Let’s talk about Shane McCutcheon without talking about having sex with her. Is it possible? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to try. If you don’t know who Shane is, you’re probably straight. She is either famous or infamous (but mostly famous) among lesbians and anyone else who watches The L Word (but let’s face it, that’s mostly lesbians).
The L Word, to quickly describe, is the same-sex version of Sex and the City, except it airs on Showtime because it’s really more like lesbian porn. Lots of explicit sex scenes weaved together by a complicated and drama-filled story-line. Is it addicting? Yes. Does it sometimes get on my nerves? Yes again.
If I had to describe a few of the characters on The L Word with only one sentence each, Alice would be the self-doubting but staunchly bisexual chick who holds the whole group of friends together, Bette would be the seductive patriarch who believes she has an inalienable right to control everything, and Shane would be the promiscuous androgyne with a heart of gold who doesn’t need a dick to be one.
If you’re on the show (aside from her friends), you hate to love her or you love to hate her. Usually both at once. If you watch the show, you love her, because you don’t have to deal with her anti-commitment issues but you get to watch all of her sex scenes, so it’s a much more cut and dry bargain.
Her obsessive fan-base is crazed. Don’t believe me? I Google image searched the word “shane” alone and the majority of the results were the Shane I was looking for. That just doesn’t happen. On the first page of my Google search for “shane tumblr” I found one, two, three, four, right away, top results, fully developed! And even the fans who don’t create blogs in her honor mean business. In every conversation I’ve had about The L Word with someone who actually watches it, Shane’s name is dropped in the first two sentences, usually with a swoon or a wink or some other crude gesture implying the unyielding desire to be given to Shane as a wrapped Christmas present.
So this is my own way of having some control over the conversation.
I finally found a tumblr which addresses the question that interests me: What makes Shane so desirable? Sifting through the dozens of people who don’t know what it is or why she’s so sexy but she just…is, and the people who find her, just, so hard not to love, I did find five decently thoughtful and plausible answers. Here they are:
- pareidolia- answered: She’s the fierce hot bitch everyone wishes they had the guts to act like.
- karanakem answered: she’s the bad girl that you wanna make good. simple and sweet HAHA
- sowhatilied answered: because even though she has immense swag, and shes hot as fuck, she still has her adorable innocent and venerable moments. (I think this person meant vulnerable.)
- 2fast4you answered: Her eyes. Her personality that says “I dare you.”
- encirclegeorgia answered: cause no one can have her. Everyone desires what they can’t have.
I think these ideas have a lot of merit, and they give more depth to my developing theory. You see, whether you like it or not, Shane is undeniably the most stereo-typically masculine character on the show. She’s the butch poster girl, with her lanky body, husky voice, and killer smile. She has confidence and a fear of commitment; she is always sexually ready but emotionally unavailable. She has other traits as well, of course, but these are the standbys of her character. She is the definition of “dyke” as we understand the word. Not lesbian. Dyke. There is a subtle but important difference.
I find it disturbing that a character which reinforces these and other gay promiscuity stereotypes of the past can be so revered and adored by the community she is doing nothing to help. But it’s more than that.
I’m convinced that if Shane were a male character—if nothing were different about her except for her anatomy—she would be considered an asshole with no exceptions. Because she is a biological woman, we make different assumptions about what she says and does than we would make for a man.
For instance, we see her moments of caring and insight to be her true self shining through, but for a man, moments like these would be considered exceptions to a rule. She claims wisdom about women that is granted to her because she is a woman, regardless of her actions, but a man who claimed such wisdom would be marked as arrogant and annoying. In fact, she makes a surprising amount of sexist and over-generalized comments about women that are forgiven because she is one.
The whole idea that Shane can understand how women think and feel because she is a woman is based on the assumption that all women think and feel the same way! A “woman’s experience” is not biological, it’s cultural, and if you live a different culture, you have a different experience. Shane is a nice person and a good friend because she is an observer and she sees what makes her friends feel better and what they like. That’s not the trait of a woman; that’s the trait of a smart person.
Shane is famously inconsiderate of women she sleeps with, and kind of a jerk to them. She assumes most women want to fuck her and if they give her the chance, she will take it. This is a classic male behavior. She is a famously loyal friend. But the two worlds never collide. This is also a classic male behavior. For Shane, women can be her friends or they can be her temporary lovers, but never both.
I’m all for cutting men some slack and giving them the benefit of the doubt, and I don’t think it’s right that these things are considered to be masculine, but they are.
So why do strong-willed feminists (as most lesbians are) who would shudder at the thought of handing themselves over to a sexist, arrogant, emotionally unavailable, commitment-phobic man have no problem giving themselves to Shane?
Why is it safer and sexier because she is a woman?