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Explainer

What is scissoring? Because, let’s face it, you always wanted to know

Bea Mitchell April 6, 2018

Seen that steamy scissoring sex scene in Blue is the Warmest Colour? Watched in wonderment as South Park’s Mr Garrison went lesbian, had a hot scissoring session and shouted “Scissor me timbers”?

Scissoring, also known as tribbing, is not a myth. It’s essentially genital-to-genital contact, and can be done in different positions.

It’s called scissoring because it requires sexual partners to move their legs back and forth, while rubbing their genitals against their partner’s, resembling the movement of scissors – obviously.

Why is scissoring also called tribbing?

Image: South Park (Comedy Central)

There’s some confusion over the terms tribadism, tribbing and scissoring…

From what we’ve gathered, tribadism, or tribbing, is a more general term for a sex act between women, in which the pair rub vulvae together for sexual stimulation – notably of the gift that keeps on giving, aka the clitoris.

That said, though tribadism is often used to describe vulva-to-vulva fun, it actually encompasses various girl-on-girl sexual activity of any kind.

That could be humping in the missionary position, or the movement of the vulva against another person’s thigh, bum, leg, arm… wherever, really. (Wrists work well, as do faces.)

Ergo, tribadism and tribbing mean non-penetrative lesbian sex, while scissoring more specifically describes the actual scissor position.

Nevertheless, all three are erotic ways of timing hip movement as two bodies grind, rub and swivel, which can result – very easily for some – in orgasm.

If you’re not convinced, Urban Dictionary defines scissoring 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’.”

Image: Blue is the Warmest Colour (Wild Bunch)

Realted: How do lesbians have sex?

Used in a sentence, via UD: “I felt myself get hard as I peeked through the window and watched Ellen and Anne get naked and make out on the bed, but it wasn’t until they began scissoring that I realised I had just creamed in my pants.”

(Sorry, we couldn’t not include that gem.) You go, Ellen and Anne!

And, Urban Dictionary defines tribbing as: “From ‘tribadism’ which refers to lesbianism. Derived from the Greek ‘tribas’ (a lesbian) and ‘tribo’ which is the verb ‘to rub’.

“‘Tribo’ is when two women rub their vulvas and clitoris’ together as a form of non-penetrative sex. Can also refer to ‘frottage’ (rubbing) of the woman’s vulva against something for sexual stimulation.

“Not specific to humans, this behaviour is also observed in nature. In particular bonobo monkeys, where female to female genital rubbing is common (about once every two hours).”

You go, bonobo monkeys!

It’s not everyone’s thing, mind

Some LGBT gals prefer good old fashioned face f**king to scissoring. Some are really good at scissoring and absolutely rave about it, others find it troublesome and exhausting.

Contrary to popular belief, scissoring is not the ultimate lesbian position – it’s not the lesbian version of straight missionary sex.

It’s very much A Thing, it’s just not everyone’s thing, and it’s certainly not the be all and end all of sapphic shagging.

Mal Harrison, sexologist and director of the Center for Erotic Intelligence, told Refinery29: “Fifteen years ago, scissoring just wasn’t something commonly discussed in lesbian circles, nor amongst my lesbian and bisexual clients.

“Now, I frequently hear it mentioned as part of the repertoire, simply because people are getting more of their ideas and sex ed from porn.”

Safe sex, safe sex, safe sex

If you’ve been busy scissoring all day without a care in the world, remember, women who have sex with other women can get STIs and vaginal infections.

“Women can catch STIs such as herpes, genital warts and chlamydia when exchanging bodily fluids,” says Stonewall chief exec Ruth Hunt.

“Any one-on-one contact, such as oral sex or using the same hand when touching yourself and then your partner, can put you at risk. Two women who are both menstruating are at a higher risk, too.”

Infections can be transmitted via hands, fingers and genital contact, so wash hands before and after sex.

Related: Guide to vaginal infections: Can they be sexually transmitted? And everything else you need to know

More: scissoring, tribbing

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