The Making of Lesbian Sexuality

Carolyn J. Dean

in The Frail Social Body

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780520219953
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520923485 | DOI:
The Making of Lesbian Sexuality

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This chapter argues that although the paradoxical—indeed paranoid—structure of fantasies about pornography and male homosexuality also applied to interwar female homosexuality, it is necessary to make an important distinction between men and women. Fantasies about the omnipresence of both male and female homosexuals surfaced for closely related reasons, including natalist anxieties, fears about national “emasculation,” and feminist questions about gender roles. Those fantasies accented gay men's visibility, and although critics also perceived lesbians everywhere, they were, it seems, never visible enough. Of course, both right-wing nationalists and Republicans in France denounced “mannish” women and often implicitly conflated feminism and lesbianism, using the latter “aberration” to discredit feminist ideas as well. The chapter contends that the important critical focus on self-identified lesbians, and on increasingly visible lesbian subcultures, bars, and clubs does not address the significant investment which interwar critics made in rendering lesbians literally or metaphorically invisible.

Keywords: France; lesbians; fantasies; pornography; female homosexuality; lesbianism; feminism; subcultures

Chapter.  12865 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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