Tribadism

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Two women engaged in the missionary position of tribadism and rubbing vulvas, one of the various positions in which a woman rubs her vulva against her partner's body for the purpose of sexual pleasure. Wiki-tribadism02.png
Two women engaged in the missionary position of tribadism and rubbing vulvas, one of the various positions in which a woman rubs her vulva against her partner's body for the purpose of sexual pleasure.

Tribadism ( /ˈtrɪbədɪzəm/ TRIB-ə-diz-əm) [1] or tribbing, commonly known by its scissoring position, is a lesbian sexual practice in which a woman rubs her vulva against her partner's body for sexual stimulation, especially for stimulation of the clitoris. This may involve vulva-to-vulva contact or rubbing the vulva against the partner's thigh, stomach, buttocks, arm, or other body part (excluding the mouth). [2] [3] [4] A variety of sex positions are practiced, including the missionary position. [5] [6]

Contents

The term tribadism originally encompassed societal beliefs about women's capability of being penetrative sexual partners. [2] [7] [8] Women accused of having been penetrative during sexual activity were subject to ridicule or punishment. [2] [8] [9] In modern times, the term typically refers to various forms of non-penetrative sex (or frottage) between women. It may also involve vaginal penetration by use of the fingers, a dildo or double penetration dildo. [4] [8]

History and culture

Etymology and usage

The term tribadism derives from the Greek word τριβάς (tribas), meaning "a woman who practices unnatural vice with herself or with other women", [10] which derives from the verb τρίβω (tribō), "rub". [11] In ancient Greek and Roman sexuality, a tribas, or tribade (IPA:/ˈtrɪbəd/ /tribad/), [12] was a woman or intersex individual who actively penetrated another person (male or female) through use of the clitoris or a dildo. The term tribade did not begin to refer exclusively to eroticism between women until Late Antiquity. [2] [8] Because penetration was viewed as "male-defined" sexuality, a tribas was considered the most vulgar lesbian. [7] [8] [13] [14] The Greeks and Romans recognized same-sex attraction, but as any sexual act was believed to require that one of the partners be "phallic" and that therefore sexual activity between women was impossible without this feature, mythology popularly associated lesbians with either having enlarged clitorises or as incapable of enjoying sexual activity without the substitution of a phallus. [15] [16] [17] [18] This appears in Greek and Latin satires as early as the late first century. [13]

In English texts, tribade is recorded as early as 1601, in Ben Jonson's Praeludium (Poem X in The Forest), [2] to as late as the mid-nineteenth century; it was the most common lesbian term in European texts, [13] through the proliferation of classical literature, anatomies, midwiferies, sexual advice manuals, and pornography. [2] It also came to refer to lesbian sexual practices in general, though anatomical investigation in the mid-eighteenth century led to skepticism about stories of enlarged clitorises and anatomists and doctors argued for a more precise distinction between clitoral hypertrophy and hermaphroditism. [2]

Author Bonnie Zimmerman stated, "More often, however, [European] writers avoided the term, instead euphemistically invoking 'unnatural vice,' 'lewd behavior,' 'crimes against nature,' 'using an instrument,' and 'taking the part of a man.'" [2] In the eighteenth century, where the term saw one of its most popular uses, it was employed in several pornographic libels against Marie Antoinette, who was "tried and roundly convicted in the press" as being a tribade. [2] [9] "[Her] rumored tribadism had historically specific political implications," stated author Dena Goodman. "Consider her final (fictive) testimony in The Confession of Marie-Antoinette: 'People!' she protests, 'because I ceded to the sweet impressions of nature, and in imitating the charming weakness of all the women of the court of France, I surrendered to the sweet impulsion of love...you hold me, as it were, captive within your walls?'" Goodman elaborated that in one libel, Marie-Antoinette is described as generously providing details of her husband's "incapacity in the venereal act" and that her lust resulted in her taking an aristocratic beauty Yolande de Polastron, the Duchess of Polignac (1749-1793), "into [her] service" and later specifying that what makes sex with a woman so appealing is "Adroit in the art of stimulating the clitoris"; Marie-Antoinette is described as having stated that La Polignac's attentions produced "one of those rare pleasures that cannot be used up because it can be repeated as many times as one likes". [9]

