Lesbian Vampires for You, Dear Readers

Dying, Sweetly

I promised I would never tell this to another living soul.  But Sido has been haunting my dreams for weeks and I cannot keep my secret any longer.

I was a schoolgirl when I first saw her; she was walking alone near my school on a luminous evening when everything seemed to come alive in the cool, silvery moonlight.   A mist covered the courtyard, which gave the impression that this mysterious stranger was floating across the grounds.  Even from my window I could feel her power overtaking me.  When she looked up at me–sensing that she was being watched–she paused for a minute, flashing me an amused smile of recognition.   She tipped her hat in my direction with an air of masculine gallantry, and then I watched her move languidly past the ancient, ivy-covered buildings until she was out of sight.

The next time I saw Sido, she was standing over my bed when I awoke in the night.  I had no idea how she had entered my room, since I always locked my door, or how long she had stood there watching me sleep.  But I somehow sensed her presence even when I was asleep.  Tossing in my little bed under her gaze, I could feel her dark, magnetic eyes staring intensely at my face and body, as though she knew I already belonged to her.

I was afraid, but I was also drawn to her by a force I had never felt.  She was the most irresistably beautiful creature I had ever seen, and yet there was nothing soft or girlish about her.   Seeing her standing before me, her strong jaw illuminated by the moonlight, I was spellbound by her brooding masculine melancholy and the directness of her ardor.  She wanted to feast on me, she said, while removing her hat and black velvet cape with a flourish, but in a cruelly romantic gesture she sought to protract and heighten her pleasure by refusing me mine.   I trembled as she caressed my body, breathing so fast that my corset, which I wore nightly, rose and fell with my tumultuous respiration.  I threw my arms around her neck, drawing her closer to me so I could whisper my desires in her ear, blushing at the wild passions she had aroused in me.  I flirted, flattered, and begged, but none of my tactics worked.

What she wanted, she said as she showered me with soft kisses, was for me to obey her irresistable law.  “Your little heart is wounded,” she murmured in her seductive, low voice.  “If your dear heart is hurt, my wild heart bleeds with yours.  In the rapture of my enormous passion, I will live in your warm life, and you shall die–die, sweetly die–into mine.  I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you in your turn will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love.”

Gazing upon me with eyes that were all fire, Sido asked for my consent to her dark love.  “For years I have watched and waited for you.  I have been in love with no one, and never shall, unless it be you.  But love will have its sacrifices.  There is no sacrifice without blood.  Will you die as lovers die–to die together, so that we may live together?”

Yes, I would, I passionately declared, yes.

I never felt more full of life than at that moment when I offered myself to her.  She kissed me longer and more deeply than I had ever been kissed, and then I felt her warm kisses moving lovingly across my throat.  My heart beat faster.  Overwhelmed by a frenzy of passion, my breathing rose and fell as I gasped for air in my tightly laced corset.  Sido slowly loosened the laces and I suddenly felt a stinging pain as if two large needles plunged, an inch or two apart, deep into my breast.  I screamed and my senses left me then, as though a narcotic of unusual influence was acting upon me and lulled me into a deep sleep.

A noise caused me to wake up suddenly.  In the soft light from the lamp that burned in the hallway, I saw Sido leaving my room, her white shirt bathed in blood.


Wishing you a bewitching and magical All Hallow’s Eve from Sublimefemme!

This little tale is my butch-femme remix of J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic story “Carmilla,” the first lesbian vampire story in English.  It was published in 1872.

Rethinking High Femme, Part 2

Are high femmes queen bees?   If you crown yourself “high femme,” are you implicitly suggesting that others are “low?”  Nikki from give me space (to rock) and, more recently, buddhistfemme have asserted that “high femme” suggests a heirarchical ranking of femme that’s fundamentally elitist.  This may seem like an unavoidable conclusion, particularly in today’s competitive and status-obsessed world.

I identify as both femme and high femme, and personally I’ve never felt that high femme = better femme.  As I stated in my last post, my “rethinking” of high femme emphasizes that, for me, this gender is not a rank or a final destination.   I see my femme identity as complex and changing–as I put it yesterday, “a nonlinear process in which there’s no identifiable finish line.” I have not donned my stilettos and clawed my way to the zenith of Sublime Femmeness, I assure you!  Like other queer genders, high femme in my view doesn’t exist in a continuum but as part of nonlinear gender galaxy (see Scarlet Lotus Sexgeek on the gender galaxy model).

