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Exponentially Femme: Jenny Fran Davis on Dykette photo

Brooklyn author Jenny Fran Davis’s debut adult novel Dykette is a delicious, psychosexual romp. The book follows three queer couples on a hedonistic holiday getaway in the Hudson Valley. Our narrator Sasha is a graduate student studying the “feminine miniature,” like dollhouses and “petty ephemera.” Sasha identifies as “straight for butches” and calls her lesbian partner Jesse, her “boyfriend.” Is your head spinning? Good, keep reading.

The drama begins when Sasha—while trying to take a sexy Grinch selfie for Jesse—overhears Jesse complaining about her during a virtual therapy session. The tension mounts as Sasha becomes threatened by the arrival of newcomer Darcy, a tiny bimbo with a big internet following. “The battle for high-femme dominance,” as Kirkus put it, “comes to a head when Jesse and Darcy collaborate on a piece of livestreamed performance art that Sasha perceives not just as infidelity, but also as a parody of her sweetly pink aesthetic.” I told you: it’s delicious. 

Over text, Davis and I discussed Dykette and ribbons and Lana Del Rey in between going to the tailor (Jenny) and taking a shower (me). 

anna dorn:
hi jenny! is now still a good time to talk dykette? (it’s anna btw lol) 

jenny fran davis:
hiii!! yes yes definitely 

anna dorn:
yay ok first: ribbons
the word “ribbon” appears in dykette 61 times
sasha always wears “a bootleg green chanel ribbon around her neck or in her hair”
you told me over DM that ribbons are “sooooo gay”
can you go off on ribbons and their gayness? 

jenny fran davis:
um okay yes
btw i’m going to possibly head to the tailor during this interview to see if she can help me with this molly goddard dress 
so if there are gaps that is why
so everyone i know growing up in the 90s/early 2000s was titillated and traumatized by the girl with the green ribbon story for children 
and i think that’s a communal root for many of us 
like the way the boy is BEGGING to see what’s under there and she’s like no, no, no
and then finally she lets him and she iconically dies
it’s so lesbian

anna dorn:
LMAO… it’s pulp? 

jenny fran davis:
yeah totally pulp 
in the sense that it’s so “shocking” but also cheap, and provocative in a way that we can kind of see through??
ribbons themselves are so gay maybe because they’re decorative 
and used to gussy up otherwise boring objects 

anna dorn:
they’re flamboyant 

jenny fran davis:
yes! they’re flamboyant 
and sexy
and kind of useless 
also, knots and webs
things that can be tied and twisted 

anna dorn:
twisted, like the book itself 
btw can you define dykette for unfamiliar readers? 

jenny fran davis:
well it’s so funny you started with ribbons because my definition of dykette is literally “dyke with frills, bows, and ruffles” 
like to me it’s such an aesthetic term 
someone else pointed out that it’s like anti-diminutive (as -ette usually is) but instead maximalist, exponentially femme, super accessorized 

anna dorn: 
who are some dykettes in popular culture?

jenny fran davis:
omg i see dykettes everywhere 

anna dorn:
are there any on vanderpump rules?

jenny fran davis:
i was just about to say 
i mean there are some amazing displays of femininity on that show (stassi, lala, lisa) but dykette is so gay that i’m not sure those girls (who are like family to me) qualify 

anna dorn:
who is the biggest dykette in hollywood?

jenny fran davis:
ok so many people have dykette energy 
like maddy from euphoria 
and LANA 
has major dykette energy 

anna dorn:
omg i’m listening to lana right now (naturally) and these lyrics are so dykette: don’t you dare say that you’ll braid my hair, babe / if you don’t really care / you wanted me sadder, you wanted me sadder 

jenny fran davis:
LITERALLY lana is the most dykette energy 

anna dorn:
what about lindsay lohan, sam ronson era? 

jenny fran davis:
YES hahaha
because it’s also like, being dykette is about being in thrall to a butch 
the way amandla stenberg handled the whole debacle with that new york times writer was sooo dykette
she was clearly flirting and did so in such a little minxy way 
saying “eyes off my boobs!” 
and the reporter was humorless sadly and thought she was being harassed 

anna dorn:

jenny fran davis:
katie from muna strikes me as super dykette
greta garbo - massive dykette
jodie foster has her dykette moments too
as does jojo siwa hahaha
cindy crawford in the KD lang photoshoot 
where she’s shaving him
ultimate dykette
chrishell stause - dykette
newly minted

anna dorn:
ok switching gears slightly: in a 2020 LARB article, you wrote about your “lesbian boyfriend’s” therapist telling her to “watch out for jenny’s high femme camp antics” dykette begins with sasha overhearing jesse’s therapy session
the LARB article also discusses your inventing game called “come inside” while recovering from an infected cyst, an experience sasha recounts in dykette
was the LARB essay the starting point for dykette?

