Straight Talk Advice

Feb 11, 2014

Trying to stay straight at all-women’s college

Dear Straight Talk: I'm a freshman at a top all-girl's college. I'm straight and broke up with my boyfriend to be here. There is tremendous pressure to fit in here by hooking up with girls. I realize girl-girl experimentation is "cool" today, but after considering it, I decided I'm not interested. So many girls come here straight and now they're lesbian. But not real lesbians. They're doing it out of peer pressure, and because if you don't, you're a second-class citizen. Don't tell me to meet guys on other campuses. When you tell them your school, they don't respect you. And they never come here. I can't take three more years of this, but how do I tell my parents? —Trying to stay straight at all-female college

Zoe 19, Portland, Ore. Ask me a question

I completely understand. I attended a top women's college and experienced so much social pressure to become lesbian, or at least try it, even though I had no sexual interest in women! The sexual pressure and exclusivity lead me to transfer to the college I now attend and love. Tell your parents about it — I did. It's an awkward topic, but no parent wants their child sexually pressured.

Katelyn 19, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

How sad that people are pressured into being “bisexual” or “lesbian” at your all-girl's college. Are people really that focused on sex over a good education? Tell your parents exactly what's happening — no sugarcoating. Then present alternative colleges.

Savannah 20, Portland, Ore. Ask me a question

I experienced, first-hand, everything you're saying. The expectation to be lesbian felt very unnatural and I disliked seeing my peers “changing themselves” to fit in. Several girls I knew gained weight and start experimenting with girls — which they were totally opposed to when they started. Get out!

Lara 21, Vienna, Austria Ask me a question

Freshmen year at my small Catholic liberal-arts college, I felt like “eeeveryone” was rich and materialistic. With time, I learned to be myself and stopped judging others — who then accepted me for me. Once I had this clarity about myself, I found my people and my happiness. I'm positive you'll find yours, too. Every college has pressure to be someone you're not. P.S.: Pardon my feminist mood, but please avoid terms like “real lesbian,” or even “straight.” They project that homosexuality and bisexuality are fake, crooked, or wrong.

Molly 21, Berkeley, Calif. Ask me a question

Never, ever, do anything sexual that you're uncomfortable with. That said, sexuality is often fluid for women, so please refrain from judging others. Set firm boundaries and don't let anyone pressure you. You'll emerge able to stick to your ideals no matter what.

Mae 21, Santa Cruz, Calif. Ask me a question

TRANSFER. A close friend went to Smith and ended up dating a girl, and it definitely was 'induced' bisexualism. She explained the social scene, how social status and acceptance is entirely based on being a lesbian or similar. It sounds very intense. Your experience sounds totally legitimate and common (concerning all-girl's schools). Explain this to your parents and start applying elsewhere. Hundreds of wonderful schools accept transfer students.

Dear Trying to Stay Straight: With three panelists corroborating your experience, I, too, say TRANSFER. I receive too much mail from heterosexual girls as young as 13 who are confused and emotionally damaged by bisexual experimentation. The pressure today, subtle and not-so-subtle (as you experience), for heterosexuals to be “bi-curious” is another of today's unhealthy trends amped by the porn industry, and does no favors to anyone — including the bonafide homosexual and bisexual community, whom I support. Describe the situation frankly to your parents (they weren't born that many yesterdays ago), and start applying elsewhere. Show them this column as proof you're not exaggerating. 

Editor's Note: The best comment we ever got on the topic of bisexual confusion was from a F.F., a woman in her fifties who has been bisexual her whole life. She describes bisexualism as having no confusion. Here is her post:

"Bisexuality is not "confusion" and most of us know (even if we didn't have the word bisexual in our vocabulary) long before the age of 13. I first learned the word bisexual when I was 11 and immediately realized that it described me, because my crushes had been on both boys and girls. Sexual orientation is NOT the same as sexual ACTIVITY. I didn't have to be having sex at age 11 (I wasn't) to know that my sexual orientation was bisexual. Now I'm a middle-aged woman who has always identified as bisexual. It wasn't a phase." —F.F.

So, if you're confused about a bisexual encounter, the temptation for one, or if you know you'd never be tempted or in one without someone's advances, suggestion, or pressure, you probably do not have a bisexual orientation.

Bisexual activity has increased tremendously since internet porn popularized it over the last 10-15 years. Every generation has fads and trends and it's nice if you can avoid the unhealthy ones. Whether you are a mostly-heterosexual person involved in bisexual activity, or a bisexual person who has always had crushes on both sexes, please know that people with bisexual orientations and/or activity suffer more depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, and suicide than heterosexuals and homosexuals.

