Grease Bats: Gold Star Slut

Welcome to Saturday Morning Cartoons, a segment where five artists take turns delighting you with their whimsy, facts and punchlines on Saturday mornings! Our esteemed cartoon critters are Cameron GlavinAnna BongiovanniYao Xiao, and co-creators Megan Praz and Moll Green. Today’s cartoon is by Archie!


I'm a cartoonist living in Minneapolis. I'm also a server at a really amazing dive bar. I don't own a car and enjoy winter biking. I drink a lot. I don't feel bad about it. If I'm not working I'm socializing. If I'm not out with friends I'm drawing. If I'm not doing any of those things I'm probably depressed. Support me using Patreon.

Archie has written 71 articles for us.

61 Comments

  1. Haha, I love this comic and I can relate to this one like crazy right now. Every time I start thinking ‘I’ve got this’ I go on one date, and decide ‘I’m good for a while’. I’ve decided to table the whole dating thing for a couple months. I know I’m going to have to date eventually. Could I just get an easy button please? Or a crazy meter would work.

  2. I think I’ve been on dates with some of the people Gwen has…? And I’m real-life tearing up over how Scout is responding, too, because a lot of times people don’t believe me when I recount the biphobic/femmephobic/generally-crummy stuff I hear, ilu Scout and Gwen, I FEEL SO SEEN. :*)

    • I felt so seen too! I feel so represented! That never happens! And also, dating is haaard. I want the free time to go on lots of dates but also the free time to sit in my bathtub chillaxing watching Star Trek TNG.

    • I think this is a consequence of having been used by some biphobic TERFy types as some misguided symbol of superiority.

      Which is a shame, because I’d really like to use it as a term that means incredible fortune at working out my sexuality early in life and relief that I was able to come out in a safe, pressure-free environment and have relationships with the people I wanted to.

        • I think it comes down to the implication / intent of the person saying it. I’ve heard people self-identify that way with the very clear implication that that makes them a “better” or more “real” lesbian than others.

          • I agree in theory, but I think it’s one of those situations where it’s been used that way so often that the term itself has taken on those kinds of connotations. Which is unfortunate for people who don’t mean it that way.

            I’m not sure about the slut-shaming thing either but maybe some people see an implied connection between not having sex with X category of person, and being overall less predisposed to sex with various partners?

          • But Carmen, the implication of superiority and the identity are one and the same because of the name. ‘Gold star lesbian’ may as well be ‘Best category of lesbian’.
            A truly neutral identity would simply be ‘a lesbian who has only ever dated/slept with women’ (And yes, that includes women both cis and trans).

            It’s arguably not necessarily slut shamey, but definitely confers prestige on anyone who has never had sex with a person who has a penis (which is inevitably transphobic and biphobic).

        • gold star is transphobic bc a TON of people define it as “never having sex w a penis.” I absolutely am not putting this on you, it’s just that every gold star lesbian i’ve met has said that sleeping with a pre-surgery trans woman would make them lose their gold star

        • @carmensandiego, isn’t the identity the same as the implication when you adopt the term gold star? The term itself comes from an idea that gold is the best, silver the second best, and so on; it is derived from the system that measures school children’s accomplishments against one another, so, of course, a gold star is the best student. Therefore, logically, a Gold Star Lesbian is the best type of lesbian because she is not like those lesbians who slept with a man.

          You mention that because you are talking about yourself only that you are not being bi or transphobic, but you must also recognize that you are talking about yourself in comparison to others when you use that term. That is how the term works; if you are the winner, then there must be a loser. So the people who hear you identify as a gold star lesbian would be correct in feeling that you are asserting a superior-to-bisexual status; even if that is not your intention.

          Ask yourself this: Is there something inherently wrong with a lesbian who has once or many times had consensual sex with a man? Is there something wrong with bisexuals? Or, as Mey pointed out, do you think it is ok that some gold star lesbians exclude pre-surgery trans women from their dating pool because of the “never having sex with a penis” definition of a gold star? I won’t even get into how that reinforces the fucked up idea that gender is what is between your legs, period, and how transphobic that is. If there is nothing wrong with being non-gold lesbian, bi, or trans, then why even bother with the term gold star at all? Gold Star doesn’t even make sense as an identity without the implication of superiority. Also, why is being a gold star something to be proud of anyway? I’m not trying to be facetious; I really want to know. Full disclosure: I am not a gold star anything but grew up pre-L-word, during a time when lesbians turned me down al lot just because I had had sex with men first. Clearly, I am not impartial on this subject.

