You Need Help: What’s The Deal With Scissoring?

I got this question in my (in)box:

What’s the big deal with scissoring? I can’t even imagine how it would be done. How? Does it actually do anything for you?

And then I realized something crazy — I haven’t written one single thing about scissoring. Not. Even. One. Weird, right? Because scissoring is, like, the ubiquitous sex activity that all of us are supposed to be taking part in, yeah? On the not-so-rare and unfortunate occasions where straight people bring up lesbian sex with me in a totally disrespectful and out-of-the-blue way, this is all they assume we do. Like the only thing. And of course that’s bullshit, right? Because lesbian sex is a lot of things and it’s kinda fucked that people assume it’s just one thing. Or, rather, one or two things — the other one being oral. All oral all the time, amirite?

Anyhoozle. Let’s explore the wide world of scissoring. Join me. I researched scissoring for you. My Google history is awesome right now.


The Reputation Of Scissoring

What is scissoring? Urban dictionary describes it as:

A Lesbian sex act where two partners interlock their spread legs (like two pairs of scissors) and grind their vulvae together to stimulate each other’s clitoris to orgasm. Also called tribadism, the practice has many colloquialisms. In some Central American countries it is called “making tortillas,” and the Chinese refer to the act as “polishing mirrors.”

Okay, so we already know people outside the community think all we do at home is scissor each other. But what about other queer people? What’s the perception of scissoring as related to us by queer media?

While there are certainly statements I don’t agree with in this video, it does seem like scissoring is a really popular topic for porn aimed at straight men (and here’s a not-safe-for-work link to back that up). But we’re also talking about a really narrow definition of scissoring — the kind where one rubs a vulva against a vulva. Actually, scissoring is a colloquial umbrella term for all sorts of acts of tribadism, aka: rubbing vulva against all sorts of body bits! So thighs, stomachs, butt cheeks and so many other places also count. It’s not just somehow aiming one clitoris for another and hitting it magically (small targets, y’all!). You can use bigger targets and guess what? That’s still scissoring (or tribadism, or whatever you prefer to call it in bed)! It just doesn’t have the theatrical mainstream porn shape that gave scissoring its name.

Now that we’ve expanded the definition of scissoring, let’s talk about the practicality of it.


 

The Practice of Scissoring

While I haven’t written about scissoring, turns out we at Autostraddle collectively have offered up a little advice. From “However Do You Want Me?” DIVA UK Magazine, May 2011.

Bit of a lesbian legend this one and doesn’t work for every couple. If it does though, stand by for fireworks. There are two basic positions. In classic scissors, you both lie down, open your legs and scootch together from opposite directions (so your pussies meet) and rub your clits together. If you prefer more body contact, one of you can lie on her back, legs apart, while the other goes on top with one leg between her partners and one thigh drawn up to enable cuntact. She can reach under her partner’s bum to bring her closer. This will either work or it won’t, it depends a lot on how your bodies “fit.” But worth a try, eh? TIP: Don’t save the lube for penetration, scissors feels fantastic with extra slip ‘n’ slide. Add a vibrator between you for extra va-va-vrrrrrrom.

If you, like me, have trouble picturing what that means for your actual bodies, we have some interns to the rescue to help illustrate. Thank you, Intern Liz, for the following illustrations. I feel like maybe this is not what people expect when they do the Autostraddle internship? Or maybe it is?

Classic Scissoring

 

Classic Scissoring

This is what the urban dictionary says scissoring is. This is what we all perceive scissoring to be. Personally, I think if I attempted this I’d kick someone in the head trying to make my clit have supernatural aiming ability. So to take some of that pressure of the tiniest bullseye in the world off of you, you can add a hand or a Hitachi to help. The nice part about the Hitachi is that both parties are gonna feel it, even the one doing most of the concentration work. See below: enhanced scissoring.

