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The Cuddle Puddle of Stuyvesant High School

Of course, the definition of “hooking up” is as nebulous as the definition of “heteroflexible.” A catchall phrase for anything from “like, exchanging of saliva” to intercourse, it’s often a euphemism for oral sex. But rules are hazy when you’re talking about physical encounters between two girls. As Alair puts it, “How do you define female sex? It’s difficult. I don’t know what the bases are. Everyone keeps trying to explain the bases to me, but there’s so many things that just don’t fit into the base system. I usually leave it up to the other girl.”

Elle elaborates by using herself as an example. At a recent party, she says, she “kissed five people and, like, hooked up with two going beyond kissing. One of them was a boy and one of them was a girl. The reason I started hooking up with the guy is because he was making out with this other guy and he came back and was like, ‘I have to prove that I’m straight.’ And I was standing right there. That’s how it all began.” The guy in question became her boyfriend that night; even though the relationship is all of a week old, she calls it her second “serious” relationship. “At least I’m intending for it to be serious.” (It lasted eleven days.)

The cuddle puddle may be where a flirtation begins, but parties, not surprisingly, are where most of the real action takes place. In parentless apartments, the kids are free to “make the rounds,” as they call it, and move their more-than-kissing hookups with both genders behind locked bathroom doors or onto coat-laden beds. Even for bisexual girls there is, admittedly, a Girls Gone Wild aspect to these evenings. Some girls do hook up with other girls solely to please the guys who watch, and it can be difficult to distinguish between the behavior of someone who is legitimately sexually interested and someone who wants to impress the boy across the room. Alair is quick to disparage this behavior—“It kinda grosses me out. It can’t be like, this could be fun . . . is anyone watching my chest heave?”—but Jane sees it as empowering. “I take advantage of it because manipulating boys is fun as hell. Boys make out with boys for our benefit as well. So it’s not just one way. It’s very fair.”

She’s not just making excuses. These girls have obliterated the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” stranglehold that has traditionally plagued high-school females. They set the sexual agenda for their group. And they expect reciprocation. “I’ve made it my own personal policy that if I’m going to give oral sex, I’m going to receive oral sex,” says Jane. “Jane wears the pants in any relationship,” Ilia says with a grin. “She wears the pants in my relationship, even though she’s not part of it.”

When the girls talk about other girls they sound like football players in a locker room (“The Boobie Goddesses of our grade are Natalie and Annette,” or “Have you seen the Asian girl who wears that tiny red dress and those high red sneakers?,” or “Carol is so hot! Why is she straight? I don’t get it”), but there’s little gossip about same-sex hookups—partly because the novelty has by now worn off, and partly because, as Alair puts it, “it’s not assumed that a relationship will stem from it.” It seems that even with all the same-sex activity going on, it’s still hard for the girls to find other girls to actually date. Jane says this is because the girls who like girls generally like boys more, at least for dating. “A lot of girls are scared about trying to make a lesbian relationship work,” she says. “There’s this fear that there has to be the presence of a man or it won’t work.”

But dating gay girls isn’t really an option either, because the cuddle-puddle kids are not considered part of the gay community. “One of the great things about bisexuality is that mainstream gay culture doesn’t affect us as much,” says Jane, “so it’s not like bi boys feel that they have to talk with a lisp and walk around all fairylike, and it’s not like girls feel like they have to dress like boys.” The downside, she says, is that “gays feel that bis will cheat on them in a straight manner.” In fact, there’s a general impression of promiscuity that bisexual girls can’t seem to shake. “The image of people who are bi is that they are sluts,” says Jane. “One of the reasons straight boys have this bi-girls fantasy is that they are under the impression that bisexual girls will sleep with anything that moves and that’s why they like both genders, because they are so sex-obsessed. Which isn’t true.”