by Mary Martone

And she said unto the varied straight people upon this earth: "Take my aged videocassette of Personal Best, please!"

The thing with straight people--and their movies and books--is that they're just not desperate enough. I mean, they are when they're teenagers, and that's where that whole Corvette Summer/Porky's thing comes in, but frankly, they're drowning in representations of themselves. You really don't have to look much farther than any bench at the mall to see some hot girl-on-boy action. If you're a homo, you have to scrounge around a little more. And if you're willing to take what you can get, what you get can be grim. It's a numbers game. If one out of 100 books or movies is a gem, and you only know 10 books and 15 movies about queers... you do the math.

Twenty years ago I worked at a women's bookstore, and I decided to read all of the lesbian fiction. Feasible, because it only occupied two bookcases. So, to the accompaniment of a Lucie Blue Tremblay album ("Allo, Seen-seen-ah-teee!"), I started, and choked about six books into Sarah Aldridge. I realized that I'd have to skip around because I would kill myself if one more college professor-softball player moved to a small town and helped a housewife discover her true nature. There were shining exceptions, but it was tough going.

So it would be nice if straight people assimilated the phenomenon of bad lesbian genre film and literature into their own lives, freeing up ours for other pursuits.

We're going to need strategies to work the materials into straight folks' lives. An obvious opening is the enthusiasm of our straight friends for the very faggy Sing-a-Long Sound of Music. Why not an I've Heard the Mermaids Singing-Along? Or, I'm thinking, every straight person who walks into Blockbuster could be handed a shrink-wrapped bundle with a copy of Better than Chocolate and a promotional-tie-in large box of Raisinets, which would be secretly dusted with a substance that induced unquestioning support and evangelical zeal for the film. Upon enjoying said Raisinets in front of their free movie, viewers would suddenly feel the need to encourage everyone they know to see it repeatedly. Of course, they might also fall prey to the unfortunate notion that body-painting is in truth erotic, but there are risks involved in any operation of this scale.

The beauty of lesbian media consumption is that it can be so layered and refreshingly self-referential. Most straight people, after establishing their interest in being straight, move on to movies and books that address other issues, frequently neglecting to keep their sexual identity consciously at the fore of their media consumption. This is why I would like straight people to remember to listen to every single molecule of every aspect of themselves simultaneously, and take a page from lesbian parenting books, anthologies about lesbian vampires with eating disorders, lesbian accounting textbooks, and Lesbian Haberdashery for Dummies™.

Encouraging this appropriation could also promote a more civilized world with far less aggression. Everyone knows that viewing "straight lesbian porn" (made by and for straight guys) incites all sorts of lustful behavior. The infusion of by-lesbians, for-lesbians pornography into straight male home viewing could really take the excitement and enthusiasm down a notch. There's nothing like watching a real-time video of two women having sex to make you aware that porn needs to be more than a videotape of two women having sex.

We have to be careful, though. These are people who are not used to having to work to stomach a movie. You might be able to sneak in Personal Best as a sports thing ("Ya-Ya Sisterhood meets Prefontaine!") or Entre Nous as just another inexplicable foreign film, but you can't gut-punch them with some Claire of the Moon/Bar Girls double feature. I'm thinking, though, that it shouldn't be too hard to move some of this stuff. The time I was most interested in lesbian movies and books and least concerned about their quality was when I wanted to be having more (well, any) sex with women. And there are a lot of straight people who are interested in having more sex with women.

In lesbian film and lit, of course, there are always women grazing each other's thighs. Repackaged with better covers, straight fans of woman-on-woman thigh-grazing will seek this stuff out.

I guess what I'm saying is, as queer identities become simultaneously more complex and integrated, and I have the freedom to enjoy the empowering pleasures of Old School, they can damn well Go Fish.