UnStraightening Lesbian: Removing the Heterosexual Lens: Sheila Jeffreys

Note: This post is part of our ongoing UnSTRAIGHTening Lesbian series, and was originally posted here.

Next up in our unSTRAIGHTening Lesbian series is Radical (“political lesbian — AKA Het) Feminist Sheila Jeffreys.

Jeffreys was born/raised in England and later moved to Australia, taking up a professorship at the University of Melbourne. Jeffreys is known as much for her criticism of lesbians as she is for her criticism of Transgender ideology. Her friend and RadFem compatriot Julie Bindel said this of Sheila:

 Jeffreys’ introduction to feminist campaigning began in the early 70s when she joined a socialist feminist group (she was later thrown out for suggesting men were to blame for the oppression of women). Sandra McNeill, who met Jeffreys in that group, remembers her as “the Andrea Dworkin of the UK. She was, and still is, seen as an extreme, man-hating feminist”. Dworkin, as it happens, lived with a man, whom in 1998 she married.

Not Jeffreys. She became a lesbian in 1973 because she felt it contradictory to give “her most precious energies to a man” when she was thoroughly committed to a women’s revolution. Six years later, she went further and wrote, with others, a pamphlet entitled Love Your Enemy? The Debate Between Heterosexual Feminism And Political Lesbianism. In it, feminists who sleep with men are described as collaborating with the enemy. It caused a huge ruction in the women’s movement, and is still cited as an example of early separatists “going way too far”.

We do think,” it said, “that all feminists can and should be lesbians. Our definition of a political lesbian is a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men. It does not mean compulsory sexual activity with women.” Although many of the more radical feminists agreed, most went wild at being told they were “counter-revolutionary”.

These few quotes alone, are more than enough proof of Jeffreys’ innate Heterosexuality and her calculating Hetero=privileged co-option of Lesbian for her own selfish purposes, we really do not need to write anything further.

BUT due to Jeffreys making a long career out of Hetsplaining Lesbian and dressing/strapping actual Lesbians in STRAIGHTBIAN frocks, we are!

In the Spinster and her Enemies Jeffreys looks back on early male sexologists like Havelock Ellis to devise how/why early suffragettes/feminists were scared away from girl on girl relationships:

Interestingly, while Ellis fails to truly define real Lesbians (biological), he comes closer to understanding us than Jeffreys EVER has or will. That point aside, Jeffreys like Adrienne Rich or Radfems in general, Homophobically fear/ed being seen as real Lesbians (ugly/mannish per Het norms). Jeffreys/Radfems fears were/are so great as to stop them in their tracks (according to Jeffreys) from “BECOMING”lesbians!

Jeffreys continues, but extends her Homophobia by dragging in Radclyffe Hall’s novel, The Well of Loneliness. Jeffreys cannot see past her own Heterosexuality to realize that Radclyffe and her novel’s characters were also Heterosexuals PLAYING at their Hetero notions of Lesbian.

Jeffreys obsessive hatred of Butch/Femme shows itself through this passage. Jeffreys ignorantly attributes Hall’s warped STRAIGHTBIAN ideas about Butch/Femme as proof of her own STRAIGHTBIAN notions of Butch/Femme.

In a nutshell, the STRAIGHT leading the STRAIGHT about STRAIGHTS who are pretending to be Lesbian.

In Unpacking Queer Politics Jeffreys begins:

Like many RadFems, Jeffreys hatred of men isn’t limited to Het males, she equally despises Gay men and blames her Heterocentric ideas of “lesbian” masculinity/masculine worship for early “lesbian” transitions. One only has to read where Jeffreys got her information from (Halberstam/Devor etc.) to understand where Jeffreys fucked up. If you are going to write about Lesbians in ANY capacity, in order to obtain accurate information, you just might want to get your information from actual Lesbians and not STRAIGHTBIANS. (Duh).

Jeffreys continues her Homophobia by citing more Radfem garbage from one of the BIGGEST Homophobes and known STRAIGHTBIANS-Adrienne Rich!

Again, Jeffreys criticises lesbian role playing by citing the likes of mentally fucked up Heterosexual Women (STRAIGHTBIANS) like Joan Nestle/Sally Munt/Leslea Newman/Judith Halberstam. 

Jeffreys again uses faulty information from warped STRAIGHTBIANS. It is well known at this point that the inappropriately named “lesbian sex wars” were fought by hypersexual STRAIGHTBIANS on one side and prudish STRAIGHTBIANS (like Jeffreys) on the other… actual Lesbians were NEVER involved!