Fine, you might say, this sounds great in theory, but let’s get concrete:  in practice high femme performance requires money and privilege, right?  To some extent, yes, but this strikes me as a misconception.  High femme is not an exclusive rich girl’s club, nor is it in my view any more steeped in class privilege than any other gender.  Since all genders and sexualities are shaped by the social inequalities of capitalism, I think it’s fair to ask why high femme in particular should be portrayed as necessarily classist and elitist.

To say that high femme is an inherently classist gender because it “costs money” and therefore excludes those who have less of it actually sets up a very narrow, elitist notion of what high femme is. I learned about high femme from the work of my Femme Icon Amber Hollibaugh, a sex radical, leftist, union organizer and queer activist, who has written about her experience as a “rural gypsy working-class poor white trash high femme dyke” in her book, My Dangerous Desires. Her life story is just one example of how high femme has been historically linked to queer working-class communities since the 1950s. 

For me, high femme says not simply how femme I am, but how I do femme. When I claim this identity and expression, it’s not to undermine anyone else–least of all other femmes!  What I’m trying to do is express a part of me that was shamed, marginalized or belittled by a misogynistic and femmephobic culture. It’s about linking my embrace of femininity with trannys and drag queens and all of my femme sisters who dare to assert the right to be unapologetically and queerly femme. It’s a revaluing and denaturalizing of femininity that, for me, is fundamentally queer and feminist.

For all of these reasons, I call myself a high femme.  Nowdays, when butch is still the gold standard, genderqueer is cool, and bois are hot, I think it’s important for high femme to be recognized as a valid gender identity and expression that sparkles brightly in this queer gender galaxy we call home.

Rethinking High Femme, Part 1

A charming and generous friend recently told me–much to my surprise–that she sees my blog as a femme finishing school. I’m flattered, believe me (much love to you, charming and generous friend!), but the more I thought about it the more I realized that femme for me is a nonlinear process in which there’s no identifiable finish line to cross. I think this is one reason why you sometimes hear femmes say that femme is both something we are and something we do. (Actually, I’d love to hear butches talk about butch in this way, but this doesn’t seem to happen a lot. More on that some other time…)

As I’ve worked on this blog, I’ve moved away from thinking about femme in terms of a continuum or spectrum between degrees of femininity. I’ve learned that femme is too complex and varied to be defined primarily through a focus on quantity or intensity (e.g. whether you are “more” or “less” femme). One of my first posts “No, I’m not a lipstick lesbian (I just look like one)” represented an early effort to differentiate between the terms lipstick lesbian, femme, and high femme. It generated a really illuminating dialogue and prompted many of you to suggest other categories/terms such as earthy femme, queer femme, and chapstick femme. Since then, I’ve tried to complicate notions of femme identity in our discussions of femme style, the politics of femme pleasure, femme and consumerism, what it means to “transition” to femme, how butch and femme are not mutually exclusive categories, and being a stone femme.

This discussion–as well as conversations happening on other blogs–has helped me to expand and revise my thinking about femme and high femme. In my “No, I’m not a lipstick lesbian” post I talked about high femme as “ultra femininity,” but I now think this is a bit reductive. What’s most crucial for me about high femme as a separate gender identity from femme is not that it’s “more feminine” but that it’s a different kind of femininity that, generally speaking, privileges artifice over realness.

Here’s my new working definition of high femme; let me know what you think!

High Femme— Lesbian or queer gender marked marked by a highly stylized and aestheticized form of femme gender expression or identity. Uses exaggeration, artifice, and/or theatricality to denaturalize femininity. When combined with parody or irony, the effect achieved is akin to drag: femininity in quotes. No particular style of dress or external signifiers; may or may or may not wear dresses, heels, and/or makeup. May or may not be a “bottom” or a “top” in a sexual situation; may or may not partner with butches, studs, or stone butches. No particular personality traits. May be passive and demure or aggressive, independent, strong, etc. Not equivalent to a lipstick lesbian or stone femme. *


*NOTE: In the future, I’d like to work on expanding and clarifying this definition even more, since high femme is shaped by class, racial/ethnic, and regional differences. For example, what’s high femme in LA might be different than high femme in Baltimore. Please let me know if you have thoughts on these issues. I also would be interested in hearing from people about the herstory of high femme. Most of us would probably agree that high femme in the 50s and 60s meant something different than it does today, but what exactly is that difference? It’s always good to start with what you know, so my definition above has a contemporary focus.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

Sneeking a Peek

Sometimes a girl just can’t help herself.


Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

I’m a little obsessed with eyebrows. So I was delighted to see brows take center stage in reports on upcoming fashion and beauty trends. Focusing on extreme brow looks, the new trend for spring is either The Strong Brow or what I call The Disappeared Brow. The latter look basically “disappears” the brow by bleaching it. In general, I’m not a fan of this look since, clearly, I’m into brows! Plus, if you’ve been reading for awhile you know that the “less is more” philosophy is against my religion. More is more, always!

Well, almost always. I’ll admit that a thin brow does have a sort of retro glamour. No one achieved this “tweezed-within-an-inch-of-its-life” look better than my Femme Icon, Greta Garbo. But I think most of us look better with a more strongly defined brow. While The Strong Brow is certainly welcome in my book, let me offer this cautionary observation, girls: there’s a fine line (pun intended) between a bold, thick brow and a brow disaster.

I like a brow to frame the face and draw attention to the eyes without being *the* focal point of the face. Audrey Hepburn is a great example of how to achieve this balance in a strong brow look. It’s fun to experiment, but the bottom line is that you have to work with the natural shape of your brow and face to find a style that works for you.

To help you on your higbrow adventures, I’ve posted pics of actresses with some of my fave brow looks. Kate Winslet and Keira Knightley both pull off The Strong Brow very well, I think. For guidelines and tips on how to do your own brows, see the diagram below and this article How To Shape Your Eyebrows.

Getting Romantic

On our honeymoon, my partner created an extravagantly beautiful picnic for me on the beach at sunset. I can still remember how she gave me her jacket because it was chilly, how loved and treasured I felt at that moment, and how I could feel my heart and life open up in ways I had never imagined possible. After that, how could any femme resist the power of the perfect picnic?

Maybe it’s because of the memory of that night that I still feel swept off my feet by a romantic picnic. Last weekend, we packed up our old-fashioned wicker picnic basket, blankets, a few throw pillows, and the requisite red and white check table cloth and headed out to enjoy each other and the beautiful fall weather. We lounged atop a patch of clover, ate every single thing in our basket, and had the world’s best chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert. Yum….

To help you assemble the ingredients for the perfect fall picnic, Grrlchef of kitchenspeakeasy has generously provided the following guest post. I don’t think she expects us to bring a martini shaker on a picnic, so I’m guessing that delicious after-dinner cocktail is what we make once we get home and want to continue the fun! 😉

by Grrlchef

So there’s this traditional recipe from France that I like to call Fromage Blanc. It’s basically a bunch of cheeses traditionally blended together with leek broth (you can skip the leek broth) and white wine and herbs etc. You can enjoy it with crudites (raw vegetables), dried fruits (apricots are my fave), or crackers and a nice bread. I’m not trying to get all fancified here so this is my quick and easy version (or as we say in the kitchen, the “down and dirty” version).

1 Block Neufchatel Cheese (8 oz)

2-4 ounces asst cheese (something soft: blue cheese, brie, provolone)
(that would look like a cup of grated, just so you know)

1/4 C. White wine (or 2 T. Lemon Juice if you’d prefer)

1/4 C. Leek Broth (take 1 small leek and simmer in 2-4 C. broth) — Optional

1 T. Herbs (yes you can use dry but then only use a teaspoon)

2 t. Lemon Zest (I try to go organic here…it’s a pesticide thing)

Black pepper to your liking, some people like it hot

1 t. Garlic, if you are in good company not great first date ingredient

If you have a food processor, great! If not, soften the neufchatel, grate the other cheese, wash your lemon before zesting, and mix those ingredients together. It should taste a little strong, but be creamy and spreadable. If you like it milder, add less of the “other” cheeses and less herbs and wine. If you can do this a few days ahead it really gets flavorful. Now let’s talk about its playmates…I mean its plate-mates!

Sugar Snap Peas (they have pretty cheap bags at Trader Joe’s), Carrots, Celery, Radishes, Cucumbers, Bell Peppers. If you want the sugar snap peas to be a brilliant green but still crunch, boil some salted water and submerge them for less than 2 minutes and then drop them into an ice bath until they are cool, dry them off on a paper towel. This trick also works with asparagus, broccoli, and other green veggies.

Fruits – well, apples of course, or pears (only if they aren’t rock hard). They should smell sweet otherwise they’re not. These are what’s in season right now…as we get towards winter, I’ll be using more tropical fruit.

