I first truly understood the concept of BDSM through erotica, when I read a story about spanking in a Rachel Kramer Bussel collection. I was captivated by the idea that someone would sign up for a transformational journey with a stranger, that they could leave an experience dazed and awed and thankful, that they could discover a new part of themselves. I was so drawn to impact play and simultaneously terrified of causing or experiencing real harm. Back then, I was a newly married and newly polyamorous person, only just realizing that kink could be a rich emotional experience.
The first partner I had who was truly interested in exploring kink together was my girlfriend in grad school. We dated around the time I discovered the spanking story and long before I began my transition. She’d bought us a copy of the lesbian bible—The Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us by Felice Newman—and earmarked the chapter on BDSM. We negotiated a safeword and made a list of things to try. I laid her out on the hardwood floors in my living room and bound her hands together, then her feet, then took my sweet time kissing her from head to toe, making her squirm, making her come. Another day, she tied me to the bed and introduced me to the wonder of nipple clamps. The cold metal made my skin shiver, and every little tug of the chain toward her hurt me and turned me on at the same time. I was wetter than I’d ever been.
While our initial inspiration came from a how-to book, we read a bunch of erotica together, too. I was introduced to the iconic Best Lesbian Erotica 2011 and fell in love with the rough and sharp stories of Xan West and the butch cock stories of Sinclair Sexsmith.
Five years later, a sweet bisexual cis man whispered to me, “I want to suck your cock, Daddy”—and then took wonderful care of my clit. He told me how much he loved my dick, how he wanted me to fill him up, how he wanted me to use his ass. My whole body lit up in the best way. It felt like coming home to a place I hadn’t even realized I was missing. Everything clicked: I’d always been queer—butch, even—but I’d never thought of myself as a gay man.
Naturally, I started looking for Daddy/boy erotica. Most stories I found were about two cis gay men: an older Daddy and a younger boy. But my lover was in his 40s and he was the boy; I was in my 20s and I was the Daddy. And as far as the world knew, I looked nothing like a man. The magic of that scene—and that relationship more broadly—was that my lover helped me see the man inside myself.
In the years since, the closest story I’ve found to that emotional experience is Andrea Lawlor’s Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl, a novel that is simultaneously literary fiction and hot as hell. It’s set in the ’70s in queer heyday, from New York to Provincetown to San Francisco to the University of Iowa. The protagonist, Paul, seems to be a typical twink—and then accidentally turns himself into a girl and falls in love with a dyke. Paul isn’t trans, exactly, but a magic shapeshifter: a queer who realizes that all queer sex can spark fires.
Similarly, Liz Asch’s Your Salt on My Lips: (Mostly) Queer Literary Erotica celebrates queer sex in all its forms. Most of the protagonists are bisexual; several are trans. The book captures such a wide emotional range. I relaxed into it because I saw aspects of myself in most of the stories: I’ve sought novelty in a long-term relationship, I’ve had playful group sex, I’ve tried to just get by. It was a rare gift.
I’ve followed Sinclair Sexsmith’s blog, Sugarbutch, for many years. I love the combination of true stories, erotica and reflections on queer kink. So when they announced an erotica writing workshop, Writing Spicy, centring queer, trans and kink writing, I signed the fuck up.
I wish I’d done that sooner.
On the first day of class, I found myself in a room full of queers—most of us trans, all of us kinky. We read smut pieces and craft pieces, and wrote our own stories. Sinclair taught us to imagine our drafts as little baby plants, and to give each other water and light and soil to keep writing. A cowgirl wrote about two barrel racers making out at the rodeo; an ice skater wrote about two competitors turning their skates into knife play. I loved visiting worlds I’d never seen.
But the story that stuck with me most was from a trans guy who took the cis gay Daddy/boy dynamic and flipped it on its head, centring the younger trans guy as the Daddy to an older cis guy who’d never sucked a trans dick before. It encapsulated the pain of rejection for being trans—in the beginning, the cis guy backs out—and the begging for forgiveness, shown as the older guy on his knees, asking to please be allowed to pleasure Daddy.
If only I’d had that to read when I was first navigating Grindr.
For my own piece, I wrote about the visceral ache of wanting to be a part of cis gay leather spaces and history, but feeling barred from those spaces as a trans, bisexual, sober kinkster. I made a character out of myself, and another out of a very hot trans guy I was sexting, and imagined through writing what our first in-person kink scene might be like. I wrote into existence a space that was designed by and for queer, kinky trans men, starting with just the two of us.
Sharing that piece in class also helped me feel less alone. Transmasculine classmates reacted with instant recognition: the way you can belong somewhere but not belong, the isolation of feeling just outside the door, the need to see our own kink journeys in kink media.
In other words: write the smut you want to see in the world.
It’s not frivolous, and erotica is not just about titillating a readership or getting off. The stories we read show us what’s possible. Erotica can help us embrace desires we’re scared of, as I was initially fascinated by and fearful of impact play. Erotica can also help us work through complex relationship dynamics by showing characters meeting and overcoming obstacles. Some of the best stories I’ve read have been about a protagonist realizing they actually do have more room to grow after they leave a relationship that’s trying to make them feel small.
Erotica can help us express how we want our play to feel, from lighthearted to intense to cathartic. We can share particular stories with our partners and talk about what kinds of moods we’re drawn to and what kinds of characters we’d like to embody. We can also discover new sensations we’d like to try through stories. “Lost River” by Jeff Mann, a short story in Daddies, showed me how heavy bondage and impact could feel cathartic after messy family rejection—and gave me the idea of using piss-soaked underwear as a gag. My classmate’s flipped Daddy/boy piece showed me what belonging to cis gay traditions and celebrating that twist, felt like—and gave me the idea of belly worship as a counter to body shaming.
After class ended, I met the sexting buddy I’d written about. We fell in love over a whirlwind weekend and now we’re dreaming about making a family with three dads and two babies. My life is more wondrous than I ever could’ve imagined.