Why it Matters that I’m the Lingerie Lesbian

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It wasn’t necessarily obvious to me that I should call my blog “The Lingerie Lesbian“. Even if it seems like a natural choice now, the name still shapes both what I write and the perceptions of my blog. There are great things about my name– it’s good at catching people’s attention, for example, it stands out, and it is often a great explanation of my point of view (plus, for the web nerds out there, it’s also great for SEO).

There are trade-offs though, and ones that have everything to do with how the word “lesbian” operates in the world. There seems to be a kind of pornographic tinge to my blog’s name, for example, and it’s pretty clear that a lot of people who click on my blog were looking for porn that features “lesbians in lingerie” (in ways that poorly represent both lesbians AND lingerie).

Now, I really don’t have a problem with pornography, in and of itself. But when the word “lesbian” always has some sort of lascivious meaning attached to it, it makes you realize how much the idea of a “lingerie lesbian” is already played out. I also know that my name turns people off– while I’m not big enough to get hate messages (thank goodness), I can feel the way just the phrase “the lingerie lesbian” makes both individuals and brands feel uncomfortable. If you don’t know that feeling, you might call it paranoia or an overactive imagination– but it’s there, that touch of uncertainty, the knowledge that someone is treating you differently. And that’s one of the consequences of being so obviously and publicly ‘out’.

People act like whether you are ‘out’ is a yes or no question. It’s really more complicated than that, because in the real world, you may have to come out to each and every person you interact with. Some people will blame you if you’re not out– others will feel like you’re too out, as if you are changing the atmosphere for everyone else by reminding people that you are not straight. The politics of outness are complex: you may choose to share your sexuality with different people depending on your relationship to them and their feelings on the issue. Being out to your friends and being out to your parents is an entirely different situation. So is being out in a professional environment vs. privately.

And then, of course, your appearance changes how out you are to the general public; to the man on the street; to the person who doesn’t ask. One thing I heard when Anderson Cooper came out last year is that “everyone knew” or “it didn’t matter.” That’s just not true. Anyone who says that simply doesn’t realize the bravery it takes to tell the world, “I’m gay” or the way the silent void of not saying anything makes speaking out even harder. That’s why when Jenna Lyons recognized her partner at the Glamour Women of the Year awards, I almost wanted to cry with joy. Every time someone isn’t ashamed to mention having a same sex partner, it makes the stressed, uncomfortable pause before “no, I have a girlfriend” all that much shorter.

Jenna Lyons with partner, Courtney Crangi

I’m not necessarily being brave by calling myself, “The Lingerie Lesbian“– but I am being almost aggressively honest. I was so tired of the assumptions of straightness that follows me in my physical life that I wanted to make it clear that my sexuality is a part of who I am. Just my presence changes the conversation. Some people, gay and straight, say that your sexuality is private, that it’s not a necessary part of a conversation about fashion or anything else– I completely disagree. If I look around me and listen to the conversations, I am constantly hearing about my coworker’s husbands, celebrities’ boyfriends, some popstar’s (straight) wedding, how attractive some model (of the opposite sex) is. It feels like I’m inundated in heteronormative culture and no one sees it but me. No matter how liberal or accepting a community is, if you’ve come out, you know what it’s like to see someone’s face change, for their whole mind to shift to take in a reality that had genuinely never occurred to them. You’ve changed, completely, right before their eyes– even while you know that you’ve stayed completely the same.

Vivienne Mok

One thing I haven’t touched on is how the fact that I dress “femme” or in a feminine manner, means that I don’t even fit into the conception of what a gay woman is, for the majority of the straight (and sometimes gay!) populations– which means this whole “coming out” business is an activity I have to go through on a weekly, if not daily, basis. And if I don’t feel up to making a point about it, I somehow feel like I’m hiding something, even if there was no opportune moment to bring it up in conversation. Here, on this blog, I never have to worry about that kind of confusion or miscommunication and I’m grateful for it.

So, though you learn about me through these blog posts, you may not know everything about me. But you do know that I am ‘The Lingerie Lesbian‘ — and my sexuality is always going to be part of the conversation.

35 Comments
  1. Apart from being intelligent, articulate, and creative- and yes, brave too- I also like how you challenge different perceptions and make people see and think beyond the (mostly) “heteronormative culture”.
    By doing so you’re not only helping yourself but all of us: gay, straight, bi, male, female, and everyone in between. So thanks!!!

    And speaking of… Few days ago I sent you an email offering something that I think deals with all those seen-above issues in a very artistic way. Please let me know if you’re interested or not.

    All the best and happy Hanukkah.

