How Do Lesbians Have Sex?

The following is the 7th installment of a hilarious ongoing series by author and squirrel hunter Amy Bronwen Zemser called “How to Thaw Your Unborn Child.” Start at the beginning here or just jump right in below: All you need to know here is that she was married to a man, realized she was gay, got divorced, and fell for a woman named Moira (who dumped her after Moira had a baby):

When Moira and I were living together in her eight-unit building in Park Slope, we could hear people talking in the other apartments around us. During the spring months, when people opened their windows to let the fresh air in, the building was like one giant apartment. You could hear all kinds of things going on — discussions, conversations, perseverations.  Arguments.  Sex.  I’m sure everyone heard us plenty, too.

There was one couple in the building that fought all the time. The husband’s name was Tom Roberts and he was forever yelling at his poor wife. Since she spoke more softly, it was hard to hear her quiet protestations, but Tom came off loud and clear. He yelled at her about things like the kitchen not being clean or the dog needing a walk or if she forgot to put in her diaphragm. Tom was from one of the Carolinas, a Republican and essentially a horse’s ass, but I sort of liked him. We used to sit on the stoop while I held the baby and he would tell me how much he disliked children, but never in an unfriendly way. He also told me that he had a lot of sex with his wife.

“Aren’t you nervous that you’ll accidentally get her pregnant?” I asked him once.

Contraceptives,” he said, waving his hand toward the window of his apartment and grimacing at the baby.  “We got a bathtub full of ‘em.”

Tom is the only Republican I know who has any degree of education. Being a Republican separated him from most people in our progressive Park Slope neighborhood, but he didn’t seem to mind. He would tell you that he loved Ronald Reagan in such a friendly, disarming way that you were convinced he was our nation’s finest president. Most people would argue with him about politics, but I preferred the small talk. He’d tell stories about how his mother picked peaches from his backyard to make fresh ice cream in summer. He called my tiny Boston Terrier, “Killer.”

“What do you do in bed anyway,” he drawled, one languid August afternoon as we sat on the stoop…

There was an air of relaxed superiority to the question, as if he were coming from a higher heterosexual plain. Any discomfort with the personal nature of the question would imply that I was a prude. I thought about answering straightforwardly, but that would take time. Tom Roberts was jumpy, like a crack addict, which made him a terrible listener. He’d get up in the middle of a conversation and say he had to walk the dog, which was hurtful if you happened to be saying something meaningful (at least to you).

I used to think that I was the only gay person who gets asked this question regularly. After all, I’m open-minded and I bring an air of candor to any conversation. I’m also not shy, and topics most people find immensely personal, like anal fissures or therapy sessions, don’t make me uncomfortable.

I’ve been asking around lately, though, and it seems like gay people get asked the sex question all the time. If they aren’t asked directly what they do in bed, then people hint or make jokes or sly innuendos. Even in a nice way. Somehow it’s tacitly accepted that what goes on in the bedroom of a homosexual is public domain. It’s open to all manner of queries.

I recognize that asking someone this question is a complicated cocktail — one part judgment, two parts invasion of privacy, one part curiosity. I don’t mind the question, though, and I always try to make the best of it. Sometimes I’ll answer the question so thoroughly that people back away slowly, a little terrified and sorry they asked in the first place.

“But that’s just me,” I’ll conclude from my armchair, pressing my fingertips together as if I’ve just delivered a long sermon. “Like the saying goes, two homosexuals, three opinions.”

This is really the inherent silliness of the question. What any two people do in bed is about as varied or as similar as anything else two people do together, like argue about money or play squash.

To Tom, I said, “Well, I guess everything you do.”  Then, because he’s from the south, I added, “I reckon.”

“No you do not,” he said. He laughed dismissively at first, but when he saw that I was being serious, he looked confused.  “I mean, you can’t.”

“Imagine, Tom,” I said.  “Everything.  Except for, you know, that.”

Tom shook his head in disbelief.  “I can’t imagine it,” he said.

I didn’t tell him that Moira and I were on the rocks at that time, and that really the only thing we did in bed was argue. Or that any heavily populated city in this country has a variety of specialty stores that will bury you in sexual inventory. If you want to do that, you can do that.  And by the way, as a former heterosexual, I can tell you that with new innovations in silicone, it doesn’t feel that much different.

I don’t have vast experience in adult entertainment, but I have definitely tried my hand at a few things. One time, after watching a segment of my first and only lesbian pornography movie, Moira and I were inspired to visit one of these vendors. We were in Provincetown one New Year’s Eve with three gay male friends, and one of them, James, was surprised to hear that we’d never seen any lesbian erotica. I told them that I would much prefer gay male porn but Jimmy felt that new innovations were being made in the art form and that out of loyalty to the lesbian population and in support of lesbian artists in general it was imperative that we sample a little of the local flavor.