Scissoring

The Acrobatic Sitting Scissor

Acrobatic Scissoring

I know there are acrobats reading. This one’s for you. If you’ve got really open hip flexors, you probably can make this happen. The legs go much like the legs do in the classic scissor, except you bring your body to sitting. This is kinda cool because you can look each other in the face, if that’s your thing.

The Full-Body Scissor

Full Body Scissoring

For those of us whose aim isn’t great and/or like the full body contact, this kind of “scissoring” doesn’t really have the customary shape. It’s also much easier than the above-pictured positions. Basically, give up on rubbing clit on clit. Instead, consider clit-to-hip/upper-thigh. Both y’all’s legs are still spread, which means it’s still totally a scissor-like shape. Just saying “Hell, Imma use this surface instead of this one” enables you to go into a pseudo-missionary position, meaning you get to touch/suck/kiss/rub a whole bunch of other fun things.

The Fuck All This Bullshit Non-Scissor

not scissoring

Just a gentle reminder that if you’ve tried these positions and none of them work for you, if you read through the comments and there’s nothing there for you, if you accidentally kick someone in the head whenever you try this or if you just don’t like it or don’t want to try it, that’s okay. Scissoring isn’t some sort of perquisite to the wide world of lesbian sex. It isn’t some kind of badge of honor, nor is it a mythical sex position that doesn’t exist. It doesn’t make you more or less queer if you can or cannot do it (or do or do not want to). Some people like to do it this way, some people don’t. Hell, some people can’t. So if scissoring isn’t your thing, if all of this is too complicated (or not complicated enough), do it your way. As long as you and your partner are happy consenting people, scissor or don’t. You do you.


 

A Discussion About Scissoring

So, like, show of hands, how many people do stuff that’s kinda like this? Yeah, more people than we all thought there were gonna be, now that we’ve discovered all sorts of scissoring Jedi powers. And how many think that tribadism and scissoring should be two different things, like a square is always also a rectangle but a rectangle isn’t always a square type of thing? Think I’ve expanded the definition too far? And and and! How many people saw some crazy scissoring positions on their favorite porn? Care to share? Care to make a diagram? Obviously this post is research-based and not the be-all-and-end-all of scissoring advice. So let’s talk scissoring. Please converse.

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Freelance writer and fiction author, Geekery Editor for Autostraddle.com and Fiction Editor for qu.ee/r Magazine. Keep up with her at her website.

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94 Comments

  1. Thumb up 9

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    I get what everyone is saying on this post, and the reaction is usually the same from my mates and partners however I have to say when I was younger, slimmer and more nimble I did try this and it was successful and a lot of fun with a lass who was the same size as me. This I think is the key! Same height and size meant we could go to town on each other scissoring… :) and lemme tell you it was fecking hot! Great sex! We did the acrobat styley I think from the diagrams (thanks teach straddle). To be fair, I think we only ended up doing it initially because there was a problem with the bed and the floor was too dirty to lay on (yeah when I was younger I didn’t live the life of luxury in my squat) but glad we discovered it. Gotta be tried at least once eh. Thank you. (bows).

  2. Thumb up 8

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    This is the best. I do believe that a lot of folks try it (myself included), find it doesn’t work and move on to what you dub ‘The Fuck All This Bullshit Non-Scissor’. It (scissoring) is fun to try and y’all have something to laugh about when strangers rudely ask about your sex lives~

  3. Thumb up 46

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    i don’t even know where to begin replying to this post, BUT, let me just start out by saying that i am 100% a scissor-believer, and when my boo and i grind up on one another, it is the absolute. greatest. feeling. of. all. time.

    and i never, ever want it to end. seriously. it feels THAT. GOOD.

    i don’t know how many times i’ve heard some queermo with an ostensibly open mind proclaim that because they’ve never scissored, it’s so obviously “not a thing.” that sentiment always breaks my heart, and reminds me of those folks who go their entire lives not knowing what an orgasm is because they’ve never masturbated. okay, maybe it’s not THAT extreme, but i am a big believer in 1) not knocking something until you’ve tried it; and 2) not knocking something that might feel awesome for other folks, even if it doesn’t necessarily work for you. because for some of us, scissoring is so totally, absolutely, without-a-single-doubt-in-our-minds-or-our-clits, a thing.

