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Double trouble: Doing your dopplebanger

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Sep 02, 2023

Double trouble: Doing your dopplebanger
  • What is it called when you’re attracted to someone who looks like you? What does it mean when couples look alike? Is this phenomenon actually a thing, or is it simply dumb luck? 

    You may have heard of the mythical “doppleganger,” but are you familiar with the queerer (and much more fun) “dopplebanger”? This cheeky dating term is the LGBTQIA answer to all these questions and is basically a way of saying… you’re screwing your look-a-like, honey. 

    It’s all totally cool – many of us do it over the course of our prolific lust-finding and love-making careers… and not just the queers! So yes, it’s a thing, and no, you’re totally not alone – everyone needs their pals to remind them it’s happening again. 

    Do you want to learn more about this nifty (sometimes slightly awkward) experience? Keep reading! 

    What makes someone a dopplebanger?

    Sapphic dopplebanger couple smiling and embracing in elegant clothing on a sunny day

    Source: Sesame But Different

    Let’s start with the basics: what is the meaning of a dopplebanger, and how do you get yourself on that meter anyways? 

    The meaning of ‘dopplebanger’ and ‘dopplebanging’

    Dopplebanging is the experience (or, for some of us, practice) of sleeping with, dating, or being attracted to someone who looks specifically and shockingly similar to you (aka, a dopplebanger). (To be really sapphic, I’ve also seen “dykealike” floating around.)

    Using that word to name it is specific to the queer community (because we obviously have a good track record for making light of our persistent and ridiculous habits), but the phenomenon itself is broadly human. 

    More on psychology and science later, but for now: who ends up being a dopplebanger? Like every other label, the term is used in a few ways, which include: 

    • Person A is attracted to and/or engages with someone else (person B) who looks like them.
    • Person B looks like person A, who is attracted to them and may or may not return the desire.
    • A person who is generally attracted to their lookalikes or who has a relentless tendency to be.
    • Least often, but possible: A person who makes a point to primarily, or only, sleep with people who look like previous partners.

    Basically, if someone queer is involved in any sexual and/or romantic way with their lover-twin, that’s dopplebanging. Or let me rephrase because I know this is relevant for some of you: if your friends repeatedly remind you that it’s felt like you’ve been sleeping with yourself for years, you may be a serial dopplebanger.

    The science of dopplebanging

    Lesbian dopplebanger couple posing for a selfie with a neon green background

    Source: Refinery29

    Remember I said that dopplebanging wasn’t exclusively queer? That’s because the punny term is the queer claim, but the phenomenon is common for many people. And actually, experts have something to say about it. 

    There are many theories for why dopplebanging occurs, but a big one is something called the familiarity effect. In essence, people tend to prefer things – in this case, physical features – that feel familiar to them because they’re easier and more pleasant to process with more exposure. 

    Studies have already shown that people explicitly tend to name faces with more familiar features as more attractive, compared to “less attractive” different faces. And it doesn’t stop there. 

    People can also find “different” features more attractive as they’re exposed to them over time, explaining why someone can go from adorable on date 1 to sexy beast on date 5. 

    Another seemingly obvious reason (though not entirely conclusive on its own) is ingroup bias, particularly same-race dating preferences. 

    Of course, you may already see why this isn’t a perfect theory on its own if you have or prefer partners of completely different races (because this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule). However, it’s still relevant in moving towards dopplebanging because motivations for ingroup preference include social network approval and perceived physical attractiveness.

    Finally, if you really stick it out and set yourself up for the long term, you may also find that you and your partner look like each other over time, even if you didn’t start out that way. That’s a real thing too, and it’s called empathetic mimicry – the body’s physiological response to a strong emotional bond. 

    Empathetic mimicry isn’t exactly dopplebanging, as I’ve described it above… but I think it’s still relevant for wlw who are very likely to end up in an intense, emotional, empathic connection with their gorgeous lover! 

    To summarize, dopplebanging can reflect a matter of intentional and conscious preference (if you have a thing for banging your twin or twins of other folks in your life, you go for it!), but more often than not, there are lots of (proven) subconscious reasons why you may find yourself in a dopplebanging situation.  

    Is the term “dopplebanger” problematic?

    This is an important point to make in this conversation. The answer depends on who is using the word and where. 

    One of the biggest challenges of “dopplebanger” is the potential it has to be used by non-queer folks to perpetuate queerphobia, intentionally or not. As I said, every kind of person can experience attraction to someone who looks much like them, and it would be extremely problematic to suggest that queer folks are limited “to their own kind” or other sentiments of this flavor. 

