Google Instant Debuts, Instantly Excludes Lesbians

Google Instant debuted this week and various techno-savvy people have since weighed in on the pros and cons of the Real-Time Search Engine. I’m not one of those techno-savvy people. I’m just a girl with a website, standing in front of the internet, asking it to confirm my existence. And it’s not doing a very good job of it.

Exhibit A: Results for Google Instant Search “Lesbian”

Exhibit B: Results for Google Instant Search “Bisexual”:

Excellent. Bang-up job, Team Google! Luckily this affects only a very small group of disenfranchised people with very little political clout, especially since our more economically advantaged gay brethren are good to go:

Exhibit C: Google Instant Search for “Gay”

So, I’m no tech expert, but since launching Autostraddle in March 2009, I’ve learned a thing or two about Search Engine Optimization or “SEO.” (I’ve essentially concluded that SEO turns writing into science/math rather than art/journalism, and the more I know about it, the more appalled I am by how many sites actively cater to search engines rather than to readers. At Autostraddle, we do our best to choose the SEO tips that feel the most organic or authentic or less-like-a-compromise — for example,  if you’ve ever wondered why we stick “lesbian” or “gay” in so many headlines, this is why! (I wish “homogay” was a keyword.)

But I’m not here to complain about search engines as someone who produces content; I’m here to complain about search engines as a Searcher.

As my Google Web History/Big Brother Tracker reveals, I have conducted a shit-ton of searches over the last three years:

Google Knows When I Sleep

…. and consequently have found Google to be progressively less usable over time. Now that Search Engine Optimization is an actual career path and Google Adsense exists as a barrier-free income-obtaining vehicle, Google has been hijacked by content farms, which churn out massive amounts of content tailored to Google searches. This useless information, written by underqualified writers for low pay (ehow, suite101, helium, etc), as well as scraper sites, spamdexing and link farms, which employ other forms of SEO/keyword trickery to draw readers to useless AdSense-heavy sites, have come to dominate search engine results and pollute the web.

These days, using Google requires an internal system of mental cyber-gymnastics I’ve been carefully honing for nearly a decade and have been actively curating with attention bordering on obsessive since Autostraddle’s launch. Although I’m still in love with almost everything Google does — gmail! g-chat! google docs! picasa collages! — I’m no longer in love with its primary product, The Search Engine.

My relationship with is now analagous to the last few months before a breakup when you’ve become so adept at non-abrasive communication with your girlfriend that your fights feel more like well-choreographed dance routines than actual disagreements and subsequent problem-solving sessions.

I’ve found substitute image searches and specific work-arounds, and have culled a vast resource of bookmarked pages that get me closer to what I’m looking for than Google can [POST COMING ON THIS TOPIC LATER THIS WEEKEND].  Mostly, though, I’ve just tried to figure out how to communicate with Google in a language it recognizes, and I think that language is short-circuiting my brain.

After conducting some 10,000 searches within the last year I can say with confidence that Google is categorically unable to steer me towards what I’m looking for. This is especially evident on Saturdays, when I comb the web for material suited to Autostraddle’s Lesbian Sex-centric NSFW Sunday (which, btw, is chock-full of info and seems like a more logical first hit than ‘wetpussyteenagelickathon’) and find the internet totally unable to assist me in this endeavour.

The fact that their new “instant search” feature excludes “lesbians” and “bisexuals” is really, really, REALLY special! To be fair, Google treats its lesbian employees exceedingly well; when it comes to product, however, it seems that the porn is controlling Google, rather than Google controlling the porn. And considering how obvious porn is about its content and materials, controlling it shouldn’t be that hard to do.

This is, after all, why lesbians and bisexuals are left out of “instant search.” Queerty reports:

We know that most people who type in “lesbians” or “bisexual” want porn because porn sites continue to dominate Google’s search results. But Google Instant provides a content filter to “exclude certain terms related to pornography, violence and hate speech.”

Google Instant has a weird and inconsistent approach to handling other queer terms. For example, they’ll serve up results on lesbian rights, lesbian film, and lesbian art, but only if you type in those words after entering lesbian — otherwise you get a blank page. They’re also OK with “fag” which yields fag jokes, fag bomb, and fag bash but not with “faggot.” And you’ll only get a blank page for “hate crime” even though they serve up links for “gay bash.”

That’s not to accuse Google of having an anti-lesbian or anti-bisexual bias (far from it), it just has an inconsistent and overly cautious search policy.

I have three major feelings about this:

Feeling #1

Although “lesbian rights” and “lesbian film” are allegedly searchable, look at this fantastic search for “lesbian books”:

Feeling #2

Excluding lesbian/bisexual searches because of porn is unacceptable and, I believe, a total cop-out.

Google is well-funded, innovative and gay-friendly. Either they have a monetary interest in NOT fixing the “Lesbian Porn Problem,” they ARE fixing it and it’ll be better soon enough, or they’re being lazy. I’m guessing it’s the first.

Let’s start with this statement, from Queerty’s post:

“We know that most people who type in “lesbians” or “bisexual” want porn because porn sites continue to dominate Google’s search results.”

Um, no.

If that’s true, and I’m sure it is, then I’d like to suggest that this functionality is unnecessary or, at least, LESS important than helping users find information or sites about actual lesbians. Or — at the very least– ACTUAL LESBIAN PORN! I’ve got no issue with porn, even with girl-on-girl porn for people of all orientations, including straight men. I just don’t get why the definition of “lesbian” has been hijacked by society’s obsession with two women fucking each other.

See, porn’s never been difficult to track down and certainly doesn’t require a Secret Algorithim to direct porn-seekers in the proper direction. Any major porn site offers a plethora of organized “lesbian” offerings, and I dunno, maybe you could type the word “porn” if you wanted to see porn. Is that difficult? Can everyone just agree to remember that and then we can get rid of the lame Safe Search option? Sex does not equal porn.

And why must we type “art” after “lesbian” — isn’t it enough to NOT type “porn”?

Because they did manage to find SOMETHING for “sex,” after all. So “lesbian” is by default a term that means “sex,” but “sex” itself is not? NOT FAIR.

Feeling #3

The porn that internet users are regularly searching for is actually not, by definition, “lesbian porn.”

The word “lesbian” isn’t being used correctly in this sense. It’s porn marketed towards straight people in which women have sex with other women: there are rarely any lesbians involved and if there are, it’s unlikely they’re in the majority on set, which, other than being made for a primarily lesbian market, would be another way to qualify as “lesbian porn.”

While putting together the NSFW Sunday I will, occasionally at the 11th hour, submit myself to a Google Search just to see if maybe they’ve improved, but it’s always 85% useless.

Although Google Instant forgoes my desires altogether, Regular Google does not. These are the search results using “Moderate” filtering — which promises to “filter explicit images only.” Um. Good job with that filtering, guys!

Page Two doesn’t get any more helpful (or gay)

The next step up is “safe” filtering, which promises to exclude “explicit images” and “explicit text.” If you thought the “lesbian sex” moderate search returned decidedly “straight” results — check out the SAFE SEARCH!!!

Google results are informed by keywords, tags, headlines, and search terms — not, even remotely, by the actual content of the results. Porn sites use every black hat trick in the book, and they’re just one example of how Google lets SEO tactics dominate results.

Our access to real information about lesbian sex and sexuality is only attainable via linguistic tricks and work-arounds — actual information on lesbian sex is incredibly difficult to locate. Seriously. It’s really, really, really hard. That’s why we make NSFW Sundays to begin with.

In conclusion, if you’ve ever wondered why this is true:

. . . it could be because we’ve given up on The Man ever understanding our desires as anything other than pornographic and, as a result, have created, in effect, our own search engine and information repository: it’s called Tumblr.

Oh and, in case you couldn’t have guessed, google instant isn’t much help there either:

[Luckily, we are]

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Join AF+!


Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3213 articles for us.


  1. I dunno, I mean, I had quite few results when I typed in “lesbian” in google search. Also, when you search “gay,” it isn’t only just about gay men in particular. Results about gay women also show up, rather than just “lesbian women.” There are a ton of homosexual women who prefer to use the term “gay” than “lesbian.” They prefer a blanket term for all homosexuals, but I digress.

    Anyway, this is what I got when I searched for both of them in google instant:

  2. I use Google as my go to search engine. For everything but lesbian searches. If I need to seek anything “Family Related”, I swing by here.
    By the time I have rumbled through NSFW archives and links to countless amazing Tumblr’s two hours have passed and I’m usually late for whatever I was supposed to be doing irl.
    Seriously though it is frustrating to be so invisible that even the great Google can’t find you!

  3. I hate Google Instant so much. Thankfully you can turn it off.

    Still, I would like an Autostraddle search engine.

  4. as if keywords and SEO isn’t problematic enough–LOOK at the picture in the wikipedia article on “lesbian”

    so now along with porn, sex, and man-hating, the world is going to think we all wear waterproof pants that give us wedgies??

    (p.s. amazing analysis riese, you nailed it, per ushe, and i’m donating the second i get my next pay check to help alleviate your Adsense burden) love love.

    • “Lesbian,” according to that Wiki picture:

      We have no faces/relatable identities. We do, however have asses. And are probably inferred to all be vaguely butch. (We also enjoy motorcycle helmets and pseudo-pastoral settings).

      It bothers me maybe way more than it should that the women in the photo aren’t facing the camera and aren’t shown above chest height.

      • On the talk page of the wikipedia article (click on the discussion tab at the top) for the article they note that this debate has taken place, and that there are certain legal/permission issues that have not been dealt with.

        I’ve started working on a wiki at work, and I’ve learned very quickly about the magic of the talk page. :-)

        Not to say that this isn’t an actual problem, but that there isn’t really a simple answer. It’s not like there is some evil group out there conspiring to make lesbians look like vaguely butch asses.

