Sonia Johnson and Why Lesbians Should Stop
Worshipping Women Who Hate Us
Friends have asked why I bothered writing about Sonia Johnson, and the reason is that she is a perfect example of a Lesbian-hating woman who got into a power position in our Radical Lesbian Feminist community. She is still influential, but, more importantly, she follows a pattern that we need to recognize for our own safety, as individuals and communities. I want us to be prepared to recognize how and why such women hate us, and what we can do about it.
Part of my work is to make the truth public so women stop feeling so alone and betrayed. Women who are opposed to fighting racism, classism, and all oppressions, are simply not Radical Feminists or any kind of feminists, so why do some of those racist, classist, Lesbian-hating women have devoted Radical Feminist followers? Do the followers not actually read or hear them?
I call out anyone claiming to be a woman who isn’t, anyone claiming to be a Lesbian who isn’t, anyone claiming to be a Radical Feminist who isn’t, and anyone claiming to be a Lesbian Separatist who isn’t. That is my right as a Lesbian who has been a Separatist longer than anyone else I know and has been defending Separatism since 1970.
Most galling is when someone like Sonia Johnson, who came out much later and benefited from the years we spent making it easier for women like her to come out, then is declared a “foremother of Lesbian Separatism,” and slanders us with:
“What’s the point of being lesbian, period?” Jade asked. “The more I’m around women who call themselves lesbians, the more I realize I’m not one….”
“Me, either,” Sonia said dreamily, nearly blissed out by the head massage she was being given. Jade: “…Most Lesbians are the most male-identified women on the face of the earth.” Sonia: “Lesbian culture is simply male culture with the pronouns changed.” Jade: “They’re still taking care of men, or becoming separatists – both reactions to men and therefore male-centered behavior.” (P. 344 – 346, “Out of This World,” 1993, by Sonia Johnson with Jean Tait/Jade DeForest.)
No, Lesbians are the LEAST male-identified women on earth because we are the only women who not only say no to men, but choose our own kind to love. We are the biggest threat to patriarchy. It’s the women who choose men (het and bisexual women) who most take care of men. And Lesbian Separatism is not a reaction to men or being male-centered – we ignore men and center other Lesbians and women, in spite of severe punishment and oppression. But Lesbian Separatists are also convenient scapegoats that most liberal to right “wing feminists” target at some point to increase status and to avoid acknowledging that we are proof that there are other choices women can make.
Sonia and Jean/Jade know this, so why are they lying about us? They also must know that women who have chosen to make their lives revolve so much around males, as Sonia did for decades, and who once said she was “hopelessly heterosexual,” are actually the most male-identified women. Women so steeped in maleness need to work on themselves to extricate or they continue doing men’s work for them as collaborators, like Sonia and Jean do. (One of the benefits of ex-het privilege is to brag about their men, including pornographic details, to lord over other Lesbians. Sonia: “I had such sensitive breasts that all Vince had to do was take one of my nipples in his mouth and I’d have an orgasm.” p.41. But she vilifies Lesbians throughout these books for caring about orgasms. (Who wants women to not care about our orgasms? – men.)
Hating men does not always mean loving women.
Sonia and Jean have an invested interest in being our bosses and actually telling us that Lesbians together are more male than het couples. “Two is the ideal number for inequality, for sadism, for the reproduction of patriarchy.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonia_Johnson
Even more upsetting, why do any feminists continue supporting and promoting Sonia Johnson? I believe that Lesbians, like other oppressed people, often have been so desperate for a leader, for someone to help tell them what to do, that they either forgot or never learned basic Lesbian Feminism, which says we have no leaders. We want equality. And anyone who sets themselves up as our leader is trouble.
Why on Earth Do Sonia and Jean Hate Lesbians So Much?
After some friends became obsessed with Sonia, I got The Ship that Sailed into the Living Room, 1991, and Out of This World, 1993. (They are so trite and badly-written, and right wing to libertarian, that I haven’t been able to bear reading her earlier or later books, so don’t know if she’s flipped back from her Lesbian-hating in order to not lose Lesbian support, adoration, and money.) (Unless I add “1991” to the page numbers, I’m quoting the 1993 book.)
It’s clear that Sonia read the strong Radical Lesbian Feminist politics from our newspapers, journals, and later books that many of us wrote from the early Seventies on, but she pretends she invented it. It also seems clear that she read our book, Dykes-Loving-Dykes, which I co-wrote (with Linda Strega and Ruston) in 1990, because so many of her more radical ideas are exactly as we said in our book that few or no other feminists have written about. Some of it is almost word for word, such as describing the depth of males’ hatred of females, women’s commitment to men, the family, patriarchy, sado-masochism, and even gay men demanding we give them our Lesbian blood while Lesbians are dying from cancer, etc. https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/, https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/chapteronethe-crimes-of-mankind/
Unfortunately, she completely ignores our explanations and answers for many of her relationship and “sex” questions because that would mean she would have to face her own privilege. Her slander of Lesbian Separatists is aimed at our book and us, but of course she will not face us directly or honestly. https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/chapter-three-heterosexism-among-lesbians-is-lesbian-hating/
Another simple way to find out if someone is actually a real feminist is to find out whether they fight or support racism. Feminism and particularly Radical Lesbian Feminism is about fighting all inequalities and oppressions among us, while we try to make as equal a community as possible. Women who do not oppose racism and classism and all oppressions simply are not any kind of feminists. What better way to shame and silence Radical Lesbian Feminists than with this hateful, right wing, male-identified crap:
“You want to know what makes me the sickest? The hard-ons women get accusing each other of racism, sexism, ageism, ablebodiedism.… feeling superior to women who are not as politically correct as they are that they are in a constant state of emotional erections, ejaculating all over the place. I hate the blatant sado-masochism, the blatant male sex of it.” p.187. And: “Women in patriarchy have learned to get their jollies out of being on top….to tear other women down, to criticize them, to point out how politically incorrect they are, or gossip about them. It’s the spiritual equivalent of women going around with hard-ons, raping everything in sight.” p.190.
What real feminist enjoys seeing racism, classism, or other oppressions? This says everything about how Sonia never learned basic feminism but imagines she knows more than anyone else. She believes that fighting what is harming and even killing women – oppression — is actually a game about being “politically correct” and being superior. She thinks objecting to racism, sexism, ageism, and ableism are male and sado-masochistic and like raping women, but not actually being racist, sexist, etc.?
And why does she use such disgusting male terms to taunt Lesbians? Well, it takes a woman who’s chosen intimacy with men and witnessed “hard-ons” and “ejaculating” to even know what they are, so she immediately asserts dominance with her het privilege. Women like her want us to picture what they once so adored, which means subjecting us to non-consensual sado-masochism. This is also classic het women’s rage at men turned onto Lesbians. I’ve seen it too many times.
For someone whose entire book mentions sado-masochism endlessly, Sonia sure is good at being a heartless, sadistic bully. Why does she not know that objecting to oppression means getting worse treatment as an inferior and being slammed down, just as Sonia is doing to us? Who on earth wants to go through that? It’s worse when you’re the one objecting to being oppressed, but even when you object to someone else being harmed, you generally pay a high price for daring to get out of line. However, who does feel superior are those who don’t care about the Lesbians or women being hurt.
Yes, anyone who has been a RLF for any length of time has run into women who use issues to bully other women, but that is done in every political movement and does not make those issues not real. It is generally more privileged women who do this kind of bullying for power, like Sonia admits to herself: “What a gigantic relief, too, to give up the obligations of critiquing other women’s political correctness, not to have to decide if they were being patriarchal in any way—racist or elitist or ageist or able-bodiest—and oppressing them about it, trying to force them to stop.” p.162, 1991.)
This is where Sonia reveals she has played both sides since she identifies with being the “P.C. police” in terms of lecturing women and Lesbians about what they have done “wrong” – not to have oppression stop, but because of the thrill it gives her:
“I had noticed all along that my sexually-based sadistic behavior infused every social interaction…. Judging from my sample of one, I’m fairly certain that most of us get a rush at another woman’s expense…. Recently I noticed a distinct sense of disappointment when a woman with whom I was talking praised a friend we had in common. I was disappointed because she seemed to be heading toward making a derogatory remark, not an accolade and I was anticipating the quick jolt of pseudo-superiority and well-being that I knew I would get from it….in the illumination of that moment, I recognized sadism, my old companion. ….I am always saddened to find him still lurking about inside.” p. 204, 1991.
