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Intro to Vaginas: 9 lessons for bi-curious beginners

Art by Vicky Leta

Art by Vicky Leta

The first time I slept with another girl, it was awkward as hell.

Sure, I had dabbled in the giggling French kisses of curious high school sleepovers, but never did I go to a girl’s room with the intention of having Lesbian Sex Official with her. But this is what I did one tipsy night my first year in college (#classic). As a girl, making out with a girl is easy — their lips are softer, the absence of stubble is refreshing, and mixing lip glosses all over your face is a tasty mess. It’s the rest that stumped me.

The vagina, by sheer design, is just trickier than the penis. And the clitoris? It’s hidden in all these folds and it’s wearing a tiny hood? WTF?! Penises, on the other hand, are just…out there, seemingly more easy-to-please by design. So, mid-roll-around in this girl’s tiny college bed, it suddenly dawned on me: Though I had gotten the penis down, I had no idea what to do with this vagina-having human.

And how could I have? It’s no secret that it’s a penis-penetrates-vagina world out there when it comes to popular representations of “what sex looks like.” Even in regards to this “acceptable” version of heterosexual sex, government-funded sex education programs aren’t doing much for us, no matter how we identify. In fact, the Public Religion Research Institute found in a 2015 survey that four in 10 millennials reported that American high school sex ed classes weren’t helpful to them in making decisions about sex and relationships at all. In a sexist world of sexual shaming, the details of sexually pleasing vaginas are back-burnered in educational efforts, as they have little to do with reproduction and rarely result in anything but pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Because of this, heterosexual men and even women themselves struggle to learn about vaginal pleasure. Throw homophobia and stereotypes into the mix and us LGBTQ folks are screwed when it comes to learning how to screw.

While sex ed is a required part of the health curriculum in the public schools of 22 states and the District of Columbia, information specifically for LGBTQ youth is not mandated as part of the lesson plans. According to a statement from the HRC titled “A Call to Action: LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education“: “Fewer than 5 percent of LGBT students have health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.”

Though LGBTQ-inclusive sex education is absolutely needed in our high school sex education efforts, what of those of us exploring the spectrum of our sexualities later in life as adults, fumbling around in our dorm rooms, boardrooms and hot tubs, a la Gaby Hoffman’s vaginally curious character in Transparent? Where do we go to learn how to sexually pleasure another vagina?

If formalized sex education in schools is failing us, we’re left to media, porn, word-of-mouth and Google to educate us about how to have good, safe(r) sex. These self-education avenues rarely if ever teach us how to communicate with our partners about sexual pleasure, and they barely skim over consent, two key components of healthy and pleasurable sex. Mass media manages to offer us a limiting, predetermined course of action for penis-and-vagina sex: foreplay, intercourse, male ejaculation, fin. But there is no classical road map when it comes to vagina-on-vagina action (not even a half-baked one!), and the robotic, unrealistic girl-on-girl scenes in mainstream, male-gaze-satisfying porn certainly aren’t helping.

It should be no surprise that back in my college dorm room of yesteryear, things weren’t headed in any particular direction. It seemed to take hours before our shirts came off. Awkwardly stalling with my hands frozen unnaturally at my sides, my gracious hostess finally put me out of my bi-curious misery: “You know, we don’t have to do this at all,” she said. “We can just snuggle.” I wonder how audible my sigh of relief really was.

We were more successful the next time, and over the course of our year-long relationship, I really got the sex-with-a-girl-thing down. These days my lady-laden romance resume speaks for itself: I can do (and even teach workshops about) The Vagina² Sex. And all you straight, bi-curious, bisexual and/or newly queer women can, too….continue reading…

 

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Hide My Hickies!

Tis I, LL [from previous column “‘Lost in Labialand”]. I’m back with another problem. The advice you gave me last time worked out great. Opening the lines of communication between my partner and I really helped. However, my girlfriend and I have run into an issue: either she bruises really easily, or I need to settle down.

