Lesbian BDSM, part 2: Contemporary Lesbian Culture

by admin

Guest post by Maggie H.

This post is the second part of a series of posts based on some of the RadFem Reboot 2012 presentation talk that I gave in Oregon recently on the patriarchal takeover of women’s sexuality. Part I is here

Warning: This post contains some graphic depictions of pornified lesbian culture. I believe it is important to know what some lesbians are watching, making, writing & reading ‘for fun’ these days. The examples taken from lesbian media are not ‘isolated cases.’ Many lesbians I spoke to actually say that they ‘love’ websites like Autostraddle or magazines such as Diva UK. These things are part of mainstream lesbian culture today.

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As pointed out at the end of the first part (on lesbian BDSM fanfiction, a cultural phenomenon within lesbian culture), the fandoms of Xena, Buffy, Stargate SG-1, Rizzoli & Isles (or whatever show lesbians want to read BDSM fan fiction from) are not the only lesbian cultures that have been affected by patriarchy. No, unfortunately, there are many more aspects of contemporary lesbian culture that have been poisoned by patriarchal ideology and male-centred sexuality too.

So let me take you through contemporary lesbian culture now. There was an HBO-produced lesbian movie released a few years back called ‘If These Walls Could Talk 2.’ I did not like that movie much, and I am sure the radical lesbian feminists who saw it mustn’t have liked it either. Here is an image from the second story segment from the film:

 

Linda (Michelle Williams, left) and Amy (Chloë Sevigny, right), in the HBO production ‘If These Walls Could Talk 2’.

In that movie, there is a ridiculous caricature of radical lesbian feminists as well as an inadequate portrayal of the woman-loving and woman-identified lesbian feminism of the 1970’s. In the second story segment from the film, Linda (a young lesbian) shares a house with her ‘lesbian feminist’ friends. They soon go together to a local lesbian bar, where Linda meets Amy –a young butch she likes. As Amy is typically dressed ‘like a man’ (with a suit and tie), the bunch of ‘lesbian feminists’ hanging out with Linda quickly get vilified through the narrative as “those-boring-whining- feminists-who-just-cannot-let-lesbians-have-fun” for being critical of Amy’s cross-dressing. Linda’s friends oppose gendered roles and patriarchal stereotypes, yes, but they get represented as ‘stupid feminists’ for doing so. Plus, these so-called ‘lesbian feminists’ get portrayed as laughing at Amy because she looks ‘butch’ –something that no lesbian feminist that I know of would ever do.

Anyway, lesbian feminism was certainly not winning in that movie, because Linda was portrayed as this lesbian who ‘desires’ butch/femme power play with Amy more than anything –and the dominance/submission power play between these two lesbians gets thoroughly eroticised during the ‘love’ scene of this American HBO movie. I hated that film, but lesbians apparently buy into this (as it was a huge movie success in many lesbian communities) –because women’s history (a.k.a. herstory) constantly gets erased and re-written by men, including by the male owners of big television network production companies like HBO. In this case, the lesbian-friendly feminist 1970’s got re-interpreted through inaccurate, male-centric eyes.

In the 2000’s, another American television network (Showtime) released ‘The L Word,’ and that show became also a huge success, within the lesbian community almost everywhere. So what exactly was ‘The L Word’ about? The preservation of patriarchy within lesbianism was what it really was about. I, myself, could not watch the ‘L word’ beyond the start of Season 3 –as it was becoming so boring and repetitive. I am trying to remember if I ever heard the words ‘making love’ within what I saw of the show. It’s a supposedly ‘lesbian’ show and all its dialogue could say was ‘fuck, fuck and fuck.’ Using the term ‘fuck’ to describe sexual activities between women should in fact be considered completely inadequate by lesbians who try to break away from patriarchy, as it is a dominant male term.

In the UK, we have ‘Lip Service,’ which is a TV series similar to ‘The L Word’ as another so-called ‘lesbian’ show. Shows such as ‘The L Word’ or ‘Lip Service’ are so far removed from women-identified and woman-loving lesbianism. These lesbian series are saturated with soft porn scenarios promoting male-centric sexuality within the lesbian world, e.g. lesbians being represented as ‘fucking’ (and not making love), men intruding upon lesbian sexuality, lesbians going to strip bars and objectifying women there, lesbians engaging in BDSM and phallocentric sexuality etc. Not to mention that the lesbian characters are very often white and conventionally pretty –the way men want to see them.

Dildo culture is of course being glorified in such shows, just like in many other parts of mainstream lesbian media. On mainstream lesbian sites such as Lesbian Life, lesbian visitors are being given ‘sex tips’ and ‘advice’ as well as instructions on how to buy and use a dildo (e.g. here –warning: may trigger) –as if owning and using a ‘strap-on’ was such an important thing to do for lesbians. In a PIV-centric patriarchal society, lesbian sexuality tends to be mischaracterised as “incomplete”, as “needing” a phallic object to “complete it” –almost like an imaginary ‘male’ presence within lesbian relationships.

This sort of heteronormative vision of lesbian sexuality is unfair and oppressive to lesbians because it negates the true potential of our own sexuality for being its own separate thing about women loving women, and women exploring women’s bodies just the way they are. But hardcore defenders of lesbian BDSM do not want to hear that. Instead, they tend to see us as ‘ignorant’ when we are lesbians who do not use dildos.

As explained by BevJo in her chapter on BDSM:

“When I protested at a Butch Conference that it was wrong to assume that we [lesbians] all used dildos, a sado-masochistic Hard Fem lectured me as if I had no awareness of what dildos were. When I refused to submit to her, she dismissed me by using ageism, telling me that I was probably too old to change. Is fourteen too old? That’s the age when I first heard about dildos, in 1965, when I visited the girl I had been in love with since I was five and she was nine… I only vaguely knew what a prick was and was repulsed. I was also confused since I was sure I was a Lesbian, having been in love with other girls since my earliest memories, but if this was what it meant to be a Lesbian, then how could I be? How many young and older Lesbians are made to feel more alone and isolated by the normalizing of dildos and other sado-masochism in our communities?”~ Bev Jo.

Bev Jo also points out that the dildo symbolises the glorification of maleness. As shown within malestream media and het culture, lesbians using dildos has already become a popular joke and a heteropatriarchal stereotype about lesbians. Many heterosexuals believe that “all” lesbians use dildos nowadays. When lesbians use dildos within their own sexual encounters and support dildo culture, it provides reassurance for men and reifies heteronormative stereotypes about lesbians. It tells men that lesbians really “need” dicks to have sex after all.

To the postmodern lesbians who continuously attempt to dissociate the dildo from actual penises, I would like to say: you cannot separate the inevitable symbolism from the real thing. The strap-on dildo is a phallus. It looks exactly like a penis and gets used as such. I do not believe any amount of bullshit pomo reinterpretation will ever be able to undo the intrinsically phallic symbolism present at the sight of a dildo.

Bev Jo sees dildos as a part of the lesbian BDSM world, which I agree with. She makes it clear that the belief by some lesbians that dildos are ‘necessary’ is very destructive to our communities. If we are not attracted to pricks, there is no reason why we ‘should’ play with a fake one. Dildos are so obviously part of the whole BDSM paraphernalia, a capitalistic industry that makes tremendous amounts of money by selling to lesbians patriarchal fetish accessories we don’t really need.

Moreover, as pointed out previously on the Gender Trender blog, men who claim to be women are now using the ‘dildo’ excuse as an attempt to get lesbians to fuck them, i.e. they are saying to lesbians “If you like the dildo, then you should try to like my ‘female prick’” and other such pomo nonsense. This should clearly be a warning sign for lesbians that it is time to quit using dildos. When you are a lesbian who does not use dildos (or no longer uses them), how men are going to be able to come up with such ridiculous arguments then?

Men asking lesbians to fuck them because the women already use strap-ons is clearly an indication of how patriarchy invented the dildo in the first place. Men love it when lesbians use it. Men hate it when lesbians don’t use it. Shouldn’t this be enough to show you what clearly is the truly feminist and revolutionary way to go? As Bev Jo says: “There is nothing like being completely present with your lover, looking into each other’s eyes, as you make love… There is nothing you can do with a dildo that you can’t do far more intensely and passionately with your Lesbian hands and Lesbian body.”To understand this may be too much to ask of some members from our contemporary mainstream lesbian culture, however.

