Lesbians and Dog Custody: What happens to the dog when lesbians break up?

Lesbians and Dogs: Shared Custody With Ex’s?

 

Survey Visits: 389

Survey’s Completed: 159

The lesbians and dogs custody survey was reader-suggested. For this great topic, we are looking at the relationship between lesbians and their dogs.

For starters, the lesbians and dog custody survey inquired about how many lesbian couples adopted, purchased or acquired a dog with a female partner. A whoooping 74% said yes, and only 26% said no.

According to the 159 lesbians who complerted our survey, 26% report they got a dog with their female partner within the first year of their relationship. The majority (39%) of survey respondents report getting a dog together between years one and three. Twenty-six percent indicate they do not get a dog together.

What was the reason you wanted to adopt or purchase a dog with your partner?

      • My partner wanted one ~ 28%
      • I wanted one ~ 14%
      • We both wanted one ~ 50%
      • To feel like we “own” something together ~ 8%

In years one through three, 58% of lesbians report getting a dog because they both wanted one. This seems to be the most common reason and the most frequently reported time frame for getting one.

Interestingly, 18% of women who state the reason they got a dog was because their partner wanted one say they have kept, or will keep, the dog in the event of a separation, with 60% stating the partner wanting the dog keeps the dog, and 17% report joint custody of the dog. When asked how many different relationships lesbians aquired a new dog, only 27% indicate that they got a dog with a partner in more than one relationship. 

Who retained custody of the dogs, or will retain custody of the dog, if there is a break up?

  • I will keep, or have kept the dog ~ 24%
  • She will keep, or has kept, the dog ~ 25%
  • WE would have, or do have, joint custody 11%
  • I have experienced both situations where have gotten the dog, and I have lost the dog ~ 12%
  • Break up? We are in it for the U-Haul…I mean the long haul ~ 28%

Interesting observation: of those reporting they are in it for the long haul, 18% are in their first relationship, 27% are in their second relationship, 43% are in their 3rd to 5th relationship, 9% are in their 6th to 10th relationship and 2% are in their 11th or more relationship. Relationship optimism seems most prevalent among those in their 3rd to 5th relationship.

At what point in your relationship did you get dogs?

  • 0-3 months ~ 3%
  • 4-6 months ~ 9%
  • 7 -11 months ~ 14%
  • 1-3 years ~ 39%
  • 4+ years ~ 9%
  • Does not apply ~ 25%

What was the reason you wanted to adopt or purchase dogs with your partner?

  • My partner wanted one ~ 28%
  • I wanted one ~ 14%
  • We both wanted one ~ 50%
  • To feel like we “own” something together ~ 8%

 In years one through three, 58% of lesbians report getting a dog because they both wanted one. This seems to be the most common reason and the most frequently reported time frame for getting one.

Interestingly, 18% of women who state the reason they got a dog was because their partner wanted one say they have kept, or will keep, the dog in the event of a separation, with 60% stating the partner wanting the dog keeps the dog, and 17% report joint custody of the dog.

    In how many different relationships have you acquired new dogs with a female partner?

        • 0 ~ 35%
        • 1 ~ 39%
        • 2 ~ 22%
        • 3 ~ 4%
        • 4+ ~ 1%

    Who retained custody of the dogs, or will retain custody of the dogs, if there is a break up?

    • I will keep, or have kept the dog ~ 24%
    • She will keep, or has kept, the dog ~ 25%
    • WE would have, or do have, joint custody 11%
    • I have experienced both situations where have gotten the dog, and I have lost the dog ~ 12%
    • Break up? We are in it for the U-Haul…I mean the long haul ~ 28%

    Interesting observation: of those reporting they are in it for the long haul, 18% are in their first relationship, 27% are in their second relationship, 43% are in their 3rd to 5th relationship, 9% are in their 6th to 10th relationship and 2% are in their 11th or more relationship. Relationship optimism seems most prevalent among those in their 3rd to 5th relationship.

    How many lesbian relationships have you had?

    • 0 ~ 0%
    • 1 ~ 11%
    • 2 ~ 16%
    • 3-5 ~ 55%
    • 6-10 ~ 16%
    • 11+ ~ 3%

    What is your age?

    • 18-24 ~ 18%
    • 25-34 ~ 18%
    • 35-44 ~ 23%
    • 45-54 ~ 30%
    • 55+ ~ 10%

    Who's Behind This?

    Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D., that's me. Third-person "about me's" are too impersonal. It's like saying, "You are loved," when what I really mean is, "I love you." Relationships are my thing. Some would say, my obsession. While I only scored an 96% on my own "How Lesbian Are You" test,  don't let that fool you. Since returning to school in the'90s for my MSW, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: help lesbian couples grow love. While my fantasy to be in the WNBA, and my dream of joining the Peace Corp, or my desire to have twelve children, has faded with time, my fixation on helping lesbians grow love remains. I am that person who has built her life around one thing: lesbian relationships. For fun, I do things like create online quiz's at asklesbians.com, to learn more about real lesbians. Or I write books. like, "Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship," to give couples an easy way to communicate. (Shameless plug - you can get this on Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play). And, now that our boys are young men, my love, and my wife, Kristen, and I are growing lesbian love through Lesbian Couples Retreats throughout the U.S. in awesome destinations where our motto is, "love out loud" with Adventures in Love.  You can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

    #1 Desire in Lesbian Relationships is to Feel Loved

    #1 Desire in Lesbian Relationships is to Feel Loved


    to feel loved
    Survey says that above all else, feeling loved is most important to lesbians. In a very brief, no-nonsense survey on asklesbians.com, lesbians were asked not only about how important it is to feel loved, but also to rate 13 other aspects of a relationship according to importance. The scale was 1-5, with one being very low importance, and 5 being the highest importance.

    Twenty four lesbians completed the survey. Their ages ranged from age from 18 to over 54 with the majority falling into two age groups:

    • 38% ages 18-24
    • 29% ages 35-44

    The bulk of women completing the survey identify as cis-gender female (which means they were assigned female at birth and this gender assignment suits them just fine). Four participants did not identify as cis (one transfemale, and three non-binary).

    The following scores represent the weighted scores for each variable on the survey. The higher the number, the more important this variable is to the lesbians who completed the survey.

    • 4.25 Feeling Loved
    • 4.17 Feeling Understood
    • 4.09 Humor
    • 4.08 Overall Relationship Satisfaction
    • 4.04 Sexual Chemistry
    • 3.92 Emotional Connection
    • 3.92 Emotional Safety and Security
    • 3.88 Fidelity/Faithfulness
    • 3.83 Intellectual Connection
    • 3.71 Pleasure from Sex
    • 3.46 Social Compatibility
    • 3.33 Frequency of Sex
    • 2.96 Spiritual Connection
    • 2.5 Financial Security

    What surprised me most about these results is that Safety and Security weren’t higher. Granted, the survey sample is small. I’m also curious about what makes financial security so low. I find myself wondering if that is a reflection of not wanting to place the value of money above the value of love? However, for this survey, you can have both (rate them both a 5), so it’s curious to me if there is a rejection of or disinterest in financial security?

    The top four make sense to me. Except, again, it’s curious to me that feeling loved doesn’t ring in at a solid 5. Does this mean that there are a couple of lesbians that find that to feel loved is overrated? Or feeling understood is only generally important, but not always important?

    • 4.25 Feeling Loved
    • 4.17 Feeling Understood
    • 4.09 Humor
    • 4.08 Overall Relationship Satisfaction

    These surveys always leave me even more curious. How about you? What do you think about these results? Do you agree it’s most important to feel loved in your relationship?

    Who's Behind This?

    Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D., that's me. Third-person "about me's" are too impersonal. It's like saying, "You are loved," when what I really mean is, "I love you." Relationships are my thing. Some would say, my obsession. While I only scored an 96% on my own "How Lesbian Are You" test,  don't let that fool you. Since returning to school in the'90s for my MSW, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: help lesbian couples grow love. While my fantasy to be in the WNBA, and my dream of joining the Peace Corp, or my desire to have twelve children, has faded with time, my fixation on helping lesbians grow love remains. I am that person who has built her life around one thing: lesbian relationships. For fun, I do things like create online quiz's at asklesbians.com, to learn more about real lesbians. Or I write books. like, "Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship," to give couples an easy way to communicate. (Shameless plug - you can get this on Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play). And, now that our boys are young men, my love, and my wife, Kristen, and I are growing lesbian love through Lesbian Couples Retreats throughout the U.S. in awesome destinations where our motto is, "love out loud" with Adventures in Love.  You can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

    Do you have a lesbian date? How many dates before you commit?

    Do you have a lesbian date? How many dates before you commit?

    Should I commit after one lesbian date?

     

    Survey visits: 404 

    Completed  the lesbian date survey:  105 

     

    One of the most common jokes about lesbians, ever, is:

     Question: What does a lesbian bring on their second date? 

    Answer: A U-Haul

     (Full disclosure, we are guilty of keeping this alive by selling a t-shirt about this at our lesbiangift.store) 

    lesbian date, u-haulResearchers have come up with terms to describe the rapid bonding that occurs between women in love, such as, the urge to merge, fusion, and lack of individuation, etc. What this means in everyday terms is that women who love women are prone to moving quickly, bonding deeply, and the stereotype that may or may not be true, is that women lose themselves in their relationships with other women in no time at all.

    In research conducted by Charlene Yvette Senn (2010), points out that “given the strength of this fundamental assumption about fusion in writing by and about women in same-sex couples, there has been little research demonstrating problematic levels of closeness, merger, and/or fusion in their relationships.” She also shares that “Some authors have suggested that there may be pathological components to closeness or fusion if the relationship lacks boundaries or is characterized by excessive appeasement and conflict avoidance, but that a high degree of closeness itself is not pathological (Ackbar & Senn, 2010; Kitzinger, 1996).

    Anecdotally, it has been my experience in working with female same-sex couples that it is precisely the desire to AVOID CONFLICT, and I would add FOSTER SECURITY/ATTACHMENT (rather than closeness, per se), that moves women toward each other in ways that cause challenges in relationship.

    How long do you date before committing?

     

    1-4 dates: 40%

    5-10 dates: 46%

    11-20 dates: 11%

    21-60 dates: 2%

    60 or more dates: 2%

    As you can see, the survey participants on the lesbian date survey reveal that 86% of lesbians commit to a relationship between 1 and 10 dates. What is curious to me is, what motivates women to move in together so quickly? If it isn’t the desire to be super close, super fast (the urge to merge, or fusion), might it help foster security and attachment? This is what makes sense to me. What are your thoughts?

    Just to give you insight about who completed the lesbian date survey, here are the stats on their dating activity, dating history, age and relationship status and history. 

    With how many women have you had at least one date where there was physical contact (at least kissing or more)?

    None ~ 6%

    1 ~ 11%

    2-4 ~36%

    5-10 ~ 28%

    11-20 ~ 11%

    20-30 ~ 4%

    30+ ~ 6%

    With how many women have you had at least one date in your lifetime?

    None ~ 0

    1 ~ 10%

    2-4 ~37%

    5-10 ~ 31%

    11-20 ~ 11%

    20-30 ~ 4%

    30+ ~ 7%

    How many committed, intimate relationships with woman have you had?

    1 ~ 17%

    2 ~ 27%

    3-5 ~ 47%

    6-10 ~ 8%

    11+ ~ 2%

    How old are you?

    18-24 ~ 21%

     24-29 ~ 11%

     29-30 ~ 2%

     31-35 ~ 11%

     36-40 ~ 12%

     41-50 ~ 25%

     50+ 19%

    Who's Behind This?

    Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D., that's me. Third-person "about me's" are too impersonal. It's like saying, "You are loved," when what I really mean is, "I love you." Relationships are my thing. Some would say, my obsession. While I only scored an 96% on my own "How Lesbian Are You" test,  don't let that fool you. Since returning to school in the'90s for my MSW, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: help lesbian couples grow love. While my fantasy to be in the WNBA, and my dream of joining the Peace Corp, or my desire to have twelve children, has faded with time, my fixation on helping lesbians grow love remains. I am that person who has built her life around one thing: lesbian relationships. For fun, I do things like create online quiz's at asklesbians.com, to learn more about real lesbians. Or I write books. like, "Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship," to give couples an easy way to communicate. (Shameless plug - you can get this on Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play). And, now that our boys are young men, my love, and my wife, Kristen, and I are growing lesbian love through Lesbian Couples Retreats throughout the U.S. in awesome destinations where our motto is, "love out loud" with Adventures in Love.  You can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

    Lesbian Bed Death Meaning and History

    Lesbian Bed Death Meaning and History

    Lesbian Bed Death Meaning and History

    Is the death bed really a thing for lesbian couples?

     

    lesbian bed death, death bed, lesbian sex quiz, lesbian death bedWhat is lesbian bed death?

    When I first heard this term, I associated its meaning with violence (like a lesbian killing her partner in bed) and death (or a lesbian dying in bed). Yes, pretty concrete of me. I share this in case you have had a similar thought run through your head. Fortunately, lesbian bed death has nothing to do with lesbians killing or lesbians dying in bed.

    It’s a strange, but sticky phrase that dates back to the ’80s. While it is not clear when and precisely where or by whom the term was created, there is a long and winding journey (which I traced while working on my Ph.D. dissertation on lesbian sexuality) that reveals the history and development of this phrase.

    Admittedly, for some, this part of this article will be too much (boring) information and you may wish to skip to learning how often lesbians report having sex.

    Quick Links to Article Content

     

    Where it all started

    In 1983, a research study was published that identified lesbian couples as the least sexual couple pairing (Pepper Schwartz and Phillip Blumstein). This research led to more research which further confirmed that lesbians were not only having less sex than other couples, they were also experiencing a more rapid and dramatic drop in sexual frequency as their relationships continued (Loulan 1984). Soon, these statistics were broadcast in the media and just like that, a narrative of lesbians as non-sexual started to coalesce in our culture. And, it still lingers in our collective conscience today.

    The three-word phrase that captured the essence of this emerging concept of lesbians having infrequent sexual activity, combined with a rapid decline in sexual frequency in long-term relationships is lesbian bed death (LBD).

    |

    Lesbian Bed Death Meaning

    Lesbian Bed Death describes a phenomenon in which lesbian couples experience a comparatively lower rate of sexual frequency as well as a rapid decline in sexual frequency the longer they are coupled.

    Who coined the phrase lesbian bed death?

     Three women are most commonly credited for the phrase, lesbian bed death: researcher and co-author of the book American Couples, Pepper Schwartz;  author of Lesbian Sex  (1984) Joann Loulan; and famous lesbian comedian Kate Clinton.  

    When American Couples was published in 1983, it provided a credible source to describe lesbians as less sexually active than other couple pairs. How they arrived at this conclusion was through a massive study of 12,000 couples, in which Schwartz and Blumstein explored the behaviors of four couple pairings: married, co-habitating (heterosexuals), gay males and lesbian couples. Lesbians were identified as the pairing with the lowest rates of sexual frequency. When I asked Dr. Schwartz if she coined the phrase lesbian bed death in response to their research, she said, “It is attributed to me—people I know say I said it—but I never wrote it. Sadly, I have no memory about it—so I can’t deny or confirm!”

    LESBIAN TEST – HOW LESBIAN ARE YOU?

     

    Shortly after American Couples was published, Joann Loulan authored Lesbian Sex in 1984. In a conversation with Loulan, she shared with me, “I did not coin the phrase Lesbian Bed Death.” She explained, “I used it frequently, but of course my life was (and is) trying to make that change within the lesbian community and make sex sexy again.” 

