I’ve been to two secondaries and one primary school. The one thing I’ve seen throughout each school, even from the age of 11, has been the fetishisation of lesbianism.
I’m not a lesbian, and I don’t understand what it’s like to be a lesbian. But as someone who grew up with two mums, my worry is that last week’s attack on two lesbian women after they refused to kiss on the request of men is not just an isolated incident of violence. There’s something different about it – and it reflects an attitude I’ve seen throughout my life.
At my first secondary school, I was very open about the fact I have two mums. From about Year 8, out-in-the-open abuse became prevalent. I would get constant comments: ‘scissoring’ this, ‘dildo’ that, ‘do your mums do [insert whatever here]?’. They’re worse than the standard ‘your mum’ jokes, and they stuck with me.
The abuse was, in part, why I left my first secondary school. After I moved, in order to have a better chance socially, I chose never to mention my parents. This allowed me to experience the situation almost incognito – to my surprise, I still heard people fetishising lesbianism on the regular, varying from those casual conversations about scissoring to outright comments about wanting to sexually assault lesbians.
It seems strange that people who aren’t lesbians would have lesbianism so prominently in their minds, especially boys in Year 8, 9, 10 or 11. So, why are boys so young talking so much about lesbians?
I would reject the idea this shift has been caused simply by exposure to more lesbians in the public eye. Instead, from what I’ve seen, it stems from pornography. I mean, where else would an 11-year-old be exposed to this sort of language and imagery? I know reading about an 11-year-old and sex in the same sentence is disturbing – it should be disturbing. And it was really sickening, especially to 11-year-old me.
The substance of abuse is often worse than casual allusion to lesbian sex. It’s often detailed – it’s talk of ‘milfs’, of sex between ‘step-sisters’. Porn has provoked a change in not just language, but also mindset. For Generation Z, it’s as though porn is sex.
And yes, lesbianism was likely fetishised long before online porn became so prevalent, but the availability of porn has made it the primary way in which teenagers form their ideas of what same-sex female relationship look like. To only see a woman who is a lesbian through the eyes of porn is to see that she is not human – she is just an object of sexual desire.
It’s never just ‘boys being boys’. If porn is your main (or only) contact with lesbianism from a young age, it will shape how you think about lesbians. Gay women become just a fetish, just something for your sexual gratification. It’s inherently dehumanising.
In this case, the perpetrators thought of, and spoke about, these two women in the same way many of my generation do about lesbians – this time just to their faces. I saw the same words said to verbally abuse me and my parents said to someone else; the violence is just what happens when this mindset turns into action.
People dubbed this ‘homophobia’, but it’s more than just homophobia. There was something deeply unsettling about the combination of sexual jeering and mindless violence that left so many people confused. I don’t think many adults are fully aware of the disturbing nature in which teenagers think, and speak about lesbians and porn in general.
In this textbook case of objectification, these women were first reduced to objects. Then, the fetishism collided with the violent homophobia within violent criminals and culminates in a strange form of violence, that left much of the public perplexed as to how something like this could possibly happen.
To my mind, we can only fix this through better representation of lesbian women, and by preventing kids from accessing porn at such young ages. The government’s planned porn check system is an attempt at fixing the problem – but workarounds such as VPNs are available on any app store. If we’re honest, where there’s a way to get a hold of pornography, horny teenagers will get a hold of it. We need to think deeper about how widely available commercial internet pornography is impacting our society.
The porn block raises questions about a potential clash of personal freedoms, but my point is more about the direct impact of widely available porn and the culture it is creating in young men. If young people grow up thinking the way they see women treated in porn is acceptable, it’s likely personal freedoms will be violated much more than if we restrict access to porn.