Zinnia advisory: Please update your invective

I don’t know if some people just aren’t paying attention, but in case you haven’t been listening, I’m a lesbian. Apparently not everyone got the memo, because I still get plenty of comments that are based on the assumption that I’m gay. And I am – just gay in the other direction. So when someone calls me a “faggot”, “cocksucker”, “fudgepacker”, and so on, it really only comes off as silly and misinformed. It’s kind of like telling Indians to go back to Mexico, which makes you not only a bigot, but an incompetent one.

For some reason, the act of sex between men is vilified in the most vivid and imaginative ways, yet in this area, lesbians are almost completely neglected. What are they going to call us, “muff-divers”? Somehow, it just doesn’t have the same impact. This is not a coincidence. Nobody has a problem with women being fucked. But for a man to get fucked, and to make himself the object of male affection, is seen as lowering his standing to that of a woman.

At the same time, the sexual choices of gay men are at least taken seriously, whereas lesbians are much more likely to have their sexuality called into question. Gay men may be despised, but rarely are they doubted, and there is no honest expectation that their desires are mutable. Instead of outright scorn, lesbians are more often met with condescension, or seen as tragic, pitiable or damaged.

Some people might insist that it’s just a passing phase rather than a true orientation, or something that women only do to attract the attention of men. Alternately, their sexuality might be pathologized as a “fear” of men, possibly due to bad experiences or abuse – it’s considered implausible that they could simply have a genuine preference for women.

This then leads to the notion that lesbians just haven’t met “the right guy” yet, with men often taking the opportunity to present themselves as that guy. Of course, if anyone were to tell these men that they just haven’t met the right guy yet, this would be swiftly ruled out. Or, taking it even further, they might see lesbians as something to be fetishized and reduced to a fantasy of straight men, as if we exist for their own sexual pleasure. Evidently, some people don’t quite understand what “lesbian” means.

Failing that, there’s always the option of calling them too ugly or old to find a man, which not only treats men as the first choice and women as a consolation prize, but also assumes that women’s looks are their only source of value. There’s a reason you don’t often see gay men being called ugly.

Taken together, the pattern that emerges from these insults is one in which women are viewed only in terms of their relations to men, even when there are no men involved. In the case of lesbians, anti-gay attitudes are further distorted by misogyny, stripping women of their agency and, not exactly hating, but openly disregarding and erasing the reality of their sexual choices. It almost makes you wish for a return to the fevered and frenzied vulgarity that surrounds the mechanics of sex. But no – we aren’t even respected enough to be hated for what we really are. And now you know the right way to treat lesbians the wrong way.