An Ode To Shane McCutcheon

Shane inspired me to leave my boyfriend.

I have a confession to make. In the deepest, purest pit of my wildly lesbian heart, I adore the charismatic queen player/sex-addict of “The L Word,” Shane McCutcheon, like no other character. It’s not just a sexual attraction thing (though that’s part of it) — I harbor a visceral and emotional affection toward our beloved Shane too.

Photo by Showtime

Let me explain: When my eyes first penetrated an episode of “the L Word,” I was an eighteen-year-old freshman at art school in southern California. I had a boyfriend. Despite having a boyfriend, I was completely and utterly obsessed with a girl a few years older than me: a wild-eyed, acid blonde dance major. I loved my boyfriend in that “best friend” sort of way, but I lusted after women with a ravenous hunger I couldn’t quell no matter how much grain alcohol I tossed down my throat. I had feverish lesbian sex dreams almost every night of my life. I would wake up sweating and depressed, gutturally sad that the mind-blowing girl-on-girl orgasm I had experienced had all been a dream. And my bleak reality involved no orgasms (except the lonely ones I gave myself at 2 a.m. after my roommate had passed out).

One weekend my boyfriend went out of town and I decided it was the perfect time to sink my starving teeth into The L Word. I had heard about the sexy show, “The L Word” from a few of my other closeted queer friends in high school, but had been too afraid to watch it. But I knew it was time to pull the trigger so, I hopped into my bright yellow mini cooper and went straight to Blockbuster and rented the first two seasons. I intrinsically understood I wasn’t going to be able to casually watch “The L Word.” I knew it was going to catapult me into confronting my lesbian-ness head on and that it would likely be an intense experience. So I made a plan to hunker down and binge watch the Showtime classic in solitude, so I could process my gayness in peace

I fell in love with Shane first.

Not just because Shane was stunningly beautiful, boldly bra-less, and wildly unattainable; but because Shane had an insatiable sex drive that I had only ever seen portrayed on TV by men. She had a sex drive like me.

Zara as a baby lesbian 2004 Photo by Owen Gould

Like me, she led with her libido over her bleeding heart. Yet she wasn’t depicted as a brainless bimbo like the rest of the sexually active female characters in media. She had an interesting backstory. She had a deep voice, not a cartoonish, high-pitched Barbie porn squeal.

And most pressingly, she got laid. All the time.

Let’s get specific. Close your eyes. Remember season one, when Shane gets the opportunity to do the actress/socialite Cherie Jaffe’s hair? And Cherie Jaffe — who is married to a man is completely entranced by swaggy Shane immediately? And you just know that steamy sex and irreparable chaos is going to stew between the two undeniably sexy women? That was the exact moment I knew that lesbian sex was not only hyper-passionate but ultra dramatic too. I suddenly couldn’t wait to dive into the Sapphic pond and drown in a teeming sea of lust and feelings.

At eighteen, for my entire short life I had been under the false impression that men pursued sex and women were hunted for sex. Part of my fear in being gay was that I would be alone in my endless longing for sex. If you take men out of the equation, who even initiates getting down and dirty? Was I destined for a lifetime of hand-holding and annual “lovemaking” with my forever partner? Gag! I know all of this seems like a dumb, reductive way of thinking — but honey; I was eighteen. I hadn’t been exposed to anything lesbian beyond Ellen, who I love, but her comedy was pretty damn sexless. And even I, as an idiotic, uncultured teenager knew that lesbian porn was made for the male gaze.

It wasn’t until I exposed to Shane that I realized what seasoned lesbians had known all along: Lesbians can (and do) have more electric, exciting, and scandalous sex drives than the average hetero will ever have. And let’s be real. I’m a lez who needs a little sex and dating drama in my life. I was terrified that my life was going to be all about LGBTQ hardships, one giant struggle that left no room for the menial relationship dramas that had wonderfully spiced up my dull teenage years. I didn’t want to let that primal part of myself — the part of myself that recklessly dated and smashed hearts and got savagely dumped and drunkenly hooked up with the wrong people against my better judgment — go. I didn’t want my entire life to be a protest, you know?

And Shane, the epicenter of lesbian sex drama on the L Word, taught me that not only would these juvenile escapades still exist in my life, but they would also be more intense than ever. For men have nothing, nothing on the Shanes of the world. Because unlike men, the Shanes of this cruel world hunt but are also hunted. They are horny f*ckgirls but also fascinating creatures with heart and depth and humor. They are swaggy and sexy and feminine and vulnerable all at once. They get on top and they get on the bottom, too. They showed me that being with a woman meant not having to choose between taking on a dominant or a submissive role in a relationship. It means you can teeter between the two, bask in the spectrum of it all and be fluid in energy.

To me, the character of Shane represents lesbian sex. The good, the bad and the ugly of lesbian sex. And sex is the driving force of everything for a woman like myself. Because if you really break it down, isn’t everything about sex? Isn’t sex just about lusting after something so intensely and then devouring it with joy? Isn’t life about wanting things so intensely and then having the courage to really indulge in those things when they’re given to you?

After my weekend binge of “The L Word,” I left my boyfriend. And began having the best sex of my life with women. And once that started happening, I started living my best life as an out and proud lesbian.

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