Friday, September 12, 2008

You Don't Have to be a Lesbian

to think chicks are HOT!

Heck, you don't even have to be bisexual.

You have no idea how many times I've heard a woman say something like, "I wouldn't like reading f/f for one very simple reason: I am a straight woman."

To which I usually reply, "Not necessarily."

Now let me be clear: I'm not challenging anyone's degree of straightness, but rather the assumption that heterosexual women don't or can't get turned on by f/f erotic material. I mean, you might be straight as an arrow, straight as a ruler, straight as the shortest distance between two points, but you can't really be sure that reading about two chicks kissing won't turn you on unless you actually try reading it.

Lots of women get hot over images of female/female sexuality, and the fact that they do doesn't remotely mean they're lesbians, or even bisexual--any more than me enjoying the occasional gay erotic romance (or writing one, lol) makes me a gay man.

So how is it that even ramrod straight women can enjoy lesbian erotica, when straight men get all wigged out by gay porn, you ask? Well, that's because men's brains and women's brains are fundamentally different in the way they handle erotic stimuli and generate sexual arousal. Way back in 2003, researchers at Northwestern University measured the arousal patterns in a bunch of straight and gay men and women, and came up with some interesting results:

Male arousal is irrevocably linked to sexual orientation--that is, gay guys are aroused by images of men, whether in m/m or m/f material, straight guys are aroused by images of women, whether f/f or m/f. But women--lesbian, straight or anywhere in between--became aroused by erotic material regardless of the gender/sexual orientation of the images.

I feel kinda sorry for men, now, in that they are so limited in what turns them on. Lucky us--we women think pretty much everything is hot.

So why aren't more straight women seeking out f/f erotic material? In my adventures on the intertubes, I have come across a variety of reasons:

1) "It's just meh."

2) "If I enjoy lesbian porn, it means I must be a lesbian."

3) "If I enjoy lesbian porn, other people will think I'm a lesbian."

4) "Girl parts are gross. I know this because Summer's Eve products tell me so."

5) "I've seen some 'lesbian porn', and it was stupid."

6) "The stories don't appeal to me."

7) "It's against my/society's morals/religion."

8) "It's taboo."

9) "It hits too close to home--when it's m/m, I can keep myself one step apart, outside the action, but with f/f, I feel too close to it for comfort."

10) "When I was younger, this butch lesbian hit on me and I was offended and uncomfortable."

To which I reply:

1) Fair enough, I guess, although perhaps the one story you tried was a "meh" story by a "meh" author.

2) Hogwash.

3) Maybe, but that doesn't have to be your problem.

4) Men don't have a monopoly on misogyny, I guess. And if girl parts are so icky, how fair is it to ask a man know? Ganders and gooses and all.

5) Most "lesbian porn" is produced by men for men. And therefore, not only a veritable cornucopia of breast implants, frosted highlights and two inch long fingernails (ouch!), but also frequently lame and unrealistic.

6) Fair enough. I often have that problem myself, and not just with f/f and f/f/m.

7) Well, so are a lot of things people enjoy reading. You think your church group wouldn't raise its collective eyebrow if they discovered you gobble up erotic romance novels like popcorn? In for a penny, in for a pound, I say.

8) Yeah, it is, kinda. Ain't it great?

9) And for me, that's the best thing about it.

10) Women get aroused by the idea of lots of things they would never want to try in real life. Getting turned on by this:

Or this:
Or even this:

...simply means you are no different from countless other women out there, of all sexual orientations, who like looking at sexy pictures.

This blog is about women giving themselves permission to like what they like--even if it's the idea of another woman naked.


JenB said...

Great post!

To me, sex is sex. I don't care who's having it. It's hot! :)

I've always been comfortable with myself and my sexuality, and I've never agonized over how I should classify myself just because I like this or that.

I think it's sad when people make statements like "Two women (or men) together just isn't romantic" or "I'm straight. I could never be interested in that."

I love the looks on people's faces when I tell them that I read and review gay and lesbian romance books. It's both sad and funny at the same time.

kirsten saell said...

I completely concur, Jen.

I have to say, I wasn't at all surprised by the findings of that study. A couple years ago, if you had asked me if I thought m/m was sexy, I'd have rolled my eyes and gagged--the way many women do when you suggest they try, say, an f/f/m menage. Then I made myself try a few.

Like with BDSM-themed erotic romance, the first couple I read really didn't do a thing for me--BDSM just isn't my kink of choice, and neither is m/m. But then I stumbled on one that pushed all my buttons, from the power dynamics to the chemistry to the depth of characterization, to the author's voice--and when all those elements were in place, the sex just sizzled.

