The Dirtiest, Sexiest Profile The New Yorker Has Ever Run

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Sept. 23 2013 2:48 PM

The Dirtiest, Sexiest Profile The New Yorker Has Ever Run

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Edith Windsor, 83, speaks to the media after attending a hearing at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

If you don’t subscribe to The New Yorker and thus can’t read Ariel Levy’s fantastic profile of Edith Windsor online, find an excuse to step out of the office, head to a newsstand, and buy the latest issue right now.

The piece provides fascinating insight into the legal strategy that took United States v. Windsor all the way to the Supreme Court, and there’s some great rich people real-estate porn, but we’ve all seen that sort of thing before. What’s truly remarkable about the story is that it treats lesbians as sexual creatures: This is the dirtiest, sexiest profile The New Yorker has ever run—and it's about an
80-year-old lady with a Clairol No. 103 bob.

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Early in the article we learn that attorney Roberta Kaplan took Windsor’s case only on the condition that her client decline to speak publicly about sex. “All I needed was Antonin Scalia reading about Edie and Thea [Spyer]’s butch-femme escapades,” Kaplan tells Levy. That was surely very smart strategy, but I’m very grateful that now that the Supremes have ruled, Windsor’s “exceptionally colorful and voluble” sex talk no longer needs to be stifled.

In truth, I would’ve liked to read more about Edie and Thea’s butch-femme escapades—though we do learn that Edie is appalled by lesbians’ inability to lead on the dance floor (Thea was the first woman she met who could actually do it) and that she finds it insulting to Thea’s butch bona fides when well-meaning folks refer to Thea as her “wife.” But when it comes to straight talk about sex, the piece does not hold back. Again and again we hear about how great the couple’s sex life was—even after Thea was paralyzed by multiple sclerosis, they used the pulleys that helped get her into bed at night to facilitate lovemaking. Edie goes to great lengths to remind everyone that she was Thea’s lover, not her nurse or her friend—though she performed those functions, too. The profile even includes a couple of lines I thought I’d only see in lesbian porn: “I never wanted anybody inside me until I met Thea,” Edie tells Levy. “And then I wanted her inside me all the time.”

But this isn’t just about prurient thrills. Lesbians and old people are all-too-often perceived as being sexless creatures who couple for companionship rather than pleasure. Edie Windsor will remind everyone who reads this week’s New Yorker that neither perception is accurate. It almost makes up for the terrible cover illustration on the issue that commemorated her Supreme Court victory.

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

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