Lesbians and monosexual privilege – as if!

I came across a new concept last year – that of monosexuality.

The idea is that monosexuality is attraction to only people of one sex. So for women this is attraction to either only men or women.

I wasn’t convinced that heterosexuality and homosexuality with their entirely different relationships to power were analogous enough to justify being conflated like this. The social meaning of being heterosexual and conforming to our expected norms is not the same as being a lesbian, a woman who by definition is not centring a man in her life. Hesitations over the concept notwithstanding, I kept reading.

It turns out there is also a a concept of monosexual privilege* which goes further than merely naming the sexual attraction to a single sex – it explicitly frames monosexuality as a negative and an oppressive construct.

There is even a monosexual privilege checklist.

While there may well be problems faced by bi/pansexual people, the framing of them under the term monosexual privilege is deeply problematic where it is applied to lesbians, as the analysis confers power and responsibility where it does not and can not exist.

Homosexuality, and lesbianism in particular, does not occupy a dominant position with respect to other sexualities. That position is reserved for heterosexuality.

Heterosexuality is described as compulsory because much of our society is based on it and conformity to it is enforced. We are socialised to heterosexuality, we are pressured or groomed to be straight. Our structures, our endorsed social meaning, our media – all of it combines to present heterosexuality as the default and required.

No such dominant power structure exists to frame lesbianism as the powerful default, with all that entails, and lesbian sexuality can not meaningfully be framed as oppressive.  Lesbianism being framed as negative, as inferred by using a pejorative word to describe it, is reminiscent of the centuries of society judging that female same sex attraction was immoral, to be prohibited and punished accordingly.

Framing lesbianism as oppressive is ludicrous. There is no institutional and social power that lesbians have in relation to sexuality. We do not have any means to exert power over anyone on the basis of our sexuality, making this a misleading reversal. This framing flies in the face of centuries of silencing, violence, erasure, corrective rape and punishment that lesbians have endured for simply being lesbian.

At the same time as the term “monosexuality” sets up lesbians as negative and oppressive, it also removes our ability to talk about the specificity of our lives, our sexuality. Because heterosexuality is utterly dominant (based on male primacy), even as we are tainted and judged by the term, the frame simultaneously erases lesbians from the debate.

In addition to being framed as negative and oppressive, monosexuality is often framed as staid and stodgy in comparison to bisexuality or pansexuality, as if it were an absence of imagination or diversity, rather than an expression of sexuality. The concept of monosexuality, and the way in which it is used, appears to undermine the social acceptance of particular sexualities and their social meaning, in framing that sexuality as problematic. As always, the implications vary based on power dynamics. I do not witness men called upon to broaden their horizons, particularly not straight men, nor are women encouraged to do this except to titillate men. In practise, it is lesbians whose sexuality is criticised.

In addition to asking why we are being framed in these ways and in whose interests it is, we need to consider what the practical, not just symbolic, implications are for lesbians.

The pressure that results from this approach is clearly uneven – heterosexuality is in an unassailable position as our dominant sexuality, numerically and in terms of power. All of our institutions are set up to align with and support heterosexuality and male dominance. The spurious concept of monosexuality will only have an effect on women, specifically lesbians. The concept represents women being told that their sexuality is flawed and oppressive.

And at this point it becomes clear that the concept of monosexuality, while presented as progressive, is anything but – it is not progressive to criticise lesbian sexuality. It is nothing more than the status quo of male dominance and entitlement seeking to impose itself in a different way.

Sadly, the consequences are real. We now see women who would once have called themselves lesbian now loath to do so, now reluctant to use that term given how it is portrayed and criticised, and this erases us from within….

How can we maintain a lesbian-affirming environment for women and girls if we become so shamed and harassed that we cannot use the word or support our sisters? How can we work to develop better representation of and protection for lesbians if our own existence is under threat?

The word monosexuality is presented as a morally neutral concept used to analyse how sexuality is represented. In practise, it undermines lesbians.

So, before you accuse lesbians of monosexual privilege, please reflect on what it means and what you are actually saying…


* The term privilege can, on occasion, be extremely useful but it is overused and functions to silence debate by denying that one party has any right to discuss the topic at hand on the basis of their purportedly privileged, or powerful, position in the dynamic under discussion.


Just in case you think no one would propose monosexuality, below is a collection of links and photos on the topic…

Nothing says dialogue like a gun

Monosexual privilege – not about lesbians and gays but here’s why they benefit?

Radfem lesbians and monosexual privilege

Are we sure this isn’t just anti feminist and anti lesbian?

Monosexual privilege as gay privilege - never mind the reality of heteronormativity

Monosexual privilege as gay privilege – never mind the reality of heteronormativity

Monosplaining....

Monosplaining…..

Metonymy justifies "monosexual privilege"?

Metonymy justifies “monosexual privilege”?

The logic (?) of monosexual privilege

The logic (?) of monosexual privilege

Homonormativity and monosexual privilege

Homonormativity and monosexual privilege

Monosexual privilege - the privilege - not a privilege but a benefit?

