Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Friday, August 10, 2012

10 Fun Facts You Didn't Know About Lesbians

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2012 at 10:43 AM

click to enlarge Sappho's sapphic love scandalized even the goats she kept around as decorative props! - SIMEON SOLOMON
  • Simeon Solomon
  • Sappho's sapphic love scandalized even the goats she kept around as decorative props!

I watched Farewell, My Queen recently, mostly because I thought there'd be lesbian action in it. Spoiler: There's not! Unless you count one fervent forehead touching and a lot of lingering eye contact. But the film did make me realize how little I knew about Marie Antoinette, aside from the myth of the "let them eat cake" business. It didn't take me long to discover the pornographic pamphlets (it was for research!) that mocked Antoinette's extravagant lifestyle and accused her of all kinds of wrongdoings, including lesbianism, pedophilia, and incest.

Fun fact 1: Lesbianism at that time was known as performing the "German vice" and since Antoinette was Austrian (close enough?) this obviously proved she was totes banging chicks! With "royal dildos!" The Germans (unsurprisingly) countered this insult by calling lesbianism the "French vice" because the Pee-Wee Herman comeback never goes out of style, apparently.

Despite having a good decade of rug munchery under my belt, clearly I had a lot to learn about lesbianism, so I did some digging, and here are some gems I found.

(Ed. note: Most of these come from The Gay Almanac, unless otherwise linked/noted)

2. A labrys is a double-edged hatchet or axe that is commonly associated with lesbians, for those who've never seen the movie Bound. I thought that lady lovin' ladies liked the labrys because it sounded like labia. But no! The labrys gets its fame from Demeter, Goddess of Earth, who used it as a scepter in religious ceremonies. Where else she may have used that scepter isn't explicitly stated.

3. According to U.S. Census data, the state with the most gay couples is California (who didn't see that coming?) with around 90,000. Yet, California is one of the few liberal states where same-sex marriage is illegal. It's like the gay equivalent of that Rime of the Ancient Mariner poem: Lezzies lezzies everywhere, but not a one to gay marry!

4. The lesbian finger ratio party game is, I discovered, not merely foreplay. It's actually a thing, proven by science. Lesbians' index fingers are typically shorter than their ring fingers, unlike hetero women, but similar to men's finger ratios. In addition to lesbianism, ladies are also more likely to be autistic, left-handed, and masculine.

click to enlarge finger2.jpg

5. The first U.S. lesbian magazine was called Vice Versa and was written by "Lisa Ben." (Get it? It's an anagram for lesbian!)

6. Tribadism, a lezzie sex act that involves two gals rubbin' up on each other, comes from the Greek word "tribein" meaning to rub. In Rome, a tribas/tribade was a woman who took the active (penetrative) role in sex and was very much frowned upon culturally. Tribadism as a catch-all term to describe lesbian sex stuck until the 20th century, where it fell out of style, much like the color taupe. The '90s queer punk band Tribe 8 is a pun on the word.

7. The first lesbian/feminist bookstore in the U.S. was the Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, which opened in Minneapolis in 1970. It later became True Colors bookstore (with the labrys acting as the "T,") but has since closed.

Because this is precisely the image lesbians need to NOT be mocked for eternity.
  • Because this is precisely the image lesbians need to NOT be mocked for eternity.

8. A lavender rhino used to be a recognized symbol of lesbianism in the '70s. The theory behind the symbol was because purple is "pretty gay" and rhinos are "docile until provoked." I, for one, am glad that never stuck.

9. In 1984, Berkeley became the first city in the U.S. to extend domestic partnership benefits to lesbian and gay city employees.

10. There have been many variations of the word "butch" throughout history. In addition to the ones you probably already know (bull dyke, bull dagger, diesel dyke), here's a brief timeline: 1930s: Cat, Apache

1940s: Collar-and-tie, dandysette, shim, major, mantee, mason

1960s: Pansy without a stem, jasper

1970s: No-nuts (how descriptive)

Unspecified: Brother-girl, derrick, Dutch girl, fellow, goudou, goungnotte, grousse, horsewoman (!), jota, king, polone, penis-envy queen, pot, gal-officer, and she-sexual.

There's your trivia for the week. Other fun facts? Leave 'em in the comments.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. Follow Anna Pulley at @annapulley.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

About The Author

Anna Pulley


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"