Tribadism (tribbing or scissoring)

Tribadism (pronounced /ˈtrɪbədɪzəm/ trib-ə-diz-əm)[1] or tribbing, commonly known by its scissoring aspect, is a form of non-penetrative sex in which a woman rubs her vulva against her partner's body for sexual stimulation. This may involve female-to-female genital contact or a female rubbing her vulva against her partner's thigh, stomach, buttocks, palm, arm, or other body part (excluding the mouth), and does not always reflect a scissoring motion; a missionary position, as well as other sex positions, may also be acted upon.[2][3][4][5] The term can also refer to a masturbation technique in which a woman rubs her vulva against an inanimate object such as a bolster, in an effort to achieve orgasm. The term is most often used in the context of lesbian sex.

 

History and culture

Etymology and usage

The tribas, lesbian, from Greek tribein, to rub (i.e. rubbing the pudenda together, or clitoris upon pubic bone, etc.), appears in Greek and Latin satires from the late first century. In the sexuality of the ancient Romans, a tribas was a woman or hermaphrodite who actively penetrated another woman.[6] Until the 20th century, the term was used to refer to lesbian sexual practices in general. Therefore, lesbians were occasionally called tribades.[7] The tribade was the most common (vulgar) lesbian in European texts for many centuries. ‘Tribade’ occurs in English texts from at least as early as 1601 to at least as late as the mid-nineteenth century before it became self-consciously old-fashioned—it was in current use for nearly three centuries.

Fricatrice, a synonym for tribade that also refers to rubbing but has a Latin rather than a Greek root, appeared in English as early as 1605 (in Ben Jonson's Volpone). Its usage suggests that it was more colloquial and more pejorative than tribade. Variants include the Latinized confricatrice and English rubster.[8] In modern times, the term tribadism refers to various forms of frottage between women without any negative connotations.

Sexual practices

Among women who have sex with women (lesbian or otherwise), tribadism is a common sexual practice.[3][5][9][10][11][12] Though usually applied to the act of vulva-to-vulva stimulation, the term encompasses a variety of sexual activity. In addition to the commonly titled "scissoring" motion, tribadism may involve a missionary position, a woman on top position, a doggy style position, or simple movement of the woman's vulva against her partner's thigh, stomach, buttocks, palm, arm, or another body part (excluding the mouth). It may be accompanied by penetration of a partner with fingers or a dildo; 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."[9] Lesbians who prefer tribadism for sexual stimulation report enjoyment of whole-body contact, the experience of timing hip movement and feeling their partner's motions without manual stimulation, which is considered "very erotic" and a much easier way to achieve orgasm due to direct clitoral stimulation.[3][13]

Some lesbian and bisexual women object to the term "scissoring," as they do not partake in this particular aspect of the activity and attribute it more to the male fantasies of the heterosexual porn industry.[14][15][16] Often times, "scissoring" is used as an umbrella term for all genital-to-genital forms of tribadism, and many lesbian and bisexual women are unaware that some of the sexual acts they include in their lovemaking are aspects of tribadism, as tribadism is commonly omitted from mainstream sex research.[12] 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 on the subject, and few contemporary lesbian sex books even discuss it.[9]

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).[10] 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.[11] In 1987, a non-scientific study (Munson) was conducted of more than 100 members of a lesbian social organization in Colorado. When asked what techniques they used in their last 10 lovemaking sessions, 100% were for kissing, sucking on breasts, and manual stimulation of the clitoris; more than 90% reported French kissing, oral sex, and fingers inserted into the vagina; and 80% reported tribadism.[5]

Safe sex issues

As with any exchange of bodily fluids during sexual activities, genital-to-genital tribadism has the potential to transfer sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) if those are present in one or more of the partners. The act is not considered a risk for HIV transmission, however,[17] and participants have the option of safe sex practices.[18]

 

Occurrence 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 known as GG rubbing (genito-genital).[19][20] "Perhaps the bonobo's most typical sexual pattern, undocumented in any other primate, is genito-genital rubbing (or GG rubbing) between adult females. One female facing another clings with arms and legs to a partner that, standing on both hands and feet, lifts her off the ground."[19]

 

In the media

  • The glam pop band Scissor Sisters derived their name from the scissoring position.[21]
  • Bands named after tribadism also include Scissorfight and the lesbian punk band Tribe 8.[22]
  • Genital-genital tribadism was depicted three times during the "D-Yikes!" episode of the cartoon South Park, referred to in that episode as "scissoring." The episode is credited as having popularized the term "scissoring."[14]
  • Santana Lopez and Brittany S. Pierce on the TV show Glee make a reference to engaging in "scissoring" together in the episode "Duets."[23][24][25]