That price isn't usually worth the trouble if you're heterosexual. For those who are bisexual, make sure you surround yourself with supportive and loving people because one reason for the high levels of at-risk behaviors is that bisexuals are the least understood and socially supported of all the orientations.

TO EVERYONE: While it's important to avoid unhealthy trends, it's also important to have compassion for those who get caught up in them. It is also crucial to accept others for their sexual orientation, and let each person be the judge of the orientation they feel they are (even if it changes). It's a very confusing time to come of age and we need to be nice to each other. —Lauren

For more on this topic, read "Why is Everyone Bi?".

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  1. By Moriah, age , from Rutland, Vermont on 02/11/2014

    Is there a group of girls focused on striving to become professionals?
    Can you find a group who are purely focused on academics for the next three years? As boring as it sounds, they might be less concerned with one another’s sex lives and you could get the most out of your education and steer clear of the judgmental fakers. My top school for next year is an all-girls college and I went back and forth about it for awhile for this very reason. I finally decided that I would
    dedicate those four years to education and let the rest wait for the
    out-of-college world.

    Reply to this comment

    1. By M, age 21, from Cincinnati, Ohio on 03/21/2014

      Is this site for real? For one thing, I don’t understand why bisexuality is included under the banner of female issues, and not male issues as well. I also find it very hard there is any college in the world where girls are pressured to become lesbians, and who is the author to judge whether someone is a “real lesbian”? Maybe they have moved away from their home for the first time and only now feel comfortable being open with their sexuality. I also think it is pretty gross that anyone would try to suggest that voluntary bisexual experimentation by girls is damaging to them; this is around the age that most heterosexual ones are “experimenting” with boys, isn’t it? I suspect from the rest of the comments on this site that they are heavily moderated if not fabricated, since they universally represent such a bizarre and unrepresentative view of sexuality, so I will be a little surprised if this is published. Either way, to whomever is running this site, you are not fit to give advice on anything to young people. If bisexuals do experience any negative mental health effects, its more likely to be because of the shame and disapproval caused by an ignorant (and bigoted) minority, rather than anything intrinsic to their sexuality.

      Reply to this comment

  2. By Carlos, age , from Fairfax, Virginia on 02/11/2014

    My recommendation for you is to sit down with your parents and just tell them that you are not comfortable with the social situations presented in the college. When they ask you for examples I would mention that in truth girls can be mean and in order to avoid being ostracized in school it’s just better to transfer. In the end you make the decision and your parents, as any parents would, will support you no matter what. Good Luck!!

    Reply to this comment

  3. By Colin, age , from Sacramento, Calif. on 02/11/2014

    A lot of people change colleges, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to tell your parents anything that you wrote here.  I’m sure the transfer process will go relatively smoothly.  This time I’d make sure that you’re going to like your new school.

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  4. By Ochatre, age , from Kampala, Uganda on 02/11/2014

    I spent six years of adolescence in an all-boys school. During this period, I realized was not about what my colleagues thought or what people out of the school thought about our sexuality. What mattered is what I thought and wanted—to study and start a career, play rugby and be happy.  It’s what you think and want that matters, do not let what is in your school or around the school change your principles.

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  5. By L.C., age , from Redlands, CA on 02/11/2014

    I agree with Lauren and the others who say Transfer!  I went through the same thing.  I guess I was naïve, but I had no idea that going to an all-girls college meant that most of the students (and faculty) would be gay or bi-sexual.  I chose the school because it had a highly rated program in my chosen field and offered me a better financial aid package than anyone else.  I was shocked to immediately learn that my roommate and most of my dorm mates were gay.  Like Trying to Stay Straight, I was under huge peer pressure to at least “experiment.”  My refusal caused me to be an outcast and destroyed my fantasies about the wonderful college experience I had been expecting.  It was very disturbing to have to undress in front of my gay roommate everyday and use the showers with the other gay girls, but what was I going to do?  Never get undressed or take a shower?  So I had no choice, and it didn’t look like changing roommates would do any good.  Unlike what others have said in Straight Talk, my roommate and the girls I had to shower with DID seem to be sexually interested in my body when they saw me nude.  I actually missed sharing a room with my sister whom I couldn’t wait to get away from. At least she’s straight, so I could undress in front of her in our room without feeling uncomfortable.  I can’t say that this is true for all all-girls schools, but it was at my school.

