Some Millennial Women Giving Up On Men, Dating Women Exclusively Because We Are Supreme Beings

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 productsWomen 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)

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," 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. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2686 articles for us.

37 Comments

  1. This almost sounds like an endorsement of trying to get straight girls to switch. I’ve honestly made some attempts when I first came out(as trans woman) to hit on straight girls, but let’s just say some of them are too deep the patriarchy rabbit hole.

    Side question, doesn’t political lesbianism have some problematic aspects to it? Like aren’t some of these people the same ones saying all women are born lesbian and that any woman who likes/dates/marries a man either being duped or a self-hating lesbian. Or do I have that wrong?

    • no we should not get straight women to switch…. idk, i’ve never been attracted to straight women, as “being attracted to other women” is a key thing i find attractive about another woman. i might make jokes about it but i think it’s important to respect somebody’s sexual orientation as limited to a certain gender if that’s what they say it is.

      also yeah political lesbianism involved problematic people and ideas, i didn’t go into all of them here, just the part that was relevant to this piece. i’m not sure about the specific idea you’re referring to though

      • I am not either as aforementioned some of them are too steeped in cis-het culture and that’s a big turn off. To know the person sees me as who I am is a turn on. Then again there some famous lesbians(Tig and Deanne come to mind) who are now married to women who never id straight before meeting their wife.

  2. While I see what this article is saying, and I think it’s obviously valid for women who have any degree of attraction to other women to exclusively date women, this article is a little troubling to me. I’m stuck on talking about the fact that women can also abuse their female partners, but sweeping that up under mental health/drugs/macro factors. Obviously those macro factors exist, but saying they are the cause of women abusers in almost all cases feels both minimizing and agency stripping? Women can abuse other people just because they are shitty. I’ve known many perfect ‘sane’ women who were absolute terrors to deal with, and who interacting with left me with scars I’m still trying to heal from. Plus, while for women dating other women, macro factors can very much come in play, there are plenty of straight women who do not experience these issues at the same level who are abusive partners/parents/neighbors/community members.

    I totally get not wanting to date someone at a wildly different privilege level – the amount of privilege a cis straight man has over a woman who is bisexual for example is a huge privilege disconnect. That’s super real and super valid to not want to be in that situation. Plus, large factors of culture, rape culture, male privilege, men not seeing women as peers, etc., very much have a negative impact on heterosexual dating culture. Dating people who are not your peers often turns out abusive. The issue here is that the world makes it too easy for many women to not be the peers of many men, and women who are attracted to women in any way not wanting to be part of the straight dating world for that makes a lot of sense and is really valid. I am not coming for that.

    I’m just not comfortable with implying that women are only abusers because of factors out of their control. That teeters toward victim blaming and toward sounding like, ‘your partner is only cruel to you because of society!’ – which sounds an awful lot like telling women in domestic abuse situations with men that their abusers are only abusing them because they never learned to express their feelings?

    Sometimes people are toxic abusers, and to not hold women accountable when they are isn’t fighting the patriarchy, it’s stripping women of their agency. Women are capable of terrible and wonderful things. Society absolutely treats abuse by men and women differently, and there are so, so many factors at play that make this a really complex discussion, and there are large cultural factors that can amplify and encourage abuse by men – but men can also have mental health issues or drug issues. I don’t want to make excuses for women who abuse their female partners or community members. It doesn’t feel respectful of anyone.

    Plus, I assume what is meant here is cisgender men. That might seem obvious to a lot of readers, but it really does need to be stated. As a pansexual women dating a queer transgender man who came out regards to gender things recently, I think being precise about who we mean when having these conversations is really important. Using ‘men’ as shorthand for ‘cisgender and/or straight men’ can be really harmful for LGBTQ people who are nonbinary/masculine of center/men who are not cisgender. It can trigger a lot of shame and self-hate, especially among non-cis men/masc people who are exposed to this as an in-community thing before coming out. I’m not saying Autostraddle needs to babysit the feelings of dudes, but I do think think that making it clear that these things come with the privilege of being a straight and cisgender (and often white and Christian) man who was raised as one, in either an overly privileged or toxic masculinity environment – not that they are inherently linked to male as a gender identity itself – is important when we’re having these conversations within the LGBTQ community. Gender-essentialist type arguments feel tied to straight white feminism in a way I’m not at all comfortable with.

