Sapphic Sex 101: What It Is, Safe Sex Tips, & Our Fave Toys
QUEER BB’S: this one is for you! Ready to learn all about sapphic sex & what it is, how to have it safely, and how to incorporate toys for some extra fun?!
Hello to all lesbians, women-loving-women, sapphics*, bisexual and pansexual folks, and anyone who identifies as being adjacent to these labels.
That’s a mouthful, I know – every day, I wake up as a lesbian/sapphic/ WLW/queer-person-who-isn’t-a-man-but-isn’t-a-cis-woman-either-and-who-is-attracted-to-other-non-cis-men-people and I wonder: what the fuck is the best way to describe our community when we need to speak in general terms?
How do we talk about sex between folks in these identity groups without overly focusing on genitalia (vulva-on-vulva sex feels absurdly reductionistic) or overly focusing on terminology that isn’t inclusive for non-cis people (“women-loving-women” is potentially guilty of this, in my opinion)?
If you have a magic answer, please enlighten me. For this article, I’m going to use mostly “sapphic” as an umbrella term.
*I want to acknowledge that I don’t feel like there is a perfect word to use in this article: WLW, Sapphic (and other words) all feel like they don’t quite acknowledge the complexity of queer experience as it relates to the types of sex we will be talking about!
Wait, What Is “Sapphic Sex?”
I’ll start off by answering some common questions regarding what the term “sapphic” actually means & encompasses!
What does “sapphic” mean?
According to the lovely queer undefined dictionary, “to be sapphic means to be a woman who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to women.” It can be used to describe sexual orientation, romantic attraction, or can even just be an umbrella turm used for female-aligning people who are attracted to other female-aligning people. It’s not actually as complex as the word sounds, right?
Sooo what does “sapphic sex” mean, then?
So that means that “sapphic sex” is a sexual encounter between two female-aligned people who are romantically and/or sexually attracted to other female-aligned people. Easy peasy!
Where does the term “sapphic” even come from?
Now you might be asking where the hell that term even comes from, as it’s a bit of a unique-sounding term that’s vastly underused in LGBTQ+ language in our society. According to Them, the term “sapphic” derives from the Greek goddess Sapho, who is famous for having lived on the Isle of Lesbos – an island where women who loved women lived, and where the term “lesbians” itself is derived from!
Is identifying as “sapphic” the same as identifying as a lesbian?
Not really – the term “sapphic” can encompass bisexual and pansexual female-identifying people, while the term “lesbian” typically doesn’t. As the term “sapphic” has evolved more in recent years, it can even include a vast array of other identities such as trans femmes, trans men, and nonbinary transmascs.
Is “sapphic” the same as WLW, or woman-loving-woman?
In general, the terms “sapphic” and “WLW”, or “woman-loving-women/women who love women” are often used interchangeably, as “sapphic” is a term for a female-identifying person who’s sexually and/or romantically attracted to other female-identifying people.
Sapphic Sex in Media
It is no secret to most of us that the way sapphic sex is portrayed in media is … just downright inaccurate. In everything from pornography to pop culture imagery, sapphic sex is often depicted from a male gaze, usually starring thin white cishet women with long nails eating pu$$y like it’s spaghetti. The focus is on how pleasurable it might be to watch that kind of interaction, as opposed to centering actual queer pleasure.
Hopefully we already know that in real life, sapphic sex can be varied: intense, slow, vanilla or kinky, and look a variety of different ways. There is no “right” way to have sex, and when you’re playing with other partners who agree, the possibilities are limitless.
Besides inaccurate media depictions of sapphic sex and sexuality, many of us who hold sapphic-adjacent sexual orientations also find that our love and sex lives are sexualized by the cis-het world. For the purpose of clarity: sapphic sex, sexuality, and romance does not exist to please the male gaze or the patriarchy. Got it? Cool.
One of the perks of having sapphic sex is that it’s often much more *ahem* creative than straight/cisgender penis-in-vagina sex. There are no rules! The timeline and goals are yours to decide upon.
When we take cis dudes and their cis-dude-penises out of our sexual behaviors, we may really start to realize that “sex” starts and ends when we want it to, and may include a lot more behaviors than we previously realized.
For example, when people talk about “losing virginity”, what do they usually mean? Typically, they mean the first time they’ve had penis-in-vagina sex. What if you never have sex that way? Does that mean you’re not having sex?
Sex can mean anything you want it to. It can include genitals of any kind (or not). It can include orgasms (or not). It can include kink or BDSM (or not). It can include being in bed (or anywhere else), it can include spiritual exercises (or not)...you get the point. Sex is however you want to have it.
When we step away from the prescriptive ideas the dominant cisheteronormative culture pushes on us about what sex is, looks like, feels like, and how we know when it’s over, we open up a whole new world. (Of course, this is possible within the context of being a straight person, too, but remember - this article is for the queers.) ;)
Tips for Healthy Communication in the Bedroom
Communication is a topic that people write entire books on and spend their lives learning about, so I’m going to keep this section pretty simple!
1. Figure out what you like & don’t like
Before anything else, it’s important for you to figure out what you like – and it’s equally as important to figure out what you don’t like! One great way to start doing this is through solo pleasure time, where you can be fully free to explore, experiment, and be free of the worries of pleasing someone else or feeling any self-consciousness. Only YOU know what you like most, so until you’re familiar with your desires, and your own body, it’s going to be hard to tell a partner what you want them to do!
This can be a tall order, though, and may feel like an abstract goal without much clarity on how to actually get there.
Introducing: Sexual Inventory Lists! These lists are intended to help you figure out what you want, don’t want, like, don’t like, want to try, never want to try, etc. My favorite to recommend is this one from the wonderful Scarleteen website. Fill this out solo, or make it a fun activity to do with your partner(s)!
