Lez Miserable: “Straight girls, please stop flirting with me. Now.”

Join our newest columnist, Eleanor Margolis, as she takes a frank, funny and cynical tour through life as a twentysomething lesbian. This week, she painstakingly explains to straight girls why she doesn’t want to be the guinea pig for their same-sex exper


Straight girls, let’s get one thing clear: you don’t want to sleep with me and I don’t want to sleep with you. I mean, I have nothing against you – some of my best friends are straight. Sure, I prefer them not to rub their heterosexuality in my face, but I’m cool with whatever it is they do.

What I’m trying to say to you, straight girls, is stop flirting with me. It’s not that you all do it – I’m not saying that you’re swarming around me like pre-teens around Harry Styles. But enough of you do hit on me and I’m struggling to figure out why.

Typical scenario: I’m out with friends somewhere straight. Let’s say a Wetherspoon’s. I get introduced to someone’s mate – a girl called Emily or Poppy (you know, straight girl names). Emily/Poppy is pretty. She has long blonde hair that she wears swept to one side in one of those trichological tsunamis. She keeps her tampons – I’m sorry – “tampies”, hidden away from polite society in a Cath Kidston zip-up pouch. Her anus pipes out Vivaldi’s Spring every time she farts. That kind of thing.

Emily/Poppy and I get talking. I mention something about being gay.

I don’t open with, “Hi, I’m Ellie and I like fanny.” But somehow it just comes up. Emily/Poppy is intrigued. Just to be clear, this woman does not fancy me. Trust me on this one. At best, Emily/Poppy is what I like to call a “top half-only lesbian”. THOLs will occasionally get pissed and snog their female friends, but anything in the pant zone is out of the question. Why the half-arsed dabbling? Who knows. Maybe they saw some girls on Hollyoaks do it.  

In reality, the thought of being in close proximity to my genitals makes Emily/Poppy feel a little bit sick. That’s absolutely fine with me – the thought of cuddling up to a penis makes me feel equally queasy.

A glass of white wine later, Emily/Poppy is starting to get handsy. She tells me my short, bushy hair is cute and runs her misguided straight girl fingers through it. My face is quickly turning maroon and I’m shooting “help me” looks at my friends. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with flirtation (well, no more so than any other quivering dollop of neuroses) – I just don’t know what she wants from me. Should I flirt back? Maybe it would freak her out if I flirted back. Is she assuming that I fancy her? I don’t. I tend not to fancy straight girls – it’s an emotional self-preservation policy that I’ve implemented since re-reading my teenage love poems to hetero classmates (they’re full of flower metaphors and anguish).

But what’s the harm in a bit of meaningless flirtation? Hell, maybe she’s not a THOL after all. Some straight girls are up for going all the way, you know, to see what it’s like. Can’t I just brush it off, or at least take the compliment? Well actually, no. You see, straight girls, I’m not a toy. Lesbians aren’t big, hilarious human-shaped vibrators that you can try out then throw away when the novelty wears off. We have feelings. A lot of feelings, actually. Oh God, so many feelings. I’m fine with sexual experimentation; I just don’t want to be your guinea pig. Nor am I a durian. The durian is that Chinese fruit that smells repulsive – sort of like petrol mixed with poo – but supposedly tastes incredible. A lot of straight women have a durian-ish attitude to lesbian sex. The idea of it repulses them, but if they could just manage to hold their noses and give it a try, they think there’s a chance they might like it. I’m simply not prepared to act as an ambassador for same-sex fucking. The thought of a woman forcing herself to sleep with me on the off chance that she might have a good time is utterly degrading.

So, next time a woman tells you she’s gay, spare a thought for her possible unwillingness to show you the lesbian ropes, just because you happen to fancy it in the moment. In fact, here’s a plan: take one willing straight female friend, drink a bottle of wine together, put on some Ani DiFranco, drunkenly feel each other’s tits, then spoon one another into a deep and forgetful sleep.


Not exaclty that kind of guinea pig. (His name's Oreo, in case you were wondering.) Photograph: Getty Images

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

Photo: Getty Images/AFP
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Is Yvette Cooper surging?

The bookmakers and Westminster are in a flurry. Is Yvette Cooper going to win after all? I'm not convinced. 

