Happy 14th Anniversary, Sugarbutch

Sugarbutch started on this day, April 29, 14 years ago in 2006.

I had been in New York City almost a year. I was drifting away from my girlfriend from college, who moved to New York with me; she was in law school, and I was miserable. We weren’t having sex — we barely felt like partners, to me, just roommates, and I was having no luck repairing things.

I had no internet connection at my apartment. I went around the corner to the cyber cafe to apply for jobs. But I had hopped through some temp work long enough to get a job at a finance firm, doing layout & design, where I stayed for about 3 years, which meant I was in front of a computer all day for the first time since I worked at Microsoft — my schedule in Seattle before I moved to New York had been a patchwork mix of writing groups & performances, working at a bookstore, college classes, and homework.

So once I got in front of a computer, I started diving in to the online worlds of personal expression: creative writings, the “personal essay” (or, if men were writing it, the “essay”), and blogs. I stumbled into a just-born world of sex blogs, particularly New York City based sex blogs, discussing their sex-capades and life in New York. Most of these folks weren’t queer, though some were. I started writing fantasies and stories and started liking what I was writing, so I shared them.

I’ve had dozens of lovers online. My first long-term-relationship I met in a telnet chatroom in 1994, we were together five years. I’ve courted, fucked, and wooed women online when I was dating men and not really out as a lesbian. I’ve met for dates, one night stands, and courtships through the internet.

And so I’m turning to the internet yet again, in this anonymous blog, to detail my overspilling desire and try to curtail some of the want that is really painful for me, since my needs aren’t being met. And, ultimately, to decide how much more of my own pleasure and desire and needs I’m going to sacrifice in order to stay in this relationship.
from the first post on Sugarbutch: Bed Death, Standard Variety

The early stuff is all password protected now. It was such a journal, so much personal writing, so much uncensored writing. I’m not sure I’d want to re-read it, but it is still there, buried in the archives. (It’s the old password, btw. Join the mailing list and get the password used to be the deal. But now it’s join the Patreon.)

Toward the end of 2006, I wrote a piece after a foursome and it got some notoriety, and Sugarbutch started building a little tiny audience.

After that, it’s such a whirlwind … falling for someone else, breaking up with the college girlfriend, taking about a year to try to get my life together before going after the person I fell for, the magic of that six month relationship, then the trauma of the breakup and the realization of how damaging that relationship was. That was another peak, and I started getting asked to teach places, to be part of sex blogger meetups and groups. Writing beautiful, heart-wrenching, raw things through that breakup. Then healing, slowly. Dating. Meeting and courting Kristen. Opening that relationship and dating other people. That was another peak, and I had two books come out in the same year. Meeting rife, and then my dad’s death, and then the breakup with Kristen, and moving to Oakland.

There are other posts about the first 7 years of Sugarbutch, the first 7 anniversaries:

Hard to believe I didn’t write anything for the ten year anniversary, but April 2016 was the beginning of the relationship crisis rife and I have been in the past few years. I have written about it some here, but not a lot, for two reasons: 1) it’s ever difficult to share deep emotional things when they are currently happening, because this does have a lot of readers now and the feedback, comments, or criticism I get is just unnecessary and the opposite of helpful; 2) part of what I uncovered is how, when I journal, I tell myself a version of my story that I want to hear, and that can actually just reiterate and solidify my story, rather than be supportive of it. Generally that’s not true of my relationship to writing — I write to discover what I don’t know that I already know, I use it as a tool of self-inquiry and growth. But when I’m in a triggered state, it can just keep me spinning out, rather than helping me re-center. So I have journaled a lot less in recent years in general.

(I’m trying to get back into journaling, now that I have a different relationship to the c-PTSD. But that’s still in progress, and offline.)

It’s more valuable to write a summary of the last seven years, since I have a lot of summaries of the first seven years. I’ve been with rife that whole time; I’ve been in Oakland, California that whole time. This is the most stable that I’ve ever been, probably my whole life. We had a collaring ceremony, we got married, we ran for two leather titles and won.

We started teaching online — we launched Submissive Playground, Mastering Dominance, Dom Club, which has now evolved to be D/s Playground (which is an on demand, downloadable course, free to the folks on Patreon who support at $5+).

I have traveled to do guest lectures and workshops at colleges, but in 2015 I re-entered the workforce and have had a few different jobs since. I’m looking for a full-time job now.

After rife and I had a major relationship conflict starting in 2016, we started couple’s therapy, which we’re still doing. I don’t know if we would have stayed together if it wasn’t for her — and for our stubborn commitment to each other. The conflict ignited all kinds of past traumas in both of us, and I have spent the last few years really teasing apart my history of relational trauma, my complex PTSD, and dealing with the wounds that happened because of a lot of emotional neglect in my childhood. We’ve been in a much more solid place in the past year and a half.

Making a full account of those seven years is more than I can do at the moment, but that’s a start of a summary.

