The often special relationship between straight women and gay men is long-documented. And romanticized. So much so, it even inspired an international, possibly-soon-to-be-returning hit TV show.
But what about gay men’s relationship with lesbian women? As a gay man myself, I sometimes sense that things are strained between us; especially as we approach something distantly resembling sexual equality in certain parts of the world.
I would urge any gay man to reconnect with his lesbian friends, while bearing in mind the following five ways in which way have it easier than our Sapphic sisters.
1 Lesbians are less represented in popular culture than gay men
Gay male characters are popping up in movies and TV shows more and more. Although, granted there’s still a long way to go. But their female counterparts are a lot harder to find – when they’re not being killed off entirely.
And while Sam Smith, Adam Lambert, Troye Sivan and Olly Alexander are making a splash on planet pop, how many gay girl equivalents can you think of?
Take lesbian sister duo Tegan and Sara [above]. They’re just as amazing as those guys. But they’ve never reached the same dizzying heights of fame and success. Why? Is it perhaps because straight people – and perhaps gay men too – struggle to ’get’ their queer image, because they’re girls?
There are saving graces, of course. Chat show queen Ellen DeGeneres is the seventh most-followed person on Twitter, while the Oscar-nominated Ellen Page and Oscar-winning Jodie Foster have thrived since coming out. Plus, Orange is The New Black has changed the world of TV forever.
I’ve spent the last couple months beginning the story of JOANNE. I’ve loved every moment of singing Million Reasons in USA 🇺🇸 Paris and London. This song I wrote from my heart and I feel it in my gut when I sing it to you. Listening to one of the homeless boys spit some wicked poetry today @albertkennedytrust I was reminded of why I ever wanted to be an artist in the first place. Because I had something to say. I hope he continues his poetry and “you” continue yours. Because having something to say is the best “reason to stay”…even if there’s a million reasons to make you wanna give up
Furthermore, the growing list of prominent bisexual and non-heterosexual female stars is hopefully a comforting sign for gay girls.
Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Cara Delevingne, Kristen Stewart, Sarah Paulson, Lauren Jauregui, Jess Glynne, Evan Rachel Wood, Michelle Rodriguez, Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie, Anna Paquin and Amber Heard are just a few powerful examples.
2 Lesbians suffer misogyny – including from gay men
A lot of men hate women, are prejudiced against women and objectify women. A lot of men try to tell women what to do. There are infinite examples of all of this, so instead, I’ll focus on some of the specific ways gay men can fall into this trap, sometimes unwittingly.
Every time a gay guy says he’s disgusted at the thought of a vagina, I roll my eyes. Really? It’s the same reason I can’t watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, where queens are ridiculed as ‘fishy’ and all either have banging bodies, or are comically overweight. Is that really how we see women?
Then there’s the way some gay men demean other gay men for being ‘femme’, as if femininity is lesser.
3 Lesbians are sexually objectified by straight men (in a way gay men aren’t by women)
You might think straight women aren’t interested in gay sex, but that’s not strictly true. Reports claim more and more women are watching gay porn than ever, and a close girlfriend of mine once admitted that Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger together in Brokeback Mountain was a turn on for her.
The fact is, the spectrum of sexuality is complicated in a good way. More people are exploring it than ever, which is great. But the way straight women view male homosexuality – basically, with respect – is completely different from the way straight men view female homosexuality.
Some straight guys think gay girls exist purely for their pleasure and entertainment. This is the epitome of sexual objectification. Straight men often abjectly fail to grasp that real, authentic lesbianism has literally nothing to do with them. (The cruelest irony being when the guys in question are homophobic). I can only imagine the harassment and lechery gay girls suffer as a consequence.
That’s not to say it’s unnatural for a straight guy to be turned on by lesbian sex. It’s all about context and respect. If straight, lesbian or bi girls get it on, and all parties consent to a man’s involvement, there’s no invasion of space or identity. A safe, considerate space for exploration is created. But rare is the straight man I’d trust in that scenario.
4 There’s hardly any porn made with lesbians in mind
Speaking of lesbianism and the male gaze, just look at lesbian porn. Over 99% of it is geared to appeal to straight guys. All the women are ulta-femme, love rough sex and engage in cliche-ridden scenarios which – surprise, surprise – often end up involving a guy.
To put this ridiculousness into perspective for a second, just imagine the reverse. What would gay male porn look like if it were made with straight women in mind? I have no idea. But I do know it would be utterly unrecognisable from what’s out there today.
’Female-friendly lesbian porn’ exists, of course. But it’s pretty fucked up that you have to use those exact terms to find it, because ‘lesbian porn’ has already been claimed for straight men – because men’s needs are apparently more important than women’s.
5 There are fewer dedicated spaces for lesbians to hang out than for gay men
Every week, another iconic gay bar or club around the world closes. For gay guys looking to socialise with other gay guys, the options are evermore limited. But it’s a problem gay girls have been dealing with for decades.
I can count on one hand the amount of dedicated lesbian clubs and bars I know on one hand (shout out to She Bar, pictured above). There are also several famous lesbian club nights in London, where I live (shout out to Twat Boutique).
And in the East there are a decent handful of mixed, queer club nights where everyone’s welcome (shout out to Knickerbocker).
But this isn’t nearly enough, and it never was. Add to this the problem of door people at gay clubs discriminating against women, and it’s a wonder gay girls make it out at all.