Mutiny On Lesbo Island

Saye Bennett

Note:This post is my long-overdue (sorry! ugh!) response to joannadeadwinter in our on-going conversation  about bisexuality. Specifically, this post is in response to her post, “Shipwreck on Lesbo Island.”

Joannadeadwinter made so many excellent points in her most recent post in our discussion of bisexuality that I found myself nodding so vigorously at my computer screen that it counted as a neck workout.

In her latest response, with her typical intelligence and insight, joannadeadwinter quickly hones into the actual crux of the matter, cutting efficiently through the layers of outrage, denial, argumentativeness, and occasional downright hostility that discussing this topic causes:

The real question is: What purpose does it serve to have the B lumped in with the LG? How does it add to, or undermine, gay activism and culture?

This is an excellent question, and, upon reading it, I realized that we had be focusing on…

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Alright, I’m Going There…What is Butch/Femme exactly?

Open thread here on the topic of butch/femme. What is it? How can you identify a real butch or a real femme? How can you identify a real example of any “type” of lesbian out there? I have seen a number of views presented, from purely essentialist to purely chosen/presentation based.

Yet I can’t seem to find a view that defends butch or femme in a way that DOESN’T rely on some level on culturally constructed gender stereotypes. 

I have a number of ideas on what butch/femme is but I don’t want to misunderstand or misquote anyone, so I want commenters to speak for themselves and I will share my thoughts in the comments. 

All views welcome! Discuss away. 

What Early Death Really Looks Like

I just found out today that I have a BMI of 42, which is considered very severely morbidly obese, or super obese. Supposedly these people are more at risk of early death and disease and are not mobile.

According to this link here,, people who are morbidly obese like me look like this:
Curious to see a face behind the statistic? Here you go…me on the way to an early grave.

Still not convinced that I’m really very sick? Here’s another exhibition:

My weight and my health and my life are just awful, aren’t they? I’ll pick out my tombstone on the way to McDobald’s and bury my shame under 60 Big Macs.

I Want YOU…to be Celibate!

When I talk about celibacy, I mostly get responses, mostly from straight people, saying that celibacy is too hard and that they could never do it.

And that’s where you’re wrong! You CAN be celibate. Let me explain.

Celibacy in separatist feminism isn’t a religious vocation where you pledge complete lifelong celibacy upon threat of excommunication from Womanhood or dousing in MRA hellfire. I realized recently that I wasn’t clear on this and that’s making it hard to have this conversation. 

Celibacy in feminism is practical. It serves a purpose. If you read the Wikipedia entry on separatist feminism, you will find it is described as being in various degrees (ie not total) and maintained *at will* by women. Furthermore, a pioneer in heterosexual separatist feminism, Cell 16, advised either total celibacy or *periods* of celibacy within relationships. Also separatists are to deny sexual or other intimate access to men who are “not consciously working for female liberation.” 

So it turns out heterosexual relations are acceptable in separatist feminism…with the right men and under the tight conditions, initiated and maintained by women. Chances are, you’re doing a little celibacy and you don’t even know it.

But in order for celibacy to be truly feminist, political, and effective, it needs to also be a) consistent and B) strategic. For celibacy to work, you need to name the problem in all its detail, identify the solution and put those solutions to work in your relationships…consistently. And you refuse access to men who won’t be part of those solutions. Men feel entitled to all kinds of concessions from women, and many of them are subtle and woven into the fabric of daily life. Feminists need to pluck out those mini battlegrounds and win decisively. 

This approach is different from personal or incidental celibacy. Incidental celibacy is temporary abstinence from men because of a recent bad experience and subsequent anger/hatred of men. Political activism of any kind cannot be sustained on raw emotion alone. 