          Carmen, let us remember that the term is about comparing ourselves to others in a way that makes us seem better than them. That can’t be escaped. Just look at how it was used in the L Word (season 3, episode 7). Carmen de la Pica called it a way to distinguish people like herself between people who “bump uglies with uglies,” and then chastised Jenny for being jealous that she was not a gold star. The term was then and still is problematic. As someone who has been proudly and openly queer all of my 42 years of life, I can’t think of a time where the gold star was not used as a means of making one person feel superior to another, and all that does is police our sexuality. Our community, with this term, has been harming itself in the same way heteronormativity has harmed us. I don’t see how gold star can be reappropriated in a way that doesn’t pit lesbians against each other and the rest of our LGBTQ community. So why would we even want to? Again, I ask, how is gold star status an accomplishment? Every lesbian’s path to their identity is different, and none is better than the other. If you feel it is important to tell people you have not had sex with a man, why not just say that? Your origin story can be cool without being unintentionally cruel, and I am sorry for rhyming.

          Carmen, I don’t mean to call you out, and I apologize if my words come across as dickish—it is something I am working on fixing, but I feel like you have been clinging to a term out of nostalgia without considering how that term has been used to hurt others. I know you mean well, you have made it clear that you aren’t intentionally comparing yourself to others, but it sure does come across that way.

          Because I know you and how compassionate and caring you can be, I don’t want people who hear you assert this title to think you might actually believe you are better because of it. You are you because of it, but you are also so much more than that.

          • @mavi

            First things first: I am not a gold star and, that I know of, there is no silver star or bronze star so I never looked at the term like an Olympic medal. I am a Lone Star, a lesbian that has only had sex with one man.
            However I am married to a gold star who, like Sally so eloquently put above, uses the term to mean “incredible fortune at working out my sexuality early in life and relief that I was able to come out in a safe, pressure-free environment and have relationships with the people I wanted to.” I find that to be something to celebrate. I wish I was so lucky to earlier in my life have been able to escape the heteronormative requirement to have sex with men.
            I have seen other people have animosity towards gold stars here before but never like in this comic.
            I would get it if they said “I only date gold-stars” but it’s not the case here. I just wanted to understand why self identifying as a gold star would automatically make you transphobic, biphobic and slut-shamey as the comic states.

          • @carmensandiego, allow me to repeat myself:

            “You mention that because you are talking about yourself only that you are not being bi or transphobic, but you must also recognize that you are talking about yourself in comparison to others when you use that term. That is how the term works; if you are the winner, then there must be a loser. So the people who hear you identify as a gold star lesbian would be correct in feeling that you are asserting a superior-to-bisexual status; even if that is not your intention.”

            You and your spouse may want it to mean “incredible fortune at working out my sexuality early in life and relief that I was able to come out in a safe, pressure-free environment and have relationships with the people I wanted to,” but it doesn’t. Historically, and even now, as the comic implies, it is a term that asserts that a gold star lesbian is cooler than lesbians who have had sex with men.

            Nobody has said that identifying as a gold star lesbian makes you (or your spouse) bi/transphobic, etc. Nobody has said that.

            What I am trying to show you is that it makes you seem that way because of the historical context of the term. Your apparent argument is that because you don’t mean it that way, then it isn’t problematic. This ignores many people’s experiences with both the term and how it has been used against them. Language matters; our words have power. Celebrating ourselves should not come at the expense of putting other people down, and, like it or not, the gold star lesbian term is a celebration that came from putting others down.

          • I don’t know if the argument about what a term does or doesn’t mean is particularly helpful, since identity terms very often do mean different things to different people, have different histories for different people, and are in constant flux. For example, for myself, outside of the Internet I’ve only ever heard “gold-star lesbian” used in a kind of tongue-in-cheek, joking way without any implication of judgement at all.

