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Everything You Need to Know About Scissoring

We aren’t talking about arts and crafts tool, folks. We’re talking about the sex position.

The sex position that, according to Lisa Finn, a sex educator at sex toy emporium Babeland, is one of the least understood — but best — moves.

To clear up any confusion (and replace it with coming) we put together this scissoring how-to guide. You’re welcome.

Before we get to scissoring, we have to define tribbing.

Often used synonymously with scissoring, the word “tribbing” is defined as intercourse where two folks with vaginas rub their vulvas together — which can be achieved in any number of positions.

So what does this have to do with scissoring? According to Finn, “Officially, tribbing is the sexual act, while scissoring is one specific position.”

However, most people use the terms interchangeably. “Scissoring is a colloquial term, so there’s wiggle room in the definition,” says Finn.

If you’ve ever watched lesbian porn, chances are scissoring is the specific position you saw.

“It’s hard to explain what scissoring is without just saying the word ‘leg’ over and over again,” jokes Finn.

It requires two people facing opposite directions with their legs spread (like, um, scissors…) shimmying together until they meet at the bits. From here, they can wiggle, grind, and gyrate their genitals together in a way that feels the most pleasurable.

“The goal is to simultaneously stimulate each other’s external hot spot,” she says.

Due to the pornification of scissoring, the position often brings up questions like: Is it just a porn thing? Is it real? Do real lesbian, women-loving-women, and queer folks actually do it?

So let’s be clear: Yes, it’s real position. Yes, folks actually do it (and some like it).

But no, this isn’t the only way two vulva owners have sex. Nor is it a position only for lesbians or folks with vulvas. (More on that below).

While some sources, like the Merriam Webster dictionary, still define tribbing as a “homosexual practice among women,” this definition is antiquated.

Historically, scissoring was seen only as something that could happen between two vulva owners.

it’s important to remember

  • Not all vulva owners identify as women.
  • Not all women or vulva owners identify as gay, lesbian, or otherwise queer.

Now, scissoring isn’t seen as being specific to gender, sexual orientation, or genitals.

Finn explains: Some think of scissoring as any position that entails any kind of genital-on-genital touching or rubbing. “Others use scissoring to describe any kind of grinding or humping.”

That’s right! While scissoring usually entails genital-to-genital contact, any movement against a partner’s thigh, butt, hip, leg, arm, face, or fist can qualify.

Because the definition of scissoring has expanded to be more genital- and gender-inclusive and nonspecific, sometimes it can be used interchangeably with humping, grinding, straddling, or rubbing.

As a general rule: What counts as scissoring is really up to you and your partner.

If the sexual activity you and your partner do feels like scissoring to you, you’re welcome to use the term. There’s no scissoring police. Promise.

“A cool thing about scissoring is that you can customize it based on what’s most pleasurable to you and your partner,” says Finn.

That means if you want it to include penetration — vaginal or anal — it can.

Depending on your and your partner’s anatomy (and preferences), you might experiment with the below:

If your partner has a vagina

  • using a strap-on for vaginal or anal penetration
  • using your fingers to pleasure their G-spot, while grinding against their thigh
  • using your fingers to penetrate them vaginally or anally for A-spot stimulation
  • using a fist to penetrate them vaginally or anally
  • one or both of you wearing a butt plug while you scissor
  • using anal beads on your partner, while you hump them from behind
  • if you have a penis, having P-in-V or P-in-A intercourse
  • using a body-safe G-spot wand or insertable vibrator
  • performing cunnilingus or analingus
  • experimenting with a double-ended dildo

If your partner has a penis

  • using a strap-on dildo, a fist, or your penis to penetrate them anally
  • using your fingers to penetrate them anally to pleasure their P-spot
  • one or both of you wearing a butt plug while you scissor
  • using anal beads on your partner, while you hump their leg or back
  • using a prostate massager on them while you grind
  • performing analingus

Remember: Just because your partner consented to nonpenetrative intercourse doesn’t mean that they did or will consent to penetrative sex.

As with any sex act, make sure you ask for consent before trying any of the penetrative acts above.

According to one 2015 survey by Autostraddle, an online platform for lesbian, bisexual, and queer women and nonbinary folks, over 40 percent of people who identify as lesbian, bisexual, or queer women scissor regularly. So, some folks obviously think it feels good!

Allison B., 37, regularly scissors with her girlfriend of 3 years. “We both love clitoral stimulation, so being able to simultaneously receive clitoral stimulation is really pleasurable. Personally, I like it better than a vibrator or strap-on sex.”

Same goes for Francie H., 25, who scissors with some of her sexual partners, but not all. “It’s a great position for mutual pleasure… when it works. Sometimes, based on body shapes, flexibility, strength, and pleasure spots, it just doesn’t work. But for my partners it does work with, it’s a regular item on the sex menu because it feels like fireworks.” Cue Katy Perry.

Annie N., 29, a lesbian trans woman adds that, “scissoring can be a really identify-affirming sex position for folks like me.”

