Heterosexuals are simultaneously fascinated by and

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Heterosexuals are simultaneously fascinated by and clueless about lesbiansex. “So, what do you do, exactly?” At some point in her life, pretty muchany lesbian will be asked this question. Lurking behind this query is a host ofassumptions about what constitutes “real sex” and what a “real woman”sexually desires. Sexual agency—the ability to make decisions about whatyou like to do sexually and then act upon them—has historically been deniedto women. Many men (straight and gay) simply cannot imagine that real sextakes place without penetration with a penis. For this reason, lesbian sex hasbecome a cultural marker, a stand-in, for the question “What actually countsas sex?”—for anyone.There are many ways people, including straight people, have and enjoy sex.Lesbians do not need a penis to have penetrative sex. Some lesbians usedildos for penetration; other do not, preferring fingers, hands, fists, tongues.However, culturally, we refer to a very particular sexual act—penis in vagina—as, simply, sex. Consider the expression “losing your virginity.” Thiscommonly means the first experience of heterosexual genital intercourse.This definition is so instilled in our culture as “sex” that many heterosexualteenagers do not consider oral sex and anal sex “real sex.” Even if they11
engage in these forms of sexual activity, they still understand themselves tobe virgins. (This may be particularly true for women, who have been toldthat their virginity confirms their virtue.) Recall then-president Bill Clinton’sinfamous assertion, during the scandal over Monica Lewinsky, that he “didnot have sex with that woman.” Clinton’s hairsplitting legalism was madepossible because the sex in question was oral sex. In this hierarchy of sexualacts, heterosexual genital intercourse sits at the top. Other body parts (suchas the mouth and anus) and other sexual acts (such as oral sex, anal sex,manual sex, and masturbation) may be extremely pleasurable, but are seenonly as warm-ups to the real thing.This very limited definition of sex prevents people from recognizing lesbiansex as real sex. At best, what lesbians do is foreplay that can never reachcompletion on its own. Or, it is a turn-on for straight men and a staple ofheterosexual pornography. A scene of two women kissing—increasinglycommon on mainstream television in shows such asGossipGirlandCommunity—is often used to add titillation to an otherwise mundaneplot. As long as the women involved are conventionally pretty and feminine,this lesbianism is safe and sexy for prime-time viewing. (Butch women, bycontrast, are often seen as erotic turn-offs: unsexy imitations of real men.) Ineach of these scenarios, lesbian sex is something women do while they arewaiting for a man to come along. The straight male viewer, the targetaudience for “lesbian” pornography, is invited to imagine himself into thescene, as the one who can complete the picture and turn the warm-up actinto the real deal.

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Term
Fall
Professor
aliciawoodbury
Tags
Human Sexuality, Test, Nature, Sexual intercourse, Human sexual behavior, sexual fluidity

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