A lot of you are worried about me and my people. It’s true that we queers have a lot of oppression on our plates. You’re right to try to help us with our problems. But this time, the tables are turned. This time, I’m going to help you.
You see, straights, I’m worried about you. Specifically, I’m worried about the sex you’re having. There are some things you’ve said to me that have me really concerned about your sex lives. So I’m staging an intervention. Sit down and listen while I tell you about some of the worrying things you’ve told me, and my advice for fixing your problems.
1. “How does lesbian sex even work?”
The first problem right off the bat is how othering this question is. You make lesbian sex sound like some mysterious cosmic phenomenon, like the gravitational distortion caused by black holes. I mean, how does that even work? Lesbian sex is really not that weird, it definitely doesn’t require a PhD in astrophysics, and it’s not my job to educate you on all things queer.
But there’s another problem here, because the truth is, if you don’t understand how lesbian sex works, then your heterosexual sex is missing some really fun and exciting stuff.
My standard response to this question is to say, “Think of all the erogenous zones on a woman’s body*. Now think of all the ways you can stimulate them without a penis.”
This explanation works on some people, but from most I still get blank stares. When I press them to find out why they’re still stuck, I find two roadblocks. Some of them don’t seem to understand that women have erogenous zones besides their vaginas. Others just don’t seem to get the point of stimulating a woman with anything but a penis. Both of these roadblocks are going to limit their sexual possibilities.
I suspect people stuck at the first roadblock are influenced by porn and other media in which women are driven to ecstasy when a man penetrates her with his penis, with no other stimulation needed or wanted. The vagina sure feels good when it’s stimulated, but you know what else feels good? The nipples, the clit, the labia, the perineum, the ass, and plenty of other parts besides. If you’re ignoring all of those, you’re ignoring some really fun parts of the body, including the part with the highest concentration of pleasurable nerve endings (that’s the clitoris, or clit, for those of you who didn’t know.) In fact, most women cannot reach orgasm by vaginal stimulation alone.
Now, I’m not familiar with this from personal experience, but my gay male friends tell me that straights also fail to appreciate that the penis is not the only erogenous zone on a man. Nipples, balls, perineum, and ass, among other parts, are great fun for most men.
Those heterosexuals who are stuck at the second roadblock tell me, “But if you use your fingers or your tongue or a toy to stimulate a woman, you can’t really feel the pleasure the way you can with a penis. So what’s the point?” It’s true that a penis has a much higher concentration of pleasurable nerve endings than a finger or tongue or knee or most anything else I use to stimulate women. But that’s only a problem if you take a very narrow view of sexual pleasure. I say the most important sexual organ is the brain. For my part, I can nearly come just from the sound of a woman expressing her appreciation for the pleasure I’m giving her. If you don’t understand the psychological stimulation you can get from sex, and how well it compares to physical stimulation, then I say your heterosexual sex is missing something beautiful and intense.
In other words, straights: get a more holistic view of sex. It can involve the whole body and the whole mind – and it’s a lot more fun when it does.
2. “Sex for lesbians is foreplay for us.”
I’ve heard this line from queer men too, so you’d better listen up, brothers.
This line both worries me and angers me. It makes me angry because it positions lesbian sex as somehow less intimate or important. It’s like there’s this whole class of super special intimacy that we lesbians will never access. We just do foreplay with each other, but you have real sex.
This statement, whether I hear it from a heterosexual or from a queer man, arises from the same perception: that sex is somehow more real, intimate, and important when it involves a penis entering a vagina or an anus. This same belief fuels the misconception that lesbian sex is all about fucking each other with dildos. Some of us like that a lot, but some of us never do that at all (just like some queer men have anal sex, but some don’t.)
This belief in the special intimacy of penile intercourse is just plain puzzling to me, on the face of it. I had vaginal intercourse with a man once, and from my point of view, it was absolutely nothing to write home about. I didn’t feel like I’d unlocked some new, deeper level of Real Sex. In fact, it was perhaps the least real and intimate sex I’ve ever had, since I only did it because I was curious and I didn’t end up enjoying it.
