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Pornography, stripping and violence in contemporary ‘lesbian’ culture

February 10, 2008

WARNING: this post contains graphic images of women in exploitative, objectified and violent sexual scenarios.

The current mainstream ‘lesbian’ culture is one that disturbs me deeply, especially considering the research which suggests that violence in lesbian relationships is increasing. I believe that lesbian feminist communities must be concerned and active around the issues of pornography and sexual violence in contemporary ‘lesbian’ and ‘queer’ culture. As a younger lesbian who came out in the queer, post-modern, post-feminist millenium, I am not sure that older lesbian feminists can really understand how thoroughly lesbian feminism has been erased. Nor how thoroughly pornography, sadomasochism and sexual violence has infiltrated the queer, ‘lesbian’ culture.

Now, it is unthinkable to be a young lesbian who does not use pornography. It is unthinkable to be a young lesbian who is against prostitution, sadomasochism, marriage, and trans invasion of lesbian feminist spaces. Within the contemporary queer paradigm of ‘lesbian’ culture, if you are against any of the above then you are in fact anti-feminist as you are not supportive of women’s ‘choices’.

I was a lesbian who thought of my sexuality as being a political and feminist choice rather than a lifestyle or an accident of birth. But within the queer, ‘lesbian’ culture, women like me were not supposed to exist. I was really confused and frustrated as I found nothing of interest in the ‘lesbian’ magazines, which were full of pornographic images of women and advertisments for the sex industry. Those magazines made me sick, they did not turn me on.

Anyway, I’m writing this because a conversation over at mAndrea’s prompted me to do a a bit of research into contemporary ‘lesbian’ culture and what I found was quite disturbing.

First up is the magazine Slit, which is a non profit mag where no one gets paid except the printers. part of the idea behind slit is to create and support dyke culture in print and out and about. Slit is basically a popular lesbian pornography magazine. The following images are some of the more disturbing ones on their site.

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That these images are considered to be innocuous by the contemporary ‘lesbian’ community is really worrying. You can imagine my shock when I saw that one of my older lesbian feminist friends (who shall remain nameless) has an article in one of the back issues.

‘Lesbian’ pornography is only one of the many disturbing trends of contemporary ‘lesbian’ culture. The increasingly popular ‘lesbian’ strip nights are also highly graphic, violent and misogynist.

Candy Lips is a popular ‘girl’s night out’ in Sydney. They do themed ‘lesbian’ parties and host strippers and a sexualised female perfomance group called The Love Police. The events are sponsored Lesbians on the Loose and The Pink Sofa. The photos I found on their site documenting the night were very worrying. The theme for one of the nights, which was also a fundraiser for ACON’s Lesbian Health Project, was the PLAYBOY MANSION. Here are some of the photos from the Playboy Mansion night.

Woman in drag as Hugh Hefner:
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Hugh Hefner and stripper:
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candy_lips_candy_mansion_photography_chris_michaels_295.jpg

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Another themed night was the Carnival Rouge (a take off from Moulin Rouge).

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At all these events The Love Police are shown to go around pushing ‘noteworthy’ women against the wall and searching them.

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I find all of these pictures/events highly misogynist and violent. I can not imagine that these photos/events are indictative of a healthy ‘lesbian’ culture. If this is the way that these ‘lesbian’ women view each other and their sexuality, what else is to be concluded but that the recent studies showing an increase in violence in ‘lesbian’ relationships are in fact an accurate representation of the depoliticisation and patriarchal undermining of lesbian feminism?

More violent misogyny can be seen in the popular Candy Bars in Britain. Candy Bar Soho and Candy Bar Brighton both promote woman-hating, pornographic ‘lesbianism’ with events like mud-wrestling and stripping. The Candy Bar brand is also in the process of making ‘lesbian’ porn films and they are also doing some research into the viability of opening a Candy Bar in Sydney.

I have used the word ‘lesbian’ in quotation marks because these photos and events are not what I mean when I use the word lesbian.

65 comments

  1. Thanks so much for writing this, it is so important you see the porn culture has infiltered the lesbian scene.
    I find very hard to go on the scene for I am very uncomfortable with the force-feeding of porn that dominates so lesbian spaces. I am uncomfortable with the aggressive that seems to encourage with too many lesbians.
    I do not need to go into a world that reminds of being in the sex trade.
    I find the promotion of stripping, lap-dancing and S/M is everywhere in too much of the lesbian scene. Violence is made “ironic”, for it is meant to be a “performance”.
    But all too often the violence is real. But for me real or not, it is highly trigggering.
    Porn leads to a dead sexuality whether hetrosexual or gay. There is nothing healthy about porn.
    For instance, last I went to a low-key lesbian bar last night. Even there was many pictures of women in bondage.
    Many women were dancing and copying the violent dance moves of an MTV “porn” video.
    I find hard to switch off in an environment like that. When all I needed was a damned good dance.
    I feel the porn industry goes where the money is, so it must thinks young lesbians are willing to pay for their goods.
    But, I cannot belong in the scene. I care too much for own sanity.


  2. It is very, very difficult not to see the pornography takeover of ‘lesbianism’. I actually had no idea that things were *this* horrifically bad until I found those images on the internet. Honestly, I thought that I’d find pornography, but the sheer violence and misogyny was actually really shocking to me. I have never been a part of the ‘lesbian’ scene. I used to go to gay bars to dance but then I stopped because I started to feel threatened by so many men. And the drag shows were all too woman-hating.

    Porn leads to a dead sexuality whether hetrosexual or gay. There is nothing healthy about porn.

    You said it, sister.

    We need to recreate the grassroots women’s performance nights. And get the old lesbian scene happening again.

    But, I cannot belong in the scene. I care too much for own sanity.

    Me too.


  3. I don’t know which is worse…Hugh Hefner or the women tied up with their legs spread.

    I think Rebecca makes a good point about all of this colonisation being about money, as well as patriarchy and women hating. (Well, the money is a part of the patriarchy and women hating).

    It’s like the dependence on consumerism is the mechanism by which patriarchal ideologies have successfully infiltrated lesbian culture. And the twisted individualist thinking doesn’t help…oh look its lesbians who are making money from this, so it’s OK.


  4. I recall being told once to become a lesbian if I wanted to keep patriarchy out of my sexual exchanges.
    I couldn’t understand how just being a lesbian, sans growing up in a hole on Pluto, would mean some great escape from Uncle Pat.

    Clearly.


  5. When you hover your cursor over the picture of the two tied up women is says *pigs*

    I haven’t got anything to say really…


  6. Ugh. F’ing hell.

    You know society is going down the tubes when stripping, Hefner, violence, animal cruelty (calling women pigs and tying them slaughterhouse style), etc gets away with calling itself lesbian or feminist.


  7. A much needed post Allecto, thank you.

    I also find the queer lesbian scene very disturbing. It seems if you want to go out and dance you have a choice between abuse from men or seeing your sisters abusing themselves and each other. Now I just dim the lights, put on loud music and dance in my living room.

    It is sad that the only scene left for young non-queer lesbians is the internet scene. However, as long as we have the internet scene, we can rebuild the real life community.


  8. Thanks, Allecto, for this eye-opening post. This is shocking! It is clear that the lesbian community has changed by endorsing pornography, S&M, etc.

    Of course, I do know that not all lesbians are like that (not the ones I have known anyway). But this mainstreaming of the porn culture infiltrating the lesbian community is rather alarming.

    Often lesbian sexuality is not taken seriously in this culture and turned into a pornographic fetish for men. I know that loads of men look at all of this crap.

    I do admit I’m not entirely a lesbian. As a matter of fact, I swing both ways. Nevertheless, I sincerely find this brutal commodification of lesbian sexuality degrading and insulting. Patriarchy wants to own all sorts of women, including lesbians.

    I wonder how people can call this shitty pornography “sexual freedom”. Freedom for whom? Not women, obviously.


  9. Maybe this seems new to young lesbians, but as a “tweener”–I’m 38–I can tell you it’s not. Lesbian-feminists have been working against porn and sexual violence–straight, gay, lesbian, or otherwise–for almost 30 years now. “On Our Backs,” a “lesbian” porn magazine here in the US, started in the late 1980s. There are also two US anthologies criticizing the pornification of lesbian culture, Against Sadomasochism from 1982 and Unleashing Feminism from 1993.

    Likewise, I am skeptical of the study you quoted in the thread at mAndrea’s, allecto, and I’m not willing to accept assertions that lesbian relationships are “as” or “more” violent than straight ones, based on statistics I haven’t seen. In my own experience, and I’ve known a lot of lesbians, I know of one lesbian who was in a relationship where her partner was destructive toward objects and verbally abusive towards her. That’s it. I personally know of HUNDREDS of women who’ve been brutally beaten, raped, sexually violated in all kinds of ways, by men, and that’s not even counting the visual evidence that we have of all the women who’ve been hurt in porn. So I would have a few questions to ask about any study that suggests that lesbians are anything like as violent against their partners as men are.

    This isn’t generational–it’s about values. There are Boomer women (and older) who love porn and SM just as much as any 20 year old, and have done for years. And there are great young women, such as yourself, allecto, who have feminist politics and are against violence and exploitation. I don’t think catastrophizing this as something “new” or something that only young lesbians are into is really that useful in fighting it. We are, all of us who are opposed to violence against women, in for a long fight against patriarchy, porn, SM, etc. wherever we find it.


  10. What I think is new is not the violence and pornography itself, but the absence of an alternative ‘lesbian’ scene. Perhaps this has been true throughout the nineties. I don’t believe it was true for the lesbians coming out in the 70s and 80s. The fact is, and all of the younger lesbian feminists that I have talked to agree, that the above photos represent what contemporary ‘lesbianism’ is. They are not a subsection of the young ‘lesbian’ population, they are the young ‘lesbian’ population.

    An older lesbian feminist is currently organising an event for over forties lesbian feminists. There are no similar events for young lesbian feminists. Hairy Harpie, her partner and I are planning on organising one for the end of the year. We will be lucky to get even 10 women there. And that is only providing some of the women are prepared to travel from the other side of australia to get to it. Every time I go to a lesbian feminist gathering in Sydney I am the only woman in the room under 40.

    As to violence equivalents. Well, again I would say that this is generational. As I said, the pictures above are representative of the mainstream of young ‘lesbianism’. Those pictures represent what ‘lesbianism’ is to the vast majority of young ‘lesbians’. As you can see, violence is sex in contemporary ‘lesbian’ culture. And gender, the sexualisation of dominance and submission, is paramount in current ‘lesbian’ sexual identity. Those pictures above document real, live harm committed by whole nightclubs full of ‘lesbian’ women against each other and women in the sex industry. Those pictures above are documented cases of ‘lesbian’ rapism in action. Not perpertrated by small numbers of ‘lesbians’, but by nightclubs full, every month.

    This is why I find the recent stats believable. Because it has been my experience that queer ‘lesbians’ see domination/submission, violence and phallocentricity as central to their identities as ‘lesbians’ and to their relations to other women.

    I haven’t known many young lesbians. But, I have known:

    -two women who have been raped by women (one of these women was an older lesbian feminist)
    -one woman whose partner would scream verbal abuse at her while throwing objects at her (this woman had also been dumped by a previous partner for not being femme enough)
    -a young queer female couple who liked to hurt each other as an erotic activity
    -a young woman who did not like sex and was in a relationship with a woman who would have sex with her anyway (rape). She told me that her partner slept with other women which she wasn’t happy about but that she understood because she herself did not like sex.

    I have had so many arguements with young queer ‘lesbians’ about pornography, prostitution and sadomasochism. I go to the homes of these women and there is pornographic dvds on their kitchen table and handcuffs and dildos under the bed.

    I have read Against Sadomasochism and more recently I read The Lesbian Heresy. I know that there has been absolutely brilliant work done by lesbian feminists about these issues. My point in these posts was to lament how their work has been erased by the contemporary ‘lesbian’ culture. Sheila Jeffreys and Andrea Dworkin are held in contempt by the very women who are suffering because they refuse to listen.

    If this wasn’t a generational issue then why am I the only younger woman at lesbian feminist gatherings? Why are there so few young lesbians that take feminism to heart and resist violence, commodification, domination/submission in all aspects of our lives?

    I obviously do not believe that older lesbian feminists are at fault here. What I was trying to say was that I don’t really believe that they can fully understand how isolated young lesbian feminists are. Because of the patriarchal takeover of all ‘lesbian’ social spaces. I am not the only young lesbian who feels this way about the situation either.

    Perhaps you are right in calling into question the stats I referred to. I would argue, knowing what I know about the younger generation of ‘lesbians’, that violence is prevalent in young ‘lesbian’ culture. I cannot make generalisations about the whole population but I feel confident in speaking about young women.

    I wish I had your confidence in women like me, but I feel pretty fucking helpless when the only young lesbian feminists interested in networking with me live over 1000kms away from me or on the other side of the continent. But anyway thanks for your comment, Amy, it made me think harder about what I think and why.


