Oh, Julie Bindel. There are things that you get so, so, right. For a minute. Before you turn around and make them so, so wrong.
A few months back, Bindel wrote an article for the Huffington Post called “Where’s the Politics in Sex?”. There are things she says that make sense. Like how we all face compulsory heterosexuality from birth. And how she made a positive choice to be a lesbian. Good for her! We really do live in a world that assumes heterosexuality of (almost) all of us. And choosing to embrace your sexuality, to decide who and how you will love is brilliant. I’ll bet there isn’t a person reading this who doesn’t think so.
Unfortunately, this is as far as the good stuff goes. If you’ve had a long day and aren’t in the humour for some good (extremely) old-fashioned biphobia and truly bizarre ideas about women’s sexuality, I’d recommend stopping here, popping “cute pictures of cats” into Google and having a nice cuppa. Me, I’ve had this gallery of cute pictures of Portia and Ellen open the whole time. You might want to do the same.
Sorted? Here we go.
Feminist or Bisexual?
Bindel wonders why many of “us” (I’m assuming she means lesbians here) are uncomfortable with bi women. As a bi woman, I’ve wondered the same thing myself more than a few times. I’ve always figured it was a combination of immaturity, internalised homophobia, and stories they heard about their ex’s best friend who had a sister who once dated a bi woman who was awful, with a bunch of bi erasure and invisibility thrown in. Bindel, however, has other ideas. As she says:
In today’s post-modern, queer-focused world, bisexuality is being promoted to lesbians as the latest fashionable trend. This has resulted in lesbian politics, namely feminism, being passed over for sexual hedonism, where the only thing that matters is sexual pleasure and desire.
Where do I start? Firstly, while lesbianism and feminism are both wonderful things, they are not the same thing. Feminism is every bit as much the purview of straight as queer women, and is about so much more than who we sleep with. In fact, so much of feminism has been dedicated to making sure women are seen as more than just girlfriends, mothers and wives. While lesbian issues absolutely have their place in feminism, so do hundreds of other things.
Now let’s talk about sexual pleasure and desire. Correct me if I’m wrong, but when it comes to sexual orientations, aren’t those really important? I’m not a queer woman because I politically think that women are great, or because I admire women, or because I want to spend time in social spaces defined by women. I’m a queer woman because I desire women! Because women turn my head, because I get ridiculous crushes on women and sometimes fall head over heels in love. Owning our desires, speaking up and naming them and saying that these desires is important isn’t something to be dismissed as hedonism.
Bisexuality is sold to heterosexual women as some type of recreational activity far from their “natural home” of straight sex. It is seen as “temporary lesbianism.
Here, she has a point. This is a thing! Bisexuality is dismissed by massive swathes of the media and of our society. That’s messed up, isn’t it? It’s a pity that Bindel can’t see that the problem here isn’t bisexuals, but perceptions of bisexuality.
But then she goes completely off the rails:
It is more à la mode to have sex with a man if you are a lesbian than if you’re a straight woman, who is merely doing what she is expected to do “naturally.” Lesbians having heterosexual sex are seen as transgressive, when in fact they are simply reverting to a traditional way of being a woman.
Now, I won’t say that I’ve never heard this one before. I’ll bet you all have. It normally seems to happen at a certain hour of the evening in public houses of a heterosexual persuasion. Some charming young bachelor who’s probably a pint or three past his prime comes to the entirely unprecedented conclusion that the only such thing as a lesbian is a woman who hasn’t met him yet. I’m not sure why Bindel, who claims to be a feminist, is making arguments reminiscent of that guy.
All ya need is a good ride
Is it annoying when people say that lesbians should give het sex a go? Absolutely. But sexuality’s not always black and white. While there are many lesbians out there who go through their entire lives without fancying a guy, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. If a lesbian woman meets a guy who makes her tummy do backflips and if the feeling’s mutual, should we really be poo-poohing her desires as “reverting to a traditional way of being a woman”?
Here’s the thing. Being a queer woman is seen as transgressive. Being straight is, I guess, seen as being more ‘traditional’. But those aren’t the reasons why we’re queer or straight. We’re queer and we’re straight because of desire, which is the one thing that traditionally hasn’t been encouraged of women. If tomorrow the world decided that being straight was transgressive and all of us queermos were the traditionalists, it wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference to my sexuality. I still love who I love.
I’m not sure what this has to do with bi-identified women, though. Except that I guess Bindel doesn’t see us as transgressive enough. But I’m not with my partner to be transgressive. I’ve never dated anyone for the sake of transgression. I date people because I think they’re the bees knees, because they make my knees go wobbly, because I think they’re the hottest thing since particularly steamy sliced bread.
For bisexual women living under the tyranny of sexism, choosing to be lesbian is a liberatory act… if bisexual women had an ounce of sexual politics, they would stop sleeping with men.
Wow. Um. Wow.
I’m not sure how bi women’s liberation is in pretending to be lesbians. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to be ‘liberated’ by sublimating many of our desires, re-closeting ourselves and denying ourselves love if it happens to come in her idea of the ‘wrong’ package. Of course, in Bindel’s world being a lesbian or bisexual doesn’t seem to be about love. It’s about patriarchy and politics and tyranny.
I don’t deny that sexism exists, or that women can sometimes get a raw deal in relationships. But my politics- my sexual politics is about working towards a world where women’s choices and women’s desires are acknowledged and respected. Where we can all be proud of who we are and who we love. I want a world where nobody cares about the gender of the person I walk down the street holding hands with, or make a home with, or have a fluttery daydreamy crush on. That’s my politics. That’s my liberation.