May as well dust off your low rise jeans and watch the OC, because an obtuse heteronormative obsession with girls kissing girls has apparently returned and it’s Y2K all over again.
With the release of Rita Ora’s "Girls" last week by a handful of mainstream artists—a song about how much these ladies want to kiss other girls "only for a night” and which lesbian artist Hayley Kiyoko has labelled “downright tone deaf”—we are again having to have a familiar conversation: fetishising and marginalising lesbianism as drunken fun to be doing with your mates is not OK. It’s taking us right back to the Katy Perry era of kissing girls and liking it—and oh boy, I thought we were past this.
The song sums up the still-archaic perception in mainstream culture that lesbianism is “a phase.” That between femme girls it’s just something cute you do sometimes, usually fuelled by alcohol and is, most importantly, transitory. It’s saying that girls kiss girls when drunk and that it’s not a sexuality, just the result of six shots of tequila. So gin makes you cry and tequila makes you gay? Good stuff. No matter how much of a summer banger this song may be, I don’t want to listen to Cardi B tell me she wants to “get down with the scissor” (does someone want to tell Cardi this isn't a thing?)
I know Rita Ora, Cardi B, et al. probably aren't the only ones responsible for this, as there’s likely a male exec somewhere patting himself on the back for such a progressive and sexy-hot message. But the themes of this song still do sum up the mentalities of a lot of straight women—mentalities I see in action at gay bars constantly. So, I think it’s time we called them out on it, lest they keep offending our exasperated queer souls. Dear straight women, here’s my guide of how not to offend queer women at the gay bar in 2018:
Don’t treat gay women as guinea pigs
Yes, I know you’ve probably “always wanted to kiss a girl” but I’m a human being not an experiment and seeking out lesbians to kiss in bars ‘just to try it’ is pretty harsh. I’m not a pair of outlandish tearaways, you can’t try me on and then declare ‘this isn’t for me’—chances are that’s gonna hurt someone's feelings.
Don’t treat lesbianism as “cool”
Yes, there were lesbians on Orange is the New Black and yes, Kendall Jenner might be (is) a big gay but that doesn't mean this is suddenly an aesthetic you need to align with. Saying someone’s sexuality is “cool” or “trendy” makes it like a fad—something that will come and go with fashion—and I don't view my sexuality as akin to Stan Smiths tbh.
Don’t think that kissing girls makes you progressive
Do it because you want to, not because you’re showing off about it. Describing yourself as queer isn't an automatic badge of wokeness and please don’t think a couple of snogs with your gal pals makes you the next Emma Gonzalez.
Don’t say you’re a lesbian couple if a guy hits on you at the bar
Just say no! By crying “lesbian!” at the first sign of douchebag you are making my actual relationship a potential lie or fun little challenge for boys. “We’re a couple, teehee” invites questions and they might even ask you to prove it which leads me straight on to:
Don’t kiss girls to impress guys
Don’t kiss your friends in front of guys because they think it’s sexy. This further perpetuates the idea that lesbianism can be something for men too. This premise is actually pretty harmful and implies that “a good dick” is all most women need to cure them of their silly gayness. I’ve met boys who’ve told me they could “bang me straight,” which is mainly funny but at the root this behaviour can be incredibly harmful. There is an easy way to discourage this behaviour, and that is to stop inviting their validation—if you’re not 16 then please don't kiss your friends for attention from guys (and actually, if you are 16 please don't do it either).
Don't encourage male entitlement to threesomes
Secondly, by kissing for men and using lesbianism as a way to be sexy or sexually interesting, you cement the idea that lesbian sex is still something men can objectify and take pleasure in. I don't want to be told me and my girlfriend are hot or even “a sandwich I could get between” by a random guy in a bar. Not only gross, this behaviour can be harmful and aggressive and even if it’s not there’s only so many times guys can ask me for a threesome before I want to scream.
Don't bring your boyfriends to gay bars
If you want to go to a queer event to make out with ladies because you want to for all the right reasons, then mazel! But please don't bring your boyfriends with you as a way to “make it less gay.” Your boyfriends watching and high-fiving over the top of your heads isn't any less gay, it’s just a bit sad.
Don’t go to gay events because they’re a “good time”
This year Britney is headlining Brighton Pride in the UK, so of course a bunch of straight Britney fans bought all the tickets meaning lots of queer folk can’t go. Try and understand that these events are extremely important and no matter how much you love Britney they aren’t designed for you. But that’s OK—the rest of the world still is so go forth and conquer.
Don’t go to queer bars because you “just want to dance”
For us, a gay bar, no matter how dingy and sticky is so much more than just a bar; it’s about being in a space that makes you feel like you belong, that you're safe and that in this bar you can be exactly who you want to be. Don’t go to a gay bar because you just want to dance, go to queer spaces with your gay friends and understand that for them these places are so much more than just a bar—they represent the potential and the illusion that we live in a world that normalises us and our life style—so let us have them please.
