The Male Gaze and LGBTQ+ Women

This article is our monthly feature discussing our gender and sexuality. This month’s article explores how the ‘male gaze’ affects representation of LGBTQ+ women in film.

by AbbieGellatly

This is a monthly feature that will focus on all aspects of identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning, as well as other ways of defining our gender/sexuality. We aim to cover a variety of topics; some relating to mental health, positive and negative experiences, the reality of today’s society in accepting the LGBTQ+ community, day-to-day life, and many more. As always, we invite anyone who has a passion for writing, or who wants their voice heard, to contact us about writing an article for Student Life. I believe it is important to talk about the things that society can sometimes find uncomfortable.  Hiding away encourages this behaviour, and I personally think that we are all different and there is no right or wrong. I say: “be who you truly are, be yourself, embrace yourself, and don’t let anyone get you down” – how boring would it be if we were all the same, eh? Please see our first LGBTQ+ articles which focus on the relationship between mental health and identifying within the LGBTQ+ community.  If anyone has any questions regarding this topic, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]


Last month, we tackled the subject of the male gaze within the realm of on-screen LGBTQ+ female representation; this month, I shall be conducting a more personal exploration into how the male gaze affects real-life LGBTQ+ women. 

From an increasingly young age, men are fed the idea, through monetised objectification, that women, both heterosexual and homosexual, exist for their gratification. This sort of objectification, which exists primarily within the media, has filtered down into everyday life, engendering street harassment – catcalling, for instance – and sexual assault. This reality has left large numbers of women fearing public spaces, lest they fall victim to such harassment. 

The consequences that manifest from this form of objectification are particularly prevalent amongst LGBTQ+ women. Similar to their heterosexual counterparts, gay women are all too familiar with the sting of sexism. After all, the LGBTQ+ community does not exist in a vacuum; its members are no less exempt from misogyny than anyone else. That being said, gay women are equally as accustomed to an altogether separate form of objectification. The male gaze, in conjunction with a pop-cultural fascination with lesbianism, has provided heterosexual men with an added element of entitlement that exceeds their pre-existing male privilege. Not only is it deemed permissible in their eyes to jeer at gay women, but because of their sense of entitlement, men are given the run to harass gay women in such a way that completely undermines their sexuality. Comments ranging from “you haven’t found the right man,” to “I can be the one to convert you” reek of said entitlement and, more importantly, reek of a heteronormative society that sexualises gay women in the name of aggrandising male pleasure. 

Members of the LGBTQ+ community have grown to almost expect anti-homosexual hostility upon leaving the house – for some, it is a part of their day-to-day existence – however, when coupled together, gay women are now finding that it is commonplace for heterosexual men to leer after them in pursuit of a threesome. Either that, or they are propositioned by men who want to watch them have sex.

This flags up the historical issue surrounding societal double standards. As pointed out, men often act as if it is socially acceptable to approach gay women with the desire to “join in” on their sexual relationship. To the best of my knowledge, this is an experience shared almost exclusively by gay women and straight men. That is to say, few heterosexual men would dare approach a straight couple and ask them to put on a sex show. Moreover, there is a tendency amongst straight men to only abandon their pursuit of a woman – or two women, in the case of gay female relationships – when another man steps forward and intervenes. This is indicative of the fact that these men do not respect the women that they are pursuing, but rather in keeping with the male gaze theory, view them as sexual objects. 

Many lesbian and gay respondents report that this sort of behaviour acts to delegitimise, and makes a mockery of their relationship. 

Arguably, the most toxic issue that has come from the male gaze is the idea that female sexuality is for men. Queer femme women, in particular, are all too familiar with their sexuality being co-opted by men, many of whom act as if gay women exist for the sole purpose of giving life to their lesbian fantasies. Not only is this ludicrous thinking, on the part of men, given that lesbians are the only group of women who will categorically never be interested in them, but it is particularly degrading for the women involved. Lesbians are lesbians for each other, not for men. 

Owing to straight privilege, ignorance, and an over-inflated ego, straight men, for the most part, seem to completely overlook the importance of sexual orientation when engaging gay women. Admittedly, sexuality can be fluid, but it is rarely the case for women who strictly identify as gay, that their sexual orientation is so overwhelmingly fluid, that upon being propositioned by a straight man, they will renounce all ties to the LGBTQ+ community and exclusively start dating men.