Lesbian sex: IT’S A TRAP! (apparently)

AskMen.com is one of the darker corners of the internet. I last turned my fire on them for presenting pick up lines to run away from really quickly, but this time they’ve excelled themselves with an article entitled “SCIENTIFIC FACT: HOW SHE TRICKS YOU INTO CHEATING“.

So, how are these conniving bitches tricking men into accepting infidelity? Apparently, by fucking women. Twitterer @cwhelton has illustrated this conjecture admirably.

According to “science”, apparently men are far more likely to accept a woman partner’s infidelity if she cheats with a woman rather than a man. AskMen offer this scientific analysis:

Research shows that part of the problem is that the male’s perception of two women getting it on is erotic, and envisioning themselves joining the party is like the double rainbow of sex fantasies.

Out of morbid curiosity, I hunted down the original study, “Sex Differences in Response to Imagining a Partner’s Heterosexual or Homosexual Affair”, which can be downloaded from the author’s website. The study takes an evolutionary psychology tack, and the AskMen article is therefore an instance of the “human centipede” approach to science reporting: regurgitating a shit study into even shittier shit.

The authors hypothesised that men would be less likely to forgive a female partner if she cheated on them with a man than with a woman, because of the risk of her getting pregnant from a heterosexual affair. They weren’t really sure about women’s responses.

To test their hypotheses, they administered a survey to some students, in two parts. In part one, they were asked to imagine a scenario wherein a partner was cheating in either a same-sex or heterosexual affair, and then quizzed on how likely they would be to forgive the partner. As a point of comparison, they were asked if they had ever experienced infidelity and whether they forgave the partner. In this section, they were never asked if it was a same-sex or heterosexual experience of cheating, which sort of blows any real-world significance of the results right out of the water. Also not asked: whether the participants were heterosexual or somewhere on the queer spectrum. Also not asked: anything to do with why they would forgive or not forgive the real or imagined partners.

On the whole, women were less likely to forgive infidelity than men. This was probably skewed by more than half of the male participants saying they would forgive a female partner who cheated with another woman (although only 22% would forgive cheating with a man). The results skewed the other way with the women participants: fewer would forgive a partner cheating with another man than with another woman.

In their discussion, the authors return to banging the pregnancy drum, an analysis that their own results don’t really support: if it were entirely down to risk of pregnancy (and all the childrearing shit that evolutionary psychologists obsess over), then, surely, women would also be more likely to forgive a same-sex affair.

It gives me great distress to announce that AskMen’s analysis of the experimental results–lesbian sex is hot–is actually a better analysis than that provided by the authors of the study. There are a lot of societal prejudices at play here: lesbian sex isn’t seen as “real” sex by many heterosexuals (poor them), while sex between men is still subject to a lot of stigma. Lesbians are hot; gays are icky.

This attitude pervades not just the Normals with their tedious concerns about cheating, but also the poly/open relationship community: it is still far more common to see men with harems of women, men defining terms of their relationships wherein women may only play with other women, and the dreaded Unicorn Hunters. It’s everywhere, and it really needs to fuck off.

With some better science, it might be interesting to get to the bottom of why so many are squicked by gay sex but turned on by lesbian sex. And then we can make the myth die forever.


Tip of the masochistic hat to @syn who found the AskMen article.

13 thoughts on “Lesbian sex: IT’S A TRAP! (apparently)”

  1. I have to admit, “the double rainbow of sex fantasies” is my new favourite phrase!
    Other than that I think you are right that society’s ideas about gay and lesbian sex are the biggest effect on this (crap) study’s results.

  2. This slips neatly into a conversation Carter and I have been having about the swinging scene and why women having sex with women is seen as hawt but men having sex with men is frowned on. Swinging clubs have specific bi nights, for men who want other men, but public sex acts between women are accepted any night of the week.
    I recently pointed out that the current squick towards men who have sex with men is neither historical or cultural. Could there be a perceived need to emphasize heterosexuality as the only acceptable position for men as a way of emphasizing masculinity?
    Of course the idea that women to women sex is not real sex is probably at the heart of why many do not seem to be as bothered about it.

  3. I know the behavioural reason behind men (allegedly) being more forgiving of lesbian encounters, it is about the whole threat thing, it’s seen in nature a lot.

    Addressing the whole lesbian sex being hot, there is a reason for this. Women are naturally more comfortable with sex. By this, I mean women aren’t generally trying to prove something, they’re enjoying what they’re doing whereas men are either a) trying to prove themselves or b) trying to get off as fast as possible which leads to some clumsy and functional behaviour. So whilst we all know sex is amazingly hot between two people who are into each other, between women it’s more common as there’s nothing to prove.

    What’s the icky point of man on man sex? You know what, I have not a bloody clue. It’s not my thing and I’m not a woman so I can’t look at it from that perspective however I don’t think it’s icky so others will have to explain it

  4. Addressing the whole lesbian sex being hot, there is a reason for this. Women are naturally more comfortable with sex. By this, I mean women aren’t generally trying to prove something, they’re enjoying what they’re doing whereas men are either a) trying to prove themselves or b) trying to get off as fast as possible which leads to some clumsy and functional behaviour. So whilst we all know sex is amazingly hot between two people who are into each other, between women it’s more common as there’s nothing to prove.

