The main idea of Political Lesbianism is that sexuality is a choice. It’s about rejecting heterosexuality and men, not necessarily about having sex with women.
It is one of the key ideas of Radical Feminism, although keep in mind that this is extreme, and not representative of all Radical Feminists!
According to Julie Bindel the debate over whether Feminists should ‘give up heterosexual sex and adopt Political Lesbianism as a practice started with the publication of a pamphlet in 1979 called ‘Love Your Enemy: the debate between heterosexual feminism and political lesbianism’, put together by the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group, and the main author being Shiela Jeffries.
You can download a full copy of this radical feminist pamphlet here. It’s commonly known as the ‘LYE’ pamphlet, or ‘Love your Enemy’
Some of the key ideas of ‘Love your Enemy’
- Women needed to get rid of men from their beds and their heads to be truly free.
- Male oppression is the only system of oppression in which the oppressor literally invades and colonises the interior of the other.
- Penetrative sex (between men and women) is more than a symbol of oppression, its function and effect is the punishment and control of women.
- Sexuality is not determined by genetics, it is not just biological, it is shaped by culture and it is a choice.
The pamphlet caused quite a debate within Feminism in the early 1980s, and it probably enhanced divisions within the movement. The video below explores some of the issues and conflicts surrounding Political Lesbianism
Criticisms of Political Lesbianism
Bea Campbell argued that it was more important to challenge men’s behaviour in heterosexual relationships than to insist that women give up heterosexual desire.
Lynne Segal also thinks we should celebrate heterosexuality.
Political Lesbianism seems to be based on a fear of men, rather than a love of women and/ or diversity!
Further reading on Political Lesbianism
- Shiela Jeffries the main author of LYE has recently written a book, The Lesbian Revolution, which takes an in-depth historical look at the events of the time.
- We were Never Gender-Binary, it’s time to reclaim radical lesbian feminism
- You might also be interested in this twitter thread from 2019 – which is a view critical of Political Lesbianism.