Lindsay Lohan, Cynthia Nixon, and (ugh) Katy Perry lead O Magazine to examine the lives of lesbians who used to date men — results are mixed.
Feministing has mostly praise for the article, lauding writer Mary A. Fischer for addressing "gender and queerness, particularly addressing female masculinity." Fischer talks to Jackie Warner of Work Out fame, who says of her formerly hetero admirers,
Many of them are in the second part of their lives, their kids are grown, they're still in their sexual prime, and now they're looking to expand and have excitement. Also, these women are attracted to the masculinity in me. I'm physically strong. I succeed in business, and they see my confidence.
It's nice to think of a "second part" of life in which women are free to change their sexual and romantic lives (except, of course, that they still face stigma, as several couples note). A little less nice is the story of Macarena Gomez-Barris, a USC professor who left her husband because he was unambitious and "someone had to care about making money to support our family." After dating some men who "were not so sure of themselves in their careers or financially," she met fellow USC professor Judith Halberstam, an out lesbian. She was impressed that Halberstam picked up the check on their first date, and once she got out of the "heterosexual framework that said only a man could provide for my kids and be part of a family," they fell in love. While their relationship does seem committed and fulfilling, it's still upsetting that Gomez-Barris's story is really another story of a woman looking for a provider — she just happened to find it in another woman.
The fundamentally traditional roles in Gomez-Barris's new relationship obviously work for her and her partner, but they also point out a basic flaw in the O Magazine piece. As sensitively as she portrays lesbian couples, Fischer's approach is still pretty conservative. For instance, she promulgates the notion that sexual fluidity is mainly the province of women. She cites the oft-quoted 2004 study in which women were aroused by all types of pornography without examining the possible social or evolutionary underpinnings of this response. When she reports psych professor Lisa Diamond's finding that many women say "they are attracted to the person, and not the gender," Fischer never questions whether most men would feel comfortable saying such a thing. And she mentions Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" as an example of the new acceptance of lesbianism.
The idea that all women are bi and no men are is both ancient and dumb, and while Fischer isn't saying exactly that, she comes darn close. Nobody would expect O Magazine to be on the forefront of gender and sexuality studies, and, like Feministing, we applaud Fischer for what she gets right. Still, we wish that somebody in the mainstream media would take a look at male sexual fluidity too. And that everyone would stop using Katy Perry as an example of how totally hip lesbians are right now.
Why Women Are Leaving Men for Other Women [O Magazine]
O Magazine: Why Women are Leaving Men for other Women [Feministing]