinking about the words we want to use for our parts is so important. There is no such thing as a specific way to call something, and when we become more comfortable with ourselves as we transition, it gives us an opportunity to re-envision how we live and identify with the pieces of ourselves that we share intimately with others. There are many words that can be used to describe our parts: from neutral terms like “chest,” to creative and fun terms like “love bits” that don’t make us feel triggered or “out of our bodies” when we’re with a partner. Not sure what words work for you? Try to say the words out-loud (alone or with someone if you want!) and see how they make you feel and react: Do you tense up? Do you become more excited? Does it make you want to do anything specific when you hear those words?
There are also not only words for parts, but also “power words” for our feelings and emotions. Is there a power dynamic in place that’s being played with, and does that affect your vocabulary? Do you want to be referred to as mixtress, daddy, baby, etc.? Are there terms you’d be comfortable with being called during sex like fuck toy, slut, or terms of endearment? What are the terms you’re comfortable with using to name the experiences ie: jerking off or eating out? Are there adjectives you or your partner(s) lean towards like beautiful instead of handsome? We can use a lot of our preferred terms to transcend gender, and neutralize the situation, and we can also use binary language at the preference of our partner(s) to affirm gender if we want to. It is possible to have a good time without being dysphoric, it’s just a matter of finding the right words for you! And don’t be afraid to make a pun or a joke out of the terms if you want to, if it’s a part of your journey to be able to laugh through the experience, chuckle away! Leaning into the potential awkwardness or silliness of sex, can actually help it go away, or become a part of the beauty of the experience. Also, be sure to leave room for change: one day, a word can feel great, and the next, it can be thrown out the window. That’s completely okay, nothing you decide has to be permanent if you don’t want it to be.
Now that we’ve thought about the language we’d like to use for ourselves and found a way to become comfortable, how do we share that experience with others? Regardless of your partner’s gender identity, sexuality, regardless of anything - every person involved deserves the same amount of care and attention. The way we make sure to do that with each other, is through building a clear communication system, to build trust, and get to know exactly what each person expects. This can be boiled down into a “negotiation.” Oftentimes, a great way to open this conversation up is to ask, “what words would you like me to use for you?” This not only opens up the space for their comfort, but it also provides the opportunity for them to ask you in return, should you feel it difficult to speak about it unprompted.
Some examples of prompters include:
“I would like it if you called my ___ this word ___,”
“I don’t feel comfortable using a noun to describe myself, so I would rather if you asked me things like, ‘can I touch it?’ Or ‘can I lick it?”
Another great question to ask someone at the beginning of the conversation is, “where do you NOT want to be touched?” The reason for this, as opposed to “where do you WANT to be touched?” Is because focusing on the no’s, can give us just as much information. The list of places a person can feel comfortable being touched could be a laundry list, with the list of no’s being shorter, and easier to communicate. Asking where a person would rather not be touched, often gives the answer to both questions. Always remember, in the same way that a person’s names for things can change at any time, so can the list of no’s. Asking the first time you share an intimate experience does not mean you never have to ask again. It’s important to make sure everyone understands how fluid the experience of sexual intimacy can be, so they feel comfortable coming to you with a change like, “actually, I would rather not be touched here tonight, but maybe another day.”
We now know where our person/people involved have their preferences and boundaries, so the next appropriate step would be to ask, “HOW would you like to be touched?” You can go into as much detail as you want with your answers, and can talk about your expectations for the emotional aspect of the experience as well as the physical - for example: “I like to be touched softly here, roughly there, and I like to feel like a spoiled prince when I’m in bed.” You can also be specific about actions that you like to receive as well, “I like to be grabbed and tossed around, it feels good to feel used.”
FIVE MINUTE NEGOTIATION DEMO - There are thousands of ways to negotiate, over thousands of durations of time, details, and questions. But this example is to show you that even in just five minutes, a lot of ground can be covered! It can happen over dinner with questions being woven into conversation so it doesn’t feel “business,” or you can directly go through the questions, like the example below. As always, it’s about whatever’s best for everyone involved. This is a transcription of the demonstration given by Jamie and Lucy during the panel.
L: Jamie, I’m really excited to be playing together! First of all, can you tell me a little bit about some of the intentions that you have for our play together today?
J: Yeah, I’m also really excited to play with you. I haven’t really gotten to explore a lot of my mommy kink, and I think for tonight, I really want to feel cared for, but also get punished a little bit. I want a lot of praise, and I’m feeling like your good boy. Those are my intentions, what about yours?
