Lesbian versus Gay Cruising

If it doesn't fit anywhere else, it fits here

Do Lesbians "Cruise" for Sex?

Poll ended at Sat Jul 30, 2005 8:19 pm

What the heck is cruising?
Yeah but not here in Madison
Is there a video?
Total votes: 13

Billy Shears
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Postby Billy Shears » Sat Jul 30, 2005 8:42 am

statz wrote:I suppose coming from Las Vegas or Wausau this must look like heaven but the responses I got from people who are familiar with Chicago was that Madison falls short of its claims. A Room of One's Own is nice but what if you want to go out and get your groove on?

I don't claim to know anything at all about the gay community anywhere, but is it possible that the reason there isn't a club where lesbians can meet up is because there aren't enough of them to support one, even though there's a healthy percentage of them in town? Seems like Madison is still small enough - compared to Chicago, anyway - that the place would have to attract other crowds too.

roadkill bill
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Postby roadkill bill » Sat Jul 30, 2005 9:14 am

Long, long ago, pre-AIDS scare, when the gay bar scene was wild, and bath houses were common, a lesbian friend of mine gave me the best answer to why there are always fewer lesbian bars and pick-up places than the equivalent for gay men:

"While they're out looking for it, we're at home doing it."

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Postby statz » Sat Jul 30, 2005 4:51 pm

Billy Shears wrote:I don't claim to know anything at all about the gay community anywhere, but is it possible that the reason there isn't a club where lesbians can meet up is because there aren't enough of them to support one, even though there's a healthy percentage of them in town? Seems like Madison is still small enough - compared to Chicago, anyway - that the place would have to attract other crowds too.

That is a good point. Several side track conversations went into "if I had money this is how I'd start an all women's club...." I don't think there is a shortage of people who haven't thought about it, but why it doesn't happen is a good question.
Similar subject but not from these interviews - I can't tell you how many times I've heard people go on about how someone should build another Hotel Washington and how successfull it would be. I personally have brought this up in great detail but after 10 years of talk I still don't see anyone doing it. Maybe the right person hasn't won the lottery yet?

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Postby statz » Sun Jul 31, 2005 9:27 pm

Here it is. Flame me or not, this is what I am submitting.

For my final project I chose the difference between Gay Men and Lesbian Women in regards to ââ?¬Å?cruisingââ?¬? or anonymous encounters. Do Lesbians ââ?¬Å?cruiseââ?¬? and if so how? Would stereotypes be brought out in response to my questions and would I get any surprise answers? I got answers to my questions and many more questions were raised. So many topics came up during my research that several different papers could have been spun off this one.

I interviewed 34 women who identified themselves as gay or Lesbian. The interviews were done in person some times one on one and sometimes I interviewed women in groups. I tried to get a wide variety of ages and ethnic backgrounds a study into whether Gay women really acted in a promiscuous matter and what of women who were either single or in committed relationships. Three ethnic groups were covered; White, Hispanic and African-American. The ages ranged from mid twenties to mid fifties. I was unable to make contact with anyone under the age of 24 or over the age of 57 who would identify her self as gay. Some of the women I interviewed were friends and/or coworkers and the rest I had never spoken to before. Most of the women that I did not know previously I approached at a local gay bar or were introduced by mutual friends. The interviews varied in length ranging from 10 minutes to about 40 minutes. I chose comfortable places for friends and coworkers like taking them to lunch or meeting them at their home. The bar interviews were not as relaxing because of many distractions but the information I received was just as useful as in the private settings.

For safe measure I interviewed gay men and straight men and women as well. The numbers were fewer than the Lesbian interviews since this was not the main focus of my study. These interviews were briefer as I was looking more for an initial reaction rather than an in depth interview. I was more interested in seeing if non-lesbians would stop to think before answering or if they would jump to stereotypes immediately. Would non-gay women give the same answers as Lesbians? These interviews were conducted more casually in the office, bars or on the street while walking with friends.

