Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

“Big Dykes on Campus: Contemporary Northeastern Women’s Colleges as Queer Spaces”


Same‐sex love and desire in sex‐segregated spaces has a long history, not only in the United States but around the world, as feminist historian Leila Rupp argues in her book "Sapphistries: A Global History of Love Between Women." My paper focuses on a particularly notorious site of female same‐sex desire: the women’s college, specifically, the remaining single‐sex Seven Sisters colleges of the Eastern United States. I argue that these campuses – particularly Mount Holyoke and Smith, the primary sites of my research – have become spaces for the celebration and promotion of same‐sex desire in the 2000s. Further, I argue that these campuses serve as a case study for understanding sexual fluidity in action as well as for examining what could possibly happen if women lived in a larger social structure that promoted same‐sex sexuality and love. I ask, what can we gain for a progressive politics of sexuality if we acknowledge that these campuses both attract queer women to apply for admission based on their lesbian reputations while at the same time creating an environment that has the potential to influence and possibly shift and/or expand sexual identities?

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View