A more 'masculine' or 'dominating' figure in Lesbian society, though also used to describe a macho gay male. Generally a 'top' in both Gay Men and Lesbian community.
Generally referring to the partner more in control, in a Lesbian relationship, where the 'butch' is the more aggressive of the two partners, though not always so today.
Butch today is more of a 'presentation' or 'look' than a specific role in a relationship. It can also refer to a Gay male, in a more 'macho' meaning, such as in acting tough.
Butch Lesbians also tend to dress more to taste, than to social standards, such as the concept that a female wear a dress or skirt and not pants or slacks, or even ties. Though that has changed in 'straight society' due to the Woman's Movement, it is still considered to be a sign of a woman attempting to usurp their role in society, if they were not traditional outfits.
Prior to the 1950's, Butch Lesbians were simply considered to be more aggressive, more assertive, and yet still maintaining some softer qualities. The advent of the anti-gay rhetoric during the McCarthy era generated a toughening of that persona.
With many Lesbian Bars under assault, and the fierce desire to hold onto that domain, it was left primarily up to the more 'Butch' patrons to stand guard, and to defend the territory. The more 'feminine' patrons weren't excluded, but more or less left it to the role of the Butch patrons. Many who naturally took to the role.
History (Legend): Feminists of the 1970's believed that the Lesbian association of Butch-Femmes was an attempt at mimicking the gender roles of straight society. However that concept or believe was rejected, as the traditional role of a 'butch' partner was more concerned with 'giving pleasure' and unlike the traditional male model, where the male sought pleasure, for themselves.
The aggressor or more assertive partner in a Lesbian relationship, though that has changed in modern time. While in the mid 1900's, it was considered taboo to mix, or change roles, modern day society accepts where attractions can exist between two Butch Lesbians or two Femme Lesbians.
Butch today is more about 'the look' than who is in charge, though many still claim that the 'butch' partner is the more opinionated, more assertive.
Soft Butch (Chapstick Lesbian) - In the middle of the road type Lesbian that exhibits some traits associated with both a 'femme' and 'butch'. In some areas of the community, these types are considered more acceptable, as it isn't too off the top on either side of the spectrum.
A 'soft butch' is considered closer to a 'butch' persona.
Stone Butch - Similar to a 'stone femme' these are those who exhibit more of a 'butch' persona, whose primary object is to be the giver, rather than the receiver. Like their 'femme' counterpart, they prefer to not be genitally touched. It is the act of giving pleasure in order to achieve pleasure.
These are also generally far more 'masculine' in both appearances and attitude. They prefer to 'dominate' physically by being the aggressor, as well as being 'emotionally controlling'. Though this is not applicable to 'all.'