    The last source credited for this phrase, Kate Clinton, also denied creating this unflattering narrative. She did, however, joke that rather than a same-sex relationship, she often joked that lesbians have a “some sex relationship.” Clinton led me to LGBT advocate Sue Hyde and her partner Jade McGleughlin. Sue Hyde thought her partner, Jade McGleughlin, was the one who captured the “entire phenomenon of decreasing lesbian sex activity in long term couples” into the well-known phrase in 1985 or so.  In a conversation with Jade McGleughlin, however, she said she believed the phrase “coalesced spontaneously among a group of lesbians for whom it captured an experience particular to that moment.”

    This is consistent with Sue Moir, another lesbian whose name surfaced during my search for the roots of LBD, who said she heard this phrase “at a dyke gabfest in Newton,” and shared it with McGleughlin. McGleughlin was working on a Master’s thesis at the time on the topic of lesbian bed death. While she didn’t coin the phrase, she said she viewed herslf as a messenger. During the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, McGleughlin gave a speech during the Sex and Politics Forum. Sue Moir was there, and Moir said, “I can tell you it was the first time that the audience had heard it [lesbian bed death].”

    The timing of McGleughlin’s speech also coincided with the lesbian sexuality research (Schwartz and Blumstein 1983, Loulan 1984, 1987) at the time, which became an accelerant for the spread of the LBD message. Ultimately, Lesbian Bed Death took on a new and unintended meaning that gave shape to lesbian sexuality as inferior, and in some way doomed. McGleughlin expressed regret about the impact of this phrase. In her opinion, the phrase “collapsed the complexity of lesbian sexuality,” and what might otherwise have been a historical phenomenon became a “condensation” and “condemnation” of lesbian sexuality. Ultimately, it took a village of lesbians to create a shared narrative about the experience of declining sexual activity in lesbian relationships and this message spread like wildfire across the United States.

    Three women are commonly credited with the phrase lesbian bed death.

    Pepper Schwartz, Co-Author of American Couples

    “It is attributed to me—people I know say I said it—but I never wrote it. Sadly, I have no memory about it—so I can’t deny or confirm!”

    Joann Loulan, author of Lesbian Sex

    “I did not coin the phrase Lesbian Bed Death.” She admitted, “I used it frequently, but of course my life was (and is) trying to make that change within the lesbian community and make sex sexy again.”

    Kate Clinton, Lesbian Comedian

    Always the comedian, Clinton joked that lesbians aren’t in a same-sex relationships, they are in a “some-sex relationships.”

    Sexual Frequency of Lesbians

    Until the 80’s lesbians were judged negatively if they had sex with women. Therefore, as lesbian bed death gained some traction, and the collective conscious shifted, it was an ironic flip of the script when lesbians were being judged for not having enough sex with women. Go figure! Most of the research between the 80’s and 2010 (when I conducted my own research) was consistently reporting lower levels of sexual frequency for lesbians than other couple pairings. 

    I was also seeing lesbian couples in my private practice who were reporting low levels of sexual activity. Same-sex female couples would report having minimal and sometimes no sexual activity for years. This was a key motivation for my return to school in 2010 to get my PhD in Clinical Sexology. I wanted to understand lesbian sexuality better, therefore, the focus of my research was lesbian sexual frequency and how this affects lesbian relationship satisfaction.

    I conducted my research with 498 lesbians. Using a snowball approach to finding lesbians, I started with the large sample of lesbians I knew from providing same-sex couples counseling to females for over a decade. With the help of social media, the initial group of lebians I contacted were able to then reach out to other lesbians across the United States to create a wider-reaching sample. Lesbians from most states were represented, and 

    This is what I learned:

    • 12% reported having no sex in the last six months
    • 37% reported having sex once or less per month
    • 20% report having sex 2-3 x’s per month
    • 27% report having sex 1- 3 x’s weekly
    • 5% report having sex 5 or more times weekly

    Sexual Frequency of Lesbians Based on Age

    Age

    4+ x’s
    Per Week

    1-3 x’s
    Per Week

    2-3 x’s
    Per Month

    1x Monthly
    or Less

    1x weekly or more

    < 21 Years (n=6)

    17%

    17%

    33%

    33%

    34%

    21-30 Years (n=50)

    10%

    38%

    18%

    34%

    48%

    31-40 Years (n=127)

    6%

    28%

    20%

    47%d

    34%

    41-50 Years (n=169)

    4%

    27%

    24%

    44%

    31%

    51-60 Years (n=72)

    6%

    15%

    17%

    63%

    21%

    60 + Years (n=15)

    7%

    7%

    13%

    73%

    14%

    (Percentages reflect sexual frequencies per age group and n=lesbians per age )

    Summary of Sexual Frequency of Lesbians Based on Age

    As might be expected, lesbians in their 20’s report the greatest frequency of sexual activity, followed by women in their 30’s. There is a minimal decline in reported sexual frequency for women in their 40’s and the most significant drop occurs with lesbians once they turn 50. Because 51 is the average age of menopause, and menopause is known to affect women’s libido, the 10% drop in sexual frequency that is reported by women in their 50’s is not a shocking discovery. 

    What is important about sexual frequency is whether or not you are happy and satisfied with your sexual relationship with your partner. There is no right amount of sex that anyone “should” be having, regardless of your sexual orientation. Sex is personal, and it plays a different role in the lives of different women. The key is to understand what sex means to you, what sex means to your partner or wife, and to maintain open communication about your respective needs, and how each of you can get your needs met in your relationship. 

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D. is an expert lesbian relationship coach and psychotherapist with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, and recovery from lesbian breakups. She is the author of Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play. As a side-hobby, she operates a quirky site called “AskLesbians.com” where she randomly polls lesbians to satisfy the quirkiest of curiosities. Lastly, she and her wife Kristen host Lesbian Couples Retreats in various destinations, and you can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

    This article is an adaption of Chapter Six of a dissertation written by Michele O'Mara, PhD. Tap here t read the entire dissertation in a pdf format.

    SUGGESTIONS, QUESTIONS, COMPLAINTS OR ACCOLADES?

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    Sexual Frequency Among Lesbians Copy  Copy

    Sexual Frequency Among Lesbians Copy Copy

    Lesbian Bed Death Meaning and History

    Is bed death really a thing for lesbian couples?

    Lesbian Bed Death Meaning and Roots

    In 1983, Pepper Schwartz and Phillip Blumstein published research that identified lesbian couples as the least sexual couple pairing. This research led to more research which further confirmed that not only were lesbians having less sex than other couples, but they were also experiencing a more rapid and dramatic drop in frequency as their relationships continued (Loulan 1984). Soon, these statistics were broadcast in the media and just like that, a vision of lesbians as non-sexual started to emerge in our culture and it has stuck in our collective conscience since then. During this time, a powerfully descriptive and derogatory three-letter phrase emerged to describe the lower sexual frequency and rapid decline of sexual frequency among lesbian couples. The phrase used to describe this phenomenon is lesbian bed death (LBD).

    Who coined the phrase lesbian bed death?

    Once the phrase, Lesbian bed death, grabbed the attention of the researchers and media, comedians jumped in the mix too. When I set out to research the history of this phrase, I didn’t expect to find multiple people credited for coming up with it, and it seems no one who was crediting these various people did the work of verifying their source. The three people most commonly cited for coining the phrase are the author of the book Lesbian Sex Joann Loulan; lesbian comedian Kate Clinton; and researcher and co-author of the book American Couples, Pepper Schwartz. 

    Naturally, I reached out to all three credited sources. First, I contacted Dr. Pepper Schwartz, co-author of American Couples. American Couples is a book written in 1983 that summarizes research she and her co-author Phillip Blumstein conducted with 12,000 couples, including four couple pairings: married, co-habitating (heterosexuals), gay males and lesbian couples. In this book, lesbians were identified as the couple pairing with the lowest rates of sexual frequency. Her research is often credited as the source from which this phrase evolved. Pepper Schwartz responded to my inquiry about this by  saying, “It is attributed to me—people I know say I said it—but I never wrote it. Sadly, I have no memory about it—so I can’t deny or confirm!”  Unsatisfied, I moved on to the next most commonly  -quoted source, Joann Loulan.

    Joann Loulan, Author of Lesbian Sex

    I reached out to Joann Loulan, author of Lesbian Sex (which was published in 1984, and used copies are still available on amazon).  Lesbian Sex was the first most comprehensive book written by a lesbian, and for lesbians, on the topic of lesbian sex. Frankly, few books have been written since. Loulan shared with me, “I did not coin the phrase Lesbian Bed Death.” She admitted, “I used it frequently, but of course my life was (and is) trying to make that change within the lesbian community and make sex sexy again.” Strike two. No confirmation that this term was developed by her. 

    Kate Clinton, Lesbian Comedian

    Finally, this researcher contacted Kate Clinton, who also denied coining the term. Always the comedian, she shared a phrase that she used in her comedy, and she expressed much pride in it. Rather than a same-sex relationship, Clinton jokes that lesbians have a “some sex relationship.” Clinton suggested contacting Sue Hyde, the Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference. Clinton recalled that Hyde’s partner, Jade McGleughlin, may have been responsible for the phrase lesbian bed death (LBD).

    Sue Hyde

    In an email response to this researcher’s inquiry, Sue Hyde wrote, “Jade McGleughlin coined the phrase ‘lesbian bed death’ in about 1985 or so. She will need to relate to you the particulars of how her brilliant mind compressed into a three-word unforgettable phrase the entire phenomenon of decreasing lesbian sex activity in long term couples.” She stated, “I believe she used the term in a paper she wrote while at Smith School of Social Work, where she was proceeding towards her LICSW” (Hyde 2011).

    Jade McGleughlin

    In a phone conversation, Jade McGleughlin stated that she did not know exactly how LBD came into being, but she thought that it “coalesced spontaneously among a group of lesbians for whom it captured an experience particular to that moment.” McGleughlin said that she and the other lesbians in her community, whom she described as sex-positive feminist queers, “wanted the sexiness of talking about sex and to have butch-femme power be translated into hot sex” (McGleughlin 2012). McGleughlin reported that the term does not have concrete, traceable roots. Rather, it is something best credited to a group of women at a specific point in history. While she denied credit for coining the phrase, McGleughlin identified herself as the messenger.

    She thought she popularized the phrase during the 1987 March on Washington, where she gave a speech during the Sex and Politics Forum, and she also wrote about LBD in her master’s thesis around the same time. Confirming this was Sue Moir, another lesbian whose name surfaced during the search for the roots of lesbian bed death. Moir was a friend of McGleughlin’s, and also a part of the group of women discussing this topic. Moir explained to this researcher that she heard this phrase lesbian bed death “at a dyke gabfest in Newton,” and that McGleughlin got it from her. What Moir reported is consistent with what McGleughlin recalled. McGleughlin does not take ownership for creating the phrase, and she speculated that the phrase surfaced within lesbian group discussions. Thus, two separate people, neither of whom claims credit for the phrase, corroborate that the idea of LBD evolved through lesbian group conversations.

    Sue Moir

    Moir also stated that she was present when McGleughlin first used the phrase publicly, saying, “I can tell you it was the first time that the audience had heard it” (Moir 2011). McGleughlin stated there was a synergistic effect between the talk of sex within a community of feminist women, and the positive influence this talk had on the sex lives of lesbians engaged in these conversations. McGleughlin’s perception was that LBD included more than the diminishing sex in a lesbian’s personal relationship at the time. She felt it also captured the larger loss of a sexual community where women had grown accustomed to having a public space for sexual discussions and the excitement of the sexually charged women’s movement.

    Lesbian bed death was about more than sex. McGleughlin recalled that at the tail end of the sex wars, the whole experience “seemed to collapse into this phrase—kind of like a screen memory.” There was a real phenomenon of waning sex within lesbian relationships, and lesbians further lost connection to the sexual community once the sex wars ended. McGleughlin stated a few times, “sex couldn’t keep pace with rhetoric—but the rhetoric was dying and rhetoric in part produced sex.” This was something of a dialectic, she said, “The theory and the practice were held in tension and constructing and deconstructing each other” (McGleughlin 2012).

    Jade McGleughlin stated that LBD “captured a historical moment” during the waning of the sex wars. By giving a name to this moment, she sparked a notion that eventually spread across the United States like wildfire. The message traveled far and wide and it stuck.

    The timing of McGleughlin’s speech also coincided with the lesbian sexuality research (Schwartz and Blumstein 1983, Loulan 1984, 1987) at the time, which became an accelerant for the spread of the LBD message. Ultimately, Lesbian Bed Death took on a new and unintended meaning that gave shape to lesbian sexuality as inferior, and in some way doomed. McGleughlin expressed regret about the impact of this phrase. In her opinion, the phrase collapsed the complexity of lesbian sexuality, and what might otherwise have been a historical phenomenon became a “condensation” and “condemnation” of lesbian sexuality (McGleughlin 2012).

    Pepper Schwartz, Co-Author of American Couples

    When asked if she coined the phrase, she replied, “It is attributed to me—people I know say I said it—but I never wrote it. Sadly, I have no memory about it—so I can’t deny or confirm!”

    Kate Clinton, Lesbian Comedian

    Always the comedian, she denied that she is the one who came up with the term lesbian bed death. Howver, she quickly added that she did joke in her shows that lesbians aren’t in a same-sex relationships, they are in a “some sex relationship” Clinton did lead me to Sue Hyde, the Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference. Clinton recalled that Hyde’s partner, Jade McGleughlin, may have been responsible for the phrase lesbian bed death (LBD).

    Joann Loulan, author of Lesbian Sex

    Loulan shared with me, “I did not coin the phrase Lesbian Bed Death.” She admitted, “I used it frequently, but of course my life was (and is) trying to make that change within the lesbian community and make sex sexy again.”

    How did the Narrative of Lesbian Bed Death Impact Lesbian Sexuality?

    The search for understanding about how Lesbian Bed Death influenced lesbian sexuality over the last three produces more questions than answers. There is great curiosity about how the topic of lesbian sex, and the phrase lesbian bed death, was carried from the east coast to the west coast so swiftly and effectively during an era when the internet was not available to spread information at viral rates. Though it is interesting to uncover the roots of this phrase, the ultimate goal of this research is to gain a better understanding of how this phrase assumed enough power in our culture to influence the perceptions of lesbians as sexually inferior. How did this message spread so quickly, and then remain so active in the cultural consciousness?

    The label of Lesbian Bed Death devalues lesbian relationships by suggesting that lesbians are inadequate, or worse yet, sexually broken. When the measurement is frequency, lesbians lose the race against heterosexual or gay pairings when it comes to sex.

     

     

    Who benefits if lesbian sex is viewed as inadequate, or inferior to the sex had by heterosexuals?

    One theory is that lesbians pose a threat to social order. Historically, men have held the power in our culture, and women have been raised to depend on them, primarily financially, for survival. This pattern has broken down over the years, thanks to the women’s liberation movement and the increase of women in the workforce. However, women still struggle to find equal footing with men in most areas of life. In South Africa, raping a lesbian can make a man a township hero. “Attackers boast publicly of their crimes and declare to their victims: ‘We’ll show you-you’re a woman,’ the report said. Such attacks are often referred to as ‘corrective rapes’ in South Africa” (Guardian 2011, 1). A woman without a man in South Africa is not considered a woman at all. As archaic as this perspective seems in 21st century America, it is not unreasonable to think that we are a culture that is not yet finished moving slowly out of one view (women are defined by men) and into a new perspective (women are defined by themselves). As we have learned from many other oppressed groups, such as Blacks in America, cultural change is slow, regardless of what is true and right.

    Another curiosity that surfaced during this research is about the momentum required to get the message of LBD off the ground. Groups of women were reportedly having regular chats about sex, which served to enhance their own sex lives, and simultaneously fulfilled an important need for a sense of belonging. These participants of these chats percolated the unifying concept of lesbian bed death. From these chats what rose to the surface was the message of lesbian bed death. If McGleughlin’s perception of this phrase is true, it expresses a dual message about the loss of sex and loss of community. In that case, the message itself has somehow changed over time, losing the emphasis once placed on the “death” of the community of lesbians who talk about sex.