Monosexual privilege – the privilege that isn’t a privilege but a benefit?

Monosexual privilege - mostly aimed at lesbians

Monosexual privilege – mostly aimed at lesbians

Monosexual Privilege and who can define it

Monosexual Privilege and who can define it

4thWaveNow — “Monosexual privilege”

4thWaveNow — “Monosexual privilege”

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11 responses to “Lesbians and monosexual privilege – as if!

  1. Mary Sunshine

    Ah, that’s just tumblr. Malevolence run rampant. Tumblr savior works a treat to blacklist “monosexual” “monosexuality” or whatever the stupidity of the day is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Lesbians and monosexual privilege – as if! | listening2lesbians | Stop Trans Chauvinism

  3. Um, lesbians have already admitted that this is a problem in the community. This is essentially what the “gold star lesbian” nonsense was about: any woman who had ever been sexually intimate with a man wasn’t considered “lesbian enough” by the extreme outliers who had never been with men, which was ridiculous because most of us have been in straight relationships at some point.

    It doesn’t make a lot of sense to deny that bisexuals and non-gold-star-bearing lesbians are treated differently in the community, along with anyone who dares to sport a non-approved Official Lesbian Haircut® or who doesn’t go around making a show of being more-masculine-than-thou. That last is particularly weird and homophobic, really, if you think about it.

    Lesbians need to deal with our cultural and psychological issues instead of attacking people who notice them.

    Like

    • hearthrising

      The issues you describe may have contributed to the initiation of bi politics, but it’s taken a crazy life of its own, one that is helping no one. I don’t know that more acceptance of bisexuals in the community is going to change the emergence of absurd ideas like “monosexual privilege.” There are other factors driving this.

      Like

  4. Reblogged this on eachone and commented:
    “…The spurious concept of monosexuality will only have an effect on women, specifically lesbians…”

    Like

  5. Well, I’m not-‘monosexual’ and it just sounds like the latest blinkin’ buzzword to me. Can’t even begin to keep up with them tbh. Besides, as a butch-presenting married Bi/ probably Pan-sexual I don’t really fit anywhere in the ‘community’ sadly, but would never wish to further divide it, unlike some..

    Like

  6. I have not said there were no problems within the community nor am I “attacking” people who notice any such issues. I am not discussing the behaviour of individual lesbians at all. What I am DISPUTING is the framing of lesbians as possessing “monosexual privilege”.

    There is nothing about the fact of being attracted to a woman, as opposed to a man, that confers privilege to lesbians, quite the opposite in fact.

    You seem to be alleging that lesbians are excluding bi women and/or anyone who is not “gold star”, women with the wrong haircut or women who aren’t “masculine enough” (whatever that means).

    Even were someone to be excluding women who fail some sort of lesbian purity test, which I have never witnessed, those points would not invalidate a class based analysis that looks at power dynamics and the invisibilisation of lesbian non-power.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t know why bisexual or pansexual people think monosexual people have all the privilege. Let’s think about this logically. A bisexual woman, by definition, is attracted to both men and women. That means that an OUT bisexual woman stands a 50/50 chance of entering a romantic relationship that is approved of by mainstream society and the powerful within that society. Whereas an OUT lesbian never will enter such a relationship–all the relationships she gets into will be outside of the mainstream and beyond the political pale. Now who has the greater privilege.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Lesbian allies – a reality check | Listening to Lesbians

  9. Privelege checklist-

    Number #1 & 2 – is true but it’s part of heterosexual privelege. The erasure of lesbians firmly sits in this discrimination too. Think, the L Word, so unusual it quickly gained cult status. Lesbians and bi-women were affirmed as existing for the first time in television. There were tiny examples pre-dating only.

    #3 – yes, again part of hetero privelege and male privelege. All non-het women are treated as confused.

    #4. Absolutely true. Bisexuals are still in the closet for the most part. We tend to let others assume based on who we’re seeing or who our friends are. But, I really don’t see how this is the fault of lesbians. I would see this as the fault of homophobia, porn and pop culture.

    #5 Is again conflating het privelege with homophobic discrimination. Lesbians aren’t automatically accepted. Bi women when paired with a male are more accepted than lesbians, though orientation may be misunderstood as het at the time.

    #6 Lesbians may also be treated in a pornified manner upon disclosure. Though, I think bi-women are treated as the source of all male fantasy threesomes. I’ve, personally, been ‘invited’ to so many threesomes that I lost count. It’s in the triple digits!

    #7 This too, is part of homophobia. Gay men are automatically assumed to be having unprotected anal with every other gay man they ever meet. Lesbians are automatically assumed to be just good friends. Bi folks are automatically assumed to be up for it woth anyone. We all face this one in one way or another.

    #8 Irrelevant in my opinion. If people assume hetero or homo, so what? Who are they to me? Friends will know.

    #9 To some extent yes. But bi women can pass in the het world very easily. This is a 50/50 privilege/discrimination. It’s biphobia as a branch of homophobia – the ‘assumed straight’ subset of discrimination that effects gay and bi but in different ways

    #10. Passing is a privelege which can be used to ones advantage. I use it a lot! And I don’t much care how others judge that.

