The Vagina Dialogues

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It's 11 p.m. on a Friday, and the scene at Radius is just heating up. A downtown Scottsdale meat market that shares a $10 cover charge with its sister club, Axis, Radius boasts a clientele that's precisely half ex-sorority chicks and half ex-fraternity jocks. Even though the place isn't exactly crowded -- not yet, anyway -- the floor is sticky with Skyy and Bacardi.

As is usually the case, the interaction on the dance floor is strictly girl-on-girl. One twentysomething grinds her friend up against the railing. Another, a big lush of a brunette, actually takes off her belt and loops it around her friend, using it to draw her closer as they bop to the beat. The half-dozen guys at the edge of the dance floor don't even bother to watch.

They're too busy panting as the two hotties at the center of the dance floor simulate sex.

The girl in the tiny kilt and even smaller tee shirt has Lucy Liu's face, topped by an improbably tawny mane. She's the tease, undulating up against her friend, a dirty-blonde, then backing away as she mouths the lyrics. "Billie Jean is not my lover! She's just a girl, who claims that I am the one . . ." She practically purrs with self-satisfaction.

Suddenly the kilted girl moves in for the kill. She crouches low, then slowly shimmies her way up, her face not an inch from the blonde's pelvis, then her chest, then her neck. Their faces get closer and closer. The blonde is blushing; the kilt just grinds closer.

"She's just a girl, who claims that I am the one!"

The guys on the sidelines start holding their breath.

They're going to kiss. They have to kiss.

The girls are smiling at each other, soft secret smiles, and their lips are practically touching --

And then "Billie Jean" is over and the DJ offers "Ice Ice Baby" and the kilted girl smiles and the blond girl smiles and the kilt shakes her hips and they're gone. Just like that! The guys kind of stand there, and you can see the reverie break and the wheels start, slowly, to turn again.

The boys are certainly cursing Vanilla Ice. But more than that, they're wondering if, hope against hope, those girls are having sex somewhere. And, if so, can they watch?

Lesbian chic arguably made its mainstream debut in 1991, when two attractive lawyers on L.A. Law shared a kiss. Even one of the actresses involved in the embrace denounced the smooch as a ratings stunt, but the floodgates were open, and they haven't shut since.

Girl-on-girl kissing has become the ultimate ratings boost for any flailing program. The titular characters tried it during Sweeps Week on both Roseanne and Ally McBeal. Jennifer Aniston actually kissed two women in a single episode of Friends; Madonna topped that by snogging both Christina and Britney at the 2003 Video Music Awards.

Girl-on-girl action has long been a mainstay in porn targeted at straight guys. What Sweeps Week kissing did was take an age-old male fantasy and deliver it directly to women who might never have perused porn. Suddenly it wasn't just okay to kiss your girlfriends; it was what you were supposed to do.

It was hot.

Today, you can't go to a club or a frat party without seeing girls dancing with each other. And holding hands. And sucking face. (If you're too lazy to go out, just consider the ubiquitous TV ads for Girls Gone Wild. Those bikinied spring break lushes aren't just showing you their boobs; they're grabbing their girlfriends'.)

At Axis, Radius' sister club and another spot with no shortage of skinny chicks in short skirts, the number of girls grinding up against each other dwarfs male/female couplings by a ratio of five to one. The only difference at Myst -- home to a throbbing dance beat and a slightly hipper crowd -- is that at Myst, it happens under a strobe light. Even at Palazzo's Tranzylvania night, which caters to the ghoulish and the goth, two dreamy-looking women sway against each other while a guy watches approvingly.

Like most Sweeps Week kissing, girl-on-girl action in clubs seems to exist mostly to attract viewers. As soon as no one's watching, the moment is over. When Mr. Goth steps out for drinks, the women immediately pull away from each other. They look slightly bored. As for those hotties at Radius, long after "Ice, Ice Baby," they turn up in a quiet corner of the club -- having drinks with their boyfriends.

"It's very obvious to me that girls are doing this for the benefit of whatever men are standing there," says Elizabeth, a 22-year-old massage therapist who frequently parties in Scottsdale and Tempe.

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske