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As lesbian-feminists asserted, a sexual component was unnecessary in declaring oneself a lesbian if the primary and closest relationships were with women.When considering past relationships within appropriate historic context, there were times when love and sex were separate and unrelated notions.
The term lesbian is also used to express sexual identity or sexual behavior regardless of sexual orientation, or as an adjective to characterize or associate nouns with female homosexuality or same-sex attraction.
The concept of "lesbian", to differentiate women with a shared sexual orientation, is a 20th-century construct.
In categorizing behavior that indicated what was referred to as "inversion" by German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, researchers categorized what was normal sexual behavior for men and women, and therefore to what extent men and women varied from the "perfect male sexual type" and the "perfect female sexual type".
Far less literature focused on female homosexual behavior than on male homosexuality, as medical professionals did not consider it a significant problem. However, sexologists Richard von Krafft-Ebing from Germany, and Britain's Havelock Ellis wrote some of the earliest and more enduring categorizations of female same-sex attraction, approaching it as a form of insanity.
However, Ellis conceded that there were "true inverts" who would spend their lives pursuing erotic relationships with women.
These were members of the "third sex" who rejected the roles of women to be subservient, feminine, and domestic.In 1890, the term lesbian was used in a medical dictionary as an adjective to describe tribadism (as "lesbian love").The terms lesbian, invert and homosexual were interchangeable with sapphist and sapphism around the turn of the 20th century.In the absence of any other material to describe their emotions, homosexuals accepted the designation of different or perverted, and used their outlaw status to form social circles in Paris and Berlin.Lesbian began to describe elements of a subculture.Little of Sappho's poetry survives, but her remaining poetry reflects the topics she wrote about: women's daily lives, their relationships, and rituals.