Hey everyone, welcome to a very special bonus episode of Queerly Recommended the podcast that’s all about recommending queer movies, books, TV shows, video games and more. I’m Tara. I review queer women’s fiction at The Lesbian Review, Lambda Literary and Smart Bitches Trashy Books.
And I’m Kris Bryant, a contemporary romance writer with about 15 books about women loving women.
We are extra thrilled, because today we are joined by Sinclair Sexsmith, the badass editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica Series, which includes the very recently released Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year” Volume Six. Welcome Sinclair.
Sinclair Sexsmith 1:00
Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to talk to you both.
I’m excited too. So before we get started, would you mind just sharing for folks who don’t know you just a little bit about yourself?
Sinclair Sexsmith 1:12
Yeah, sure. I’m a writer. I’ve written erotica and gender theory and personal, general explorations. Right now I focus a lot about dominance and submission. And I write how tos and also experiential things and processing and all sorts of things about kink and being a dominant. I write about butch identity and trans masc identity and all sorts of things related to that. I also teach and sometimes do things like make podcasts or put together anthologies, or kind of miscellaneous things that I can patch work together to make a career and an income. An artist’s life.
Yes. And also, do you mind sharing your pronouns?
Sinclair Sexsmith 1:52
Yeah, I use they them pronouns.
Alright. And we are both she sure- Let’s try that again.
Sinclair Sexsmith 2:00
Or Hershey, as they say, like the chocolate chocolate.
So our pronouns are both she hers. My kids are 10, and almost seven, and they understand that they’re non binary people, but they tend not to say non binary very often. And they say, “Oh, is that person a they them?” I’m like, “Yeah, baby. That’s a they them.”
It’s great that they know to ask that, or they even think about to ask that.
yeah, she doesn’t, especially the oldest, it just like never assumes. “And so she or maybe they, I don’t know, what’s their gender?” I just love that there’s this immediate, like, we’re just gonna ask.
Sinclair Sexsmith 2:39
I have- my six year old niece was having her dolls share their pronouns to each other the other week that I just was, yeah, I know.
That’s so cute.
Sinclair Sexsmith 2:50
Very sweet. The kids are all right, man. The kids are all right.
Right? They might actually help us all out.
I actually felt like the coolest person because at work our receptionist had her child came into work. And so I walked in, and I said, “Hi, I’m Kris, what are your pronouns?” Like, like, what? Cuz I, I wanted to make sure. And she said, “She her”. So I just- and the look, the look I got was like, “You’re the coolest person forever for asking” And I like, walked away. I’m like, “My job is done. I’m the greatest person ever”. And I went back to my office, but it felt good, you know, that I actually, like immediately I asked that, because I didn’t want to assume “Oh, this is your daughter, this is your son”. I didn’t want to do that I want to do I want to for them to introduce themselves to me. So that was kind of that was kind.
Sinclair Sexsmith 3:41
It’s amazing how simple it is to just think about like, asking someone or not assuming and then people makes it can make such a big deal about it. But it’s so validating when someone gets it right. Like it’s so- it means so much. And just like-
-and if it’s done right away, I mean, then there’s- if there’s that relief-
Sinclair Sexsmith 4:01
It’s not even awkward yeah
Like everybody knows. Everybody knows, we’re good.
Yeah. Should we ask some questions? Kris, do you want to get us started?
Yes, yes. So both Tara and I have read the book. And you talk in the introduction about fiction being a place of connection, especially during the pandemic. Can you speak to what it was like editing this collection and how different was it than other collections that you’ve edited previously?
Sinclair Sexsmith 4:29
Yeah. So there’s two things that were different one was the content, right? Like the- since The Best Lesbian Erotica series traditionally,was an annual thing that had the year attached to it, right? Most of the early first, like 25 volumes are Best Lesbian Erotica 1999, Best Lesbian Erotica 2005, like one a year. So since it’s always been this kind of annual snapshot, I wanted some of the stories to reflect the year that it was made in, you know? And it was made from October 2020, to like, October 2021, basically ish, right? Like in that year. So, um, so that was some heart of the pandemic times and I wanted the stories to be reflective of the current status and what was happening. I know for me so many people in my queer community, in my like kinky communities in my DS communities, felt so isolated and so alone and so disconnected from their community. From queerness, from kinkiness, from, you know, from their dominance or submission, if there’s- that was something they were playing with.
So I wanted some reflection of that in the book, I wanted some of the struggle there and some reflection of the reality. At the same time, I didn’t want the book to be like, like, like, it’s supposed to be sexy and fun and erotica and things that someone could like pick up and jerk off to, right? Like, so I don’t want it to be like a total big splash in the face of ice water. But I want some of it at least to be reflective of the time, so the content is different. And secondly, the ability to get it done was also different just speaking to my own process through that year, like it’s been really hard to be working from home, being freelancing, being, you know, my partner is also working from home, we’re like, in each other’s space 24/7. My cat is like on every zoom call, you know, it’s a challenge to get things complete, let alone like my mental health during this time has been a big challenge and staying connected to my own dominance or kinkiness, or queer community. Like, the- I’ve been suffering with those things, too.
And we have the political unrest of that year and the challenges. The call for submissions was due at the end of October 2020 and the election was the following week. And the manuscript was due in January 2021. And the insurrection was like, the previous week before it was due. And both of those deadlines for this particular book, you know, were, I was gonna say were flexible, they were not that flexible, but were changed is maybe more real, because of the reality of what was happening with the, like, larger, you know, US community at the time- US state at the time. And so just to edit the collection was a lot more challenging than it has been in the past. From my own perspective, from my own like, experience of it. I love editing, but man, it was really hard.
Yeah, I had a hard time writing as well, during that time.
