Even if you don’t watch the show, a lot of women do. The show is the number one cable network program in its time slot with women ages 18 – 34, and each episode brings in over a million viewers. Re-runs air frequently, and episodes are available for free online. The women are all on Twitter and participate in live chats and national events. There’s no escaping that the Bad Girls are some of the best known lesbian and bisexual women on TV today.
The bigger question is how exactly are lesbians and bisexual women "Bad Girls"? Is their interest in hooking up with other women part of the "bad" behavior? The show touts their women’s "similarly explosive personalities, manipulative backstabbing friendships, in-house love triangles, exotic trips to the Caribbean, unexpected alliances and endless mind games," but not their sexuality, and when each of the girls came out, it was in regular introductory conversations with their housemates.
But surely casting knew what they were doing when they put queer women in the house, and the editors are the ones that get to work with all of the material. One thing we can likely conclude is that the Bad Girls are being themselves, and they are open about their sexuality. And because there are three different women in the house with such different ways of expressing themselves (their sexuality included), it’s actually a positive representation of queer women.
While it might not be considered optimal to have our representation include a bisexual woman who becomes so upset at the idea of being called a lesbian, or a lesbian who becomes obsessed with her housemate and then sleeps with a man just because she’s "horny," there is no such thing as a perfect gay woman.
When it comes to reality television, we want to be represented, and to be represented fairly; but we’re all so different in how we see ourselves, our relationships and how our sexuality fits into those aspects of our lives. The thing that makes Bad Girls Club different from shows like The Real L Word is that they aren’t attempting to speak specifically for, to or about our community. The women come onto this show simply being themselves, and that makes them more genuine and more real than those who might think they are in the position to speak and act for us.
Since we are part of their target audience of any show that has "lesbian" (or "L") in the title, our expectations of such shows are understandably raised. If the "L" shows disappoint, it feels almost insulting to watch them. But a show like Bad Girls Club is
clearly just "entertainment," without the added pressure of any expectation that it will help the world understand
who we are or what we’re about.
What will women ages 18-34 learn about sexuality on the Bad Girls Club? Probably what they see with their peers in everyday life: sexual fluidity, friends sharing kisses while intoxicated and a lesbian couple that enjoys each other’s company and commitment. All of it might just be a little amplified.