Owning a vagina is an exercise in frustration - from maintaining it to other people’s opinions on how you should use it, who you should use it with and what can or can’t come in or out of it. Owning a vagina and making decisions about what you do with it is a political act; no matter what you do, someone is going to have an opinion about it. And this absolutely extends to the world of pleasure.
Unlike penises, if we want to get to know our holy of holeys we have to grab a mirror. And it’s not like most of us were encouraged to do that while growing up. Most of the sex education received in our younger years focuses on how babies are made and, occasionally, how to use a condom. But rarely, if ever, does our education involve talking about pleasure. And yet, by the time we’re old enough to pick up a copy of Cosmo and a Vodka Cruiser, we’re suddenly expected to be literate in the many ways of pleasuring ourselves and telling our sexual partners what we want from them.
As with so many of the experiences that go along with being a woman or vulva owner, the world is full of expectations and judgements around our pleasure. Whether it’s Freud telling us that ‘sexually mature women’ don’t need to rely on their clitoris to orgasm or modern magazines casually saying we should be climaxing from clenching our cervix - our pleasure is often turned into a competition, just another benchmark to measure ourselves up against.
So before you read the content in this guide, we wanted you to stop for a moment and recognise that none of what you’re about to read is an expectation. When we talk about g-spot orgasms or toys for your butt, we’re not telling you that you should be trying these things. We’re just letting you know that these things exist in the world. You can investigate them, try them, buy them, or completely ignore them at your leisure.
Whether you masturbate with your hands or with a symphony of sex toys, whether you’re six vulvas deep in a lesbian orgy or saving yourself for Ms Right, we’re not here to judge. You know your body better than anyone else ever will, so you’re the best person to decide what you want to do with it.
So as you peruse your NORMAL guide to vulva-on-vulva sex, remember that this is a friendly ‘heads up’ about what’s out there. Whether you’re hunting for a better masturbation method, looking for a new battery operated companion or curious about how satisfying scissoring actually is - we’ve got the down low. But you’ll still be the one calling the shots.
A note on language
In this guide we use the term vulva-owners instead of women. We do this because we acknowledge that there are many women who do not have vulvas, and there are many people with vulvas that aren’t women. If you’re not familiar with the difference between sex and gender, we recommend checking out Reach Out’s page on the subject And if you want to learn about how even our sex chromosomes don’t actually determine our sex, you should totally watch Molly Webster’s TED talk.
We also like the term ‘vulva owners’ because it’s an important reminder that your vulva belongs to you. You own it. It’s yours. So while there might be a whole lot of people with a whole lot of opinions about you should or shouldn’t be allowed to do with your vulva, those opinions are ultimately irrelevant. Because you own it. You decide.
Part 1: Anatomy
Getting to know you, getting to know all about you
Most of us learnt our anatomy basics at school. But whether it was part of biology class or sex education, it’s unlikely that anyone talked about pleasure and anatomy.
It’s important to know the difference between your vulva and your vagina, but it’s just as important to know which one feels better when you touch it.
So let’s have a quick refresher on our pelvic playground.
What is it: Your vulva is basically the outside bits of your genitals - all the parts that are visible once you spread your legs and peek in with a mirror. Your vulva includes your labia (both minora and majora) as well as your clitoral glans, and the opening to your vagina and urethra.
Pleasure tips: Think of the word ‘vulva’ as an umbrella term for everything that’s between your labia majora. We generally don’t talk about pleasuring the vulva directly, it’s more like the gift wrapping on a gorgeous hamper of pleasure points.
‘People and their vulvas are so unique and when someone's on testosterone, their vulva is quite different. And that can be confronting because we're conditioned to expect one thing and it can be so different.’ - Anon
What is it: Labia is the latin word for ‘lip’ and it’s more than likely that you’ve got four of them in varying sizes. The outer lips, or labia majora, are the ones that wrap around the outside of your vulva and keep everything protected.
The inner lips, or labia minora, are the thinner folds that come from inside your vulva.
Labias come in different colours, shapes and sizes. Some people have inner lips that pop out from between their outer lips. Others have inner lips that are barely visible, even with their legs spread wide apart. If you’ve ever felt insecure about your labia, you should head to The Labia Library and click through to their photo gallery - there’s no ‘right’ way for your labia to look, because everyone’s labia is totally different.
Pleasure tips: There’s a good reason we refer to them as lips - having someone make out with your downstairs smile can be just as delightful as a good pash session. Both our inner and outer labia have nerve endings, so both of them respond well to touch. Our inner lips tend to have more nerve endings though, which means stimulating them can provide more intense sensations.
I grew up assuming all labia looked the same. I'd seen porn, and I've got an ‘Innie” as they say, so I just assumed that's what they all looked like. While working as a stripper, I started seeing all these other vulvas. And I actually stopped a girl, on one of my first nights, and I was like, “Oh, you got a little bit of something down there.” And she was like, “Oh, blessed, sweet lamb. That is literally just part of my flaps.” I just had no idea. - Jessa
What is it: Put simply, it’s the hole your pee comes from. Some people still mistakenly believe that pee comes out of the vagina. In fact, there’s a whole separate plumbing department that manages urine, and it doesn’t crossover with the vagina at all. Your urethral opening sits about halfway between your vaginal opening and your clitoris.
