First Madonna kissed Britney. Then Samantha toyed around with a lesbian lover on Sex and the City. Even Mischa Barton's character on The OC got in on the girl-on-girl action, and last January, two girls lusted after each other in the mainstream film Imagine Me & You. The media aren't sensationalizing: They're simply "outing" a growing trend among American women. According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, nearly 6.9 million women (11 percent of the women polled) said they'd had a sexual experience with another woman — and nearly 2.7 million had one within the past year. Marie Claire found that 55 percent of the 4,400 women who responded to our recent online poll said they would have sex with another woman ... if no one were to find out.

Why Is Bi-Curious Suddenly So Cool?

As the "sex is just sex" mentality of trendsetting teens finds its way into the mainstream, women of all ages have become less worried about a same-sex experience defining them for life. Beyond that, "women are more interested in exploring what feels good for them than about being defined by a label," says Emily Scarlet Kramer, author of A Piece of Cake: Recipes for Female Sexual Pleasure. If anything, she says, "instead of 'straight,' there is now a 'straight-ish' category."

The media also feed into the growth and visibility of this new trend. "No one is going to admit, 'I kissed a girl because Madonna kissed Britney,' but that did make it more socially acceptable," says Amanda Freeman, vice president of the Intelligence Group, a trend-forecasting company. Plus, TV makes girl-girl play particularly glamorous: Witness the characters on The L Word, a Showtime series about lesbians in L.A. who look like Sex and the City extras. Breaking Boundaries

Some women dabble within their own gender because they find breaking sexual boundaries to be a turn-on. It doesn't hurt that men find it hot, too (in fact, most porn directed at men contains at least one girl-girl scene), although experts say it's a myth that most women do it for this reason.

Many women are purely interested in having fun and experimenting with the physical experience of being with other women, while others are drawn to something deeper. "Women often long for an emotional connection that they're not getting from the men in their lives," says Gina Ogden, author of The Heart & Soul of Sex. "That can translate into desire that's deeply erotic and full of physical passion."

"Right now there is some element of cool and exclusivity about [kissing another girl], because not everyone has done it. To have someone see you do it or to say you've done it almost carries a cachet," Freeman says.What's It Like?

"I was buzzed, having fun, and letting go."
Anna, 28, student

I never thought about kissing another woman before I moved to America from my native Russia three years ago. But people here are more open-minded, and everything is about sex — TV, music, clubs — so a lot of my views have changed.

The first time I kissed a woman was last year at a club. While hanging out by the bar, my friend and I shared a long, passionate French kiss, with touching, that lasted a minute or two. We are party girls, and I think it was the atmosphere: There was all this music, the lights and energy were building up, and I was buzzed, having fun, and letting go. When you're wasted, you feel like being with a guy and having sex, and if you don't have a guy next to you, you kiss a girl instead. It's also a game; you act wild and mischievous to attract guys' attention.

I enjoyed it, and every time I get drunk at a club, I feel like kissing her again — and do. We've probably kissed four times. It's not at all like kissing a guy. A girl is more sensitive, more soft, more gentle. Plus, a girl knows what a girl likes, and she doesn't get clumsy or nervous like a lot of guys I've kissed.

But there are no feelings attached, and no desire to have sex with her or get into a relationship. It's just a kiss, just for fun, nothing serious. I have never wanted to kiss her when we're not partying. I've kissed at least five different guys since my first kiss with her. I feel much more pleasure and satisfaction when I'm with a man. But lately, when I'm having sex, I've been thinking about having a threesome with a man and a beautiful girl. I just want to see how it will feel.

"An innocent lunch ended with fogged-up car windows"
Jessica, 28, publicist

I've kissed a lot of boys, starting from the time I was 5 years old, behind the bushes at school, and going all the way through college. Toward the end of college I thought about kissing girls, but I never had an opportunity to act on it.

The first time I kissed a woman I was 22, and my lips buzzed for three hours afterward. A friend of mine who knew I was interested in being with women pulled me into a shadowy stairwell outside her apartment and laid one on me. It lasted a couple of minutes and was soft and sweet and incredible and so erotic. I was in a daze, cataloging my body's reaction: My lips were burning, tingly, sensitive, and I was hot all over. Never had I had that kind of visceral reaction with a guy.

Kissing girls is nothing like kissing guys. Guys tend to be clumsier — and to have an ultimate goal in mind. Girls intrinsically get the intimacy of kissing: You're doing it for the enjoyment of it, and there's no rush to get to the next point. So kissing in and of itself becomes very arousing.

Right after that first kiss I knew I was all about girls, but not everyone is the same. My current girlfriend had never been with a woman before me, and I'm 99 percent sure that if we ever broke up, she would go back to dating guys. But we had immediate chemistry. What started as an innocent lunch as friends ended with us having sex in the car behind the restaurant, fogged-up windows and all. It was fast and hard and really hot, and it has stayed electric for the four years ever since. She was comfortable enough with herself to say, "Fuck society, I like you."

I don't rule out going back to dating men. But when I compare making out for 45 minutes with the perfect guy and not feeling anything to one hot kiss with a cute girl ... I doubt it.

What Do You Think?