Real lesbians don’t do that

(UPDATED BELOW)

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.

UPDATE 1/18/2015

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 ā€” 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.

12 Responses to “Real lesbians don’t do that”

  1. I somewhat agree with you. Heteros put us in a box. We put them in a box. Asexuals, transexuals, pansexuals… Where does it end? Why are there so many boxes? If people think what they are reading is crap, they should and will say so. Reading police…that is kind of Big Brother. Read what you feel is authentic to YOU!

  2. Well said, KG. And you are so right in that shopping for lesbian books at Bella and/or the author’s site is so worth the effort. Also, when doing so, more of the money goes to the author.

  3. Well said and so true…I have learned to look closely and skip over lots but why is that when you are looking at the best LESBIAN fiction?

  4. Well said, and thank you for that.

  5. Trying to find audio books is just as bad. I feel for kids that are trying to find authentic lesbian books, movies, audio books for the very first time and don’t know where to look. If it is all lister under ‘Lesbian Fiction’ it makes it really confusing. Thank heavens I had someone who gave me two Karin Kalmaker novels and two Katherine V Forrest novels. My first book was ‘Well of Lonlieness’ and that had me nearly running for the hills!

    • That’s another issue with categorization, and I think we’ll see it even more as gay and lesbian characters go mainstream ā€” they’re tagging books as “lesbian” even when the lesbians are very minor characters. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a story of two boys (one of them gay) with the same name who become friends. Some of the reviewers mention “gay characters,” so I’m going to assume at least one of them is lesbian, but she isn’t important enough to name in the description or any of the reviews. Yet this book has held a top 3 spot for the last 6 months in LESBIAN FICTION. While at least that isn’t as insulting as lesbian porn by & for men, it isn’t helpful to those looking for YA books for lesbians. Furthermore, it hogs a space on the bestseller list that a lesbian book should rightly hold.

  6. There seems to be no quality control by this online retailer of how authors and publishers tag their books, which is how they can wind up filling a category where they don’t belong and crowd out real lesbian fiction. It’s upsetting to see.

  7. Thank you!! Clear,concise, and AUTHENTIC!

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