  11. I think some context might be important here.

    When I was in my late teens, early 20s, (late 60s, early 70s), pornography was not available everywhere, all over, like it is now. Not by a long shot. There were the XXX movie theaters, always in seedy parts of town and patronized almost entirely by men, there was Playboy on the newsstands limited to nudity from the waist up only. Hardcore porn was an underground kind of thing, hard to find, and mostly men searched for it, found it and traded it. Political revolutionaries of this time had cartoon pornography/’zine sorts of publications, that had sort of a political bent to ut, not feminist though. The point I’m making is, you had to really search for this stuff (other than Playboy), it was hard to come by. There were no DVDs or VCRs during the Second Wave, there were no “R-rated” or “X rated” or even “PG rated” type movies on television, there was no cable, no HBO. Network television was family television and you had maybe five stations. The raunchiest it ever got was maybe Johnny Carson (a talk show host) saying something that was slightly off color. That’s it. You never even heard swear words, not at all.

    There were two things which facilitated the “sexual revolution” of the 60s and 70s: one was the ready availability of reliable birth control, i.e., the birth control pill and IUDs. The other was Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion. Having access to these was a huge factor in the women’s liberation movement. The feeling or thought was that the availability of birth control and abortion leveled the playing field sexually for het men and women. When I was in high school (I graduated in 1969), if a girl got pregnant she had to quit school and usually was sent away to a home for unwed mothers where she gave her baby up for adoption, or sometimes she kept the baby and married the baby’s father. But this was pretty darn rare and everybody felt really sorry for the girls this happened to.

    There was a “wheeeeee” sort of excitement among women at this time over this apparent new freedom we had. We didn’t yet know what the dangers of birth control would be and we didn’t realize that having birth control and access to abortion, in and of itself, would not make us equal with men. This was completely new, this sexual liberation thing, and none of us knew where it would take us. Of course, we learned, ultimately, that this sexual liberation, so-called was really a boon for men, not us. We still had to take all the risks. Birth control was dangerous in those days and women got perforated uteruses and infections from IUDs and had strokes and blood clots and other problems from the early, high-dose estrogen birth control pills. Some women found that having abortions was not the simple fix they anticipated it would be. We were still far more at risk for STDs than men were, and STDs were more dangerous to us than they were to men. And most importantly, access to BC and abortions did nothing to alleviate sexism or misogyny in men. They continued on in their misogyny, just happier beause there were many more women willing to have sex with them now, and the pressure to get married if you had sex was greatly lessened, the chance of fathering a child was, too.

    Too, few of us had had any sort of real sex education. What we got in schools was mostly about biology, menstrual periods, erections, pregnancy, etc. There was really nothing about what people really do when they have sex, there was nothing about lesbianism or gay sex, certainly nothing about bisexuality, sadmasochism, pornography, prostitution. That information just wasn’t readily available.

    So I am saying, this was a whole new world for us and we had no idea what would come of the direction we were going. We were the first generation of women to *have* access to reliable birth control and abortion and this changed everything. It was brand new territory. There was a lot of craziness, experimentation, because we just didn’t know, and it was a time of political revolution in which we were questioning everything we had ever thought or been taught.

    It was during this time, the 70s, generally, that Pat Califia began SAMOIS, which was a lesbian pro-sm, pro-porn, sex radical group in San Francisco. Her and her group’s politics, publications, activism spread and eventually split radical feminism/lesbian feminism wide open. She advocated for basically an anything-goes, if it feels good, do it, approach to sex, like much of the rest of the Second Wave did, but she went in the direction of sadomasochism, in particular. Really, this was the beginning of “queer,” and of what we now know as GLBTQ. If you read the writings of radical feminists of that time, you see what an issue this was. Robin Morgan wrote against sadomasochism in the 70s in her book “Going Too Far,” as did Gloria Steinem. Both Morgan and Steinem wrote against transgender/transsexuality/pornography as well, going back to the 70s. These were the days of the protests against beauty pageants and objectification of all kinds.

    But bottom line, Pat Califia’s sexual politics ascended and took center stage, and radical feminist views of sexuality declined. The reason, of course, is that Califia, et al’s politics appealed to men and to the mainstream, hence the ease with which Califia could get her articles and books published, etc. And the same thing with Susie Bright, Camille Paglia, etc. The ascendance of “queer”/sm/trans, etc. politics/practices coincided with the mainstreaming of pornography, up until now, when pornography is available everywhere, anytime. You don’t have to look for it at all, in fact, you have to conscientiously purpose to avoid it. It’s on the newsstands, in music on AM radio, on television, in videos, in strip clubs.

    So we’ve got this whole generation of young people now, lesbian, het, gay, bi, which has grown up exposed to pornography and pornographic/sadomasochistic representations of all kinds. They’re not stabbing in the dark and trying out new things they’ve never seen before, or thought of before, they’re not being “sex radicals”, instead, they are enacting what has been modeled for them.

    My own sense is that like most of us, young women involved in sadomasochism and the kinds of stuff you’ve described and depicted here, allecto, whether they are lesbian or het, will ultimately question it, regret it and leave it behind in the radicalization process most women go through under male heterosupremacy. But you’re right, in the meantime, young women, whether lesbian, het or bi, are imitating what they have learned and seen over most of their lives. I sure see this, including at Michfest where in the Twilight Zone there has been, in recent years, a stage, a stripper pole, metal eyes pounded into trees to string ropes through for bondage scenes, “uniform” parties, tables of dildoes and harnesses and sex toys in the craftswomyn tent, etc. I have also known a significant number of lesbians, many young, but some older, as well, who have been in abusive relationships of all kinds. I just think an overall pornification has been in process over many years, and it has affected lesbians as well as heterosexual women. There are women who have resisted this, both het and lesbian, but it’s not their voices which are heard, especially not in the mainstream. Here in Seattle at the Lesbian Resource Center, one of the oldest centers of its kind in the U.S., there are no regular feminist meetings, but there are weekly SM play parties! This is all to say, I agree with you that this stuff is everywhere and feels suffocating and is SO discouraging.

    I wanted to say quickly, since you may come to Michfest, that the stuff I’ve described that happens there is easily avoidable. I’ve never seen it because it’s out of the way in an area set aside for it and you don’t end up there by accident, you have to go looking for it. But you do see it in what is sold in the crafts area, you hear women talking, you see how they present, there are the workshops.

    I’m just saying, you are not alone in your perceptions or experiences, and your conclusions make sense. I think there is a lot of abuse in all sorts of relationships, intimate, relationships, partnerships, friendships, het and lesbian, and a lot of it flies under the radar in various ways, but perhaps these studies you’re talking about dealt with this abuse. One problem we have is that the definitions of abuse used by people who study it and work with survivors continue to evolve and to become more nuanced and specific. It used to be that abuse was defined as hitting, punching, slapping, etc. and the more outrageous forms of emotional or verbal abuse, screaming, etc. Now the definitions include (rightly and appropriately imo) using pornography, coercions of various kinds, including sexual coercion, stonewalling (going silent), being rough with pets or threatening pets, driving in ways that scare the other person, threatening to kill oneself and similar manipulative behaviors, and when viewed this way, there really is a lot more that is “counted” as abuse than has been so in the past, and this might figure in in the studies you read.

    So, my thoughts, fwiw.

    xxxooo


  12. P.S. I meant to put a line across the top of that comment that said, “Sorry, U.S.-centric!” Because that’s all U.S. stuff. But I think our countries have paralleled one another, and of course, what’s going on in the U.S. affects everyone, basically.


  13. While there are few documented statistics about all of this S/M culture in the lesbian community, I see it as out there in public lesbian gethering spaces now.

    There are no lesbian feminist discussion groups that I know of in Los Angeles. Lesbian discussion groups have really fallen on hard times, and we get a lot of very mentally ill women who show up for these groups.

    Transgender lesbians have also brought a porn male mindset to these groups as well. I’ve heard this stuff with my own ears.

    I found the vile language and the sick sexualization that lesbians subject other lesbians to so disturbing, that I’ve stopped going to walk-in groups completely now. I just don’t want to put up with the porn.

    The biggest ads in “Lesbian News” are about strip clubs, sexy photos of lesbians, and believe it or not, there are no longer any community letters to the editor in this magazine. It’s become a degraded profit center run by a lesbian who proudly claims that she has no lesbian political consciousness at all.

    We are in trouble in the urban areas. Young women are very vulnerable to this sort of thing. I’ve noticed that lesbian feminists of my era, simply are nowhere to be found in the public lesbian world now.
    It’s rare that you’ll even see one lesbian over the age of 45 even at Los Angeles gay and lesbian pride days.

    This age segregation is part of the problem.


  14. Allecto says:
    “I have read Against Sadomasochism and more recently I read The Lesbian Heresy. I know that there has been absolutely brilliant work done by lesbian feminists about these issues. My point in these posts was to lament how their work has been erased by the contemporary ‘lesbian’ culture. Sheila Jeffreys and Andrea Dworkin are held in contempt by the very women who are suffering because they refuse to listen.”

    When was the last time you met a lesbian under the age of 30 who even knew who Andrea Dworkin or Sheila Jeffreys was/is?

    Since a lot of health insurance doesn’t give adequate mental health access to lesbians, you have a lot of untreated mental illness floating around out there.

    As I said before, the lesbian drop in groups (under 40) had become so toxic with this nonsense, that I stopped going to them, and I stopped volunteering in open lesbian groups.

    There is a real hostility out there now in large urban areas that I find disturbing. It’s a kind of “know nothing” attitude, a kind of contempt for the very history of lesbian activism altogether.

    We all know how toxic pornography is to men, but somehow, a lot of younger lesbians are falling for this hook, line and sinker.

    There is a real scarcity of lesbian gathering spaces now, and what few we have left we are now sharing with MTF transgender lesbians. It’s not a good sign.

    When I was younger, I revered my elder lesbian sisters, but I don’t see this same attitude today.

    Ironically, I am at my most economically successful, but my attempts to give back are met with vile language, abuse and weird sexual advances that are just offensive.

    This is what is going on in younger lesbian public spaces these days. When we address the economic issues and the fact that feminists everywhere are being attacked even by conservative heterosexual women, is remarkable.

    The irony is the conservative heterosexual women actually got ahead because of feminism, the very feminism they renounce now.

    The best lesbian groups and communities I’ve ever been in were in places where jobs were plentiful, and good feminist role models were easy to find.

    Now we are in a period of extreme decline, extreme vulgarity, and extreme intellectual deprivation.

    This is very serious. I feel for my younger lesbian sisters, but I also have to protect myself against their really mean public spirits right now.


  15. I think that where there is domestic violence and or rape in lesbian relationships, but it is hidden. I remember how for most of history incest was unsayable and therefore seen as rare.
    I have experiences of violence in both hetrosexual and lesbian “relationships” both to my own body and to friends. I know that I would never of reported the rape I was on the end of from a lesbian. I believe that it would not be believed. I believed I would be blamed.
    This is a common reaction when any form of domestic violence or sexual violence is dismissed as “rare”.
    I know it is uncomfortable to know, but there are minority of lesbians who use violence to control their relationships.
    Now, as too much of the lesbian scene has a glamourous sexual violence. It is packaged as “harmless fun” to force sex, to “play” at beating, even to “play” child sex abuse roles. In this environment, violence can be visible and invisible.
    When violence is seen as a game, then real violence will treated as “a laugh”. I think a young lesbian would very brave to report such violence.
    I will end to say that all forms of violence can continue when it seen as unsayable. We should speak out against all violence to women and children.
    It is uncomfortable when other women promote or commit the violence. But to ignore that they do does no-one a service.


  16. allecto,

    as a 28 year old lesbian over here in the states – i wholly agree with you – this is 100% a generational thing. i had a partner once who watched porn and she abused me. the crowd i socialized with were strippers and bartenders (though in straight clubs), and i even worked in a strip club for a while. talk/bragging of bd/sm was not uncommon. these women were far from ashamed of leaving their handcuffs and whips out – they were proud of it. not one of them was over 30. now that i’ve left that scene and moved 2000 miles, i’ve found radicals, but the vast majority of them are over 40. we “baby rads” are few and far between.


  17. I’ve noticed that lesbian feminists of my era, simply are nowhere to be found in the public lesbian world now.It’s rare that you’ll even see one lesbian over the age of 45 even at Los Angeles gay and lesbian pride days.

    This is why you need to come to Michfest, Satsuma! And the Hullaballoo if there are more of those events. There are also quite a few older lesbians who live on various women’s lands, and I know that OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change) is really active and thriving in various parts of the country, though you are probably not old enough yet! I think you are supposed to be 55, maybe even 60.

    But I hate to see this dividing up by age– very discouraging. At the same time, there is that free-floating meanness you describe about lesbian elders/crones and their dinosaur politics or crunchy granola hippie ways that are just so 60s or worse how “transphobic” we are. A lot of that *is* fostered, encouraged, stoked, by MTF persons and their advocates who, of course, want to discredit radical feminists/lesbian feminists any way they can because we have dared to challenge their destructive-to-women politics and theories.

    I agree with you as about the untreated mental illness that is to be found in groups of young lesbians, too, very troubling and disturbing.

    Rebecca, you allude to a good point, that supposedly consensual sex in the SM community is often abusive, and that doesn’t get counted as abuse in the lesbian SM community because nobody wants to talk about it.


  18. Well, Heart, I can only speak to my life in Los Angeles. I don’t like to see divisions by age or race or class in the lesbian community at all. In the past, we were all together regardless of any of these things and it truly worked. Every woman helped every other woman no questions asked.