References

  1. Gould, George M. (1936). Gould's Pocket Medical Dictionary (10th rev. ed.). P. Blakiston's Son & Co. Ltd..
  2. Lesbian Sex Question: Tribadism, accessed 18 December 2006.
  3. a b c Bonnie Zimmerman (2000). Lesbian histories and cultures: an encyclopedia (Volume 1). Taylor & Francis. pp. 862. 0815319207, 9780815319207.
  4. Cathy Winks and Anne Semans (2002). The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex (3rd ed.). Cleis Press. ISBN 1573441589.
  5. a b c Janell L. Carroll (2009). Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity. Cengage Learning. pp. 629. ISBN 0495602744, 9780495602743. Retrieved 2010-12-19.
  6. Swancutt, Diann M. (2007), "Still before sexuality: "Greek" androgyny, the Roman imperial politics of masculinity and the Roman invention of the Tribas", Mapping gender in ancient religious discourses, Brill, ISBN 9004154477
  7. Sihvola, Juha; Nussbaum, Martha Craven (2002). The sleep of reason: erotic experience and sexual ethics in ancient Greece and Rome. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-60915-4.
  8. Andreadis, Harriette (2001). Sappho in Early Modern England: Female Same-Sex Literary Erotics, 1550–1714. University of Chicago Press. pp. 41, 49–51. ISBN 0226020096.
  9. a b c Judith Halberstam (1998). Female masculinity. Duke University Press. pp. 329. ISBN 0822322439, 9780822322436. Retrieved 2010-12-19.
  10. a b Douglas C. Kimmel, Tara Rose, Steven David (2006). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender aging: research and clinical perspectives. Jones & Bartlett Learning. pp. 303. ISBN 0231136188, 9780231136181. Retrieved 2010-12-19.
  11. a b Jerrold S. Greenberg, Clint E. Bruess, Sarah C. Conklin (2007). Exploring the dimensions of human sexuality. Jones & Bartlett Learning. pp. 884. ISBN 0763741485, 9780763741488. Retrieved 2010-12-19.
  12. a b Letitia Anne Peplau, Linda D. Garnets (2002). Women's Sexualities: New Perspectives on Sexual Orientation and Gender (Volume 56 of Journal of Social Issues). Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 242. 140510080X, 9781405100809. Retrieved 2010-12-19.
  13. Kathy Belge What is Tribadism?, accessed December 19, 2010.
  14. a b Dowling, Nikki (December 04, 2009). "Girl On Girl: 11 Misconceptions About Lesbians". TheFrisky.com. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  15. Jones, Mia (December 22, 2009). "All lesbians are good at sports, and other misconceptions". AfterEllen.com. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  16. Hess, Amanda (November 24, 2009). "Lesbians Don’t Scissor Edition". Washington City Paper. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  17. "Ask the Experts About: Safe Sex and HIV Prevention: vagina to vagina rubbing ... and risks". TheBody.com. November 16, 2006. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
  18. (See The Lesbian and Gay Foundation "Safer Sex" website for more information.)
  19. a b de Waal FB (Mar 1995). "Bonobo sex and society" (reprint). Sci Am. 272 (3): 82–8. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0395-82. PMID 7871411. "Perhaps the bonobo's most typical sexual pattern, undocumented in any other primate, is genito-genital rubbing (or GG rubbing) between adult females. One female facing another clings with arms and legs to a partner that, standing on both hands and feet, lifts her off the ground".
  20. Paoli T, Palagi E, Tacconi G, Tarli SB (Apr 2006). "Perineal swelling, intermenstrual cycle, and female sexual behavior in bonobos (Pan paniscus)". Am J Primatol 68 (4): 333–47. doi:10.1002/ajp.20228. PMID 16534808.
  21. Harrington, Richard (January 7, 2005). "Scissor Sisters: On the Cutting Edge". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
  22. "Rise Above: The Tribe 8 Documentary". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 12 July 2006. Retrieved 21 September 2007.
  23. Poniewozik, James (October 13, 2010). "Glee Watch: It Takes Two". Time. Time Inc.. Retrieved October 13, 2010.
  24. Benigno, Anthony (October 13, 2010). "'Glee' 'Duets' recap: Episode 25 sees Brittany and Santana have girl-on-girl make out session in bed". Daily News. New York City. Retrieved October 13, 2010.
  25. Oldenburg, Ann (October 13, 2010). "'Glee' cheerleaders share 'sweet lady kisses'". USA Today. Gannett Company. Retrieved October 13, 2010.