Well, it looks like its time to say goodbye to the phenomenon known as LUG, or lesbian until graduation, that, according to a Times piece, never actually existed. The story reported that a recent study showed that college-educated women were actually less likely to have a same-sex experience than those without high school diplomas.
I was never a big fan of the whole idea of the LUG, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because, during college, a lot of the women I knew on campus who made out with women weren’t actually LUGs; they were instead something I am going to call HUGs, or hotties until graduation.
I have no problem with sexual exploration and, like any right-minded person, I support expressions of sexuality across the spectrum. My issue isn’t with sexual curiosity; it is with those that engage in girl-on-girl action for the sole purpose of titillating men. This lesbianism as a way to be sexy has made serious inroads in pop culture over the last decade, and, I would argue, is part of our initial fascination with LUGs in the first place. (It’s a fascination that I can’t help but think had something to do with the Times pretty thorough coverage on the recent study.)
During my time as a co-ed, I would say that many of lesbian encounters I witnessed or heard about were done in order to make oneself appear desirable to the opposite sex. Some would engage in a little kissing and gentle groping in public, while others would get Sapphic in more private quarters — sometimes with the addition of a guy, and sometimes just, it seemed, to be able to report on it after. The end goal for these HUGs was to message their sexiness.
LUGs, according to the original New York magazine article on them, were bohemian types who were influenced by their liberal arts education. The piece compared this moment of exploration to a junior year abroad. HUGs, on the other hand, just want to be hot. And today lesbianism is hot.
While my personal college experience is certainly anecdotal (though no more anecdotal, it seems, than the original article about LUGs prompting the study) the spread of HUGs in pop culture is an undeniable phenomenon.
Chicks making out with chicks has long been a staple of porn for straight men. And as pop culture has become porno-fied, young stars have begun to replicate this type of lesbianism. Last summer, former Disney star Miley Cyrus attempted to declare her very grown-up sexuality by kissing girls on tour, and now Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen, age 17, has added a lusty dance number to her stage show featuring a quartet of young women writhing around in lace bras and ripped tights. All of this makes early Britney look rather quaint, Marilyn Monroe, austere.
Even the show “Glee,” which has been praised for its realistic portrayal of male homosexuality, couldn’t avoid the “sexy” lesbian trope; a recent plot line revealed a complicated desire between the two hottest and most promiscuous girls in school.
And during my time as an undergrad in the early aughts, HUGs could be seen nightly in the omnipresent “Girls Gone Wild” commercials, which featured groups of female co-eds going at it in their spring break hotel rooms. I can’t help but imagine that some of the girls making out in the back of the college bar had these late-night spots running through their heads.
HUGs aren’t about girl power, and nor are they really about sexual exploration. They are just young girls doing whatever it takes to be hot. Again, I am by no means suggesting that everyone who beds members of the same sex during college or in their early 20s is just doing it to appear sexier. I am just saying that there is a real difference between real sexual curiosity and the sorority sisters nestling their heads in one another’s breasts for Joe Francis’s camera.
In her new book on the legacy of Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique,” Stephanie Coontz looks at some of the new problems “that have no name.” One of them is what she calls the “hottie mystique.” Coontz explains that girls in their teens and twenties increasingly feel pressure to “present themselves as objects to be consumed,” and that “appearing ‘hot’ is mandatory” among even middle-schoolers.
Coontz says the idea behind it is that we are compensating for our success by becoming ever more sexier. And what better way is there to raise the sexy stakes than to re-enact a scene from “Girls Gone Wild”?