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Whether the relationship included any genital component was not a matter for public discourse, but women could form strong and exclusive bonds with each other and still be considered virtuous, innocent, and chaste; a similar relationship with a man would have destroyed a woman's reputation.

In fact, these relationships were promoted as alternatives to and practice for a woman's marriage to a man. One such relationship was between Lady Mary Wortley Montagu , who wrote to Anne Wortley in "Nobody was so entirely, so faithfully yours I put in your lovers, for I don't allow it possible for a man to be so sincere as I am.

When Sneyd married despite Seward's protest, Seward's poems became angry. However, Seward continued to write about Sneyd long after her death, extolling Sneyd's beauty and their affection and friendship.

Writing to another woman by whom she had recently felt betrayed, Wollstonecraft declared, "The roses will bloom when there's peace in the breast, and the prospect of living with my Fanny gladdens my heart:—You know not how I love her.

Perhaps the most famous of these romantic friendships was between Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, nicknamed the Ladies of Llangollen.

Butler and Ponsonby eloped in , to the relief of Ponsonby's family concerned about their reputation had she run away with a man [73] to live together in Wales for 51 years and be thought of as eccentrics.

Some of it was written in code, detailing her sexual relationships with Marianna Belcombe and Maria Barlow.

Romantic friendships were also popular in the U. Enigmatic poet Emily Dickinson wrote over letters and poems to Susan Gilbert, who later became her sister-in-law, and engaged in another romantic correspondence with Kate Scott Anthon.

Anthon broke off their relationship the same month Dickinson entered self-imposed lifelong seclusion. Around the turn of the 20th century, the development of higher education provided opportunities for women.

In all-female surroundings, a culture of romantic pursuit was fostered in women's colleges. Older students mentored younger ones, called on them socially, took them to all-women dances, and sent them flowers, cards, and poems that declared their undying love for each other.

Nicholas , and a collection called Smith College Stories , without negative views. Women who had the option of a career instead of marriage labeled themselves New Women , and took their new opportunities very seriously.

For some women, the realization that they participated in behavior or relationships that could be categorized as lesbian caused them to deny or conceal it, such as professor Jeannette Augustus Marks at Mount Holyoke College , who lived with the college president, Mary Woolley , for 36 years.

Marks discouraged young women from "abnormal" friendships and insisted happiness could only be attained with a man. From the s to the s, American heiress Natalie Clifford Barney held a weekly salon in Paris to which major artistic celebrities were invited and where lesbian topics were the focus.

Combining Greek influences with contemporary French eroticism, she attempted to create an updated and idealized version of Lesbos in her salon.

Berlin had a vibrant homosexual culture in the s, and about 50 clubs existed that catered to lesbians. Die Freundin The Girlfriend magazine, published between and , targeted lesbians.

In , the lesbian bar and nightclub guide Berlins lesbische Frauen The Lesbians of Berlin by Ruth Margarite Röllig [90] further popularized the German capital as a center of lesbian activity.

Clubs varied between large establishments that became tourist attractions, to small neighborhood cafes where local women went to meet other women.

Although it was sometimes tolerated, homosexuality was illegal in Germany and law enforcement used permitted gatherings as an opportunity to register the names of homosexuals for future reference.

The novel's plot centers around Stephen Gordon, a woman who identifies herself as an invert after reading Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis , and lives within the homosexual subculture of Paris.

The novel included a foreword by Havelock Ellis and was intended to be a call for tolerance for inverts by publicizing their disadvantages and accidents of being born inverted.

The publicity Hall received was due to unintended consequences; the novel was tried for obscenity in London, a spectacularly scandalous event described as " the crystallizing moment in the construction of a visible modern English lesbian subculture" by professor Laura Doan.

Newspaper stories frankly divulged that the book's content includes "sexual relations between Lesbian women", and photographs of Hall often accompanied details about lesbians in most major print outlets within a span of six months.

When British women participated in World War I, they became familiar with masculine clothing, and were considered patriotic for wearing uniforms and pants.

However, postwar masculinization of women's clothing became associated with lesbians. In the United States, the s was a decade of social experimentation, particularly with sex.

This was heavily influenced by the writings of Sigmund Freud , who theorized that sexual desire would be sated unconsciously, despite an individual's wish to ignore it.

Freud's theories were much more pervasive in the U. With the well-publicized notion that sexual acts were a part of lesbianism and their relationships, sexual experimentation was widespread.

Large cities that provided a nightlife were immensely popular, and women began to seek out sexual adventure.

Bisexuality became chic, particularly in America's first gay neighborhoods. No location saw more visitors for its possibilities of homosexual nightlife than Harlem , the predominantly African American section of New York City.

White "slummers" enjoyed jazz , nightclubs, and anything else they wished. Some women staged lavish wedding ceremonies, even filing licenses using masculine names with New York City.

Across town, Greenwich Village also saw a growing homosexual community; both Harlem and Greenwich Village provided furnished rooms for single men and women, which was a major factor in their development as centers for homosexual communities.

Bohemians —intellectuals who rejected Victorian ideals—gathered in the Village. Homosexuals were predominantly male, although figures such as poet Edna St.

Vincent Millay and social host Mabel Dodge were known for their affairs with women and promotion of tolerance of homosexuality.

The existence of a public space for women to socialize in bars that were known to cater to lesbians "became the single most important public manifestation of the subculture for many decades", according to historian Lillian Faderman.

The primary component necessary to encourage lesbians to be public and seek other women was economic independence, which virtually disappeared in the s with the Great Depression.

Most women in the U. Independent women in the s were generally seen as holding jobs that men should have. The social attitude made very small and close-knit communities in large cities that centered around bars, while simultaneously isolating women in other locales.

Speaking of homosexuality in any context was socially forbidden, and women rarely discussed lesbianism even amongst themselves; they referred to openly gay people as "in the Life".

Homosexual subculture disappeared in Germany with the rise of the Nazis in The onset of World War II caused a massive upheaval in people's lives as military mobilization engaged millions of men.

Women were also accepted into the military in the U. Unlike processes to screen out male homosexuals, which had been in place since the creation of the American military, there were no methods to identify or screen for lesbians; they were put into place gradually during World War II.

Despite common attitudes regarding women's traditional roles in the s, independent and masculine women were directly recruited by the military in the s, and frailty discouraged.

Some women were able to arrive at the recruiting station in a man's suit, deny ever having been in love with another woman, and be easily inducted.

As women found each other, they formed into tight groups on base, socialized at service clubs, and began to use code words. The most masculine women were not necessarily common, though they were visible so they tended to attract women interested in finding other lesbians.

Women had to broach the subject about their interest in other women carefully, sometimes taking days to develop a common understanding without asking or stating anything outright.

The increased mobility, sophistication, and independence of many women during and after the war made it possible for women to live without husbands, something that would not have been feasible under different economic and social circumstances, further shaping lesbian networks and environments.

Lesbians were not included under Paragraph , a German statute which made homosexual acts between males a crime.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stipulates that this is because women were seen as subordinate to men, and that the Nazi state feared lesbians less than gay men.

However, the USHMM also claims that many women were arrested and imprisoned for "asocial" behaviour, a label which was applied to women who did not conform to the ideal Nazi image of a woman: cooking, cleaning, kitchen work, child raising, and passivity.

These women were labeled with a black triangle. Many lesbians also reclaimed the pink triangle. Following World War II, a nationwide movement pressed to return to pre-war society as quickly as possible in the U.

Homosexuals were thought to be vulnerable targets to blackmail , and the government purged its employment ranks of open homosexuals, beginning a widespread effort to gather intelligence about employees' private lives.

The U. Attitudes and practices to ferret out homosexuals in public service positions extended to Australia [] and Canada.

Very little information was available about homosexuality beyond medical and psychiatric texts. Community meeting places consisted of bars that were commonly raided by police once a month on average, with those arrested exposed in newspapers.

In response, eight women in San Francisco met in their living rooms in to socialize and have a safe place to dance.

When they decided to make it a regular meeting, they became the first organization for lesbians in the U. Inside the front cover of every issue was their mission statement, the first of which stated was "Education of the variant".

It was intended to provide women with knowledge about homosexuality—specifically relating to women and famous lesbians in history.

However, by , the term "lesbian" had such a negative meaning that the DOB refused to use it as a descriptor, choosing "variant" instead.

The DOB spread to Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, and The Ladder was mailed to hundreds—eventually thousands—of DOB members discussing the nature of homosexuality, sometimes challenging the idea that it was a sickness, with readers offering their own reasons why they were lesbians and suggesting ways to cope with the condition or society's response to it.

As a reflection of categories of sexuality so sharply defined by the government and society at large, lesbian subculture developed extremely rigid gender roles between women, particularly among the working class in the U.

Although many municipalities had enacted laws against cross-dressing, some women would socialize in bars as butches : dressed in men's clothing and mirroring traditional masculine behavior.

Others wore traditionally feminine clothing and assumed a more diminutive role as femmes. Butch and femme modes of socialization were so integral within lesbian bars that women who refused to choose between the two would be ignored, or at least unable to date anyone, and butch women becoming romantically involved with other butch women or femmes with other femmes was unacceptable.

Butch women were not a novelty in the s; even in Harlem and Greenwich Village in the s some women assumed these personae. Many wealthier women married to satisfy their familial obligations, and others escaped to Europe to live as expatriates.