    Something changed out there.

    In L.A., I really do believe untreated mental illness is a huge thing in the S/M subculture. I’ve met women who are so crazy, and yet they still are allowed into drop-in groups. This kind of mental illness was actually quite rare before the mid-80s, and I had to ask around to find out about the availability of mental health counseling. Blue Cross and some of the other health insurance carriers no longer allow therapy that lasts for an extended time to be covered. You might get 10 sessions with therapists. Believe it or not, lesbian therapists were a huge growth industry in San Francisco in the mid-80s.

    Lesbians aren’t being served in lesbian only spaces. They are lumped together with gay men, and the young women aren’t getting the support and attention they need. Even the so-called “gay friendly” churches don’t do specific and directed lesbian outreach activities. No one wants to spend good money on lesbians — give it to every cause on earth, but never lesbians. Check the budgets of non-profits– it’s scary!

    So we aren’t being honest about the source of S/M, and the incredible self-hatred that breeds all this nonsense.

    What I do now, is I mentor on an individual level, about 15 young lesbians. I help them get the financial coaching they need, I hire women and pay them very well, I introduce them to good people and organizations, I help them sign up for their health plans etc. And at holidays, I often cook dinners for women who don’t have a place to go or stay during holidays — Christmas — the most heterosexually abusive time of the year (to the tune of most wonderful time… :-).

    But I really can’t be in the drop-in groups with the vulgar language and the weird sexually abusive language. I just can’t take this, that and the contempt for the generation that built lesbian feminism. These young women are very very angry, and they take out all this anger on us. They resent our hard work, they resent our success, they resent a lot of things.

    I went to a lecture on the four generations as a part of my continuing education at my company. The four are “matures” — WWII, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millenials (born between 1980-2000), and Gen X was described as the most pessimistic and cynical generation ever born. I love Gen X, but I also notice a certain lack of ambition in this group that comes off as cynical or easily defeated. This helped me to understand where all this anger and strange pornification — which I think they see as rebellion and “cool,” comes from.

    A few days ago, I was at a lovely dinner with two Gen X lesbians, and somehow I quoted a line in a favorite William Blake poem. It seemed relevant to the conversation, and one of the women was actually astonished. It turned out that she loved Blake but had never heard him quoted in a lesbian context before. I could see a light come on. It made me realize that this sort of education is quite rare and quickly disappearing in America, and that we have such garbage standards everywhere, that greatness and quality are destroyed in the process. But yet it has great power, and this power should not be the exclusive use of the heterosexual world.

    Every now and then, I take a couple of young women to a very nice Chinese restaurant and listen to what they have to say. The food is excellent, the service and atmosphere impeccable, and this often transforms them. Baby boomers were described as a highly optimistic generation, and I never thought about it before, but it feels true to me.

    We need more love and more spaces for the different generations of lesbians to come together. Michigan and Hullabaloos are fine, but we need something that is great for young and old lesbians every day of the week locally. But if we have elders who are abused by the young, they won’t show up. We have lots of elder lesbians who have time, retirement etc., but they are very bad alcoholics. That’s the real legacy of oppression, and I don’t think any straight woman can ever imagine what this is all about. You think racism is bad, just try erasure 24-hours a day for a change of pace!

    Next time everyone thinks of sending off money to some AIDS project in the third world, think of young lesbians in your own backyard. I really get mad at this, damn mad. It seems like every cause on earth deserves more attention that this group! When was the last time you saw straight women coordinating a fundraiser for anything lesbian at all? When was the last time you saw lesbians marching for abortion rights? — Well lesbians marched for a lot of straight women’s issues, and I have yet to see much acknowledgement of this very often.

    I’d like to see more lesbian/straight alliances that involve hospitality etc.

    Love will drive out the demonic forces of S/M and porn. Women who have been badly sexually molested as children often report they are drawn to this world as a way to deal with the past. They’ve told me this directly in their own words.

    But still, I know that if we had more for younger and older women together, we’d have so much more in life. The question is can the older women take all this stuff. We are living in a declining and degraded culture, and this has fueled the rise of evangelicals and conservatives, but there is also a very troubling world that has emerged.

    The pornification of lesbian community is just a part of the whole, a part of a people who actually are publically attacked much more than I ever was at their age. So that’s why I do personal support– talking on the phone, encouraging, taking to dinners, cooking at holidays — the love I can share with the young in nicer surroundings. That’s the best I can do for the next generation, but I can’t take the toxic public lesbian spaces that have so little in common from the lesbian nation I once knew.


  19. Love will drive out the demonic forces of S/M and porn.

    I believe this with all my heart.

    I am having a “Michfest Northwest” meetup at my place in a couple of months, getting the PNW Festies together for fun and to spend the night in the country, in the trees and quiet of my place. I’m really hopeful about this. Based on the responses I’ve had, I think the women coming are of all different ages. I’ve got all sorts of plans including watching some of the really cool films I have, one on the woman-only peace encampment that lasted years at Greenham Common and one on practical steps in the direction of a Gift Society put out by a woman in Europe. If the weather is good, which is probably a hopeless dream, we could drum around the firepit out on my land, even. I think we need more and more of this kind of gathering, but like you say, it’s so difficult to connect with women going at least reasonably in the same direction we are going, whether lesbian or het.

    I agree with you re mental illness in the SM culture and also ::::zipping into flame-retardant suit::: among transpersons, i.e., MTFs that hang around lesbian groups/venues. Someone I very much respect who has done very fine work on transgender issues, a radical/lesbian feminist, said a while back she thinks that quite often, doctors, psychologists, etc. encourage “transitioning” because it’s something concrete that they *can* do, but that it doesn’t help, because again, so often these are not really gender issues the person has, these are issues of mental illness, and as some of us have seen, transitioning is no cure for mental illness.

    So true re support for lesbian issues among heterosexual women. I’ve actually thought a lot about that. Among the reasons I’ve come up with for heterosexual women being insensitive to lesbian issues (and I’m talking about feminists/progressives now, not, obviously, lesbophobes and haters) are: (1) het women don’t realize lesbians need their help and support. Honestly. I think they think that because lesbians don’t have to deal with husbands/men (usually) and often don’t have kids, they aren’t in as tough a spot as heterosexual women are; (2) they think being a lesbian is about attractions, romance (this perception fueled relentlessly by male-dominated, het-dominated media and porn, of course). They think that other than attractions/choice of partners, lesbian women’s lives are pretty much like their own, but easier (!)(again because of not having to deal with kids/husbands/men) and so supporting “all” women in the ways they already do, they think, equals support for lesbian issues (which it doesn’t necessarily); (3) lesbians often don’t ask for help! (And these are definitely all related). I have observed this. Even if they really need help, often lesbians won’t tell or ask for it, they just buck up, steel themselves, and vow that they will take care of themselves and won’t ask anyone for anything. Maybe this has to do with the inner knowing lesbians have that they have from a very young age that they will make their own way in life and nobody is going to take care of them. Or maybe it’s the way of all survivors, we often learn early we can’t depend on anyone but ourselves for anything.


  20. Actually, all of the above words by Heart are very true. As for lesbians asking for help, we actually do this all the time. I’ve asked straight women to speak up against homophobic statements; they usually don’t. I’ve asked straight women to stop sending money to every damn cause on earth except lesbian causes and lesbian/straight women’s retreat centers.

    And the big one, I’ve asked feminist blogs everywhere to actually have space for lesbians and lesbian supporting straight women to simply write about lesbian issues. That’s right, straight women can actually ask lesbians questions and care about the answers — and I mean hard political issues, not stupid sex questions.

    And there are many straight women out there in 20 year marriages to men, who one day wake up and realize they actually are lesbian. You would not believe the number of women who were married to men who later realized their lesbian selves. In the studies of women’s sexuality, this is an under-reported aspect of women.

    Lesbians sometimes are the last of the great romantics. My issue is simply space — I’d love to go to an elegant restaurant where only women congregate — lesbian and straight women. So I have a lot of hope that once the children are grown, straight women will actually have a real life in the world free of this child care, and free to be intensely intellectually political.

    Straight women can challenge the silence of straight women.

    We’ll get rid of the pornification of lesbian spaces, which will aid and abet the lack of safety for straight women too. Remember lesbian porn is viewed by straight men, and this porn addiction will hurt straight women. Straight men force women into sex acts with other women because of this. You will be humiliated by straight men if you don’t stand solid against the entire range of pornographic evil, and it is evil! Sometimes evangelical christians are on to evil, and they have taught us to fight it. It is demonic, and it will destroy the character of women, whether they know it or not.

    So this is a fight we can all be in, and we need to be honest about how women are made mentally ill by male sexual colonization. We need to have space for women who have never ever had sex with men — this is a great power women have had througout history, and we overlook the greatness of this. We should celebrate these power women who have kept their bodies free of rape that is ALL SEX with men. Sex with men is rape, whether women want to admit it or not, if women have to rely on it to get fed or taken care of.

    MTF lesbians are invading women’s space both straight and lesbian all over the place. Straight women won’t have their spaces either if this persists.

    So we can work together to eliminate this preditory assault by the newest form of patriarchal invasion of women’s selves, or we can continue to pretend that lesbians don’t exist, or that we are there to support straight women at our own expense.

    But the big issue is SILENCE. Erasure. These are big for lesbians.

    It’s a big big issue, and it has never really been adequately addressed in any forum I have seen so far.

    Straight women actually begrudge everything lesbians say. Our smallest comments are attacked, and our very selves rarely if ever understood.

    The pornification of lesbian spaces and drop-in groups is huge, the lack of lesbian or even women only space is severly in danger because of gay men and LGBT, but also because of the onslaught of MTF invasion. Who will stand in complete solidarity of women as women? Who will take the MTFs and THROW them out of any women’s space they try to enter? Who will put the foot down at Michigan and Hullaballo and say NO MORE?

    That’s the job of radical feminism NOW.

    We can have shared spaces and coalitions, but we must have space that is sacred to women, and those who create a lesbian equal/shared space are heroines in my book. Lesbians are not an easy compliant group of women. We are loud, brash, and aggressive. Some of us from the old days are very very violent when we are insulted. I’m not from the pacifist wing of radical lesbians, I’m from the sword carrying wing.
    continue to be beated to death by men? Where is the realization that all men are the inherent enemies of women with their secret and not so secret porn addicted lives? When will this be said and done with as straight women and lesbians together?

    Porn, male invasion, MTF perversion and porn mouth mentality — whatever straight women refuse to stand up against vis-a-vis the hatred and fear of lesbians, will just end up on your own front porch.

    Straight women owe a great debt to the great political commentary and research of lesbians, the radical not nice variety. We had nothing to lose, and to a certain extent, we still have no stake in that straight oppressive world that so many women fall prey to.

    Let’s organize, support and be proud to raise our swords high in the air! Let’s be blunt about women only spaces and support the protection of a women only aesthetic!

    Heart is doing great work in bringing women together, and in daring to defend lesbians in print. Most straight women I know don’t have the guts to do this. Most straight feminists I know would rather lesbian nation keep silent, just as men try to keep straight women silent.

    But we all know that your silence will never protect you!


  21. “Those pictures represent what ‘lesbianism’ is to the vast majority of young ‘lesbians’.” This is very, very true in my experience. And I would actually expand that to young women in general. This is what young women, girls even, are being told is “lesbianism”. So the girls who know that they are lesbians from a young age are growing up with this as their model. But this also affects whether girls even realize they are lesbians.

    Not all girls are discouraged from becoming lesbians by outright punishment or disapproval. Lesbianism can be openly accepted, but then defined so narrowly that very few girls or women would even consider themselves lesbians and lesbianism itself is in no way threatening to men.

    It’s not just that lesbians are being told they should use pornography. It’s that women and girls are also being told that if they don’t enjoy pornographic images of women, they aren’t lesbians. Pornography is generally accepted and women are supposed to enjoy some form of it. Not enjoying it is okay, but not great, and a woman who finds it outright disgusting or horrifying has something wrong with her. A woman who finds “lesbian” pornography disturbing is certainly not a lesbian.

    There’s also the constant reassurance that anything other just knowing you’re a lesbian at four years old is not lesbianism. Love women in general? Nothing to with lesbianism. Deeply, passionately in love with a female friend? Don’t worry, it doesn’t make you a lesbian. And so on. Actually, the love aspect isn’t even necessarily brought up. It’s usually all about wanting sex with women. I remember the first time I heard lesbians described as women who *love* women, not all that long ago, I was slightly surprised, because it wasn’t usually put that way. When I was growing up, it was always “women who are attracted to other women” or “women who have sex with other women”. Though that might just be experimenting! If you didn’t instinctively know you’re a lesbian you’re probably not a lesbian.

