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'10 Authors Insider Tips

Cooking Up A Storey
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Sex With Pilgrims

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'10 Smutters Lounge

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by Ashley Lister
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Fly the Unfriendly Skies
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Castrated Words
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Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
The Fashion Industry
The Same Old Same Old
Writing Porn
About the Closet
... About Spirituality
Making Sense of Religion
Worked Up About Monogamy
What's Next
All Worked Up About Nature
Still All Worked Up...

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Holiday Ghosts
Love and Romance
An "Interracial" Epic
Trying to Make It Go Away
Sexual Etiquette
Sex and Children
People Against Bad Things
Virtual Acceptance
His Cold Eyes, His Granite Jaw
A Flash of Northern Light

Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch Femme Erotica

edited by Tristan Taormino

Book Review by Jean Roberta



This anthology, edited by the former (and first) series editor of the annual Best Lesbian Erotica anthologies from Cleis Press, seems to have been largely picked from past editions. On the one hand, this repackaging (or repacking) of reprint stories looks like a ploy to milk even more profit out of the popular series. On the other hand, seeing the stories together in a themed collection changes their effect. The reader can see how many ways there are to be a "butch" or a "femme" woman, and how these complementary identities work together.

In her introduction, the editor says:

"As both separate, distinct identities and identities in dynamic with each other, butch/femme has endured throughout lesbian history in all sorts of manifestations. but it was not that long ago that writers like Cherrie Moraga, Joan Nestle, Patrick Califia, and Amber Hollibaugh were explaining and defending butch/femme to some feminists who criticized lesbians and bi women for 'mimicking heterosexual roles' and 'reproducing patriarchal constructions.' Thank god for all the queers who stood up to tell their stories, share their truths, and not be bullied into conforming to one certain model."

Well, yes and no. As one who lived through the lesbian "sex wars" (which Taormino places in "the nineties," but which I remember from the 1980s), this reviewer has seen slick, silly, impressive and appalling behavior from "femmes" and "butches" -- all in the name of gender identity. In some cases, the charge of "mimicking [the worst] heterosexual roles" seems fair. It all depends on how "butch" and "femme" are understood, acted out and responded to.

In this book, the roles or identities are often clarified by being contrasted with each other. A lesbian in nondescript clothes enters a queer bar, sees someone tempting (either a muscular woman posing in leather, denim and barely-hidden strap-on, or a babe in lipstick, fishnets and stilettos) and goes into action as the opposite type. In the most endearing stories, both central characters try to live up to each other's desires, and often succeed. In the elegantly simple "Look but Don't Touch" by Sparky, a butch observer ("you") admires the femme performers in a peep show:

"Five women in red-gold light are surrounded by mirrors. Dancing naked with their own lush bodies, with the mirrors reflecting silver and red flashes, girls upon girls, like the room is packed. One comes over to see you, dances before you . . . She shows you her breasts; their skin looks impossibly smooth and clean, with golden-rimmed, small nipples. You see the hollow of her throat, her collarbone, her little belly.

“She is the loveliest being on the planet."

Despite the hypnotic appeal of the dancers' bodies for the observer, it is the mutual appreciation of the dancers for their admirer and vice versa that makes this story both sweet and sexy, despite the cold glass that prevents physical contact.

Lynne Jamneck's "Voodoo and Tattoos" is another story about the eroticism of watching. In this story, a butch bartender identifies with the tattooed butch partner of a Power Femme who invited the observer to a hotel room after-hours to watch them fuck. "Does She Look Like a Boy?" by Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a postmodern double-whammy of a story about two characters who both wear their gender roles as a disguise.

Several of these stories are about sweet revenge for gender-based exploitation and exclusion. In "Night Crawler" by Kristen Porter, the narrator is a femme avenger whose mission is to teach uncouth butch womanizers a lesson in manners. In "Homecoming Queen" by Anna Watson, a femme reconnects with the outsider in her high school, a lonely butch who was ignored by all the popular girls, including the femme who now finds her hot. In a role-playing scene, both adult women pretend to be teenagers having secretive sex in the butch's family home as she gloats over the eager femme: "Who has you now?"    

In the deeply funny and moving "Anonymous" by Amie Evans, a femme decides to pick up a bar dyke for a night of hot, rough, anonymous sex, completely devoid of sucky feminine expectations that this hook-up will turn into a Relationship. Neither of the women is experienced at this kind of scene, but they both like it so much that they shyly exchange names once they have recovered from gasping, heart-pounding orgasms. They agree to meet again to act out another scene, which will probably lead to another. So much for anonymity.

"Roulette" by Shannon Cummings is another comic but more disturbing story about a femme who uses and deceives a butch by pretending she can't possibly be aroused by anyone else. I was present at a reading from Best Lesbian Erotica 2005 in San Francisco at which the author read a passage from this story. She was a charismatic performer, but the general mood of the audience seemed uneasy. Many of those listening seemed unsure of whether the author was actually as sleazy as her narrator.

A few of the stories here are about femme-on-femme action ("Fee Fie Foe Femme" by Elaine Miller) and some are about brotherly sex between butches ("Butches Don't" by D. Alexandria). In these cases, the characters enjoy the thrill of doing something outside the unspoken rules of a gender-based community - but without breaking out of role completely.

Most of these stories will look familiar to fans of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. For those who haven’t read the volumes in which these stories first appeared, this book is a second chance to discover them.

Jean Roberta
September 2010

Sometimes She Lets Me
(Cleis Press, February 2010; ISBN 1573443824)
Available at: Amazon | Amazon UK

© 2010 Jean Roberta. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written

About the Reviewer:†Jean Roberta is the thin-disguise pen name of a writer who teaches mandatory first-year English classes in a Canadian prairie university and who writes fiction (erotic and otherwise), research-based articles, opinion pieces and reviews. She joined ERWA in December 1998, and has never looked back. Several of her stories can be found in the "Treasure Chest" gallery. Over sixty of her erotic stories have been published in print anthologies, and Eternal Press has released her single-author e-collection of erotic stories in various genres and flavors, Obsession (2008).
Jean is a staff reviewer for the monthly reviews site, Erotica Revealed (edited by D.L. King). She blogs on Livejournal as "Lizardlez" and at Her website ( is a work in progress.
Read Jean's full bio at Erotica Readers & Writers Association.

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