Having sex for the first time can be a little nerve-racking, no matter who you are or who you want to have sex with.

Given that there are lots of myths and misconceptions about lesbian sex, it’s important to educate yourself about how sex can work and how to practice safer sex.

Here’s what you need to know.

Before we talk about lesbian sex, let’s talk about what the phrase means.

Usually, people use the term “lesbian sex” to mean sex between two women. If that’s the case, remember that those women might not identify as lesbian.

For example, they could identify as bisexual, pansexual, queer, or even heterosexual. Sex between women isn’t limited to lesbians.

Remember, also, that “lesbian sex” isn’t limited to cisgender couples.

It also includes other people who have vaginas, people with penises, and people with intersex genitalia.

Heterosexual couples, for example, may have oral, manual, or penetrative sex. It all depends on the couple and what they like to do.

Similarly, lesbian sex — or sex between women, whether cis or trans — can include whatever kind of sex you’d like to try.

Through school, the media, and our communities, most of us learn that sex is about a penis entering a vagina.

While many people only view penis-in-vagina sex as “real” sex, the definition of sex is fluid. Sex means different things to different people.

Here is an incomplete list of what may count as sex for you:

So, whatever counts as “lesbian sex” is really up to whoever is doing it. You’re welcome to define sex as broadly or as narrowly as you’d like!

There are lots of myths out there about lesbian sex. Here are a few:

  • Someone has to be “the man” in the scenario. Some people believe that one partner does all the penetration while the other does all the receiving. This is the dynamic for some couples, but not all — and remember, penetrating doesn’t make you a “man.”
  • It’s easier because you’re both women. Remember that just because you’re both women doesn’t mean you have the same genitals — for example, one person might be a cis woman with a vagina, while the other might be a trans woman with a penis. Even if you do have the same genitals, every body is different. What one partner finds pleasurable, another partner might find boring.
  • You have to use a strap-on. Strap-ons are sex toys that are often penis-like in shape. They attach to one partner’s pelvis using a harness or underwear-like attachment. They can be used to penetrate the vagina or anus. While these can be enjoyable, they’re not a must-have. Whether you use one is up to you.
  • You have to scissor. Scissoring is when two people with vaginas open their legs and rub their vulvas together. While some people enjoy this, it’s a huge myth that all lesbians do this. Many people find it impractical and unpleasurable.
  • Orgasm is the end goal. Most people think that sex ends when one or both partners orgasm. This doesn’t have to be the case. Sex can be pleasurable without orgasming, and it’s totally fine to stop having sex without one or both of you orgasming.
  • You don’t need to worry about STIs or pregnancy. It’s possible to get pregnant if one partner has a penis and another has a vagina. It’s also possible to spread STIs from one person to another, no matter what their genitals are.

Masturbating can help you relax and figure out what feels good to you.

You may find that touching yourself in certain places and with certain motions feels pleasurable. This can help you tell your partner what you enjoy.

And if your partner has the same anatomy as you, masturbating may help you navigate their anatomy better. It may also give you a good idea of what they might enjoy.

That said, remember that everyone is different. What might be pleasurable for one person might not be pleasurable for the next.

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Asking for consent is crucial.

Even if your partner has already said that they want to have sex, it’s important to check in before the time comes.

Remember that they have the right to withdraw consent during sex, as do you.

If you’re nervous, talk to your partner about it. Share that you haven’t had sex before, or that you haven’t done certain sexual activities.

Ask them what they enjoy doing or what they’d like to try, or share ideas of your own.

Not sure what to say? Here are some phrases you can use before or during sex:

  • Can I kiss you?
  • Can we do [sexual activity]?
  • Can I take your clothes off?
  • Would you like to have sex?
  • I’d like to do [sexual activity]. What do you think?
  • Are you enjoying yourself?
  • Should I stop?
  • Are you comfortable with this?

You should never make assumptions about what your partner does or doesn’t want.

Always check in with them and ask what they’d like before taking it to the next level.

Remember that some people have sensitive nipples, so be gentle and ask your partner how much pressure they’d like you to apply.

Breast and nipple play could include:

  • rubbing nipples between your forefingers
  • gently pulling nipples
  • licking, sucking, or kissing nipples or breasts
  • using sex toys on nipples, such as nipple clamps, or using a vibrator or feather tickler on nipples
  • using ice blocks or tingling lube on nipples to produce interesting sensations

Manual stimulation is about using your hands to pleasure your partner. Experiment with different motions, different kinds of pressure, and different speeds.

If your partner has a vagina

Depending on their anatomy and personal preferences, you could try things such as:

  • rubbing their clitoris by trying circular and up-down motions at various speeds and pressures
  • using a finger to find their G-spot, a rough patch of tissue in the vaginal wall
  • lightly touching the area around their clitoris or vagina in a teasing motion
  • touching the skin just outside of their anus
  • penetrating their anus with your fingers

If your partner has a penis

There are many ways to manually stimulate someone who has a penis. Some ideas include:

  • performing a hand job by holding their penis firmly and gliding your hand up and down; ask your partner which speed and pressure they’d prefer
  • gently rubbing or massaging the head of their penis
  • touching and rubbing their scrotum and perineum, which is the area between the scrotum and anus
  • touching the skin just outside of their anus
  • penetrating their anus with your fingers

Oral stimulation is exactly what it sounds like — using your mouth and tongue to pleasure your partner.

