Due to our country's long-standing love affair with misogyny, it is not surprising that lesbian womxn and their experiences are often trivialized. And because everything misogynistic is amplified on the internet, this has historically been true of lesbian representation online. And what better way to render nuance of lesbian (and all womxn's) experience invisible than through the objectifying lens of porn?

But no more: Google has finally modified "lesbian" searches to include more informative results, from its endless supply of typically pornographic ones. Twitter account SEOlesbienne led a hashtag campaign named after it, spelling out how Google searches for "gay" and "trans" brought up educational results such as Wikipedia pages and articles, while the deck for anyone searching "lesbian" was stacked with sexualized, male-gaze pics of lesbians.

Fanchon Mayaudon-Nehlig, a spokesperson for the #seolesbienne campaign said she first launched the #seolesbienne hashtag when her wife helped her realize her shame about using the French word "lesbienne" in public. "I discovered that I wasn't the only one: this feeling is shared with too many lesbians!"

Mayaudon-Nehlig went on to describe the experience of entering "lesbian" into Google as a teen hoping to explore her orientation, saying she was "disgusted" at what she found. "I was not prepared, and it was unfair to discover so many porn websites," she explained.

The #seolesbienne campaign gained further traction when it was discovered that, beneath Google's Pride banner commemorating the Stonewall Riots' 50th anniversary, was porn. The banner stopped appearing for lesbian-related content, and Google reportedly never explained why, according to French site Numerama. To some, it seemed that something beyond an algorithmic malfunction was at play.

"I find that these results are terrible, there is no doubt about it," said Pandu Nayak, Google's vice president of search engine quality. "We're aware that there are problems like this, in many languages and different researches."

As a result, Google has gone on to add algorithms to enhance search results. Nayak said that if there is a reason for a word to be interpreted in a non-pornographic way, it is interpreted as such by the algorithm. Obviously the word "lesbian" on its own is a benign one, and over the years, patriarchal society has given it (often sexualized) context that reduces, objectifies, and displaces what it can mean to those who identify as such.

The internet's response to trends, for better or worse, can be one explanation for why "lesbian" turns up porn results more than most other sexual orientation categories. But thankfully, the internet, like identity, is malleable. There is clearly still work to do, until the world understand that "lesbian" in its essence is not a dirty word.

That said, anyone who now types "lesbian" on Google's search engine will see news articles and informative content, including the lesbian Wikipedia page, appearing even if Safe Search is not active.

Photo via Getty

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