One other source for feedback was used. I created a new topic on a Madison forum called The Daily Page; a local liberal paper called the Isthmus sponsors the website. The topic is called ââ?¬Å?Do Lesbianââ?¬â?¢s Cruise?ââ?¬? and a short survey is available. This is a busy board in downtown Madison and I have posted and replied to other subjects on it before. It is mostly a tight group of the same 50 or so people who post but many others view it. The Daily Page is mostly a liberal venue but conservatives do post as well and the discussion can get heated. I expected to get some bashing for posting this and knew there would be claims made by posters that would seem far fetched to make their points. But that is what you get with anonymous postings on forums; you take it for what it is. This was a venue for me to post some of my findings but more importantly to get some responses from people I would not be able to talk with otherwise. I held back on the findings from my interviews so as to not guide the online responses as much. My plan was to hold out and post my final paper after others had posted their comments. All responses to the site were important and I did do some baiting and there was some hostility towards the idea especially to some of the findings I posted as teasers to get more discussion going. Initially it did not generate a lot of replies but after I started posting a little more info it picked up and got some interest both positive and negative.

I chose this subject because I did not want to pick a topic that has been done to death. It is definitely not an earth shattering topic that will change society but it did peek some interest. I have been a friend of Madison�s Gay community since I was a teenager back in the early 80s. This was something I felt I had access to information on and could give a fair and honest paper for. On the surface it seemed like a silly topic but when you dug down into it a little deeper you found it was tied to other issues within the Lesbian community here. The more I interviewed the more the subject went from light hearted to serious. I never expected it to become a subject of such interest amongst Lesbians. I expected jokes and stereotypes from the straight community but not serious interest and the desire to help me from gay women. This became something that they wanted to talk about and it took them by surprise that a straight white male would be serious about the subject. In person I make friends easy and I felt that I could approach any group on any subject. But I never thought I would get such a positive response on a subject involving Lesbian sex lives, especially something that bordered on male fantasy.

Our studies on ââ?¬Å?The Body Projectââ?¬? covered Sexual Expression in Chapter 5. On page 182 the write up on ââ?¬Å?The Era of Sexual Liberalismââ?¬? brought out questions about a woman being sexual active. Could women be sexually active without being labeled in a derogatory way? In our readings of ââ?¬Å?The Beauty Mythââ?¬? we read in a chapter called Sex, starting on page 131, that religious guilt suppresses womenââ?¬â?¢s sexuality and that homosexuality is wrong. Anne Koedt writes ââ?¬Å?Loving Another Womanââ?¬? where she goes on about how two women meet and how they finally hook up and have sex. It is a drawn out experience with an explanation of how sex is different for women. On page 169 she write ââ?¬Å?Love and affection are a necessary aspect of full sexuality. And one of the things I really enjoy with Jennie is this uninhibited ability to show our feelings.ââ?¬? On page 170 she says ââ?¬Å?One thing is that I hesitate to show my affection for her in public.ââ?¬? On page 171 she continues with ââ?¬Å?It has taken me this long to figure out how men are treating women sexually; now I see some Lesbians doing precisely the same kinds of things.ââ?¬? ââ?¬Å?I have heard some Lesbians say things like,ââ?¬? I see all men as my rivals.ââ?¬? ââ?¬Å?

Women are sexual and have needs but society puts them in a place where it is not acceptable. Clearly women want to have sex and it is not always in a committed relationship. Can a Lesbian be sexually active without commitment in our society without being labeled? Do they want that? During our weekly discussions we listed the differences between men and women and women were said to be more emotionally connected to their sex partners and that sex is ore than just a physical act. We learned that women were the promiscuous sex before western religions took over. So in today�s age why can Lesbians not revert back to those activities? They do not have the constraints of Christianity or Muslim beliefs because they are homosexual. So therefore they can act out and live their lives as they wish and meet society�s norms. Lesbians have shunned western religion by being homosexual and now they would fight social norms based on those beliefs by being promiscuous.

Today�s modern Lesbian needs to break free of society�s laws and feel free to be as open about their sexuality as men. It is OK if in their point in life if they want to express their sexuality and be in a sexual relationship with other women without the constraints of a monogamous relationship. Our studies teach that women need a new movement in the new Millennium that takes us further than the 60s and 70s. Instead of burning their bras Lesbians can burn their chastity belts created by stereotypes. Maybe sex for women is not always about emotion and relationships, maybe they just want to express themselves and have fun without being tied down.

