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Leisurely Lesbians in a Small City in South Africa


Over the past two decades, particularly in post-industrial societies, the geographies of gay men’s and, to a lesser extent, gay women’s lives have received considerable research attention. A central research interest has been the mapping of gay geographies of leisure. There are, however, fewer studies in the academic record about gay leisure geographies in the developing world context, particularly in Africa. This investigation aims to address an aspect of this investigatory oversight by looking through the lens of white gay women in the city of Bloemfontein, South Africa. The study maps white gay women’s leisure-seeking and positions their (sexual) desire(s) relative to other homosexual and heterosexual leisure geographies. A highly complex and contradictory set of spatial and temporal patterns and practices emerge in which desire and repulsion are often in close proximity located in a number of leisure, retail, work, and private spaces. In addition, these spaces are inhabited by a range of different identity cohorts according to gender, gender performativity, class, and race.

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  1. The views of some of the leisure venues mentioned were obtained. The quality and value of the responses were, however, not deemed sufficient to include in this investigation.

  2. Lipstick lesbian describes lesbian and bisexual women who exhibit feminine gender attributes, such as wearing make-up, wearing dresses or skirts, and perhaps having other characteristics associated with feminine women. Diesel dyke is generally seen as derogatory slang for lesbians whose gender perfomativity is particularly male-like; although in the broader literature, the term is being appropriated regardless of individual gender expression.

  3. It must be noted that the history of gay men and gay women suggests that gay women were in fact, the first to fight for their rights.

  4. A darkroom is a darkened room, sometimes located in a nightclub, gay bathhouse, or sex club where sexual activity can take place.


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Correspondence to Gustav Visser.

Appendix 1: Interviewees cited in this paper

Appendix 1: Interviewees cited in this paper

Interviewed in 2006


Adam, 28 years old, medical representative, in a relationship.

Dizzy, 36 years old, hair stylist, single.

Phoenix, 25 years old, lecturer, single.

Peter, 44 years old, teacher, in a relationship.

Interviewed in 2008


Belinda, 23 years old, sales coordinator, in a relationship.

Carien, 30 years old, sales representative, in a relationship.

Driekie, 28 years old, personal assistant, in a relationship.

Elmarie, 24 years old, receptionist, in a relationship.

Fay, 43 years old, training manager, in a relationship.

Heidi, 27 years old, lecturer, in a relationship.

Gerda, 26 years old, receptionist, single.

Ilse, 20 years old, administrative clerk, in a relationship.

Jay, 20 years old, shop assistant, in a relationship.

Karien, 27 years old, electrical retail, in a relationship.

Linda, 24 years old, article clerk, in a relationship.

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Visser, G. Leisurely Lesbians in a Small City in South Africa. Urban Forum 21, 171–185 (2010).

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  • Central Business District
  • Homosexual Identity
  • Woman Participant
  • Dance Floor
  • Potential Sexual Partner