2. Myths and stereotypes about violence in lesbian partnerships

Many prejudiced assumptions about violence in lesbian relationships can be traced back to the fact that the opposite-sex partnerships are considered the norm. Same-sex partnerships are often viewed and interpreted against the background of heterosexuality.

  • Because in opposite-sex relationships the man is usually violent towards the woman, it is analogously assumed that in violent lesbian relationships, the more “masculine” appearing partner is the perpetrator. However, experience shows that a classification of this nature is not possible. Lesbian partnerships are not structured in accordance with the heterosexual pattern, i.e. the couple is not necessarily made up of a seemingly “male” and a seemingly “female” partner.

  • It is also assumed that if persons are of the same biological gender, they also share a physical equality that allows the victim either to defend herself or to leave the partnership. Consequently, violent confrontations are all too often trivialised as a “conflict between equals”. These assumptions deny the multiplicity of dependency structures within a partnership that cannot be balanced out by physical means and lead, among other things, to the mistaken assumption that “violence among women” does not lead to severe physical injury and even death. Experience shows that this is less frequently the case than in opposite-sex partnerships, but cannot be excluded.  Rather, it must be assumed that many lesbian victims do not seek (medical) help because they fear possible discrimination and that consequently less can be said about the actual severity and extent of violence.

  • A further prejudice is that lesbian women in general, and especially lesbian perpetrators of violence, assume male norms and values. The means of dealing with one’s own aggression is part of socialisation and gender specific: While men are permitted a more open and outwards directed expression of aggression and this is viewed as an element of masculinity, this perspective is not part of the social image of femininity. Even if lesbian women adopted values that are only permitted men, they would not find comparable social acceptance as men. An aggressive, even violent man may have social acceptance, an aggressive or violent woman does not. Violent lesbian women are therefore breaking norms twice, their psychosexual identity is not of a heterosexual orientation and in addition they are violent. In conclusion however, it can be stated that only few women adopt values that are generally considered male for their personal concept of life – with the consequence that they are not recognised by those who perceive heterosexuality as the norm.
The prejudices and stereotypes presented here are found not only in heterosexuals, but also in lesbians and gays.

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Funded by:and
European Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth.

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