        Also, wikis are editable by everyone! You can help change this picture if you don’t like it/don’t think it’s representative (which it clearly isn’t).

  5. I think you forgot to “press enter” most of the time. See? It says it right below the search box.

      • No, it doesn’t defeat the “purpose” of Google Instant. Google Instant is just based on the auto-complete and auto-suggest feature which existed for quite some time. I’m assuming, somewhere, you had previously complained about how auto-complete or auto-suggest was flawed and this same complaint was simply renewed by the release of Google Instant.

        Auto-complete and auto-suggest is based on the statistical majority, so its intention is to get people to common searches quicker, not all possible searches quicker, and certainly not niche searches.

        For instance, when I try to search for “knitting under water” or “knitting underwater”, it refuses to work in Google Instant. I have to press enter. Instead, it tries to steer me towards “knitting underwear”. Clearly it’s broken, right?

        I mean, you’re complaining about an automated feature of a computing system when you should really be complaining about society. I guess, in a way, you are.

        • I’ve never complained about auto-complete or auto-suggest being flawed. Nor did either of those functions bring up zero results for lesbians. I’ve never even written a tech article before, I generally don’t care about such things, except on Saturdays.

          I don’t care about Google Instant, I can just disable it, it doesn’t matter.

          I wouldn’t write about it if it wasn’t about society in general and not just a bad function. In general, and especially online, our nouns have been stolen from us by straight porn. It’s a society where “knitting underwater” — an impossible, irrelevant concept — is compared to “lesbian” — an identifiable noun that refers to a group of human beings with lots of online resources that has been co-opted by straight porn and that dominance has gone entirely unchecked, while Heidi Montag’s lesbian sex tape is apparently a strong offering for people searching for lesbian sex, rather than actual information about actual lesbian sex.

          Does that make sense? I kinda feel like you maybe just scanned this article and didn’t really read it. Is that possible. It’s ok, I do it sometimes too.

          [I do, btw, dislike auto-complete because I think it is fucking with language in general and creating passive thought patterns. I usually have it turned off and google is programmed to ignore my search history when returning results. But I don’t know or care enough about that to write about it, other people have, though.]

          • I find it fascinating that you say “our nouns” have been stolen from “us” by “straight porn”. The reality is, words don’t belong to people or to groups. Words belong to all of those who speak them. When people started saying “ain’t”, you’d have grammar Nazis running around trying to correct everyone’s grammar. Pretty soon, the phrase “ain’t ain’t a word” became popular. Soon enough, the word “ain’t” ended up in dictionaries.

            Again, language has always been fluid. Even zoologists by profession mispronounce zoology and zoologist. By mispronouncing it wrong often enough, it simply became an alternative pronunciation. One must simply accept that language is fluid. What one word means today, it could mean something else tomorrow, or something entirely different next year, or most certainly three hundred years from now. I’m not sure it’s worth suggesting that when the majority of society uses a word in a way that you disagree with, that it means society itself is flawed.

            You say that the word “lesbian” has been co-opted by straight porn. So have the words “naked”, “nude”, “sex”, and many other words that many could suggest should be used for better purposes. But, again, this just turns into a nerd-fight over grammar or entomology, which is likely not the intent.

            It’s also interesting that you suggested that “knitting underwater” is an impossible irrelevant concept. Did you do your research on this topic first, or did you just do the same thing you complain that “society” does, as if you are somehow separate from society?

            What you say makes perfect sense, but it just makes a whole lot of assumptions. It’s like watching the Koran burning debate going on. One clueless individual in Florida decides that the events of 9/11 weren’t caused by a small group of people, but an entire religion. Then, by offending the people of this religion, you have people rioting in other countries saying that this Koran burning is not just the act of one idiot with a small church, but by the entire United States. It’s fascinating to watch, if not a little bit sad. To see one group with a completely legitimate concern, but then turn around and make the same assumptions and show the same ignorance while trying to make their point. While the point is valid, it just gets lost in the hypocrisy.

            While you may feel I just scanned the article, I didn’t. Unfortunately, I read the whole thing. I was hoping it would reach a more insightful moment, but instead it seemed to seek out one more reason to be angry at society. You should don your tin-foil hat right away, because society is clearly still out to get you and steal your words.

          • I only have one question? What the hell is a tin-foil hat?
            All I got from this long-winded response is that you want to see Riese wrap aluminum foil around her head. And well… I don’t like that one bit.

          • i think it’s because i used to get my hair highlighted, which requires using foil, for the highlights. i don’t do that anymore ’cause it’s expensive. but maybe it’s my hairdresser. I mean, “CLIPS”? you know.

            anyhow i feel like if i wore a tin-foil hat i would get electrocuted. Maybe that’s the idea here.

          • Please don’t wear one of these evil tin-foil hats. They sound awful. I don’t wanna see you or anyone on this site get electrocuted. And if you do use one remember the rubber boots.

          • The phrase “tinfoil hat” serves as a byword for paranoia and persecutory delusions, and is associated with conspiracy theorists.

          • Yeah… I was being mildly sarcastic my friend. How is she being paranoid? She never once said that this was all crazy
            conspiracy to keep lesbians/bisexuals down. She is merely
            commenting on something she disagrees with. I think you’re
            the one that’s making things a bigger deal than they really
            P.S. I still hate tin foil hats.

          • I’m pretty sure you’re completely missing the point being made here. I don’t think the author was trying to start a debate about words and semantics. She was making a point about a disenfranchised group of people that she happens to belong to.

            Do you work for Google or something? Because I can’t understand for the life of me why anyone would be making the arguments you’re making on this website.

          • My point is that I think excessive use of hyperbole only hurts a cause rather than helps it.

            It’s one thing to say, “I think lesbians are being marginalized into hot naked women who only have sex to arouse straight men. It’s wrong and I wish people weren’t so ignorant.”

            It’s an entirely different thing to see this problem in every day things. It’s like seeing Jesus in a burnt tortilla or Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich.

            The first is recognizing a problem, then educating the world.

            The second is a downward spiral into paranoia, where everything in life is just out to marginalize you.

            As soon as you start finding fault in everything, and that fault points right back to you, you communicate to the rest of the world that you are the center of the universe.

            If everyone believed they were the center of the universe, there’d be over six billion centers of the universe.

            So, no, I don’t work for Google. I just support common sense and remaining firmly planted in reality, even if that reality happens to be unfair to certain groups at certain times.

          • “I think lesbians are being marginalized…” is a terribly general statement. General statements, if they’re going to hold any weight, should have facts to support them.

            The above article is pointing out a way in which lesbians are being marginalized. I think we’re all aware that google instant’s shortcomings are not going to make or break the world, but this article is an example of “recognizing a problem,” or perhaps more specifically, “a symptom of a problem.” I’m failing to see the hyperbole.

          • ” I just support common sense and remaining firmly planted in reality, even if that reality happens to be unfair to certain groups at certain times.”

            My head just spun a little bit reading this sentence. You’re seriously making my heart race, and not in a good way.

            I get (I think) you’re trying to make the point that maybe the Google Instant thing isn’t such a big deal and we should be focusing on bigger issues, but if you would take a look at this website and had you done a little research yourself you’d have found that it is on top of the bigger stories and handles them very intelligently and with a nice twist of humor that many of us need to get through the day. And maybe you should take some of your own advice and aim your own paranoid nitpicking at more worthy causes.

          • The problem is, if this website is focused on the bigger issues 99% of the time, then strays off on a tangent about silly things like Wikipedia or Google Instant search only 1% of the time, the 1 bad apple will spoil the whole bunch.

            Those who are needing to be educated will see the 1% and will lose all credibility for concerning themselves with the other 99%. This is why I didn’t bother posting anything about all of the other articles and only singled this one out. This is the one that could potentially discredit all others as simply ramblings of those who don’t actually want change, but are simply looking for things to complain about.

          • @Clips
            First: Who says big issues are the only important ones? Sometimes small things are worth noticing. An example: I belong to a measly 5% minority in a tiny country of 5 million people. That makes only about 250 thousand people in the whole world. If everyone was exclusively focused on “big issues” the things that are important to us would never ever be acknowledged. Luckily this is not the case (far from it in fact).
            Second: In this article Riese manages to use the tiny issue of google instant ignoring lesbians to illustrate far bigger issues of sexism and the disenfranchisement of lesbians. You’ve pointed out that language is fluid. This is of course correct, but that’s not all. The way language and it’s use evolves is often tangled up in various power relations. So for instance it is no coincidence that the swedish word for ‘slavic peoples’ is the same as the word for ‘slaves’ – it is the mark of ancient oppression imprinted on language. Similarly with the notion that the very mention of lesbianism is pornographic and therefore needs to be censored. This is again no pure accident of language (and this is how it differs from your examples “nude” and “sex”), but reflects the patriarchal notion that all women exist to be made into male sex objects. Pointing out these kinds of issues and how they appear in everyday life is not the same as saying that language should never change. Rather it is a first step to fighting back against oppression that is not only semantic but also social, cultural, economic etc.
            I also wanted to express how touched I am by your concern for underwater knitters, but The New Pornographers are playing at Tavastia so PEACE OUT MOTHERFUCKER.

          • Aww, thanks InTheJunkDrawer! I’m glad those college words can help sometimes. Also, in case anyone’s wondering, The New Pornographers were amazing.

          • Okay, I have feelings and one of them is that I feel like I need to share said feelings.