Pleasuring tips: For some people, the urethra can be a great source of pleasure. Because of where your urethra sits, playing with it means you’re stimulating areas of your clitoris and vaginal passage that you normally can’t access. Your g-spot is actually surrounded by urethral tissue, which is part of what makes some people ‘squirt’ or ejaculate. But remember, always treat your urethra gently, it’s a very delicate area.
What is it: The clitoris is a wishbone shaped structure that sits under the skin and surrounds your vaginal opening. It has a small head or ‘glans’ that pokes out the tip of your vulva, just before the top of your labia minora. Most of the time when we talk about the clitoris we’re referring just to the head of it, but it’s important to remember that it’s so much bigger than that.
Pleasure tips: Stimulating the clitoris glans is the most common way for vulva owners to achieve orgasm. This is because the clitoris is chock-full of sensitive nerve endings - over 8000 in fact! Our clitoral glans is easily accessible and generally responds well to touch. However, like everything, each person’s clitoral glans is different and some may respond better to lighter or to more intense sensations. Stimulating the internal clitoral area can provide a lot of pleasure, though it’s rarely as intense a sensation as the clitoral glans provides.
I was involved with other vulva owners from quite a young age and because we didn’t really know the proper names for things, we made up words for them. So we decided that the ‘clitoris’ was ‘Barbie’. Which meant whenever we wanted to go and fool around we’d be like ‘Let’s go play Barbies’. I still struggle to watch Mattel ads. - Dee
What is it: It’s the largest opening in your vulva and leads up to the cervix and uterus. It’s also the passage through which most of us pass during our birth.
Pleasure tips: Most representations of vaginal pleasure depict a penis shaped object entering and exiting the vagina with varying degrees of speed and force - the old ‘rumpy-pumpy’. And sometimes this can be deeply satisfying. But it’s not uncommon for vagina owners to fall into the trap of thinking that this is what should make them orgasm. In the largest orgasm study to date, only 18% of respondents reported being able to orgasm from penetration alone during sex. Orgasms aren’t everything though and your vagina can provide a whole lot of pleasurable sensations, regardless of whether they make you climax.
What is it: The G-spot is a lot like the concept of god - debate still rages over whether or not it exists, but the people who have discovered it are passionate about its life changing properties.
Mostly science has agreed that there is a mappable pleasure centre found somewhere inside the vaginal passage, roughly around the back side of the clitoris. What they can’t agree on is whether it’s actually just the clitoris that’s being stimulated, whether everyone has this pleasure centre, and whether announcing it will actually lead to a whole lot of us feeling inadequate for being unable to find our own.
Pleasure tips: If you’re looking for your g-spot, you want to go in through the vagina and find the spot roughly behind where your clitoral glans is. If you’re doing this with a partner, having them use a ‘come hither’ motion with their fingers can be a great method. If you’re doing this solo it can be helpful to use a toy specifically shaped for the g-spot.
What is it: It’s the exit point for your body’s complex waste management system, including your colon, rectum and anus. Your butthole starts with two sphincters, one inside the other. The external anal sphincter, and the internal anal sphincter. For a lot of people, these two clench points represent the furthest they’ll ever play when it comes to their butt. For others, they’ll probe further and reach the rectum, which is the main passage of the anus.
Pleasure tips: Your butthole can be a source of intense pleasure. Whether you’re just playing on the outer rim or delving into the depths, there’s a lot of sensation to be found in, on and around your butt. This can include sensation play (e.g. spanking) on your butt cheeks, putting pressure on your butthole without penetration, or entering the butthole and rectum and experiencing deep sensations.
Looking for more?
If all of this feels a bit too surface level and you want to get deep into the details of your anatomy, you should absolutely pick up a copy of The Wonder Down Under. It’s written by two Norwegian medical professionals and is the user guide every vulva owner should own.
If you’re interested in something you read online right now, check out The Vulva Gallery. Not only does their instagram page feature spectacular illustrations of different vulvas, but their anatomy breakdown should answer any lingering questions you might have.
Masturbation and self-knowledge
‘Wisest is he who knows himself’ - Socrates.
Or she, or they! Chances are Socrates wasn’t talking about getting biblical with his own junk. But his words definitely apply to the act of wanking. Masturbation is great for a whole lot of things; lowering your stress levels, managing pain and helping you sleep. But what it’s exceptionally good for is getting to know your body.