Regardless of the lack of information about homosexuality in scholarly texts, another forum for learning about lesbianism was growing.

A paperback book titled Women's Barracks describing a woman's experiences in the Free French Forces was published in It told of a lesbian relationship the author had witnessed.

After 4. Gold Medal Books was overwhelmed with mail from women writing about the subject matter, and followed with more books, creating the genre of lesbian pulp fiction.

Between and over 2, books were published using lesbianism as a topic, and they were sold in corner drugstores, train stations, bus stops, and newsstands all over the U.

Most were written by, and almost all were marketed to heterosexual men. Coded words and images were used on the covers. Instead of "lesbian", terms such as "strange", "twilight", "queer", and "third sex", were used in the titles, and cover art was invariably salacious.

Bannon, who also purchased lesbian pulp fiction, later stated that women identified the material iconically by the cover art. As a result, pulp fiction helped to proliferate a lesbian identity simultaneously to lesbians and heterosexual readers.

The social rigidity of the s and early s encountered a backlash as social movements to improve the standing of African Americans, the poor, women, and gays all became prominent.

Of the latter two, the gay rights movement and the feminist movement connected after a violent confrontation occurred in New York City in the Stonewall riots.

The sexual revolution in the s introduced the differentiation between identity and sexual behavior for women. Many women took advantage of their new social freedom to try new experiences.

Women who previously identified as heterosexual tried sex with women, though many maintained their heterosexual identity.

A militant feminist organization named Radicalesbians published a manifesto in entitled " The Woman-Identified Woman " that declared "A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion".

Militant feminists expressed their disdain with an inherently sexist and patriarchal society, and concluded the most effective way to overcome sexism and attain the equality of women would be to deny men any power or pleasure from women.

For women who subscribed to this philosophy—dubbing themselves lesbian-feminists —lesbian was a term chosen by women to describe any woman who dedicated her approach to social interaction and political motivation to the welfare of women.

Sexual desire was not the defining characteristic of a lesbian-feminist, but rather her focus on politics.

Independence from men as oppressors was a central tenet of lesbian-feminism, and many believers strove to separate themselves physically and economically from traditional male-centered culture.

In the ideal society, named Lesbian Nation, "woman" and "lesbian" were interchangeable. Although lesbian-feminism was a significant shift, not all lesbians agreed with it.

Lesbian-feminism was a youth-oriented movement: its members were primarily college educated, with experience in New Left and radical causes, but they had not seen any success in persuading radical organizations to take up women's issues.

The Daughters of Bilitis folded in over which direction to focus on: feminism or gay rights issues. As equality was a priority for lesbian-feminists, disparity of roles between men and women or butch and femme were viewed as patriarchal.

Lesbian-feminists eschewed gender role play that had been pervasive in bars, as well as the perceived chauvinism of gay men; many lesbian-feminists refused to work with gay men, or take up their causes.

In , poet and essayist Adrienne Rich expanded upon the political meaning of lesbian by proposing a continuum of lesbian existence based on "woman-identified experience" in her essay " Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence ".

Such a perception of women relating to each other connects them through time and across cultures, and Rich considered heterosexuality a condition forced upon women by men.

Arabic-language historical records have used various terms to describe sexual practices between women.

The common term to describe lesbianism in Arabic today is essentially the same term used to describe men, and thus the distinction between male and female homosexuality is to a certain extent linguistically obscured in contemporary queer discourse.

Female homosexual behavior may be present in every culture, although the concept of a lesbian as a woman who pairs exclusively with other women is not.

Attitudes about female homosexual behavior are dependent upon women's roles in each society and each culture's definition of sex.

Women in the Middle East have been historically segregated from men. In the 7th and 8th centuries, some extraordinary women dressed in male attire when gender roles were less strict, but the sexual roles that accompanied European women were not associated with Islamic women.

The Caliphal court in Baghdad featured women who dressed as men, including false facial hair, but they competed with other women for the attentions of men.

According to the 12th century writings of Sharif al-Idrisi , highly intelligent women were more likely to be lesbians; their intellectual prowess put them on a more even par with men.

Women, however, were mostly silent and men likewise rarely wrote about lesbian relationships. It is unclear to historians if the rare instances of lesbianism mentioned in literature are an accurate historical record or intended to serve as fantasies for men.

A treatise about repression in Iran asserted that women were completely silenced: "In the whole of Iranian history, [no woman] has been allowed to speak out for such tendencies To attest to lesbian desires would be an unforgivable crime.

Although the authors of Islamic Homosexualities argued this did not mean women could not engage in lesbian relationships, a lesbian anthropologist in visited Yemen and reported that women in the town she visited were unable to comprehend her romantic relationship to another woman.

Women in Pakistan are expected to marry men; those who do not are ostracized. Women, however, may have intimate relations with other women as long as their wifely duties are met, their private matters are kept quiet, and the woman with whom they are involved is somehow related by family or logical interest to her lover.

Individuals identifying with or otherwise engaging in lesbian practices in the region can face family violence and societal persecution, including what are commonly referred to as " honor killings.

Some Indigenous peoples of the Americas conceptualize a third gender for women who dress as, and fulfill the roles usually filled by, men in their cultures.

In Latin America , lesbian consciousness and associations appeared in the s, increasing while several countries transitioned to or reformed democratic governments.

Harassment and intimidation have been common even in places where homosexuality is legal, and laws against child corruption, morality, or "the good ways" faltas a la moral o las buenas costumbres , have been used to persecute homosexuals.

Six mostly secret organizations concentrating on gay or lesbian issues were founded around this time, but persecution and harassment were continuous and grew worse with the dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla in , when all groups were dissolved in the Dirty War.

Lesbian rights groups have gradually formed since to build a cohesive community that works to overcome philosophical differences with heterosexual women.

The Latin American lesbian movement has been the most active in Mexico , but has encountered similar problems in effectiveness and cohesion.

While groups try to promote lesbian issues and concerns, they also face misogynistic attitudes from gay men and homophobic views from heterosexual women.

In , Lesbos , the first lesbian organization for Mexicans, was formed. Several incarnations of political groups promoting lesbian issues have evolved; 13 lesbian organizations were active in Mexico City in Ultimately, however, lesbian associations have had little influence both on the homosexual and feminist movements.

The lesbian movement has been closely associated with the feminist movement in Chile, although the relationship has been sometimes strained. Lesbian consciousness became more visible in Nicaragua in , when the Sandinista National Liberation Front expelled gay men and lesbians from its midst.

State persecution prevented the formation of associations until AIDS became a concern, when educational efforts forced sexual minorities to band together.

The first lesbian organization was Nosotras , founded in The meetings of feminist lesbians of Latin America and the Caribbean, sometimes shortened to "Lesbian meetings", have been an important forum for the exchange of ideas for Latin American lesbians since the late s.

With rotating hosts and biannual gatherings, its main aims are the creation of communication networks, to change the situation of lesbians in Latin America both legally and socially , to increase solidarity between lesbians and to destroy the existing myths about them.

Cross-gender roles and marriage between women has also been recorded in over 30 African societies. The Hausa people of Sudan have a term equivalent to lesbian, kifi , that may also be applied to males to mean "neither party insists on a particular sexual role".

Lesbian relationships are also known in matrilineal societies in Ghana among the Akan people. In Lesotho , females engage in what is commonly considered sexual behavior to the Western world: they kiss, sleep together, rub genitals, participate in cunnilingus , and maintain their relationships with other females vigilantly.

Since the people of Lesotho believe sex requires a penis, however, they do not consider their behavior sexual, nor label themselves lesbians.

In South Africa, lesbians are raped by heterosexual men with a goal of punishment of "abnormal" behavior and reinforcement of societal norms.

Corrective rape is reported to be on the rise in South Africa. The South African nonprofit "Luleki Sizwe" estimates that more than 10 lesbians are raped or gang-raped on a weekly basis.

China before westernization was another society that segregated men from women. Historical Chinese culture has not recognized a concept of sexual orientation, or a framework to divide people based on their same-sex or opposite-sex attractions.

Outside their duties to bear sons to their husbands, women were perceived as having no sexuality at all. This did not mean that women could not pursue sexual relationships with other women, but that such associations could not impose upon women's relationships to men.

Rare references to lesbianism were written by Ying Shao , who identified same-sex relationships between women in imperial courts who behaved as husband and wife as dui shi paired eating.

The liberty of being employed in silk factories starting in allowed some women to style themselves tzu-shu nii never to marry and live in communes with other women.

Other Chinese called them sou-hei self-combers for adopting hairstyles of married women. These communes passed because of the Great Depression and were subsequently discouraged by the communist government for being a relic of feudal China.

In Japan, the term rezubian , a Japanese pronunciation of "lesbian", was used during the s. Westernization brought more independence for women and allowed some Japanese women to wear pants.

In India, a 14th-century Indian text mentioning a lesbian couple who had a child as a result of their lovemaking is an exception to the general silence about female homosexuality.

According to Ruth Vanita , this invisibility disappeared with the release of a film titled Fire in , prompting some theaters in India to be attacked by religious extremists.

Terms used to label homosexuals are often rejected by Indian activists for being the result of imperialist influence, but most discourse on homosexuality centers on men.

Women's rights groups in India continue to debate the legitimacy of including lesbian issues in their platforms, as lesbians and material focusing on female homosexuality are frequently suppressed.

