The Vagina Dialogues

Jen Sincero was having the best sex of her life.

And while that should have been cause for celebration, it wasn't quite that simple. After all, in the age of Oprah, you can't simply live. You need explanation. Analysis. Most important, you need written assurance that your life choices fit neatly into an Important Generational Trend.

You need a book.

A book can put everything in perspective. You're not a doormat; you're a Woman Who Loves Too Much. It's not that you've botched a life commitment at an early age -- you had a Starter Marriage. You're not lazy if you quit your job to watch Real World reruns: You're having a Quarter-Life Crisis.

But what context is there for a girl who's straight, but who's having great sex -- with another girl?

Sincero didn't think she was a lesbian. A former punk rocker with a little-noticed novel under her belt, she was in her late 30s. She'd always liked men. She still did. And yet there she was: "All of a sudden, I found myself with an incredible woman who got it and me, and the sex was hot as hell," she'd later write. "And before I knew it I was in a relationship."

There weren't any books on that.

So she wrote one herself.

Sincero used to be an advertising copywriter, so the title was the easy part: The Straight Girl's Guide to Sleeping With Chicks. Solely on the strength of its catchiness, she sold the book to Simon & Schuster. She had yet to write even the opening sentence.

But write it she did, and fortunately for Sincero, the finished book tapped an Important Generational Trend. After all, if blow jobs defined sexual relations in the Clinton era, in the Bush years we've got nothing but, well, bush.

For all the buzz surrounding Showtime's glossy lesbian soap opera The L Word, this trend isn't really about lesbians. Mostly, it's about women who aren't gay, women who've barely paused to ask if they might be gay -- and yet are kissing their girlfriends, making out with their girlfriends, even occasionally turning their girlfriends into their Girlfriends.

Call them "bi-curious."

These women don't come out so much as try it out -- think Anne Heche, not Ellen DeGeneres. Men are in their past; men may be in their future. But for the moment, they're hooking up with a woman, and it's cool.

Dabbling isn't particularly new. Straight women slept with other women long before June Miller taught Anaïs Nin a thing or two. And female college students have long expressed their heightened consciousness by shagging their roommates. (There's even a term for that: Lesbian Until Graduation, a.k.a. LUG.)

But this is different.

Ask an Arizona State University student today which of her friends has kissed another girl, and she may well fire back, "Which one hasn't?" When Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist at the University of Washington, wrote Sex and the Yale Student in 1971, the topic of bi-curious couplings never even came up. That would be impossible today, she notes.

A pair of cute blond lesbians, Lauren Levin and Lauren Blitzer, have inked a deal to write a book called Same Sex in the City: So Your Prince Charming Is Really a Cinderella. It hits stores next spring.

It's not underground anymore. It would have been unthinkable for the girls of Beverly Hills, 90210 to jump into bed together, but when Marissa and Alex did it last year on The OC, no one even feigned surprise. It was scandalous when Ellen came out; it was just another piece of celebrity gossip when she started hanging with the once-married Portia DiRossi.

And so just like that, Jen Sincero found herself landing smack in the middle of the zeitgeist.

The Straight Girl's Guide made it to number 7 on the Los Angeles Times best-seller list. Sincero's Web site started getting 8,500 hits a day. And Sincero began teaching workshops to girls who want to learn more, including one next week at Phoenix's MADE Art Boutique. The workshops almost always sell out.

Even Sincero is shocked by that. "These are people who not only want to have this taboo sex, but they're willing to show up in public and admit it!" she exalts.

The reason for that is simple enough: Sex between two women isn't taboo anymore. Instead, it's become so damn trendy that it's changing the way we understand feminism, gay rights, and even human sexuality itself.

And now, some researchers are questioning whether it all points to a startling conclusion: Maybe, they say, most women aren't strictly gay or straight after all. Maybe there's a bi-curious woman in all of us.