February 02, 2006

Pomo Homos and the Cuddle Puddle

An I-kid-you-not conversation from last night -

The Estimat: So, he's thinking of splitting Bio of Gender up into different sections, so for example, Biology of Attraction and -
Me: Wait, what does attraction have to do with gender??

Pause as we both realize what just came out of my mouth.

The Estimat: How do you *exist*??

Yeah, sometimes I wonder that myself.

Anyway, this all leads me to the following article from New York Magazine:

The Cuddle Puddle of Stuyvestant High School

Researchers find it shocking that 11 percent of American girls between 15 and 19 claim to have same-sex encounters. Clearly they’ve never observed the social rituals of the pansexual, bi-queer, metroflexible New York teen.

There are a lot of things I could say about this article, though ultimately I'm still mulling over my overall reaction.
It practically takes a diagram to plot all the various hookups and connections within the cuddle puddle. Elle’s kissed Jane and Jane’s kissed Alair and Alair’s kissed Elle. And then from time to time Elle hooks up with Nathan, but really only at parties, and only when Bethany isn’t around, because Nathan really likes Bethany, who doesn’t have a thing for girls but doesn’t have a problem with girls who do, either. Alair’s hooking up with Jason (who “kind of” went out with Jane once), even though she sort of also has a thing for Hector, who Jane likes, too—though Jane thinks it’s totally boring when people date people of the same gender. Ilia has a serious girlfriend, but girls were hooking up at his last party, which was awesome. Molly has kissed Alair, and Jane’s ex-girlfriend first decided she was bi while staying at Molly’s beach house on Fire Island. Sarah sometimes kisses Elle, although she has a boyfriend—he doesn’t care if she hooks up with other girls, since she’s straight anyway. And so on.

Some of the boys hook up with each other, too, although in far fewer numbers than the girls. One of Alair’s male friends explained that this is because for guys, anything beyond same-sex kissing requires “more of a physical commitment.” If a guy does hook up with other guys it certainly doesn’t make the girls less likely to hook up with him; and the converse is obviously true.

The basic point is that, in today's generation of kids with (post-)queer sensibilities, sexuality is no longer something one bothers to define.

Their friend Nathan, a senior with John Lennon hair and glasses, is there with his guitar, strumming softly under the conversation. “So many of the girls here are lesbian or have experimented or are confused,” he says.

Ilia, another senior boy, frowns at Nathan’s use of labels. “It’s not lesbian or bisexual. It’s just, whatever...”

"Just, whatever"? Ok, I admit that labels often do more harm than good, but I can't help wondering if describing one's sexuality as "just, whatever ..." doesn't just reinforce the idea that bisexuals (or pick your own term for "people whose attractions are not monogendered") are undecided, confused libertines who will sleep with anyone at least once.

Then again, so are teenagers... *wicked grin*


wannatakethisoutside said...

I think there's a difference between seeing people whose attractions as not monogendered as confused or in a phase or something and seeing it as not making a huge difference.

Like, "whatever" could mean that it's not important to him how they identify, and that he accepts their behavior as just dandy.

I'm not sure I read that as acting in an offensive way.

But someone tell me if I'm out of line.

maudite entendante said...

Oh, WTTO, I definitely don't think that was the intent of the kid who said it was "just, whatever ..." Considering he's a cuddle-puddler himself, I doubt he sees it in a negative light.

But the little PR hack in me is nervous about the message it sends when you see descriptions like that in print. I mean, I guess it shouldn't be surprising, given the source (namely, a high-schooler), but it makes bisexuality sound so ... juvenile.

*shrug* But I've been known to be sensitive about these things, eh?

aurora said...

Thanks for posting this. The group actually sounds a lot like my crowd in high school. (Or what my crowd would have been if we'd had crazy parties and more hook-ups.) The way it worked for my group, at least, everybody just did what (and who) they did, and nobody made a big deal of it. Most of us have gone through the experience of going to college and having to "come out" - a foreign concept in our world.

sbbjvtme - a mumbled and confused response to the question "were you out in high school?"

tea cozy said...

Actually, this kid's "just, like, whatever..." is exactly what everyone in my high school (including the involved parties) had to say about two (female) friends of mine in high school who started to date at the end of my senior year. To this day, they are together (beautiful, beautiful, beautiful girls), and neither one identifies as lesbian, bisexual, or straight... except for purposes of shorthand. This is probably because of an early exposure to Judith Butler and the documentary "Southern Comfort" which we all shared... it was a rejection (however "juvenile") of (A) the gender binary, which we could see right in front of us in the word bi-sexual and (B) of the inherent sexualness of relationships and/or the human body... Nothing really seemed to have that much to do with physical sex OR gender, and their and our rejection of "lesbian, bisexual..." was a response to that. Call us hippies, but everything was about LOVE back then.