'I’m not homophobic – I love watching girls make out.' Unfortunately, a guy has said this to me.
Why, in this day and age, do so many female x female relationships revolve around the male gaze? Annoyingly often, the guys are happy to see two girls getting it on, but not as a sense of support for the LGBTQA+ community, but rather because they get to watch. They grin through messy sips from their beer cans, drooling away as if my sexuality – my identity – is a show for them.
There is nothing wrong with somebody wanting to experiment. There is nothing wrong with somebody wanting to have a one night stand or try out something new. As long as participants are on the same page, and everyone’s cool with it, letting loose isn’t a crime. But it’s damaging when that’s all same sex relationships are seen as. A drunken one-nighter that can never be anything more serious.
The over sexualisation of female x female relationships causes them to be fetishized. Heterosexual relationships are pretty prevalent throughout any typical upbringing – we see them on the TV, within our families, and everyday life. But same sex couples? God no – we can’t let the children see that! It’s inappropriate.
I’m no relationship guru, but I know there’s more to a couple than their sex life. Spending time together, building a friendship, blah blah blah. But these extra aspects – the everyday, subtle things – are so overlooked in same sex couples. Our society doesn’t get much further than the sexual side of these relationships, which doesn’t present a female couple as sustainable. It’s just a phase. It’s just a window in your life where you were having fun – nothing more.
This weekend, I went to Pride in my hometown. There were all sorts of people there, varying in genders, sexualities, races and so on. One thing everyone did share, however, was that they were happy. Everything seemed so normal, and that’s how it should be. I saw a female couple queuing up at the ice-cream van, who must have been in their 60s. For all I know, they could have been together for years. And yet, coverage wise, I wouldn’t say they’re presented as a particularly significant part of the LGBTQA+ community.
Any female x female relationships shown in the media tend to be young and feminine. They’ve got to be sexy. Basically, they’ve got to be the kind of girl a guy would still enjoy watching.
Chances are, you’ve heard Rita Ora’s new song Girls. Now this is a prime example. I will start by saying that I believe Rita Ora meant no harm by this song. She’s celebrating the fact that it’s alright for girls to kiss other girls. Getting some LGBTQA+ content in mainstream media: that’s what I like to hear. But perhaps she didn’t do this in the best way.
The song suggests that Rita Ora is bisexual, with lyrics such as “I’m open-minded/I’m fifty fifty and I’m never gonna hide it.” But despite that, I wouldn’t say the representation of queer women was particularly complimentary in this song.
“Last night, yeah, we got with the dude/I saw him, he was looking at you” just helps to paint female relationships as nothing more than eye candy for men. Maybe she’s not doing it for your attention. Maybe she doesn’t want you to join in. Maybe she just likes girls. Perhaps this male orientated perspective had something to do with the six male writers behind this song.
A number of queer singers, such as Kehlani and Hayley Kiyoko, have commented on the song, accusing it of exploiting bisexuality. On her Instagram, Hayley Kiyoko wrote that Girls, “fuels the male gaze while marginalizing the idea of women loving women.” In reference to the song’s lyrics, “red wine, I just wanna kiss girls,” Kiyoko also added, “I don’t need wine to kiss girls; I’ve loved women my entire life. This type of message is dangerous because it completely belittles and invalidates the very pure feelings of the entire community.” She’s got a point.
Rita Ora has since apologised, while also explaining that 'Girls was written to represent my truth and is an accurate account of a very real and honest experience in my life.' Rather than pointing all the fingers at her, at a time when she was sharing her bisexual experiences in a community which should be welcoming, it’s important to remember that while Rita Ora is part of the problem, it’s much bigger than her.
Queer music should support the LGBTQA+ community, enhancing it as a safe space for girls who like girls. This isn’t just a money-making opportunity in a misogynistic music industry, as queer relationships are painted as the latest edgy trend.
Female x female relationships are being portrayed as fleeting, rebellious experiences, and not a lot more than that. Anyone feeling quirky and experimental suddenly feels included – and of course, support should be there for anyone who wants it. But that shouldn’t undermine the fact that this is a safe space for queer people. It’s not just aimed at some straight girl who kissed another girl after a Sambuca shot.
Nobody is out to get anyone – this is about forming a community rather than enemies. Just remember the big picture. While people are constantly trying to validate and normalise female x female relationships, don’t be on the side trying to bring them down.