    An alternate theory about the spread of this message is the possibility that it was simply true, and lesbians themselves were seeking personal validation for their own experience. It is possible that the continued discussions, which also kept LBD alive and spreading, provided an outlet for lesbians to validate their experience. Although there has not been much research about lesbian sexuality over the last three decades, the existing research consistently reported low rates of sexual activity for lesbians, with few exceptions (Alicia Mathews et al 2003, Lelita Peplau et al 1997). Research has also consistently shown a quick decline in frequency over the course of lesbian relationships. The reality seems to be that lesbians had, and still have, less sex. This researcher keeps returning to one question. Who cared, and why was this a problem?

     

    Is lower sexual frequency a problem for lesbians?

    Coming out in the 70s and 80s was avant-garde behavior. Lesbians were not previously visible to the general public. The best way to establish a sense of belonging is to identify the ways in which you are similar to those with whom you wish to join. If research revealed that lesbians are sexually inadequate during the same time that lesbians were seeking approval for their identity, it seems possible that lesbians themselves would have difficulty accepting this information.

    Instead of embracing what is, advocates of lesbians sought, and seem to still be seeking, to disprove the amount of sexual activity that occurs between women, as if to say, “We are like you.” Presumably, the assumption is that being like heterosexuals will allow lesbians to be seen as “normal.” This researcher believes that the greatest power is sourced from the truth. It is not important how much sex lesbians are having, or how often lesbians are having sex. What is important is whether or not lesbians are satisfied with their intimate relationships and whether or not they feel empowered to create these relationships according to their own truth, and not a social standard randomly transferred from other couple pairings.

    Gay men are reportedly the most sexual of all pairings. If the frequency or amount of sex determines health, then why are gay men not considered the healthiest of all couples? What would have happened if Schwartz and Blumstein discovered that heterosexuals were having the least amount of sex and that their sexual activity declined more rapidly than the other couple pairs? It is likely that this paper would be evaluating the concern with sexually overactive lesbians, even if their sexual behaviors were exactly as they are now.

    Another question that evolved from this research is; How far did the phrase lesbian bed death travel? This researcher decided to briefly explore perceptions of lesbian sexuality in other countries. A cursory look for information about sexual frequency among lesbians in other countries did not reveal much. There was one report on lesbians in The Netherlands/Holland by Karin Van Rosmalen-Nooijens, et al which was conducted in 2008. This study indicated that seventy-six percent of lesbians of all ages experienced a decline in sexual activity.  It appears that the phrase lesbian bed death did not spread far beyond the borders of the United States, but perhaps the phenomena of lower sexual frequency is a shared experience regardless of the country in question.

    What does appear consistent is that how lesbians are viewed within a culture is rooted in how women are viewed within that culture. The attitude towards lesbian behavior is directly affected by the role a woman is expected to play in her culture. For example, in Asia, a woman’s role is primarily concerned with reproduction. The concept of sexual orientation is irrelevant because sex for women is not about sex, it is about having babies. In Asia, any sexual behavior that doesn’t have the goal of procreation is considered an aberration. Thus, homosexuality is not acceptable behavior because it is by its very nature about pleasure.

    Lesbian bed death stereotyped the sex lives of lesbians as defective, inadequate, and inferior to others. This label added another layer of oppression very similarly to the way “sexual inverts” did in the early 20th century. It is useful to consider the history of the term sexual invert, and the influence this term had on cultural perceptions of lesbians. From the mid-1920s to the mid-1970s, lesbians were considered “sick,” “disturbed,” and “deviant.” It took a half-century to transcend the damaging perceptions of lesbians as mentally ill.

    History, it is said, often repeats itself. Given this, it is possible, or even likely, that lesbian bed death, much like sexual inversion, will cycle out of the collective consciousness and be replaced by a new, improved perception of lesbians. If lesbian bed death is a concept that evolved in the mid-1980s, history would indicate that by the year 2030, LBD should be nearly erased from the collective consciousness. This does not, of course, mean that lesbians will be having more sex, but the absence of the label will clarify cultural perceptions about lesbian sexuality, and how those perceptions play out in the sex lives of lesbians.

    What makes the most sense to this researcher when assessing the history and influence of the phrase lesbian bed death, is that there was a melting pot of motivations, which led to a conversion of agendas that served multiple purposes simultaneously. Whether it was used as a form of oppression, a way to keep women in their place in society, or whether it was simply because it is true and lesbians needed validation for their truth, the side-effects of this phrase on the sex lives of lesbians have proved unhelpful.

    This researcher has concluded that lesbian bed death is a disparaging phrase used to criticize the sexual realities of lesbians in comparison to heterosexuals. It is not the behavior of lesbians that is the problem, it is the grossly inaccurate and irresponsible categorization of these behaviors as inadequate or dysfunctional that is the problem. Debating lesbian bed death validates its merit. This researcher’s conclusion is that lesbians have a bed (a sex life) and it is different than other couple pairs. That difference does not make it dead, it simply makes it different.

    To defend lesbian bed death suggests that there is something legitimate to argue against. This researcher does not believe in the legitimacy of LBD. It is a misunderstood concept that filled a void of understanding during a time that lesbians were stepping out and exploring the uncharted territory of a visible life among the heterosexual population. The mistake, it seems, was to agree that a lesbian relationship should mirror that of a heterosexual relationship in order to be successful.

    As it turns out, in the limited research conducted about the difference between gay and heterosexual relationships, authors such as John Gottman have concluded that gays and lesbians are more inclined to fight fairly, are not as belligerent with one another as heterosexuals are, and are less domineering and not as fearful with each other. He also discovered that lesbians and gay men make better use of humor when they argue than do their heterosexual counterparts (John Gottman, et al 2003). Is frequent sex more important to a relationship than fair fighting and being kind?

    Sexual Frequency of Lesbians

    What is the current sexual frequency of lesbians? Question number eight in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction survey asked, “In the last six months, how many times have you had sex (intimate contact intended to create sexual pleasure) with your partner?” Respondents were prompted to fill in the number of times they had sex in the last six months. Four separate categories of frequency were created to quantify the amount of sex that lesbians were having. Women who reported having sex zero to nine times were placed in the category labeled “once monthly or less.” Women who reported having sex between ten and twenty-one times in the last six months were assigned to the category of “two to three times per month.” Women who reported having sex twenty-two to eighty-three times in the last six months were categorized as having sex “one to three times a week.” The final category of “four or more times per week” included women who reported eighty-four or more episodes of sexual activity in the last six months.

    The reported sexual frequencies were then rounded to the nearest category. For example, if a woman reported she had sex nine times in the last six months she would be assigned to the category of “once monthly or less.” Nine times in the last six months is obviously more than once monthly, however, it is closer to this category than it is to the next category of “two to three times a month,” and thus the best fit.

    Question eight was completed by 416 women. Twelve percent (50 lesbians) of the sample reported having no sex in the last six months. Thirty-seven percent (154 lesbians) of the sample reported having sex once monthly or less. Combined, these groups represent almost half of the sample population, suggesting that the majority of lesbians are having sex once monthly or less. Twenty percent of lesbians reported having sex two to three times a month. Twenty-seven percent of lesbians reported having sex one to three times weekly. Only five percent reported having sex five or more times weekly.

    Few studies have been conducted on the sexual frequency of lesbians. One of the most recent studies was published in 2003 by Matthews, Tartaro, and Hughes. In a comparative study of lesbian and heterosexual women in committed relationships, Alicia Matthews, et al found that sixty-nine percent of lesbians and seventy-six percent of heterosexual women reported having sex at least once weekly. These findings are significantly higher than those of this study. Only thirty-four percent of the women in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample reported having sex at least weekly, as seen in figure seven. It is important to note, however, that the sample size for the Alicia Matthews, et al. study was based on thirty-six lesbians. The small sample size raises questions about the validity of these findings, and the authors acknowledge that the small sample limits their ability to make any generalizations about lesbian sexuality.

    Another study was done in 1997 by Letitia Peplau, et al also revealed higher rates of sexual frequency among lesbians. This particular study focused on the sexual behaviors of 398 Black lesbians (Letitia Peplau, et al 1997). The findings showed that eleven percent of Black lesbians reported having sex more than three times a week. This is slightly higher than the eight-percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study. Forty-seven percent of lesbians in Letitia Peplau, et al’s study reported having sex one to three times per week, which is significantly higher than the twenty-nine percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey. Forty-one percent of the Black lesbians reported having sex less than once a week, which is significantly lower than the sixty-five percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey.

    Letitia Peplau, et al acknowledge that the sample is non-representative; however, it does offer insight to the variability of lesbian sexuality. What accounts for the higher rate of sexual frequency among Black women? This is valuable information, given that most of the studies conducted on lesbian sexuality are based on the histories of Caucasian women, including the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample. While this question is outside the scope of this paper, it is none-the-less a valuable question to note.

    The most commonly cited source about lesbian sexual frequency is still Schwartz and Blumstein (1983). The frequency of lesbian sex is presented in the context of length of relationship and the rating of one’s quality of sex life. For the American Couples study, it appears these statistics were based on a total of 768 lesbians. Of these lesbians, 195 reports having sex once a month or less, which equals twenty-five percent of the sample. This is significantly lower than the findings in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey which suggest that forty-eight percent of all lesbians in the sample (44% of lesbian couples) are having sex once monthly or less.

    The same calculation process reveals that twenty-seven percent of the American Couples sample have “sex between once a month and once a week” This compares to sixty-eight percent of the women in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample who have sex between once a month and once a week. The third category offered is “sex between one and three times a week.” This includes 274 lesbians or thirty-six percent of the American Couple’s sample. This finding does not differ much from the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey, which indicated that twenty-nine percent of lesbians are having sex one to three times per week. The final category of frequency, “Sex three times a week or more,” comprised nineteen percent of the sample. The Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey reported eight percent of women at this level of sexual frequency, which is less than half of the findings by Schwartz and Blumstein (Schwartz and Blumstein 1983, 27).

    Loulan’s 1987 study revealed remarkably similar findings to the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey. Twelve percent of women in both samples report having no sex. Loulan categorized sexual frequency as “once or fewer times” (presumably per month) and “two to five times a month,” which compare closely to the fifty-three percent of lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey who reported having sex up to one or two times per month (Figure 7). Twenty percent of lesbians reported having sex six to ten times a month in Loulan’s survey, compared to twenty-six percent of lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study who reported having sex one to two times weekly. Those reporting sexual activity three or more times a week in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey comprise eight percent of the sample, and for Loulan’s study, fourteen percent reported having sex “eleven or more times in a month.” The similarity in these findings is striking.

    Figure 6.  General Overview of Lesbian Sexual Frequency

    Figure 7.  Detailed Lesbian Sexual Frequency

    Women aged twenty-one to thirty are the most sexually active of the lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study, with forty-eight percent having sex once weekly or more (Table 9). A noticeable drop in sexual frequency does not begin until after age fifty. At fifty-one, there is a ten percent drop in weekly sexual frequency. Thirty-one percent of forty-one to fifty-year-olds report having weekly sex. This drops to twenty-one percent at age fifty-one and to fourteen percent at age sixty-one. According to the National Institute on Aging, the average age of menopause is fifty-one, which seems to be the strongest explanation for this drop. One of the common side effects reported about menopause is a decrease in libido. The Frequency vs. Satisfaction findings is also similar to the findings of Loulan (1987), where she reports a general decline in sexual frequency as women age, with the most notable drop in frequency occurring between the age group forty to forty-nine, and fifty to fifty-nine.

    Table 9.  Sexual Frequency Based on Age of Lesbians

    Age

    Four or More
    Times Per Week

    One to Three
    Times Per Week

    Two to Three
    Times Per Month

    Once Monthly
    or Less

    Once weekly or more

    < 21 Years (n=6)

    17%

    17%

    33%

    33%

    34%

    21-30 Years (n=50)

    10%

    38%

    18%

    34%

    48%

    31-40 Years (n=127)

    6%

    28%

    20%

    47%

    34%

    41-50 Years (n=169)

    4%

    27%

    24%

    44%

    31%

    51-60 Years (n=72)

    6%

    15%

    17%

    63%

    21%

    60 + Years (n=15)

    7%

    7%

    13%

    73%

    14%

     

    Percentages reflect sexual frequencies per age group

    n=lesbians per age

    To explore the desire for sex as thoroughly as possible, the Frequency vs. Satisfaction survey inquired with participants about the frequency of non-partner sex in the last six months. Question ten asks, “In the last six months, how many times did you have sex with someone other than your partner?” Of the 498 respondents, only forty-two (12%) reported having non-partner sex. The most non-partner sex occurs with couples who have been partnered between six and ten years, followed by women who are newly partnered for up to six months (21%).

    Of the forty-two women who report non-partner sex, thirty-nine responded to the question about whether or not their relationship is open or closed to outside sex. Of these thirty-nine who reported having sex outside their relationship in the last six months, thirteen are not currently partnered. This might suggest that thirteen (3%) of women pursued another relationship or at least sex, and it may or may not have been the cause of their relationship break-up. Eight (2%) of the women who had non-partner sex report that they have agreements with their partner to engage in sex outside the relationship. Eighteen of the women (4%) reported no such agreement, so were likely engaged in acts of infidelity.

    The incidence of non-partner sex with or without partner approval is nominal. These findings are lower than the incidence of non-partner sex found in 1983 by Schwartz and Blumstein. Ten percent of their sample of lesbians reported infidelity, compared to four percent of the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample. Of those with an agreement about non-partner sex, twenty-five percent engaged in sex outside of their relationship.

    There are two possibilities that may account for this decline in non-partner sex. One, the onset of AIDS occurred around the time Schwartz and Blumstein reported their findings, which would place participants of their survey at the tail end of the sexual liberation movement where sex was viewed less restrictively in our culture. This era put a damper on the sex lives of all couple pairs.

    Another possibility is that during the 70s and 80s, lesbians were less visible than they are in today’s culture. With this visibility comes an increased level of validation and possibly accountability. A client who was in her prime dating years during the years of Schwartz and Blumstein’s study explained to this researcher that she had been unfaithful in every relationship from around age twenty to age forty. She stated that now that she is approaching sixty years old, she has come to see that she never valued her relationships, that she did not see lesbian relationships as important as heterosexual relationships. She shared that she had trouble conceiving that they would last in the same way that married couples believed their relationships would last. She explained that she feels differently now, that she has come to see her relationship as something that has meaning, and she experienced this only after coming out and having others (particularly heterosexuals) know about her relationship.

    Once lesbians became more visible, it is possible they began to take their own relationships more seriously, which may have contributed to the decline in non-partner sex among those without agreements.

    Figure 8.  Instances of Sex Outside the Relationship Among Lesbians

    In summary, research largely supports the fact that lesbians are less sexual than other couple pairings. However, there is no evidence to support the belief that this translates into a deficiency, or that a lower frequency is in any way unhealthy. The assumption that heterosexuals are the healthy standard by which lesbians must be compared is a paradigm this researcher rejects. Some lesbians have a lot of sex. Some lesbians have none. Lesbians of all ages are sexual, and most are disinclined to stray sexually from their primary relationship. Lesbian sex does appear to continue at a rate similar to that found in 1987 by Loulan, though fewer lesbians appear to engage in non-partner sex than in previous years. Chapter Seven will shift attention to what is important to lesbians when it comes to their intimate relationships

    How did the Narrative of Lesbian Bed Death Impact Lesbian Sexuality?

    The search for understanding about how Lesbian Bed Death influenced lesbian sexuality over the last three produces more questions than answers. There is great curiosity about how the topic of lesbian sex, and the phrase lesbian bed death, was carried from the east coast to the west coast so swiftly and effectively during an era when the internet was not available to spread information at viral rates. Though it is interesting to uncover the roots of this phrase, the ultimate goal of this research is to gain a better understanding of how this phrase assumed enough power in our culture to influence the perceptions of lesbians as sexually inferior. How did this message spread so quickly, and then remain so active in the cultural consciousness?