            What I do think is an important conversation (and one that doesn’t necessarily have a clear-cut answer) is about how to balance the freedom to self-identify with the effect that words have on other people. A lot of people are very understandably triggered by certain words, because those words have been used to hurt them, and it’s important to be aware of this when choosing what we say. On the other hand though, it’s also important to recognize when we should be willing to give the benefit of the doubt and not assume ill intent on the part of others. This is a constant dance in communication, and there is no across-the-board right approach – it is something that has to be considered in the context of each individual interaction.

            As an example, I’ve had people tell me I shouldn’t use the word “queer” to describe myself for a very similar reason – because it has a long history of being used to hurt people, and my intent in reclaiming it isn’t enough to outweigh that. In this case I happen to disagree, and will still refer to myself as “queer” – however, I am mindful of times when it might not be the best word to use, depending on who I’m speaking to and how it might be taken.

        • I think “gold star” has an implication of merit that can make it offensive even when you’re talking about yourself, because gold star means “Good Job!” Thus the subtext one can hear is: 1. my sexual history is better than other people’s sexual histories and 2. I earned it by my own hard work.
          You clearly don’t intend that subtext based on your agreement with the comment that your status comes of privilege and happenstance, but the subtext can still be heard when you use the term gold star. In general, I think it’s tricky to respectfully express pride in an identity when your identity is already the dominant one in the culture.
          Also I love this comic!

          • In general, I think it’s tricky to respectfully express pride in an identity when your identity is already the dominant one in the culture.

            I think this is a good point, and maybe where the tension with this term is coming from? Because some people might use “gold star” to reinforce their dominant identity within the queer community, but others might use it to express pride for their non-dominant identity within the wider society (i.e. a woman who flouts the heteronormative social requirement to have sex with men).

          • It’s curious to me to see being a lesbian considered to be the dominant one in the culture because Even among LBT I see way way more people identifying as queer than lesbian.

          • Hm, to me it seems pretty clear that “lesbian” is the dominant identity within that group – it’s not just about self-identification (and even there, “lesbian” is still more prevalent than “queer”, though that does seem to be shifting with younger generations) – it’s also about visibility, general assumptions, that kind of thing. So for example, when a woman is dating another woman she’s automatically assumed to be a lesbian rather than bi or pan or queer, girl-on-girl media is referred to as “lesbian” media, etc.

    • Gold star in also hurts other lesbians, because it tells women who have been with men because of abuse/r*pe, compulsive heterosexuality, and/or game out late in life that they aren’t lesbian enough. You even see policing of identities telling a lesbian they must be bi because of their past.

      Good explanation of how compulsory heterosexuality affects lesbians. https://closet-keys.tumblr.com/post/158962739608/i-just-read-your-post-on-actual-attraction-vs

    • At least in the US, a “gold star” is traditionally an award given to schoolchildren (usually in sticker form) for doing their best/exemplary work. So the implication of using “gold star lesbian” to mean a lesbian whose sexual experiences have all been with women implies that those are the best/exemplary lesbians. Which is pretty shitty- being made to feel as though you’re a “bad lesbian” or not really gay because of your sexual history is a widespread thing and super oppressive and unhelpful.

    • I actually think it’s super shitty to judge someone for using the term, or to get offended or “triggered” by it without knowing the context the person who is saying it is coming from. I had literally never heard the term used in a biphobic or transphobic way. “Gold star” as a term of “achievement” or “being better” is tongue-in-cheek and always / historically has been. See the use: “Oh? You washed your dishes roomie? Gold star for you I guess.” It’s like, something little kids get for doing their chores or using the potty. If an adult gets a “gold star”, it’s a joke, not an actual trophy haha.

      The term has definitely fallen out of favor as it seems some people have used it in a weird way – I never would have thought “gold star” doesn’t apply to you if you’ve had sex with a trans woman (of course it would), for instance, or if you’d like to self define as gold star even if you’ve had some sexual experiences that weren’t consensual. Also, it doesn’t even mean you’re “privileged” – it could just mean guys weren’t into you in high school? I mean, seriously.

      But yeah, that line in the comic definitely irked me because it sort of reflected the whole “you have to be so careful with what you say” problem in social justice circles, where people judge you or would make fun of you behind your back for using words or phrases that have “fallen out of favor” or that are no longer hip.

      I absolutely don’t think it’s the “dominant” culture to identify as a lesbian – it depends on your age group, and where you live, but I haven’t heard anyone call themselves a lesbian in 5+ years – nor is it the dominant culture to a be a “gold star”. Most queer folks I meet (yup, queer is the new dominant identity in many places) have had partners of varying genders.

