This is the third post in my stone blog series. It may be helpful to read the series in order, starting with the first post defining stone and then reading the post describing the pleasures of stone sexuality, before reading this post.
Stone avoids notice, skirts the light, prefers not to be spoken of, obfuscates itself. Because of the slipperiness of the subject, it is particularly difficult to find language. I have chosen these words with care, and yet inevitably some of this language will fail, be partial, not fit your experience, not sit right against your skin. I am basing this post on my own experience as a stone top, and it will probably not match yours in all the ways you need, or be as thorough as you’d like.
It is common to practice elision when we talk about sex, to assume that the folks know what we are talking about, so we don’t have to be specific. I’m going to be specific, and because I’m a porn writer, my descriptions may lean toward erotic on occasion.
What counts as sex?
When you are hot for someone new, and you imagine sex with them, what does sex look like?
When I was first exploring sexuality, I had a pretty clear idea of what sex looked like. I might not have known what it would be like or feel like, but I was pretty sure I knew basically how it was supposed to go, and what my role was in the whole thing (which I understood mostly was to say no to constant pressure and coercion unless I was sure I wanted to have sex…that was the extent of my understanding of sexual negotiation). I was also deeply certain that the early sexual activity I was doing was, very intentionally, notsex. Long before I knew I was a fag, I was kneeling on bathroom floors sucking strangers off, secure in the absolute fact of the notsex of a blowjob. I carried this surety through my early experiences of what I thought of as realsex (e.g. penetrative sex where I was on the receptive end), and this sense of clarity around realsex vs. notsex was not really shattered until I began to think of myself as queer.
And yet, the second I write that, I want to trouble it, because it’s not really true. I remember confusion as well, hidden amongst the surety I knew I was supposed to have and mostly pretended I did have. What were the bases exactly and where did oral sex fit in them? Why was it so much hotter to give blowjobs than to receive oral sex on my own body, which generally felt weird and wrong somehow? If realsex was so great and the ultimate sexual experience, why the hell did it hurt so damn much and generally not feel good or right, while certain kinds of notsex were so much hotter?
My early sexual explorations were definitely not the norm amongst my peers, particularly the casual and anonymous nature of them. I knew I was supposed to want to have a boyfriend, but I honestly both didn’t want one and didn’t think that it was possible for me to have one because I was fat. Casual sexual interactions with older men (most of whom were strangers that I never saw again) were a way to access sexuality that circumvented the assumption my peers held (and frequently shared with me): that I was too fat to have a sexuality, too fat to be desired by anyone.
When I began to think of myself as a dyke, I didn’t have a schema for what sex would be, though I did think that my fatness might not be as much of a concern (and by then I’d already become politicized around fat oppression, which helped). I’d tried to understand dyke sex by reading lesbian erotica, but I found it a bit confusing in terms of rules. Not to mention full of water and fruit imagery; was there really so much bursting and filling up and spilling over? (I suppose I should mention that this was the early 90s and I had not yet located kinky smut or butch/femme books.) The one thing I did gather was the sense that things were maybe supposed to be reciprocal, but with all the metaphor I couldn’t really tell what was going on. (The British lesbian erotica only made for more confusion with all of the references to fannies which I assumed meant asses but the descriptions made it seem like that wasn’t quite right.) I didn’t have many dyke friends at the time. I came out into a community of gay men, and was hotter for faggotry than I was for what it seemed like dyke sex was going to be like. But faggotry didn’t seem accessible.
When I started dating a woman for the first time, I was pretty fucking lost. She seemed certain about some rules that I was already breaking (mostly around gender), and after several weeks, she asked when we were going to have sex, we had waited so damn long. I was completely flummoxed. I thought we’d already had sex!
I bet I’m not alone in the experience of wondering: did we have sex? (Or, for that matter, are we on a date?) I also wonder about other related things: how many times did we have sex? When did one instance of sex stop and the next begin? What was foreplay and what was sex? If there are more than two people involved, how do I know whether I’ve had sex with all of them or just some of them?
I’m not as new to queer communities as I was then, and I now know that there are norms around dating and sex. (For example, Jenny Block assumes, along with many other folks, that cunnilingus is an essential part of sex between women.) And yet, I also know those norms differ from queer community to queer community. There isn’t one clear set of norms and assumptions like there is within heteronormativity.