            Obviously, no one owns any particular set of words, and you’re right – language is definitely fluid. I would say that society decides what which words apply to certain groups of people. Our group, so to speak, was given the word ‘lesbian’ to describe our sexual orientation (which apparently is so important, but that’s a different subject), and this word has evolved to also include a culture. Therefore, until society assigns our group another word, it’s a little rude to give the word such a narrow meaning that carries such a stigma.

            The fact that society pushes our group aside to a dusty, damp corner and the evidence (which you can choose to agree or disagree with) shows that this alienation is ingrained in our very language – which is a core part of society – was the main point of this article. If anything, Riese suggested we are separate from society, because society tells us we are separate. It isn’t about ‘stealing words.’ It’s about the unfair treatment our community receives at the hand of society which has manifested through words – specifically ‘Google Instant.’

          • True. Sometimes, however, a person is a group or is a victim only because they marginalize themselves as victims, not because society has placed them there.

            Imagine a scenario where person A berates person B.

            Person B can react in two basic ways:

            1) Be a victim, and feel sorry for themselves.
            2) Brush it off and ignore the ignorant comments.

            The power is with the individual whether or not they have been marginalized… or have been pushed aside to a dusty, damp corner… or alienated… etc…

            Sure, you can find evidence of lesbians being alienated. If you look outside of yourself, however, you can also find evidence of intelligent people being alienated. Athletes are alienated. Young people are alienated. Old people are alienated. The poor are alienated. The rich are alienated. People who aren’t good spellers are alienated. People who aren’t so good with computers are alienated. People with mustaches are alienated. Bald people are alienated. Christians are alienated. Muslims are alienated. Atheists are alienated. Americans are alienated. The list goes on and on and on…

            So, really, everyone is alienated into various different stereotypes. If the solution is for everyone to point fingers at each other, or at “the others”, then there’s just a bunch more alienation going on. The only real solution is to recognize that we are all in similar messes and instead of playing the “me too” game and complaining about it, just brush it off and ignore the ignorance.

            Take, for instance, the picture on the Wikipedia article for “lesbian”.

            If it had showed the women’s faces, and if the women had been particularly attractive, then one could have complained about the fact that lesbians are always portrayed as being super models, to fulfill the porn fantasy. If the women had not been particularly attractive, comments of being “butch” could have been made. You can look at that picture and find hundreds of things wrong with it… but you can look at ANY picture and find hundreds of things wrong with it. Imagine what the world would be like if people looked at pictures… and each other… and tried to find all of the things RIGHT, instead.

            When I saw the picture, the first thing I noticed was the two women were holding hands. There was definitely love there. Holding the motorcycle helmets, to me, showed a sign of being independent. I saw only strong qualities in the picture. It wasn’t until comments about focusing on their asses were made that I was able to see any negative to the picture.

            So, it makes me wonder… how does it make the world a better place to only point out the negative things to each other? Wouldn’t this same negativity also show through on Google Instant search?

            In Google Instant search, you can type:

            HOW DO I GET MY SIS


            HOW DO I GET MY BRO

            …and see some disturbing trends. But if you choose to only look for positive things, you scan type:

            HOW TO LEGALIZE

            …and find better things.

            (By the way, I never knew so many people were looking to legalize their skyline. You learn something every day.)

          • your paragraph about being marginalized makes me want to scream with my eyeballs, weirdo! do you know that some kids get like kicked out of their houses for being gay? that some kids never talk to their families again because of who they love? do you know that we don’t have equal rights in this country?

            show some fucking respect, it’s nothing like how ‘old people’ or ‘athletes’ feel. i don’t even know how those people feel because i have been lucky in my life with my family and where i live. which is why i want it for everybody else who’s here. EVEN YOU

          • @riese

            And that is precisely my point. Some kids get kicked out of their houses for being gay. Some kids never talk to their families again because of who they live. Groups of people don’t have equal rights in this country because of their sexual preference.

            And, yet, an article was written about Google Instant search? Really? Way to really detract from the real issues.

            That has been my point all along. The more things like photos on Wikipedia and algorithms on Google are pointed out, the less people will focus on the REAL issues… and that’s how parents treat their children… and how politicians handle sensitive issues.

          • Dear Stareclips, please click this link:
            Thank you!

            Also, you might find this site useful: Derailing for Dummies. You can skip these paragraphs:
            – You’re Just Oversensitive
            – You Just Enjoy Being Offended
            – Don’t You Have More Important Issues To Think About
            – You’re Taking Things Too Personally
            – Your Experience Is Not Representative Of Everyone
            – I Don’t Think You’re As Marginalised As You Claim
            – I Said SOME Marginalised People Do That, Not ALL
            – You Are Damaging Your Cause By Being Angry

            You’ve got those down. Good work! :-)

          • @Feylamia

            I never said anyone was oversensitive. I said that there is a battle to be fought, and including Google Instant search in this battle only serves to derail the good fight.

            I certainly never said anyone enjoyed being offended. It feels more like many are so overly offended that their focus is scattered.

            I didn’t mean to suggest that issues outside of the marginalization of the gay community should be focused on… just that the focus shouldn’t be so scattered. I’m waiting for the post to suggest that the font used for the letter “m” on candies is the wrong font and is anti-gay. Maybe, instead, the focus should be on content on the Internet and the fact that many straight people automatically assume that someone who is gay automatically has a different sexual partner each night. There are battles to be fought which are getting derailed by articles who only serve a purpose to get out the torches and pitchforks.

            In fact, the derailing only began when everyone decided that my opinion was so significant that it needed to consume the entire discussion. I apologize. My opinion is just one of many. I didn’t think that posting my opinion would put the spotlight entirely on me. I’d really just prefer the discussion return to the problems at hand.

          • I’m not that bothered about your post Stareclips, I just think it’s funny to point out you think the word ‘entomology’ is the word ‘etymology’.

            Google it :D

        • “Knitting under water” definitely works in Google Instant while “lesbian” does not. Are you sure you have the feature turned on?

          • That’s interesting. I do see that it works now, but previously it was coming up with no results and was asking me to press enter. Perhaps it was choking at that moment?

          • You got me. I’m not a real person. I’m just an automated computer program. Hence why I took offence to my other fellow automated computer programs, such as Google Instant search being marginalized.

          • You got me. I’m not a real person. I’m just an automated computer program. Hence why I took offence to my other fellow automated computer programs, such as Google Instant search being marginalized.

            okay now i like you again

        • Hi, if I may, I’ll try to explain the importance of “lesbian” being a searchable term that produces web sites about actual lesbians.

          GAY KIDS SEARCH FOR IT ON THE INTERNET when they’re too scared to talk to their parents and friends for fear of being alienated by the people who have known them their whole life.

          LGBT youths can have a hell of a time finding information ABOUT THEMSELVES because so much information about LGBT people and issues is censored and filtered. Any time LGBT people are made to be invisible it makes us a little more vulnerable.

          Until 1958 it was illegal to send ANY homosexual content through the US Postal Service. (One, Inc. v. Olesen) Depictions of homosexuality were banned in comic books until 1989 (Comics Code Authority).

          LGBT books have gotten yanked from libraries. In 2009 the second most challenged book in libraries was “And Tango Makes Three” because it’s about gay penguins. Also last year, Amazon “accidentally” started filtering gay and lesbian books from search results and best-seller lists because *oopsie* they marked them as Adult.

          And just this year, Apple was censoring gay scenes from comics on iPad until the hyperbolic homos complained.

          The erasure of LGBT people is actually an everyday thing that we’ve only been fighting for 5 decades. And it IS systemic and not simply in our imagination.

          • Re: Libraries

            According to the American Library Association, censoring materials is a violation of Point II in the ethical code: “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.” (source here:

            As a first-year library student, however, I can definitely say that at least a quarter of my fellow firsties are (secretly) pro-censorship, and it scares the hell out of me. If they can’t be expected to believe in the ethical code now, what does this mean when they actually become librarians and start purging collections of objectionable material? Collections are supposed to be as diverse as possible given individual libraries’ operating budgets.

          • Yes, the ALA is who publishes the list of most challenged books. But those same books do get pulled from school libraries at the demand of parents wanting to shield their children from The Gay.

          • I appreciate the explanation, even if it is a bit condescending.

            I’m not here out of ignorance of the larger issue, just when the issue is taken to such an extreme that it starts taking AWAY credibility so that the battle is so much harder fought.

            Imagine, for instance, racism. Racism is still very much alive in the world today. It comes in many forms. However, if someone watches a movie where there is only one minority and complains. Then watches a movie where there are mostly minorities, but there is heavy drug use, then complains. And this cycle continues until they have complained about every single movie which contains a minority, then it just feels to outsiders like there simply isn’t a solution. So, the hard-fought battle starts losing steam due to those who want to fight every single battle, rather than allowing some battles to be lost in order to put more energy to the battles that, when won, will ultimately win the war.

            That’s the whole meaning behind picking and choosing your battles. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to win, it just means you have to be strategic about it. The forces that want us all to win are being strategic about it, so we must also be strategic. If we don’t organize and aren’t careful about it, we lose the battle repeatedly.

            So, is it difficult for gay kids to search the Internet for information about themselves without coming across pornography or a bunch of other information which may only lead to confusion? Yes. Is Google Instant search really a battle worth fighting in order to fight the larger war? I don’t believe it is. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem, and it doesn’t mean that the problem doesn’t affect people, and it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a symptom of a much larger problem… it just means that complaining about it just floods the Internet with tons of “miscellaneous” complaints by the gay community which, to others, would make it difficult to filter out the real problems from the perceived problems, which is why nothing ever gets done.

            I’ve seen tons of people complain about problem A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J equally… but at the end of the day, if they had one wish, they’d be just fine with only A. Everything else would fall into place. So, when asked… why not just stick to fighting for A, then? The response usually just proves that they’ve grown tired of fighting for A, feeling like nothing will get done… feeling defeated… so they just start complaining about everything else. In reality, that’s just “giving up”. You gotta stay focused. You gotta set your priorities. You gotta fight the good fight. Life is too short to entertain yourself and others with the hundreds of other micro-battles.