There are like… a thousand sex positions out there. And not one of them works for everybody or every body!

So it shouldn’t surprise you that, as Francie noted above, scissoring is a no-go for some folks and couples.

“It’s a versatile sex act, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will enjoy it, or that it’s physically possible for all sexually active folks,” says Finn. “Scissoring is often thought of as being a more physically active and acrobatic position.”

Depending on the particular iteration of the position, core strength, upper body strength, and hip mobility may be required. It’s not an attainable position for all body combinations.

For example, “I’ve had partners where we could scissor in all kinds of positions and others where the mere idea was physically impossible,” says one Autostraddle survey respondent.

“Scissoring is my least favorite sexual act because I’m not a contortionist,” wrote another.

You might be able to! It depends what you need to orgasm (BTW, figuring this out may require prioritizing some solo time), and if that need is getting met in the scissoring positions you and your partner are trying.

Finn notes that for folks with vulvas, scissoring may offer a higher chance of orgasming than traditional penetrative sex.

Why? Well, according to the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 37 percent of American folks with vulvas required clitoral stimulation to climax. And scissoring definitely provides that.

Of course, pleasure — not orgasm — should be the point of any sex position. Again: Scissoring is customizable, so if you do want to orgasm, adapt the position to best fit your needs.

You know what they say, different strokes for different folks! Meaning, you’ll have to experiment to find what works best for you and bae. Here are some general tips to consider.

Stretch beforehand

Is a mid-romp charley horse the end of the world? Of course not. But do yourself a favor and spend some time opening your hips and stretching your hamstrings.

Focus on foreplay

Before you rush to rub you or your partner’s bits, explore other erogenous zones like the breasts, thighs, mouths, ears, and neck. As Finn says, “What sex position isn’t made better by going two or three times slower?” Touché.

Use lube liberally

This can decrease the friction caused from skin-on-skin contact and allow your bits and bodies to pleasurably glide and slide against each other.

Include internal or external toys

Using dildos, double-ended dildos, butt plugs, anal beads, vibrators, and wands is a great way to add penetration to scissoring. But toys can be great for external stimulation, too!

Palm vibrators (like the Le Wand Point or Dame Pom) and wand vibrators (like the Lelo Smart Wand or Doxy) may feel good when positioned between your bodies.

Shop for the Le Want Point, Dame Pom, Lelo Smart Wand, and Doxy online.

You might also include nonvibrating toys, which you can find online, like:

Make eye contact

Helllo, intimacy!

Lock lips

“Depending on your positions, it may be hard to press your lips together… while your lips are together,” says Finn. But if it is, get your smooch on.

You and your partner will have to do some experimentation to determine what works best for you. Below, Finn shares three positions to try.

Classic scissor

Named because it looks like two scissors meeting in the middle, this is what most folks think of when they think of scissoring.

“It’s one of the better scissor positions for using a double-ended dildo,” adds Finn. The more you know!

To give this a try:

  1. Lie down on your side with your legs spread.
  2. Facing the opposite direct, have your partner slide between your legs so that you meet at the genitals.
  3. Move and play around until you find a pleasurable rhythm.

The thigh hump and bump

This position is basically just humping and grinding, but Finn says, “it works because you can alter the amount of pressure apply based on what feels good.”

To give it a try:

  1. Have one partner lie on their back, legs spread, and the other partner climb on top.
  2. The top partner can straddle one of the bottom partner’s thighs, so that their upper leg applies pressure to their partner’s bits.
  3. Use your lips, hands, and tongues to tease each other as you find a rhythm.

Lifted-leg missionary

For more acrobatic couples, Finn says this one is worth an attempt.

To give it a try:

  1. Have one partner lie on their back, one leg lifted in the air.
  2. Have the top partner straddle the leg on the bed, while holding the top leg up.
  3. Shift side-to-side, until you find a position that is mutually pleasurable.
  4. The bottom partner can also pleasure themselves while the top partner rides their thigh.

Scissoring isn’t synonymous with safer sex. In some cases, pregnancy is possible. If there’s genital-to-genital contact, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can still be transmitted, including those transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or by bodily fluid.

STIs

“The best way to protect yourself is for you and your partner to be up-to-date on your STI status and to communicate your status before scissoring,” says Finn.

If one or both of you has an STI, or you don’t know your partner’s status, she recommends dental dams when both folks have vulvas and condoms when one or both partners has a penis.

To use a dental dam during scissoring, apply lube to both sides of the dam. Have one partner hold the dam in place, between the two genitals.

As you might guess, dental dams aren’t perfect protection. “It’s pretty easy for dental dams to slip and move mid-romp, and for there to be accidental genital contact or fluid transmission,” says Finn.

Pregnancy

Again, sometimes scissoring includes penis-in-vagina penetration. In most cases, this means that pregnancy is possible.

If you want to avoid pregnancy, you and your partner should discuss birth control options, which may include hormonal birth control or condoms.

Scissoring has some serious pleasure potential. Will it work for you and your partner? Go find out!


Gabrielle Kassel is a New York–based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.

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