There have been multiple instances of hickies in our endeavors together, and most of the time we have difficulty getting rid of them/hiding them without arousing suspicion. She enjoys receiving them and I enjoy giving them, but once the heat of the moment is over …

Do you have any advice pertaining to more effective hickey-hiding, leaving less of a mark, or anything like that? A couple of close friends suggested forgoing neck kissing altogether, but why would anyone want to do that?!

So glad to hear that my advice to talk openly with your babe about being new to Labialand as a high school butchie was helpful! It sounds like y’all are having a great time — with the marks to prove it. But between parents, teachers, and nosey peers, I’m sure not everyone is as excited for you and your necking as I am. As you’ve said above, you’re both enjoying yourselves and love doing the hot ’n’ heavy that leads to the hickies so you’d like to diminish the damage done without stopping the fun. Here are my suggestions on how to do this:

Stop sucking! A hickey is left behind from biting and sucking the skin (usually around the neck) enough that small blood vessels called capillaries break, letting a tiny bit of blood seep out and become visible from under the skin. The harder you bite/suck, the more capillaries will break and the more visible and long-lasting your hickey will be.

Some people get hickies easier than others and it sounds like maybe your GF is one of them. In my high school necking days, I found that nibbling without sucking can offer the same type of sensation to the person getting snacked on without leaving kissing crumbs behind. Try out a softer smooching/nibbling routine without the suction…continue reading…

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Lube Love: Your Guide to Getting Wet // Curve Magazine

If you’ve ever choked down a dry, butterless piece of toast, you probably understand the unpleasantness of lube-leIMG_9659ss sex. If you’re like millions of other vagina-owners who’ve spent years wading through the deep waters of sexual shame that say you’re either self-soaking or you’re a useless, dried-up sandbox (ahem, Ms. Rousey), then you’ve probably also choked down that dry, butterless piece of toast with a fake smile plastered on your face all “Mmm, yes, this is delicious — this doesn’t feel like dry-shaving my legs at all….”.

Whether you’re gushing at first glance or squeezing every last drop out of a bedside bottle, wetter is better when it comes to sex. Lubricants reduce tissue-tearing friction, enhance sexual pleasure, and are essential when it comes to sexing with tushies or toys. Here’s how to shop for the best body-butter to slather on your toasty bits:…continue reading…

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Getting Hitched: Wet for Her’s New Double-Ended Dildo

What's that you say, double-ended dildo? You liked our review time together? So did I...

What’s that you say, double-ended dildo? You liked our review time together? So did I…

The first time I tried to use a double-ended dildo was painful – both physically and socially. Seduced by its promises of sweet, sweet hands-free lovin’, my girlfriend and I jumped at the opportunity to ditch the straps and embark on a mutual, simultaneous pleasure endeavor. The dildo’s silicone was stiff and full of friction, the bulbous “wearer’s” end slipped out with every attempted thrust, and the sex toy quickly lost its hands-free appeal as we struggled to hold the thing still for long enough to get a good rhythm going.

Fast-forward five years later to present-day, as I excitedly unwrapped that day’s present – the Union double-ended dildo by sapphic-centric sex toy company Wet for Her. Just looking at the sleek box, I knew that my partner and I were in for an entirely different experience than I had bumbled through with my last dive into double-dipping.

First, the high-end, medical-grade silicone the toy is made of is silky, run-your-cheek-across-it smooth and responds positively to both water-based and silicone lube (that’s right – their grade of silicone is that good – it can be used with silicone lube). Extra perks of buying medical-grade silicone toys are that you can disinfect them easily with soap-and-water or you can even boil them for a few minutes for super-sanitary satisfaction (just take the vibrator out first)...continue reading…

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5 Hours to a Blissful Partnership

Now that marriage equality has been won (!!), lesbian and queer couples are poised to pay attention to marital therapy’s age-old research which, was previously relegated to the straight realm, but can be easily adapted along the gender and sexuality spectrums, to all married/committed couple’s benefit.

