What does it even mean to be an “authentic” lesbian in an era when sexuality is increasingly believed to reside on a fluid continuum? When societal taboos against same-sex behavior no longer carry an intensely prohibitive stigma? When relationships between women are considered by some to be part of natural sexual development?
I suspect authentic lesbians have the answer. Like Justice Potter Stewart’s assertion on obscenity: We know it when we see it. Rather, we know it when we feel it.
One thing’s for sure: You can’t take the word of a certain online bookseller, whose list of bestsellers in “lesbian fiction” includes Filling the MILF (Google it). Pounding Him to Please My Wife. Short Stories of Hardcore Romance and Threesome Erotica. Suck Me Dry. Crazy About the Baumgartners.
We don’t find it authentic when women degrade other women. We don’t do men, and we don’t let them watch. We don’t identify with women who are eager to share the lessons they learned from women with their boyfriends. We recognize erotica that’s been written for the “male gaze,” exaggerated to fit the heterosexual male fantasy.
Yes, we know the difference between lesbian erotica and lesbian porn. One is sexy; the other is creepy. One is exciting; the other is exploitive. One is authentic; the other is not.
Thanks for all the response to this blog, both here and on FB. This issue is definitely a hot button for lots of people.
I want to make clear that what I oppose is authors and publishers who tag books as Lesbian when they clearly aren’t; i.e., when the books are gay rather than lesbian, when two straight women have a sexual encounter for the pleasure of men, or when the lesbians in the book are so minor that the customers aren’t getting what they pay for.
However, I’m reluctant to campaign against any books on the basis of their being PORN, because one person’s porn is another’s erotica. It would be too easy to have that definition turned on lesbian romance that includes sexually explicit scenes. In fact, that happened several years ago when Amazon delisted LGBT books out of concern they were inappropriate for readers under 18. The resulting outcry from the LGBT community overturned that within days. It’s just strikes me as a bad idea to give someone the power to decide what is and isn’t appropriate. Yes, I wish they had a separate erotica category, but I don’t believe that will stop authors and publishers from also tagging books as Lesbian.
Nor do I see how we can convince the administrative clerks in charge of policing content that two women having a sexual encounter doesn’t make them lesbians. That was the main point of my rant — that many of the books on the lesbian bestseller list are inauthentic.
I recently reported one of the aforementioned books as “inappropriate” and explained in the memo window that it was not Lesbian. Interestingly, I received a letter from the retailer telling me my book was incorrectly categorized, and instructing me to change the tags on my book to reflect the appropriate topic. Within minutes, I got a second note from the retailer telling me to disregard it as it was sent to the wrong person (the complainer instead of the author). I was actually pleased to know they followed up, but to date, the author hasn’t changed the category and the retailer has apparently dropped the issue. That didn’t stop me from writing again, and I think if we continue to take them to task over certain books, they will eventually act.
In the meantime, there are other places to buy lesbian books. Places where you won’t have to guess if the lesbians are authentic.
Again, thanks for listening, and especially for talking.