The limitations of psychoanalytic theory for addressing issues raised by women of colour and lesbian feminists within debates in the area of feminist film theory became increasingly articulated around the issue of female spectatorship, particularly the pleasures gained from contesting dominant readings of text. Gaines (1994:179) shows how the fragmentation of a unified feminist response to psychoanalytic theory was made apparent in the objections raised by lesbian feminists in the US to ‘the operation of the classic realist text in terms of the tensions between masculinity and femininity’. The assumptions inherent in psychoanalytic theory regarding male spectatorial pleasures were contested by lesbian feminists, who argued that lesbian spectatorial pleasures were negated through this process. Gaines observes that such pleasures could never be ‘construed as anything like male voyeurism’; in addition lesbian spectatorship ‘would significantly change the trajectory of the gaze’ (ibid.).

Gaines observes that lesbian feminists have consistently claimed that because psychoanalytic theory can only understand ‘pleasure’ in terms of the male/ female binary, it is unable to conceive of lesbian and gay spectatorial pleasures. She contends that it is a product of what Monique Wittig calls ‘the heterosexual assumption, or the straight mind’, which Gaines (1994:79) describes as ‘that unacknowledged structure not only built into Lacanian psychoanalysis, but also underlying the basic divisions of Western culture, organizing all knowledge…’11 Gaines points out that women of colour, already a marginalised group in terms of mainstream feminist analysis, remain unacknowledged and unassimilated by the central elements of psychoanalytic theory. She notes that attempts by feminism to articulate ‘difference’ consistently include work by lesbian and black feminists as evidence of feminism’s more inclusive discourses. However, as Gaines (1994:179-180) comments, ‘the very concept of “different perspectives”, while validating distinctness and maintaining woman as common denominator, still places the categories of race and sexuality in theoretical limbo’.