Male-centric sexuality and patriarchal ideologies unfortunately seem to have taken control of a large segment of contemporary lesbian culture. On popular online lesbian UK magazines such as ‘Lesbilicious,’ pro-pornography, pro-BDSM women and handmaidens of patriarchy like Tristan Taormino get interviewed and admired as well as asked about sex tips and relationship advice, promoting BDSM and gay-male-identified marriages.

In the UK, we also have a mainstream lesbian magazine called ‘Diva.’ I examined the content of Diva for my analysis of lesbian culture. Here are a few covers from Diva Magazine displays:

    

Diva Magazine, UK mainstream lesbian magazine –very pornified and very female-hating.

I’m pretty sure that lesbians in the US and lesbians in Australia (or any other Western country for that matter) must have a similar magazine to Diva available to them, but I don’t know the specific names. Within Diva’s August 2012 issue (the one on the left within the above pics), there was an article glorifying lesbian porn –claiming that the pornography ‘got sexier’ and it should be something you should watch with your girlfriend. The main two so-called ‘lesbian’ pictures featured in the article were one of a ‘butch’ lesbian and the other of a thoroughly objectified ‘femme’ woman holding a pink telephone handset while caressing her own mouth with her other hand. This latter woman had her genitals completely shaved, just like in typical mainstream straight male porn.

A so-called ‘erotic’ lesbian written fiction story (Ten Dozen Butterflies) found in the same (August 2012) issue of Diva was thoroughly pornographic. It included male-centric norms and language dominating lesbian sexuality (e.g. uses of the C word to describe female genitalia, saying ‘fuck’ all the time to describe lesbian activities, etc) Most prominently, Ten Dozen Butterflies sexually fetishized and romanticised the pain and the bloody cuts a woman can get from some feminine beauty practices. It portrayed the blood that can result from shaving or waxing as ‘exciting,’ in some sort of eerie BDSM way.

Paris Lees has a column in Diva Magazine. Male-to-trans people automatically get fully accepted as “women” in contemporary mainstream lesbian culture –which makes it easier for them to introduce invasive, woman-hating ideologies such as the ‘Cotton Ceiling’ for instance.

The mainstream lesbian website Autostraddle proudly proclaims, on its ‘About Us’ page, that it is run by “a dedicated team of indentured masochists,” and that Autostraddle is apparently “an intelligent, hilarious & provocative voice and a progressively feminist online community.” Hence here we have lesbian BDSM enforcers portraying themselves as ‘progressive’, ‘rebellious,’ ‘feminist’ and ‘cool’ without acknowledging that they are in fact handmaidens of the patriarchy.

Sheila Jeffreys had already denounced the masquerade a couple of decades ago:

“The theorists of lesbian sadomasochism have adopted the clothes of the outlaw in rage against feminism and all its works. The language of sexual outlawry may originate in gay male culture but S/M proponents such as Pat Califia and Gayle Rubin have adopted it.”~ Sheila Jeffreys, in The Lesbian Heresy, p. 109.

On the Autostraddle website, lesbian BDSM is constantly being represented as ‘innocuous’ and ‘harmless,’ and pornographic pictures of women being objectified are often displayed on the site (e.g. here –warning: may trigger). BDSM proponents and lesbian pornographers like Sinclair SexSmith (described by Autostraddle as a ‘Kinky queer butch top’) get interviewed for the site. What is unsurprising of course is that the language of queer/postmodern ideology and culture seems to have seeped in those lesbian BDSM proponents’ minds:

“My BDSM practices are definitely informed by my queer sensibilities — I am ever aware of the heteronormativity and cissexism in the BDSM worlds, and I think queers are doing amazing things to call attention to, work on, and transform what it means to explore gender, or explore power dynamics. I love sex, don’t get me wrong, but I crave a dynamic that complicates the pure body aspects of sex and brings in a psychological connection of power and play that BDSM provides. I think there’s still a ton of room for more queer theory to leap into the BDSM worlds and to continue to evolve BDSM practices.” ~ Sinclair Sexsmith, editor of the lesbian BDSM pornographic anthology Say Please –interviewed on the Autostraddle website.

As I pointed out within my own work, queer and postmodern people invisiblise the existence of the biological female as a human being. Why care about women’s dignity, self-respect, bodily integrity or resistance to degradation then? Women don’t exist to them (or are ‘cis’), so they don’t give a shit, really.

Those queer sadistic lesbian pornographers have decided that the dom/sub ‘power play’ and the kicks that BDSM gives them are much more important than women’s humanity (and they don’t even believe our humanity exists in the first place). They are untrustworthy and dangerous betrayers of women, incapable of imagining an alternatively intense psychologically connecting sexuality between two women which would not involve the inclusion of BDSM dynamics. And they want to carry on ‘fucking with’ gender, i.e. ‘exploring’ it in all its ‘myriad’ colours rather than doing away with it.

On top of being misogynistic, Autostraddle pornography is racist too, just like many other BDSM scenarios. Within their BDSM ‘girl galleries’ of pictures (e.g. here –warning: may trigger), most of the women presented are white and conventionally attractive (nonetheless still treated in harsh manners). The very few women of colour there are typically get portrayed as ‘exotic slaves’ in this lesbian BDSM pornographic imagery. You can actually see on the website Black women being treated in the worst ways, as “subhuman” sex objects (e.g. as displayed in some of the images from that gallery page –warning: may trigger).

Such misogynistic racism being thoroughly sexualised and considered ‘progressive’ by the Autostraddle team and their contributors should not be passively accepted by lesbians today. Back in the 1980’s, among the Black feminists who challenged the sexualised racism present in the lesbian BDSM community were Audre Lorde and Alice Walker.

Lorde saw dominance and subordination as inseparable from woman-hatred and racism under patriarchy:

“As a minority woman, I know dominance and subordination are not bedroom issues. In the same way that rape is not about sex, s/m is not about sex but about how we use power.” ~ Audre Lorde, interviewed by Susan Leigh Star in the 1980’s.

Walker identified the mechanisms of slavery present in the BDSM agenda:

“Black and white and mixed women wrote of captivity, of rape, of forced breeding to restock the master’s slave pens. They wrote of attempts to escape, of the sale of their children, of dreams or Africa, of efforts at suicide… [B]lack women do not want to be slaves. They never wanted to be slaves. We will be ourselves and free, or die in the attempt. ” ~ Alice Walker, in the anthology Against Sadomasochism, pp. 207-208.

BDSM scenarios involving pornified racist ideologies and practices get celebrated in some segments of contemporary lesbian culture. This should be considered unacceptable. There is no way such racism would ever pass if there were men of colour being targeted by such racist images –but because it is racist misogyny here, it doesn’t matter in the eyes of male-identified women or men. BDSM misogynistic and racist ideology, by claiming that slavery can be “chosen” or “consensual,” makes a complete mockery of the actual experiences of those who have been enslaved –including women of colour. And it is not through re-enacting the symbols of rape, captivity, slavery and torture that we, women, are going to acquire real freedom or genuine autonomy.

We are an oppressed people. So long as members of the oppressed class get off on their own subordination, they remain resistant to real social change. I think part of the problem in all of this is that there is apparently no room in our culture for talking about orgasms that simply do not feel good. There are bad things we have been conditioned to get off on, especially our own oppression and subordination. An orgasm just doesn’t make those things “right.” And it certainly does not prove that we are “born masochists”. As radical feminists, we understand that not all orgasms are good and a women’s sexuality that has been shaped & constructed by patriarchy is not exempt from critical analysis:

“Our sexuality is not immune to the social and political forces which shape other dimensions of our lives —the sexual is also political. As such, it is also subject to evaluation, modification and change.” ~ Karen Rian, in Sadomasochism and the Social Construction of Desire.

