The Corner

“more women may be stepping out of the conventional gender box”

Here’s the second sexual revolution of the day.

This one credits Sex in the City, the fresh cultural breeze that came before Barack and Michelle Obama. According to an article titled “Why Women Are Leaving Men for Other Women” in Oprah magazine, women have been freed from the oppression that is having to deal with men, once and for all:

it’s Cynthia Nixon’s down-to-earth attitude that may have blazed a trail for many women. In 1998, when Sex and the City debuted on HBO, she was settled in a long-term relationship with Danny Mozes, an English professor, with whom she had two children. They hadn’t gotten married: “I was wary of it and felt like it was potentially a trap, so I steered clear of it,” Nixon said in an interview with London’s Daily Mirror. In 2004, after ending her 15-year relationship with Mozes, Nixon began seeing Christine Marinoni, at the time a public school advocate whom she’d met while working on a campaign to reduce class sizes in New York City. Marinoni was a great support when the actress was diagnosed with breast cancer. Far from hiding the relationship, Nixon has spoken freely in TV and newspaper interviews about it not being a big deal. “I have been with men all my life and had never met a woman I had fallen in love with before,” she told the Daily Mirror. ”But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. It didn’t change who I am. I’m just a woman who fell in love with a woman.”

….

This idea, that the libido can wander back and forth between genders, Diamond admits, may be threatening and confusing to those with conventional beliefs about sexual orientation. But when the women she’s interviewed explain their feelings, it doesn’t sound so wild. Many of them say, for example, they are attracted to the person, and not the gender—moved by traits like kindness, intelligence, and humor, which could apply to a man or a woman. Most of all, they long for an emotional connection. And if that comes by way of a female instead of a male, the thrill may override whatever heterosexual orientation they had. 

The piece opens with the story of two female academics:

Gomez-Barris noticed that Halberstam was more attentive to her than usual, even flirtatious. “She got up and gave me the better seat, as if she wanted to take care of me. I was struck by that,” she says. A few weeks later, Halberstam suggested they go out for dinner, and again, Gomez-Barris was impressed by qualities she liked. “She chose a Japanese restaurant, made reservations, picked me up at my place—on time. I felt attracted to her energy, her charisma. I was enticed. And she paid the bill. Just the gesture was sexy. She took initiative and was the most take-charge person I’d ever met.” 

Intrigued as Gomez-Barris was, it still never occurred to her that they would be anything more than friends. While she’d been attracted to women at times, she assumed she would eventually fall in love with another man. “I was still inscribed in a heterosexual framework that said only a man could provide for my kids and be part of a family,” she says.

On a warm spring night in Malibu, after attending a film screening together, Gomez-Barris and Halberstam walked on the beach, a beautiful pink sunset rounding out a perfect evening. They kicked off their shoes and ran, laughing, through the rising tide. “At that point, things were charged with sex,” Gomez-Barris remembers. Her feelings deepened, and not long afterward, they became lovers. “It was great, and it felt comfortable,” she says of the night they first became intimate. “What blew me away was that afterward, Judith held me to her chest. So I got passion, intimacy, and sweetness. And I thought, ‘Maybe I can get all the things I want now.’” 

It is all about choice:

“In this crossroads of ambiguity, we might be able to get something really fascinating happening,” playwright Anna Deavere Smith once put it. Jennifer DeClue, a 37-year-old Los Angeles yoga teacher, agrees. “Having more options feels like the most natural thing in the world,” says DeClue, who fell for her first girlfriend in her early 20s while living in New York City. After moving to Los Angeles and starting film school, she dated one other woman, but at 27 became involved with a man. They moved in together, and she got pregnant. “I found pleasure with men,” she explains, “but I never liked the hierarchy of heterosexual relationships. And after sex, I usually felt empty and almost incidental, as if the man really didn’t see me for me, and I could have been anyone. I discovered that my gender and sexuality can be fluid, and that my role changes depending on who I’m with.” She broke up with her boyfriend when their daughter, Miles, was 9 months old, and DeClue focused on being a single mother, paying the rent, and pursuing her studies. In the fall of 2007, at a Buddhist gathering, she met Jian Chen, now a 36-year-old graduate student who identifies as a “boi,” a place somewhere between butch and transsexual. “I’m interested in androgyny,” DeClue says with a playful smile. “I like a masculine exterior and feminine interior.” 

The feminization of masculinity appears to be leaving some women trying to reinvent masculinity themselves. Makes you want to say to confused third-wave feminists: Let’s call the whole thing off.

Most Popular

Books

Three Cheers for the Quiet Ones

People often dismiss shy, quiet characters in literature. Readers prefer to identify with Jo March, Elizabeth Bennett, or Anne Shirley -- those delightful, bold, and charming characters who made a deep impression on us when we first encountered them. While there’s nothing wrong with emulating or admiring these ... Read More
Books

Three Cheers for the Quiet Ones

People often dismiss shy, quiet characters in literature. Readers prefer to identify with Jo March, Elizabeth Bennett, or Anne Shirley -- those delightful, bold, and charming characters who made a deep impression on us when we first encountered them. While there’s nothing wrong with emulating or admiring these ... Read More