TV’s Negative Portrayal of Pregnant Lesbians Continues

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.

television shows such as ABC’s Cashmere
, 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

Peta Sergeant (top) and Jesse Spence

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.

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