More reversal of reality: “I’m better because I’ve suffered more. I’m a woman of color, or I’ve been incested, or raped, or I’m poor and don’t have a college degree and wear second-hand clothes.” p. 229. Obviously, Sonia can’t imagine for a moment suffering from racism or classism or other oppressions. Telling someone to stop is not “oppressing” them. All she can think of is what attention she will lose if women care about women who are more oppressed and work to stop that oppression. She doesn’t even want us to be political, now that she’s done with electoral politics herself. p. 215.
Women wanting equality must be such a tremendous threat to Sonia that she wants to make sure she is not around real Lesbian Feminists. After all, she is a Euro-descent, class privileged (not just background but currently), able-bodied, and fairly young (at that time), Fem, ex-het, ex-wife mother who seems to surround herself with equally privileged women (who are not the majority of Lesbians in the US or the world). But then she is so above most women because she doesn’t have to worry about survival concerns like working (she recommends women stop working but doesn’t suggest how to pay rent, eat, etc. p. 215) or where to live (she mentions casually seeing a house she wants to buy, though she already has an eleven-room house, courtesy of het privilege from being married to Mr. Johnson. p. 25, 1991). She even has multiple rooms to choose from, though so many women are now sharing rooms in order to not be homeless. She never refers to Lesbian relationships (her highness is not going to make me stop using the term “relationship”) being difficult because of poverty, over-work, rarely having time together, living in dangerous areas, being homeless, dealing with disabilities, separated from lovers who could not get green cards, etc. Sonia is the epitome of a privileged, arrogant woman with too much time on her hands.
This is what she said about how trying to have diversity makes collectives fail – “One woman of color, one differently abled, one old, one poor, one working class woman for every so many middle class WASPs? …we have to choose women we know and like, who are as much like us as possible.“ p. 282. That sounds horribly boring as well as elitist and entitled. What if the women we know and like are not like us? She is projecting her vision of a segregated community with a lineup that doesn’t make sense.
Because middle class WASPs are a minority, other kinds of women will be automatically represented in collectives, unless those with privilege are making it deliberately unsafe for us/them. Is she even aware that her privileged group is not the majority of Lesbians, who are poor and working class, and increasingly of Color?
Sonia refers to her background as “fundamentalist Christian” WASP when it isn’t at all. She knows she is not even from a “Protestant” background since Mormonism is a bizarre, particularly misogynist cult founded by a man who wanted to own multiple women, and until relatively recently, had a strict racist hierarchy. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/darron-t-smith-phd/the-mormon-church-disavow_b_4440244.html (Does this sound remotely like a variation of christianity? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a3eJC3qAFU)
So she grew up feeling superior to other people in the world in a cult where members not only proselytize their cult across the world but even baptize dead people from other cultures, including Jewish people who died in the Holocaust, to make them Mormons after death, against their will. (“The ceremonies first drew public attention in the 1990s when it was discovered they were performed on a few hundred thousand Holocaust victims.”) https://www.jta.org/2017/12/22/news-opinion/united-states/mormons-are-baptizing-jewish-holocaust-victims-lubavitcher-rebbe-and-celebrities-researcher-says
Sonia refers to being a missionary to “primitive” Samoans, but makes no mention of how Mormons used Samoans to turn them against their own culture in order to be fanatical supporters of right wing Mormonism. p.82,1991. (Mormons bussed Pacific Islander converts into California to picket for Proposition 8, to eliminate Lesbians’ rights.)
Also, I’m guessing she is trying to head off future objections to these incredibly anti-feminist books. (Unlike the badly-written anachronistic fictional friends she fills the book with, she likely had some real Radical Lesbian Feminist friends who would not be so easily eliminated.)
So, How Lesbian Was Sonia?
There are places in the books where Sonia reveals how much she never bothered to learn basic Lesbian Feminism and does not seem to know the difference between women and men. “The result is a dynamic that makes the women’s movement potentially the least safe place for women but which renders Lesbian liaisons even more hazardous than official marriages….” p.102, 1991. The main cause of death by murder is from men who women are intimate with, so of course women in Lesbian relationships are far safer.
It’s important to realize how much of her books are projection. She is always identifying with the oppressors among women, including making up scenarios like I have never witnessed, though I’ve been in a Lesbian community since 1970. She tells how at a lecture a Lesbian said she wasn’t het any more but still dreamt about sex with men got an outraged angry reaction from Lesbians. I don’t believe it. (If any Lesbians reacted like that, I’d love to meet them). Generally such women are considered far more important than Lesbians who don’t talk about their het experiences. (Meanwhile, we can never get away from het fucking talk, which is everywhere and is a way to marginalize Lesbians and celibate women). Even at a local support group that was for Lesbians upset about Lesbian friends and lovers going back to men, the “facilitator” did a grand confession about how she was fucking with her ex-husband. Instead of concern for the Lesbians the meeting was supposedly for, the facilitator garnered complete focus and support. Basic Lesbian Feminism is about supporting those in the oppressed position, not adding to the adoration of the privileged.
For all her naming how terrible men are, Sonia writes about her husband (“Rick” in 1991 and “Vince” in 1993) as if he is just another “lover” with her Lesbian lovers, including speaking of him while in the arms of her lover:
“…during neither of my two marriages—to Rick and then to Susan….” p. 37. With Vince, I liked the touching and found the sex tolerable, even pleasurable at times….Sex with women wasn’t a whole lot different….” p. 99.
Not “a whole lot different?” I have never heard a real Lesbian say that before. After all, we go through hell and risk our lives to love our own kind. Women who follow their hearts to love another woman are motivated by some of the strongest love and emotion imaginable, while women who chose men first are in awe of how different it is to make love with a real Lesbian, as opposed to getting fucked by a man. It’s a universe apart. Plus being a Lesbian is about love, not “sex.” And maybe that’s the problem with Sonia and Jean.
Neither seems to have any idea how it would feel to fall in love with her best friend when they were girls before embracing males and male/hetero sex. Instead, they are mired in the female-hating mess of male supremacy. It never occurs to them that it would be a world of difference from first choosing and loving our own kind.
But then has Sonia ever learned to love another woman? Other than what she can get from women, I see no sign of it. But if she has chosen to never truly love another woman, she is not a Lesbian. (This is why Narcissists and Psychopaths are never Lesbians – they will not or cannot love other women. They may target Lesbians as being the most likely to give them what they need, but that does not make them Lesbians.)
Sonia: “Relationships are relationships, Harper, no matter who’s doing them.” p.16.
Then why not stay with your men, Sonia? She goes on throughout her books about how vile males are and how different from women, so what is this about other than to shame Lesbians?
If there was no difference, then Lesbians would not be executed in more male supremacist countries, and Lesbians would not be attacked, incarcerated, tortured and murdered in the “better” countries.
Sonia is full of Lesbian-hating attitudes. When Jean is in pain, Sonia actually wonders if she has “AIDS!” p. 252. Why on earth would a Lesbian have AIDS? This is the kind of thing het women wonder about us because they confuse Lesbians, who are at the lowest risk, with gay men, at the highest risk. Why doesn’t her highness know this?
It’s also revealing how obsessed Sonia is with what men think about her, including seeing her legs in her “short shorts.” “I’ve struggled with these legs for a long time…. Especially when there are women present with very attractive legs.” p.226 “The beach had been jammed with people, right down to the water. As she approached each group, an obvious, sudden, and stunned silence had fallen. No one could believe Those Awful Legs. Her legs. Strange what power those darkly hairy middle aged legs had over conversation.” Why would any of those people even bother to look at her at all, and why would she care so much unless she believes the male con about what is “attractive?”
Sonia is also following the Narcissist pattern not in just individual relationships, but the entire Lesbian community, who she ran to for support and who she praised at first, like how a Narcissist courts a lover. Then, like when Narcissists finish with the once adored lover, she turns on the entire community to tell we are as bad as her most hated enemies (men, except for her adored sons.)
Sonia is so self-centered that she never stops to think that other women have different ways of thinking and feeling. Everything is from her vantage point of arrogance and superiority. A friend commented that she was appalled when Sonia described her relationship with Susan as a gigantic luxury liner with rows of uniformed crewmen standing at attention: “Proudly we congratulated ourselves on having one of the grandest relation Ships in the world, a Ship so superior to everyone else’s that we were flooded with pity for the rest of humankind. …How humiliating to live–as so many of our friends did—with sooty tugboats chugging around their living rooms. How tragic that even more existed with lowly canoes….” p.1,1991. (Don’t even get me started on the racism and classism of that.)
My friend commented: “It’s like rich people bragging about their riches and then complaining about how hard their lives are, because “crewmen” tell them what to do. I thought that perhaps if she had a simple “lowly” canoe there wouldn’t be a crewman to boss her, but she would have to paddle on her own… and why would she even listen to a man anyway?” And of course Sonia discusses her “relation Ships” with hubby and Susan as if they were the same.