The first therapeutic theory worth adapting? The Magic 5 Hours. Renowned marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman spent countless hours observing what makes (heterosexual) married couples thrive. Or, more importantly, what separates the soon-to-be-divorced from the happily-ever-after. One of these key differences? Just 5 measly hours per week (which can be effectively perfected by doting LGBTQ partners, too!), all devoted to your partner in these particular ways:

Partings: Give your partner a warm farewell before parting for your workdays. This means eyes-up, phones-down, people. This doesn’t mean through the bathroom door, via text message, or with a fleeting glance up from your laptop, kids, or dogs.

Time it takes: 2 minutes. x 5 workdays = 10 minutes/week

Greetings: Have a debriefing conversation when you reunite after your workdays. This conversation should include each partner taking turns actively listening to each other unwind about their day without offering solutions or conflict.

Unsure where to start? Use the Rose/Thorn structure: what was the biggest highlight of your day? (Your Rose). What was the biggest lowlight (Your Thorn). One couple I know also adds in a humorous “Tiny Win” such as “I found $20 on the ground”, “I finally got that splinter out of my foot”, or “Everywhere I went today had gender-neutral bathrooms!”.

Time it takes: 20 minutes. x 5 work days = 1 hour 40 minutes/week

Continue reading…

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Don’t Wanna Be Straight Forever: My Bisexual Marriage Equality Freakout

The day national marriage equality passed I sobbed into my boyfriend’s shoulder in bed for half an hour. My shoulders heaved and my dog looked worried as he frantically tried to gain access to my tears so he could lick them away. When I managed to stifle my drooly crying hiccups for long enough, I lifted my head from his shoulder, a wobbly tightrope of snot connecting his clavicle to my septum ring. “I don’tttt — {drooly hiccup} — want to be straight — {drooly hiccup} — FOREVER!!”, I sobbed dramatically, before jamming my face back into my own snot-pool, now running down his arm.

Patrick and I had just gotten engaged — in fact, our engagement party was set to happen that very night. Though I had dated cismen up until I was 21, for the nine years prior to my meeting Patrick, I had primarily dated queer women — I even married one. Though I had found that one’s “bisexual” label magically turns into a “lesbian” label in the public eye once you have a “lesbian wedding”, this never bothered me much; I had always felt so special with my membership in this group of gender-fucking, pierced, half-shaved-headed hotties we call the LGBTQ community that I barely kissed the straight community goodbye when I left it in 2006. I more-so quietly stepped into my jeans and snuck out the next morning.

And then there was Patrick. He came out of left field to say the least (I mean, I met him when he was on a date with another woman) as did my borderline-insanity-inducing love for him. Four months later we were engaged and a month after that marriage equality was passed and I was smearing my boogers all over him, crying both from being overjoyed about marriage equality and from being overwhelmed about my forever-straight fate.

The Other Side of Bi

While I’ve always conceptualized the bisexual experience as a two-way swinging door, I’ve found that most people find it more enjoyable when you push that door towards women. The queer community is all “Cool! Welcome to the fold!” and the straight community is all “Ah, so French! So titilating!” as fantasies of bi-curious pillow fights abound.

When you decide to go back through the doorway however, back to cis-manlandia, people are more baffled than bisexually bewitched. The cis-dudes are all “WTF?! Since when do you date men? Why didn’t I get a shot?” and the queer women are all “Another one bites the dust” and the reception from the straight community is all *shrug*, without a welcome banner in sight.

The thing about bisexuality is that it’s often socially determined by the body parts and gender identity of your partner. No matter how many times you repeat “I’m queer. I’m queer. I’m queer.” to yourself in your head, when you walk through life holding your cis-male partner’s hand, your attempts at making meaningful eye contact with the only other queer couple at the party are failed, or your boyfriend’s friends are left scratching their heads all “I dunno man, I think Patrick’s girlfriend might be gay”. No matter who you date, half of your sexual identity, half of who you are, is invisible.

