January 30, 2009

Icon‘Lesbianism is a choice’ – Julie Bindel

Controversial journalist Julie Bindel has today reignited the issue of revolutionary feminism in a newspaper article, arguing that lesbianism is a political decision rather than an innate characteristic, and inviting heterosexual feminists to “join the ranks”.

In the Guardian article My Sexual Revolution Bindel charts the history of the Revolutionary Feminists of the 1970s, who redefined lesbianism as a rejection of men rather than a desire for women.

The Revolutionary Feminists published a booklet called ‘Love Your Enemy’ in which they wrote ‘all feminists can and should be lesbians. Our definition of a political lesbian is a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men. It does not mean compulsory sexual activity with women.’

The booklet received widespread criticism, from heterosexual and homosexual women, and its radically anti-male stance was blamed by some for the ongoing trashing of both feminism and lesbianism in the media.

In My Sexual Revolution Bindel writes of her own experiences as a young lesbian feminist in the 1980s, and her perception of lesbianism as an escape from a claustrophobic heterosexual life.

“To me, political lesbianism continues to make intrinsic sense because it reinforces the idea that sexuality is a choice, and we are not destined to a particular fate because of our chromosomes,” writes Bindel. “I also suspect that it is very difficult to spend your daily life fighting against male violence, only to share a bed with a man come the evening.”

Bindel concludes the article by asking feminists to abandon heterosexuality:

“We live in a culture in which rape is still an everyday reality, and yet women are blamed for it, as it is viewed as an inevitable feature of heterosexual sex. Domestic violence is still a chronic problem for countless women in relationships with men. Women are told we must love our oppressors, while, as feminists, we fight to end the power afforded them as a birthright.

“Come on sisters, you know it makes sense. Stop pretending you think lesbianism is an exclusive members’ club, and join the ranks. I promise that you will not regret it.”

28 Responses to ‘Lesbianism is a choice’ – Julie Bindel

  1. Jess says:

    Argh Ms Bindel can be so frustrating for those of us who do identify as feminists but disagree with pretty much everything she writes.

    I think to an extent my lesbianism is a choice of preference. Like i choose dark chocolate because i love it, I prefer it and I can’t imagine why anyone would like white chocolate when they could have dark chocolate instead.

    This of course doesn’t mean I don’t respect people’s ‘choice’ to eat white chocolate. It’s just that personally I don’t like to eat it.

    For those of you who like both white and dark chocolate good for you. But I’m a dark chocolate girl through and through.

  2. Kristin says:

    That is insane, lesbianism is not a rejection of men! It is not a political statement (or at least it shouldn’t be), I don’t choose to not sleep with men, I am simply not attracted to them. Orientation cannot be changed, anyone can sleep with anyone but that doesn’t mean that they will enjoy it or be attracted to someone just because they’re sleeping with them.

  3. Katy says:

    Indeed Ms. Bindel knows how to start a war. She also knows how to create a fuss.
    Attention seeking, self obsessed, mentally unstable: I cannot think of enough negative adjectives for this vile woman and her vile opinions.
    Whilst all of us women would probably concur with her stance on the need for the eradication of ritual misogynistic male behaviour, I hope that we might all agree that neither misandrism nor lesbianism are the right solutions for the problems she is addressing. We might also agree that the ‘decision’ to be gay is more of about sexual chemistry for most of us than it is an outright choice between men and women.

    Thankyou Jess, for bringing this to light. I personally was not aware that this kind of bigotry still existed in such, dare I say, post-feminist times. Surely modern feminism is about trying to feel good about ourselves, rather suppressing us into a tiny idealistic box of what we should be thinking and how we should behave. For this Third Wave, Hilary Clinton is a feminist, Kelly Osbourne is a feminist. Katy Perry? Perhaps not. Ms Bindel, despite her adamance, can surely be not. How can anyone really promote themselves as a true purveyor of women’s rights if they make it their mission to scorn their own gender and the way in which they choose to live their lives? It disappoints me greatly that Julie Bindel is still an accredited columnist for The Guardian. As much as I appreciate journalism from a lesbian perspective (Ariel Leve, Miranda Sawyer) I would really like to hear a lot less from Ms Bindel for a while. Perhaps she might like to go and burn her bra in the park and sit on a bench muttering into a beer can for a while. Or, if she really really wants to tackle modern day misogyny then I suggest she goes and makes a start on female circumcision or the transatlantic sex trade. Her abundant enthusiasm on the subject of women and their suffering might then at least be worthwhile.