I’m constantly thinking about how I’m going to evolve this space. In some ways, it is a ball and chain I carry around, rooted in the me from 2006 who was so naive, so young. Some of the peaks of this project have revolved around relationships and break-ups, and instances where I am not only not proud of my behavior, I am at times deeply ashamed. I’m working on forgiving myself for all of that. It isn’t easy. Sometimes I think: if I was starting a project today, would I write about my sex life on the internet? The answer is, emphatically, no. It’s a laughable idea. Too intimate, too vulnerable. I know that’s part of what makes it radical, but I’m also just more private than I used to be — and the internet is a lot less private than it used to be.

The last four years have been laying the foundation for a huge leveling up. Mostly laying the emotional foundation, but also the financial foundation, relational foundation, and spiritual foundation. I’ve been building three things in a much deeper, more intentional way: 1. roots in a geographic place – where do I want to live? 2. financial security, particularly having my own income that actually supports the life I want to live; 3. building a family, both as a head of household Dominant to my boy, but also expanding it.

I’m frustrated that it has taken me so long to prioritize these kinds of stability — my 20s and 30s were so much about transformation and not about the usual adult things of career path and saving money and “settling down.” I got a lot of value out of my deep studies of embodiment, leather, kink, queerness, gender, polyamory, relationships, and sex in general, but wow if it wouldn’t be nice to have some savings. I guess my mid-life crisis at 40 has been about reprioritizing things like that.

I believe in the ability to reinvent myself, and to make this space serve me. Ultimately, it’s a personal writing project about writing myself into the next phase of my life, using writing to level up myself, and it has served me well for that all along.

So, thank you, Sugarbutch, for fourteen years of support. Thank you for the structure. Thank you for the place to process and express and create and share.

Thank you, readers, for reading, commenting, engaging, sharing your stories, bringing me to your colleges and towns and community centers, buying my books, reading my books, sending links of my dirty stories to your lovers and folks you wish were your lovers.

Thank you, patrons, for casting some financial support my way. The last five years of Sugarbutch have been completely different because my expenses are paid. I feel more motivated. Thank you. Sign up on Patreon if you’d like to support my work.

Thank you, rife, for being with me on this journey, for letting me write about you, for trying out sex toys with me, for sharing your ideas and stories. Thank you for sticking with me, even when things were/are hard.

Much gratitude out into the world tonight.

A Ten Year Retrospective: Portraits by Bill Wadman

I was in New York City in November and met up with Bill Wadman, an amazing portrait photographer and friend of mine. As we were catching up we realized that he’s been photographing me for ten years, so I started thinking back on the experiences with him, the way things have changed over that time, and how portrait photographs can be a powerful tool of identity reflection.

My first shots with him were in 2007 for his 365 portrait series. Many of the folks I was in community with were part of it, and I threw my name out to him, too … I didn’t know what to expect, but I went over to his home studio with some ideas. He spent a lot of time with me, through multiple outfit changes and my nerves and even a performed poem at his old-school microphone. These shots weren’t the one he used for his project, but these are the ones I like best.

These were the first professional photos of myself, I think … aside from school portraits. Definitely my first “photo shoot.” I’d been an avid self-portraiture explorer since 2000 or so, but I was coming in to my butchness in new ways in 2005-6-7, and so I was seeing myself anew. Having someone else see me like this was gratifying … and kind of shocking. I remember staring at these photos a lot. Is that really how I look? Are you sure? It seemed magical.

I did three shoots with him in 2012. That was one of the hardest years of my life, and it was one of those years where I reached out to a lot of different photographers and did many shoots. The first one, with the red flogger against the brick wall, has been used many places since. While I’ve used some of the photos from the shoot later in the year, it was also a time when I was in deep depression, and the photos, while technically beautiful and very accurate in their capture of me, are really sad. My face is … surprising.

There’s actually one more shoot from 2012 that is missing. I’d had this vision of a photo of me in a white button-down, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, next to a clawfoot tub with a femme covered in bubbles, and me shaving her legs. Bill said, “If I find a clawfoot tub, will you and Kristen model?” and made it happen. It makes me sad to look at it. I’m not including it here, but I’ve seen it make the rounds on Tumblr, and it’s over on my Flickr.

There’s one — the middle one from 2015 — that I think is my favorite photo of myself ever taken. That whole shoot, though, are some of my favorites of all time. I’m not sure what it was, but I felt confident and so like myself, I’d just had top surgery, I was getting healthier in my body, and I was appreciating being back in New York for a small trip.

The 2017 photo shoot was for his second 365 portraits project. rife is also in this year’s portrait series, from the summer when Bill and his wife Heather were in San Francisco, but I waited until I was visiting New York to do a portrait with him. We met up at the gay boy bar Therapy because I remembered their all-gender bathroom as kinda epic, so we took some photos in there at the urinals. They show a different kind of me than the others, I think. More grown up. Maybe a little more wise. More playful. More … solid. More something.

Thank you, Bill. Here’s to another 10 years of friendship!

2007

2012, early

2012, late

2015

2017

PS: I used to keep a lot of photos over on Flickr, and I still upload galleries from photoshoots there. You can browse through more of the photos from these shoots (and others) if you’d like.