The most extensive early study of female homosexuality was provided by the Institute for Sex Research , who published an in-depth report of the sexual experiences of American women in More than 8, women were interviewed by Alfred Kinsey and the staff of the Institute for Sex Research in a book titled Sexual Behavior in the Human Female , popularly known as part of the Kinsey Report.

The Kinsey Report's dispassionate discussion of homosexuality as a form of human sexual behavior was revolutionary. Up to this study, only physicians and psychiatrists studied sexual behavior, and almost always the results were interpreted with a moral view.

Single women had the highest prevalence of homosexual activity, followed by women who were widowed, divorced, or separated. The lowest occurrence of sexual activity was among married women; those with previous homosexual experience reported they married to stop homosexual activity.

Most of the women who reported homosexual activity had not experienced it more than ten times. Fifty-one percent of women reporting homosexual experience had only one partner.

Twenty-three years later, in , sexologist Shere Hite published a report on the sexual encounters of 3, women who had responded to questionnaires, under the title The Hite Report.

Hite's questions differed from Kinsey's, focusing more on how women identified, or what they preferred rather than experience.

Hite's conclusions are more based on respondents' comments than quantifiable data. She found it "striking" that many women who had no lesbian experiences indicated they were interested in sex with women, particularly because the question was not asked.

Lesbians in the U. The study attributed the jump to people being more comfortable self-identifying as homosexual to the federal government.

The government of the United Kingdom does not ask citizens to define their sexuality. However, polls in Australia have recorded a range of self-identified lesbian or bisexual women from 1.

In terms of medical issues, lesbians are referred to as women who have sex with women WSW because of the misconceptions and assumptions about women's sexuality and some women's hesitancy to disclose their accurate sexual histories even to a physician.

The result of the lack of medical information on WSW is that medical professionals and some lesbians perceive lesbians as having lower risks of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases or types of cancer.

When women do seek medical attention, medical professionals often fail to take a complete medical history. In a study of 2, lesbian and bisexual women, only 9.

Heart disease is listed by the U. Department of Health and Human Services as the number one cause of death for all women.

Factors that add to risk of heart disease include obesity and smoking , both of which are more prevalent in lesbians. Studies show that lesbians have a higher body mass and are generally less concerned about weight issues than heterosexual women, and lesbians consider women with higher body masses to be more attractive than heterosexual women do.

Lesbians are more likely to exercise regularly than heterosexual women, and lesbians do not generally exercise for aesthetic reasons, although heterosexual women do.

Lack of differentiation between homosexual and heterosexual women in medical studies that concentrate on health issues for women skews results for lesbians and non-lesbian women.

Reports are inconclusive about occurrence of breast cancer in lesbians. The risk factors for developing ovarian cancer rates are higher in lesbians than heterosexual women, perhaps because many lesbians lack protective factors of pregnancy, abortion, contraceptives, breast feeding, and miscarriages.

Some sexually transmitted diseases are communicable between women, including human papillomavirus HPV —specifically genital warts — squamous intraepithelial lesions , trichomoniasis , syphilis , and herpes simplex virus HSV.

Transmission of specific sexually transmitted diseases among women who have sex with women depends on the sexual practices women engage in.

Any object that comes in contact with cervical secretions, vaginal mucosa, or menstrual blood, including fingers or penetrative objects may transmit sexually transmitted diseases.

Bacterial vaginosis BV occurs more often in lesbians, but it is unclear if BV is transmitted by sexual contact; it occurs in celibate as well as sexually active women.

The highest rate of transmission of HIV to lesbians is among women who participate in intravenous drug use or have sexual intercourse with bisexual men.

Since medical literature began to describe homosexuality, it has often been approached from a view that sought to find an inherent psychopathology as the root cause, influenced by the theories of Sigmund Freud.

Although he considered bisexuality inherent in all people, and said that most have phases of homosexual attraction or experimentation, exclusive same-sex attraction he attributed to stunted development resulting from trauma or parental conflicts.

Although these issues exist among lesbians, discussion about their causes shifted after homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in Instead, social ostracism, legal discrimination, internalization of negative stereotypes, and limited support structures indicate factors homosexuals face in Western societies that often adversely affect their mental health.

Women who identify as lesbian report feeling significantly different and isolated during adolescence. Women also limit who they divulge their sexual identities to, and more often see being lesbian as a choice, as opposed to gay men, who work more externally and see being gay as outside their control.

Anxiety disorders and depression are the most common mental health issues for women. Depression is reported among lesbians at a rate similar to heterosexual women, [] although generalized anxiety disorder is more likely to appear among lesbian and bisexual women than heterosexual women.

Studies have shown that heterosexual men and lesbians have different standards for what they consider attractive in women. Lesbians who view themselves with male standards of female beauty may experience lower self-esteem, eating disorders , and higher incidence of depression.

A population-based study completed by the National Alcohol Research Center found that women who identify as lesbian or bisexual are less likely to abstain from alcohol.

Lesbians and bisexual women have a higher likelihood of reporting problems with alcohol, as well as not being satisfied with treatment for substance abuse programs.

Lesbians portrayed in literature, film, and television often shape contemporary thought about women's sexuality.

The majority of media about lesbians is produced by men; [] women's publishing companies did not develop until the s, films about lesbians made by women did not appear until the s, and television shows portraying lesbians written by women only began to be created in the 21st century.

As a result, homosexuality—particularly dealing with women—has been excluded because of symbolic annihilation.

When depictions of lesbians began to surface, they were often one-dimensional, simplified stereotypes. In addition to Sappho's accomplishments, [o] literary historian Jeannette Howard Foster includes the Book of Ruth , [] and ancient mythological tradition as examples of lesbianism in classical literature.

Greek stories of the heavens often included a female figure whose virtue and virginity were unspoiled, who pursued more masculine interests, and who was followed by a dedicated group of maidens.

Foster cites Camilla and Diana , Artemis and Callisto , and Iphis and Ianthe as examples of female mythological figures who showed remarkable devotion to each other, or defied gender expectations.

En-hedu-ana , a priestess in Ancient Iraq who dedicated herself to the Sumerian goddess Inanna , has the distinction of signing the oldest-surviving signed poetry in history.

She characterized herself as Inanna's spouse. For ten centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, lesbianism disappeared from literature.

Physical relationships between women were often encouraged; men felt no threat as they viewed sexual acts between women to be accepted when men were not available, and not comparable to fulfillment that could be achieved by sexual acts between men and women.

Physical and therefore emotional satisfaction was considered impossible without a natural phallus. Male intervention into relationships between women was necessary only when women acted as men and demanded the same social privileges.

Lesbianism became almost exclusive to French literature in the 19th century, based on male fantasy and the desire to shock bourgeois moral values.

Reflecting French society, as well as employing stock character associations, many of the lesbian characters in 19th-century French literature were prostitutes or courtesans: personifications of vice who died early, violent deaths in moral endings.

Gradually, women began to author their own thoughts and literary works about lesbian relationships. Until the publication of The Well of Loneliness , most major works involving lesbianism were penned by men.

Some women, such as Marguerite Yourcenar and Mary Renault , wrote or translated works of fiction that focused on homosexual men, like some of the writings of Carson McCullers.

All three were involved in same-sex relationships, but their primary friendships were with gay men. As the paperback book came into fashion, lesbian themes were relegated to pulp fiction.

Many of the pulp novels typically presented very unhappy women, or relationships that ended tragically. Marijane Meaker later wrote that she was told to make the relationship end badly in Spring Fire because the publishers were concerned about the books being confiscated by the U.

Postal Service. Following the Stonewall riots , lesbian themes in literature became much more diverse and complex, and shifted the focus of lesbianism from erotica for heterosexual men to works written by and for lesbians.

Serious writers who used lesbian characters and plots included Rita Mae Brown 's Rubyfruit Jungle , which presents a feminist heroine who chooses to be a lesbian.

Further changing values are evident in the writings of Dorothy Allison , who focuses on child sexual abuse and deliberately provocative lesbian sadomasochism themes.

Lesbianism, or the suggestion of it, began early in filmmaking. The same constructs of how lesbians were portrayed—or for what reasons—as what had appeared in literature were placed on women in the films.

Women challenging their feminine roles was a device more easily accepted than men challenging masculine ones. Actresses appeared as men in male roles because of plot devices as early as in A Florida Enchantment featuring Edith Storey.

Hollywood films followed the same trend set by audiences who flocked to Harlem to see edgy shows that suggested bisexuality.

However, the development of the Hays Code in censored most references to homosexuality from film under the umbrella term "sex perversion". German films depicted homosexuality and were distributed throughout Europe, but 's Mädchen in Uniform was not distributed in the U.

Because of the Hays Code, lesbianism after was absent from most films, even those adapted with overt lesbian characters or plot devices.

Biopic Queen Christina in , starring Greta Garbo , veiled most of the speculation about Christina of Sweden's affairs with women.

The reason censors stated for removing a lesbian scene in 's The Pit of Loneliness was that it was, "Immoral, would tend to corrupt morals". After MacLaine's character admits her love for Hepburn's, she hangs herself; this set a precedent for miserable endings in films addressing homosexuality.