Contemporary BDSM lesbian culture feeds into our fear, into our self-hatred. It influences us to overlook anything that does not look like pornographic, male-centric sexuality. What is also worrying is that this ‘kinky’ lesbian culture seems to be thriving. As was reported on Allecto’s blog four years and a half ago (a post which is still very much relevant today about contemporary lesbian culture), younger lesbians who do not agree with the BDSM takeover of our community tend to be struggling with pornified culture:

“As a younger lesbian who came out in the queer, post-modern, post-feminist millenium, I am not sure that older lesbian feminists can really understand how thoroughly lesbian feminism has been erased. Nor how thoroughly pornography, sadomasochism and sexual violence has infiltrated the queer, ‘lesbian’ culture… More violent misogyny can be seen in the popular Candy Bars in Britain. Candy Bar Soho and Candy Bar Brighton both promote woman-hating, pornographic ‘lesbianism’ with events like mud-wrestling and stripping.” ~ allecto, on her blog.

What we need is a much stronger feminist movement once again. It is very alarming the way Allecto talked about lesbian feminism as being thoroughly erased by contemporary patriarchal ‘lesbian’ culture. She gave examples such as the ‘Candy Bar’ in Soho (London), in which women wear drag or BDSM attires and perform dom/sub roles with other women.

Not all contemporary young lesbians are beyond hope, however. I did manage to change some minds on BDSM. I usually take a non-judgemental, experienced approach when I talk about BDSM in my own communities –and I am glad I did meet other lesbians who are interested in hearing what I have to say, as an ex-BDSMer.

More information to come within Part 3, the post which will be concluding this series…

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Maggie H. is a radical lesbian feminist. She frequently reads the Radical Hub, and has commented here before. She is a sociology student in the School of Social and Political Sciences at University in the UK. She has taken a temporary break from radical feminist blogging (during her studies), and plans to come back to the radfem blogosphere under a different screen-name after graduating…

41 Responses to “Lesbian BDSM, part 2: Contemporary Lesbian Culture”

  1. I posted this on the AutoStraddle Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Autostraddle

  2. Thank you so much, Hub admin, for your appreciation of my work. By the way, I’d like to add that Bev Jo’s chapter on BDSM was something she had co-written with Linda Strega and Ruston in their book Dykes-Loving-Dykes, just adding this information here.

  3. I’m a 59 yo relatively isolated lesbian feminist, and this contemporary “lesbian” BDSM culture you describe repels me as male centered heteronormativity repels me. We’ve really degenerated when sexually useless objects such as dicks and dildoes are considered important. Any lesbian who thinks that’s the best that lesbian physical expression can be should read the excellent lesbian novel Choices by Nancy Toder, http://www.amazon.com/Choices-Nancy-Toder/dp/1555830617/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349314881&sr=1-1&keywords=Choices+Nancy+Toder. The fact that the novel takes place in the late 1960s does not detract from the descriptions of physical expression between the women in the novel.

  4. Thanks a lot for the book recommendation, Barbara. 🙂 Sounds interesting.

  5. Thank you, this is great. I watched If These Walls Could Talk 2, years ago and really liked it although I was uncomfortable with how feminists were represented. My understanding of feminism at the time was really low I should add. But I think in lesbian culture, part of the issue is that we have traditionally been so starved of any positive representations of lesbian relationships, that even those that are obviously unrealistic and male centric, get a large lesbian audience.Of course that in turn conditions us to accept a very male centric and often harmful view of our own sexuality. So I think it is important to speak out about these issues.

  6. One way to get at this is to have intergenerational events for lesbians— the old dykes talk to the young ones. I often feel that lesbian life has become very age segregated, opening the door for male corrupt sexual/violent practices to get at lesbians who have no idea what the lesbian feminist did.
    I blame a lot of this sexual weirdness on lesbian associations with the gay male community, which really is a sexual nightmare in large urban areas.

  7. I liked the first season of The L Word, but in the second season where there were male roommates that were snooping on lesbians having sex was so revolting and so heterosexual pornified that I hated that season. I watched some of the rest, but every time one turned around, there were men involved. All to attract a “diverse” read: male audience and straight females.

    Thank you Maggie for these articles. Very thought provoking!

  8. Lesley- Spot on! The fact that we crave for every tiny bit of lesbian representation within a heteropatriarchal culture then results in many lesbians being drawn to all kinds of different lesbian media representations, including the most male-identified ones. I’d also like to add that not everything is heteropatriarchal within lesbian culture nowadays. There are also quite a few lesbian films available out there that are genuinely woman-identified, female-centred and that do not portray lesbian relationships within gendered roles/standards (same goes for some lesbian webpages or books). However, the good kind of lesbian media simply cannot fully counter the negative effect that the heteronormative/BDSM kind of lesbian media has on women, if you know what I mean –especially not if so many lesbians buy into this sort of pornified media or into pornographic ‘lesbian’ (fan)fiction. Only a proper lesbian feminist criticism can counter this sort of thing, although I did want to mention that not all lesbian media is like what I described above. What is worrying (as I said) is that a large popular segment of lesbian culture is like this though.

    But I guess that I sort of can imagine that when you’re a young lesbian (part of a marginalised female group within a heteropatriarchal society), you’re going to look for any sort of anything that might represent you and claims to be “lesbian-friendly,” so why not go to the closest local store that sells Diva for instance? Then in turn, you become influenced by what Diva (or other heteropatriarchal “lesbian” media) says to you about what lesbians should be like or do. It’s a sad truth. Which is why a renewed lesbian feminist resistance to heteropatriarchy is once again needed now more than ever within our communities. Not to mention the fact that nowadays there are even lesbian bars & clubs that celebrate the objectification and degradation of women as well as hardly any strictly women-only lesbian spaces (because to the trans phenomenon and LGBTQWTF communities).

    As for the dildo, I think its use fundamentally supports patriarchal lies about female and lesbian sexuality, I wanted to add. Crucial writings on lesbian/female sexuality and existence are once again needed:

    http://www.uic.edu/orgs/cwluherstory/CWLUArchive/vaginalmyth.html

    http://www.terry.uga.edu/~dawndba/4500compulsoryhet.htm

    SheilaG- I totally agree. Gay men and the LGBTQWTF movement have really fucked up our communities, big time! I also very much agree with the fact that we do need more intergenerational meetings among lesbians. I go to a (non-LGBT) lesbian social club sometimes and it’s fairly intergenerational; that’s why pro-pornography views (for example) tend not to be defended within that group, and it’s much more woman-friendly. But it’s only a social (non-political) clubs. We would need more political and intergenerational gatherings among lesbians. We also have to be able to circumvent the LGBTQWTF movement and trans culture to be able to have properly female-only meetings, which would not be an easy task…

  9. Thanks for another great installment of your series Maggie! Nice analysis of patriarchy’s influence on lesbian media (film, television, magazines, books, etc). You’re so right Maggie and Lesley, we (lesbians) become so excited when we are represented in the media that it clouds our ability to analyze the sort of portrayals of lesbians being presented. As Maggie stated there are several woman centered films available, but unfortunately many are on the indie/art house circuit and many lesbians aren’t aware of them. I love indie/art house lesbian films and I share titles with my lesbian friends and social circle. It’s too bad there aren’t more woman centered lesbian representations in “popular” films, television, magazines (By the way Maggie, Curve Magazine is an American lesbian magazine similar to DIVA), etc… The L Word was a cross cultural phenomenon and women across cultures in the lesbian community where I live continue to try to emulate the characters of this series in fashion, attitudes, behaviors, appearance, etc which is an example of the powerful influence of media on our lesbian communities, unfortunately. ..There’s definitely a need for a renewed lesbian feminist resistance, so that we can provide an alternative powerful influence for our sisters! Because it seems like the women in their 20s and 30s (like me) are really struggling with resisting male identified lesbian representations that flood our daily lives…

  10. Thank you so much for this excellent work, Maggie! I hope it reaches as many Lesbians as possible and gives support to those who are saying no to the intense pressure brought into our communities from male and het culture to accept sado-masochism as the norm, as well as convincing those already obeying hetero-patriarchal rules to stop.

    I agree and also remember being upset at “If These Wall Could Talk 2.” It infuriated me how our beautiful and vibrant Lesbian Feminist community of the Seventies was so misrepresented. (I was in the San Francisco Bay Area Lesbian Feminist community from 1970 on.) The director/writers didn’t even know how Lesbian Feminists looked, which was much closer to the “Butch” character than the class-privileged, male-identified “feminine” women they showed. Butches were not an exotic separate group from our Lesbian Feminist community — Butches WERE our Lesbian Feminist community. It’s become a common re-writing of our Lesbian past by men, as well as Lesbians who were not there, to ignore that Butches were not only an accepted part of our community, but were recognized as who helped create Lesbian Feminism. Butches are not male or wanting to be like males, but are the women who said no to male rules of false “femininity” from girlhood. Judy Grahn and Pat Parker and others wrote about this.