If your partner has a vagina

You can kiss, lick, or suck the:

  • clitoris
  • area around the clitoris or vagina
  • vaginal opening
  • inner thighs
  • anus

If your partner has a penis

You could kiss, lick, or suck the:

  • penis
  • scrotum and perineum
  • inner thighs
  • anus

Penetration is often associated with penises, but you can penetrate the vagina or anus with a range of different things, such as your fingers, your fist, or a sex toy.

Vaginal

Remember that penis-in-vagina sex can lead to pregnancy, so talk to your partner about birth control options.

You can try:

  • penis-in-vagina sex
  • fingering the vagina
  • fisting the vagina
  • inserting a dildo or vibrator

Anal

If you’re going to have anal sex, you need a little more preparation.

The anus doesn’t produce its own natural lubrication, so using lube is very important.

Go gently, as the lining of the anus walls are thinner than that of the vagina.

You can try:

  • penis-in-anus sex
  • fingering the anus
  • fisting the anus
  • inserting a dildo or vibrator
  • using an anal plug or other toy designed specifically for the anus

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There are probably hundreds of different sex positions out there, but now isn’t the time to try your hand at erotic gymnastics.

Start with the tried-and-true moves below and go from there.

For oral or manual sex, try lying down with your legs open

Lie on your back with your legs open. You can bend your knees if that’s more comfortable.

Your partner can then lie on their stomach between your legs.

For penis-in-vagina sex, missionary usually works

Missionary has a reputation for being boring — but it doesn’t have to be!

In this position, the person with the vagina lies on their back. The person with the penis lies face-down on top of them and inserts their penis into their vagina.

If you want, you can prop a pillow underneath your pelvis to raise it. This can improve the angle, making it more pleasurable for both of you.

For penetrative anal sex, doggy-style is often comfortable

To do this, the person who is being penetrated gets on all fours, with their knees apart.

They can put their head down on their forearms or straighten their forearms and keep their back flat-ish.

The giver can then kneel behind them and penetrate their anus with their fingers, penis, or sex toy.

You can also try this position for oral stimulation of the anus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20 million Americans contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) each year.

Your individual STI risk depends on a range of factors, including:

  • what sexual activities you’re doing
  • both you and your partner’s sexual history
  • whether you use condoms or other barrier methods

Remember, you can contract an STI regardless of you or your partner’s anatomy.

Often, people assume that lesbians can’t get pregnant, or that lesbian sex can’t result in pregnancy. That’s a myth based on the assumption that both women are cisgender.

If one partner is transgender and has a penis and the other is cisgender and has a vagina, they can have penis-in-vagina sex.

In many cases, this means that pregnancy is possible.

If you want to avoid pregnancy, talk to your partner about birth control.

This may include a combination of hormonal contraception, like the pill, and condoms.

Here are a few ways to reduce your risk of STIs and other infections:

  • Dental dams. Use these if you’re performing oral sex, either on the vagina or the anus.
  • External condoms. You can use these for penis-in-vagina sex, penis-in-anus sex, or oral sex on penises.
  • Internal condoms. You can use these for penis-in-vagina sex or penis-in-anus sex.
  • Gloves or finger cots. These can protect you during manual-genital stimulation, such as fingering, hand jobs, and clitoral stimulation. They may feel more comfortable when used with lube.
  • Hand hygiene. When it comes to fingering, clitoral stimulation, and hand jobs, hand hygiene is essential. Always wash your hands beforehand to avoid spreading germs. You should also keep your nails short if you plan on penetrating someone with your fingers. This helps prevent cuts and tears, which can be painful and lead to infections. You can also insert cotton balls into rubber gloves to provide a different sensation.
  • Lubricate. Lube is great for penetrative sex of all kinds because it lowers the risk of tearing and irritation inside of the vagina or anus. It’s especially important for anal sex because, unlike the vagina, the anus doesn’t make its own lubricant.
  • Keep all toys clean. Sex toys can transfer infections from one person to another, so clean sex toys thoroughly in between use. You may also consider putting a condom on dildos and other penetrative toys before use — this can make it easier to clean, as well as offer a different sensation.
  • Get tested regularly. Whether you have a consistent partner or have more sporadic sex, getting tested is important. Your doctor or other healthcare provider can advise you on how frequently to test and what to test for.

While the thought of having sex for the first time can be overwhelming, the good news is that there’s lots of information out there to help you on your way.

The better news is that sex is a skill — and you’ll get better at it the more you practice!

If you have questions, you may find it helpful to speak with an LGBTQ+ friendly healthcare provider. They can offer more specific information and help direct you to other resources.