In my not-yet-published novel, one character says to another, “A woman can call herself a snap bean if she wants to, but when she’s going down on another woman, she’s a lesbian.”
My friend Cordelia wants to know: 1) What’s a snap bean, and 2) Does that really make one a lesbian? Surely we’re all entitled to a free blowjob once in awhile.
I’ll save the lesson in Southern gardening for later, but yes, Cordelia, there is such a thing as a lesbian. I know it’s hard to tell, what with swingers overrunning our bars and the increasing difficulty of distinguishing us from other women or, frankly, men.
Maybe my character’s only able to make this crazy claim because she is speaking in 1992. Back then, lesbians were having babies together, but it wasn’t exactly expected. Even women in porn had not yet adopted the paedophilic fashion for removing every hair from their bodies. In short, it was a different world.
Women who called them-selves lesbians — let’s call them “lesbians” for short — used to debate about their purity if they’d broken down and slept with a man. You know, they were trying to get along just on sex between women — the ultimate feminist act — but they just couldn’t make it without a little dick once in a while. Or a big one.
It seems like giving too much power to a man if with a single blow, as it were, he could wipe out a woman’s lesbian identity, built up over many hard years of consensus-building and whatever else women do together. I know, Cordelia, that this is a quaint feminist notion, that men have enough power already without defining women’s sexuality.
Really, your question is, if I’m a straight girl and I find myself with a cute girl — which is happening all over TV — that doesn’t make me a lesbian, does it? Ew!
What an extraordinary idea, that lesbianism is a political and not just a sexual position. Isn’t that just so 1970s?
Cordelia, I wish I could speak with the authority of someone who was a lesbian in the ’70s. But here’s the thing: I don’t know for sure that I was. At the end of the decade I was seven years old. While I do know women who were sure of their difference at that age or even younger, I only vaguely remember wanting to do what boys did. And that could be anything.
I also know women who fell in love with each other at midlife and “came out.” What were they doing all that time? Were they benighted? In the closet? Or did they just — gasp — “choose” to be lesbians?
We are so used to insisting that it’s not a choice. But that implies that being a lesbian is so awful no one would choose it. If, on the other hand, women are just that much sexier than men — and do you deny it, Cordelia? — why wouldn’t any woman choose another?
This seems to be where you’re coming from: Women are great, they can be fun, but some of us still can’t live without dick (just like some men). What’s the big deal? This still doesn’t make me a lesbian… does it?
I have considered this long and hard — mostly hard — and I would like to propose that lesbianism is a state of mind as well as a state of undress. Otherwise I don’t see how the wild popularity of ladies doing each other just to please hubby can be accounted for. Because such behaviour is still about the same thing heterosexual sex is about — pleasing men.
You doubt me, Cordelia? Does this still sound too feminist? Please. As popular as “lesbians” are with straight men, they don’t really believe in us, at least not as serious rivals. We’re like fairies. If men really thought we could take their women away, they would not be turned on; they would be jealous.
How many husbands, do you think, fuck other guys just because their wives want them to? And if their wives don’t — if man-on-man action isn’t that big a turn-on for them — well, isn’t that just further evidence that women are hotter?
I have to think the woman who’s fucking another woman and who regards this as something other than lesbianism, is not all there. Or rather, she’s there for somebody else. For the man in her life, not herself or the other woman. Goddess help her if she finds she’s enjoying it for itself.
Because when she does, what else can I call it? To paraphrase a T-shirt the guys wear, “Does my mouth between her legs make me look like a lesbian?” Or rather, “Mmmfff.”