The lesbian community is often represented in a one dimensional way, they are more often than not portrayed as over the top, flamboyant and a little crazy to super crazy. Here are some stereo types that are constantly being perpetuated by the media. Men molested us as children and that turned us into lesbians. Lesbians hate men. In every lesbian couple, one has to be the man. Lesbians just haven’t been with the right guy yet. Every lesbian uses strap-ons and dildos to take the place of men. No lesbians ever use strap-ons. It’s not real sex if there’s no penis. Every lesbian relationship has a butch and a femme, because someone has to be the man and someone has to be the woman. Lesbian bed death happens to all lesbian couples. Lesbians want to have a threesome with your bi-girlfriend/boyfriend because we’ll have sex with any woman around. Pretty women can’t possibly be lesbian. Lesbians all dress like men. Lesbians don’t wear lingerie. Femme lesbians are pretending to be lesbian. All butches have short hair and are overweight. All lesbians hate make-up, shaving, bras and dresses. All lesbians like camping. Lesbians drive SUVs like Subaru Outbacks and Jeep Wranglers. Lesbians are all into sports. “The L Word” television show is a real-world depiction of lesbian life. Lesbians try to “recruit” straight women. Lesbians are no fun, angry, rude and insensitive. Lesbians are all crazy and will stalk you and ruin your life. Lesbians were all tomboys as children. It’s just a phase. Lesbians all own stock in U-Haul and have our own personal U-Haul trucks ready and waiting. The way lesbians are shown in the media tend to give a misunderstood and often over the top representation of the subculture. As lesbians, we use stereotypes all the time to figure out how to fit in with our lesbian communities. We can use stereotypes initially to learn how to fit in, but then we need to move past that and evolve into being our individual selves. The most spotlighted stereo type is that lesbians are super moody and sad all of the time with equates to being mentally unstable, It might be because they assume women are emotional so if you like women and times the estrogen by two you get crazy. And it seems like the butcher a women is the crazier and more possessive she is. As you get into trans territory the women/men get crazier. Lets take a look at some examples of pop culture that perpetuate these stere types.
The open portrayal of gays and lesbians in the media has been a fairly recent occurrence. The first tv series to openly acknowledge and accept the LGBTQ community was the Roseanne show that aired from 1987-1997
The two gay characters were Leon an older uptight, type A gay man with commitment issues and Nancy a flamboyant, slightly nuts, recently straight, divorced “lesbian” who cant make up her mind about what gender she likes. Which we call bisexual and that is A ok, but for some reason sexuality has to be this black and white thing that fits neatly into a perfectly square box?
The stereo types that the Roseanne show highlighted were, lesbians want to have a threesome with your bi-girlfriend/boyfriend because they will have sex with any woman around. Pretty women can’t possibly be lesbian, lesbians try to “recruit” straight women and It’s just a phase.
Even though the Roseanne show perpetuated gay and lesbian stereotypes, that show was a pioneer. It welcomed the LGBT community with open arms and exposed millions of viewers to way of life that they might have scoffed due to a lack of understanding.
From there more gay and lesbian supporting roles show up on tv and actors start to feel more secure about who they are and come out publicly in the media. The first national broadcast seres that strictly followed a group of lesbian friends and their shenanigans was The L. Word. The L. Word follows the lives and loves of a group of lesbian friends living in Los Angeles. The main character, Jenny, is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, who moves to Los Angeles to live with her boyfriend Tim and begin a professional writing career. Jenny’s life is turned upside down when she attends a party hosted by Tim’s next-door neighbors, Bette and Tina, a lesbian couple who are about to take the step into parenthood after being together for seven years. A brief encounter at the party with Marina, the owner of the local coffeehouse, suddenly has Jenny thrust into a whole new world that makes her question her own sexual orientation. Other friends of Bette and Tina include Dana, a professional tennis player who is shy but eager to meet the right woman, Alice, a magazine writer who has a brief relationship with a self-identified “lesbian” man; and Shane, a hairstylist who can’t stick to just one woman. The L. Word is representative of a sliver of lesbian life and lesbian couples. It showed a diversity of relationships, some butch/femme, some femme/femme, and some in between, but still, it has created more stereotypes for us that we did not need. Most women are not L. Word lesbians. We are just like your sisters, wives and mothers — except lesbians.
Shows like Roseanne have opened the minds of many midwest house wives while shows like the L word have created more storer types and over exaggerated the existing ones. A show called Orange is the New Black has taken online streaming by storm. Orange is the New The New Black is a story about Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties who is sentenced to fifteen months in prison after being convicted of a decade-old crime of transporting money for her drug dealing girlfriend.
