stone fems experience a great deal of interrogation and criticism around our sexuality and identities, the nature of which is always explicitly homophobic and heterosexist.
our desire and appreciation of butch identity is characterised as suppressed heterosexual inclinations and it’s often supposed our lesbianism is likely the product of child sexual abuse.
even from within lesbian community, partnerships of stone butches and stone fems are viewed with suspicion, distrust and an interrogative curiosity that intends to determine whether or not the way we have sex with each other qualifies us for “real” lesbianism.
stone fems experience a lot of social pressure to be more flexible about our identities (ie: to date men, or perform sexual acts we are not comfortable with), or urged to confront “truths” about ourselves that we’re apparently denying. this has lead many of us to experience extreme discomfort with our sexuality, questioning ourselves what we know to be true in our hearts. the repeated insistence that our desire for stone butches is a desire for maleness is a type of mass gaslighting in some sense, leading stone fems to wonder if we really are lesbian and making the true and authentic discovery of our selves and our identities more challenging. it’s a source of great inner turmoil and conflict. our often conventionally feminine presentation, our desire for gender non-conforming women, and the roles we tend to take in sexual exchange, are seen by outsiders – both straight and LGBT – as undeniable evidence of attraction to men. the result is that stone fems make compromises that hurt us and conflict directly with our true needs and desires. in my case, I had a couple of relationships with men – one cis and one trans – both of which had problems for several reasons but one big one being my own discomfort and lack of desire, the fact that ultimately I saw myself with a woman.
navigating a world in which compulsory heterosexuality rules is fraught for any lesbian. for stone fems, our exclusive desire for butches appears to outsiders as additional ammo to assault our sense of identity with. “why don’t you just date a man?” is a common remark every stone fem has heard when showing others photos of our partners, or women we are interested in. this hurts stone fems in a direct sense, as it questions our lesbianism (which is already under fire in a homophobic world anyway), and it additionally provokes guilt and shame as we feel we have exposed butches to insensitive and callous appraisal that is incapable of recognising the beauty we see. the insidiousness of gendered expectations is such that the incessant repetition of these attitudes chips away steadily at our own perception of our desires, to the detriment of our mental health.
furthermore, this attitude is revoltingly homophobic and misogynistic towards butches as well, as it positions butches as substitutes for men, or women attempting to imitate men, rather than the gender non-conforming women they actually are, and wholly realised (and perfect!) as. such is the nature of sexism, it is often confounding to people of all sexualities that a conventionally feminine woman could look at a woman who does not attempt to be “beautiful” in a way deemed acceptable for women, and find her the most desirable person in the room. I have even had people say to me “but don’t you want to experience all the things that make women so wonderful?”, like I haven’t already experienced exactly that with my butch partners (and am so fulfilled by it I don’t want anything else).
in my case, this aspect of myself has also been used by people who were abusing me to claim that I was straight and falsely presenting myself as lesbian. their public attacks were directly centered on the fact that I’m “only interested in women who look like men”. it’s violently homophobic, against butches and fems both, and was extremely distressing to experience.
as for the ways that stone butches and stone fems are intimate together, there are again a great deal of assumptions and conclusions drawn by outsiders who cannot relate to the experience or significance of being together in a way that feels extremely natural and fulfilling. at its most stripped-back core, stone simply means “is not penetrated/does not penetrate”. there are often a couple of other accompanying boundaries, but in the context of very trusting and intimate relationships, those boundaries may sometimes be expanded. it is, of course, personal and specific to each couple. more importantly than anything else is that other people – including other LGBT people – not project their own perceptions onto the stone lesbian experience. the idea that in order for sex to be truly complete and fulfilling for both partners each must experience certain acts is just placing limitations on the definition of sex, which is also extremely heterosexist. LGBT people have long struggled to have our ways of having sex recognised as very real despite the absence of penis-in-vagina. to impose a rigid definition of lesbian sex on lesbians is to ignore and dismiss the extremely complicated and diverse ways in which sexual desire is formed and experienced, as well as the very complicated and diverse ways women exist in general.
one of the most important ways that stone fem as a sexual identity exists is in respect to stone butch. stone butches experience a great deal of resistance to their physical boundaries, in ways that is often intensely violating and hurtful and leads them to question whether they are broken, or repressed, or even if they themselves are “real” lesbians. the stone fem’s ability and willingness to accept and respect the stone butch’s needs validates the stone butch identity as authentic and natural and provides much needed comfort and appreciation. in this context, a stone butch may feel comfortable to explore their boundaries further in ways they could not do with a partner who repeatedly pushed for access they did not feel safe to give.
or they may not! it doesn’t actually matter, so long as two people within the context of their private relationship explore physical intimacy in the way that is satisfying, fulfilling and pleasurable for them both. the perception that stone butches and stone fems are not doing this relies entirely both on heterosexist and cissexist ideas about what bodies configured in certain ways should enjoy, rather than what individuals with unique histories coming together in mutual desire actually do enjoy. enjoyment is central to satisfaction. and no one can know what is going on in another person’s bedroom unless they are there. so to draw conclusions about what sex means for other people is to say that individuals cannot be expressing themselves through genuine connection with their needs and desires. when stone butches and stone fems already experience so much hostility towards our identities, this assumption we are not having sex “properly” only amplifies insecurity and isolation and feeds back into damaging ideas that sex is only real when it occurs in certain ways.
lesbian butch photographer Jill Posener says that being butch for her is about loving to be with other women. I feel the same way about being fem. If I wanted to be with a man, I would be. It wouldn’t be hard to find one and everyone would welcome it unquestioningly. In fact, it would make a lot more people a lot more comfortable with my existence. I desire butch because I love other women and love being with other women. and I’m tired of being made to question that. we all are. if you wonder why it is you don’t see stone fems talk more openly about our existence and experiences, it’s that: we’re all just tired. we’re all so used to be questioned and interrogated that mostly we stay quiet now and keep to ourselves. it’s not worth the unending assault on our very way of being to keep having to challenge the status quo. we trust only each other. and this is another reason why stone communities are so private and fiercely defended.
me and other stone fems have dealt with other people’s homophobia and misogyny making us question ourselves to the detriment of our own peace of mind and sense of security in our own identity. an identity we can struggle to even find in a homophobic world. it’s violent, and it’s twisted, and it’s one more way that lesbian desire is policed and dismissed as somehow incomplete or insincere.