I really like touching myself to get out of my body. I practice a morning ritual and I try to do it every morning before I go to work. I don't even have to orgasm, I just sort of gently touch myself, not trying to be goal orientated with an orgasm.Sometimes I think ‘Oh, I have to have an orgasm’, but sometimes it's just nice to build and enjoy the sensation. - Aimee
The better you know your body the more likely you are to notice things that feel good, or when your body changes unexpectedly. This means being better prepared for conversations with healthcare providers and sexual partners. Being able to talk openly with medical professionals about your body means you’re able to advocate for better healthcare for yourself. And being able to talk confidently with a sexual partner about what you do and don’t enjoy means you’re likely to have fulfilling and satisfying sex.Chances are you’ve had a wank well before ending up on this particular page of the internet. Most of us fall into a bit of a routine when it comes to our self-love schedule. Often we find a method that works for us and after a few years we’ve got it so down pat that we can rub one out during a commercial break. This is fantastic for efficiency, but less useful when it comes to exploring and expanding our pleasure zones.
I think in the technology age we're in, we need to allow ourselves to feel our whole body and all those little sensations. - Alice
If you’re interested in exploring new pleasure points, or you want to be able to talk more openly with a partner about what works for you, consider conducting a ‘body mapping’ session.
Body mapping is not a new technique. It’s used for all sorts of different things, from figuring out where certain aches and pains are coming from, to working through sexual trauma. There’s also some super sexy body mapping activities you can do with a partner.
But when it comes to masturbation mapping, we just want to create a mental mud map of what feels good where.
By taking time alone to get to know your body, you can discover erogenous zones you never knew existed. You can find types of touch you never realised you were into. It’s an open invitation to experiment with your body in new ways. Try different sex toys or massagers or even just objects lying around your house that look like they have an interesting texture. Who knows, it might turn out that a tupperware lid in your armpit is exactly the thing that makes you see through time. But, more likely, you’ll discover something soft in this spot is nice, and something kind of hard in that spot is delightful - after which you can experiment even more with those spots and those sensations.
I found vibrating things weren’t really for me, but once the suction ones came, it was a whole other level of experience. What I love about toys is the opportunity to just try different types of vibration or sensation on different parts of the body to work out what other areas are erogenous zones. - Richelle
Not everything is going to feel amazing. Some things might turn you right off. But that’s also a valuable discovery. What’s really cool is you can revisit your masturbation mud map over time and you’ll find that things change. Sort of like our tastes in food, as our body ages and evolves we respond to things in different ways. What rocks your socks at sixteen isn’t necessarily going to be getting you off at sixty. So make the time to check in. Stay in touch with yourself.
If body mapping doesn’t feel like your thing, there’s an awesome online resource worth checking out - The Wheel of Foreplay. The Wheel of Foreplay was developed by Future of Sex and has a variety of different ‘packs’ you can play with. They’ve got packs for long distance relationships, roleplay, and even one for solo play. Once you select your pack, you spin the wheel and it will show you an awesome sexual exploration prompt. What better way to get to know yourself?
I didn't orgasm until I bought my first vibrator. I’d sort of played and attempted masturbation before that but when I became sexually active I thought it was time to learn my body properly and start to know what I like so I can communicate it to my partner. - Alice
Staying and playing safe
Sometimes a little bit of risk can make things more exciting. But some risks just aren’t sexy, no matter which way you look at them.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Turns out STIs aren’t just for heteros - they’re for everyone! When it comes to genital on genital contact, oral sex and even toy sharing, you’re going to want to play it safe and use barrier protection wherever possible.
You should stay aware and informed about the STIs you’re most susceptible to, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes.
But you should also know that when it comes to getting tested, many clinics and doctors won’t test for infections they deem you to be at ‘low risk’ of contracting. And if you’re exclusively into vulva on vulva lovin’ it’s more than likely they’ll decide you’re at low risk for everything. So be prepared to advocate for yourself if you want comprehensive testing.
One the sneakier, but deadlier of the STIs, is the Human Papillomavirus or HPV.
This virus causes genital warts and also a large number of cancers. Up to 90% of us will be infected with at least one genital type of HPV. Most strains are asymptomatic and harmless. But HPV is the cause of nearly all cervical, anal, penile, vaginal, vulvar, and oropharangyal cancers, so it’s important to be informed. HPV, like some other STIs, is contracted through sexual contact (not just intercourse), which means any unprotected genital contact, including sharing sex toys.
If you’re like ‘Hey, they already had that dildo’ use a condom on it, cause they've probably used it with someone else before you. -Anon
Even if you’ve received the ‘Gardasil 9’ vaccine, which protects against the 9 most common cancer-causing strains of the virus, it’s still important to stay up to date on your pap smear or cervical screening checks. These are the only tests that check for HPV. If you’re having sex with people across the gender spectrum, it’s important to know that men and penis owners aren’t tested for HPV as part of standard STI checks. This means they can be carrying the virus without knowing. It also means they can contract it without realising. In the U.S the number of HPV related cancers in men are now outpacing cervical cancers.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) aren’t conventionally thought of as STIs, but they are an infection that can be caused by sexual activity. When we’re playing around with our vulva, it’s super easy for bacteria to be introduced to our urethra. However there’s a relatively quick fix for this - simply remember to pee after every play session. Whether you’ve been playing with yourself, with your toys, or with someone else, having a wee when you’re done means your urine can clear the pipes of anything that doesn’t belong there.