For many of my peers, coming out was a long, painful process, starting with the realization of same-sex attraction at an early age, followed by a well-planned-out coming out process. Many’s coming out histories involve violence and abuse both physical and psychological. In my experience, my same-sex desire developed within a larger culture of understanding and acceptance. I grew up in notoriously lesbian-friendly Northampton, Ma with liberal parents who already had many LGBTQ friends and by the time I started dating women, I was attending Hampshire College, also notoriously liberal with a thriving queer community already established.

In fact, “coming out” was never a process I really had to do — I simply brought my first girlfriend to a family party and introduced her as such, simply started holding her hand on campus without fanfare. I never felt that I had unspoken same-sex desires as a younger teen and if I did, I certainly never felt guilty or afraid of those feelings.

Living in these communities is a privilege. Passing as a dominant identity (whether it’s as male, as straight, as white, as wealthy) is a privilege stacked with socially constructed perks. My personal experience of coming out as queer without the pain and loss associated with so many LGBTQ people’s traditional coming out stories is a privilege. But the pain of watching nine years of my meaningful queer sexual and romantic history being erased and the loss of my social membership in the queer community when I started dating my now-fiancee was and is very real. Re-coming out as bisexual by starting once again to date cis-men is confusing.

Loving On & Bumming About Boys

Traditional stage theories of identity development dictate a linear story of one’s sexual identity: girl meets boy and falls in love; girl goes to liberal arts college; girl starts watching the L-word; girl makes out with her “lesbian friend”; girl breaks up with her boyfriend; girl gets a new short haircut; girl dates her first girlfriend; girl is now a lesbian; fin. Linear stage theories imply that once an individual achieves a full awareness and expression of her sexual desire, stability occurs and no more change happens. This is what the traditional coming-out model is based on. You realize you’re gay, you come out, and then you’re gay forever.

In convincing contrast to this, Lisa M. Diamond, in her 2007 study of the development and expression of female same-sex sexuality, argues that multidimensional development theories such as Dynamical Systems Models more accurately represent the seemingly random spectrum of female same-sex sexuality development. Dynamical Systems Models were originally designed by mathematicians and physicists to model complex physical phenomenon in the natural world. These models are used to explain how complex patterns emerge, stabilize, change, and then restabilize over time. Diamond (2007) shows in her 10-year study of young, non-heterosexual women, that this is precisely what female same-sex sexuality development is likely to do.

In her study of 89 non-heterosexual-identifying women, Diamond found female same-sex sexuality to be particularly fluid. Specifically, her research revealed female same-sex desire to be more fluid than male same-sex desire, featuring drastic, often late-blooming, and seemingly abrupt changes in female sexual desire both in strength-of-desire (how attracted they felt to men or women) and object-of-desire (such as women moving from opposite-sex attraction, to same-sex attraction, and then back again).

Much research has shown that the male model of sexual orientation — which often features linear shifts in identity — cannot be simply overlayed onto the female sexual experience. However, our patriarchal, heteronormative concept of sex and sexuality continues to imagine female and male sexuality as two sides of the same coin. Studies of both adults and adolescents have shown that women are more likely to report bisexual attractions than to report exclusive same-sex attractions, whereas the opposite pattern is found in men. While many gay- or bisexual-identified men recall experiencing their first same-sex attractions a few years prior to puberty (similar to the age at which most heterosexual children recall their first other-sex desires), many women report that they didn’t experience same-sex attractions until adulthood, instances which are described by women as situational, interpersonal, and contextual rather than pre-determined or gradually developing as with men. Though many women’s same-sex attractions were described as emerging “suddenly” and “by accident”, two thirds believed they were born with their particular sexual orientation (only 18% believed their same-sex attraction to be a choice).

Even more interestingly, Diamond’s study found female sexuality to be defined by continuous change. By the end of her 10-year study, 10% of participants who had identified as lesbian had settled into long-term relationships with cis-men while 60% had experienced sexual contact with a cis-man and 36% reported romantic relationships with cis-men.

