Jumping the fence: or why the Times sucks at reporting on gay women
Somebody needs to stop me from ever being able to read The Times, because more articles in this vein, and I’m going to round up a lynch mob. The latest in their interesting take on sexuality and gay women focusses on mid-life ‘fence-jumpers’, women who come out late in life and decide to leave their nice cushy lives with their husbands for the dark thrill of a Sapphic affair, running off with “notorious lesbians”. Really, I had no idea being gay was so very film noir.
The article discusses the shocking increase in women who are coming out, leaving behind years of heterosexual comfort for a dangerous new lesbian wilderness. In America, there’s Meredith Baxter, Kelly McGillis and Cynthia Nixon. Here, we’ve got Alison Goldfrapp, Mary Portas and Susie Orbach (an aside – can I just say how much I love Susie Orbach?). It also quotes the average, every-day mid life lezzer, asking them why they decided to change course or switch teams or whatever it is exactly they’re supposed to have done. Now, the article wouldn’t irritate me so much in terms of its general concept – I would normally just shrug it off as another misguided attempt to probe the lesbian mystique. The devil here is in the details.
In the words of a woman quoted in the article, ‘you don’t feel like you’re being used when you have sex with a woman’. Apparently, hanging out with our lot is like an ‘X-rated Malory Towers’, and the icing on the cake is that we don’t pass around STI’s. To these, I have a couple of things to say. Firstly, if you feel like you’re being used when you have sex with someone, it usually will have very little to do with whether they’re a man or a woman. Secondly, if you feel like the women you’re hanging out with are all sexy schoolgirls, you are probably either taking a fantasy too far or you’re doing something very wrong. Thirdly, though women who sleep with women are unlikely to pass around STIs, it is not entirely impossible (not to sound heterophobic, but if you’ve only ever slept with women and you’re sleeping with a woman who has recently slept with a man, she’s more likely than you to have an STI – that’s a fact).
The reality behind the article is probably a lot simpler than it’s made out to be. Why are people coming out later in life? Possibly because they’re not figuring it out until they’re older, until they’ve had more experience of themselves and of life in general. Not everyone is lucky enough to know when they’re young. But more likely, it’s because sexuality is a fluid thing. We’re not necessarily one thing or another, and what we discover about ourselves later in life does not nullify the experiences preceding those discoveries. For example, I came out when I was 19 and have been only with women since – I’ve now been in a relationship for almost a year and couldn’t be happier. But before all this, I did – shock horror – date boys. And I had an excellent relationship with one – the longest relationship I’ve had with anyone. He’s still a great guy, and that was still one of the best experiences in my life – none of that has changed because I’m gay.
When did you come out? Have you read the article? What did you think?