Young Women Defy Labels in Intimacy With Both Sexes

"I can't say what her sexual preferences are," said Emma. "You go into a bar and see girls making out with girls just to get the guys excited. But that is different from the women who fall in love with other women and take their relationships seriously."

Bisexual Until Graduation?

Often it is in the enlightened college cocoon where women discover their sexuality, said Kaaren Williamsen-Garvey, director of the Gender and Sexuality Center at Carleton College in Minnesota.

"Identity politics are alive and well on college campuses," she said. In the 1990s, women used to joke about "lesbian until graduation," but now students are less judgmental and try to avoid the inevitable labels.

"In college it's normal for kids to push boundaries and roles and play around with questions of sexuality and gender," Williamsen-Garvey said. "But bisexuality is rooted in a culture based on two sexes and doesn't account for transgender, so many don't like the term. It's inherently complicated."

"Sexuality is not black and white, it's along a spectrum," said Williamsen-Garvey. "Sometimes it appears that students flirt with bisexuality and retreat. When they leave college the feelings and desires may still be there, but then they couple up."

Searching for a clear orientation after college, women usually end up identifying as lesbians or heterosexuals rather than continuing with a bisexual identity, she said.

"It's hard to maintain bisexual identity without a community [of support]."

More Acceptance, More Expression

Is it possible that seeing the the stars' same sex dalliances splashed on tabloid covers could actually help ease sexual taboos?

Bisexuality is really not a new concept, but today's social acceptance has allowed women to express their sexuality more openly, according to NGLTF's Sklar.

And the stars of today aren't necessarily bisexual trailblazers. Historians and feminists have analyzed relationships like those of Eleanor Roosevelt and others who had husbands as well as deep friendships with women.

After the anguish of her husband's affair with Lucy Mercer, Eleanor Roosevelt may have had two erotic relationships -- one with Earl Miller, a New York state trooper who became her body guard, and another with reporter Lorena Hickok, according to a biography written by Blanche Wiesen Cook.

"There is less taboo now in intimacy between the sexes," said Sklar. "But it's puzzling to me if it was always going on, or if it's now part of a post-feminist revolution."

"When I was younger and went to college, women were close to one another, but I look at my teenage daughter today and see a tremendous closeness between girls that does not translate into sexual intimacy," said Sklar.

"But," she added, "we are seeing something out there that is different than what we have seen before."

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