Sinclair Sexsmith 7:30
It’s very stressful, you know, and, and, you know, uncertainty and just yeah, you’re right being all of a sudden, you’re put into an environment, a very small environment, you know, and that’s, that’s really hard. I mean, it just is.
Sinclair Sexsmith 7:44
Well it’s amazing how much of my brain is taken up with just, like, worry about COVID, kind of, in general, right, like, and it’s so invisible, how much of that worry is there, but it’s constantly there. And it just means that there’s a lot less room in my brain for like, figuring out which stories I’m going to choose for the anthology or something, or, or, you know, figuring out what I should suggest to that author as an alternate ending, or whatever kinds of edits that I was going to support.
Did you have a lot of submissions for this?
Sinclair Sexsmith 8:14
How do you narrow it down?
Sinclair Sexsmith 8:16
Yeah, I get um, so this is the fourth or fifth volume I’ve edited and they average about 100 ish submissions a year, and I picked something around 20 ish. 15 to 25 variable, but that’s my aim is about 20. So I always do a really broad read, just like kick my feet up, you know, have fun on the couch, whatever, and comfy read of everything. And I just sort them into yes, no, maybe piles, just kind of by instinct. And then I go back to the yeses and see how many I have. And usually it’s 10 to 20 ish. And then I will like, sort them by, you know, what kinds of stories are there? And what’s the content? What kind of characters? What kind of genders? What kind of, you know, racial background? What kind of diversity? What kind of interests, what kind of neurodiversity or FAT bodies or disability do the characters have, right? To like, looking for a balance there, looking for balance with like kink and sexy and asexual and, you know, a range of activity.
So then I go dip into my maybes and I look at the yeses and try to kind of piece something together that kind of has a broad appeal, because I want anyone who’s picking up The Best Lesbian Erotica series, I want them not to have to be kinky or have much knowledge about gender or transness or any particular sex act in order to pick it up and read it. I wanted a pretty broad audience. But I also want them to be, you know, fun and hot and playful and reflective of the time and like reflective of queer community and what I see and what my, you know, what people reflect to me, what I see in the media.
I thought that there was a lot of diversity in this one
Sinclair Sexsmith 10:00
And I was really impressed. I mean, there’s so much going on. Like, I would text, Tara, I’d be like, “Okay, I’m on the stripper one” or “I’m on, you know, the robot one. I’m on, you know, this one”. And so we kind of just, we were kind of reading it at the same time, sort of kind of going through it as we could. Yeah, I, there’s just so much. They’re all so different. It kind of blew my mind just how different they are. And, yeah, I really enjoyed it.
Sinclair Sexsmith 10:25
I don’t see how anyone can read this and not find at least one story that turned them on, and at least one story that taught them something.
Sinclair Sexsmith 10:32
I definitely hope that’s true. I mean, you’re never gonna like all the stories in an anthology. I mean, that’s really rare. But there’s got to be something that’s your cup of tea, and then that you can go find that author and find what else they’re doing, you know, and that’s, that’s always been what I’ve loved about The Best Lesbian Erotica series in general, but also anthologies in general. I’ve been a big fan of BLE, for a long time, it was, you know, when I was coming out in the late 90s, it was one of the first series and first erotica books that I picked up that had lesbians in it and was just, you know, sort of, well, first of all, I’d read it and go, “Why do I like this so much? I just like it. I don’t understand. Can’t put this down”. And it was almost like cognitive dissonance. I could not. Oh, okay. Yeah, right. I’m gay. That’s fine. Worked that one out pretty fast, though.
But the, you know, the gender diversity, the diversity, and the range of experience in the books has always been really broad. And I’ve loved that about it. It’s always been a place that I’ve gone to feel connected to queerness in general.
Yeah, it was very eye opening for me, for sure. You know, and I’ve been writing. I’ve written a lot of different things. Romance. I’ve written erotica, and yeah, that I was just like, wow, I never thought about that. Oh, that’s really interesting. And a lot. Yeah. So I could go on. But we have to we have to finish this.
We have more questions.
I know, we have more questions. And I don’t want to monopolize this
Sinclair Sexsmith 11:57
We could chat all night about this, I have no doubt.
Okay, so there is some confusion for readers about the difference between what is erotica, and what is erotic romance. And I just wanted to know if you could explain that to our listeners, what the difference isand what it is in your perspective?
Sinclair Sexsmith 12:14
In my perspective- So I think there are some kind of formal definitions that I might not be getting right here. But like from my personal ideas of it, romance usually has a happy ever after ending. Romances, usually, people who get together and they, maybe they’re not together at the beginning and then they get together, they’re together at the end. And often there’s, you know, explicit sex, and that’s great. But erotica, it might be breakup sex, it might be strangers, a one night stand, they’re not necessarily going to be a happy ending, they’re just going to be something where the sex is part of the plot point, or the sex is doing something to move the story forward, or share something about the characters in a particular way. So that’s kind of how I differentiate. I also I think a lot about what is erotic and, and what is eros in our lives, kind of in general.
You know, there could be like, eating a peach, could be incredibly erotic. So you could have a whole erotic story about someone eating a peach, and maybe there’s no genitals or love whatsoever. And so I like the idea of expanding what erotic is in this genre, kind of in general. And as I’ve been looking for more asexual stories, it’s also interesting to think about, like, what is erotic outside of sex and genital contact and, you know, our kink stories where there’s kink, but no sex. Is that erotica? To me it is but you know, to other people, maybe it’s, there’s some splitting hairs that could happen around like, the definition of all those things. But I like the messiness of that. And I like the complexity of what erotica can do.
