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2nd February, 20214 min read

How do lesbians have sex?

Medical reviewer: Dr Adiele Hoffman
Author: Caroline Bodian
Last reviewed: 01/02/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

There are a lot of common misunderstandings about lesbian sex. Some people even ask the question: ‘Can you have sex if one person doesn’t have a penis?’

Well, yes, of course you can. Many types of sex exist, including oral sex, fingering and mutual masturbation, and different people have different definitions of sex.

What’s more, lesbian sex isn’t limited to people who idenfity as ‘cisgender’ – people who feel they are the same gender as the body they were born with. The term can include transgender people, people who have vaginas, people who have penises and people with ‘intersex’ genitals – people whose genitals don’t fit with typical ideas about male and female bodies.

It’s also important to know that it’s possible to get sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from lesbian sex.

Read on to learn more about lesbian sex, including the possible health risks and how to avoid them.

Vaginal sex

Penetrative vaginal sex is when a penis enters a vagina. This can happen in lesbian sex if one partner is transgender and has a penis (or if one partner wears a ‘strap-on’ dildo).

If you don’t use a condom during penis-in-vagina sex, there’s a risk of pregnancy and getting or passing on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhoea, HIV and syphilis. Infections can be passed on even if the penis doesn’t fully enter the vagina.

You can help protect against infections and pregnancy by using a condom during vaginal sex.

Oral sex

Lesbian sex can include oral sex, which involves sucking or licking a vagina, anus or penis.

It’s still possible to get or pass on some STIs through oral sex – including HIV, syphilis, hepatitis A, B and C, gonorrhoea, genital warts, herpes, and chlamydia.

The risk of STIs is higher if you or your partner has sores or cuts on the mouth or lips. In this case, you should consider avoiding oral sex or using a condom or dental dam. A dental dam is a latex or thin plastic square that can cover the vagina or anus during oral sex to help stop STIs passing from one person to the other.

In general, the risk of getting an STI is higher if you give rather than receive oral sex, though you should be careful in any case.

Anal sex

Penetrative anal sex is when an anus (bottom) is penetrated with a penis (or a sex toy, such as a strap-on). Anyone can have anal sex, regardless of gender or sexuality.

There’s a higher risk of spreading STIs during anal sex, because the lining of the anus is thin and can easily be damaged, which can then lead to infection. STIs that can be passed on this way include HIV, syphilis, gonorrhoea, genital warts, herpes, and chlamydia.

Using condoms will help protect against STIs when having anal sex. And if you use lubrication, choose a water-based or silicone-based lubricant – oil-based lubricants can damage some types of condoms.

Fingering

Fingering involves putting one or more fingers into a vagina or anus. Some people choose to insert the whole hand, which is referred to as fisting.

It isn’t common to spread STIs through fingering, but it’s possible. If you’re concerned about STIs, you can wear latex gloves, and use a water-based lubricant for vaginal or anal fisting. And remember to wash your hands before and after sex.

Dry humping/genital rubbing

Dry humping and genital rubbing are terms for when you and a partner grind against each other and/or rub your genitals together, either with or without clothes on.

While dry humping with clothes on is low risk, it’s important to remember that some STIs can still be spread during genital rubbing if there’s skin-on-skin contact.

Mutual masturbation

Lesbian sex also includes mutual masturbation – when both partners masturbate at the same time.

While it’s unlikely, it’s still possible to get pregnant from mutual masturbation, if sperm is transferred from a penis to a vagina on fingers. There’s also a small risk of spreading STIs if there’s a transfer of fluids from one person to another.

Key points

  • many types of sex exist, and sex means different things to different people
  • ‘lesbian sex’ can include people with vaginas, penises and intersex genitalia
  • there are lots of ways that lesbians can have sex, including vaginal, oral and anal sex, fingering, dry humping and mutual masturbation
  • several types of lesbian sex carry risks of getting or passing on STIs
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