Welcome Back! It’s come to our attention here at Sugar Walls that some of you are very, very curious about the varying degrees of butch and femme and all of the lovely, tantalizing things in between. Here is the first of a two-part special meant to clarify some of the confusing categories of lesbians out there, written just for you by the femmes of BCP’s Sugar Walls. Next week, look forward to more of the same from the butch perspective!

Simply Femme – A Broad View

(From Lesbians & Dating): A lesbian who dresses in a feminine nature and has a feminine manner. Femmes are said to prefer skirts, flouncy clothes, makeup, and spending inconceivable amounts on their hair. (Not always true). They are the opposites of butch. Origins: This originates from the same time as when the term butch became popular in the 1950’s where lesbians were forced to choose which way they would dress in bars, or the working class lesbian couples chose to dress that way.

SBJ: Flouncy? Excuse me? I’ll try not to nitpick too much here. Yes, femmes complement butches nicely, but that’s not always how it goes down. Let me introduce you to a little thing all lesbians are familiar with: the invisible femme. When we look, for the most part, like straight women, how in God’s name are butches supposed to ID us at Home Depot or Trader Joe’s or (ahem) liquor store? It’s a problem. One must get creative without wearing rainbow socks or wombmoon jewelry. I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Femmes are lesbians, too, the girly ones, the ones who have no desire to physically express masculinity, if they’ve got any (some do!). It doesn’t mean they’re not tough – we often are – but we’re delighted by and revel in our femininity. Once I realized I was gay it actually resulted in a kind of unbridled, even more feminine me. For the first time it was genuinely, guiltlessly fun to be myself!

inchworm: i fall into this category as well (although i think i bust out the t-shirts more than skinny). but just like sbj, i actually felt much more comfortable with being feminine after i came out. in my hetero days of yore i was almost aggressively anti-feminine – i never wore skirts, dresses, or make up, and i intentionally burned everything i had to cook for my family or boyfriend. i was afraid of becoming an excuse or a justification for what women SHOULD be. more than wanting to be anti-femme, i wanted to illustrate to others that i could be whatever i wanted. and growing up in WV (and, to a certain extent, dating men) made me very aware of the fact that people did have certain expectations for wives, girlfriends, and daughters. something about being femmy-femme-femme and wearing dresses and looking pretty and baking cakes while dating a dude in the south made me feel like i was condemning other women to that role whether they enjoyed it or not. eventually, i matured, moved, and came out. i think all three things played a role. but i’m way less concerned about reinforcing unwanted hetero dynamics when i’m dating another woman, butch or no.

angiesyounglover: I suppose I trip and fall into this category. I love dressing like a femme! Heels, makeup, and doing the hair can be fun. But, fortunately, this is not the 1950’s, and we don’t have to choose which way we want to be. For me, this varies day to day. I won’t deny I always come out looking femme, but I don’t spend a lot of time or money on my hair. I cut my layers myself, same with my whispy bang thingers, and I feel perfectly okay with walking out of the house without makeup if situation warrants me no time to apply it. I suppose I could say I put the “Simple” in “Simple Femme.” And yeah, I’m with SBJ, I’m going to pretend like I just didn’t read the word “flouncy.” That’s too Fergie for my taste. But, oh, what category do you fall into if you secretly wish you could pull off the butch look some days of the week? I might be doing the Simple Femme category shame, but, yo, you all know how, when you encounter a butch, you’re eyes are glued, you’re looking them up and down, and you’re like okay, I am attracted (whether gay or not) to them and I’m trying to figure out why…I WANT THAT. I want that kind of enigma. But I don’t have it. So yeah, I would say I’m “Simple Femme with a side of Wannabe-Never-Gonnabe-Butch.” Is that allowed? Fuck it, yes it is.

BAngieB: I usually wear makeup and fix my hair, and I have been known to wear some fancy shoes, but I never wear dresses. I do not flounce or wear anything that flounces. This kinda describes me, but not really. [It does, however, pretty well describe my young lover with her love of eyeliner and her long, flowy hair. Also, she flounces a lot.]

Lipstick Lesbians – Love At First M.A.C.

(From Lesbians & Dating): Another term for femme. However it can also mean feminine women who are attracted to other feminine women. Origins: This is a slang term introduced in the late 1990’s.