    The label of Lesbian Bed Death devalues lesbian relationships by suggesting that lesbians are inadequate, or worse yet, sexually broken. When the measurement is frequency, lesbians lose the race against heterosexual or gay pairings when it comes to sex.

     

     

    Who benefits if lesbian sex is viewed as inadequate, or inferior to the sex had by heterosexuals?

    One theory is that lesbians pose a threat to social order. Historically, men have held the power in our culture, and women have been raised to depend on them, primarily financially, for survival. This pattern has broken down over the years, thanks to the women’s liberation movement and the increase of women in the workforce. However, women still struggle to find equal footing with men in most areas of life. In South Africa, raping a lesbian can make a man a township hero. “Attackers boast publicly of their crimes and declare to their victims: ‘We’ll show you-you’re a woman,’ the report said. Such attacks are often referred to as ‘corrective rapes’ in South Africa” (Guardian 2011, 1). A woman without a man in South Africa is not considered a woman at all. As archaic as this perspective seems in 21st century America, it is not unreasonable to think that we are a culture that is not yet finished moving slowly out of one view (women are defined by men) and into a new perspective (women are defined by themselves). As we have learned from many other oppressed groups, such as Blacks in America, cultural change is slow, regardless of what is true and right.

    Another curiosity that surfaced during this research is about the momentum required to get the message of LBD off the ground. Groups of women were reportedly having regular chats about sex, which served to enhance their own sex lives, and simultaneously fulfilled an important need for a sense of belonging. These participants of these chats percolated the unifying concept of lesbian bed death. From these chats what rose to the surface was the message of lesbian bed death. If McGleughlin’s perception of this phrase is true, it expresses a dual message about the loss of sex and loss of community. In that case, the message itself has somehow changed over time, losing the emphasis once placed on the “death” of the community of lesbians who talk about sex.

    An alternate theory about the spread of this message is the possibility that it was simply true, and lesbians themselves were seeking personal validation for their own experience. It is possible that the continued discussions, which also kept LBD alive and spreading, provided an outlet for lesbians to validate their experience. Although there has not been much research about lesbian sexuality over the last three decades, the existing research consistently reported low rates of sexual activity for lesbians, with few exceptions (Alicia Mathews et al 2003, Lelita Peplau et al 1997). Research has also consistently shown a quick decline in frequency over the course of lesbian relationships. The reality seems to be that lesbians had, and still have, less sex. This researcher keeps returning to one question. Who cared, and why was this a problem?

     

    Is lower sexual frequency a problem for lesbians?

    Coming out in the 70s and 80s was avant-garde behavior. Lesbians were not previously visible to the general public. The best way to establish a sense of belonging is to identify the ways in which you are similar to those with whom you wish to join. If research revealed that lesbians are sexually inadequate during the same time that lesbians were seeking approval for their identity, it seems possible that lesbians themselves would have difficulty accepting this information.

    Instead of embracing what is, advocates of lesbians sought, and seem to still be seeking, to disprove the amount of sexual activity that occurs between women, as if to say, “We are like you.” Presumably, the assumption is that being like heterosexuals will allow lesbians to be seen as “normal.” This researcher believes that the greatest power is sourced from the truth. It is not important how much sex lesbians are having, or how often lesbians are having sex. What is important is whether or not lesbians are satisfied with their intimate relationships and whether or not they feel empowered to create these relationships according to their own truth, and not a social standard randomly transferred from other couple pairings.

    Gay men are reportedly the most sexual of all pairings. If the frequency or amount of sex determines health, then why are gay men not considered the healthiest of all couples? What would have happened if Schwartz and Blumstein discovered that heterosexuals were having the least amount of sex and that their sexual activity declined more rapidly than the other couple pairs? It is likely that this paper would be evaluating the concern with sexually overactive lesbians, even if their sexual behaviors were exactly as they are now.

    Another question that evolved from this research is; How far did the phrase lesbian bed death travel? This researcher decided to briefly explore perceptions of lesbian sexuality in other countries. A cursory look for information about sexual frequency among lesbians in other countries did not reveal much. There was one report on lesbians in The Netherlands/Holland by Karin Van Rosmalen-Nooijens, et al which was conducted in 2008. This study indicated that seventy-six percent of lesbians of all ages experienced a decline in sexual activity.  It appears that the phrase lesbian bed death did not spread far beyond the borders of the United States, but perhaps the phenomena of lower sexual frequency is a shared experience regardless of the country in question.

    What does appear consistent is that how lesbians are viewed within a culture is rooted in how women are viewed within that culture. The attitude towards lesbian behavior is directly affected by the role a woman is expected to play in her culture. For example, in Asia, a woman’s role is primarily concerned with reproduction. The concept of sexual orientation is irrelevant because sex for women is not about sex, it is about having babies. In Asia, any sexual behavior that doesn’t have the goal of procreation is considered an aberration. Thus, homosexuality is not acceptable behavior because it is by its very nature about pleasure.

    Lesbian bed death stereotyped the sex lives of lesbians as defective, inadequate, and inferior to others. This label added another layer of oppression very similarly to the way “sexual inverts” did in the early 20th century. It is useful to consider the history of the term sexual invert, and the influence this term had on cultural perceptions of lesbians. From the mid-1920s to the mid-1970s, lesbians were considered “sick,” “disturbed,” and “deviant.” It took a half-century to transcend the damaging perceptions of lesbians as mentally ill.

    History, it is said, often repeats itself. Given this, it is possible, or even likely, that lesbian bed death, much like sexual inversion, will cycle out of the collective consciousness and be replaced by a new, improved perception of lesbians. If lesbian bed death is a concept that evolved in the mid-1980s, history would indicate that by the year 2030, LBD should be nearly erased from the collective consciousness. This does not, of course, mean that lesbians will be having more sex, but the absence of the label will clarify cultural perceptions about lesbian sexuality, and how those perceptions play out in the sex lives of lesbians.

    What makes the most sense to this researcher when assessing the history and influence of the phrase lesbian bed death, is that there was a melting pot of motivations, which led to a conversion of agendas that served multiple purposes simultaneously. Whether it was used as a form of oppression, a way to keep women in their place in society, or whether it was simply because it is true and lesbians needed validation for their truth, the side-effects of this phrase on the sex lives of lesbians have proved unhelpful.

    This researcher has concluded that lesbian bed death is a disparaging phrase used to criticize the sexual realities of lesbians in comparison to heterosexuals. It is not the behavior of lesbians that is the problem, it is the grossly inaccurate and irresponsible categorization of these behaviors as inadequate or dysfunctional that is the problem. Debating lesbian bed death validates its merit. This researcher’s conclusion is that lesbians have a bed (a sex life) and it is different than other couple pairs. That difference does not make it dead, it simply makes it different.

    To defend lesbian bed death suggests that there is something legitimate to argue against. This researcher does not believe in the legitimacy of LBD. It is a misunderstood concept that filled a void of understanding during a time that lesbians were stepping out and exploring the uncharted territory of a visible life among the heterosexual population. The mistake, it seems, was to agree that a lesbian relationship should mirror that of a heterosexual relationship in order to be successful.

    As it turns out, in the limited research conducted about the difference between gay and heterosexual relationships, authors such as John Gottman have concluded that gays and lesbians are more inclined to fight fairly, are not as belligerent with one another as heterosexuals are, and are less domineering and not as fearful with each other. He also discovered that lesbians and gay men make better use of humor when they argue than do their heterosexual counterparts (John Gottman, et al 2003). Is frequent sex more important to a relationship than fair fighting and being kind?

    Sexual Frequency of Lesbians

    What is the current sexual frequency of lesbians? Question number eight in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction survey asked, “In the last six months, how many times have you had sex (intimate contact intended to create sexual pleasure) with your partner?” Respondents were prompted to fill in the number of times they had sex in the last six months. Four separate categories of frequency were created to quantify the amount of sex that lesbians were having. Women who reported having sex zero to nine times were placed in the category labeled “once monthly or less.” Women who reported having sex between ten and twenty-one times in the last six months were assigned to the category of “two to three times per month.” Women who reported having sex twenty-two to eighty-three times in the last six months were categorized as having sex “one to three times a week.” The final category of “four or more times per week” included women who reported eighty-four or more episodes of sexual activity in the last six months.

    The reported sexual frequencies were then rounded to the nearest category. For example, if a woman reported she had sex nine times in the last six months she would be assigned to the category of “once monthly or less.” Nine times in the last six months is obviously more than once monthly, however, it is closer to this category than it is to the next category of “two to three times a month,” and thus the best fit.

    Question eight was completed by 416 women. Twelve percent (50 lesbians) of the sample reported having no sex in the last six months. Thirty-seven percent (154 lesbians) of the sample reported having sex once monthly or less. Combined, these groups represent almost half of the sample population, suggesting that the majority of lesbians are having sex once monthly or less. Twenty percent of lesbians reported having sex two to three times a month. Twenty-seven percent of lesbians reported having sex one to three times weekly. Only five percent reported having sex five or more times weekly.

    Few studies have been conducted on the sexual frequency of lesbians. One of the most recent studies was published in 2003 by Matthews, Tartaro, and Hughes. In a comparative study of lesbian and heterosexual women in committed relationships, Alicia Matthews, et al found that sixty-nine percent of lesbians and seventy-six percent of heterosexual women reported having sex at least once weekly. These findings are significantly higher than those of this study. Only thirty-four percent of the women in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample reported having sex at least weekly, as seen in figure seven. It is important to note, however, that the sample size for the Alicia Matthews, et al. study was based on thirty-six lesbians. The small sample size raises questions about the validity of these findings, and the authors acknowledge that the small sample limits their ability to make any generalizations about lesbian sexuality.

    Another study was done in 1997 by Letitia Peplau, et al also revealed higher rates of sexual frequency among lesbians. This particular study focused on the sexual behaviors of 398 Black lesbians (Letitia Peplau, et al 1997). The findings showed that eleven percent of Black lesbians reported having sex more than three times a week. This is slightly higher than the eight-percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study. Forty-seven percent of lesbians in Letitia Peplau, et al’s study reported having sex one to three times per week, which is significantly higher than the twenty-nine percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey. Forty-one percent of the Black lesbians reported having sex less than once a week, which is significantly lower than the sixty-five percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey.

    Letitia Peplau, et al acknowledge that the sample is non-representative; however, it does offer insight to the variability of lesbian sexuality. What accounts for the higher rate of sexual frequency among Black women? This is valuable information, given that most of the studies conducted on lesbian sexuality are based on the histories of Caucasian women, including the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample. While this question is outside the scope of this paper, it is none-the-less a valuable question to note.

    The most commonly cited source about lesbian sexual frequency is still Schwartz and Blumstein (1983). The frequency of lesbian sex is presented in the context of length of relationship and the rating of one’s quality of sex life. For the American Couples study, it appears these statistics were based on a total of 768 lesbians. Of these lesbians, 195 reports having sex once a month or less, which equals twenty-five percent of the sample. This is significantly lower than the findings in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey which suggest that forty-eight percent of all lesbians in the sample (44% of lesbian couples) are having sex once monthly or less.

    The same calculation process reveals that twenty-seven percent of the American Couples sample have “sex between once a month and once a week” This compares to sixty-eight percent of the women in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample who have sex between once a month and once a week. The third category offered is “sex between one and three times a week.” This includes 274 lesbians or thirty-six percent of the American Couple’s sample. This finding does not differ much from the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey, which indicated that twenty-nine percent of lesbians are having sex one to three times per week. The final category of frequency, “Sex three times a week or more,” comprised nineteen percent of the sample. The Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey reported eight percent of women at this level of sexual frequency, which is less than half of the findings by Schwartz and Blumstein (Schwartz and Blumstein 1983, 27).

    Loulan’s 1987 study revealed remarkably similar findings to the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey. Twelve percent of women in both samples report having no sex. Loulan categorized sexual frequency as “once or fewer times” (presumably per month) and “two to five times a month,” which compare closely to the fifty-three percent of lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey who reported having sex up to one or two times per month (Figure 7). Twenty percent of lesbians reported having sex six to ten times a month in Loulan’s survey, compared to twenty-six percent of lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study who reported having sex one to two times weekly. Those reporting sexual activity three or more times a week in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey comprise eight percent of the sample, and for Loulan’s study, fourteen percent reported having sex “eleven or more times in a month.” The similarity in these findings is striking.

    General Overview of Lesbian Sexual Frequency

    Detailed Lesbian Sexual Frequency

    Women aged twenty-one to thirty are the most sexually active of the lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study, with forty-eight percent having sex once weekly or more (Table 9). A noticeable drop in sexual frequency does not begin until after age fifty. At fifty-one, there is a ten percent drop in weekly sexual frequency. Thirty-one percent of forty-one to fifty-year-olds report having weekly sex. This drops to twenty-one percent at age fifty-one and to fourteen percent at age sixty-one. According to the National Institute on Aging, the average age of menopause is fifty-one, which seems to be the strongest explanation for this drop. One of the common side effects reported about menopause is a decrease in libido. The Frequency vs. Satisfaction findings is also similar to the findings of Loulan (1987), where she reports a general decline in sexual frequency as women age, with the most notable drop in frequency occurring between the age group forty to forty-nine, and fifty to fifty-nine.

    Sexual Frequency Based on Age of Lesbians

    Age

    Four or More
    Times Per Week

    One to Three
    Times Per Week

    Two to Three
    Times Per Month

    Once Monthly
    or Less

    Once weekly or more

    < 21 Years (n=6)

    17%

    17%

    33%

    33%

    34%

    21-30 Years (n=50)

    10%

    38%

    18%

    34%

    48%

    31-40 Years (n=127)

    6%

    28%

    20%

    47%

    34%

    41-50 Years (n=169)

    4%

    27%

    24%

    44%

    31%

    51-60 Years (n=72)

    6%

    15%

    17%

    63%

    21%

    60 + Years (n=15)

    7%

    7%

    13%

    73%

    14%

     

    Percentages reflect sexual frequencies per age group

    n=lesbians per age

    To explore the desire for sex as thoroughly as possible, the Frequency vs. Satisfaction survey inquired with participants about the frequency of non-partner sex in the last six months. Question ten asks, “In the last six months, how many times did you have sex with someone other than your partner?” Of the 498 respondents, only forty-two (12%) reported having non-partner sex. The most non-partner sex occurs with couples who have been partnered between six and ten years, followed by women who are newly partnered for up to six months (21%).

    Of the forty-two women who report non-partner sex, thirty-nine responded to the question about whether or not their relationship is open or closed to outside sex. Of these thirty-nine who reported having sex outside their relationship in the last six months, thirteen are not currently partnered. This might suggest that thirteen (3%) of women pursued another relationship or at least sex, and it may or may not have been the cause of their relationship break-up. Eight (2%) of the women who had non-partner sex report that they have agreements with their partner to engage in sex outside the relationship. Eighteen of the women (4%) reported no such agreement, so were likely engaged in acts of infidelity.

    The incidence of non-partner sex with or without partner approval is nominal. These findings are lower than the incidence of non-partner sex found in 1983 by Schwartz and Blumstein. Ten percent of their sample of lesbians reported infidelity, compared to four percent of the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample. Of those with an agreement about non-partner sex, twenty-five percent engaged in sex outside of their relationship.

    There are two possibilities that may account for this decline in non-partner sex. One, the onset of AIDS occurred around the time Schwartz and Blumstein reported their findings, which would place participants of their survey at the tail end of the sexual liberation movement where sex was viewed less restrictively in our culture. This era put a damper on the sex lives of all couple pairs.

