Girl On Girl: The Impermanence Of Celebrity Sexuality

My parents have always warned me about the permanence of the internet. They preached cautionary tales of the child of a friend of a friend that wasn’t hired for a job because there were Facebook pictures of them from college dressed up like a Twister board, Coors Light in hand. My time so far at The Frisky is probably a pretty strong indication that I did not take their warnings very seriously, but I have navigated life with the knowledge that 13-year-old Morgan’s LiveJournal account could eventually bite me in the ass. I never really thought you could truly erase anything from the internet, until a couple weeks ago, when I tried to Google for pictures of Paris Hilton making out with a girl.

In 2005, Paris Hilton’s Sidekick was hacked and the contents were leaked online. First, I am truly horrified that this was 10 years ago because I did not realize that I had gotten that old. Does the Sidekick even exist anymore? Second, while I have matured in the last 10 years and now respect the privacy of celebrities, when I was 14 and an active participant on ONTD, I obviously downloaded all of the contents. And lo and behold, there were pictures of Paris topless and making out with another female. This was a huge moment for me. I’m not saying that Paris Hilton is an exemplary role model for gay women anywhere. But there is something to be said about the moment you see that the role model for all the Ugg-wearing 8th grade girls that spit on you or called you “dyke” gets down with other women. It’s a moment that I’ll treasure forever.

These pictures aren’t easy to find anymore. In a conversation with a friend not too long ago, I brought up how Paris was “a little gay” and she had no idea what I was talking about. I referenced the pictures and tried to pull them up in a Google search, but couldn’t find them. Search terms like “paris hilton bisexual” don’t yield many valuable results and digging up the leaked photos actually took a lot of work (Google definitely thinks I’m a creep now). It’s so easy to find pictures of a clothed Paris Hilton making out with dudes, but it takes work to find pictures of her making out with another woman while also topless. I’m not saying it should be easier to find, but “1 Night In Paris” is one of the most downloaded sextapes and it’s not even very good.

It’s only been a decade and Paris Hilton’s less-than-straight sexuality is barely a blip in the archives of the internet. There’s photographic evidence of her dalliance with girls, but she is presumed to be straight. This is still a pretty good illustration of how the media treats female sexuality. Any media site that covers celebrities has no problem digging into the depths of their subject’s personal life – surfacing extramarital affairs and Valtrex prescriptions – but, when it comes to their sexual preferences, it’s never taken seriously.

Vogue recently did a high-profile cover feature on model Cara Delevingne that showcases everything wrong with how we talk about female sexuality. I’m not a celebrity, but you’ll have a hard time finding anything in my social media feeds that include words like “girlfriend” or “in a relationship.” I don’t want to publicly declare anything that I might later recant. Until this story, Cara Delevingne had never publicly confirmed her relationship status. It’s probably safe to assume this isn’t really a decision that she took lightly, especially to do it for something as monumental as her first cover story for American Vogue. Yet, the treatment of her sexuality is condescending and straight-up offensive.

When the writer gets to Cara’s statement on her relationship, he prefaces it with “as this story went to press,” suggesting that he views her relationship so flippantly that it could dissolve by the time it hits stands. (Which, sure, I suppose it could, but the same could be said for any straight celebrity or non-celebrity relationship.) The writer then goes on to speculate that Cara’s relationship is a phase, deliberately disregarding her own recounting of struggling to accept her sexuality as a child and declaring that her complicated relationship with her mom could be the root of her queerness. The story gets even more cringe-worthy when he goes on to mansplain her sexuality to her and then interprets her smile as her way of conceding to him rather than just her polite attempt to make him shut the fuck up. I do this smile all the time. It’s just so much easier than trying to debate the validity of my sexuality with someone too arrogant to realize that their gender is not a necessity.

There are so many ways to cover Cara’s comments on her sexuality in a compelling and interesting way. Her expressing how she’d want to marry and reproduce with a man if she ever met one she could fall in love with could be seen less as a rejection of her attraction to women and more as a desire to establish some kind of social normality. Who doesn’t? Settling down with a woman isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Still, the writer doesn’t explore anything beyond face value. Like many men before him, he sees what he wants to see and leaves it at that.

When the media talks about queer female sexuality, it’s usually non-threatening and euphemistic. It’s so-and-so’s “close friend” or “gal pal” and the reality is seldom acknowledged until it’s on the front page of a magazine with the caption “I’m Gay!” Alicia Cargile was Kristen Stewart’s “personal assistant” until Kristen’s mom outed her (but, to be honest, they look more like lesbros than girlfriends). There were pictures of Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore (who is an open bisexual and the part-owner of a gay club in West Hollywood) kissing in 2009, but the media didn’t even speculate on Page’s sexuality until she came out of the closet five years later. Although, the bigger crime would obviously be expecting anyone to believe the speculation that she was schtupping the most unbelievable beard of all time, Alexander Skarsgard.

If a woman comes out as bisexual, her bisexuality is forgotten when she settles down with a man. Zoe Saldana, Anna Paquin, Angelina Jolie, Megan Mullaly, and Amber Heard all ended up with dudes and their sexuality suddenly stopped being part of the conversation. It’s safe to assume that all of these women have brought it up in interviews because they want to educate or contribute to the conversation, but their statements are often edited down to one-liners to garner clicks and never mentioned again. Or, worse, they’re accused of doing it for attention, as was the case with Megan Fox, Nicki Minaj, Snooki and Tila Tequila.

It’s sad that anybody feels like they can or should take ownership of anyone else’s sexuality. Unfortunately, it happens all the time. If it’s not swept under the rug and ignored, it’s labeled as a phase or a cry for attention. Reading the Vogue article is like PTSD for anyone that has ever had to explain their sexuality to a difficult and stubborn dude. It always starts with his suggestion that it’s just a phase, followed by super personal questions asked in an effort to convince you that it could be. “So … have you ever thought about sleeping with a dude?” UGH. Pretty much all I see on TV or in movies is straight sex, so, yeah, I am bound to have heterosexual sex dreams on occasion. At ejaculation, the semen comes out and shapes into a giant white and squiggly Godzilla that destroys my underwater city. Does this mean I could be straight? Probably not.

Morgan Cohn is a recent LA transplant to NY, splitting her time between working in digital publishing, writing, and discovering what seasons are. Follow her on Twitter!