Personal celibacy is when you choose to abstain not out of hatred for men, but a just love of self and desire to develop oneself. All people benefit from taking the occasional sabbatical from satisfying others and being alone with themselves. Personal celibacy is a crucial first step to political celibacy, but political celibacy goes a step further. Personal celibacy is individual. Political celibacy starts with the self and expands to include all members of your class. You can’t influence women and impose sanctions on men without a firm sense of self and dogged focus. On the other hand, a firm sense of self and dogged focus don’t result in lasting change when they’re restricted to you and you leave everyone else to their choosy choices.

Classic celibate feminism tends to focus on straight women, since they have the most contact with men and the best chance of challenging patriarchy directly. However, lesbians and bisexuals can be celibate too. Even male feminist allies can be celibate. In this age of queer, lesbians and WSWs are at high risk of encountering female partners that either enable or tolerate male supremacy, and it is just as crucial to restrict their access as it is to restrict access to males. Men are powerful, but they are slightly less than half the population. Men are successful in large part because women cater to them, often unwittingly or by coercion. So we not only need to center women but also women who are woman-cemtered.

As for men, your chances of finding a man who is willing to seriously pursue celibate feminism are very, very low bit if you do…he is rare gem and very highly prized. Keep him. Why would a man be celibate for women’s sake? Because he sees, or has been shown, the dynamics of female oppression and male privilege, and how even genuinely good men are suspect in the dark of the night. Because he wants to get to know and appreciate the women in his life and he realizes that his desire for sex will have to take a backseat. He will wait for the woman’s lead and knows that when he does this, sex will be better for the both of them. He wants to dissociate himself from the sins of his fathers, be a different kind of man, and to be there as a protector if needed. Most importantly, men who do this educate and set a positive example for other men…and deter men who refuse to learn. 

 Celibacy is truly a gift, and anyone can be celibate for the betterment of women. And this celibacy doesn’t have to be total, nor does it have to last forever.

What are you waiting for? I want YOU to be celibate. 

My Entry Into Spinsterhood

I never wanted to get married, nor did I ever want to have sex. I didn’t think highly of flirting or dating and had less than zero patience with my female classmates as we entered puberty. I developed sexual feelings over time, but I never was particularly active on the romantic front. In fact, I have been single since…always, really. 

Back in my queer teen years, I thought myself asexual. And I still believe that a minority of people truly are asexual, but most of the people today that claim asexuality are just looking for special snowflake status. There are, apparently, even people who identify as asexual while having numerous consensual sexual encounters, which to me is no different than a “lesbian” having consensual sex with men. 

No, I proudly identify as celibate and I have for a long time. I have been mocked repeatedly for it by funfems and mostly male progressives. And still, I stand my ground, and not because of radical feminism. I didn’t find radical, socialist, libertarian, anarchist, etc. feminism until fairly recently. My celibacy goes back farther than that.

Indeed, I cut my teeth on celibate life and a life without childbearing in a very different place…the Catholic Church, no less. 

In Catholicism, celibacy and virginity are considered rare supernatural graces, holy, and highly prized. This is partly why clergy and religious are required to take vows of chastity. Even in marriage, celibacy is prized. Theology of the Body talks at great length about how celibacy benefits married couples. There is a rite in the Catholic Church called the Josephite Marriage, or “extraordinary form,” where married couples are voluntarily celibate, in imitation of the marriage between Joseph and the Virgin Mary. There are a number of roles, both religious and secular, in which celibacy and childlessness are recommended if not required and unmarried childless women are not considered anomalous in Catholic tradition. Obviously childbearing is prized in Catholicism, if you are married in what is called the “ordinary form,” hence the prohibitions on birth control and abortion. However, the Church also prizes adoption as Christians are adopted sons and daughters of God. The Church has, if grudgingly, acknowledged that unrestrained childbearing isn’t always good for women, children, or families. Lastly, reproducing through artificial means is strictly forbidden, so in certain respects, even Catholics aren’t as fixated on childbearing as mainstream culture is.

In fact, according to the Council of Trent:

“If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema — CANON X, Doctrine on Matrimony.” 

Furthermore, it is not necessary for a marriage to be sexually consummated in order to be valid and binding:

“The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that “makes the marriage.” If consent is lacking there is no marriage — CCC 1626.”