By the time the Victorian era arrived, cited Zimmerman, "tribadism tended to be constructed as a lower class and non-Western phenomenon and often was associated with the supposed degeneration of prostitutes and criminals". [2] By the twentieth century, "tribade had been supplanted" by the terms sapphist , lesbian, invert, and homosexual, as tribade had become too archaic to use. [2] Fricatrice, a synonym for tribade that also refers to rubbing but has a Latin rather than a Greek root, appeared in English texts as early as 1605 (in Ben Jonson's Volpone ). [19] Its usage suggests that it was more colloquial and more pejorative than tribade. [19] Variants include the Latinized confricatrice and English rubster. [2] [19]

Sexual practices

Sex positions and other aspects

Tribadism is a common sexual practice among women who have sex with women (WSW). [4] [20] [21] [22] Although the term tribadism is often applied to the act of vulva-to-vulva stimulation, [4] [23] it encompasses a variety of sexual activity. In addition to the scissoring position, which involves the partners interlocking their legs in a position similar to the shape of scissors and pressing their vulvas together, tribadism may involve a missionary position, a woman on top position, a doggy style position or others, [5] [6] or simple movement of the woman's vulva against her partner's thigh, stomach, buttocks, arm, or another body part. [6] [24] Vaginal penetration by use of the fingers or by use of a dildo may be accompanied, and so sometimes "mutuality and reciprocation tend not to be the main objective, although satisfaction for both partners through different means most definitely is its aim". [8] Women who enjoy or prefer tribadism report finding pleasure from its allowance of whole-body contact, the experience of timing hip movement and feeling their partner's motions without manual stimulation, which is considered exciting, erotic and a much easier way to achieve orgasm due to ample clitoral stimulation. [6] [24]

Two women engaged in the scissoring position, a position debated among lesbians. Wiki-tribadism.png
Two women engaged in the scissoring position, a position debated among lesbians.

Some lesbian and bisexual women do not engage in the scissoring position because they find or think that it would be physically uncomfortable, or because they lack interest in it. [25] [27] They may also think that it is a misconception that lesbians engage in the act and that it is therefore not representative of lesbian sexual practices, attributing it more so to the male fantasies of the heterosexual porn industry. [27] [28] [26] The Raw Story states, "Whether [the scissoring position] describes a traditional or even common lesbian act remains up for debate." [29] By contrast, some sources, such as Shere Hite's 1976 and 1981 research, indicate that women may enjoy performing the scissoring position with other women because it is a variation of vulva-to-vulva contact or can allow for maximum vulva-to-vulva contact and therefore an elevated level of intimacy. [5] [6] [25]

Scissoring is commonly used as an umbrella term for all forms of tribadism, [30] and many lesbian and bisexual women are unaware that some of the sexual acts they include in their lovemaking are aspects of and are formally labeled tribadism, as tribadism is commonly omitted from mainstream sex research. [8] [31] Judith Halberstam, in her book Female Masculinity, stated, "If we trace the use of the term forward into present, we find that tribadism is one of those rarely discussed but often practiced sexual activities, and the silence that surrounds it now is as puzzling as the discourse it produced in earlier centuries." She added that Sigmund Freud "had nothing to say" with regard to the topic, "and few contemporary lesbian sex books even discuss it". [8]

According to older studies, "approximately one-third of lesbian women used tribadism, or body contact, as a means of achieving orgasm (Saghir & Robins, 1973; Jay & Young, 1977)". [22] Masters and Johnson's 1979 study on lesbian sexual practices found that vaginal penetration with dildos is rare, and that lesbians tend to do more overall genital stimulation than direct clitoral stimulation, which is also often the case for heterosexual relationships. [21] In 1987, a non-scientific study (Munson) "was conducted of more than 100 members of a lesbian social organization in Colorado" and "[w]hen asked what techniques they used in their last 10 lovemaking sessions, 100% were for kissing, sucking on nipples, and manual stimulation of the clitoris; more than 90% reported French kissing, oral sex, and fingers inserted into the vagina; and 80% reported tribadism". [4]

In 2003, Julia V Bailey and her research team published data based on a sample from the United Kingdom of 803 lesbian and bisexual women attending two London lesbian sexual health clinics and 415 women who have sex with women from a community sample; the study reported that 85% of the women engaged in tribadism (whether genital-to-genital contact or rubbing genitals against another part of a partner's body), and, like older studies, that vaginal penetration with dildos, or with other sex toys, among women who have sex with women is rare. [20] [32]

