In 2000, Joshua Jackson guest starred on SNL, with musical guest N*SYNC. In one skit, he and his frat brothers wish to see two real lesbians have sex until they all “bust a nut.” (I can’t remember how anyone got wishes because Saturday Night Live decided to excise “Lez Get Real” from the Internet and removed the skit from its streaming episodes on Netflix.)
At any rate, the bros make a wish and before them appear two actual lesbians, whom they do not find attractive and don’t want to see having sex. The two lesbians proceed to have sex, calling each other a lot of weird New Age nicknames; making love the way a spiritual person with strong personal beliefs about partnership and erotic reverence would enjoy themselves in the bedroom. But the joke was not that these are two crunchy granola hippie ladies, the point of the skit was essentially “Oh my God, two butches together, that’s so comical and shocking and repulsive.”
I took a queer studies class in college, a course the English department had to offer one semester to prevent it from aging out of the curriculum. I remember having an aha! moment reading Leslie Feinberg’s “Stone Butch Blues,” when the narrator describes being repulsed by the idea of two butch ladies pairing off together, breaking the constraints of queer gender norms and abandoning the butch/femme dichotomy. I had never really questioned the logic of butch/sissy relationships, it had seemed natural that someone would kill spiders and someone would hang curtains, and I was like, “Maybe I’m underestimating the variety and vibrancy of the human experience and being gender essentialist about it,”* and lo and behold that was it on the nose.
At the end of this SNL skit the vision of the two butches getting sexy on one another disappears and it seems as if one of men has ejacked (which, the wish was for them to all bust nuts, but hey, let’s just throw magic wishing rules right out the window) and as he’s been proclaiming the entire skit, he “loves the ladies.” That’s it. That’s the whole shitty skit. Lesbians are gross unless they are willing to be your Teenage Dream and make you go off like a Firework when they Kiss a Girl (And They Like It).
Last week K-Y released an ad featuring two ladies talking about their sex lives, and lubricant, and “special moments” represented by tasteful coital fireworks. They are both sitting on their bed in drab, comfortable clothes. And they have the following exchange:
There was no joke, no punchline, just two ladies making love and trying out new things. I really like this commercial—I think it is a step in the right direction.
*True Confessions: I wasn’t actually aware of the concept of gender essentialism in college, I just knew that human beings were probably more complicated than my parents had initially represented them to be, with regards to categories like male and female.