I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now, because the extreme sexualization of lesbian and bi women has been driving me nuts.
Like, really driving me nuts.
When I first started identifying as bisexual about four years ago — before I really considered that I might be pansexual — I knew people, especially men, would think “that’s hot,” and consider me a little more promiscuous or open-minded.
And to be honest, I was okay with that at first, because I liked feeling sexy and was very comfortable with my sexuality. I really didn’t really care what people thought. I just wanted to explore it. (Which I never really did — in walked G!)
But after a while, it really started to piss me off.
Let’s fast forward a bit.
One day, about a year ago, G and I were discussing online harassment, and I pointed out that women get harassed an INSANE amount online — especially on social media, but also on dating websites, because men hate them for rejecting and not responding. (There really is no way to win.)
I said that it doesn’t matter that (white) women get matches up the yin-yang — the amount of harassment that comes with it just makes it beyond frustrating, especially for queer women (and women of colour — but that’s a talk for another day).
We ended up daring each other to get Tinder to see which of us got the most matches, mostly because G wanted to prove that being a woman of colour on a dating app isn’t so bad, and that I would get more matches than him despite this. (Based on purely my own experience, I have always gotten WAY fewer matches than my white peers.)
What ended up happening was not a surprise.
Thanks to openly declaring myself bi on my profile, I got several matches — still not that many, but several.
All of them were male.
And EVERY single one asked me about my sexuality, invited me to a threesome, or told me that it’s “so hot” that I’m bi.
Or they insulted me for being “loose” even though I have a boyfriend.
Apparently, because I’m bi, I’m automatically interested in sex with everyone.
And apparently I am only my sexuality, because that is what got me “that’s hot.” Not even what I look like, which can be annoying itself: just the fact that I am attracted to women and men.
Three years ago, I might not have minded so much. I was just figuring out what my sexuality is like, and learning how people react. It honestly made me feel desirable.
But now it pisses me the fuck off.
Because I’m not attracted to ladies for men’s pleasure.
Like Marissa Higgins put it,
I do have an issue with my person being reduced to my sexuality. I do have an issue with the ‘lesbian’ identity being synonymous with ‘sexual fantasy.’ I do have an issue with “corrective rape“ and the idea that a lesbian just needs a ‘real man’ to ‘turn her straight.’ I do have an issue with the belief that lesbians are only lesbians as a result of sexual abuse and are now afraid of men and the penis.
Because I’m just a human being who happens to not only be attracted to men.
Get over it.
This just makes me wish I was lesbian, so I could tell the patriarchy to fuck right off!
Because that’s exactly the reason this is happening — the patriarchy.
Our patriarchal society tells everyone that women are there for male pleasure.
Advertising tells us this. TV shows and movies tell us this. Porn tells us this.
Women are objects that are arranged in such a way that they provide men with pleasure.
And that’s just straight women.
Queer women are barely represented, but when they are, it’s most often the same way, if not worse.
Rarely are lesbian or bisexual relationships between women genuine representations. They’re generally overly sexualized and unrealistic — and always femme (feminine) which is not what all lesbians and bisexual women are like.
But it’s what straight men like.
So when the media represents a lesbian or bi woman, they’re either sexual playthings or just plain weird.
The masculine, or “butch” lesbian, is almost always the “weird” one. The femme lesbian is the hot one. (Lesbians who don’t identify as butch or femme apparently don’t exist.)
Since femme lesbians typically hold an identity that is traditionally feminine, they typically physically present themselves as feminine — the way straight men like.
And that’s why femme lesbians are the only ones you see in porn: porn caters to the male gaze — specifically, the straight male gaze — as does every form of media. In fact, in porn, at least at PornHub, “lesbian” was the number one search term of 2015.
Lesbian and bisexual women are the “sexy vixens,” as Karen Frost puts it.
Is it such a surprise, then, that men only see me as some sexual shallow woman, when that’s how bisexual women and lesbians are presented to them?
Thanks to our society, too many straight cisgender men seem to think that women are bi or lesbian for them.
I used to think it was some kind of weird compliment when a guy would say it’s “hot” that I’m bi.
But now I realize: it’s hot because they think I’ll just have sex with whoever.
It’s hot because they think that I am just a sexual being and nothing else.
It’s hot because they think I’m willing to do stuff that they want.
Let me just put it simply: lesbian and bi women are not queer for anyone else.
My sexuality may be a huge part of who I am, but please, I’m not attracted to women so that men will be attracted to me.
No. I am more than my sexuality.
I am an actual human being, with interests, goals, opinions, and a life.
I do everything any random person does — I just like women and men. (And more!)
Do not reduce lesbian and bi women to the fact that they are attracted to women.
I don’t necessarily blame straight people for not seeing it for themselves — the media has not been helping, and well, they’d likely barely notice a problem anyway because it’s not part of their daily life.
But it’s part of mine.
Everyday, everywhere, I see representations of “lesbian” and “bi” women all over the place, and none of them are anything close to what I’m like — none of them are just normal human beings.
And that is all that we want.
See beyond what society tells you. See the person you are looking at, not just what happens in the bedroom.
The media is slowly (very slowly) getting better at representing queer women as people, with mainstream shows like Legends of Tomorrow and White Collar that have queer characters who are rounded, not just eye candy.
It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.
And that’s a great step forward.
Now it’s your turn.
Have you ever experienced or noticed the sexualization of lesbian and bi women? What do you think we can do to stop it?