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What is tribbing?

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Not every term in the sexual dictionary is self-explanatory. One such entry is “tribbing” or “tribadism.” In the world of lesbian sex, or sex between two vulva-having people of any identity, tribbing is a thing! While “scissoring” may be the first sex position that comes to mind in such a dynamic, it’s a sex position that actually fits under the wider umbrella of tribadism or tribbing. So what is tribbing and what do you need to know about it?

Tribbing or tribadism refers to a sexual act involving two women or people with vulvas rubbing their genitals together. However, tribbing can also be rubbing one’s vulva against a partner’s thigh, or butt, or pubic bone. Consider it humping—or grinding—if you will. 

Though most people associate tribbing with lesbian sex, it can be done among sex partners of any sexuality or gender identity including bisexual, pansexual, queer, and many other identities under the LGBTQ+ sun. 

Early conceptions of tribbing originated in ancient Greece, where the act of tribadism referred to a masculinized woman who penetrated a woman or man using a dildo, or her own clitoris. Though, as society and language have evolved, our contemporary definitions of tribbing don’t tether the act to penetration or gender identity

So, what exactly is the difference between tribbing and scissoring? 

First, let’s define scissoring. Scissoring is a sex position that requires two people facing each other with their legs spread apart, moving towards each other until their genitals meet. At this point, they can shimmy, grind, hump—what have you—their genitals against each other in whatever way feels most pleasurable (to both parties, ideally), to simultaneously stimulate one another. 

Tribbing is often used synonymously with scissoring, but they’re not necessarily the same thing. Tribbing is a sexual act, while scissoring is just one position to achieve said act because tribbing can be accomplished in a number of positions. 

As with any intimate activity, communication and consent are key. When it comes to tribbing, partners should openly discuss their desires, boundaries, and comfort levels. Trust and mutual understanding make for a pleasurable, consensual, and sexy experience. 

Also, it should be noted that while the chance of passing STIs via tribbing is low, it isn’t a zero-risk sexual activity. A common virus that can be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact is Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy barrier option when tribbing, so make sure you are regularly getting tested for STIs.

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