8 Exceptional Excerpts From “The Joy of Lesbian Sex”

The Joy of Lesbian Sex by Dr. Emily L. Sisley and Bertha Harris was published in 1977 as an alternative to the very popular 1972 Joy of [Heteronormative] Sex. The now out-of-print “tender and liberated guide to the pleasures and problems of a lesbian lifestyle” is hilariously outdated and problematic in a variety of ways. Still, there are some real gems mixed in.

I’ll leave you to sort out what’s what.


Indeed, women’s capacity to translate experiences into inward sensuality is without bounds. Candlelight, a meaningful glance across a room, the first warm breeze of June become internalized as part of a woman’s feeling of romance. We think this may account for the intensity of lesbian love; the combination of similar temperaments and similarity of sensual experiences is not duplicated in any other sexual union.


If so many people enjoy napping out in the open air, then why do so few of them make love under the spreading chestnut tree? […] What you do — hands, mouths, thighs, toys — is less important than how you do it. Pause to drink, smoke or eat. Touch the grass as well as each other. Sprawl carelessly as you breathe in the scent of clean, country air. Share some secret thoughts about how it might be to live on that blanket forever.


Pubic hair is a sexual plaything as eloquent with pleasure as you make it. If you imagine it as a little forest guarding entry to the pleasure dome it surrounds it can take on the richness of fantasy, and when that happens the bush begins to get the attention it deserves. You can twirl it in your fingers, brush your face against it, use a soft brush on it, stroke it, pull it. Decorate it with a little bow and then go down on her. If you can endure the discomfort of bristles, use a safety razor and shape the top of it into the twin curves of a heart for a unique valentine surprise.


We have heard of a number of attempts to go down on a lover underwater, but apparently few women possess the breath-holding capacity to take their lover all the way to orgasm. Besides, some women become so intent on their pleasure and their desire to come that they may grab their lover’s head and hold it there until the crucial moment. Drowning your lover is not fair game.


The sexual “cream” that the vagina spills during orgasm; what you drink from your “demitasse.” A lesbian who’s rapturously spoken of as “creme de la creme” simply couldn’t be better both in bed and out; a rare creature every lesbian in love thinks she’s captured and every lesbian out of love is waiting for.


The big toe, by contrast, can be transformed into an active agent and be tireless at fucking in a way the fingers are not. Unless you prop yourself up on your elbows between her legs, a bed is usually too short to practice toe-fucking, so it’s out of bed and onto the floor.


A leisurely, luxurious breakfast in bed on a morning neither of you has to go to work can be a delightful prelude or follow-up to lovemaking or stand by itself as shared sensuality of the most deliciously indulgent variety. […] Try locking arms Tyrolean style and drinking from each other’s glass. Try holding a modest amount in your mouth so your lover can suck it into her own as you kiss. Try putting tiny drops on her nipples and then licking it off. Try talking dirty into your glass as you peek over its rim to watch her reactions.


Lesbian sexuality, quite literally, is about re-creation. It is the interface of mind, body, spirit. It is non-economic. It is for pleasure. Its materialization is in poetic knowledge of the life of the flesh. It is equal, because women together are equals and vehemence against the lesbian is vehemence against democracy as well as eroticism.

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Laura Mandanas

Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Boston. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair. Follow her: @LauraMWrites.

Laura has written 210 articles for us.


  1. My best friend in grad school had this book, and it lived on the coffee table in her living room. We had several class sessions there, which led to many an awkward situation as our straight, male professors and classmates noticed it, and then proceeded to pretend it wasn’t there for the rest of the evening.

    I think she stopped making an effort to hide it, to be honest.

    • Let the squirrels watch.

      Seriously, under the tree, there be acorns. There be rough lumpy very uncomfortable to lie on ground.

      Outdoors can be sexy, but the ground under nut bearing trees are not the best environment to spread a blanket.

  2. I read it in my teens and it gave shape to my appreciation of lesbian love and sex. Here are some of my favourite passages:

    “Pillow talk can mean anything from muttering ‘sweet nothings’ about your lover’s hair, eyes, kisses, to giving full vent to to your most salacious fantasies about what you’re going to do to her or what you want her to do to you.”

    “Lesbian eyes seduce with a direct, unflinching gaze that, alone, can bring their object to a limp-kneed state of sexual arousal. Lesbian eyes cruise: they can give a stranger’s body an instant’s worth of intimacy as effective, for some, as a night’s worth of lovemaking.”

    “Stop thinking heterosexual. Understand that your love and your lovemaking is not like anything else on earth, tht it is a unique and fabulous manifestation of Eros that’s been around since the beginning of the human race in every time, place and culture. Understand that beyond ordinary and intelligent standards of discretion and responsibility, you create a lesbian reality that is just as purposeful, useful and love-enhancing as anyone’s.”

    Sure, the book is absurd now in many ways, but its authors are certainly animated by the spirit of woman-love, and that, I venture to suggest, is a beautiful thing.

  3. My aunt got me the book to get better understanding a woman sexually and it open my eyes to more then just physical intimacy. what it taught me was learning be a friend and companion before becoming a lover.

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