“We don’t have to imitate straightness because by definition, we exist to oppose and critique it.”
What is sex? Is it something we can define, or is it too personal and variable depending on who you ask? As I was beginning to conduct research for this paper, I asked some of the people around me if they could define sex, and got a wide array of answers from “stimulating another person” to “achieving orgasm” to “the giving or receiving of pleasure between one or more people”. What this made immediately clear to me was that sex is very abstract and variable, definitely not something that we can define absolutely, yet I began to realize upon further questioning that people were much quicker to determine what they didn’t consider to be sex: For many people I spoke with, masturbation was not considered sex but the same act with another partner was, or manual stimulation with another partner was considered sex in some cases and foreplay in others depending on the genders of the parties involved. This idea that gender determines what kind of sex ‘counts’ and what doesn’t led me to this research — I want to examine the ways that lesbians and queer women have been invalidated sexually in heteronormative society and how they find ways to expand the boundaries of sexual pleasure through subcultures. In this paper, I will begin by analyzing the dominant narrative surrounding “legitimate sex” by looking at virginity and the ways that it invalidates non-heterosexual, non-reproductive sex, and then move forward to examine the way that lesbian and queer sex is considered more valuable the closer resembles it heterosexual sex and what that means for the lesbian and queer communities and their presumed gender performativity. Using this knowledge and understanding of mainstream society in the United States, I will move into an examination of the ways that lesbians and queer women have found subculture communities in which the backbone of sex does not rely on the gender binary but rather on sexual preference (i.e. top/bottom, dom/sub etc), and how these subcultures have allowed them to push the boundaries of what normative society considers to be sex, resist heteronormative partner standards and generate pleasure in alternative ways.