The only way to know something is to learn about it and experience it, find out about it; ask questions, study it, think about it and talk about it and ask more questions. So I did. I researched what lesbians want to know and read instead of taking silly, wild-assed guesses.
Finding out meant taking an objective approach to get the information I needed and that meant putting some science behind it and undertaking real research, as opposed to the imagined research that sometimes goes on.
Most research starts with a hypothesis to prove or disprove. How boring is that? What about research just to find stuff out, that has discovery as its goal? (As long as nothing and no-one gets hurt.) I wanted to discover the answers to two key questions:
- what do lesbians want to know about, and
- what do they want to read?
Not only did I randomize and double blind and control group everything, I put myself in the group that didn’t know if it was getting real or placebo questions. Gold standard stuff, my research project was.
The questionnaire and survey were structured in such a way as to not lead the subjects in my study to any specific answer. After a few months of information gathering, it was on to data crunching and analysis that I hoped would give me and endless supply of topics to write about.
In keeping with scientific reporting, let me tell you how I went about it.
1. I tore the pages out of my hard copy huge little black book filled with contact information of women I, um, knew and know. Once that was done, I then ripped into little strips of paper each woman’s name and number and folded it over three times and deposited the neatly folded bit of paper into a huge glass bowl. I needed a minimum of a 10 per cent response rate to be considered representative and statistically valid.
Then, I needed to find a way to eliminate any potential bias on my part, a way to objectively get the folded bits out of the bowl. My talking bird was voluntold to randomly pick out 100 little bits of paper for me. We got into a tussle because he liked chomping on the neatly folded bits of paper and I needed the contact information to be legible. Getting him to give me what he picked out of that bowl was a five-hour ordeal and resulted in some ruined contact information. After five hours I got the randomized names of 100 women to interview.
As I picked up the phone to start calling, it struck me that I had to come up with a plausible explanation as to why I haven’t called before now. I had a few responses and tested them out on my preternaturally intelligent standard poodle who suggested a tweak or two to the honest answer. They were good so I went with his suggestions.
There were two “number is no longer in service” and three “I’m still not talking to you” responses. There was a 95 per cent response rate, good enough to be statistically valid. I did not write the names of the respondents on the answer sheet either and turned off that part of my memory that never forgets the sound of a voice or answers to questions I ask. It’s helpful being a cyborg sometimes, except for the capacity to have human heart attacks.
In case anyone is wondering, I nixed the idea of a focus group. I haven’t the time or inclination to conduct at least 1,000 focus groups, with each group comprising nine lesbians. The results might give some indication of statistically valid information. Or the varied opinions of 9,000 different women who are lesbians.
2. Next I sent out a questionnaire to survey the 1,112 lesbians on my personal email list. The response rate of 99.97 per cent is way over the 25 per cent rate that most researchers would accept as being valid and generalizable. And the high response rate is statistically valid, so that works too.
3. Then, I had my team search the internet and make a list of the top 50 things that are written by and for lesbians, including all book titles, blogs, websites, microblogs, twitter that were found across all things lesbian.
So all in all, I had qualitative + quantitative information from a broad cross-section of lesbians.
The results of my research gave me a heart attack. I had to defrib myself and confine myself to bed, which delayed things considerably. On the upside, recovery gave me time to contemplate rather deeply what to do with the results. I decided to take the high road, do the honourable thing and report the truth.
Across the interviews, the survey and all things of lesbian information the findings are as follows:
Relationships: 87 per cent of the lesbians in this research project across all ages, educations, tax brackets, nationality, religion, identification, hairstyles and sexual practice want to know about relationships: How to get one, how to keep one, how to get out of one, how to make a bad one good, and a good one last.
There are sub categories of relationships: what to do with the ex, how to get over the relationship that still haunts, relationship with big age differences, relationships after being married to a man, a relationship with a straight woman, keeping a relationship healthy, rebound relationships, cheating in a relationship, moving from being friends to being in a relationship and oh, relationship, relationship, relationship.
<Huge unscientific and dramatic Sigh>. By way of contrast, there is no contrast between the percentage of the population of lesbians and the percentage of the population of straight women interested in relationships. It’s a tie at 87 per cent.