Bread/Crackers – A little bit of bread can go a long way. If you have a bakery, just get a roll or two and slice them into small rounds; it’s much cheaper than a whole loaf.

I’ve been teaching wine the last three weeks so here are my suggestions:

Grand Royale – a splash of grand marnier or cointreau in a glass of bubbly, preferably gloria ferrer

St Supery Sauvignon Blanc – Napa Valley – meyer lemon, passionfruit, citrus, it’s sexy

Saintsbury Chardonnay – Carneros – butter, citrus, oak

Beaujolais or Rose – be mindful that some french Roses are dry

Ferari-Carano Siena – Sangiovese/Cab blend – is velvety and luxurious

Or here’s my favorite end of the evening drink I used to make when I was (briefly) a bartender. It’s a variation on the traditional white russian: godiva cappuccino liquer, vodka, a splash of kahlua, shaken and strained into a martini glass with an ibarra chocolate rim….

That’s all I have my friends…now go forth and have a lovely weekend. XO – Grrlchef

Sublimefemme in Bed and More

At last…the big reveal! Here are the answers to last week’s 10 Hidden Truths About My Life: Fact or Fiction?

1. I typically sleep in a babydoll nightie with matching g-string/thong/panty or cami with matching thong/panty.
FALSE.The key word here is “typically.” Being sublimely femme at bedtime requires a varied sleep wardrobe! I like baby doll T-shirts with low-rise boyshorts, cute nighties, silk lingerie, lacy babydolls with matching g-string/bikini, and camis or fitted tanks with “cheekies” (see pic).

2. Last night my partner dreamt about me and described me as “drop-dead gorgeous” in the dream. (Not true, I assure you, but what could be more pleasing to a femme than getting an unconscious compliment from her butch?)
TRUE. Sorry if this word choice was confusing. What I meant was I’m not drop-dead gorgeous, but isn’t she sweet to say I am–in a dream, no less?!!

3. I have had sex with 3 men.
FALSE. I gave my mother this test yesterday to see how well she knows me and when she got to this one she asked, “at the same time?!” “Nooo, Mom,” I replied, “in my life!” That was definitely the highlight of my day! So here’s the truth: I’m about as lesbo as a girl can get. Many years ago, I did once invite into my bed a butch guy with a certain rugged sex appeal, but I must confess: as much as I was into him, I was a total stone femme that night!

4. One of my favorite movies is Point Break starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze.
TRUE. Like Gone in 60 Seconds, this is one of those movies I have to stop and watch whenever it comes on TV. It’s sort of the boy version of Showgirl–both covertly queer, ridiculously earnest, and therefore delightfully campy for yours truly.

5. I own 96 bottles of nail polish (that’s including several kinds of base coats/treatments and top coats).
TRUE. When I counted all my polishes, even I was rather appalled. But if you take good care of them, they can provide years of nail glamour and sexiness. And since gorgeous nails make you a better kisser, they’re worth every penny! 😉

6. Growing up I never felt smart or pretty.
TRUE. As a teenager I wore a lot of black and hung out with various alienated and socially marginal folks experimenting with their sexualities and unusual hair colors. I got a scholarship to college and was sure it was a mistake because I didn’t really think I was smart. Back then, the last thing I wanted to be was pretty, but I was also afraid that deep down I wasn’t. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day; it’s been a long road to Sublime Femmeness, my lovelies!

7. I keep a makeup inspiration book with magazine articles and images of new looks I want to try next to my vanity.
TRUE. I always refresh my makeup looks when the season changes in order to stay au courant!

8. I used to be an aerobics junkie. (Before you groan, give me a break and remember it was the 80s and I wanted to tone!)
FALSE. Good god no! I thought aerobics was an emblem of the shallow values of the 80s which I loathed with every fiber in my being. I still hate to exercise, but jumping around to Billy Idol with all those perky upbeat women in legwarmers would have probably sent me over the edge.

9. I was voted most radical in my high school class.
TRUE.I can’t believe how many people thought this was a lie! Where I went to high school it didn’t take much to get you labeled “radical,” but I actually was involved in politics and perceived as some sort of left-wing revolutionary. These days, I may be obsessed with nail polish, but I’m still a proud lefty committed to social and economic justice.

10. I’m a fan of the eyelash curler; even if I’m just lounging around the house I always curl my lashes.
TRUE.Yes indeed, I’ve been devoted to my Shiseido lash curler for the past 10 years. (Get a good curler and it will last forever; you just need to buy inexpensive replacement pads periodically.) If I’m having a casual day, I might skip on other parts of my beauty routine, but the lashes must be curled!