  4. meagain says:

    If I could write like Katy that’s just what I would’ve written too.
    I don’t feel I had made a conscious choice between men and women or that I hate all men – let the politics remain political as in the issues around the still heavily patriarchal aspects of society and the much more serious issues of rape and domestic violence. But yet, not all men should be tarred with the same brush and let’s not forget about domestic violence within lesbian relationships also. I am a feminine, feminist lesbian by desire and default and I thank my lucky stars I live in a society where I can be open about it. Ms Bindel seems to me to be just advocating controversy – was there a shortage of real issues to write about this week perchance?

  5. Katy says:

    Meagain you also write pretty well – “I am a feminine, feminist lesbian by desire and default.”

    And I agree with your comment regarding lesbian domestic violence. Apparently Julie Bindel regards gender as a black and white – men are bad, women are good – issue. I’d say she needs some lessons in life.

  6. Ines says:

    Does ms. Julie Bindel think about politics when she’s ACTUALLY doing what lesbians do in bed?
    Because I don’t have much time or gray matter at that particular moment to think about whether I’m doing the right thing, and most of all, I can’t stop to think whether I’m attracted to the girlfriend in question politically or if I just like her.
    I think Bindel needs to reassess her idea of homosexuality. It’s based on sex (in a wide sense), not politics.

  7. Amy says:

    So basically she’s saying she’s only a lesbian because she’s a feminist?

  8. Katy says:

    But not exactly. She’s twisted her words. Although there is no way of proving her natural sexuality, it is of my opinion that, even if it weren’t for her undying loyalty to antiquated feminist opinion, she would probably still be a lesbian anyway. There’s really nowhere she has ever admitted that she is actually attracted to men and thus I consider her a terrible hypocrite to demand that all women who also consider themselves womens’ rights activists should abandon men in their quest for righteousness, regardless of their sexual preference. If she hasn’t, why should they?

    If this is not the case and she really is a full-blooded hetero who sacrificed her lust for politics then one really must wonder, as Ines suggested, what actually goes on in Julie’s bed? Nothing, quite probably.

    I’m not aware whether or not she has a partner, but if she does, can you imagine how this poor woman must feel? Sexless and unattractive, because as a lesbian without desire for her females, Julie could never become physically aroused by her lovely womanly body.

    Of course, it is not just about sex. Being a lesbian is also about the mental chemistry of being able to fall in love with a woman. For those straight feminists to whom suggests they ‘join the ranks’; the quest of love must thus be drowned amongst the vain ambition of prevailing over the giant global problem of male aggression which, almost certainly, cannot be cured by a very small, very radical group of cynics.

    What hideous sexless, loveless misery Ms Bindel is projecting as a model lifestyle for her fellow womenfolk. This should be known as anti-feminism from now on.

    It is my opinion that Julie Bindel has this all wrong. Politics should never come before passion. We are, after all, human.

  9. Effie says:

    When are people going to understand that some girls just like sexytime with other girls?

    it’s quite a simple concept to grasp….

    Lesbians don’t categorically hate and reject men!

    And i’m not ashamed that Bindel is misrepresenting the lesbian community because she is clearly messed up heterosexual.

  10. Is it not ablist to call someone you disapprove of “mentally unstable”?

    I don’t believe there is a such a thing as a ‘natural sexuality’. There’s absolutely no evidence that sexual orientation is fixed – have none of you ever met a lesbian who previously identified as heterosexual? Yes there are strong preferences, but that’s not the same thing. Probably most people fall somewhere on the scale of bisexual, and are capable of same sex sexual desire, and visit any prison if you want the proof.

  11. Jamazon says:

    Hmmm the lovely Ms Bindel shakes the tree again and delights at what falls out and at our delicious squeals of indignation. We can’t help ourselves from granting her the oxygen of attention she craves can we? Perhaps she does it to wind up the straight of this world, although this particular piece is more likely to stir the lesbian hornet nest. I don’t think there will ever be a definitive on the fluidity of human sexuality but I do know that if non-LGBT people get hold of this notion then all the work to gain human rights on the basis of intrinsic queerness would be undermined. It would add fuel to the notion we can be “cured”, that we are wickedly choosing the queer path instead of the wholesome hetty path. Surely she can’t mean to do that???

  12. F23 says:

    Jesus guys, what the hell…
    How are ‘these’ feminists any better than any misogynists out there? Hate men….hang on, shouldn’t we be striving for equality?
    And then as for rapes being blamed on the women…
    I don’t know much, but I do know that under UK law, that if a male and female carry out under age sex, it is by law the male that gets prosecuted.
    Again, we SHOULD be striving for equality nevertheless, but there ya go…
    Oh boy, oh boy… oh boy!

  13. yer man says:

    What she on abooout?

    get back in the kitchen and make me a sammich woman!

