A lesbian (lowercase l) is a homosexual woman, that is, a woman who prefers romantic and sexual relationships with other women.

The word "lesbian" originally referred to an inhabitant of the island of Lesbos, in ancient Greece. The term has come to have its current meaning due to the ancient Greek lyric poet Sappho, who lived on the island; some of her poems concerned love between women. Whether Sappho was herself a lesbian, in the modern meaning of the term, or simply a poet who described lesbians, is open to question; whilst she did indeed write poems about love between women, there is some dispute as to just how far to interpret her writings in this fashion. This association with Sappho led to the term sapphism being used as another term for lesbianism.

Coincidentally, lesbianism is also extensively practised by the pygmy chimpanzee (bonobo), one of the human's closest ape relatives.

Lesbian couples have been attracting attention by others, in relation to feminism, sexual relationships, marriage and parenting, and other areas.

As such, "Lesbian Bed Death" is a phrase coined by researcher Pepper Schwartz to describe her findings that lesbian couples have less sex than couples of any other sexual orientation. However, her findings have been criticised by many; it is argued that this can happen to any relationship whether heterosexual or not. Within part of the lesbian community, the phenomenon is usually rejected and is the subject of humour. Some lesbians who do accept "lesbian bed death" however consider it to be an inevitable part of any long-term lesbian relationship. Many lesbian couples however, do enjoy a fulfilling sex life.

In relation to feminism, and arising in relation to the Radical feminism movement, lesbian separatism became popular: groups of lesbian women coming together and living in communal societies together. Some lesbian women found this sort of society to be liberating; however others, such as Kathy Rudy, in Radical Feminism, Lesbian Separatism and Queer Theory, remark that stereotypes and hierarchies reinforcing those stereotypes developed in her experience of living in a lesbian separatist collective, which ultimately led her to leave the group.

In some countries, the right of lesbian women to have access to assisted birth technologies such as IVF in order to have children, has been the subject of debate: in Australia, the High Court rejected a Roman Catholic Church move to ban access to IVF treatments for lesbian and single women. However, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard had sought to amend legislation to prevent the access of these groups to IVF, raising indignation from the gay and lesbian community.

Explicit prohibitions on women's homosexual behavior are in Western societies sometimes markedly less than on men's. Lesbianism has been legal in Great Britain since the Victorian Era, when male homosexuality was not, and at least occasionally produced a prison sentence. Jewish religious teachings condemn male, but not female, homosexuality.

See also: feminism, gay, homosexuality, Famous gay lesbian or bisexual people, black triangle

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The term Lesbian (capital L) describes things pertaining to the island of Lesbos or Lesvos in Greece or to inhabitants of that island. A more modern term is Lesvonian.

See Lesbos.

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