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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.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
Indeed, there is good reason to believe that lesbianism in the play was not deliberately planned as an erotic claptrap, but an artistic expression of the playwright's insight into a deviant-phobic society that may indeed suffer from greater shortcomings than merely being sexually obsessed.
For decades, the pathologizing of lesbianism has been a dominant theme in mainstream cinema.
He had also campaigned online to get Colombia's national TV authority to ban the video on the grounds that it was immoral and promoted lesbianism and tobacco consumption.
One poem, which moves outside of strictly considering Lesbianism, is "Green Experience," which touches on the topic of transgender bodies.
Her account traces the initial extrication of lesbianism from both the homosexual and feminist movements in order to render lesbianism visible.
Coffman asserts that Barnes "subversively mimes the mechanisms of psychosis to perform a trenchant attack on the paranoid cultural logic that conflates lesbianism and madness" (113).
Cairns is justified in such warnings, particularly given the pejorative nature of so many images of lesbianism, but a further sophistication would have been adequately to recognize that her 'responsible' stance is informed by the high level of cultural and subcultural capital she brings to each film viewing.
The text apparently deals with the injustice and mercilessness inflicted by a community on two innocent women, Martha Dobie and Karen Wright, falsely accused of 'unnatural' sexual behavior, that is, lesbianism. A second reading arises from the play's ending, according to which society 'rightly' punishes one of the women, Martha, for admitting her passionate love for her female friend, Karen.
As Torchwood began its series with graphic lesbianism, I do not trust the writers of Doctor Who, who now seem ready to spread gay propaganda.
I haven't tried lesbianism. I am probably a bit ancient now
When you realize that even regular old "marriage" is really a secret gateway to lesbianism, you begin to see the source of the Right's paranoia.
Her tales include: Nancy Patten, their live-in teenaged babysitter, a braless Mary Poppins in platform shoes; an improper sexual suggestion during the prom; ripping off nuns the weekend before college began: a flirtation with lesbianism; buying a house in the San Francisco Bay Area with a crazy neighbor who tended the lawn with scissors one blade of grass at a time: a brother in advertising who wrote the immortal phrase "Drop the chalupa!" for the Taco Bell Chihuahua; earning a couple of bucks by dressing up in a giant foam banana costume and Ray Ban knockoffs; writing a book and having a baby.

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