    Of course we were against role-playing in our Lesbian Feminist community, and it was clear that men and het women were the extreme role-players, and that some women who had been with men brought those attitudes into our community, as well as bringing in sado-masochism. There was no putdowns of Butches that I heard, but rather a respect for the Butches who had been out and making Lesbians visible before the support of feminism.

    It’s so upsetting that we don’t have the money or means to make films like that to counter the lies. Instead of objectifying and fetishizing of Butches, the film would be more accurate to depict the Lifelong Lesbian Butch as helping the newly out ex-het Lesbian understand and reject the sado-masochism she had learned from her husband/boyfriends while being a “normal” woman in patriarchy.

    I agree about the male-identified/het aspects of ‘The L Word” with horrible pornographic het fucking scenes and the word “fuck” repeated endlessly among the Lesbians. The Lesbians portrayed were so class-privileged and het-identified (and not one Butch was ever shown) that it was like a caricature. It’s interesting that the US version of “Queer as Folk” was much more respectful of gay men because they didn’t subject the audience to het fucking and relationships (including the ridiculous feminine F2T and her “gay male” boyfriend.) I did like the later parts of “The L Word,” where they showed the love between the Lesbians in that friendship group, but there was so much garbage to have to wade through.

    If it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve been seeing the mainstreaming of dildos in the Lesbian community, I would think it was all propaganda from these films and the sado-masochist bisexual pornographers who distort Lesbian passion.

    I really agree that the goal seems to be to obscure how extremely different Lesbian love, love-making and passion are from het fucking. Love is the basis of Lesbianism and it’s been sad to see how het feminists who say they don’t understand Lesbianism focus on male definitions of sexuality rather than that it is about love.

    “Diva” looks similar to the US Lesbian magazines “Curve” and the defunct “Girlfriends” (which was so male-identified, pornified, and pro-sado-masochistic that they continued hiring sadist pornographer Pat Califia as their advice columnist even after she said she was now a man.”)

    It’s so good that you bring up men posing as Lesbians adding to the maleness and sado-masochism in “Lesbian” publications. We don’t always know who they are since they lie, but from what I can tell, their participating as “Lesbian” columnists, writers, historians is way out of their proportion among Lesbians. These men have so much power to distort our culture.

    I agree that the sado-masochists love to combine racism with their female-hating also. They follow the typical male patterns of objectification of the most oppressed women.

    It’s so important that you continue talking about the harm that sado-masochism does to Lesbians on so many levels. It is the opposite of what it claims to be: boringly traditional and mainstream rather than new and exciting; numbing and distancing rather than feeling present, alive, and intimate: wounding and damaging rather than the beautiful healing and magic that is true Lesbian love-making.

    It’s hopeful that I continue to meet Lesbians of all ages who, in spite of the propaganda, are repulsed and horrified by sado-masochism.

  11. Wildwomyn- Thanks for your feedback. 🙂

  12. Marcia- Glad you like my BDSM series for the Hub. 🙂 Thank you. I did like some aspects of The L Word, actually. Katherine Moennig’s acting was flawless (and that Shane character was the only one that was close to looking like a butch lesbian by the way; all the other women looked pretty much femme). Jennifer Beals and Laurel Holloman were also very good actresses. Prostitution was not always made to look ‘glamorous’ in the show but rather as something degrading for women (at least in some aspects of the earlier seasons that I saw, and Shane was a character with an unfortunate past of prostitution, I think, for instance), and I did like that character Jenny’s tough journey towards recovering from her childhood abuse (plus, the way Jenny spoke to the man/voyeur who had been intruding upon them in Season 2 was admirable/feminist; she basically told him to fuck off and said that it was not a “woman’s job” to make men feel better). However, still, those few good aspects of The L Word cannot make up for the so many other aspects that were absolutely wrong. As Bev Jo says, there was a lot of garbage to wade through: lesbians supporting dildo culture and engaging in man/woman roleplays, lesbians using handcuffs while having sex (e.g. Dana & Alice in Season 2), strip bars, women objectifying other women depicted as a “good thing to do,” lesbian sex depicted as “fucking,” etc. Oh, my goodness, The L Word was still definitely overall full of heteronormative propaganda and certainly not the best lesbian representation ever… No wonder a strong resistance to male-identified “lesbian” representation is urgently required when stuff like this is so popular, especially for younger women who can get easily influenced by this. It is a good point, Marcia, that you raised when you said that the good lesbian movies (free from gendered roles, etc) are part of the independent cinema culture and are often made by independent female filmmakers. Hollywood (or popular TV) clearly has no space for lesbians that do not fit in heteropatriarchal stereotypes.

    Bev Jo- So happy you like my post. 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind words. I am also hoping to reach many other women with my work (lesbians, and any other women who might be considering lesbianism / lesbian feminism).

    I totally agree with your analysis of ‘If These Walls Could Talk 2’ here. I was using the terms ‘butch/femme’ in this article more as in gendered role-playing. But I also understand that the terms ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ are also used in the lesbian community only in terms of appearances, regardless of role-playing. Sometimes, ‘butch’ can also mean a non-feminine woman, yes I know.

    Bev Jo (and Marcia), thanks for letting me know about ‘Curve’ as a similar magazine to Diva for the US. Yes, those so-called “lesbian” publications are dreadful.

    Also, about Autostraddle, I wanted to add: they are making pornography using real women in their “girl galleries” which is basically prostitution and harms the women being used:

    http://againstpornography.org/womeninsexindustry.html

    It is unfortunate when male-identified lesbians and bisexual women use other women as sexual objects for degradation in order to get their kicks.

    Bev Jo:

    It’s so important that you continue talking about the harm that sado-masochism does to Lesbians on so many levels. It is the opposite of what it claims to be: boringly traditional and mainstream rather than new and exciting; numbing and distancing rather than feeling present, alive, and intimate: wounding and damaging rather than the beautiful healing and magic that is true Lesbian love-making.

    Exactly! 🙂

  13. We are attempting honest intergenerational lesbian gatherings with come success. Again, once you connect the generations, you have first hand information that circumvents patriarchal co-optation and trans re-writing of lesbian herstory. Also, lesbian lovemaking at its most powerful has nothing to do with most representations of it in movies.
    But, we are working on that, and occasionally movies get it right. And butch was the norm of radical lesbian feminism, because women then were activists, and you can’t be in the streets and marching for your rights and taking back the night if you are wearing high heels. We were very powerful in our politics, but again, our very success threatened all kinds of people. And of course, AIDS and the gay male co-optation of lesbian feminism took us way off track.
    Way way off track, and expose us to the toxic waste dump of gay male urban perversity, pornography and death dealing sexual lives.

    Keeping the trans and alphabet soup at bay, so lesbians can properly gather and work together is a big job. I spend a lot of time trying to create events where lesbians gather to celebrate! It’s essential for us to develop our incredible politics of love, sexual love, and sisterhood and take it further. Lesbians in our great love of one another are the alternative to the hetero terror state. We love women, we develop politics from there, we have enemies that try to pornify and own us, just the way they do het women. Het women are stuck, because they do have sex with men, they do get their bodies used up by men, and then what?

  14. Maggie, the more I think about it, the more I realize how important it is that you’re bringing up the ways that “Lesbian” media is promoting all the forms of sado-masochism in our culture. There is incredible pressure to not analyse any of it, which is why your work is so important.

    I did like the commitment shown among the friendship group in “The L Word,” and thought it was very brave to show Dana dying from the cancer “treatment,” and not the cancer. But the most het and nasty of the characters was Jenny, so showing her suddenly saying feminist politics made no sense and caricatured feminism. (She was the one in the beginning extensive fucking scenes.) It was almost like they seemed compelled to have some appearance of feminism, but then immediately undermined it. It was also horrible how Tina was shown to just have to go het again, in such a pornographic way, and then was accepted back by Bette and the friends without mention of what a betrayal that was. I have never seen gay male characters depicted as being so attracted to women that they can’t stop themselves. It’s almost like a plot that Lesbians going back to men are depicted in Lesbian media. It seems clear that the main intended audience was het men.