That’s where I love one of the stories, I was actually just reading it a little while ago, where it’s, it’s between two ace characters. And there is no touching genitals, or they’re at a play party in there. But like the one of them talks about how they tried going before to a party and was basically laughed away cecause they’re ace and I and I, I guess the thing that I love about that is how the story is basically just like giving the finger to that idea. And saying that, like kink is for everyone who wants to be there. I felt there’s something really beautiful there.
Sinclair Sexsmith 14:28
Thank you. I mean, it matters so much to see ourselves represented and reflected in media, right? Like as a queer media recommendation podcast, y’all know, like, the power of that, of like seeing your particular, like your particulars, reflected and if you are someone who, you know, doesn’t usually involve your genitals in your play, but you still like are part of the kink and queer communities. It’s, it’s harder to see reflection of that, and I definitely want more of that. I mean, there’s lots of reasons why people might not play with sex in public, even if they’re not asexual, they might just not have sex at kinky parties, right? They might only have kink play at kink parties. So there’s so much opportunity and variety and I think we often shut ourselves down and limit ourselves. So just seeing more of that reflected is helpful.
Mm hmm. I think related to that- So writing and reading queer fiction of any kind, you know, could be romance, could be general fiction, could be erotica. It really has always just been this radical political act. I mean, existing as a queer person in public is a radical political act. So I mean, reading and writing as well. Can you talk about why reading and writing specifically queer erotica, is also radical and political?
Sinclair Sexsmith 15:50
I think in a queer- in a culture that thinks that queers generally are kind of bad and wrong. And that we have a lot of reinforcement for homophobia and for transphobia, and for kink phobia, and for body shame, and fat phobia, and all of the isms that go along with these things. To claim for oneself, I am a sexual erotic person, and this is what I find hot. And this is what my partners find hot. And these are the things that like get me going and are satisfying to me, like, claiming that in the face of that kind of adversity is, is radical, just the claiming and then writing it down to share with other people is so validating and can change people’s lives. I mean, I’m sure you all have had those moments of having your life changed by a book. And I and I have it has happened for me with like, The Best Lesbian Erotica series specifically, just really changed the way I look at queer sex in the late 90s.
AndI think that’s, I think that’s a part of it, like, people do this kind of thing that I want to do, right, like seeing stories where there’s characters reflected with the kind of desires that I had, I was like, “What? That exists. How do I find this?” It changed the trajectory of my life. So I think those like, claiming I’m going to be happy, desirous, full of overflowing with sexual energy. I’m going to claim those things for myself, and I’m going to make it happen anyway, even though this culture says I shouldn’t. That’s part of the radicalness
Yes. I mean, for myself, I came to understand my own queerness. Well, I mean, because of books, but even then it was, my husband noticed. He’s like, “You’re reading a lot of lesbian romances”. And this is like, I grew up deeply churched, Evangelical, was still in the church at the time. And he said, “Do you think you might be bisexual? Because it’s okay if you are and you’re not going to go to hell”. And like, I literally needed someone to say that. But like if I hadn’t found those books, and I found those books, because Auto Straddle, one of their list got reprinted on Jezebel, and it was just like lesbian romances. And so it’s like, Radcliffe and Jerry Hill. And some other folks like that. And it’s like, just because I happen to be on Jezebel, one day, I learned about these books. And it’s kind of like what you were saying, like, it completely changed the whole trajectory of my life. Like, I’m not in the church anymore. I’m much happier. I’m openly queer. I don’t know why I fumbled earlier, but like, I use both she and they pronouns. I’m feeling more she today than I am they. So that’s probably also, you know, why I was jumping to that one. But I couldn’t have done all of that without books.
Sinclair Sexsmith 18:37
A friend of mine calls them paperback mentors, this way that we can, like, learn from individual people, from writers, from their brains. And like, I feel like I’ve been mentored by, I don’t know, Patrick Califia, or Carol Queen, or Tristan Taormino, or, I don’t know, dozens of these erotica writers that I just read obsessively, as I was coming into my queerness. And as I was coming into my voice, and they have a huge- they have, they feel like I have individual relationships with them. And I’ve met some of them. Some of them I do have relationships now, but I didn’t at the time, you know. They’re huge. It’s huge to see what you want reflected because if you don’t have a word for it, you don’t have a place to aim. How are you ever going to name it and find it?
It’s so true. So, in the introduction, you also talk about how, you know claiming those things that fuel our desires, like claiming them as legitimate, as valid and real. It heals that wound that we have that tells us that what we love is wrong. And I’d love to see that really explicitly. There’s a story in there and the lead thinks to themselves, “I am my own home. This is my body and I own it and it is mine.” Which to me was one of the truly just one of the most beautiful lines in the whole collection. Can you talk about why writing and reading about healing also is so important and how erotica can actually be a conduit for these messages.
Sinclair Sexsmith 20:08
One of the things that I want to bring to the The Best Lesbian Erotica series, but that I also bring to my own work and that it’s just part of my, I don’t know, passion and purpose and agenda is gender affirming erotica, right? In general and gender affirming sex play, gender affirming body talk, and having this moment of ‘This is my body. I own it. It’s mine”. Sometimes, when we see a character, say something like that, like we can kind of realize, “Wow, I’ve like I’ve never actually said that about my own body, right?” Like, it takes someone else saying it to go like, “Oh, there’s a gap between me and that sentence” and my ability to say this as my body I own it’s mine. And I just think that’s I don’t know, it’s goes back to representation and how important that is, I guess, how valuable it is to see other people do the thing that you might be aiming to do and working toward.