Gay characters also were often killed off at the end, such as the death of Sandy Dennis ' character at the end of The Fox in If not victims, lesbians were depicted as villains or morally corrupt, such as portrayals of brothel madames by Barbara Stanwyck in Walk on the Wild Side from and Shelley Winters in The Balcony in Lesbians as predators were presented in Rebecca , women's prison films like Caged , or in the character Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love The first film to address lesbianism with significant depth was The Killing of Sister George in , which was filmed in The Gateways Club , a longstanding lesbian pub in London.

It is the first to claim a film character who identifies as a lesbian, and film historian Vito Russo considers the film a complex treatment of a multifaceted character who is forced into silence about her openness by other lesbians.

An era of independent filmmaking brought different stories, writers, and directors to films. Desert Hearts arrived in , to be one of the most successful.

It received mixed critical commentary, but earned positive reviews from the gay press. In the film, a lesbian actress named Valerie, who was killed in such a manner, serves as inspiration for the masked rebel V and his ally Evey Hammond, who set out to overthrow the dictatorship.

The first stage production to feature a lesbian kiss and open depiction of two women in love is the Yiddish play God of Vengeance Got fun nekome by Sholem Asch.

Rivkele, a young woman, and Manke, a prostitute in her father's brothel, fall in love. On March 6, , during a performance of the play in a New York City theatre, producers and cast were informed that they had been indicted by a Grand Jury for violating the Penal Code that defined the presentation of "an obscene, indecent, immoral and impure theatrical production.

Two months later, they were found guilty in a jury trial. The play is considered by some to be "the greatest drama of the Yiddish theater".

A performance from The Prom was included in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and made history by showing the first same-sex kiss in the parade's broadcast.

Television began to address homosexuality much later than film. Local talk shows in the late s first addressed homosexuality by inviting panels of experts usually not gay themselves to discuss the problems of gay men in society.

Lesbianism was rarely included. The first time a lesbian was portrayed on network television was the NBC drama The Eleventh Hour in the early s, in a teleplay about an actress who feels she is persecuted by her female director, and in distress, calls a psychiatrist who explains she is a latent lesbian who has deep-rooted guilt about her feelings for women.

When she realizes this, however, she is able to pursue heterosexual relationships, which are portrayed as "healthy".

Invisibility for lesbians continued in the s when homosexuality became the subject of dramatic portrayals, first with medical dramas The Bold Ones , Marcus Welby, M.

These shows allowed homosexuality to be discussed clinically, with the main characters guiding troubled gay characters or correcting homophobic antagonists, while simultaneously comparing homosexuality to psychosis, criminal behavior, or drug use.

Another stock plot device in the s was the gay character in a police drama. They served as victims of blackmail or anti-gay violence, but more often as criminals.

Beginning in the late s with N. One episode of Police Woman earned protests by the National Gay Task Force before it aired for portraying a trio of murderous lesbians who killed retirement home patients for their money.

In the middle of the s, gay men and lesbians began to appear as police officers or detectives facing coming out issues.

CBS production made conscious attempts to soften the characters so they would not appear to be lesbians. Law shared the first significant lesbian kiss [r] on primetime television with Michele Greene , stirring a controversy despite being labeled "chaste" by The Hollywood Reporter.

Though television did not begin to use recurring homosexual characters until the late s, some early situation comedies used a stock character that author Stephen Tropiano calls "gay-straight": supporting characters who were quirky, did not comply with gender norms, or had ambiguous personal lives, that "for all purposes should be gay".

Recurring lesbian characters who came out were seen on Married The episode was instead the week's highest rated. Publicity surrounding Ellen's coming out episode in was enormous; Ellen DeGeneres appeared on the cover of Time magazine the week before the airing of " The Puppy Episode " with the headline "Yep, I'm Gay".

Parties were held in many U. Even still, "The Puppy Episode" won an Emmy for writing, but as the show began to deal with Ellen Morgan's sexuality each week, network executives grew uncomfortable with the direction the show took and canceled it.

Dramas following L. Law began incorporating homosexual themes, particularly with continuing storylines on Relativity , Picket Fences , ER , and Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine , both of which tested the boundaries of sexuality and gender.

In the fourth season of Buffy , Tara and Willow admit their love for each other without any special fanfare and the relationship is treated as are the other romantic relationships on the show.

What followed was a series devoted solely to gay characters from network television. Showtime 's American rendition of Queer as Folk ran for five years, from to ; two of the main characters were a lesbian couple.

Showtime promoted the series as "No Limits", and Queer as Folk addressed homosexuality graphically. The aggressive advertising paid off as the show became the network's highest rated, doubling the numbers of other Showtime programs after the first season.

The invisibility of lesbians has gradually eroded since the early s. This is in part due to public figures who have caused speculation and comment in the press about their sexuality and lesbianism in general.

The primary figure earning this attention was Martina Navratilova , who served as tabloid fodder for years as she denied being lesbian, admitted to being bisexual, had very public relationships with Rita Mae Brown and Judy Nelson , and acquired as much press about her sexuality as she did her athletic achievements.

Navratilova spurred what scholar Diane Hamer termed "constant preoccupation" in the press with determining the root of same-sex desire.

Other public figures acknowledged their homosexuality and bisexuality, notably musicians k. In , lang and self-professed heterosexual supermodel Cindy Crawford posed for the August cover of Vanity Fair in a provocative arrangement that showed Crawford shaving lang's face, as lang lounged in a barber's chair wearing a pinstripe suit.

Between and , Mademoiselle , Vogue , Cosmopolitan , Glamour , Newsweek , and New York magazines featured stories about women who admitted sexual histories with other women.

One analyst reasoned the recurrence of lesbian chic was due to the often-used homoerotic subtexts of gay male subculture being considered off limits because of AIDS in the late s and s, joined with the distant memory of lesbians as they appeared in the s: unattractive and militant.

In short, lesbians became more attractive to general audiences when they ceased having political convictions.

A resurgence of lesbian visibility and sexual fluidity was noted in , with celebrities such as Cynthia Nixon and Lindsay Lohan commenting openly on their relationships with women, and reality television addressing same-sex relationships.

Psychiatrists and feminist philosophers write that the rise in women acknowledging same-sex relationships is due to growing social acceptance, but also concede that "only a certain kind of lesbian—slim and elegant or butch in just the right androgynous way—is acceptable to mainstream culture".

Although homosexuality among females has taken place in many cultures in history, a recent phenomenon is the development of family among same-sex partners.

Before the s, the idea that same-sex adults formed long-term committed relationships was unknown to many people. Unlike heterosexual relationships that tend to divide work based on sex roles, lesbian relationships divide chores evenly between both members.

Studies have also reported that emotional bonds are closer in lesbian and gay relationships than heterosexual ones. Family issues were significant concerns for lesbians when gay activism became more vocal in the s and s.

Custody issues in particular were of interest since often courts would not award custody to mothers who were openly homosexual, even though the general procedure acknowledged children were awarded to the biological mother.

They found that children's mental health, happiness, and overall adjustment is similar to children of divorced women who are not lesbians.

Sexual orientation, gender identity , and sex roles of children who grow up with lesbian mothers are unaffected. Differences that were found include the fact that divorced lesbians tend to be living with a partner, fathers visit divorced lesbian mothers more often than divorced nonlesbian mothers, and lesbian mothers report a greater fear of losing their children through legal means.

Improving opportunities for growing families of same-sex couples has shaped the political landscape within the past ten years.

A push for same-sex marriage or civil unions in western countries has replaced other political objectives.

As of [update] , ten countries and six U. The ability to adopt domestically or internationally children or provide a home as a foster parent is also a political and family priority for many lesbians, as is improving access to artificial insemination.

Lesbians of color have often been a marginalized group, including African American, Latina, Asian, Arab, and other non-Caucasian lesbians; [] and experienced racism, homophobia, and misogyny due to their many identities.

Some scholars have noted that in the past the predominant lesbian community was largely composed of white women and influenced by American culture, leading some lesbians of color to experience difficulties integrating into the community at large.

Many lesbians of color have stated that they were often systematically excluded from lesbian spaces based on the fact that they are women of color. Many feel abandoned, as communities of color often view homosexual identity as a "white" lifestyle and see the acceptance of homosexuality as a setback in achieving equality.

Lesbians of color, especially those of immigrant populations, often hold the sentiment that their sexual orientation identity adversely affects assimilation into the dominant culture.

Historically, women of color were often excluded from participating in lesbian and gay movements. Scholars have stated that this exclusion came as a result of the majority of whites dismissing the intersections of gender, race, and sexuality that are a core part of the lesbian of color identity.

Lesbians that organized events were mostly white and middle-class, and largely focused their political movements on the issues of sexism and homophobia, rather than class or race issues.

The early lesbian feminist movement was criticized for excluding race and class issues from their spaces and for a lack of focus on issues that did not benefit white women.

The many intersections surrounding lesbians of color can often contribute to an increased need for mental health resources.

Lesbians of color are more likely to experience a number of psychological issues due to the various experiences of sexism, racism, and homophobia as a part of their existence.

Within racial communities, the decision to come out can be costly, as the threat of loss of support from family, friends, and the community at large is probable.

Lesbians of color are often exposed to a range of adverse consequences, including microaggression , discrimination, menace, and violence.

Category:LGBT culture. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Lesbian disambiguation. Homosexual woman.

Further information: History of lesbianism. Further information: Homosexuality in ancient Greece and Homosexuality in ancient Rome.

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Size Group. The poet Alcman used the term aitis, as the feminine form of aites —which was the official term for the younger participant in a pederastic relationship.

