I can't wait for I Kissed A Girl but I fear men will only watch for sexual kicks

It seems lesbian dating shows are like buses – you wait your whole life for one to appear and then two come along at once.

Netflix recently dropped The Ultimatum: Queer Love, which sees couples made up solely of women and non-binary people confront a crossroads in their relationships, finishing the process either married or separated.

And now we have I Kissed A Girl, the follow-up to BBC Three’s I Kissed A Boy, the UK’s first gay dating show that was a real roaring success.

With Dannii Minogue back as everyone’s favourite gay matchmaker, I Kissed A Girl starts with, you guessed it, a kiss, before the new couples get to know each other and, well, drama ensues…

Applications are currently open for the series and the internet is buzzing with excitement – finally, lesbians have a chance to find love on a chaotic dating show just like our straight counterparts have done for decades.

There’s no denying that this will provide life-affirming representation for countless queer people. After years of having to watch from the sidelines, we now get a chance to play.

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Sure, it’s going to be messy and probably very cringe, but no one said queer representation on TV had to be perfect. Regardless, I Kissed A Girl will be another breath of fresh air in the dating show scene as toxicity with the likes of Love Island rages on.

My only concern, I suppose, is whether people will watch for the wrong reasons.

It’s no secret that lesbianism is sexualised. 

Personally, I grew up so terrified of even using the word. Any time someone called me a ‘lesbian’, it was in a derogatory manner. ‘Lesbian’ was thrown around as a dirty term, something to be ashamed of.

It took me a long time to feel comfortable identifying as a lesbian. 

There’s also a reason why ‘lesbian’ remains one of the most popular porn categories. No matter how much society progresses and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people improve, cisgender men continue to use women loving women (WLW) for their own sexual pleasure.

Our expressions of sexuality continue to provide sick gratification for people who, actually, don’t care for our rights or our safety at all. We continue to be the porn of men who – let’s be honest – while they’re quick to get off on us snogging, wouldn’t be so fast to jump in should they see us receiving abuse in public. 

And while you may argue that it’s ‘not that deep’, I implore you to remember that sexualisation and fetishisation does not equal acceptance. 

So, as we edge closer to I Kissed A Girl landing on our screens, my anxieties about just who will be tuning in mount. 

I know how I’ll be watching. With a smile on my face, probably a tear in my eye, just so enamoured and happy that, for the first time in my lifetime, my community gets a chance to shine after so many of us grew up believing we don’t deserve love.

But in the back of my mind, those worries will be there. Is there a middle-aged cis man watching this with wide eyes, earning some sort of sexual thrill over the way one girl places a gentle hand on another girl’s thigh, or the way she leans in for a sweet kiss in a romantic moment?

The hyper-sexualisation of lesbianism and queerness among women is a real issue facing our community – because it affects us beyond the TV screen. 

While I have no doubt that Dannii – our gay Cupid – and the BBC will create a safe and respectful environment for I Kissed A Girl’s participants, what happens when the cameras stop rolling?

Every day, lesbians have to think twice before kissing their partners in public. We drop our grip on each other’s hands when a man walks past us in the street. 

We have to tolerate endless threesome proposals, threats, and sneering from those who think lesbians are a ‘challenge’ or something to ‘conquer’ or ‘fix.’ And it’s exhausting. 

So, yes, to finally have our relationships represented on TV is a massive step forward and so exciting. I love knowing that young queer people now have a chance to grow up with less trauma and suffering. The first lesbian kiss on Coronation Street made headlines around the country in 2010, and I was well aware of people’s negative reactions to it.

But we have to do the work off screen as well as on, dismantling stereotypes, breaking down harmful myths, calling out lesbophobia, and showing that lesbians are valued and respected far beyond sexual pleasure.

With Dannii Minogue at the helm once more for this new dating show, I think we’re heading in the right direction.

No, she isn’t gay, but she’s the embodiment of what an ally should be and a real example of how to show up for the community without speaking for them. Hopefully that translates into living rooms far and wide.

Oh, and if we can make Katy Perry’s iconic tune the theme song for I Kissed A Girl, that might take the edge off a bit.

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