So one of the reasons or erotica, specifically is useful for talking about bodies and talking about claiming the body as home ,is because it can explicitly include things like genitals, and nipples and erogenous zones and you know, have a lover being like reflecting that kind of beauty or desire or, you know, some other character saying, “Wow, you’re so sexy, you’re so hot, you’re, I want you so bad”, like, all of these kind of validations from outside that character. And they’re as much as you know, fiction or stories of, of queerness and of gender queerness in a wide range like those are validating to but like, having someone really go like “I am stripped bare, like literally stripped to my skin, you are seeing all of me all the ‘flaws’, all the you know, shadow parts, all the dangerous parts, all the subconscious parts, sometimes even all the like dirty desires that I might not tell anybody. You’re seeing all these things, and you’re still saying I’m beautiful, and I love you.” And that is that can be really profound. And I think I think erotica has a, you know, has a place, it has a place in erotica to do that, specifically.
Mm hmm. So the collection has the word lesbian in the title. We’ve mentioned the title a few times but actually, like we see a range of queer people in these stories, and perhaps people who wouldn’t even necessarily claim the the title lesbian. Can you just share why it’s important that we start expanding the definition of the word lesbian? And how, I guess the reason why I want to ask this as well, it’s just that you know, we’ve been seeing a lot- I don’t know about anybody else’s Twitter if it’s been full of this, but like, seeing a lot about the idea of the word lesbian in these “gender critical people” -coughs- TERFS, this idea that almost like it takes away from lesbian identity. Can you talk about how expanding the definition, you know, doesn’t necessarily do that, but is actually really crucial for getting to these kinds of collections where we see all kinds of joyful, queer sex with a bunch of femme and butch- I don’t know where I don’t know how to end this sentence, please.
Sinclair Sexsmith 23:29
Well, so. Oh, gosh, I have seven answers. First of all, if someone asked me, “Do you identify as a lesbian?” I might say no, like, it’s not exactly wrong. I probably wouldn’t correct them. If someone said, “Oh, you know, Sinclair’s a lesbian”. I wouldn’t say like, “No, no, I’m not- I don’t, you know”, but it’s not quite right all the way either, right? Like queer fits way better for my kind of gender queerness and the kind of queer folks in queer bodies and variety of genders that I am attracted to, and that I partner and play with. And given that I see myself situated in a lineage of lesbians in a huge way. And lineage is really important to me. So having a place like a being able to kind of look back and go, like, I’m in a lineage of butches and I’m in lineage of butch femme, or of daddy girl or of, you know, lesbians who went to the bars dressed in men’s clothing got arrested, right? Like, whatever. I feel connected to that historical experience in a lineage kind of way.
I used to say it was the lineage of kisses, right? Like this is a friend- a gay guy that I used to work with who and say that like, because we’re not connected by blood, but we’re connected by kisses and the ways that like, go back and back into that. So when I do the call for submissions for these, I put that I’m interested in non-binary characters, lesbian, you know, queer women characters of all flavors of expression, trans women absolutely. And, and people who generally are rooted in lesbian community. So the call for stories is pretty broad. I definitely know some of the authors don’t identify as lesbian. Some of the characters probably don’t identify as lesbian, but they are rooted in like a lesbian lineage or community that brings them all together. And to me that is a unifying piece, regardless of how strict they are about the definition of lesbian. And for me, like expanding the word lesbian also means connecting to that lineage right? If we are just like, “Ewww lesbian, no!”, because I’m not a woman and I don’t only love women then I feel like I might get cut off from all this access to lesbian culture, connection, lineage media, you know, representation, things that there are a lot of people who are struggling with similar things that I struggle with and I want access and camaraderie there, you know?
Like our struggles are aligned and I want to stay aligned. That’s very important to me. So I think that’s partly why I’m working on expanding the lesbian in The Best Lesbian Erotic in general and wanting to make sure that it includes as much like gender expansiveness as possible. I- you know that Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote, where someone asked her like, how many women on the Supreme Court would be enough? And she says “All nine.” And they’re like, “what?” And blows, you know, mind explode emoji? She’s like, “Yeah, cuz you don’t blink an eye if there’s all nine men, right? Like, it should be nine women”. Sometimes I think like, what if we had a Best Lesbian Erotica that was 100% trans women? That would be amazing. I would- 1you know, I don’t know enough trans women writers or writers who are writing trans women characters to even fill an anthology. But I would love to do that. I hope that I keep, you know, picking up one or two each round I’ve been editing the book. So I hope that we can keep growing that.
Yeah, I obviously am not editing anthologies. But I really identify with a lot of what you said, because I, when I started reviewing, I mean, I started reviewing at The Lesbian Review, that was kind of the only place and then you know, kind of I was with Curve for a while and then joined Lambda, and then Smart Bitches. And it’s like, I’ve been evolving the way I talk about the books that I review, because at first, it was only referred to as lesbian romance or lesfic. And it’s like, okay, but then there’s more stories about bisexual women and pan women and non-binary people starting to show up in some of them and trans women starting to show up and it didn’t feel good or quite right. And I’ve kind of landed on queer women’s fiction, only because I want to get across the fact that like, I’m only reviewing queer books. Mostly they’re about women. But even that doesn’t feel- like I just don’t think there’s quite a right term yet. And so I love that if we can expand that definition of lesbian to kind of include all of us, it might just make it easier.
