As somebody who identifies as being “Mostly Straight,” I’ve still had my fair share of “girl crushes,” so I was interested to read this piece in The NY Times about the apparent “resurgence” of women feeling free to express infatuation with one another.
Oh, did I mention it’s purely infatuation, not attraction?
Not at all.
Because that would be gay.
A girl crush:
refers to that fervent infatuation that one heterosexual woman develops for another woman who may seem impossibly sophisticated, gifted, beautiful or accomplished. And while a girl crush is, by its informal definition, not sexual in nature, the feelings that it triggers – excitement, nervousness, a sense of novelty – are very much like those that accompany a new romance.
It’s not gay.
Now, there are some interesting bits in this article. And of course, women were able to express this kind of affection more freely in the 19th century, and often wrote one another long love letters and kissed and hugged and everybody was cool with that. And it’s neat that in some circles there’s a resurgence of that.
But there were a couple of things that really bothered me. The first is the way “girl crushes” were categorized as giving women “safe and valuable experience in the emotions of love” and “there’s every reason to think that girls can fall in love with other girls without feeling sexual towards them, without the intention to marry them.”
The first comes dangerously close to implying that oh-so-19th-century idea that romantic love felt by women toward other women is somehow childish and quaint, something to give you “experience” before you have a “real” romantic relationship with a man. The second bothers me because it’s another elbow in the ribs of the “not gay” variety. People can also fall in love and get married and not have sex. Well, only if they’re a hetero couple, or maybe if they live in Massachusettes or Canada or Amsterdam. Or Spain, actually. Marriage doesn’t neccessarily guarantee a sexual relationship, either, and like any other sort of crush or infaturation, the urge for hetero sex/sexual feeling between partners cools down over time as well.
Anyhow, I was a little struck by how clearly both the author and researchers quoted wanted to distance this kind of attraction (and yes, I’ll call it attraction) from same-sex attraction (i.e. LESBIANISM) or hetero attraction (i.e. “Real” attraction).
I would also argue that some of their attempts at differentiating “girl crush” from “real crush” are kinda lame: “Crushes are typically fleeting, and infatuation often turns to friendship in this way.” Isn’t that true of most relationships, sexual (hetero and same-sex) as well?
I do believe that fears of “this must mean I’m a lesbian” do still really curtail the ways in which crushes/attraction between (and among) women are expressed. I’ve got no trouble saying that I love some of my friends, and it doesn’t bother me to think, “Hey, that feeling I have toward that woman, that’s kinda gay.” I don’t need to go around in loops and hoops and try to justify it as some sort of “special” or “different” sort of love or attraction.
I was happy that they made a nod toward men in this discussion as well:
As for men, to the extent they may feel such emotions for each other, Dr. Caplan said they are less likely than women to express them. They are not reared to show their emotions. “A man talking about emotions about another man? Everybody’s homophobic feelings are elicited by that, and that’s because men aren’t supposed to talk about feelings at all,” Dr. Caplan said.
Let’s qualify that with “Men in this culture.” Guys holding hands in Iran isn’t anything to look twice at.
Though if you do more than that, they’ll kill you.
Not that anybody’s justified in being afraid to be called gay for feeling sexual toward another woman. Cause so many current cultures are so approving of that. I think it’s far easier for women to justify it as childish “infatuation” (NOT GAY!!!!), and hold out for the more socially-acceptable penis, which they may prefer anyway, but which shouldn’t totally negate their attraction to particular women.
What I’d love is for somebody to just up and write the article where they admit that sex and sexual expression is a social activity. It brings people of same and different sexes together. It builds social networks. It’s one of the things in our evolutionary toolbox that’s helped us survive: forming bonds of friendship can and does include actual touching of the Evil Corporeal Body.
Keeping us all terrified of touching each other smacks to me of living inside some dystopian novel where we’re perpetually at war with a Nameless Enemy, a Society of Disinformation reigns supreme, we’re all being tracked and tagged with DNA cards, and the President speaks only in doublespeak…
Oh, wait, that was me watching CNN this morning.