MOST interesting, though, is that Jeffreys (“lesbians who criticized“) admits to being turned on by what SHE calls dominance/submission/sado-society! Jeffreys merely convinces herself that she is better than the Califia’s and Nestle’s because she fights her NATURAL Hetero/sexual urges!

Sheila, honey, Lesbians don’t have urges to be fucked by men regardless of who’s on top!

Jeffreys then cites pro-pedophile STRAIGHTBIAN faghags Gayle Rubin and Pat Califia 
to cast more aspersions on Gay men leading poor little “lesbians” astray! Sorry, Sheila, you would have to be either a complete fucking idiot or STRAIGHT (or both) to know neither of these warped freaks are Lesbians.

Well, Sheila, you got one thing right in your Julia Penelope description(STRAIGHTBIAN), she is from the US!

From Lesbian Heresy Jeffreys continues her warped Homophobic diatribe of STRAIGHTBIAN ROLE PLAYING, or, as she INCORRECTLY deems it: “butch/femme“:

Yes, Sheila, Lesbians actually agree these STRAIGHTBIANS are sick motherfuckers, but what they are most certainly NOT are fucking LESBIANS!

Sheila just about gets it (close, but no cigar…pun intended): Yes, sexual abuse often informs warped Hetero/sexual role playing…among STRAIGHTBIANS!

Sheila fails over and over and OVER to understand the obvious fact that these women are not Lesbians, but, rather, they are Heterosexuals who are role-playing “lesbian“… JUST LIKE SHEILA HERSELF!

Sheila, Carolyn Stack? Really??? Straight therapist giving advice to STRAIGHTBIAN couples about STRAIGHTBIAN sex/lack thereof has fuck all to do with Lesbians again, how???

Sheila, Sheila, Sheila. You’re striking out yet again!  Margaret Nicholls and Joann Loulan might be therapists, they are certainly not Lesbians!

Despite having much to say about Homosexuals, Jeffreys fails miserably to write with any accuracy about Lesbians, Gay men,  or Homosexuality period and the same is true of much her ideas on Transgenders:

Statement From Dirt: “Sorry, Shelia, as a Butch Lesbian who has spent more than a decade documenting female transition (Who is Transitioning), I have yet to find a single Butch Lesbian who has transitioned. While I’m sure there might be some, they are VERY. VERY rare. You, Sheila, again confuse sexually abused STRAIGHTBIANS playing at being male who transition, NOT Lesbian and most certainly NOT Butch!”

“Identified” being the operative word, Sheila! They weren’t “proud lesbians, Sheila….they weren’t Lesbians at all, hence “identifying as gay men” early in their transition. You might want to familiarize yourself with cross-sex hormones and their effects on Hetero/Homo brains.

Holly Devor, Sheila, is a Heterosexual female who transitioned…NOT a Lesbian and therefore NOT a reliable source for Lesbian accuracy!

Because Sheila has no actual knowledge of real Lesbians, she likes to recycle STRAIGHTBIANS who she incorrectly believes are fucked-up sicko Lesbians in effort to give heft to her hatred of STRAIGHTBIANS who are not like her/other Radfems.

Sheila fails to make the simple connection that “CHOOSING to be a lesbian” and “CHOOSING to be a femme” amount to the very same thing:  TOTAL BULLSHIT!

Sheila, clearly Sally here isn’t even a fucking Dyke, yet here you are wholeheartedly taking her word as “Butch Lesbian” truth. Why? Because she states what YOU want to hear! That’s not very good investigative writing ,Sheila, and it’s certainly not “academic research”: any fucking 3rd grader could do a better job!

Heather Findlay isn’t a Lesbian Sheila, therefore, she cannot be a Femme Lesbian! Those responsible for male and female transitions are Homophobes (like you, Sheila) and ALL the Radical Feminists who backed pedophiles like John Money simply because you IGNORANTLY dreamed/hoped gender was/is a mere construct, despite clear evidence to the contrary! Instead of tackling sex-based inequalities head on, Radical Feminists passively blamed gender for all Heterosexual female ills! The plague of Identity Politics jump-roped through the gender loophole left by Radical Feminists.

Sheila Jeffreys, being a STRAIGHTBIAN herself, willfully took at face value the word of all STRAIGHTBIANS, without a care as to how these Lesbian inaccuracies affected actual Lesbians, then or now. Sheila and her ilk succeeded in helping de-sex “gender“, which has led us to where we are today.

Bottom line: It is neither radical nor feminist to hijack “lesbian” for your own selfish gain.

