Maybe it's because young people are living independent of their parents, maybe it's abundance of booze and parties, or the existence of sororities and fraternities that commonly only allow one gender to join, but it's assumed that when a young adult goes to college, they likely experimented sexually with the same gender. While it's usually played for titillation purposes when done with women, this trope can also apply to guys as well. Because of that it's a pet peeve trope for anyone queer.
For those who are gay or bi, it might be the first time they ever acted on their same-sex attraction, leading to other gay plotlines. For those that are straight it's either accepted as having been a brief phase, or rarely spoken of and only in the vaguest terms, a sort of sexual Noodle Incident. In some cases, the person they're experimenting with won't feel "used", "jilted," or "manipulated", or suffer any other emotional damage when (not if, when) their partner decides it really was "just a phase" or "just the alcohol talking", and in fact will often be "just experimenting" themselves. But other times this is harshly averted...
Also known as being a "lesbian until graduation", or a LUG. If the experimentation was with both sexes, it's known as "bisexual until graduation" (BUG).
No real life examples, please.
- Strangers in Paradise: Casey experimented in college and is more than open to a relationship in the present.
- In Scott Pilgrim, Ramona experimented with her roommate Roxanne, who became the fourth Evil Ex when she ended it.
Ramona: I was just a little bi-curious.
Roxanne: Well, honey, I'm a little BI-FURIOUS!
- XXXenophile: In "Now Museum, Now You Don't" we get this exchange:
Trixie: Sometimes all a girl needs is a change. To clear the palate as it were.
Sydney: But I'm not... I've never even thought of...
Xynotreen: Oh? What about Cindy, in college?
Sydney: How did you?
Trixie: Minor deities, yes. Incompetent deities, no.
- In the "Green Inferno" storyline in The Authority, the renegade (and bluntly homophobic) ex-Doctor disdainfully challenges the team with the phrase "Poofs first." It's presumably aimed at the canonically-gay Apollo and The Midnighter, but the Engineer steps forward with a cool:
Engineer: Does a lesbian fling in college count, Doctor?
- In Marvel Comics, Noh-Varr, who has been on the Dark Avengers, The Avengers and Young Avengers is a Kree from an Alternate Universe. He has indicated that he served as a cadet on an "exploratory ship", and that sexuality was one of the things they explored.
Noh-Varr: Exploratory does have multiple meanings. The Kree are efficient like that.
- Wonder Woman: The kreel, whose Sangtee Empire Diana fights in Vol 2, have an interesting take as heterosexual relations are highly illegal and women are considered revolting by the ruling class. This does not prevent women kreel from existing or having romantic relations, they just have to present themselves as and publicly identify as men to take part in society as adults which makes any teenage romances they had flings by necessity since they can no longer use their feminine identity.
- Going by the mental 'snapshots' of her former partners, Suzie of Sex Criminals has had at least one lesbian relationship.
- Dr. Allison Mann of Y: The Last Man is a lesbian, but her college girlfriend Mercedes was one of these. In fact, Mercedes seemed to think that lesbians don't really exist, and that the only reason a girl would ever want to date another girl is to piss off her dad. She broke up with Allison shortly before graduation, saying that it was time to grow up and start acting like adults, and that if Allison still wanted to piss off her dad, she should find a more mature way of going about it... like dating a black guy.
- In Grendel, Crystal Kennedy has a sexual relationship with her Butch Lesbian prison guard Susan Veraghen, but after a while she drags Susan unwillingly into a three-way relationship with a man, and finally dumps her altogether in favour of the kind of political marriage that Susan thought she was rescuing her from.
- America Chavez is an inversion when she appears in Young Avengers: she identifies as lesbian and dismisses her earlier relationship with a male teammate while she was in the Teen Brigade as an experiment that she didn't enjoy much.
