I am a straight woman (am I?)
I’ve only ever been in love with men and I have never been or wanted to be in a relationship with a woman. I do, however, want to have sex with women; I have snogged women; I watch lesbian porn; I have crushes on women; and I would definitely be happy with having someone’s vulva and clit all up in my face (that’s supposed to be the ultimate test, right?).
So I am also a lesbian
My desires around women are mostly sexual. Let’s say I am bisexual. Bisexual. Whatever. Who cares?
Recently, I was thinking a bit about how I might go about having sex with a woman, like, just practically, how I would find someone to have sex with.
Then I was thinking about how, or whether, it would shift my experience or perception of the world if I were to ‘position’ myself as bi or pan sexual, rather than straight (as I have always done). I tried it out. I told a couple of people that I was bi and I ticked a few different boxes in the ‘sexuality’ section on various, unimportant, forms. The biggest shift, however, was just going around with a different line in my head: ‘I fancy women’.
I learnt two things:
1) I realised that I considered the action of fancying a woman to be a ‘male’ one. Meaning, I felt a bit like a man. What was that feeling? I don’t know… a bit thigh-rubby, a bit covert. Not great.
I felt 'male', but I was also me, so I was a male who was incredibly empathetic to the female experience and was therefore felt the weight of all of the patriarchy’s sins. I was aware of how women are over sexualised and how, by fancying them, I was inevitably in line with that groove, rather than being able to subvert it.
2) Women are represented in society as being kind, gentle, submissive, caring, maternal, soft etc. The consequence of this is that it it a fucking joy it is to be attracted to them. It’s so easy! Women are lovely and not threatening. They are also, by default approachable and available.
Gender is so polarised in our society that all women carry with them the burden of being labelled ‘female’, as all men carry with them the burden of being ‘male’ (dominant, threatening, hard, unkind). Female bodies are sexualised in the media to the degree that every woman I see is, by association, sexualised. There I was, sitting on a train, looking at women and feeling like I was violating them just by dint of finding them attractive.
Then I realised a third thing:
3) For most of my life I have felt to be, and positioned myself as, straight. Whenever I meet a new man I will check him out as a potential mate (yes, no, yes, no). It always seemed simple enough. However, now I know, more consciously, what it is like to fancy women (clue: very easy, because society tells us so). Now I realise that fancying men is actually really complicated. When I am checking out a man and deciding whether I want to have sex with him or not, I am also encountering his male-ness. The same maleness that has assaulted, harassed, shamed, threatened and oppressed me throughout my life. Inevitably, these two simultaneous and opposing reactions of attraction and fear collide with each other. I process this information whilst also taking in other factors that might give me a clue as to what to do i.e. is it dark? Are you alone? Did someone introduce you to this guy or did he just start talking? Did his hand brush you because he was trying to squeeze past, or did he just touch you for no reason?
There is a lot going on. No wonder women, me included, have experiences when these opposing things get confused: when you want your lover to choke you; when you are turned on by street harassment; when you use your sexuality to prove a point rather than to pleasure yourself; when you hide your sexual fantasies deep in secrecy to counter the otherwise public sexualisation of your body; when your body is both your source of pleasure and also a hardened, battle weary defence ship.