I was once asked at a professional conference ‘What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you’ and without thinking about it properly I just blurted out ‘Always pee after sex.’ - Anon
Have a dam good time!
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that ‘safe sex’ and ‘barrier protection’ is only for penetrative sex. Most STIs can be caught simply from unprotected sexual contact, which means any time any of your fun bits come into contact with any other fun bits. This means vulva on vulva action as well as mouth on vulva or anus. But also putting your fingers in, on, or around a vulva, butthole or mouth and then placed near another vulva, butthole, or mouth.
If you’re with a sexual partner whose sexual history or STI status you’re not super familiar with, you definitely want to play it safe. And that means barriers!
Use dental dams for any oral sex (vulval or anal) or using clitoral toys, gloves for fingering (vulval or anal) and putting condoms on any penetrative sex toys (vulval or anal). All of this might sound like overkill, but it’s much less hassle than having to deal with a surprise infection.
Using dental dams during oral can also help protect you from thrush. Everyone has their own delicate vaginal pH ecosystem, and whenever anything new is introduced it runs the risk of upsetting the balance. This is especially risky with oral sex since our mouths are likely to be carrying a whole heap of stuff that promotes the growth of yeast, such as sugar or alcohol. Using a dental dam is a quick and easy way to protect your pH.
Lube isn’t for losers!
There seems to be this pervasive myth that if both parties are good at sex, then neither party will need lube. What utter rubbish!
There are a ton of reasons that someone’s body may not self lubricate. This can include everything from performance anxiety to medication side effects, amount of alcohol consumed, health issues, hormones, or just stress. An inability to get wet on demand is not a personal or biological failing. It’s super common. So common in fact that we already have a solution for it - lube.
Here’s a couple of lube basics to keep in mind.
Water based lube
Water based lube is everyone’s friend. It will work with any orifice and won’t damage toys or barriers. However, it also dries out much quicker than other lubricants which means you’ll need to reapply as needed, or be comfortable communicating with your partner when you want a top up.
If you’re running low, you can grab some here.
If you’re using silicone sex toys, avoid silicone lubricant (unless the product specifically states it’s compatible). Silicone lube can abrade the finish on a silicone toy and that means it can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Silicone is, generally speaking, the best lube to use for sex. Unlike water based lube it won’t leave you high and dry in the middle of a play session.
If you’re running low, you can grab some here.
If you’re using any kind of latex protection (condoms, dams, etc), don’t use an oil based lubricant - it can break down the latex, making it more likely to rip or tear.
And remember, if you’re using anything new (especially warming or cooling lube or ‘arousal gel’) always do a test patch first to see how your skin reacts. There’s nothing worse than an allergic reaction in the middle of sexy fun times!
Bring your own lube when you're sleeping with someone new for the first time, because if they've only bought it in the supermarket, it could really fuck with your vaginal pH. - Anon
A lot of the time when we talk about consent, we tend to focus on hetero relationships. However, consent needs to be a priority no matter who you’re planning on fucking.
To help you remember good consent practice, just think of some tasty fries:
Freely given - means giving consent without any other influence. Someone’s decision to do something sexual is like signing a legal document - it’s not legal if they were pressured, forced, coerced, under the influence, or manipulated.
Reversible - means that at any point someone can change their mind and all parties will stop what they’re doing.
Informed - means everyone involved fully understands what they’re agreeing to and everyone sticks to that agreement.
Enthusiastic - means that everyone is super excited about what’s being proposed!
Specific - means that consenting to one thing doesn’t mean consenting to everything. If you ask someone to make out and they consent, that doesn’t mean they’ve consented to you taking their clothes off.
That consent and trust and agency stuff, I wish I’d gotten it earlier in terms of education, knowledge and practicing saying ‘no’ or ‘yes’ and making sure my heart and my head aligned. - Aimee
As you can tell, consent isn’t a one time thing, it’s something you need to re-establish throughout a sexual encounter. This system makes it easy to do and really helps build your communication skills in the bedroom.
In the kink community, many people use ‘traffic lights’. This means when your partner is doing something you enjoy, you let them know by saying (or usually moaning) the word ‘green’.
If they do something you like, but you don’t want them to go any harder, you say ‘orange’ or ‘yellow’.
If they do something you really don’t like and you need them to stop immediately, you say ‘red’.
Before using the traffic light system with a partner, check in and make sure they’re familiar with it and you both use the same definitions for each colour.
If you’re not confident with your consent game, that’s okay. It can feel awkward, or like there’s a heap of things you haven’t considered, or just downright scary to bring it up. We recommend checking out The Art of the Hookup. Former sex worker, Georgie Wolf, has written a book and hosts a podcast that talks all about how to have sexy, ethical encounters with other people and how to tackle consent and communication.