Safe sex

As with any exchange of body fluids during sexual activities, genital-to-genital tribadism has the potential to transfer sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs) if those are present in one or more of the partners. AIDS.gov and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health state that genital-genital and genital-body contact (including tribadism) can spread STIs such as Human papillomavirus (HPV), pubic lice (crabs) and herpes and that "wearing clothes and for herpes, avoiding contact if sores are present, reduces the risks". [33] [34] Other safe sex options, such as use of a dental dam or a cut-open condom, may also be practiced. [20] [33] [35] [36] However, there "is no good evidence" that using a dental dam reduces STI transmission risks between women who have sex with women; studies show that using a dental dam as a protection barrier is rarely practiced, and that, among [women who have sex with women], this may be because the individuals have "limited knowledge about the possibilities of STI transmission or [feel] less vulnerable to STIs [such as HIV]". [20] For further safe sex precautions, the American Family Physician advises lesbian and bisexual women to avoid unprotected contact with a sexual partner's menstrual blood and with any visible genital lesions. [36]

Tribadism has been referenced in various aspects of popular culture. The glam pop band Scissor Sisters derived their name from the scissoring position. [37] [38] Jake Shears of the group stated that while many of their songs have gay themes, they do not want to be labeled a gay band; they "are first and foremost a pop band". [37] Other bands named after tribadism include lesbian punk band Tribe 8 and all-male group Scissorfight. [39]

Genital-genital tribadism was depicted three times during the "D-Yikes!" episode of the cartoon South Park , referred to in the episode as scissoring. The episode is credited with having brought more recognition to the act of scissoring, [29] [28] with The Raw Story stating, "Though the band 'Scissor Sisters' takes its name from descriptions of the act, it wasn't until scissoring was dramatized in the 2007 'South Park' episode 'D-Yikes' that it achieved wide recognition in mainstream culture." [29] The term additionally received mainstream recognition after the episode "Duets" of the television series Glee had characters Santana Lopez and Brittany S. Pierce reference scissoring while making out. The scene received some criticism for possibly being inappropriate for children. [40] [41]

In 2010, in response to California State University, Long Beach refusing to advertise the play "The Night of the Tribades" on the Seventh Street marquee because of the word tribades in its title, approximately 24 theater arts majors protested in front of Brotman Hall by simulating tribadism (including scissoring). "When you put tribade into a Google search image, apparently it comes up with the word tribadism, which is a sex act and they decided it was inappropriate," stated one student. [30]

Tribadism and other lesbian sex scenes are featured in the 2013 film Blue Is the Warmest Colour. The scenes were the subject of debate among lesbians and critics, with the depiction of scissoring being one of the acts that were criticized; in an interview surveying a small panel of lesbian women, one of the women, who was skeptical that lesbian sexual activity included scissoring at all, seemed more open to the idea of a reverse cowgirl position of scissoring; another woman had engaged in the reverse cowgirl position of scissoring. [42] [43]

The 2016 film Blood of the Tribades is a lesbian-themed vampire story examining gender politics and bigotry. [44]

Among female bonobos

Female-female genital sex is not exclusive to humans. Females of the bonobo species, found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also engage in this act, usually referred to by primatologists as GG rubbing (genital-to-genital). [45] [46] "Perhaps the bonobo's most typical sexual pattern, undocumented in any other primate, is genito-genital rubbing (or GG rubbing) between adult females," stated primatologist Frans de Waal. "One female facing another clings with arms and legs to a partner that, standing on both hands and feet, lifts her off the ground." [45]

In bonobos, the clitoris is larger and more externalized than in most mammals. [47] Ethologist Jonathan Balcombe states that bonobos rub their clitorises together rapidly for ten to twenty seconds, and this behavior, "which may be repeated in rapid succession, is usually accompanied by grinding, shrieking, and clitoral engorgement"; on average, female bonobos engage in genital-genital rubbing "about once every two hours". [47]

See also

Related Research Articles

Anal sex Insertion of the penis into the anus, or other sexual activity involving the anus

Anal sex or anal intercourse is generally the insertion and thrusting of the erect penis into a person's anus, or anus and rectum, for sexual pleasure. Other forms of anal sex include fingering, the use of sex toys for anal penetration, oral sex performed on the anus (anilingus), and pegging. Although anal sex most commonly means penile–anal penetration, sources sometimes use anal intercourse to exclusively denote penile–anal penetration, and anal sex to denote any form of anal sexual activity, especially between pairings as opposed to anal masturbation.