    There was no realistic way to transfer during the first school year, so I managed to stick it out even though it was hell.  However, I applied to transfer to a co-ed school for the next year as soon as I could.  I am much, much happier now.

    L.C.

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  6. By Monica, age , from Sacramento, CA on 02/11/2014

    I’m still in high school and wasn’t planning to go to an all girls college anyway, but after reading this, I certainly won’t!  However, I do want to say that experimenting with gay sex is very harmful.  My older cousin pressured me into it when I was 15 and our family was visiting her home and I was sharing her room and bed.  She insisted that she wasn’t gay, but thought we should “give it a try to see what it’s like.”  She was very pushy and made me feel like I was totally unreasonable unless I would at least “give it a try” and I gave in.  It messed me up royally and has made it difficult to have a relationship with a guy or to have a normal friendship with other girls.  To those who think it’s harmless to experiment with this I want to say that based on my experience, you are wrong.

    Monica

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  7. By Nancy, age , from Oakland, CA on 02/11/2014

    This week’s column really surprises me.  I also attend an all female college and it is nothing like “Trying” and L.C. describe.  My boyfriend attends college a short distance away, so we are able to see each other all the time, so the fact that my school isn’t coed doesn’t bother me.  The vast majority of the girls at my school are straight.  Just like everywhere there are some gay students, but so what?  At least at my school, they don’t try to “hit” on the rest of us or pressure us to “experiment.”  There is one girl on my hall who happens to be gay and it doesn’t bother anybody.  She has a straight roommate, and from what I can see they get along great and are good friends. I also consider her a friend, and I’ve never felt the least bit uncomfortable being in the showers with her or with her seeing me nude.  It’s no different than with any other girl.  We’re still both females with the same body parts, so there’s nothing to worry about as far as I’m concerned.

    This week’s column seems to be implying that if a college is all female it means that it is a “gay school” and that is not necessarily true.  It certainly is not true at my school, so I would like to set the record straight.

    Nancy

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  8. By Alexis, age , from San Rafael, CA on 02/12/2014

    I find this weeks column and some of the comments (especially L.C.‘s) shocking and offensive.  I am gay and attend an all female college.  However, like Nancy, the vast majority of the students are straight.  Those of us who are gay stick together since we are in the minority.  The idea that we hit on straight girls and pressure them to experiment in gay sex with us is totally untrue, at least at my school.  My girlfriend and I are also roommates, and yes we do engage in sexual relations, but only with each other.  Contrary to what L.C. says, we have no sexual interest in seeing the straight girls’ nude bodies in the showers in the dorm or in the locker room and nobody seems to feel uncomfortable with us either.

    Alexis

    Reply to this comment

  9. By G.L., age , from Vallejo, CA on 02/12/2014

    I’m still in high school, so I don’t know anything about the gay all-girl school issue.  However, I want to weigh in on the experimenting issue.  My best friend and I are both straight, but, we’re not ready to have sex with guys.  However, we have been exploring and experimenting with our sexuality with each other.  For us, it has been a good thing as it has helped us understand our bodies and our sexuality and is not harming us at all.  From talking to friends, I know that many other girls who are straight experiment with each other.  It doesn’t mean that we’re gay and it is not making us gay or bisexual.  We have to be careful as I know that our moms would freak out if they knew we were doing this when during sleepovers when we’re sharing a bed, but it is not doing us any harm at all.

    G.L.

    Reply to this comment

  10. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol, CA, USA on 02/12/2014

    Dear All—I do want to clarify that this column was not meant to apply to ALL women’s colleges.  I’m very glad to hear that Nancy and Alexis both attend a women’s college that does NOT fit this description. 

    That said, I know the panelists and I do not believe they are exaggerating. They do not see each other’s responses and each of them understand the seriousness of writing for this column and presenting accurate accounts. They also are not closed-minded individuals and each have gay and bisexual friends. 

    To Alexis, Nancy, and L.C.—I would be curious to hear the names of the colleges you attend. Please let us know if you’re willing. I got permission from the panelists to name the schools they refer to. They are all eastern schools: Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Wellesley.

