We already have lesbophobia, I think we need to add androsexism to our dictionary of words to describe the, shall we say “annoyances,” of being a woman who is, or sometimes finds herself in the position of, a lesbian. Because we realized that homophobia didn’t cut it, but lesbophobia isn’t just a gender-flipped version. An important aspect of it, one that people are keen to overlook, is the fear and hatred of women not only for liking other women too much, but the fear and hatred of women who don’t like men enough, or not in the most useful way for a society that has been shaped by the capitalist demand for cheap reproductive labour from women to keep its workforce going. Hey, it’s no coincidence that the most acceptable faces of same-sex coupledom are male and, even when not, bourgeoise and white: what would capital do if working class women stopped tending to the daily needs of its workforce without pay because it’s been naturalized as a function of heterosexuality in women to be servile, you know? (Interesting article on servility and female sexuality here, for anyone interested.)
But anyway, the fear and hatred of lesbians and other women perceived to be lesbians, or who occupy the same social position as a lesbian, is about more than not wanting women to like each other too much, although it is obviously about that too. I’d say it’s about the fear that if women like each other too much, they could go off men and all the shit that comes from being in an intimate relationship with someone in a position of power and dominance over you (and as pointed out above, it could seriously jeopardize the world order if that kind of movement reached a critical mass). But out bisexual women, especially ones in relationships with other women or who rock a “lesbian” (read: butch) aesthetic, bear as much of the brunt for that as a Gold Star. It would be nice to have a word for it that also covered the pressure on bisexual women, covert and overt, to “choose” men, or the fact that so many out female celebrities who are bisexual are also married to men (Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, Anna Paquin, the list goes on), suggesting that for many more, it’s safer to keep their relationships with women under wraps, not to be out at all, or even to do a Jessie J and declare themselves “post bi,” as it were.
Androsexism would be such a word and it would also be a word that could cover a lot of the pressure on asexual women to get sexual, because I doubt the preferred sexual partner for her would be another woman in the eyes of society at large.
Currently we just have words that divide these women from each other, like “monosexual” and “sexual privilege.” No woman was ever meaningfully privileged because she didn’t fancy men or because she did fancy women. Not in any social paradigms I know of. Not even in the sexual and romantic minority community, which is also blighted by androsexism: on the gay scene, a woman is often more welcome as a “fag hag” than as an out and proud dyke, and the predominance of men is such that we have to create our own separate venues and parties and then we get told off for only letting “accompanied” guys in (it’s reverse sexism, right?). Don’t get me wrong, at least you’re less likely to hear about “hearts not parts” and how maybe you just haven’t met the right guy yet (although you do still hear those things) but the gay scene is only really a refuge from heterosexism, not androsexism or indeed plain sexism, and heterosexism isn’t the same for women as for men anyway. We need to talk about that and we need to talk about things that unite women outside the heterosexual mainstream. Bringing “androsexism” in from the cold (because apparently it’s in the dictionary, just not the one we use) is a way of doing that.
I don’t want to suggest that an endeavour isn’t worthy if it doesn’t also benefit women in the heterosexual mainstream, but this would also benefit women in the heterosexual mainstream. Even though androsexism currently validates their lifestyles and choices, which is probably why heterosexual women can often be so anxious about naming problems like androsexism or heterosexism without reassurance that this isn’t just a way of throwing them under the bus. It isn’t: androsexism in particular speaks to broader male bias and patrairchal bullshit in society at large, overcoming which is key to all women’s liberation in a way that telling a lesbian to go for “hearts not parts” isn’t. A lesbian will have already had to offset a fair amount of societal and internalized androsexism as well as heterosexism to go for women in the first place; pointing out that there’s anything to offset allows all women’s sexual choices to become freer, as well as their broader relational choices, and opens up a whole vista of new ways to organize life and family away from the capitalist model of heterosexuality that associates women with servility in the form of unpaid reproductive labour for the benefit not just of men, but of capital itself. And capitalism is proving itself quite toxic for everyone.
Elise is a 25 year old Welsh student and feminist with a profound distaste for capitalism. Blogs mainly about sexuality and anything that makes her angry over at startmeoff.wordpress.com. Not for the faint hearted.