    My daily reminder to the world: sexuality and queerness are a spectrum, and it’s essential we let nothing stand in the path of our exploration and voices within it. 

    All that said, all you queerdos, feel free to doppelbang to your heart’s content and say so! 

    Dopplebangers, sisters… and mothers?! Oh my! 

    dopplebanger lesbian funny reaction meme with caption that says “When two people in as many days ask if you and your girlfriend are sisters/tell you you look alike”

    Source: Reddit

    Until now, I’ve been talking about “dopplebanging,” where there truly is an uncanny physical resemblance between you (or your friend or your sister) and whoever y’all are screwing. I mean, literally, you look the same! But let’s be honest. We sapphic folks tend to be dopplebanging veterans by another set of criteria that is, shall we say, more expansive (lol). 

    That’s right, I’m totally talking about every wlw and their partner who have been asked if they were, or straight up called out as, sisters, cousins, friends, even mother and daughter. I mean, seriously?!?!

    The kicker is that you don’t even look alike at least half the time!! Sapphic “dopplebanging” is therefore quite prominent, not just because of all the lezzies that do marry their twin but also because of the plethora of non-sapphic folks who perceive that we spend a lot of time with our non-sexual and/or romantic relatives (eye roll). 

    Maybe you know what I’m talking about, maybe you can already come up with your own stories (I can, though I still don’t understand how the assumptions were plausible), and if you don’t, welcome. This is a fun wlw perk with a good chance of happening to you in your lifetime.   

    Sapphic dopplebanger tales from the mouths of babes

    Similar lesbian dopplebanger couple who finds out they might actually be half sisters

    Source: PinkNews

    Since it’s fun to hear from our peers and laugh about these hilarious occasions together, here are a few dopplebanging tales, sapphic style, you may be able to appreciate and enjoy: 

    “Me: Greek. Olive skin. Thick dark hair. Short. Dark eyes. That Euro-Australian accent that all the Euro-migrant kids somehow developed. My partner: Irish. So pale that she thinks about summer, and she burns. Thin blonde hair. Tall. Blue eyes. Immaculately spoken.

    People: Are you sisters?” – O.

    “We got this one day driving around Georgia backroads. My gf is 5’9″ with wavy black hair, and I’m 5’2″ with straight blonde hair. We’re both fair, but we have no similar facial feature.

    Our usual response to “Are y’all sisters?” was “Nah, we’ve just been friends for fifteen years!”

    We were friends before we both came out. Lesbifriends?” – S.

    “Omfg, I’m Arab and my gf is Ukrainian and everyone always asks if we’re sisters just because we both have curly hair.” – P.

    “Better sister than to be thought of as your wife’s guardian, lol. For some reason, some people thought I was underage when I was 29-31 years old and that my wife was my guardian. Pretty fucking bizarre since she’s just 1.5 years older than me and doesn’t [even] look that old!” – D.

    “My wife and I were mistaken for twins CONSTANTLY until she got a short haircut… it always annoyed me, lol.” – O.

    And on the validity of wlw dopplebanging? 

    “I mean, I don’t have a singular type, but I dress like the kind of women I think are cool and tough and amazing and that’s also the kind of women I lean towards.” – A. 

    “Yeah, at first I’m like, ‘Do I actually like this person, or is it because she kind of looks like me?’ I usually go for a different type of person, but as soon as someone looks like me, I’m all for it.” – P.

    “I’m so bad for this. If someone looks like me, I’m more often than not attracted to them.

    If I think I’m attractive, why wouldn’t I find someone who looks like me equally attractive!” – D. 

    “I think (at least for me) it’s mainly that I simply like certain things and so I dress that way, have my hair that way, and have hobbies that resemble these things. And at the end of the day, I also like these things in other women. So dark hair, feminine, sporty, etc. And then sometimes it happens that these women look a bit like me.” – O.

    At the end of the day, we like who we like, and sometimes, as per the wise words of O, it happens that these folks look a bit like us. Whether that’s by conscious choice or innate nature (or a little bit of both), we might never know (or we can ask people and see)… 

    The point is that we’re enjoying ourselves and our connections, and for us at HER, that’s all that needs to be. 

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    Jillian Gogel is a writer and editor living her queer futchy dream life in Berlin. When not writing for clients, she is sharing her poetry and building intimate, creative, queer-celebrating community on her Joy Journeys Substack publication (@jillianjoy). She cares about dogs, yoga, sexual liberation, and holding space for exploring self-intimacy in all ways.

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