There you have it…my divine reasoning, as well as my personal and political reasoning, as to why I value celibacy so highly. And let’s face it, it’s the only method of pregnancy and disease prevention that is 100% effective. 

In Catholic communities, there is definitely plenty of butting in as to why a pretty girl/handsome young man is still single. But there is also a sense of awe and sometimes even jealousy at those who are celibate. “I could never do that,” they say. “It must be so nice to be so close to God, He’s all you have!” (Which sounds condescending but you know it’s not meant that way.) Celibacy in any case is viewed as the harder choice and singles are not stereotyped as hedonists to the extent that they are in other religious groups. 

Being celibate didn’t make me an outsider in Catholic circles, but it did in libfem and progressive circles, but not because of a lack of unmarried and/or childless people. In my post “Euphemisms as Anti-Language” I discussed the difference between having an environment adapted to, as opposed to designed for, you, and that’s how I felt being a celibate person in lib fem space. Very little meaningful discussion about celibacy or childlessness happens beyond choosy choice, how I can choose to be a senior mom or teen mom, single mom or married mom, working mom or stay at home mom, mom jeans wearing mom or sequinned leggings mom. Or no mom! Being not mom is okay too! Virtually nothing meaningful about how much choice really factors in, or the political implications of each choice. I want to talk about politics, about social pressure, about adoption and fostering, nontraditional family structures, etc. But despite constant protestations to the contrary, their bias in favor of their married, bio mother readership is obvious. And it’s a topic I’m not allowed to discuss because I am shaming and judging married mothers in doing so. In fact, the only time it seems to be remotely acceptable to celebrate celibacy or critically examine our romantic and sexual culture is to claim you are oppressed as an asexual. Claiming a sexual orientation with no sex is a way to cash in on libfems’ reverence for sex and sexual minorities without having to be overtly sexual. Another reason I hate modern use of the term ‘asexual.’

Of course, being Catholic is about as acceptable in libfem circles as being a prostitute is in Pentecostal circles. And it’s also totally okay to tar “sex negative” people with accusations of prudery. I can’t question that either. 

When I finally hit peak trans  I found radical, lesbian, and separatist feminism…and I found my niche.

And the rest is history.

Exhibit A: Why I Hate Wife-n-mommy Culture 

I will, soon enough, be writing a whole bunch of posts as to why I hate what I term the wifenmummie (or wife-n-mommy) culture. I don’t have the energy to tackle that task right now, but I will give you an example of why I find it so outrageous.

I was browsing my timeline on Facebook. I came across a post from a relatively new friend. I like her a lot. This isn’t a criticism of her. She is trying to be a sympathetic friend and she also, like many young people, is wrapped in her life, her life, her dreams. But we must stand our ground and tell the truth…even, and especially, to our friends.

This friend, who shall be called Suly, wrote a post advertising a GoFundMe for a friend going through hard times. Some of those hard times, for example, the loss of her cat, tugged at my heart, and I sympathized. I wanted to help…but those few sympathetic causes were not the focus of this Facebook post. The primary hardship the recipient faced, and the primary reason for soliciting donations, stopped me from having anything to do with this project.

It turns out this friend of Suly, the recipient of Suly’s beneficence, is a wife and aspiring mother who recently went through fertility treatments and failed to get pregnant. She wants to try again, because she wants to have a baby so badly and she feels so guilty and so useless because she can’t give her husband the family he wants (not the exact wording, but very similar language). Only…she doesn’t have the money right now to go through another course. So Suly wants us to donate money so she can throw wifenmummie a Harry-Potter themed party to make her feel better, which is innocent enough, AND/OR…wait for it…a loan to pay for another course of fertility treatments.

Hold the phone, lady!

No way no how am I spending my hard-earned money on that!