      • Your last paragraph really speaks to the wide cultural/geographical/generational variance that exists within GLBTQ communities. ‘Queer’ is definitely the dominant identity in many places (campuses, tumblr, etc), and yet there simultaneously still remain places where lesbians are privileged over bisexuals (certain community organizations, AfterEllen etc).

        Speaking as someone who uses both ‘lesbian’ and ‘queer’ to identify, I am certainly less than pleased when people tell me that my attractions should be more fluid/pansexual for political purposes, as if I can snap my fingers and find a hipster’s beard desirable. But I also know the feeling of being admired for fitting the ‘gold star’ label, and it certainly feels like an admiration based on presumptions about the alleged ‘purity’ of avoiding men or penises. Without assuming that everyone who uses the term is evil/needs to be called out, I still think it has been invested with too much baggage to be considered neutral.

      • @db i totally agreed- I’ve only ever heard this term used in a very tongue in cheek way and never in a way that’s intended as transphobic/biphobic etc. I’m a lesbian who isn’t a gold star and I don’t take offense at all with this term.

        I also think it’s kind of disappointing how (some) lesbians wanting to have a joking term that applies only to them is read as biphobic or somehow discriminating other groups. Everything doesn’t have to be for everyone all the time, especially when all the groups involved (bi/queer/lesbian women) are minority groups and face different prejudices.

        • The problem isn’t that a term can apply only to lesbians who have never had sex with men, the problem is that this particular term implies that that particular subset of lesbians is superior to all other lesbians. Like, if we made up a random word like “quilp” or “zizzerton” to refer to that subset of lesbians, you’d have the same denotation but not necessarily the same connotation of “I’m better than you.” “Gold star lesbian” implies that a woman is tarnished or diminished by who she has had consensual sex with, which seems pretty darn regressive to me.

    • Y’ALL. IF SOMEONE SAYS “THIS IS A PROBLEM AND IT HURTS A LOT OF PEOPLE” AND YOUR RESPONSE IS TO JUMP THROUGH HOOPS TO MAKE IT OKAY FOR YOU TO SAY IT, THEN YOU NEED TO SIT QUIETLY AND THINK FOR A MINUTE.

      if you want to keep saying gold star lesbian, no one is stopping you, but recognize that many people are going to assume you’re biphobic and transphobic regardless of your intent.

      IMPACT IS GREATER THAN INTENT. the end.

      • I think you are missing the point – which is that judging people who are in a different age group or not as highly exposed to the social justice world for using the term gold star /hurts people and makes them feel bad/. As in actually excludes people from community and friendships, and demeans them.

        I don’t use the term. But the language in the comic struck me as judgy and offensive – “Oh, she’s so 2009! So sheltered, how could she not know some people find this term sooo offensive”. Like seriously, I’m in one of the groups that could be “hurt” by gold star, and I’m not, and so I don’t think it’s fair to assume everyone has just decided to drop a phrase from their lexicon because you and your group of friends/internet circle have decided it hurts people.

    • I can see how it could be considered biphobic and/or transphobic if you interpret it as a lesbian that has/will only date specifically cisgendered lesbians as opposed to bi women, straight women, curious women, trans women, non binary persons born with vaginas, etc…

      Slut shamey? That one is a stretch.

  3. I can so relate to Scout in this instance thought I might be polyam, while my friend is the monogamous andro lesbian who’s been on like 7 dates in one week each with different woman. Says it’s the only way she knows how to find Misses right.

  4. someone stop me from making my tinder profile picture the frame where Gwen says “I don’t want to deconstruct whatever queer stereotypes you’re carrying around! I JUST WANT TO BONE” because it’s too real

  5. There’s something about this comic I find a little off- maybe I’m reading too much into it but it seems like the three dates are three stereotypes of terrible/misogynist lesbians or butch women (I’m assuming the person who doesn’t date bi girls is a lesbian given this is something of a terrible lesbian stereotype and most terrible straight guys find bi girls hot in a objectifying way). I’m not saying these types of people don’t exist, but it sucks to see a comic about queer dating where the people being mocked all appear to be from the exact same minority group within the queer umbrella.

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