In the olden days of about two years ago, whenever appreciation of a piece of media hinged on the fact that there’s sexualised women in it, it came with a neat little qualifier: “Here’s one for the lads.”
Then, slowly, the qualifier started changing: “Here’s one for all you straight guys.”
Now, it has evolved even further: “Here’s one for all you straight guys (and lesbians.)”
The three-breasted prostitute from Total Recall. My favorite fantasy war-buddy princess Leia chained up, stripped and subjugated. Marion’s excruciating, gut-wrenching low point in Requiem For A Dream. Ass-to-ass! Here’s a clip! For all the lads and lesbians!
And I would kindly ask all you chucklefucks to please leave me out of it.
Whenever this faux-inclusive phrase comes up, the idea seems to be that lesbian women enjoy sexual objectification of women in the same way straight men are expected to. There’s tits in this picture and we all like tits, right?
No. I like women, emphasis on personhood. I like women as a concept because I kind of like everyone, I like some women I’ve actually met as people, and a small percentage of those women I like in a way that elicits thoughts which ruin my underwear. But in my entire lifetime as a woman who sexually appreciates women, I have never once felt included in the sort of joke that’s for all the lads (and lesbians, which we must grudgingly acknowledge exist too, but not bisexuals, because ugh, who needs those pesky bisexuals and trans folk complicating the whole affair further, god, PC much?)
Growing up, I was faced with the monumental double task of figuring out how to be a woman in a way that left me with a modicum of personal dignity, while also figuring out how to be attracted to women in a way that granted them the same. After I was nowhere near competent at either, I tried to mush them together and somehow be a dignified woman who respected other women while also being sexually attracted to them. Clearly, I was in trouble. Up shit creek without a paddle doesn’t quite do justice to the misogynistic swamp of bodily fluids I found myself wading through.
It was a road that took me to the small alley-like path between two red brick school buildings, where the teachers didn’t see us, where the boys gathered to look at whatever magazine they managed to swipe from the corner shop. It’s almost endearing now, thinking back to the great confidence with which they thumbed trough the magazine like a personalized catalog: do her, do her, wouldn’t do her, ew this one has pubes, do her, would do her if the one with the big tits wasn’t available…
And all I remember thinking is, “Who asked you?”
Followed shortly by, “Is this what liking women looks like?”
I didn’t say it. I was raised to be a proper misogynist, to think of women as the Pink Monolith, the Tittering Hive Mind, the Cosmo Borg. I was the cool chick, who also liked looking at naked chicks, and therefor I was up for it. Something like that. I’ve spent more than enough time trying to follow that logic and it leads nowhere but my S-bend.
Like any person who likes women, I went to a topless bar. As you do. It was after I stopped feeling like being “a cool chick, not like those other girls” was a good thing but before I figured out how to actually like women. Our server was so pretty. She had freckles and an impish smile that made me think we would have been great friends in another life, and swashbuckling pirate queen besties in a better one. (Our ship was called the Virginia Woolf. This was before I learned some of the more pertinent details of her life.) I don’t quite know for sure anymore, but I think I saw her sigh and grit her teeth when a guy slapped her bum as she walked by, almost dropping her tray full of beers. I felt bad for her. I felt like she and I were the only people in the world who were sad that night.
Talk about a long dark night of the soul.
So there it was. I could be her, or I could be attracted to her. If I really wanted to reach for the stars, I could somehow try to do both. I had to do it in a way that didn’t make me sad, and that didn’t make her grit her teeth at me. I wanted her to like me. And I didn’t know how.
What I’m saying is that cognitive dissonance is a terrible thing to cram into a confused kid’s horny pants.
Here’s one for the lads: don’t include me in this. Don’t adopt the trappings of inclusiveness without actually being inclusive. What this phrase does is try to force me against my will under an umbrella I don’t want to be under, because I much prefer the downpour. We may have one thing in common. We are sexually attracted to some women. That’s it. That’s where the common ground ends, and if you think this unites us, you have no idea what it means to be a woman who actually likes women. You don’t know what it is like to be feel forced into the false dichotomy of being a sex object or reducing other women to sex objects. You will never feel the knot in your stomach when you realize those are the choices the world is offering you; be a woman and be subjugated, or be a person who is attracted to women and subjugate them. No part of you understands how it tears and claws at me that as a bisexual girl, I felt forced to choose the path of least resistance, to be with boys who inflicted themselves on me rather than be with a girl who may have been kind, for fear that I’d be inflicting myself on her.
I’ll often say to anyone who wants to hear it (and many who don’t) that the single greatest gift feminism has given me is permission to like women. Not as women, but as people. To be friends, to be comrades in arms, to be equals in sisterhood. It took a shamefully long time for me to understand that I could like women sexually without robbing them of their dignity. It came too late, but it happened, and thank merciful Christ for that. Because let me tell you, lad culture caters to lesbians the way hot sauce caters to your dick.
I am not one of the lads. You’ve made sure of that. When you thumbed through that magazine as if it was a catalogue designed specifically for you, when you sent me notes from your boner, when you angrily accused me of performing my sexuality to blue-ball you, and simultaneously mocked me for implying that maybe, just maybe, my sexuality had nothing to do with your boner, you made sure I wasn’t welcome in your world in any way that actually matters. So don’t pretend to include me now.
Here’s one for the lads: I have never had the privilege of believing without question that the world cares which women I would “do.” I have never “done” a woman. I have never “laid” a chick. When I see those women, the ones “for all us straight guys (and lesbians)” proffered up on a silver platter for my sticky-fingered amusement, my heart is with her a lot more than my lady-boner is with you.
Here’s one for the lads: I like women. I like women. I do not like tits, chicks, pussy, #fasttailedgirls, bitches and birds. I do not like boobs, bouncing merrily around this world all independent-like with no pesky person attached to them. I like women because I am one, because I’ve had to be one every day of my life, and I damn well know how rough it can be for us.
Here’s one for the lads: male gaze serves male libido exclusively. When I see a camera lovingly pan over the naked entwined bodies of two straight actresses, it’s not my libido that is being catered to. It’s my sexuality, my identity, being exploited for your entertainment. The one time I was brave enough to hold another girl’s hand in public, you all made damn sure we didn’t walk away without knowing how your boner felt about that.
Maybe this is just me. Through circumstance rather than design, I ended up being a feminist woman first, sexual creature second. But know that when you claim that you don’t want to objectify women, you want to be nice, but the power of boners is stronger, I am rolling my eyes at you very pointedly, sir. It is in fact entirely possible to be sexually attracted to women without treating them like objects in need of your discerning approval. I’ve been doing it for quite a while now. So far so good.
So don’t pretend a picture of a porn star or a visit to the topless bar or a sexist joke at the bar is somehow for me. I know it isn’t. When you ask me to chuckle along with you, you are asking me to be complicit in my own subjugation. I will never understand why you do this, but I’m not going to stick around long enough to find out.
Here’s one for all the lads: you’ve been appropriating my sexuality for your entertainment all my life, and now you’re doing it again behind a facade of inclusiveness. This thing you’re showing me is not for “and lesbians.” It’s really just for the lads.
As it turns out, most things are.