Sinclair Sexsmith 27:59
Maybe, I mean, I think that’s what queer kind of is doing. Right? Is like, really, really expansive. Although and I don’t know where y’all are, you know, like, where your community, what your communities are, like, what you’re seeing in your feeds, or whatever. But to me, queer community is still like most people, except cis men, like the cis men are still kind of over here all siloed in their own gay world, and kind of stay there. But like queer is kind of like everybody else. And lesbian is kind of a subset of queer, that tends to be more like women loving women focus stuff- at least this is kind of my vantage point at the moment, but, you know, I don’t I don’t know if I don’t think there’s going to be enough people to really, like, go into lesbian and say, like, “Yeah, we’re gonna all fit under this umbrella now”, like, it’s a little narrow, but, but I think it’s still such an important part of, of the queer world in general. And that, you know, and I don’t want to erase the women loving women, the women focused women, you know, it is a different experience to be in like a lesbian relationship than it is to be in a hetero appearing, even if they’re both queer people relationship who both identify as queer, like, that’s a, there’s different social consequences to all of that, you know, but like, but there’s still a lot of alignment and I want to find those places of alignment.
Mm hmm. So you’re talking about queer lineage.
Which I love by the way, I love that example. I loved it.
Especially the connections through kisses or something so beautiful there. I love that so much. Love your friend. I don’t know him, but I love him.
Sinclair Sexsmith 29:33
I love him too. He is basically like a Santa Claus. He works at a bookstore, he still works the same bookstore where I worked at, you know, 15 years ago, and um, he’s this wonderful gay guy. And he was telling me this in the context that he was related to Oscar Wilde and I was like, “Tell me more. What are you talking about?” He’s like, “Well, my ex lover so and so, and his ex lover so and so” and he did trace back this, and he called it a lineage of kisses to Oscar Wilde and I was just like, “Stop it. Like that’s the both the gayest thing I’ve ever heard and so fabulous”. Like, I want a lineage that is felt like that’s what I want my lineage to be like through these interconnected- because we don’t have the blood relationship with queer in the same way, right? So like, but like having that heritage and lineage of queerness just has, I mean, it changed my life, right? Like it made everything that I thought was wrong and bad and hard and challenging with me make sense and gave me a context and like a reason and a purpose. And all of a sudden, I was like, “Oh, that’s why none of these clothes fit, right?” Like, that’s why I’m so unsatisfied, whatever with like this expectation of heteronormativity and all the things that come along with it like, oh, eye opening. So, sorry, I interrupted you.
So how do you connect to your career lineage through those queer eroticas – queer erotics – queer erotica authors and writers who came before you?
Sinclair Sexsmith 31:00
It feels like everything that I write is in conversation with the queer writers who come before me, right? Like things that I- sometimes it’s about being inspired by a particular thing that someone writes that I’m reading, and so I’ll go off and go like, “Well, this was a good idea. But like, let me expand it in these ways with my own experience and these examples.” And I’ll, you know, meander around on the page to find something that might end up being something I share with people or it might not, right? So there’s the the work, I think that like talks to each other, the ways that my own work all like references other people’s work sometimes or, you know, even sneak in a sentence that I borrowed here and there and feel like it’s making this kind of patchwork quilt lineage.
But then there’s also, you know, sharing a mic, right? Like reading on an open mic or a stage with some of these people and sharing anthology pages with them, right? Like, I have people who are kind of like, I don’t know what to call them, like, anthology siblings? The people who when we finally meet in person, we’re like, :Oh, my God, we’ve been in so many books together, it’s so good to see your face.” You know? And I love that it feels like we’re peers, and I’m learning from them. And they’re learning from me or whatever they’re learning from me. And that feels like camaraderie in that way. I think it’s mostly through the writing, like through the written word. That’s how I connect to that queer lineage. And by encouraging people to read that stuff that I’ve read, and that has been meaningful to me, because, you know, every once in a while I’ll pick up another Patrick Califia book, or I was just reading Public Sex the other day, and I was kind of, I just, like, threw it, I threw it on the floor. It was like, all those things that I try to write have like already been written. Like, he wrote this, it’s already written, I keep trying to say the same things that he’s been saying. And this was published in the 90s. Like, why have you know, there’s so much out there already. And it’s great to feel it’s okay to feel that connection to it.
Sinclair Sexsmith 33:00
I’m not as frustrated as maybe I sounded at the moment, but I was like, “Oh, this is so good”. Like, I love you know, I’m so inspired by his work in general.
Yeah, it’s the best kind of mad when you read something that’s like so good and you’re like “Oh, I wish I wrote that, Oh I hate you for writing that before I could write it”.
Sinclair Sexsmith 33:17
Oh, what are those books for you? I am dying to know. I used to have a list of those, the books that I wanted so much to have written. Now, I don’t know if I can remember what’s on it.
I’m not a fiction writer. Occasionally though, I come across a review where I’m like, “Aw fuck, you said that’s so cleverly. And you said it before I could say it. And now I’m so mad at-” There was one time. Where was it? I think it was in an author. Did it. Yes, I know. It was One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston, which is a fabulous- I don’t know if you’ve read it. It’s a romance, but it’s like a time travel romance kind of, there’s this character who is trapped on a subway in New York City, who is actually from like in the present, but is like from the 1970s punk scene, which is like, I’d been diving into the 1970s punk scene for the last year and I was like, “Holy shit, someone wrote me a book”. But in the afterward, I was so mad at the author because she called it an “unbury your gays book”. And I was like, “Fuck you for saying it, because now I can’t say it because you said it first, and I guess it’s your book-” But like it was just the perfect description for that book. Because there’s so much bury your gays trope in media. And this is the opposite of that. It’s brilliant. Although I’ve been told if you know, that particular train in New York, you’ll never believe the sex scene. So I have not been on that train. So I was able to suspend all the disbelief. It was a fantasy for me. Kris, what are you do you have books like that that you’ve read where you’re like grr. Was it Evelyn Hugo? Did you do that?
That, you know, that book destroyed me. It really did. I wasn’t expecting it. It did.
Sinclair Sexsmith 35:14
It’s been on my TBR pile for ages. And I should pick it up.
