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see homosexualityhomosexuality,
a term created by 19th cent. theorists to describe a sexual and emotional interest in members of one's own sex. Today a person is often said to have a homosexual or a heterosexual orientation, a description intended to defuse some of the long-standing sentiment
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  1. a sexual categorization referring to female HOMOSEXUALITY. In this usage, sexual behaviour and sexual identification are taken as the primary factors denoted by the term.
  2. (feminist usage) homoerotic desire between women, or, more widely, a specifically female experience involving the social, emotional and erotic bonding of women. In this usage lesbianism is seen as primarily a political category, placing less importance on the issue of genital sexuality and more on woman-identified experience.
Political lesbianism stresses that lesbianism is ‘Far more than a sexual preference; it is a political stance’ (Abbott and Love, 1972). Nestle (1981) challenges this approach for its misrepresentation of lesbian history and for its implicit desexualization of lesbian culture, Rich (1980) has suggested that lesbianism should, however, be regarded as one of the primary forms of resistance against ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ (see HETEROSEXUALITY). In this context, Rich (op. cit.) has distinguished between lesbian existence and the lesbian continuum. The former refers to conscious lesbian identification, the latter to a broad range of woman-identified experience or sisterhood. In both. Rich places less emphasis on sexual desire as the primary criterion for identification with lesbianism, and more on women's active, political resistance to heterosexual privilege.

Lesbianism is subjected to both social and legal control in many contemporary societies. In the UK, lesbianism is not subject to criminalization except in the armed forces. Lesbians, however, tend to be subject to control via the civil courts, particularly in custody cases involving the children of lesbian mothers. The history of lesbianism and its regulation via law and custom is different from that pertaining to male homosexuality, and has been the subject of both misrepresentation and invisibility.

References in periodicals archive ?
Does the audience's response suggest that lesbianism is becoming more acceptable in mainstream society?
Today, critics continue to under-recognize the role of lesbianism in Dusty Answer.
I never said anything to the effect that lesbianism in women's golf `is not reticent' or that it's being `paraded
Indeed, this inaugural collection of essays in lesbian literary criticism marks the end of lesbianism as a revolutionary venture and the beginning of patient and critical analysis.
I included Irshad Manji's sexual orientation because I knew that, if I excluded it, an astute reader would raise it anyway as if to suggest that Ms Manji's lesbianism automatically prevented her from telling the truth and/or negated her arguments.
Fire" in 2002 was considered the first major foray into lesbianism by Indian cinema, which is best known for its her erosexual romantic love stories.
And with a nod to Mel B's dabble in lesbianism, he added: "Is Emma Bunton here?
Now with revelations of four-in-a-bed sex romps and lesbianism, John Leslie is in a bad light again - but Abi has taken the flak.
Mark Dooley views female sex erotics in Gallathea as obvious lesbianism in the Renaissance.
WOMEN-IN-PRISON movies have never been known for their subtlety, and while Neema Barnette's godawful addition to the genre, ``Civil Brand,'' doesn't contain some of the movies' hallmark scenes (no strip searches, rampant lesbianism or baby-doll nightgowns), it more than compensates with a heavy-handed political message that is as simple-minded as it is artless.
Girls Come Out" is another propaganda article for lesbianism profiling two high school girls who publicly have "come out" of the closet.
IN its untiring campaign to convince us that sodomy and lesbianism is as normal and decent as apple pie the Government is about to abandon use of the word 'homosexual'.

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