n. the fact of who a person is; constantly in flux

The token lesbian college experience. Lore, while backed by zero empirical evidence, suggests that college is the time to be open-minded! Explore your sexuality, try something new, re-create your identity, blah blah blah something about postmodernism. Maybe you’ve heard stories you can’t un-hear about the topic (e.g. that hypothetical time your mom got drunk at Thanksgiving last year and revealed she ‘experimented’ in college).

The focus on female experimentation is problematic. Testing the bounds of your sexuality has come to be regarded as a socially acceptable “phase” for women, while men are often constrained by the “one act” rule: Any sexual act not with a woman renders you gay for life. And, apparently, this reputation worries straight men. Society decides. Sigh. But that is a grievance for another day. The current issue at hand is how to responsibly get on base for the other team. When trying on someone else’s sexuality/ identity on for size, you need to be respectful. I’ve come up with some ground rules:

1. Communication: Full disclosure about what you’re looking for

While theoretically, this should also happen in heterosexual situations, I think it’s even more important to clarify what you want the nature of your homosexual relationship to be. For example, if your experimentation is simply for fun, you are just “dabbling in women,” and you consider yourself to be a straight female, be upfront. Leading someone on is always below the belt (pun intended), but test-driving a sexual identity at someone else’s expense makes you especially ignorant. Being unsure about how you feel is completely acceptable and possibly doesn’t require a heart-to-heart discussion. However, if you’re pretty damn sure you’re straight and equally sure you are not looking for anything serious, a little disclaimer is warranted.

2. Reciprocity is key

Guess what? It’s not just about you and your desire to have a story to traumatize your kids with thirty years later. This certainly includes reciprocity in whatever sexual acts in which you choose to engage. While the exact arrangements are clearly between you and your hookup/sexual partner, keep in mind that your situation should be mutually beneficial.

3. Do it for you: Don’t be flashy

Playing into the prevailing (straight male) fetish for girl-on-girl action makes your sexual experimentation about someone who is not even involved in said experimentation. Great that you have no desire to hide your new sexual preferences! Can’t contain your passion? Go for it. In public. As long as it’s for you and not for attention. No one likes a show off.

4. Don’t be creepy

It’s great that you’ve embraced the fluidity of your own sexuality. Stepping out of socially-agreed-upon boundaries isn’t always easy. This doesn’t mean you can ignore all social conventions. Be flirty and charming or weirdly blunt as you normally would—the object of your affections is worth an honest effort.

Clearly, prevailing thought towards experimentation has its issues. We harbor absurd double standards about men and women experimenting with their sexuality, fetishizing women and shaming men. However, I fully encourage everyone to explore their sexual possibilities. College is about self-discovery in so many areas: academic interests, career goals, ethics and ideology, etc. Sexuality is an equally important component of who we are and worthy of exploration. This exploration, however, may not just affect you. The attitude you have and the ways in which you behave could be harmful to your partner. Experimenting for some kind of social prestige is self-serving and insensitive. Particularly if someone else gets hurt in the process. So experiment away! But proceed with integrity in mind.