Lesbian cinema Post-Feminism

Ageism, difference, and desire

Authored by: Rachel A. Lewis

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Gender

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138924956
eBook ISBN: 9781315684062
Adobe ISBN: 9781317408055


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In a Buzzfeed article published on December 12, 2015, entitled “What It’s like to be a Lesbian Couple with a 20-Year-Plus Age Difference,” LGBT Editor Shannon Keating discusses social media’s reaction to the decision by actresses Holland Taylor (72) and Sarah Paulson (40) to make their lesbian relationship public (Keating 2015). While lesbian fans’ response to the news of Taylor and Paulson’s relationship has been overwhelmingly positive, many social media commentators have expressed discomfort with the idea of an intergenerational lesbian relationship. One of the “most-liked” comments on Facebook, for example, reads: “This is really gross. Not because they are gay, but because Sarah Paulson is dating the crypt keeper” (ibid.). While age differences in heterosexual relationships—especially those between older men and younger women—often go unquestioned within the mainstream media, heteronormative audiences are decidedly less comfortable with the possibility of intergenerational same-sex relationships between women. In the context of lesbian sexuality, intergenerational desire is frequently cast as a form of arrested psychosocial development, the product of repressed maternal and/or childlike longings that are inherently asexual. These heteronormative stereotypes have the effect of rendering lesbian desire invisible by discrediting the possibility of women’s sexual agency outside the context of compulsory heterosexuality.

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