How to have sex

Is the sex great because women understand each other’s bodies?

Again – no. Everyone is different; no two women are the same.

Cara Delevingne and Annie Clark Cara Delevingne and Annie Clark (Getty)

It’s all about practice, and learning which buttons to press.

How does sex work without the – erm – phallus?

Well, much like straight people and gay men and everyone else on the spectrum, lesbians do lots of different things. The sex is varied, and different people enjoy different things.

A guide to lesbian sex (918Evgenij)A guide to lesbian sex (918Evgenij)

The following list is a general guide lesbian sex, because we haven’t met and interviewed every sapphist in existence, and we can’t include every single sex-thing girls do together. (Also, some of it is not everyone’s cup of tea, obviously.)

What is humping?

Yep, it’s back-to-basics with humping, which is as you’d imagine it to be: one on top, one underneath, moving back and forth.

A happy lesbian couple (Rawpixel)A happy lesbian couple (Rawpixel)

It’s like the military position but with no penis, and can be very pleasurable and result in orgasm. Also known as ‘rub-a-bit’.

What is scissoring?

Scissoring, aka tribbing, is not a myth. It’s essentially genital-to-genital contact, and can be done in different positions. Mr Garrison does it in South Park, but there are far easier/ more pleasurable / less hilarious poses.

Edward ScissorhandsAhem (20th Century Fox)

What is oral sex?

Yep, this is something many lesbians do. Some prefer giving, some prefer receiving, some like both equally.

Some prefer giving, some prefer receiving (Max Pixel)Lipstick mouth (Maxpixel)

It’s like a blowjob – another staple of sex – but without the penis. Duh.

Premature Ejaculation: 6 Minute Man

premature ejaculation

One study timed men from the Netherlands, UK, Spain, Turkey, and the US to find out how long it took for men to ejaculate after their penis was inserted into the vagina. They even took note of condom use and circumcision.”

“The average time to ejaculation was about 6 minutes,” reports Reitano, noting that men from Turkey had the shortest time (4.4 minutes) and guys from Great Britain had the longest time (10 minutes). So congrats, limeys.

In a five-nation study, men from the UK lasted the longest during sex (avg. 10 minutes)

Reitano warns that “many men will experience an episode of orgasming before he and his partner might have preferred. By taking time to help a partner orgasm first the need to prolong sex for the partner’s satisfaction, while still present, is less compelling. This can reduce stress and lead to a longer time between entering and orgasming.”

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All Hail the Missionary Position

According to Dr. Reitano, “The missionary position is an underappreciated means for enjoying sex and giving pleasure to a partner. By maneuvering your position to one that rides up a bit higher it’s possible to reposition the penis so it glides along the clitoris as it moves in and out of the vagina. This provides direct stimulation to the clitoris, which can be very satisfying for a partner.”

He continues, “Conversely, by shifting down to a lower position it’s possible for the penis to run along the front of the vaginal wall as the penis glides in and out of the vagina. That allows the penis to stimulate the clitoris that runs inside the vagina along the front wall of the vagina and stimulates the G spot.”

guys sex thoughts

“Changing positions is as important for the female as for the male,” warns Reitano. “Women will often have a preferred position or a series of preferences. Changing position needn’t be done with winks, nods, and sign language. Communication is key.”

“At any rate, there’s no need to feel awkward. Sex is so many things. It’s intimacy, expression, primal pleasure. It’s also play for adults. With a bit of communication there’s no reason why it can’t be all three,” concludes Reitano. However, he advises a little tact.

“You may not bring out the sex toys and velcro handcuffs on a first date, but suggestions about position changes is fairly tame and usually both expected and welcome.

Common Female Fantasies

common female sexual fantasies

“Talking dirty is an acquired skill and a matter of taste. However, women have many of the same fantasies as men,” informs Reitano.

