Girls Kissing Girls: Explaining the Trend
By Jeffrey Kluger Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | 331 comments
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 Anthropological 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.
There are three main drivers of the girl-girl trend — four actually, once you get past the copycat trendiness that is inevitable when stars on awards shows do something sensational on camera. Perhaps the biggest — for better or worse — of the other three reasons is a desire for attention, typically from boys. This is why parties are so often involved in same-sex kissing — and why the disinhibiting effects of alcohol frequently contribute. (More on Healthland: Osama Bin Laden as Doting Granddad?)
"It's usually brought on by, I don't know, like shots or drinking or people kind of saying something to like cheer it on or whatever," said one female student the professors interviewed. "And it's usually done in order to turn guys on or to seek male attention in some way."
That, say Rupp and Taylor, plays into the old feminist
notion of the power imbalance involved in the "male gaze," with men as observers and women as the observed. Girls may hold boys in thrall with openly sexual displays, but they're still performing for the pleasure of an audience, and the boys are still in the socially dominant position
. (More on Healthland: More Americans Consider Pets Family, But Not Gay Couples)