Clitoris Female sex organ

The clitoris is a female sex organ present in mammals, ostriches and a limited number of other animals. In humans, the visible portion – the glans – is at the front junction of the labia minora, above the opening of the urethra. Unlike the penis, the male homologue (equivalent) to the clitoris, it usually does not contain the distal portion of the urethra and is therefore not used for urination. The clitoris also usually lacks a reproductive function. While few animals urinate through the clitoris or use it reproductively, the spotted hyena, which has an especially large clitoris, urinates, mates, and gives birth via the organ. Some other mammals, such as lemurs and spider monkeys, also have a large clitoris.

Human sexual activity Human behaviour that is sexually motivated

Human sexual activity, human sexual practice or human sexual behaviour is the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality. People engage in a variety of sexual acts, ranging from activities done alone to acts with another person in varying patterns of frequency, for a wide variety of reasons. Sexual activity usually results in sexual arousal and physiological changes in the aroused person, some of which are pronounced while others are more subtle. Sexual activity may also include conduct and activities which are intended to arouse the sexual interest of another or enhance the sex life of another, such as strategies to find or attract partners, or personal interactions between individuals. Sexual activity may follow sexual arousal.

Orgasm is the sudden discharge of accumulated sexual excitement during the sexual response cycle, resulting in rhythmic muscular contractions in the pelvic region characterized by sexual pleasure. Experienced by males and females, orgasms are controlled by the involuntary or autonomic nervous system. They are usually associated with involuntary actions, including muscular spasms in multiple areas of the body, a general euphoric sensation and, frequently, body movements and vocalizations. The period after orgasm is typically a relaxing experience, attributed to the release of the neurohormones oxytocin and prolactin as well as endorphins.

G-spot Anatomical detail of human female sexual organ

The G-spot, also called the Gräfenberg spot, is characterized as an erogenous area of the vagina that, when stimulated, may lead to strong sexual arousal, powerful orgasms and potential female ejaculation. It is typically reported to be located 5–8 cm (2–3 in) up the front (anterior) vaginal wall between the vaginal opening and the urethra and is a sensitive area that may be part of the female prostate.

Sex toy Sexual device

A sex toy is an object or device that is primarily used to facilitate human sexual pleasure, such as a dildo or vibrator. Many popular sex toys are designed to resemble human genitals, and may be vibrating or non-vibrating. The term sex toy can also include BDSM apparatus and sex furniture such as slings; however, it is not applied to items such as birth control, pornography, or condoms. Alternative expressions include adult toy and the dated euphemism marital aid, although "marital aid" has a broader sense and is applied to drugs and herbs marketed to supposedly enhance or prolong sex. Sex toys are most commonly sold at a sex shop, but they may also be sold in a pharmacy/chemist store, a pornographic DVD store, a head shop, or a department store. Today's sex toys are available in almost all countries for male and females.

A sex position is a position of the body that people use for sexual intercourse or other sexual activities. Sexual acts are generally described by the positions the participants adopt in order to perform those acts. Though sexual intercourse generally involves penetration of the body of one person by another, sex positions commonly involve penetrative or non-penetrative sexual activities.

Missionary position

The missionary position or man-on-top position is a sex position in which, generally, a woman lies on her back and a man lies on top of her while they face each other and engage in vaginal intercourse. The position may also be used for other sexual activity, such as anal sex. It is commonly associated with heterosexual sexual activity, but is also used by same-sex couples.

Sexual stimulation is any stimulus that leads to, enhances and maintains sexual arousal, and may lead to orgasm. Although sexual arousal may arise without physical stimulation, achieving orgasm usually requires physical sexual stimulation.

Frot Penis-to-penis sexual contact

Frot is a non-penetrative form of male-to-male sexual activity that usually involves direct penis-to-penis contact. The term was popularized by gay male activists who disparaged the practice of anal sex, but has since evolved to encompass a variety of preferences for the act, which may or may not imply particular attitudes towards other sexual activities. Owing to its non-penetrative character, frot has the safe sex advantage of minimizing the transmission risk for HIV/AIDS; however, it still carries the risk of skin-to-skin sexually transmitted infections, such as HPV and pubic lice (crabs), both of which can be transmitted even when lesions are not visible.

Terminology of homosexuality

Terms used to describe homosexuality have gone through many changes since the emergence of the first terms in the mid-19th century. In English, some terms in widespread use have been sodomite, Sapphic, Uranian, homophile, lesbian, gay, effeminate, queer, homoaffective, and same-sex attracted. Some of these words are specific to women, some to men, and some can be used of either. Gay people may also be identified under the umbrella terms queer and LGBT.

Fingering (sexual act) The use of fingers to sexually stimulate

Fingering is typically the use of fingers or hands to sexually stimulate the vulva or vagina. Vaginal fingering is legally and medically called digital penetration or digital penetration of the vagina. Fingering may also include the use of fingers to sexually stimulate the anus.

Strap-on dildo Device used for sexual penetration or other sexual activity

A strap-on dildo is a dildo designed to be worn, usually with a harness, during sexual activity. Harnesses and dildos are made in a wide variety of styles, with variations in how the harness fits the wearer, how the dildo attaches to the harness, as well as various features intended to facilitate stimulation of the wearer or a sexual partner. Strap-on dildos can be used by people of any gender or sexuality.

Non-penetrative sex Sexual activity that usually does not include sexual penetration

Non-penetrative sex or outercourse is sexual activity that usually does not include sexual penetration. It generally excludes the penetrative aspects of vaginal, anal, or oral sexual activity, but includes various forms of sexual and non-sexual activity, such as frottage, mutual masturbation, kissing, or cuddling. Some forms of non-penetrative sex, particularly when termed outercourse, include penetrative aspects, such as penetration that may result from forms of fingering or oral sex.

Lesbian sexual practices Sexual practices between women

Lesbian sexual practices are sexual activities involving women who have sex with women, regardless of their sexual orientation. A woman who has sex with another woman may identify as a lesbian if she is sexually attracted to women, or bisexual if she is not exclusively sexually attracted to women, or dispense with sexual identification altogether. The term may also be applied to a heterosexual or asexual woman who is unsure of or is exploring her sexuality.

Human female sexuality encompasses a broad range of behaviors and processes, including female sexual identity and sexual behavior, the physiological, psychological, social, cultural, political, and spiritual or religious aspects of sexual activity. Various aspects and dimensions of female sexuality, as a part of human sexuality, have also been addressed by principles of ethics, morality, and theology. In almost any historical era and culture, the arts, including literary and visual arts, as well as popular culture, present a substantial portion of a given society's views on human sexuality, which include both implicit (covert) and explicit (overt) aspects and manifestations of feminine sexuality and behavior.

Cunnilingus Oral sex on the vulva or vagina by a sexual partner

Cunnilingus is an oral sex act performed by a person on the vulva or vagina of another person. The clitoris is the most sexually sensitive part of the human female genitalia, and its stimulation may result in a woman becoming sexually aroused or achieving orgasm.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to human sexuality:

Sexual arousal Arousal of sexual desire, during or in anticipation of sexual activity

Sexual arousal is typically the arousal of sexual desire during or in anticipation of sexual activity. A number of physiological responses occur in the body and mind as preparation for sexual intercourse and continue during it. Male arousal will lead to an erection, and in female arousal the body's response is engorged sexual tissues such as nipples, vulva, clitoris, vaginal walls, and vaginal lubrication. Mental stimuli and physical stimuli such as touch, and the internal fluctuation of hormones, can influence sexual arousal.

Non-reproductive sexual behavior consists of sexual activities animals participate in that do not lead to the reproduction of the species. Although procreation continues to be the primary explanation for sexual behavior in animals, recent observations on animal behavior have given alternative reasons for the engagement in sexual activities by animals. Animals have been observed to engage in sex for social interaction, demonstration of dominance, aggression relief, exchange for significant materials, and sexual stimulation. Observed non-procreative sexual activities include non-copulatory mounting, oral sex, genital stimulation, anal stimulation, interspecies mating, and acts of affection. There have also been observations of animals engaging in homosexual behaviors, as well as sex with dead animals and sex involving juveniles.

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Further reading