Lesbian Sex: what it is, what it isn’t, and why it matters

Lesbian Sex: what it is, what it isn’t, and why it matters

*I’ll start with a quick disclaimer. This article originates from my perspective as a cisgender woman, who happens to have only had sexual encounters with other cisgender women, and as such my good friend The Vagina takes up her fair share of the spotlight. There is a plethora of lesbians out there (non-binary lesbians, transgender lesbians, intersex lesbians) who may not have vaginas, or who have vaginas that don’t necessarily function in exactly the same way as those of cisgender women. My hope is that parts of this article will resonate with every woman who has been sexually intimate with another woman, but for better-informed, more specific perspectives on what lesbian sex can be like for transgender women (both with and without vaginas), take a look at the links below* 

https://www.autostraddle.com/how-to-have-trans-woman-lesbian-sex-with-a-penis-414839/ 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrUJJyZRTmQ  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d71qtY9jvto 

 

Sex plays a huge role in our lives. It’s in our films, our adverts, our search histories – and yet sex between women is societally shrouded in mystery and dichotomy. People have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea of two women having sex in the real world because their only real point of reference is porn shot through the frame of the fetishizing (and inaccurate) male gaze.  

Here’s the thing: the fetishization of lesbians and the counterpart censorship of lesbians are symbiotic forces. They inform each other. When a society fetishizes lesbian intimacy, people can only view it as inappropriate, and so they censor it. When a society censors lesbian intimacy, people cannot view it as something ordinary, and so they either reject it entirely, or they fetishize it. And on and on it goes.  

My aim is not to write another article about lesbian sex as if it is the be all and end all of our relationships; that really could not be further from the truth. My aim is to help break that cycle. Let’s discuss, educate, demystify, normalize. More times than I care to count I’ve had encounters with well-meaning people, some of whom were also LGBT+, who have made it clear that the lady-loving process is something around which there is a LOT of confusion and misinformation. I’ve compiled and addressed three very real questions and remarks with which people have approached me, in an attempt to shed some light.  

1. “I just don’t understand how you can have sex with no penis.” 

This is one of the most misguided things that you could say to a woman who loves women. It’s also probably the most common qualm that I’ve had to address. Firstly, if you are someone who has a penis, or you are being sexually intimate with someone who has a penis, and that penis is the only way you are having sex, then the likelihood is that you are having subpar, probably pretty brief encounters. The truth is that sex, when you erase the patriarchal definition of it as ‘penis in vagina and then we all go home’, is actually really vast [insert GIF of that “the limit does not exist” moment in Mean Girls]. Sex is an opportunity to make yourself and your partner feel as excellent as possible, and there are so many ways to do that – even, and especially, if you both happen to be equipped with vaginas. Use your mouth, use your hands, use your genitals, use your hips, knees, breasts. Allow yourself to take pleasure in giving pleasure, and realise that variety is the name of game. 

That being said, sometimes there is a penis involved, it’s just that it has straps attached to it and we keep it in the nightstand for special occasions.  

2. “How the f*ck does scissoring work?” 

The short answer to this is that it doesn’t. At least not in the way that we see it work in porn. If you have never attempted to ‘scissor’ someone, I implore you to try – even fully clothed with a friend just to check the logistics for yourself. It’s HARD! That’s not to say that it’s not a thing (as many people claim), it just means that it is sometimes a part of the sexual experience, rather than always the whole shebang. As with anything else, it is different for different people. A lot of the lesbians / bisexual women to whom I’ve spoken about this seem to agree that whilst it’s not necessarily the easiest or most rewarding position, the experience of being genital to genital with your partner isn’t something that we get all the time, and the absolute intimacy of that is pleasurable in itself.  

3. “Well, at least you are safe from STIs!” 

No, no, NO! It’s easy to imagine the root from which this common misconception stems. Generally, safe from the risk of getting pregnant, the discussion around safe sex for lesbians is shockingly sparse. However, we are absolutely also at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and diseases! This is where the elusive dental dam comes in. For those who are unaware, a dental dam is a small square of thin latex, similar to what a condom would look like if you ripped it up the middle (if you don’t have a dental dam to hand but you do have a condom, carefully cut up one side and spread it out flat, and it will function just as well as a dental dam). This square is placed over the vulva before oral sex and held in place by the ‘giver’. Honestly, nobody uses these very much. There is almost no public health dedication to making them readily available, and they are fairly awkward to manoeuvre – but until somebody designs something better, it’s a good idea to pop that packet of mint tingle in your bag if you’re planning to take someone home and you’re unsure about their sexual past.  

 What I want to leave you with is the knowledge that the lack of comprehensive and accurate information out there is not only homophobic, but inherently misogynistic. It exposes a society that believes that sex is only valid or worth knowing about when there is a man taking part or orchestrating and observing it. It assumes a lack of agency on behalf of women and it dismisses our desires. Education on sex between two women doesn’t just clear up confusion and harmful stereotypes in the minds of those who don’t partake in it, but it allows women coming to terms with their sexuality to realise that it’s not wrong, it’s not complicated, and it is definitely not for male consumption. 

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