  14. Claire says:

    “I also suspect that it is very difficult to spend your daily life fighting against male violence, only to share a bed with a man come the evening.”

    This has to be the most ridiculous statement about feminism ever made.
    For one thing, a feminist doesn’t fight male violence, he or she fights female oppression. The oppression of girls and women is a product of our society and is enforced by reactionnary behaviour in both men and women!
    Every man is not the oppressor! If you want to be a feminist in political terms, then look at people’s politics, not their gender! I know a number of men who would define themselves as feminists and I’ve met women who refused the term. That’s what matters!
    I feel entitled to fight for gay rights and for ethnic minorities rights as well as for women’s right, even though I’m a white, heterosexual woman.

    As for going to bed with The Oppressor, it is such a ridiculous claim that I can say only one thing: Being a free, independent woman, I choose who I sleep with. And I don’t sleep with violence, misogynistic males. I pick the nice ones :)

  15. Shyamini says:

    Julie Bindel throws up ludicrous statements of this nature with such frequency that they massively detract from anything she says which is valid and worthy of serious consideration. They are becoming ever more frequent and eventually she will be seen, not as a force to be reckoned with but as an embittered bully who advocates that women cease to make choices which reflect what they essentially are and what they actually want from their own lives. On the one hand she appears to have concluded that heterosexual feminists are unable to put themselves in a position from which they can resist the forces of misogyny and male oppression, unwittingly colluding with it by continuing to be heterosexual and on the other, that lesbians who do not accept their sexual orientation as a consciously made choice, are therefore failing to recognise that they are, by default, heterosexual. No ones sexual identity is arrived at politically,only ones opportunity to express it freely. Her analysis entirely lacks credibility. She appears to accept that political “lesbians” do not have to have sex with women, they simply don’t have sex with men – they don’t have sex with another human being. How accommodating she is. For a woman who is sexually attracted to men but completely rejects all forms of male oppression, how can this be perceived as emancipating? She should deny what she is, who she is, in order to ‘correctly’ pursue a feminist political agenda? Perhaps Bindel is suggesting that heterosexual feminists get themselves a ‘politically appointed’ girlfriend/partner, if they want be acceptable to her and her increasingly skewed interpretation of feminism and human psyche in general. I advise she take a long, long, sabbatical; a permanent one!

  16. “I don’t know much, but I do know that under UK law, that if a male and female carry out under age sex, it is by law the male that gets prosecuted.”

    You don’t know much about UK law either F23. There is no such provision in UK law at all.

  17. Shyamini says:

    After having learned more about Bindle’s opinions and reading many more articles, I’ve reached the conclusion that trying to approach, from an intellectual perspective, any of the incoherent discriminatory rubbish this dinosaur preaches, is a complete waste of time and effort. It would be more worthwhile to occupy the mind deciding which brand of toilet paper to buy, or trying to remember bus routes. I disassociate myself from any positive beliefs I had in her. She’s an arsehole.

  18. F23 says:

    Ah, polly styrene, there was in 2005 at least,although my knowledge could be a bit out of date now, I’m living in Ireland, so trying to keep up with the Irish laws now, thanks for the info. though:-)

  19. F23 says:

    Ha ha, well said Shyamini, let’s remember to be open minded though lol, she could be a nice person at heart:P

  20. Dish says:

    For a smart woman, Bindel seems to mix up the very complex concepts and experiences of politics and sexual desire and gender identity and biology, and come up with an overly simplistic and one dimensional approach to feminism and female oppression and sexual practice and gender identity.

    I am of a similar age to Bindel and there are a host of reasons why lesbians (including me) identify as lesbians. For her to attempt to reduce the experiences of all lesbians into one political choice (because this was a truism for her) is tremendously egocentric and embarrassingly simplistic for someone who should know better. Apropos of nothing, I made a political decision as a young feminist to identify as a lesbian because I am opposed to female oppression and believe that lesbianism is a natural extension of feminism AND (equally) because I am sexually attracted to women (I have NO desire for sex with men and I definitely do not hate men. I have no interest in men, whatsoever.) So where would Bindel put me?

    If a few straight women want to heed Bindel’s call to arms, let them. There is a history of non-sexual “lesbian” relationships between women, known historically in 18th and 19th century US as “Boston Marriages”. I won’t judge those relationships, and Bindel is welcomed to define her relationships and reasons for her relationships in any way she chooses; but her attempt to extrapolate her choice to a universal political truth is both out-dated and curiously intellectually immature.

