Illustration by Laura Estrada.

Dear Queer: Defining sex

An advice column about sexuality, gender, dating and overall queerness

By Molly Whuppie /// Staff Writer

Dear Queer: How do lesbians have sex? —#interested

DEAR #INTERESTED: For a school that seems to pride itself on being sexually liberated and inclusive, Lewis and Clark is sadly just as clueless as most in “defining sex.” The sheer amount of people who have asked me this question makes clear that  a) “sex” is still a taboo subject and b) we live in a heteronormative society. Yes, we are taught these norms growing up and continue to perpetuate them, but this is exactly why it is everyone’s responsibility to challenge society’s expectations. Otherwise, nothing changes.

People often like to talk about lesbian sex, because it is socially advertised as “hot.” But with that expectation, lesbian and queer women are not seen as sexual for their own benefit, but for the approval of straight men.

But how does one define when sex has happened?

An inclusive definition would describe many different activities performed by persons with a diversity of gender identities and sexual orientations, and would include any number of partners. With this definition in mind, any act involving contact with the vulva, clitoris, vagina, anus, penis or testicles between one or more consenting people for the purpose of sexual pleasure could constitute as “sex.”

According to Planned Parenthood: People define “sex” in different ways. Some people believe that it only counts as sex if a penis goes into a vagina, but this isn’t true for everybody. There are lots of different ideas about what sex can be:

  • Vaginal sex (penis-in-vagina intercourse)
  • Oral sex (mouth-to-genital contact)
  • Anal sex (penis-in-anus intercourse)
  • Dry humping or genital rubbing
  • Fingering or hand jobs (hand-to-genital contact)
  • Masturbation

Notice that penetration does not define sex, nor does a possibility of pregnancy and neither does orgasm. There shouldn’t be a sexual hierarchy where some practices are considered more “real” than others, but this is why we still are confused about what sex is. The thought that sex is just penetration is not only very limiting, but also extremely heteronormative. In essence, that definition implies that male orgasm is what defines sex. There are even some definitions that still consider sex as existing solely for the purpose of procreation.

So how do lesbians have sex?

Lesbians have sex just like everyone else: A casual date night, Chinese take-out, a movie, nervous laughter, sustained eye contact, passion, the tv remote thrown off the couch, takeout containers knocked on their sides, clothes off. There’s touching and heavy breathing and moaning, and before you know it, people are trying to make other people feel good and maybe even having orgasms. Lesbian sex has all of those components, done by real, live lesbians!

Sex is about fun, connection and feeling really good, whatever form that takes. What pleases me is sometimes very different than what pleases my partner, and what she likes could be very similar or different than what anyone else likes.

So, what is your take-away? There are lots of ways to have sex, and the most necessary characteristic of sex is the presence of consent. Because consent is always mandatory in all sexual experiences, getting consent can also be a way to find out what your partner(s) likes. Likewise, understanding what sex means to you is a process of figuring out what types of sex are fun and meaningful for you. There is not one universal definition of sex!

What turns you on and what gets you off? That is your definition of understanding the definition of sex. So, dear #interested, the real question becomes: what does sex mean to you?

Your Queer,

Mollie Whuppie



Heteronormativity: Presumes individuals to be heterosexual, cisgender and binary-conforming and casts other identities as deviant

Cis(gender): Individuals who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth

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