(Like many of the women interviewed for this story, Elizabeth asked that her full name not be used.)
Ashley, 20, a student at Northern Arizona University, agrees. "It's become this totally hot thing," she says. "And the reason why is that it promises this sexual experimentation to guys. They think, 'She'll kiss another girl; she's gotta be pretty wild.'"
Ashley hasn't made out with that many girls: "I've only done it like a dozen times." It's been fun, she says, but mostly because of the titillation: "There's people watching it, and that makes me feel good. The first time I did it at a party, I thought, 'So this is what it takes to get the guys' attention.'"
Girls who do it say it's just fun and games, but there are some dissenters. Elizabeth, who's actually interested in a relationship with a woman, thinks it's cheapening. "Everybody knows it's flighty and shallow if you're just doing it for guys," she says.
Perhaps the most vocal objectors are lesbian women. Myspace.com features a group called "The Coalition Against Drunk Bi-curious Girls" -- with 262 members nationwide.
The group's Web site features a poignant parable: A lesbian starts dancing with a female stranger at a club. Dancing turns to making out, and making out, the lesbian thinks, is turning into love:
with every kiss, you seem to fall more and more. . . . the next day, all you can do is think about her. you can't wait until you can talk to her again. you think of all the great stuff that is to come in the future. you call her.
it hits you all at once.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! LIKE OMG! DID WE HAVE FUN LAST NIGHT OR WHAT? . . . ALL THE BOYS LOVED US!!! TOO BAD I COULDN'T FIND A HOT GUY!!! I WAS SOOOOO DRUNK! . . . WHEN ARE WE GOING TO FIND SOME HOT GUYS AND MAKE OUT AGAIN?!?!?!
cue rem's "everybody hurts."
Lisa M. Diamond, an associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah, says that today's bi-curious woman certainly has high visibility -- but that doesn't mean she's actually getting it on.
"I wonder if that many girls are dabbling in it, versus just talking about it," Diamond says. "It's much more common for girls to say, 'I can see trying it.' Actually doing it is a scarier topic."
But just like Sweeps Week kissing seems to have made it cool to suck face in bars, all that face sucking seems to be ushering in new tolerance for the next step: Following through.
Ashley, the NAU student, now thinks she's open to hooking up with a woman, if the circumstances are right. An ASU undergrad who doesn't want her name used at all says she kissed girls in bars more than half a dozen times before she found herself in a group of six women where everyone was making out.
The only spectator was a mostly-finished bottle of tequila.
"I really enjoyed it," the student says. "You feel this great esteem boost. You feel loved."
This is what happened to Jen Sincero.
She grew up in New York. Went to college in Colorado. Played in a rock band in Manhattan and wrote advertising copy, then fled to Albuquerque for six years of hiking and playing in bands and not much else. After moving to Los Angeles, she wrote a novel, Don't Sleep with Your Drummer, which was published by a division of Simon & Schuster, MTV Books. (HBO optioned the novel, but recently dropped plans to use it.)
She was bi-curious before it was cool.
"I'd done my fair share of dabbling," she writes in The Straight Girl's Guide, "made out with a few drunk friends, and groped the occasional boob here and there, but nothing all that intimate ever happened. It was the result of being wasted and figuring that if there were no cute guys around I might as well pin Sharon to the couch."
All the while she dated men, and not just a few of them. "I used to be a big 'ho bag'," she notes, in passing, during a lunch interview at Zen 32.
An angular 6'1", with a voice that manages to boom despite its raspiness, Sincero is funny and enthusiastic and still a little gawky, despite recently turning 40.
"We're so uptight," she rasps into her sushi, oblivious to the fact that a stuffy couple two tables down is listening to every word. "People should just do what they want to do and not worry about it.