The Hook Up: Femme Invisibility and Strap-on Nervousness

Dear Anna, Greetings from your #1 Trinidadian fan! I’ll jump right into my woes. Not to get embarrassingly L Word on you, but I’m something of a Bette Porter, which is to say I’m a little aggressive/confident, but present a mostly feminine package. Although I’ll happily wear cargos or sweats, I mainly wear feminine clothes, e.g. heels, lipstick, tight skirts. The type of woman who I’m attracted to is decidedly feminine, all day, every day. Push-up bra, heels to the sky, purses, and perfumes. You get the picture. However I’m facing two dilemmas:

1) The women I’m attracted to don’t seem to be attracted to me. They mainly go for studs and butches. Conversely, these studs and butches are attracted to me, but I’m not in the least attracted to them. I go out with my butch friends and feel totally shot down or embarrassed that the women I like always end up fawning over my friends. Do I have to give up my feminine clothes in order to send the signals out to the femmes that I’m interested? I love my heels!

2) I’ve never used a strap-on, but I’ve always wanted to. How do I have that conversation with a woman (assuming I get a gorgeous femme once I follow your awesome advice on how to get one)? If she’s down, should I tell her it’ll be my first time, to kind of excuse my virginal performance?

What’s a Heels-Lovin’-Aggressive-Femme to do?

Anna says: About a year ago, when I was obsessively looking for dates on OkCupid, I kept running into the same wall. Again and again, I read profiles that expressed preferences and desires for androgynous and boyish and masculine women (and trans dudes too). I can’t say that I blame them. Androgyny and masculinity are hot. But they are also traits that will never apply to me. I’ve tried. Somehow, the typical markers of maleness only serve to make me girlier, much to my frustration and extensive suspender collection. Nevertheless, reading all those profiles filled me with defeat and indignation. I celebrated female masculinity at the same time I despised it for being such a Birkenstock-block to my love life. I took my indignation to the SF Weekly blog I managed at the time and started a femme interview series (here’s one with AfterEllen’s Trish Bendix), which helped some (not my love life, but my sense of pride). And through that, connecting with and celebrating other femmes, I realized something:

Nobody worth your time cares if you present as feminine.

The same can apply to you, my friend. Truth be told, I know very little about Trinidadian cultural roles and expectations, so I can’t speak directly to that, but I hear your frustration, and I think every last one of us has encountered a situation where we thought an integral part of ourselves was hindering us or holding us back in some way. But you do not have to change who you are in order to find love. Because nobody worth your time cares if you wear high heels or carry a purse. Your confidence and appearance and Bette Porter-ness will be celebrated by those who are worthy of you and your affections. Don’t waste your time on anything less.

I wish I could give you some stellar flirtation tips that would cast a magic net over the femmes you want and give them all your phone number, but I can’t. What I can do is tell you to keep putting yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to flirt and talk with people, even if it seems your butch friends are getting more of the attention. You never know, those girls who are into butches might have a friend or two into femmes. Or they might be afraid to flirt with you because they perceive you as straight. I’d also suggest you pursue other dating avenues too, if the bar/club scene is lacking. After all my OkCupid frustration, I let my friend set me up on basically a blind date (except I saw her Facebook profile). I’d been on one other set-up date in my life and it didn’t go so well, but this time I thought I’d take a chance. We’ve been together for six months now.

Life surprises you, if you let it. Keep an open heart and an open mind and most importantly, keep being your confident, articulate self and you’ll attract a girl who will fall head over heels for you, whether you’re wearing heels or not.

As to strap-ons, if you’re curious about them, I’d suggest you buy one and try it out on yourself (or several! Just start on the small side). The only way to get comfortable with strap-ons/harnesses, like most things in life, is practice. While, yes, using them solo is not the same thing and is somewhat limiting, it’ll let you get a feel for what it’s like to wear them, what you look like in one, etc. Personally, I like the strapless strap-ons because having to deal with straps and buckles is a nuisance and when turned on that part of my brain shuts down. But, you know, to each her own orgasm. Lots of people are into harnesses too. You could ask around your friend circle for recommendations, or if that’s too personal, there is SO MUCH information online. SpareParts is a good harness store, and pretty affordable. In terms of the dildo, I’d avoid the ones made of cheap rubber, metal, or glass. Get yourself one made of silicone (it retains body heat and is easy to clean) that’s firm but not so much that it’s unyielding. There’s no need to break the bank or anything, but the cheap stuff does tend to fall apart more easily and is less comfortable. When it comes to toys, a little really can go a long way. To wit, the first dildo/harness I ever bought was bright pink, rubber, and $12 from the discount bin. It disintegrated about four months later.

You will have to have a conversation if/when you find a game lady into the strap. But it can be as simple as, “I’ve always wanted to try this. What do you say?” And see what she says. If yes, then you’ll have the toy already (huzzah!). Or she might even have one of her own that she prefers. But there’s no need to have long, process-y talks about your strap-on virginity.

Strap-ons do take some getting used to. Even the smoothest mf’ers around run into snags, so approach the situation with lightheartedness and humor and you’ll be fine. And whatever you do, don’t turn the lights off! When you’re working with an appendage not attached to your body, mood lighting does not help. Lights do. And sobriety. My first experiences would have been totally embarrassing (more advice on strap-ons here, which includes a video) if my partner hadn’t been so awesome and understanding. That should be enough info to get you on your feet (or off of them, rather). Best of luck.

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at askthehookup@gmail.com.

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