Lesbians and women are a social species, and we need each other for survival, friendship, and love. Of course we will do things for each other and of course we have the right to expect reciprocity. But Sonia’s manifesto is about how she wants only what she wants at the moment. She is still angry at being her hubby’s “slave” (ignoring the racism in using that word for a voluntary lucrative contract), as well as the immense privilege she still is getting. p.83, 1991. Susan seems to have taken care of her every need, including likely introducing Sonia to Lesbian culture and community, not to mention herself, which is a phenomenal gift. Instead of feeling love and gratitude, Sonia rebels like a spoiled, tantruming brat and yearns for her “Utopia,” where everyone just takes and does what she wants. p.79, 1991. She doesn’t have a thought about what her lover(s) might need or what boundaries they might have.
Sonia and Jean’s shaming of Lesbians is endless. At one of their workshops, describes in humiliating detail how hard it was to make love with Marcy so the audience could laugh. Then Jean referred to a sociologist who said that out of thousands of women, “95% admitted to faking orgasms at least part of the time, and 75% admitted to faking orgasm all the time.” p. 257. Jean admits to being part of the group that faked orgasms all the time. (With her men?) I know hundreds of Lesbians but don’t know of any who have faked orgasms. Sonia: “Those statistics….mean that the odds are very high that the woman you are sitting next to, the woman you are in a relationship with, is lying about what she feels in bed. She’s probably faking orgasm…” p.258.
But these are not statistics about Lesbians. Why are they shaming and terrorizing Lesbians at a supposed Lesbian workshop with studies done on het women being fucked?
Jean continues: “Then I reached the place where I wasn’t satisfied with faking just once. I faked multiple orgasms and pleased my partners even more, made them feel even better about their skills as lovers. … it was not unusual for me to fake twelve or thirteen orgasms in fifteen minutes.” This is one of the cruelest things I’ve read that ex-het “Lesbians” do to lovers. How can anyone who has lied to her Lesbian lovers about something so intimate, as Jean has, be trusted to tell the truth about anything? (That puts Jean’s praising of Sonia giving her orgasms in a whole other light. Did Sonia notice?)
Sonia again: “Some of you are very aware that you fake both orgasm and pleasure. But I’m sure there are others of you sitting here who think our statistics have nothing to do with you, like Jean did until a week ago—faking everything but really believing you don’t…really believing that the writhing and moaning you turn on at the crucial moment is an orgasm.” p. 258. So though Jean had been lecturing the audience of Lesbians, Sonia took control back in order to let the audience know that basically Jean is not sure what an orgasm is and didn’t realize that until a week before, until her sex guru, Sonia, helped her. Talk about massive mindfuck and again grooming Jean to not trust her own perceptions.
Meanwhile, notice how they try to humiliate and shame Lesbians who make love with each other, reducing rare Lesbian passion to grotesque and embarrassing “writhing and moaning.” Then, to further embarrass Lesbians at their workshop, Jean says: “In a group of more than forty women, as least a dozen wrote that they watched videos of men fucking each other in order to be able to have sex.” p. 259. Again, I don’t believe it. And it’s interesting they include this when they start describing doing things with each other that they also advise other women to do, and which gay men are famous for, like obsessing about piss, shit, anuses, etc.
The mystery to me is not how this false prophet conned Lesbian Feminists, but why did anyone with Lesbian Feminist politics become her follower? Why do they not realize how many Lesbians and women she is harming? This is not just about one privileged arrogant woman who hates Lesbians, but about the phenomenon of such women who come into our Lesbian community after being dumped by their husbands or boyfriends, looking for a better deal, and bringing their male-identified politics to use as a weapon to manipulate and control us. They take over what real Lesbians have created, all the while posturing as being superior to us. (This is very similar to what the men who identify as Lesbians are doing to us.)
I believe her con worked because Sonia plays both victim (getting women to defend and explain her hatred of Lesbians) and bully.
I first thought I would focus on how Sonia projects her female-hating onto us but I soon realized that her books are a study in sado-masochism, which she is obsessed with. A clue to what she is really thinking is found in her vehement projections as well as her increasingly sadistic “experiments” with traumatized Jean. It’s best to read these books with Radical Lesbian Feminist politics in mind since trying to explain the basics would take an entire book. (And remember they admit the 1993 book is fiction.)
Prophet for Profit –
Manifesto of the Self-Indulgent Privileged
Cult leaders don’t just want monetary profit. They want to be worshipped and adored, with followers who will do anything to prove their loyalty to them, no matter how destructive and self-hating.
Since 1993, I have dreaded writing about the Lesbian-hating and female-hating in Sonia Johnson’s books, but I became alarmed after finding out how much power she still has, including among young Lesbians in Europe who are trying to live how she recommends. Her own books reveal she is a self-centered, manipulative fraud, cleverly projecting ridicule and contempt onto Lesbians, but she has tremendous social power. Despite criticizing male hierarchies and claiming to hate men, she uses her “Dr. Johnson” title online and she keeps her ex-hubby’s last name. (If you have liked her and are thinking I’m being unfair, consider the serious harm she has done to Lesbians and other women.)
Sonia dumps lovers Susan and Marcy before she decides to divorce her sons, saying “Just call me the Great Emancipator.” p.169. She suddenly flips her politics from describing men throughout her books as being the most evil and repulsive beings imaginable to describing her own precious sons (and one daughter), ages 28, 26, 23, 17) as: “… all good looking, a couple of them gorgeous, all charming, witty, smart, even a couple of brilliant ones, all attentive to others and lots of fun to be around….I thought I loved them more than life itself.” She promises the 17 year old she’ll give him money and support until he graduates. “She wished him the best.” p.166 – 167.
I have never understood Sonia’s charisma, but her lectures are on YouTube. At her many workshops at women’s events, she uses the techniques of a fundamentalist preacher (yelling, sobbing, gesturing, and calling upon the audience to stand and cry and rant with her). She has been very effective in getting a worshipful following of feminists, including Lesbian Separatists. (My poverty class rural-raised mother warned me when I was young that fundamentalist preachers were con artists.)
Although some friends described Sonia as “woman hating” and “vulgar,” other friends were drawn to her because they haven’t heard or read the original Lesbian Feminist and Separatist politics that she plagiarized. They are hungry for books where women clearly name male crimes, including how patriarchy is destroying the earth. https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/chapteronethe-crimes-of-mankind/
For those who insist that there are good politics in Sonia Johnson’s books, which are not plagiarized, show us.
Many of her best ideas are directly stolen from earlier Radical Lesbian Feminists. Those of us who already knew and had written those politics many years earlier were wary of her. For those who saw her clearly and were not under her power, she seemed to be a very male-identified het woman who wanted to be the “feminist” equivalent of a Mormon prophet — since she certainly could not get power among Mormons. She tried to stay Mormon, even after identifying as a feminist, until they literally kicked her out. “Sonia, a fifth-generation Mormon, appealed her excommunication twice this year; both efforts failed.” (Sonia: “I still feel Mormon. Those men in Salt Lake City can’t decide who’s Mormon and who isn’t.” https://people.com/archive/sonia-johnson-vol-14-no-26/ and “Though church teaching maintains that excommunication cuts one off from God. Johnson insisted that she is convinced God has not abandoned her. “I’m sure he hasn’t,” he knows my heart.”)
Con artists gauge their marks by figuring out who will be most loving, loyal, devoted, and unquestioning. Women and Lesbians became her focus only after her men were done with her. Yet many self-hating Lesbians were grateful that a famous het woman who had run for president wanted to join our Lesbian community. (Again, this same dynamic happens when Lesbians and other women are grateful when men identify as us.)
There is no mention that her deciding to have other lovers fits in with traditional Mormonism, as opposed to being more radical or new.
The Proof is in their Words
I believe Sonia did not want to tarnish her cult image of being the Lesbian Feminist spiritual/relationship/sex “expert” by suddenly dumping Susan for other women, so she made an elaborate two-book explanation to head off speculation and criticism. After all, this is not just any famous Lesbian who left her lover and quickly replaced her, but a woman who had set herself up as the leader of all feminists as well as a quasi-religious cult figure who refers to her thoughts as her “Wise Old Woman” and “goddess,” and patronizes and lectures Lesbians about “sex” and relationships. Sonia slams down imaginary friend, “Della,” who is telling Jean and Sonia that of course they are having sex with each other: “I’m an expert on sex. I know what I’m talking about and I expect you to respect my expertise in this area as I respect yours in dentistry.” p.107.
Why does being a long-term het wife and mother make her a “sex expert” on Lesbians, who she seems to know very little about? And what kind of “sex expert” actually says to women “Your finger would respond like a clitoris if you were told it was a sexual organ”? p 61.