L: I love to feel adored, I love to nurture. A way that I like to play in mommy space is as a very enveloping force, both the feeling of you being held in the experience, but also, don’t try anything because I have eyes on the back of my head. So, you know, think kinky Mary Poppins, in terms of the energy I like to give. Does that sound congruent with the kinds of energies that you’re seeking in our play together?
J: Absolutely! I want you to feel adored and I’m happy to be of service in that way.
L: Yay! So, you mentioned very quickly something about being a “good boy.” Are there other terms that you would like for me to use together when we’re in play?
J: You can call me a bad boy too *chuckles* - for now, those are the terms that feel comfortable.
L: Okay. And what about for parts? And are we even engaging in any kind of genital or chest touch today?
J: You can touch my chest, and I would love to receive some spanking, as we get warmed up, I’d love to check in about any bottom exploration. I like this to be called my chest, I like for my ass to be called my ass, and if I were to receive any physical touch from you, I would want you to call it my “hole.”
L: Fabulous, thank you! So you mentioned spanking and surface. What kind of impact is most yummy for you? I’m an impact top so, the sky's the limit, except for single tail whip work, which is not something I’m excelling in quite yet.
J: Well, I love that you’re an impact top, because I can be a bit of a pain slut. I like to use a number scale system for when things are feeling too hard, my limit is usually an eight, I don’t like to go to my ten. I love hands, paddles, floggers, I usually draw a line at things that are really stingy.
L: Okay. So you like more thuddy/deep tissue sensation?
L: I love that, can do! What kinds of after care would you need/want after play ends?
J: Thanks for asking, I usually like to eat snacks, I get famished. I like to have a lot of low-stakes touch, music, and feel pretty relaxed and able to zone out, eat some chips, laugh, and have things become non-sexual.
L: I have a lot of the same after care needs, and I’m really excited to play together!
In the same way our negotiations can uncover a lot of ground for us, check-in questions during activities are just as helpful! When doing so, be sure to try to ask questions that are simple to respond to. Open-ended questions can sometimes leave a little too much room for thinking, and can take a person out of being in the ‘feeling’ or the ‘moment’ and get them stuck in their head. Questions like, “How is this touch/pressure/speed, good or bad? Do you want to stop, yes or no?” Pay attention to what’s important, but do so in a way that hopefully won’t overwhelm the person being asked, and allows them to keep their head in the game.
You can also use safe words or safe actions negotiated beforehand to assess a person’s comfort with something. A safe action can be something like a double tap on the person/people you’re with, which is non-verbal, or a verbal pattern like the “red light system,” where you can use the colors to mean whatever you’d like, but as an example, red could mean “pressure check-in, hands up everyone", yellow could mean “break, or slow it down", and green could mean “this is great, keep going.” Any one activity can be approached from so many different feeling zones, or energies, so giving questions that provide quick answers can help guide you in the direction that works best for everyone. You can spank someone as a form of punishment, and you can also spank someone with nurturing care - it’s important to know the difference, and to know the preference of your partner(s). Lucie made some example templates on her Instagram (previously linked in 2021, if anyone knows her current Insta, do let me know!), to bring to these conversations, or even to just use on your own, to get to the bottom of your own preferences if you’re still discovering them for yourself, and even for periodic self-check-ins. Sex Educator Bex Caputo also made a Yes/No/Maybe list that’s great for this!
Oral Sex Techniques
As we now shift our thoughts towards techniques, one of the ways we can do it is looking at specific words like we have up until now, and we can also assess the energy and intention with which we interact with our bodies and those of our partners. Noticing how an action like oral sex can change in feeling and experience based on how a person is giving or receiving, is vital to a good time for all. We must approach ourselves and our partner(s) bodies with a beginner’s mindset of, “I’ve played with parts that may be similar to what a partner may have, but I can’t assume based off of that previous experience that those are the right choices to make here. I have to ask about how I want to interact with this person, and throw out that past experience from my mind so that it doesn’t limit me from what I could do now with this person.” As Alison Moon points out in Girl Sex 101, there are so few ways that a partner can touch us that we cannot touch ourselves. It all starts with ourselves, and our mindsets. It’s all a slow unfolding exploration.