    To explain more of what I meant (this subject is complicated and I go into detail in my article updating our chapter on Butch oppression at my blog), for many of us, being Butch is far more than appearance, but is a choice made in girlhood to reject being pressured into male-invented “femininity.” Many of the most feminine-appearing women will say that they used to be “tomboys,” so being Butch is way beyond that. Little girls who try to remain their natural selves often grow up with no one else like them in their families and communities, and are made to feel like freaks who will never fit in. Some Lesbians play at being Butch and seem to switch since it’s an appearance game, but actual Butches are only about 5% to 10% of our communities. Also, the majority of those who play with being F2T are Fem, which is contrary to the stereotype.

    I know that Shane was presented as a Butch-hating stereotype. but was no way like a real Butch, with her makeup and designer hair, as well as being a non-monogamous heart-breaker. Even when saying the word “Butch” on television, they will not show a real Butch. On “Enlightenment,” with Laura Dern, the one “Butch” referred to was a dowdy woman with less makeup, but who still had a het hairstyle. It’s like they are afraid to show a real Butch. Even theater produced by Lesbians rarely will have a Butch playing a Butch character.

    Alison Bechdel’s US cartoon series, Dykes to Watch Out For, which was syndicated in a number of publications for many years, also normalized sado-masochism as well as Lesbians choosing men, getting pregnant, etc. Bechdel was very responsible about presenting a racially mixed Lesbian community and friendship group, so it’s glaring that she censored depicting one important member of Lesbian communities — Butches. She drew so many different kinds of characters and types of scenes, including genderqueer, trans, dildos, sado-masochism, and even a boy pissing on a Lesbian and semen dripping off of a condom, but refused to draw one Butch in all those years. She’s since made it into the mainstream as an acclaimed writer. I hold her accountable for increasing the acceptibility of heterosexism and Lesbian-hating in our communities by popularizing trans, dildos, porn and other forms of sado-masochism. It’s interesting how she presented these reactionary invasions as a trendy form of feminism, like her scene showing a woman wearing a dildo at a Dyke march. So many layers of mindfuck, yet I have never heard anyone write or say any criticism of her many cartoon books.

    That is part of what is so insidious about these Lesbian-hating politics pushed as our modern culture. Lesbians may talk about and criticize political writing, but rarely analyze cartoons, film, television, or fiction in the same way. Once it’s considered “entertainment,” sado-masochism is accepted. If you criticize reactionary political writing, you are tolerated, but if you dare to criticize “entertainment” or “creative expression,” then you really are one of those trouble-making, humorless Feminists.

    Anyway, thank you again for your work!

  15. Thank You very much !! (i’m sorry, i’m not able to say it in english)
    La politique actuelle de pornographisation de la culture est basée sur une sadomasochisation de la sexualité. Quand ce grand plan patriarcal sera achevé, les femmes subiront de telles violences sexuelles (brutalités conjugales et prostitutionnalisation de leur perspective professionnelle), la dissociation sera telle, que nous aurons perdu l’amour pour la liberté et tout amour de nous-mêmes. Car nulle ne peut se relever de la honte qu’ils nous réservent, la honte de croire que nous méritons d’être nommées “salopes” et “masochistes”.

  16. SheilaG-

    Lesbians in our great love of one another are the alternative to the hetero terror state. We love women, we develop politics from there, we have enemies that try to pornify and own us, just the way they do het women.

    That’s right. Totally.

    Bev Jo- Yes, this is exactly why mainstream ‘lesbian’ media is included in my analysis –because of it’s promotion of BDSM and other hetero-centric norms. I agree that any critical analysis of mainstream ‘lesbian’ media is not enough encouraged among lesbians.

    Lesbians may talk about and criticize political writing, but rarely analyze cartoons, film, television, or fiction in the same way. Once it’s considered “entertainment,” sado-masochism is accepted. If you criticize reactionary political writing, you are tolerated, but if you dare to criticize “entertainment” or “creative expression,” then you really are one of those trouble-making, humorless Feminists.

    This is especially true. I once was on a XWP (Xena) discussion forum trying to get the lesbians to seriously analyse the types of woman-hating Conqueror fan-fiction stories some of those women were reading. I was quickly told to ‘shut up’ by the mods/admins there as if I was a “humourless trouble-maker” because some of the women/lesbians on that board had complained about me. Some women enjoy getting off on horrifying pornographic/gendered/patriarchal stuff so much that they do not want to hear the truth about feminist critical analysis of what they’re using, I guess. *shrug* I’ll still carry on speaking out.

    re The L Word- I’ve not watched the part of the show with that friendship group in it, but that sounds interesting. I preferred Jenny’s character in Season 2 actually, because I personally thought she was more lesbian in that one (after she’d cut her hair) than in Season 1 (which she was pretty much het, except with Marina). I do agree that the PIV (and other het sex) scenes she was in at the start of the show were so disgusting and pornographic. However, I personally didn’t hate her character for that (+ she was a survivor of girlhood abuse), because I don’t blame het women for having had PIV (& other sort of sex) with men (not even TV characters). Het women are very often being raped by men. Not to mention that the women who are prostituted in the pornography / prostitution / strip bar industries get raped & tortured by men repeatedly on a daily basis…

    I do agree that the Jenny character was still somehow ‘damaged’ by patriarchy though.

    Anyway, the way I see things: het women are not “born heterosexual” (in my own political viewpoint); het women get socialised to become heterosexual and then they get mandatory PIV forced onto them by men and because of heteropatriarchal social norms. I just never blame het women for having been brainwashed ever since they were little girls into being “normal women” and liking men. I blame the men and their heteropatriarchal culture instead. I’ve never been het myself (I used to be bi, and remember being attracted women ever since young girlhood; but things were simply not easy for me with all the het pressure/brainwashing from the Catholic family I had been raised in) but I do believe that most (if not all) women would truly have the potential to have lesbian feelings and reject heteropatriarchal norms if they really wanted to. I understand that, unfortunately, lesbophobia is so prevalent even in our Western cultures that women often turn themselves away from lesbianism –but I always find this admirable when every formerly het or bi radical feminist woman genuinely learns/work on how to remove men and all sorts of male-centric / hetero norms from their lives. My dear friend Marcia (who has commented here and who is a lifelong lesbian, like you Bev Jo, agrees with this too). It is very important for all of us lesbians who really do seriously want to break away from all forms of hetero-centric and phallo-centric norms (regardless of our past) that we have a lesbian feminist space to do so.

    It was also horrible how Tina was shown to just have to go het again, in such a pornographic way, and then was accepted back by Bette and the friends without mention of what a betrayal that was. I have never seen gay male characters depicted as being so attracted to women that they can’t stop themselves. It’s almost like a plot that Lesbians going back to men are depicted in Lesbian media. It seems clear that the main intended audience was het men.

    Oh, I didn’t know that. 😦 What you’re mentioning here probably happened later on in Season 3 (when I wasn’t watching that show then). It is really unfortunate that they showed Tina going back to being het, even for a short while. I totally agree that gay men are never portrayed as going back to women. It’s always lesbians that have to be depicted as wanting to fuck men. I really hate how such messages in the media reinforce popular hetero myths about lesbians in society –myths that says that lesbians really “want to be with men” after all. I’ve got a very lesbophobic family that doesn’t accept me the way I am ever since I came out to them a few years back, so I really know what lesbian-hating messages are like.

    To explain more of what I meant (this subject is complicated and I go into detail in my article updating our chapter on Butch oppression at my blog), for many of us, being Butch is far more than appearance, but is a choice made in girlhood to reject being pressured into male-invented “femininity.” Many of the most feminine-appearing women will say that they used to be “tomboys,” so being Butch is way beyond that. Little girls who try to remain their natural selves often grow up with no one else like them in their families and communities, and are made to feel like freaks who will never fit in. Some Lesbians play at being Butch and seem to switch since it’s an appearance game, but actual Butches are only about 5% to 10% of our communities. Also, the majority of those who play with being F2T are Fem, which is contrary to the stereotype.

