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July 2, 2010

Why More Girls Are Kissing Girls

Why More Girls Are Kissing Girls. That is the actual title of an article in the July 2010 issue of Cosmopolitan. (This part is also funny: They have it in the Cosmo News section under "Culture".)

I have mixed feelings about this article. Well, okay, they're mostly negative... but I will say that I'm impressed that Cosmo is acknowledging the fact that lesbianism and bisexuality even exists. And there are a few lines thrown in there that can be taken very positively. However, the other 95% of the article is crap. It's inaccurate, offensive, and turns bisexuality (and "bi-curiousity") into some novelty or trend.

More girls aren't kissing girls. It's possible that more girls are talking about (or, you know, singing about) the fact that they are kissing girls, but even that is up for debate. The article discusses bisexual celebrities and heterosexual women experimenting with other women... but it never actually answers the question "why" more girls are kissing girls. Is the author suggesting that more girls are kissing girls because famous girls are doing it?

"I kissed a girl...and I liked it!" When Katy Perry's infamous ode to the girl crush first rocked the airwaves two years ago, it felt ballsy -- shocking, even.
Um, no it didn't. Girls have been kissing other girls (sometimes for fun, sometimes for ratings) for a long time... and it hasn't felt shocking in a while.

I Kissed a GirlMaybe it was a little shocking when Sharon Stone did it in Basic Instinct in 1992. It felt ballsy when Jill Sobule sang about it in 1995. It was provocative when Neve Campbell and Denise Richards got it on in Wild Things in 1998. It felt kind of naughty in 1999 when Sarah Michelle Gellar gave Selma Blair "kissing lessons" in Cruel Intentions and Calista Flockhart made out with Lucy Liu on Ally McBeal. It was surprising when Inara (Morena Baccarin)'s client "The Councilor" turned out to be a woman on Firefly in 2002 but it was no doubt just a publicity stunt when Madonna kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the VMAs in 2003. It was already a bit played out when Mischa Barton made out with Olivia Wilde on The O.C. in 2005 and it wasn't even interesting by the time Sophia Bush and Brittany Snow kissed in John Tucker Must Die in 2006.

So it certainly wasn't SHOCKING when Katy Perry merely sang about kissing a girl just two years later in 2008.

Now? Eh. In the past few months, a slew of female celebs have come forward about their sexual preferences. Lady Gaga, Megan Fox, and Fergie wear their bisexuality with pride
Listen, this is not something new. Girls have been kissing girls for centuries. This isn't something that Cosmo just discovered. Maybe a lot of female celebs have come out as bisexual recently, but that doesn't mean that bisexuality is new - it just means that they're coming out. Maybe it's a little bit more accepted now and therefore, easier for some people to be open about it, but lesbianism, bisexuality, same gender "experimentation" and straight-girls-making-out-for-attention is nothing new.

Poker Face Remixes (Rmxs)There are other female celebrities who are openly bisexual and have been for years. Actress Saffron Burrows publicly acknowledged her bisexuality in 1999. Model-actress Summer Altice has openly (and graphically!) discussed her same-sex experiences as far back as in 2002. Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie, and Margaret Cho have always been open about the fact that they have had experiences with women. Actress Bai Ling has been open about her bisexuality for a long time, as have Megan Mullally, Sandra Bernhard, Eve Ensler, Ione Skye, Sophie B. Hawkins, Ani DiFranco, and Meshell Ndegeocello.

But let's go back even further... how 'bout Greta Garbo, Tallulah Bankhead, Josephine Baker or Louise Brooks? Women having sexual encounters with other women is nothing new.
Most recently, Anna Paquin told the world "I'm a bisexual" in a commercial for the I Give a Damn Campaign, which fights for marriage equality.
One - Paquin actually said "I'm bisexual", not "I'm a bisexual". Two - The campaign is called "Give a Damn", not "I Give a Damn". Three - The Give a Damn Campaign is about more than just marriage equality. Issues they fight for include protection from workspace discrimination, hate crime legislation, immigration reform, and so much more. Minor details maybe... but it just further proves that Cosmo still doesn't fact check anything, even information that would've taken three or four seconds to verify. Clearly their priority was freaking out over how her fiance took the news, rather than getting the actual facts correct.
How refreshing of these starlets to bring their lady lust into the limelight -- they're giving other females an opportunity to open up about their own sexuality. "By coming forward like this, prominent celebrities make it comfortable for women who might see them as role models to discuss and explore their sexual feelings about other women," says Amy Andre, author of Bisexual Health and executive director of San Francisco Pride.
As far as "closets" go, the group that has the easiest time being accepted by society (relatively speaking) is bisexual women. (I'm NOT suggesting that it's ever automatically easy for anyone to come out... but relatively speaking, lesbians are typically more accepted than gay men and bisexual women are typically more accepted than lesbians.) Maybe it's because a lot of straight men feel threatened by gay men because they're afraid they'll come on to them (insert eyeroll here) and find two women together to be turn-on. In their minds, a bisexual woman = threesome opportunity!