Additional findings include:
- Celesbians: 74 per cent admitted to a guilty interest in famous women who are lesbians. Adjusted for age: Under 40s more interested, over 50s are wondering when the hell there will be someone representing them.
- Women Loving Women: 73 per cent of respondents are interested in knowing more and reading more about loving women and what to do when you are in love with more than one or two or three but are not polyamorous. New, out lesbians want to know everything all at once, regardless of age.
- Dating: 72 per cent want to know about dating, and how to make it a great date.
- Poetry: 72 percent are interested in poetry; of that, 2 per cent are interested in learning about the techniques and mechanics and meaning of poetry, 70 per cent interested only in reading it when they are falling in love or want to seduce someone.
- Comedy: 71 per cent are interested in learning how to become a comedian and who they have to sleep with to become successful at it. They also want to know how to deal with people who don’t think they’re funny.
- Coming out: 43 per cent are interested in coming out information, stories, and how-to come out in specific circumstances.
- Sex and Sexuality: 42 per cent of the respondents are interested in sex and sexuality and of that, 84 per cent of them want to know about sex without emotion, aka one-night stands, aka sex for the sake of sex, detached from emotions.
- Lesbian parenting: 40 per cent are interested in all the things pertinent to what it means to be a lesbian and a parent and how to navigate some of the issues that lesbian parents encounter. Interestingly, many of these also believe that being a lesbian parent grants immediate entry onto the comedy circuit these days.
- Health of self and health of the planet: 38 per cent have an interest in health and healthy living, which was stated as wanting to know more about lesbian approaches to climate change, alternative energy sources, becoming a vegan, and what sports activities will result in the best abs, the best cardio and the best venues for meeting hot women.
- Activism and causes: 16 per cent are interested in knowing about or reading about lesbian-related causes of any sort, including feminism.
- Alt: 16 per cent are interested in what might be considered the alternative lesbian scene/tribes skateboarding and tattooing and piercing and burlesque and the BDSM/fetish scene.
- Arts and Humanities: 16 per cent are interested in food, design, art, philosophy, cars, travel, writing, photography, books, all forms of music, modern dance, anthropology, sociology. Interestingly, this group identified a keen interest in footwear and eyewear.
- Manipulate my girlfriend: this is more than a song title. 15 per cent admitted to wanting to know more about this and wanting to read about it.
- Getting ahead in life as a lesbian: 8 per cent are interested in career, wealth accumulation, real estate as investment, fast cars, designer clothes.
- Self-development: 7 per cent are interested in self development, letting go of self-destructive behaviours and finding sustainable ways to be positive in the world.
- Not too darn much: 6 per cent indicated that they aren’t interested in much.
- Cats: 5 per cent are interested in cats.
- Dogs: 5 per cent are interested in dogs.
- Unknown: 3 per cent said they don’t know what their interests are since they don’t have a life yet.
- Do not label anything about me: 2 per cent are miffed at any attempt to capture or label anything about them.
The numbers do not add up to 100 per cent because some lesbians admitted that they have multiple interests.
My heart attack was a reaction to relationships topping the chart of what lesbians are interested in. I could say in my best researcher voice, that the results show a need for further research, but in truth my surprise says more about me and my judgments.
Lesbians do not have a long line of several centuries’ worth of relationship models in stories and myths that serve as a resource and reference point. We have pretty much been left to our own devices and our own small community and have had to make it up as we go along so we want to know about lesbian relationships, how to navigate them, deal with the inevitable issues that arise, and have a happy and safe loving relationship.
Anecdotally, there isn’t a lesbian I know who doesn’t in some way end up talking about women, relationships, dating or avoiding all that somewhere over the course of all and any conversation. This relationship thing is omnipresent.
Maybe it isn’t so much about being lesbians so much as it is about being (gasp!) a female, a woman. Straight women are equally interested in relationships. It is possible that women, who seem to be more relational than men are more inclined to say they are interested in wanting to know about relationships. And wanting to know about relationships is not necessarily an indication of wanting to jump into one, but it may be that the lesbian communities and various tribal members want to be informed for when and if they do decide to become involved in a relationship.
Quite complex this relationship stuff with lesbians and I do believe it deserves more study and funding.
In the meantime, I will be digging around to see what I can write about. I have some ideas now, but please, feel free to suggest ideas, topics, situations.