Campus Confidential: College Lesbians

Tila Tequila came out of the closet wearing a sexy black bathing suit bound to leave a silly tan line. Standing before her contestants, she finally confessed, “I’ve never, ever told anyone this before… but I want to let you all know that… I’m a bisexual!” From the first episode, it was painful to watch Tila sitting pretty on the fence, reinforcing stereotypes about bisexual women as promiscuous and indecisive: “Do I really like a guy, or do I really like a girl?” How about who do you really like? Isn’t that more the issue? But I fell for her anyway – only to have the finale churn my stomach and break my heart: “In the end, I chose a man… I can be your wifey!” Thanks to MTV, Tila Tequila is now the face of bisexuality for the college generation.


I remember the night that an 8th grade classmate put the moves on me, meeting my coy resistance with a list of her prior conquests – all from the ranks of the popular Christian bitch-squad that made my life hell. Seduction successful! It wasn’t for another year or so that I started to question my sexuality. In fact, many college women I spoke to said they experimented or “practiced” on their close girlfriends growing up. One of them said that “it’s normal to experiment sexually with the people you feel most comfortable with.” But once these ladies left home and fell down the rabbit hole of college life, things just got curiouser and curiouser!

When a friend of mine left her Catholic high school and started partying at fashion school, she confessed, “it was easy and comfortable to tell another girl she was attractive, and a few drinks later, end up making out with her!”

At a “Militant Queer”-themed party last spring, I hooked up with a straight girl… well, ninety percent straight, she explained at the time. A recent graduate, she says “college was the perfect place for experimentation because most of the people I was around were very open-minded and I wasn’t afraid of my friends judging me. Also, without parents, it’s a lot easier to set your own boundaries and explore things you were formerly shielded from.” So basically the breakdown looks like this:

Hot people + Hormones + Beer – Parents = Lesbian Sex

She likens her sampling of vajayjay to “trying a new flavor of ice cream or something.” She also said that nobody is entirely straight, just like how everybody, including Oprah Winfrey, you know, poops. I agree that sexuality is fluid, and so did Alfred Kinsey, who suggested we all rank on a scale from 0 to 6 (0 being too straight to function, 6 being that guy who works at Banana Republic). Yet one bi girl I know told me, “Most people I meet don’t believe in bisexuality at all.”

Whoa, hold up… Don’t believe in bisexuality? There are plenty of things that are “rumors” that are taken as gospel (hello, son of God!), so let’s not question her when she says, “I will indiscriminately make out with men and women, not to mention fall in love with both.” It’s only fair!

But the totally unsubstantiated truth remains that seventy-five percent of women will have a lesbian encounter in college, though admittedly, most of them don’t end up lesbians. Bicurious experimentation has become pretty normal for women in their 20’s – and trust me, I’m not complaining. But what does socially encouraged “heteroflexibility” — you know, chicks making out in Girls Gone Wild videos — hold for gay women?

A lesbian classmate (who first came out as “bisexual”) said, “It is hipper to be bisexual than lesbian at Dartmouth. It is more convenient to be bisexual than lesbian at Dartmouth. It is safer to be bisexual than lesbian at Dartmouth.” Ooh, pillow fight! But on two counts, she’s right. Because of the fad factor, lesbian students feel they must constantly assert their gayness. One friend confided, “I feel a lot more confident identifying as a bisexual person now that I’ve been dating a girl for two years.” There are way more straight dudes than there are lesbians, and many bi ladies end up dating more men than women because of the math alone — and it turns out that lesbians feel even more self-conscious about their alignment with “fake” or fair-weather bisexuals.

These are pressures I’ve definitely felt. Bisexuality is a safer label to straight women. Kind of punk rock, even! But it’s also commonly eroticized on TV and in movies and dismissed as a real identity. With one foot hesitantly planted in the lesbian world, the other defaulted to the straight, breeding universe, bi women are effectively excluded from both. It’s like being that misunderstood kid, stabbing at her peas alone in the cafeteria. And now Tila Tequila, poster girl for bisexuality, makes people eat testicles on her MTV show, all in the name of “love”. Brilliant. (FYI, the wifey and her pick broke up weeks after filming wrapped!)

On the other hand, the free-spiritedness of college allows many women to examine a sexuality they might have taken for granted. Upon recent reflection of past slumber party intimacies, a college senior from a conservative Asian family became a born-again lesbian. While she had no sexual experience with women, her Facebook was promptly updated. If it hadn’t been for her freshman roommates getting together – followed by her pledge to a sorority — she’s unsure of whether or not she ever would have paused to question her orientation at all. Having figured it out, she says, “I’m really, really excited..but now what?”

“Uh, now you have like four seasons of The L Word to catch up on,” I told her.

When I first met her, she said she always found women more attractive than men. At first, I’ll admit, I wondered if it was, as her friends claimed, just a phase? Is she really a lesbian or just a college lesbian?

I’ve been name-called both. According to Urban Dictionary, a “lesbian until graduation (LUG),” or “four year lesbian,” is “a woman who adopts a lesbian lifestyle while attending college.” But honestly, it’s so sweet that college women get to figure it out now. When my mom was a coed, casual dips into lesbianism weren’t exactly par for the course. In fact, in her day, college was often more about window shopping for a hubby than anything else. And now she’s witnessing “college heteros” switching sides – women her age are actually swapping their digs in the suburbs for lesbian relationships. But that is another story.