- In the erotic graphic novel Teach Me! by Enrique Villagran, one of the female teachers is complimented on her skill in cunnilingus; especially as she claims to have never had a lesbian experience. She then admits that "There was this one summer, in college..."
- Advice and Trust: Misato reminds Ritsuko that the two of them had slept together several times back when they were in college while trying to convince her to ask out Maya.
Misato: Take her out for drinks next time instead of me and Kaji? [...] It's not like you've never kissed a girl before. Or done even m-
Ritsuko: And you promised that we'd never speak of it again, and that it was only because we were both hammered out of our minds and hadn't had a guy in months,
- Soda at 70 Proof; Rachel's mother has a problem with her daughter's crush on Fanny. She tells Rachel that she's going through a phase and that she had a similar phase in college until she met Rachel's father.
- Interpretive Steps For A New Tango: Bruno used to experiment with other guys when he was younger by masturbating together and occasionally helping each other out, but he still considered himself straight because he thought of only girls while doing it until he met Pablo. Pablo, on the other hand, never experimented with other guys because he knew/feared deep down that he would enjoy it more than he was "supposed" to.
- There's an awkward conversation in Four Weddings and a Funeral that ends with this:
Fiona: I was a lesbian once at school, but only for about 15 minutes.
- Discussed in PCU where the Pit's leader tells the prospective freshmen that college in the 1990s is different from the old days where they "swill sherry and screw goats for fun."
- Within Definitely, Maybe, the diary Emily gives Will to return to Summer shows that they had an experimental relationship in school.
- This is intimated in Four Christmases after Kate's sister tells Brad about the bullying Kate went through during their childhood.
"My husband and I tell each other all our embarrassing secrets. He knows I slept with the entire water polo team in college, just like I know he experimented with men."
- Reverend Frank alludes to this in License To Wed.
- Most characters in Another Country seem to agree that a little homosexual hanky-panky in college is entirely natural. They even fault the master (instructor) for walking in on Martineau and his friend masturbating, because if he were an old boy (i.e. a former pupil) he would supposedly have known from personal experience what goes on in the gym changing rooms.
- Basic Instinct: Beth dismisses her fling with Catherine as this, but both woman claim that the other stalked her afterwards. It's never established who was telling the truth.
- Implied in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, when Donna sings "When I Kissed the Teacher" to a female professor. Donna never exhibits any romantic interest in women after graduation, making it this trope.
- The Robert A. Heinlein novel The Number of the Beast has Jake (the elder of the male protagonists) mention he did this in college.
- In the novel The Last Theorem, the protagonist briefly experiments with his roommate, but it doesn't get very far before a friend of the family finds out and tells his father. (His father is quite explicit that he doesn't mind experimentation, but he objects strenuously to the person his son was experimenting with.)
- Charles Ryder from Brideshead Revisited is possibly this, though since we only ever see him with one male lover it might also be a case of If It's You, It's Okay.
- In Inda the all-male class of teenagers in the military school enthusiastically experiment with one another until they are given leave to visit the pleasure houses in the city, from which point on all but two seem to be pretty much exclusively interested in women. Of the two for whom this is not true, one is gay and the other is bisexual.
- From The Wheel of Time, "pillow friends" among the novices and Accepted of Tar Valon. Such relationships are (usually) suspended upon taking the Shawl.
- Melissa & Joey: It's implied that Mel may have experimented with bisexuality in college when Lennox pretends to be a lesbian.
- Holly Holiday tells the kids she had some "experiences" as a student while at an all-girls boarding school.
- Quinn does this in the fourth season with her BFF Santana during Mr. Schuester's botched wedding.
- Will & Grace:
- Will hires a maid to clean up after Grace...
Will: Grace, this is gonna cheer you up.
Grace: A short brunette woman? Come on, Will, I tried that in college, remember? It really wasn't my thing.