Don’t assume all queer women want to fuck you
We’re allowed to talk to you without wanting to fuck you and no, we’re probably not watching you change in the changing room either.
But! Don’t be grossed out if queer women do hit on you in a gay bar
If you’re in a gay bar, please don't be uncomfortable if a queer woman hits on you. Contrary to popular belief gay people don't have a smell, and no matter how good your gaydar is you’re going to get it wrong sometimes. Being at a gay bar is usually the biggest indicator out there for queerness, aside from wearing a badge, so if someone hits on you whilst you’re there please don't freak out.
Don’t set queer women up just because they're both queer
“Omg my friend is gay!” That’s cool I guess but it doesn't really mean much to me... unless they're hot I suppose?
Don’t ask us “what even is lesbian sex?!”
Don’t tell us you could “be in a relationship with a woman but could never have sex with one”
It’s OK if you don’t want to have sex with women, I don’t particularly want to have sex with your sweaty ugly boyfriend either but chances are I’m not going to say that to your face.
Don’t think having sex with girls isn't cheating
If you don't consider fucking girls whilst you’re in a relationship with a guy as cheating then you’re undermining lesbian sex substantially. You’re saying it’s not real cheating because it’s not real sex—and you’ll be hard pressed to find a queer woman who isn't offended by that.
Don’t treat lesbian sex as a gateway
It’s been a problematic trend through history that lesbian sex can be seen as a nice gentle introduction to sex. Lesbianism is like the gateway drug to the more serious Class A: sex with men (lol—if having less orgasms is your thing then sure, sure). But this is a damaging position and one that insidiously sits in the back of a lot of queer people’s minds; that the pooss is fine for now but maybe I will marry a man and have babies because that’s what I’ve been told to do. It’s not a gateway to something else, it is something in its own right and going down on your friends isn’t something you need to do to prepare yourself to have sex with boys. Nice try though.
Don’t ask us about scissoring
Because it’s really hard alright?!
Don’t appropriate lesbian culture
Over the last few years there’s been an increase in queer events designed specifically for straight women “to be gay for a night” and where actual lesbians are not encouraged to attend. To ostracise gay women from queer events like these again just says that gayness can be a cute little outfit for straight women to try on sometimes—like that risqué two piece you bring out once a year—and by including actual gay women into the mix that somehow makes things too serious like it’s not pretend anymore. Oh you're actually gay?! Well no, this is too gay for me then. Spoiler alert: going down on a straight woman is still pretty gay, everyone.
Don’t third wheel a lesbian couple like you’re all best friends
Obviously there’s nothing wrong with being friends with lesbians—please still include us—but sometimes it’s difficult to establish couples boundaries with straight girls because they can easily forget you’re a couple and suddenly you’re all best friends. This actually happened to me and foolishly I didn't say anything, so I spent three weeks sharing a bed with my girlfriend and our mutual friend watching films and talking about boys. So, make sure you check your boundaries next time you suggest another girly sleepover with your lesbian couple friends OK?
Don’t tell lesbian couples how “cute” their relationship is
I’m not sure why it is that straight people feel the need to make encouraging comments or extend their blessings to random gay couples they meet. Perhaps it’s so we don't think they’re all raging homophobes. But, you don't need to approach a lesbian couple in a bar to tell them how cute they are—if you did this to a straight couple people would likely think you were quite strange.
Don’t ask us “who’s the guy in the relationship”
Surprisingly once you renounce the hetero you don't necessarily want to play into the stifling gender roles that this culture encourages. I don't tend to play mummies and daddies with my girlfriend, but maybe that’s just me. Gender identity and sexuality aren't necessarily linked and there are a variety of gender presentations in lesbian couples. We’re not all butch/femme couples. There are femme/femme, butch/butch, non-binary lesbian couples, trans lesbian couples. It’s a delightful variety and each relationship will reflect that and your “who’s the guy” questions are just pretty reductive.
Don’t assume we’re all cis
There are so many flavours of gay! Some queer women are cis, some are trans, some are non-binary. Some queer women have boobs, some queer women don’t. Some queer women have dicks, some queer women don’t. If you don’t understand it, don’t dismiss it as beyond you, try and learn. Asking questions is OK too.
Don’t defend feminism by saying you’re not a “man hating butch lesbian”
You can’t call yourself a feminist and say you fight and believe in the liberation of all women and then throw a huge community of women under the bus to appease men—it’s the complete opposite of what feminism about. Some feminists are lesbians, some are butch, some are hairy some are whatever. You should still have their backs because chances are that butch hairy lesbian feminist that you disassociate yourself from has been fighting for your rights for a long time. So don't align with the patriarchy and sugar coat your smooth skinned feminism. If you're a feminist, then you’re a feminist.
Stop closing down gay bars
Not woman specific but please stop. Due to rising rent costs and an apparent lack of demand (lies) gay bars are disappearing all over the world. In Vancouver just last month two of the city’s biggest queer parties closed down. So please help defend our queer watering holes!
And lastly, please PLEASE don’t write a song about kissing girls after you drink hella red wine.
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