    Resisting all feminine norms from girlhood on is an immense hurdle for girls/women to overcome and I really admire butches for that; I really do. 🙂 Thanks a lot for explaining more. I really do understand now that Butch (as a non-roleplaying term) means a lot more than just appearance.

    Goddess that cartoon series you mentioned (Dykes to Watch Out For) sounds horrible. It’s scary that that woman became and acclaimed writer. *cringe* Thanks for mentioning it as another kind of so-called ‘lesbian’ media.

    Anyway, thank you again for your work!

    No problem. Thank you so much for the interesting comments.

    binKa- (you’re so lucky I understand French. 😉 ) Oui, je suis d’accord. La pornographisation est basée entièrement sur the sadomasochisme. Il faut vraiment que les femmes (de toute urgence) arrêtent de croire qu’elles “méritent” d’être traitées comme des “salopes” ou des “masochistes”. Il faut que les femmes et les lesbiennes resistent ce plan patriarcal qui veut les soummettre à la domination et à la volonté des hommes jusqu’à la fin des temps.

  17. Bev Jo and Maggie: Good points regarding the relative lack of butch lesbian portrayals on The L Word . In addition to Shane, there were two other butch characters. Max was a butch character during seasons 3-6. Even though Max explored becoming a “trans man,” she remained true to her butch identity in the end. Also Tasha was another butch character on The L Word for seasons 4-6…

  18. Never seen Tasha, Marcia. Didn’t stay that long, but it’s good to know they introduced more women of colour in later seasons, at least.

    I wanted to add something to my analysis of sexualised misogynistic racism in lesbian pornography, by the way. There are in fact two ways women of colour get portrayed in ‘lesbian’ pornography: either as “exotic slaves” (like I said, with extra chains to enslave them) or as “predatory” –just like on that Diva cover (in this post, on the right) in which a Black woman is shown as if she were “predatory” and “attacking” the “poor” white woman (who’s lying on the ground and looks dead, btw). Either way, such messages in ‘lesbian’ pornography are so awfully racist.

  19. I really agree, Maggie, about women not being born heterosexual. We are very much forbidden and criticized for saying that, even on “Radical Feminist” sites. It’s all a choice and only natural for females to fall in love with females. The more we say it, as was done in the Seventies, then the more women can re-think the choices they’ve made. (I recently met a woman who came out a month ago at age 64.)

    Of course I do blame the boys and men who pressure girls and women, and the entire patriarchal culture with it’s rewards and punishments, but for those of us who were harassed by the girls choosing to be het (and that harassment can involve physical attacks and be so severe that many young Lesbians kill themselves), it’s hard to not blame some girls for their choices. I remember my friends talking quite coldly about how they had to work at getting themselves interested in boys. When I had told one of those girls that I was in love with her, of course it felt like a betrayal. I also knew she had been attracted to another girl. It was clear — they did not want to be like us, and their status increased with being with males. Some of my friends stopped relating to me when I became lovers with my best friend.

    I also grew up catholic and went to catholic school for 13 years. The girls who chose to start being with males actually were going against catholicism when they went past a certain point, but that didn’t stop most, sadly.

    I really appreciate your thoughts and politics about all of these issues, and your fight against sado-masochism is of course fighting against heterosexism and patriarchy, and is deeply loving and supportive of Lesbians. You will be saving lives on many levels.

    Marcia, to me, neither Shane nor Max were Butch — not in appearance or behavior. They were just less extremely male-defined feminine than the other characters and they played out Butch-hating stereotypes (like Max insisting she was a man, and Shane just wanting to “fuck” as many women as possible.) To me, Max Butch at all, but played out the convolution of saying she was a man, but ended up with the “gay” man and getting pregnant, which is the common F2T situation of women actually being het women, while in the guise of “men.” Not so different from what Pat Califia and many other sado-masochists who posed as Butches have done, before becoming obsessed with gay men and returning to being het women. I wasn’t sure about Tasha, with her long hair, but yes, she was the closest to Butch of any character on The L Word, and was also one of the only class-oppressed Lesbians, which made her seem more Butch in comparison to the rich Lesbians.

    I really agree, Maggie, about the racism in so much of the “Lesbian” porn, and how that mimics the racism in het/male porn.

    And, you’re right, that we need Lesbian Feminist space to fight the sado-masochistic, hetero-patriarchal norms, which is why I do think so many men continue to try to prevent us from ever having that space. Like the M2Ts I know of here make a point of going to the rare “women’s” events and ignore the events open to men. By the way, the man who stalked me into the Lesbian community and had re-written our Lesbian Feminist history, also is very much part of the “Lesbian” “Leather” community. The maleness and non-consentuality really does come full circle and is all connected.

  20. … but for those of us who were harassed by the girls choosing to be het (and that harassment can involve physical attacks and be so severe that many young Lesbians kill themselves), it’s hard to not blame some girls for their choices. I remember my friends talking quite coldly about how they had to work at getting themselves interested in boys. When I had told one of those girls that I was in love with her, of course it felt like a betrayal. I also knew she had been attracted to another girl. It was clear — they did not want to be like us, and their status increased with being with males. Some of my friends stopped relating to me when I became lovers with my best friend.

    I can totally understand the awful feelings we go through when we are being thoroughly mistreated by other girls at school. Myself, I never took part in the harassment or mistreatment of other little girls. I still was not like most other girls. I actually was more on the receiving end of such mistreatment by others when I was at school. I wasn’t particularly feminine (not really), and my hair was often either short or in a mess. My mom always dressed me in awful sorts of clothes (and I never wore make-up until much later in adolescence). I was pretty much attracted only to women while I was at primary and secondary school (but there was such a pressure amongst little girls to shut up about such feelings). I never went out with members of the opposite sex until I was 18 (and I got raped). I blame my own few het experiences entirely on my Catholic family, the brainwashing coming from both the het romantic movies my mother had shown me when I was little (+ het fairy tales) and the het young girls’ magazine I occasionally read. I understand there are a few lesbians who managed to resist all such het pressure/brainwashing (and I admire this, I truly do). However, it was not my case. Unfortunately, I was not strong enough or lucky enough for that. 😦 But I am very glad I already knew I liked women since girlhood, and had quite a few girlfriends in my life. I’m also glad I was not really bi after all. I used to live as bi, until I found radical lesbian feminist theory one day. And it helped me immensely. If things were to be done all over again, I would not even speak to men, ever…

    Not wanting to derail the conversation here. Just wanted to add this little anecdote of mine. 🙂 Personally, I understand how the other girls were very nasty to me all the way through to high school, and it was very, very painful to deal with. However, personally myself, I decided not to blame those girls for what they were doing to me because of the fact that I did not look enough “boy-pleasing” at that time. School is one of the earliest patriarchal institution that brainwashes girls. No matter how painful, I still blame men, boys and the patriarchy for all this. I understand that this is just me and this may not be easy for others though (especially those who have been massively hurt by other females). But I never blame women (I know too well how woman-blaming and girl-blaming is forced upon us by patriarchy since girlhood). I only blame women when they actively support patriarchy (like the handmaidens, for instance) by supporting pornography, prostitution, BDSM, traditional marriage, the nuclear family, PIV & other heteronorms and other woman-hating patriarchal institution, industry or practice…

  21. (So sorry I made the part of my comment that was mine appear in a quote also. It was not my intention.)

  22. It seems that the question of whether sexuality is innate or not is still up in the air. Some lesbians and heterosexual women are certain that it is innate; others are just as certain that heterosexuality is down to social conditioning.
    I think the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

  23. PS I wanted to say that I also blame women when they harm another woman / other women physically, I mean (that and when they are handmaidens or agent of patriarchy). Apart from that,I never blame women.

    Cherry- I think heterosexuality is definitely a social construct. 🙂 This belief is one of the core tenets of radical lesbian feminism. Adrienne Rich, Mary Daly, Sheila Jeffreys and even Andrea Dworkin (in her earlier books) explained this.