My interviews produced a lot of information and sometimes were tough to keep focused on the topics at hand. So many side topics were brought up like violence, possession, business, pop culture and religion. But to summarize here I will focus on what this paper is about. Out of the 34 Lesbians I interviewed all were more than willing to talk tome about this subject. I received no resistance from my target study group. I think the fact that a white straight male was interested and wanted to give an honest portrayal of this part of their lifestyle intrigued them.

The short and quick answer is yes, Lesbians do want to cruise at some point in their life. Is it the same as gay men, no it is not. Do they want that all the time, no they do not. Every gay woman I interviewed said that at some point they wanted non-committed sex and had to find it. This may have been a short period of their life but it did happen. Even women who said they were now in a committed relationship admitted that at one point they were promiscuous to a point. Mostly when they were young or got out of a bad relationship did this period of their lives occur. This was a feeling they held throughout their life, just during certain periods.

The question about where they would go was one that took different directions. Madison is not a pickup spot according to answers I received. It is a city made up of primarily little cliques. The few women bars that have been here were small. Many of the women told me they would walk into them and get stared at, checked out. But I they tried to make contact there was trouble; they could not approach anybody who was with somebody else. You had to come in with a group or be alone and rejected by the other women.

Most of the gay bars in Madison have been and are now men�s bars who invite women in.
Lesbians are like the step sisters of Madison�s gay night life. They are there but they are not the focus of business. Places like Club 5 try to accommodate with areas of the bar for Women with The Fox Hole. But it is just a corner while the men have The Barracks with their own special entrance and closed in area. Many women told me that it was just in this past year that the Shamrock started to even be friendly to women. These are improvements that should not be tossed aside lightly but still, where are the women�s spots?

A Room of Oneââ?¬â?¢s Own was mentioned as a spot by a poster on the online thread I created. But this is a Feminist Bookstore, not a Lesbian club. The poster seemed to miss that distinction as an example of the stereotype that Feminists are Lesbians. Her defense was ââ?¬Å?The lesbian friends I'm speaking live in Seattle and San Francisco. From my experience, I'm guessing Lesbian's donââ?¬â?¢t always want to get their anonymous sex grove on. I've been around that culture a lot ââ?¬ÂŠ.ââ?¬? So if you know someone from a large ââ?¬Å?Gayââ?¬? city and they come into town you take them to the Feminist Bookstore. This is gay Womanââ?¬â?¢s culture? Interestingly enough, none of the Madison Lesbians I interviewed mentioned a Room of Oneââ?¬â?¢s Own once. Sure they may visit it if they have an interest but I doubt it is a Lesbian ââ?¬Å?hangoutââ?¬? for meeting other women.

Chicago came up often as having a thriving Lesbian nightlife. If I was looking for examples of ââ?¬Å?Cruisingââ?¬? Washington Park would be the spot. According to women I interviewed this is a park shared by both women and men for the purpose of hooking up for the night. There are several bars nearby and the women who are looking for other women for a night of sex go there if things donââ?¬â?¢t progress at the bars. The age group in the park is said to be younger but single women of all ages are said to be ââ?¬Å?cruisingââ?¬? on heavy nights. Is this common for all women I interviewed? No, most of them had never been there but knew of it. But it does exist just not as a reality for most gay women in the Midwest.

My favorite experience during the interviews was in Club 5. While I was interviewing women a gay male friend joined my table. He struck up a conversation with a guy on a table next to us that I engaged since we had mutual friends. Within about 20 minutes talking the two of them left for the bathroom. A few minutes later they came back and announced they were heading to the one guyââ?¬â?¢s house for the night. Later I confirmed they had sex after just meeting that night and talking for less than an hour. I turned to the women I was interviewing and said ââ?¬Å?There! What just Happened! Why donââ?¬â?¢t Lesbians do that?ââ?¬? Fear of rejection was the answer, even after I relayed that story in later interviews. Not that is wasnââ?¬â?¢t emotional or that they needed to have an emotional bond, but that they were afraid such a brash move would be met with rejection.