Why shouldn’t she be questioned – especially when her lectures as a “Lesbian Separatist” were growing increasingly Lesbian-hating and lucrative? (She was getting $1000 for speaking engagements by the late Eighties.)
Sonia’s 1991 book still included some basic feminism. She still wrote of “loving” other women and presented herself as part of a community by quoting and referring to specific Lesbian Feminists. But she started separating from Lesbians by accusing us of being like men and all about sex.
“….the word lover doesn’t mean lover at all. It simply means “sexer.” p.15, 1991. “…it was the designation “lover”–exclusive amorous and sexual—that I found most distasteful.” p.13. This is one of the most Lesbian-hating things I’ve read from a pretend feminist. “Lover” is not exclusively sexual, except to prurient male/het minds. It is about love and is a very old explicit Lesbian term. It is also a working class term, now mostly replaced in middle class-dominated communities by the more “proper” and cold “partner,” (which is how Jean/Jade is referred to online in relation to Sonia). Hets are much less threatened by Lesbians referring to “partners.” Yet, one of Sonia’s favorite words that she uses throughout her books is “aroused.”
She also keeps referring to “genital” relationships, reducing Lesbian love and passion to just “genitals” that could be female or male. What Lesbian talks like this?
By the 1993 book, Sonia almost completely replaced “love” with the male term “sex,” in an attempt to prove how vile Lesbians are. She then dumps Susan, who seems to have worked for free for Sonia for years, promoting her books, lectures, business, and Lesbian career, and is likely the woman who brought her out five years earlier. How much else did Susan do, since Sonia says she won’t cook because of having cooked for hubby and kids? (Other women are also described as volunteering to help Sonia.) Considering that Susan helped raise her kids, did they keep in contact? Susan is not allowed to speak for herself in the book, but she moves out of Sonia’s house (did Susan ever think of it as her home?) and seems to completely disappear. (I wish we knew her story.)
Sonia further insults to Susan by cruelly describing their relationship as “the corpse of society’s deadly dream of intimacy.” p. 67. Patriarchy never supports Lesbian love or relationships, so what is she talking about? In terms of how she treated Susan: “My direct verbal assaults were only the most obvious of my abusiveness in the relationShip.” What else did she do to Susan? Meanwhile, Susan doesn’t even get the months- or years-long grieving she gave hubby.
“Her troubles began last December when she was excommunicated from the Mormon Church…. A month later her husband of 17 years asked for a divorce. Remembering those days, Sonia says, ‘I still find myself sobbing.’” p. 41 …”months of grief.” Notice she says ”for the twenty years I was married to Vince….” as opposed to the actual 17 years it was. p.16) https://people.com/archive/sonia-johnson-vol-14-no-26/
“The divorce gave her the 11-room house in Sterling Park, Va., a Washington suburb…. Sonia commands up to $1,000 per appearance on the lecture circuit (she charges less for pro-ERA functions). A former English instructor with a Ph.D., she is writing a book about her troubles, and Norman Lear may do a movie.”
“…with the dowry from my twenty–year marriage I had bought a brand new townhouse in an excellent location…” p. 25. Ex-wives getting property from husbands are not “dowries,” but they certainly increase race and class segregation in our Lesbian communities when those women decide to come out. Not once does Sonia talk about any worries about income or her future. Her new house and land in New Mexico sound enormous, including having a “library.” Again, not a word about what such privilege means with so many Lesbians poor and homeless or close to it, but of course that explains more why most of her mentioned fictional friends are rich. There was talk about her having a Lesbian Separatist collective in 1993, but nothing about why it ended.
Why on earth does she feel justified in targeting such a hated and oppressed group as Lesbians anyway? She seems to project patriarchal couples and relationships directly onto Lesbians, ignoring that het couples are the foundation of male supremacy, while Lesbian couples and relationships are the biggest threats to patriarchy. If all women stopped being intimate with men, patriarchy would end. If all women chose to become Lesbians, it would end even more quickly. It’s amazing for two women to have the courage to love each other and name themselves Lesbians when it means losing privilege and being in danger, but instead of respect for us, she despises us. Why?
For all her pontificating about how Lesbians are worse than men, she never seems to question how warped her reality and judgement is. She has no idea of, nor does she want to learn about what it was like for girls and women who fell in love and became lovers without any contact with males or male propaganda about women and Lesbians. Of course we wouldn’t matter to her since she is obsessed with male hierarchy, even while denying it, but she never seems to have considered even for a moment that females with no intimate contact with males might have another way of thinking and feeling about relationships. She simply doesn’t want to know. She repeatedly tells us that all Lesbians and women have been het. She erases us. But then, as so many other ex-het supposed feminists have done before her, she reclaims the word “virgin” for herself. p. 320. (“Virgin” is a term for women who never said yes to men, and does not belong to women who did, like her. Either ex-hets denies such women exist, or they use it as a joke term for the inexperienced and ignorant.)
Sonia did seem to have experienced the tremendous ecstasy and power that being in love with another Lesbian can give (1991, p.174 – 179), but then she tries to find every possible way to say how harmful it is. Either being a Lesbian freaks out the cult religious fanatic she still seems to be or she is trying to find a way to have her own personal brand of selfish “Lesbianism” where she does nothing she doesn’t want to do and manipulates to get exactly what she does want from whoever she chooses as her submissive. (Yes, I did just say “submissive,” to Sonia’s dominance.)
Because she is so male and het-identified, and obsessed with sex and sado-masochism and doesn’t know how to love, she wants that to be true for real Lesbians. She has no clue who we are, but lectures us endlessly, wildly projecting men’s and het women’s worst fantasies onto us. She definitely does not want to ask our opinions because that would mean questioning herself and her hypocrisy. She might then have to stop trying to be our superior. But also real Lesbian Separatists will not accept her racism, classism, Lesbian-hating, etc., so better to slander and dismiss us.
Her promoting segregation is revealing:
Sonia admits in the beginning of the 1993 book that she made up most of the “friends” she writes about, so why does she deliberately portray Lesbians as privileged, repulsive, and stupid? She cleverly uses the classic set up where her fictional friends question and mildly argue with her while she wearily and patronizingly explains everything to them (if only they would just listen, but they won’t!) I can’t believe Sonia knew only such unaware women at this time, so I’m curious about how she actually might have been challenged. Certainly her trying to shame women who care about basic feminism and equality between women is calculated to have no one question her about anything, even as she arrogantly lectures women about every aspect of their lives.
Her made-up friends reveal Sonia and Jean’s values:
“Harper…was an elegant, anorexically-thin woman of 36 who radiated confidence.” (Anorexia is elegant? I guess to someone who hates women who aren’t unhealthily skinny). “A stockbroker….Petite and boyish, Dana…” p. 6. (“Boyish” is classic Lesbian-hating. How is a Lesbian “boyish” and what do women look like who aren’t – drag queens?) Della the dentist. There are several references to the het/Fem term “panties,” but “Barb,” described as an ex-army sergeant is wearing a “man’s undershirt.” (Basic feminism — Dykes’ clothes are not “men’s,” while “feminine” clothes are male-identified.) “Marcy was a physician…. Lauren, at 53, with her short plump body…, frumpy wardrobe, could best be described as matronly.” “Lauren’s round face and body contrasted with Linda’s leanness.” p. 9. (Ironical, considering how matronly and frumpy Sonia is, including with her bad perm when she first became famous, but her statement is a criticism of “Lauren’s” weight.)
Marcy, Chenoa, and Coral are said to be real, but who are they? Chenoa is repeatedly referred to as “the Hopi,” when no one else is repeatedly identified by their race, and is said to be 104 years old. p. 34. Since she is dead, if she ever existed, she can’t object to how she is portrayed, such as putting her nipples into upset women’s mouths and being the inspiration for Jean licking Sonia’s legs. Jean and Sonia use her to support their theories, until they have one of their fictional characters announce that “Native American culture is no better …. Because Native Americans say that the sun is male…” Actually, there are many very different First Nations cultures and nations, and of course some say the sun is female.
The objectification of “Coral” who is called “exotic” is even more grotesque. One of Sonia’s imaginary friends say on meeting her: “Her skin looks like velvet, so soft and dark. I had the feeling her eyes would have danced out of her head if they hadn’t been attached.” p.173. Has she never seen an African-descent woman before or know the racist stereotypes? Coral of course is used to completely support Sonia’s racist theories: “’Then you’ll be pleased with me,’ Coral smiled at Sonia: ‘I don’t give a Friday damn about my roots.’” p.185.
