Normativity and sexuality: a matter of perspective


Spending too much time on facebook makes one stumble on all sorts of funny stuff (and surprisingly, not all of them cat related.) A friend of mine shared this video:

It’s one of these topics that I’ve always thought quite hilarious, mostly because it is one of the most confusing and contradictory, especially among lesbians. The topic, here, is lesbians having sex with men, something that happens a lot more than one would expect. I remember quite a few conversations on this topic with other lesbians (stating, for a moment, that I’m kinda lesbian, sort of, I guess), and quite a few talked openly about having sex with men for various reasons: they’re just horny and picking up a woman is more trouble than a guy, or they’re sex workers, they’re just in the mood to experiment, whatever floats one’s boat I guess. I guess this just proves that sexuality is flexible, and fluid, I guess; in the end, identity and labels are often kinda like trying to fix a square into a circle.

One of the comment threads on the YouTube page was a nice illustration:

They are not lesbians. If they fuck men, they’re bisexual. That’s like calling yourself a vegan and eating fish.

That’s ridiculous. The people you sleep with do not define your sexual orientation, love does. These girls have no interest in dating men. Sex is sex. Making love is something you will only do to your partner that you truly want to be with. That’s how one define’s their sexual orientation.

By that logic, unless a woman likes a man that she’s fucking, she isn’t heterosexual. Stop trying to go around in circles, they’re bisexual. biSEXUAL

See, I’ve always found it interesting that others would define for another what their identity means to them; of course, this comes from my acceptance that identity is all somewhat abstract. If one would keep very strict definitions: lesbian is a woman who only sleeps with women, and only desires women, there would be a lot less of them left. Luckily, identity isn’t (and shouldn’t) be policed that way.

The question about whether one could identify as something without fitting its definition fully is interesting to me; not because I have an answer, but because I find it interesting that people tend to ask such questions. In the end there is no answer to “what is a real lesbian?” because, as with so many identities, people fill it in on basis of their experiences, their feelings, their emotions, and those are nearly impossible to measure.

What is interesting to me is the way two of the three women in the video related how their lesbian friends would have issue with it or challenge their “lesbianism”. It is interesting that those who break with heteronormativity, to a certain extent, can end up policing their little corner of the gender and sexuality spectrum by enforcing strict definitions of what a “lesbian” is or what a “woman” is, or a “man”, “gay”, etc. even “queer”. This video is but one example of it.

In some way communities outside the heterosexual spectrum tend to equally enforce a certain normativity, their normativity… homonormativity is a term that was coined to describe the tendency of gay and lesbian community to emulate and conform to heteronormative values, but this isn’t what I mean. Even within radical queer spaces I used to wander about, the alternative and unconventional became normative in that microcosm; e.g. polyamoury was quite common, and in some spaces became somewhat normative to the extent that being monogamous was kinda seen as weird (well, they said heteronormative, but i.e. it meant “weird” in relation to their normativity in their space.)

In the end, I ‘m just arguing that normativity is a matter of perspective, and that it should be looked at within specific spaces and subcultures as well as within broader society… And as for myself, I guess I’m just not a straight lesbian.

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