Dirt and Mrs. Dirt 

4 thoughts on “UnStraightening Lesbian: Removing the Heterosexual Lens: Sheila Jeffreys

  1. I’ve read some of Jeffreys’ work before, but for some reason I was always prepared to take her at her word and accept her arguments as an “objective” historical analysis. Rereading these excerpts, though, her agenda is obvious.

    In “Spinster and Her Enemies”, she’s more or less saying that sexologists created the image of a “mannish” “invert” lesbian to discourage single straight women from feminism and living independently. Jeffreys’ wants to believe that female “love” is a continuum with friendship at one end and lesbianism at the other, and that most women would choose to be lesbians if not for all of these malicious social forces which prevent them. I used to read this and feel sorry for her, because she couldn’t understand that straight women would never be anything but what they are – i.e. not capable of putting their own interests and the interests of other women first. Her book is a sort of elaborate excuse for their inability to do this.

    What makes it confusing is that both Jeffreys and Havelock Ellis sometimes make good points or accurate observations. For example, the distinction between “invert” and “pseudohomosexual” (actual lesbian vs a woman who engages in lesbian behavior for social reasons) made sense to me because you can see those same dynamics playing out in the present day.

    Obviously, both Jeffreys and the sexologists lacked the ability to identify actual lesbians for their research, so the conclusions drawn from that research are extremely questionable. However, if you read between the lines, you can get a lot of insight on straightbians and the way their minds work. One thing that sticks out at me is Jeffreys’ belief that lesbians deliberately play-act gender roles. This idea, promoted by people like Butler, became so taken for granted that it spawned nonsense queer “theory” where gender is an identity anyone can adopt.

    I unconsciously assumed that people who called themselves lesbians were like me: that their personality was a natural manifestation of what they were, and if that happened to fall outside of the straight “norm”, it was incidental and not deliberate. So, it never occurred to me that straightbians are literally describing their own experiences when they talk about “adopting the persona” of butch or femme or whatever they think a lesbian stereotype is. I still find it hard to understand, actually. It seems like a lot of unnecessary work.

    I don’t know why I tried so hard to give these people the benefit of the doubt. I also recently reread Rubyfruit Jungle, and for the first time clearly saw that a. the protagonist was a very fucked-up straightbian and b. that the author despises lesbians and wants to dissociate from us. Jeffreys’ contempt also stands out to me here.

    It’s disturbing, when you’ve always thought of yourself as a rational person, to discover how susceptible you are to seeing only what you want to see. I’m left feeling very dumb and naive and disillusioned.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the comment; your thoughts always make me think more! Sorry for the delay in answering; been working a lot (still am, and on a darn Saturday, which makes it worse). Will reread and process your comment further when my mind is more focused. 🙂

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    • Well, still haven’t gotten a break from work, ugh, but I’ve been thinking about your comment, MintLeaf, so I wanted to reply. I so totally agree with all of what you said, and this part especially struck me “I unconsciously assumed that people who called themselves lesbians were like me: that their personality was a natural manifestation of what they were, and if that happened to fall outside of the straight “norm”, it was incidental and not deliberate. So, it never occurred to me that straightbians are literally describing their own experiences when they talk about “adopting the persona” of butch or femme or whatever they think a lesbian stereotype is. I still find it hard to understand, actually. It seems like a lot of unnecessary work.” I have always been so puzzled by that as well, and still have trouble understanding why someone would do that.

      I also agree with your puzzlement about why you tried so hard to give these people the benefit of the doubt. Some people may find this hard to believe, but I did too. The posts we are doing now are AFTER many years of me trying to give these people the benefit of the doubt, even though I always knew that they weren’t really Lesbians, and even though I knew that Straightbians and their lies harm Lesbians. I tried to tell myself things like “Live and let live”, and “it’s their journey”, etc. And I still feel like everyone has the right to do whatever they want with their lives; but what is different now is I am speaking out that it is NOT okay to pretend to be something you are not, to harm Lesbians, and to spread lies about Lesbians.

      I don’t think that we were dumb to try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Too nice and/or too naive, perhaps. I share your disillusionment. It is an unpleasant eye-opener to see this stuff clearly; and once it is truly seen, it can’t be unseen.

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      • Every time I read a comment by MintLeaf, my heart both soars and sinks (patience, my cardiologist!). It soars because she puts the half-formed words on my tongue and the inchoate ideas in my head into logical and elegant prose. It sinks for exactly the same reason. I find myself without much to add, except to encourage people to read MintLeaf’s comments more than once, and maybe a question for you, Saye, as a psychologist: why do smart people espouse dumb ideas?

        Liked by 2 people

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