Tech + Health

07.30.14

I Tried Cosmo’s Lesbian Sex Tips and They Were Terrible

Cosmopolitan is bringing its hilariously bad sex tips to lesbians now. They’re just as laughable as the straight version, and prove the mag knows little to nothing about real life lesbian sex.

After nearly 40 years as a (straight) women’s magazine, Cosmopolitan has finally acknowledged the sex lives of lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, and queer women with an illustrated online slideshow entitled “28 Mind-Blowing Lesbian Sex Positions.”

Cosmo may be making a bid for a more diverse readership with this slideshow but what’s more likely is that they’ve finally exhausted all possible configurations of heterosexual intercourse and simply need some fresh material. There are only so many ways, after all, to melt an ice cube on a nipple.

In honor of Cosmopolitan’s historic step forward, my partner and I decided to try some of their “mind-blowing” positions. We had our reservations, of course. Cosmo’s sex tips, as any devoted reader knows, have always been more performative than practical. I can confidently guess, for example, that no woman has ever followed the advice to “dip your breasts in edible body paint,” suspend yourself over your man, and paint his body with your pendulous breasts as if he were the Sistine Chapel and you were some sort of sex-starved, upside-down Michelangelo.

We asked ourselves: Would Cosmo’s lesbian sex tips be just as terrible as Cosmo’s straight sex tips? Probably! But with two vaginas and plenty of time on our hands, we had nothing to lose. Our experiment would either end in laughter or arousal, we told ourselves, and we’d have fun either way. Pants were removed, chairs were put in place, laptops were strategically positioned on the edge of the bed, and we got to work.

We started off with the “Kinky Jockey,” which Cosmo ranks at a difficulty of two out of five hearts. The descriptive excerpt accompanying the illustration should have tipped us off right away: “Getting a little Fifty Shades of Grey is always hot,” the editors advise. Ah yes, Fifty Shades of Grey, that classic volume of lesbian erotica.

In order to properly execute the Kinky Jockey, my partner got on all fours while I straddled her from behind and attempted to rub my clitoris against her tailbone, all while tugging gently on her hair. The women in the “Kinky Jockey” illustration are having a tremendous time: the “jockey” is perched pliantly atop her “horse,” her head thrown back in pleasure as she grinds away. But my own experience was markedly less pleasant. Almost immediately after mounting my trusty steed, I was ready to end my pony ride.

Cosmo equates this position with pole dancing, a form of entertainment that, as we all know, is a staple of lesbian erotic life much like the aforementioned Fifty Shades of Grey.

A more fitting name for the “Kinky Jockey,” I decided, might be the “Catch 22.” While rubbing my clitoris on my partner’s coccyx, I faced an impossible choice between resting my entire weight on my vagina or squatting like I’m trying to pee in a dirty gas station bathroom. A few fleeting flashes of clitoral pleasure were not worth the energy I spent just trying to remain on my mare.

So we retired from equestrianism and moved on to the “Passionate Pole Dancer.” For this position, my partner sat on a chair with one leg bent up. I sat on her lap, my legs wrapped around her raised leg as I rubbed my clitoris against her thigh. Cosmo equates this position with pole dancing, a form of entertainment that, as we all know, is a staple of lesbian erotic life much like the aforementioned Fifty Shades of Grey. One thing’s for sure: Cosmo did its research on lesbian culture before naming these positions.

The “Passionate Pole Dancer” is less like grinding on a stripper pole and more like sitting at a sexy pottery wheel with a thigh for a pot and the female equivalent of a hunky Patrick Swayze right behind you. I had fun grinding on my partner’s thigh and, after my stint as a jockey, I enjoyed that I could sit down on her lap when I needed a rest. But ultimately the Passionate Pole Dancer, like so many of Cosmo’s lesbian sex positions, reduces the experience of lesbian sex to clitoral grinding. Only two of Cosmo’s 28 illustrations make visual reference to penetration. The remainder of them are depictions of beautiful women languorously writhing in pleasure with their legs wrapped around one another.

This inordinate focus on non-penetrative intercourse is a common trope in mainstream depictions of lesbian intercourse. Lesbian poet Eileen Myles described Blue Is the Warmest Color, for example, as a “no-lesbian-sex movie renowned and lauded for its bold lesbian sex.” The leads in Blue Is the Warmest Color scissor in a dozen different positions but we never once see them penetrate each other.

As I continued to perform the Passionate Potter, I found myself gazing longingly at the dildo on our nightstand. When would we wake up from this Cosmo nightmare? I wanted to fuck, not rub my clitoris on yet another area of my partner’s body like a kitten obsessively marking her owner with her scent. But as we clicked through the slideshow, we discovered that we didn’t really have many other options.

This inordinate focus on non-penetrative intercourse is a common trope in mainstream depictions of lesbian intercourse.

“Let’s try ‘The Classic Scissor,’”my partner suggested, “for old time’s sake.”

Cosmo labels scissoring a “classic” and it’s true. Scissoring is a classic lesbian sex move the same way that Anna Karenina is a classic novel: both are important and neither is the first thing I’d reach for in a moment of leisure. Scissoring can be fun, to be sure, but it doesn’t exactly lead to the ultimate orgasmic bliss that a movie like Blue Is the Warmest Color promises. Or, as my partner so eloquently put it mid-scissor, “Scissoring is fun as an activity but not as sex. It’s like going on a walk together.”

After our leisurely session of scissoring, my partner and I tried two exercises in balance: “The Espresso”and “The Erotic Maypole.” Both of these positions required us to wrap our legs around each other and use each other for balance. “The Espresso” mercifully allowed us to kneel on a bed but “The Erotic Maypole” (at a harrowing difficulty of four hearts) required us to execute the maneuver while standing up. We only managed to mirror Cosmo’s illustration of “The Erotic Maypole” by holding a chair for support, leaving us with a combined total of zero free hands to use for genital stimulation. If you enjoy holding onto your partner for dear life, naked, standing precariously in the middle of your bedroom, “The Erotic Maypole” might be your flavor. For our part, we didn’t get turned on by it, but we survived it and perhaps we should count ourselves lucky at that.

Our reward for bravely attempting some of Cosmo’s more treacherous lesbian sex tips was “The Sultry Spoon,” an unchallenging single heart position that we could perform from the comfort of our mattress. After a long night of needlessly complicated intercourse, there’s nothing quite like the comfort of lying down and getting touched from behind by actual human fingers. And it’s at this point that my review must pan to the fireplace.

Overall, I would rate my experience with Cosmo’s lesbian sex positions four out of five frowns. There’s a reason, I suspect, that these lesbian sex positions are presented as illustrations rather than photographs: Any couple with corporeal forms would have difficulty making them look good, or even possible.

The slideshow is all surface, all for show, bearing little resemblance to the sex that actual lesbians have. Much like Cosmo itself, the slideshow is pretty to look at but lacking in substance and utility. But what should we expect from a magazine that trades so expertly in the disjuncture between fantasy and reality?

Perhaps the most progressive thing a beauty magazine like Cosmopolitan can do is mislead a new lesbian readership right alongside its core demographic of straight women. Bad sex advice is finally equal opportunity. Straight women have been able to read bad sex tips for decades. Now lesbians can read the bad sex tips we’ve never asked for.