Yes, Scissoring Is A Thing — But Not In The Way You Think

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.

When I was a junior in college and aware that I was attracted to women (but not out yet), a straight roommate made an announcement at a party. She made two peace signs with her fingers and began jamming them together. "Did you know that this is how lesbians have sex?" she said, tipsy from a few drinks. Her tone sounded less than open-minded. "Is that really a thing?" another classmate responded. Mind you, this was in North Carolina and nearly 10 years ago. But I still hear this today, even though I now live openly queer in New York City.

And it turns out, my former classmate wasn't wrong per se — scissoring is certainly a thing many lesbian and queer women do. But it's not the standard go-to that stereotypes around lesbian sex might have you believe. According to Mal Harrison, sexologist and director of the Center for Erotic Intelligence, scissoring has become more common in recent years, especially among millennials and Generation Z women, and porn may be the cause — it's now just a simple click away on the internet, after all.

"Fifteen years ago, it just wasn’t something commonly discussed in lesbian circles, nor amongst my lesbian and bisexual clients," Harrison says. "Now, I frequently hear it mentioned as part of the repertoire, simply because people are getting more of their ideas and sex ed from porn."

Scissoring is oftentimes considered a novelty, something vulva-owners try for the hell of it. There's even lesbian fan fiction about scissoring (I suggest this NSFW Harry Potter version), according to Heather*, a "gold star" lesbian (which means she's never slept with a man). "In my first relationship, [scissoring] was something I felt we had to try, especially since any and all lesbian porn made it seem like the one true and ultimate lesbian way to have sex," Heather says. (Though, as many people know, that's certainly not the case — there are lots of hot lesbian sex positions that look nothing like scissoring.)

In a sense, scissoring is like queer women's version of straight folk's 69 position. Yes, people do it; some love it, some hate it, but it's not the ultimate position. In other words: It's not the lesbian version of missionary sex. And actually, scissoring can bring about some health concerns that other types of lesbian sex protect participants from (lesbians have a lower risk for certain STIs). "My first experience with it resulted in a yeast infection, as the pH of our respective poons did not mesh well together," Heather says. Regarding STIs, Harrison says there is always a risk of transmission when dealing with bodily fluids and skin-to-skin contact, and the primary concerns for scissoring are herpes and HPV.

Scissoring is like queer women's version of straight folk's 69 position. Yes, people do it; some love it, some hate it, but it's not the ultimate position.

But perhaps the biggest deterrent to scissoring is the awkward maneuvering it can entail for it to actually feel good, especially when you have a different body type than your partner. "It’s impossible to get the angles right to get any sort of sustained pressure on the clitoris for either person involved, and it requires so much strength in your arms that I personally was just focused on how much my arms hurt," says Lily*, a queer-identifying woman. As for Heather, she and her wife have very different heights, which she says can make the position difficult — but the payoff can be big. "On the occasional night that we get it right, it is very passionate and a real turn on, as you have two sets of engorged labia almost suctioning themselves to each other."

This was my experience. I had one of the best orgasms of my life from scissoring, but the odds were in my favor. To start, it was my first time trying it (and I was pretty excited about the prospect), and I had been aroused for hours — at that point, I'm pretty sure I could have come from a light tap on my breast. Also, my partner had a very similar body type to mine, which made the whole maneuvering part easier. Making out turned into dry humping, which turned into cuddling, which turned into intertwined legs that resulted in vulva-to-vulva contact that stimulated my already engorged clit, and I came my face off and felt like a total badass. I haven't tried it since, as my current partner doesn't have a vagina. But I did see a few people trying it when I was at a women-only sex party recently.

That said, it's hard to say why society, and straight people in particular, are so stuck on the idea that this is the main way lesbians have sex. Along with the rise of internet porn, Harrison says that pop culture references, like a graphic scissoring scene in a 2007 episode of South Park, have likely raised the practice's profile in the mainstream. Heather thinks it might have something to do with gendered sexual power dynamics. "It's the ultimate lesbian sex power move; it's like saying, 'With our powers combined, we really don't need your dick,'" she says.

Not to mention, lesbian sex (and queer virginity in general) tends to be a concept that dumbfounds people who haven't experienced it. There simply isn't one definition of lesbian sex, so pinpointing the thing is impossible. "There is no social script for how to engage in queer sex, so we end up making it up as we go, and that means doing whatever feels good," Lily says. "So you end up seeing a lot more hands, mouths, and toys [rather than genital-to-genital action], because that works best for clitoral stimulation." This individualized way of thinking about sex may be why lesbian women are more likely to orgasm during sex than straight women — heterosexual sex isn't one-size-fits-all either.

If you're interested in trying scissoring, there's not really a roadmap, since sex is so personal — Harrison says to just "do what feels good." Heather says the key to making it work is finding your position. "Don't just assume you're going to lay down and make it happen," she says. "It takes a little practice and a bit of dexterity to make it work."

Whether you're a lesbian, an in-the-closet queer woman, or a straight person who's curious about sex involving two vaginas, just remember that scissoring is just one move in a very comprehensive lesbian playbook. If you're curious about what lesbian sex is really like, talk to people who have it, check out IRL couples having sex on Make Love Not Porn, or read their accounts online, rather than relying on traditional porn or stereotypes. "I say this especially to little baby lesbians who may only use porn as a reference," Heather says. "While, yes, [scissoring] can be very sexual and sensual, it's not your only option."

*Last names have been omitted to protect their identities.