With me, it's not so much a matter of how many tabs and slots there are. It's about the story itself.

That said, f/f/m is my kink of choice, and there just isn't enough of it out there, IMO.

Madame Butterfly said...

Kirsten- love this post. :D

#'s 2&3 are very interesting. When I first discovered that I got off on reading f/f, none of those things came up for me, mainly because I'm very comfortable and secure in my own sexuality.

But of course the thoughts run through the head, "could I be bi, or a latent lesbian?"

And then what comes up for me is, so what if it would turn out that I'm a lesbian really. What does that matter really?

#6-While I really get off on f/f, I've discovered that it's mainly bi type of f/f that I like. I've read pure lesbian stuff and I have to say that the whole butch/femme thing or daddy stuff doesn't float my boat and rather turns me off a bit. So I can see that someone who reads that kind of thing first could think that that is what all f/f is like. Not so.

#8- Oh yeah it's taboo. It was probably the main part of the turn on for me. At least in the beginning. Although at this point, it's gone past that into something else. I've read so much that it's turned into something that I consider as a more natural or inherent thing with me, than a taboo.

#9- Ok this is where I almost don't get why many women get off on m/m and not f/f. When I read m/f I can relate as woman to what the dude is doing to the woman, getting her off. And it's the same for when I'm reading f/f.

At risk of embarrassment here, I really enjoy when a man goes down on me, like I think almost every woman out there does. So in reading f/f, I can really relate.

And I can relate to what the women are feeling when they are sexually turned on, whereas, I can't really relate to what a man is feeling when turned on. I can only see the results of it, but not feel it inside myself.

While I also get off on m/m, I just can't put myself in the position of either one of them, except as a doer.

So maybe that's why, like Kirsten, f/f is my kink of choice, although I wouldn't call it kink at this point.

#10. Yes, this has happened to me a few times and it was a turn off even though when I was actually being hit on, I got very turned on sexually.

I don't like someone coming at me in a pushy or aggressive manner and that includes men as well. So, who knows, if those few women who really went after me had been a bit softer, I might have gone with them because I did get pretty turned on. But I can see where someone who is less confident in themselves as I am, could be almost traumatized by that.

kirsten saell said...

While I also get off on m/m, I just can't put myself in the position of either one of them, except as a doer.

M/M is interesting in that I know there are women out there who read (or write) it even to the exclusion of m/f. I'm not sure why that is.

Is it because "man/him/he" tends to be the default setting in our culture, and that carries through even in how some women think of sex in general?

Is it the idea that women as characters simply cannot be as interesting and dynamic as men? I've heard female authors say they don't write about women protagonists because they aren't interested in "hen nights", babies and Chippendale parties--is that what they think most women are about?

Is it that some women feel uncomfortable letting themselves own their own arousal, and have to filter it through someone who is ovbiously different--who can't be a stand-in for themselves?

Or is it simply their "kink of choice"? (Which, BTW, doesn't mean I think any sexual activity or orientation is unnatural--I'm just trying to be succint.)

So I can see that someone who reads that kind of thing first could think that that is what all f/f is like. Not so.

Totally. When I read (or watch) f/f produced by and for men, well, it's strictly one-handed reading--the emotional/characterization/story component is nonexistent. But some of the f/f written by and for women isn't my thing, either. If I want to read erotica where one H acts like a woman and the other H acts like a man, well that's not why I read f/f (or m/m, for that matter). That's what I read m/f for.

Eden Bradley said...

This just goes to show you that women are more flexible than men, in so many ways. Not male-bashing; it's simply so.
Girl-on-girl is hot! I don't feel any need to label myself to think so.
I also love to see/read two men together. I love men, but that doesn't mean I'm immune to the beauty and sensuality of women.

kirsten saell said...

Heh, Eden, that's why I feel kinda bad for guys--they really are limited. But that study does explain a lot--things like the few lesbian authors who write m/m, for instance.

Thing is, men have been the default setting for sex research for a long time, and I think everyone always just assumed women were like men. i.e, if a woman likes looking at naked men and naked women, she must be bisexual. It's nice to finally have someone come out and say it isn't so.

But because women can get turned on by all kinds of things while men are more limited in what arouses them, when content is aimed at both men and women, it's the man's preferences that largely hold sway--because he's the most likely to be offended by something that is not chosen specifically to appeal to him. Hence the prevalence of female images on covers of het erotica--which is aimed at a het male and female readership--while het erotic romance (targeting females) has mostly man-titty on the covers.

It really is amazing how the market followed these specific patterns, even before there was any research to back it up.