When religious zealots and brainless bigots speak about the “downfall of morality” they often cite sexually liberated women in the media for awakening the youth’s collective sexuality that, in their minds, should not exist until marriage and babies is the goal. While it shouldn’t be news to anyone that sexuality cannot be turned on or off I think every person remembers their first grown-ass crush as a kid. For me, it took some reflection to realize that maybe I felt a bit differently about my favorite princesses than the other girls at my elementary school. From earliest to latest, these women, some characters, some real people, lit the spark of lesbianism that’s been burnin’ bright ever since. This is my way of saying thank you.
Grace Jones (As seen in Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special)
My earliest memories of childhood often have something to do with watching Pee Wee Herman doing something ridiculous. I was enamored by the colors, talking household objects, and general absurdity of all things Pee Wee. My dad taped the 1988 Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special on VHS and by the time I came along the copy was warped and barely holding on. That did not stop me from replaying it constantly in any season. The show was jam-packed with the best of late 80’s celebrities from Cher to Charo to Zsa Zsa Gabor, most of whom I had never heard of before.
When Grace Jones popped up on the show, arriving in a package mistakenly delivered by Reba the Mail Lady, she instantly confused and excited me. She sang a rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy” in her deep voice accompanied by robotic dance moves and, boy, was it amazing. I knew she was a woman, but her androgynous appearance was utterly titillating to my tiny child-brain. I’m not sure I was even old enough to understand what a crush was, but her sculpted bustier was a marker for desires to come.
Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Dammit Disney, you sure got me going with this exoticised animation. While I never liked this movie all that much (who thought a depressing novel about a deformed person and genocide against gypsies would make a great film for kids?) the blatantly sexual characterization of Esmeralda had my heart a-flutter. She was gorgeous and dark and had sick pole dancing skills.The ignorance of youth, am I right? I had a doll of her likeness and I was convinced if I could shrink down to Barbie-size she and I would be inseparable.
I think Princess Leia is responsible for kick-starting puberty for just about everyone attracted to women. When the original Star Wars trilogy was re-released in 1997 I was ob-freakin-sessed. While I admired Han Solo’s general bad-assery I didn’t find myself lingering on him once the movie ended. Princess Leia was my jam. She was strong, confident, smart, and hot as hell. While her Jabba slave ensemble is the object of smutty fan-art to this day, I found her most sexy when she was disguised at Boushh and saved Han Solo. I was a true butch loving femme in the making.
Aaliyah (As seen in the “We Need a Resolution” video)
R.I.P. 😦 Just about everyone was obsessed with Aaliyah in the late 90’s – early 00’s and her rise to the top just so happened to coincide with my first bubblings of puberty. I credit her greased up snake charmer look in the video for “We Need a Resolution” for fostering my first grown-ass lady feels. I remember being in love with her ever-mysterious eyes and the fact that she wore baggy pants but still had a smokin’ body. Her look here inspired me to dress up as a “snake demon princess” for Halloween just to be closer to her hotness.
Brody Dalle was the first woman’s picture I printed and hung on my wall specifically for masturbatory purposes. It was a simpler time, the early 2000’s, a young me just entering middle school in the wave of Blink 182 and Avril Lavigne. At first I was fully in the “poseur” punk life until I discovered riot grrl and the hand-made jacket patches and anarchy symbols never stopped. I loved Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney for their politics but The Distillers brought a different look, albeit more commercial, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. Brody was a goddess to me. Her red lipstick, piercings, sleeve tattoos, ridiculously low and tight pants, and towering liberty spikes made up all aspects of my ideal woman. At 13 I also had my first make-out session with a girl with liberty spikes and I have Brody to thank for that. I think it was her hotness combined with her “punkness” that helped me be totally confident in my coming out process.
My obsession with Dita went hand-in-hand with my Marilyn Manson obsession as the two were married at the time. I was simultaneously jealous and aroused imagining their sexual exploits. I honestly fell out of love with her in more recent years but her curves will always be a favorite of mine in a nostalgic sort of way. Dita Von-Teese was also my first foray into the world of kink and fetish. She helped me realize that queerness opens the door to a world of possibility when it comes to sex.
That’s just a corner of my road map to lesbian life. All these women, real and make-believe, helped solidify my love for “the fairer sex.” I’m thankful for their sacrifices, stories, and art that taught me to be fearlessly queer in my lady love.