Lesbianism in erotica

Lesbianism in erotica
Le Sommeil (Sleep) by Gustave Courbet (1866).

Depiction of lesbianism has been a relatively common theme in erotic art and pornography throughout history. Studies indicate that heterosexual men were more aroused by depictions involving lesbian sex than they are by depictions of heterosexual activity, while heterosexual and lesbian women were aroused by a wide range of sexual stimuli.[1] Historically, erotica and pornography involving sex between women has been produced by men for a predominantly male audience.


Lesbianism in visual arts

Depictions of lesbianism are included among the erotic frescoes of Pompeii.

Since the Renaissance, a number of European painters, particularly modernists, have included themes of eroticism between women among their work. These artists include François Boucher, JMW Turner.[2] Gustave Courbet's Sleep openly depicts two women asleep after love-making (indicated by the broken pearl necklace). Other painters include Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,[3] Gustav Klimt,[4] Egon Schiele,[5] Christian Schad,[6] Albert Marquet,[7] Balthus,[8] and Leonor Fini.[9] More explicit depictions were an important part of the work of erotic illustrators such as Édouard-Henri Avril,[10][11] Franz von Bayros Image:Franz von Bayros 003.jpg, Martin van Maële File:Martin Van Maele - La Grande Danse macabre des vifs - 33.jpg, Rojan, Gerda Wegener,[12] Vala Moro,[13] and Tom Poulton.[14] Explicit depictions of lovemaking between women were also an important theme in Japanese erotic shunga, including the work of such masters as Utamaro,[15] Hokusai,[16][17] Katsukawa Shunchō,[18] Utagawa Kunisada,[19] Utagawa Kuniyoshi,[20] Yanagawa Shigenobu,[21] Keisai Eisen,[22] Kawanabe Kyōsai, and Ikeda Terukata.[23]

Audrey Kawasaki is a contemporary painter for whom erotic depictions of lesbianism form an important segment of her work.[24][25][26]

The rise of photography was instrumental in the genesis of modern visual pornography, but erotic themes, including erotic lesbian themes, have been an important genre in art photography. Erotic and fetish photographers, such as Heinz von Perckhammer,[27] David Hamilton,[28] Steve Diet Goedde,[29] and Bob Carlos Clarke frequently have included themes of eros between women in their work. More recently, lesbian and bisexual photographers such as Nan Goldin, Tee Corinne,[30] Judy Francesconi,[31] and Della Grace have focused on erotic themes, reclaiming a subject that has traditionally been mainly treated through the eye of male artists.

Lesbian erotic themes in cinema

Although both lesbian and erotic themes were restrained in early cinema, suggestive scenes of dancing between women were presented in the films Pandora's Box (1928) and The Sign of the Cross (1932). Although lesbian themes were sometimes found in European films such as Mädchen in Uniform (1931), lesbianism was not treated openly in US cinema until the 1962 release of Walk on the Wild Side. Depictions of lovemaking between women were first shown in several films of the late 1960s — The Fox (1967), The Killing of Sister George (1968), and Therese and Isabelle (1968).

During the 1970s, depictions of sex between women were largely restricted to semi-pornographic softcore and sexploitation films, such as Cherry, Harry & Raquel! (1970), Score (1973), Emmanuelle (1974), and Bilitis (1977). Although semi-explicit heterosexual sex scenes had been part of mainstream cinema since the late 1960s, equivalent depictions of women having sex only began making their appearance in mainstream film during the 1980s. These were typically in the context of a film that was specifically lesbian-themed, such as Personal Best (1982), Lianna (1983), and Desert Hearts (1985). The vampire film The Hunger (1983) also contained a seduction and sex scene between Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon.

Henry and June (1990) had several lesbian scenes, including one that was considered explicit enough to give the film an NC-17 rating. (There was some controversy as to whether the MPAA had given the film a more restrictive rating than it normally would have because of the lesbian nature of the scene in question.) Basic Instinct (1992) contained mild lesbian content, but established lesbianism as a central theme in the erotic thriller genre. Later in the 1990s, erotic thrillers such as Wild Side (1995) and Bound (1996) featured more explicit lesbian scenes.[32]

From the 1990s onward, depictions of sex between women became fairly common in mainstream cinema, in no small part based on its ability to titillate heterosexual male audience members. Females kissing has increasingly been shown in films and on television, often as a way to include a sexually arousing element in a film without actually having the film gain a more restrictive rating by depicting sex or nudity.