          • Nice obfuscation.

            This is nothing like picking a movie out of a million to bitch about. Google is used for the majority of Internet searches out of a handful of search engines.

            I understand that you don’t like the battle we’ve picked. My response to that is tough shit.

            WELCOME TO THE QUEER COMMUNITY. We take directions from no one.

    • thank you Brianna and seriously i am going to cut you. yes, you can press enter. that makes it “google” and not “google instant” anymore. we’re talking about the google instant interface.

      • I’m eager for this upcoming post on the work-arounds you’ve found. I feel like such a post might make my own searching 110% more productive.

        • I am now scared to ever write about tech again, but I feel I will power through this and finish the post by the end of the week. maybe tomorrow! who knows?

  6. So at first I thought the headline said “excites” instead of “excludes”, and then I got really confused when I startedactually reading the article. I didn’t figure out what was going on until I went back to three home page and re-read it. So yeah, sometimes I can’t read. Like, at all.

  7. “These days, using Google requires an internal system of mental cyber-gymnastics I’ve been carefully honing for nearly a decade and have been actively curating with attention bordering on obsessive since Autostraddle’s launch.”

    … or you could just call/text any lesbian* who happens to be a librarian, do a quick reference interview, and wait fifteen to twenty minutes while they rock out to implied Boolean. What are librarian friends FOR, right?

    * For general subject matter, any librarian will work, but your lesbian sex-related reference interview might be a bit awkward.

  8. I don’t use isnta-google (as I cannot afford the data plan in my country) but when I did a “where’d ya’ come from?” on my tracker after reading this and most people find my coloring pages through Bing or Google. I deduced that some of them were looking for non lesbian related coloring pages (imagine their surprise and delight!)

    When I did my own Google search – I could only find my pages in the “Safe Search” mode. Which, made me decide I needed to become more explicit in 2012, after all the world is ending. Everyone needs a poon place-mat to color at the lesbo-friendly restaurant at the end of the universe.

    P.S. I am going to start tagging everything I post with “homogay”.

  9. why are there 54 tweets on this article. is this what happens when you write about google and lesbian sex. i’m scared

    • maryann don’t listen to stareclips, stareclips is trying to scare you. we can hold hands and be catchers in the rye

      • Maybe Starclips is just lonely for friendship. Who else would have the time to write page-long essay responses on the who’s who of marginalization and how to live the glass half-full (a.k.a. don’t blame your auto-bot) life.

        I bet Starclips was looking on Instant Google for LoLcats pics and through a series of unfortunate clicking misadventures ended up here.

        We should all just cop-a-feel.

        Right Starclips? You came to get groped right hon?

        • My apologies, Rockets… I didn’t know this was an elitist group that doesn’t welcome outsiders. I suppose all newcomers are just treated as “lonely”, eh? Nice.

          • I’m sure Starclips didn’t mean to cry victim. Sides, I woulda bought the Cliper dinner first.

            ~gropes G~

            G, dinner’s in the mail ;)

          • Don’t treat loneliness as an accusation Clips! Many people are lonely, but I like to think that doesn’t (necessarily) mean there’s something wrong with us. The thing is, though, that you have to nice to people if you want them to like you. I know it’s hard. Frequently they will expect you to do uncomfortable things like “look them in the eyes” or “smile”. Hang in there though! As safe as that pit of self-loathing is, you don’t want to spend your whole life in it do you?
            Anyway, hugs, yaaay!

          • I always try. I came here with an alternate point of view, assuming incorrectly that alternate points of views were welcomed here. I often make that mistake. I think that those who are trying to fight to have their point of view heard are also the most open minded to hear others’ points of view. A silly mistake on my part, but I’m always hopeful.

            Those who most dislike liars are the ones most likely to lie. Those who most dislike cheaters are the ones most likely to cheat.
            Those who most want to be heard are the ones least likely to listen.

            Oh well.

          • You came here with an alternative point of view but you didn’t expect disagreement? Anyway, my point about being nice still stands.

          • The thing is, though, that you have to nice to people if you want them to like you.

            yup. exactly, niklas. i know that the ensuing comments involved some backhanded apologies, but y’all, we gotta stand up for ourselves sometimes. it saddens me that we’re so used to being insulted and condescended towards that we brush it off and allow the blame to be re-routed towards us for reacting to that tone. SC had 100 chances to say “you know what, you’re right, talking down to you and calling you delusional, paranoid, unable to operate a computer, irrelevant, and ‘hurting the cause’ was not the best way to open up a dialogue. I had a bad day and took it out on you. I’m sorry but I’d like to talk.” We’ve all redacted our tone and behavior to suit SC, and it’s illogical to go on ’til we get some of that in return. I know sometimes these dialogues are useful and change minds, but sometimes we’re just perpetuating destructive cycles — cycles which I think SC might agree are distracting from more important causes for the GLBT community.

            We have the most liberal comment policy of any website I know of that is this size and represents an oft-attacked community. Nobody has to register, we don’t threaten to reveal your identity if you’re an asshole or delete everything we disagree with. Sometimes that gets taken advantage of, and that’s no fair.

          • “we gotta stand up for ourselves sometimes. it saddens me that we’re so used to being insulted and condescended towards that we brush it off and allow the blame to be re-routed towards us for reacting to that tone.”

            I love this. I’ve been kinda twisted inside, questioning my response: “Was I too harsh? Too vitriolic?” but I kept going back to how hurtful SC’s comments were, and I feel like I said exactly what I needed to say. Because they were incredibly hurtful; if they weren’t, we wouldn’t have responded as we did. I absolutely understand and agree with the comments here that call for a more reasonable response to criticism, but I don’t believe that criticism was SC’s intent. It was his cover, but not his intent. Can I prove that? No. (I believe, however, that Riese went a long way toward providing this proof when she exposed the rants that preceded the one SC brought here.) Look, I’m sick to death of SC and his one-sided “arguments.” I can’t help but be thankful, though, for whatever catalyst leads to this type of frank, honest, introspective discussion, however sticky or uncomfortable it makes us feel.

          • @riese

            I did apologize. Several times. However, those posts were deleted. And now, my IP address has been banned. I’m at a friend’s typing this. I’m sorry I caused so many hurt feelings. I thought it was a healthy discussion. I realize too late that it wasn’t. Thanks for taking the time you did and I won’t waste more of your time. I wish I could still hang out and read the posts on the site, but the entire site is banned from my location, so I guess I will have to forgo this piece of the Internet.

            Until a better time. Have a peaceful rest of the week.

  10. There’s a sad story about a Web Developer who couldn’t find a job. But she saw a want ad for an SEO. Although she wasn’t actually trained in SEO, she applied anyway. She got the job only to become the Web Developer who also did SEO because the company didn’t even have a Web Developer.

    See what they did there? The SEO was more important to their 9 web sites than a freaking Web Developer.

    You could also try writing the headline for your readers, and the url and text in the title tags for the Search Engine. Because actually, folks see search engine results out of the context of your site, so they wouldn’t understand a witty yet non descriptive page title when mixed in with other search results. You know what I mean? has become more useful to me than AND Google Reader where Autostraddle lives in the Dykes folder. So, hell…I don’t even use lesbian.

    For a good time, target the keyword “homosexuality”. ‘Cause that could be funny…as opposed the the BS that comes up in the search results for that.

  11. I love seeing people get a written smack down via internet comments. Better yet, I love it when the commenters are articulate even if the reasoning is completely ridiculous. And for that clippyclips I say kudos.

    “makes me want to scream with my eyeballs” may well be the best thing I’ve ever heard. The imagery is just fucking fantastic.

  12. The thing that makes me most angry in this article is that the snippet of text Google picked out for the ‘Lesbian’ wiki article is about mens views of female sexuality. It encapsulates the point of this article so well its almost beautiful.

    • In the same vein, I’m still chuckling at the second hit for “lesbian sex” – the “Top 10 Lesbian Sex Secrets.” Because you know what’s important about lesbian sex? Making sure that there’s some way it can benefit men.

      I’m ready for NSFW Sunday now please.

      • The first four hits are actually porn sites. That AskMen article is on the second page.

        Did you see the comments? Someone seriously said “I’m dating a Lesbian, I myself am a Heterosexual male,” ummm…

        • Right you are.

          Reading those comments now, and they’re inadvertently hilarious. “If anyone want to please the women out he must keep watching lesbos and how they interact.”

          I digress.

    • Google is a bot. It picked out the first use of the word lesbian in the Wikipedia article. Wikipedia is a user edited resource and most of it was likely edited by lesbians.

    • I absolutely guarantee you that there is an anti-gay group at Google who specifically wrote the computer algorithm to pick precisely this snippet.

      It is very specifically backed up by the problems pointed out in this article and is no way coincidental.

      As soon as we get Google to stop being so anti-gay, we’ll be well on our way to solving the bigger conspiracy.

  13. Riese, I love you. You know that right? I hope you know that. Don’t let get you down. I may not agree with every word you’ve ever said ever (about 98-99%, though), but I always respect and appreciate your thoughts. So fuck you, [email protected]. There, now you’re marginalized. Don’t let yourself be a victim though!

  14. You know, I kind of really love the articles are aren’t about the “real” issues. They make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Like the article about the best cookies you can find the grocery store? That was basically the best ever. Coming in a close second is the article about the 10 people who can do no wrong. Love it.