    Finally, we’re taught that choosing to be a lesbian is impossible. Lesbianism, like all forms of sexuality, is inborn and involuntary (I swear, sometimes they made it sound like a medical condition). So, if you’re not one of the ones who just knows at four, don’t even think about it. It’s not uncommon for a woman – especially on TV or in writing, but real women too – to say something like “I wish I were a lesbian, so I wouldn’t have to put up with men”. There’s even a specific plotline I’ve read/seen more than once, where a woman will decide this, and inevitably fail. If the woman is coded as a feminist, she will fail because she just couldn’t help it and had to have sex with some man. If the woman is not coded as a feminist, she will go back on her decision because the man “healed” her of whatever problem she had with men (past abusive relationship or whatever). Because making decisions about sexuality is impossible, and any woman who would try to make such a decision has something wrong with her. If women don’t realize they have a choice in the matter, lesbianism isn’t exactly a huge threat to men. Perhaps the men’ll even get the benefit of more porn.

    Wow, long comment. But yeah, the “lesbians like porn, SM, etc.” was one of the many reasons that I assumed I couldn’t possibly be a lesbian. For years. And I’m only 21.


  22. Thanks Keen for posting! 🙂 🙂 The irony is, there is probably more published information on lesbians that is positive and feminist, than ever before in the herstory of the world.

    But you’d never know it because people are so trapped by “popular” images.

    The greatest lesbian writing and insights can be found in women’s studies programs, on feminist web sites like Women’sSpace-The Margins, and from the mouths of truly visionary lesbians throughout history:

    Gertrude Stein, Jane Rule, Mary Daly, Robin Morgan, Z. Budapest, Audre Lorde, and many many more. The books are there, the conference notes can be found online, a google search will lead you to wikipedia and beyond.

    I have always felt that the greatest lesbian images come out of literature and political/theology constructs. You really won’t find authentic lesbian identity in movies or DVDs, but you will find what great lesbians have said about their own lives in autobiographies.

    The sad thing, is that I felt more a sense of true lesbian power from our lesbian-produced magazines worldwide in the 80s, than I see now avaiable to women of the next generation.

    I often feel so sorry that you are subjected to “marketing” and “lesbian porn” and soft core porn like “L-Word.” We old activists did our best to make more options available and to attack pornography.

    We are always out there trying to support young women, but sometimes you get easily taken away by all this vile and vulgar stuff.

    Remember, lesbian self is rare in world history. The great moments of lesbian history can be found in the early 20th century, in the poetry of Vita Sackville-West, in the beginnings of modernism itself.

    You can find the lesbians who invented social work: Jane Addams, or in the biography of Lorena Hickok.

    Louise Nevelson the sculptor, and in the hundreds of lesbians who became Episcopla priests, ministers in Metropolitan Community Churches, Jewish lesbian anthologies and on and on it goes.

    The power of lesbian renaissance can be found in poetry and the written word, and in publications.

    It is all there– the best and brightest, the most exciting ideas, and the love of women throughout time.

    Read “Surpassing the Love of Men” or “Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers” read “Gay L.A.”

    All of this stuff provides powerful and uplifting stories of lesbians, and women who risked everything to make the world better for women loving women.

    At age 21 Keen, you have such an adventure that I call the life of the mind open to you now. I encourage you to reach out, to study, and to stand up against images that degrade and humiliate young women.

    Get a good education, and reach out to mentors and women who can inspire you. Look for goodness and truth, and you’ll find it. Flee the evil that is woman hatred, and look for the women who do good in the world. Lesbians of quality and substance are everywhere, and these images of porno lesbians are a sad and pathetic commentary, but that is not who lesbians throughout time are. Men try to degrade women and pornify them, but you know better.

    Keep up the good work and the thoughtful writing!
    Good luck on your journey!


  23. Wow, some fascinating insights here. Thanks to everyone who has contributed.

    Satsuma: While I really appreciate your knowledge and experience that you have shared here I just have to let you know that pro-male economics (capitalism) is not welcome here. I hope you do not take offense but it is something that I feel passionately about and I have edited your comments to remove your references to lesbians being better off due to economics.

    Your description of Lesbian News sounds exactly like Lesbians on the Loose, a free, widely circulated lesbian mag, run by a woman who refuses to print articles written by lesbian feminists.

    Heart: I have just read anticlimax and the history you outline here is very pertinent to this discussion. I found that history so fascinating.

    It wasn’t at all my intention to divide women by generation, but to show that young women are facing a different situation in regards to issues of sexuality than older women. I believe very strongly in the values and analysis of the older generation of lesbian feminists. I support them whole-heartedly and count myself as one of them. But the older feminist organising the over forties event did so precisely because of what Satsuma was talking about. The misogyny of young lesbians, the age hatred, and the misogynist politics. She is passionate about intergenerational activism but she also belives that seperate spaces are also necessary. I think I feel the same way. I love being with older lesbian feminists, I think they are fantastic, and yes I do revere them a little (I can’t help it). But there are still differences in our experiences and young lesbian feminists need contact with our peers as well. It is a really strange experience being the only young woman at a gathering, and older women have been very tentative about talking to me likely because of how they have been treated in the past by women in my age group.

    Rebecca: You will always be believed here. Thank you again for the courage you have in speaking the truth of your reality. You are absolutly right that silence is a killer and a radical commitment to women’s voices is powerful and necessary.

    keen: I totally agree with every single thing you have written here. Absolutely. When I was seventeen I remember clearly that a male co-worker was teasing me about being a lesbian and I replied to him that I wished I was a lesbian so that I wouldn’t have to be attracted to men. I have been called a lesbian as an insult and a threat from the earliest of my teenage years simply because I didn’t talk to males. I hated them because they would always hit on me and that disgusted me. When I finally decided to have a relationship with a woman, the stigma of being a lesbian just had no sting for me because that word lesbian had no power to frighten me.

    When I was queer and bisexual in uni and getting exposed to the lesbian pornography etc. that was a huge stumbling block for me too as I could not see that that representation of lesbianism had anything to do with me. So I questioned whether I could be a lesbian as I didn’t want to have sex with women, I wanted to love women.


  24. There should always be shared space between older and younger lesbians as well as separate age space.

    I think older lesbians are just frozen out of most lesbian events these days, and when you’re 50 and above you simply have different issues than young lesbians.

    But we can all come together, and educate each other.
    I think a lot of younger lesbians flounder around without solid support. I found a lot of good solid wisdom and support from older lesbians when I was a young woman, and it really helped me a lot. I was never subjected to the awful porno images, and the drugs and the potty mouths. Thank goddess I had intelligent moral women supporting me. We thrived on political activism and a vision of a world free of oppression — sexual oppression of women.

    Remember, the U.S. is sex saturated now. Sex is used to manipulate and entire populace. Young lesbians are simply falling for the degenerate cultures that wiped out a whole generation of gay men. They guys are still dying and getting STDs; they’ll never learn.

    The pornification of lesbian spaces is a huge problem. Since I take a very strong anti-porn stance, I always wonder how younger lesbians can overlook the incredible output of 30 years of lesbian activism. It can be googled. You can create support groups of 5-10 women, and meet in apartments and homes. You can call lesbian activists and ask for speakers and support. It is possible to do all of this.

    I think one reason you don’t see old lesbians at many events anymore, is we get bored by the superficiality and lack of interest in lesbian legacies overall. It’s the vulgarity, the S/M posturing, you just get tired of it all.

    Now I help younger lesbians as much as I can, but I do it one-on-one, because I don’t want to deal with young women in groups — too potty mouthed, too porn and sex obsessed…it does get old and tiresome to me.

    I think young lesbians a lot of the time don’t want to do the reading and the study. They can complain that lesbian content is becoming pornified, but this has been going on since the early 80s. Remember “On Our Backs”– still going strong I would guess.

    There is going to be an old lesbian conference in Los Angeles this summer. A very rare event in this town.

    We all want to be with our peers, and have our life experiences respected. This is a given.

    Young lesbians and old lesbians should come together and share a new world, and make sure the power of lesbian nation lives on to BENEFIT all of us!

    P.S. Putting up porn pictures but can’t stomach economic issues of older lesbians? Wow, are we screwed up or what Allecto, but hey go for it 🙂 Who’ll know in 30 years right?


  25. It is not a question of what I can or can not stomach. It is an issue of my feminist principles. I am against all male economics. I believe that money is a severely detrimental system to women’s health and the health of the planet. As such I am against it and I do not want to have male economics lauded on my blog. A lesbian feminist economics would not involve money, nor the destruction of the planet, nor slavery, nor colonisation. Nor would it be based on or benefitting from the male economy.

    Are you calling me screwed up, Satsuma, or am I misinterpreting?


  26. Satsuma I am serious about not allowing pro-capitalism on my blog. I am not obliged to justify myself and my opinions to you or to anyone else and I will not. Thank you for the kind words about my blog but your last comment has been deleted.


  27. Oy vey but ok :-0


  28. Allecto I know you mentioned once or twice the de-politicization of the lesbian and queer community, and hinting at the narcissism and hyper-individualism of it among young lesbians. I really feel the same way you do and I thought you might like this spoken word video. Have you ever heard of Staceyann Chin?:

    She says it all. So beautiful. I listen to this and it always revs me up. It really has to do with your post.


  29. Yes, I am familiar with Staceyanne Chin and have listened quite a few times to that poem. I love it. It is exactly how I feel about it all. Staceyanne is just fricking amazing.


  30. I was hesitating about responding to Satsuma. She’s right on a lot of things, but the pro-capitalism allecto mentioned, and the utter paranoia about transwomen she has expressed her and on heart’s blog…whoa.

    yes, of course some transwomen are assholes. so are some women. this is not to say that transwomen have no male privilege. in most cases, they were raised with it, benifited from it, and even absorbed and accepted and expect it to continue, have absorbed and even eroticised stereotypes about women’s sexuality, etc. but that they have far less of it than a “cisgendered” male.

    the way i see it, transwomen seeking entrance to women only groups is like jewish women seeking entrance into groups for women of colour. both groups in both examples are oppressed, in both similar and different ways. black women are oppressed because of their skin tone, body features, etc jewish women are oppressed if their religion is found out, and are regarded as a race by more extreme racists–but they still typically receive white skin privilege. similarly, women are oppressed by being raised as girls (sexistly), by being punished for having female bodies, etc. they cannot escape it (without transitioning). transwomen have been raised male, although they have rejected their male gender training. while women are punished for masculinity and femininity and anything in between or out of the binary, men are punished for failures of masculinity (e.g. crying, deeply loving another person without possessiveness or jealously, rejecting being violent, not consuming porn, etc). this same judgement is placed on transwomen when they are perceived as male. they are seen as “sex-traitors” by men, and are often pushed into mimicking stereotypes about women in an attempt to not be punished by men for being different. this is hard to explain, but they hope that if they are regarded as women, they won’t be judged as a male by men, but as a woman. Because as nonconformists to manhood they have been ridiculed and punished by men and, yes, sometimes by women, they hope that being recognised female will allow them expression more in the way they want to be. a transwoman friend of mine has “fathered” two children, one who is a boy, and she spoke of how gentle, sweet, loving, etc her son was and how angry she would be if someone tried to destroy that in him, in her words, “treat him like a man.” (i recommended that she read john stoltenberg’s refusing to be a man, which she thinks she will, but that she first needs to figure herself out more.) in their attempt to not be treated like men, they may latch onto being trans, or being women. they may identify as women, but not wish to change their bodies, because they recognise that the problem lies with expectations placed on them by others, not their bodies.

    this was kinda rambly; i’m still working this out in my head. in short, i do think that transwomen’s and women’s experience are sufficiently different to deserve both separate and together spaces, like women of colour and jewish women do (but for jewish women of colour this obviously gets complicated by their intersecting oppressions.) and douglas, the friend i mentioned, was on to something when she said that boys often feel torn–they are told to both be tough, angry, strong, etc yet to not deal with these emotions healthily–be raised to be a brute, but then get blamed for it. because men and transwomen before they identify as such often feel profoundly disempowered by patriarchy, although they may not see it as patriarchy’s fault (which it is).

    i think i need to post this in my own lj here. i need to tease things out more though.


  31. Thank you so much for having the courage to write about pornography and what it’s done to lesbian culture. It’s a battle I’ve been fighting since *Coming To Power* came out, and we’ve pretty well lost the war, both in lesbian culture and in the mainstream. I have so much despair and so little hope for the future of our planet.

    For those of you in the USA/Canada, come to RadLesFes, the only specifically radical feminist festival out there. If we can’t burn down patriarchy, we can at least keep the torch burning.
    http://radlesfes.blogspot.com


  32. It seems to me that lesbian only space is rare, and that transwomen should not be allowed to come into lesbian only space. My views are not paranoid, they are based on real observation of transwomen in lesbian spaces, and how this made the lesbians in the group ill at ease and afraid to talk. It was about watching transwomen actually dominate groups of lesbians by overtalking, and by having to work hard to get them to let other women take turns speaking.

    This was a coming out group for young lesbians.

    I have never had a problem with mixed groups, where newcomers who walk in the door know this in advance. When you advertise a lesbian drop-in group or coming out group, the women who come to these groups should not have to listen to transsomen tell wet t-shirt stories or sex stories, for example.

    Let’s be clear in advertising. Lots of young lesbians stopped coming to a group because several transwomen ruined the group. Now who appologizes for making lesbian space harder to find? Who deals with the male porn mind yet again? These are real issues for real lesbians in real drop-in groups. It’s not a piece of fiction.


  33. I did not read what Satsuma has said on this thread about transwomen as being transphobic or paranoid. I think that Satsuma has genuine reasons for being against trans colonisation of lesbian feminist spaces.

