Figuring out your sexual identity, if you do, can be a long process, which is how it was for my friend Heather, who was ultimately rewarded for her many years of trying:
LIVED TO BONE ANOTHER DAY: HEATHER
Growing up, I dumped boyfriend after boyfriend and felt absolutely nothing about it. While I occasionally entertained fantasies about my high school’s head cheerleader, my failure to feel love, I believed, had nothing to do with my sexual orientation. I wasn’t gay, though—I assumed I was just a sociopath (thanks, internet personality quizzes)! In college (and only after many years of therapy), I realized I might actually be a lesbian. My hypothesis went unconfirmed until I met a totally great lady…and froze. What if I made out with her and I didn’t feel anything? Then wouldn’t I REALLY be a sociopath? But I’m happy to say I went for it anyway, and it was good, and sometimes even great. For the first time in my 20 years, I was present and engaged in a romantic scenario. More important than than anything, I didn’t want to cry. (I did want to vom, though. We substituted foreplay with appletinis. Not a good choice).
“What do I even do in bed if I’m not straight?!”
Krista: This question is not so much, “How do queer people have sex?” Na-uh. It’s more, well…how don’t queer people have sex? We use our fingers, tongues, mouths, legs, genitals, butts, chests, and—most importantly—BRAINS. Fingers, tongues, and toys can go in the various openings, crevices, and sensitive areas on most people, and queer people, like all people, have sex by stimulating some (or all) of these places.
The word “sex” is not defined ONLY by penis-in-vagina penetration—helllllll, no. Sex can mean a lot of things, but best believe: Queer sex, however you’re having it, is “real” sex. Nobody can tell me that hours of sweaty, hot, orgasm-after-orgasm mattress sessions with another person don’t “count as real sex” because my partner and I are not having penis-in-vagina sex.
Lola: Queer sex can include P-in-V, too—it just doesn’t have to. When a similar question was posed on the reality show The Real L Word, roughly two dozen lesbians gave roughly two dozen answers. This controversy culminated in Autostraddle developing this excellent “Is It Sex?” flowchart:
But promise us you’re not going to do any of these things unless you have consent from your partner! Everybody involved needs to be 100 percent on board with what is about to happen, and stay there as it happens. You don’t want to look for the absence of a “no” from your partner, you want to look for a “FUCK YES.” But how do you know if you have enthusiastic consent from your partner? Amy Rose just wrote an incredible essay on this very thing, and Krista and I will model it for you right now!
Lola: Krista, I’m so excited to be DOIN’ IT with you for educational purposes. I can’t believe that we chose matching sheer pink nightgowns! And yet…I can.
Krista: Lola! SO THRILLED to be goin’ at it with you in demo form as well! You look stunning in pink, my dear. Here are some sensual finger foods, such as grapes and Gushers-brand fruit snacks, for us to snack on.
Lola: I consume these delicacies with gusto. Now, perhaps we may consume each other. Would you like to get started?
Krista: Yes, darling. [...Time passes...] OK: We have now been making out for hours on your cheetah-print couch, and I have rubbed my face raw on your ruby lips. I have a feeling you’d like to take things to the next level. I am aching to have sexytimes with you, but I have never done this before.
Lola: Luckily, we’ve talked beforehand about how you’ve never really hooked up with a girl before, since the best time to deal with any sort of negotiation is before the decision is required. I got a good sense of what your boundaries are, as well a ton of hot ideas, from that conversation (which I prepared for by checking out this sex-based checklist/worksheet).
Krista: [Pops Gusher into mouth and chews in a sensuous manner] I love how well we communicate. But, honestly, I’m still a little nervous.
Lola: So am I, because I approach each new person—actually, every new sexual encounter—the same way: with as few assumptions as possible about what the other person might like or want. Beyond a possible slight advantage in technical fluency/muscle memory, my sexual experience doesn’t really matter. Krista… you matter. What do you like? Talk to me about what you want me to do for you right now.
Krista: …I’m not sure? I dunno…um…OK I FEEL STUPID HELP ACKKKK [Starts freaking out and shutting down]
Lola: Yo, Krista, I can tell you’re into me and want to consummate our demonstration, but even though you’re not saying no, you’re not saying yes, and just “letting” me do something isn’t giving consent. Are you OK? Do you want to keep kissing for a while?
Krista: Oh, Lola. I’m so glad you checked in with me. It’s not that I don’t want to move into the possible glorious fingerbanging/passionate oral sex portion of our demo session, but I’m hesitant to say what I want out loud—I might need some time. Kissing you would be just perfect for now!