    And this article, which is kind of half “real” issues (or so)? For me, it’s important to know how the world at large sees me. I tend to interact with people who make up the world at large on a daily basis. It’s my personal goal to change the mind of every single person I come out to from “lesbian = porn” to “lesbian = real women who are into other women. Look, she’s nice, she doesn’t bite, and she’s not trying to change me into a homogay!”

    Come to think of it, I don’t think this article is fluff at all. It’s way more than half “real” issues (yeah, I’m questioning what’s real. It’s Sunday and I can do as I please.). I think Riese has a funny, insightful way of talking about things that are important. And this excuse that typing in “lesbian” must mean that you are actually looking for “the dirtiest porn ever” is important. Because that’s stupid.

    PS: Maryann, I feel like we should automatically be friends because we have the same name. And I threw in the homogay just for you. :)

    • Well-said, dewey.

      Also, I’ve never met anyone who spells their name the same way I do, so yes, I feel this makes us autofriends. Your use of “homogay” was an excellent start to my Sunday.

  15. I am pleased and refreshed that someone took the time to report on this…and with details! I have noticed the same phenomenon when performing searches with Google Instant, but I did not have the patience to draft out the verbiage in such an informative and eloquent manner.

    What a great post!

  16. I remember being a confused little OMGWTFAMIAlesbian! and googling around for articles or websites or books and not finding much more than ehow and articles until I finally happened across AfterEllen thanks to a gay guy friend who was talking about something he’d read on there. It helped so much to find actual lesbians and actual lesbian content.

    And I remember participating on that site less and less because often (sometimes in the articles, but seemingly constantly in the forums) I felt like everything was critical and upset and “everyone is out to get the lesbians!” and while I was sure there were many people against us I didn’t have the energy for it all.

    Enter Autostraddle. Important information on DADT, the struggles of gay youth, Prop 8, hate crimes, etc. but also spotlighting allies, gay films books etc, and making about anything awesome somehow gay. And usually adding some humor to make even the awful news something I could handle reading.

    This sort of thing, for the reasons others above have pointed out, is important. As the folks over at AE say all the time, visibility matters. We shouldn’t have to use clever go-arounds to find our community’s presence online. Thank you, Riese, for writing this.

    I’d kind of felt recently like maybe you guys were getting too overworked and burned out lately, it seemed like there were more gchat sharings and less of your stellar writing/commentary. Which I understand given the staff and funding/content ratio. But then you post this and obviously you’ve still got it and that makes me very, very happy.

    Autostraddle wins the internet.

  17. woah. what happened? i read this article yesterday and it had like seven comments and then i come back and it went fight club but not really because a. i’m pretty sure stare clips was drunk or something and b. i’ve never seen fight club. anyways riese i hope one day we meet so i can buy you a drink because having to deal with this all the time must be stressful. oh and what rachelwashere said.

    • I think it’s just a case of an outside accidentally stepping foot into an elitist crowd of 12-year-olds. My bad.

      Those who want change are willing to accept outsiders, try to understand their points of view, and learn lessons in it and throw the rest out gracefully.

      Instead, the pitchforks and torches came out. No wonder progress has been so excruciatingly slow in this area.

  18. I’ve been a fervent AS consumer (I can’t say “reader” because every time I hook into AS I practically crawl on my desk to wolf down the chewy, always-delicious words; so yes, I mean “consume” as in chowthefuckdownonfabulousness) for a few months now, but haven’t commented until today, when I actually got up and started yelling at this comment thread.

    I’m a pre-internet lesbian. I fell in love with my best friend when I was 14 and had never heard the word lesbian in my life (yay for growing up sheltered in Utah). The only meaning for “gay” that I was aware of at the time was “dirty.” When I disclosed this relationship to an adult, she mentioned something about it being a gay relationship. “Oh, no,” I replied. “It’s not gay. It’s not dirty at all.”

    A year later, nursing my first broken heart, I decided to accept the fact that I was gay. By that point, I understood the definition to mean two things: 1. A homosexual. 2. Homosexuals are pedophiles. I literally believed this, and made an extremely fervent decision to never act on any pedophile-like desires that may come up (I thought that this would happen when I reached adulthood).

    I was just a little kid, 15 years old, who thought she was going to grow up to be a pedophile. (It only just struck me at this moment that I knew then what “pedophile” meant; how awful is it that THAT definition was clear to me and “gay” wasn’t?)

    My point is that I had NO ACCESS to gay-positive information. NONE. I very quickly developed a crushing, suicidal depression that only resided when I FINALLY found my peers, who were shocked by my I=pedophile belief, and who gently steered me into a place of acceptance.

    Riese’s article is NOT about an insignificant issue! This IS a HUGE issue! We are unbelievably marginalized, and must at all times be AWARE of this marginalization, and the WAYS in which we are marginalized, one of the strongest being BY DEFINITION and how that definition is controlled by a largely homophobic and/or myopic (gay=sex) society. There are kids out there right now – scared, confused, likely-extremely-depressed kids – who are using google, and who are therefore on the direct receiving end of this type of marginalization. They are at risk of being defined as something that they are NOT, by being too-narrowly defined, or by being defined as nothing at all. This breaks my fucking heart.

    We are, if I may be frank, LUCKY AS FUCK that we have Autostraddle, a wildly intelligent, wry, hilarious, positive, unending stream of information that we – the community as a whole – may gobble up at any time, and leave satiated and happy, instead of nauseated, which, sadly, is how I generally feel after a lesbian google search even today, twenty years later. (Which is exactly why I no longer do searches on the word “lesbian.” Ever.)

    I can summarize my rant (and I thank you for allowing me to spew forth so mightily) by saying this: I am living proof of the power of semantics. I was a scared kid who believed that society had written me off as a nasty, dangerous pervert. I very nearly killed myself because of a definition.

    Bravo, Riese. Bravo. You are spot-fucking-on.

      • Me too! The power of semantics is astounding and if a company like google can police the use of the word lesbian and conflate it with lesbian porn…well…i dont know what will happen

  19. You know, I debated last night before responding to, because I thought this might happen…

    Because I apparently can’t help myself, I’m still going to respond to the marginalization thing. I live in a town in North Carolina. Outside of the bigger cities, THEY DON’T DO GAY HERE. It’s super frustrating cause I don’t have a clue how to meet people, so I of course turned to the internet; Google specifically. Do you know how long it took me to find Autostraddle or any other site with legitimate LGBT information and focus? Forever. I knew logically in my head that I wasn’t the only lesbian out there, but I definitely felt like the only lesbian out there.

    Just like Riese said, it’s not a damn thing like ‘old people’ or ‘rich people’ or ‘intelligent people’ fucking feel. I’m going to community college and living at home at the moment. My mom is a very conservative, Christian woman. I am TERRIFIED of ever telling her that I’m gay, because I don’t want to lose her. She doesn’t even want me to transfer to UNC-Greensboro, because she’s heard they have such a large LGBT community (which is one of the reasons I picked it, obviously). However, she’s been there for me my whole life, and we’ve always been very close. When I say terrified, I mean to the point of physical effects. I’ve been dealing with depression and other health problems for a few years now, and I think this has a lot to do with it.

    If you don’t want to hear us ‘complain’ or be the ‘victim,’ then I suggest you read another article. This is a REAL issue. If you looked at the other articles on the site, you’d realize that AS advocates and takes action with regards to real issues and doesn’t just ‘complain.’

    Also, Autostraddle has always been super welcoming from what I can tell, but you managed to piss quite a few people off. Despite that, Rockets offered to grope you, and Niklas sent you a hug. That’s pretty damn welcoming.

    Now, I have other, more warm & fuzzy, positive, -ish feelings to share now. I loved this article. It went all big picture. I absolutely love this site, and I’m kinda addicted to it. I need to get a shirt or something. I want to say thank you to Riese and everybody else who runs/contributes to this website, because it’s a really great resource and scores super high on the awesomeness scale.

    Now that I’m done writing a novel for a comment, I’m gonna go read NSFW and think happy thoughts. :)

    • I didn’t mean to suggest that these smaller issues aren’t significant, but that the side that wants us all to “lose” are the ones who are hand feeding you these distractions and you’re gobbling them up. Then, you wonder why your rights are being taken away. The conservatives (mostly Republicans) have been trying to take the rights of the people away, especially those who don’t fit into a nice little white straight category.

      There are some companies that side with this view and eat right out of their hands. Others, though, fight a good fight. If you look into Google’s past as a company, they are fighting for the rights of the gay community. And yet, in an effort to point out all of the things that are wrong in the world, Google has been caught right up in that tuna net.

      So, if you really want change for the good, you’d pick and choose your battles wisely. If you just want to throw a temper tantrum, you’re doing a great job.

      • I don’t hate Google. I’m aware that they are a pro-Gay company, and I definitely appreciate that. I think that we need to discuss these issues as this article did, and sometimes, we just need to vent. I also don’t feel like this article was out to ruin Google or necessarily detracted from the very real issues we have to deal with everyday, but I guess we don’t see eye to eye on that point. Either way, I think it’s pretty much time to lay this argument to rest and agree to disagree. Hopefully, you’ll stick around casue AS is pretty much amazing.

      • I appreciate your comments and, for what it’s worth, I apologize that my little opinions caused such a big ruckus.

        • I disagree with your take on this Clippyclips but I definitely like you. I think for the most part you expressed yourself fairly eloquently. I personally think positive visibility is an important issue. And I am thrilled when anyone takes a stand for it, i.e., Riese. That being said, I do appreciate and value your opinion, as I do any opinion that is in opposition of my own, because it challenges me to express and define for myself why I believe what I believe.

  20. Okay… so google instant did work for “Queer Women,” “Gay Women,” “Gay Lady,” “Homosexual Woman” (the first entry under which was Wikipedias “Lesbian” entry), “finger baby”… (no “executive lesbian realness” though… sad day).

