To be “sapphic” means to be a woman or female-identifying individual who is attracted to other women, either romantically, sexually, or both. The term encompasses a spectrum of attractions among women or female-identifying individuals, including but not limited to those who identify as lesbian.
The word “sapphic” is derived from the ancient Greek poet Sappho of Lesbos, who is celebrated for her lyrical poetry that often expressed love and admiration for women. Due to her poetic expressions of affection between women, Sappho’s name and place of origin, Lesbos, have been associated with female same-sex attraction. While “lesbian” specifically refers to women who are exclusively attracted to other women, “sapphic” serves as a broader term, capturing the nuances of various female-to-female attractions.
In contemporary culture, “sapphic” can also describe themes, narratives, or aesthetics that center on women-loving-women, encompassing literature, art, film, and other forms of media. It represents a celebration of love, connection, and identity among women or female-identifying individuals.
Movies with sapphic characters
Numerous movies over the years have featured sapphic characters, showcasing a range of relationships, narratives, and tones. Here’s a list of some notable movies with sapphic characters or themes:
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) – A French coming-of-age romance that follows the passionate relationship between two young women.
Carol (2015) – Set in the 1950s, this film is about a forbidden affair between a young photographer and an older woman going through a divorce.
The Favourite (2018) – A historical drama set in early 18th-century England, focusing on the relationships between Queen Anne, her close friend Lady Sarah, and a new servant.
Bound (1996) – A neo-noir crime thriller that features a relationship between a mobster’s girlfriend and a woman recently released from prison.
Imagine Me & You (2005) – A romantic comedy where a woman falls in love with another woman on her wedding day.
Desert Hearts (1985) – Set in the 1950s, the movie is about a university professor who falls for a young sculptress at a ranch in Reno.
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) – A satirical romantic comedy about a high school cheerleader who is sent to a conversion therapy camp when her parents suspect she’s a lesbian.
Pariah (2011) – A coming-of-age drama about a 17-year-old African-American teenager embracing her identity as a lesbian.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) – A historical drama set in 18th century France, focusing on the secret relationship between an artist and her subject.
Tipping the Velvet (2002) – A British television drama serial based on the novel of the same name, charting the journey of a young woman from provincial seaside oyster parlor to the music halls of London.
Saving Face (2004) – A romantic comedy about a Chinese-American surgeon and her dancer girlfriend, and the challenges they face from their community and families.
Fingersmith (2005) – A British drama based on Sarah Waters’ novel, which includes sapphic relationships as a central theme.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are many more movies from various countries and cultures that explore sapphic themes and characters. The representation has been growing, and more stories are being told with each passing year.
- What does “sapphic” mean?
“Sapphic” refers to women or female-identifying individuals who are attracted to other women, either romantically, sexually, or both. The term is derived from the ancient Greek poet Sappho of Lesbos, who is renowned for her lyrical poetry that often expressed love and admiration for women.
Over time, “sapphic” has come to encompass a broader range of female-female attractions and relationships. It’s an umbrella term that can include lesbians as well as women who may not strictly identify as lesbian but have an attraction to other women.
- How is a sapphic different from a lesbian?
The terms “sapphic” and “lesbian” both relate to women or female-identifying individuals who are attracted to other women. However, there are nuanced differences between the two:
- Sapphic: Derived from the ancient Greek poet Sappho of Lesbos, known for her poetry expressing love and admiration for women.
- Lesbian: The term originally relates to someone from the island of Lesbos, but over time, it has come to describe a woman who is attracted romantically and/or sexually to other women, likely because of the association with Sappho.
- Sapphic: A broader umbrella term that can encompass any woman or female-identifying person attracted to other women, whether romantically, sexually, or both. This term can include people who identify as lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, and other non-exclusive attractions to women.
- Lesbian: Refers specifically to women who are exclusively attracted to other women, both romantically and sexually.
- Sapphic: Can be used to describe attractions, themes, or aesthetics related to women loving women, without pinpointing a specific identity.
- Lesbian: Directly speaks to an identity where a woman’s primary romantic and sexual attractions are towards other women.
While both terms have shared roots in their association with the island of Lesbos and the poet Sappho, “sapphic” is generally a more encompassing term, while “lesbian” is more specific.
- Can “sapphic” refer to both romantic and platonic feelings?
“Sapphic” primarily refers to romantic or sexual attractions between women or female-identifying individuals. It’s rooted in the idea of women-loving-women in contexts that go beyond mere friendship.
However, the ways we describe relationships and attractions have evolved over time and can sometimes encompass a spectrum of feelings. For instance, many of Sappho’s poems, from which the term “sapphic” is derived, celebrate not just romantic love but also deep emotional bonds and intense friendships between women.
That said, in contemporary usage, “sapphic” most commonly refers to romantic or sexual attractions. While a sapphic relationship might indeed have a strong platonic component—as any deep romantic relationship might—it’s the romantic or sexual element that differentiates it from other forms of female friendship. If someone were to describe their feelings as “sapphic” in a contemporary context, they would most likely be referring to romantic or sexual feelings, not solely platonic ones.
In conclusion, “sapphic” is a term that embodies the rich tapestry of women-loving-women relationships, attractions, and identities. Rooted in ancient history with the poet Sappho as its beacon, it transcends mere labels to encapsulate a myriad of experiences that women have shared across millennia.
As societal understanding and acceptance evolve, the term “sapphic” serves not just as a descriptor but as a celebration of the diverse ways in which women connect, love, and find meaning with one another. Whether in art, literature, or daily life, sapphic relationships challenge traditional narratives, offering a vibrant testament to the multifaceted nature of human love and connection.