We settled in with a bowl of popcorn.  I don’t recall the name of the film, but I’m pretty sure there was a ridiculous pun in the title . The script was stilted, as you can imagine, but the story really picked up speed when a tough chick buckled herself into some neoprene and went to town on a very ample and encouraging woman. Melons Somebody, I think was her stage name. There was an excessive amount of shrieking and yelling and moaning, as you might imagine, but I didn’t find it all that exciting. Moira and I talked long and hard about trying those things out, though, so we went into town the next day and bought the straps and the fake penis and something else that looked like a tiny lipstick case that required watch batteries. We could have bought a whole host of other stuff, too, but who has the time to peruse it all? Or the money? There were so many clamps, cords, balls, whips — even a phallus made entirely of glass.

“Do people…like this?” I asked the transgender person behind the counter.  “Some do,” he said, in a fairly high voice.  “It’s not flexible, but it’s slick.”  He was extremely straightforward, as if he had been trained very carefully to never giggle or wink.

I looked at a product called Cyberskin for such a long time that Moira had to practically drag me out of the store. Made of  a mix of materials that gave the facsimile penis a soft, velvety feel, I marveled at its verisimilitude.

“You have to use that with a condom.”  The female-to male had appeared, as if by magic, from behind a wall of feathers and black paddles.

“Why? Does it get you pregnant?” I chuckled at my little joke.

“No,” he said, expressionless.  “But it’s made of a porous material and can pick up bacteria. You can’t use it without some kind of protection.”

What is the point of a penis that feels real if you have to cover it with a condom? I wondered if a lot of men ask themselves that same question.

Moira and I went home and buckled up. At that time I was jogging around Prospect Park and eating well and in pretty decent shape generally, but the whole thing was tiring. Not to mention complicated. How do men do this?  I felt like I had to bend Moira into positions that were unnatural for a plastic Gumby toy, let alone a human person. The angle was never right. The harness you had to step into and tighten and snap was hopelessly uncomfortable, and the only way to ensure that your false penis had the approximation of erection was to pull the straps so tightly that it cut off the blood supply in your legs. I felt like I might pass out.

“Ouch,” she said.


At some point we managed a position that is too explicit and embarrassing to mention here (yes, even I have my outer limits), but the moment I got things moving she looked back over her shoulder and with great admiration, said, “You brute, look what you’re doing to me,” which made everything seem so ridiculous and hilarious that we both collapsed on the bed like a pair of giggling schoolgirls.

“I can’t do it,” I said.  “I guess I’m not cut out to be The Penetrator.”

“Let me try,” Moira said.  After about three hours of fiddling, buckling, boiling, and tightening, we were ready to get going again.

“Ouch,” I said.


We went around a bit with, That’s not the right angle. Ow. Okay, good. No, higher. No, lower. Finally we got into the right configuration.  “Go!” I shouted, feeling like a sergeant barking to a team of military men as they climbed a mountain with rucksacks.  “Hump!”

But when she got going and her forehead was damp and her hair was sticking to her face and her eyes were closed with a concentration that reminded me of manual labor, I told her to stop.  I couldn’t do it.  Moira is a pretty girly, with longish blond hair and a really womanly figure. Getting penetrated by someone this female pretty much killed my head.

“Take it off,” I said.  “I can’t do this.”

The problem with all these accouterments and accessories is that they get in the way of the thing which, at least for me, is about having your body mashed up against someone that you love. That’s the great thing about sex. There’s no stuff in the way.  At its finest hour, sex is about symbiosis, being one with another person. I don’t know if it means I am vanilla or zen or just plain boring, but all the buzzing and the plastic and the rotating beads really got up in my grill. The body responds to these battery-operated things, certainly, but the body also responds if you hook it up to electricity, too.

“Look at us,” Moira said once, after we’d thrown the last piece of leather and latex on the floor, done the work that only two naked bodies can do, and were lying with our arms around each other.  “We’re two girls in bed.”

I thought that was cute, the way she said that. I love her for saying that, too, even after all these years.  It makes me miss her.

We are two girls in bed.  

That’s really all it is, too. All this nonsense about the Christian right and Focus on the Family. At that time it was 2001, and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell had a long way to go. Gay marriage wouldn’t be legal in Massachusetts for another three years and legal nationwide for another fourteen. But really, what was all the fuss about?

Look at us.  We are two girls in bed.

Read the next installment of “How to Thaw Your Unborn Child” here.

Amy on coming out, homophilia & sexual identity:
My Husband Has No Penis