The Greeks called any active lesbian women the “TRIBADES.” The well known words “lesbian,” “sapphic” or “bisexual” we have only used for a short while in our languages. Before that, all women who had sex with another woman and who were the active part in the sexual relationship have been called the “Tribades.” The Tribade (from the Greek word “tribas“) means, a woman who has morbid (pervert) sexual contact with another woman, particularly by rubbing her genitals on the genitals of the other woman. Please note the expression “morbid/pervert sexual contact.” This negative expression was only used for tribadism, but not for any other lesbian activity like fingering or oral sex. This is because men found tribadism as some kind of challenge for them since it was similar to their own sex.
However, those women who were behaving just passively during tribadism were not seen as being morbid. They were the “submissive women” who were said to be “raped” by the Tribade for the purpose of her masturbation goal. The Tribade was overtaking the part of the man in the imagination of the antique man’s’ world. Female homosexuality was not viewed as being immoral before the 20th century so long as the woman took part as the usually passive woman. Even lesbian tribadism was seen as natural then except for the role of the active female Tribade.
In Islamic countries, men did tolerate tribadism. They compared the sexual demand of women for other women with a natural desire creating a strong itching and demand for warmth in the female genitals. Only the rubbing of the vagina on another woman would solve the itching. Therefore, they compare the trib love of two women with the grinding of saffron that is made into powder between two tiny plates. It was not just the demand for pleasure that pushed the women of the harem to have sex with other girls. They did not have to fear losing their virginity or becoming pregnant.
We are finding many reports about tribadism from Oriental bath houses where the women, isolated from men, could care for their bodies and their beauty. Of course, there was a law that women had to cover their genitals in the bath houses, but they usually either did not care or they covered their own genitals with the genitals of their girlfriends; although, in the Orient it was also considered obscene when women had sex with other women. The little “difference” creating the tolerance, not unlike the Occident, was the fact that there was no penetration possible between two women, at least in the belief of men. There has not been any big difference regarding the tolerance of tribadism in comparing the Orient to the West.
Lesbian love did not exist officially as recently as 100 years ago. Since it did not officially exist, it could not have been prosecuted. However, the active Tribade always looked fishy and dubious to men since she represented the demand for “penetration” of “defenceless” women. Therefore, the Tribade was always seen as morbid and pervert as she was a competitor of male sexuality while the passive woman was seen just as the poor victim. Men did not see any REAL penetration being possible in tribadism, since in their old imaginations “a woman had nothing to penetrate another woman with.” However, the positions of direct clit to clit contact were dubious enough for men, particularly when the tribade had a huge clit and when the passive woman got any pleasure thereof. It’s interesting that in the old genre picture regarding tribadism, the men did always think about one active and one passive woman. In their imaginations, they translated one woman always into the role of the active and dominant man. They did not imagine that women can always change their roles during tribadism, often more than once, from active to passive, both active, or even both being passive. They did not imagine that women can receive pleasure by exchanging their roles with the other women during sex. Men probably did not even want think about it.
Up to today, many men view tribadism rather negatively. Sadly, most available lesbian pictures and clips do not accept tribadism as an exciting sexual pleasure for women. Of course, men like to watch lesbian women, but particularly when the women are having oral sex or when they are using dildos on each other. Tribadism, however, isn’t represented enough compared to how important it is for lesbians and bisexual women in real life. This is probably because many men still fear the competition of women when they are taking on (at least part of) the male role without using any kind of artificial sex toys.