In her book Uninvited, Patricia White ties the censorship of the Production Code that dominated the movies of the Classic Era to the broader shaping of lesbian identity. She argues that while The Code strove to strictly define and limit the permissible construction of feminity, it was within these restrictions that the construction of lesbianism occurred (2). She notes that through its interaction with other discourses, censorship helped “define lesbianism even as it sought to repress its representation” (2). In essence, in its process of exclusion, The Code allowed for the clarification and expansion of exactly what it was condemning. White takes the connection between censorship and lesbianism further by claiming that “same-sex female desire is central to how the movies work” (6). She supports this idea, in part, through her examination of the significance of the female audience member to the movie industry and the emergence of Women’s Interest films. Hollywood has always been aware of the monetary value of appealing to the desires and contradictions of female viewers (3). On top of that, however, Hollywood also realized early on the value of reinforcing the female’s on-screen position as sexual object (3). In sexualizing and glamourizing female stars, Hollywood was cashing in on a proven formula, but also playing to the “contradiction” of “female eroticism” (4)– allowing (if not forcing) a queer experience for the female viewer.
White, Patricia. “Reading the Code(s).” UnInvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.