  2. I for one appreciate your honesty. I continually struggle with other people’s reactions (and corporate one’s too) to my honesty about the connections between lingerie and sexuality at my lingerie blog. Wherever one identifies as, or and whatever one attaches with, in the full and fluid spectrum of sexuality, it is what it is. Why do some people worry so much about it? Whatever their reason, we will continue to use our voices too. Maybe we’ll make a dent; maybe not. But at least we’ll feel better!

  3. Not sure if this thing ate my comment or not…

    I for one appreciate your honesty. I continually struggle with other people’s reactions (and corporate one’s too) to my honesty about the connections between lingerie and sexuality at my lingerie blog. Wherever one identifies as, or and whatever one attaches with, in the full and fluid spectrum of sexuality, it is what it is. Why do some people worry so much about it? Whatever their reason, we will continue to use our voices too. Maybe we’ll make a dent; maybe not. But at least we’ll feel better!

  4. Great post and I enjoy your blog immensely both because of the content but also because I have a few very close friends and family members who are gay. I appreciate that your voice is out there for other non-straight women out there (although certainly straight women like myself can enjoy your blog too!). However, it’s so important to have role models that we can identify. Definitely continue to make your voice heard!

    Oh, and I get the whole having somewhat of a “risque” blog name (although it’s rather unfortunate that lesbian is such a strong keyword for porn whereas in my case braless makes more sense). I too have wondered how companies perceive my name.

  5. Great post! It is important to write about these things. I have myself struggled with my sexual identity and with other people’s assumptions. I think I’m bisexual and at the moment I’m married with a man. Sometimes it feels like I’m not “gay enough”, but I’m not “straight enough” either for some people. I once met a doctor who thought that bisexuality isn’t possible and I should choose between men and women. That sounded so absurd. Nowadays I’m pretty self-confident and don’t care about others opinions and their strict classifications too much. I just let myself be who I am. :)

    (Sorry, my English isn’t always too good. I hope the comment is readable.)

  6. I love this article, the idea of being out is much more complicated then popular culture makes it seem hits home with me.
    I’m bisexual, and I’m not really physically attracted to males, but have found myself in a long term relationship with one. This makes the idea of “being out” so much more difficult, simply because people can not understand what my preferences are. My friends are in the know and accepting, but my hyper religious family members aren’t, resulting in constant unease.

    In my day to day life iv’e gotten reactions from titliation to disucst when people realize I’m interested in members of the same sex. I’ve had men who automatically fantasize about 3 ways to women who are put off because they think I’m attracted to them.
    I’m fortunate enough to live in a city wear homosexual culture is celebrated, so I haven’t had to many horror fring experiences, but I certainly can relate to this article.

    I find you blog, name and content more endearing and courageous then I can possibly express. Just remember for each horrifying message you recive, you also reach a homosexual woman who embraces feminity. Or a young woman who may be searching for where she fits in this messy world.

    • Thank you so much for this comment! It’s really sweet for you to say all that. I know that a lot of bisexual women relate to this issue also (even though I say lesbian, I love you guys too) because of the whole idea of “levels” of outness. While women who date men do have some privileges that women who date women do not, they have their own tradeoffs and complications!

  7. I understand too well. It’s like there’s never really a right time to bring up that I’m bisexual, especially in a working environment, but having everyone make false assumptions about me is a. irritating and b. feels like I’m hiding when I don’t want to.

    But needless to say your blog name caught my attention right away and I’m glad it’s exactly what I thought it would be.

  8. About the coming out part-I agree that it’s not really a ‘yes and no” question…
    And yeah-there will be people who would be okay with your sexuality and some wouldn’t be (sadly) but I guess that even in that situation you can also gain strength if nothing else :)
    As for the porn part-lesbian porn and straight porn (mainly) are done to be sold on a 1st place so the “lingerin lesbian” is the title that attracts people, mainly men. The so called “2 women in bed” fantasy is quite common and the majority of men would feel blessed to be watching 2 women having sex in front of them, which is the reason why lesbians are kind of more accepted in the world than gay men are (double standard which I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT STAND).
    Nice blog post though :)

  9. Erm, so I’m really failing at this whole staying away from the internet thing. I loved this piece. I often tell myself that “There is no closet if you accept yourself completely. There’s nothing that needs to be said because it’s truly none of anyone’s business.” While I think those things are true, I also haven’t had the confidence to come out as bisexual to more than a couple of people, and I’m dead scared to tell my family because they probably won’t be able to take it seriously (especially given that I’m engaged to a man). The air of frivolity that you mention is so evident when I hear the older generation of my family talk about same sex relations. It’s like they think it’s a novelty or something, and they don’t think they have to watch their words because they think everyone in our family is straight. They have no idea that they’ve alienated me.

    I remember my mom once talking about young gay people, saying something along the lines of “how can they even know? they haven’t had the experience yet.” But we don’t say that about young straight people do we? It’s like you have to justify your feelings if they’re toward the same sex or something.