Sonia uses fictional “Jewish Dana” to say self-hating anti-Semitic things like “Jewish women…willing to fight other women in defense of their ‘cultural heritage,’ ie., patriarchy.” Sonia then accuses Jewish women of being anti-Semitic and says: “Like Jewish women, Native American women, Mormon women, Catholic women, prostitutes, wives, daughters, mothers…. who can’t leave “their” pimps, popes, and husbands, who can’t leave “their” cultures…. All of this is massive spirit-breaking terrorism and final capitulation into the Stockholm Syndrome.” p.191 – 192.
Sonia keeps revealing her true male-identified values, from quoting Shakespeare and male philosophers, to admitting she believed sado-masochists were the “experts” about Lesbian relationships. p.188, 1991. She dismisses legitimate questions from Lesbian Feminists by altering them into absurdity: “we tried ‘free love’ in the Sixties,” when that was not Lesbians, but men and het women. Yes, Lesbians have already tried everything she pretends is her new discovery, but she can’t admit that, so she says: “To me they seemed to be not only nonsense and gibberish, but anachronisms—museum pieces.” p. 259, 1991.
Having It Both Ways: Hypocrisy and Contradictions
Sonia decides to experiment with her lover (she doesn’t tell us who) who is making love to her for hours, while she deliberately tries to hold off an orgasm without telling her. Sonia is so immensely important that she imagines “The taped voices of the fathers were all but shrieking in frustration at me now, but still I persevered.” She also carries on about the officer on board her imaginary ship (“relationship”) being upset with her in order to make Lesbian love relationships seem like they are following male rules. p. 243, 1991.
Why on earth does she think patriarchs would want her to have an orgasm with a woman? This is one of the many places where she talks like a self-important megalomaniac. And then the scene turns into her going into the sky to have a “love affair with the planets.” Lesbian love-making is about making the deepest connections with a Lesbian you love, yet Sonia goes off into the sky, ignoring the woman making love to her for hours — using her, as men do. But how dare we question such a “spiritual” woman? Not a word is said about Sonia loving or making love to her lover. It’s all about selfish Sonia focusing on what she wants – in this case holding off an orgasm for hours to play a non-consensual game.
Is that lover Marcy?
In the 1993 book, Marcy makes love to Sonia and then Sonia objects to the reasonable expectation that Marcy wants equality by Sonia reciprocating, which many of us know as being one of the main problems in relationships, but which Sonia ignores. p. 42-43. This selfish non-consensual role-playing, with one the lover and the other the lovee, is extremely Lesbian-hating, and is damaging enough when both Lesbians are Fem, but even worse for Butches who are forced into that lover role more. (There is no hint that Sonia even knows, let alone cares, about Butch existence or oppression – even though it’s impossible to understand what goes wrong in any lover relationship without knowing these politics.) https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/chapter-four-2015-update-25-years-later-supporting-butches-supports-all-lesbians/
Instead, Sonia enjoys being made love to, and then immediately breaks up with Marcy at such a vulnerable time. All Sonia can think about is her fear of being alone, rather than devastating Marcy, who, just before the sado-masochistic scene, Sonia calls patronizing names like “beauty,” “Marpoo….” (Sonia previously described the names she regrets using for Susan, but continues with more patronizing names for Jean such as also “beauty,” “Madame,” “Kiddo,” and “Genius,” which sounds mocking, and which she uses in front of friends. As soon as Jean decides to re-name herself Jade, Sonia immediately marks her as her territory by calling her “Jade-lo.” p. 324.)
Sonia cleverly eliminates any sympathy we might have for Marcy by suddenly presenting her as shallow, male, and repulsive as possible. I have been around Lesbians since I was a teenager and have met thousands of Lesbians and have never heard Lesbians act or talk like Sonia’s admittedly fictional account of her ex-lover, which says way more about Sonia than Marcy. Marcy refers to the idea of visiting with a friend the night Sonia dumps her as “Dullsville”??? Seriously? Then Marcy phones a woman who had had been interested in her (again, Sonia’s account), and remembered that “her voice and laugh thrilled Marcy. She loved British accents….” Marcy actually is quoted as saying “I’ll pick you up at 6:30. Baby Doll.“?!!! p.126.
Lesbians don’t talk like that. It’s a bizarre, disgusting het woman’s fantasy of Lesbians that objectifies us as being a male caricature from the Fifties. How did she even come up with such ridiculous, anachronistic dialogue? And how many women reading this crap believe it and despise Lesbians even more?
Writing about her “agony” with breaking up with Marcy gives Sonia the stage to play Drama Queen to the hilt, but not a word is said about loving her. Instead, “…in the incredible arousal of that afternoon with Jean, she had totally forgotten her.” (Marcy). p. 71.
Then Sonia seems confused about who she was lovers with, saying “I broke up with Claire last night.’ p 56. On pages 49 – 51, Sonia refers to multiple lovers, and “hundreds of lovers” on p. 227, 1991. I believe she was searching for the ideal, pliable, damaged, submissive woman who would worship and obey her, lick her legs (literally), do the shopping, cooking (“Jean shot Sonia a murderous look. Sonia did not cook. Ever.”…”Sonia would not be caught dead cooking.” p. 303), cleaning, etc., massage her daily, be free labor for her books and lectures and business, including traveling with her, not mind all the inequalities, and just be grateful for whatever she got from Sonia — and who would brutally attack and criticize other Lesbians at her bidding.
In spite of some of the strong things Jean is quoted as saying, they sound like they all came from Sonia. How you groom someone into accepting increasing levels of abuse is to always have them on edge, ungrounded, afraid of your disapproval and grateful for any reward or acceptance, never sure when they will be complimented or chastised, and, most importantly, find their most vulnerable areas and eliminate their boundaries, “for their own good.” We see Sonia grooming Jean into sexual abuse throughout the 1993 book.
Jean says she has been extremely traumatized from being anally raped for years as a girl and admits that it was only three years earlier that she stopped “starving, bingeing and purging, laxative abuse. On the days I ate, I easily vomited ten times or oftener and it wasn’t uncommon for me to take 250 or 300 laxatives in addition.…I binged on rice cakes and avocado, threw up, binged on granola with soy milk, threw up again, then cooked up a pan of instant mashed potatoes, ate that, threw up. By then I was vomiting blood….” p. 101. (Who on earth “binges” on rice cakes or granola with soy milk other than someone extremely self punishing?) Jean says she became vegetarian at age three and had been vegan for the last twenty years.
Some women are vegans because they sincerely think it’s better for animals and the environment, while some think it’s healthier. (The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability by Lierre Keith explains the health damage and why veganism is not better for animals or the environment). But others use it to deprive and punish themselves, while bullying other women to feel superior. It’s also used to diet, even among feminists. (One “Radical Feminist” vegan I knew who was in her fifties proudly bragged that she looked like an adolescent boy!) Some of us believe that veganism can also be an eating disorder for some women. Vegan policies for feminist gatherings make them inaccessible for who need meat, eggs, dairy, etc. for their health.
This is how damaged Jean is still: “I loved running my hands down my body and not only feeling it flat but concave. The pelvic bones jutting out. I loved getting on the scale and seeing it register 95 or 90. Even now when I think about weighing 90 pounds, I feel a rush of power.” p.102. Is this someone who should be lecturing other women about health and nutrition and relationships?
Sonia knows this but pressures Jean to do things that terrify and traumatize her to where she begins to want to vomit again. Before one of Sonia’s “experiments” with Jean, Jean takes a triple overdose of a laxative, even though she said she no longer purged. If Sonia loved her, wouldn’t she stop pressuring her? Why should Jean, who says had been raped in her anus as a girl, have to agree have her anus looked at by anyone, or feel compelled under severe judgement to look at Sonia’s anus?
Also, considering Jean would go over a week without shitting because she was too terrified to do it in any building where other people were, why should she feel forced to shit in front of Sonia and use her side by side toilets, which are common in cults? “Once the toilets were in, there would be another experiment waiting for her. The awful one.” p. 304. Again, no privacy, no escape.
Note how Jean is both terrified and excited, which is how masochism works: Sonia pushed Jean to do the “body experiment” again, and “Jean felt suddenly chilled and sick to her stomach. But the nausea was accompanied by a rush that was both familiar and heady.” “I’m scared, really scared. It’s everything I can do to not bolt and run out of here.” p 91.
“Tonight when you said we needed to re-do the experiment, it hit me stronger than ever—that compulsion to binge and purge…. Although I never experienced orgasms with sex, what I experienced after vomiting was just as good, just as exciting and exhilarating.… It made me sexually high. I often masturbated to orgasm, immediately after vomiting. And after sex I often ate something so I could throw up….” ”Sonia was listening with such arousal that she could hardly sit still.” p 103.
This is sado-masochism.