- In another episode, Grace is trying to hide from her boyfriend and ends up ducking behind Karen. In doing so, she knocks Karen off balance, and Karen ends up bent over a table. From Karen:
Karen: Grace, I've told you before, I only did this once in college, and it just so I could borrow her Halston skirt.
- In fact, Karen frequently makes jokes about this, implying things so often it eventually stops being college experimentation and becomes her simply being Ambiguously Bi. In another episode, when acting as a magician's assistant for Jack, when he tells her to climb in the magic box, she quips, "I haven't done this since my senior year at Sarah Lawrence."
- Will hires a maid to clean up after Grace...
- In one episode, Rachel claims that she kissed one of her sorority sisters, only no one believes her. In the end, it turns out to be true (and the woman in question is still in love with her).
- Inverted in another episode. Phoebe's Citizenship Marriage husband is an ice dancer who everyone (including himself) thought was gay. It turns out he's really straight.
Duncan: Well, I've never told you this but, there were one or two times, back in college, when I'd get really drunk, go to a straight bar and wake up with a woman next to me. But I, I, I told myself it was the liquor and everyone experiments in college.
- Invoked in an episode of Game of Thrones, Tywin Lannister discusses a proposed marriage between Cersei and the extremely gay Loras Tyrell with Loras' grandmother. When Tywin refers to Loras' homosexuality as an "affliction", Lady Tyrell calmly asks him if he and another boy ever "[had] a go at each other under the sheets" when he was young, and is genuinely surprised when Tywin flat out denies it.
- Happy Endings:
- Penny blurts that Jane "hooked up with a bunch of girls in college and called it a phase." Jane calmly says, "It was a phase," while husband Brad sits speechless.
- This turns into a subversion later on when Jane reveals that one of her exes, Ryan, was someone she was in love with... and that she had several more ex-girlfriends.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In their first domestic squabble, Willow accuses Tara of assuming she's doing this.
Tara: "I trust you. I just ... (looks down) I don't know where I'm gonna fit in ... in your life when..."
Willow: "When ... I change back? Yeah, this is a college thing, just a, a little experimentation before I get over the thrill and head back to boys' town. (pause) You think that?"
Tara: "Should I?"
Willow: "I'm really sorry that I didn't establish my lesbo street cred before I got into this relationship. You're the only woman I've ever fallen in love with, so ... how on Earth could you ever take me seriously?"
- In Being Erica, Erica revisits an episode from her university days where she explores her relationship with a lesbian classmate.
- This is how Angela's relationship with Roxie started out on Bones. Then she went back to mostly guys, then to Roxie for a while after the wedding fiasco, then back to Hodgins.
- Subverted on Dharma & Greg, when Dharma "comes in" to her mother, admitting she's never had a lesbian experience.
- Inverted in Spin City:
Stuart: You're gay, right?
Carter: Except for one time in college when I was drunk.
- Eric tried to invoke this in an episode of Boy Meets World, flirting with a pretty college student while dressed as a woman. "Oh, come on, everyone experiments in college!"
- On Mad About You, Paul's sister comes out of the closet. When Jamie asks her if she's always known that she was gay, she admits to this trope, word for word, but still didn't realize her true sexuality until recently.
- A Saturday Night Live skit in which everyone at The Daily Planet is aware of Clark Kent's true identity has Lois, Jimmy and Perry tormenting the clueless man by making comments about Superman, including speculating that he's gay. Kent furiously defends himself, insisting, "Superman isn't gay! I mean, sure he experimented a little back in Smallville. . .", shocking the other three, who were just making things up.
- On Fresh Meat, J.P. and his public school fellows apparently got up to all sorts of stuff that seriously stretches the concept of Gay Bravado. He talks about it with Giles, who to J.P.'s horror later turns out to actually be gay.
Giles: Come on, all the "power showers"... when you think about it, it was pretty gay.
JP: What's gay about it?
Giles: What, two men wanking each other off?
JP: Don't call it that!
