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The World Needs Lesbian Love Stories: A Q&A With Cliterary Society

Rebecca, Sarah, and Ellen from the Cliterary Society. Collage by NatalieAnn Rich.

The COVID pandemic has caused us to hit pause on much of our ordinary lives. And with summer approaching, that includes many Pride month celebrations such as the Dyke March and Pride parade. But lesbian love stories persist and offer a way to stay connected in these uncertain times. 

When Rebecca, Sarah, and Ellen ended up with more free time than usual (and a greater need for escapism through stories), they started a new podcast called Cliterary Society. They’ve been friends since their teenage years, and although they now live in different cities, lesbian romance novels are one way they stay in touch. In our recent interview, we talked dyke culture, throbbing centers, and how lesbian romance novels offer new ways of building a community.

How did the three of you come together to create Cliterary Society? 

Rebecca: Ah, let’s take it all the way back and talk origin stories. 1993. A “Free Willy” movie birthday party. Michael Madsen plays the dad and I’m all: I wonder if a woman can look like that? Jean jacket, pickup truck, an inability to connect despite an aching desire for closeness … yes, please!

Sarah: I wore a suit to my bat mitzvah and the only gift I asked for was a samurai sword. It was pretty clear what was in store for me.

Ellen: I spent my childhood in khaki slacks, sporting a bowl cut that eventually became a mullet. Fast forward and here we are! Three friends podcasting about the sweeping romance, steamy sex scenes, and hilarious missteps of lesbian romance novels. 

I love that female pleasure is central to these stories. Expressing desire is encouraged, celebrated, and rewarded in lesbian romance novels. That’s a big part of why they’re so hot. 

Why do we need lesbian romance novels? And especially in the time of COVID?

Rebecca: We always need love stories! Lesbian romance novels offer possibility. They’re all about stepping out of your comfort zone, taking chances, overcoming obstacles, and bringing your best self to new love. Now more than ever, we need stories that represent dyke culture and connect us to romance, possibility, and dirty stuff. We all need that dirty stuff.

What can we get out of lesbian romance novels that we can’t get anywhere else?

Sarah: I love that female pleasure is central to these stories. Expressing desire is encouraged, celebrated, and rewarded in lesbian romance novels. That’s a big part of why they’re so hot. Characters have space and freedom to express their desires, and they do! They move their bodies, make sounds, and ask for what they want. Trust me, your center will throb.

What are some classic “missteps” of the genre?

Ellen: Main characters that resemble Xena and Gabrielle, surprising food pairings before romantic interludes, silly plot twists that keep characters from doing it, nipple tweaking to initiate sex, questionable fashion choices—I’m looking at you earth tone loafers. (But also, shoutout to sensible shoes!)

What do we need to know before we listen to Cliterary Society?

Ellen: You don’t need to read the books to enjoy the podcast. We set the scene at the top of each episode and fill in plot points as we discuss.

Sarah: We rate each novel with 1–5 throbbing centers. Well written is nice, but the book has to be sexy to get five throbbing centers.

Rebecca: Lesbian romance novels build community and we’re excited to share these stories and connect with our listeners. A big sexy thank you to all the authors and publishers that make these books possible.

Listen to the Cliterary Society on Apple podcasts and follow the Cliterary Society on Instagram @cliterarysociety.