I realized I liked girls early on without the help of “The L Word”—but the show obviously sealed the f*ck out of the deal for me.
I had a lesbian friend that was my lifeline when I was 13 (we’d eventually date, obvi). We’d secretly watch “The L Word” in her basement, while my parents thought I was at dance class. She had found it while secretly flipping through the channels in the middle of the night, as pervy children are wont to do.
I was too busy eagerly flipping to channels playing “Sex and The City” reruns hoping for sex scenes, but staying for the fashion. When my friend told me there was a similar show about lesbians, I nearly had a heart attack. You mean I don’t have to stealthily google “girls kissing” on my family computer in the dark of the night? There’s an actual show?
From the first episode, I was obsessed. It instantly gave me that flip-in-stomach-over-heating-oh-my-god-what-is-happening feeling that I always got when I feasted my eyes on anything remotely gay. At first, I felt it in my, well, you know. Then I felt it in my heart. Then, once it reached my brain, I confirmed what I already thought: yup, definitely gay.
We quickly devoured “The L Word,” renting episodes on Showtime On Demand and practically vibrating with delight. I watched each episode with fervor, both admiring and lusting after all of the beautiful, powerful women. A lot of “L Word” moments had me shook AF (Sharmen lap dance scene, anyone?) but the scene that had me the most shook…was the Jenny Schecter/ Nikki Stevens oil wrestling scene. Oh. My. GOD.
Okay, let me stop my brain from short-circuiting so I can talk about this scene. Aside from it being so HOT, it was a pivotal moment for Jenny and Nikki’s relationship. Having been closeted as per her agent’s toxic advice, Nikki finally said “f*ck it” and jumped right into the ring (literally) with Jenny. And Jenny finally let her guard down and actually felt human emotion and connection. I LOVED these two together. Also… lesbians, covered in oil, rolling around and making out, without the male gaze, cause they’re in a lesbian bar! Perfection.
Move over Shane and Carmen, you aren’t the only babes that can heat up “The L Word” screen.
The first time I saw this scene, I got so wet. ‘Cause I was crying! I still remember the exact moment—sitting on the couch next to my friend/girlfriend, our hands daring to touch. The volume playing low so as not to catch the attention of her mom. Her Scottish Terrier curled up on the carpet. My heartbeat quickening and the lump rising in my throat as the scene progressed, my body at odds with my mind. Though extremely turned on, I also felt self-conscious and confused.
All of a sudden, I became hyper-aware of how Charlie and I looked in comparison to the lesbian goddesses on the screen. I was overweight with a bad orange spray tan, my look caught between butch, femme, and weird theater kid. Charlie would grow to be swaggy and butch AF but was still caught in that weird ponytail/ basketball shorts phase. I fixated on how beautiful and thin Nikki and Jenny were, and how ugly I felt in comparison. When I pictured my girlfriend and me wrestling in oil, it seemed like a scene that’d be the brunt of a joke in some bro comedy. We certainly did not look like Jenny and Nikki. Obviously! We were teenagers—everyone is busted AF when they’re teenagers. But in my mind, it seemed like the end of the world.
Once I was done sobbing over how ugly I was, I sucked it up and appreciated how insanely sexy the scene was. Then me and Charlie hooked up. Yay, raging teen hormones! I thought back to that scene a lot, and it significantly influenced my sense of self and how I came to terms with my sexuality. I loved it so much, I ended up ditching the Shane look (short hair and flannels did NOT work for me) and channelled a Jenny with long black hair extensions and dark red lipstick. Then Charlie and I had a cute AF queer coming-of-age relationship.
Luckily, my feeling sorry for how gross I felt was short-lived and I grew into my features and body, and with maturity, appreciated other women’s beauty as well as my own. At the time, that infamous oil wrestling scene took me through every emotion I still experience today as a lesbian femme: desiring women, but still comparing myself to them. I wanted to be beautiful in the way that all young girls are conditioned to aspire to: thin, tall, with long, flowing hair. Queer women have lots of options in terms of how we present ourselves — we tend to embrace looks that differ from the norm. But that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily immune to the pressures of conventional beauty placed upon all women. “The L Word” helped me accept and deal with that truth.
“The L Word” has given us so many gifts—hot sex scenes, heartbreaking emotional scenes, extremely relatable scenes, and the not-so-relatable (like how TF did they all have endless time to chill at The Planet?). Because of how sexy it is, how it informed my sense of self, and what a turning point it was in Nikki and Jenny’s romance, I’m calling the oil wrestling scene an iconic L Word throwback. What is your favorite iconic L Word throwback? Let us know in the comments!
Dayna Troisi is proud to be a staff writer at GO Magazine. Her essays have been published in Marie Claire, Buzzfeed, Vice, SELF, Racked among others. Dayna is passionate about writing essays that focus on lesbian dating, beauty + fashion and her badass bionic arm. Dayna has an MFA in poetry from Hofstra University, where she also taught Creative Writing. Dayna serves as GO’s nightlife editor and loves to turn up at queer NYC bars & clubs. She identifies as a dyke princess/ Jenny Schecter fan-girl and lives in Greenpoint Brooklyn with her two BFFs.