Lesbain sex columnist falls for man -- Story at 8!
By Athena Douris
Im a lesbian sex advice columnist who's decided to marry a man. I expected some fall out, and I got it. My boss fired me, rehired me, and then suggested I take a pay cut. My closest friend refuses to speak to me. The guy Im marrying is named James. His sister found a sexy picture of me on the Internet, and now James and I are listed on the back of a church program, under Pray for Them.
Let me back up. This story starts in the spring of 1999 on a Thursday in April, in a tiny apartment over Valencia street. I share this apartment with two dykes and one FTM whos sleeping on the futon in our living room. The phone is ringing. Im home sick from my job as the editor of On Our Backs, a lesbian sex porno magazine. This isnt unusual because my job is stressful and I have figured out that I am sick every other Thursday, twice a month. Today I answer the phone and its Catherine, the advertising director for at my work. She says theres a guy who from a mens magazine called FHM who wants to interview me for a special sex issue. I call him back and tell him all about vibrators and dildos, and how lesbians manage a quickie (with their hands). This is not unusual for me, as the editor of a lesbian porno. I dont think much of it.
The next day, I have another call. The editors at FHM want me to write a sex advice column. They already had the name, Letters from Lesbos. The idea was that Id give men advice sex advice from a lesbian perspective. I say "yes."
Okay, lets fast forward two years. I live in Savannah Georgia. I left San Francisco because Id left On Our Backs three months after picking up my FHM gig. My office now is in London, which means I do all my work over email, which means I can live anywhere. I decide to move to Savannah because I wanted to live in a part of the country where I could afford a couch.
I didnt get a couch immediately, but I did buy a desk, a bookshelf, a mattress, and a car. Those were all things I couldnt afford when I lived in San Francisco. When I lived in San Francisco, the people in my office pitched in to buy each other grocery store vouchers for birthday presents. We didnt think that was weird at the time.
The one thing I havent found in Savannah is a lesbian community. And so I became lovers with a dyke in New York City, and a dyke in San Francisco named Alex. Alex has been my best friend for a year (its a lesbian thing to fuck your friends, in case you were wondering). Im lonely, so I fly to visit my girlfriends about every other month. Everything is great until my car dies. I need $800 to get it out of the shop, and I dont have it. So I start stripping.
I dont stop stripping when my cars fixed. Even though Im well paid as a sex columnist, my income cant handle my lifestyle, which involves cross country flights at least every other month. And I dont want to stop making those trips. Like I said, Im lonely. I try to make friends in Savannah, or find a lover here, but I keep turning up duds. Savannah is a town full of men, mostly military men. Theres plenty of gay bars here. But even when I narrow in on the lone lesbian in the throng of shaved-head queer soldiers, shes not the one. We dont have a thing in common, and Im not attracted to her. And so I keep stripping, and I keep getting in airplanes to see my lesbian lovers.
I explain all this because I wanted you to see how I ended up with a man.
Have you heard of the term "situational homosexuality?" Thats what you call it when straight men take male lovers while theyre in prison. I had a similar experience, but just the opposite: situational heterosexuality. I became attracted to men because lesbians were scarce, and men were plentiful. I start a relationship with a queer-identified man. Then I start sleeping with many men. It starts as a sexual thing.
But thats a lie, actually. The truth is, it all starts in Classy Kats, the strip bar where Ive been working a few nights a week. Most of the men I talk to are newly divorced. One man tells me about finding his girlfriend after she killed herself, and then about how his 30-year-old son blew his own brains out after a failed business deal. I talk to a man whose best friend was shot and killed by an intruder last week. I realize that my work is as much about social work, as it is about being dancing in pasties and a g-string. More, actually. What wears me out isnt the dancing. Its the talking. All the men want to talk. Its exhausting but rewarding. I like my job. I like talking to these men. I like men.
Im surprised, but excited. Men are different than lesbians. Ive known that for years, but I thought they were different-bad, not different-different. And actually, as it turns out, in some ways the men I like are similar to the butch dykes I fuck. The men Im dating at this point are pretty feminine, actually. I feel like the man in the relationship. I like that. I still feel queer. And Im still non-monogamous. It was a heady mix, to be fucking men and women, from all parts of the globe.