    Not at all sure what you are basing the above on, it ignores the trend for women claiming to be bi to be trendy or be perceived as sexier and as for women being more comfortable with sex, I take it slut shaming and the whole history of patriarchy denying women’ s sexuality (which still impacts on many women today) simply didn’t happen in your world.

    To ascribe behaviors to an entire gender is just as much sexist bollocks when they are behaviors they deem positive and in this case ignore the many women with body image problems, sexual dysfunction, gender issues and confusion about their sexuality.

    1. In the context of the last part of the comment, is the first part supposed to be satire? I didn’t quite get it.

      Also, I’m pretty tired of banging the “Katy Perry” lesbians drum, but there’s a link in there somewhere to my piece about frustration at that trend.

  5. It’s completely the wrong way around anyway.

    One would naïvely expect that straight men should instinctively object to lesbians, regarding them on some level as competitors for the same “resource” — i.e., women with whom to have sex (I am really not happy with this phrasing, but can’t think of anything better right now; suggestions for improvement are welcome, I genuinely don’t want to dehumanise anybody) — while positively welcoming gay men as reducing competition for that resource.

    I also don’t think

    1. (posted too soon)

      I also don’t think it’s motivated simply by fear of rape, as it is triggered even in situations where that would be extremely unlikely or impossible (some straight men get upset by the fact that gay men even exist at all).

      My guess is, homophobia is learned. And if we can find out where from, we can stop the teaching.

  6. Having just looked at the askmen site, I’m almost ashamed to be a member of the gender that produced it. Great way to give us a bad name.

  7. “It’s a trap” is a meme used for lots of things, but when it’s used in the area of gender and sexuality, it’s generally used to mock transsexual women (you can imagine how). I’m uncomfortable seeing it used here as a catchy title. I imagine you probably weren’t aware of that, or you wouldn’t have used it, but now you are!

    About the article itself, I’m not sure it’s very much to do with actual sex between lesbian and bisexual women.

    It’s asking male participants to imagine sex between women, so presumably it’s producing imagined pornolesbianism rather than actual woman-loving sex.

    That is, the men in the study are comparing imagined actual infidelity (with a man) to a pornographic scenario performed for their pleasure (with a woman). So I’m not surprised that they feel differently about the two.

    Something I’ve seen happening between others is that, if the fantasy of the “hot bi babe threesome” becomes the reality of a deep sexual and loving bond between women in a way which doesn’t include the man, male attitudes to it can become very negative very rapidly once he realises it’s all being done for his benefit.

  8. I suspect (and this is purely from navel gazing my own knee-jerk, cis-gendered, hetero male reactions, so is in no way anything more than personal conjecture) that a lot of the difference in the perception by hetero men in terms of faithfulness of their partners in lesbian/non-lesbian situations is around their perceptions of themselves and their own masculinity. The insecurity trigger isn’t that their female partner is engaging in sexual activity with another human being, but with a male rival – a competitor. I suspect the discomfort around gay sex is probably something broadly similar; that it isn’t how they relate to men (or possibly more to the point, how they like men to relate to them). I’m sure there’s something very apposite in semiotic theory to describe it, but in short – it’s how the perceptions of the self relate to the actions that defines the response, rather than the nature of the actions themselves.

  9. This is a great article, I’m very happy to see something different and smart, not the usual “I’ll forgive if I join”.
    With the evo psyche theories culture and intelligence are completely ignored. But even if we follow this “logic” women wouldn’t be threatened by another man, because this will meаn double the food, but another woman would be a threat, because she will take half of the food.
    I definitely think that lesbian sex is not seen as real, but maybe there is something else- women themselves are seen as objects, so they will do and like whatever men want them to, and when men say “no” women will stop and start wanting only them again. It’s not only that lesbian sex(but not lesbians) is not stigmatized as gay sex, but men really think that women will always be theirs. So lesbians sex is not a threat but also it’s ok because generally(I don’t say this is in all cases and that I perceive myself that way during sex) the penetrated one is seen as humiliated, e.g. “fuck you”, so when women are the active it’s ok, as long as they are passive too, but when men are passive, they can never be ok again, because they were humiliated. Generally women doing “men” stuff is ok, but the opposite is not.
    Women’s unforgiveness of gay sex has to do with gay sex being stigmatized and gay men not perceived as real men, not so much with feeling threatened, even though this is part of the reason. Another man is a different type of competition, he is not a woman, so I personally wouldn’t feel so humiliated and I’m sure most of the women wouldn’t be as angry as they would if the cheating was with a woman, but still a man can give things I can’t. I think it is the same for men and women, and that if men didn’t belive that women are objects for their pleasure, they would be very scared by lesbian sex.

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