    Google Instant also failed for “Butch gay woman” although it did instantly find results for “butch homosexual female.” Apparently we have to sound all scientific and shit to get recognition.

  21. thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you, Riese, for that part about lesbians and porn.

    My work rents porn to people. We’ve got over 1000 titles. It’s not the whole job; just part of it. Most of the time I laugh, because mainstream porn is fucking ridiculous and how can you not laugh at the idea that something called “Glazed and Confused” or “Storm Squirters” or “Womb Raider” is supposed to be sexy? I’d be exhausted if I’d spent the past four years being offended every time I look at a porn dvd.

    I look at porn, completely not of my own choosing, EVERY day at work.

    But in porn, gay=boys, and bi=two boys & one girl. If the word threesome is mentioned, it’s boy boy girl. And it’s because girl on girl goes in the NORMAL porn section. The FOR MEN section. We’re goddamn invisible. We don’t get our own section; we’re not even a kink. There are no horrible puns about lesbians, and I resent that, because if the boys get “Bi-ing Lunch”, I want “Lez go to the beach”, or something like that.

    And I hate that the porn industry has taken us over like that. I hate that most mainstream “lesbian” porn is two barbies with long nails spitting on each other while men watch. I hate that in porn, “lesbian” is just like “facial” – sometimes you get it, sometimes you won’t, but no one will be grossly offended if it pops up, and people often expect it. Not like, an actual fucking community and identity.

    And it’s not like it’s something we can take back. It’s not like we can say, “Hey Porn, can you stop saying lesbian for stuff that really isn’t lesbian? KTHXBYE.” (and for that matter, we can’t say “Hey, Straight Girls, can you stop referring to your close female friends as girlfriends? Because I’m using that term to refer to the person I’m dating. Like you use boyfriend, mmkay?”) Because as long as there is porn and porn makes money and men like watching girls fake-fuck each other, we’re going to share that goddamn term with the porn industry, and people are going to have issues with the term lesbian.

    And words are so, so fucking important. We are so much more than words, because none of our sexualities are identical, but words are how we find each other, words are how we explain ourselves, words are how we unite, words are how we tear other words apart, words are how we grasp at things we don’t think words can fully encompass, words are how we analyze shit.

    And so when you – google, porn, censors, fucking anything – takes our words, you’re invalidating us. You’re telling us we don’t exist under our own definitions. You’re telling us that this word that is so vital to our identities is wrong because it’s used in other ways, ways we didn’t fucking choose.

    This porn thing’s been bugging me for a while.

    So thank you.

    • “(and for that matter, we can’t say “Hey, Straight Girls, can you stop referring to your close female friends as girlfriends? Because I’m using that term to refer to the person I’m dating. Like you use boyfriend, mmkay?)”

      Haha, SECONDED. This makes it both easier and harder to be out at work, cos I work with middle-aged straight ladies who definitely only use “girlfriend” in this way. They don’t blink when I mention that I’m doing something with my girlfriend, but I’m pretty sure they don’t think it means what I think it means. Not a big/real problem, but really, do I have to say “my lover” or something to be clear?

      • Blargh I HATE the word “lover” it sounds so…so…I don’t know, something really antiquated and Victorian-esq but in a kinky way, which is NOT how I define my girlfriend. I know tons of lesbians, especially it seems in decades-past, used this term freely, but it just isn’t for me. I can use the word “girlfriend” roughly 50,000 times a day and NO ONE thinks I’m referring to a romantic relationship. Gets really old after awhile.

        • A friend once referred to the man my mom was dating as “your mother’s lover.”

          I covered my ears and sang.

          Those words should NEVER EVER be said together.

  22. People, I never comment here, I enjoy the articles, I like the writing style, the issues, etc.
    What i do not always feel comfy with is the “atmosphere”. It often feels like a clique of sorts where you are either into the same stuff or you aren’t cool enough. and the attitude with which’s POV is met just goes to show you.

    posting a gif telling her she is dumb? Really? While I might not agree with everything, s/he didn’t use offensive language, expressed her view quite respectfully, and quite lengthy :), and I am sorry no regular , registered member found it in them to throw out a little support in her direction. Even if you don’t completely agree, for the sake of culture of discussion.
    stareclips- if your clear about what you want to say , add two sentences putting it clearly at the end ( or beginning), people, don’t diss her for having thoughts, if you think they are the wrong ones tell her why!

    No , I am not her, but I find that stuff so off-putting every now and then, I think autostraddle doesn’t need to bitch about in the comments section.

    • For what it’s worth, thank you for sticking up for me. That is definitely the impression I got upon receiving replies to my comment. Prior to commenting, I checked the commenting policy. It said, “THINGS AUTOSTRADDLE WILL DO: Respond to you and think you are awesome” and “We understand that not everyone agrees with us. A diversity of viewpoints is good, and discussing those differences often leads to more intelligent opinions. So please, if you think we (or other commenters) are wrong, tell us. Let’s talk it out!” This gave me a welcoming feeling, that I didn’t need to worry about a lynch mob when I state my opinion, even if it isn’t a proverbial high-five to the poster of the article.

      To say I was shocked at the flood of responses coming in is an understatement. To be fair, though, if you’ve got an unpopular opinion, then you have to be willing to hear unpopular opinions in return. So, I’ve got the necessary thick skin for this. It was a bit disheartening to get the nasty comments from the original poster, though. I hope it wasn’t because I hurt her feelings.

      To her credit, she did post (in reply to a small joke of mine), “okay now i like you again”… I’ll just pretend that this was the latest post in chronological order, and let the other nasty stuff slide right off.

      I will take some of the blame in that my original post might not have articulated my specific views clearly enough. I never intended to imply that a problem didn’t exist, but simply that the wrong villain was being targeted.

      It’s important to note that most of what Google does is completely unbiased. These are automated computer algorithms that “learn” based on what people type into it. It is, by its very nature, democratic. The nasty side to democracy is that the majority wins, even if it is unfair to the minority. The only way for Google to combat this would be to manually tweak their results. However, that puts them into a very precarious position. If they are manually manipulating results based on their opinions, people will trust them less and fear them more. What happens if they become less gay-friendly in the future? So, the fact that they leave it up to computer algorithms is a good thing.

      Is it perfect? Of course not. However, it’s my opinion that they’re working out these problems better than another other search engine out there. Pointing at the runner in first place and saying, “you fail at running!” makes no sense to me if everyone else is eating their dust. Maybe, instead, the focus should be on the other search engines and what they are doing wrong, rather than finding the better one out there and calling them a failure.

      There were also a number of contradictory statements made in the article which caused me to lose faith in the sincerity of the viewpoint being expressed. Here are a couple of quotes:

      “And considering how obvious porn is about its content and materials, controlling it shouldn’t be that hard to do.”

      “Porn sites use every black hat trick in the book…”

      So, which is it? Are porn sites hard to detect via computer algorithm because they use every black hat trick in the book, or are they easy to detect because they are obvious about their content and materials? It just sounds to me that the author is completely disregarding how difficult this problem is. Sure, it’s very easy to solve using people and human brains… but trying to teach a computer to think this way, and do it flawlessly, is a really difficult nut to crack.

      Here are more quotes:

      “Any major porn site offers a plethora of organized ‘lesbian’ offerings, and I dunno, maybe you could type the word ‘porn’ if you wanted to see porn. Is that difficult? Can everyone just agree to remember that and then we can get rid of the lame Safe Search option? Sex does not equal porn.”

      True, but again, Google’s computer algorithms learn from people. So, if the majority of people who type “lesbian” are actually looking for girl-on-girl porn, then it only makes sense for Google to serve up this content on such a search. It means that the minority, who are typing “lesbian” for another reason, get invalid results… but computer algorithms can only learn from the majority. So, unfortunately, the majority is more interested in porn than in educational articles.

      So, yes, when it comes to computer algorithms that cater to millions or billions of people, the majority will have an easy time, and the minority will find they have to type additional words to find what they really “mean” to look for. Until text-based searching can read people’s minds, this is just a tough riddle to solve algorithmically.

      If you have a solution (that doesn’t involve trying to convince the world to type something different, or which suggests Google should be manually manipulating search results), please provide an alternative algorithm and present it to the world.

      I believe Google’s “personalized search” was an attempt to solve this problem, but then you had the privacy advocates getting their panties in a bunch because Google would know too much about you. So, essentially, a bunch of people want Google to know that they mean something different when they type in a word than the majority of all of the other people who type in that same word, but they don’t want Google to “know you”. Amazing.

      One more quote:

      “The porn that internet users are regularly searching for is actually not, by definition, ‘lesbian porn.'”

      It doesn’t really matter what it “technically” is… it’s just a matter of what people are expecting. If the majority of the world typed “frog” into Google expecting to find articles about “cows”… then, technically, if Google served up information about cows when someone typed “frog”, it would be an accurate response. Google doesn’t exist to try to define the world FOR us… it exists to try to learn what we EXPECT to find when we type in stuff that is essentially gibberish to a computer. Google works for the majority, even if it confuses the minority.

      This problem as a whole has to do with computers and the fact that nobody has written (yet) an artificial intelligence which exactly replicates the human brain. Think about this for a moment. Computers are, to some degree, the equivalent of children trying to understand us. When you put a big box out there for people to type ANYTHING into, expecting this child to determine the difference between a straight horny male typing “lesbian” into the box… and between a gay [horny or non-horny] female typing “lesbian” into that same box… WITHOUT knowing the sex (or sexual preference… or horniness level) of the individual typing “lesbian” into that box… the problem becomes clear. It’s not a problem of Google having sucky engineers or not caring… it’s a really really difficult problem to solve.

