Feeling and the production of lesbian space in The L Word

Sarah Cefai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article seeks to understand the production of lesbian space in the TV series The L Word (TLW) (Showtime 2004-2009). To do so, it departs from theories of the lesbian gaze to discuss the visibility of feeling. Specifically, I consider how TLW represents the visibility of feeling as constitutive of lesbian bodies, communities and spaces. In TLW, real spaces (actual locations) fold into virtual ones (on screen) in a deliberate construction of televisual lesbian space. TLW implicitly reflects and is embedded within real-life configurations of lesbian space. I identify four excerpts from the series - 'gay LA', 'the pool', 'Olivia cruise' and 'High Art' - that problematise lesbian visibility by foregrounding the relationship between feeling and place. Permission to feel, represented as permission to look, reproduces community as the threshold of lesbian identity. Critical to understanding this production of lesbian space is the way in which TLW associates feeling with social relationships as vividly depicted by 'the chart', a representational motif that maps lesbian sexual relations and the intelligibility of lesbian feeling. Finally, I develop my account of lesbian visibility through the example of the facial expression of feeling, at once a demonstration of the visible embodiment of lesbian feeling, and the intelligibility of lesbian space. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)650-665
Number of pages16
JournalGender, Place, and Culture
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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