Is Yvette Cooper surging? The bookmakers have cut her odds, making her the second favourite after Jeremy Corbyn, and Westminster – and Labour more generally – is abuzz with chatter that it will be her, not Corbyn, who becomes leader on September 12. Are they right? A couple of thoughts:

I wouldn’t trust the bookmakers’ odds as far as I could throw them

When Jeremy Corbyn first entered the race his odds were at 100 to 1. When he secured the endorsement of Unite, Britain’s trade union, his odds were tied with Liz Kendall, who nobody – not even her closest allies – now believes will win the Labour leadership. When I first tipped the Islington North MP for the top job, his odds were still at 3 to 1.

Remember bookmakers aren’t trying to predict the future, they’re trying to turn a profit. (As are experienced betters – when Cooper’s odds were long, it was good sense to chuck some money on there, just to secure a win-win scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burnham’s odds improve a bit as some people hedge for a surprise win for the shadow health secretary, too.)

I still don’t think that there is a plausible path to victory for Yvette Cooper

There is a lively debate playing out – much of it in on The Staggers – about which one of Cooper or Burnham is best-placed to stop Corbyn. Team Cooper say that their data shows that their candidate is the one to stop Corbyn. Team Burnham, unsurprisingly, say the reverse. But Team Kendall, the mayoral campaigns, and the Corbyn team also believe that it is Burnham, not Cooper, who can stop Corbyn.

They think that the shadow health secretary is a “bad bank”: full of second preferences for Corbyn. One senior Blairite, who loathes Burnham with a passion, told me that “only Andy can stop Corbyn, it’s as simple as that”.

I haven’t seen a complete breakdown of every CLP nomination – but I have seen around 40, and they support that argument. Luke Akehurst, a cheerleader for Cooper, published figures that support the “bad bank” theory as well.   Both YouGov polls show a larger pool of Corbyn second preferences among Burnham’s votes than Cooper’s.

But it doesn’t matter, because Andy Burnham can’t make the final round anyway

The “bad bank” row, while souring relations between Burnhamettes and Cooperinos even further, is interesting but academic.  Either Jeremy Corbyn will win outright or he will face Cooper in the final round. If Liz Kendall is eliminated, her second preferences will go to Cooper by an overwhelming margin.

Yes, large numbers of Kendall-supporting MPs are throwing their weight behind Burnham. But Kendall’s supporters are overwhelmingly giving their second preferences to Cooper regardless. My estimate, from both looking at CLP nominations and speaking to party members, is that around 80 to 90 per cent of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper. Burnham’s gaffes – his “when it’s time” remark about Labour having a woman leader, that he appears to have a clapometer instead of a moral compass – have discredited him in him the eyes of many. While Burnham has shrunk, Cooper has grown. And for others, who can’t distinguish between Burnham and Cooper, they’d prefer to have “a crap woman rather than another crap man” in the words of one.

This holds even for Kendall backers who believe that Burnham is a bad bank. A repeated refrain from her supporters is that they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give Burnham their 2nd preference over Cooper. One senior insider, who has been telling his friends that they have to opt for Burnham over Cooper, told me that “faced with my own paper, I can’t vote for that man”.

Interventions from past leaders fall on deaf ears

A lot has happened to change the Labour party in recent years, but one often neglected aspect is this: the Labour right has lost two elections on the bounce. Yes, Ed Miliband may have rejected most of New Labour’s legacy and approach, but he was still a protégé of Gordon Brown and included figures like Rachel Reeves, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy in his shadow cabinet.  Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham were senior figures during both defeats. And the same MPs who are now warning that Corbyn will doom the Labour Party to defeat were, just months ago, saying that Miliband was destined for Downing Street and only five years ago were saying that Gordon Brown was going to stay there.

Labour members don’t trust the press

A sizeable number of Labour party activists believe that the media is against them and will always have it in for them. They are not listening to articles about Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations or reading analyses of why Labour lost. Those big, gamechanging moments in the last month? Didn’t change anything.

100,000 people didn’t join the Labour party on deadline day to vote against Jeremy Corbyn

On the last day of registration, so many people tried to register to vote in the Labour leadership election that they broke the website. They weren’t doing so on the off-chance that the day after, Yvette Cooper would deliver the speech of her life. Yes, some of those sign-ups were duplicates, and 3,000 of them have been “purged”.  That still leaves an overwhelmingly large number of sign-ups who are going to go for Corbyn.

It doesn’t look as if anyone is turning off Corbyn

Yes, Sky News’ self-selecting poll is not representative of anything other than enthusiasm. But, equally, if Yvette Cooper is really going to beat Jeremy Corbyn, surely, surely, she wouldn’t be in third place behind Liz Kendall according to Sky’s post-debate poll. Surely she wouldn’t have been the winner according to just 6.1 per cent of viewers against Corbyn’s 80.7 per cent. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.