Bobbing vs Licking
When it comes to oral sex, there can be a lot of dysphoria, because people can have complicated relationships with their genitals. It’s so helpful to think about energy and intention, specifically with technique, for example: the difference between bobbing and swirling. Some people look down on people going down on them/giving them head/whatever words are being used, and what can get them feeling hot is seeing a person bobbing up and down on their body parts, or swirling around; using techniques that make them feel affirmed. We’re taking these movements out of a gendered sense, but also acknowledging the affirming nature of their use, depending on the needs of the person being acted on. If someone is moving their head in a way as if they were cock sucking, or they're “licking the clit” or “swirling around the tip”, think about the energy those actions and terms can feed off to both parties. It can be incredibly helpful to explore what terms and actions can give your partner the most, as the leather worker River Queer says, “Gender good” experience. Gender good is anything that makes you feel seen and held, warm and fuzzy about your gender. It is a term a little less clinical than euphoria, and can sometimes be easier to use in conversation
Muffing is a technique where our inguinal canals (just under the pelvic bone - everyone has these! Though this technique will no longer work for people who’ve had/have testicles after an orchiectomy. This is described in more detail in Fucking Trans Women by Mira Bellwether by the pads of fingers, pressing against the upper parts of the canal that is packed with nerve endings (that aren’t as expandable as a butt hole or a mouth), but are expandable a little bit. Basically, you “invagonate” by using the balls of the testicle as a cot, in order to experience "finger banging” (which was coined as a term by Mira Bellwether). If you’ve ever had a check for an inguinal hernia at a wellness checkup, it’s essentially that motion, but made kinky because why not!
After care needs
People often become really consumed by all of the details in the moment of sex, but can forget the importance of after care, or the time immediately after sex and intimacy. If you can, try to ask yourself what your preferences are, and ask the person you’re with as well. Are you very verbal/require a debrief or assessment immediately afterwards? Do you need to cuddle in silence for a while? Should there be a glass of water ready for you on the nightstand? Do you need time apart from the person(s) you’re with for a bit before you interact again? It’s all about making sure the same level of comfort and communication is given after the activity ceases.
De-centering genitalia and our chests
When it comes to sex and play, sometimes what feels really gender-affirming doesn’t involve use of gendered areas or genitals in any way. Ears, for instance, are very sensitive, and the use of things like teasing BDSM can be helpful to creating sensual and heavily arousing experiences, without the reference or use of genitals. Tantric sex can often involve “energy genitalia” or “fire breath” or eye gazing, so many things that can involve more focus on the exchange of energy that is produced in intimate spaces with people. Leather care or self-tying can also be things that are grounding without the spotlight being on genitals. All in all, sex doesn’t have to include genitals or have anything to do with it if you don’t want it to!
A lot of times people feel like toys have to serve as a “replacement” or that they “need to be used” or we can’t play, because we’re queer. But in reality, toys are a supplement - it’s about what they add. A lot of times when you’re shopping for toys, they’ll say things like “for girls” or “for couples,” etc. along with little illustrations of a very one-way only approach for use that might not apply to you. The kind of specifics that aren’t always necessary to describe the item, but make us squirm away from using them. Off-label use is when we take those toys, and make them our own. The only real rule of sex toys, is that they’re used safely, and in a way that is fun for everyone involved.
Vibrators: a lot of vibrators are focused on going inside of things, or are intended for specific body parts, but an external pleasure wand is a genderless toy. A great thing about strong, heavy vibrations, is that this gives the option for those who aren’t comfortable with taking their clothes off, to still experience and feel pleasure through whatever they are wearing. Sex doesn’t have to mean naked! You can still experience pleasure and have fun with your clothes on, and this is a great option for that. Vibrations also help open things up, so if you’re heading in that direction, that can help.
Dildos: Trans men are not the only people interested in dildos, contrary to popular belief! It’s important to not assume that a person wouldn’t want to play with a specific kind of toy because of their identity, what’s important is asking (side note: that is not the only way a trans guy can have sex, as there is deep satisfaction in a variety of things, on a person-to-person basis. See how not to discuss intimacy with trans men, here). There are dildos that double up as pack and plays, there are dildos that come in skin tones, and all different other colors, dildos with testicles, dildos that look like tentacles…transcend those binaries, bodies, and even explore other worldly fantasies with dildos of any and every kind!
Of course, there are more than those two kinds of toys. To help you find the right ones for you, here are some resources that include LGBTQIA friendly sex shops and products:
Fucking Trans Women, Mira Bellwether
Girl Sex 101, Alison Moon
Trans Kink Zine (coming, Easter Road Press)
Trans Sex, Lucie Fielding