Historian Nancy Rabinowitz argues that ancient Greek red vase images portraying women with their arms around another woman's waist, or leaning on a woman's shoulders can be construed as expressions of romantic desire.

Although men participated in pederastic relationships outside marriage, there is no clear evidence that women were allowed or encouraged to have same-sex relationships before or during marriage as long as their marital obligations were met.

Women who appear on Greek pottery are depicted with affection, and in instances where women appear only with other women, their images are eroticized: bathing, touching one another, with dildos placed in and around such scenes, and sometimes with imagery also seen in depictions of heterosexual marriage or pederastic seduction.

Whether this eroticism is for the viewer or an accurate representation of life is unknown. Women in ancient Rome were similarly subject to men's definitions of sexuality.

Modern scholarship indicates that men viewed female homosexuality with hostility. They considered women who engaged in sexual relations with other women to be biological oddities that would attempt to penetrate women—and sometimes men—with "monstrously enlarged" clitorises.

No historical documentation exists of women who had other women as sex partners. Female homosexuality has not received the same negative response from religious or criminal authorities as male homosexuality or adultery has throughout history.

Whereas sodomy between men, men and women, and men and animals was punishable by death in Britain, acknowledgment of sexual contact between women was nonexistent in medical and legal texts.

The earliest law against female homosexuality appeared in France in The earliest such execution occurred in Speier, Germany , in Forty days' penance was demanded of nuns who "rode" each other or were discovered to have touched each other's breasts.

An Italian nun named Sister Benedetta Carlini was documented to have seduced many of her sisters when possessed by a Divine spirit named "Splenditello"; to end her relationships with other women, she was placed in solitary confinement for the last 40 years of her life.

Ideas about women's sexuality were linked to contemporary understanding of female physiology. The vagina was considered an inward version of the penis; where nature's perfection created a man, often nature was thought to be trying to right itself by prolapsing the vagina to form a penis in some women.

Medical consideration of hermaphroditism depended upon measurements of the clitoris ; a longer, engorged clitoris was thought to be used by women to penetrate other women.

Penetration was the focus of concern in all sexual acts, and a woman who was thought to have uncontrollable desires because of her engorged clitoris was called a "tribade" literally, one who rubs.

For a while, masturbation and lesbian sex carried the same meaning. Class distinction, however, became linked as the fashion of female homoeroticism passed.

Tribades were simultaneously considered members of the lower class trying to ruin virtuous women, and representatives of an aristocracy corrupt with debauchery.

Satirical writers began to suggest that political rivals or more often, their wives engaged in tribadism in order to harm their reputations.

Queen Anne was rumored to have a passionate relationship with Sarah Churchill , Duchess of Marlborough, her closest adviser and confidante.

When Churchill was ousted as the queen's favorite, she purportedly spread allegations of the queen having affairs with her bedchamberwomen. Hermaphroditism appeared in medical literature enough to be considered common knowledge, although cases were rare.

Homoerotic elements in literature were pervasive, specifically the masquerade of one gender for another to fool an unsuspecting woman into being seduced.

If discovered, punishments ranged from death, to time in the pillory , to being ordered never to dress as a man again.

Henry Fielding wrote a pamphlet titled The Female Husband in , based on the life of Mary Hamilton , who was arrested after marrying a woman while masquerading as a man, and was sentenced to public whipping and six months in jail.

Similar examples were procured of Catharine Linck in Prussia in , executed in ; Swiss Anne Grandjean married and relocated with her wife to Lyons, but was exposed by a woman with whom she had had a previous affair and sentenced to time in the stocks and prison.

Queen Christina of Sweden 's tendency to dress as a man was well known during her time, and excused because of her noble birth. She was brought up as a male and there was speculation at the time that she was a hermaphrodite.

Even after Christina abdicated the throne in to avoid marriage, she was known to pursue romantic relationships with women. Some historians view cases of cross-dressing women to be manifestations of women seizing power they would naturally be unable to enjoy in feminine attire, or their way of making sense out of their desire for women.

Lillian Faderman argues that Western society was threatened by women who rejected their feminine roles. Catharine Linck and other women who were accused of using dildos, such as two nuns in 16th century Spain executed for using "material instruments", were punished more severely than those who did not.

Outside Europe, women were able to dress as men and go undetected. Deborah Sampson fought in the American Revolution under the name Robert Shurtlieff, and pursued relationships with women.

During the 17th through 19th centuries, a woman expressing passionate love for another woman was fashionable, accepted, and encouraged.

Documentation of these relationships is possible by a large volume of letters written between women. Whether the relationship included any genital component was not a matter for public discourse, but women could form strong and exclusive bonds with each other and still be considered virtuous, innocent, and chaste; a similar relationship with a man would have destroyed a woman's reputation.

In fact, these relationships were promoted as alternatives to and practice for a woman's marriage to a man. One such relationship was between Lady Mary Wortley Montagu , who wrote to Anne Wortley in "Nobody was so entirely, so faithfully yours I put in your lovers, for I don't allow it possible for a man to be so sincere as I am.

When Sneyd married despite Seward's protest, Seward's poems became angry. However, Seward continued to write about Sneyd long after her death, extolling Sneyd's beauty and their affection and friendship.

Writing to another woman by whom she had recently felt betrayed, Wollstonecraft declared, "The roses will bloom when there's peace in the breast, and the prospect of living with my Fanny gladdens my heart:—You know not how I love her.

Perhaps the most famous of these romantic friendships was between Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, nicknamed the Ladies of Llangollen.

Butler and Ponsonby eloped in , to the relief of Ponsonby's family concerned about their reputation had she run away with a man [73] to live together in Wales for 51 years and be thought of as eccentrics.

Some of it was written in code, detailing her sexual relationships with Marianna Belcombe and Maria Barlow. Romantic friendships were also popular in the U.

Enigmatic poet Emily Dickinson wrote over letters and poems to Susan Gilbert, who later became her sister-in-law, and engaged in another romantic correspondence with Kate Scott Anthon.

Anthon broke off their relationship the same month Dickinson entered self-imposed lifelong seclusion. Around the turn of the 20th century, the development of higher education provided opportunities for women.

In all-female surroundings, a culture of romantic pursuit was fostered in women's colleges. Older students mentored younger ones, called on them socially, took them to all-women dances, and sent them flowers, cards, and poems that declared their undying love for each other.

Nicholas , and a collection called Smith College Stories , without negative views. Women who had the option of a career instead of marriage labeled themselves New Women , and took their new opportunities very seriously.

For some women, the realization that they participated in behavior or relationships that could be categorized as lesbian caused them to deny or conceal it, such as professor Jeannette Augustus Marks at Mount Holyoke College , who lived with the college president, Mary Woolley , for 36 years.

Marks discouraged young women from "abnormal" friendships and insisted happiness could only be attained with a man.

From the s to the s, American heiress Natalie Clifford Barney held a weekly salon in Paris to which major artistic celebrities were invited and where lesbian topics were the focus.

Combining Greek influences with contemporary French eroticism, she attempted to create an updated and idealized version of Lesbos in her salon. Berlin had a vibrant homosexual culture in the s, and about 50 clubs existed that catered to lesbians.

Die Freundin The Girlfriend magazine, published between and , targeted lesbians. In , the lesbian bar and nightclub guide Berlins lesbische Frauen The Lesbians of Berlin by Ruth Margarite Röllig [90] further popularized the German capital as a center of lesbian activity.

Clubs varied between large establishments that became tourist attractions, to small neighborhood cafes where local women went to meet other women.

Although it was sometimes tolerated, homosexuality was illegal in Germany and law enforcement used permitted gatherings as an opportunity to register the names of homosexuals for future reference.

The novel's plot centers around Stephen Gordon, a woman who identifies herself as an invert after reading Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis , and lives within the homosexual subculture of Paris.

The novel included a foreword by Havelock Ellis and was intended to be a call for tolerance for inverts by publicizing their disadvantages and accidents of being born inverted.

The publicity Hall received was due to unintended consequences; the novel was tried for obscenity in London, a spectacularly scandalous event described as " the crystallizing moment in the construction of a visible modern English lesbian subculture" by professor Laura Doan.

Newspaper stories frankly divulged that the book's content includes "sexual relations between Lesbian women", and photographs of Hall often accompanied details about lesbians in most major print outlets within a span of six months.

When British women participated in World War I, they became familiar with masculine clothing, and were considered patriotic for wearing uniforms and pants.

However, postwar masculinization of women's clothing became associated with lesbians. In the United States, the s was a decade of social experimentation, particularly with sex.

This was heavily influenced by the writings of Sigmund Freud , who theorized that sexual desire would be sated unconsciously, despite an individual's wish to ignore it.

Freud's theories were much more pervasive in the U. With the well-publicized notion that sexual acts were a part of lesbianism and their relationships, sexual experimentation was widespread.

Large cities that provided a nightlife were immensely popular, and women began to seek out sexual adventure. Bisexuality became chic, particularly in America's first gay neighborhoods.

No location saw more visitors for its possibilities of homosexual nightlife than Harlem , the predominantly African American section of New York City.

White "slummers" enjoyed jazz , nightclubs, and anything else they wished. Some women staged lavish wedding ceremonies, even filing licenses using masculine names with New York City.

