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The short answer to the question “how do lesbians have sex?” is: however they want.

However, this article will provide more insight into lesbian sex than those three words.

Written By: Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH, Certified Sexologist & Sexuality Educator

Sex, without a penis present, is still sex

In the US, we have been raised with the idea that sex includes penis-in-vagina penetration, and ‘virginity’ depends on just that. Dr. Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, certified sex therapist, and author, refers to this concept as the ‘heterosexual script.’

In a tweet, she wrote: “Our heterosexual scripts put penetration as the main event. When [with] other women, penetration is optional.  And, when alone, less than 1% of women pleasure themselves exclusively with penetration. Instead, they stimulate their clitoris, either alone or coupled with penetration.”

In her book, Becoming Cliterate, she further elaborates:

“When two women get it on, they mostly focus on stimulating each other's clitorises; penetration (e.g. with a strap-on or dildo) is a total optional activity, only incorporated if one woman finds that it enhances her arousal and orgasm…Clearly both solo and lesbian sex focus on the clitoris, but when penetration is involved that becomes the main event and less attention is paid to the clitoris.”

All that is to say that penetration is the heterosexual norm, and sex looks different for everyone. For some people, it does include penetration, but other options include oral sex, manual sex, sex toys, and other forms of intimate touch.

There is no one way to have sex.

The implication that there has to be penetration or a penis involved for an interaction to be ‘sex’ is heterosexist and is invalidating of lesbian relationships. 

For the sake of this article, we will be referring to lesbians in a generalized way, but as aforementioned, not all lesbians have sex the same way, nor do all lesbians have vulvas (though many do).


The Orgasm Gap, Briefly

“A 2017 study found straight women reached orgasm 65% of the time during partnered sex while straight men reached orgasm 95% of the time. During first-time heterosexual hookups, women report reaching climax only 7% of the time. Lesbian women reach orgasm 85% of the time during partnered sex. During first-time lesbian hook-ups, women report reaching orgasm 65% of the time (versus 7% in first-time heterosexual hookups.)”

(From The Orgasm Gap: Why It’s Gaping and How to Close it)


How Do Lesbians Have Sex? Here Are The Top 15 Ways

A couple of years ago, the indie queer media outlet, Autostraddle, administered a survey called the ‘Ultimate Lesbian Sex Survey’ which was completed by over 13,000 queer women.

The survey asked, “Which of these activities has been a regular part of your sex life within the last year?” The top fifteen lesbian sex activities in order of popularity are as follows:

  • Clitoral Stimulation– 99%
  • Fingering – 97.2%
  • Oral sex (genitals) – 95.2%
  • Frottage/dry humping – 79.6%
  • Nipple play – 73.1%
  • The use of strap-ons – 58.8%
  • Vibrators – 55.5%
  • Dildos – 55%
  • Spanking – 50%
  • Scissoring – 34%
  • Anal play (external) – 31%
  • Anal penetration – 25.2%
  • BDSM – 22.2%
  • Other sex toy play – 22%
  • Fisting (vaginal) – 18%

One statistic I would like to point out is:

“Of survey-takers who use sex toys, 47% own four or more of them, 75% purchase them in stores and 64% have purchased sex toys online.”

Sex toys are incredibly common for lesbians to use. 


Read more: The Best Sex Toys For Lesbians & How To Use Them




Misconceptions about ‘Lesbian Sex’

The sex you may think of between women is often influenced by what we are shown in the media – on tv, in movies, and in mainstream porn. This idea of sex is curated to be specifically appealing to straight men in accordance with the ‘male gaze,’ a concept developed by Laura Mulvey, a British feminist film theorist.

“The Male Gaze theory,” explains Rachel Sampson, “in a nutshell, is where women in the media are viewed from the eyes of a heterosexual man, and that these women are represented as passive objects of male desire. Audiences are forced to view women from the point of view of a heterosexual male, even if they are heterosexual women or homosexual men.”

Lesbian sex, however, does not exist to appeal to anyone other than those participating.



More Queer Reading:

The Best Sex Toys For Lesbians & How To Use Them

How To Use a Strapless Strap-On: A Sex Guide From A Sexologist

Am I Gay Quiz?



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