In spite of pompously posing as health experts and in spite of Jean’s heated reprimand chastising their fictional “friends” for being fat oppressive (while not crediting the Feminist Fat Activists and writers who did that work), Jean and Sonia’s overwhelming fat hatred and dieting obsession throughout the book reveal how out of touch they are with their bodies and health. Such judgements and bragging kills girls and women. Their descriptions are often pornographic:
Jean: “You have a fine face, Sonia. And a wonderful body. Muscular, tight, compact. Round muscles not prone to atrophy, firm and yet not hard. p. 96 — 97. My belly … looks hideous—so fat and lumpy.” “She continued to run her hand down Sonia’s back and over her firm buttocks, enjoying both the softness of her skin and tightness of her muscles.”
Jean: “I like fat on other women…But the thought of that same fat on my own body is unbearable, even terrifying.” p.144. Sonia: “One day I tried to imagine gaining twenty pounds and nearly had a stroke…“ p.145. “She rested her hands on her stomach, feeling its roundness. It was a bit rounder than she liked.” “Jean with her copper hair, green eyes, and vivid coloring, was too vibrantly happy and healthy in her trim, now 115-pound body.”
Jean both says she decided to be fat to avoid men, but wanted to be skinny to keep a man. (Sonia chose to get breast implants to keep her man. Both were competing with specific women, as well as skinny women in general.) Jean says that because she heard her father tell her sister she was too fat to get a man, Jean got fat, but then she marries “Brad” anyway, and later decides to be skinny in order to compete with the “beautiful” skinny women around him: “I decided that if that was what he wanted, I’d give it to him. In three months I went from 185 pounds to 125.” She went back to her 185 pound weight, but then her boss raped her and called her fat, so she didn’t eat for 5 weeks and went from 185 to 105 pounds. p. 321.
By the way, 185 pounds at 5 foot 4 inches is not remotely “fat.” It’s not a praised weight, but is also not fat enough to get into fat women’s events. They have no idea what fat actually is, yet they must have seen truly fat women at Michigan/MichFest? Also, do they not know basic feminist politics about fat oppression and that “obesity” is an insulting medical term feminists don’t use?
Sonia: “I believed that if I didn’t keep her firmly in check, my body would get so fat I’d have to be rolled around the room. I was sure that all that was between me and massive obesity was my will power. To give that up felt like dying.” Jean: “The thought almost froze me with terror too…. “I could barely stand myself at the enormous weight I already was –112 pounds.” p. 333 So what do they think of truly fat women? We can guess….
After Sonia’s “Weight Gaining Experiment,” Sonia went from 118 to 132 pounds, while Jean “went from 112 to 122…” Then they realized they gained more than they should have because the way they spoke to their bodies encouraged them to gain weight. “They have never really wanted to be as heavy as we forced them to be.” p. 334. Heavy? 122 and 132 pounds??? (Note that those obsessed with weight won’t round off the numbers since every pound counts.) Plus since Jean has had cancer, having adequate weight is essential to fight off possible future cancer since cancer is often a wasting illness.
Jean “undid the top button of her shorts with a groan of relief” after eating.” p. 202. No one who is in comfortable trousers has to unbutton, but this is what dieting women do. Instead of getting trousers that actually fit, their goal is to fit into what is too tight. Notice throughout the media and in public, the dramatic difference between how males wear their trousers, which are almost always comfortable and loose, and females, which are unnaturally tight. All this pressure is about keeping girls and women hurting, off-centered, ungrounded, always wanting to be what they aren’t, and maintaining a mind/body disconnect. Notice also how many women, including influential “MeToo” supporters media stars, wear exposing, revealing clothes, and high heels so they are always unsteady and ungrounded and, again, in pain and vulnerable.
Try Learning Before Lecturing
Jean says some of the most bizarre, ridiculous things and dangerous things I’ve ever read from vegans, such as that vegan feces contains no harmful bacteria: “…the feces of those in the first two groups always contained several forms of harmful bacteria, the feces of the vegans contained none. She concluded that any and all animal products are dangerous to human health” p. 274. Of course all feces have bacteria, so don’t taste-test any samples. But carnivorous mountain lions; and coyotes’ and bobcats’ feces don’t smell. (I know from experience.)
Also: “humans are the only creatures who maintain contact with their young after weaning.” p.197. And why doesn’t Jean know that many mammals (as well as the birds she refers to with the word “wean,” though it applies only to milk from mammal mothers) have communities that consist of mothers, their previous daughters, and babies, some with and others without adult males, including wolves, wild boar, meerkats, dolphins, whales, and the intricate rodent cultures, like rats, and prairie dogs and California ground squirrels, who also have language?
Jean declares that “dairy and red meat putrify and cause gas.” Sonia says her mother lost 4 inches in a year from osteoporosis from dairy, which makes no sense. It’s the long term vegans I see who have lost height from malnutrition. I’ve been an omnivore all my life and gas has never been a problem, unlike with friends who eat beans and brassica (cabbage) family vegetables. I have no osteoporosis or arthritis, and some of my omnivore family lived into their nineties without losing height. I also have never had respiratory problems attributed to dairy.
Jean has been disconnected from her health and body for decades, so why is she set up as the “expert” to endlessly lecture women about health: “The point is to eat healthfully all the time. The point is to respect our bodies by only putting good things into them….”
But they never mention how important it is to eat organic. Jean and Sonia sound like a Monsanto ad because Monsanto is the world’s largest producer of toxic soy and there are stilted references to eating soy throughout the books — even though soy damages the thyroid (as do raw brassicas) and causes breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers because it’s a xeno-estrogen. (Soy, even organic soy, acts like synthetic estrogen in the body.) Soy “cheese” and soy “mayonnaise” are not real cheese or mayonnaise. Sonia and Jean also don’t seem to know the how important saturated fat, as well as meat, is for good health. They push toxic rancid vegetable oils though, like carcinogenic canola, and margarine, which is usually made with transfat and therefore is incredibly harmful to the heart and entire body.
“I don’t understand why any woman would intentionally do something to harm her body, like ingesting meat and dairy and caffeine,” Sonia said. Caffeine has been “proven to be deadly” women who have it “hate themselves.” Actually, organic meat and dairy are good for us and have some of the densest nutrition in any food. And though caffeine should be used carefully, like other stimulant herbs, it can be very beneficial with helping with pain, mood, and making vision more clear. Women have gotten off anti-depressants by using caffeine instead. But of course Mormons don’t allow caffeine.
Meanwhile, when it suits them, Sonia and Jean certainly choose toxic mainstream and patriarchal products for their bodies and environment, as well as for their poor captive animals and plants — like when Sonia admits spraying pesticides on her potted plants for years and using toxic scented products (all scented products, including organic essential oils have carcinogens in them.) “Sonia was a soap and lotion aficionado” with “bars of soap, bottles of lotions and bath oils…” “…I’m going to rub sweet-smelling oils and lotions into them…” p. 123.
The megalomaniac actually lectures her poor plants: “Then I went to the ficus tree that has been my companion for nearly a decade and told her I wasn’t going to spray her for scale anymore. She didn’t have to be a victim I told her, but if she wanted to be, if she got so much satisfaction from it that she didn’t want to change, she couldn’t live in this house, I would find another home for her. I told her this wasn’t meant as a threat, simply a reality. There are no victims in women’s world, only peers.” p. 337.
How on earth is a captive, ill tree a “peer?” Why doesn’t “goddess” Sonia know that house plants are living unnaturally because of humans and they get infestations because they are not out in the wind and rain or have natural predators of scale to protect them? Is she sane?
But isn’t Jean the praised herbalist who might understand the plants? No. Marian to Jean: “She claims you’re not only a great herbalist but a psychic as well.” p.8. Jean: “I know nothing whatever about plants.” p. 351. I guess not. For all their pretense of spirituality, they make a bizarre nature-hating comment blaming a plant for a woman knocking into her: “viciously attacked by a prickly pear cactus…., Jean uses a clay pack to draw out the poisons.” p. 340. Cactuses do not attack anyone and their spines don’t have poison.
And what about their poor captive canary, kept in a cage? And is their cat vegan, or just their poor dogs, fed oatmeal, spaghetti, graham crackers, etc? They also refer to their (probably starving) dogs enjoying chasing and terrorizing wild animals, with no concern for the wild animals. (And don’t get me started on their wind chimes they mention to show how trendy they are and are a way to avoid quiet and nature.) And what do they have against chocolate???