    Hope to hear more on this!—Lauren

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  11. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol, CA, USA on 02/12/2014

    Monica—I’m glad you wrote about this—your letter will help others avoid the same trap. I encourage you to see a counselor, a clergy person, or even a wise adult friend who will not judge you. Most parents will gladly let you go to a counselor, no questions asked, if you just say you’re confused and need to talk to someone. If they say they cannot afford it, then see the school counselor. You are not alone in having this kind of experimentation be harmful to your sexual-emotional system. (Even while G.L. doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, sex is a LOT more powerful than anyone your age realizes! But who can tell a teenager anything?! For some reason, I keep trying… :))

    Please know that your pain and confusion CAN be healed and you CAN go on to have a happy sex life—and it may take some time. If you don’t experience a breakthrough in counseling, please know to TRY AGAIN as you get a bit older. Never give up! Sometimes, it requires getting into your twenties to take something powerful and/or confusing from your teens or childhood and have it all find its right place in your psyche so you can go forward in an emotionally healthy way. It’s often just a matter of age. Please check back in with me at some point and let me know how you’re doing.—Love, Lauren

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  12. By A.T., age , from Santa Ana, CA on 02/13/2014

    I agree with Monica and want to say that experimenting IS harmful.  Like I read about in Straight Talk awhile back, my stepsister and I started experimenting sexually with each other while sharing a bed during visitations.  At the time, we both thought we we’re straight and saw no harm in experimenting and seeing what it felt like to have sex without all the issues involved in having sex with a guy.  After a short time, I decided that I was not comfortable with this and wanted to stop. However, it was the opposite for my stepsister.  She decided that she was gay and was in love with me and kept pressuring me for sex when we were in bed together.  I didn’t want to tell my mom what had been going on, so I made an excuse for needing separate beds so at least I didn’t have to share a bed with her.  But I couldn’t avoid undressing in front of her since if I suddenly started changing in the bathroom I didn’t want to try to explain to my mom why I was suddenly doing this when I’d never been shy about undressing in front of her or other girls.  She finally stopped pressuring me and hooked up with another girl who is gay, but sharing a room with her and undressing in front of her is still very uncomfortable and sometimes I do feel that she is looking at me “that way” when I’m nude if you know what I mean. 

    G.L. apparently doesn’t find it harmful, but as Monica says, it can be harmful in many cases and I think it’s playing with fire and based on my experience it should be avoided at all costs.

    A.T.

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  13. By N.C., age , from Davis, CA on 02/15/2014

    I go to a coed school, but I have experience with experimenting and for me it was a horrible experience.  My roommate and I went to a party and both got drunk.  I don’t even remember how it got started (I was too drunk and so was she) but we ended up in bed together having sex.  We both felt horrible about it the next morning, in addition to the after effects of getting drunk when we weren’t used to it.  We couldn’t even look each other in the eye.  I felt tremendously guilty for a long time and had to get counseling for it which really helped.  However, ever since then I always felt very uncomfortable undressing in front of my roommate or seeing her nude as it scared me that something might start again, and our friendship was never the same even though we never even spoke about it again.  It was the “elephant in the room”  that was never talked about even though it was always with us.  I’m convinced that I’m totally straight and so is she and that this incident was a one time aberration that will never happen again, but I wish like anything that it never happened.

    One good thing came out of it; I haven’t gotten drunk ever since and am very careful to limit my drinking at parties since I’m so frightened about what I might do if I get drunk.

    N.C.

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  14. By Sarah Jeanne Lombardo, age , from Oakland, CA on 02/16/2014

    Monica, what you experienced wasn’t lesbian experimentation or bi-curiosity, it was sexual molestation. Experimentation is finding yourself attracted to someone and pursuing them—be they your gender or not. In essence, all relationships are experimental. They are also something you go into willingly.

    Your older cousin pressuring you into sexual contact was not willing, and the line she fed you about “experimenting” was coercion.

    I recommend finding a counselor or trusted family member to whom you can confide. This is a lot to carry around, and you deserve better than to have to hold this all inside. One resource, based in Northern California, is BAWAR. They have a 24-hour hotline dedicated to helping folks sort out their feelings around sexual assault. They can also help you find a counselor in your area. Their number is (510) 845-7273.

    Additionally, I have to say I am extremely disappointed in the moderators of this forum. How can you claim to be about advice and guidance, but let Monica’s comment go by without acknowledging it? Were you happy to read that someone had a negative same-sex experience, because it proved your hateful point that LGBTQ people are abberations of nature who will turn young men and women into suicidal sexual deviants?

    You SHOULD have been concerned for the health and well-being of this young woman. You SHOULD have given her resources to cope with what she experienced. You SHOULD have acknowledged that sexual assault happens in LGBTQ communities, just as it happens in straight communities. And you SHOULD take responsibility for spreading hatred of LGBTQ people, which upholds discrimination, violence, and the depression and anxiety that you want to pretend is a side-effect of same-sex relationships.