SBJ: As I understand it, lipstick lesbians are femmes who like other femmes. Think the L-Word. Think porn. Think straight-man fantasy land. Unfortunately, this kind of girl-on-girl love gets a lot of unwanted, exploitative attention, but there’s nothing wrong with being a lipstick lesbian. It’s just a preference. While I’ve had my fair share of lipstick action, I draw the line at a lipstick lesbian relationship. No. 1: Butches are just too fucking yummy. No. 2: I am selfish, quite frankly, and cannot fathom sharing beauty products, clothes, shoes and prized femme attributes with my partner. Sure, I might steal a gob of M’s American Crew pomade here and there, but a screaming match over who forgot to restock the Clinique Almost Honey? DO NOT WANT. Not to mention collective bathroom time or closet space.

inchworm: i actually didn’t know that lipstick implied femme on femme action. i’ve been in relationships w/ other femmy girls, and, i have to say, the clothing sharing was a plus (this is because my wardrobe is not so extensive. i think my exes were less-than-thrilled with the situation, though). like skinny, though, the butch-femme dynamic is WAY more… fulfilling. more on that dynamic in the pillow princess section.

angiesyounglover: This is the category that makes me want to throw categories in a blender and never turn it off. “Lipstick,”…I get the point of the name, but it just sounds too “Let me film you guys” to me. That, and the fact that I wear lip gloss. But, yes, that is just the unwanted connotations that come with labels. Which is why I hate them. Anyway, I used to think, before I realized I was gay, that these kind of relationships didn’t make sense, didn’t look asthetically pleasing. But now that I’ve had a chance to examine feelings that have been lying dormant since the 7th grade(ish), and nuture them on my own, I can see just how wrong I was. This category is a nice little slap in the face to the assholes who say “Who’s the boy and who’s the girl in the relationship?” HEY, closeminded one, suck it! The point of being a lesbian is: no boys allowed. So yeah. Power to the lipsticks!

BAngieB: Huh. Well, I know of a few women who fit into this category, but I have to say that the term “lipstick lesbian” has been around a lot longer than the definition states, because I remember hearing it in college in the 80’s. Of course, back in those days there were really two categories for us: lipstick lesbian or tomboy/butch.

High Femme – Always With The Excess!

(From Lesbians & Dating): Lesbian who expresses the cultural norm for ultra-femininity – makeup, dresses, heels, hair, nails. May not identify as a lesbian if her desires are exclusively for Stone Butches and FTMs.

SBJ: As far as I know, high femme girls won’t leave the house without a full manicure and pedicure, full face of intense make-up, perfect ass hair, ultra-girly or sexy outfit with meticulously selected accessories, etc. Think Dita Von Teese or others who require a full-on 200% perfect costume in order to make a public appearance. They’re also notorious for being pillow princesses (or “stone femmes”). I could never be a high femme because I simply just don’t give a fuck sometimes, I’m too bossy and hands-on and curious and O Holy Jesus, if I had to be topped 100% of the time I’d claw my own vadge out! Still, I appreciate the time, effort and flawless, almost stage-y grace of a lovely high femme. It’s just impressive.

inchworm: i admire high femmes. i really do. so much work! so much time and effort! as it is i feel like i barely cut it as a femme. only my love for dresses and girly clothing pulls me out of the chapstick lesbian section below. i don’t wear makeup (or, i wear it very rarely), and i tend to prefer flats to heels. i also wear my hair in a pony tail. a lot. especially when it’s dirty. so high femmes are waaaaaay out of my league.

angiesyounglover: Not interested.

BAngieB: I am not familiar with this concept, but it sounds way too high maintenance for me. Also, kinda weirdly “look at me.” I feel that anyone who is that busy getting ready to leave the house doesn’t have time to help me with the pups, which would annoy me.

Pillow Princess – Me, Me, Me, Me, Me!

(From Lesbians & Dating): A lesbian who is unwilling or uninterested in reciprocating sex.

SBJ: These lesbians make me gnaw at my fist with shame and anxiety. I mean, really? Unwilling or uninterested in reciprocating sex?! HELLO! Some of the best parts of being a bloody lesbian! I try not to judge, I really do, but I can’t wrap my head around these girls or the women who love and fuck them. Pillow princesses literally just lay there and let their lover do all the work. Afterwards, I suppose, they say a polite thank you and focus on getting their beauty sleep. It’s like asking me to choose between food and drink. I want both. Lots and lots of both. Did I say both? OK!

inchworm: ah, the sexual dynamic between butches and femmes. so, most straight people (and even other lesbians, especially in newer generations) look at butch-femme couples and think man-woman. around these parts (brooklyn), i’ve even heard younger gay ladies refer to older butch-femme couples as “selling out,” i guess because they assume they’re trying to fit into society as it’s been carved out by hetero couples. this is a huge generalization. first of all, just because a couple seems to reflect some aspects of a hetero relationship does not mean that, for instance, the butch woman is always the top or the femme is always the bottom. or that the butch woman is, say, a poor communicator who never cries (insert other stereotypes about hetero men) and the femme is overly-emotive. yes, sometimes these things ARE true, but it’s good to keep in mind that butch-femme relationships are complex and varied — just like EVERY relationship out there.