jenny fran davis:
haha yah definitely an integral moment, if not the starting point itself 
i’ve since kind of realized i was “method acting” in that essay, as sasha?
preparing to meet her
because it felt like such a persona 
ok more soon heading to tailor

anna dorn:
ok going to wash my hair!

jenny fran davis:
re: HFCA, it was definitely an emotional starting point and then worked its way into the plot of the novel
and i had fun slightly fictionalizing the real-life response to the essay and getting to do a bit of reparative work there hahaha
fictionalizing something is inherently reparative i think

anna dorn:
what was the real life response to the essay?

jenny fran davis:
the response was mostly really fun and good, and some kinda mean people on twitter which at the time freaked me out 
but now feels so expected 
and people didn’t get that it was a persona and meant to be funny! playful 

anna dorn:
i think it's a good sign if people are talking negatively about something you’ve written because it means it’s popular! anything popular will inevitably be scrutinized 
also while typing “jenny’s high femme camp antics” i couldn’t help but think of the l word’s jenny schecter
given your shared name, do you feel any affinity for miss schecter, both being brunette writers with a proclivity for melodrama? 

jenny fran davis:
she’s such a little minx
it’s so funny actually that she’s jenny and i’m jenny
i will say that JS’s antics can veer a little more destructive than mine/sasha’s?
there’s something deliciously sinister about her—she always Goes There
and i think part of my HFCA is often failing at it, chickening out or confessing at the last minute 
begging for forgiveness 

anna dorn:

jenny fran davis:
so is miss schecter more hardcore or something??
like HFCA is kind of artless manipulation 
it’s not subtle
or sneaky
which maybe makes it gayer than straight girl antics

anna dorn:
ok we need to talk darcy from dykette 
while reading darcy, described as “artsy-elite, slavic-vibes internet fame” and an icon of the “dirtbag left,” i kept thinking of dasha nekrasova from red scare
was dasha an inspiration for the character?

jenny fran davis:
i’m obsessed with dasha because she’s pretty and confident 
and doesn’t seem to care what people think of her, which is such catnip for me lol 

anna dorn:
catnip for me too 

jenny fran davis:
and i think sasha’s obsession also stems from darcy’s sense of entitlement — to say and do whatever she wants, to express herself, to be as interested or uninterested as she pleases 
there’s a question of like “is darcy trying or is she not trying” 

anna dorn:
i kept wanting a sasha and darcy romance
did i imagine their sexual tension, or am i incapable of seeing two pretty women as enemies without thinking they secretly want to fuck each other? 

jenny fran davis:
HAHA of course you wanted that!!
i think sasha wants to be inside darcy for sure
there’s something inherently sexual about jealousy 
but do they want to fuck? i mean i’m sure darcy would be down 🙄 
they’d fuck, but only with an audience 
i think is my answer 

anna dorn:
ok i wanna talk about sisters 
i loved the description of sasha and her sister in that natalya, the straight one, is more stereotypically gay—“chill,” “low-maintenance,” “a jock,” a “tomboy,” who “liked being outside and didn’t mind getting cold or dirty”—whereas sasha is more stereotypically straight “with her makeup and aspirations of housewifery and antiquated gender roles”
it reminded me so much of my sister and me, my straight sister being an outdoorsy jock who legitimately asks for home depot gift cards for christmas, and me, the gay one, who loves perfume and gets cold very easily.
is this a thing? gay women with gayer-seeming sisters??

jenny fran davis:
it literally is!
and i have no idea why this is
do we sort of over-correct in childhood 
is it about competition? sisters are our earliest mirrors
the pressure of being gay from a young age makes us into diamonds 
and our sisters develop normally 
my sister wore leggings and didn’t have her nails done when she got engaged 😭😭😭

anna dorn:
did any books or authors inspire dykette? who are your influences?

jenny fran davis:
i’m realizing more and more how influential the books i read as a teenager were
clique books, gossip girl, all those 

anna dorn:
i loved the gossip girl books 
i was so annoyed they cast bl*ke l*vely as serena when it should have been jemima kirke 

jenny fran davis:
HAHA oh my god literally should have been
more consciously was super inspired by the classics: stone butch blues, michelle tea, and later andrea lawlor and jordy rosenberg
also 90s films like bound

anna dorn:
bound, hell yes! last question: are you working on anything new? 

jenny fran davis:
yesss i’m writing another novel
similar themes, gay friend group stuff, monogamy, gossip

anna dorn:
thank god 

jenny fran davis:
when’s she out??

anna dorn:
i should prob figure that out!
thank you jenny and i’m so excited for dykette to hit the shelves!! 

jenny fran davis:
omg thank u i appreciate