Muff Diving in Our Time

Lesbian Public Sex Beyond the Bars

It used to be that lesbians found sex the old-fashioned way: They went to bars, met each other, dated, fucked, and moved in. Dykes still keep cheap beer and U-Haul stock prices steady, but the bar scene is now only one of many ways to make a lust connection.

Contrary to the claims of pop psychology, not all women are drawn to dating, emotional connection, and sex in the context of a relationship. Some, perhaps many, are looking for a quickie, a group grope, or a voyeuristic thrill. But in the past, there were few opportunities for those desires to be explored. That is what has changed. Cyber connections, erotic videos, and women's parties have created a new public space for lesbian sex. And as these venues arose, so did dyke desire.

In part, this is a generational shift. The New Lesbian comes out at a younger age, and she's much less likely than her elders to settle for butch or femme. To her, gender presents a range of possibilities. She might call herself a boi, a girlfag, or a genderqueer. She has an ISP right out of the womb, she's the head of the gay-straight alliances in high school, and she majored in queer studies at college. Feminism, gay liberation, the sex wars of the '90s, and technology have produced more confident and experimental women ready to claim and celebrate their sexuality. The who (a stranger), what (one word: strap-on), when (on the first date), where (at a sex party), and why (cuz we're horny) of lesbian sex have definitely changed.

And, lest you think this is just happening in a small circle of Downtown dykes, check this out: Women's s/m play parties, sex clubs, and bathhouses can be found in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Austin, and even Washington, D.C. The sap is up and spurting.

But you don't have to leave the comfort of home to flirt, seduce, date, and fuck complete strangers. Technology has made new kinds of erotic relationships possible through the Internet, digital photography, and video. Dykes troll the chat rooms and personals of America Online, Nerve.com, PlanetOut.com, and Butch-Femme.com looking for love or lust—or both. Dykes engage in virtual relationships, sex, and s/m online, with the option to meet in real time.

A few years ago, two brainy, ballsy broads formed S.I.R. Video and jump-started the barely existent lesbian porn scene. Shortly after, Fatale Video, the most prolific lesbian porn company, which hadn't released any fresh dyke product in nearly a decade, re-emerged with an annual Amateur Lesbian Porn Video contest. Fatale now distributes its first winner, After School Special, created by a bunch of New England dykes with a video camera and a taste for homemade smut. Add to the mix SexPositive Productions' Please Don't Stop, by and for lesbians of color; Austin-based Passion Fruit Video's Home Cookin' and Gallery Erotica; indie flicks like Alley of the Tranny Boys, Girl King, and Sugar Sweet, and we almost have a shelf full—hey, that's a lot for us—of unabashed, authentic queer sex.

The growth of community-created smut is undeniably significant. Dykes have claimed new technologies to produce our own images for ourselves. They are very different from mainstream/hetero images of "hot girl-girl action," in which big-boobed chicks with alarmingly long nails touch tongues, moan softly, but never really fuck. Great dyke porn is more than a show for men. Not only is it a source of sexual validation, information, and inspiration, but it has a 69 effect on lesbian sex: Dykes inspire porn to get made, and porn inspires dykes to get laid.

Another sign of erotic evolution is the dramatic increase in lesbian public sex. Dykes into s/m and public sex now have several parties to choose from in New York, including those hosted by the Lesbian Sex Mafia and DUMBA, along with two monthly gatherings, X Party and Throb (which I co-produce). X-Party and LSM are heavy on the leather and whips; Throb is less exclusively devoted to kink. Notably, there is no dyke sex venue open seven days a week. We take over het or gay-male spaces for one night only. It's not liberation, but it's better than longing.

So, if you build it, will they come? The answer is yes, with some coaxing. When Throb first began, we often had to plant "ringers" at the club: These were not-so-shy friends who'd arrive early and do their thing to get the party started. It's a time-tested formula: Once a few people get down to sucking and fucking, others feel like they have permission to let loose as well. But it's still a challenge to get women to fuck in public.

Most women, however liberated, need lessons in sexual assertiveness. We have social baggage that prevents us from objectifying other women, whether they are strippers or potential sex partners. Anonymous encounters can also be a tall order in the lesbian community. No matter how large a city you live in or how far you travel outside your own social circle, it's still a game of six degrees of separation between you, your ex-girlfriend, and her new mate.

We've learned a lot from gay boys. For years, we not-so-secretly envied their pornos, their cruising rituals, their bathhouses, their promiscuity, their ability to have raw, blatant, unencumbered-by-emotions sex. Red, Throb's other producer, recently teamed with Michael (of the infamous Meatpackers parties) to create an all-genderqueer sex party once a month called Spam. At the inaugural bash in February, Michael observed, "All the men are silently cruising or fucking, and all the women are talking. Men aren't used to there being any talking in a sex club"—and women aren't used to nottalking.

It's a matter of training more than anything else. We seldom wink, drop our drawers, and jerk each other off. Spam has created a public space for a back-and-forth dialogue between queers about sex, which, from what I've witnessed, may take the form of a dyke fucking a gay boy in the ass or a fag getting his first mouthful of pussy. Building community alliances has never been so challenging.

But bonding has its limits. While the clothes check is a staple in gay sex clubs, most dykes won't take it all off. A butch with the perfect leather chaps to highlight that big bulge, or a femme with a breast-for-days nightie would be offended at the thought of stripping down. That's partly because of female body issues, but more importantly because what we wear is a critical part of our gender and sexual expression. Unlike the boys, our cunts alone don't dictate who or how we fuck.

Maybe we can learn from gay men how to cruise and follow through. Maybe we can teach them to talk with their mouths full. In the future, perhaps lesbians will have our own 24-7 sex dens and gay men will be the ones taking notes.

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