    and with that, i will share some about my success in scissoring:

    first, my partner and i have found that the scissoring position that works best for us is probably most like the full body scissor displayed here, minus the fact that we don’t actually do the whole leg-split-grind that is laid out in this post. we position ourselves with her on bottom, tucking a pillow underneath her hips to elevate her and give a little more leverage from below. it also really helps her be able to move her hips with mine with more ease. then, i position myself on top, between her legs, basically in what the straights call “missionary position.” this allows us to align clits in what is actually a pretty precise way (something that damn video acted like was impossible!). at this point, i spread my labia majora and pull up some on my clit hood so that it’s pretty well exposed, allowing contact to become more or less direct as we both see fit, moving our bodies in ways that feel incredible for us both.

    the original post only briefly mentioned/suggested lube, but this is where i would tell you that liberal use of lube will enhance your scissoring experience by 10000000000000%. LIBERAL USE, not a tiny dab. lube is one of the keys that really seems to enhance the sensation of our bodies moving together and holy fucking shit, y’all. the outcome is ridiculous. we have mutual, simultaneous orgasms almost every single time we fuck like this, and i cannot stress enough how it is my absolutely favorite feeling in the entire world. it’s pretty incredible to be face to face with my partner while we come at the same time, and i really would urge folks to at least TRY scissoring before writing it off entirely.

    believe me, if you get it right, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been fucking like this all along.

    • Thumb up 0

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      Of all the people I talked this was the most common way to do it from what I’ve heard. For me it just doesn’t work. I don’t know, maybe I’m just not that flexible, but after a while my hip joints start to hurt because I have the weight of my partner on top of me so I tend to switch to other things. I find it very exciting psycologically speaking, but not very comfortable physically. Maybe in the future I’ll try again with the pillow to see if it helps. Thanks for the suggestion!

      • Thumb up 5

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        the pillow really is a game changer. we had been fucking like this for awhile without it, but it seemed like we always had to majorly shift in order to get into a comfortable position, but adding the pillow gave enough lift and leverage to make us both more comfortable, while giving increased access to the parts that count. i hope you try it out!

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        Yeah… I have this problem too. In my mind is sexy and exciting but in reality, it hurts.! I’m gonna try the pillow thing… I do have two surgeries in my hip, so I dont wanna force it that much but after what Ricky Roo wrote, I HAVE TO TRY!!! xD Thanks!

    • Thumb up 3

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      You just 100% accurately described how my gf and I fuck, minus the pillow! I am tall (5’8) and she is smaller (5’0) and it works perfectly either way, but especially with her on top. She gets off this way (I don’t but it is still super fun) bonus is we get to makeout during sexy fun times!

    • Thumb up 1

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      OMG SOMEONE ELSE KNOWS ABOUT THIS!!!!!i did this the first time i had sex with my girlfriend and it was amazing we both got off (her faster than me) and its perfect for couples with height differences since I’m 5’4 and shes 5’9 and still growing (?!?!?)(I STOPPED WHEN I WAS 12*INSERT HEIGHT ENVY EMOTICON*) and with the traditional scissoring i would end up kicking her in the face.Its also great for first times since its pretty simple. The lube wouldnt do much to us though because when youre in your late teens getting wet is no problem and thanks to yoga,ballet and gymnastics i dont need the pillow maybe in the future i might hmmm…

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      How about the good old fashioned word “frottage”?

      Seriously though, I hadn’t really tried this position before (exactly like you described), but it was my last girlfriend’s favorite and she would get off so hard when we did this. I didn’t, but it felt good and was totally worth it to be able to see her face when she did.

      Definitely going to try this again when I have a friend to, ahem, practice with.