But we definitely think it's good that women are more comfortable discussing, exploring, and opening up about sexuality.. and if a few celebrities coming out helps, great.
IF IT FEELS GOOD... Of course, enjoying a girl-on-girl kiss every once in a while doesn't mean you have to identify as bisexual. You could call it hetero-flexible...or don't label it at all.
You could call it "hetero-flexible", but please don't, because that's not a real word and it's fucking stupid. You don't need to label yourself or your behavior, but if you do come to the realization that you're bisexual just say you're bisexual. There's nothing wrong with being bisexual and owning it. You don't need to half-ass it by coming up with some "cutesy" not-too-gay-ish name for it. And if you identify as heterosexual, but just enjoy kissing girls sometimes, that's okay too. It doesn't mean you're not really straight and aren't allowed to call yourself heterosexual anymore.
"There's no exact definition of what bisexual means, so it's really up to each individual," says Stephanie Sanders, PhD, associate director and scientist at the Kinsey Institute. Some women experiment with another woman and still consider themselves straight; other women kiss females and label themselves bisexual.
Bisexual is defined as "sexually responsive to both sexes", but that can mean a lot of different things to different people and there's definitely a wide spectrum.

The Kinsey Scale was developed to show that people don't all fit into neat little exclusive categories of heterosexual or homosexual or an exactly 50-50 bisexuality. The scale ranges from 0 to 6 (0: exclusively heterosexual; 1: predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual; 2: predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual; 3: equally heterosexual and homosexual; 4: predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual; 5: predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual; 6: exclusively homosexual).

So someone might identify as heterosexual, but actually fall as a 2 on the scale. While someone else might fall on the scale as a 5, but identify as bisexual. We're not saying that the scale is perfect, but basically there's a wide spectrum of attraction and behavior even within the labels of "gay", "straight" or "bi".

So how do you know if your girl crush is actually something more? You can think a gal pal is gorgeous and want to hang with her all the time, but that doesn't mean you want to be with her. "If you have always dated men and find yourself suddenly drawn to a certain woman, take some time to dissect your feelings," says Jill Denton, a sex therapist in California.
Run a bath or cozy up on the couch with a glass of wine, and try imagining yourself in a relationship with someone of the same sex. If you can picture it clearly, you may have more than a girl crush.
No. I can picture plenty of things, doesn't mean I want to date a woman. Doesn't mean I don't either, just sayin'... Having fantasies that involve women, being drawn to a certain woman, or even being able to "picture it clearly" doesn't necessarily mean anything. Having one girl-crush or even "more than a girl crush" doesn't automatically mean you are gay or bisexual.