  21. Mimi says:

    Unlike Bindel, i think politics and sexuality are different. Politics, (including feminism) comes from what we perceive about society, and can often be changed, your sexuality comes from within, and can be as emotional rather than logical. I’ve been attracted to other girls before I was ten, long before I knew what feminism or misogyny was. To argue lesbianism (or in my case, bisexuality) can be used as a political weapon against men, rather than an emotional bond of love and desire which can be neither contained nor changed is absurd

  22. Shyamini says:

    Listen, Bindel is obviously a one trick pony. She distils feminism to lesbianism, thereby failing to acknowledge that not all lesbians are feminists, or that not all feminists are lesbians; bi-sexual women incidentally, need not be included in her egocentric interpretation of, All which Is. They, we, appear to fail on all counts. Good; to be lauded by a moron is worthless and we have far more important issues to pursue. too all. x

  23. Bon says:

    There we go, all one has to do to be a lesbian is not sleep with men! It doesn’t have anything to do with fancying women. Nope, it’s all about the guys.

  24. Time traveler says:

    Hi Ms bindel, I hope you are reading this. You will hear about me some day when I have finished collecting background data from the 1970’. Time travel can reveal so much.

    When i get back i will be setting up my own web page in your name, but not in your favour. And in the mean time stop transbashing. I have heared this is another one of your past times. Just for the record. Transwomen = woman, translesbian = lesbian, political lesbian = closeted straight woman, or in other words fake lesbian.

    Got to go as i am out of time…

  25. Time traveler says:

    After having more time to think i have decided that i agree with a lot of the things you say. But i still think you should change your views of transwomen and not say that all lesbians have choose to be lesbians. Doing this gives more power to men and heterosexuality by saying that at some point all lesbians have had interest in men but choose to be with women. It also makes it look as if heterosexuality is the default that all are born with anything other is choosen. Some women may choose to be lesbians which is good as nature did not give us enougth lesbians.

  26. lulabel says:

    I am a heterosexual feminist who came across this website after reading Julie’s stuff on the Guardian website. I am a big fan of hers and agree with most of what she says, including, to a certain extent, this. I say to a certain extent because a lot of heterosexual women do do exactly what she is citing here. They become, usually in their late teens or early twenties what is known as ‘bi curious’. Now this is assumed by a lot of people, and is often portrayed as being, merely a desperate attempt to titillate men in an effort to ‘keep’ them. For a few maybe, but for the most part, speaking for myself and most of the hetty girls I knew when I was that age, (and others I have talked to about it since) we became interested in trying lesbianism, (or celibacy) simply because our sexual/romantic/professional experiences with heterosexual men were so awful, unsatisfying sexually and emotionally,and demeaning and damaging our self esteem. However, although, ‘it was fine in it’s way, and good for the constitution’, actual lesbianism just didn’t feel quite right for me: female bodies weren’t what I’d lusted after and admired since childhood, fannies were a bit too familiar, for me..and celibacy was ok for a while – one gets a lot of things done that one doesn’t when ‘tied to the beast with two backs’ – but one can get very bitter in it’s clutches if not naturally inclined that way.
    I agree that witholding sex from men, going ‘on strike’ effectively, could be a way to gain some power, but, as Lysistrata showed, women are lusty creatures (far lustier than men with our multiple orgasms, and polymorphous perversity) and we just can’t hold out. Nor should we – life is hard enough without denying yourself sexual pleasure. Straight women like, nay need, cock, when and where we want it…this is what we should fight for – giving it up isn’t right or fair, although I understand the thinking behind it. The terrible thing about being a heterosexual woman is that (awful cliche that it is) a good man is hard to find; most of us want sex more than a good man and end up compromising ourselves, and doctoring our opinions, our emotions and our appearance, so as not to scare off the cock. Actually what would be better would be for contemporary heterosexual women to adopt a more seventies style of feminist dressing; for us ALL to stop shaving our legs, going on diets, dying our hair, mangling our breasts: heterosexual men would still want us sexually (the defining characteristic of a hetty man being an inate desire for vagina) however it was dressed up.

    Anyway, we need a much more hardcore feminism to assert itself at the moment. So many things I thought had disappeared by the 90s have come back with a vengeance and we need to fight them all the way!

    Go Julie go!

  27. Immanently says:

    lulabel – as a reluctant heterosexual and self-deludingly bi-curious woman in her early 20s, I absolutely agree. If only Julie was right, eh?

  28. Jool says:

    Classic academic; choose a seam as yet unmined by others and blast away. Problem is that this particular seam is so narrow as to be invisble to the naked eye. Not a problem though; you simply then interpret everything from shopping to fucking through the prism of your supposed “findings” which were achieved while mining this seam. No-one can challenge you because only you have mined this particular seam, and thus you can construct any perspective you like to support your arguments, however specious. Nice work if you can get it.

Milly Shaw


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