Across town, Greenwich Village also saw a growing homosexual community; both Harlem and Greenwich Village provided furnished rooms for single men and women, which was a major factor in their development as centers for homosexual communities.

Bohemians —intellectuals who rejected Victorian ideals—gathered in the Village. Homosexuals were predominantly male, although figures such as poet Edna St.

Vincent Millay and social host Mabel Dodge were known for their affairs with women and promotion of tolerance of homosexuality.

The existence of a public space for women to socialize in bars that were known to cater to lesbians "became the single most important public manifestation of the subculture for many decades", according to historian Lillian Faderman.

The primary component necessary to encourage lesbians to be public and seek other women was economic independence, which virtually disappeared in the s with the Great Depression.

Most women in the U. Independent women in the s were generally seen as holding jobs that men should have. The social attitude made very small and close-knit communities in large cities that centered around bars, while simultaneously isolating women in other locales.

Speaking of homosexuality in any context was socially forbidden, and women rarely discussed lesbianism even amongst themselves; they referred to openly gay people as "in the Life".

Homosexual subculture disappeared in Germany with the rise of the Nazis in The onset of World War II caused a massive upheaval in people's lives as military mobilization engaged millions of men.

Women were also accepted into the military in the U. Unlike processes to screen out male homosexuals, which had been in place since the creation of the American military, there were no methods to identify or screen for lesbians; they were put into place gradually during World War II.

Despite common attitudes regarding women's traditional roles in the s, independent and masculine women were directly recruited by the military in the s, and frailty discouraged.

Some women were able to arrive at the recruiting station in a man's suit, deny ever having been in love with another woman, and be easily inducted.

As women found each other, they formed into tight groups on base, socialized at service clubs, and began to use code words.

The most masculine women were not necessarily common, though they were visible so they tended to attract women interested in finding other lesbians.

Women had to broach the subject about their interest in other women carefully, sometimes taking days to develop a common understanding without asking or stating anything outright.

The increased mobility, sophistication, and independence of many women during and after the war made it possible for women to live without husbands, something that would not have been feasible under different economic and social circumstances, further shaping lesbian networks and environments.

Lesbians were not included under Paragraph , a German statute which made homosexual acts between males a crime. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stipulates that this is because women were seen as subordinate to men, and that the Nazi state feared lesbians less than gay men.

However, the USHMM also claims that many women were arrested and imprisoned for "asocial" behaviour, a label which was applied to women who did not conform to the ideal Nazi image of a woman: cooking, cleaning, kitchen work, child raising, and passivity.

These women were labeled with a black triangle. Many lesbians also reclaimed the pink triangle. Following World War II, a nationwide movement pressed to return to pre-war society as quickly as possible in the U.

Homosexuals were thought to be vulnerable targets to blackmail , and the government purged its employment ranks of open homosexuals, beginning a widespread effort to gather intelligence about employees' private lives.

The U. Attitudes and practices to ferret out homosexuals in public service positions extended to Australia [] and Canada.

Very little information was available about homosexuality beyond medical and psychiatric texts. Community meeting places consisted of bars that were commonly raided by police once a month on average, with those arrested exposed in newspapers.

In response, eight women in San Francisco met in their living rooms in to socialize and have a safe place to dance.

When they decided to make it a regular meeting, they became the first organization for lesbians in the U. Inside the front cover of every issue was their mission statement, the first of which stated was "Education of the variant".

It was intended to provide women with knowledge about homosexuality—specifically relating to women and famous lesbians in history.

However, by , the term "lesbian" had such a negative meaning that the DOB refused to use it as a descriptor, choosing "variant" instead.

The DOB spread to Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, and The Ladder was mailed to hundreds—eventually thousands—of DOB members discussing the nature of homosexuality, sometimes challenging the idea that it was a sickness, with readers offering their own reasons why they were lesbians and suggesting ways to cope with the condition or society's response to it.

As a reflection of categories of sexuality so sharply defined by the government and society at large, lesbian subculture developed extremely rigid gender roles between women, particularly among the working class in the U.

Although many municipalities had enacted laws against cross-dressing, some women would socialize in bars as butches : dressed in men's clothing and mirroring traditional masculine behavior.

Others wore traditionally feminine clothing and assumed a more diminutive role as femmes. Butch and femme modes of socialization were so integral within lesbian bars that women who refused to choose between the two would be ignored, or at least unable to date anyone, and butch women becoming romantically involved with other butch women or femmes with other femmes was unacceptable.

Butch women were not a novelty in the s; even in Harlem and Greenwich Village in the s some women assumed these personae.

Many wealthier women married to satisfy their familial obligations, and others escaped to Europe to live as expatriates.

Regardless of the lack of information about homosexuality in scholarly texts, another forum for learning about lesbianism was growing.

A paperback book titled Women's Barracks describing a woman's experiences in the Free French Forces was published in It told of a lesbian relationship the author had witnessed.

After 4. Gold Medal Books was overwhelmed with mail from women writing about the subject matter, and followed with more books, creating the genre of lesbian pulp fiction.

Between and over 2, books were published using lesbianism as a topic, and they were sold in corner drugstores, train stations, bus stops, and newsstands all over the U.

Most were written by, and almost all were marketed to heterosexual men. Coded words and images were used on the covers. Instead of "lesbian", terms such as "strange", "twilight", "queer", and "third sex", were used in the titles, and cover art was invariably salacious.

Bannon, who also purchased lesbian pulp fiction, later stated that women identified the material iconically by the cover art. As a result, pulp fiction helped to proliferate a lesbian identity simultaneously to lesbians and heterosexual readers.

The social rigidity of the s and early s encountered a backlash as social movements to improve the standing of African Americans, the poor, women, and gays all became prominent.

Of the latter two, the gay rights movement and the feminist movement connected after a violent confrontation occurred in New York City in the Stonewall riots.

The sexual revolution in the s introduced the differentiation between identity and sexual behavior for women.

Many women took advantage of their new social freedom to try new experiences. Women who previously identified as heterosexual tried sex with women, though many maintained their heterosexual identity.

A militant feminist organization named Radicalesbians published a manifesto in entitled " The Woman-Identified Woman " that declared "A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion".

Militant feminists expressed their disdain with an inherently sexist and patriarchal society, and concluded the most effective way to overcome sexism and attain the equality of women would be to deny men any power or pleasure from women.

For women who subscribed to this philosophy—dubbing themselves lesbian-feminists —lesbian was a term chosen by women to describe any woman who dedicated her approach to social interaction and political motivation to the welfare of women.

Sexual desire was not the defining characteristic of a lesbian-feminist, but rather her focus on politics.

Independence from men as oppressors was a central tenet of lesbian-feminism, and many believers strove to separate themselves physically and economically from traditional male-centered culture.

In the ideal society, named Lesbian Nation, "woman" and "lesbian" were interchangeable. Although lesbian-feminism was a significant shift, not all lesbians agreed with it.

Lesbian-feminism was a youth-oriented movement: its members were primarily college educated, with experience in New Left and radical causes, but they had not seen any success in persuading radical organizations to take up women's issues.

The Daughters of Bilitis folded in over which direction to focus on: feminism or gay rights issues. As equality was a priority for lesbian-feminists, disparity of roles between men and women or butch and femme were viewed as patriarchal.

Lesbian-feminists eschewed gender role play that had been pervasive in bars, as well as the perceived chauvinism of gay men; many lesbian-feminists refused to work with gay men, or take up their causes.

In , poet and essayist Adrienne Rich expanded upon the political meaning of lesbian by proposing a continuum of lesbian existence based on "woman-identified experience" in her essay " Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence ".

Such a perception of women relating to each other connects them through time and across cultures, and Rich considered heterosexuality a condition forced upon women by men.

Arabic-language historical records have used various terms to describe sexual practices between women. The common term to describe lesbianism in Arabic today is essentially the same term used to describe men, and thus the distinction between male and female homosexuality is to a certain extent linguistically obscured in contemporary queer discourse.

Female homosexual behavior may be present in every culture, although the concept of a lesbian as a woman who pairs exclusively with other women is not.

Attitudes about female homosexual behavior are dependent upon women's roles in each society and each culture's definition of sex.

Women in the Middle East have been historically segregated from men. In the 7th and 8th centuries, some extraordinary women dressed in male attire when gender roles were less strict, but the sexual roles that accompanied European women were not associated with Islamic women.

The Caliphal court in Baghdad featured women who dressed as men, including false facial hair, but they competed with other women for the attentions of men.

According to the 12th century writings of Sharif al-Idrisi , highly intelligent women were more likely to be lesbians; their intellectual prowess put them on a more even par with men.

Women, however, were mostly silent and men likewise rarely wrote about lesbian relationships. It is unclear to historians if the rare instances of lesbianism mentioned in literature are an accurate historical record or intended to serve as fantasies for men.

A treatise about repression in Iran asserted that women were completely silenced: "In the whole of Iranian history, [no woman] has been allowed to speak out for such tendencies To attest to lesbian desires would be an unforgivable crime.

Although the authors of Islamic Homosexualities argued this did not mean women could not engage in lesbian relationships, a lesbian anthropologist in visited Yemen and reported that women in the town she visited were unable to comprehend her romantic relationship to another woman.

Women in Pakistan are expected to marry men; those who do not are ostracized. Women, however, may have intimate relations with other women as long as their wifely duties are met, their private matters are kept quiet, and the woman with whom they are involved is somehow related by family or logical interest to her lover.