    #11 Wtf? Trans and pan are calling Lesbians and Bi-women bigots, transphobic and panphobic. It’s why I align with and support my lesbian sisters so strongly. We have the right to say no. And we retain that right without having to give a reason.

    #12 Many won’t know about the trans and pan bullying of bi-women on a political level. They say our attractions are ‘cis’ because we’re phobic. They translate this to bi-womens politics being different to pan-womens politics. They say we’re attracted to everyone but tefuse gender-queer and trans out of political bigotry and hatred. It’s on par with lesbian erasure by the same assholes trying to force trans on lesbians.

    #13 I’ve personally never been thrown out or refused entry at a lesbian event, when clearly stating I’m bi. Ones inner feeling of belonging isn’t other peoples problem. If I was refused entry, it would likely be because it was a lesbian only issues based event that doesn’t translate to bi-women. On that case, the fault lays with either the interloper or the marketing of said event.

    #14 & 15 ‘Cis’ is a bullshit term I refuse to interact with.

    #16 If a partner pressures you to identify as they want rather than as yourself, the problem is, you’re with a selfish control freak.

    #17 Ummm. What? That sounds like trans issues, not bi issues.

    #18 I believe they’re conflating het male privelege with everyone else.

    #19 Polyamory is a separate issue and frankly I find it insulting to see it conflated with bisexuality. Some of us value monogamy.

    #20 Wtf? Does this dumb-f*k actually believe lesbian representation is adequate?

    #21 We’re unlikely to know historical figures orientation pre 1970’s at all, and very few would be ‘out’ pre 1990’s. This is part of heteronormativity.

    #22 & 23 Yes, true. The driving force of bi-erasure is heteronormativity, homophobia and its subset biphobia.

    #24 its quite rare that anyone includes gays and lesbians outside of pride week.

    #25, 26 & 27 This is male privelege and has nothing to do with orientation.

    #28 this is homophobia and biphobia within a heteronormative culture

    #29 Bi people have the same info on STI’s as everyone else. Just look under male or female birth sex.

    #30 & 31 Nothing to do with orientation.

    #32 Or you can let it slide in the moment and talk to the person in private at a more convenient time. It’s called being a grown up.

    #33 Or you can stop behaving like an unstable, unreliable, indecisive person and get treated as an intelligent person because you behave like one. Not part of biphobia.

    #34 Bi-women can do this too. We just need to listen first, and relate on a human level.

    #35 Heteronormativity

    #36 Not applicable to lesbians! There is no such thing as lesbian privelege.

    Kind Regards,
    A bi-woman who isn’t interested in belittling lesbophobia by reframing it as privelege!

    Like

  10. They can all go fuck off with their “cis”, “genderqueer”, “monosexual” “queer”, “pansexual” bullshit. I am with that last post..older and grey, out since 21, fir 3 and a half decades fighting the good fight BY AND FOR AND AS A DYKE/Lesbian just to see all.or so many of our Butches and baby Butches transition to “men”, or identify with them, to be pressured to have sex with bio males even if they truly are Dykes cuz its no longer cool to be Lesbian and you gotta give in to the “Cotton Ceiling”, bi/gay male and MTF predatory male assumptive behavior?

    To have been PERSONALLY threatened with rape by a “bi” man the night of my Black Belt test because I was CLEAR I was a Lesbian?

    To have MTFS AND FTMS as well as bisexual women with their BOYFRIENDS try to take over SF Dyke March and INSUST in marching in it WITH their boyfriends, as well as gay men, and expect NO Lesbian pushback?

    To have destroyed from within and without h Crown Jewel of Lesbian Nation after practically all of our other Lesbian social institutions have disappeared including our wonyns bookstores, dyke bars and businesses in large part BECAUSE we INSISTED on our Fyke and womyn only spaces as respite from male oppression, and a place for JUST US to gather that feeds our Dyke FEMALE Souls and Spirits and ability to express OUR sexuality away from male control or voyeurizing.

    No I DID NOT WORK SO HARD TO STAY OUT LOUD AND PROUD all these years as a DykeAmazon and advocate for Dykes/Lesbians all these years just to see iur communities tirn from within and without so males can have access to our Lesbian Beings and sexuality and be even further reviled BECAUSE WE REFUSE TO ALLOW MALE ACCESS to our most personal intimate sexual, emotiobsl and even spiritual Selves!!!

    THERE IS NO WAY 100% LESBIANISM CAN EVEN BE COMPARED TO HETROSEXUALITY WHICH IS CONSTANTLY REWARDED, AND WE ARE CONSTANTLY REVILED AND PUNISHED IN SO MANY WAYS FOR REFUSING MALE ACCESS TO OUR BODIES AND BEINGS!!!!!!!!!!
    -FIGHTING MAD LABRYIS SWINGING,
    -FEISTYAMAZON LIFELONG DYKE

    Like

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