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

If you wanna see how popular scissoring turned out to be on our 2015 Lesbian Sex Survey, follow this link.


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.

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 545 articles for us.

108 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. I love scissoring but for some reason many other women I’ve had sex with seem to hate it. Then when I tell them that’s the fastest way to make me have an orgasm, then all of a sudden they like it lol.

    • Yeah, it sure got my last gf off so that’s the only thing I like about it…her face while doing it LOL. We always did the classic position. I’m pretty sure it works perfectly we same height partners. Which we were…but my hum equipment is too meaty to feel it properly. Trying not to be dirty here.
      Me? I’m game for everything but handwork is my absolute favorite for reaching the peak.

    • In my experience you don’t need to shave it all, or even trim that much. I know this will sound obvious, but as you’re aiming for the soft, naturally hairless part, any hair you have shouldn’t be a problem. Stubble might be itchy at some angles, so freshly shave, or allow to grow as you see fit.

  3. Scissoring is amazing!

    Well, when I say ‘scissoring’ in my case I’m not talking about that particular position.

    I like to do it lying face-to-face on top my partner with our legs interlocking, or with her sitting up, straddling me as I lie flat. The latter is probably our favourite way to have sex all together and it gets us both off really quickly. I find it very intimate and, whilst I enjoy oral, toys etc. very much, there’s something psychologically satisfying about scissoring as well.

    Scissoring/tribbing/grinding works if you are physically compatible. For example, if you are both ‘innies’ it probably won’t work in any position, but if at least one of you is an ‘outie’ then there should be enough friction for a fairly amazing time.

    I can’t say I’ve noticed a great deal of it in porn; in what I’ve seen more often women seem to have oral sex alone. However, if they do trib, it tends to be just that one scissoring position. It’s a shame it can’t be made a bit more realistic and adventurous, with the women trying different positions.
    I’m bisexual rather than a lesbian, so I can’t speak for how many lesbians regularly scissor, or how much they enjoy it, but I would imagine it’s simply down to personal preference regardless.

    As for whether public hair matters, I’d say not one bit! My partner and I are both trimmed, but never fully-shaven, but the angle at which we have sex means we don’t notice the hair. To be honest, I’ve had more problems with public hair when having sex with male partners than female.

  4. How about this one: One partner is flat on her back with her legs spread. The other gets ob top of her (between her legs), props the bottom’s ankles up on her shoulders and scoots forward until their pussies make contact. It demands some flexibility on the bottom’s part and a bit of endurance on the top’s part, but I think it’s awesome ;)

  5. I am new to all this and have a third date with a really amazing girl coming up. We are both inexperienced with women but we don’t think we can keep it PG much longer, did I mention she was amazing? Thank you so much for the article but ladies, these comments are the best thing EVER. I am hoping we have a sense of humor about this and just experiment until we find something that works.This might be a great Ice breaker for discussing our boundaries for our first time time. Thank you again.?

  6. All the positions are great,and I have found that its much more stressful to over think whether youready hitting your girls spot ornot and just move your ownbody so it feels good for YOU. And you’re home free. I’ve spent so much time dwelling on myself and this particular act. The full body scissor is a go to move for me and my partner, as eye contact and full busy contact are uber important for us. She ALWAYS can get off this way, and once in a great while I can get myself there with her and ladies im telling you there is nothing like it! climaxing together and being able to feel each others bodies and make eye contact… In my opinion and for me personally its the ultimate intimate thing. However I have recently became obsessed with reading articles and forums about lesbian sex, this form in particular. This whole scissoring thing right. Because although we do it often, she is typically on top. Our sex life is short of boring, but my fear of abandonment has me always wanting to keep the fire going in the bedroom. At any rate, she is in much better shape than me, and has much more stamina. Not to mention I feel like she can move her body and hope much “better” than I caN. So I started doing al this research basically looking for “rules” for scissoring.. Like should I move my hips with here or against hers? How do I keep the rhythm right? Literally obsessing feeling like I wasnt a good enough lesbian for this stuff not coming naturally to me. It’s sort of crazy. I hateeven admitting this but I was thinking to myself, I was way better at having sex with dudes even though I hated it. (I would never admit that to her. After all of this research I haven’t found a single “rulebook”for any of it. this is the closest thing I’ve found. There can’t be rules because every woman is complex and different. What one woman likes may be totally wrong for tHe nexT. This article really opened my eyes, as did the comments. I apologetically admit that I assumed all lesbians universally have aced this and that if I didn’t do the same that I wasnt worthy of the lesbian community. Oh hum…

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