When Real Lesbian Sex Becomes Exploitation

By: Grace Moon | August 3, 2010

Apparently the L in the Real L Word stands for Lez-ploitation. Last Sunday, Showtime aired the infamous “strap-on” scene in The Real L Word.

Apparently the L in the Real L Word stands for Lez-ploitation. Last Sunday, Showtime aired the infamous “strap-on” scene in The Real L Word. Since many of us have stopped watching (or never began watching), here’s what I’ve gleaned from autostraddle (the only lez site who seems to be keeping track):

Whitney (the dreadlocked cast member of TRLW) strapped it on and banged Romi (non-cast member, sexual partner). The two were “extremely intoxicated” from a party and the cameras naturally followed them into Whitney’s bedroom and they did it. I assume there were careful cutaways with no dildo penetration shots, but from the bit that I get, viewers are actually watching these two fuck.

Okay lets fucking stop right here. Here is my first question:
If these were straight people would we be seeing this up close and personal view of a man and a woman banging?
This belies more questions for me. Is it because these are two women and the straight world doesn’t consider it sex without a bio-penis in the room? Perhaps if there were a cigar it is sex. Since even the lesbians on TRLW (or editing the TRLW ) have no idea what sex is, did they also not consider this real sex?

After Romi sobered up, she told autostraddle: “I’m not part of the main 6 cast members, I have no power whatsoever in what airs, so having it removed from the episode was not an option and that is hurtful – because it is ME out there. Do I regret mine and Whitney’s actions – no. We’re two adults comfortable with our sexuality. Am I upset that it is in the public eye – yes.”

I don’t fault Romi for accidentally letting her inebriation get the best of her. Suddenly realizing your fuck-up stays forever on cable and the internets sucks hard. Forget the booze, it seems like the presence of a camera is an intoxicant in itself. Last year when I went on the cattle call for Magic Elves’ Work of Art, a producer lining up all the artists before the judges told us, “Be yourself, but just make it bigger!”

An exaggerated version of oneself… Oh yeah it’s a minstrel show, I forgot! Go on, go play your big bad lesbian self — you can even do it in white-face! And cut! More Cock please.

Under the guise of “telling lesbian stories” I wonder just what stories are being told here? As far as anyone can tell, the stories selected out of the real lives of these women are so banal, materialistic (Nikki Weiss’ response to us seemed to indicate there is a lot more going on in the lives of these women than what has been meeting our eye), and worst of all, the editors have relied on shlock shock to get viewers and/or press.

Apparently the cast and producers were on a press junket to promote the “strap-on” episode appearing at a Television Critics Association presentation. Afterellen writes, “It seems as if they were out to promote this specific episode, which is likely the one focused at the Dinah Shore.” Cast member Rose is quoted saying, “Episode 7 will make up for 1 through 6 not having shock value. There’s one word for it: Epic.”

Why am I still bitching about all of this? Why does this all still irritate me?

Because, this is how lesbians are being represented to the world! Right now we have The Kids Are All Right, a well-done “realist” fictional narrative about a sex-less middle-aged lesbian couple, coping with life. And we have a reality series portraying six “real” West Hollywood lesbians promulgating what lesbians do and don’t do, what they know and don’t know — in life and in bed.

I resisted the negative analysis of the Kids Are All Right because the movie is done so well and with such expertise. The Prof sent me this review by the queer academic Jack Halberstam. If you are a thinking queer, it’s worth a read.

At the other end of the spectrum we have TRLW, which has served to trivialize our lifestyles. From the bigger perspective what we have is a desexualized demographic. Lesbians are either un-sexy sexless women or they are hyper-sexualized to the point of superficiality and caricature. What is the problem with our sexuality, I ask? Is the male penis so fragile that we have to trivialize the female cock, or refrain from sex altogether?

Beyond the guise of “story telling” I ask you, does this set our visibility, or more importantly the understanding or our culture forward or backward? Really, I want to know.

Grace Moon

Founder and Editor for Velvetpark Media