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English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

The Lesbian's Guide to Bryn Mawr

Jill Neustel

"It's six in the morning. How did it get so late? Was I just asleep? I don't think so... Maybe I was. I didn't dream anything. Wait, what's that sound? Ani, dear girl, you've fallen from grace. Oh, hold on for a second! Where am I? And who's this? OK, OK, so, these walls are cement. And the ceiling is too. Erdman. How the hell did I get into Erdman? I live in Brecon... OH! This is Viv! The cute blonde femme who was eyeing me all night... Don't I have a class with her? Right. Spanish. But how did I end up naked in Erdman with Viv?"

Unlike the straight community, the population of queerdom is defined by sex. The most basic defining characteristic of lesbianism is that they are women who have sex with other women. For straight girls, it usually goes without saying that when they have sex it is with men, but that fact is not what defines them in the eye of the beholder. However, with lesbians, the common quality that unites the group is sex with other women, and this is what outsiders tend to key in on rather than, for example, personality traits. The same goes for gay men. That which makes them similar is sex with other men.

Apart from these basic guidelines, though, the discussion of sex is quite similar for the queer population and for the straight population. Sex acts have the same basic names across the populations. (It is quite necessary to acknowledge phrases that are generally derogatory or colloquial, but most of those will not be explored within this paper.) Cunilingus is generally called "eating out" regardless of the sexual orientation of the speaker. Also, fellatio commonly comes up in conversation as a "blow job". These are two of many sex acts, and they are in no way the boundaries of sexual encounters.

When lesbians speak of "sex", they generally are referring to an act between two people that aims to result in orgasm, just as in the case of heterosexual sex. The sex act between women may or may not include penetration, but it is still considered sex. While straight sex commonly implies the penetration of a penis into a vagina, lesbian sex is more open to divergence from one method. From what I've learned, straight sex has one activity and many positions. Lesbian sex, on the other hand, has a myriad of both, depending on circumstances. Lesbians who use sex toys such as strap-on dildos, can explore all of the positions available to heterosexual couples, as well as perform sexual acts that do not require a penis. Largely, straight couples do not consider fellatio or cunilingus to be an entire sex act, without the additional penetration aspect. They are considered foreplay. Lesbians do not always have the option or desire to have a penis (real or fake) present, so they are more open to considering cunilingus an entire sex act. (I have defined lesbian sex as a binary with heterosexual sex in order to maintain a point of reference; it is not my intention to compare the two in any other way.)

Another aspect of sex within the queer community, for both men and women, is that of sexual identity. Again, the homosexual population compares itself to the heterosexual population, but that, in my opinion, is also as a point of reference. Queer men and women develop an identity based upon their gender-identifications. In terms of identity, sex refers to the biological tools that one is born with. Those of the male sex are born with a penis, and those of the female sex are born with a vagina. Within those broad terms, however, there are many genders. Gender is the group with which one identifies. There are many women who identify as masculine, just as there are many men who identify as feminine. The most common terms for the binary of identification are "butch" for the masculine and "femme" for the feminine. In some groups, "top" and "bottom" are also used for the same purposes. These categories are more prevalent in the queer community, but they also appear in the straight community. 

It has been a widespread stereotype that the queer community mirrors the straight community in that a butch always pairs up with a femme, but just as with most stereotypes, there are many exceptions to the rule. It should also be considered that within the butch and femme identities, there are many other categorizations. Within "butch", for example, there is "bull dyke", "jock", and "soft butch" to name a few. Some soft butches prefer bull dykes, and some femmes prefer "lipstick lesbian" femmes over the masculine butch. These identifications are no more than a mere comfort zone. If a lesbian prefers to have long hair and to wear make-up and dresses, she will not identify herself as butch, because the butch persona does not make her comfortable. Sex in any situation is about making oneself and ones' partner(s) happy.

"Uh, Viv, thanks for a great night! Oh, no thanks, I don't need a toothbrush. I have one in my room... You want me to bring it back with me so you can spend the night tonight? OK, I guess. Yeah, I'll see you tonight then. Bye! ...Wow, that's a toaster and a U-Haul in one night. It's weird how fast a relationship develops. I guess there really is no such thing as a one night stand at Bryn Mawr..."

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