A study titled, “What Exactly is an Unusual Fantasy?” asked 1,516 adults to rank 55 different Sexual Fantasies (SF) and note which were their favorites. The most common female fantasies were:

  1. Feeling romantic emotions during a sexual relationship (92% of women surveyed)
  2. Atmosphere and location were important in the fantasy (86%)
  3. Performing fellatio (Oral sex) (79%)
  4. Being masturbated by a partner (71%)
  5. Masturbating her partner (68%)
  6. Being dominated by a partner (66%)

1/3 of women surveyed fantasized about having anal sex, being spanked, whipped, photographed, filmed, or having sex with two men

Doctor’s Note: Despite how common these fantasies are, you should never presume that any of these can be acted upon without the full consent of a sober, knowing person. Because someone explores certain sexual activities in the comfort of their imagination, doesn’t mean they’d ever act upon them.

Nipple Stimulation and Orgasm

thoughts guys think about during sex

“The nipple is also a sex organ, according to Retiano. “Mapping of the brain has demonstrated that when stimulated the sensations travel to the same part of the brain that is stimulated when the clitoris, vagina, or cervix are stimulated.”

MRI imaging confirms women can orgasm from nipple stimulation

“Also, women have reached orgasm from nipple stimulation and the brain mapping reveals it responds as a vaginal orgasm does,” according to Reitano. In fact, researchers used MRI imaging to confirm female orgasm with nipple stimulation. “The same mapping hasn’t been done on men, but there’s every reason to believe that it has some capacity to function as a source of sexual pleasure for men, as well,” concludes Reitano.

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Anal Sex is on the Rise

people are having more anal sex

When it comes to anal sex in the US, Reitano notes one simple trend. “The number of people engaging in anal sex is on the rise.” He cites a National Health Statistics Report on Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Identity in the United States that included information on the prevalence of anal sex practices from in-person interviews with 22,682 males and females aged 15–44 in the US. They found that:

37% of women and 45% of men ever had anal sex with an opposite-sex partner  

And it’s easy to see why anal sex is growing in popularity. According to a 2009 National Survey of Sex and Behavior poll of nearly 2,000 adults (age 19-59), women reached orgasm 62% of the time with vaginal intercourse, 80% of the time when they received cunnilingus, and a whopping 91% of the time when they were penetrated anally.

But Reitano notes that fantasies and realities are different things. “Anal sex is a common female fantasy. However, acting on a fantasy on a first sexual encounter and trying it are worlds apart. It may be a female fantasy nearly a third of women share, but remember the anal canal is guarded by a tight muscle called the anal sphincter. The pain associated with improperly piercing the anal sphincter is severe.”


Yes, there are lots of ways to make sure HIV is not transmitted during sex.

  1. One of the easiest and most effective ways is just for the HIV positive partner to be on treatment. An undetectable viral load makes HIV untransmittable. (See: The evidence for U=U).
  2. Another relatively recent option is for the negative partner to use PrEP. This is an oral drug that when taken as prescribed is highly effective. (See: UK guide to PrEP).
  3. You can use condoms which are an effective barrier against HIV (and other STIs). Condoms need to be used carefully, preferably with plenty of lube. (See: How to use a condom (male and female).
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HIV is a much less infectious virus than many other sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).

Even without a condom, the risk from a single exposure is less than, for example, 1 in 300. The actual risk becoming infected varies depending on many factors. These include the type of exposure, whether the other person is HIV positive, how high or low their viral load is, the duration and roughness of the sex etc.

If the partner is HIV positive, then viral load is the most important factor. The PARTNER study reported zero HIV transmissions after 900 couples had sex more than 58,000 times WITHOUT condoms. In this study undetectable viral load was defined as being less than 200 copies/mL.

Risk factors for penetrative sex without a condom with someone who has a very high viral load could be as high as 1 in 10 (10% risk). But the risk is effectively zero with someone who is taking treatment and who has an undetectable viral load.

This question was updated in January 2018 and November 2016 from an original answer posted in June 2007. i-Base no longer answers individual questions about HIV transmission and risk. (See: Question 1 at this link).

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