We’ve long suspected that an increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships and LGBQ identities would eventually lead to radical numbers of non-monosexual women choosing to date women and non-binary people exclusively. Women have reportedly held men in low esteem for some time, as reported by various sitcoms and branded products. Women are culturally conditioned to settle for inadequate sex, low levels of mutual interests, conflicting priorities and minimal emotional connection. It stands to reason, then, that as dating other women becomes an increasingly viable option, more and more women would take the leap into Sapphic seas. Like most things I talk about to mildly interested parties for 15+ years, every rotation of this blessed earth around the sun delivers more and more evidence that we are totally right.
Today on i-D, I opened a piece entitled “these women are making a commitment to being single” because I’ve recently noticed a trend amongst queer women to elect singledom over couplehood and wondered what this piece would say about it, only to find this within it:
For some women, not dating men means dating women exclusively. Monica, 30, who identifies as bisexual, says, “I have had my share of awkward or not entirely fulfilling romantic interactions with women, but I have never felt the kind of emotional and psychological drain (from women) that I have from the men I have dated or been romantic with. I am also a survivor of sexual assault and rape, both by men that I should have been able to trust. I am still attracted to (men), but I do not feel safe with them.”
Sigal, 26, is currently grappling with the question of whether or not to entirely stop dating men. She says, “I don’t think I have a natural preference between men and women. I can be very attracted to both. However, as I’ve grown to love and respect myself more, it’s so hard to justify going a date where I must feel fear and anxiety, where I must walk on eggshells should I decide not to pursue further engagement, and where I must be an unpaid teacher and therapist, when instead I could go on a date where I feel comfortable, understood, and appreciated as a full human person… Dating can be difficult and stressful no matter what gender you’re dating, so why add yet another layer of anxiety by dating men?”
Ah yes! Some women weren’t giving up on relationships altogether, just men!
This called to mind a recent excellent tweet from bisexual author Roxane Gay, in response to an article on CNBC about heterosexuals struggling in relationships where women out-earned men…
…and another excellent tweet from noted bisexual celebrity Gaby Dunn, delivered during the peak of the #MeToo conversation:
It also reminded me of a kinda-weird 2010 Psychology Today article that posited the theory that young women were more likely to date other women these days because of unrealistic expectations that young men were developing from increased access to pornography:
A young woman told me how her boyfriend several years ago suggested that she shave her pubic hair, so that she might more closely resemble the porn stars who were this young man’s most consistent source of sexual arousal. She now identifies herself as bisexual. “It was just such a welcome change, to snuggle under a blanket on the couch with my girlfriend, watch a movie, and talk about God and death and growing old, to be intimate emotionally and spiritually as well as physically. I don’t know a guy who could even comprehend the conversations we have.”
The idea that women, who are more likely to experience sexual fluidity than men, should solve their problems with cis men by leaving them isn’t a new one, but it’s been increasingly argued in the wake of #MeToo. This February, The Stranger suggested, somewhat tongue-in-cheek but also somewhat seriously, “Disgusted by Men? Date Women Instead.” In March, MarketWatch talked to a Cal State Fullerton professor who said her recent informal research of OkCupid and Tinder showed “a lot of self-identified “straight” women… looking for other women for hookups and bisexual-identified women who say they are dating men more infrequently these days.” In Buzzfeed, Anne Helen Petersen concluded definitively, “we trust men at our own peril.” Online daters often express feeling more comfortable meeting up with women they don’t know than men, which was true of me many moons ago as well.
This all being said, it must also be said that same-sex relationships can come with their own sets of challenges and disarming power dynamics. We’re still vulnerable to intimate partner violence even in relationships that aren’t with cis men. We experience high levels of emotional abuse, and there are sometimes macro factors contributing to how that specific situation plays out — including but certainly not limited to less access to mental health care, higher rates of substance abuse, intergenerational trauma and alienation/exclusion from familial and social networks. I’ve personally experienced more emotional and physical abuse in relationships with women than with cis men (I dated men for ten years before becoming a lesbian) and anecdotally have heard more similar stories from my lady-loving friends then straight ones, but often those experiences occurred as a result of inadequately treated mental health issues. (This is not always or even usually the case, obviously, and that doesn’t make it okay. But that’s another post.) Conversely, I found, as many of the women in these articles do, the everyday indignities of dating perfectly “sane” men with heaps of privilege and healthy support networks to be profoundly soul-crushing, and I did not feel that way during the healthy relationships I’ve had with women.
But not every woman can date women, as per science and also one particular tide of second-wave lesbian feminism.
The Political Lesbianism movement is best remembered by activist Ti-Grace Atkinson’s declaration, “‘Feminism is the theory; lesbianism is the practice.” In order to live a feminist life, they argued, women needed to eschew men and heteronormative institutions altogether, regardless of sexual attraction. This movement had its moment but eventually fell out of favor — ultimately, for most women, sexual orientation isn’t fluid or a choice, and it was no easier for an innately heterosexual woman to date women than it would be for a lesbian to devote herself entirely to sexual relationships with men. Nor is it fun for a woman to date anybody who isn’t attracted to her.
Furthermore, a lot of bisexual and queer women have found perfectly reasonable, smart, caring men to date and marry (even I have a few good exes), and lots of men aren’t terrible (e.g., you fave male relative, Barack Obama) or cis!
However, as passionate endorsers of the lady-loving lifestyle, it’s hard not to back this conversational trend.
Another trend I’m compelled by is the one that was the actual topic of the i-D piece: the possibility of women prioritizing friendships and communities over relationships, regardless of sexual orientation. Both i-D and a 2017 piece on Flare.com reflect a growing trend towards “de-prioritizing love, relegating men to utilitarian side dish and investing in our friends instead.”
See you on the commune, future homos! (Just kidding!) (Sort of)