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What Is Scissoring?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 29, 2021

Scissoring is a sexual position between two partners who sit facing each other and cross their legs so that their genitals touch. It is called scissoring because the position looks like two scissors crossing each other and touching at the base where the blades meet, with the legs of each partner imitating the blades of the scissors. 

This sexual position is included in the sexual category of tribadism, which is when two females rub their vulvas against each other. Scissoring can be accomplished in several different positions, but it is primarily done by crossing legs with your partner.

One of the first mentions of tribadism can be traced back to the 17th century, where the word “tribade” was used as a common vulgar term for lesbians in European texts. It only died out as a term used at the end of the 19th Century.

How Does it Work?

While scissoring normally involves two females engaging in vulva-to-vulva contact, it can also include rubbing the vulva against the other partner's arm, butt, thigh, stomach, or other body parts. The idea is to stimulate the female genitalia without penetration or using the mouth and tongue.

Scissoring is pleasurable to both partners because each of their genitals is being stimulated at the same time in what is for some people a new and unique way. The closeness of the bodies and the genitals emulates traditional penetrative sex.

What is the difference between Scissoring and Tribadism?

Tribadism, or tribbing, is the category under which the scissoring sex position falls under. Two females standing up, facing each other, and rubbing their clitorises against each other is considered tribbing but technically not scissoring because their legs aren’t intertwined. Generally, however, tribbing and scissoring are used interchangeably.

Myths About Scissoring

The primary myth is that scissoring can only happen between two women. This position can occur between any combination of genders, and for people with penises, can even include penetration. It is the position of intertwining the legs for the genitals to touch that constitute scissoring, not the genders of the partner.

How to Try Scissoring Safely

Even though scissoring for the most part does not involve penetrative sex, care and caution should still be taken to prevent getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). STDs can still be transmitted through oral sex and scissoring.

Using protection like a dental dam is an effective measure at preventing the spread of STDs, though they are not 100% full proof.

Before engaging in scissoring, it’s advisable for both partners to stretch their muscles -- not only their legs but their arms as well. This sexual position does require moderate physical exertion and can involve muscles that aren’t normally used in everyday life. 

Scissoring involves a lot of rubbing of skin, hair, and genitals, which creates a lot of friction and could cause chafing. It’s recommended that a lubricant be used to make sure the skin and genitals can safely rub against each other. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “How to Use a Dental Dam as a Barrier for Oral Sex.”

Cosmopolitan: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Scissoring.”

Health: “4 Things to Know About Scissoring – the Sex Position That’s Not Just for Lesbians.”

Merriam-Webster: “Tribadism.”

Norton, R. Myth of the Modern Homosexual: Queer History and the Search for Cultural Unity, Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.

Women’s Health: “What is Scissoring? All About the Sex Position that Actually Works for Everyone.”

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