Lesbian Women Tell Us How Straight Men Just Can’t Let Them Be

“On my birthday, he gifted me a card that had his thesis on lesbian women – how they must be ‘fixed,’ how they can destabilise the human population, how being lesbian was a disrespect to the nature of a womb.”

“You’re not really gay, though, are you?”
“I’m sure you watch straight porn?”
“You just haven’t had the right dick yet.”

These are common refrains that lesbian women have come across at multiple points in their lives. Yes, in 2022 too – from seemingly liberal-minded well-wishers and allies alike. In a straight world, being queer will always be a rebellion. Recently, comedian Billy Eichner said that Hollywood is still very much homophobic. Not surprising in an industry that only 54 years ago had the now-repealed Hays Code that banned depictions of homosexuality on screen. 

For lesbian women, fetishisation takes on a different, darker hue altogether. The sex scenes in Blue is the Warmest Colour, which won best picture at Cannes in 2013, were criticised by the film’s own lead actors who “felt like prostitutes” shooting sex scenes directed from a male gaze. According to data released by PornHub and YouPorn, lesbian porn remains the most searched category globally. “They (straight men) are desiring a view of a sexual experience in which they cannot, by definition, take part,” Timaree Schmit, a sexuality researcher, told NBC News. “So it has this voyeuristic, naughty, fantastical element.”

In the real world, the price that lesbian women often end up paying when faced by men who solely view them in a fantastical, voyeuristic light can be near-fatal. In 2019, four male teenagers forced a lesbian couple to kiss on a London bus after figuring out they were queer. When the couple refused, they were viciously beaten up. In 2020, a lesbian woman was punched in the face in the city of Sunderland in England. In her statement to the media, she said that though she’d accepted homophobia and violence as a part of her life, it continued to give her panic attacks and triggered her anxiety. 

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VICE spoke to lesbian women to understand just how dangerously obsessed some straight men might get with them, and the many misconceptions they harbour. 

“He believed that true feminine beauty can only be appreciated by men. Whenever I’d step out for a date, I could see him standing in a corner and seething with rage.”

I don’t know if it was my butch appearance that made me seem exotic. But one of my former school teachers was certainly taken aback by it when he ran into me after nine years. From what I’d heard, he was widowed and lived a rather dreary life. For the longest time, I wanted to empathise with him. But after that encounter, I’d find him outside my building, brooding on his scooter, always with an old novel in hand. As long as he remained at a distance, it was okay. But on my birthday, he crossed that boundary and gifted me a card that had his thesis on lesbian women – how they must be “fixed,” the ways in which they can destabilise the human population, how being a lesbian was a disrespect to the nature of a womb. It was scary, to say the least. He added that true feminine beauty can only be appreciated by men. Whenever I’d step out for a date, I could see him standing in a corner somewhere, seething with rage. My homophobic parents didn’t let me file a police report and, to this day, they believe he is just a lonely widower. So, all I do is pretend he doesn't exist. – Anita, 28, software engineer 

“If only straight men could learn to take a no, things would be so much easier for all of us.”

Catfishing is very common on dating apps. In my experience, almost six out of ten women are actually men. It all follows the same cycle: gaining your trust, revealing themselves to be men, and trying to convince you that you must fall in love with a man. I’d like to believe this stems from overly sexualising the female body to the point where you cannot think of a female body in a context that does not include the man. Even the word “lesbian” is so loaded, so sexualised. The moment you utter it, the straight man reduces us to a sexual being. I’m a medical student, too, with my own ambitions. Why isn’t that factored in? Before I was out, a common friend found out that I was queer. He’d bombard me with nudes – disgusting and disturbing. When I asked him to stop, he threatened to out me. If only straight men could learn to take a no, things would be so much easier for all of us. – Neeti Ravindra, 22, medical student 

“My ex-boyfriend pinned me to the wall and wept on my shoulders, begging me to go back to being straight.”

For many, the realisation that you are gay can only come after you have been in an unsuccessful relationship with a cishet person. It must take a really mature individual to understand that we all have our journeys and might not be born with the realisation that we’re queer. Some people even end up marrying cishet people and come out to themselves in their 40s. In my case, I realised I was only into women after my first and only relationship with a man. He didn’t take it well: endless texts, rambling voice notes, abusing me on calls, breaking down when we met. He kept saying the same thing – “We had sex, how can you be a lesbian?” I tried reasoning with him because I didn’t want to disappear after my coming out and leave him in the lurch. But one day, he simply pinned me to the wall and wept on my shoulders, begging me to go back to being straight. All the while, as he cried, he kept feeling me up like a creep. That’s when I knew it was my time to quit whatever we had for good. I will always regret losing him, and will always blame him for tainting all the beautiful memories we had together in the most disgusting way there is. – Rupali, 34, graphic designer 

“My family insists that once I get married to a cishet man, I will fall back on track. It is not easy hearing these things on a daily basis from those you have grown up playing and laughing with.”

I am a trans lesbian and my conservative family simply couldn’t comprehend my life. I was struggling with my identity for the longest time. Then, when I was 18, I had sex with a woman. It was so pure, so organic despite no one having taught me how to go about it. I was just an impressionable nobody from a small town in Andhra Pradesh. There was no exposure to porn or Hollywood films that are supposed to contaminate you. So, what explained that first magical encounter with a woman? I tried drilling sense into my family but they insisted that once I get married to a cishet man, things will fall back on track. It is not easy hearing these things on a daily basis from those you have grown up playing and laughing with. The only upside to how my family treated me was that it spurred me on a path of independence. You cannot even share these things with anyone because you are afraid someone will use them as a tool against you. The mental trauma of living in the cage of your mind is unbearable. But I had to learn how to not let the continuous toxicity of my family affect me. They are still the same. But I had to find my own world, independent of them. Now, I am truly free. Things change when you stand up for yourself.” – Praveen, visa consultant 

Follow Arman on Twitter and Instagram.

Tagged:

women, gay, queer, LGBTQ, lesbian, Pride Month

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