So here’s the deal. So I don’t listen to audiobooks very often. I do when I’m trapped in a car for a really long drive. And I actually drove to Ptown for Women’s Week, back in October. So from Kansas City to Ptown is about 24 hours. So I’m like, “What the hell am I gonna do in a car by myself for 24 hours?” So I’m like, “I’m just gonna get some audiobooks”. So I did. And everybody was talking about Evelyn Hugo, like it has circled it has come back around, because I think it was published in 2017 originally, and all of a sudden, the hype, it’s come up again. And so I’m like, “Fine”. I told my friend Morgan “Fine, I’ll listen to it”.
And it was amazing. It was so good, that I listened to it going there and coming back. And I cried and sobbed the whole time. Like, it was so good. And it just, and it was everything. It was a story. It was the way it was written. It was our history as queer people, it was, it was just amazing. It was really good. You know, and yeah, so that that book was pretty amazing. I would have liked to have written that, or have written parts of it. You know, because I used to do this thing when I was a kid. Anytime I read anything that struck me, I had a little index card file book, it was actually a spiral book. And I would write down the line and where it came from, because I just thought it was so amazing. And I actually have- I found it, like the other day.
I found it. It was back from my college days. So it’s been a while and some of this are pretty “What was I thinking?” But at the same time, it molded me, something in that, what I read, something hit me and it made a difference in my life. So yeah.
Sinclair Sexsmith 37:07
So I have to pick that one up for sure.
Yeah, it’s really good.
Sinclair Sexsmith 37:10
I think the first one that comes to my mind, and I don’t know if I really will stand by this 100% But the first thing that comes to my mind is the book Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio, That like, I think it was probably published in ’98, ’99. ’00. Right, you know, 20 years ish ago. It totally blew my mind as a you know, young feminist 18, 19 year old, however old it was. I haven’t read it very many times in the last probably 10 years. But I read it many times in the 10 years before that. And so I don’t know how it’s holding up exactly but I do know she’s pretty amazing. Most recently, Maggie Stiefvater. Have you read any her fiction? She’s like a YA author.
No, I’ve heard really good things.
Sinclair Sexsmith 37:12
Oh my God, her writing- there’s something about her writing. I don’t know what it is. I still haven’t quite figured out but I thought it has blown me away. She has a series. I think it’s the Raven Boys series. I can’t remember what the series title is. But the first one I think is the Raven Boys about these kids who you know, go to this really private school, these boys and then this like girl who is their friend, and they’re studying, she’s a witch. And anyway, it’s kind of magical. It’s great. It’s amazing. And I really liked that whole series. That comes to my mind too. I was very jealous of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue that I read this last year. Like just like, this is so smart. It’s a fiction V.E. Schwab where she like the main character, like trades her soul for eternal life kind of thing. But she can’t be remembered, just the consequence is that nobody remembers her. So she can’t like ever- You know, she’ll be in a conversation with someone but then as soon as she turns around, they look away and they’re like, Who are you?” You know? So it’s very interesting. Very beautifully written.
Yeah, I think Neil read that one. He said it was amazing. Because like just the complications of- just scenarios like you’ve paid for a room in this boarding house.
Sinclair Sexsmith 39:02
What happens when you come out of your room? The lady you paid is yelling at you for-
Sinclair Sexsmith 39:10
Yup. Yup. And she started- it starts in the 17 something 1700s And then she is, it flashes back and forth. Like how it happened to the like, 2000s where she’s in New York and trying to make her way and it’s, it’s very well done. Not queer though. These are not queer enough. Cunt is.
Yeah. Kris, I’ve asked a bunch of questions would you like to-
Yes. Sorry. I know I’m just kind of sitting back and listening. I feel like I’m just, I’m watching this amazing interview happen.
No you’re a part of it. You’re an interviewer.
I forget this. So when I came on the scene, when I started writing, and I got published, and maybe that’s just because I didn’t have the knowledge and I didn’t have the resources. But for me, the queer environment, just kind of started growing. And I’ve seen it grow so much, just over the last eight years since I’ve been writing. So like, what do you think about the current state of queer media and where it’s headed? You know, especially like, compared to like what I was saying, eight years ago, when I first started.
Sinclair Sexsmith 40:18
It’s incredible to me how much has changed, right? I mean, I grew up in Alaska, I left home in the 90s, I was very isolated. It was pre-internet, like we, you know, we had what we could buy at the local Fred Meijer and not a lot else, right? Like, you could not just get Amazon tomorrow, or the next day. It’s changed so much. Sometimes I forget, you know, that kids- and not kids, twenty-somethings, have grown up with Glee since they were in sixth grade or whatever, right? Like it’s- they just- that was just part of their upbringing, it’s, it’s amazing to have witnessed that change in the last 20 years, I think.
One of the things – this is kind of a side note, and probably not necessary for your podcast – but my undergrad thesis was about the history of the lesbian novel in the 20th century, and the psychological process of coming out and how it’s kind of mapped along the, the process that lesbian novels have gone through and, you know, coming out novels, in the, you know, 60s 70s, were adults coming out and coming out novels in the 90s and 2000s and now in the 2010s, whatever, it’s all YA, right? Like we’ve moved to people coming into their identities as teens way, way more elaborately, not exclusively, of course, there’s still people coming out at all ages, but that’s where the tropes are now. And so just that change is really different. I haven’t read nearly as many coming out books as I used to, because I, although I do enjoy YA, but I usually read speculative fiction.
