What is’ lesbian sheep syndrome’, and is there actually any science behind it?

What is lesbian sheep syndrome?

Have you ever been so mesmerised by a lesbian that you freeze in place? If so, you may have experienced “lesbian sheep syndrome”.

As we know, the lesbian community is not homogenous.

Whether you are a golden retriever lesbian a U-Haul lesbian or a black cat lesbian, more and more terms are popping up and evolving to help the LGBTQ+ community to understand ourselves and each other better. 

Lesbian sheep syndrome is the latest term taking the queer community by storm; but what does it really mean and where does the term come from?

What does lesbian sheep syndrome mean?

Plainly speaking, lesbian sheep syndrome describes someone’s inability to act on romantic desires.

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On Urban Dictionary, lesbian sheep syndrome is defined as “the circumstance of two women being romantically and/or sexually attracted to each other, but neither acting upon it because they’re waiting for the other to make the first move.”

The hesitancy to approach a romantic or sexual interest can be due to a multitude of reasons (whether it is internalised fear or social anxiety), but it’s this instinctive flight or fight freezing that the sheep syndrome refers to. 

Portrait of sheep showing its tongue.
Lesbian sheep syndrome is an emerging term in the LGBTQ+ community. (Getty)

Where does the term lesbian sheep syndrome come from?

The term comes from, unsurprisingly, ewes – female sheep. 

As one Quora user explained: “Female sheep signal sexual readiness by standing still and waiting to be mounted.”

“So even if two female sheep are desperate to have hot lady-loving sex with each other, they’ll still just stand around waiting for the other one to make the first move, which means the lady-loving just won’t actually happen.”

This implication, applied to humans, means that two women who may feel romantically or sexually attracted to each other may be a deer in the headlights when confronted by a potential love interest, each perpetually waiting for the other to make a move.

For some lesbians, those who self-describe themselves as having lesbian sheep syndrome may struggle to speak to, ask out, or kiss another woman they are interested in.

Those with lesbian sheep syndrome will often patiently wait for the other party to express interest first. However, if the other woman is also doing the same thing, then lesbian sheep syndrome comes into effect.

Is there any science behind lesbian sheep syndrome?

According to the Merck Manual of Veterinary Medicine, homosexuality isn’t rare in the world of sheep. 30% of rams demonstrate at least some homosexual behaviour and  8% of rams exhibited homosexual preferences, meaning they choose a male over a female partner. 

When it comes to sex behaviour from ewes, researchers were first left puzzled and assumed there were no gay ewes, as they observed no physical indications. 

However, it turns out that because ewes solicit sex by their motionlessness, lesbian ewes are practically incapable of consummating their love, as they freeze when they are interested in one another. 

Sheep in field looking at camera
Sheep have been known to display homosexual activity. (Getty)

Is lesbian sheep syndrome an offensive term?

Though some have embraced lesbian sheep syndrome and identified with it, others take offence at the label.

Animals have been the topics for several other lesbian-related labels, like the golden retriever lesbian, black cat lesbian or Bambi lesbian, but some may still note that the behaviour described by lesbian sheep syndrome isn’t exclusive to lesbians.

A person of any gender or sexuality can appear shy about approaching someone their interested in or dating. Therefore, surely the concept of “lesbian sheep syndrome” could be attached to any reticent pair of people who don’t want to make the first move, not just lesbians.

Want more lesbian terminology articles? We’ve got you covered:

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What, exactly, is a gender non-conforming (GNC) lesbian?

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Also, find out more about lesbian trends: 

Everything you need to know about the Lesbian Witchtok trend

Lesbian Masterdoc: can this PDF really tell if you’re gay?

The fascinating history of the lesbian slang terms ‘stud’ and ‘stem’

Why do lesbians wear carabiners? 

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