News, Wit & Commentary for Lesbians
JIC Post:From Sydney Morning-HeraldGirl-on-girl action is on the increase, writes Helen Razer, as young women blur the sexual divide.'This started out as a fun joke," says best-selling author Jen Sincero. "You know, ha ha, let's write a book about straight girls who want to know how to get a little hot female action." However, when Sincero began to write her gender-bending sensation, The Straight Girl's Guide to Sleeping with Chicks, the US writer got more than she bargained for.The backlash from the Bible belt was predictable, but 39-year-old Sincero was taken aback by some reactions from the gay community."I'm really politicised now," says the author from her home in Los Angeles. "Yep, these days I seem to be Little Miss Soapbox, waving her fist in the air."Based on her own experience and including interviews with women of all sexual hues, Sincero's Straight Girl's Guide is a straight-talking how-to manual for the curious lass. Her graphic Sapphic instructions come with chapter headings such as "The Super-Huge Importance of Sticking Your Hand Down Your Pants", and "Oh My God, She Wants Me to Eat Her Pussy!". But beyond the saucy packaging, says Sincero, is a serious message. She is an evangelist for female sexual exploration and the rejection of labels such as gay, bisexual or straight. "I genuinely believe it's important to discuss our sexual selves openly," she says.In Australia, where the Straight Girl's Guide went on sale recently, her message seems likely to find a receptive audience. While much of the evidence is anecdotal, or at least circumstantial (if popular culture is anything to go by, there is a growing fascination with girl-on-girl action), there is a body of research that suggests women, even those who identify as heterosexual, are increasingly willing to cross and recross the sexual divide - or at least think about it.A 2003 survey by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University in Melbourne found that the sexuality divide was more permeable than had previously been thought. The study of 20,000 Australians, Sex in Australia, found that 8.6 per cent of men and 15.1 per cent of women "were not exclusively heterosexual in either attraction or experience or both".Relatively few respondents identified as homosexual or bisexual and the overwhelming majority elected to identify as heterosexual. But the report concluded: "Same-sex attraction and homosexual experience are more common than homosexual or bisexual identity would suggest." Significantly, nearly twice as many women as men admitted to a same-sex attraction.Unsurprisingly, Sincero found that many of those she encountered during her US book tour were less than impressed with her observations. In Texas, a woman accused her of colluding with the devil. In San Francisco, the Western world's honorary gay capital, she also encountered opposition."I'm in trouble with some activist women because I refuse to say I'm bisexual," says the author, who is open about her relatively limited - but "really, really hot" - sexual experiences with women. "And then, I feel that even if I did openly identify as bisexual, people would say 'no, you're not' because I've slept with more men than women. At times, I find a degree of inflexibility in the more traditional homosexual community that seems to me to be every bit as 'straight' as straight."Another survey published this year by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society suggests a degree of flux in the young gay community. While most of the respondents in the survey, "Writing Themselves in Again", identified as "gay", "lesbian" or "homosexual", the report's author, Alina Turner, says the reality may be more fluid. On the one hand, says Turner, more young people appear to be choosing a "more fixed" sexual identity. But, she says, "the stories that emerge between the data ... can sometimes tell a different story". Increasingly, this territory is being explored through popular culture, from TV shows such as The OC and Big Brother to manuals of the kind Sincero has produced.Last month's Cleo magazine used an extract from The Straight Girl's Guide in its "sealed section". Mia Freedman, editor-in-chief of Cleo, Cosmopolitan and Dolly, predicted it would raise few eyebrows."For many women, sleeping with another woman is simply the logical extension of the pash with a girlfriend at a disco in front of the blokes. It is, simply, no big deal."Jen, 35, a resident of Tasmania who prefers not to use her surname, is exploring some of this territory. As a once-married woman who briefly identified as a lesbian, she now lives in a monogamous, long-term relationship with a transgendered woman who, like Jen, identifies as bisexual.For Jen, it was life experience that led her to engage with the knotty questions of gender and sexuality. Love came first and theory followed."Sexuality has become much more fluid and you no longer have to be locked up into a convenient compartment," she says.Perhaps this apparent fluidity is evidence of a generational shift. "You know, some of the younger women I interviewed for the book couldn't care less about labels and sexual identity," Sincero says. "They were all, 'of course we have sex with other girls, why are you bothering to write this book anyway?'"I have to say, I think that's kind of great."
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