If you’re after a right-now-resource, you can check out this article that talks about establishing consent without ruining the mood. Asking things like “Is this good?” or “Do you like that?” or even “How could I make this even better?” are great ways of checking in with your sexual partner while also giving them the chance to direct what you’re doing. Sometimes it’s good to ask something like “Do you want me to stop?” so your partner can positively ask for you to keep going.
There are also these absolutely awesome ‘consent cards’ produced by Melbourne business ‘Curious Creatures’. Each card features a series of consent questions that you can use for general sexual play and for kinky play, as well as extensive instructions on how best to use them.
I think a lot women are scared of being the creepo at the bar and that they're going to be too full on and over the top. Especially if they’ve experienced that themselves. - Anon
Playing with toys
Sex toys are like sprinkles on an already delicious dessert - you and your partner already have everything you need for a good time, but sex toys can take things to the next level.
The idea that you only need a toy if your partner doesn't know what they're doing is so toxic. And I know that that word gets thrown around a lot, but seriously... - Heidi
What not to buy
When it comes to sex toys, there’s a lot to choose from. And for the most part, it doesn’t matter what you pick as long as it makes you happy! However, there’s a small selection of materials you need to be careful with, as they can be carcinogenic or harmful to your body.
Dangerous Lilly is a sex toy reviewer who delves deep into the science of sex toy materials. You can read all of her exceptional advice here.
Summarising her extensive research, these are the materials Lilly recommends avoiding:
- Jelly, Jellee, Gel (and other various spellings)
- Rubber and even ‘skin safe’ rubber
- Cyberskin, UR3, Futorotic, Fanta Flesh, Neoskin, FauxFlesh, etc (these are common in masturbator toys for penises)
- Vinyl and PVC
- TPE, TPR, Elastomer, TPR-silicone, SEBS, ‘silicone blends’ - these are non toxic, but are usually porous enough to harbour mold and bacteria. They are also softened with mineral oils and can contain harmful chemicals. These materials will start breaking down after a few months. If you own toys made from these materials you need to replace them every 8-10 months.
Whether you’re just starting your sex toy collection or looking to expand your arsenal, here are the sex toy staples we recommend investing in…
Clitoral vibrators come in a variety of different shapes, sizes and strengths. They’re toys designed for external use, on or around your clitoris.
Not all clitoral toys use vibrations though, there are a number of products on the market that now offer ‘suction’ for your clitoral stimulation.
Smaller clitoral vibrators are ideal for use during sex, as you can often hold them in place with one hand while engaging in whatever other activities you like. Since the majority of vulva owners orgasm through clitoral stimulation, they’re an invaluable resource to have in your sex toy arsenal.
The vibrators available in the late nineties felt like the opposite of taboo. I always felt a bit alienated by the standard kind of toys because there was a focus on the male gaze. I like smaller toys for clitoral stimulation. - Anon
Internal vibrators are usually penis shaped toys that can be used in your vagina, and can occasionally be safe for anal play as well.
They include designs like the ‘rabbit’ vibrator (which has a clitoral attachment as well as the internal thruster), the g-spot vibrator, prostate stimulators(don’t worry, you don’t need a prostate to enjoy these), and even pulsators that don’t vibrate but ‘thrust’.
Internal vibrators are fun for solo play or having a partner use them on you.
I always struggle to get out of my head and I overanalyse everything. It's a struggle for me. Toys gave me an opportunity to explore the way my body responds differently. It made me think - what else is out there that I could try? - Richelle
Dildos are non-vibrating, penis shaped objects designed to be safely inserted vaginally or anally. There’s a huge variety of dildo designs on offer, each one focusing on a different pleasure method. Basic dildos usually look like a human penis, or an abstract interpretation of one, and come in materials like silicone, glass and steel.
G-spot dildos are easy to identify thanks to their strongly curved shape. One of the most famous examples is the Njoy Pure Wand, but there are plenty of others out there if the steel is a bit too intimidating.
Double-ended dildos are exactly what it says on the label - a long shaft that can be used to pleasure two people at the same time. Sadly many of the options available for these are made from cheap jelly materials that aren’t body safe, so it can take a bit of searching to find a good quality silicone version.
Watching two women have sex with a vibrator wedged between them blew my mind. I was like, I want to do that. It just hasn't been something I've seen depicted in porn or even read about. - Gabrielle
Strap-ons are a type of dildo that you use with a harness that you penetrate a partner with. There’s a few different styles floating around but it usually requires a bit of experimentation to find the harness style and fit that works for your body. You can also find strap-ons designed to fit around your thigh, so your partner can straddle your leg.
Strapless strap-ons are another form of dildo that you wear while penetrating your partner. They’re roughly L shaped with the small end of the L designed to fit inside your vulva and the longer end used for penetration. For people with significant thigh gaps or who prefer positions with spread legs these toys can require quite intense pelvic floor muscles to hold them in place.