The stereo types in OITNB are so numerous that I am not going to list them all agin. You can refer to the list in the first paragraph if you need a refresher. The big shocker in OITNB is all of the sex. I have heard that there are many women in the prison system that “go gay” while they are in prison, so I decided to investigate weather or not I was perpetuating a stereo type. I found an article from the perspective of Susan K. who is a prosperous Virginia business-owner who served four years and change in a Maryland State prison for drug-related robbery charges in her 20s. When she was asked if she’d watched Orange Is the New Black, she said, “Dude, why in the hell would I want to watch a show about the worst four years of my fucking life?” The article goes off on my tangents from the lack of guards in OITNB to the unrealistic kitchen. But I found her first hand experience and opinion on sen in women prisons interesting, this is what she had to say. Last Friday night, I sat down with her and watched the first four episodes of season 2. Here’s our conversation, Was there predatory sexual behavior in your prison? Susan: Well, when the diesel chick [Big Boo] did the tongue-through-the-fingers thing, that brought back some memories. I had that gesture made at me a couple of times. But in terms of, like, rape the way it happens in the men’s prison, I don’t know if that really translates to women. What would normally happen? Is “gay for the stay” realistic? Yeah, it is. For a lot of women, that sort of thing isn’t this enormous deal. And there are sort of protective arrangements that happen with women. But, this rampant thing going on in this show? That’s not realistic at all. Explain.
On this show, its like you can’t go to the damn chow hall without tripping over the American Pie [Nicky] going down on somebody, or somebody’s having a fisting party in the freaking chapel. And also, on this show, the head guard has this whole “I hate lesbians” thing happening, but in our prison the guards didn’t give a shit one way or the other. They stopped women from having sex, but they also stopped women from getting Twinkie’s brought in by their relatives. It was just their job to stop it. You aren’t supposed to have a great, exciting, healthy sex life in prison. That’s not what prison is for. So what would be a realistic sexual experience in prison?
Do you want some time alone in the bathroom, dude? Fuck off. It’s a legitimate question. There’s tons of sex on this show. Seriously though, there’s a distinction that I think ought to be made, here. The women-in-prison scenario occupies this weird spot in the American sexual imagination, doesn’t it? I mean, you remember all those Cinemax movies about women in prison, with all these totally hot women getting it on for the cameras and all the guys watching, right? But those movies aren’t real, either in terms of prison, or in terms of actual lesbians. This show we’re watching now has realistic depictions of lesbian sex, but what it doesn’t do is give a realistic version of lesbian sex in prison. OK, so what’s the real version, then? Its like, maybe you make out for five-seconds. Maybe there are fingers involved for two-seconds. It happens really fast and there’s hardly anything to it, because, as this show seems to forget, there are freaking guards and cameras everywhere, and people get time added to their sentences for shit like that. It’s a risk/reward thing. Do I want sexual contact? Sure. Is getting maybe a half minute of it worth getting two months of good behavior time put back on my sentence if I’m caught? To some people it is and to some it isn’t. But this out in the open, no holds barred lesbian cruise thing on the show? Nah. Not happening. So there you have it OITNB is perpetuating the stereo type that women in the prison system have tons of sex with other women inmates.
OITB depicts women who identify as lesbians as either short haired sex fiends that are slightly to super crazy or “straight” looking femmes who are wishy washy about their sexuality and are also nuts. These are the stereo types that follow the LGBTQ community. For example my wife and I were visiting my Parents in Bend Oregon last summer and decided to go for drive in the country. As we pulled up to a light I couldn’t help but notice that a car full of youngish kids next to us being kind of weird like they were trying to get our attention, revving their engine, rolling back and pulling forward repeatedly. We just tried to ignore them. The light turned green and they peeled off, upon passing us they all scream Orange is the New Black at us?… Needless to say I am a bit confused at this point. Were they trying to enlighten us and tell us about a funny made for Netflix show that we might enjoy, that has a heavy storyline about women in the prison system or the lesbianism that happens in the prison system? Or has Orange is the New Black become an adjective! Then anger set in. I remember now why I hate leaving my mostly loving and accepting bubble called Portland. My wife and I look totally “normal” we drive a “normal” car, we do not look like criminals, what ever that means. Perhaps it is the lack of orange. I was just so angry that these small town kids were replacing derogatory terms with pop culture titles.
While I find these shows entertaining they can harm and spur on derogatory stereotypes but at the same time they are giving a misunderstood and often looked down on sub-culture exposure.
The media often exploits the extreme stere types for entertainment sake and leaves out the people who are just like you. The only difference between heterosexual individuals and lesbians are who we choose to love.
Orange is the New Black, Created by Jenji Kohan Kohan. Made for Netflix series based on the Book Orange is the New Black:My Year in a Women’s Prison by, Piper Kerman
Roseanne Directed by Roseanne Barr Marcy Carsey
Dawson, Adam. “No Fisting Parties in the Chapel: An Ex-Con Reviews Orange Is the New Black, Part II.” Arts Desk RSS. Washington City Paper, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Editorial Team. “Lesbian Stereotypes and Cliches EVERY Lesbian Is Guilty Of.” The Other Team. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Bendix, Trish. “”Don’t Be Such a Lesbian” Explores Lesbian Stereotypes – AfterEllen.” AfterEllen Dont Be Such a Lesbian Explores Lesbian Stereotypes Comments. AfterEllen, 20 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.