  4. Thumb up 6

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    I fucking love scissoring. I also did not know that the full-body contact one fell under the ‘scissoring’ umbrella so that’s cool! I have tried to do vulva-to-vulva grinding a few times and some times were more successful than others, though I’m not really sure what made it more or less successful…
    Also, will definitey try with lube in the future! Just texted my gf about it, in fact :)

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      I didn’t know about the full-body contact being in the scissoring umbrella either and now I’m kind of excited bc I can say I’ve done scissoring and enjoyed it! Like I always wanted to say that! xD Don’t judge!

  5. Thumb up 7

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    My girlfriend was on the phone with her dad one day and decided to straddle my hips so we could play “Don’t you make a goddamned sound” and we figured out my hips were tall/narrow enough for her to just…use without killing her knees. Later we tried all the variants; pants on, pants off, +hands, +lube, +toys. Even though there was only marginal “cuntact” on my side, it ended up being my favorite ever thing.

  6. Thumb up 22

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    First off, my wifi is “Scissor Palace.”

    Second, my partner and I scissor all the time. But, wow, there’s so much focus on the clit on this post. We just rub our labia together and it feels damn good. We don’t orgasm like this, but I think it’s just nice for what it is.

    • Thumb up 15

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      ^^^ this!!! even though my current partner and i totally come like this and totally rock the clit on clit, we don’t always fuck like this to achieve orgasm. we fuck like this to feel close, and to feel fucking good in our bodies. i’ve been a scissoring proponent since before my boo and i got together, and had never actually been able to reach orgasm through scissoring, but still LOVED the sensation. fucking isn’t always about getting off, and i am glad that you brought that up.

  7. Thumb up 2

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    Scissoring is definitely something that you have to be flexible for. I stopped going to yoga or working out for a while and it stopped being a thing in my relationship because of that.

    Once I dragged my ass back to the gym, though, we suddenly found that we were flexible enough to work it.

  8. Thumb up 19

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    I can’t believe it’s taken this long for Autostraddle to tackle this subject! Thank you!

    I have tried some version of scissoring with most partners, and sometimes it totally works and feels amazing, sometimes it kind of works and feels kind of good, and sometimes it’s just like, checked that off the list and “nope.” I think it all depends on how the 2 bodies fit together. In my experience, it has worked (or not worked) with bodies of varying sizes and levels of flexibility, so I’m not sure how much weight can be given to either as a contributing factor. Yes, lube! Yes, vibrators!

    I’ve always considered the “full-body scissor” to be a different sex act (also not pictured but a similar scenario performed back to front, or “doggy-style”), to fall under the more blanket term of tribadism. Kind of the squares and rectangles relationship: where all scissoring is tribadism, but not all tribadism is scissoring. Can we come up with a better term than tribbing/tribadism? For me, this is my primary method of getting off during partner sex, and I never considered that abnormal until I had a partner shame me for it. Word of advice to young/and or inexperienced queermos: don’t ever shame your partner for how their body works/or doesn’t work. There’s a whole wide world of wonderful ways our bodies, and hands, and mouths, and toys can bring each other pleasure, and shutting any of that shit down is the real shame.

    • Thumb up 8

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      Thank You for that comment. I’ve actually wondered if I’m less of a lesbian if this is my favorite kind of sexytimes.I have been with a few lovers, actually all of them, who’ve given me the raised eyebrow about “tribadism”, it’s been giving me the biggest of complexes for like, ever.
      To end on a more positive note:
      If your IKEA high bed instruction says “Screw Bed to the Wall”.Screw the bed to the wall.This whole humping business is kind of detrimental to IKEA.

  9. Thumb up 12

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    I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of the “crotch-to-thigh/crotch-to-thigh” style scissoring. It’s worked so well that I haven’t really tried out other configurations.

    Except for when I’m playing with my Hitachi. But I usually don’t get totally naked when the Hitachi comes out. I need a layer or two between me and it to muffle the sensation. But, Hitachi tribbing is a fucking godsend, especially with trans partners. Especially when you yourself are trans and have trans partners. You can make all sorts of positions feel good, and you don’t have to get naked to get off.