- On House of Cards (US), Frank is revealed to have had a relationship in college with a male classmate. The man himself seems to wave the affair off as just experimentation by commenting 'we were just fooling around,' but Frank himself disagrees and lovingly says 'I was drawn to you', claiming that when he feels attraction to someone that's what happens, implying that he's bi. His sexuality is further proven in season 2 when he and his wife have a threesome together with his male bodyguard.
- How I Met Your Mother:
- Lily discusses that one of her lifelong dreams back in college was having a "lesbian experience". Robin kisses her to check it off her list.
- Inverted for laughs where Barney refers to his gay brother, James, as having had an embarrassing "hetero college phase" that he decided not to mention in his best man's speech. In some of Barney's flashbacks to his own early 20s, the audience gets to see James during his overcompensating phase. He wears nothing buts sports jerseys and gives his brother sex advice about how everybody finds (hetero) sex gross, but you just do it, because its what is expected of you as a man.
- In Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, John finishes his segment on student loans by imploring his college-age viewers to enjoy their time at college, including having some gay experiences.
John: It doesn't count!
- On the season two finale of Veronica Mars, Veronica has a dream of what her graduation from high school would have been like if Lilly hadn't been murdered. Lilly, who is a year older, tells Veronica her relationship with her college boyfriend went south after a "disagreement about fooling around with his ex." Veronica assumes it was the boyfriend doing the fooling around, but Lilly corrects her:
Lilly: Oh, no no, it was um, it was me. I kinda fooled around with his ex. I mean, you'd think that guys would dig that, right? ...What? It's college, it's expected. You'll see.
- In one Parks and Recreation episode where Leslie is convinced by a computer matchmaker that she and Tom are soulmates, she tries to tempt him into being interested in her by admitting that she kissed a girl when she was in college. It works, a little.
- NTSF:SD:SUV::: When Piper is seduced by a female Russian spy, she notes that she "hasn't done this since college".
- Orange Is the New Black: In the first episode, Piper frequently insists that her old relationship with Alex was just college experimentation and she's straight now.
- Ellen DeGeneres parodied this on her eponymous talk show.
"I experimented with heterosexuality in high school, who didn't?"
- According to Jim: When Jim and Cheryl accidentally learn that a couple they're friends with use "Little Winston" as a nickname for the man's penis during sex, Jim tries to balance out the humiliation they feel when they find this out by telling them an equally embarrassing secret of his — that he experimented with a guy in college. Given how he and Cheryl initially can't agree on the name of the guy, he's probably lying... but he does say after the couple leaves that he misses him.
- Dark Desire: Zoe explores her sexuality by having sex with her friend Karina, who's lesbian. Afterward, she concludes that she's straight. Karina is fine with this and they stay friends. Possibly subverted though later as she kisses Karina again after having had a straight relationship that didn't work out.
- Averted in Batwoman (2019) when Sophie Moore admits to her husband Tyler that she had a lesbian relationship with Kate Kane in the military academy. Tyler demands to know how long this relationship lasted, and when told it lasted three years, he points out that's longer than any previous relationship he had before meeting Sophie.
Tyler: What was it between you two? And don't say it was just some drunk college hookup unless you were actually drunk for three years.
- Garfunkel and Oates' "The College Try" is about an unsuccessful experiment. (Though the only reference to college as such is in the title.)
- In Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, you can encounter the Elf courtesan Ymir, and it turns him and Elf party member Aloth, had a fling in while they were studying magic in their college days. While Ymir is quite happy to see Aloth again, his dialogue implying that Aloth was something of a Closet Key for him, Aloth, while not hostile to Ymir, is clearly somewhat embarrassed with the situation and tries to downplay the whole thing and deflect questions about it. The fact that Aloth's female Split Personality, Iselmyr, chimes in and strongly implies that it was in fact her that actually seduced Ymir, goes some way to explain Aloth's discomfort with the situation. Iselmyr was the one that wanted to do the dirty with Ymir and Aloth was just along for the ride, whether he liked it or not.