As a polyamorous queer person, I am particularly aware of the confusion around defining queer sex, as I’ve had more than one polyamory negotiation conversation where people wanted to take sex off the table for other partners. So then we had to decide: what counted as sex? At various instances of these negotiations it was determined that for the purposes of polyamory rules, the following acts did not count as sex: fisting, blow jobs, bootlicking, ass fucking, and pain play of all sorts, even when it resulted in orgasms, as it often did. (I know I’m not alone in my experience of these kinds of contortions around defining things as off-limits or in-bounds in polyamory negotiations. This is one of the reasons I no longer do rules-based polyamory.)
Given all this murkiness when we are defining sex, I ask you to take a moment to consider the following questions, and hold your answers (and any confusion you may have) in your heart when you read the rest of this post.
When you are hot for someone new, and you imagine sex with them, what does sex look like? Does it vary depending on context? On your own fantasy? On gender? On your mood? On your relationship to your body that day? Are there constants for you? If there are things you generally always include, can you imagine a partner that might never expect or might not want them to be part of sex? What do you assume has to be part of sex in order for it to be sex?
Stone Sexuality Challenges Assumptions About Sex
“The challenge is that I play with a lot of men, and some of them seem to think that what I am doing is a pegging kink on a standard bi-but-not-too-queer woman, and so it can be difficult to convince them that [being stone] is how I’m wired, not just some kinky thing and we’ll get on to the PIV once I get bored, or something. Me saying [to men] ‘No, actually this is who I always am, and also is a gender thing for me’ is new and confusing to them, and sometimes threatening, in a way that my just saying ‘I’d like to penetrate you’ isn’t…I think it goes back to sexist notions of what a body with a vagina is “for.” If it’s supposedly a fundamental piece of what having that body is supposed to *be* to do a certain thing, and you say “I don’t want that thing”, you seem incomplete.” –Anonymous
One of the common experiences amongst most stone folks (including me) is that our personal picture of sex and our sexual desires do not match what other folks think sex “should” be. As a result, stone sex, and particularly the folks that have it, are often understood to be pitiable, a problem, a lack, a pathology in need of a cure. Here are several common assumptions about sex that stone folks often run up against:
- Sex is reciprocal/equal (e.g. what person A does to person B, person B also does to person A). In other words, none of these boys is a bottom. All parties are actually verse (instead of just saying it on their grindr), they are sexual switches who both receive and give during sex.
Stone sex is not generally reciprocal in the traditional way that concept is understood, though it is a mutual exchange that all parties are active in. Stone sexuality says that it’s ok for one person’s body and reactions to be the center of sex, that it’s fine if folks are exclusively sexual tops or sexual bottoms. Stone sexuality revels in that kind of exchange, sees it as whole and complete, just as it is. Stone sexuality insists that non-reciprocal sex is gorgeous and hot and exactly right for folks who choose it, challenging a community norm that is particularly common in queer women’s communities.
- Certain sex acts are an essential component of sex; if they are not present, it is not sex. Common related assumptions are: sex requires that all parties touch and are touched, the genitals of all parties are involved, and all involved have orgasms.
Stone sexuality disrupts the idea that sex has certain requirements, just tosses those requirements out of the window. Stone folks set boundaries saying the sex acts that many folks think are central and necessary are in fact off the table. We say “no, I won’t eat your pussy” or “no I won’t get fucked.” We say “no, I don’t want to be touched” or “no, I won’t fuck you.” We do sexuality in ways that deeply challenge some queer community norms around sexuality.
- There are certain kinds of sex that the body was “naturally” “made” for, and you are expected to want to do those (in other words, how you have sex should be determined by your bits).
“when I say that I am stone I don’t quite mean ‘I never get vaginally or anally penetrated, ever ever ever.’ I mean that vaginal penetration isn’t something that I identify with or consider to be something I’m ‘made’ or ‘designed’ to do.” –Anonymous
Stone sexuality challenges cissexism and patriarchy and their foundational assumptions about what body parts are “for” in sex. It says that having an orifice does not mean that orifice is going to get fucked when you have sex. It says fucking is not about what you have in your pants, that your body does not determine your role in sex or what you do in bed. It says that desire is not about what your crotch looks like, because your crotch may not be involved at all. It says don’t base your attraction on what you think is in my pants because you may never see it or touch it in any way.