      One last quote:

      “Google is well-funded, innovative and gay-friendly. Either they have a monetary interest in NOT fixing the ‘Lesbian Porn Problem,’ they ARE fixing it and it’ll be better soon enough, or they’re being lazy. I’m guessing it’s the first.”

      You might be guessing it’s the first, but I feel very strongly that it’s the second. Google is all about “release early, release often”. They don’t try to make things perfect on the first try. They most often release something half-baked initially, just to see how people will interact with it. Then, from this interaction, they learn what is broken and what seems to work well. Then, they adjust this and iterate repeatedly. Google Instant is very new. It’s likely that they were concerned that with so many porn sites which appeared for the auto-complete of “lesbian” that they felt it would be better to censor that for now (to keep the anti-porn groups at bay) until they can figure out the more complicated problem of determining who the searcher is and what they likely mean, even if they are in a minority group.

      In any case, it should be noted that although there was an initial backlash to my initial comments, there were also some really gracious people (though I don’t believe any were registered users). I’d like to give a shout out to Dani and kate for being patient with me, to you for sticking up for me, and to riese for starting the discussion in the first place.

      • AHHHH! This comment doesn’t go here. My bad. I know this already a bazillion responses. This was supposed to go here:

        Thanks for sticking around. :) People are pretty reasonable around here even if we don’t always agree. I think maybe some people took your response more personally than it was intended which is why people reacted so strongly. Now that I understand more of your point of view, I agree with you on some things.

        I think it’s worth noting that the article began with this: ‘I’m not one of those techno-savvy people. I’m just a girl with a website, standing in front of the internet, asking it confirm my existence.’ Also this, ‘I’m no tech expert.’ The rest of that section goes on to explain how hard it to search on Google in general (which I think is broad issue that would amazing if they could somehow fix). I personally think this article could be said to target ‘The Man’ in general moreso than Google while describing frustration that Google may not be doing everything possible to change that from their end. Whether or not this is true is entirely up to debate.

        Go look around the rest of AS. There’s more fun to be had. :D


        I come in peace! Let me try to break this down…

        I think opening the conversation with “I think you forgot to “press enter” most of the time. See? It says it right below the search box” felt condescending and didn’t establish yourself as the technical expert you turn out to be in this most recent comment, which raises many interesting issues especially as it pertains to my relative ignorance on tech topics.

        When I clarified, jokingly (I will not really ‘cut you’, I promise) that it was about Google Instant, and not about the enter-requiring Google Original, you then came out with another argument that seems to have already been on your mind and was far more topical to the work at hand. This was confusing.

        Although I don’t recall exactly what I was thinking at the time, I suspect that from the get-go I was wary of your intentions and didn’t give you the benefit of the doubt because you launched into your argument antagonistically. I get it; a lot of people talk that way, and perhaps I got defensive too quickly.

        But additional comments seemed to disregard various elements of my SOUL — like disregarding our regular coverage of important issues, discounting our claim of the issue’s worthiness for discussion, accusing me of paranoia and belittling the various problems of a ‘marginalized’ community. Another thing mentioned on the comment policy page is Moff’s Law, which addresses my concerns about your idea that we shouldn’t ‘waste our time’ on these issues.

        Here’s an example:
        “Sure, you can find evidence of lesbians being alienated. If you look outside of yourself, however, you can also find evidence of intelligent people being alienated. “

        Do you see how that’s antagonistic? You’re insulting me (I’m unable to see outside myself, I’m unable to discern good topics from bad, I don’t know how to press the enter key/use, and then asking me to engage in debate with you.

        I was unsure where you were headed with your argument, or how you’d come to make it. To be honest, I’m actually still really confused, and I wish your first comment had simply said what this most recent comment said, as it approached the issue from a direction I think definitely is worth addressing.

        Why did you save these arguments for the finale instead of bringing them out in the start? I feel like that conversation would’ve been much more productive, you know?

        But I guess, ultimately, it felt like you WANTED to start a fight. Do you know what I mean? The fact that your username is a URL which links to your projects was another thing that I think maybe made people wary of your motivations here. Also, just as you were annoyed by what you perceived to be my ignorance regarding google’s technical abilities (which I mention in graf #1), forgive me the annoyance over what I perceived to be your ignorance regarding GLBT issues and this website.

        So I have googled you, StareClips!

        I’ve read you debating on Queerty and on this post about evolution.

        Not to sound like Mother Internet, but probably everyone in this conversation, myself included, could benefit from taking some time to figure out how we could’ve expressed ourselves with more inclusiveness and less abrasiveness. I always find these kinds of breakdowns useful ultimately because they help me learn how to talk to people online, a neverending process.

        Regardless of what I think is presently a genuine interest in the issues being discussed, was is it really your concern about the issues or desire to feel comfortable that motivated you initially to participate in this conversation?

        I’ve read you commenting on the internet to defend google’s decision to launch Wave, defend google chrome, defend google desktop, defend google’s CDN, defend Google Voice, defend Google Video, defend google andriod, defend google’s search engine, defend google’s revenue streams and defend a bunch of other stuff about google.

        In some of those comments you use what I perceive to be an antagonistic tone where people are called stupid for not getting what you get. You could be right or wrong, idk. Maybe I do that too? I hope not, but it’s certainly possible.

        So, I’d hope that you would understand that some people are fervently loyal to the brands they love, and that sometimes nobody is able to see objectively through that filter and maybe their language gets a little heightened and, in some cases here, out of line. I don’t think mine did and I can really only speak for myself. I didn’t call you names. I think I mostly stayed lighthearted and also appreciated your robot joke.

        In between the results for your comments, your Optical Illusion videos seem to be tearing up the web. I know enough about SEO to know that all this commenting helps your stats.

        So, Mr. Stareclips, you are clearly a master of the Google SEO game. I’m not being facetious. You’ve got adsense all up in there and I bet are doing well on that! Well played, my friend. I salute you. And I’m now going to see what you created n that comment down there, and appreciate the time and effort you put into this. Honestly.

        • Now I’m back to thinking that there’s a good possibility StareClips works for Google.

          But I’m probably just being paranoid.

          • You’re just being paranoid. I don’t work for Google.

            However, I do a lot of work in the field of Artificial Intelligence algorithms. It’s a very tricky thing, because people “talk” to computers differently than they do to people. Imagine if you talked to a child (from birth on) the same way you talk to a search engine, then imagine how well the child would do growing up. You quickly realize just how tricky of a problem this is to solve.

            Imagine a person with a bag over their head, wearing baggy clothes (so you can’t tell their sex) walks into a library and shouts “LESBIAN SEX!” Then expects the librarian to know precisely what they are interested in without requiring an additional word or three from them.

      • HEY! Go comment on my website! Nobody ever says a damn thing to me over there and I’m sure there’d be enough web traffic from my site to yours to generate page loads for you.

        It’s not porn per say, of course that’s a matter of opinion. But it’s something.

        That is, if you have time. I understand you may be an extremely busy person and all.

        If you re-consider that grope my offer still stands.

      • Take the groping it’s worth it. You’ll even have dinner mailed to you. P.S. Sorry for being so sarcastic with you in my comments. I just didn’t like the dismissive tone some of your early comments had towards Riese/ users of this site. You make a few interesting points.

  23. While thinking more about Google and their algorithm and how it is more of a “global algorithm” to serve the “majority”, I realized that when certain groups expect to find certain things, this is when you need a particular “vertical search” to exist.

    For instance, if a guitar enthusiast types this into Google:


    They expect to see bass guitars.

    However, if a fishing enthusiast types this into Google:


    They expect to see bass fishing.

    Unless the algorithm is capable of intimately getting to know the person and their likes/dislikes/views… and possibly even their particular mood at the moment, there is always the need for that individual to either enter additional words to their query (which can be a frustrating experience at times), or they would need a specialized search feature.

    It’s not perfect, and probably needs more fine-tuning (maybe wikipedia should be blocked entirely?), but I whipped up something to illustrate this. Please let me know what you think and if anyone thinks it is worth pursuing. (I apologize for hosting it on my own site, but you apparently can’t link to it directly on Google’s servers and I needed somewhere to past the ’embed code’.)

    • I like it. You’d have to figure out how to market specialized search engines to the masses effectively, but I think it works as a good solution. It would still be nice for Google (& other search engines) to find a way to link lesbian and other similar terms to material other than porn geared toward straight men cause it’s really annoying.


  24. You realise this has actually been happening for a long time?

    Google Instant uses the same banned word list as Auto Complete, which they introduced two years ago. So along with lesbian and bisexual, you can’t Auto/Instant Google nude, booby and pussy. (More words here)

    While I can understand (barely) some people may be underwhelmed by being unable to instantly see pages of lesbian-related content before their eyes, I hope that in light of learning that you are also restricted from seeing searches pop up for famous artworks, sea birds and adult cats, everyone realises this is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

    Ultimately, despite the queer visibility spin that the article put on this (which is, like, what the website is about, yeah?), this is a censorship issue where a powerful agency is subtly controlling information based on hidden assumptions of what it thinks is “best”. It doesn’t help when they give robot replies to problems, like this.

    Also, I think everyone was mean to the Stareclips person.

    I have not read every word, but it seems like they were guilty of nothing more than repeatedly making really bad analogies, and aren’t we all guilty of that sometimes? I mean, I cough up bad analogies like a cat coughs up furballs. Shit, that was a simile wasn’t it?