By the time I met James, the man Im going to marry, Id had several relationships with men, in Savannah and out of the state. Alex and I had decided t continue to be best friends, but to cease our sexual relationship. And James and I had decided to be serious, to be committed. I had wanted a serious relationship for years. Id wanted one when I lived in San Francisco, when I dated only women, but it had never happened. Now, it was happening.
I fell in love with James for reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that his dick. Yes, I love his body, especially the way it smells, but thats not it. Words seem to cheapen it, but here goes: He holds the inner curve of my foot at the movie theater. He likes to fuck even more than I do, and I appreciate that. My favorite Saturday night out is actually spending a night in. Hes freaking adorable. Okay?
I knew we were serious right away and right away I worried about what that would mean. I know that lesbians who ended up with men are mocked, hated, and regarded as traitors by the lesbian community. I pictured cruel gossip, the end of writing contracts and editing jobs. I expected to be fired. But my biggest worry was that all my friends would stop talking to me. I was especially concerned about my best friend, Alex.
Some of what I feared, did happen. Alex stopped speaking to me. She refused to answer phone calls, respond to emails, acknowledge letters. I was devastated. How can I explain: Alex and I were best friends. We vacationed together. We spent our birthdays together. Wed attacked two homophobic women who tried to shame us for being gay in a bar fight . A few months before, I held flown to New York to be with her while she grieved over her mothers life-threating illness. We were ex-lovers. We considered each other family.
I dug up an old essay by JoAnn Loulan, the lesbian sex therapist. Loulan wrote the book Lesbian Sex and Lesbian Passion. She was an out lesbian sex therapist for 20 years before started seeing a man. In Girlfriends magazine, she wrote an essay about why she identifies as a lesbian. When I first read that essay years ago, I thought, I dont get it. Now, I get it. Loulan and I talk on the phone because I want more. She tells me her closest friend stopped speaking to her, too, when she became serious with her male partner, Ronnie. I feel really burned. she says:
I dont know why my best friend, Alex, rejected me. I asked Alex the question why in a dream I had last month. She said, I dont know, and that made me feel better. maybe she doesnt know. Or, maybe she thinks a man cant be a real partner for me. I used to think the same thing. Back when I was a baby dyke, I thought only a lesbian cared about having an egalitarian relationship. Lesbians were less fat-phobic, more aware of racism and classism, and surely that made them better in relationships. Over the years, Ive found that distinction may apply to lesbians as a group, but its not a magic elixir. A woman who is a good feminist is not necessarily a good lover, and not necessarily a good person. Finding a good lover involves a host of other qualities: frequency of sex, tenderness, ability to trust, connection, kinkiness, ability to commit. I found these things in a man. I looked for them in a woman. If I didnt find them in a woman, does that make me a betrayer to the lesbian universe? Or does it make me a person who was unlucky with women, and lucky with men?
In the essay The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power Audre Lorde wrote that the erotic is power. Pleasure in the bedroom, she says, gives a woman power she can take into all of her interactions. I would like to add my two cents to that essay. I believe that relationships are power. Relationships, like the erotic, give us the power to do the work we undertake in the rest of our lives. They are important. They are difficult. And they are dangerous. Some relationships destroy the people who are in them. You would have to be very young, or very naive, to have never seen a relationship that has destroyed a woman, or a man. I think it is the destructive potential of relationships that my friend Alex was reacting to. I believe she is afraid that I will be destroyed, because Im in a relationship with a man. But not all relationships between a man and a woman destroy the woman. I have power in this relationship. I am not a cookie-cutter heterosexual. Nor am I not simply a lesbian who went to a man. I dont think anyone is, actually. Real life is more complicated than that.
When I told my editors at FHM that I was marrying a man, they asked me to take a pay cut because youre not a real lesbian, so youre replaceable. I was fired, then rehired a few months later. True to their word, my editors did eventually replace me three months after that. I never expected to be a sex columnist for the rest of my life, so thats not the end of the world. But before I left FHM, I wrote this story, the story of how I ended up being with a man, for my readers. My editor called it admittedly bizarre. I tried to explain it to my readers, just as Ive tried to explain it to you. I dont know if it worked, but I know why I bothered. I wanted the next lesbian who ends up fucking a man to know: take heart. Theres more of us out here than youd think.
Athena Douris welcomes your comments; her email is firstname.lastname@example.org