- Sex requires nakedness for all parties (or, at the very least, the removal of some clothing).
Stone sex doesn’t require the removal of clothes. In fact, some stone identified folks (myself included) do not get naked for sex. Stone sexuality upends the idea that sex means nakedness. Stone sex can occur when one or more parties keep every stitch of clothing on. One person can be clothed while another is naked. A stone top may not do more than unzip a fly to fuck their partner, or might use their hands and not even unzip at all.
I don’t remove clothes when I fuck, and that’s not about withholding or body shame (as some might imagine), it’s about my body not being the center of gaze or attention, about emphasizing that fact, about honing our focus on your body, on your responses, about my gaze sharpening to trace your skin, your parted lips, your changes in breath. It’s about living my boundaries and my desires through the way I fuck, right down to how I dress for it, and about enjoying the contrast of being clothed and fucking someone who is naked. It’s about centering all of my considerable attention on you and not getting distracted by sensation against my skin.
Stone sexuality often disrupts all or most of these assumptions about sex, in deep and immovable ways. It insists that sex can exist outside of these assumptions, and be hot, whole, and exactly right for the folks involved. This can feel pretty damn threatening to people.
I am pretty open about being stone, which is not that common for stone folks, in my experience (I write about it, I talk about it, I teach classes, it’s part of my username on social media, etc.). One of my common experiences is that someone will know I’m stone (outside of a dating or flirtatious context) and will feel the need to frequently assert that they are not stone, and not interested in stone sex.
One acquaintance knew I was stone from an online handle, and every time I ran into her in person and said hello, she would find some way to say, pretty much as soon as she saw me, that she was not into stone sex, could not do it, needed to be able to touch and fuck her partners. It was often said in a rushed, almost desperate tone. I had not flirted with her once, had not indicated any interest in doing anything with her, sexual or otherwise, but was merely being polite and saying hello. Sex was definitely not on the table, but she felt compelled to reject my particular kind of sex, every time she saw me. Just the reality of my stoneness and my openness about being stone was enough to invoke this need to repeatedly say over and over that she wasn’t into that. Stone identity, and particularly the open self-acceptance of it, is threatening to people’s sense of sexuality, and assumptions about what it is or should be, including their own sexuality.
Common Assumptions About Stone Tops
“Stone tops of the world, let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with us because of the way we fuck. I know that’s difficult to internalize, trust me.” Kate
A good portion of the assumptions made about stone sexuality are rooted in the idea that it is pathological and dysfunctional. If something is understood to be a problem, folks look for a cause and a cure. So, it’s not surprising that many folks assume that people are stone because of trauma. Folks often assume that trauma, particularly sexual trauma, is the cause of many aspects of gender and sexuality that they think are problematic. Trauma has been linked to pathologized ideas about queerness, transness, butchness, kinkiness, and polyamory for a very long time. So it’s not really a surprise that the same would occur with stoneness.
As a queer trans stone butch kinky polyamorous person who is also a trauma survivor, I can tell you that this kind of assumption—that your sexual or gender identity needs an explanation like trauma—is incredibly common and also pretty damaging. It’s a difficult framework to escape from and one that often leads to stuckness and internalized shame. Let me give you a few examples from my own life, around being trans:
- Worrying about whether my trauma history caused my trans identity is one of the main reasons I agonized over going on T, when I was clear otherwise that it was the right choice for me.
- I was in a trans survivor support group about a decade ago, and we all spent an inordinate amount of energy struggling to unpack questions about the relationships between trauma and our gender because of these kind of pathologizing assumptions about trauma making us trans. That was energy we could have spent on healing from trauma.
- Just a few months ago, while attempting to obtain things I needed because I’d been hit by a car, I had a social worker spend most of the time she had on a home visit asking questions aimed at trying to figure out why I was trans, instead of helping me to apply for disability and paratransit.
This need to answer the question of why is not only damaging and rooted in pathologization, but it also steals focus from much more important things.
And yet, if you spend time talking to stone tops, we will tell you that most of the people we encounter are rather obsessed with uncovering why we are stone, mostly in the hopes of curing our stoneness. Stone tops who have trauma histories are often assumed to not have had “enough” therapy, otherwise we would have “worked through our issues”. People also assume that trans stone folks are stone tops because we are trans, and that our stoneness will disappear once we transition. People often also falsely assume that love will cure or melt our stoneness.
