A friend and I are in a club when she sees two girls making out on the dance floor. She mutters under her breath, “Eh, damn extra.”
She continues her commentary, “Obviously straight. Just wanna attract attention.”
She’s not the first person I’ve heard saying this, but this is the first time I find myself seriously thinking about the phenomenon of straight girls kissing in clubs, and why so many people (women in particular) seem to take offence.
So when I chance upon a few photos of Luna Lim on Instagram that show her making out with other girls in clubs, I reach out to the 20-year-old. In these photos, both she and the girls she’s kissing appear confident and self-assured.
One of them is “an exceedingly good friend who behaves like [Luna’s] wife through caring [for her]”, she says. Most of the time, she kisses them because “it’s fun and harmless”.
In an article by The Conversation, a woman also admits that she kisses other girls in clubs because she’s “a very physical person and it’s not all emotional, which doesn’t go over well with people”. When she gets physical with girls, there are no negative consequences, as compared to getting labelled ‘the player’ and ‘whore’ with men.
Similarly, Luna believes girls who behave this way share a “really deep bond” and are simply looking to enjoy themselves.
27-year-old Charmaine Poh, a photographer whose work deals with gender and sexuality, says, “Perhaps these straight girls who kiss each other have internalised this scene and want to appear as sexual creatures for men’s benefit. The making out has no emotional connection and no sense of partnership or desire. In the end, it’s just a game of power to get them the men.”
Yet girl-on-girl action isn’t as empowering as it feels, especially if done under pressure to conform to a masculine understanding of what’s considered sexy.
As Psychology Today states, “Hooking up with other girls doesn’t represent true empowerment if it occurs due to pressure from other people. If a woman openly displays her sexuality to garner a man’s attention, it sounds a bit more like oppression disguised as empowerment.”
On the other hand, Luna’s friend, Kaylee Giam, may not play the game, but she understands the social pressure for girls to kiss each other as a ‘performance’ for men.
“Some straight girls do it because it’s hot and guys like it.”
However, she only kisses other girls depending on who the other party is. She also feels like “kissing is an exclusive gesture of showing how much you love a person”. To her, this can extend to both romantic and platonic love.
She doesn’t do this with her platonic straight male friends, as kissing would naturally complicate the friendship. This echoes the aforementioned article by The Conversation, in which a woman addresses concerns of being labelled a whore if she behaved the same way around men.
Additionally, both she and Luna admit that girls kissing girls often occurs in clubs because of “alcohol and the atmosphere”. I understand that alcohol can loosen one’s inhibitions, but most of these girls don’t just “kiss”. They full on make out. Surely, one would think, there is some sort of sexual element involved.
I ask if she considers herself straight, and she says she “can be sexually attracted to a girl, but never develop emotional feelings for her”.
And even though a man is not involved in this dynamic, he would probably find her behaviour ‘hot’, reinforcing the reality that men and women hold fundamentally different perspectives.
While men may see sexual undertones in this behaviour and get pleasure out of watching girls kiss, many women do it for nothing more than good ol’ platonic affection.
Charmaine adds, “Some people also believe that men imagine themselves as part of the entire scene, so in the end they are part of the act. The second woman is just there as a substitute for him.”
Likewise, several straight guys I spoke to share that straight guys tend to harbour fantasies about being in a threesome with two other girls. Seeing two girls make out in the club fulfils that fantasy, albeit from a distance.
In fact, one of them even states that straight guys who say they’ve never fantasised about being in a threesome are “plain bullshitting”.
From girl band T.A.T.U., to Madonna and Britney Spears’ infamous kiss on stage, and even Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”, we form initial ideas of same-sex female sexuality from Western pop culture and how it should make us feel. In most cases, we enjoy the ‘performance’ they put on.
On the whole, society has been taught to find it “titillating when girls kiss girls”, so that images of same-sex female sexuality marketed to a heterosexual male audience are never “threatening and alarming”. It’s always tame at best, and raunchy at worst.
At the same time, Luna says that kissing girls has become her de facto defense mechanism against unwanted advances from men, echoing what any female who has ever partied knows that about being hit on by guys in the club.
“In all honesty, I believe I started kissing girls to avoid kissing guys when I was 16. There was once when guys wanted to get a little funny. My best friend at that time swooped in and kissed me, pushing the guys away.”
She adds, “I have even lied to a couple of guys for being lesbian whenever they harrass me or prolong an uncomfortable conversation. Kissing another girl immediately puts them in an awkward position, so they back off and go away.”
Her confession resonates. A tweet thread by writer Eve Ewing recounts experiences where girls often need to ‘rescue’ each other from uncomfortable situations involving potentially dangerous men.
And while I may not have kissed a girl to protect myself, I too have found myself in vulnerable situations where I’ve pretended to have a boyfriend just to fend off unwanted attention.
Recalling my friend’s comment that the two girls making out on the dance floor were “attracting attention”, I now understand motivations are never strictly black and white. Women don’t “kiss each other only for either the attention of men or on their way to a proud bisexual or lesbian identity”. It’s only right to withhold judgement and consider the nuances and structural constraints of each circumstance.
Besides, if kissing another girl is indeed a last resort to avoid sinister situations, then we should be thankful that most do it only to seek attention.