    • there are two things in this comment that you say as disagreements with me which i actually don’t disagree with and didn’t say otherwise. i specifically made an aside to be clear that women are NOT “only abusers because of factors outside of their control.” i was just explaining my own experience and, sort of, that of some of my friends — why it is that despite the fact i’ve had more abusive relationships with women than with men, i still prefer women? i use first person, i say “i personally,” and there’s a specific aside saying that this is not true for everybody. i will edit that to be more clear, but i feel like it’s a good faith / bad faith reading issue. You’re kinda putting words in my mouth in a way that assumes I am a terrible person — mentioning the macro factors at work here is not the same thing as saying “therefore, it’s okay.” I think there are some things we genuinely disagree with each other about but that’s not one of them. I’ve been answering advice questions from queer women and reading every study that comes out on this topic for almost a decade, I mentioned those macro factors to share knowledge, not to excuse behavior.

      i felt it was important to mention that IPV still happens in female/female relationships. i could’ve just not mentioned it at all, but i included it specifically because it’s important not to gloss over that, and to hold each other accountable, even in a piece that is mostly jokey and hyperbolic, although it’s being taken very seriously.

      trust me — i ABSOLUTELY hold the women who abused me accountable, regardless of the cause or factors contributing to their behavior.

      i also did specifically note that it was cis men in several places.

  3. After I came out to myself as bi, I really thought that dating women instead of men would solve all of my relationship problems. And then I started dating (or attempting to date) actual real life women. What a shock.

    Dating women’s great but it didn’t magically solve my relationship problems. Dating is hard and people are weird.

  4. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again:

    As a bisexual millennial woman, if I were single or polyamorous, I would make zero effort to date cis men. I wouldn’t exclude it as a possibility if a seemingly perfect feminist cis man fell from the sky and did all the right things, but I wouldn’t “market” myself to them in any way, shape or form.

    I’m just tired of explaining my experience, tired of erasure, tired of fighting back heteronormative assumptions, tired of being in the presence of people who make me feel unsafe, tired of the power dynamic of male-female heteronormative sexuality, tired of what that does to my self-confidence and mental health, and so on and so forth. Why actively try to bring that into my life? If it comes, it comes, but why seek it out? It’s not that dating cis/trans women, non-binary folks or trans men is easy, it’s the fact that it gives some relief from certain repetitive stress.

  5. Well, this is interesting and confusing at the same time. I like how it’s written, it feels like a conversation with a friend who’s very passionate about a subject and at some point in the conversation I feel sorta feel the need to say “wait, no, I’m not sure I’m following you anymore”.

    No one can date cis women solely because “hey they’re better than cis men”. This feels exactly like when het girls blurt out to me “dating girls must be so cool, sometimes I wish I was with a girl because they’re so cute and nice and we can swap clothes!”. No, I’m sorry, but dating women isn’t a cool lifestyle choice. It can be as emotionally draining, infuriating and heartbreaking as dating cis men. I’ve had my fair amount of abusive relationships with cis women, one of them even beat me up like shit and I spent years recovering from it. I know that’s exactly what you’re saying in the second part of the article but the first one was too disturbing not to say anything.

    I’m certainly the first in line when it comes to call out het cis men on their seemingly constant bs fueled by the unconscious misogyny deeply wired in their brains, but ensuring het women live fulfilling relationships with their cis male partners goes through profound social changes, not magical thinking and having them hook up with people they’re not genuinely attracted to in the first place.

    I would never, ever, date a woman who comes to me because she’s fed up with men. That’s homophobic rhetoric at its finest, “you don’t date us because you hate us but some of us are fine though”, no I don’t, I date women because I’m attracted to them, that’s all. I don’t hate men, I don’t hate people, I hate the system we’re all trapped into.

    End of the rant and sorry for the broken English, it’s not my first language (or even the second tbh).

  6. It’s been a weird and weirdly perfect time to start dating women exclusively, that’s for sure.
    Not only is the universe sending me all these headlines validating a choice I’d already made, but I haven’t felt the need to do the same soul searching many of my hetero lady friends have had to do about the implications of their attraction to men.
    Being able to opt-out is kind of a superpower.

  7. I know many of us roll our eyes straight women who say “wow, it’d be so much easier to just date women,” because we’re like, no, it will not solve all of your relationship problems…but honestly? For me, it really did. Almost like magic. The removal of straight cis male privilege from the dynamic changed EVERYTHING. Even when things aren’t going well or aren’t perfect, I feel an inner calm I’ve never, ever had with straight cis men.

    Also, a potentially unpopular opinion. Of course some women are straight and no one wants to date a woman who is just there because they’re fed up with men and not actually really sexually attracted to women. But TO BE HONEST, I used to *think* that I was bi but that I had a preference for men, and it wasn’t until all the straight cis men I’d dated had worn me down to the point I gave up and actually started dating women that I realized I AM WAY MORE GAY THAN I THOUGHT. The more experiences I had with women, the more attracted to them I became. Like, it’s been a real awakening. Some people are straight and they’re just straight and there is no changing that and i’m sorry for them, but for some people, like me- I just needed some experiences and CONTEXT to figure it out. Like, I didn’t know how hot gay sex was despite having experiences with women when I was younger was bc I had never had a consistent partner to explore it with.