Lesbianism in contemporary pornography

"Girl on girl" live sex show Spain

Contemporary lesbian pornography, is a prominent genre in mainstream hard core and softcore pornography, with many adult video titles, websites, and entire studios (such as Girlfriends Films, Triangle Films, and Sweetheart Video) devoted entirely to depictions of sexual activity between women.[33] Many heterosexual adult videos include at least one lesbian sex scene. In Japanese adult video, however, lesbianism is considered a fetish and is only occasionally included in mainstream heterosexual videos. Rezu (レズ—lesbian) video is a specialized genre, though a large number of such videos are produced, nevertheless.[34]

Most porn actresses perform in sex scenes with other women at least occasionally. A number of porn actresses, such as Jana Cova, Felecia, Justine Joli, Jade Starr and Charlie Laine, even specialize in this genre and only have sex with other women on camera. Though porn industry publicity tends to portray porn actresses as being bisexual, such on-screen activity does not necessarily reflect real-life sexual orientation. Some actresses who perform in these scenes are bisexual or lesbian in real life, while others are "gay-for-pay" and are exclusively heterosexual off-camera.

Mainstream pornography depicting sex between women (in both Western and Japanese pornography) is typically aimed at a male audience (though it also has a small lesbian audience), which is why it is usually grouped with "straight" porn (in contrast to gay male pornography, which is largely segregated from mainstream heterosexual pornography). There is small genre of pornography made by lesbians, such as the defunct lesbian erotic magazine On Our Backs, videos by Fatale Media, SIR Video, Pink and White Productions, and BLEU Productions, and web sites such as the CyberDyke Network.

Views about lesbianism in erotica

Several penile plethysmography studies have shown high levels of arousal in heterosexual men to pornography showing sexual activity between women.[1][35] One of these studies reported that on average heterosexual men are more aroused by pornography showing sexual activity between women than they are by depictions of heterosexual activity.[1] These findings correspond with reports in several earlier studies (summarized in Whitley et al. (1999);[36] see also anecdotal reports in Loftus (2002).[37]

Enjoyment of lesbian pornography can have little connection to feelings towards homosexuals in real life. A heterosexual man may be aroused by pornographic depictions of lesbianism yet hold homophobic views. However, several studies suggest that men who perceive lesbianism as erotic may have less or no negative attitudes toward lesbians than they do towards gay men.[36][38]

Lesbian views on sex between women in erotica are complex. Historically, women have been less involved in the production and consumption of erotica in general and visual pornography in particular than have men. Since the late 1960s, radical feminist objections to pornography and the sexual objectification of women have influenced the lesbian community. Some lesbians and bisexual women object to all pornography on feminist grounds. Since the end of the 1980s "Lesbian Sex Wars", however, lesbians and bisexual women are more likely to have positive views about erotica and pornography.[citation needed] Some lesbians are even consumers of mainstream pornography, but many dislike what they perceive as inaccurate and stereotypical depictions of women and lesbianism in mainstream pornography. Some are also uncomfortable with male interest in lesbians.[39] As of the early 2000s, there is a very strong lesbian erotic literature movement, as well as a small genre of pornography made by lesbians for a lesbian audience (see "Lesbianism in contemporary pornography" above).

See also


  1. ^ a b c Chivers ML, Rieger G, Latty E, Bailey JM. (2004). "A sex difference in the specificity of sexual arousal". Psychological Science 15: 736–744. doi:10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00750.x.
  2. ^ "Suppressed Erotic Art", Adult Industry News (website), March 14, 2000.
  3. ^ "The Love that Dare not Speak its Name: The Visual Representation of Female Homoerotics in Nineteenth-Century France" by Sophie Dynbort, Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History #1, June 2005.
  4. ^ Sappho.com
  5. ^ Sappho.com
  6. ^ "Lewd Awakening: Rediscovering a German Connoisseur of Sex" by Jerry Saltz, Village Voice, May 23, 2003.
  7. ^ Search.famsf.org
  8. ^ Vadym.web.cern.ch
  9. ^ Weinstein.com
  10. ^ File:Édouard-Henri Avril (24).jpg
  11. ^ File:Édouard-Henri Avril (27).jpg
  12. ^ Postcards.ameanet.org
  13. ^ Eroticsunshine69.blogspot.com
  14. ^ Complices.canalblog.com
  15. ^ Japankunst.de
  16. ^ Bridgemanartondemand.com
  17. ^ akantiek.eu
  18. ^ Akantiek.nl
  19. ^ Akantiek.eu
  20. ^ Akantiek.eu
  21. ^ Degener.com
  22. ^ Akantiek.nl
  23. ^ Akantiek.nl
  24. ^ Audrey-kawasaki.com
  25. ^ I18.photobucket.com
  26. ^ Farm1.static.flickr.com
  27. ^ Arnet.com
  28. ^ I.biblio.com
  29. ^ Stevedietgoedde.com
  30. ^ Susiebright.blogs.com
  31. ^ Judyfrancesconi.com
  32. ^ "Sex in Cinema: The Greatest and Most Influential Erotic/Sexual Films and Scenes" by Tim Dirks, The Best Films of All Time: A Primer of Cinematic History (website), 1996–2007. Accessed October 19, 2006.
  33. ^ Rutter, Jared (2008-07). "The New Wave of Lesbian Erotica". AVN: pp. 80–88. http://www.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/index.php?i=4724&m=&l=&p=82. Retrieved 2009-12-22. 
  34. ^ "Japanese AV FAQ" by Tetsuwan Atom, Lezlovevideo.com, 2001. Accessed June 14, 2006.
  35. ^ Adams HE, Wright LW Jr, Lohr BA. (1996). Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal? Journal of Abnormal Psychology 105(3):440–445. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.105.3.440.
  36. ^ a b Whitley BE Jr, Wiederman MW, Wryobeck JM. (1999). "Correlates of heterosexual men's eroticization of lesbianism". Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality 11: 25–41. doi:10.1300/J056v11n01_02.
  37. ^ Loftus, David. 2002. Watching Sex: How Men Really Respond to Pornography. ISBN 1-56025-360-6Kustritz, Anne (September 2003). "Slashing the Romance Narrative". The Journal of American Culture 26 (3): 371–384. doi:10.1111/1542-734X.00098. 
  38. ^ Louderback LA, Whitely BE Jr. (1997). "Perceived erotic value of homosexuality and sex-role attitudes as mediators of sex differences in heterosexual college students' attitudes toward lesbians and gay men". Journal of Sex Research 34: 175–182. (JSTOR link).
  39. ^ Bright, Susie. 1992. "Men who love lesbians (who don't care for them too much)". In: Susie Bright's Sexual Reality: A Virtual Sex World Reader. pp 93–98. ISBN 0-939416-58-1.

