Posted by: alphafemme | September 3, 2009

where are all the ladies?

Day 1 in Puerto Vallarta: GAY CRUISE!!!!!!!!!!!

DSC00433(Camera was aiming straight up at the sun in this one so I couldn’t see the screen at all… hence it being off-center. Sigh.)

When we were looking at lesbian things to do in Puerto Vallarta, Diana’s Tours was one of the only things that was listed for lesbians. It’s a full-day cruise around the Banderas Bay in a private yacht, including open bar, breakfast, snacks, snorkeling, swimming at a gorgeous private beach, lunch (mmm grilled talapia…) on shore, and the leadership of the amazing Diana, a tough butch Montreal transplant who one day 13 years ago came to Puerto Vallarta for vacation and decided to stay. (Would I had the courage to do something that impulsive!) So mi’lady and I thought “sweet! LESBIANS! and Diana can give us tips on lesbian nightlife!” (since none of the guidebooks, even in the gay sections, had anything at all to say about a lesbian nightlife).

We were wrong. We showed up at the dock the first morning (after confirming at breakfast at the (gay) hotel that we were the only women in the entire establishment), promptly spotted Diana, and were greeted with “You must be Alphafemme and Hr’lady! Welcome!” at which point we realized we were, in fact, the only women on the cruise as well.

Which was fine, of course. Gay guys are a ton of fun. We had a blast that day, and it was totally refreshing being around a group of 20 people with the knowledge that not one of them was checking us out. Plus all the guys were like “omg! lesbians! omg awesome! yay diversity! omg!” and so we felt very embraced.

But honestly, I don’t know that we would have felt as welcome, and might have felt somewhat out of place, if the leader of the tour hadn’t been a lesbian. Somehow, the fact that she was a lesbian validated our presence there. If the leader of the tour had been a gay man, though, and then we’d shown up to all the other passengers being gay men, we probably would’ve felt that we’d somehow not gotten the memo. That they only said they were a gay and lesbian tour in order to sound inclusive, but really, they didn’t actually mean it. Really, it’s just a gay guy party.

And as it turned out, there really isn’t anything for lesbians in Puerto Vallarta. Diana’s Tour is really about the lezziest thing you can do. We asked Diana whether it was just a low season in terms of lesbian tourists, and she said no — her cruise occasionally has a few women, but is mostly gay men. The gay hotels are all male-owned and phallocentric (for real — our hotel had pictures of penises EVERYWHERE). The gay bars and dance clubs are all populated entirely by gay men. The gay beach is a male meat market. “There’s one bar that’s lesbian-owned,” Diana told us, “but none of the clientele are lesbians.”

Where are all the ladies? I think there’s this devil’s spiral thing happening. Lesbians in general are not as affluent as gay men (24% of lesbians live in poverty, compared to 15% of gay men, and lesbian couples are much more likely to be poor than gay male couples–see this Williams Institute report). So financially, it’s not as smart to market to lesbians, because they have a much lower spending power than gay men. (Socially, too — and this is less measurable, but I would guess still a factor — I think lesbians and women are just taken less seriously than gay (and straight) men as decision-making consumers. Also, (white) gay men are just taken for granted as the picture of Gay.) And so gay destinations market to gay men, almost de facto. They include the “and lesbian” tag just to be inclusive, but when push comes to shove, marketing to both gay men and lesbians is hard — we’re different after all! — and so gay men get the push. We dykes get the shove. And then as a result of that, we don’t travel to gay destinations. We know they won’t be oriented to us, so we stay home. Or go into the woods. Or just go to straight places, where we won’t be completely irrelevant as the only women. Invisible, maybe. But not irrelevant.

I see two solutions:

1) “Gay and lesbian” has to start really meaning gay AND LESBIAN. If they’re going to cater to lesbians, cater to frickin lesbians! Show some tits and pussy! Blast M.I.A. and Tegan & Sara and Melissa Etheridge! Have women-specific events! Ladies nights! Anything!



Note: I recognize that I am extremely lucky to be in a demographic that can afford leisure travel, like a trip to Mexico. I think, though, that this point easily transfers to a more general one: white gay men are the face of gay. And it sucks.


  1. I totally went on that exact same Diana cruise when I was in puerta vallarta with datedyke. we too were the only girls there, except for this straight girl who came with the boys and never said one word to us. we still had a great time (snorkling! so fun!) but it definitely felt like a boy’s party. by the time we were back at the dock we were SO ready to be off of that boat.

    • Yyyyyyyyep. That describes us pretty much exactly. There was one other lady who I forgot about until just now, because she didn’t talk to us at all either. She came with the guys. And we were totally ready to be off the boat by the time it landed. Everyone was all, “come to the Blue Chairs for drinks!” and I was just… not there. A lot of fun, but exhausting.

      I remember that trip you took with dd! That’s about the time I started reading Sugarbutch.

  2. I hear ya! My girlfriend and I were in PV in May and experienced the same lack of lesbians– in fact I think we experience it pretty much everywhere we go. We’d heard PV was one of the most lesbian (read: gay, in general) resort vacation destinations, so we gave it a shot– we had a fabulous time but didn’t see a lesbian or gay couple during the entire week we were there (and we looked). We hadn’t heard about Diana’s Tour– but it sound like we wouldn’t have had much luck there either! Just wanted to commiserate on the lack of lesbian or lesbian marketed travel out there- thanks for the post!

    • Right – I mean really the only lesbian-specific travel stuff out there are the Olivia cruises… Someday I want to go on one, but having other options would also be nice!! I’d be very interested in knowing which spots you’ve found that *are* more lesbian-friendly.

  3. so, i just want to say that i think that photo is gorgeous the way it is — the proportions are just right to me. i love the white mast & contrast of colours & the diagonal lines echoing the rainbows flying in the wind. you shouldn’t apologize for anything about this picture!

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