Debunking the Stereotypes of the ‘Gold Star Lesbian’

by | May 3, 2023 | Let's talk about Sex

Why have we turned being a lesbian into a competition?

Earlier this year British comedian, Jimmy Carr, spoke about the idea of ‘Gold Star lesbian”.

What is a Gold Star Lesbian?

A gold star lesbian is defined as “is a lesbian who has never had sex with a man.” Or as Jimmy Carr put it, “has never had vitamin D injection”.

It was originally coined in the US in the early 90’s. One of the earliest places written down was in a 1995 book Revolutionary Laughter: A World of Women Comics, quoting stand-up act by lesbian comedian, Carol Steinel.

She said, “I’m not, in fact, a gold star lesbian — that’s a lesbian who’s never slept with a man. No, I know it’s shocking, but it’s true — I did, once, accidentally sleep with a man. For a year.” 

READ: Navigating Dating with an Eating Disorder: A Story of Struggles and Triumphs (T/W)

What is the issue?

This different terminology for people who identify as lesbians may appear harmless to some. But can often be very damaging and demeaning for young people discovering their sexuality.

People in the LGBTQ+ community have found that this almost “tier system” of their sexuality affected their view of themselves and their sexuality growing up. It’s basically saying that if you have sex with a man, you’re less valid as a lesbian.

Eli Cuniff, 20, identifies herself as a lesbian and proud to be part of that community. However, the pressures of these labels growing up made it more difficult to accept the exploration of her sexuality.

“I remember being a thirteen year old reading Tumblr posts about lesbian culture and seeing these terms thrown around,” she said.

“I remember thinking ‘If I start having sex with men and then decide I don’t like that, then I’m not valid as a lesbian anymore.’ And it’s just such utter BS. No one cares.”

These are the sort of terms that have made it into the mainstream, hetero world as a discussion point, particularly for men.

Men Control the Narrative

“It’s one of those terms that straight men seem to have latched onto and feel like they can ask lesbians ‘hey, are you a gold star lesbian?’ with the inference that you are more or less valid, if you have never slept with a man before.” adds Eli.

“Women’s sexuality is a history of being defined and controlled by men,” said owner of sex positive blog, Cliterally the Best, Evie Plumb. “It’s hard because if you grow up in a very cis het space and you’re not surrounded by anyone who’s gay, you cannot realise for ages and you can date men and think “Oh I guess this is what it’s like then.”

People in the LGBTQ+ community already face so much pressure in feeling valid in their sexuality. Adding these types of labels on top of what struggles they already face isn’t helping anyone.

“So many lesbians have such a complicated relationship with sex and gender. It’s impractical to apply to the real world and it’s so harmful to young people.

“It’s not practical to  use gender binaries and sex binaries to define yourself generally, and especially when it comes to ultimately harmful and misogynistic labels which mean nothing and add no value to you as a person.”

Edited by Caitlin Hart

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