    I am sorry for the young men and women who read your advice columns—you clearly do not have the best interests of your readership at heart. I hope Monica and others find the resources they need.

    Reply to this comment

  15. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol, CA, USA on 02/16/2014

    Dear Sarah—Ouch! I’m so sorry for the discrimination and harm that you (or a close friend) must have experienced as an LGBTQ individual to lash out at us so. Are you okay? If you check the thread, I did respond to Monica and advised her to seek help. Also, if you read our weekly advice regularly, there is no way we are anything but supportive of LGBT individuals. We help people no matter who they are.

    In this week’s column it happened to be a heterosexual girl who asked for help. With the increase in bi and homosexual acceptance (a good thing), many young heterosexuals today find themselves wracked with confusion over same-sex experimentation—- and too-young experimentation with sex of ANY orientation, and especially in the direction one is NOT oriented in, can lead to a lot of problems as exemplified by N.C. and A.T. here in this same thread, neither having been coerced into it.

    We keep it real here, not so “PC” that we can’t talk about real issues. Compassion for the human condition is our top value. My last words in that entry were: “It is also crucial to accept others for their sexual orientation, and let each person be the judge of the orientation they feel they are (even if it changes). It’s a very confusing time to come of age and we need to be nice to each other.”

    Sarah—I hope you keep seeing a counselor or other helping professional. Like I said to Monica, (and any therapist will agree with this) (and this advice goes for you, too, N.C. and A.T.), sometimes you can’t fully sort out traumatic experiences until you get a bit older. Counseling helps A LOT no matter what age you are, and I recommend it…. AND a full sorting out often takes getting into adulthood to accomplish. So keep working on it and keep seeking your light! Don’t let anyone take that away from you. You’re beautiful and deserving of a happy, full life. Love, Lauren

    Reply to this comment

    1. By Sarah Jeanne Lombardo, age 31, from Oakland, CA on 05/21/2014

      Lauren, vehement disagreement is not lashing out, a hormonal tantrum (I’m 31 years old), unrealized queer identity, nor evidence of a deep-seated need for psychological counseling. How deeply insulting, to be informed I should seek therapy for disagreeing with you—for disagreeing with how you frame queer folks.

      And this is the sort of tone that, after MUCH reading of your site, speaks volumes of your inherent distrust for people on the LGBTQ spectrum.  You are either unable or unwilling to hold the difference between experimentation and coercion, between queerness and peer pressure. You consistently conflate the two, resulting in all same-sex contact being a tragic mistake or a silly phase. You gay-bait and discredit people who “lash out” at you. Lauren, you actually recommend counseling when someone challenges your assertions that same-sex experimentation is “especially” troublesome—do you realize how dismissive and dangerous that is? This absolutely delegitimizes queer identities, and by extension, queer people. This only lays the groundwork for marginalization at best and violence at worst.

      Lauren, it blows my mind that you have been given the weight of credible authority when you clearly have an agenda, and clearly don’t respect the folks who you purport to be serving. And you still don’t provide resources for folks seeking guidance—not a phone number for RAINN, for GLAAD, for PLFAG. You just say ouch, and react from there. Deeply unfortunate. I hope readers seeking support, and not fixing, can get what they need from these wonderful organizations.

      Reply to this comment

  16. By AG, age 17, from Hartford on 04/17/2014

    Hi, I am a high school senior and I have applied, and was admitted , into three all-women’s schools: Wellesley, Smith, and Mount Holyoke. My sister attended Mount Holyoke and I have visited numerous times and this has never even remotely happened to any of us or any of her friends. With the vibe and the atmosphere—it just seems really far-fetched. I haven’t visited Wellesley yet, but I heard that the students there are very academically oriented and probably couldn’t care less about sex or experimenting. Smith is the only school where I might have thought of this happening because there LGBTQ population, for the most part, are out and proud which gives the appearance that there is a large presence of LGBTQ students when the campus is simple gay-friendly. As for Smith, I have visited for a program and stayed overnight for three days and I still can’t picture this happening. I went to classes, parties, organization fairs, etc. and everyone was friendly. Smith is known for being accepting to everyone, not just to LGBTQ students but “straight” students as well so that they can feel safe and welcomed. I am not saying that your experiences at these schools never happened, I am just curious and a bit alarmed because I am very close to making my decision and these three schools are at the top of my list.

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