Ruth E. Fassinger and Susan L. Morrow
Lesbians face unique issues as they attempt to live as sexual beings in a society that ignores or condemns their sexuality. We begin this chapter with a discussion of the difficulties in naming and defining lesbian sexuality, review some specific sexual problems, and conclude with a brief discussion of the importance of understanding lesbian sexuality. Our perspectives here are informed primarily by the social and clinical conceptualizations that have characterized lesbians in the United States and Europe over the past fifty years. We take the stance that lesbian sexuality is a positive, affirmative option for women and that lesbian sexualities are constantly changing and emerging in the midst of challenges from within and outside lesbian communities and as a consequence of the enormous psychological creativity necessary to being lesbian in a society characterized by compulsory heterosexuality ( Rich 1980).
Early in the women's movement, Elsa Gidlow ( 1975) affirmed lesbian sexuality and foreshadowed some of the definitional problems that face lesbians today: "What needs to be understood is that erotic love between women is not a deviation from some presumed 'normal.' The Lesbian, to use a designation with an honorable history, is not a spoiled, failed or diverted so-called heterosexual woman. . . . Nature needs the Lesbian as she is. She needs me as I am" (p. 5). In addition to being described as a perversion or variation of the hetero-