Anyway, what do I think about queer media and where it’s heading? I think that digital publishing has also changed a ton of things and the amount of ways that people can tell their own stories and become, you know, influencers and voices through social media, through free platforms. And I love that. I think there’s a lot fewer gatekeepers and a lot fewer places where our stories get deemed, you know, unmarketable, unsaleable, unfit for capitalism. And so we are able to tell our own stories in a bigger way. I think that’s super important. And ultimately, like, my little pocket of the media world, of erotica, you know, I want to see more and more and more stories that reflects the kind of sex and the kind of erotic lives life of myself and my community. And my friends and my lovers, you know, I want to see us reflected more. I know there’s so many queer, kinky, you know, weirdos out there who are having these amazing, complicated sex lives and erotic lives. And I want to see, I want to see them, I want to, I want to know about that. I want to know about the inner workings because there’s so much to learn in diving into an erotic life. And I think we can really, you know, take advantage of other people’s insights to their own lives, to learn about our own and that, to me, is the biggest value of devouring so much, erotica, as I do. It helps fuel my own.
Sinclair Sexsmith 43:11
-sense of self. Yeah, it’s so inspiring. It fuels me and it fuels my- just my desire to like, be desirous, to act, to identify what I want and go for it.
It’s like what I said, you know, there’s a lot of things in this book that I was reading, and I was like, “Wow, you know, that’s really interesting.” Because I- like it never crossed my mind, these things aren’t a part of my life. And I was introduced just a little snippet of it. And I thought, “Uou know, this is -I loved the communication, the way that a lot of the characters, the trust and the vulnerability and like the rawness-” Tara and I were talking about the rawness of it. And it is very eye opening, for sure, you know, and especially a lot of readers that read my books, you know, it’s very- You know, I have a very, what’s the word, Tara? What am I looking for? Like, my readership is sweet romance. Not a lotta- there’s some heat. You know, I do have heat in my books. But this is a whole different level. And so it was so interesting to read it. And to either kind of identify, “Oh, this is really interesting. I might want to read more about this or what this is”. So yeah-
Sinclair Sexsmith 44:23
I love that.
-very eye opening for sure.
Sinclair Sexsmith 44:26
Great. I love that. It’s- one of my favorite things for erotica stories or porn, maybe in general, especially like the, you know, feminist, artsy kind of porns, that experimental stuff and queer made for queers kind of stuff, is seeing something or reading about a fetish or an act that I might even explicitly not be into and not like, and then go away from reading that thing, kind of understanding why someone would be into it, right? I still might not be into it, but just reading or watching it and then going like, “Oh, I get Like I get, I see.”
I remember watching a film with- that Madison Young probably had made but definitely had starred in that was her as a pony, like doing a lot of pony play. And that was never something that had kind of crossed my mind or that I had wanted to- understood or engage with. And after watching that film with her and I was like, “Okay, no, I can see this. I can- I get why this is appealing.” Like, you know, I’ve still not done any, it’s not my thing, but I get it. And I would love kink, more kink stories in future Best Lesbian Eroticas that have, like, kind of an edgy kink in them, where the reader, the writer can take us through the experience of this character, and really help us understand from the character’s perspective, like, “Why is this something that they’re so into? And what does this do for them? And why is it like, you know, why is it their route? Why is it the thing that they want and desire a need?”
Yeah, the explanation. I mean, that’s- the little stories are little explanations, kind of, you know, in a way you you go through the journey, the encounter with them. And so like the cat, the cat story.
Sinclair Sexsmith 46:08
You know, that’s when you were talking about the pony. I was thinking about the cat story in there. And I was like, “I wonder where we’re gonna go with this?” And so after I got done with it, I was like, “I totally get it. I respect that. I really do”.
Sinclair Sexsmith 46:21
I love- Yeah, I love that. And that was one of the things I loved about that story that Cassandra Cavenaugh story. I just really love cats and her like, her playing as a kitten in this story. That was so- and I felt like it really, I got really inside of it, like I understood what the appeal was. Yeah. And how sweet and I could see her through her partner’s eyes too, right? The character and like, being like, “Oh, yeah, I could have a kitten pet on the on my lap. That would be so nice”.
Okay, so because- all right, sorry, I got again, I got lost in the whole conversation. Because this is a show all about recommendations. And we have already talked about a few. But if you could only recommend one, one piece of queer media, whether it’s book movie, TV show, graphic novel, video game, what would it be? And you can cheat. We talked about that.
We’re not- Yeah, we’re not super strict about-
-one really means like, three or four.
One or get out. No.
Sinclair Sexsmith 47:24
That’s such a hard question, partly because I read so much. And I- I’m also a pretty epic fan of TV shows and music and film in general. One of the first things that actually comes to my mind is Steven Universe. Especially because a lot of adults think it’s a kids show and haven’t given it enough try. Right, but I love that show. And I have never seen a cartoon- I don’t know -I don’t think it exists, right? That has so much commentary about trauma and colonization, as Steven Universe and I-
Sinclair Sexsmith 47:58
Consent. So many pieces of that, like the variety of genders represented. The like- Yeah, the whole fusion piece that makes me so happy. Anyway. But I think that people who have not tried that yet really- like we need to feel good media right now. And if anyone out there is like, you know a fan of The Good Place or Ted Lasso or the kind of like wholesome media, and you haven’t done Steven Universe yet, definitely worth trying. You know, you kind of got to get through some of it before you can start seeing the story develop. You’ve gotta like give it a good couple hours, but the episodes are only whatever. 15 minutes right? So.
Don’t stop at the cat fingers episode. You’re going to watch it, you’re gonna get to Cat Fingers. You’ll be like, “What?” And then you’re gonna wanna stop, and all I gotta say is, “Just keep going.” Kris is laughing because she doesn’t understand what we’re saying. The rest of you’re probably laughing because you’re like, “What the fuck is cat fingers? And you’ll get there and you’ll be like, “Okay, no.” Just keep going.