If I seem picky, remember how intricately they chastise and lecture women and Lesbians about every topic imaginable. Also, notice the mix of right wing politics and food bullying, and how wearying it is for her highness Sonia to have to keep teaching “the truth:” “Inwardly,’ Sonia groaned. ‘I think women think they do, but obviously it isn’t true or they wouldn’t be so actively involved in patriarchy. Hell, just what they do to their bodies shows how enslaved they are: drinking coffee and tea and alcohol’ (forbidden by Mormons). ‘And they are having all kinds of relationships, mucking around in politics, fighting with other women about racism, ageism, able-bodiedism, classism: In other words, facilitating patriarchy with every heartbeat.’’’
So continuing racism, classism, and other oppressions is not “facilitating patriarchy” or is this about not challenging privileged Sonia about how oppressive she is? And how dare women be political when she’s no longer in the running?
Jean: “… I do think women are getting out of here, but in socially acceptable ways—cancer for one.” “Breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—all women’s diseases are caused by sex.” p. 104 “…we’re dying of despair by the millions, only calling it breast cancer and cervical, ovarian, uterine cancer. And if we’re not dying outright, we’re dying as much as we dare with chronic fatigue and environmental illnesses.” I can’t think of anything much more cruel than blaming victims of cancer and other illnesses. Cancer used to be rare and is now epidemic because of pollution, pesticides, radiation exposure, etc. Those who grew up with privilege and access to cleaner air, water, and adequate food and less stress from worry are likely to have better health. That’s how classism, and racism, etc. work.
When we read these books with the realization that Sonia and Jean are doing sado-masochistic scenes disguised as patronizing “feminist” lectures, so much becomes clear about motive. Sado-masochists thrive on exhibitionistic display and performance where they show off in front of a non-consensual audience. They also love to provoke, fetishize, and publicly embarrass and humiliate others. Notice how much these are part of almost everything Sonia describes doing. Near the end of the 1993 book, she and Jean even start non-consensually exposing their vulvas, anuses, etc. to visitors. Any woman who objects will be told she has a “sex” or “menstream/mensworld/mensmind” mind since they aren’t doing sex. I charge that they are doing mindfuck and gaslighting, but yes, sex as well.
At their women’s festival workshop, Sonia: “’My god,’ she said to the audience. ‘I just heard what I said. I made my body have an orgasm. I forced her….I promise my body that I will never make her do anything, ever again.’” The women in the audience leapt to their feet, applauding, screaming, “Go for it, Sonia!”
But aren’t vibrators the epitome of “forcing” or “tyrannizing” vulvas to have orgasms, making vulvas increasingly numb? So why do they use them and why the drama about them? Previously, Sonia wrote about “Harper’s” angry “explosive orgasm” with a vibrator. p. 315. But that was her using fiction to make Lesbians seem dirty and male. Sonia again plays it both ways — when talking about their vibrators, “Sonia grinned wickedly at Jean.” p. 329.
“Pam” is also part of this scene. Pam: “I….started ferrying my vibrator into the living room and using it right there. That was hard. It would have been harder even if we’d be been in a relationship, but just being just friends and housemates, it was excruciating.” Then why do it?
Sonia can’t hide her prurience, even while she denies that what she is doing is “sex.” Sonia…“sat down… with her legs wide apart. ‘I want to be able to sit here naked like this, both sets of labia flapping in the wind, clitoris, urethra, vagina, anus fully exposed—aren’t they gorgeous?’” p. 330 “Now my clitoris and vagina are in a constant state of arousal, wild as the wind, free and full of joy, eager for pleasure.” p. 331. Meanwhile, what if women don’t want to look at her highness’ anus or anything else?
Both make bizarre, lewd comments and “jokes,” like about the dogs seeing them doing their “experiments:” “Sonia grinned, ‘I think they’re old enough for this.’” p.82. Jean calls her vulva “rowdy,” refers to “foreplay” (p. 116) and says: “I discovered that when I didn’t force my body to try to feel some pre-determined sensation, or to have sex, she had orgasms effortlessly… until I was ashamed to be seen with her, the hussy!” “Sonia reached over and patted Jade’s rump. ‘This lucky woman didn’t take on the conditioning about sex that most of the rest of us did,’ she explained to Pam,’” which of course is contradicted by Jean saying she faked every orgasm. p.331.
At their Canadian workshop, “Sonia’s description of her on-going ‘Bowel Movement Experiment’ as her ‘multi-sensory performances’….” p. 272. They talk about watching each other urinate in the bathtub and then they urinate on each other. p. 271. They announce that everyone seemed to have “anus phobia” so “Sonia and Jean led them in a rousing chorus of Anus! Anus! Anus!” p.272 “…one young woman stood up and announced she was going to give a performance—Sonia’s term for bowel movement—and she would love to have an audience. At least a dozen women followed her out of the room.” No one comments that these are all well-known sado-masochist scenarios.
Later, Jean and Sonia discuss how “inhibited” the women in their workshop were, never considering that their workshops will mostly draw privileged women. “I think it’s true that Canadian women, like the British, are more restrained on the whole than American women.” p.273. Well, not the majority of women in Britain and Canada, who are poverty class and working class, and extremely expressive and emotional. If class-oppressed women did go, they are likely to have refused Sonia’s classism and games, but she would want to blame them for saying no to her. (I’m guessing a “British” accent for Sonia and Jean is something upper class that they imagine from “Masterpiece Theater,” as opposed to the accents and unrestrained emotion in excellent British television and films about class, from “Upstairs, Downstairs,” to “Educating Rita” to “Billy Elliott.” Or hearing the Beatles talk. Or recent television, like “X Factor UK.”)
This bit of banter, fear, and games in another Sonia-run sado-masochist scene makes it even more clear — Jean: “’I mean, look at my anus, that would be harder. But even harder would be… to have you touch it.’….’You’re so mean….’ ’Oh noooo,’ Jean groaned….’I can’t do this folks…’ Jean paled, ‘I don’t think I can do it. I’m having terrible cramps from those herbs (laxatives) I took this afternoon.’”(“Wanting to make sure that her body could not refuse to cooperate, she took three times the usual dose.” p. 273). Sonia tries pushing Jean’s knees apart, but couldn’t. “’No!’ Jean cried, her eyes screwed shut. ‘I’m ready now so let’s get this over with.’ Again Sonia tried to push her knees apart, sighed, and sat back. ‘Jean, look at me. …You need to relax so I can push them apart.’ ‘Okay, okay,’ said Jean, parting them an inch. The tears were running down her face.’ Sonia tried to push them apart, but with no success….’I feel like I’m forcing you and I won’t go on.’ By this time, Jean was shaking as well as crying.” p. 275. Clever for Sonia to get Jean so deeply invested in traumatizing herself for Sonia’s benefit that when Sonia offers her a way out, Jean of course continues, getting herself deeper into Sonia’s games. The price is Sonia’s approval and “love,” and clearly Jean will do anything for that.
Why are they doing this? This is exactly what cult leaders/psychopaths use to break down boundaries and break women.
Sonia finds a long pubic hair on her vulva and Jean says “I had no idea that I was in the presence of such greatness.’ ‘Indeed, and don’t you forget it,’ Sonia admonished her as she ran her hand over Jean’s left breast, making sure to brush the nipple on the way. She’d be damned if she was going to let nipples be sex.’” p. 95. If Jean responds with any “sexual” feelings, she is being all the things Sonia rants against, and risks being dumped as her predecessors were.
Meanwhile, Jean just hops to, flipping to match whatever Sonia next decides. After all her criticisms of Lesbians wanting to be lovers, love each other, and make love, Sonia slowly re-introduces “sex” (I do not say “sex” for what Lesbians do, but I think it’s appropriate for Sonia’s cold use of women) into her relationship with Jean. The night after their Michigan workshop, “Later in the tent, Sonia turned to Jean…’You know, Genius, I realize that one of the things I miss about sex is the feeling of a warm woman’s mouth on my vulva.’” p. 261. Can Jean easily say no? Does she ever say no to Sonia? Where will she live if she does?
Of course, none of this is “sex” because of who’s doing it, but when Lesbians who truly love each other dare to make love, against all of patriarchy’s rules and even most women hating us, it’s merely vile “sex.”
Sonia makes sure she does not go even one day without having the comfort and privilege of being in a couple, specifically in ways designed to make her friends feel excluded. As Sonia lectures visiting friends, she is lounging on her lover, being massaged and catered to, fed, etc. It’s very clear who is dominant and who has the power. So isn’t this being in a couple? — Sonia: “I want to sleep with you every night: I want that to be the norm…” p.116. Jean: “Also I have choices I wouldn’t have if we were a couple. And what I choose, Soni, is to be with you all the time.” p. 352. But what about the expectation of sleeping together every night being one of the excuses given for dumping Susan and Marcy?