The party, like I said, is innocent enough. I wouldn’t have given money, but I might have given supplies, a small gift, or a card…maybe even a gift card. After all, wifenmummie has endured some real losses besides failed fertility treatments, such as the aforementioned loss of her cat. I don’t believe all fundraising needs to be for destitute people, people in dire circumstances, dying people, or only for serious ventures or basic needs. For example, I have no problem donating to the Special Olympics, to Make-a-Wish, to my local nursing home for a new activity center, to a school’s performing arts field trip, etc. One of my proudest moments was donating a big bill on a street corner to the boys’ Little League Team so they could travel out of state to a big game. With that said, I do expect people who are *able* to do so to do their part, and I expect the project to a) be a legitimate need or goal and B) to reasonably require the funds and resources being requested in order to get the project done in a satisfactory and timely manner. Granted, these judgments are subjective, but suffice it to say, this party didn’t even come close to meeting my relatively loose requirements.

I mean, anyone who can afford fertility treatments can afford recreation…and Suly was more than able to fund her own generosity. This is a woman who can afford multiple big ticket events, such as a trip to Disney World, a year, is buying a house, and has all kinds of money to spend on clothes, makeup, merchandise from her favorite fandoms, etc. And she lives, and shares assets with, her fiance who is also doing very well for herself. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but…wht are you asking us to fund a party that you are more than capable of throwing yourself? I’ve thrown big parties with much less wealth. Skip a few shopping trips, Suly, or dip into your vacation money, and do it yourself. Seriously.

As irritating as this is, though, that’s not my biggest problem. My biggest problem is, you guessed it, the fertility treatments.


There is no way I will take even the remotest chance that my money will go towards fertility treatments. Such treatments aren’t medically necessary in avoiding death, disability, or disfigurement. They’re not healthy for mother or baby. They’re very often unsuccessful, which amounts to wasted money and time, and most importantly, they’re unethical. They entail playing God in one of the most misogynistic and heterosexist ways imaginable.

By the way, Suly and wifenmummie live in England, where their health care is largely paid for by the state. A huge chunk of the audience for this post is American, a group of people that is a) struggling economically, b) has a minimal safety net, and c) has to PAY for healthcare that they actually NEED! All too often, people are paying large sums of money that they don’t have and ruining whatever credit or assets or security they had for care that they truly can’t live without. Yet these women think nothing of asking this same population of people to fork over their minimum wage incomes to find what is essentially a cosmetic procedure for a well-off couple.

How dare you? The gall of such a request!

And of course, no one calls this out for what it is, nor do they call out this woman’s husband, for whom the woman feels “guilty” and “useless” as a wife. NO ONE told this woman that her lack of fecundity wasn’t het fault, that she had no reason to be guilty, and that there is more to being a wife than being fucked and being pregnant. NO ONE called Dear Hubby out for being selfish, sexist, and entitled. No, they reinforced this woman’s feeling of failure and now are trying to finance the means to “fix it.” Hate the oppressive housewife role? Take Valium! Hate sex role stereotypes? Change your sex! Hate being targeted for your weight? Go on a diet! Hate your lack of fertility? Get treatment? Hate your inability to be the wife your husband wants? Change yourself!

What’s curiously absent is the real solution to all these problems…change expectations. Change priorities.

I suppose I should consider the source: Suly and Alma (fiancee) are a lesbian couple who want to pursue artificial reproduction…so perhaps they’re a bit biased? Ya think? They mourned the Brexit decision, in part, because they thought their rights, namely their reproductive options, would take a hit. That’s right…a nation’s success, identity and sovereignty must be suppressed because someone somewhere wants a designer baby. And the thousands of people that want their country back will just have to be content to serve wifenmummie’s baby fever. Even if you do not support, or are not affected, by Brexit, you have to admit that the reason given here for opposing it is mind-blowing in its self-centeredness.

If this doesn’t ooze privilege and entitlement, I don’t know what does. If you don’t see what’s wrong with this picture, there’s nothing I can do for you. If you still don’t understand why I hate wifenmummie culture, there’s more where this came from.

As you can imagine, I declined to participate in this endeavor. My money went to Alley Cat Allies instead.