TV’s Negative Portrayal of Pregnant Lesbians Continues

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Five

years after Sarah Warn wrote about “TV’s Lesbian Baby Boom,” examining the way that television used motherhood story lines to desexualize

lesbian characters and keep them firmly within normal standards of womanliness,

the trend has not only continued, but has gone one step further.

On

television shows such as ABC’s Cashmere

Mafia
, Showtime’s The L Word,

Logo’s Exes & Ohs and Showcase Australia’s Satisfaction,

story lines about lesbian mothers focus excessively on acquiring sperm, and

present the process of lesbians becoming mothers as being at odds with happy

lesbian relationships.

A recent

example of this can be seen in Australian series Satisfaction, which is set in a brothel and includes among its

characters lesbian sex worker Heather (Peta Sergeant) and her girlfriend, Ally (Jesse

Spence).

Peta Sergeant (top) and Jesse Spence

No

indication is given that Heather, the brothel’s fetish specialist, is a lesbian

until the third episode, the disturbingly titled “Jizz” (written by

Matt Ford), which opens with Heather having sex with her girlfriend, Ally.

Moments later, Ally’s donor friend Garry shows up for an insemination (of Ally),

and Heather and Ally’s interactions thereafter are limited to brief scenes

where they are mostly fighting about donors and pregnancy.

Garry’s planned

donation quickly falls through due to a homophobic girlfriend, thus allowing

the narrative to refocus on TV’s favorite element of lesbian motherhood: the

search for sperm. Soon afterward, Heather is at work and calls Ally, telling her

to meet her in the brothel’s bathrooms in half an hour. Heather then has sex

with an elderly client, fishes his used condom out of the rubbish bin, and

meets Ally in the bathrooms, proposing to inseminate there and then.

Ally is

disgusted by this proposal and upbraids Heather for the idea. But Ally’s

repulsion has no effect, and Heather later has unprotected sex with a client (whose

fetish is to be a baby and considers Heather his “Mummy”) in order to

get pregnant, without Ally’s knowledge or consent.

That a woman

who should be well-versed in the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases would

be perfectly willing to inseminate her partner with the sperm of an untested

60-something-year-old, and then have unprotected sex herself, seems farcical. The

story line is evidence of the way that the hunt for sperm seems to drive

television’s lesbians to do strange and reckless things.

Similar

behavior took place during the first episode of The L Word, when Bette (Jennifer Beals) and Tina (Laurel Holloman)

invite a male stranger to have unprotected sex with Tina in order to get her

pregnant. And this is after hosting a sperm-hunting party where the couple

desperately trawls for any male

donor. The idea that the desperation for sperm is so intense that it overrides one’s

sense of dignity — or even fears of contracting HIV or other sexually

transmitted diseases — is more than troubling. In a world full of sperm banks,

it is unrealistic and seeks to place men at the center of a scenario that does

not, by definition, involve them.

A few

weeks after Heather’s unprotected sex on Satisfaction,

she joyfully announces to Ally that she is pregnant. As one might imagine, Ally

is not at all happy that Heather has done this, especially without

communicating with her about it. This is the beginning of the end of their

relationship.

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