Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | 1,209 day ago

Why All These Public Displays Of Faux-Lesbianism Need To Stop

The Debrief: Thought snogging your female mate when you’re straight was just a laugh? No, it’s much more complicated – and hurtful – than that…

This week marks 45 years since the Stonewall Riots in New York. The violent altercations between police and gay customers at The Stonewall Inn triggered the development of gay rights groups, and to this day, on the anniversary of the riots or thereabouts, LGBT people walk the streets to show solidarity, to say yes, we exist, yes, we’re a bit different, but mostly, we’re normal. That’s the intention at least.

These days, Pride has come to be known less for its activism and more as a bit of a piss-up. Things have got so raucous and messy that Brighton Pride’s organisers now charge a fee for those attending a street party. So much for free love.

But it’s not just because of the clutter – the broken bottles, the overflowing portaloos, the slippery clubnight flyers underfoot – it’s because of the ‘not too LGBT-friendly crowd’ muscling in on the fun. The point of Pride – which took place in London last weekend – is it’s one day out of straight people’s 365 where gay people can kiss, hold hands, or, you know, just be ourselves in public.

The plus side to London’s event, though, is, despite the crowds (there’s way too many of us to fit neatly into Trafalgar Square) and the rain, there were lesbian kisses everywhere, and better still, they were between real lesbians.

I was sort of surprised to not see this going down, if you will – it is, after all, fast-becoming the year of ‘faux-lesbianism.’ It’s not only celebrities such as Miley Cyrus saying ‘everyone’s a bit gay’ or Lily Allen saying she’d ‘turn for Beyoncé’, everyday straight girls are dipping their toes into the pool of Sapphism in increasing numbers and admitting their girl crushes, kissing girls behind closed doors and going down on mates after boozy nights out.

This isn’t just anecdotal. A recent study by Queen Mary University in London found that 35-40 per cent of straight women report same-sex experiences or arousal. This is up from 16 per cent in 2010 and 2 per cent in 1991.

Previously, getting off with another girl was done for out-and-out titillation, a laugh, or the last refuge of a girl who’d literally been dicked around by too many good-for-nothing men. But now it seems like more girls are doing it as an apparent act of solidarity, an exclamation of ‘It’s OK to be gay because I tried it out! I don’t just support equal rights, I went down on a girl!’

Iggy Azalea recently impressed me by explaining that her attraction to other women is nothing more than aesthetic: ‘I know I talk about women a lot, and I think women are beautiful and I like talking about them, but I didn’t want people to misconstrue that and think that I was being a fake lesbian,’ she told Pridesource.

‘It's almost like gay nowadays is so trendy that people want to be gay and then they don’t. I’m not gay. I love gay people, but I’m straight. I don’t wanna kiss girls. I’m not into girls. I appreciate women and I like rapping about them, but in case you thought I was a lame person pretending to be gay, um, I’m not.’

It was refreshing to see someone call bullshit on the faux-bisexuality that the music industry so often uses as a marketing tool to sell an idea of a palatable lesbianism men can wank to. Think about that recent Rihanna and Shakira video.

Now, I totally believe in bisexuality. While I’d say I place myself within lesbian culture, I’ve previously slept with men, so I suppose I place myself on that spectrum of sexuality. And I don’t disrespect a woman’s right to do what she wants in bed with whoever she likes. But the trend of girls pretending they’re a bit gay, thinking it’s anything more than attention-seeking, even when they’re not enjoying the act itself – is not only irritating, it’s insulting.

Being gay isn’t a choice. If that weren’t the case, the millions of LGBT people facing oppression across the world for their sexuality would probably sack it off.

To me, being gay isn’t a choice. If it were, you’d be able to pinpoint the moment you decided to be straight or gay or bi or trans or whatever. Just like freckles, it’s something that you’re born with and maybe only come to realise later on in life. If that weren’t the case, the millions of LGBT people facing oppression across the world for their sexuality would probably sack it off.

Plus, suggesting sexuality is malleable is to give credence to the gay-cure therapies, tortures to literally beat the gay out of people.

To a certain extent, with shit like that going on, I’m more than happy to see an increase in positive representation in the media of women’s flexisexuality, through TV shows like Orange Is The New Black, Cara Delevingne and Michelle Rodriguez’s short-lived yet blatant relationship, Angel Haze and Ireland Baldwin’s OTT professions of love played out over social media or awkward lesbians flirting with each other on First Dates.

These reflections of types of female sexuality that don’t revolve around hooking up with a guy don’t only show women potential avenues to becoming more self-aware, but show all women that there’s more to sex than lusting after a man. When even the female writer behind Orange Is The New Black didn’t realise she was gay until working on the show, you can see how necessary these representations are.

But I dispute the idea that this increase in female desire for same-sex relationships or dalliances is because, finally, bisexual women are feeling comfortable enough to come out. Surely it’s just straight girls acting on pressure to fulfil men’s fantasy?

My friend Sarah*, 25, who’d say she’s straight but has still slept with one girl a couple of times, disagrees. ‘I did it because I always wanted to do it and only had confidence to with age, not because I was mad, or damaged, or wanting attention, or because I was having bad luck with men,’ she told me.

But she also admitted that it wasn’t something she flaunted around – a personal experimentation, if you like, rather than something public.

Two girls snogging each other in front of blokes is titillating for the straight men, but only because it buys into a male fantasy they’ve learnt from lesbian porn

My argument back: one person’s experimentation is another’s pain. I’ve spent a lot of my life wishing that straight girls were a bit gay; not only have I had a lot of unrequited desires, but all-but-one of my most serious relationships have been with previously straight women. I guess I was stupidly attracted to the idea of that Romeo and Juliet (or Juliet and Juliet)-style forbidden love.

Because, though each of them has attested that they’ve loved me for me and my gender hasn’t had anything to do with it, they haven’t gone that extra mile. They’ll enter into a lesbian relationship sexually and emotionally, but won’t be able to come out and admit it in public. Unfortunately, faux-lesbianism is something we’re OK with, but actual out-and-out pride – to be open about your same-sex relationship – is still taboo.

Which is why the public-facing faux-lesbianism I’ll see so many more times will annoy me so much more. Sure, two girls snogging each other in front of blokes is titillating for straight men, but only because it buys into a male fantasy they’ve learned, I’m sure, mainly from – hugely unealistic – lesbian porn.

Straight men’s enjoyment of this sort of porn isn’t so much that they’re OK with homosexuality, but more that if they’re going to wank over something taboo, they’d rather it not involve them having to look at another man’s erect penis.

And if we can pin faux-lesbianism on the ubiquity of porn, what else on the list of YouPorn’s categories is to become part of a straight woman’s sexual repertoire just to please male desire?

What’s more, when people go flexisexual just for a laugh, it feeds into the sad, well-trodden notion that lesbianism is a phase, a fad. When it’s anything but. Care to question our commitment? Just ask any of the 300,000 of us who trundled through the rain at London Pride just to see Conchita Wurst sing two songs.

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Picture: Lukasz Wierzbowski

*Names have been changed

Tags: LGBT