    Another possibility is that during the 70s and 80s, lesbians were less visible than they are in today’s culture. With this visibility comes an increased level of validation and possibly accountability. A client who was in her prime dating years during the years of Schwartz and Blumstein’s study explained to this researcher that she had been unfaithful in every relationship from around age twenty to age forty. She stated that now that she is approaching sixty years old, she has come to see that she never valued her relationships, that she did not see lesbian relationships as important as heterosexual relationships. She shared that she had trouble conceiving that they would last in the same way that married couples believed their relationships would last. She explained that she feels differently now, that she has come to see her relationship as something that has meaning, and she experienced this only after coming out and having others (particularly heterosexuals) know about her relationship.

    Once lesbians became more visible, it is possible they began to take their own relationships more seriously, which may have contributed to the decline in non-partner sex among those without agreements.

    Instances of Sex Outside the Relationship Among Lesbians

    In summary, research largely supports the fact that lesbians are less sexual than other couple pairings. However, there is no evidence to support the belief that this translates into a deficiency, or that a lower frequency is in any way unhealthy. The assumption that heterosexuals are the healthy standard by which lesbians must be compared is a paradigm this researcher rejects. Some lesbians have a lot of sex. Some lesbians have none. Lesbians of all ages are sexual, and most are disinclined to stray sexually from their primary relationship. Lesbian sex does appear to continue at a rate similar to that found in 1987 by Loulan, though fewer lesbians appear to engage in non-partner sex than in previous years. Chapter Seven will shift attention to what is important to lesbians when it comes to their intimate relationships.

     

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D. is an expert lesbian relationship coach and psychotherapist with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, and recovery from lesbian breakups. She is the author of Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play. As a side-hobby, she operates a quirky site called “AskLesbians.com” where she randomly polls lesbians to satisfy the quirkiest of curiosities. Lastly, she and her wife Kristen host Lesbian Couples Retreats in various destinations, and you can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

    This article is an adaption of Chapter Six of a dissertation written by Michele O’Mara, PhD. Tap here t read the entire dissertation in a pdf format.

    SUGGESTIONS, QUESTIONS, COMPLAINTS OR ACCOLADES?

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    Sexual Frequency Among Lesbians Copy

    Sexual Frequency Among Lesbians Copy

    Lesbian Bed Death Meaning and History

    Is bed death really a thing for lesbian couples?

    Lesbian Bed Death Meaning and Roots

    In 1983, Pepper Schwartz and Phillip Blumstein published research that identified lesbian couples as the least sexual couple pairing. This research led to more research which further confirmed that not only were lesbians having less sex than other couples, but they were also experiencing a more rapid and dramatic drop in frequency as their relationships continued (Loulan 1984). Soon, these statistics were broadcast in the media and just like that, a vision of lesbians as non-sexual started to emerge in our culture and it has stuck in our collective conscience since then. During this time, a powerfully descriptive and derogatory three-letter phrase emerged to describe the lower sexual frequency and rapid decline of sexual frequency among lesbian couples. The phrase used to describe this phenomenon is lesbian bed death (LBD).

    Who coined the phrase lesbian bed death?

    Once the phrase, Lesbian bed death, grabbed the attention of the researchers and media, comedians jumped in the mix too. When I set out to research the history of this phrase, I didn’t expect to find multiple people credited for coming up with it, and it seems no one who was crediting these various people did the work of verifying their source. The three people most commonly cited for coining the phrase are the author of the book Lesbian Sex Joann Loulan; lesbian comedian Kate Clinton; and researcher and co-author of the book American Couples, Pepper Schwartz. 

    Naturally, I reached out to all three credited sources. First, I contacted Dr. Pepper Schwartz, co-author of American Couples. American Couples is a book written in 1983 that summarizes research she and her co-author Phillip Blumstein conducted with 12,000 couples, including four couple pairings: married, co-habitating (heterosexuals), gay males and lesbian couples. In this book, lesbians were identified as the couple pairing with the lowest rates of sexual frequency. Her research is often credited as the source from which this phrase evolved. Pepper Schwartz responded to my inquiry about this by  saying, “It is attributed to me—people I know say I said it—but I never wrote it. Sadly, I have no memory about it—so I can’t deny or confirm!”  Unsatisfied, I moved on to the next most commonly  -quoted source, Joann Loulan.

    Joann Loulan, Author of Lesbian Sex

    I reached out to Joann Loulan, author of Lesbian Sex (which was published in 1984, and used copies are still available on amazon).  Lesbian Sex was the first most comprehensive book written by a lesbian, and for lesbians, on the topic of lesbian sex. Frankly, few books have been written since. Loulan shared with me, “I did not coin the phrase Lesbian Bed Death.” She admitted, “I used it frequently, but of course my life was (and is) trying to make that change within the lesbian community and make sex sexy again.” Strike two. No confirmation that this term was developed by her. 

    Kate Clinton, Lesbian Comedian

    Finally, this researcher contacted Kate Clinton, who also denied coining the term. Always the comedian, she shared a phrase that she used in her comedy, and she expressed much pride in it. Rather than a same-sex relationship, Clinton jokes that lesbians have a “some sex relationship.” Clinton suggested contacting Sue Hyde, the Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference. Clinton recalled that Hyde’s partner, Jade McGleughlin, may have been responsible for the phrase lesbian bed death (LBD).

    Sue Hyde

    In an email response to this researcher’s inquiry, Sue Hyde wrote, “Jade McGleughlin coined the phrase ‘lesbian bed death’ in about 1985 or so. She will need to relate to you the particulars of how her brilliant mind compressed into a three-word unforgettable phrase the entire phenomenon of decreasing lesbian sex activity in long term couples.” She stated, “I believe she used the term in a paper she wrote while at Smith School of Social Work, where she was proceeding towards her LICSW” (Hyde 2011).

    Jade McGleughlin

    In a phone conversation, Jade McGleughlin stated that she did not know exactly how LBD came into being, but she thought that it “coalesced spontaneously among a group of lesbians for whom it captured an experience particular to that moment.” McGleughlin said that she and the other lesbians in her community, whom she described as sex-positive feminist queers, “wanted the sexiness of talking about sex and to have butch-femme power be translated into hot sex” (McGleughlin 2012). McGleughlin reported that the term does not have concrete, traceable roots. Rather, it is something best credited to a group of women at a specific point in history. While she denied credit for coining the phrase, McGleughlin identified herself as the messenger.

    She thought she popularized the phrase during the 1987 March on Washington, where she gave a speech during the Sex and Politics Forum, and she also wrote about LBD in her master’s thesis around the same time. Confirming this was Sue Moir, another lesbian whose name surfaced during the search for the roots of lesbian bed death. Moir was a friend of McGleughlin’s, and also a part of the group of women discussing this topic. Moir explained to this researcher that she heard this phrase lesbian bed death “at a dyke gabfest in Newton,” and that McGleughlin got it from her. What Moir reported is consistent with what McGleughlin recalled. McGleughlin does not take ownership for creating the phrase, and she speculated that the phrase surfaced within lesbian group discussions. Thus, two separate people, neither of whom claims credit for the phrase, corroborate that the idea of LBD evolved through lesbian group conversations.

    Sue Moir

    Moir also stated that she was present when McGleughlin first used the phrase publicly, saying, “I can tell you it was the first time that the audience had heard it” (Moir 2011). McGleughlin stated there was a synergistic effect between the talk of sex within a community of feminist women, and the positive influence this talk had on the sex lives of lesbians engaged in these conversations. McGleughlin’s perception was that LBD included more than the diminishing sex in a lesbian’s personal relationship at the time. She felt it also captured the larger loss of a sexual community where women had grown accustomed to having a public space for sexual discussions and the excitement of the sexually charged women’s movement.

    Lesbian bed death was about more than sex. McGleughlin recalled that at the tail end of the sex wars, the whole experience “seemed to collapse into this phrase—kind of like a screen memory.” There was a real phenomenon of waning sex within lesbian relationships, and lesbians further lost connection to the sexual community once the sex wars ended. McGleughlin stated a few times, “sex couldn’t keep pace with rhetoric—but the rhetoric was dying and rhetoric in part produced sex.” This was something of a dialectic, she said, “The theory and the practice were held in tension and constructing and deconstructing each other” (McGleughlin 2012).

    Jade McGleughlin stated that LBD “captured a historical moment” during the waning of the sex wars. By giving a name to this moment, she sparked a notion that eventually spread across the United States like wildfire. The message traveled far and wide and it stuck.

    The timing of McGleughlin’s speech also coincided with the lesbian sexuality research (Schwartz and Blumstein 1983, Loulan 1984, 1987) at the time, which became an accelerant for the spread of the LBD message. Ultimately, Lesbian Bed Death took on a new and unintended meaning that gave shape to lesbian sexuality as inferior, and in some way doomed. McGleughlin expressed regret about the impact of this phrase. In her opinion, the phrase collapsed the complexity of lesbian sexuality, and what might otherwise have been a historical phenomenon became a “condensation” and “condemnation” of lesbian sexuality (McGleughlin 2012).

    Pepper Schwartz, Co-Author of American Couples

    When asked if she coined the phrase, she replied, “It is attributed to me—people I know say I said it—but I never wrote it. Sadly, I have no memory about it—so I can’t deny or confirm!”

    Kate Clinton, Lesbian Comedian

    Always the comedian, she denied that she is the one who came up with the term lesbian bed death. Howver, she quickly added that she did joke in her shows that lesbians aren’t in a same-sex relationships, they are in a “some sex relationship” Clinton did lead me to Sue Hyde, the Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference. Clinton recalled that Hyde’s partner, Jade McGleughlin, may have been responsible for the phrase lesbian bed death (LBD).

    Joann Loulan, author of Lesbian Sex

    Loulan shared with me, “I did not coin the phrase Lesbian Bed Death.” She admitted, “I used it frequently, but of course my life was (and is) trying to make that change within the lesbian community and make sex sexy again.”

    How did the Narrative of Lesbian Bed Death Impact Lesbian Sexuality?

    The search for understanding about how Lesbian Bed Death influenced lesbian sexuality over the last three produces more questions than answers. There is great curiosity about how the topic of lesbian sex, and the phrase lesbian bed death, was carried from the east coast to the west coast so swiftly and effectively during an era when the internet was not available to spread information at viral rates. Though it is interesting to uncover the roots of this phrase, the ultimate goal of this research is to gain a better understanding of how this phrase assumed enough power in our culture to influence the perceptions of lesbians as sexually inferior. How did this message spread so quickly, and then remain so active in the cultural consciousness?

    The label of Lesbian Bed Death devalues lesbian relationships by suggesting that lesbians are inadequate, or worse yet, sexually broken. When the measurement is frequency, lesbians lose the race against heterosexual or gay pairings when it comes to sex.

     

     

    Who benefits if lesbian sex is viewed as inadequate, or inferior to the sex had by heterosexuals?

    One theory is that lesbians pose a threat to social order. Historically, men have held the power in our culture, and women have been raised to depend on them, primarily financially, for survival. This pattern has broken down over the years, thanks to the women’s liberation movement and the increase of women in the workforce. However, women still struggle to find equal footing with men in most areas of life. In South Africa, raping a lesbian can make a man a township hero. “Attackers boast publicly of their crimes and declare to their victims: ‘We’ll show you-you’re a woman,’ the report said. Such attacks are often referred to as ‘corrective rapes’ in South Africa” (Guardian 2011, 1). A woman without a man in South Africa is not considered a woman at all. As archaic as this perspective seems in 21st century America, it is not unreasonable to think that we are a culture that is not yet finished moving slowly out of one view (women are defined by men) and into a new perspective (women are defined by themselves). As we have learned from many other oppressed groups, such as Blacks in America, cultural change is slow, regardless of what is true and right.

    Another curiosity that surfaced during this research is about the momentum required to get the message of LBD off the ground. Groups of women were reportedly having regular chats about sex, which served to enhance their own sex lives, and simultaneously fulfilled an important need for a sense of belonging. These participants of these chats percolated the unifying concept of lesbian bed death. From these chats what rose to the surface was the message of lesbian bed death. If McGleughlin’s perception of this phrase is true, it expresses a dual message about the loss of sex and loss of community. In that case, the message itself has somehow changed over time, losing the emphasis once placed on the “death” of the community of lesbians who talk about sex.

    An alternate theory about the spread of this message is the possibility that it was simply true, and lesbians themselves were seeking personal validation for their own experience. It is possible that the continued discussions, which also kept LBD alive and spreading, provided an outlet for lesbians to validate their experience. Although there has not been much research about lesbian sexuality over the last three decades, the existing research consistently reported low rates of sexual activity for lesbians, with few exceptions (Alicia Mathews et al 2003, Lelita Peplau et al 1997). Research has also consistently shown a quick decline in frequency over the course of lesbian relationships. The reality seems to be that lesbians had, and still have, less sex. This researcher keeps returning to one question. Who cared, and why was this a problem?

     

    Is lower sexual frequency a problem for lesbians?

    Coming out in the 70s and 80s was avant-garde behavior. Lesbians were not previously visible to the general public. The best way to establish a sense of belonging is to identify the ways in which you are similar to those with whom you wish to join. If research revealed that lesbians are sexually inadequate during the same time that lesbians were seeking approval for their identity, it seems possible that lesbians themselves would have difficulty accepting this information.

    Instead of embracing what is, advocates of lesbians sought, and seem to still be seeking, to disprove the amount of sexual activity that occurs between women, as if to say, “We are like you.” Presumably, the assumption is that being like heterosexuals will allow lesbians to be seen as “normal.” This researcher believes that the greatest power is sourced from the truth. It is not important how much sex lesbians are having, or how often lesbians are having sex. What is important is whether or not lesbians are satisfied with their intimate relationships and whether or not they feel empowered to create these relationships according to their own truth, and not a social standard randomly transferred from other couple pairings.

    Gay men are reportedly the most sexual of all pairings. If the frequency or amount of sex determines health, then why are gay men not considered the healthiest of all couples? What would have happened if Schwartz and Blumstein discovered that heterosexuals were having the least amount of sex and that their sexual activity declined more rapidly than the other couple pairs? It is likely that this paper would be evaluating the concern with sexually overactive lesbians, even if their sexual behaviors were exactly as they are now.

    Another question that evolved from this research is; How far did the phrase lesbian bed death travel? This researcher decided to briefly explore perceptions of lesbian sexuality in other countries. A cursory look for information about sexual frequency among lesbians in other countries did not reveal much. There was one report on lesbians in The Netherlands/Holland by Karin Van Rosmalen-Nooijens, et al which was conducted in 2008. This study indicated that seventy-six percent of lesbians of all ages experienced a decline in sexual activity.  It appears that the phrase lesbian bed death did not spread far beyond the borders of the United States, but perhaps the phenomena of lower sexual frequency is a shared experience regardless of the country in question.

    What does appear consistent is that how lesbians are viewed within a culture is rooted in how women are viewed within that culture. The attitude towards lesbian behavior is directly affected by the role a woman is expected to play in her culture. For example, in Asia, a woman’s role is primarily concerned with reproduction. The concept of sexual orientation is irrelevant because sex for women is not about sex, it is about having babies. In Asia, any sexual behavior that doesn’t have the goal of procreation is considered an aberration. Thus, homosexuality is not acceptable behavior because it is by its very nature about pleasure.

    Lesbian bed death stereotyped the sex lives of lesbians as defective, inadequate, and inferior to others. This label added another layer of oppression very similarly to the way “sexual inverts” did in the early 20th century. It is useful to consider the history of the term sexual invert, and the influence this term had on cultural perceptions of lesbians. From the mid-1920s to the mid-1970s, lesbians were considered “sick,” “disturbed,” and “deviant.” It took a half-century to transcend the damaging perceptions of lesbians as mentally ill.