Toy safety and maintenance
There’s a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to toy ownership. The first is cleanliness. Make sure you wash your toys before, as well as after, using them. This is because even if you put them away clean, it’s easy for toys to attract dust and other airborne particles you probably don’t want inside you.
When cleaning non-battery-operated toys, you can easily wash them in a sink with soap and water. For toys that aren’t waterproof however you might want to invest in some toy cleaner (LINK to Normal toy cleaner).
Also consider where you store your toys. Think of sex toys like wine - keep them out of direct sunlight, somewhere that’s cool and dry. This not only helps protect their colour and finish, but also prevents any damage to internal batteries or motors.
Most good quality toys will come with a storage bag or box to keep them in - hang onto these. Storing each toy with its own charging cable will prevent a lot of frustration when it goes flat.
Playing with people
From scissoring, tribbing and frottage to pillow princesses, queening and studs - it can seem like there’s a whole lot to know when it comes to vulva on vulva sex. So let’s talk about it.
Contrary to what many people believe, sex is not exclusively about an erect penis entering a vagina. In fact, sex is not exclusively about penetration. Sex is whatever you define it to be, for yourself.
For you, sex might be any naked interaction with another consenting person. It might be any form of penetration, whether it’s fingers, tongue, toys or more. It might be any time you physically engage with another person with sexy intentions.
Each person’s definition of sex is valid, because we define sex for ourselves. It’s important to remember this as we talk about playing with other people, because it helps reinforce the message that there’s no ‘right’ way to have vulva-on-vulva sex. As long as everyone consents, there’s no ‘wrong’ way to play with a sexual partner.
Where’s your head at
Before doing anything sexy with another person (or even just yourself) it’s important to check in and make sure this is what you want. Are you enthusiastically consenting to what’s about to happen? Because if you dive into something when you’re not in the right headspace, it’s not only you that’s gonna have a shitty time. Remember that consent is reversible at any time, so even if there’s a stark naked hottie in your bedroom, it’s okay to ask if you can reschedule.
If I could talk to my younger self, I would tell her to have more trust in my gut and my own agency. You have the power to say ‘stop’ and ‘no’ when you don't want to get overwhelmed. - Aimee
Once you’ve established your own consent, it’s time to talk to the other person (or people) involved (for practical guidance, check out NORMAL's video course, The Modern Guide to Sex).
Consent is a many and multilayered thing, there’s no single moment where we establish that someone is signing up for everything on offer and then tick it off the to do list. You might establish different levels of consent at different points.
After the first time you meet, you might message back and forward and determine that you want to fuck each other. Or maybe it’s your partner’s pick up line at the bar before you take them home, they siddle up and whisper in your ear “You’re absolutely stunning, do you want to take me home and fuck me?”
The important thing is, before you initiate sexy physical contact with someone, make sure that they’re into it. You can establish this kind of consent hours or even days before you actually do anything about it.
Having these pre-sexy time conversations are a great way to build anticipation, and can also be the perfect opportunity to share your STI status, what protection you use, and any other important boundaries you need them to know about.
Getting the physical stuff started
Because we all define it in our own way, sex is not linear. There’s not really a step 1, 2 and 3 system that works for everyone. The order you decide to get naked, make out, play with each other, cuddle, and order pizza is entirely up to the two of you to work out. There’s no wrong way to do it. But going from Netflix on the couch to eating someone out can be a difficult segue to initiate, especially if you’ve never done it before.
The first thing is, it’s okay to just outright say it. If you’re hanging out together and you think they look like the most kissable person you’ve ever seen in your life, tell them that. Ask if they’d like to make out with you. It helps establish clear consent, and it can be pretty sexy to have someone just outright say they want to have a pash because you’re too damn hot to ignore. Open and clear communication is the best way to establish consent. But it can be a bit intimidating if you’ve never been the sexual instigator before.
I’ve been with women, but I just find it absolutely terrifying, even though it's something I want so bad. I don't know how to meet women. I don't know what I would do to start a conversation if I was attracted to someone, I'm just constantly so scared. I'm so scared that I don't pursue it. Even though it's something that I want so badly. - Melissa
You’re with someone that’s consented to sexy stuff with you, but you want them to initiate things - you can use your body language to show you’re open to their advances. Moving your leg to touch theirs, casually touching them on the arm or shoulder, and even leaning in to kiss them but stopping halfway so they can meet you. These are great, gentle prompts to let your partner know that you’re interested in getting physical. However, it’s important to remember these are just hints, and not everyone will pick up on them. And only do these things with someone who has already given you consent for physical touch. If in doubt, always use your words.
I've always made the first move. And if people don't like me - that's fine. If people are not interested that's okay - I can always make a new friend. The rejection never bothered me. - Richelle
Once your partner responds or initiates physically there’s a lot of fun things you can do before either of you get naked. Focus on each other’s non-erogenous zones - legs, arms, backs and even our hair can respond in very exciting ways to different types of touch. Gently running your fingers down someone’s neck could make them more turned on than going straight for their nipples. Start slow, and work your way in towards the more sensual spots. Let things escalate naturally, at a pace you’re both comfortable with.
