A Love Where Men Don’t Feature: Why is Lesbian Love So Sexualised?
A still from<i> Margarita With a Straw</i> which features two women in love with each other.
A still from Margarita With a Straw which features two women in love with each other.(Photo Courtesy: YouTube screenshot)

A Love Where Men Don’t Feature: Why is Lesbian Love So Sexualised?

Notice what I did there? With that headline? Lesbian Love. Not sex. Not porn.

It’s funny how it struck me while I wrote it, because the ‘information’ on lesbian love that comes packaged in various exoticised, eroticised forms, is a little, good old-fashioned woman-on-woman action. Throw in a string bikini, a bucket of jello and a series of unrealistic moans that no one in their right minds (or loins) should be buying – and you have the internet (or Pornhub’s) version of a lesbian reality.

Honestly, why is lesbian love everything to do with sex and nothing to do with a real, honest-to-good relationship?

A still from<i> Margarita With a Straw.</i>
A still from Margarita With a Straw.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube screenshot)

Of Imaginary Pillow Fights, the Kissing and Hooting

Some time ago, a former colleague (from one of my earlier gigs) and I sat around dissecting the intricacies of her love life. My colleague, who was bisexual, was attempting to break down the many troubles she’d face on blind dates with men when she opened up on her sexual identity (“I mean, do they have to drool over their plates when I gently let them know that I’ve had sex with women?”). A male colleague who was listening popped his head into the cubicle to judiciously sum up the matter with a, “Now, how does that work exactly – sex between women?”

Also Read: It is Hard Being a Lesbian in India And Media Is Not Helping 

In many ways, my colleague’s piquant question sums up a large part of the seeming disbelief, porn-crazed wonder and curiosity that revolves around lesbians. Several years of Pornhub surveys have summarily shown that the most searched category of porn on their website has been ‘Lesbian Porn’. Viewership isn’t restricted to male porn consumers alone – but then the problem isn’t with male or female viewership; it’s about the sexualisation of lesbian relationships.

Try and think of popular media you’ve seen/been shown –

How many woo-hoos have been chanted at teenage drinking soirees that have involved a woman kissing a woman? How often has a Barney Stinson (amongst his other revered TV kin) dilated his pupils and lost his marbles at the thought of a female wrestling match? What of imaginary pillow fights in so-called underwear, that feature only in heterosexual storylines? Hand to heart, didn’t we all giggle along as Chandler and Joey graciously gave up their apartment because Monica and Rachel had agreed to kiss for their viewing pleasure, for a full two minutes?
Ellen DeGeneres with wife Portia de Rossi.
Ellen DeGeneres with wife Portia de Rossi.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube screenshot)

Why can’t a woman-only relationship exist beyond the bounds of men (and often women) peeking and peering in like voyeurs? Why can’t the relationship exist beyond an association with the bedroom? Is it really so hard to desexualise, to think of women-only lovers as just that – lovers who fight over restaurant choices, last-minute work calls, socks that never found their way to the wardrobe? Lovers who scream and cry blue murder, just like you and me – before patching up over a reluctant hug and a wry smile?

Weighs in Afreen Zeb, founder, Queernama, an organisation that seeks to publish artwork, poetry and literature in the LGBTQ space:

It’s because women’s sexuality always has been repressed – for centuries. It’s never been recognised as its own entity. So, there’s no room in popular media for female love where a man does not matter.

“A Love Where a Man Does Not Matter”

Afreen and Assam-based artist Asfa Sabrin collaborated to create a series of artworks that combats just that – the sexualisation of lesbians. Some of the duo’s work can be sampled below:

Artwork by artist Asfa Sabrin for Queernama.
Artwork by artist Asfa Sabrin for Queernama.
(Photo Courtesy: Queernama/Instagram)
Dear men, women love women and they want none of your observations, judgements, existence…
Queernama
Two women making love is now a powerpoint presentation. There are different slides, each one more progressively provocative than the first. You can dissect each slide, zoom in to any parts you want. You can even slow down the moments that make you feel better about yourself. When they kiss in the first slide and you give them a token of being bold and titillating, all for your pleasure. The women might be looking at each other because they are in love. But from your desk faraway, you see an exhibition of sex. Not love. You think you are the one who matters even though you are not a part of it. You think it’s just a powerpoint presentation made to impress you.
Queernama
Artwork by artist Asfa Sabrin for Queernama.
Artwork by artist Asfa Sabrin for Queernama.
(Photo Courtesy: Queernama/Instagram)

Also Read: “Can Lesbianism Be Cured?”: Out of the Closet In a Mumbai Local

Lovers deserve pretty much equitable portions of your solidarity – when you see the unmistakable signs of a fight at the surly dinner table next to you – and your gloom if you’d rather do Valentine’s Day alone and their ‘#bettertogether’ hashtags are just raining on your parade. Those lovers could be men and women, men and men or women and women. Check the judgement at the doorstep, won’t you?

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