    I would ask Demonista not to use the word ‘cisgender’ here, as it is not a word that I agree with the definition of. As in I do not believe that there is any such thing as ‘cisgender privilege’. I believe that there is male privilege, some of which transwomen may not have access to after transitioning. But it is not correct to conceive of women born women as being privileged over and oppressing male bodied peoples who have had their bodies surgically altered.

    I believe that the word lesbian can not refer to male born peoples who have been surgically altered. The word lesbian is a woman born women’s identity right and only women born women are allowed to define what that word means to us. Many, many lesbian feminists believe that transwomen calling themselves women and lesbians are committing acts of colonisation.

    I understand that other women feel differently but here on this blog I will be defending and protecting the rights of women born women and lesbians to define their own collective identities to exclude persons born male.

    Satsuma has provided evidence of the effects of transwomen in lesbian spaces. To dismiss these grounded fears and realities as paranoia is just not true and I believe a mischaracterisation of the situation between lesbian feminists and transwomen.


  34. Wolf: thanks for stopping by. That lesfest looks fantastic. I wish I could get there.


  35. Lesbian-only, and wimmin-born-wimmin only space is rare, but shutting out men and trans people is no guarantee of having a feminist space, as Satsuma and allecto and other’s have made clear, because women can fall prone to misogyny. That’s what I was getting at. Obviously SOME women need to be excluded from these spaces because they are all sexual harrassment/insults/”yay! porn”/etc, making women too scared to speak their (in many cases, the) truths.

    I do agree that transwomen shouldn’t be entitled to born-wimmin lesbian space, but they should be allowed in general wimmin’s space, e.g. there should be a meeting for born-wimmin only, but in general (ie services, hanging out in the space, etc) should be open to them (and in some cases, such recovery sexual abuse, should be open to everyone)

    I think transwomen are often between a rock and a hard place with things like speaking out, because if they take a large amount of the discussion, they’re seen as silencing wimmin, and if they are quiet, they are seen as perpetuating stereotypes of femininity/submission. Taking up so much “verbal space” in wimmin’s groups may be one of the few times they feel safe in speaking candidly about their experiences, and/or they may feel the need for validation for their experiences.

    Of course if a transperson is an ass (e.g. pro-sadopatriarchy talk, bragging about porn use), they need to leave (and to stop being an ass).

    I wasn’t denying it’s occurence, I was speaking against such a focus on trans women as the main perpetuators of this. If certain transwomen are to blame, yes, it’s their fault. But it certainly isn’t all, or even most, of transwomen’s fault. Patriarchy as an insitution and men (and occasionally, transpeople and rarely, women) who do the most to uphold it are to blame–but they generally won’t apologise for doing so. Unfortunately, dealing with the detritus and lost interest are jobs lesbian and radical feminists need to do–to ensure wimmin have spaces, politics, etc focused on them and their experiences, led by those feminists.

    In my experience…well, to lay the cards out, I am friends/sexually involved with a transwoman (she hasn’t altered her body through hormones or surgery, nor does she want to), and we are able to have candid conversations about her being anti-strip clubs, her experiences with being raised as a boy, public washroom issues; me being a radical feminist, rejecting shaving, how I’m not that interested in vaginal entering (we have noncoital sex only; same with my male partners), etc

    I have several other trans friends, mostly born wimmin who identify as genderqueer, male, etc. I haven’t felt censored in my talks with them as individuals, or in a group of friends, or in the women’s centre at our university. Where I have felt censored/like screaming what i really thought but didn’t is in spaces designated as queer, eg the rainbow centre’s group discussion, with a queer male friend when he was doing his radio show. I think “queer”, “sex positive” politics is where most of the harm lays, not with trans people in general.


  36. Allecto, I used the word “cisgendered” in quotations for a reason–I don’t really buy it myself. Most of the privileges ascribed to “cisgender” people are really men’s privileges. If they are at all wimmin’s/women’s, it is only to the extent they conform to rules set up and perpetuated by men. The bulwark trans people are against isn’t “cisgender” privilege, but male privilege. Because trans people are given male privilege in cases–again, to the extent they conform to patriarchy–but also to the degree patriarchy doesn’t find their existence subversive. Also men often–esp if they are gay, poor, Asian, etc–need to be on the mens on top’s good graces to be given all this privilege. but even than, a black/gay/poor man still has more, simply based on whether or not he had a “significant” amount of tissue around his urethra to join the “stands up to pee,” than a vulvaed (or in some cases, interex) person in similar racial, economic, etc situations.

    In regards to the standards for being called lesbian, what about intersex people? Does it go by how they are raised, or their ambiguous genitals (e.g. “micropenis” or elongated clitoris), or their chromosomes? I don’t think you’re are suggesting the latter, because, eg AIS (androgen insensitivity syndrome) “men” are chromosomally male but are almost always labelled and raised as females, because of their outward genitalia being vulvar. And that one can be XXY, X, XYY, etc.

    But I agree that wimmin, esp wimmin who feel as if they are lesbian, should get to define it. Esp, esp if it’s part/integral to their politics.

    As I’ve said above, considering that I’m involved with a transwoman who considers herself lesbian, I’m…biased. Nor do I consider myself a lesbian feminist (I’m radfem). So my interest in in defining the word is more limited.

    Colonisation is an interesting aspect, esp when you get into how some white men are going into drag and blackface simultaneously (e.g. “welfare queen” with 10 kids). To me, that lends credence to the view that blackface and drag are comparable. But I do see a difference between drag and considering oneself a woman because that is closer to how one considers themself–that being a man is just not right to them. Drag mocks women, makes is into laughingstocks, demeans our oppression under patriarchy. Trans* doesn’t necessarily do this. Being the “pms-ing bitch on broadway” is misogynist trash–colonisation to a t. But considering oneself a woman out of love for women, empathy with them, yes, even finding feminism a liberating force for their lives, etc…doesn’t strike me as such. It just doesn’t. But I do agree that transwomen and wimmin’s experience are different–but does it warrant excluding trans people (and intersex people too?) from the word lesbian?

    (On a light but genuine note, I sometimes say that the sex I have with my male partners is lesbian sex. Is that mis/appropriation? Does it warrant being called colonisation? I call it that because in so many straight and “queer” people’s minds the sex I enjoy with my partners “isn’t real sex,” is “vanilla,” or ironically “traditional” because it’s non-“penetrative,” not sadopatriarchal (not “s and m”), we respect each other’s boundaries, doesn’t rely on props (porn imagery like high heels, dildos, turning the body into plastic commodity), and so forth. I feel that lesbian feminism represents my sexual politics far more so than queer theory, mainstream straight society, pornstitution, etc, etc. But again, I think I found radical feminism to be the most representative of my sexual politics and sexuality. Even Andrea Dworkin (radical feminist and lesbian) had a male life partner.)

    P.S. This is an excellent article on drag. UGH. http://www.nostatusquo.com/Schacht/fourrenditions.pdf
    “In a sense, since many audience members are themselves young, culturally attractive women, during every show a seemingly high stakes contest occurs over who can appear to be the most “real” woman. While the female illusionists almost always “win,” those who in action or image seemingly question this expected outcome must obviously be put in their place and situationally subordinated. I believe to do otherwise would not only undermine the very real power that the performers’ exercise in this context, but it would also diminish the audience appeal of the shows – men as the most beautiful and glamorous women you will ever meet.”
    “Veiled beneath multiple layers of the feminine, the drag queens of the court literally reign supreme over all present.
    “As such, the men in the court doing female drag can very much be seen as undertaking the masculine embodiment of the feminine. These female impersonators view doing drag as a means to garner power and authority in the setting; the most “elegant” and “tastefully” done female impersonators of the court are its venerated leaders. They merely view doing female drag as a tool, its physical image the real estate, for realizing and exercising masculine dominance over other court members. In fact, many of the gay drag queens in this setting have expressed quite misogynist sentiments about real women – often called “rg’s”(real girls) and “fish,” with even straight female friends being referred to as “fag hags.” Some even go as far to say they make better women than women8, and as previously noted, the only time they wear feminine attire is for formal court functions (many have told me they dislike wearing women’s clothing and when outside of this setting most can and sometimes do pass as straight men).”


  37. I guess my specific examples of colonization of lesbian space (it is advertised as lesbian space by the way) cleared up the misunderstandings.

    Most of the time, I wouldn’t worry about a lot of details about people. Transwomen are who they are. I don’t understand how people can have elective surgery that is very dangerous, and take all kinds of drugs, when I think the real issue is that people should be allowed to fully be who they are.

    The basic issue is Can we have lesbian only space? Can we also have trans-only, and mixed group space as well? I think we can clearly say that it’s great to have mixed gender, mixed lesbian / trans groups.
    But I believe lesbian only space as it is herstorically constructed should be considered sacred, and that EVERYONE should defend it! If it is attacked, you have to question the ethics of those who don’t respect herstoric lesbian feminism; a philosophy that was invented recently, and one that has stood the test of time. Lesbian feminism is a rock solid way of life, and when you look at the women who invented and developed it over the last 30-40 years, these are women you can look up to as our renaissance, our heroines, our greatest thinkers.

    Would any feminist here who calls herself a feminist go up to Mary Daly at an event and start making her listen to “S & M” or “genderqueer or transtheory?” Would you talk porno trash, and advocate sex positive “lesbian made” pornography to Daly or Morgan or Jefferys? Think of what these women did for the movement called lesbian feminism, and the thing I am often quite sad about is how classic lesbian feminism is often so ridiculed so degraded that it makes me wonder.

    I would never ever write about my sex life on a blog. I would never use most of the words that are common currency here, and I believe in the dignity and heroism of women who were real, who had incredible intellectual curiosity and who fought battles that young women can’t even begin to imagine.

    I find the real issue to be the generational ignorance of the roots of the entire feminist movement. Younger women who don’t have the life experience battling men and male-immitating behavior quite as much as older lesbians have experienced, for example.

    These days, you’ll even see lesbian conferences being advertised that say “Women age 60 and older only.” They do this for a reason: younger women will not respect lesbian only space, and the transissue can be neatly avoided in generational gate keeping.

    You can have lesbian only, gay male only, trans only and race exclusive groups. It’s ok. I respect all separatist organizations and intentions. Politically, you do want to be with people who are 100% on your wave-length now and then. I love going to old lesbian group events, because everyone in there can instantly raise her hand when a speaker says: “How many of you are feminists?” There’s no fussing, there’s no ambiguity, we are the old soldiers who know who we are and where we came from.
    We don’t lose sleep over “gender queer” and all the tiresome sex obsessed world that has become more and more the public face of lesbians in big cities.

    If we can’t agree on the freedom for women to define and create groups that meet their needs as oppressed minorities, then what’s the point of it all?

    Transwomen can aid the cause of women, by doing the anti-rape work, by having marches supporting women’s rights etc. I say, just do the work. But if you harass women at Michfest, or butt into young lesbian coming out groups with porno-talk, and S & M, and just vulgar yuck that I associate with male banter, well then I have a real problem with this.

    I am a very traditional old school lesbian feminist. Simple. I am against pornography, I abhor S & M and vulgar displays. I get annoyed at women who deliberately sexualize a public event, and see to them enjoy making other lesbians uncomfortable. When I meet lesbians of a certain generation, it is a relief to see that they actually have the rarest of qualities in radical political contexts: good manners, a conscience and a powerful use of language that is not out of some porn magazine screenplay.

    It’s a simple world that I believe in and live in. And my ethics are simple: don’t subject other women to “mind rape” “inappropriate sexual talk” or “pornography.” Bringing in this stuff to a drop-in group or lesbian setting should be considered offensive to women in general. It’s the kind of thing men have been doing to women forever — the harassment in the work place, the inappropriate language… that’s what you expect from patriarchy!


  38. I find it very sad that queer politics is invading women-only spaces. Personally, I find it makes me feel quite unsafe to be open.
    I feel that most transgendered people would have respect for women-only spaces. Separatism can be vital for many women coming away from male violence, and can help to re-gain their dignity.
    I wonder how many in queer politics would attack other forms of separatism, or would they show respect to other groups. Do they see radical feminists as a soft target.
    What I find difficult about the queering of the lesbian scene is that it goes alongside with pornography. Some in the queer movement see themselves as “sexual outlaws”, and ally themselves with “sex workers” (the happy hooker), child abusers and S/M. I think this is highly offensive to the majority of transgendered people.
    I as an exited prostituted woman do not feel that most women in the sex trade are “sexual outlaws”, for that implies that they happy in their “work”. Rather, I think most women and girls would exit if they had safe housing, regular income, and other mental and practical help. I find many in queer politics have a patronising and ignorant attitudes to prostituted women and girls.
    This can make me feel unsfe in a lesbian scene that has become queer.


  39. Satsuma and Rebecca: Having just gone to an IWD event yesterday, where some 3rd wave ‘feminists’ and ‘lesbians’ were spouting all of the anti-2nd wave, ‘pro-sex work’ agendas, I know how frustrated you both feel.

    These women wouldn’t even argue with me and the other radical women there – they just ran away (literally) and refused to engage with us because we were being ‘confrontational’ and ‘silencing’ and ‘not supporting women’s choices.’ We weren’t being any of that. They wouldn’t talk to us because our arguments were way better than theirs, and they knew it.