    But also, I recently remembered that when I was in kindergarten I got in trouble on Valentines day bc I only passed out valentines to the girls in my class and refused to give them to any of the boys, so maybe I’ve just actually been super gay this entire time and this would not apply to other people who are only vaguely bi-curious.

    • yes! i relate to this SO MUCH —> “I used to *think* that I was bi but that I had a preference for men, and it wasn’t until all the straight cis men I’d dated had worn me down to the point I gave up and actually started dating women that I realized I AM WAY MORE GAY THAN I THOUGHT. “

      also the gay sex thing – at first I was sleeping with people who i only saw a few times, or who were straight or otherwise inexperienced with women, it wasn’t until i started having ongoing things with women and actual relationships that i was like OH THIS SEX IS WAY BETTER. that was like a two-year process!

  8. Also, now seems like a good time for my favorite PSA to bisexual women of the world who have never dated women bc they are afraid they’re gonna miss dick.

    It turns out, you can just buy those at the store and they’re WAY more reliable.

  9. I think the takeaway here is that yes, anyone of any gender can potentially be abusive / difficult / high maintenance etc., but dating cishet men adds an extra layer of patriarchal privilege imbalance and gender role conditioning on top of that potential, and it is absolutely a valid life choice to want to avoid that, if a woman’s sexual orientation is such that she can make that choice.

  10. This is such an interesting time for this article to come into my life because for the first time in ten years I’m dating a cis man again. And this time he’s straight too, a double whammy of privilege as it were. For the past ten years I have made a concerted effort to date exclusively women & non-binary folks as a way of avoiding the traumatic experiences I had with my first (and, until now) last boyfriend. Unfortunately, although I have never experienced instances of sexual violence with any of my afab partners since then, I have been in plenty of deeply emotionally unhealthy relationships. Instead of identifying myself as bisexual to people, I identified in relation to my partner at the time, the phrase “My girlfriend…” being the simplest way to signal not-straight without having to go into details with the cishets I encountered in daily life. Now that I am dating a man, I no longer can identify in relation to another person.

    • Oops haha this posted before I finished. Anyway, in short: there’s a lot of explaining I need to do with my current boyfriend and I am certainly not used to reading as straight when people first meet me, so this whole thing is making me think more critically about my queer identity, and how that exists independently of my choice in partner. And also about how power dynamics can be interpersonal AND systemic. Lots of thoughts inspired by this post, and in general.

      • I know you wrote this a while ago but I’m seeing it now. I was in your situation 10 years ago. Fell in love with a cis guy, we have kids and all kinds of interwoven life stuff now. It’s been a good thing, and he’s a great partner, but I hit kind of a sexuality crisis ceiling a few years ago and I’m struggling quite a bit. I was in your shoes years ago when we first got together, feeling some discomfort with being with a man. I brushed it aside for a long time and I am feeling really crazy now, deep in a life with someone who I care about and love but I’m feeling so much desire for women and little for him. I finally got myself to therapy last year but I should have been going all along. Do you have someone you’re talking to? Not saying this will happen to you but maybe my biggest regret is not seeing a therapist earlier so I didn’t get to a personal crisis point.

  11. In the Netherlands, where gay marriage has been legal since 2001, the divorce rate for lesbian couples over a 10 year span was nearly double that of gay male couple and heterosexual couples. And a similar trend was observed in Maine (one of the first states to legalize same sex unions), so it’s a stretch to suggest that women are more likely to find longer lasting/more fulfilling relationships with other women– particularly if those women’s attractions skew more towards men.

    Incidentally, I don’t believe that men are inherently far less likely to fall on the bisexual spectrum compared to women. IMHO, a lot of it has to do with societal pressure (including attitudes held by women) linking masculinity with heterosexuality. In essence, a man who has experienced a same sex encounter has compromised his masculinity in the eyes of society, thus rendering him undesirable to many women. A recent poll by a trendy women’s magazine actually found that while women were increasingly open minded about their sexuality, the majority reported that they’d reject a man who had any level of same sex encounter in his past.

    And heterosexual women aren’t the only ones who had that attitude: I’m a straight male, but during my time on okcupid I noticed that even many non-heterosexual women (who were specifically looking to meet men), would frequently answer “no” to the match question inquiring about their willingness to date an individual who had experienced a same sex encounter. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that openly bisexual men (like Elton John) tend to fall more on the gay end of the spectrum as their prospects of finding love aren’t as dependent on meeting women’s conventional attitudes towards masculinity. So while male same sex relationships remain deeply stigmatized, female same sex experimentation/encounters are fetishized to the extent that they’re considered trendy or a way to demonstrate one’s open minded attitudes, which can be problematic in it’s own right, but it’s a commonly held attitude nonetheless.

    But back to the topic at hand, if anything I’ve noticed both a growing trend among individuals electing to be single while at the same time there seems to be a growing number of polyamorous identified individuals with many male/female couples seeking “unicorn” women to hook up with.

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