  24. When there used to be a more independent lesbian culture back in the 1970’s, A Lesbian History group had explained:

    Lesbian feminists do not recognise heterosexuality as either ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ but as socially constructed in order to organise social relationships under male supremacy. Heterosexuality, as an institution, not just a sexual preference, exists to subordinate women and wrest from them their physical and emotional energies for men’s use. To create this political institution women, born with the capacity to relate emotionally and sexually to persons of either sex, are deliberately conditioned into heterosexuality by being deluged with heterosexual images and role models (lesbian images and models being systematically excluded or distorted), and by being taught that heterosexuality is normal and natural.

    ~ from Introduction to Lesbian History Group (1989) Not a Passing Phase: reclaiming lesbians in history, 1840-1985, p. 13 (London: The Women’s Press).

  25. Yes, I understand that heterosexuality is forced upon women, meaning it is indeed a construct. I’m just not sure that the sum of lesbianism is “lack of heterosexuality”, if you see what I mean.
    Jan Raymond was one lesbian radical who believed that there was a little more to lesbianism than “non-heterosexuality” or “choosing not to be heterosexual” and I’m inclined to agree with her take on it.

  26. But my mind is not yet made up. 🙂 That’s okay, though, because I’m not sure that Radfems need to agree on this one. Although I do think that all women should get the hell out of relationships with men, and never look back, if they are in a position to do so, (which many are not.)

  27. Thank you for sharing your story, Maggie. I think that really helps other women. It’s so important for women to know again as feminists proudly said in the Seventies, that we all choose to be Lesbian, bisexual, het, celibate…. Patriarchy really does not want girls and women to know it is all a choice. Even women who are hating being het, can still look down on women without men. It’s so much better for us to ally instead of competing.

    Of course being a Lesbian is not a “lack of heterosexuality!”

    Being in all girl high schools was a relief. Though some girls were still aggressively bragging about their het privilege, most were not yet het and we had a very loving and supportive girl-only community. It was very sad to see those girls as they chose to be in sordid and abusive relationships with males. Most were so disgusted at first.

    The main mistake that non-Lesbians make is to talk about “sexuality” or “sexual preference” or “sexual orientation,” which is exactly how the mainstream and patriarchal media describes the most important choices that girls and women make. They want us to have the mind/body/spirit disconnect that make women vulnerable to choosing heterosexuality. It’s not about “sex” — it’s about LOVE. Choosing to be a Lesbian is a love choice.

    So do we choose to love women or men? That makes the decision easier. If any part of the choice to love men is based on wanting praise, acceptance, to not be harassed, to have a higher standard of living, get family love and support, friends’ acceptance, etc. then something is seriously wrong. Most heterosexuality ends up being a form of prostitution for women, and that used to be said quite openly about services rendered when men “take care of” their wives. And that is never good for women, except superficially.

    I think it’s a myth that most women have a hard time choosing to not be or leave heterosexuality. Of course they get trapped, but most would leave their man if he brought another woman home. Many women do not want to give up the extensive privilege they get and live as oppressed as Lesbians or as celibate women live. They want to be “normal.” Patriarchy could not continue if women did not help their men keep it going.

  28. What is “natural” is not necessarily what is GOOD (in the current world state). And vice versa.
    This is partly a semantic issue, probably most people use “natural” to mean “suits one best”.
    It is important if being a lesbian is good for you (and other women). It’s not important if being a lesbian is literally natural.
    Literally natural also does not necessarily mean “unchangeable”. It’s not natural anyway to live your life in a home with one partner, I’d say. Yet people do this all the time.

    But purely from a theoretical standpoint. What I think is natural (and note that a matriarchy existed before patriarchy and way longer than patriarchy) is neither partnering for life with a woman nor partnering for life with a man. The best evolution strategy holds that women get romantical and sexual gratification from other women. And then occasionally (like from 0 to up to 3 times in a life) want to “engage” with a man that is suitable for optimal offspring.

    It is simply a joke to say heterosexuality is the main thing naturally wanted by women, because then population size would go rampage, and lots of suboptimal offspring would be produced. But women loving each other is natural because of two things. First, bonds between women are important for raising the offspring and maintaining the population (men diverge more, since the randomness operator of evolution applies to them, and bonds between men are therefore less likely, because embranchments). Second, simply because of the pleasure it gives. Wanting pleasure is natural because it makes you more joyful and thus likely to survive. The pleasure men can give to women is not up to par, because it’s coupled with the evolutionary undesirable outcomes that I said above. But of course the pleasure is not zero, and (more importantly) not uniformly distributed over all men (per woman) – for most, the distribution will have a few peaks. Otherwise no good offspring would ever come about, which would also be bad.

    But yeah whatever, it’s not like one can suddenly decide to live like this, so you have to choose something that suits you best given the current society you live in. Anyway the playing house with a man is so de-volutionary it would be absurdly funny would it not sadly be societally practically mandatory for generating offspring.

  29. Cherry B- 🙂 Totally, heterosexuality is not a ‘natural thing’ or a ‘choice’ in my own view; it gets forced upon women from girlhood on. Yeah, of course I totally agree with Jan Raymond here, and I certainly do not believe in “forcing” women to “necessarily” come to lesbianism. I am very happy whenever women free themselves from men either way, be it through spinsterhood or through lesbianism. I believe if a woman would rather be a spinster instead (with loads of female friendships around her), more power to her. No, I think that what lesbian feminists are saying instead is: ‘you don’t necessarily have to join the lesbian club after freeing yourself from men, if you really don’t want to. However, if one day you’re strongly looking for a deeply emotional (and/or somehow sexual) form of companionship, please preferably find it with members of your own sex class (rather than with men, who will screw you over again and again). If you want in (and have seriously decided to never sleep with men again), the door’s always open.’ 😉 And when you genuinely open yourself to it (because all or most women do have the capacity for lesbian feelings), the complete love and affection that women can bring to each other has the potential to be a wonderful experience for any woman who wants it. That’s what lesbian feminism means: the complete love, respect, mutuality and devotion from woman to woman (which is precisely what BDSM & other heteronormative practices within the currently queer-dominated lesbian community are attempting to destroy, by the way). I hope all this sounds a bit clearer to you Cherry. I understand this may sound still new and you’re not made up your mind yet…

  30. Bev Jo, Well, I agree that women do enable patriarchy by living with men, but we’ll probably have to disagree on the fact that living with men is a privilege. Look at the stats on domestic violence and wife-murder, or death in childbirth, or the potential careers and artistic talents of millions of wives flushed down the toilet.
    If we’re talking about economic security for example, there’s an old saying where I come from: “If you marry a man for his money, you’ll earn every penny” …

    The social construct of supported heterosexuality (marriage and living with a man) is different to raw sexuality. But yes, you’re right that raw sexuality is held up to be the only important thing in life. Hmm….

    This I do agree with:

    “The main mistake that non-Lesbians make is to talk about “sexuality” or “sexual preference” or “sexual orientation,” which is exactly how the mainstream and patriarchal media describes the most important choices that girls and women make. They want us to have the mind/body/spirit disconnect that make women vulnerable to choosing heterosexuality. It’s not about “sex” — it’s about LOVE. Choosing to be a Lesbian is a love choice.”

    And that is probably why you find that so many heterosexual women (some rad-feminist ones include Andrienne Rich and Virginia Woolf) do end up falling in love with women in their fourties.

  31. But purely from a theoretical standpoint. What I think is natural (and note that a matriarchy existed before patriarchy and way longer than patriarchy) is neither partnering for life with a woman nor partnering for life with a man.

    Yes, Elin, I do agree that there may be a problem with monogamy also –and some lesbian feminist theorists have addressed this too. We don’t know enough about this yet, but it is always possible that within a non-patriarchal (or male-free) society women might be able to find alternative ways of partnering (or cohabiting, having lesbian relationships) together…

  32. Cherryblossomlife, in terms of privilege, Lesbians are at the bottom of the heap. Yes, we can name the ways why it’s terrible to be with men, but most women choose it precisely because of the privilege they get, and some talk about it quite calculatingly. This is the topic we are forbidden to talk about as feminists because the line is always how women are so oppressed by men, and never how they oppress Lesbians or that some women have far more power than others, based on their alliances with men. At the same time, the existence of Lesbians who said no to men and chose other girls and women first is denied. I’ve been told to my face that I don’t and can’t exist.