    I’m a young woman, too, though I identify as a radical feminist, not a 3rd waver. I know 3rd wavers hate and ridicule older women, and especially, as you say Satsuma, so many of the great lesbian feminists you mention (if they even know about them, which they often don’t). But they’re also pretty damn hating of young women like me and allecto who call them out on their ignorance and arrogance.


  40. I so sick of “3rd wave” feminists and their attitude about porn and prostitution.
    I am sick of being told that porn will ok if it is “feminist”. Which I feel is a contradiction in terms. Porn is about the degradation of women and girls for male sexual pleasure. So I find it hard to see how that can be feminist.
    I am sick of being told how working in the the sex industry is liberating and empowering. Even when I say I was in the sex trade, my views on the violence and humiliation are dismissed. All they want to hear is the “happy hooker”. For this means they don’t to do anything to change the sex trade.
    I am sick of 3rd wavers telling me how they have invented feminism. I do mention Mary Wollstencraft, the Pankhursts, Mary Daly, Andrea Dworkin and many others. But these women seem to believe the past doesn’t exist. Don’t they wonder how they got the vote. How rape in marriage was made illegal. How it came about that women can speak about childhood sexual abuse. Do they really believe it was by magic.
    I feel these women dismiss my reality as a “sad story”. I am seen as one-dimenonal by their attitude -the “damaged whore”. Because they see me as an individual, rather than seeing that I speak out because my story is very common, and I speak out to help bring a change so no more women and girls have to suffer in the sex trade.


  41. Dissenter, rmott62 and Allecto– thanks for your comments!

    It is true that many third wave feminists just don’t have the education or hertorical perspective to really get how porn harms women. They are largely ignorant of the past, and once I discovered why. Over 50% of young women in a drop-in group I led were functional illiterates. They couldn’t do math very well, and their reading skills were very poor. So Andrea Dworkin and Mary Daly would have been incomprehensible to them. It would be like expecting the average American to recite Chaucer in Middle English! Or it would be like asking a 25 year old to recite from memory a poem by Emily Dickinson or William Blake. It won’t happen because this type of education is not commonly available these days. Sic transit gloria!

    new topic:
    I am very respectful of separatists of all sorts — I believe in separatism as an empowering step to create security and solidarity for groups of people who are marginalized by mainstream anything.

    If it’s about lesbian only space, then transgender women just stay out. Create a mixed space for lesbians and transgender women to be, but don’t invade women’s only or lesbian only space! That’s what men do! If you are truly women, then you’ll know this and honor it.

    Black women need black women’s only space. They need a place free of white women. I need spaces of all white college educated lesbians, I just get starved if I can’t have this. This doesn’t mean that I am not in complete solidarity with women worldwide, and it doesn’t mean I exclude people. It just means I am a highly educated upwardly mobile lesbian feminist, and I want to go at my pace sometimes with other women and lesbians who also want this.

    We can’t avoid the porn lesbians out there, so perhaps they really need to have their own spaces. Flippant pro-prostition women should really listen to women who were in prostitution and know how damanging it is. Women need to get a real education about what “sex work” is really all about.

    I know of no woman on earth who would willingly do any work like that unless they needed the money. Give women good economic opportunity, and they’ll jump at it. Pay women $25-50 an hour to do even basic phone answering work, and you’ll get women lining up around the block for those jobs. If women had a real choice, would they sell their bodies on the street and have sex with sleazy men? I don’t think so, unless they were seduced into it by pimps or male traffickers.

    I think a lot of third wave lesbians I know just like to shock people. They’re into showing off and shocking. They like to pile onto older lesbians and make fun of us just for the sheer sport of it. They have absolutely no interest in dialogue or commitment.
    So I don’t waste my time. They know they can’t win some of these arguments so they don’t even try. Trying to talk Daly or Dworkin with them is really throwing pearls before swine. They won’t get it, don’t want to do the reading, and are just in it for sport and fun! They’ll run from an intellectually well tuned presentation the way most uneducated people normally do. They are afraid and insecure deep down inside, and so they run!

    When I was a young woman, I was very interested in learning from older lesbians and have always loved them. I love women who are feminists and in their 70s, I love the caring of that generation, and they still have a lot of social skills that young women don’t even know exist. Older women, however, need to listen to young women, care about them and ask lots of questions. Be involved and caring. Young women need to practice the art of conservation, and it begins by learning to “ask questions” and care about the answers. I know, internet women have very poor conversation skills. I see this a lot with young women I meet at conferences — age 23, don’t know how to say anything, and they stare dumbly at you through a dinner. Yes, this does happen. They have no idea how to talk to people at a banquet dinner table.

    Go to older women’s homes, and you’ll have a good meal, and a well set table, for example.

    When we had lesbian women’s brunches once upon a time, I got out all the good dishes, the cloth napkins, a large ham, salads and the best French roast coffee I could find. In the days when I didn’t have much money at all, I recall going to the store to get my first automatic coffee maker just for these brunches. I couldn’t justify such an “expenisve” appliance for my own use, but I wanted it for the women who came to our house. Women still talk about these brunches 20 years later. I had almost no money, but I wanted to make a great meal for my sisters. I wanted them to feel loved and fussed over!

    We need to show the love to women. Find the third wave women who need love and support. Create porn free discussion groups, make rules so that the sleaze is not allowed to speak its name.

    In love and support, all the women who have suffered with incest, exiting prostitution, escaping from something bad in the past, will have a women’s group they feel safe in. We can all reach out, and we can all flee from evil — porn is a manifestation of profound corrupting evil in our world. We need to get this, and I am so encouraged by all your words here! Finally, we can speak our truths and come together.

    Remember, alienated people who feel marginalized and young often get real mean… dogs bite hands that feed them as a reaction to being marginalized. A lot of women feel angry at feminists of the past, because somehow they want to make a mark on the world. When was the last time Gloria Steinem came on one of these little posting sites and had a dialogue with grass roots women? This alienates younger women when the biggies just hole up in Hollywood or Manhattan.

    Lesbian drop-in groups aren’t as safe anymore, because we have thrown a lesbian feminist ethic out the window. Now there are no ethics just wanna be shock jock lesbians — porn lesbians, pro-sex work sex outlaws, whips, S & M — cool they say. They love to make older women like me embarrassed, when I truly hate any talk that degrades or humiliates women. I don’t like pornographic images or words, but I do love sisterhood and connection.

    So when we write these truths here, we can spread this message of love for women, and love makes evil run for the hills!


  42. Although I agree with some of the last post, I do disagree that many of the 3rd wavers are uneducated.
    I have experienced the majority of pro-porn and chat about the “liberation” of prostitution from university-educated women, often who have lives of privilege.
    Many universities are dominated by queer politics and non-gender studies. The idea of Women’s Studies is see as backward. In that environment, feminism is dismissed as elitist and narrow-minded. In England, there are fewer and fewer Women’s Officer in universities, it mainly Equality Officer.
    Many university have women’s group that are mixed. I used to be help with university group. But I have found I cannot fit in because it is dominated by queer politics. I think this silences many women students, many feminist students do not want to be a member of the group.
    Last time I went they were speaking about pornography. Stating that “good” pornography was important, for it was freedom of expression. I did ask how they defined pornography – “any sexual image”.
    Personally I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. These women were very educated, but had a massive blind spot to pornography. They refuse to allow that the majority of pornography was degrading and harmful to women. Instead that view was considered old-fashioned and extreme.
    I do think some 3rd wavers do say things to shock, but many say yay-porn, because they think they are right, and radical feminists are speaking nonsense.
    Many students choose to believe the propganda of the pro-prostitution lobby, rather than the testimonies of women who have exited the life, or feminist research that show the harms. This is not from lack of access to that knowledge, it is a choice to only believe one side. The pro-prostitution lobby are slick with their “happy hooker” myth. Often in universities protraying being in the sex trade as an easy and safe way to lessen student debt. They protray “sex work” as feminist role-model, as empowering and a true rebel. For many students this is a tempting image, a revolt against their parent. All the down-side of the sex trade is censored in many universities, or just seen as individual sad stories.
    I do that believe that all women that are in the sex trade enter just because of povery, it is far more complicated than that. Many enter because they had been trained from an early age to only view themselves as sex objects, and that they are not allow to have their own will. That brainwashing cut across cross all types of women, and can be the hardest to re-learn.
    I am sorry to go on so long but I have little time for educated women who dismiss porn and prostitution. It is mental and physical violence to all women, so if you decide to call yourself a feminist do not back porn and prostitution. Have more respect for the dignity and safety of women and girls who are on the receiving end of the sex industry.


  43. Well said, Rebecca. These women are often willfully blind to whatever doesn’t fit into their own happy, pink-sparkle-glitter view of feminism, no matter how much you argue with them, no matter how much material you give them.

    But I think Satsuma is partly right, too. Young people just don’t read any more – so often, these educated young women are just spouting what they’ve learnt in their classes, they haven’t gone out and done the slightest bit of research themselves. So often they don’t bother to even do the course readings, or they complain because they’re too long. I’m not trying to say that it’s impossible to come to complex feminist understandings without reading, but it is impossible to do without thinking, and that’s what these women don’t do. They don’t have the ability to do in-depth critical thinking, they don’t have the ability to ask questions. And often reading is one way of developing and improving those skills, but again, young women won’t do it. They’d rather sit around and watch reality TV shows and go shopping, because that’s how to be a cool, hip feminist.

    Universities are so often conservative today, too, and there’s very few real feminists left at most of them, because they’ve all lost their jobs or been forced to retire. What young women receive at university is not ‘education’, it is patriarchal indoctrination. That sort of education does not make women question and resist, it makes them part of the patriarchal system.


  44. rmotto and Dissenter are both so right.

    One thing that I know about feminism; I believe I started reading my first feminist magazines and articles around 1972 or so, is that the material is complex. You have to be very careful of where you get your news and information, because the mainstream media today is essentially a corporate “product” in America. Do some fact checking to find the original sources of information. Remember feminism has always been attacked. People have been trying to make fun of it and discredit it for a very long time. This is nothing new.

    The right wing has been attacking feminism for a very long time, which means that a lot of younger women today have no experience of a political system not dominated by right wing agendas. Right wing talk radio rose in the late 80s, so that means a 20 year old American woman today has heard a lot of “filtered” attacks on feminism by suspect sources.

    Anytime Hillary Clinton is made fun of, pay attention.
    Anytime men say bad things about women, question this.

    It’s common for one generation of women to win rights, and have the rights made fun of by successive generations. Mary Daly calls this erasure, and it’s a very old and well established patriarchal technique.

    Awareness of how the media manipulates women, and supresses real information about the lives of women is hard to come by. If no one taught you how to critique an ad campaign or to question the ABSENSE of information as well as the PRESENCE of information, then you will be fooled by the people behind the porn lobby. It is in their best interest to exploit young people for profit, to get women into prostitution in the first place, and to make women as sexually available to preditory older men as possible.

    There are even radio shows (mainstream) where men tell other men how to prey on young women, and one man in Los Angeles compared women to toilet seats. Women call in to his show to agree with his degrading hatred of women, and it’s the most popular radio show among men ages 18-45 in Los Angeles: The Tom Leykis show.

    Women’s studies was just beginning when I was in college. I took several new courses back in 1978 I think from some excellent scholars and visionaries. The classes were very demanding, required tough term papers, and extensive original historical research.

    With feminism, I have spent countless hours looking at original source material, getting papers translated from a variety of languages into English, and studying continually.

    We were encouraged by feminism to achieve and to strive for very good quality analysis.

    I got a chance to see the danger of porn in Asia as well as the U.S. It’s a very dangerous business.

    With any vice, you have to leave it alone or it will take you over. I don’t waste my time with women who are flippant or who don’t do the work.

    A lot of the commentary on these blogs is very flippant and not very well informed in my opinion, and this is due primarily to laziness among young women with very short attention spans. If you are one of these women, turn the T.V. off. Spend time thinking!

    You really have to do the work, and you have to do the math. To cut through the corporate media lies requires work, but most important, it requires curiosity.

    I believe if you study the world’s greatest thinkers, you will find that curiosity was a primary ingredient.

    The question is, do we want a world safe for girls and women? Do we want women to have dignity, and do we want an end to male exploitation of women?

    If we want these things, then this great feminist knowledge needs to be followed up on. The works of feminists should be built upon, just as men build their knowledge of the world and revere their scholars. Just look at all the biographies that men write about other famous men.

    When you go to school, you need to be very serious about your studies, and make sure your reading is well rounded. It’s hard work. Education is not about entertainment, it’s about the life of the mind, and the examined life.

    We have centuries in which women were denied even the most basic education, so you’d think women today would look at the past, and say what can we do now to make the world better for women? We can start with that very simple question. Not how can we make fun of women for feeling horrified by how other women are treated, but how can we make the world more lovely, more inviting, and safer for women all over the world.

    These are very important questions. I read about one or two books per week, I read a lot of articles, and I meet with groups of women regularly. I also write a great deal on the Internet, because ideas and inspiration are the currency of a feminism I believe in.