“The need/want/expectation of a Stone “relaxing” erodes trust, it erodes safety, it makes sex and physical intimacy something to be dreaded rather than enjoyed, and THAT is what leads to physical and emotional distance, NOT THE ACTUAL BOUNDARY. And, for me, if I cannot trust you with my body & my boundaries, nothing else is going to matter in the long run. The chasm gets wider because the expectation for reciprocal sex never goes away, and it is pervasive and erosive.”–Union Builder
The push for a cure (especially from lovers) is one of the hardest things about being a stone top, in my experience, because it is rooted in this assumption that our stoneness is some kind of personal failure. It also implies that we should wait to be cured of stoneness before having sex. I believe that whatever may have created the current sexual or kink experience, preference or identity of the parties involved (stone included), it is valuable to determine the current reality and figure out how to have hot sex and play in it. I don’t believe in waiting until in general; desire, sex and play are too vital and important, too necessary to our lives, for us to wait until something changes about ourselves in order to seek what we want and need. I’m a realist, I want to find ways to live in the current reality in a way I can be fulfilled and express desire.
I also firmly believe that it is not necessary to figure out or communicate the roots and causes of desires or limits in order to have hot play or sex. I’m don’t feel that talking about why people are stone is useful (just as I doubt the usefulness of identifying why people are queer, fetishize boots, are into threesomes, or get off on causing pain). I see that kind of discussion as coming from, and being stuck in, a sense of certain sexual expressions as “normal” or “right”, and I try not to work from that kind of framework.
There are some other common assumptions about stone sexuality that are important to note. Folks often assume that stone tops don’t experience pleasure. They often assume that stone bottoms are a host of negative stereotypes that are rooted in misogyny and sex negativity. They also often assume that stone tops do sex and kink in a way that is cold and distant. I’ve written at length about the pleasures of stone sex, and also written a bit about the ways misogyny impacts how stone bottoms are villified. In the interests of space, I will focus the rest of this section on the assumption that stone tops are distant and cold in bed.
Several times, I’ve been negotiating play with someone, and I talk about being stone, and they say something like, “that won’t work for me, I need play that’s connected.” Now, I think it’s perfectly fine to say no to play or sex with anyone, period. That said, the assumption that stone sex and kink is disconnected is just not true. Of course, some folks (stone and not stone) do play and sex that is disconnected, are not seeking intimacy, and in fact enjoy sex and play better when it feels more distant or cold. But it is a false assumption about stoneness to equate it with that sort of sex and kink.
Part of this is about unpacking what “connected” sex and kink means. If being able to touch your partner or fuck your partner or see your partner naked is the only thing that makes you feel connected to them…if those things are the symbol of or the only pathway to an experience of connection, then play and sex with me will not feel connected. However, if “connected” means emotional intimacy, energetic exchange, or play that involves a lot of physical closeness, then play and sex with me might feel really connected. I am generally uninterested in play and sex that does not involve intimacy and connection, and I am rarely physically or emotionally distant from the folks I play with and fuck. In fact, I’m often very very close. I’m a sadist, so I enjoy being cruel and love pain and tears and fear, but I do not experience my sadism as particularly cold or distant. Instead, I experience my sadism as both intimate and vulnerable. That’s also not how I do D/s…I want to get inside you, really see into you and lay claim. That’s not a cold distant desire, but a deeply intimate one.
Expanding Our Conception of Sex
“For awhile I tried on ‘stone femme’ as an identity. In many ways, this label protected me and made me feel powerful. It also became a regular topic for dissection in our small community.
‘A stone femme, meaning a femme who loves stone butches?’ I was asked repeatedly.
‘No I mean I myself am stone,’ I’d say. ‘I don’t let lovers touch me.’
‘Hmmm.’ I got a lot of doubtful ‘hmmms’ in response, as if I was speaking in riddles…What the heck did sex between us look like if I wasn’t going to spread my legs anymore?…Ultimately, changes to the way I fucked meant we both had to reinvent the codes and traditions of the butch-femme bedroom as we knew them…” –Amber Dawn, “To All the Butches I Loved Between 1995 and 2005: An Open Letter about Selling Sex, Selling Out, and Soldiering On”, printed in Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme
I spent a long time being stone and not knowing I was stone, not letting myself know I was stone, not giving myself permission to be stone. I spent a long time trying to patch and fit my desires together so that I could get my needs met, to try to fix what I thought was broken, so that I could reach for the pleasure I dreamed of. It didn’t work, most of the time, though there were moments where I could access enough of what I needed to be ok. In all honesty, most of the time I was not ok when I was trying to do that. Some of that wasn’t about being stone but about other things. But, not feeling like it was possible, not giving myself permission to listen to my body and my psyche about what my boundaries needed to be made it really hard for me to be ok having sex, doing kink.
