Savage Love: Loving Lesbians

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Q: I am a 22-year-old Italian man, 100 percent straight, sensitive and sporty. I have been reading Savage Love for years in Internazionale. I have one question for you: Why do I always fall in love with lesbians? Why do I instantly fall in love with girls who have that something more in their eyes? Something melancholy and perhaps insecure? Girls whom I’d rather protect and embrace than take to bed? The last three girls who fit this description all turned out to be lesbians. The last girl with whom this happened told me it was my “Red Cross” mind-set that made me fall in love with girls who are insecure/sad/melancholy, so I have a sort of selection bias that excludes most straight girls I meet. I do not believe this, because the world is full of straight girls who need saving. So why then, Dan? WHY? I have a girlfriend. I truly love her. Since September, we have been living in two different cities because she went away to study. I am afraid that one day she is going to tell me she’s gay too. She always talks with me about a new super-cute female friend. Is she a lesbian? I have recently met another girl, super empathetic. She is gay, and I knew it after an all-night conversation in my car listening to Cigarettes After Sex. Why do I always fall in love with gay girls? Can I love two people at the same time? This is the fourth time that this has happened. Is my girlfriend gay? Why do I find lesbians so attractive? I’m freaking.
– Increasingly Tormented About Lesbian Yearnings


There’s a lot going on in your letter, ITALY, so I’m going to take your questions one at a time…

1. Maybe you always fall in love with lesbians or maybe this was a series of coincidences — by pure chance you fell for more than one woman who turned out to be a lesbian — and, hey, since you’re probably going to love a few more women over the course of your life, ITALY, that “always” seems a bit premature. It’s also possible you find women with a certain degree of masculine energy and/or swagger attractive, and women with that swagger are somewhat likelier to be lesbians, slightly upping your chances of falling in love with four girls-who-turned-out-to-be-lesbians in a row.

Personally, ITALY, I’m attracted to guys with a certain degree of feminine swagger and, needless to say, these guys are likelier to be gay. But while almost all effeminate guys are gay — so stigmatized is femininity in males (even in the gay community) — masculine swagger in women is less stigmatized and therefore somewhat less likely to correlate as strongly with lesbianism. Women with masculine swagger and men with feminine swagger are also likely to be self-conscious about their gender-nonconforming traits, particularly when they’re young and/or not yet out, and that can read as melancholy and/or insecurity.



2. Women — straight or bi or lesbian — don’t need “saving.” They need respect, they need to be taken seriously, they need bodily autonomy, and they need loving partners and political allies.

3. Your girlfriend may be a lesbian — anyone could in these highly fluid days, even me. But if your girlfriend isn’t straight, ITALY, she’s likelier to be bisexual, seeing as there are roughly three times as many bi women as there are lesbian women. And if she seems gayer now than when you met, that could be because you landed a straight girl who had been suppressing her masculine swagger — which many men don’t find attractive — and she’s consciously or subconsciously come to the realization that she doesn’t have to play the girly girl around you to hold your attention. Quite the opposite, in fact.

4. It’s entirely possible to love more than one person at a time. Just as we are capable of loving more than one parent, child, sibling, friend, and television show at a time (you know I love you both equally, Lady Dynamite and The Crown), we can love more than one romantic partner at a time. But we’re told that romantic love is a zero-sum game so often — if someone wins, someone else loses — it has become a self-fulfilling/relationship-destroying prophecy. It’s a myth that harms not just people who might want to be with two people, but partnered monogamous people as well. A person who is convinced he can feel romantic love for only one person at a time will doubt his love for a long-term partner if he develops a crush on someone new. He’ll say to himself, “I couldn’t possibly feel this way about this barista if I was still in love with my partner of 10 years.” But those feelings can exist side by side — stable, secure, lasting love for a long-term partner and an intense infatuation (most likely fleeting) for a new person.

5. Cigarettes After Sex were on a boat in the Arabian Sea — they sent the pics to prove it — when I reached them about your dilemma. Drummer Jacob Tomsky said: “About loving more than one person at the same time, a Gabriel García Márquez quote from Love in the Time of Cholera comes to mind: ‘My heart has more rooms than a whorehouse.’ Your heart will surprise you with its duplicity.” Or its capacity. Keyboardist Phillip Tubbs wanted to share a Morrissey line with you: “’Cause I want the one I can’t have and it’s driving me mad.” Lead singer Greg Gonzalez declined to comment.

6. Maybe it’s not an accident that you keep falling for lesbians. There are lots of straight men out there who have a thing for dykes. It’s entirely possible that you aren’t worried your girlfriend is a lesbian, ITALY, but secretly hoping she is. Good luck!