    It was about the love of learning and the sheer excitment of a feminist consciousness that led me to travel around the world, to master the art of numbers and finance, and to uncover the riches of women’s contributions to world culture.

    You can waste your time with porn, you can belittle women and take away the women’s studies departments and replace them with gender blender curriculums, but this will only make you the poorer rather than the richer.

    Get a book by Jane Austen, one of the greatest women writers or writers of the 18th century. See how she writes and describes the world she lived in. Great literature by women is a legacy– Virginia Woolf and Mary Shelly have something to say to us today. Adreinne Rich and Starhawk have a lot to say.

    You really need to rise as high as you can. Read about Margaret Fuller and her radical feminism of the 1840s, discover the letters of Susan B. Anthony, and delve into the paintings of Artemesia Gentileschi.

    Turn off the T.V. and read “The Burning Time” by Robin Morgan. Ask questions, be alive, be interested in others. All of this makes your life great.

    Memorize a poem, and see great works of art. Pornography is not art, it is pretty much trash. Trash is always attractive, vice is attractive too. Why do you think women have fought this stuff for so long? To have other women make fun of the pain and suffering of women who were raped in childhood? Do you think degrading women is funny or entertaining?

    Young women, wake up. There are a lot of people out there who don’t give a damn about your dignity or about your education. If you don’t care about your mind, I can assure you, you’ll be canon fodder for the patriarchy. It’s been around for 5000 years, it knows how to control and belittle women, it knows how to make women turn on each other. That’s how a system of oppression works.

    At least have the intelligence to do the research and talk to the women who were victimized by pornography. Read Linda Lovelace’s life story. Take yourself and others seriously. Mocking, making fun of and degrading others is simply the sign of a weak person. The strong person stands for something, the weak capitulate to whatever wastes the time of the uninformed. There are plenty of people out there waiting to waste the time of yet another wonderful generation of women, don’t let that be you.


  45. […] Lindsey Seelhoff also presents Pornography, stripping and violence in contemporary ‘lesbian’ culture and Erasure of lesbian/female-centred sexuality/ancient representations of female erotic autonomy […]


  46. the thread that i won’t let die 😉

    Satsuma, the thing with transfolk who get surgery and hormones, is that’s is NOT elective for them. It’s not a choice for them; it’s something they “need” to feel at home in their bodies. Gender/transsexualism is largely socially constructed, but that doesn’t make it not real in its consequences. I remember a transman describing it beautifully and tragically something along these lines: “It’s awful that sometimes you need to cut yourself up [eg get a mastectomy, remove reproductive system] to be whole, but that can be just what is needed.”

    “Can we have lesbian only space? Can we also have trans-only, and mixed group space as well? I think we can clearly say that it’s great to have mixed gender, mixed lesbian / trans groups.
    But I believe lesbian only space as it is herstorically constructed should be considered sacred, and that EVERYONE should defend it! If it is attacked, you have to question the ethics of those who don’t respect herstoric lesbian feminism”

    I definitely agree! And lesbian feminists are often among feminism’s (and humanity’s) best and bravest thinkers. “Scratch his love and you’ll find your fear…” (or close to that; may not be quoted correctly) Ti-Grace Atkinson…mmm-hmm

    “Would any feminist here who calls herself a feminist go up to Mary Daly at an event and start making her listen to “S & M” or “genderqueer or transtheory?” Would you talk porno trash, and advocate sex positive “lesbian made” pornography to Daly or Morgan or Jefferys? Think of what these women did for the movement called lesbian feminism, and the thing I am often quite sad about is how classic lesbian feminism is often so ridiculed so degraded that it makes me wonder.”

    Do you think I would, or are these just hypotheticals/illustrations of disrespect?
    PS. I always thought Robin Morgan to be radfem (she was married to a man for well over 20 years, has had other male partners, doesn’t regret it, has written positively of heterosexual relationships, etc).

    “I would never ever write about my sex life on a blog. I would never use most of the words that are common currency here…’

    Dani (allecto) and I have known each other from lj, for a couple of years, and we’ve discussed our sexualities before–that’s why I brought it up here. And I was explicitly stating that my sex life is neither “traditional” (monogamous, based on intercourse, etc) nor “alternative” (sadopatriarchal, capitalist, etc).

    I definitely know what you mean when you hanker over feminist-only spaces, women-only spaces, lesbian-only spaces. I personally really want the first, and politically recognise the dire need for them all. Part of this may have to do with, my uni’s women’s centre is inclusive of men, women, trans, yet women are the only volunteers (anyone could be), men rarely come–and usually to sign out a book from our library…in practice, it’s usually women-only. But I find it rather apolitical, there’s a resistance to defining feminism, many are hostile to radical feminism.

    “Transwomen can aid the cause of women, by doing the anti-rape work, by having marches supporting women’s rights etc. I say, just do the work. But if you harass women at Michfest, or butt into young lesbian coming out groups with porno-talk, and S & M, and just vulgar yuck that I associate with male banter, well then I have a real problem with this.”

    Agreed, but it’s a two-way street. women raised as girls need to also support transwomen’s safety, inclusion, etc. there are few safe-spaces for transpeople too. and transwomen are even more likely to be sexually abused than women (it’s not that much higher, but is higher nonetheless).

    Rebecca Mott: Right bloody on.

    A lot of the problem is that radfem/lesfems and transpeople are very easy targets for the other. it’s easy for both sides to slander, exclude, dishonour the other group. obviously, i think radfems get it worse from queer theorists than the other way around, but i wouldn’t include all transwomen under the umbrella of “postmodern” or whatnot. as you said, many transwomen respect women-only (women raised as girls) spaces. And most transwomen don’t consider the sex industry to be “yay!fun!%*(“, esp the impoverished one’s prostituting in it.

    Despite what I’ve had said to me, I don’t think one can at all separate those issues (queer, s/m, porn, etc). because most queer theorists do support these industries/abuses. and they are inextricably connected (ie porn is a document of prostitution, and both are frequently overtly sadistic).

    Dissenter: OMFG YES. There is a definite “dumbing-down” depoliticisation of feminism. I am definitely a 2nd waver…and a radical one at that! 😉

    But, don’t you know, we all hate men and want to burn our bras and use lady shavers to castrate men. it’s our diabolical plan. We should really get on board with the bikini waxes, and the porn, and start sucking up to men. (this was sarcastic, in case you didn’t realise)

    Rebecca: feminist porn is an oxymoron. if it’s one, it can’t be the other. end of. there is no “feminist” way to call women “teen cum dumpsters” and say “it’ll be sheer terror for their little holes” and even worse (eg see http://demonista.livejournal.com/86885.html, inc. cruelbitch’s comment, and later entries).

    “I am sick of 3rd wavers telling me how they have invented feminism.” That’s really true, either they don’t know of, or are dismissive of the evolution and history of feminism. Like the pernicious lie that 2nd-wavers are racist (umm…audre lorde, nawal el saadawi, andrea dworkin???), or classist, or whatthehellever they want to smear us with.


  47. Very clearly written demonista. I don’t have much dispute with most of what you’ve written.

    Many of my thoughts here come from actual observations of what happens when lesbians have no lesbian only spaces. We now have LGBT “centers” where there are no lesbian only drop-in groups. Lesbians get lumped in together with gay men, and I actually believe we have very little in common with gay men. The porn trash culture of gay men sickens me, and they are all into this stuff. You’d be shocked at the real lives of gay men. One man even thought it was great that a priest friend of his had sex with a ten year old. They defend the cardinal of los angeles in the catholic churche’s worst sex abuse of children scandal — so bad it involved hundreds of children and the courts settled it all for $600,000,000.00 in payment to the victims of this church. That’s right, gay men continue to support the cardinal and continue to be flattered as fawning uncle toms that they are with this church. And that’s just ordinary sell out gay men! Digression here…. 🙂 Some point is out there…. 🙂

    But I do believe lesbian feminists can make real alliances with straight women, and I find that my ideas ( a lot of straight women have never heard a pure lesbian feminist commentary ever) are well receieved. We really do need to share our most powerful insights with straight women, because a lot of straight women’s time is simply monopolized living with husbands and children. Their brain power is often used up, and they don’t have the time to continue with radical study, lectures or meetings. As lesbians who have never married men, never had children and who have always hated these stifling boring “roles” we can be very powerful thinkers and advocates for women’s sheer uncompromised power.

    Are lesbians well served as lesbians? I think we really have to seriously address this. As for the elective surgery for transpeople — supported by the medical industrial complex, what on earth happened in the days before all this medical technology? And why is trans so often associated with the most incredible sex role stereotypes? It is almost comic sometimes to see the cognitive dissonence when trans-women lesbians actually deal with women born women lesbians.
    The make-up cases, the posturing… it has an absurd quality about it. Superficial you may say, but even make-up itself I think is something very few women consider. The drain of women’s financial resources buying this stupid “male pleasing” falseness is beyond belief to me.

    I think if we have shared political spaces, then we need to be a little bit more midful of how we interact. It’s kind of like cell phones… people got so rude and clueless in their use, that harsh measures had to be taken… you’ll now see the signs in doctor’s offices etc. NO CELL PHONES. I bring this up, because the trans-movement and lesbian spaces are a place of conflict. Women who were once born men do have an aggressive edge to them. I have heard porno mouth transwomen in lesbian groups, and you really wonder at the plain lack of courtesy, that is the hallmark of the male brain, that still acts male in my opinion.

    Either that, or we should accept the fact that not all English as second language speakers are allowed into every classroom in an American university. By this I mean if we have an advanced Chaucer or Shakespeare grad seminar, you have pre-requisit courses. If your English is poor, you will not be let into a master’s seminar or PhD program that is reading Shakespeare, you will be sent to an ESL class, and only when you have achieved some fluency in the language, will you then be allowed into the English literature PhD program.

    So men who transform into women in my opinion rarely if ever “pass” as women. They are quite obvious to me.

    Granting entry to lesbian and women’s spaces to transwomen without their really getting the pre-requisits of women’s behavior and feminist ethics shortchanges all the women and lesbians who should come first always in my book.

    I am not terribly impressed with the feminist ethics of transwomen-lesbians. I’ve seen a lot of very bad behavior, and a real lack of knowledge of just how hard fought for lesbian space has always been. You had gay men blocking the use of the word “lesbian” not long ago. You had straight feminists in their homophobia early on.

    I’m not an alphabet soup of LGBT– or bacon lettuce and tomato sandwiches. I am an honest to goodness lesbian feminist, who hates porn, pornification and male minded trash talk. I’m not really interested in working with coalitions, I am interested in lesbians and lesbian space, and in alliance with straight women I have common cause with.

    In many ways, I have little feeling for the men who changed their bodies. I’m indifferent to the male self and what it always feels entitled to, and what I see is the desecration of lesbian only spaces for the sake of everyone under the sun except of course lesbians. Call me selfish, but we already have so pathetically little out there, that we don’t have the resources as a poor country to share with wealthy nations. And women who were born men are like first world countries with all their sense of entitlement invading women’s space. That’s how I see it often, and this needs to be honestly addressed. Male behavior and all its ugliness is not so easily erased in an operation. The male mind is not so easily changed. I think we need to be brutally honest about this, or we’ll be a watered down group once again, with everyone else being more important than lesbians and women born women.

    A lot of this is analogy and metaphor here, so play with it a little, and see how it all goes.

    I do not object to trans-liberation, but not at my expense. I want some evidense that these “new women” are not just preditors of another sort. I watched this behavior, I’ve read the posts about camp trans at Michigan, and I’ve seen the disrespect of women and lesbian space. Sometimes, you really do have to pick up an aggressor by the neck and throw that person out of your meeting and into the street, and I will not apologize for defending lesbian space in this way if need be. I do not apologize for my hatred of lesbian porn and all the creepiness it creates for women. You’d think that we’d have learned a little bit of a lesson from what the sleaze culture of gay men brought about… crystal addiction, porn culture, agism so vicious, sexism and the actual support of pedofiles as an aspect of gay male “freedom.” You have to see this to believe it.

    So wake up women! I don’t know what it will take, but we still have less access to jobs, housing, medical care and education that empowers us and doesn’t degrade or put us in the back of the classroom.

    I don’t know what else I can say really. It’s not even about 2nd or 3rd wave, it’s about the power and honor of women and lesbians. So be honest!


