Why “Lesbians Touch Penis for the First Time” contributes to lesbian erasure.

Lesbians Touch Penis for the First Time—Entirely Missing the Point of Lesbianism

Lesbians Touch Penis for the First Time—Entirely Missing the Point of Lesbianism

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Jan. 4 2016 6:43 PM

Lesbians Touch Penis, Get Erased Yet Again

An unnecessary encounter.

Still from video.

There is a video bouncing around the queer Internet today of a handful of self-identified lesbians grasping a handful (or so) of a gay man's penis. Since the video is on YouTube, the penis-in-question is blurred out (sorry!), but the lesbians—including video creators/singers/real-life couple Bria and Chrissy—and their OMG reactions remain entirely visible. The point of the segment is, I think, to take part in the current viral video vogue for “Watch Certain Group Do Thing Not Normally Associated With Said Group”—hence the title, “Lesbians Touch Penis for the First Time.” And for that, it’s amusing enough. These presumably “gold star” lesbians discover that flaccid penises are totally weird and fun to describe and analogize with food.

On this, the ladies and I agree. But I do have qualms about how this video is functioning among viewers. The video participants have good intentions: cross-cultural curiosity, appreciation for the range of human form, two minutes or so of YouTube silliness. But the headlines and online discussion around the video feel a lot like a thing lesbians do not need more of—namely, erasure. Given that a full-blown Cate Blanchett ravishment offensive was apparently required to make even liberals notice the existence of lesbian desire in the second decade of the 21st century, it seems off-message to yet again define lesbians in relation to penis rather than on their own terms. Lesbianism is not a charmingly peculiar lack of interest in or fear of male sex organs; indeed, being lesbian isn’t about men at all! It’s an affirmative, legitimate-on-its-own attraction to women and women-built social worlds and political philosophies apart from men. And of course, it’s the wider culture’s profound inability to believe that lesbians do not want to touch penis that has led to hostility against—if not a willful ignorance of—lesbians over the years.

Again, I get that this is a light-hearted clip. But lesbians are interesting and entertaining on their own terms! They shouldn’t have to literally take hold of the phallus to grab our attention—the efficacy of that tactic offline notwithstanding.

Previously on Outward:

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate associate editor. He covers life, culture, and LGBTQ issues.