  10. Thumb up 4

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    Okay, I have a potentially weird question. I have never tried scissoring but am definitely open to it! However, I usually don’t shave my ladybits and every time I’ve thought about scissoring I always just imagine my pubic hair getting pulled on. Is this a thing that happens? Or am I just being silly?

    • Thumb up 8

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      That’s not silly at all! Pubic hair does have its own unique impact on scissoring. The presence of hair creates additional friction that can change the sensation for you and/or your partner (for better or worse, depending on your preferences and sensitivity levels).

      Now, if you decide to experiment with a more “friction-free environment”, just know that pubic hair tends to grow back coarse and prickly after shaving. In my opinion, at that point, it’s best to wait a day or two before resuming “cuntact”. :)

      I’m going to go ahead and risk additional “straight male fantasy” stereotyping here and talk about waxing. As a scissoring advocate who tends to be extremely sensitive, it’s the most realistic for me. If you decide to go this route, though, do your research and spend a little extra money on a clean, high-quality, reputable salon. (If you’re in LA, I swear by Queen Bee.)

      I know I’m off on a tangent that has nothing to do with this particular comment anymore, BUT… as a final word, I have to say– please, please, PLEASE don’t be afraid to do something that might feel good to you because of its “reputation”. YOU are in control of your sex acts and YOU are in control of your body. Do not let anyone else’s fantasies or stereotypes enter your brain or your bedroom when deciding what works for you. (Or your shower, or the backseat of your car, or wherever you get it on). <3 <3 <3

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      Just pull your pubic drapes to the side and you will be fine, seriously. As long you aim a bit you will both be good. If you’re doing it right it’s the naturally hairless parts of your vulvas that will be touching anyway. I’m quite sensitive myself and this is the only lesbosexy thing I can do that never ever hurts the way fingers and even tongues sometimes do. So if waxing isn’t your thing, it’s definitely not necessary for scissoring.

  11. Thumb up 11

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    Seriusly, this article. When I started to transition, and my girlfriend at the time and I moved from “heteronormative penatrative sex” to the above it was like a total sexual awakening for me. I had been hearing murmers out there that scissoring “wasnt real” so im glad we have some fine journalism now to back it up.

  12. Thumb up 3

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    Does the fact that lesbians are called “tortilleras” in Spanish mean that heteronormative Spanish speakers think that this is the primary lesbian sex act? Because it looks more like yoga to me and goddess knows I’m bad at that.

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      Yeah… Tortilleras, bolleras, cachaperas… It all means the same: they think scissoring/rubbing/frottage/tribadism, is all we do… And u know what? It doesn’t even bother me anymore! I know is not, I know is fraking awesome, I know u can do A LOT of other things… Like I KNOW!

  13. Thumb up 3

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    FINALLY! THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS POST!

    Personally I’ve only full body scissored, mostly because I am a total clutz and would probably hurt someone in my attempts at the classic. Plus I like facing my partner u___u

    But I am so glad someone talked about it, it’s a constant controversy!

    I also liked Rosie’s point of view on it (I love these girls!): http://youtu.be/ILHaVIFLR0E

  14. Thumb up 4

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    Hm, I had no idea the full-body scissor fell under the realm of scissoring. My ex and I did that position a lot.
    Admittedly, I have told straight people that lesbians don’t really scissor other than simply to try it out because everyone thinks that’s what we do. I guess when I think about it, I’ve always thought of classic scissoring because that is what many straight people think lesbians do and it is what many straight people mean when they say scissoring. Granted, for me, classic scissoring is too impersonal and I just never found that it worked for myself or any of my partners heretofore, but this post is great, and I’m glad I know now how many other lesbians actually do engage in classic scissoring and that there are many forms of scissoring. I have been enlightened! Thank you! :)

  15. Thumb up 7

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    Went to a Lesbian themed party, and we played a Scissoring Game. Here is a how to, I would highly recommend.