At their Michigan workshop, they asked the women to touch each other, but some said it would be better to ask first since this could be hard for victims of incest who don’t want to be touched. Sonia coldly reprimands them with “Oh no, there are no victims among us. Only women who have been incested, who were once victims and are no more.” p. 239.
When other women talk about their own fears and trauma, she is relentlessly patronizing, cold, and cruel. By comparison, how she deals with her own trauma is very different: “Sonia had been profoundly sexually abused by the medical establishment. Sexual abuse is terrorism, and like all abused women, she had lived in terror half her life….” p. 245. But how is choosing to do something for increased status “abuse?” She says she chose to get breast implants in order to better compete with the women she worried her hubby would fuck instead of her. Doesn’t this trivialize real abuse and terrorism?
Sonia makes a scene about it on their way to Michigan: “As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she paled and began to tremble. ‘No!’ she cried. ‘Oh, no, I can’t I really can’t.’ Shaking even more intensely, she began to sob. ‘Jean, I can’t do it. I can’t take off my shirt!’ Jean grabbed the wheel of the dangerously swerving car. ‘Pull over, Sonia,’ she urged, struggling to keep them on the road.” p. 227.
So just leave your shirt on, like many of us did at Michigan, for fuck’s sake. (Few Butches took off our shirts.) But these books are really about how Sonia is more important than anyone else. Drawing Jean into her drama is also about hooking Jean to prioritize Sonia. p. 245.
“Fear rose up in her throat like bile. She moaned aloud and began crying again, crying as if she could never stop….The intensity of her anguish frightened Jean. She was afraid Sonia was going to die right there in her arms. But slowly the convulsions lessened.” Convulsions? Seriously? Why is she such a drama queen?
(And please, do we really have to have repeatedly read how “pretty and sweet” Sonia’s breasts are? I really don’t want to picture them. But then her books do seem to be about getting Lesbian Feminist readers to visualize other things we would much rather not, such as Sonia’s “big juicy belches,” her farts, her shit, her vulva, anus, being in bed with hubby, etc.)
We are also subjected to her “howling” when she dumps her adult children, and then when she dumps Marcy. p. 228. (But nothing for Susan, who likely brought her out and who helped her career in the Lesbian community?)
Sonia’s theatrical performance over dumping Marcy is not about grieving for Marcy, but about her fear of being alone: “…she buried her face in her pillow and howled. She felt as though her body were being ripped into pieces, each cell screaming with agony. Great sobs clutched at her chest, cramped her stomach and almost choked her. Gradually her wailing became the cry that is too deep for sound, her body heaving and shaking, her head pounding with pressure, On and on it went, as if the fear and sorrow had a life of their own, pummeling her, drowning her….” p. 46.
Note more victim posturing, over dumping her children: “Such a long enslavement it had been. So seemingly eternal.” She “howled until her face and throat and jaws went numb and her vocal cords felt shredded and raw. Howled like the cornered animal she’d been all those years the rage and grief and terror thundering out of her like a tidal wave.” p.167. (Isn’t the reason that she always has large houses to live in, with no worries about rent or food or her future, was because of that marriage and children?)
Jean’s back aches and Sonia thinks that because Jean is usually stoical, “she must be in terrific pain now, probably in need of an ambulance and emergency procedures.” p. 264. Then Jean tells Sonia she’d broken her neck when she was 16. So why is she the one doing so much physical work for Sonia? p. 265. Since Jean had daily licked Sonia’s varicose veins to cure them, “Sonia tried to imagine herself kissing and licking “ Jean’s back, but “…it had seemed awkward and distasteful. Licking, for crying out loud. She hated having a wet face, and the thought of dragging her chin through her own saliva and having to kiss skin wet with it was disgusting.”
In talking about women healing ourselves, Jean says “I want all women to have it.” Sonia, cruelly: “And they could if they got out of their sex minds. But no one can heal as women once did—so quickly, so effortlessly—as long as they are doing sado-masochism with each other. That means women in relationships can’t do this with each other.” p. 267. Why not? Because they are Lesbians loving each other?
No More Appropriation of Our People
When I refer to some of the most disturbing things in these books, some women invariably quote Sonia and Jean to explain and defend them, rather than thinking with Feminist consciousness about who they are harming. These books are propaganda pieces and we have no idea how much is fiction/lies.
My concern is for their victims. Don’t Lesbians have enough shame and self-hatred from the hatred aimed at us by men and their het women collaborators, including families, religions – everywhere –without fake “Lesbian Feminists” doing far more damage because of Lesbians trusting them? And isn’t there enough racism and other assaults on women without it being done in the name of feminism?
Lesbians are the best people in the world….women choosing our own kind over our oppressors. Lesbians are in the forefront of movements to help everyone imaginable, from other people to animals to the environment, even while we are so targeted and hated. We are the biggest danger to male supremacy, and if all women chose to be Lesbians (or at least be celibate), that would solve one of the major problems destroying the earth.
Like so many other women who chose men for decades and came out only with the support of Lesbians and Lesbian Feminism, it didn’t seem to occur to Sonia that she needed to unlearn her decades of being men’s woman. All het women who join our communities should be aware of the power they had and still have from bonding to patriarchy as well as the very significant power of owning property and not having to worry about survival. (To have more equal communities, there should be Lesbian Feminist workshops about unlearning heterosexism and het privilege, among other institutionalized power positions, just as we used to have workshops to stop racism, classism, ableism, ageism, looksism, etc.)
Most Lesbians first chose men and have been heterosexual, but there is a huge difference between those who then fell in love with women and came out for love of our own kind versus the women who come out only after their men dumped them and they realized Lesbians would be a better deal, in terms of love, safety, love-making, caretaking, community. These are the most Lesbian-hating ex-het women, and once we’re aware of them, we can observe how they harm our communities. They are often filled with rage at the men who betrayed them, but they channel that hatred onto the very Lesbians who love and help them. One ex-het Fem I know, who identifies as a Radical Lesbian Feminist, admitted she beat her Butch lover because she couldn’t get back at her ex-husband or father. Another ex-het RLF Fem admitted to beating her blind racially oppressed Butch lover. Another ex-het Fem RLF writer and activist, who had done important work against male supremacy for decades, said she never let a woman fully into her heart because of what her husband had done to her, even though she’s had over 30 Lesbian lovers, all of who she dumped. Instead of warning Lesbians or choosing women like herself, she targets Lesbians who are among the most oppressed (by racism and classism, and often being Butch), to break their hearts and leave them. Sonia is an extreme example, gathering a following of faithful Lesbians and then increasingly targeting them with hatred. I wonder if she also has dumped all the many lovers she refers to?
Sadly, because of how oppression works, the most privileged women, the women most accepted and promoted and rewarded by patriarchy (class-privileged, Euro-descent, non-disabled, het mothers), are also more likely to be revered by Lesbians and even Radical Lesbian Feminists. It’s like Lesbians are grateful that such powerful, “real,” “normal” women have deigned to join us. Sadly, that is being carried to a more dangerous and horrific extreme when Lesbians are grateful for some men identifying as Lesbians. (It’s important to see this on a continuum of fraud and appropriation of Lesbian identity.)
Narcissists and psychopaths are very good at manipulating and playing women who are searching for answers and community. But thinking with Radical Lesbian Feminist politics when carefully reading these books reveals the Lesbian-hating and other gaslighting that Sonia and Jean try to impose on us.
It’s quite simple for caring Lesbians to know about what to do in love-making, by just doing what comes naturally and discovering what your beloved wants. (I did with my first lover when seventeen, long before there were Lesbians books or “sex” workshops, etc. We followed our hearts into each other, into ecstasy, and that is what the patriarchs most hate.) Don’t play games, including roles or sado-masochism of any kind. Don’t do anything to your lover you would not want her to do to you. Do not accept unequal, unreciprocal love-making, ever. If you love each other, why would you not want to love each other as equally as possible? If you love being touched, why would you not want her to feel the same love? And vice-versa. And why would you not be desperate to touch the Lesbian you love? Simple common Lesbian sense….
It’s important too for Lesbians to think about how many psychopaths are harming our communities. One of the biggest clues is that they do not have remorse, they do not love, and they are ruthless. They often are charismatic and skillful liars. But if we watch behavior for clues, so much becomes clear.
There is so much more to say about these books, but I’ve had enough. They are literally sickening. All I ask is for women who have been their followers to stop and think about why they were lured in, and then spread the word to warn other Radical Feminists that Sonia Johnson and Jean/Jade have said they are not feminists, Lesbians, or Separatists. So please stop promoting them.
And be alert to any other women considered our leaders or stars or “giants” (which I recently heard.) Those so worshipped have too often harmed many other Radical Lesbian Feminists on their way to power.
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