Girl Crushes & Same-Sex Relationships

“She’s my girl crush.” We’ve all said it, we maybe all have one, whether it’s spoken or not. Urban Dictionary defines a girl crush as feelings of admiration and adoration which a girl has for another girl, without wanting to shag said girl. A nonsexual attraction, usually based on veneration at some level. That’s all well and good – but what happens when a heterosexual woman says she has a girl crush on a homosexual woman? What if the crush-ee wants to shag said girl, and has a sexual attraction, while the crusher has adoration without sexual attraction? While likely a well-intentioned compliment, it leaves a lot of space for confusion and hurt feelings.

We sat down with Jana Shortal last week to discuss same-sex relationships and truthfully, the conversation went down a different path than we expected. The conversation was sparked by this Vice article on the shifting make-up of teenage sexuality. I was shocked to read the J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group found that only 48 percent of 13-20-year-olds identify as “exclusively heterosexual,” compared to 65 percent of millennials aged 21 to 34.

Vice reports:

On a scale of zero to six, where zero signified “completely straight” and six meant “completely homosexual,” more than a third of the young demographic chose a number between one and five, indicating that they were bisexual to some degree. Only 24 percent of their older counterparts identified this way.

I brought up the article with our team and we began talking ways this shift could affect the teenage experience, which is a universally painful one. On the flip side, we thought such a big shift could signal a more tolerant and accepting youth culture. So when we entered the discussion with Jana, we were thinking we’d talk mostly about the differences in heterosexual and homosexual relationships and how dating women held it’s own set of challenges. What we found was, there really aren’t many foundational differences between the two types of relationships. Instead, one of the biggest challenges for Jana’s romantic relationships involves the ambiguity of the ‘girl crush’ and on relationships between females. Jana finds herself asking an entirely different set of questions when starting a relationship now vs. ten years ago. She began to realize that being a ‘girl crush’ wasn’t a term of endearment, it was a term of indifference, if not a signal the relationship would be one-sided or noncommittal from the beginning. Furthermore, the ease in which she saw girlfriends adopt her sexual orientation felt like a dismissal to the brevity and importance of her own coming out journey, and continual work towards self-acceptance and self-love.

In a culture where sexual ambiguity has become mainstream, same-sex relationships are finding themselves dealing with a whole new set of blurred lines and boundaries to navigate.

Thinking about relationships I’ve been in, there was enough conflict about priorities, money, lifestyle – add into the mix constantly questioning my partner’s sexuality and you’re at an entirely different level of complexity, confusion and frankly, hurt. Jana mentioned plenty of times that a girl crush has led to a relationship with a woman – but many times, the sexuality of her partners was fluid. Perhaps they’d never been with a woman before or recently developed sexual relationships with the same sex. Developing a relationship is difficult – developing a relationship when you aren’t sure if your partner is actually sexually attracted to you proves to be incredibly hard and painful.

Whether you are in a sexual relationship with a man or woman, or fluid between the two, the conversation left an imprint on us and the impact of words. In all our relationships, saying what you mean and meaning what you say is critical. It’s not to say you can’t offer compliments or words of adoration – but ensure you are both on the same page with those compliments and be specific. Saying a trendy or off-hand comment like ‘girl crush’ means different things to everyone. However, saying “Your reporting on that story was excellent” or “I really admire the way you speak your truth” doesn’t leave much room for interpretation – it’s factual in feelings.

Being ‘in a relationship’ with your best girlfriend on Facebook or constantly talking about the girl that ‘could turn you’ may sound like a fun way to show love and adoration to your lady friends, but be aware of the impact it has on those who actually have a sexually charged girl crush or if you are that special someone they actually want to be in a romantic relationship with. Perhaps it’s time for us to think of a better way to show adoration to all types of relationships.

Photos by Hanna Voxland

  • This is really interesting to me. Being the age group you describe as the group with more of us now less likely to be simply heterosexual or homosexual and seeing these figures, confirms what I already though. I also would put myself somewhere in the middle of the scale and know many of my friends who would too. Interesting to see someone’s view who is outside of this age group.

  • I love that the message here, instead of “ugh I can’t even say ‘girl crush’ anymore”, is “the world is changing, how can I learn more and optimize my language to be a better communicator”. Such a positive and helpful attitude. Thanks!

  • “friend crush” is a good alternative to “girl crush” and allows for the possibility that a straight woman might have those feelings of admiration for a man and not be interested in anything sexual/romantic either

  • I think this article skirts a weird line by ignoring bisexuals who continue to identify that way and the criticism of them that can occur in both homo and hetero sexual relationships. Sure, it can be hurtful and damaging to wonder if your partner is really attracted to you, but it can be more damaging to be certain of your sexuality and have your partner question it all the time because of their own insecurities and biases.

    • that’s like an entirely separate issue though. this isn’t about whether partners are actually into each other, it’s about how those who co-opt same sex relationship statuses and “crushes” to mean friendship, thus reducing gay couples and girl on girl crushin to “gal pals” rather than actual romantic relationships.

      if your partner is questioning your sexuality then you gotta talk it out and/or dump them because if they are fulfilled in the relationship they should not really care what genders you are or aren’t attracted to.

      • Thanks for putting this right 🙂 It really hurts when you have a sexual attraction to a person that accepts you simply like a friend. And this is true not only to same-sex relationships.