    History, it is said, often repeats itself. Given this, it is possible, or even likely, that lesbian bed death, much like sexual inversion, will cycle out of the collective consciousness and be replaced by a new, improved perception of lesbians. If lesbian bed death is a concept that evolved in the mid-1980s, history would indicate that by the year 2030, LBD should be nearly erased from the collective consciousness. This does not, of course, mean that lesbians will be having more sex, but the absence of the label will clarify cultural perceptions about lesbian sexuality, and how those perceptions play out in the sex lives of lesbians.

    What makes the most sense to this researcher when assessing the history and influence of the phrase lesbian bed death, is that there was a melting pot of motivations, which led to a conversion of agendas that served multiple purposes simultaneously. Whether it was used as a form of oppression, a way to keep women in their place in society, or whether it was simply because it is true and lesbians needed validation for their truth, the side-effects of this phrase on the sex lives of lesbians have proved unhelpful.

    This researcher has concluded that lesbian bed death is a disparaging phrase used to criticize the sexual realities of lesbians in comparison to heterosexuals. It is not the behavior of lesbians that is the problem, it is the grossly inaccurate and irresponsible categorization of these behaviors as inadequate or dysfunctional that is the problem. Debating lesbian bed death validates its merit. This researcher’s conclusion is that lesbians have a bed (a sex life) and it is different than other couple pairs. That difference does not make it dead, it simply makes it different.

    To defend lesbian bed death suggests that there is something legitimate to argue against. This researcher does not believe in the legitimacy of LBD. It is a misunderstood concept that filled a void of understanding during a time that lesbians were stepping out and exploring the uncharted territory of a visible life among the heterosexual population. The mistake, it seems, was to agree that a lesbian relationship should mirror that of a heterosexual relationship in order to be successful.

    As it turns out, in the limited research conducted about the difference between gay and heterosexual relationships, authors such as John Gottman have concluded that gays and lesbians are more inclined to fight fairly, are not as belligerent with one another as heterosexuals are, and are less domineering and not as fearful with each other. He also discovered that lesbians and gay men make better use of humor when they argue than do their heterosexual counterparts (John Gottman, et al 2003). Is frequent sex more important to a relationship than fair fighting and being kind?

    Sexual Frequency of Lesbians

    What is the current sexual frequency of lesbians? Question number eight in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction survey asked, “In the last six months, how many times have you had sex (intimate contact intended to create sexual pleasure) with your partner?” Respondents were prompted to fill in the number of times they had sex in the last six months. Four separate categories of frequency were created to quantify the amount of sex that lesbians were having. Women who reported having sex zero to nine times were placed in the category labeled “once monthly or less.” Women who reported having sex between ten and twenty-one times in the last six months were assigned to the category of “two to three times per month.” Women who reported having sex twenty-two to eighty-three times in the last six months were categorized as having sex “one to three times a week.” The final category of “four or more times per week” included women who reported eighty-four or more episodes of sexual activity in the last six months.

    The reported sexual frequencies were then rounded to the nearest category. For example, if a woman reported she had sex nine times in the last six months she would be assigned to the category of “once monthly or less.” Nine times in the last six months is obviously more than once monthly, however, it is closer to this category than it is to the next category of “two to three times a month,” and thus the best fit.

    Question eight was completed by 416 women. Twelve percent (50 lesbians) of the sample reported having no sex in the last six months. Thirty-seven percent (154 lesbians) of the sample reported having sex once monthly or less. Combined, these groups represent almost half of the sample population, suggesting that the majority of lesbians are having sex once monthly or less. Twenty percent of lesbians reported having sex two to three times a month. Twenty-seven percent of lesbians reported having sex one to three times weekly. Only five percent reported having sex five or more times weekly.

    Few studies have been conducted on the sexual frequency of lesbians. One of the most recent studies was published in 2003 by Matthews, Tartaro, and Hughes. In a comparative study of lesbian and heterosexual women in committed relationships, Alicia Matthews, et al found that sixty-nine percent of lesbians and seventy-six percent of heterosexual women reported having sex at least once weekly. These findings are significantly higher than those of this study. Only thirty-four percent of the women in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample reported having sex at least weekly, as seen in figure seven. It is important to note, however, that the sample size for the Alicia Matthews, et al. study was based on thirty-six lesbians. The small sample size raises questions about the validity of these findings, and the authors acknowledge that the small sample limits their ability to make any generalizations about lesbian sexuality.

    Another study was done in 1997 by Letitia Peplau, et al also revealed higher rates of sexual frequency among lesbians. This particular study focused on the sexual behaviors of 398 Black lesbians (Letitia Peplau, et al 1997). The findings showed that eleven percent of Black lesbians reported having sex more than three times a week. This is slightly higher than the eight-percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study. Forty-seven percent of lesbians in Letitia Peplau, et al’s study reported having sex one to three times per week, which is significantly higher than the twenty-nine percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey. Forty-one percent of the Black lesbians reported having sex less than once a week, which is significantly lower than the sixty-five percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey.

    Letitia Peplau, et al acknowledge that the sample is non-representative; however, it does offer insight to the variability of lesbian sexuality. What accounts for the higher rate of sexual frequency among Black women? This is valuable information, given that most of the studies conducted on lesbian sexuality are based on the histories of Caucasian women, including the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample. While this question is outside the scope of this paper, it is none-the-less a valuable question to note.

    The most commonly cited source about lesbian sexual frequency is still Schwartz and Blumstein (1983). The frequency of lesbian sex is presented in the context of length of relationship and the rating of one’s quality of sex life. For the American Couples study, it appears these statistics were based on a total of 768 lesbians. Of these lesbians, 195 reports having sex once a month or less, which equals twenty-five percent of the sample. This is significantly lower than the findings in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey which suggest that forty-eight percent of all lesbians in the sample (44% of lesbian couples) are having sex once monthly or less.

    The same calculation process reveals that twenty-seven percent of the American Couples sample have “sex between once a month and once a week” This compares to sixty-eight percent of the women in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample who have sex between once a month and once a week. The third category offered is “sex between one and three times a week.” This includes 274 lesbians or thirty-six percent of the American Couple’s sample. This finding does not differ much from the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey, which indicated that twenty-nine percent of lesbians are having sex one to three times per week. The final category of frequency, “Sex three times a week or more,” comprised nineteen percent of the sample. The Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey reported eight percent of women at this level of sexual frequency, which is less than half of the findings by Schwartz and Blumstein (Schwartz and Blumstein 1983, 27).

    Loulan’s 1987 study revealed remarkably similar findings to the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey. Twelve percent of women in both samples report having no sex. Loulan categorized sexual frequency as “once or fewer times” (presumably per month) and “two to five times a month,” which compare closely to the fifty-three percent of lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey who reported having sex up to one or two times per month (Figure 7). Twenty percent of lesbians reported having sex six to ten times a month in Loulan’s survey, compared to twenty-six percent of lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study who reported having sex one to two times weekly. Those reporting sexual activity three or more times a week in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey comprise eight percent of the sample, and for Loulan’s study, fourteen percent reported having sex “eleven or more times in a month.” The similarity in these findings is striking.

    Figure 6.  General Overview of Lesbian Sexual Frequency

    Figure 7.  Detailed Lesbian Sexual Frequency

    Women aged twenty-one to thirty are the most sexually active of the lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study, with forty-eight percent having sex once weekly or more (Table 9). A noticeable drop in sexual frequency does not begin until after age fifty. At fifty-one, there is a ten percent drop in weekly sexual frequency. Thirty-one percent of forty-one to fifty-year-olds report having weekly sex. This drops to twenty-one percent at age fifty-one and to fourteen percent at age sixty-one. According to the National Institute on Aging, the average age of menopause is fifty-one, which seems to be the strongest explanation for this drop. One of the common side effects reported about menopause is a decrease in libido. The Frequency vs. Satisfaction findings is also similar to the findings of Loulan (1987), where she reports a general decline in sexual frequency as women age, with the most notable drop in frequency occurring between the age group forty to forty-nine, and fifty to fifty-nine.

    Table 9.  Sexual Frequency Based on Age of Lesbians

    Age

    Four or More
    Times Per Week

    One to Three
    Times Per Week

    Two to Three
    Times Per Month

    Once Monthly
    or Less

    Once weekly or more

    < 21 Years (n=6)

    17%

    17%

    33%

    33%

    34%

    21-30 Years (n=50)

    10%

    38%

    18%

    34%

    48%

    31-40 Years (n=127)

    6%

    28%

    20%

    47%

    34%

    41-50 Years (n=169)

    4%

    27%

    24%

    44%

    31%

    51-60 Years (n=72)

    6%

    15%

    17%

    63%

    21%

    60 + Years (n=15)

    7%

    7%

    13%

    73%

    14%

     

    Percentages reflect sexual frequencies per age group

    n=lesbians per age

    To explore the desire for sex as thoroughly as possible, the Frequency vs. Satisfaction survey inquired with participants about the frequency of non-partner sex in the last six months. Question ten asks, “In the last six months, how many times did you have sex with someone other than your partner?” Of the 498 respondents, only forty-two (12%) reported having non-partner sex. The most non-partner sex occurs with couples who have been partnered between six and ten years, followed by women who are newly partnered for up to six months (21%).

    Of the forty-two women who report non-partner sex, thirty-nine responded to the question about whether or not their relationship is open or closed to outside sex. Of these thirty-nine who reported having sex outside their relationship in the last six months, thirteen are not currently partnered. This might suggest that thirteen (3%) of women pursued another relationship or at least sex, and it may or may not have been the cause of their relationship break-up. Eight (2%) of the women who had non-partner sex report that they have agreements with their partner to engage in sex outside the relationship. Eighteen of the women (4%) reported no such agreement, so were likely engaged in acts of infidelity.

    The incidence of non-partner sex with or without partner approval is nominal. These findings are lower than the incidence of non-partner sex found in 1983 by Schwartz and Blumstein. Ten percent of their sample of lesbians reported infidelity, compared to four percent of the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample. Of those with an agreement about non-partner sex, twenty-five percent engaged in sex outside of their relationship.

    There are two possibilities that may account for this decline in non-partner sex. One, the onset of AIDS occurred around the time Schwartz and Blumstein reported their findings, which would place participants of their survey at the tail end of the sexual liberation movement where sex was viewed less restrictively in our culture. This era put a damper on the sex lives of all couple pairs.

    Another possibility is that during the 70s and 80s, lesbians were less visible than they are in today’s culture. With this visibility comes an increased level of validation and possibly accountability. A client who was in her prime dating years during the years of Schwartz and Blumstein’s study explained to this researcher that she had been unfaithful in every relationship from around age twenty to age forty. She stated that now that she is approaching sixty years old, she has come to see that she never valued her relationships, that she did not see lesbian relationships as important as heterosexual relationships. She shared that she had trouble conceiving that they would last in the same way that married couples believed their relationships would last. She explained that she feels differently now, that she has come to see her relationship as something that has meaning, and she experienced this only after coming out and having others (particularly heterosexuals) know about her relationship.

    Once lesbians became more visible, it is possible they began to take their own relationships more seriously, which may have contributed to the decline in non-partner sex among those without agreements.

    Figure 8.  Instances of Sex Outside the Relationship Among Lesbians

    In summary, research largely supports the fact that lesbians are less sexual than other couple pairings. However, there is no evidence to support the belief that this translates into a deficiency, or that a lower frequency is in any way unhealthy. The assumption that heterosexuals are the healthy standard by which lesbians must be compared is a paradigm this researcher rejects. Some lesbians have a lot of sex. Some lesbians have none. Lesbians of all ages are sexual, and most are disinclined to stray sexually from their primary relationship. Lesbian sex does appear to continue at a rate similar to that found in 1987 by Loulan, though fewer lesbians appear to engage in non-partner sex than in previous years. Chapter Seven will shift attention to what is important to lesbians when it comes to their intimate relationships

    How did the Narrative of Lesbian Bed Death Impact Lesbian Sexuality?

    The search for understanding about how Lesbian Bed Death influenced lesbian sexuality over the last three produces more questions than answers. There is great curiosity about how the topic of lesbian sex, and the phrase lesbian bed death, was carried from the east coast to the west coast so swiftly and effectively during an era when the internet was not available to spread information at viral rates. Though it is interesting to uncover the roots of this phrase, the ultimate goal of this research is to gain a better understanding of how this phrase assumed enough power in our culture to influence the perceptions of lesbians as sexually inferior. How did this message spread so quickly, and then remain so active in the cultural consciousness?

    The label of Lesbian Bed Death devalues lesbian relationships by suggesting that lesbians are inadequate, or worse yet, sexually broken. When the measurement is frequency, lesbians lose the race against heterosexual or gay pairings when it comes to sex.

     

     

    Who benefits if lesbian sex is viewed as inadequate, or inferior to the sex had by heterosexuals?

    One theory is that lesbians pose a threat to social order. Historically, men have held the power in our culture, and women have been raised to depend on them, primarily financially, for survival. This pattern has broken down over the years, thanks to the women’s liberation movement and the increase of women in the workforce. However, women still struggle to find equal footing with men in most areas of life. In South Africa, raping a lesbian can make a man a township hero. “Attackers boast publicly of their crimes and declare to their victims: ‘We’ll show you-you’re a woman,’ the report said. Such attacks are often referred to as ‘corrective rapes’ in South Africa” (Guardian 2011, 1). A woman without a man in South Africa is not considered a woman at all. As archaic as this perspective seems in 21st century America, it is not unreasonable to think that we are a culture that is not yet finished moving slowly out of one view (women are defined by men) and into a new perspective (women are defined by themselves). As we have learned from many other oppressed groups, such as Blacks in America, cultural change is slow, regardless of what is true and right.

    Another curiosity that surfaced during this research is about the momentum required to get the message of LBD off the ground. Groups of women were reportedly having regular chats about sex, which served to enhance their own sex lives, and simultaneously fulfilled an important need for a sense of belonging. These participants of these chats percolated the unifying concept of lesbian bed death. From these chats what rose to the surface was the message of lesbian bed death. If McGleughlin’s perception of this phrase is true, it expresses a dual message about the loss of sex and loss of community. In that case, the message itself has somehow changed over time, losing the emphasis once placed on the “death” of the community of lesbians who talk about sex.

    An alternate theory about the spread of this message is the possibility that it was simply true, and lesbians themselves were seeking personal validation for their own experience. It is possible that the continued discussions, which also kept LBD alive and spreading, provided an outlet for lesbians to validate their experience. Although there has not been much research about lesbian sexuality over the last three decades, the existing research consistently reported low rates of sexual activity for lesbians, with few exceptions (Alicia Mathews et al 2003, Lelita Peplau et al 1997). Research has also consistently shown a quick decline in frequency over the course of lesbian relationships. The reality seems to be that lesbians had, and still have, less sex. This researcher keeps returning to one question. Who cared, and why was this a problem?

     

    Is lower sexual frequency a problem for lesbians?

    Coming out in the 70s and 80s was avant-garde behavior. Lesbians were not previously visible to the general public. The best way to establish a sense of belonging is to identify the ways in which you are similar to those with whom you wish to join. If research revealed that lesbians are sexually inadequate during the same time that lesbians were seeking approval for their identity, it seems possible that lesbians themselves would have difficulty accepting this information.

    Instead of embracing what is, advocates of lesbians sought, and seem to still be seeking, to disprove the amount of sexual activity that occurs between women, as if to say, “We are like you.” Presumably, the assumption is that being like heterosexuals will allow lesbians to be seen as “normal.” This researcher believes that the greatest power is sourced from the truth. It is not important how much sex lesbians are having, or how often lesbians are having sex. What is important is whether or not lesbians are satisfied with their intimate relationships and whether or not they feel empowered to create these relationships according to their own truth, and not a social standard randomly transferred from other couple pairings.