that said, in my experience, there is a tendency to associate butch women with tops and femmes with bottoms. and this, my friends, is just fine with me, as long as it’s not ALWAYS this way. i may prefer to take a submissive role most days, but, like SBJ, i would never ever ever want to only recieve. one of my favorite parts of the butch-femme dynamic is that it feels much more flexible to me. when i’ve dated femmy women, it’s always felt a little forced to have them aggressively top me, or play out the elements of “hetero” sex that i really enjoy. and i’m sure there are butch women out there who’ve had femmy partners who’ve been uncomfortable w/ crossing the line into a more toppy role (like these pillow princess). but for me this so-called contradiction of two WOMEN taking on some aspects of hetero roles means that we’ve thrown out all the usual definitions and expectations. anything goes.

angiesyounglover: REALLY not interested. REALLY not me. I think initiation is extremely hot – both giving and receiving. And I’m the kind of person that just can’t sit still and let my girl make me feel good because I just get so excited that I just want to do it to her! What’s more fun than watching your lover experience a mind-blowing orgasm courtesy of you. How much they turn you on, how much you love them – it can all be released and thrown back and then and you get to see them enjoy it! Only an idiot would want to miss out on that. If you’re just going to lie there, I’m kicking you out of lesbian culdesack. Take that shit out of here.

BAngieB: I’m sorry…what? I…what? Don’t reciprocate? What? That is fucked up. SUCH AS.

Low / Sporty / Blue Jean / Chapstick Femme

(From Lesbians & Dating): A femme lesbian who is, perhaps, not quite so stereotypically feminine as a high femme, usually preferring jeans and a blouse or t-shirt to skirts for everyday. Also known as a Blue Jean Femme. A Blue Jean Femme is a lesbian who identifies as femme but prefers jeans and more casual clothing to dresses and skirts. A sport dyke is a lesbian, who more than anything, identifies with being an athlete. She may also dress in a manner that would give the impression she is an athlete, like baseball caps, sweatshirts and jeans. Chapstic Femme: Another term for androgynous or Sporty Lesbian. Origins: Introduced in the late 1990’s to take on all those lipstick lesbians out there!

SBJ: Lots and lots of my femme friends fall into these categories. They’re the flirty gals who think I’m high femme, totally freak out when they see a real high femme, and will wear skirts and dresses on special dates or occasions, but prefer comfy trousers or jeans and all manner of lovely tops – crisp white dress shirts, low-cut camisoles or wifebeaters with fancy bra straps peeking out. M notes (even though it’s TOTES not her turn) that it also sounds like lots of my straight girlfriends. Unlike me, low femmes don’t have the same aversion to balls (sports, you dirty hoors) and often take up softball, kick boxing or soccer, sometimes rocking a more sporty look 24/7. I totally have my low femme days! It’s really cute because when I do bust out an actual t-shirt from time to time, M makes a big fuss over it.

angiesyounglover: I like the sound of this category. It’s like an “in-the-middle” kind of femme. Is this the “hoodie” category? Because, come fall and winter, I LIVE in hoodies. I would say I roll back and forth between this and Simple Femme – though some might say different. Hey, I played the softball, I wear the jeans, and it really doesn’t bother me if I walk out of the door looking slighty boyish OR just not as put together as I would usually be. But knowing me, this probably comes from the above said desire to try and channel something somewhat butch. Yeah, it never happens, but maybe someday.

BAngieB: I think that this is the category that describes most of us, as it is pretty broad. Again, it doesn’t describe me really, because I don’t watch or play sports, and I would never wear a baseball cap because that would mess up my hair. I do, however, have a pair of tomboy shorts, which I wear with a t-shirt and Chucks – it’s pretty butch, but I still totally look like a girl. I think the “invisible femme” description that Skinny mentioned best describes me. Having now read each category, I realize that none of these terms really describe me. I am just me: B. Like so many of us, I hate labels to describe me, but I still use them to describe others. [Can I just say I am looking forward to the butch/tomboy descriptions/ pictures next week? And, you know, each of our three tomboys each fit into different categories, so maybe they should just use pictures of themselves, as they are a cute bunch.]


We hope that was an enlightening little foray into the world of different lezzie looks and lust! As you can see, these identities and the strong feelings that accompany them are fluid and vary from person to person, often depending on their own experiences, and that’s always important to remember. Being respectful of them is often the safest way to keep from inadvertently offending someone or putting them into a category they couldn’t be further from. I’m always fascinated by how much identities change shape and ebb and flow with a person. Finally, trust us, if you’re still a little confused, so are we! Keeping up with all this (what you see here is really only covering about 30% of the lesbian world) can be arduous work!

*Contributed by SkinnyBoneJones, Inchworm, AngiesYoungLover & BangieB*