EVERYDAY FEMINISM

Fantasy vs. Reality: Lesbian Sex in Pornography

 

I’m not here to talk about fingernails.

At least, I’m not here just to talk about fingernails.

Because when it comes to mainstream pornography’s depiction of lesbian sex, the least of our gripes should be about how long the actresses’ nails are.

The entire performance is inaccurate at best, offensive at worst.

The truth is pornography in general sucks at depicting realistic sex, and because of that, plenty has been written about how its combination of being both unrealistic and pervasive can be detrimental to our ideas about sexuality and thus, our real-life relationships.

When you pair that with the misconceptions already being spread by the mainstream media about LBT women and their relationships, then we start treading into fearful misrepresentation territory.

And although, yes, it’s supposed to be a fantasy, the problem with that excuse is that without any factual knowledge to keep you grounded, you become miseducated.

So when most of your information about queer women comes from pornography, you often end up believing that’s what they’re probably like.

And when mainstream culture buys into myth, it has a real effect on queer women.

It’s legitimate. It’s tangible. And it’s crap.

Like the time that I was dating a man who told me that it was okay for me to sleep with women during our relationship, just not with men.

The thing is he was the only person I’ve ever dated who had that stance. And he also just so happened to be a porn addict.

Coincidence that he’d watched women’s sexual relationships with other women being degraded on screen for years and then invalidated the legitimacy of my sexuality?

Maybe. But I doubt it.

So let’s clear the air. Not to burst your omg-girl-on-girl-is-sooo-hot-though bubble, but to give you realistic groundwork on which to base your fantasies – to remind you that your fantasies are just fantasies, and that pornography is really just reflecting that – and not reality.

Here are five things that mainstream pornography producers apparently don’t want you to know about real lesbian sex:

1. Lesbian sex is equally as varied as straight sex.

Every time that I watch mainstream lesbian pornography, it goes something like this – some kissing, perhaps some manual/digital play (maybe with a vibrator), a short amount of oral, dildo penetration, orgasm.

Every. Single. Time. As if when two women have sex, there is a script to follow.

Well, trust me: lesbian sex is not like a football play.

It’s not premeditated. It can include all or none of those activities. It can also involve different positions or different sex toys, like strap-ons. It can be an entire night dedicated to oral or grinding.

Just like straight sex, it changes, it evolves, and it gets boring if it’s the same every night.

2. Not all lesbians fit the hegemonic feminine ideal.

Just like straight women, not all lesbians look the same.

Usually when we say this, it’s to defend our femmes, who often get lumped, seemingly invisible, into this weird “you’re too pretty to be gay” category of homophobic awfulness.

But according to the mainstream adult film industry, that’s what all lesbians look like – as if our sexy, studly counterparts don’t exist.

Apparently, we all like having long, flowing hair. And lipstick. And fingernails. And lacy lingerie.

The feminine ideal presented in pornography is a product of the male gaze, as the chief consumers of pornography are men. Which is bad enough when you’re looking at straight porn.

But lesbian porn? Lesbian porn? Geez.

It’s as if lesbian porn is made for men to enjoy, rather than for queer women to feel represented and therefore empowered.

Oh wait. And that reminds me…

3. Lesbians are lesbians for one another – not for dudes. Or money.

Why do I even have to say this? Seriously, why am I even about to write this paragraph?

Because yes, sure – there are plenty of women who are sexual with women for the attention of men and there are plenty of women who make serious bank working the gay-for-pay circuit.

But at the end of the day, this is the exception, not the rule.

Lesbianism is not – and should not be! – defined by these exceptions. It invalidates and makes a mockery of average queer women and their relationships as well as the diversity within the community.

And that right there – the assumption that lesbianism isn’t legitimate in and of itself, but rather is a ploy to attract men – is degrading.

4. Lesbians actually enjoy lesbian sex and aren’t scared of it.

Alright. I get it. Some women think of their forays into the lesbian world as experimental games.

But all of the nervous tittering and tentative touching seen in lesbian porn – to make it seem, I guess, like this is their first time doing something (omg!) scandalous – is awkward.

If anyone ever touched me the way that women touch one another in lesbian porn, we would have to have a serious talk.

Because the so-soft-they’re-barely-there kisses on the nipples and the light tap-and-rub of the clitoris looks incredibly, uncomfortably awkward.

Now don’t get me wrong: it’s perfectly okay to feel nervous during sex.

But when it’s being presented repeatedly, as a pattern, in representations of a certain type of sex, then it becomes expected.

And it shouldn’t be.

5. Lesbian sex may or may not involve penetration – but it has nothing to do with wanting a penis.

Everything about this myth is rooted in misogyny – from the idea that a woman is nothing without a man to the complete lack of accurate knowledge about female sexuality that it’s based on.

Female sexual response and orgasm is widely misunderstood. But it’s important to point out that while most women do not orgasm from penetration alone, it still feels good.

And penile-vaginal intercourse doesn’t feel good because it involves a penis.

Penetration feels good because it is vaginally and G-spot-ally stimulating, and it’s nice to have your erogenous zones stimulated.

“Then why are all sex toys shaped like a cock then?” Uhh, because that’s the shape that allows for easy, pleasurable penetration.

Not because penises are mythical, magical appendages that no woman can live without.

Ugh. Seriously.

Can I get an amen for media literacy? Hallelujah, Jesus! Because separating fact from fiction is essential.

Luckily, there are things that you can do to simultaneously enrich yourself and be less offensive in your thought processes that apply to lesbians and their sexual relationships.

Here are a few solutions on how to unlearn what you think you know:

1. Read a book.

Pornography is not a substitute for real sexuality education. If anything, it’s counterproductive.

Try The Whole Lesbian Sex Book by Felice Newman. Even if you’re just glancing through it at a bookstore. Warning: People will probably stare. That’s okay.

2. Have conversations with real lesbian women.

And by “have conversations with,” I really, really do not mean “interrogate about their sex lives.”

It seems to be a common complaint in the queer-lady community that people have the audacity to outright ask, “How do you have sex?”

Here’s a quick way of guessing whether or not it’s ok to ask something – ask yourself whether or not you’d ask that question of a straight person. If you wouldn’t want to ask your straight friend or be asked yourself, don’t think it’s automatically ok to ask a lesbian, just because you’re curious.

But having lesbian friends that you can listen to and ask questions of is helpful in understanding the complexities in how these relationships work.

Just ask permission to ask questions first.

3. Try queer feminist pornography for a change.

Mainstream pornography is easy to find because it’s easy to fund and produce.*

Ethical pornography, so-called because it is made under fair conditions, often allowing the performers a say in with whom and how the sex occurs, needs some deeper digging. Even if you find that you’re not aroused by the ethical sector, you can at least learn a thing or two from it.

Try Hot Movies for Her for starters.

Because at the end of the day, fantasies are awesome, and you’re totally entitled to them.

But it becomes problematic when you mistake your fantasies for reality and find yourself feeling entitled to women.

(*Please note: There are problematic issues related to the working conditions and level of choice of some people in the pornography industry, not to mention the impact on young people who consume pornography as their main source of sex education. But that’s for another article.)

Melissa A. Fabello is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism, a feminist blogger and vlogger, as well as an online peer sex educator, based out of Philadelphia. Along with Everyday Feminism, Melissa also currently works with Miss Representation, Adios Barbie, and Laci Green’s Sex+ community. She is a second-year graduate student, working on an M.Ed. in Human Sexuality. She can be reached on Twitter @fyeahmfabello.

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