Hollywood has taught us that people don’t talk during sex, that everything is in slow motion and no one ever needs lube. Unsurprisingly, this is all lies. The number one tip to being a great shag is communication. Talk constantly. About everything. Explain what you’re doing when you reach for a dental dam, ask your partner for more lube if you need it, check in to see how much they’re enjoying what you’re doing, tell them when something feels amazing and tell them when something isn’t doing it for you and you’d like to move on. Verbalise everything and keep the lines of communication open the whole time.
Sometimes sex IS awkward. And I think it's about embracing the awkwardness as well. Of course we don't know exactly what to do straight away. We're not told how to communicate to people what feels good and what we want and what works for our body. You're allowed to laugh during sex without it ruining everything. There's this expectation of silent perfection without communication. It isn’t realistic. - Alice
Good sex requires constant feedback. If you’re not used to this, it can be a bit daunting to provide or to ask for. So don’t be afraid to rely on the Feedback Sandwich method. Open with a compliment, ask them for their feedback, and then thank them enthusiastically.
“Oh my god, your pussy is fucking amazing! I could eat it all night long. Is there anything you want me to change?”
“What you’re doing feels great, but if you could go a little harder that would be really nice.”
“Yes! Thank you, I love knowing how to turn you on.”
Compliments during sex are powerful. Being naked with another person can be a vulnerable situation. We can start wondering if we look okay, if we’re doing sex good and whether our vulva smells like fish sticks or not. When someone says something nice about us when we’re vulnerable it not only helps to reassure, but also builds confidence. We’re going to remember feeling good when we’re with that person, which means we’re more likely to want to spend time with them in the future.
I think being clear and being direct is a kindness. I think people confuse directness with rudeness, and it can be rude, but it can more be a case of ‘Do I know my genitals? I know what I like, let me show you what I like’. Heidi
How do I know what we should do
Sex is not a thing you do to someone else. It’s something you do together. You don’t have to come up with a list of activities that tick all the ‘good sex’ boxes. Good sex is a collaboration, and should involve both people exchanging ideas and activities. A great way to manage this can be to play the ‘2 Minute Game’. Set a timer for 2 minutes. Each person takes it in turns to decide what to do for those 2 minutes, back and forth until you both decide to stop. You might end up giving your partner a foot rub for 2 minutes, and then they ask to make out for 2 minutes. The only rules are the ones you both agree to. This is a variation on the 3 Minute Game, which you can learn about on Betty Martin’s site.
If you’re looking for ideas on what you or your partner might enjoy together, consider heading over to MojoUpgrade. You both fill out a questionnaire on what you’d be open to trying, and Mojo will only show you the things you matched on. This means you don’t have to be worried about admitting to any out-there kinks, because your partner will only know about it if they’re into it too.
When I’m having issues with my mental health, I sometimes have really low libido. And when that happens my partner and I put on some porn and masturbate next to each other and that always really works and I can use that as complete stress relief, get out of my head and we can then have that connection together. I find it one of the best things that I ever learned to do. - Melissa
More of a visual learner? Check out Cindy Gallup’s amazing social sex revolution - MakeLoveNotPorn. It’s a whole website filled to the brim with real people having real sex. It’s beautiful, it’s sexy and it will give you a much better idea of what vulva-on-vulva sex is going to look like than any mainstream porn you’ll ever watch (not a 6-inch-acrylic-nail in sight). You can watch these videos with your partner and talk about what you do and don’t like. Or you can watch them by yourself and get a feel for what turns you on.
What do I do with my hands
It can be intimidating to think about pleasuring someone else’s vulva with your hands. Toys make it easy, because they’re the right shape or provide the right vibrations. But even if you know how to finger your own vagina, it doesn’t mean you’re going to feel confident doing the same to someone else’s.
Enter OMGYes. If you’re not familiar with them, OMGyes is a website that offers super detailed guides and tutorials for vulva owners on how to pleasure themselves. This doesn’t just include diagrams and charts, it’s also got interviews with people and videos of them demonstrating their preferred technique - up close and personal.
Everything OMGyes provides is backed up by extensive research and thousands of interviews with actual people.
They release their content in ‘seasons’ and once you buy it, you have access to it for life, including all the future updates they make to the content.
There are currently 2 seasons available and the first one focuses exclusively on pleasuring a vulva with your hands - a super handy resource if you want to be super with your handys.
Make sure they've cut their nails because I got sliced and diced a bit the first time. I mean, obviously many femmes with very long nails can top really well. I'm not saying it can't be done. I'm just saying like, maybe just check those nails if you’re both unsure. - Anon
How do I eat someone out
Giving good head is a custom job. Everyone has their own preferences on where they want you to lavish your attention. So if you want to get good at eating out, you’ll need to get your other oral skills up to snuff - asking for feedback.