Women’s descriptions of their unexpected shifts back to straightsville were often illustrated as being similarly abrupt and as changes they had no control over. As one participant elaborated, going back to the cis-boys was a bit of a bummer: “I’ve kind of straightened out! I still call myself bisexual but I’m on the edge of heterosexual, which I’m not pleased about. I never really wanted to be heterosexual but I don’t have much choice in the matter…I think sexuality changes, but I don’t have any idea what causes those changes” (Diamond, 2007, p. 148).

Diamond herself reports that “women who reinitiated other-sex behavior typically described these experiences as feeling fundamentally different from the forms of heterosexuality they had pursued prior to ever questioning their sexuality. Hence, they did not perceive themselves as going back to men but, rather as moving forward toward new forms of sexual and erotic experiences” (Diamond, 2007, p. 148). Diamond’s study has shown me that I’ve been doing it all wrong. Bisexuality — and indeed, sexuality — is not a swinging door which transports us from one side or the other. In fact, female sexuality itself is more of a hallway, full of trap doors, entrances, exits, stairwells and maybe even the fire escape or two. There is no going back to old forms of sexuality and sexual identity, there’s only the new and exciting road ahead to traverse.

Bye Bi Binary

In the near-decade since Diamond’s study was conducted, the binary system of identity has been slowly dying. Binaries do nothing but attempt to stuff our multi-layered human experiences and identities into two rigid categories (gay or straight? male or female? kinky or vanilla?), leaving no room for variation when the human sexual experience is nothing but variant. The image of sexuality as a swinging door, with one side or the other, is broken and does nothing for our modern queer (or straight!) communities but make us feel like we don’t fit in. In its place thrives the spectrum of sexuality, sexual experience, gender identity, sexuality identity and even the meaning of bisexuality itself. Legal marriage, once defined by the binary of “one man and one woman”, is now celebrated by the entire spectrum of what makes up love and commitment.

My fiancee Patrick is one of those cis-dudes who’s a feminist dude who doesn’t need to tell you “I’m a feminist dude”. Patrick cried on marriage equality day, too, (actually all day long on marriage equality day), simply because of his sheer, genuine love of love and equality. I’m the luckiest lady alive to be marrying him, no matter what he’s packing in his pants, or what his preferred pronouns are. Gently breaking my snot-trapeze from his body, he laughs as he tells me “Babe, you’re not straight. You’re queer”. “Yeah, I know,” I sniffle, finally finding my way to a Kleenex. “For now”.

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So, You Wanna Sleep with a Lesbian

The first time I slept with a girl it was awkward as hell.

Sure, I had dabbled in the giggling French kisses of curious high school sleepovers, but never did I go to a girl’s room with the intention of having lesbian sex with her. But this is what I did one tipsy night my first year in college. As a girl, making out with a girl is easy: their lips are softer, the absence of stubble is refreshing, and mixing lip glosses all over your face is a tasty mess. It’s the rest of it that stumped me.

The vagina, by sheer design, is just trickier than the penis. And the clitoris? It’s hidden in all these folds and it’s wearing a tiny hood? WTF?! Male anatomy, on the other hand, is just there, easy-to-please. So, mid-roll-around in this girl’s tiny college bed, it suddenly dawned on me: Though I had gotten the penis down, I had no idea what to do with this female-bodied human.

It seemed to take hours before our shirts came off and, awkwardly stalling with my hands frozen unnaturally at my sides, my gracious hostess finally put me out of my bi-curious misery: “You know, we don’t have to do this at all,” she said. “We can just snuggle.” I wonder how audible my sigh of relief really was.

In formalized sex education and the media, we’ve all learned the predetermined course of action for penis-and-vagina sex: foreplay, intercourse, male ejaculation, fin. But there is no classical road map when it comes to girl-on-girl action.

We were more successful the next time and, over the course of our year-long relationship, I really got the sex-with-a-girl-thing down. These days my lady-laden romance resume speaks for itself — I can do The Lesbian Sex. And all you straight, bi-curious, bisexual and/or newly queer women can, too, with a little advice.

The first question I get from my bi-curious friends is, “How can you tell a girl is into women?”…continue reading…