      • Really though? I’ve thought about this a bit more and to be honest, I’m 95% positive that he came here to start a fight with us. I’m a peacemaker, I don’t want anyone to feel attacked. But I wouldn’t go to a website catering to a marginalized group and tell them how to talk to me, derail the thread for endless comments before reaching a salient point, backtrack, sidestep, and insult. I wouldn’t tell them how to feel. I’d be cautious and polite. I wouldn’t begin antagonistically and then backtrack when a defense rose up against my offense. I’d respect the space & read the entire comment policy. The burden of proof was on us — and I think my comment above should take care of that, though it shouldn’t have been ours to begin with.

        He can hide behind a handle, reap adsense profits for his efforts, while meanwhile we with our names & faces out there are bending over and letting him tell us how to properly TALK to each other? In responding defensively to an offense, we’re then told that we’re rude and exclusive? I think at times AS can feel rude and exclusive. That’s an insecurity of mine w/r/t the site and something we’re working on, which is maybe why I relented when that issue was broached upon. But really, it doesn’t apply here, and using that defense of his comments just diminishes the instances when kind people are airing legitimate disagreements that deserve more than mob mentality in return.

        Probably none of it was necessary and aggressive tones should just be ignored. This is an internet space where we should feel things make sense, we’re not here to debate if we deserve equality as queers or women, we’re here to debate all the issues that come from that assumption. We shouldn’t have to please & nurture everyone, bend over when provoked, or let ourselves be rolled over by manipulatively compassionate redactions which serve to erase our memory of the person’s initial tone.

        I really can’t interact with StareClips anymore, because I think at this point the horse is beaten and I want to move on. Having discussed it and thought about it outside of this page and read comment threads that took similar directions which he also posted on, I gotta say… something’s not right. Furthermore, I’m afraid to type this. Why? Because it would be truly taking a stand?

        And as much as we all want to hug each other and hold hands and be sure everybody here feels safe and loved and open, that also means knowing when somebody is bringing unnecessary negative energy into a safe space.

        But I’m too easy to roll over, I’m too easy to wreck.

        • Damn you clippyclips! You fooled me! The more I think about it the more I think he IS backtracking with each comment from where he originally started and is being a bit manipulative. I just want to believe that people are fundamentally good and are engaging in healthy debates for the sake of growth and understanding. And I forget that that’s not always the case. THIS made a lot of sense, Rieseykins.

          • Yes. This.

            I feel a little silly for all my marathon comments. It’s in my nature to mediate and try to see things from everyone’s point of view and ‘fix’ everything. Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m straddling the fence (which may be a good here. it is Autostraddle :)) and can’t actually stand my ground, but I always try to make myself re-evaluate and look at things from different angles which I think is a good thing.

        • I’m glad you said all of this Riese. I had a lot of these feelings bubbling under the surface myself reading his comments. I felt like I was possibly overreacting so I didn’t say anything, but I couldn’t ignore that it was giving me a really strong emotional reaction.

          What bothered me wasn’t his argument defending Google. It was that as someone not a part of the GLBT community he was trying to tell us how to express ourselves. I don’t know anything about StareClips, but I get the feeling from his tone and certain things he’s said that he is coming from a place of entitlement. And in essence he was telling us to be silent. And we’ve been taught in the gay community that silence is death, haven’t we? And we know that it can be true. So we should not, ever, be silent no matter now small the issue may seem. Not only as queer people, but also as women in a sexist society. And I don’t think the article was insignificant in any way. It’s not about the importance of GoogleInstant. It’s about the importance of finding each other and feeling represented in the world.

          So, kudos for the article and for this comment. Now will someone please hold me and tell me everything will be ok?

          • @ InTheJunkDrawer

            yes. this is what I was thinking.

            On a side note: I am really impressed with the fact that Riese and/or the AS team reads every comment on the site. Just trying to follow this thread has been exhausting.

        • Effing Google Chrome just refreshed of its own volition and erased my comment. It’s a conspiracy! Or a button I didn’t know I pushed..?

          I felt like Riese’s responses along with about 95% of others were thought out and intelligent. A few, such as the dumb gif, however just came off as mean. And while I don’t doubt, certainly after the awesome smackdown regarding his internet history that Riese made, that this person was here to be antagonistic I just hate to see comments responded to in that sort of tone. Someone just coming across the article and reading through comments might take it as indicative of the discussions on here while other threads have shown that this can be a great place for open debate.

          This article got like a million retweets and talks about shiny new Google things that have mass appeal and not everyone jumping in for the first time is going to be familiar with AS and know that Riese loves everyone or recognize that the commenter was trying to provoke a response.

          I also feel like responding as respectfully as possible even to comments you find offensive and possibly troll-ish gives an opportunity to look at the response and better gage early on what the commenter’s intent is. If a respectful reply gets a crazy pants “I’m being attacked!” response, maybe just let it go or as you did, investigate just who is commenting.

          Part of it is my inner old hippie that just thinks it’s better not to respond to negative energy with more of the same and also that we miss out on potential for more insightful discussions when we become preoccupied with responding to one person who is deliberately trying to derail discussion.

          But my #1 feeling is still that this article does a great job of pointing out some of the flaws of the internet as a whole and tying it in more specifically to its effect on LGBTs.

          • I’m not so sure the deletion was an accident. I spent considerable time typing a message last night, filled with apologies… my comment appeared, so I know it was submitted and was received… but now my comment has been deleted and my IP address has been blocked. I can no longer see the site here, except from a friend’s house. I give up. Sorry I rocked the boat everyone. It wasn’t intentional. I promise.

            Until a better time.

        • absolutely 100% yes. i think we’re all still learning how best to communicate online – like, how to exist in this space and have effective discourse, etc. – and this article, as well as the comments, is proof of that. autostraddle is a super inclusive place and i’m really proud of us as a whole for trying to be kind to someone and trying to learn from whatever perceived mistakes we’ve made, etc., but this has gotten out of hand. no one should apologize for defending something they believe in, especially when we know of its effects firsthand and experience them on a daily basis.
          i love you, you are all special snowflowerflakes.

    • having been emotionally exhausted by reading this entire thread, i have to say that while in retrospect it might have been more productive to respond once to stareclips and then let the issue go, as he’s clearly not willing to be convinced, it seems to me an inherently antagonistic gesture to comment on a well-researched and thorough article on an issue the writer clearly cares about to tell them that their article wasn’t worth writing. especially if it is, as riese says, a new space and a community that you’re entering for the first time. requiring that the author defend the significance of their ideas endlessly in the comments section isn’t a good-faith position as a reader, and not one that anyone should feel obligated to react positively to. this same subject (google instant not recognizing lesbian/bi searches) was reported a number of places; it’s not a crazy idea riese came up with out of nowhere. to draw the issue out to this extent seems to me deliberately antagonistic, and we’re only human, and respond to being antagonized pretty much like every other human, which is to act/feel antagonized. we recognize this probably isn’t “ideal website administrator behavior,” but there it is.

      and also, i hate to sound like i’m whining, but as we occasionally mention, autostraddle is something that we work really hard to make for virtually no rewards, monetary or otherwise. almost the only reward we do get is the sense of community and togetherness and vibrancy and love in the comments. so when someone sets out to deliberately mess that up, it’s confusing for us to be told that we have to be okay with it, and that we’re obligated to let someone we don’t know tear down what we worked hard to bring them out of love. it’s reader donations that keep this site running at all, and those readers also deserve the safe happy space they’re giving us money to maintain. does that make sense? we just want you to know our feelings. that’s all we ever want.

      in any case, this has made us think about how we should be having/thinking about conversations in the comments as we get bigger & better and more people stumble across us, so thanks for your thoughts, and we will mull them over.

  25. I will mainly stay away from anything about marginalization and semantics (which are incredibly important in my opinion, as yes the bigger issue is that google instant reveals the status of the word “lesbian” to the majority of searchers in quite a blunt way) and focus on the technical aspects as there are some really interesting points that have come up.

    I have progressively become more wary about google for the past year, in particular how they are extremely hard to critique without getting attacked from all angles and many people ignore what is really happening most of the time. Yes they are fantastic employers and are a socially ethical company, but they do have some major issues. Most recently in regards to net neutrality:

    If you are interested in the future of search engine technology I would highly advise people to read up on the Semantic Web:

    In short, there is an active effort to fix problems like this, but it comes with a cost to privacy. Essentially if you frequent sites like autostraddle and homogay news, Google will recognize this from your web and search history, and give you results for lesbian accordingly.

    What it will also make possible is having hold of all of your information (as Google has its hand in everything) combining all of your information when you search, so if you search for “lesbian bars” it will be able to tell you all the bars in your location, best bus routes to take (or if you use a car regularly, street directions), what time the bus comes, and which of your friend frequent the bar and who is there now. Which is incredibly useful and frightening at the same time, and no longer out of the realm of possibility as this is being worked on as we speak.

  26. And this is why I’ll start using Yahoo again.
    At least you can type Bi women although not bisexual, but at least it’s something. And when you type lesbian it is recognized.

    • …but on Yahoo, you have to hit enter. Hitting enter on Google works too, it’s just avoiding enter on Google doesn’t yield results. Not hitting enter on Yahoo also doesn’t yield results.

  27. You could set up a Google Custom Search that includes only sites that you know contain the type of content you are looking for.

  28. Wow. Reading this entire thread has been quite an event.

    I’m just going to respond to one tiny piece of the discussion. In regards to whether or not this article covered an “issue,” I have to say that from a fellow webmaster’s (webmistress’) viewpoint this is quite a major issue. And I would think that for any lesbian or bisexual woman searching the web for topics of interest this would also be an issue. So, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article and gave me plenty of food for thought.

    Reading the comments gave me even more food for thought, although considerably less enjoyment. Nevertheless, I do appreciate a good debate every now and then.

    Riese, thanks for doing the research into this topic and pointing it out to all those who may have been in the dark about the difficulties of scouring the interwebs for usable lesbian content.

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