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Lesbianism (derived from Lesbos, the name of the Greek island that was home to the ancient poet Sappho) refers to romantic or sexual attraction between women. For this reason lesbians are sometimes known as homosexuals. Lesbians were historically known for terrorizing America during the lesbian gang epidemic, before they collectively decided to make a living in cottagecore Pinterest boards instead. Possibly, they were satiated by the federal legalization of gay marriage. We would do well to continue advancing the gay agenda, lest we provoke another wave of gang violence. Their new rural life was not taken to well by Rush Limbaugh, despite being relatively peaceful.
Historian Rachel Hope Cleves states that lesbian was used to refer to romance between women as early as the 10th century. However in early modern English, lesbians were most usually called "tribades" (from Latin tribas for "tribe"[note 1]), "rubster", or similar terms, in disapproving reference to a specific lesbian sex act. Many other terms have been used over the centuries, such as tommy.
In more recent times "lesbian" has become the most common term. A related term is "sapphic", which originated in the 19th century, and both have their origins in reference to Sappho of Lesbos. The latter is more widely recognized as a broad label (an umbrella term), while many people define lesbian as referring strictly to women who are solely attracted to other women, i.e. exclusively homosexual. A synonym to "sapphic" is "women-loving-women" (or "woman who loves women"), often abbreviated "WLW". Some prefer to use sapphic as a term inclusive even more broadly, of non-binary people as well. The terms "gay women" or "queer women" may also be used.
Although much of the discriminatory attitudes towards lesbians can be described simply as homophobia or even plain sexism, there also exists lesbiphobia (usually spelled lesbophobia; sometimes unpreferred due to invoking the slur lesbo; alternatively spelled lesphobia), which is specifically discrimination or prejudice against lesbians. Alternatively it can be called the intersection between misogyny and homophobia.
Lesbiphobia can ultimately manifest itself in violence. Many demographics are targets for 'corrective rape' (though they are not: gender-norm conforming, cisgender, heterosexual people), but it had been reported in the early 2000s by Human Rights Watch that lesbians were especially common targets in southern Africa (though it has also occurred elsewhere). This was such that, the term was originally coined to refer to this specific type of violent lesbiphobic hate crime. These actions don't just come out of nowhere, however. It has to do with ideas about heterosexuality being good or normal, and/or homosexuality being bad or abnormal. Despite this, those contributing causes are "ignored or de-emphasized" by the legal system, which in turn can perpetuate the issue. Understatement of the century: forcing a lesbian to associate men with traumatic assault is not likely to be effective at convincing them of how great(-ly attractive) relationships with men are. Also, despite the name 'corrective', rape is likely to be punitive rather than a genuine "curative" attempt — punishing a woman for existing/expressing herself as lesbian (an other who "violates" heteronormativity).
Men over-informing their view of lesbians through commercially-produced "lesbian pornography" (which may in fact utilize heterosexual or bisexual women as actors oftentimes) can be a form of lesbiphobia. It's sometimes described as fetishization — see also sexual objectification — of lesbians. In this way porn produced by-and-for heterosexuals may attempt to define lesbianism however it likes.[note 2]
In scholarly and popular interpretations of historical figures, a now-satirized tendency downplays the possibility that such figures were non-straight (a kind of erasure). This extends no less to lesbians. A contemporary saying, "and they were roommates", mocks this tendency to adamantly interpret lesbians and other sapphic women as "close friends" or "roommates" despite evidence of an intimate relationship between women.
A form of discrimination against lesbians, like any minority group, has been the application of stereotypes, canards, and tropes. In the case of lesbians, one of the more prominent stereotypes is that they are all man-haters. That particular stereotype is actually so common that many lesbians have delayed coming out as gay due to a fear of being perceived as a misandrist. Lesbians are also stereotyped as being masculine, or unattractive; likewise these have been cited as reasons for delaying coming out. About 4% among those who delayed coming out due to stereotypes, cited a stereotype that lesbians are anti-trans (as is incorrectly portrayed in some media).
- Sapphistries: A Global History of Love Between Women, New York University Press (2009).
- See the Wikipedia article on lesbian.
- See the Wikipedia article on history of lesbianism.
- "The tribe" is sometimes used within the gay community as self-reference.
- Though that certainly doesn't end up being its entire audience.
- (June 21, 2007). "Lesbian Gang Epidemic". The O'Reilly Factor. Fox News.
- Christine Linnell (July 10, 2020). "What Is a Cottagecore Lesbian?". The Advocate.
- Dan Nosowitz (August 24, 2016). "Rush Limbaugh Terrified of Lesbian Farmers for Some Reason". Modern Farmer.
- Cleves, Rachel Hope (2018-07-30). "Same-Sex Love among Early American Women" (in en). Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.013.498. ISBN 978-0-19-932917-5. Retrieved 2023-09-22.
- Joining the Tribe: Growing Up Gay and Lesbian in the '90s by Linnea Due (1995) Anchor Books. ISBN 0385475004.
- Rictor Norton (July 12, 2002). "A Critique of Social Constructionism and Postmodern Queer Theory, "The 'Sodomite' and the 'Lesbian'". infopt.demon.co.uk.
- (January 2012; updated October 2018/2019). "Case study: terms for lesbian(ism)". Examining the OED.
- Yasmine Hamou (April 27, 2022). "What Does It Mean to Be Sapphic?". Them.
- "LGBTQIA Resource Center Glossary". LGBTQIA Resource Center of the University of California, Davis.
- Long, Scott; Brown, A. Widney; Cooper, Gail (2003). "More Than a Name: State-sponsored Homophobia and Its Consequences in Southern Africa". p. 193. ISBN 978-1-56432-286-9.
- Sarah Doan-Minh (Winter 2019). "Corrective Rape: An Extreme Manifestation of Discrimination and the State's Complicity in Sexual Violence". Hastings Women's Law Journal. Volume 30, Number 1, Article 8.
- Jessica DeMarco-Jacobson (January 18, 2022). "And they were… roommates?: The erasure of queer love". The Oxford Student.
- Nikki Dowling (March 2, 2010). "9 misconceptions about lesbians". The Frisky, via CNN.
- Tijen Butler (April 3, 2019). "10 lesbian stereotypes we’ve all heard". PinkNews.
- (April 2022). "Lesbians delay coming out due to harmful stereotypes". Just Like Us.
- Amy Ashenden (March 31, 2023). "'Lesbians being anti-trans is a lesbophobic trope'". Gay Times.