Individuals identifying with or otherwise engaging in lesbian practices in the region can face family violence and societal persecution, including what are commonly referred to as " honor killings.

Some Indigenous peoples of the Americas conceptualize a third gender for women who dress as, and fulfill the roles usually filled by, men in their cultures.

In Latin America , lesbian consciousness and associations appeared in the s, increasing while several countries transitioned to or reformed democratic governments.

Harassment and intimidation have been common even in places where homosexuality is legal, and laws against child corruption, morality, or "the good ways" faltas a la moral o las buenas costumbres , have been used to persecute homosexuals.

Six mostly secret organizations concentrating on gay or lesbian issues were founded around this time, but persecution and harassment were continuous and grew worse with the dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla in , when all groups were dissolved in the Dirty War.

Lesbian rights groups have gradually formed since to build a cohesive community that works to overcome philosophical differences with heterosexual women.

The Latin American lesbian movement has been the most active in Mexico , but has encountered similar problems in effectiveness and cohesion.

While groups try to promote lesbian issues and concerns, they also face misogynistic attitudes from gay men and homophobic views from heterosexual women.

In , Lesbos , the first lesbian organization for Mexicans, was formed. Several incarnations of political groups promoting lesbian issues have evolved; 13 lesbian organizations were active in Mexico City in Ultimately, however, lesbian associations have had little influence both on the homosexual and feminist movements.

The lesbian movement has been closely associated with the feminist movement in Chile, although the relationship has been sometimes strained.

Lesbian consciousness became more visible in Nicaragua in , when the Sandinista National Liberation Front expelled gay men and lesbians from its midst.

State persecution prevented the formation of associations until AIDS became a concern, when educational efforts forced sexual minorities to band together.

The first lesbian organization was Nosotras , founded in The meetings of feminist lesbians of Latin America and the Caribbean, sometimes shortened to "Lesbian meetings", have been an important forum for the exchange of ideas for Latin American lesbians since the late s.

With rotating hosts and biannual gatherings, its main aims are the creation of communication networks, to change the situation of lesbians in Latin America both legally and socially , to increase solidarity between lesbians and to destroy the existing myths about them.

Cross-gender roles and marriage between women has also been recorded in over 30 African societies. The Hausa people of Sudan have a term equivalent to lesbian, kifi , that may also be applied to males to mean "neither party insists on a particular sexual role".

Lesbian relationships are also known in matrilineal societies in Ghana among the Akan people. In Lesotho , females engage in what is commonly considered sexual behavior to the Western world: they kiss, sleep together, rub genitals, participate in cunnilingus , and maintain their relationships with other females vigilantly.

Since the people of Lesotho believe sex requires a penis, however, they do not consider their behavior sexual, nor label themselves lesbians.

In South Africa, lesbians are raped by heterosexual men with a goal of punishment of "abnormal" behavior and reinforcement of societal norms. Corrective rape is reported to be on the rise in South Africa.

The South African nonprofit "Luleki Sizwe" estimates that more than 10 lesbians are raped or gang-raped on a weekly basis.

China before westernization was another society that segregated men from women. Historical Chinese culture has not recognized a concept of sexual orientation, or a framework to divide people based on their same-sex or opposite-sex attractions.

Outside their duties to bear sons to their husbands, women were perceived as having no sexuality at all. This did not mean that women could not pursue sexual relationships with other women, but that such associations could not impose upon women's relationships to men.

Rare references to lesbianism were written by Ying Shao , who identified same-sex relationships between women in imperial courts who behaved as husband and wife as dui shi paired eating.

The liberty of being employed in silk factories starting in allowed some women to style themselves tzu-shu nii never to marry and live in communes with other women.

Other Chinese called them sou-hei self-combers for adopting hairstyles of married women. These communes passed because of the Great Depression and were subsequently discouraged by the communist government for being a relic of feudal China.

In Japan, the term rezubian , a Japanese pronunciation of "lesbian", was used during the s. Westernization brought more independence for women and allowed some Japanese women to wear pants.

In India, a 14th-century Indian text mentioning a lesbian couple who had a child as a result of their lovemaking is an exception to the general silence about female homosexuality.

According to Ruth Vanita , this invisibility disappeared with the release of a film titled Fire in , prompting some theaters in India to be attacked by religious extremists.

Terms used to label homosexuals are often rejected by Indian activists for being the result of imperialist influence, but most discourse on homosexuality centers on men.

Women's rights groups in India continue to debate the legitimacy of including lesbian issues in their platforms, as lesbians and material focusing on female homosexuality are frequently suppressed.

The most extensive early study of female homosexuality was provided by the Institute for Sex Research , who published an in-depth report of the sexual experiences of American women in More than 8, women were interviewed by Alfred Kinsey and the staff of the Institute for Sex Research in a book titled Sexual Behavior in the Human Female , popularly known as part of the Kinsey Report.

The Kinsey Report's dispassionate discussion of homosexuality as a form of human sexual behavior was revolutionary. Up to this study, only physicians and psychiatrists studied sexual behavior, and almost always the results were interpreted with a moral view.

Single women had the highest prevalence of homosexual activity, followed by women who were widowed, divorced, or separated.

The lowest occurrence of sexual activity was among married women; those with previous homosexual experience reported they married to stop homosexual activity.

Most of the women who reported homosexual activity had not experienced it more than ten times. Fifty-one percent of women reporting homosexual experience had only one partner.

Twenty-three years later, in , sexologist Shere Hite published a report on the sexual encounters of 3, women who had responded to questionnaires, under the title The Hite Report.

Hite's questions differed from Kinsey's, focusing more on how women identified, or what they preferred rather than experience.

Hite's conclusions are more based on respondents' comments than quantifiable data. She found it "striking" that many women who had no lesbian experiences indicated they were interested in sex with women, particularly because the question was not asked.

Lesbians in the U. The study attributed the jump to people being more comfortable self-identifying as homosexual to the federal government. The government of the United Kingdom does not ask citizens to define their sexuality.

However, polls in Australia have recorded a range of self-identified lesbian or bisexual women from 1. In terms of medical issues, lesbians are referred to as women who have sex with women WSW because of the misconceptions and assumptions about women's sexuality and some women's hesitancy to disclose their accurate sexual histories even to a physician.

The result of the lack of medical information on WSW is that medical professionals and some lesbians perceive lesbians as having lower risks of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases or types of cancer.

When women do seek medical attention, medical professionals often fail to take a complete medical history. In a study of 2, lesbian and bisexual women, only 9.

Heart disease is listed by the U. Department of Health and Human Services as the number one cause of death for all women.

Factors that add to risk of heart disease include obesity and smoking , both of which are more prevalent in lesbians.

Studies show that lesbians have a higher body mass and are generally less concerned about weight issues than heterosexual women, and lesbians consider women with higher body masses to be more attractive than heterosexual women do.

Lesbians are more likely to exercise regularly than heterosexual women, and lesbians do not generally exercise for aesthetic reasons, although heterosexual women do.

Lack of differentiation between homosexual and heterosexual women in medical studies that concentrate on health issues for women skews results for lesbians and non-lesbian women.

Reports are inconclusive about occurrence of breast cancer in lesbians. The risk factors for developing ovarian cancer rates are higher in lesbians than heterosexual women, perhaps because many lesbians lack protective factors of pregnancy, abortion, contraceptives, breast feeding, and miscarriages.

Some sexually transmitted diseases are communicable between women, including human papillomavirus HPV —specifically genital warts — squamous intraepithelial lesions , trichomoniasis , syphilis , and herpes simplex virus HSV.

Transmission of specific sexually transmitted diseases among women who have sex with women depends on the sexual practices women engage in. Any object that comes in contact with cervical secretions, vaginal mucosa, or menstrual blood, including fingers or penetrative objects may transmit sexually transmitted diseases.

Bacterial vaginosis BV occurs more often in lesbians, but it is unclear if BV is transmitted by sexual contact; it occurs in celibate as well as sexually active women.

The highest rate of transmission of HIV to lesbians is among women who participate in intravenous drug use or have sexual intercourse with bisexual men.

Since medical literature began to describe homosexuality, it has often been approached from a view that sought to find an inherent psychopathology as the root cause, influenced by the theories of Sigmund Freud.

Although he considered bisexuality inherent in all people, and said that most have phases of homosexual attraction or experimentation, exclusive same-sex attraction he attributed to stunted development resulting from trauma or parental conflicts.

Although these issues exist among lesbians, discussion about their causes shifted after homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in Instead, social ostracism, legal discrimination, internalization of negative stereotypes, and limited support structures indicate factors homosexuals face in Western societies that often adversely affect their mental health.

Women who identify as lesbian report feeling significantly different and isolated during adolescence. Women also limit who they divulge their sexual identities to, and more often see being lesbian as a choice, as opposed to gay men, who work more externally and see being gay as outside their control.

Anxiety disorders and depression are the most common mental health issues for women. Depression is reported among lesbians at a rate similar to heterosexual women, [] although generalized anxiety disorder is more likely to appear among lesbian and bisexual women than heterosexual women.

Studies have shown that heterosexual men and lesbians have different standards for what they consider attractive in women. Lesbians who view themselves with male standards of female beauty may experience lower self-esteem, eating disorders , and higher incidence of depression.