"If you decide you are interested in women, how far you take it will be a very personal choice based on what you're comfortable with," Denton points out. Schedule some time with a trusted friend to help you hash out your feelings. If you're truly freaked out by your feelings for another woman, you may want to talk to a therapist about it.
Okay, I know what Denton is trying to say here (and she's right)... but there's just something unfortunate about the way she phrased it. "If you decide" ..."very personal choice". I don't think she's actually suggesting that homosexuality or bisexuality (or any other variation of orientation or identity) is a choice or conscious decision you make. It's pretty clear to me that she's saying that how far you decide to take your interest (that is, whether you actually pursue a sexual encounter or relationship with another woman - and how far that encounter or relationship goes) is a personal choice but Cosmo doesn't exactly have the best track record on handling these kinds of topics. It's very possible that some of their less-informed readers (you know, the ones who think that light spanking is SUPER KINKY) might take it the wrong way, especially since their entire article on girls kissing other girls completely ignores lesbianism altogether.
HIS PERSPECTIVE. What made Anna Paquin's confession even more intriguing is that she's engaged to Stephen Moyer. Did he think it was hot or was he bummed?
"You guy may be intimidated by your confession," says William July, PhD, author of Understanding the Tin Man. "He'll wonder if there might be something he can't provide you with sexually." If you've been with women before, put him at ease telling him that what you're looking for is the right person for you, no matter the gender. Once he knows you consider the The (only) One, his worry will fade.
True Blood (Bill and Sookie) White Wood-Mounted TV Poster Print - 24" X 36"They almost imply that Moyer didn't already know about it ahead of time. I think that may be the funniest (and most annoying) part of Paquin's coming out... that everyone was like "OMG how did he react?!?!?!?" Um, he fucking knew already. They're engaged. He didn't find out she was bi from watching her PSA. And since he obviously knew already and they went ahead and got engaged anyway, I'm guessing he's fine with it. It's just Cosmo's need to put everything through the 'but how will a man react?!' filter. (Moyer actually had some pretty cool things to say about Paquin, her bisexuality, and their relationship in a recent interview with Playboy.)

And isn't there anything between the two extremes of 'hot' and 'bummed'? Basically a man can only view a woman's bisexuality in one of two ways: as a turn-on or as a threat. What about just accepting it as part of who she is and leaving it at that? Why does it matter what he thinks anyway? Well, yeah okay, obviously it does matter what he thinks - but if he thinks you being who you are is something to be "bummed" about then he can suck it.

Also, why does the author assume that there's a guy in the picture in the first place or that ultimately "The One" will be a guy? Maybe you don't consider him "The One"... maybe "The One" will be a woman? We don't think there's anything wrong with women who identify as straight having a little fun with other women and still identifying as straight. Just like we don't think there's anything wrong with being a lesbian or being bisexual or shedding labels and categories altogether. But it's sort of stupid that Cosmo still ignores the fact that actual real lesbians exist.

To them, girl-on-girl action is - at most - a sign that you might be bisexual (but probably not, you're probably just "hetero-flexible" so don't worry, your man won't mind). Nowhere do they even address the possibility that you might end up identifying as a lesbian. In the same way that kissing girls doesn't automatically mean you're gay, dating men doesn't automatically mean you aren't. Everyone should have the freedom to come up with their own conclusions about themselves and their identities... but it's just kind of interesting that in an article about girls who kiss other girls, they never once mention lesbians.

Do lesbians not read Cosmo? Maybe Cosmo should take a few minutes to acknowledge that there are a lot of different kinds of women out there, instead of talking down to women about whether not it's okay to kiss girls.

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Melissa said...

"You could call it "hetero-flexible", but please don't, because that's not a real word and it's fucking stupid"

This made me laugh out loud. :)

But...yeah. What always makes me want to scream about these discussions (and the Cosmo article barely strayed from that norm) is the idea that even when the discussion is about women being sexual with other women, somehow or another men STILL seem to be centered in the discussion! It's like...ummm...dudes? This has NOTHING to do with you. Except those times when it DOES have something to do with them (het women kissing for the viewing pleasure of men and no pleasure of their own), and then we still have a big problem to work out.

I can't imagine how offensive and dehumanizing it must feel to have your sexuality treated like its only value lies in the fact that men get off on it.
Then again, as someone who's 100% het myself (which, I realize, gives me an enormous amount of privilege), I still feel devalued as a woman when I'm repeatedly coerced into performing sexual acts I'm uncomfortable with and hate, simply because as women we exist not for our own pleasure or autonomy, but for the viewing pleasure of men.

So as a woman, you're just damned if you do, damned if you don't in this situation. (And again, I don't want to minimize my straight privilege, you're certainly MORE damned if you do (or rather, if you are LGBTQ) than if you don't/aren't.)

jerseygirl89 said...

And I'm just going to send this to people when they ask why I haven't read Cosmo (or many "women's" magazines) in years.

Thank you.

Ophelia said...

Of course they don’t want you to start fancying women too much. If you identified as bisexual or a lesbian, you might no longer find reading Cosmo very satisfying.

Anonymous said...

We got a bit of criticism on this post, so we've posted an update to clarify.