"The Cuddle Puddle of Stuyvesant High School"
If you want to know where our next generation is coming from, New York magazine for February 6, 2006, offers one picture. Among some of the city's brightest, most ambitious high-school kids, an easy, proto-polyamorous ambisexuality is the comfortable norm. "Researchers find it shocking that 11 percent of American girls between 15 and 19 claim to have same-sex encounters," says the magazine. "Clearly they've never observed the social rituals of the pansexual, bi-queer, metroflexible New York teen."
...Alair is headed for the section of the second-floor hallway where her friends gather every day during their free tenth period for the "cuddle puddle," as she calls it. There are girls petting girls and girls petting guys and guys petting guys. She dives into the undulating heap of backpacks and blue jeans and emerges between her two best friends, Jane and Elle, whose names have been changed at their request. They are all 16, juniors at Stuyvesant. Alair slips into Jane's lap, and Elle reclines next to them, watching, cat-eyed. All three have hooked up with each other. All three have hooked up with boys sometimes the same boys. But it's not that they're gay or bisexual, not exactly. Not always.
...It's... true that the "puddle" is just one clique at Stuyvesant, and that Stuyvesant can hardly be considered a typical high school. It attracts the brightest public-school students in New York, and that may be an environment conducive to fewer sexual inhibitions. "In our school," Elle says, "people are getting a better education, so they're more open-minded."
That said, the Stuyvesant cuddle puddle is emblematic of the changing landscape of high-school sexuality across the country. This past September, when the National Center for Health Statistics released its first survey in which teens were questioned about their sexual behavior, 11 percent of American girls polled in the 15-to-19 demographic claimed to have had same-sex encounters the same percentage of all women ages 15 to 44 who reported same-sex experiences, even though the teenagers have much shorter sexual histories. It doesn't take a Stuyvesant education to see what this means: More girls are experimenting with each other, and they're starting younger. And this is a conservative estimate, according to Ritch Savin-Williams, a professor of human development at Cornell who has been conducting research on same-sex-attracted adolescents for over twenty years. Depending on how you phrase the questions and how you define sex between women, he believes that "it's possible to get up to 20 percent of teenage girls."
...Go to the schools, talk to the kids, and you'll see that somewhere along the line this generation has started to conceive of sexuality differently. Ten years ago in the halls of Stuyvesant you might have found a few goth girls kissing goth girls, kids on the fringes defiantly bucking the system. Now you find a group of vaguely progressive but generally mainstream kids for whom same-sex intimacy is standard operating procedure. "It's not like, Oh, I'm going to hit on her now. It's just kind of like, you come up to a friend, you grab their ass," Alair explains. "It's just, like, our way of saying hello." These teenagers don't feel as though their sexuality has to define them, or that they have to define it, which has led some psychologists and child-development specialists to label them the "post-gay" generation. But kids like Alair and her friends are in the process of working up their own language to describe their behavior. Along with gay, straight, and bisexual, they'll drop in new words, some of which they've coined themselves: polysexual, ambisexual, pansexual, pansensual, polyfide, bi-curious, bi-queer, fluid, metroflexible, heteroflexible, heterosexual with lesbian tendencies or, as Alair puts it, "just sexual." The terms are designed less to achieve specificity than to leave all options open.
To some it may sound like a sexual Utopia, where labels have been banned and traditional gender roles surpassed, but it's a complicated place to be....
Read the whole article.
The article prompted a fair amount of chatter on the poly lists, with people comparing high-school memories. Recent graduates often said groups like this existed in their schools. Older graduates (like from the 1980's) tended to say "I wish!" One skeptic asked, "Where's the poly?" To which I responded, "They're on their way. As they grow up and get more serious about relationships, it will be an option they know."