Sinclair Sexsmith 48:59
Tara said to keep going, just keep- put my head down and keep going.
Yeah, you can do it’s so worth and it was one that it’s one of the few shows that we’ve watched start to finish with our kids where all four of us have enjoyed it equally. I may have been very baked one night and bought myself a t shirt from there. Oh, no, it only works if I remember what it says on it though. Do you remember the episode when Steven- like he turned- he gets old and he turns into a baby and it’s going back and forth? Oh yeah. And so at one point he comes out with a t-shirt that says “Professional Beach Hunk.” And so I was like ,well surely I can find myself a Professional Beach Hunk t shirt and yes I did.
Sinclair Sexsmith 49:47
It would never occur to me to find that t shirt but I love that a lot.
It was a- I occasionally make cannabis fueled purchases. And that was one of them
Sinclair Sexsmith 49:56
Coloring books. I like to order coloring books.
Sinclair Sexsmith 50:00
I have a coloring book for you then. I’m part of an embodiment collective that well used to be called Body Trust. And we throw -ell, we used to before pandemic throw – like weekend workshops and week long retreats, and we do all sorts of crazy, crazy shit that is not fit for airing but- and then it’s hard to even kind of discuss because outside of the like container and context of what happens, like it might- it sounds really weird. But it’s a combination of spiritual embodiment, queerness, kink, all sorts of activities to like feel our bodies, feeling to ourselves and feel what we want and play with consent, desire, identifying what we want, all these things. So two of my colleagues in that organization, wrote a book called Wonder Body Coloring Book for Curious Adults, something like that.
Sinclair Sexsmith 50:48
That has all about the senses and the like pleasures. So one of our principles is the healing power of pleasure, and how much pleasure can be a tool for, you know, healing and moving forward and getting into the hard stuff. So there’s all these like, like, there’s a coloring page of office supplies, because office supplies is such a pleasure and citrus was one of them. You know. It’s a little side note, um, aside from Steven Universe, I have to think of something that’s a tiny bit more like, I don’t know, serious or something that feels like I mean, it actually is a pretty serious show, but-
Oh yeah. It gets real dark.
Sinclair Sexsmith 51:28
It gets real dark, right? But I got- what can I think of?
Was there something you read or watched last year that brought you joy?
Sinclair Sexsmith 51:39
So many things. I actually just did like a year round up, some really good reads, you know, because it was the end of the year.But a lot of what I read was YA fiction. Not very queer, you know, was not all not most of it was not very queer. Some of it was. I did really love the new book by Leigh Cowart called Hurts so Good: The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose that is about masochism. And it extends me beyond sexual masochism to be exploring people like ballerinas and Muay Thai boxers, and long distance runners and hot pepper eating contests and body modifications and all sorts of ways that people,. what they say in the book is “feel bad to feel better”. So have put ourselves through these ordeals to then come out the other side, like on you know, on purpose, and kink being one of those things. Masochism and sexual kink being one of those things, so that I really enjoyed that book. Although.
That sounds really cool. Is there a section in there about tattooing? Because like, I feel incredible a few hours after a tattoo session.
Sinclair Sexsmith 52:51
There is not but there should be I might- they might talk about it in the- there’s a body mod section where they are watching a video of someone get their tongue split, which is very intense. I listened to the audiobook of this one, partly because Leigh is an incredible narrator and narrates the whole book and man, that was intense. That was an intense chapter. But tattoo- I think tattooing absolutely falls under this kind of category right. And I also have been thinking a lot- this is one of the falls on my jealous book. I kind of hate this book side a little bit. Um, so I think a lot about what’s the sadistic equivalent, right like, what’s the sadism on purpose and that is a lot harder to talk about and justify but from like, someone who is a top and a dominant and a sadist, you know, they’re ways that I get to deliver this experience to someone of extreme states and someone- oh I might have to find it, find the reference for you because I can’t remember where I read it. But someone was writing about this book from a sadist perspective and said like “I get to be a bringer of death” and I thought that was amazing like, from a, you know, you get to be this threat. And also the bringer of, hopefully, the whole little deaths, that orgasmic experience as well, right? So like the combination of those things but so I’m I’m I’m tripping out on the on the sadistic equivalent now that I’ve read that one.
I think that is all for this episode. Thank you so much Sinclair, for joining us. Where can people find you online if they want to connect with you?
Sinclair Sexsmith 54:33
I’m online as Mr. Sexsmith in most of the major places, Twitter and Instagram are my biggest hangouts. I write at sugarbutch.net. And you can find all the links to things there including a mailing list if you want to keep in touch. I have an erotica writing online class that’s starting at the end of January. So if anyone wants- is erotica writer out there and wants to come and get some constructive and helpful, hopefully feedback I have an assistant who’s helping me with it. And we were joking just the other day that we are both affirmation daddies. So we’re going to be very affirming feedback to people. That’s, that’s our style of feedback. So I think this is going to be really fun class.
I love it. That sounds super fun. How often do you run those workshops?
Sinclair Sexsmith 55:17
I’ve done it once a year, the last two years, I might do it twice this year. So you know, a couple times ish, but I love it. I love writing groups in general, I’ve been in writing groups on and off for 20 years. And it’s- there’s such magical work that comes out of a writing group, you know, so much never gets published. But it’s such a privilege for this kind of small group to get to read these amazing words. I love the intimacy of that. And, and the and the cheerleading of it, just really going in there and getting to say like, this is good, keep going, then. And that really makes a difference, I think, to my own experience anyway.
That’s amazing. So if anybody can’t make it to this one, just keep an eye out. Because sounds like there will be future ones that you can also throw your hat in the ring for.
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