A population-based study completed by the National Alcohol Research Center found that women who identify as lesbian or bisexual are less likely to abstain from alcohol.

Lesbians and bisexual women have a higher likelihood of reporting problems with alcohol, as well as not being satisfied with treatment for substance abuse programs.

Lesbians portrayed in literature, film, and television often shape contemporary thought about women's sexuality.

The majority of media about lesbians is produced by men; [] women's publishing companies did not develop until the s, films about lesbians made by women did not appear until the s, and television shows portraying lesbians written by women only began to be created in the 21st century.

As a result, homosexuality—particularly dealing with women—has been excluded because of symbolic annihilation. When depictions of lesbians began to surface, they were often one-dimensional, simplified stereotypes.

In addition to Sappho's accomplishments, [o] literary historian Jeannette Howard Foster includes the Book of Ruth , [] and ancient mythological tradition as examples of lesbianism in classical literature.

Greek stories of the heavens often included a female figure whose virtue and virginity were unspoiled, who pursued more masculine interests, and who was followed by a dedicated group of maidens.

Foster cites Camilla and Diana , Artemis and Callisto , and Iphis and Ianthe as examples of female mythological figures who showed remarkable devotion to each other, or defied gender expectations.

En-hedu-ana , a priestess in Ancient Iraq who dedicated herself to the Sumerian goddess Inanna , has the distinction of signing the oldest-surviving signed poetry in history.

She characterized herself as Inanna's spouse. For ten centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, lesbianism disappeared from literature.

Physical relationships between women were often encouraged; men felt no threat as they viewed sexual acts between women to be accepted when men were not available, and not comparable to fulfillment that could be achieved by sexual acts between men and women.

Physical and therefore emotional satisfaction was considered impossible without a natural phallus. Male intervention into relationships between women was necessary only when women acted as men and demanded the same social privileges.

Lesbianism became almost exclusive to French literature in the 19th century, based on male fantasy and the desire to shock bourgeois moral values.

Reflecting French society, as well as employing stock character associations, many of the lesbian characters in 19th-century French literature were prostitutes or courtesans: personifications of vice who died early, violent deaths in moral endings.

Gradually, women began to author their own thoughts and literary works about lesbian relationships. Until the publication of The Well of Loneliness , most major works involving lesbianism were penned by men.

Some women, such as Marguerite Yourcenar and Mary Renault , wrote or translated works of fiction that focused on homosexual men, like some of the writings of Carson McCullers.

All three were involved in same-sex relationships, but their primary friendships were with gay men. As the paperback book came into fashion, lesbian themes were relegated to pulp fiction.

Many of the pulp novels typically presented very unhappy women, or relationships that ended tragically. Marijane Meaker later wrote that she was told to make the relationship end badly in Spring Fire because the publishers were concerned about the books being confiscated by the U.

Postal Service. Following the Stonewall riots , lesbian themes in literature became much more diverse and complex, and shifted the focus of lesbianism from erotica for heterosexual men to works written by and for lesbians.

Serious writers who used lesbian characters and plots included Rita Mae Brown 's Rubyfruit Jungle , which presents a feminist heroine who chooses to be a lesbian.

Further changing values are evident in the writings of Dorothy Allison , who focuses on child sexual abuse and deliberately provocative lesbian sadomasochism themes.

Lesbianism, or the suggestion of it, began early in filmmaking. The same constructs of how lesbians were portrayed—or for what reasons—as what had appeared in literature were placed on women in the films.

Women challenging their feminine roles was a device more easily accepted than men challenging masculine ones. Actresses appeared as men in male roles because of plot devices as early as in A Florida Enchantment featuring Edith Storey.

Hollywood films followed the same trend set by audiences who flocked to Harlem to see edgy shows that suggested bisexuality.

However, the development of the Hays Code in censored most references to homosexuality from film under the umbrella term "sex perversion".

German films depicted homosexuality and were distributed throughout Europe, but 's Mädchen in Uniform was not distributed in the U. Because of the Hays Code, lesbianism after was absent from most films, even those adapted with overt lesbian characters or plot devices.

Biopic Queen Christina in , starring Greta Garbo , veiled most of the speculation about Christina of Sweden's affairs with women.

The reason censors stated for removing a lesbian scene in 's The Pit of Loneliness was that it was, "Immoral, would tend to corrupt morals". After MacLaine's character admits her love for Hepburn's, she hangs herself; this set a precedent for miserable endings in films addressing homosexuality.

Gay characters also were often killed off at the end, such as the death of Sandy Dennis ' character at the end of The Fox in If not victims, lesbians were depicted as villains or morally corrupt, such as portrayals of brothel madames by Barbara Stanwyck in Walk on the Wild Side from and Shelley Winters in The Balcony in Lesbians as predators were presented in Rebecca , women's prison films like Caged , or in the character Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love The first film to address lesbianism with significant depth was The Killing of Sister George in , which was filmed in The Gateways Club , a longstanding lesbian pub in London.

It is the first to claim a film character who identifies as a lesbian, and film historian Vito Russo considers the film a complex treatment of a multifaceted character who is forced into silence about her openness by other lesbians.

An era of independent filmmaking brought different stories, writers, and directors to films. Desert Hearts arrived in , to be one of the most successful.

It received mixed critical commentary, but earned positive reviews from the gay press. In the film, a lesbian actress named Valerie, who was killed in such a manner, serves as inspiration for the masked rebel V and his ally Evey Hammond, who set out to overthrow the dictatorship.

The first stage production to feature a lesbian kiss and open depiction of two women in love is the Yiddish play God of Vengeance Got fun nekome by Sholem Asch.

Rivkele, a young woman, and Manke, a prostitute in her father's brothel, fall in love. On March 6, , during a performance of the play in a New York City theatre, producers and cast were informed that they had been indicted by a Grand Jury for violating the Penal Code that defined the presentation of "an obscene, indecent, immoral and impure theatrical production.

Two months later, they were found guilty in a jury trial. The play is considered by some to be "the greatest drama of the Yiddish theater".

A performance from The Prom was included in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and made history by showing the first same-sex kiss in the parade's broadcast.

Television began to address homosexuality much later than film. Local talk shows in the late s first addressed homosexuality by inviting panels of experts usually not gay themselves to discuss the problems of gay men in society.

Lesbianism was rarely included. The first time a lesbian was portrayed on network television was the NBC drama The Eleventh Hour in the early s, in a teleplay about an actress who feels she is persecuted by her female director, and in distress, calls a psychiatrist who explains she is a latent lesbian who has deep-rooted guilt about her feelings for women.

When she realizes this, however, she is able to pursue heterosexual relationships, which are portrayed as "healthy".

Invisibility for lesbians continued in the s when homosexuality became the subject of dramatic portrayals, first with medical dramas The Bold Ones , Marcus Welby, M.

These shows allowed homosexuality to be discussed clinically, with the main characters guiding troubled gay characters or correcting homophobic antagonists, while simultaneously comparing homosexuality to psychosis, criminal behavior, or drug use.

Another stock plot device in the s was the gay character in a police drama. They served as victims of blackmail or anti-gay violence, but more often as criminals.

Beginning in the late s with N. One episode of Police Woman earned protests by the National Gay Task Force before it aired for portraying a trio of murderous lesbians who killed retirement home patients for their money.

In the middle of the s, gay men and lesbians began to appear as police officers or detectives facing coming out issues.

CBS production made conscious attempts to soften the characters so they would not appear to be lesbians. Law shared the first significant lesbian kiss [r] on primetime television with Michele Greene , stirring a controversy despite being labeled "chaste" by The Hollywood Reporter.

Though television did not begin to use recurring homosexual characters until the late s, some early situation comedies used a stock character that author Stephen Tropiano calls "gay-straight": supporting characters who were quirky, did not comply with gender norms, or had ambiguous personal lives, that "for all purposes should be gay".

Recurring lesbian characters who came out were seen on Married The episode was instead the week's highest rated.

Publicity surrounding Ellen's coming out episode in was enormous; Ellen DeGeneres appeared on the cover of Time magazine the week before the airing of " The Puppy Episode " with the headline "Yep, I'm Gay".

Parties were held in many U. Even still, "The Puppy Episode" won an Emmy for writing, but as the show began to deal with Ellen Morgan's sexuality each week, network executives grew uncomfortable with the direction the show took and canceled it.

Dramas following L. Law began incorporating homosexual themes, particularly with continuing storylines on Relativity , Picket Fences , ER , and Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine , both of which tested the boundaries of sexuality and gender.

In the fourth season of Buffy , Tara and Willow admit their love for each other without any special fanfare and the relationship is treated as are the other romantic relationships on the show.

What followed was a series devoted solely to gay characters from network television. Showtime 's American rendition of Queer as Folk ran for five years, from to ; two of the main characters were a lesbian couple.

Showtime promoted the series as "No Limits", and Queer as Folk addressed homosexuality graphically. The aggressive advertising paid off as the show became the network's highest rated, doubling the numbers of other Showtime programs after the first season.

The invisibility of lesbians has gradually eroded since the early s. This is in part due to public figures who have caused speculation and comment in the press about their sexuality and lesbianism in general.

The primary figure earning this attention was Martina Navratilova , who served as tabloid fodder for years as she denied being lesbian, admitted to being bisexual, had very public relationships with Rita Mae Brown and Judy Nelson , and acquired as much press about her sexuality as she did her athletic achievements.

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