Feels like I'm 15 again
April 2, 2014 12:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm in my early thirties, bisexual/queer and just ended a decade-long relationship with a cisgendered man. I'm starting to date women but haven't had sex with a woman in a decade and didn't have a lot of experience even then. I have always been a visible part of the LGBT community and most people assume I'm a lesbian, which makes people think I have more sexual experience with women than I do. I'm basically nervous about not knowing what to do anymore and being bad in bed. Questions are as follows: Should I disclose this lack of recent experience to the women I'm starting to casually date and have sex with? How can I stop being so nervous, which I know won't help? And: what does real-life lesbian safer sex look like when you're an adult and not a 23 year old with no sense of risk?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, I think "oh no what if I'm bad at sex now!" is a really common feeling to have, in your situation. It's definitely something I've felt before. I'm also a bi women with more recent experience with men than women. I think this is just an easy pattern of self-doubt to get into.

I would not say anything to women you date, until it becomes A Thing. And even then, I would keep it low key. "Sorry, I'm a little nervous. It's been a long time since I've done this..." works well. A big Talk about how many partners of which gender and how long and everything else is really not necessary.

Re stopping the nervousness -- go out and meet someone you feel relaxed around! Yes, the first time you have sex will probably be nervsy and weird, but that's how it always is. You'll be fine.
posted by Sara C. at 12:50 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Autostraddle, as well as being a brilliant website, has two sections in the sex and relationships category, called How To Be Gay, and You Need Help. Definitely check these out.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:01 PM on April 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

When the fooling around gets closer to the types of things you're not confident about, tell your partner, "I'm nervous because I don't have a lot of experience. I could use a bit of guiding." This removes any expectations, and reinforces the importance of communicating -- which is how you'll get great at sex! A good partner will also make soothing noises about how it's perfectly okay and how they'll be happy to explore with you, which will hopefully help your nerves. Being nervous at first is endearing, so don't beat yourself up about that!

As for lesbian safe sex, you'll want barriers like dental dams and gloves (or you can make diy dental dams by cutting a glove up -- dental dams come in flavours, though!). You can discuss your comfort levels for what activities you want to insist on using protection with ahead of time. Or, if it comes to it, pause (or ask your partner to pause) before interacting with genitals, and get a dam or glove ready before continuing. Do some research to figure out what risks you're comfortable with, and decide that line for yourself ahead of time, so that you're not tempted to take risks in the moment.

It'll be great!
posted by Pwoink at 1:13 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

If I was sleeping for the first time with a woman who was sexually inexperienced, I would like to hear a little about it first or during or even after. Not a lot of detail is necissary - something like, "it's been a long time since I was with a woman" would be fine. It would just clue me in that she was a little anxious and maybe to go a bit slow or not be too elaborate or whatever.

But in my semi-slutty experience, you have to get to know each person sexually anyway, and even two people who are very experienced may not "click" at first, or be compatable ever. In other words, I don't think your relative inexperience matters much.

If you start sleeping with someone on an ongoing basis I could see more specific and detailed conversations along the lines of, for example, "This is kind of embarrassing but I've never gone down on a woman! I want to try but I'm nervous I'll do it wrong. Can we try it tonight? Will you tell me what I'm doing right and what doesn't work for you?"

But honestly, even as someone with a lot of experience sleeping with women, I still have that conversation in some form with any ongoing partner, and periodically throughout the relationship, even if it's brief and informal, ie: "It didn't seem like you were super into that, should I go faster/deeper/harder/slower/lower/etc next time?"
posted by latkes at 1:26 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Regarding safer sex: if you look up the (limited) research, sex between women is very low risk for every STI.

There is no science or research based reason to think you could get HIV from sex with another woman (although there is a theoretical risk that others here are likely to emphasize.) Chlamydia and gonorrhea do not pass easily in the absence of the tip of a penis contacting the opening of the cervix. Yes, in theory, if you were to penetrate a partner with an object (say, a dildo) and then immediately penetrate yourself with it, you could pass STIs, but the actual documented cases of this are quite rare.

STI risk is a pretty complicated thing to calculate. Evaluating risk for a particular community includes knowing the actual biological ability of a certain pathogen to pass during the activities undertaken by that community (in this case, the risk is fairly low for most behaviors we tend to do) but also the pervasiveness of each infection within our community (also very low). If you are having sex with a lot of IV drug users who have dozens of sexual partners, or with anyone you know to already have an STI, obviously, the risk is higher, but if you look at the average woman who has sex with women and is over 30, she is both very unlikely to have an STI, and also would have some difficulty giving it to you even if she wanted to.

You basically have to find what feels right to you here, but in my experience of having some casual sex with women, I personally tend to have sex using my hand with no barriers, and just skip oral sex until we've talked more about sexual history, although I have had oral sex on the first date without any barriers. I find that others in my wider community seem to have a similar personal guideline.
posted by latkes at 1:36 PM on April 2, 2014

Latkes: On HIV, that's not true anymore. The risk is no longer purely theoretical, but proven. Women can get HIV from sex with another women, though it is not likely.
posted by reren at 2:30 PM on April 2, 2014

I'd probably suggest watching some good queer porn (maybe Crash Pad series?) to get back into the sex game. Not that you're going to replicate everything they do, but it's a good visual reminder of the possibilities.

Buy some good lube and good sterilizable toys and condoms. Make sure they all interact well (you don't want to use silicone lube directly on silicone toys, unfortunately). Try them on yourself to think about positions and speed and pressure.

Then...go on some dates, pick up some hotties, have a fun summer :-)
posted by barnone at 2:37 PM on April 2, 2014

This kind of feeling seems to be, as far as I can tell, totally normal in 30-something queer women, even people who've been involved with women in the meantime, at least in my neck of the woods. I think a lot of us look at the late teens/early 20s crowd now and it's like: oh my god, I didn't even know half those sex acts existed when I was your age, do I have to be good at that now? Wait, is being a lesbian something that now requires accessories? To which the only solutions that I know of really revolve around just Googling liberally and trying not to worry about it. "I was in a monogamous relationship with a guy for the last decade" really covers everything you need to communicate on being a bit awkward at first.
posted by Sequence at 5:20 PM on April 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

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