It wasn’t until I let myself have the boundaries that I wanted, needed, in my body, in my psyche, until I gave myself permission to be where I was at, to accept that I was stone, that I didn’t enjoy being sexually receptive in and of itself, that I didn’t enjoy being the object of someone’s gaze, that I didn’t enjoy being touched, it wasn’t until I accepted those things about myself that it seemed possible to stop trying to do those things and do something else instead. I couldn’t let myself know what it would be to reach for my desires until I let myself have the boundaries that I needed, accept that it was ok I needed them, that it didn’t mean there was something wrong or broken in my sexuality. I needed the foundation of self-acceptance first, even if it was tentative, even if I had doubt too. I needed to act from self-acceptance to get to the hotness that was possible.
It turns out that immense hotness was possible for me, once I widened my concept of what sex could be. Stone sexuality can open up and transform what we mean by sex in a deeply queer way. Sex without nakedness, sex without reciprocity, sex without a focus on genitals. It can be beautiful and hot and amazing and is the best sex I’ve ever had by a landslide. I am able to hone in on the specificity of my desires, to focus my attention on my partner, to move from the fullness of who I am, in ways that make sex and play explosive, intense, and gorgeous.
“My hands, my fingers, my tongue, the marks left by a knife, even the feeling of blows going through someone… that’s all fucking someone, or at least a lot like it, to me.” –Anonymous
Part of what happens in my personal experience of stone sex is that fucking becomes less focused on my genitals, and on the genitals of my partners. Our concept of fucking, and our shared vision of my cock (as my particular desire is rather cock-focused), expands and proliferates. And there’s all this creative potential there, so much possibility.
So many things can be my cock: my hands, my blade, my baton, my boots, my gaze. There are so many possibilities for getting fucked that are not about mouth, cunt, or ass, so many ways to take me in, to be hungry for me, to ache for me, to get pounded good and hard or fucked slow and sweet. There are so many possibilities for sucking me off that don’t involve my genitals or my strap on.
“The queerness of the blow job isn’t just about its literal insertion, but about all its potential. It’s like a play, in one act, where all the actors have a rotating set of equally interesting understudies. The queerness implicated in sucking dick is not just about cruising spots and other spaces of taboo public sex (though that too), but also a total shakeup of what dicks, sucking, and dick sucking constitute. That’s where the potential is: to totally unravel our language into the sheets we wrap our bodies in.
The queer potential of dick sucking is about changing the play’s cast without warning. Any part of the body can be, become, or unbecome a dick. Any body can have a dick. Any dick on any given day can be not a dick at all. A body that determines it doesn’t have a dick actually doesn’t. We can toss sex outside language and still communicate with our tongues. They don’t have to be attached to human forms at all.” — How Many Licks by Janani Balasubramanian
Much of my erotica involves blowjob mischief of one kind and another, and it’s just as likely that it is someone’s knife, or their boots, or their hand getting sucked off as it is a more traditionally understood cock. The hotness of fucking a bottom’s face with my hand is so intense and electric, the way I can get up close and watch their eyes, can hold their throat still for me, can see in detail how they push themselves to take me inside, can hear every little sound, make the experience incredibly hot. These days, there is no question in my mind that this act is sex, and some of the best sex out there, glorious and ferocious and intensely hot.
Letting go of assumptions about what sex can be makes so much hot sex possible. Embracing myriad understandings of sex means we make room for so many wonders, including stone sexuality. To do that, we need to actively work to challenge our own assumptions about sex, stoneness, and normalcy. We need to let go of seeking causes or cures for our desires and the desires of others. This is not easy work, but I believe it to be vitally important and something that creates tremendous possibilities for hotness.
This is the third post in my series on stone sexuality. I welcome your thoughts, and hope that you will check out the other posts as well. On the series page, I’ve also included links to other posts of mine that discuss stone sexuality.