What is Fetishization?:
Fetishization occurs when people become an object of sexual desire due to their identity. This could be due to their race, a certain feature that they have, an attribute, or their sexuality. In this article, we will be discussing the fetishization of lesbians and various other sapphic identities.
Fetishization of Lesbians in Film:
Within film, you can find that lesbians are highly fetishized. This is especially true when you look at films that are made for the heterosexual eye. This is found in trailers, such as the trailer for Atomic Blonde, which shows a sexual relationship between the two female protagonists. The women, who are in a relationship with each other, have the only mention of their relationship with them in the trailer being them have sex with one another. This is concerning, due to the fact that they are fetishizing lesbian women for their sexual value to men.
You can find this in other films as well. In the 2013 film, Blue is the Warmest Color, lesbian sexuality is at the forefront of the film’s identity. This is highly due to the fact that the men’s version of lesbianism is highly found throughout the film. This is highly attributed to the director, Abdellatif Kechiche, being accused of pushing the film’s sexual use of lesbians too far, making “Seydoux, who plays Emma [main protagonist], said she felt like a “prostitute”’ (Greenhouse, 2013).
If the director didn’t push as much as he did would both of the actresses have felt the way they did? Would this film have received as many raving reviews as it did if it didn’t show lesbian sexuality in a way that was for the male gaze, and in the meantime sexualized lesbians? The issue isn’t with depicting lesbians in film, it is about how lesbians are shown for the male gaze.
How Does This Manifest in Real Life?:
Lesbians aren’t viewed in relation to their value for themselves, they are viewed in relation to their value for men. This can lead to lesbians and other sapphic identities being invalidated and primarily viewed for their sexual value. This can lead to violence in real life, with lesbians being subject to sexual violence, fetishized, and forced into uncomfortable situations strictly due to their sexual identity.
Fetishization on Social Media:
You can see this on various trends on the social media app “Tiktok,” where they will commonly have trends that highly suggest fetishization. For example, there is a trend where women will pretend to kiss other women, cover the camera, and will send it to their male significant other. This is fetishization because of the fact that they are showing sapphic sexuality solely for a man’s pleasure. This can lead to some real-life consequences, like many lesbian relationships getting fetishized by men sometimes causing violent consequences such as sexual assault, harassment, and even hate crimes.
Other trends on social media that fetishize lesbians include a trend where straight men said that they were able to convert lesbians into heterosexuality. This is obviously false because if they identified as lesbians, they would not have sex with men, due to their lack of attraction towards them.
Fetishization of Lesbians in Music
In most rap music, it isn’t uncommon to find lesbians being fetishized. For example, in Drake’s newest album “Certified Lover Boy.” One of the songs featured is “Girls Want Girls” he says “You say you a lesbian, girl me too” He seems to say this as a way to relate to lesbian sexuality and to try to get with this woman who is clearly disinterested in him.
This is not just present in rap music, this is also present within pop music. In Katy Perry’s 2008’s classic “I kissed a girl,” she plays the role of a straight woman who is discovering her sapphic identity. This is especially found in some of her lyrics, like “I kissed a girl just to try it / I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it”. This suggests that she is heterosexual and is experimenting with her sexuality in an effort to win some affection with her boyfriend. She also states, “that it felt so wrong, felt so right,” which would insinuate that she is heterosexual.
Both of these lyrics play a role in the fetishization of queer and lesbian women. This is due to the effect that they are doing both of these actions for themselves or the presentation of men, which is ultimately harmful.
What does this mean?
This just signifies the problem of how queer women are viewed in media. We are viewed as people whose relationships are not as good as heterosexual couples, and we are often hypersexualized in modern media. This is in contrast with gay male couples, who have a tendency to be viewed negatively throughout society, and that leads them to be concurrently viewed in disgust vs hypersexuality.
We can aid this by making sure that we are having good queer representation in media, and our portrayals of queer women are not for the straight male’s view and are not predatory towards their relationships.