    Gay men are reportedly the most sexual of all pairings. If the frequency or amount of sex determines health, then why are gay men not considered the healthiest of all couples? What would have happened if Schwartz and Blumstein discovered that heterosexuals were having the least amount of sex and that their sexual activity declined more rapidly than the other couple pairs? It is likely that this paper would be evaluating the concern with sexually overactive lesbians, even if their sexual behaviors were exactly as they are now.

    Another question that evolved from this research is; How far did the phrase lesbian bed death travel? This researcher decided to briefly explore perceptions of lesbian sexuality in other countries. A cursory look for information about sexual frequency among lesbians in other countries did not reveal much. There was one report on lesbians in The Netherlands/Holland by Karin Van Rosmalen-Nooijens, et al which was conducted in 2008. This study indicated that seventy-six percent of lesbians of all ages experienced a decline in sexual activity.  It appears that the phrase lesbian bed death did not spread far beyond the borders of the United States, but perhaps the phenomena of lower sexual frequency is a shared experience regardless of the country in question.

    What does appear consistent is that how lesbians are viewed within a culture is rooted in how women are viewed within that culture. The attitude towards lesbian behavior is directly affected by the role a woman is expected to play in her culture. For example, in Asia, a woman’s role is primarily concerned with reproduction. The concept of sexual orientation is irrelevant because sex for women is not about sex, it is about having babies. In Asia, any sexual behavior that doesn’t have the goal of procreation is considered an aberration. Thus, homosexuality is not acceptable behavior because it is by its very nature about pleasure.

    Lesbian bed death stereotyped the sex lives of lesbians as defective, inadequate, and inferior to others. This label added another layer of oppression very similarly to the way “sexual inverts” did in the early 20th century. It is useful to consider the history of the term sexual invert, and the influence this term had on cultural perceptions of lesbians. From the mid-1920s to the mid-1970s, lesbians were considered “sick,” “disturbed,” and “deviant.” It took a half-century to transcend the damaging perceptions of lesbians as mentally ill.

    History, it is said, often repeats itself. Given this, it is possible, or even likely, that lesbian bed death, much like sexual inversion, will cycle out of the collective consciousness and be replaced by a new, improved perception of lesbians. If lesbian bed death is a concept that evolved in the mid-1980s, history would indicate that by the year 2030, LBD should be nearly erased from the collective consciousness. This does not, of course, mean that lesbians will be having more sex, but the absence of the label will clarify cultural perceptions about lesbian sexuality, and how those perceptions play out in the sex lives of lesbians.

    What makes the most sense to this researcher when assessing the history and influence of the phrase lesbian bed death, is that there was a melting pot of motivations, which led to a conversion of agendas that served multiple purposes simultaneously. Whether it was used as a form of oppression, a way to keep women in their place in society, or whether it was simply because it is true and lesbians needed validation for their truth, the side-effects of this phrase on the sex lives of lesbians have proved unhelpful.

    This researcher has concluded that lesbian bed death is a disparaging phrase used to criticize the sexual realities of lesbians in comparison to heterosexuals. It is not the behavior of lesbians that is the problem, it is the grossly inaccurate and irresponsible categorization of these behaviors as inadequate or dysfunctional that is the problem. Debating lesbian bed death validates its merit. This researcher’s conclusion is that lesbians have a bed (a sex life) and it is different than other couple pairs. That difference does not make it dead, it simply makes it different.

    To defend lesbian bed death suggests that there is something legitimate to argue against. This researcher does not believe in the legitimacy of LBD. It is a misunderstood concept that filled a void of understanding during a time that lesbians were stepping out and exploring the uncharted territory of a visible life among the heterosexual population. The mistake, it seems, was to agree that a lesbian relationship should mirror that of a heterosexual relationship in order to be successful.

    As it turns out, in the limited research conducted about the difference between gay and heterosexual relationships, authors such as John Gottman have concluded that gays and lesbians are more inclined to fight fairly, are not as belligerent with one another as heterosexuals are, and are less domineering and not as fearful with each other. He also discovered that lesbians and gay men make better use of humor when they argue than do their heterosexual counterparts (John Gottman, et al 2003). Is frequent sex more important to a relationship than fair fighting and being kind?

    Sexual Frequency of Lesbians

    What is the current sexual frequency of lesbians? Question number eight in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction survey asked, “In the last six months, how many times have you had sex (intimate contact intended to create sexual pleasure) with your partner?” Respondents were prompted to fill in the number of times they had sex in the last six months. Four separate categories of frequency were created to quantify the amount of sex that lesbians were having. Women who reported having sex zero to nine times were placed in the category labeled “once monthly or less.” Women who reported having sex between ten and twenty-one times in the last six months were assigned to the category of “two to three times per month.” Women who reported having sex twenty-two to eighty-three times in the last six months were categorized as having sex “one to three times a week.” The final category of “four or more times per week” included women who reported eighty-four or more episodes of sexual activity in the last six months.

    The reported sexual frequencies were then rounded to the nearest category. For example, if a woman reported she had sex nine times in the last six months she would be assigned to the category of “once monthly or less.” Nine times in the last six months is obviously more than once monthly, however, it is closer to this category than it is to the next category of “two to three times a month,” and thus the best fit.

    Question eight was completed by 416 women. Twelve percent (50 lesbians) of the sample reported having no sex in the last six months. Thirty-seven percent (154 lesbians) of the sample reported having sex once monthly or less. Combined, these groups represent almost half of the sample population, suggesting that the majority of lesbians are having sex once monthly or less. Twenty percent of lesbians reported having sex two to three times a month. Twenty-seven percent of lesbians reported having sex one to three times weekly. Only five percent reported having sex five or more times weekly.

    Few studies have been conducted on the sexual frequency of lesbians. One of the most recent studies was published in 2003 by Matthews, Tartaro, and Hughes. In a comparative study of lesbian and heterosexual women in committed relationships, Alicia Matthews, et al found that sixty-nine percent of lesbians and seventy-six percent of heterosexual women reported having sex at least once weekly. These findings are significantly higher than those of this study. Only thirty-four percent of the women in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample reported having sex at least weekly, as seen in figure seven. It is important to note, however, that the sample size for the Alicia Matthews, et al. study was based on thirty-six lesbians. The small sample size raises questions about the validity of these findings, and the authors acknowledge that the small sample limits their ability to make any generalizations about lesbian sexuality.

    Another study was done in 1997 by Letitia Peplau, et al also revealed higher rates of sexual frequency among lesbians. This particular study focused on the sexual behaviors of 398 Black lesbians (Letitia Peplau, et al 1997). The findings showed that eleven percent of Black lesbians reported having sex more than three times a week. This is slightly higher than the eight-percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study. Forty-seven percent of lesbians in Letitia Peplau, et al’s study reported having sex one to three times per week, which is significantly higher than the twenty-nine percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey. Forty-one percent of the Black lesbians reported having sex less than once a week, which is significantly lower than the sixty-five percent in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey.

    Letitia Peplau, et al acknowledge that the sample is non-representative; however, it does offer insight to the variability of lesbian sexuality. What accounts for the higher rate of sexual frequency among Black women? This is valuable information, given that most of the studies conducted on lesbian sexuality are based on the histories of Caucasian women, including the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample. While this question is outside the scope of this paper, it is none-the-less a valuable question to note.

    The most commonly cited source about lesbian sexual frequency is still Schwartz and Blumstein (1983). The frequency of lesbian sex is presented in the context of length of relationship and the rating of one’s quality of sex life. For the American Couples study, it appears these statistics were based on a total of 768 lesbians. Of these lesbians, 195 reports having sex once a month or less, which equals twenty-five percent of the sample. This is significantly lower than the findings in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey which suggest that forty-eight percent of all lesbians in the sample (44% of lesbian couples) are having sex once monthly or less.

    The same calculation process reveals that twenty-seven percent of the American Couples sample have “sex between once a month and once a week” This compares to sixty-eight percent of the women in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample who have sex between once a month and once a week. The third category offered is “sex between one and three times a week.” This includes 274 lesbians or thirty-six percent of the American Couple’s sample. This finding does not differ much from the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey, which indicated that twenty-nine percent of lesbians are having sex one to three times per week. The final category of frequency, “Sex three times a week or more,” comprised nineteen percent of the sample. The Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey reported eight percent of women at this level of sexual frequency, which is less than half of the findings by Schwartz and Blumstein (Schwartz and Blumstein 1983, 27).

    Loulan’s 1987 study revealed remarkably similar findings to the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey. Twelve percent of women in both samples report having no sex. Loulan categorized sexual frequency as “once or fewer times” (presumably per month) and “two to five times a month,” which compare closely to the fifty-three percent of lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey who reported having sex up to one or two times per month (Figure 7). Twenty percent of lesbians reported having sex six to ten times a month in Loulan’s survey, compared to twenty-six percent of lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study who reported having sex one to two times weekly. Those reporting sexual activity three or more times a week in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction Survey comprise eight percent of the sample, and for Loulan’s study, fourteen percent reported having sex “eleven or more times in a month.” The similarity in these findings is striking.

    General Overview of Lesbian Sexual Frequency

    Detailed Lesbian Sexual Frequency

    Women aged twenty-one to thirty are the most sexually active of the lesbians in the Frequency vs. Satisfaction study, with forty-eight percent having sex once weekly or more (Table 9). A noticeable drop in sexual frequency does not begin until after age fifty. At fifty-one, there is a ten percent drop in weekly sexual frequency. Thirty-one percent of forty-one to fifty-year-olds report having weekly sex. This drops to twenty-one percent at age fifty-one and to fourteen percent at age sixty-one. According to the National Institute on Aging, the average age of menopause is fifty-one, which seems to be the strongest explanation for this drop. One of the common side effects reported about menopause is a decrease in libido. The Frequency vs. Satisfaction findings is also similar to the findings of Loulan (1987), where she reports a general decline in sexual frequency as women age, with the most notable drop in frequency occurring between the age group forty to forty-nine, and fifty to fifty-nine.

    Sexual Frequency Based on Age of Lesbians

    Age

    Four or More
    Times Per Week

    One to Three
    Times Per Week

    Two to Three
    Times Per Month

    Once Monthly
    or Less

    Once weekly or more

    < 21 Years (n=6)

    17%

    17%

    33%

    33%

    34%

    21-30 Years (n=50)

    10%

    38%

    18%

    34%

    48%

    31-40 Years (n=127)

    6%

    28%

    20%

    47%

    34%

    41-50 Years (n=169)

    4%

    27%

    24%

    44%

    31%

    51-60 Years (n=72)

    6%

    15%

    17%

    63%

    21%

    60 + Years (n=15)

    7%

    7%

    13%

    73%

    14%

     

    Percentages reflect sexual frequencies per age group

    n=lesbians per age

    To explore the desire for sex as thoroughly as possible, the Frequency vs. Satisfaction survey inquired with participants about the frequency of non-partner sex in the last six months. Question ten asks, “In the last six months, how many times did you have sex with someone other than your partner?” Of the 498 respondents, only forty-two (12%) reported having non-partner sex. The most non-partner sex occurs with couples who have been partnered between six and ten years, followed by women who are newly partnered for up to six months (21%).

    Of the forty-two women who report non-partner sex, thirty-nine responded to the question about whether or not their relationship is open or closed to outside sex. Of these thirty-nine who reported having sex outside their relationship in the last six months, thirteen are not currently partnered. This might suggest that thirteen (3%) of women pursued another relationship or at least sex, and it may or may not have been the cause of their relationship break-up. Eight (2%) of the women who had non-partner sex report that they have agreements with their partner to engage in sex outside the relationship. Eighteen of the women (4%) reported no such agreement, so were likely engaged in acts of infidelity.

    The incidence of non-partner sex with or without partner approval is nominal. These findings are lower than the incidence of non-partner sex found in 1983 by Schwartz and Blumstein. Ten percent of their sample of lesbians reported infidelity, compared to four percent of the Frequency vs. Satisfaction sample. Of those with an agreement about non-partner sex, twenty-five percent engaged in sex outside of their relationship.

    There are two possibilities that may account for this decline in non-partner sex. One, the onset of AIDS occurred around the time Schwartz and Blumstein reported their findings, which would place participants of their survey at the tail end of the sexual liberation movement where sex was viewed less restrictively in our culture. This era put a damper on the sex lives of all couple pairs.

    Another possibility is that during the 70s and 80s, lesbians were less visible than they are in today’s culture. With this visibility comes an increased level of validation and possibly accountability. A client who was in her prime dating years during the years of Schwartz and Blumstein’s study explained to this researcher that she had been unfaithful in every relationship from around age twenty to age forty. She stated that now that she is approaching sixty years old, she has come to see that she never valued her relationships, that she did not see lesbian relationships as important as heterosexual relationships. She shared that she had trouble conceiving that they would last in the same way that married couples believed their relationships would last. She explained that she feels differently now, that she has come to see her relationship as something that has meaning, and she experienced this only after coming out and having others (particularly heterosexuals) know about her relationship.

    Once lesbians became more visible, it is possible they began to take their own relationships more seriously, which may have contributed to the decline in non-partner sex among those without agreements.

    Instances of Sex Outside the Relationship Among Lesbians

    In summary, research largely supports the fact that lesbians are less sexual than other couple pairings. However, there is no evidence to support the belief that this translates into a deficiency, or that a lower frequency is in any way unhealthy. The assumption that heterosexuals are the healthy standard by which lesbians must be compared is a paradigm this researcher rejects. Some lesbians have a lot of sex. Some lesbians have none. Lesbians of all ages are sexual, and most are disinclined to stray sexually from their primary relationship. Lesbian sex does appear to continue at a rate similar to that found in 1987 by Loulan, though fewer lesbians appear to engage in non-partner sex than in previous years. Chapter Seven will shift attention to what is important to lesbians when it comes to their intimate relationships.

     

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D. is an expert lesbian relationship coach and psychotherapist with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, and recovery from lesbian breakups. She is the author of Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play. As a side-hobby, she operates a quirky site called “AskLesbians.com” where she randomly polls lesbians to satisfy the quirkiest of curiosities. Lastly, she and her wife Kristen host Lesbian Couples Retreats in various destinations, and you can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

    This article is an adaption of Chapter Six of a dissertation written by Michele O’Mara, PhD. Tap here t read the entire dissertation in a pdf format.

    SUGGESTIONS, QUESTIONS, COMPLAINTS OR ACCOLADES?

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    10 Lesbian Couple Goals for Happy Lesbian Relationships

    10 Lesbian Couple Goals for Happy Lesbian Relationships

    10 Happy Lesbian Couple Goals

     

    Do you know the top 10  Lesbian Couple Goals to strive for in your relationship?

    Whether you are in your first lesbian relationship or the same one you’ve been in for the past decade, this list of 10 habits of happy lesbian couples will inspire you to do better.

    As you learn more about these 10 lesbian couple goals, whether or not you are looking at these characteristics through the lens of what SHE needs to do more of, or whether or not you are considering whether or not you show up with the behaviors needed for a deliriously happy relationship.

    We all have a deep-seated hope that when we get in a relationship, we will automatically be much happier.  Unfortunately, the 10 lesbian couple goals listed in this video do not come automatically installed in our new relationship. The only thing any of us can count on is that when we get in a relationship, we can change our status from single to partnered.  Other than this new label, you’ve gained nothing more until one, or both of you, start making meaningful contributions to this shared investment called your “relationship.”

    To experience the happiness of those who work to attain these 10 lesbian couple goals, challenge yourself to pick the one that you currently need the most help with, and focus on improving just that one goal.

    Keep in mind, relationship do not take care of themselves, people do.

    Cheers to deliriously happy lesbian relationships. I hope you are inspired by this list of lesbian couple goals, and you have much success in your efforts to move toward them.