Some people have tried to defend the unique intimacy of this sex act by telling me that it’s the only type of sex where the body parts involved both have a high density of pleasurable nerves – in other words, the only sex act in which both parties can “really feel it.” To this, I have two replies. The first is that neither the vagina nor the prostate (the area stimulated in men when they receive anal sex) has as many pleasurable nerve endings as the clitoris or penis, and most people being penetrated in this way also need stimulation to the clit or penis to reach orgasm. The second is to repeat what I’ve said before: the most important sexual organ is the brain. When I’m fingering a woman, my fingers aren’t directly experiencing pleasure, but in my brain you can be sure I’m feeling mightily pleased.
Bottom line: I don’t buy it. There’s nothing inherently more real, intimate, or important about a penis entering a vagina or anus. So why do so many people believe this? Because in our society, the subjectivity and pleasure of men is considered the most important part of sex, and these sex acts are the most likely to result in orgasm for the penetrative male partner.
I’m not saying that men having orgasms from penetrative sex is a bad thing. But when the types of sex that are most likely to result in female pleasure are considered foreplay, and the types of sex that are most likely to result in male pleasure are considered Real Sex, then there’s a problem. That’s why I’m worried, heterosexuals, especially for the ladies among you.
I understand why counting sex that doesn’t involve penile penetration as Real Sex might be scary. It means that the number of sex partners you’ve had might go up, and the age at which you “lost your virginity”** might go down. For a lot of people, especially women, this is associated with feelings of shame. But there’s nothing shameful about consensual sex, and if you’ve had good sex, no matter what body parts or toys were involved, you should be proud.
Straight ladies, have you ever been teased with a vibrator until you were panting and sweating? Have you ever had someone go down on you for an hour until you felt like you were going to melt into a puddle of goo? I’m here to tell you that if those lovely things have ever happened to you, you got lucky. You did the deed. You went all the way. You got to home base and struck a triple, or whatever ridiculous analogy the kids are using these days. You had real sex – the same kind of real sex that I like to have.
3. “When queers have sex, how do you know who fucks and who gets fucked?”
Let me turn that question around: when you have sex, how do you know who fucks and who gets fucked?
You may be thinking, “Why are you asking me this question? It’s obvious. The man fucks and the woman gets fucked.”
But making assumptions based on your partner’s gender is a terrible way to figure out what they want to do in bed. Maybe she has a strap-on in her handbag and she really wants to fuck you. Maybe he doesn’t want to fuck or be fucked, but would rather you spend the night licking each other all over like ice cream cones. If you just assume based on gender, then how will you ever know what your partner really wants?
Easy. Do what we queers do: ask each other.
When we come out of the closet and start sleeping with people who aren’t of the other sex, we queers often discover something wonderful: there doesn’t have to be a script. There doesn’t have to be one person who always initiates, or a partner who’s always on top. A butch lesbian can get down on her knees and beg for her femme partner to fuck her and spank her red. Two men can take turns making each other come apart with their mouths. We threw aside society’s demands that we be straight, so we also threw out all the rules, except one: respect each other. This is improv. This is a dance that’s different every time.
I’ll never forget the first time I had really good sex. I was dancing and making out with a girl who was dressed femme, like me, in a miniskirt and fishnets. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew it was going to be something good. She whispered in my ear, “I really like it when my hair is pulled, hard. You should try it, if you want to.” I tried it. She gasped. A shiver went down my spine. We went back to her place as quickly as we could. All night, as our fishnet-clad legs rubbed against each other, she told me exactly how she wanted me to hurt her. I was her willing slave and her torturer all at once. Submissive, sadist, femme: all three of these sexual dynamics played out in my body and my mind, and somehow, they didn’t contradict each other at all.
Do you like the sound of that, straight people? Do you think that you, too, have the potential to play out a whole range of sexual roles and desires? Well, I have good news for you: you can throw out the script too. Open your mind. Ask your partner what they like. Ask them to do something sexy with you that you’ve always dreamed about but never dared to try. You might just be surprised.
a concerned lesbian with your best interests at heart
*Note that I’m referring to cissexual bodies here. I’m aware that there’s a great deal of diversity in the erogenous zones of women’s bodies, and in definitions of what a woman’s body is, but I’m writing to heterosexual padawans who have a long way to go in their queer education. Don’t worry, we’ll continue their training on the queer side of the Force another day.
**I put this in quotes because in my opinion the whole concept of virginity, and virginity loss, is suspect. Sexual experience is a spectrum in shades of gray, not a black and white binary of virginity vs. non-virginity.