From The O.C. to Sex and the City, same-sex experiences among straight femmes are increasingly dominating the airwaves. According to Marie Claire, female bisexuality is “the erotic new trend (everyone’s trying it).” VH1 recently aired Women Seeking Women: A Bicurious Journey, in which four heterosexual married couples went to Hedonism Resort to see if any of the wives would make out with each other. Numerous celebrities who date men exclusively-from Britney Spears to Carmen Electra-are renowned for their bisexual tendencies, showing that simply saying “I’d do her” has begun to carry a cachet of sexiness.
The way these media portrayals are played out across America is clear from recent surveys revealing a marked increase in the percentage of young American women experimenting sexually with other women. But as incarnations of the word “bisexual” become increasingly washy, from bicurious to LUG (lesbian until graduation) to heteroflexible, awareness of legitimate bisexuality gets shoved deeper into the closet. For many, the word “bi” represents not an inborn way of life, but a chosen hedonism, an interpretation buoyed by an increase in casual-and fleeting- bisexual behavior. Worse, many such girl-on-girl encounters occur before a male audience, suggesting they aren’t far removed from the drunken exploits of Girls Gone Wild videos.
In Female Chauvinist Pigs (2005), Ariel Levy argues that women’s promotion of “raunch culture”-which includes an increase in bisexual behavior among women, usually to impress men-indicates that women are embracing their own objectification. But not all feminists believe the hike in bicuriosity is harmful to women. In Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics (2007), Jennifer Baumgardner argues the more visible bisexual behavior is, the more accepted all forms of homosexuality become. Salon‘s Laurie Essig points out that if the opposite of heteroflexibility is heterorigidity, we may be getting somewhere after all.
Baumgarnder and Essig’s points are well taken, but only if we assume women are clear about what they’re doing and why. And I’m pretty sure the average 15-year-old girl isn’t asking herself any tough questions when her boyfriend bets her a beer she won’t make out with her best friend.