Flirting with the heteroflexible experience

March 18, 2004, midnight | By Olivia Bevacqua | 17 years, 6 months ago

Where only first names appear, names have been changed to protect the identities of the sources.

Ally McBeal and Ling. Buffy and Willow. Britney and Madonna.

Introducing the newest addition to pop culture's growing family of trends that scream sex appeal: the girl-on-girl kiss.

From Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair in 1998's Cruel Intentions to Britney and Madonna's famous kiss at the MTV Video Music Awards last September, the phenomenon of women interacting sexually with each other has become a national fascination among American young adults.

Teenage girls who identify as heterosexual have increasingly begun to kiss or make out with one another. A January article in The Washington Post reveals that only five to seven percent of young people are gay or lesbian, but all teenagers are starting at younger ages to have same-sex sexual experiences: 13 for boys and 15 for girls. According to an informal Silver Chips survey of 100 female students conducted on Feb. 25 and 26, 26 percent have engaged in intimate physical contact with another girl. Of these, only a quarter say that they consider themselves to be bisexual or lesbian.

Locking lips for a captive audience

Whether at parties, the mall or even school, girls can be seen smooching with varying degrees of passion at the urging of grinning boys. Male Blazers profess an innate fascination with the concept of girls interacting sexually with each other. "It's every guy's fantasy," says junior Phuson Hulamm with a laugh.

The situation is more appealing if the girls are heterosexual, say some Blazers. "It's especially hot if they're straight, because then you know you have a chance of getting in on it," says senior Alejandro Bouilla.
Female Blazers claim to have engaged in intimate acts with one another in a variety of places—anywhere there was a captive crowd. They say the idea is nearly always suggested by boys, some of whom pay the girls to make out.

Although rewards for hooking up with another girl often include either candy or money, sometimes the biggest prize is attention. Senior Carmen Canavan enjoys the reaction she gets when she makes out with other girls. "It's fun to watch people get hyped up about something that really isn't that big of a deal," she says. Canavan has kissed other girls for money, although she admits that usually the money is only pocket change.

While some people contend that women are empowered by being able to express themselves sexually, their behavior may be just another form of catering to the male's interests, according to Leah Ulansey, an instructor on women's studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She refutes the idea that women demonstrate sexual freedom by being able to kiss in public. "Real liberation is about satisfying your own desires. This is still about male approval," she says.

Kissing or touching is not always the guy's idea. One junior, a bisexual, has found it hard to act upon her sexual instincts without getting a lot of attention. At a recent party she attended, this junior met a girl who began flirting with her and wound up making out with her later that night. Though they initially had privacy, most of the guys at the party started yelling encouragement once they noticed what was going on. "At first, it was just [myself and the other girl], but then it became entertainment," she says.

While heterosexual girls who hook up at parties will probably never be uncomfortable identifying their sexual orientation, bisexual Blazers must deal with a number of difficulties that stem from the cultural need to form labels and from society's attitude toward non-heterosexuals.

Figuring out a label to describe their instincts of attraction is a common obstacle faced by Blazers who are sexually or emotionally experimental with people of their gender. Though they are attracted to people of both sexes, many claim that the situation could be temporary. Others consider themselves to be "curious," "B-level" (between hetero- and bisexual), "experimental" or "heteroflexible."

In spite of the growing supply of labels, some Blazers who experiment with same-sex sexuality have rejected conventional titles entirely. "I am who I am. I'm not gonna limit myself to any kind of category," says junior Amanda, who claims she could be considered bisexual, although at one point in her life she thought she was a lesbian, and during other periods, she thought she was straight.

This uncertainty has left Amanda hesitant about discussing her sexual orientation with her parents. Telling her friends about being attracted to people of the same gender has brought some hardships as well. When Amanda came out in middle school, news spread quickly, and she would sometimes be teased by total strangers. "In eighth grade, these little girls used to be like, ‘Oooh, there goes the lesbian' when I'd walk by," she recalls. Even though her friends never outwardly expressed discomfort, Amanda remembers periods of awkwardness that hadn't been there before. "There were bad vibes. I didn't like that."

Kissing conventions goodbye

Some people believe that as the media glamorizes women who make out with each other and girls increasingly imitate the women they see kissing on television, cultural acceptance of homo- and bisexuals will increase.

"Positive things happen any time you break down a taboo, because things become less forbidden, scary and shrouded," says Susan Silber, a city attorney who has worked extensively on the expansion of gay and lesbian rights.

Despite the fact that Americans are being exposed to a growing number of seemingly homosexual acts as a result of the girl-on-girl craze, others argue that the exposure is in fact detrimental to increasing public awareness of gays and lesbians. "It's problematic because [this exposure] doesn't really talk about the complexities of homosexual lives or what it means to be a lesbian," says Edward Gutierrez, the Southwest Regional Media Manager of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "It's just titillation for straight men."

After witnessing people undergo the social difficulties associated with being bisexual, some Blazers feel personally insulted when they see heterosexual girls making out. "I have no respect for straight girls who hook up for attention because they're indirectly mocking, or at least disregarding, the hardships and intolerance that a lot of homo- and bisexuals face in the real world," says sophomore Anujah Shah. "Bisexual girls and lesbians aren't fetish toys; they're people with unique feelings of attraction."

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