    For most women, being called a “Lesbian,” “queer,” “old maid” is far worse than the price they pay with men. Being disowned and hated by their family is terrible for many Lesbians. Being treated as inferior or as disgusting by most men and het women in patriarchy is a constant price to pay for saying no to men. Lesbian girls are incarcerated and drugged in far greater numbers than het girls to make them obey male rules. It may not seem like much, but for homeless Lesbians and those of us living in poverty conditions, owning your own home gives a lot of freedom. Most of the Lesbians I know who own their homes, got them because of their husbands. Many get monthly payments for the rest of their lives because they chose to be married to men. Lesbians are more likely to be fired and evicted, and it’s often women with men who do the firing and evicting. Yes, het women are expected to give up careers for their men and children, but many have careers BECAUSE of the social privilege, status, and money they get from their men.

    About monogamy — men are rarely or never monogamous. I saw how non-monogamy was brought into Lesbian communities directly from Leftist and hippie women who learned that politic from men and then lectured Lesbians on how we were male to want to be monogamous. I think it makes sense in some instances, such as ongoing long distance relationships, but otherwise I’ve seen the most privileged women be the happiest, while the less privileged accept inequality with non-monogamy.

    Sado-masochist communities usually push non-monogamy as part of their “sex play” and anonymous sex in their dungeons, which they got directly from gay men.

  33. I understand this was only a small part of your discussion, but I found the L word to be quite critical at some points of bdsm and transgenderism. Of course the show is a bit if fluff, a Beverly hills for lesbians with stylised highly beautiful fem characters- but there were parts when say Alice and Dana jokingly enter a bdsm bar only to run out after a minute horrified, while Jenny takes part in it as well as self harm as a direct result of her coming to terms with her childhood rape trauma. And with the introduction of the transgender character max later in the series, there is a strong scene when Kit uses race to explain the illogical reasoning behind her choice to transition. Max is also unapologetically alienates by Alice in being part of her podcast, Jenny dumps her when she becomes an aggressive Herero man, and at the shows close ends up pregnant. Not perfect by a long shot but there are notable scenes and discussions on the issue. Rewatching that season I found that max is actually lead into believing she’s a man by a male character and is confused when this notion is presented to her. I thought that was interesting.

  34. Radical feminism is about the dynamic of men oppressing women. What you’re talking about is horizontal hostility (het women attacking lesbians and vice versa), not oppression.

    In order to oppress you need power, and women simply do not have the institutional power: not economic, not judicial, not political, not military, that is needed in order to oppress.
    Women, as a group, can’t even get decent rape laws passed! ANd the flimsy laws we *have* managed to get are under threat from all directions! There isn’t a single group of women out there who has the power to make even the tiniest changes to women’s lives, or to fight against the masculine policies that rule all our lives , or to prevent our countries from going to war whenever men decide they feel like doing so, although women are certainly used as pawns, handmaidens, collaborators and the like, in order to carry out men’s goals.

    What I will concede is that no regime can succeed without its collaborators— but those women can come from any walks of life, any class, any sexual orientation.

  35. And this is definitely not a taboo subject because it originates in academia!

    Let’s remember that oppression is about power, and if you take a look at who owns almost all the world’s land, you’ll find it’s men. Find out who runs the governments of the world and you’ll find the answer is: men.
    The military: men.
    the judiciary: men.
    Business (oil and gas companies, sweatshops etc) : men.
    Science: men.
    Who runs International politics?: men
    Who runs the media? men

    etc, etc…

    They do let a few token female collaborators in now and then , for sure, but I guarantee you that NO group of women is running the show.

  36. Prostitution rinks?: men
    Porn industry?: men
    Medicine and pharmaceuticals?: men

  37. …but there were parts when say Alice and Dana jokingly enter a bdsm bar only to run out after a minute horrified, while Jenny takes part in it as well as self harm as a direct result of her coming to terms with her childhood rape trauma.

    Yes, Rose, I did notice these parts, and I agree they were not too bad (and I liked how Jenny’s brief BDSM was directly linked to her girlhood abuse, plus it was not a solution for her to get better). But there were also parts of the show in which Dana and Alice supported dildo culture, ‘man/woman’ roleplaying and using handcuffs while having sex (which is BDSM also). Plus, Alice was shown as having BDSM gear in her bedroom at the start of Season 3. So I think there were definitely still pro-BDSM messages in the show. As for Max, I did not see much of her character…

    The L Word had some points (in the earlier seasons) being critical of prostitution (e.g. Shane’s past, the very young girls who end up in the Californian pornography industry shown as somebody’s daughter, Jenny turning to stripping as a result of childhood abuse) but the show still could not make up its mind on it –because of the strip bars for lesbians it still involved (and women using other women’s bodies for selfish gratification there).

    Cherry B and Bev Jo– I think we have gone way off topic here. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have encouraged it. I hope you two can manage to agree to disagree. 🙂 I’ve already said what I thought on all this.

  38. Rose, I think you’re right about the way “The L Word” did criticize the trans cult and sado-masochism. I think that’s part of what kept me watching. I also liked how they supported each other at various points, including at the end, where no one would betray the other to save herself.

    But you’re right too, Maggie, about how the dildo use and rest of it was the same old sado-masochistic crap. It really did seem like they had writers who were very different politically and they wrote different episodes or parts of episodes. What is upsetting is that there is no real media anywhere that is clearly anti-sadomasochistic. And we desperately need that as a community.

    I’m sorry, Maggie, I don’t want to keep going off-topic, but I do feel I need to answer about what Radical Feminism is, as if I don’t know, when I helped create it. It’s disturbing to have seen it be diluted and altered online into something weaker than it had been in the early Seventies. Radical Feminism is daring to go beyond liberal or mainstream feminism. Lesbians have always made het women’s concerns a priority, and then some Lesbians did the same for gay men. The difference is that women are our people, but women bonded intimately with men have not returned the support and commitment to Lesbians. I was shocked to see the attempts online to drive Lesbians out of feminist groups, by women who didn’t seem to know that Lesbians created Radical Feminism.

    The extent of what some het women do to Lesbians is way beyond “horizontal hostility.” Yes, all people can collaborate, but, as a group, het women collaborate with men more intimately than other forms of collaboration. That is part of why, even in intense feminist discussions of the most horrific forms of male abuse, women will stop and discuss how they love their men in spite of what is being done to them.

    I am a Separatist, in that my Radical Feminism is more radical than even most Radical Feminists, so I have no illusions about males being the enemy of all females and the earth herself, and I don’t believe that socialization is the issue when women have been trying to stop male violence for millennia. But I’m thinking if you have never been on the receiving end of women you don’t even know giving you hate looks as they cuddle with their men, or yelling insults and threats simply because you are an obvious Lesbian, then you can’t begin to know the extent of how het women oppress Lesbians. Some have participated in men raping girls and women. It’s true that men are in control of most of the power and evil in the world, but most of those men have women by their side who help keep them going and keep reproducing more men. What if those women all stopped? Even the poorest women do leave their men who go off with other women. But what about women who are billionaires and even middle class, who would still own property and be rich or quite privileged after divorce? It is not good for feminists to think of all het women is purely victims and not see the power that many have. It’s telling that we really are pressured to not talk about it at all. Who does that serve?

    But again, though I think it’s important to talk about the power that groups have, I also think in terms of the more personal ways that het women do hurt Lesbians, including their own daughters, who have far less power than they do. It’s not as if it isn’t all a choice.

  39. As women, it is important to recognise that there are a few women (including some lesbians among them, and some lesbians/bisexual women in charge of mainstream lesbian media among them) who will want to uphold patriarchal systems and norms, and they will defend systems and norms of domination/subordination tooth and nail. A few of patriarchy’s foot soldiers are women; this is nothing new (and those pro-porn, pro-BDSM women get easily popularised and lauded via men’s malestream media). What can be one of the things that is so powerful to influences some lesbians into getting involved in BDSM activities? The Mainstream ‘lesbian’ media, of course. Here I blamed the media I’m talking about –not the women caught in the systems of internalisation of oppression, not the women who are being heavily influenced by this patriarchal ‘lesbian’ media. This kind of media is politically powerful, and it is very important to point that out. I remember that when I got caught up into BDSM myself, it was being glamorised all over mainstream media.

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