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The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  1,138 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Gay & Lesbian Studies, Homosexuality, Women's Studies ...more
Paperback, 502 pages
Published May 1st 1992 by Alyson Books
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 ·  1,138 ratings  ·  18 reviews

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Ariel ✨
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt-general
I've been looking for stories like these for a long time. I'm glad I finally found the time to read them.

I would love for there to be an ebook version someday so this text could reach a wider audience. Here are some quotes that jumped out at me:

"After I left home my brother found out that I hung out in the Starlet Lounge and he and his friends used to come and taunt us. There was nothing that could be done about that, because that’s what the bars were, that’s where they made their money—with th
On a major Joan Nestle kick. Even though The Persistent Desire gets referenced all the time in newer books, I couldn't find it in any bookstore and had to special order. Well worth the postage, and a great one to read aloud. The book feels like a conversation held under a big warm tent that could only have been pitched by a great humanist editor like Nestle. Her busy mending and minding of these stories is evident in the way it's knitted all together, beautifully patterned by Nestle web-spinning ...more
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
This has some issues and not just due to its age.
Crucial to the femme-butch history, this anthology is diverse, incredible, and well written.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've never felt any affinity with a butch or femme label, but (to my surprise) I loved this. There is a great variety of talented voices captured here in a variety of prose and poetry, fiction and not.

I recently read a lesbian history book, and reading an overview of all the lesbian cultures that sprang up throughout the years made me tired. For the most part, the cultures came off as exhausting and restrictive. But this book shed a different light on Butch/Femme culture and hearing about differ
Some of my favorite pieces from this [for my reference]

Gayle Rubin "Of Calamities and Kings: Reflections on butch, gender, and boundaries"

Pat Califa "Diagnostic Tests"'

Bonni Barringer "When Butches Cry"

"Recollecting History, Renaming Lives: Femme Stigma and the Feminist 70s and 80s"

Rita Laporte "The Butch Femme Question"

Barbara Smith "The Dance of Masks"
Sassafras Lowrey
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
MUST READ! without a doubt my favorite Butch/Femme book - a beautiful and powerful anthology that has held up to the test of time, core to a Butch/Femme literary cannon
Aradia V
Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Very good history of the butch/femme dynamic...obviously a bit out of date for current dynamics..but we should all know the stories of those who came before us.
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2020
As an anthology, this was naturally a mixed bag - some very good bits and some quite dire. Overall though, I think it is both enjoyable and important reading. My favourite was Of Catamites and Kings: Reflections on butch, gender, and boundaries by Gayle Rubin.
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, nonfiction
Wish I had a physical copy so I could go through and highlight all the thought-provoking, gut-punching, affirming passages.
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: so-gay
I place a high value on knowing where your community started and how far it has come, so this is a pretty important book for me. You should approach it as a history book, though, not a present day "reader" on butch/femme things, because it is a fairly dated perspective. ...more
Dec 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lesbianstories
This book really synthesized and solidified my identity as a fem. I loved the historical perspective on queer culture. It's really affirming of the roles that queers have taken over the years that are not generally celbrated. Bless Joan Nestle! ...more
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
oh joan, how could i have ever found femme without you? one of my favorite covers too.
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely awesome
I am not someone who reads books a second time but I've read this one at least three times.
Kelly Applegate
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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Joan Nestle writes and edits essays, erotic fiction, poetry, and short stories. She is an activist, and among many actions has co-founded the Lesbian Herstory Archives to preserve records of lesbian lives and communities and currently coordinates the Women in Black protests against Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands. ...more

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Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
162 likes · 60 comments
“The difference between the butch and the queen is rooted in the system of male supremacy. Gay male camp is based not simply on the incongruous juxtaposition of femininity and maleness, but also on the reordering of particular power relationships inherent in our society’s version of masculinity and femininity. The most obvious cause for the minimum development of camp among lesbians was that masculinity was not and still isn’t as incongruous as femininity in twentieth century American culture and therefore not as easily used as a basis for humor. Concomitantly although individual women might be able to sexually objectify a man, women has a group did not have the social power to objectify men in general. Therefore, such objectification could never be the basis for a genre of humor with wide appeal. But why didn’t camp develop and thrive within the lesbian community itself? Because the structures of oppression were such that lesbians never really escaped from male supremacy. In lesbians’ actual struggles in the bars or out on the streets, authority was always male. For queens to confront male authority was a confrontation between two men, on some level equals. The queen was playing with male privilege, which was his by birthright. For women to confront male authority is to break all traditional training and roles. Without a solid organization of all women, this requires taking on a male identity, beating men at their own game. Passive resistance or the fist is most appropriate for the situation, though not a very good basis for theater and humor.” 1 likes
“Politically correct sexuality is a paradoxical concept. One of the most deeply held opinions in feminism is that women should be autonomous and self-directed in defining their sexual desire, yet when a woman says “This is my desire,” feminists rush in to say, “No, no, it is the prick in your head; women should not desire that act.” But we do not yet know enough about what women– any women– desire. The real problem here is that we stopped asking questions too early in the lesbian and feminist movement, and rushed to erect what appeared to be answers into the formidable and rigid edifice that we have now. Our contemporary lack of curiosity also affects our view of the past. We don’t ask butch-femme women who they are; we tell them. We don’t explore the social life of working-class lesbian bars in the 1940’s and 1950’s; we simply assert that all those women were victims. Our supposed answers closed our ears and stopped our analysis. Questions and answers about lesbian lives that deviate from the feminist model of the 1970’s strike like a shock wave against the movement’s foundation, yet this new wave of questioning is an authentic one, coming from women who have helped create the feminist and lesbian movement that they are now challenging into new growth. If we close down exploration, we will be forcing some women once again to live their sexual lives in a land of shame and guilt, only this time they will be haunted by the realization that it was not the patriarchal code they had failed, but the creed of their own sisters who said they came in love. Curiosity builds bridges between women and between the present and past; judgement builds the power if some over others. Curiosity is not trivial; it is respect one life pays to another. It is a largeness of mind and heart that refuses to be bound by decorum or by desperation. It is hardest to keep alive in the times it is most needed, the times of hatred, of instability, of attack. Surely these are such times.” 0 likes
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