2. Get clear on your boundaries
Getting clear on your desires, wants, boundaries, dislikes, and hard “no’s” is a beautiful way to not only deepen your connection to yourself, but also to be able to more effectively bring someone else into your sexual and sensual world. So once you’ve started the journey of figuring out what you like & don’t like, and what your boundaries are, it’s crucial to communicate those to any partners you engage in sexual activity with to make sure you both feel safe, confident, and at ease during your playtime together.
How to Have Safer Sapphic Sex
Barriers are your besties when it comes to safer sapphic sex!
Here are some of the options available to you:
Dental dams are squares of latex that can be held across genitals to create a barrier for safer oral play and external touching of genitals (commonly used on vulvas and anuses!).
Dental dams can be hard to find and/or be pricey, and since they’re single-use, you do have to buy them over and over.
If you want a cheaper option, you can make your own at home by unrolling an unlubricated condom (latex or polyisoprene), snipping off the reservoir tip, and spreading the condom open; or use a piece of saran wrap!
As far as I’ve found, there aren’t any non-latex dental dams on the market for the latex-sensitive bbs, but using a non-latex external condom or saran wrap should be a safe get-around for the latex-sensitive among us.
Lorals are a safer-sex strategy that is newer to the market (and were just recently cleared by the FDA as an “STI Protection for Safer Sex”!). Lorals are ultra-thin and stretchy latex panties that are designed to be worn during oral sex.
Providing a silky, seductive texture and coverage for all the yummy bits, they’re a fun way to switch up your oral game (latex can be so sexy) and enjoy added protection from STI’s.
Lorals are also potentially a rad option for folks with dysphoria or sensory challenges since they provide an opaque barrier between genitals and the outside world while still conveying the sensations of touch!
Keep in mind that they are single-use, so you’ll have to dispose of them once you’re done & buy more.
External condoms (latex or otherwise) can cover penises, dildos, and other toys to help reduce risk of transmitting infections from partner to partner.
Gloves (latex or nitrile, always disposable) can be a way to keep clean-up easy, and to protect sensitive tissues from the germs our hands can carry around. Gloves can be a sexy accessory in playtime, too!
The Best Toys to Enhance Pleasure During Sapphic Sex
Most sex toys on the market can be used for more than one purpose, if you’re creative enough.
For folks having sapphic sex, I like to recommend toys that are versatile and can accommodate different body types, preferences, & be used in a variety of ways.
A few favorites:
Wands + Other Vibrators
There is a reason that Magic Wands have been on the market forEVER. They rock. The Rechargeable Magic Wand is a step up from the corded original, since you and your honey won’t need to be near an outlet.
The large head, made of silicone, is non-porous (easy to clean) and has a large surface area, so if you’re into scissoring, this baby might just take that to the next level.
Magic Wand also makes a ton of attachments you can pop onto the head of the wand, so it can easily turn into a stroker, an internal toy, or something with fluttery bits.
Similarly wonderful to the Magic Wand, the Swan Wand has an added bonus - flip it over and use the “handle” as an internal vibrating toy! Imagine if one partner had the internal end inside while the other partner was able to grind on the vibrating head on the other side. Yum!
To check out our full assortment of vibrators, click here, and have fun exploring! ;)
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention strap-ons. This is honestly such a large topic that I will be getting into it fully in another article (stay tuned!) but for now, I’ll keep it simple.
Any dildo or toy that is going to be used inside someone’s body needs to be non-porous, fully cleanable, and if it’s going to be used for booty play, there must be a flared base to keep the toy from getting lost up there.
Some things to think about when purchasing a dildo: texture, aesthetic, color, length, girth, realistic/non-realistic, gender feelings when wearing, and material. Strap-on harnesses should be comfortable and make you feel sexy.
Generally there are two kinds: brief style and strappy! Both have their pros and cons.
Below are a few favorites that you can check out!
On the hunt for the perfect strapless dildo to use for vaginal or anal play (or both!) with your partner? Try out the Temptasia Strapless Strap-On Dildo! This dildo offers dual stimulation so that both the giver and the receiver get all those good vibes: literally, you can get those vibes from the attachable bullet vibrator that you can add on to the dildo. It’s got 10 vibration functions, and rests just behind a textured portion of the dildo perfect for grinding on!
If you’re looking for a classic strap-on to use during partnered sex for either you or your partner (or both!), look no further than the Strap On Me Large Vibrating Bendable Strap On! This wearable double strap-on is adjustable at the bulb so you can enjoy the perfect angle for both you and your partner. It’s also got multiple motors in the bulb, the end of the shaft, and the tip, so you can enjoy strong & rumbly vibrations wherever you’d like!
We’ve got plenty more strap-ons & harnesses that you can take home with you for some fun play time – check ‘em out here!
More Resources We Know You’ll Love
Now that you’re a total pro when it comes to all things sapphic, we want to make sure you feel good about other aspects of your sex life + sexuality, too! Head over to one of our other recent blog posts below – there’s something for everybody. Whether you’re looking for help picking the right sex toy for you, tips for bringing even the idea of toys into your relationship, guidance on leaving purity culture, fun kink ideas for beginners, or a giant list of our favorite lubes, we’ve got you covered!
For introducing toys into your sex life – How to Bring Sex Toys Into Your Relationship: Tips + Toys to Try
For recovering from purity culture – Deconstructing Purity Culture: The History, Impact, & How to Heal
For learning about lube &+ finding one for you – Lube 10: What Lube Is, The Best Lubes for You, & More
Remember babes: sex is what you want it to be! Get out there and get (consensually) freaky with each other.
Queer love will save the world (or at least queer sex will make us happier).