I’ve come clean, now what about your reveals?

What “hidden truth” about your life might surprise people?
Assuming nail polish isn’t your vice, what are you obsessed with?
What’s the one grooming/beauty ritual you have to do every day, no matter how late you’re running?
What’s your favorite bad movie?
What were you like in high school?

Sublimefemme Tells All, No. 9

I have a healthy, balanced lifestyle; I just prefer to take it in pill form.

DISCLAIMER: Sublimefemme Unbound is designed for entertainment purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice regarding prescription or OTC medications. Sublime Femmeness is not a substitute for professional care.

Long Live Lady Brett Ashley!

Picture me in my chaise lounge, sipping a Manhattan and feeling rather confident that my secrets would be safe from the world. Yes, I had dropped clues here and there regarding some of the issues mentioned in my list, but who could possibly guess which 3 items were the lies? Like a high femme Cruella de Ville, I thought my evil plan would triumph!

But one reader saw through the smoke and mirrors and separated fact from fiction like a professional investigator–and she did it like a lady.   That’s right, you guessed it;  the winner of the Hidden Truths Contest is…

The beautiful, astute, and infinitely insightful Lady Brett Ashley!!!

More info to follow on the fabulous prizes.  I will also be posting added info about my 10 “hidden truths” so I’ll soon give you the full scoop on my secret life including trés importante revelations about what Sublimefemme actually sleeps in and just what a big lesbo she really is.  So stay tuned!

Lady Brett, femme sister and beloved blogger, I salute you! xo

Doing It On Purpose

First, a few comments about my uber amazing readers inspired by this week’s dialogue in Butch2Femme and Transitioning to Femme:

I nearly feel off my chaise lounge when I read LaurynX’s comment that she just came out as femme in the past few months. Holy mother of god! You, my dear, are going to be a force to be reckoned with, no doubt about it! That aside, I think LaurynX’s advice “not to let any anti-feminine sentiments get to you” is so wise. And it’s not just lesbians who can put you down for being too girly, since paradoxically revering and disparaging femininity is as American as apple pie. Which is why, for me, being a femme requires developing strategies to negotiate this double bind. Such as calling people out on their shit. And looking fierce.

I think Lady Brett Ashley and I are making really similar points about how tomboy (or butch) and femme are not mutually exclusive categories. Lady B has written well on her on blog and elsewhere about how this gender fluidity is a fundamental part of what femme means to her. I would also add that it’s a perfect example of one way in which femme is different from femininity.

Femmes can and do love femmes! In a blogging universe dominated by the butch/femme dyad, I really appreciate BiblioFemme and how out she is about being a “femme-loving femme.” On another note, I love how open Tina was in her terrific comment about her own vulnerability; her encouragement to “give yourself the leeway to find the femme you will be” is right on the mark–and very nicely put, too, I might add!

It’s not every day that the dapper Leo MacCool quotes Dolly Parton on your blog–an act of pure genius, thanks Leo! I can’t think of any advice more perfect than the suggestion that you “find out who you are and do it on purpose.” It’s so true, so brilliant, and so wonderfully campy that it deserves to be a tenent of Sublime Femmeness. All hail Femme Icon Dolly Parton!

Second, to Butch2Femme: you asked for clarification about my cautionary remark*; it was about my concern that you might be embarking upon a Sapphic version of the “break-up haircut.” I saw right away that you were linking your new femme ID to the femme who broke your heart (sounds to me like she has terrible taste!), but I originally didn’t understand what that connection was about. E.g. Were you becoming more femme to keep a part of her with you? I just didn’t understand what your gender had to do with her gender. So I urged caution and tried to encourage you not to be reactive but instead to think about who you really are and what you really want. And it sounds like this is exactly what you’re doing!

Despite the heartache, one positive thing that has emerged from this break-up is that it’s given you the opportunity to begin to define your identity not for someone else but for yourself. For this and for your adorable peep-toes, I raise my glass to you, my darling! Now that I know you’re so healthy and centered, go ahead and throw caution into the wind 😉

Kisses to all,

*Note: My cautionary remark from my original post was: “Did you feel free with your ex to express your gender–e.g. your femme side or your tomboy style? If gender is one reason why you think this relationship didn’t work out, my advice to you would be to proceed with caution.”