Most of the women were in committed relationships but they admitted that when they were single they were more promiscuous. But in Madison they were limited. The UW has dances a couple times a year for Lesbians. I remember these from my teenage years in the 80s. They would host them at the Student Union, 4th floor away from the main action on weekend nights. Their logo was two Penguins holding hands; we called them the Penguin dances. There have been some small Lesbian bars and popular clubs who had ââ?¬Å?Lesbian Nightsââ?¬? like The New Bar at the Hotel Washington. But there have not been any dedicated Lesbian Night Clubs there were large and popular.

Gay men have Gay.com and it us used regularly for pickups. But there is no equivalent in the Lesbian world. I asked this specific question and the answers were either they did not go online for dating or they did not know of a spot they could go to. Several jokes were made about The Isthmus Personals, the newspaper that hosts the forum I used for this project. Apparently that is viewed more as a prostitution advert site rather than a serious media to meet real partners.

To wrap up this study I would have to say that the topic got side tracked from not whether women needed a place to cruise or if they did at some point in their life but rather where they would if such a venue existed here in Madison. When a gay woman is in a monogamous relationship she had no need for ââ?¬Å?cruisingââ?¬â?¢ but when she is single, depending on the emotional point in her life, she wants to ââ?¬Å?cruise.ââ?¬? But then where do they go? I guess that is why many of the women I interviewed who were single indicated they would like to meet someone. Feminist Bookstores are not Lesbian pick up spots and neither are gay menââ?¬â?¢s bars.

So if a gay woman reaches a point in her life where she wants to meet other women for sex she is going to have to work real hard or know a lot of people. She could move to a larger city where there is an active pickup lifestyle but what would that serve as long term plans? Until Lesbians are accepted more in our daily lifestyle they will remain as a shadow in our society. Hopefully meeting someone they can spend the rest for their life with or waiting anonymously on the sidelines hoping to find someone in their same situation by some sort of stroke of luck.

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Postby Mike S. » Mon Aug 01, 2005 1:07 am

statz, what we all really want to know is how much nookie this project was good for! :D

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Postby Beer Moon » Mon Aug 01, 2005 10:37 am

For a forum name of "statz", there certainly weren't many in your paper. I was surprised at how many interviews you did though. I was an English major, so I'm going to go into criticism mode for a bit here. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but if you're going to be writing more papers in college I might have some suggestions you can use in the future.

A few nit-picky things that sort of jumped out at me: In a paper, don't you usually write out thirty-four instead of using the number 34? Second paragraph, "promiscuous matter", I think you mean "manner". Later on you say "briefer". "More brief" is correct.

As for the content as a whole, you focus a lot on preconceptions and your own experience in doing this project, and not as much on the specific questions you asked, and the variance of specific responses.

If I had done it, I would have started with one paragraph of a couple sentences to describe the "thesis", then one brief paragraph explaining the reading material in class that inspired you to ask the question. Then a paragraph briefly covering the method of interviews and the scope of your research (who, how many, where, etc).

I would have spent a couple paragraphs analyzing and anecdotally referring to the series of responses you received, to illustrate the "most cruisy" lesbian responses, and the "least cruisy", and then using the sort of median of responses to put an average or create a sort of "norm".

Then a couple paragraphs doing the same for gay men.

And finally a summary explaining the reasons you think the Madison lesbian community (based on your interviews) does not have a park or series of establishments that they use to "cruise", when gay men are so apparently engaged in this activity more often, and more conspicuously.

Assuming you're not finished with school yet, I recommend the following:

The Elements of Style


UW-Madison Writer's Handbook online

Otherwise, I think your paper was very interesting, and I think you had a very topical thesis, and you clearly put a lot of work into your research, which is commendable. You'll take away more from this than the grade you get, that's for sure, and hopefully your instructor is aware of that value and awards you a grade to represent that.

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Postby blunt » Mon Aug 01, 2005 1:41 pm

I did my own research.
I asked a grrrl what the difference was between gay guy and gal cruising.
Her answer:

"Grrls want to know your name."

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