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Oral Sex: You Said A Mouthful

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People have a wide range of feelings about oral sex. There is a mix of feelings from I love to …it makes me feel dirty and cheap. Today, depending on the study, it appears that over half of adults who have partner sex are having oral sex at least occasionally.


My clients have a wide range of feelings about oral sex. The most common include:


* I love it, what’s the problem?

* I like it, and feel self-conscious enjoying it

* I don’t mind doing it, I wonder if I’m good at it

* I don’t mind doing it, but why do some people love doing it?

* It’s creepy. Mouths don’t belong down there

* I don’t see what anyone enjoys about that


Often the language to talk about oral sex complicates it. When people like it they find it embarrassing or difficult to ask for it. Sometimes clients are uncomfortable or feel they can’t guide their partner on what they like. There is an embarrassment about liking or wanting to maximize the enjoyment of oral sex.


So why the complicated feelings about oral sex?


* Religious taboos against non-reproductive sex;

* Personal “ick” factor;

* Confusion about why someone else would want their mouth “there”;

* Cultural norms about “who does that” (i.e., not “nice people like me”);

* Situations in which A wants B to go down on A, but A won’t go down on B;

* Situations in which A says to B, “I’m willing to go down on you, so you have to go down on me.”


Frankly, some of these feelings are about oral sex, while others are about something else (like power or trust or body image).


As a therapist, it’s not my place to encourage people to do oral sex. (In fact, while most patients like to get advice, most patients don’t want to be told what to do.) However, as with decisions about almost anything, it is my place to encourage people to talk about how they decide what to do, what their beliefs are about who does what, and whether they want to examine beliefs they acquired long ago.


For example, some women whose partners suggest cunnilingus (he goes down on her) refuse simply because they don’t feel clean “down there”—even after a shower. “I just can’t help how I feel,” they report. Or “I don’t know why anyone would want to do that. He says he enjoys it, but I just can’t believe it.”


The world won’t come to an end if her vulva doesn’t get licked (especially if she enjoys other kinds of sex), but why would a person hold on to a funny belief like that? I generally think there’s something else going on (like feeling her femininity is somehow dirty or deficient, or not wanting to feel too vulnerable), so it’s my job to help her chase that down—if she wants to. Sometimes she’s willing, sometimes not.


There are some men who have beliefs about blowjobs or oral sex. Some may feel entitled to one. Other may want what they’ve seen in porn such a “deep throat” blow job. Other men may be offended if the woman spits out their ejaculate. There is not enough discussion and too many beliefs that limits a person’s enjoyjent.


“Too much porn” is not an answer. A lack of manners, or empathy, or communication, or appreciation is more like it. Guys, if you’re not taking your behavioral lessons from Vikings, Football, then don’t take it from porn, either.


So is oral sex “sex”? If you haven’t had intercourse but have had oral sex, are you a “virgin?” Is a blowjob “infidelity”? Which is more “intimate,” intercourse or oral sex?


I am asked each of these questions many times every year. The answer to all of them is the same—it all depends on what you mean. All of these terms are socially defined; every culture in every era has its own answers, and every person adapts these answers to fit their own circumstances (whether of passion, guilt, or need to follow authority).


At the end of the day, oral sex is just one more way that people align their bodies with each other, or their hearts with each, often leading to wonderful pleasure for both people. For others it’s a way to prevent pregnancy, or to deal with pressure, or to feel grownup, or to make a buck, or to dance with taboos. It doesn’t matter if you do it or not; the reasons for your decision matter way more than your decision.



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