The Myth Of The Chaste Lesbian Lovers


Do people think lesbians just sit around — gazing adoringly at one another — and never get it on? And where did this nonsense come from?

The Village Voice calls the “myth of lesbian bed death.” Writes Winnie McCroy,

In the popular imagination, lesbians use their beds for reading, sipping herbal tea, and hanging with their cats. In other words, anything but sex. But where did this idea of “lesbian bed death” come from? Thank sociologist Pepper Schwartz, who, in her 1983 book American Couples, asserted that lesbians have less sex and intimacy than other couples. Although her methodology and results were later challenged, the idea of lesbian bed death has taken on a life of its own, with damaging results.

This stereotype, after all, serves as another way of cementing an idea of “differentness” — and maybe , historically, of desexualizing lesbianism. Then too, as the article points out, the result is a dearth of examples of hot enduring relationships (and as in so many things, Ellen is forced to be the one public rep.) McCroy contends that lesbians are no more or less prone to “bed-death” than, well, any long-term couple. One possible difference?

Lesbians are different-just not in the way Schwartz believes. Married women go for younger guys, while their husbands turn to pros. Just turn to the politics, sports, or entertainment pages of any newspaper: Gay men have a whole cornucopia of choices, from sex parties to leather clubs to outdoor cruising spots. And lesbians? We rarely stray outside of long-term relationships to find sexual satisfaction.

Of course, if you buy into any iteration of The L Word out there — real or imagined — that’s not true either. Right now, we’re largely stuck with pop-cultural depictions of lesbians that make them into either asexual frumps or sex-kittens. Which, after all, makes sense: this is portrayal of women we’re talking about (whether said portrayal is ironic or not is another debate). But as sex educator Tristan Taormino tells the Voice, “Every person has different needs and wants, and what works for one is not going to work for others. We need to talk openly about our sexual desires, practices, needs, and fantasies rather than continuing to let this bizarre myth rule our sex lives.” And yes, apparently this still needs saying.

The Myth Of Lesbian Bed Death
[Village Voice]

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