- DAR! devotes a strip to the concept, and to the author's feelings about fitting it - by accident, as she was an exclusive lesbian who bewildered herself by falling in love with a man.
- Dinosaur Comics: T-Rex and Utahraptor.◊
- In this El Goonish Shive Q&A comic, Chika reveals that she experimented a bit because apparently she liked to be scientifically rigorous in everything.
- Ménage à 3: Late-introduced character Peggy invokes the trope here. She subsequently says that she concluded that she just prefers men, but she clearly doesn't regret the experiment, and the presence of sex goddess DiDi makes her quite happy to revert for an evening.
- In the BDSM webcomic Sunstone, it's revealed that Ally and Alan learned the ropes (so to speak) of BDSM by experimenting with each other back in their college days before realizing that two dominant partners make for a rather poor match. In addition, Lisa and Anne both mention having some same-sex experiences back in their college days before meeting Ally.
- Parodied in this xkcd.
- In Fans!, Shanna mentions that she and Kathryn were Lesbians-Until-Graduation and were even a couple at one point. After having conflicting feelings at the sight of Kathryn with Will, Shanna wonders if she might still be attracted to her... until she realizes it's Will she's jealous over.
- Todd in the Shadows: Mentioned when briefly discussing "Only Girl (In the World)" by Rihanna:
Rihanna: I want you to love me/ like I'm a hot guy.
Todd: Okay, but judging by my experimental days in college, it'll just end disappointingly for everyone.
- In the CollegeHumor sketch, "Friends with Benefits Wedding," several men that Courtney has been with object to her becoming Raymond's FWB, because she is (or has been) their FWB...and one girl speaks up and says she is too, explaining that "She was curious."
Claus: I sewed the head of a Great Dane to the body of a man, and now the dog-man terrorizes villages in the Swiss Alps. Do I regret it? No. Did I learn from it? After four to five new tries, yeah, now I have a loyal beast-man to do my bidding.
- In another sketch, Jessica, Grant and Claus reminisce about how they experimented in college. They all realized they liked both men and women, Grant had an orgy, Jessica tried drugs and cheated on her first boyfriend, and Claus conducted many experiments which defied the laws of God and Man.
- Lampshaded in South Park, as Chef proclaims that "There's a time and a place for everything, and it's called 'college'."
- Family Guy: In "Partial Terms of Endearment", it's revealed that Lois once experimented with her college roommate, Naomi.
- One Cutaway Gag on The Cleveland Show showed a graduation ceremony at an all-girl college, with every girl there immediately breaking up with the girl next to them the second they graduated.
- In an episode of The Simpsons where the titular family goes to Italy that also happened to be one of the "Sideshow Bob" episodes, the family discovers that not only has Bob become the mayor of a village in Tuscany and given up on killing Bart, but he now has a wife and son named Francesca and Gino. Homer's the most surprised by Bob being married to a woman and admits that he had always thought that Bob was gay—Bob responds by admitting to this trope.
- Judging from the Photo Montage in "Holidays of Future Passed", Lisa's implied to have gone through a bi-curious stage when she was in college.
- The Simpsons S 29 E 08 Mr Lisas Opus is a flash-forward episode where we follow Lisa trying to get into college. At the end she meets her room-mate and they hit it off and shakes hands. Lisa ecstatically thinks "I have a friend!" only for her room-mate winking at her and Lisa then musingly thinks "Oh... or maybe something more than a friend..."
- On Robot Chicken, the "My Stalker" sketch has commercial jingles for various inappropriate parodies of the "My Buddy" dolls popular in The '80s. One of them is "My Friend I Once Experimented with at Summer Camp":
My friend I once experimented with at summer camp, My friend I once experimented with at summer camp
Though you think of me night and day, I'm not the one who made you gay,
My friend I once experimented with at summer camp and me!