Sex can be incredibly fun, but it can also be a nerve-wracking experience. Especially if it’s your first time with someone who is more similar to you than previous partners – we’re talking, of course, about lesbian sex.

Now, not all people who have lesbian sex are indeed lesbians. The first time I had sex with my very first girlfriend, we both identified as bisexual. I was 19 and horrifically nervous. She was more experienced than I was and seemed to know what she was doing. Being newly out myself, I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what to do. Real talk: I’d forgotten to cut my nails prior to entering her room and didn’t want to ask to borrow nail clippers, so I stealthily nibbled my nails down to stumps while we were watching a movie. Afterward, we moved to her bedroom and attempted to get down to business.

Real talk: I’d forgotten to cut my nails prior to entering her room and didn’t want to ask to borrow nail clippers, so I stealthily nibbled my nails down to stumps while we were watching a movie.

After about fifteen minutes of sheer determination, I sat back on my heels and pondered all of the men I’d accused of providing sub-par oral sex and thought, “Perhaps I owe them an apology?” There was even a moment when I sounded like a straight man and asked the dreaded question I already knew the answer to: “Did you, ya know… finish?” The question stumbled out of my lips just as I had stumbled remedially around my poor girlfriend’s vagina. 

Lesbian porn does not prepare you for this

And how could it? Most of that nonsense is made for straight, cisgender male audiences. The studios that produce these videos take no care to show the variety of gender expression, racial diversity, size inclusivity, ability ranges, or even kinks that are explored in the multitudes of LGBTQ+ relationships around the world. 

Sex involving little or no form of penetration has been misaligned as purely foreplay and thus “not real sex” for decades. The idea that sex must involve a penis or it isn’t valid is not only harmful, but it is also just incorrect – even among cisgender heterosexual couples. 

The idea that sex must involve a penis or it isn’t valid is not only harmful, but it is also just incorrect – even among cisgender heterosexual couples. 

There-in lies the basis of the daunting belief that lesbian sex is better.

While in cisgender heterosexual encounters sex is often over once the man ejaculates, LGBTQ+ sex is much more intricate. People with vaginas can theoretically orgasm without limit – and although the orgasms do happen more frequently, they are merely a byproduct of mutual trust and respect between partners.

Sex, where a partner is openly expressing desire and care for their partner’s pleasure is the goal for these sexual encounters, not just racing one another to orgasm.

Are lesbians inheritently better at sex?

The question of whether lesbians, women-loving-women and non-binary people are better at sex has been a topic of both philosophical and scientific question in an increasing amount over the last decade. (Go on, Google it). 

There are countless articles backed by both science and personal experience pondering this topic. The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 75% of lesbians had orgasms during sex versus only 61% in heterosexual women. The gap was even larger in a study done by the Kinsey Institute (86% and 65% respectively).

But it’s not that we are better at sex – in my opinion we just think about sex differently than cisgender, heterosexual people.

The reasoning behind this is that women know their own bodies, so naturally they will be able to please other women. It makes sense that most women would not struggle to locate the clitoris because most women have a clitoris and know its general location. 

But what does this do for the young lesbians and bisexual women or non-binary people who are still quaking at the thought? 

The clitoris is not the be all and end all 

What is labeled as lesbian sex has always been inherently political. The act of seeking pleasure and validation outside of men and receiving it completely from other women has become a powerful rejection of patriarchy and cisheteronormativity (the belief that cisgender and heterosexual are the default in society). 

Marilyn Frye, in the anthology Lesbian Philosophies and Cultures: Issues in Philosophical Historiography, says: “The very fact of ‘sex’ being a phallocentric term has made it especially difficult to get across the idea that lesbians are not…making do with feeble and partial and pathetic half satisfactions.”

Being able to actually call the physical expression of love or passion between two women without penises “sex” became a form of radical appropriation for lesbians. Most anti-LGBTQ+ laws were aimed primarily at gay and bisexual men, with many men being arrested under charges of “sodomy” or “buggery” which could be punished by death even today in certain parts of the world.

Re-presenting gender 

These days, even heterosexuals have heard and begun to identify as a “top” or “bottom.” While the original definitions of these terms encapsulated more than one’s role in sexual encounters, in contemporary times people often assume that a bottom must be the more feminine or delicate one – thus attempting to replicate heterosexual relationships where one partner is masculine and the other is feminine.

Lesbians and other LGBTQ+ people are often accused of reiterating gender norms, particularly in couples where one partner is masculine-presenting and the other is more feminine. This could not be further from the truth. 

Gender presentation and gender non-conformance have been deeply ingrained into lesbian culture for decades, perhaps even centuries. And these gender presentations indicate very little, if anything at all, about each partner’s role in the relationship. All it reveals is a style preference.

As always, consent is key

Consent plays a large role in demystifying sex between two partners with vaginas. But consent goes beyond “Hey, can I touch you there?” The answer is not just consent, but a way to please your partner. Consent is also present in “I want you to touch me here.”  Being directed doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong, it could just mean it’s time to move elsewhere. It also helps to question your own preferences and think about whether others like the same things you do. 

But consent goes beyond “Hey, can I touch you there?” The answer is not just consent, but a way to please your partner.

When in doubt, just ask

The first time I felt confident and comfortable having sex with another woman, she was much more vocal with me. There was hardly a minute we were together that she wasn’t giving encouragement, telling me to move up or to the left, or asking for exactly what she wanted. And although some people may not have the confidence to ask for exactly what they want, let me tell you it pays off greatly for both partners. She gave me the confidence to move forward sexually and not be so timid. That doesn’t mean I don’t ask questions or wonder if I’m doing something wrong – it just allows me to trust my partners to tell me what they like.

My advice for first timers

If you were to ask me what advice I would give to my younger self about delving into lesbian sex for the very first time, I would say find the right partner! People who make you nervous and doubtful of yourself aren’t good partners in general, let alone good partners for your first time. 

I would also tell myself to explore my own body more. And maybe find some ethical porn that is actually produced by lesbians and not cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men.

This article was contributed by Nye Rauf, an openly queer twenty-something who loves to guide younger LGBTQ+ folks and aid in their development. You can follow them on Instagram @ny_eellah.