In most societal systems, there are a few basic things that you are taught when it comes to love and sex. One: Sex is for adults, and when you grow up, you’ll get to know all about it. Two: As a girl, you will one day marry a man, and you will have sex to have babies, and it will be acceptable. Three: There are a boy and a girl, and love between them, and that is all.
Eventually, you get exposed to love and sex in a context that sort of clarifies how things work for you. You start watching a TV show, the boy and the girl fall in love, and they live happily ever after. For the most part, it’s happy. It makes sense. It is not forbidden or dirty.
Unless you’re a queer kid, then, my friend, we have an issue.
While sex and sexuality are essential parts of life and learning, LGBTQ+ youth grow up with two kinds of representation in mainstream media: the hypersexualized kind, or none at all. For most of us, the first time we saw a queer couple in the media, it was a very sexually motivated scene that we had to turn off in front of anyone else. It was surrounded by everything we were told we should not have been watching and threw us into the throes of shame.
Where were the LGBTQ+ couples on TV that went on dates, took walks, and did homework together? Where were the happy single moms who met at a PTA conference and subsequently fell in love? How were we to know what our relationships would look like one day?
Spoiler alert: we weren’t, and we didn’t.
We were told that our relationships run on sex, and if you’re a queer girl, appeasing men by making out with other girls. Shows that tried didn’t do an excellent job for the most part – cast your mind’s eye back to S1E14 of Glee when Santana and Brittany tell Finn, “You buy us dinner, and we make out in front of you. It’s like the best deal ever.” The stereotype of the sex-crazed gays was born. As such, we grew up in an environment where the idea of lesbians immediately equated to porn, promiscuity, and an insatiable sex drive.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that LGBTQ folk aren’t sexy. (We are.) I’m not saying we don’t have sex lives that are out-of-this-world amazing. (We do.) What I am saying is that the representation of queer folk in the media is low, to begin with, and is too often saturated with hypersexualized imagery. It’s a sad truth that wasn’t fixed while I was younger, but the times they are a-changin’.
Supergirl gave every queer girl watching a flood of hope when Alex Danver’s coming out story was thoughtful and real, rather than framed to make men hoot about her. Carmilla perfectly portrayed how queer folks’ existence and love shouldn’t be, and most definitely is not the strangest thing in the room. Queer girls received the message that their love could be love without being just sex.
There’s a time and place for everything, and the time for LGBTQ+ representation that isn’t hypersexualized is now. Now, and forever.