If you’re after practical tips, you can’t get a better resource than Girl Sex 101. Written by Allison Moon in 2014, it’s still considered the absolute authority on anything and everything to do with, well, girl sex. This includes a lengthy number of pages dedicated to discussing oral sex techniques.
I think some women are scared that they’re not going to be good at eating pussy. - Anon
Tell me about sex positions
Remember that sex is not supposed to be perfect. It’s allowed to be awkward and fumbly and even hilarious. Sex is like getting out of a beanbag - there’s no way to do it with complete dignity. No one who has ever tried scissoring is under the impression that it’s uniformly beautiful and elegant. Try new positions and configurations, find what works for you and your partner and don’t be afraid of the awkward leg pretzel that might ensue.
As much as sex positions seem like a cool, kinky way to demonstrate your sex cred, they often just come down to comfort. Eating someone out can be an easy way to spend an hour or an excruciating five minutes depending on how comfortable you can get while doing it. You or your partner might need to accommodate a disability or physical impairment, which The Mighty has some great advice on.
It’s okay to look up lesbian sex positions to find things to experiment with - the queer, feminist website Autostraddle has compiled an awesomely comprehensive list of all their favourite resources for exactly this which includes this great guide from Refinery29.
Just remember, sex positions are like everything else, they provide a menu to select from not a checklist to tick every box on.
How do I talk dirty
We each have a different soundtrack we like to hear during sex. There are lots of different types of dirty talk and it’s always okay to mix and match them until you find what works for you and your partner.
Sounds of satisfaction can be insanely hot and don’t require either of you to memorise a script. Noises like moans and groans, moaning someone’s name as they do something particularly delightful, or just shouting exclamations like “oh god” and “don’t stop” are all part of it.
Dirty talk can simply be a narration of what’s happening. Telling your partner things like “Your [insert preferred vulva word here] is so wet” or “I’m going to fuck you so hard”. Narration can be great for keeping us in the moment and helping us focus on what we’re feeling.
You can also use dirty talk as a vehicle for consent. Asking your partner questions like “Do you want me to stop what I’m doing?” forces them to think about their response instead of just saying ‘yes’ automatically. You can use this kind of phrasing to encourage them ‘beg’ you not to stop by saying something like “Tell me how badly you want me to [insert delicious sex act here]”. For people who have a partner that prefers to stay non-verbal during sex, or who maybe isn’t as confident with their own dirty talk, you can build in consent actions. Say something like “You look so hot in that outfit, but if you take it off I’ll [insert jaw-dropping sexual service here]” to give them the chance to consent, or even tease you a bit.
Then there’s the ‘role playing’ end of dirty talk. It’s always important to have a conversation with your partner before breaking this stuff out in the bedroom. Role play dirty talk usually involves saying things or using names you wouldn’t use outside of sex. You might like to be told that you’re ‘dirty’ or ‘filthy’ or a ‘good girl’ during sex. Your partner might want you to call them ‘mistress’ or ‘sir’. This kind of dirty talk helps us to build a story around the things we’re doing. The only limit here is your imagination (and what your partner is willing to try with you) - if you want to imagine that you’re a sexy pirate, ask if you can call your partner ‘Captain’.
If you’re looking to up your game with dirty talk, you should totally check out the ‘Slutbot’ by Juicebox. It’s a free chatbot that helps you learn how to get better at ‘sexting’ by practicing dirty talk over SMS. It was designed by sex educators and erotica writers and works for people of all genders.
You could also check out Quinn. Quinn is a website that provides free sexy audio files for you to listen to at your leisure. There’s a heap of categories to pick from, including sexy stories, overheard sex, dirty talk and even just moans.
When does sex end
Hetero sex usually ends as soon as the penis ejaculates. This is considered one of the contributing factors to the orgasm gap that many heterosexual women experience. For people who have been socialised with this goal oriented idea of sex, it can be hard to adjust to sexual encounters where both parties can have seemingly infinite orgasms.
Sex doesn’t actually have to be goal oriented. It’s still sex, even if no one orgasms. Everyone can still have a great time even if no one climaxes. You haven’t failed if you don’t get your partner off. And sometimes it can be freeing to have sex with someone and not think about having an orgasm at all.
Whether you’re having all the orgasms, or none of them, sex is over as soon as someone says they’d like to stop. If you’re tired, or sore, or even just feel like you’re done, let your partner know you’re ready to stop. Always respect your partner’s wishes when they say they’re done.
And remember to pee after sex!
Miss Smut Buttons is a disabled, bisexual sex philosopher with strong opinions on fictional characters. Her career has spanned porn performances and brothel hostessing to sex toy store management and adult magazines. She has worked on sexual and reproductive research projects and national abortion and contraception provision.
To learn more about the foundations of great sex with acclaimed sex coach Georgia Grace, check out NORMAL's video masterclass, The Modern Guide To Sex.