Welcome to the exclusive lesbian club with one rule: no sleeping with men, Shauna Gavin investigates
A gold star is a symbolic recognition of outstanding merit, it is a way for teachers to acknowledge and reward achievement, it is a marketing ploy used to brand products as superior quality, and somehow it has become another way to create judgement and division within the queer community.
The term “gold star lesbian” refers to “a lesbian who has never had sex with a man.”
The first time I heard the term I was surprised and confused. Why would someone get a gold star for not having had sex with someone of a certain gender? To me a gold star was something to be earned – I didn’t understand how this privileged status could be awarded based on sexual history.
I don’t personally know anyone who would actively search out a sexual or romantic partner based on the fact that they had maintained this magical “gold star” status but the term still exists and is in use. The implications of this term are damaging and hurtful, and the fact that it is used at all is worrying.
I know lesbians who have been praised for their “gold star” status and one of my friends encountered a girl who was “happier to shift [her]” because she was a “gold star lesbian.” I also know that discrimination against lesbians who have slept with men is a very real thing among the lesbian community. In a space where we are supposed to accept all, regardless of who they have sex with, this seems a little hypocritical.
“The term ‘gold star lesbian’ refers to ‘a lesbian who has never had sex with a man.”
When people are ranked according to what they have or have not done in the bedroom, we start to create an environment where shaming people based on their sexual history is okay. It results in a situation where people feel like they are somehow “less” than someone else.
The words create a hierarchy in a community where there is no need for one. Lesbians who have never slept with men are placed in a position that is higher, or better, than those who have. Not having slept with a man becomes equated with being a “real” or “true” lesbian and all other lesbians are below or beneath those who have been awarded the gold-standard of lesbianism.
Furthermore, the term is incredibly cis-normative and revolves around the assumption that everyone who identifies as a lesbian is a cisgender female. As far as I can tell, the term just means a lesbian who has never had sex with a man but in our cis-centric Freudian society however, “man” is often equated to “penis.” Therefore the “gold star” label may only end up relating to the genitalia of previous sexual partners instead of the gender. In this way the term manages to exclude trans lesbians, and those who date them, from this elite ‘gold-star’ status circle.
Ranking a woman based on her sexual relation to men is misogynistic and does not recognise the existence of genders outside of the binary of male and female. Judging a woman based on her sexual history adds to the idea that women are to be viewed as sexual objects and reintroduces the double standard that exists in the straight community in relation to men’s sexual experiences as opposed to women’s. Women do not need another reason to have their sexuality judged by others.
“The queer community already faces so much prejudice from outside sources why should we use terms that perpetuate prejudice from within our own communities?”
Within the queer community as a whole, the idea of a “gold-star lesbian” being better than any other lesbian seems to extend to all women who are sexually attracted to women. It just serves to add to the biphobia that is already a major problem in society.
To me, the term implies that women who have slept with men are tainted and less pure than those who have not.
If this is the case, then where does this leave bisexual females? We live in a world that constantly questions the validity of people’s sexual orientations, especially bisexuals. Is it therefore necessary to have a term that insinuates that a woman who has had different-gender sexual encounters is less desirable than one who has not?
Sexuality is a fluid and ever-changing thing and, by using the term ‘gold-star lesbian’ and by placing value on having this status, it may discourage people from experimenting with their sexuality and exploring other attractions that they may feel.
This term, along with “gold star gay”, a term used to describe a gay man who has never had sex with a woman, is harmful. The queer community already faces so much prejudice from outside sources; why should we use terms that perpetuate prejudice from within our own communities?
Coming to terms with your sexuality is a process that is completely different for each individual. It can be horrible, confusing and, really amazing all at once. Sometimes it’s a really long process and sometimes it’s not. Regardless of how a person discovers and accepts their sexuality, all sexualities are all equally valid.
When someone embraces who they are, it shouldn’t be questioned or judged based on how they came to realise it. In fact, it shouldn’t be questioned or judged at all. Whether you slept with a person of every gender, or you didn’t have sex at all, nobody should be given an award or be judged solely based on their sexual experiences. Either nobody should get an award, or everyone should get one for just being ourselves