    Requirements: balloons, crotches

    Method: blow up balloons, hold them between crotches and scissor. The aim is to burst the balloon in as little time as possible.

    For real, this is a good and fun way to learn different scissoring positions. It’s not sexy at all, but you may end up platonically bumping clits with people. But it’s all good, we’re all friends.

    Pro tip: take photos. All the photos. You will definitely want to relive this.

  16. Thumb up 9

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    I’m definitely one of those lesbians who, when straight people joke about scissoring, must resist the urge to scream, “We don’t scissor! Shut up! We never scissor! Scissoring is not a thing!I WILL SCISSOR YOUR HEAD OFF IF YOU SAY THE WORD ‘SCISSOR’ IN RELATION TO MY SEX LIFE ONE MORE TIME.”

    However, I actually do scissor, and usually manage to repress this maniacal denial-urge. Personally, it’s not a position that gets either me or my girlfriend off very often, but we enjoy the intimacy and I often do it to her when I’m feeling more aggressive because she doesn’t like a lot of penetration. 99% of the time, though, we find that we feel more intimate/get off more effectively through strap-on sex.

    What I do have a problem with, though, is that much of the medical/sexual health info regarding lesbians is based on the assumption that the only sex act we can do is scissoring. So it’s really hard to find any info, from a mainstream text or article, on transmission of infection or health concerns via sex acts that AREN’T scissoring. It was especially infuriating when my Human Sexual Behavior textbook had only one sex position illustrated and described for lesbians–scissoring–and claimed that lesbians “rarely used toys, engaged in penetrative sex acts, or practiced sadomasochism”. Doubly annoying was that this came out of a 2011-edition, feminist, liberal textbook that had a diverse array of sex acts described for gay male couples, elderly couples, handicapped couples, and straight couples.

  17. Thumb up 10

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    In some Central American countries it is called “making tortillas,” – totally just did that motion with my hands and laughed really loudly.

    Pillow humping is the gateway to scissoring.

  18. Thumb up 6

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    The full-body scissor? I just call it humping. I still prefer that word because scissoring sounds so…genteel, like something done with a parasol or like riding a bicycle side-saddle. And the act certainly can be genteel but it can also be raunchy as hell.

    When people said scissoring I always thought they meant the classic. That’s why the popularity of the term confused me as the classic is not common in my socio-sexual milieu. Thanks for clearing that up Autostraddle.

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      I feel like it gets such a bad rep because usually people that ask how lesbians have sex magically assume that we vertically mush muffins. That whole question makes me sad like really you cant imagine any other way of having sex other than penetration,oral and anal?I feel bad for your partners and dont even get me started on the “why do you use dildos if you dont like real dick”
      AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

  19. Thumb up 0

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    I just recently had a conversation with a gay guy about scissoring and fisting and what role they actually play in sex between two women…he was pretty surprised that scissoring wasn’t as widely performed as he thought. I must say myself and my girlfriend have tried it a few times, some successful but more often than not it was a bit of a fail. And when I say successful, neither of us actually got off from it but the feel and intimacy it created added to the overall experience. Never say never is my motto…

  20. Thumb up 0

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    I’m all for everyone doing whatever they consensually want. But the controversy (if any) and the increased appearance in straight porn and folks who are not women who sleep with women thinking this is what we do all the time or exclusively is entirely due to South Park.

  21. Thumb up 6

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    You don’t have to have a vulva to scissor. I’ve done it a few times with partners, all the listed positions except for the “acrobatic” one, because fuck that, my joints hurt enough already as it is. Despite the dysphoria, the one perk of having the equipment I’ve got is that it reaches further and makes scissor contact a little easier. Even when doing it in panties; letting a little bulge happen down there means less acrobatics are necessary. All that said, I’m personally more a fan of the mutual-leg-humping position, as it’s just a natural extension of cuddling.

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