Girl-girl kissing is not new, anymore than guy-girl or guy-guy — or any of the other mix-and-match combinations of genders and numbers in which sexually charged human beings can find themselves. What is new is the openness with which girls are sampling from among their own, and the way the phenomenon has rapidly gone from startling to titillating to, if not quite commonplace, at least not all that uncommon either.
Sociology professor Verta Taylor, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her colleague, Leila J. Rupp of the school’s feminist studies department, examined the trend in an article for the American Sociological Association magazine Contexts. In one national survey, they report, fewer than 2% of women called themselves lesbian or bisexual, but fully 8% reported either feeling same-sex desire or engaging in some kind of same-sex act. The absolute numbers seem low — no surprise in a study that relies on self-reporting about so personal a matter — but what’s more important is the 4-to-1 ratio between label and behavior, and that, the authors say, reveals a lot.
Genuine experimentation is the main motivation for same-sex connecting between females who don’t see themselves as lesbians. “Bi-curious” girls — or, as they’re increasingly called when drinking is involved, “bar curious” — are hardly unique in wondering what it would be like to have a same-sex experience. But when the culture becomes more accepting, experimentation is likelier to follow.One girl who embraces the bi-curious label told the UCSB researchers that the fact that experimentation often takes place when other people are around does not mean showing off is all that’s involved. “It’s good for [the girls], something they may not have the courage to express…if they’re alone in a room.
It makes them more comfortable [in public] because other people are experiencing pleasure from them.”
Some bi-curious girls also call themselves LTGs, for lesbian till graduation, and that captures what same-sex kissing represents for a lot of them: a form of intimacy and diversion, but not something that ultimately feels like a true orientation.
For other girls — those on their way to coming out as lesbians, or just discovering their orientation themselves — girl-girl kissing, particularly in a party setting, provides a safe and comfortable glide path in what can often be a rocky transition.
Tell yourself you’re kissing girls just to impress the boys, then begin to realize you like it, then finally embrace that there’s a deep and real reason for that.
All of this amounts to what students and researchers alike are increasingly calling “heteroflexibility,” a sexual elasticity that, on the whole, is a very good thing. It’s rigid — and ultimately brittle — sexual rules that have caused so much sorrow in the past, and it’s only greater tolerance and openness that can help heal some of that damage.