I don’t think I was aware of it at the time, but in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that my first crush on a woman was Faith from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I was 12 years old and I would sneak episodes of “BTVS” when I was hanging out with my cousins. While my cousins mooned over Angel, I watched Faith with a fascination I didn’t quite understand. At the time, I thought I wanted to be her; now I know I just wanted to be with her.

I didn’t develop a crush on a real-life girl until high school, when I fell hard for one of my friends, as many of us do when we’re young and just figuring out that we might be a little queer. That went poorly, as it often does, and I was more than a little heartbroken, the way you can only be in high school.

The next girl I had a crush on changed my life. I’d already been through that first high school love, all passion and fire and drama, but falling for her was first love all over again. I’d known that I was attracted to girls, but I didn’t know I could fall in love with one. I never imagined that one would fall in love with me.

We were each other’s first everything: first queer love, first queer relationship, first experiences with homophobia, first experiences of being objectified for our queerness, and eventually first queer sexual experience.

By that time, I’d been sleeping with a guy for a little over a year. I considered myself fairly knowledgeable about sex. With my boyfriend, I knew how things worked and I was pretty sure we were fairly good at it.

Yet, faced with the prospect of having sex with a girl, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. It quickly became apparent that I didn’t have access to the resources to become knowledgeable either.

When I had questions about sex with my boyfriend, I could ask my sexually active friends or my older cousins. I didn’t know any queer women. I was lucky enough to attend a school that had a fairly comprehensive sex ed program, but queer sex was never even mentioned.

Like any good teenager, I turned to the Internet, but the information was just as confusing as you’d expect. I didn’t really find any sites that explained what I was actually supposed to do. Mostly, I just found porn. I watched it, desperately hoping that I’d pick up some good “techniques,” but everything I saw involved sex toys, which I didn’t have, or oral, and I didn’t know if I was ready for that my first time.

Eventually, I decided I was just going to have to wing it. Which, honestly, is how most teenagers approach sex, straight or queer. We live in a society that’s so scared to talk about sex, especially with teenagers. We hope that if we don’t talk to teens about sex, they won’t do it, but that’s just not reality. They’re going to have sex, and because we aren’t comfortable enough to educate them, they’re going to have really bad or at least really awkward sex until they figure it out on their own.

There are so many things I wish I'd known before those early sexual encounters with my girlfriends. So, as a public service to all those young queers out there, I’m going to expose some of my awkwardness so you don’t have to fumble through the way I did.

Note: I am a cis, bisexual woman who hasn’t slept with anyone who identifies as gender non-binary or trans*, so all of my experiences come from this perspective. There are other great resources available on Kinkly if you’re looking for information about sexual experiences that don’t fit the cis-normative experience.

Sex With Women Is Way More Than Scissoring

Sex with guys can be pretty simple. In and out and that’s pretty much it. Yeah, you can mix up the positions, angles, and incorporate all sorts of toys, but it all feels very much the same to me. Not so with women. There are so many different ways to have sex with women. When I started I was only aware of two of them: fingering and oral. I had no skill in either method. There was a lot of awkward fumbling around under the sheets to figure out how to make either of these methods work, and, in some cases, to find out that they wouldn’t work at all (keep reading).

Later, I would discover that there’s so much more than oral and fingering. I discovered the amazing world of sex toys and started incorporating vibrators and strap-ons. I also discovered that a good grind session is just as effective and that fingers are good for so much more than penetration.

As I discovered new methods for pleasing my partners I also discovered…

Every Woman Gets Off Differently

When I was ready for my first queer sexual encounter, I made the assumption that I had a pretty good idea what would work for another girl. I have a clit, I have a vagina, and I know how I orgasm. So I know how to make another woman orgasm, right? So wrong. In our society, the female orgasm is seen as some sort of unknowable mystery, so it’s no wonder that it’s not common knowledge that different things work for different women.

Some women only orgasm from penetration. Some women only orgasm from clitoral stimulation. Some women need a combination of penetration and clitoral stimulation. Some women only orgasm from oral. I even know some women who only orgasm during anal.

At the time, my only experiences with orgasms involved a combination of penetration and clit stimulation. This was all I really knew to try. It never occurred to me that the girls I was having sex with wouldn’t like that or that it wouldn’t work for them. It took a lot of experimentation and a lot of feedback from the girls I was sleeping with to figure out what worked for each of them, and it was different for each of them.

Read: Why I Will Never Fake Another Orgasm

Having Sex With Women Requires Serious Stamina

One of the most amazing things about being a woman is multiple orgasms. There are some guys who can come multiple times, but for most, it’s one and done.

When I started having sex with women I was completely unprepared for how long a sexual encounter could last: basically, until you’re both too exhausted to continue. Since both women have the ability to orgasm multiple times, you can just keep orgasming over and over for hours. I once had sex with my girlfriend for six hours. We’d finish, take a breather, and then be right back at it...it lasted six hours!

Sex with guys is like running a 5k, but having sex with women can be like running a marathon. It takes some serious stamina to keep up.

Read: 6 Tips to Help You Achieve Multiple Orgasms (Just Like Me)

Nothing You See in Porn Is Real - Unless It’s Made by Actual Women Who Sleep With Women

After watching some so called "lesbian porn" as a teen, I was pretty quickly convinced that nothing I was seeing was accurate. It was all extremely staged, over-dramatic, and no one looked like they were actually having fun. I was vaguely aware of the fact that while this porn was made for women, much of it was made by men. I eventually grasped that this meant the representations I was seeing were basically a man’s fantasy; what they thought women having sex with women “should” look like.

Later in life, I discovered porn made by women who actually have sex with other women, and it looked very different. These women were having sex the ways that my girlfriends and I had sex and they actually appeared to be enjoying themselves.

If you’re looking to educate yourself about having sex with women, be sure to seek out porn made by women who actually sleep with women, and be sure the porn is made ethically.

Keep Your Nails Short

I hate to admit it, but for an embarrassingly long time, I didn’t even think about trimming my nails. Sometimes, I even had fake nails. Any woman who’s had sex with a woman is probably appalled at my lack of common sense. In retrospect, so am I. I didn’t know better. I only realized the impact of my mistake by making my girlfriend really uncomfortable. It’s a miracle she wasn’t seriously hurt.

Given all the places your fingers are going when you’re having sex with a woman, it’s really important to keep your nails trimmed and your hands clean. Please, learn from my embarrassing mistake.

So many awkward, painful, and embarrassing encounters can be avoided if we just talk about sex honestly, share our experiences, and educate ourselves. Today, resources about queer sex are much more readily available and much more accurate than they were when I was growing up. I can’t imagine how my experiences would have been different if I’d had more information or access to feminist porn made by actual women who have sex with women. I was lucky to have endlessly patient partners, and I learned by trial and error. Fortunately, maybe you won't have to.