Further reading

Lesbianism in visual arts

  • Bonnet, Marie-Jo. (2000). Les Deux Amies: Essai sur le couple de femmes dans l'art. Paris: Editions Blanche. ISBN 2-911621-94-8

Views about lesbianism in erotica

  • Bunch, Charlotte. (1982) Lesbianism and erotica in pornographic America. In: L Lederer (ed). Take back the night. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-14907-5.
  • Conway, Mary T. (1997). Spectatorship in lesbian porn: The woman's woman's film. Wide Angle 19(3):91–113. (abstract)
  • Duncker, Patricia. (1995). "Bonne excitation, orgasme assuré": The representation of lesbianism in contemporary French pornography. Journal Of Gender Studies 4(1):5–15.
  • Dunn, Sara. (1990). Voyages of the Valkyries: Recent lesbian pornographic writing. Feminist Review 34:161–170. doi:10.2307/1395316.
  • Henderson, Lisa. (1991). Lesbian pornography: Cultural transgression and sexual demystification. Women and Language 14(1): 3–12. (Reprinted: S. Munt (ed). (1992). New lesbian criticism: Literary and cultural perspectives. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf. p 173–191. ISBN 0-231-08019-0; and L. Gross and J. Woods (eds). (2000). Columbia Reader in Lesbian and Gay Studies. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-10447-2.)
  • Jenefsky, Cindy and Diane Helene Miller.(1998). Phallic intrusion: Girl–girl sex in Penthouse. Women’s Studies International Forum 21(4):375–385. doi:10.1016/S0277-5395(98)00042-9.
  • Kitzinger, Jenny and Celia Kitzinger. (1993). "Doing it": Representations of lesbian sex. In: Griffin G (ed). Outwrite: Lesbianism and popular culture. London: Pluto Press. ISBN 0-7453-0688-8.
  • McDowell, Kelly. (2001). The politics of lesbian pornography: Towards a chaotic proliferation of female sexual imagery. Xchanges 1.1 (online journal).
  • Morrison, Todd G and Dani Tallack. (2005). Lesbian and bisexual women’s interpretations of lesbian and ersatz lesbian pornography. Sexuality & Culture 9(2):3–30. doi:10.1007/s12119-005-1005-x.
  • Packard, Tamara and Melissa Schraibman. (1993). Lesbian pornography: Escaping the bonds of sexual stereotypes and strengthening our ties to one another. UCLA Women's Law Journal 4:299–328.
  • Penelope, Julia. (1980). The lesbian in heterosexual fantasies. Sinister Wisdom 15:76–91.
  • Rodgerson, Gillian. (1993). Lesbian erotic explorations. In: L Segal and M McIntosh (eds). Sex exposed: Sexuality and the pornography debate. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. p 275–279. ISBN 0-8135-1938-1.
  • Russo, Anne and Lourdes Torres. (2001). Lesbian porn stories: Rebellion and/or resistance? In: A Russo (ed). Taking back our lives: A call to action for the feminist movement. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-203-90330-7.
  • Sheldon, Caroline. (1984). Lesbians and film: Some thoughts. In: R Dyer (ed). Gays and film. New York: Zoetrope. p 5–26. ISBN 0-918432-58-8.
  • Smyth, Cherry. (1990). The pleasure threshold: Looking at lesbian pornography on film. Feminist Review 34:152–159. doi:10.2307/1395314.
  • Swedberg, Deborah. (1989). What do we see when we see woman/woman sex in pornographic movies? NWSA Journal 1(4):602–616.

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