  10. HI! I don’t comment here often (actually, I think this is my first comment here), but I’d like to say this a great post, you made an excellent point. This whole coming out again and again and again must be stressing and annoying and I’m glad that, at least here, you don’t need to do it. Also, I like that you offer a different point of view on lingerie and fashion. And that you have great taste, because I love seeing pretty lingerie!

  11. So interesting, from your post….

    ” …..I can feel the way just the phrase “the lingerie lesbian” makes both individuals and brands feel uncomfortable. …..”

    I imagine that some vendors fear that their brand, lovingly built on hetero standards of desire might somehow catch some invisible Lesbian cooties and lose some of their cache or appeal withing their core customer base.

    You really are doing vanguard stuff here. It is inevitable that the barriers you feel today will diminish (and perhaps disappear) with time, buy only if someone is kicking at them.

    Keep kicking (and stroking and tickling where appropriate). I just love you and your intricate, observant mind. Caro is a fortunate woman. Always a pleasure dropping in.

      • And Oh, by the way. I looked at a recent essay on the theme of gifting knickers and in light of reading here I found that my default language reinforced barriers. What I thought was cute and engaging language just thudded, tone-deaf and exclusive.

        I did a little edit. Gender and orientation neutrality in our language does not neuter the language of lingerie or desire. Much better post here now: http://bit.ly/RULp7Z. The URL still sucks (sorry), I am not clever enough to go and tidy that up.

        I have my own battles with lingerie acceptance my dear. I really ought to be a little more sensitive and inclusive in my language. I promise to do better in the future. Thanks sincerely for helping steer me right :)

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  13. I think you’re amazing – I only found out about this blog cos of an article on Jezebel, but I think your perspective on the industry is so interesting, and I hadn’t really considered how heteronormative the industry was before this. And you’re so brave, it’s really inspiring. :)

  14. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. As 1 of 6 kids growing up with 2 mums i totally identify with this, why should people be put into boxes when everyone has such induvidual characters and styles? And why is it that people think just because you’re gay you fancy every single person of the same sex when they arent affraid that every straight person wants to jump their bones! Thankyou for noticing the fear around lesbians 😀

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  17. This is a fabulous post. I grew up around people who would always look at those who were out and say they were “too out” like you mentioned- if someone spoke about it, it was all “Why do they have to bring it up? We know they’re gay; can’t they just talk about something else?” As if we didn’t talk about our significant others of the opposite sex all the time! I’ve had the problem that people tend to assume that I must hate everyone who isn’t straight because I kept the religion that I grew up, when nothing could be further from the truth, so I had to comment here because I greatly admire your honesty and bravery!

  18. Love this post. Going to be a follower now. I am bi and often wonder how much strait living keeps me from expressing both sides of my sexuality. I am out now to my friends and while I don’t say anything to my more conservative family members i don’t hide it either, if they choose to ignore anything I say or post about girls I like then they can stay ignorant if they wish. I often times get annoyed about the assumptions people have that I as a bi person will be a promiscuous long haired ditsy teen with a craving for attention when in reality I’m a 30yr old woman with a curly hawk hair style who can count my past partners on one hand but because of my strait lifestyle at the moment I never really know just how to incorporate my sexuality in my own blogs so I can correct peoples viewpoint. And to make matters even more frustrating people act like things like gay rites have nothing to do with me since I have a boyfriend rite now, Hello! I love him but I’m practical enough to realize that in the future anything can happen and I still like women so I may have a girlfriend in the future if anything happens with him (we may break up, he may die before me after all I’m younger than him, anything can happen). So in reality this stuff actually dose have something to do with me so it kinda gets me when people try to say its nothing to do with me. I like that you have lesbian in the name cause someone has to put it out their as a perfectly respectable part of who a person is other wise all lesbians and all bi women as well would be considered nothing but fodder for sexual fantasy instead of being taken seriously as a part of someones sexuality. Yeah, in a perfect world we wouldn’t have to display our sexuality but the world isn’t perfect and the only way you can educate people who don’t know any better is to openly state “This is who I am, if you have any questions just ask and I will fix any misconceptions you have!”. But I basically have to go though the process of saying what I am and explaining things on a regular basis as well since people often conveniently forget that I’m bi since I’m with a guy rite now.

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  20. I know only too well the frustration with this. For men (such as myself) who enjoy lingerie and women’s clothing, but are otherwise straight, it can be a nightmare. It is funny how the same people who are accepting of a celebrities preferences and quirks can so easily condemn an average person. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to be worse for men. I have often seen women in stores who shop for men’s clothing and try them on with no objections; in those same stores, I was prevented from trying on any women’s clothes and/or asked to leave. Thier attitudes were basically one of a “your gay and we don’t want you here,” type even though I’m straight and they were ok with the women.

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