  48. Hi,

    I found your blog through a rather circuitous route, and wanted to say hello. I appreciate the above conversation. I’m afraid to say anything anymore, because… well I’m in a relationship with a transgendered woman and well we have some rather major disagreements on some matters. I get rather frustrated sometimes about the whole thing. I don’t want to hurt her feelings and I often don’t know how to speak my mind on things without doing so.
    I tried to write some rather conciliatory posts about a year ago on the whole radfem-transgender issue and just got roundly flamed for it – by transgender activists. I expected flaming from both “sides” but in fact it was only transgendered people who flamed me, calling me hateful and a bigot and inferring a lot of things about my relationship which just aren’t true. I get frustrated because with everything I’ve written about women’s issues the majority of people who come to my blog still come to my blog only because transgender activists made snarky posts about me and linked back to me.
    Transgender activists claim that as a woman-born-woman I have some sort of privilege over them and should therefore, I guess, shut up and defer to everything they have to say, in some game of “we’re more oppressed than you”. I find myself having the “transgressive” thought then – if women are of some higher caste than transwomen, why is it trans issues get 90% of the attention on my blog, when I wrote about them maybe 2% of the time? Everything I write on rape and violence against women and economic injustice is ignored, but I dare suggest diplomatically that perhaps transgendered women, not having been raised as women, might not understand some issues women-born-women have and that therefore women-born-women might want to have a tiny little corner of the world to themselves once in a while to be with each other, and I get a chorus of disapproval telling me I am just as “transphobic” as those who would like to force them by violence or law to be “real men”. In short I am told “You are a cisgendered woman and if you don’t like the term, that’s too bad because I will call you that anyway, so how do you like it since we don’t like being called ‘trans’ so sit down and shut up and take it and don’t disagree with us on anything because you’re more privileged than we are and therefore if you disagree with us you are flaunting your privilege and we will brand you across the internet as a bigoted transphobe.”
    Oh I’m so sorry, I’m ranting… what a way to say hello *hides face*


  49. Hi Amanata, I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while now but haven’t added you to my blogroll as I was unsure of whether it would be appreciated. I respect that you are in a relationship with a transwoman and I would not like to make you feel as though I am judging you or anything because of the fact that I am against transsexualism. But you are now added. Please feel free to ask me to take you off my blogroll if it is a problem.

    I thought you had written a post recently about the discussion in relation to the radical feminist gathering that Debs is organising. I can’t find it on your blog, but I really enjoyed what you had to say. I definitely agree with what Demonista said about transwomen not being the enemy. And that is what your post said too (I think). But I also agree with Satsuma that lesbians and women need female-born space. I don’t agree with Demonista about women needing to support transwomen in their fight for safe space though. I will always stand against sexual violence, hate crimes, discrimination etc. And that goes for being against everything that transpeople suffer under patriarchy. But I am quite uninterested in being for transwomen specifically (transmen are different as I still think of them as female-born and oppressed as women) at the expense of female-born women. Blah. Now I sound like a bigot. But too often transwomen have come between women, created divides and tried to invade our spaces. We need to be able to take a stand and say no.

    Anyway, now I’m ranting!!

    Thanks for your comment here Amanata. I think you are doing brilliant work. Keep it up sister. And I love your youtube vids. They are so nourishing for the soul. Beautiful. Thanks.


  50. Hi!

    No I don’t mind at all. I do have to say I don’t think I wrote the post you are thinking of, as I am a little unsure of the topic. I fall behind sometimes on what is going on in the radfem blogosphere – for instance it is only this week I heard of this whole flap concerning Amanda – and I don’t know anything about this radfem gathering.
    I know demonista from lj under my other name 🙂

    I think there should be space for women-born-women only, and places for women and transwomen to interact, and space for transwomen only – but in the latter case, they will have to make it for themselves. Just like feminists had to make their own domestic violence shelters. On a bit of a tangent, I am always floored by the privilege implicit in the argument by MRA’s that women should open domestic violence shelters to men who are abused. Women had to fight for these safe spaces themselves, fund them with the small amount of money they had – if they are so concerned about men who are abused, why don’t they make spaces for them themselves? Of course the real agenda isn’t safe space for them – it’s to invade women’s space.
    Although transactivists have mocked the idea that any man who identifies as a man would try to gain access to women’s space by claiming to be trans, I have seen this done. When I ran with the hippies sometimes the women would form what they called “sister circles” away from the rest of the camp – and I remember a quite nasty incident in which a drunk guy kept invading the circle, yelling at us, and insisting he had a right to be there because “he was a lesbian trapped in a man’s body” – he was clearly insincere, but if one takes the argument that even with a totally unaltered male body so long as someone merely SAYS they feel they are a woman in order to gain access to women’s space, there is no way to keep men out! And this concern of mine is continually brushed aside as ridiculous, even when I’ve seen it done! I don’t like to hurt anyone’s feelings, but there has to be some standard. *sighs*
    Thank you for your kind words! I guess I should say – I found you through the whole firefly thing on lj, through a kind of roundabout path. Someone I know linked to a friends journal about something totally different adn I was looking for his post on that subject when I ran into this completely nasty anti-feminist screed directed at you for daring to insult Firefly, oh noes! I actually like the series myself, but I read your analysis of it and it does pinpoint well some of my problems with it. Maybe I’m too nice to Joss, but I think what he is trying to do is imagine that in this future world sexism and racism have somehow been totally overcome, so prostitution is now respected and interracial relationships are no big deal, etc. In other words, hopelessly idealistic and also blind to the way the world works. Inara has always bothered me. Her presence in the series seems to me to be a deliberately political act of a libertarian, as it is the libertarians I know who have always insisted that if prostitutes simply have societal legitimacy they would be powerful women in their own right. It’s a fantasy, and a dangerous one. Although even toward the end of the series it is revealed that only a few privileged women like Inara actually have a high status as a prostitute – women who don’t belong to her guild are “just whores”. Sort of like the way a few privileged white college girls who strip in the more upscale clubs and have a good time at it are held up as evidence that stripping isn’t really harmful to women, even though the majority of strippers are marginalized women with few other options in life.
    Anyways. Making videos is a little difficult! But there will be more to come. I’m glad you like them!


  51. Oops, must have been someone else.

    Totally agree with everything you have said here about female-born only space. Definitely think that male survivors trying to get into women’s space stinks of privilege.

    Urgh, sorry, but I have to say that Joss gets no free pass from me. I hate the fucker. And the comments that I have gotten from his male fans show me very clearly that my analysis of Firefly is exactly correct. I don’t think Joss has women’s interests at heart at all. He could not write the shit that he has written about women if he had the least bit of respect for us.

    Although even toward the end of the series it is revealed that only a few privileged women like Inara actually have a high status as a prostitute – women who don’t belong to her guild are “just whores”.

    That episode of Firefly that you are referring to was so seriously fucked. I could not believe that such an episode was actually allowed to be aired on tv. Sickening. It wasn’t written by Joss, otherwise I would write up an analysis of it.

    Oh, and the racism was also absolutely inexcusable. No, in my books a man who writes racist, woman-hating tv shows is a racist, woman-hater not a feminist.

    Yay, I’m glad to hear that there will be more vids. You’re writing is just so powerful. I love that you channel the goddess.


  52. Hiya.

    I am so glad for the voices of Amananta and Demonizer here because I, too, am a radical lesbian feminist whose partner is a transwoman.

    I feel that we are so cloistered that it is becoming dangerous for us, in that we cocoon ourselves so tightly to only one another, that we forget that organizing is a way to reach out and actually change people’s minds.

    When I met my partner she had a lot of influence from the “pornivist” side of LGBTQ. And I was out and about doing my union thing, and trying to figure out how to fuse the organizing with the feminism. I still need more help with figuring all that out.
    But she has changed her mind/life/behavior in a lot of ways, and it wasn’t in reaction to her relationship with me- I had to process with her, and do it without judgement. She had to listen to me say that things she had done were, to me, really hard to deal with and were impeding my trust in her.

    I think that standard grassroots organizing is our answer- befriend, agitate, educate, call the question, innoculate- god, it’s a mantra- but it means that we don’t get to pick out people’s issues for them.

    We have to face the fact that not everyone looks at porn, right away, as something harmful- oftentimes, quite the opposite is true- and that other common ground is what has to be the springboard for cultivating deep enough relationships with people in order to change their minds.

    And we have to be able to look at these women as our sisters, no matter what they say or do that we think is “wrong,” and we have to be willing to reach out to them and teach them why we are so committed to ending rape culture.

    Sometimes it’s as easy as explaining “liberalism” and why it’s detrimental to a revolution. Sometimes it’s as difficult as going home and crying every night. But we have to figure out how to do it, because this is what the mainstream looks like. We will not win by hiding from it.

    Back to the standard organizing model- find leaders, develop them. Organize them. Send them back out to the field.

    The advanced organize the intermediate to become advanced. The intermediate organize the masses.

    We can’t just be out looking for already existing groups to scoop us up- we have to be brave enough to mold the groups ourselves, or start our own, and we can’t be all-exclusionary, otherwise the message drowns silently between the ears of the choir-members.

    Anyhoo, thanks for listening.


  53. *Looks up* Sorry for the misspelling, Demonista. :: hangs head in shame ::


  54. I feel silly bringing transwomen up again when Elaina was bringing us back on track to the content of the OP, but someone (i don’t know if she wants be id’ed in this forum in regards to her relationship) and I were discussing this recently: http://demonista.livejournal.com/91579.html, namely http://demonista.livejournal.com/91579.html?thread=413627#t413627.

    I think allowing transmen who have gone on hormones, and even had surgery, into women-raised-as-girls-only-spaces, is pretty hypocritical. Testosterone has a very quick, thorough effect on transmen–most transmen who are on hormones “pass” as men virtually seemlessly; they aren’t even seen as transmen by other transmen, but as men. the testosterone has been noted by transmen to have an “invisibilising effect”–they become invisible as trans even to one another.

    if one of the major arguments is that women may feel unsafe or threatened with transwomen around (the argument has been made a lot), it wiould make far more sense for women to be fearful of transmen who seem to BE men–look “like men,” deep voice, “male” clothing, banded down or removed breasts, bulge in the jeans (from “stuffing” or surgery), etc.

    Also, since being seen as men, which most of those who take hormones are, they will gain male privilege, privilege which transwomen aren’t privy to.


  55. I think allowing transmen who have gone on hormones, and even had surgery, into women-raised-as-girls-only-spaces, is pretty hypocritical.

    Demonista, I take serious offense at this comment. I did not elaborate on why I was not uncomfortable by the idea of trans men in female born spaces. You had not right to make assumptions that my position is hypocritical.

    if one of the major arguments is that women may feel unsafe or threatened with transwomen around (the argument has been made a lot), it wiould make far more sense for women to be fearful of transmen who seem to BE men–look “like men,” deep voice, “male” clothing, banded down or removed breasts, bulge in the jeans (from “stuffing” or surgery), etc.

    This is not the reason that I am against transwomen in female born only spaces. If it were then perhaps you could make the arguement that my position in relation to female-born women only spaces was problematic. But to call me hypocritical is really not on. If that is going to be the tone you take to engage with me on this issue then I would discourage further comments from you in relation to this issue.


  56. sorry, dani; it wasn’t meant as a personal attack. i should have made that clear, esp. considering the rubbish you get on your whedon posts.

    i have seen that argument in many other places who both want to exclude transwomen and exclude transmen. and they id as a major reason to exclude transwomen that women may find them threatening or triggering, when many transmen look and act far more “like men” than do most transwomen (excluding drag, of course, which is about male power and privilege to the ground). and if the fear of violence, bringing back memories, etc is not an issue, another i have heard (in general, not from you) is that because they are “really” men, they simply cannot know about women, feminism, misogyny, etc enough to contribute well.

    I know transmen have been usually raised as female, and have gender training for a longer time in “femaleness” than “maleness,” yet if during and after transitioning, they are usually unquestionably treated as and regarded as male by people who don’t know them well, how does that not give them a large degree of male privilege?

    The way I see it, if transmen are allowed, why not transwomen? One was denied male privilege, then given it; the other was given it, then denied it.

    If you don’t mind my asking, dani, what is your reasoning?


  57. whoops, i meant “include transmen” but exclude applies to a lesser degree as well, but it’s much rarer for transmen to be excluded from women-only groups


  58. I probably over-reacted. I’m sorry. The whole trans thing is making me really angry at the moment (nothing to do with you or this conversation, something entirely different). I don’t want to respond to this in anger as I value our friendship. So I will respond to this but not right now. I hope that is cool.

    Sisterhood,

    allecto


  59. […] Allecto of Gorgon Poisons has written a very important piece, which also gave rise to some interesting comments, titled Pornography, Stripping and Violence in Contemporary ‘Lesbian’ Culture. […]


  60. […] Kat was planning to write her paper on lesbian spaces she asked if she could quote my blog post about the same issue. I of course was very flattered. So when we met up again in Brisbane Dragort, Dissenter, Kat, […]


  61. […] this framing. Back in February, a young Australian radical lesbian feminist blogger, allecto, wrote a post entitled “Pornography, stripping and violence in contemporary ‘lesbian’ culture,” in which […]


  62. Hi everyone, in response to some of the comments about a lack of consideration of radfem ideas by ladies in LA, I’ve started a group on meetup.com. If you live in the area, please do sign up! http://www.meetup.com/Radical-Feminist-ish-Los-Angeles-Meetup-Group/


  63. I am an older (48) lesbian, and this article really saddens me and makes me sick. How horrid to think that this kind of violence is associated with the lesbian culture. Thank you for writing this.


  64. […] writing a beautiful post about what has happened to lesbian feminism, but then I came across one that said all my thoughts and more.  (TRIGGER WARNING FORPORN PICTURES ON THAT […]


  65. I came accross your article while searching around the web. I read it and while I am a straight male, I would have to agree with you. The same culture degradation is also happening in the straigh community. The world is all about profit, and sex sells, whether it is selling a point, picture, or money. If you wonder why I am reading a lesbian column, I have been known to be more at home and free to express myself among the gay community. Excellant Site Keep it up. Excuse spelling it is late and my 2yr old keeps waking up sick.



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