The allure of the lesbian cheerleader

 
 

In their book Cheerleader!: An American Icon, authors Natalie Guice Adams and Pamela Bettis write, “Cheerleaders have never threatened the status quo. In fact, they have served too well, feminists would argue, in perpetuating the status quo. Further, unlike girls and women participating in sports, female cheerleaders’ sexual orientation is simply assumed to be heterosexual; they do not have to face what some would consider the negative consequences of their activity being labeled as a ‘lesbian haven.’”

The lesbian cheerleader archetype comes into play when the cheerleaders forget their good girl personas and "go bad." The fantasy is that a good girl will become “the promiscuous cheerleader,” an urban legend of sorts that Adams and Bettis say has existed for years. “The cheerleader is the image of ‘the good girl’ — sexually virtuous and highly desirable. She is the object her male contemporaries fantasize about and lust after.”

And once those initial fantasies of the bad girl cheerleader fellating entire football teams grew tired, they expanded into other areas, like a team of cheerleaders that enjoy having sex with one another. They were really being bad.

In interviews with real life cheerleaders who also identify as lesbians, I asked about their experiences on their own squads. Out lesbian Shannon Cunningham she said she was cheer captain of her squad, cheering from third grade through college. She says she thinks the lesbian cheer phenomenon stems from the desires of men. “Joking about being lesbians was mostly something guys asked because they wanted it to be true,” she said. “In college, jokes about lesbians in sports from females were mostly referring to soccer players, basketball and of course, the stereotypical softballers.”

Out comic Bridget McManus said she also the lone queer cheerleader on her high school squad, but "Actually, I have a feeling that if I was out when I was a cheerleader I
wouldn’t have been accepted by some members of my squad. Lesbianism was
a topic that never came up, although the topic of boys did come up a
lot." 

Cassandra Avenatti grew up cheering in small town, Indiana and was “buried in the closet” at the time. She never met any openly gay lesbian cheerleaders, only “a handful of gay male cheerleaders from other schools.”

”I think people — men in particular — are intrigued by the camaraderie and intimacy that a team of women can create,” Avenatti said. “I think these relationships seem mysterious to them. In a patriarchal world, this is often translated into sexual fantasies of conventionally attractive women waving pom poms and making out in the locker room. With the exception of But I’m a Cheerleader, I haven’t seen a queerleading film or program that I enjoyed.”

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