     

     

    Here are some more good reads for you:

     

     

    Survey Answers: How Do Lesbians Have Sex | Fisting | Threesomes | and More

    Survey Answers: How Do Lesbians Have Sex | Fisting | Threesomes | and More

    Lesbians answer the question: How do lesbians have sex and other personal questions 

    how do lesbians have sex

    It is not uncommon for lesbians to field random and often very personal questions, such as, “How do lesbians have sex?” I wonder how many heterosexual couples have been asked, “so, how do you two have sex?”  You might assume this is because everyone knows how heterosexuals have sex, but is that true? There is the obvious penis-in-vagina method, but does that mean that is all heterosexuals do and what they prefer? For the 75% of women who can not orgasm from the ole penis-in-vagina method of sex, I hope it’s not all there is to heterosexual sex! This question is just one of many that lesbians find themselves asked on a regular basis, so I created a survey to put these questions to rest!

    The Survey Questions

    1.  How do lesbians have sex?
    2.  Is one woman “the man” in your sex life?
    3. If you are attracted to women, why do you have sex with women that look like men? (If this applies to you)
    4. How do you flirt with another woman? (i.e. How would I know if you are attracted to me?)
    5. Do you rely on toys for a satisfying sex life?
    6. Do you engage in fisting?
    7. Do you have threesomes with your partner and another person?
    8. On average, when you are having partner sex (not masturbation) what is the typical time of clitoral stimulation (or your preferred stimulation) necessary to achieve an orgasm?

    About the Survey Responders

    Of the 132 women who have completed this survey, the majority of responders are between the ages of 35-54 (66%), followed by 22% ages 25-34, 9% over 55 years of age, and 3% ages 18-24. Of these women, 64% report they are exclusively attracted to women, 20% state they are mostly attracted to women and some men, with 14% stating they are generally drawn to people, not genders, with 2% reporting they are primarily attracted to men and some women. All but one woman reports they are orgasmic. In general, research indicates that 10% of the female population is not orgasmic, so either the non-orgasmic lesbians shied away from this survey, or lesbians have special superpowers when it comes to orgasms. (I like to think it’s the later).

    Question One: How do lesbians have sex?

    The first, and probably most commonly asked question for lesbians is: How do lesbians have sex?  There are 132 answers to this question listed here for your reference. A loose summary of these individual responses reveals a common theme about how lesbians describe their own sexual activity. In general, the most prevalent response (58%) indicates the use of hands and fingers for touching and clitoral stimulation. A tie for the second most commonly reported answer to the question, “How do lesbians have sex?” is the use of sex aids (45%) and oral sex (45%). Penetration shows up less, with 20% indicating the use of fingers and sexual aids for penetration. Of note, 6% of lesbians said they simply do “what feels good,” and there were similar reports of communication, passion, and breast play. Very few (3%) included scissoring in their definition of lesbian sex, and even less (2%) included anal play.

    Also, of note, a couple responders expressed disgust with the question, a few referenced that it’s the same as sex with a man, without the penis, and a handful simply stated their frequency of sexual activity rather than what they actually considered sex. My favorite response to the question, “How do lesbians have sex?” was simply: “very well, thanks.”

    Question Two:  Is one woman “the man” in your sex life?

    The majority of women (72%) indicate “no,” there is no “man” in our sex life. Some (14%) indicate that on occasion there is, and very few (4%) state that yes, there is. Clearly, how this question is interpreted can affect the way it is answered. There were a few people (10%) who preferred to explain their feelings about this question. The explanations seem to translate “the man” to mean a more masculine and/or dominant role in one’s sex life or the one who penetrates. Among those who expanded on their answers, there is still a little endorsement of the idea that one is “the man,” and my favorite answer of all is: “That’s like asking a pair of chopsticks which one is the fork and which one is the spoon. No, we are both women. Period.”

    Question 3: If you are attracted to women, why do you have sex with women that look like men? (If this applies to you)

    The majority of survey responders (47%) report that they do not have sex with women that look like men. As for those who do, (20%) selected the option that they “prefer women who appear more masculine, just as some men are more attracted to more masculine women,” and (16%) state that it is not about the gender presentation that they are attracted to, it’s the personality and other characteristics about her that she’s drawn to.

    From the additional comments, it’s also important to note that many women are aware of the reality that gender presentation is a human-made concept and that in reality, as one woman said: “Those ‘looks’ are not exclusive to men. Just as women don’t OWN the rights to make up.”

    As for the original question, then, “If you are attracted to women, why do you have sex with women that look like men,” it seems the answer has little to do with “looking like men,” in that only 20% of women report that they are expressly attracted to women with a masculine presentation. The remaining responders who do not deny attractions to more masculine men suggest that while a woman may have a masculine presentation, that is not the variable to which they are most drawn.  

    4: How do you flirt with another woman? (i.e., How would I know if you are attracted to me?)

    Sometimes it is assumed that if a woman is gay, she is romantically attracted to all women. Or at least that is the fear for some heterosexual women who might also be found saying something like, “I don’t care if she’s a lesbian as long as she doesn’t like me that way.” Fear has a way of impairing logic, not that lesbians don’t have a knack for also finding heterosexual women attractive. The point is, being a lesbian does not mean you will automatically fall in love with any and all women.  It simply means that when you do find “the one,” it will be a woman.

    If you are wondering if she likes you, here’s what the women in this survey said about how they will let you know. Roughly half of the women (46%) will seek more time, conversation and interaction with you, and the other half (42%) will be more affectionate, complimentary, and use more eye contact. A small percent (4%) admit they are likely to be shy and withdrawn.

    Some responders added additional comments. Two mentioned using humor, one likes to talk about sex, a couple others said they are very direct, one explaining that, “I don’t beat around the bush,” which gave me a good chuckle as I thought to myself, that’s probably a good idea, because someone might get hurt flirting like that, besides, how would you know if she even has a bush? (Ba-Dum-Dump)  One survey responder says she first becomes friends with her. Two others shared that it’s the “same as flirting with guys,” and two lesbians said they don’t flirt because they are married.  Though one of the married women did endorse flirting with her wife, “by smacking her on the ass and telling her how hot she is.” Lastly, one responder confessed, “I actually do not know how to flirt with women, or even tell if they are interested.”

    5: Do you rely on toys for a satisfying sex life?

    Sex toys, or as some prefer, sexual aids, are not an essential part of the lesbian sexual diet for 89% of the women responding to this survey. Only 11% report using sexual aids consistently during their sexual activity. The majority (52%) report using aids occasionally, 27% use them rarely and 8% do not use them at all. No additional insights about this were gathered from the comments.

    6: Do you engage in lesbian fisting?

    What is lesbian fisting? It is easy to visualize anything that involves a fist as being violent. However, in the case of lesbian fisting, this is a sexual practice where an entire hand is inserted either vaginally or anally. While many people associate fisting with lesbian sexual activity, only 76% of survey responders endorse ever having engaged in this practice. There are 16% of women who report that they do engage in lesbian fisting. Another 2% share they do not know what this fisting is. Some of the “other” responses include women who have been a giver but not a receiver, used to in a past relationship but not now or are “working up to it!” as one woman shared.

    Before you set out to explore lesbian fisting, be sure to have a lot of lube on hand (pun intended), and position all of your fingers in a pointed position, pinched together (which is not the same as an entire fist inserted at once), and go slowly. 

    7: Do you have lesbian threesomes with your partner and another person?

    When it comes to threesomes, it seems that this is not a big draw for partnered lesbians. Among the responders to this survey, only 6% of women report that they have had a lesbian threesome with her partner, or with her partner and a man (it was not specified)  on more than one occasion and only 5% report that they have had a lesbian threesome (or a threesome with her partner and a man) once. If you add the lesbians who report having had a threesome while single, the total jumps to 31% of lesbians who have ever had a threesome under any circumstances.  A solid 58% of responders stated that they have not had a threesome with their lesbian partner and another person, and they would rather not. This leaves 8% of survey responders who have “not had a threesome, but would like to.” One responder added the comment, “we did once, and it was a disaster,” and another explained that she was in a relationship with a couple.

    If you are wondering if that cute lesbian couple you just met wants to join you for a threesome, the odds are mighty slim according to this survey that you are going to get a “yes.”

    8. On average, when you are having partner sex (not masturbation) what is the typical time of clitoral stimulation (or your preferred stimulation) necessary to achieve an orgasm?

    The responses from lesbians completing this survey suggest that most women (34%) indicate that they need an average of 10-20 minutes of clitoral stimulation (or preferred stimulation) by one’s partner (not including masturbation) to reach an orgasm, and similar amounts of women (32%) state they can reach orgasm with 5-10 minutes of clitoral stimulation or other preferred stimulation. A few responders (7%) report needing more than 20 minutes. There is an impressive 23% of responders who report reaching climax with less than 5 minutes of partner stimulation.

    Some women are self-conscious about the length of time it takes to climax, especially if she is partnered with someone who comes quickly. This bonus question is designed to validate the wide-ranging length of stimulation required for climax during partner sex. Most women can self-pleasure much more rapidly than they can with partner sex. Your responses may also vary from partner to partner, depending on different techniques and accessories used for stimulation.

    As one woman commented, “Ok, this is not up to me…she can get me to orgasm in a few minutes or make me wait 15, 20, 30 minutes. She is in complete control and knows EXACTLY which buttons to push to drive me wild.”  Other responders clarified that they are indicating the length of time it takes for their first orgasm, but that they continue to have additional orgasms for another hour, and one woman shared that she continues to have orgasms for five or more hours after her first one.

    Do you identify as a lesbian? Do you want to add your voice to #asklesbians?  Take the current survey here.

    SUGGESTIONS, QUESTIONS, COMPLAINTS OR ACCOLADES?

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    Survey Results: Most Important Lesbian Relationship Goals

    Survey Results: Most Important Lesbian Relationship Goals

    lesbian relationship goals

    Lesbian Relationship Goals

     

    When it comes to lesbian relationship goals, our survey says that above all else, feeling loved is most important. In a very brief, no-nonsense survey on asklesbians.com, lesbians were asked not only about how important it is to feel loved, but also to rate 13 other aspects of a relationship according to importance. The scale was 1-5, with one being very low importance, and 5 being the highest importance.

    Twenty-four lesbians completed the survey. Their ages ranged from age from 18 to over 54 with the majority falling into two age groups:

    • 38% ages 18-24
    • 29% ages 35-44

    The bulk of women completing the survey identify as cis-gender female (which means they were assigned female at birth and this gender assignment suits them just fine). Four participants did not identify as cis (one transfemale, and three non-binary).

     

    Lesbian Relationship Goals

    The following numbers represent the weighted scores for each variable on the survey. The numbers are on a scale of 1-5, and the higher the number, the more important this variable is to the lesbians who completed the survey. This list is in order of the most important lesbian relationship goals to least important:

    • 4.25 Feeling Loved
    • 4.17 Feeling Understood
    • 4.09 Humor
    • 4.08 Overall Relationship Satisfaction
    • 4.04 Sexual Chemistry
    • 3.92 Emotional Connection
    • 3.92 Emotional Safety and Security
    • 3.88 Fidelity/Faithfulness
    • 3.83 Intellectual Connection
    • 3.71 Pleasure from Sex
    • 3.46 Social Compatibility
    • 3.33 Frequency of Sex
    • 2.96 Spiritual Connection
    • 2.5 Financial Security

    What surprised me most about these results is that Safety and Security were not identified as a more important lesbian relationship goal than it was (3.92 out of 5). Granted, the survey sample is small. I’m also curious about what makes financial security so low. I find myself wondering if that is a reflection of not wanting to place the value of money above the value of love? However, for this survey, you can have both (rate them both a 5), so it’s curious to me if there is a rejection of or disinterest in financial security?

    The top four most important lesbian relationship goals make sense to me. Although, it is curious to me that feeling loved doesn’t ring in at a solid 5. Does this mean that there are a couple of lesbians that find that to feel loved is overrated? Or feeling understood is only generally important, but not always important?

    • 4.25 Feeling Loved
    • 4.17 Feeling Understood
    • 4.09 Humor
    • 4.08 Overall Relationship Satisfaction

    What are your thoughts about these results? Do you agree it’s most important to feel loved in your relationship? Do any of the findings surprise you, when it comes to what lesbians are saying are the most important goals in their relationships?

    Quick Reference Guide to Different Types of Lesbians

    Quick Reference Guide to Different Types of Lesbians

    types of lesbians

    There are many types of lesbians, what’s your lesbian style?

    When asked, ” What kind of lesbian am I? , ” my answer is, “the kind that likes women.”  I get it. It is human nature to seek order and understanding through labels and classification systems. Interestingly, most of the descriptions of types of lesbians related to gender expression, not sexual orientation.

    Although, how often do you hear someone ask a heterosexual woman, “What type of heterosexual are you?” Really, waht are the different types of heterosexuals? Hmmmmm….?

     

    What kind of lesbian are you?

     

    Butch Lesbians: A butch lesbian refers to women with a masculine gender presentation. 

    Kiki lesbian: a lesbian with fiercely authentic self-expression (dress, behavior, attitude, beliefs, etc), despite (not in spite of), social norms and expectations. (Read how I am reclaiming this label in hopes of generating a positive stereotype for lesbians – this is the one I love the most).

    Lipstick Lesbian / Femme Lesbian: This term refers to a lesbian who has a feminine gender presentation.

    Soft Butch / Chapstick Lesbian / Androgynous:  These terms refer to lesbians with a more neutral gender presentation that is neither butch (particularly masculine) nor femme (particularly feminine).

    Stem Lesbian (stud-fem): A Stem is a lesbian stud (see definition) who is feminine in their presentation. 

    Stone-Butch: A transmasculine person or a lesbian with a masculine gender presentation who is interested in pleasing women sexual but does not desire sexual touch in return.

    Stud: Stud is a term borrowed from the heterosexual community to indicate someone who has a way (sweet talk, win their affection, charm, etc.) with the ladies. Studs typically have a more masculine or butch gender presentation. 

    Other Terms Used to Describe Types of Lesbians 

    Baby-Dyke: a lesbian who has just come out is considered a “baby-dyke.”  Age is not relevant, it is about the length of time you have been out as a lesbian. 

    Gold Star: Describes lesbians who have never had sex with a man.

    Hasbian: Describe a lesbian who is now with men.

    Lone Star:  Describes lesbians who have only had sex with one man. 

    Lesbian Until Graduation (LUG): This refers to a woman who dates other women throughout college and after college is only with men or gets married to a man.

    U-Haul Lesbians: This is a term used to describe a lesbian couple who moves in together quickly after starting to date. The joke goes like this, “What does a lesbian bring on a second date?” Answer:  “A U-Haul.”

    Pillow Princess: Someone who prefers to receive sexual stimulation rather than give.

    If you want to know how I really feel about labels, I wrote about it here. 

    SUGGESTIONS, QUESTIONS, COMPLAINTS OR ACCOLADES?

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    Who's Behind This?

    Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D., that's me. Third-person "about me's" are too impersonal. It's like saying, "You are loved," when what I really mean is, "I love you." Relationships are my thing. Some would say, my obsession. While I only scored an 96% on my own "How Lesbian Are You" test,  don't let that fool you. Since returning to school in the'90s for my MSW, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: help lesbian couples grow love. While my fantasy to be in the WNBA, and my dream of joining the Peace Corp, or my desire to have twelve children, has faded with time, my fixation on helping lesbians grow love remains. I am that person who has built her life around one thing: lesbian relationships. For fun, I do things like create online quiz's at asklesbians.com, to learn more about real lesbians. Or I write books. like, "Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship," to give couples an easy way to communicate. (Shameless plug - you can get this on Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play). And, now that our boys are young men, my love, and my wife, Kristen, and I are growing lesbian love through Lesbian Couples Retreats throughout the U.S. in awesome destinations where our motto is, "love out loud" with Adventures in Love.  You can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

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