The Oral Sex Gap
Though I have written some pretty bawdy articles, you might find this to be the most shocking thing I’ve ever said:
I never had a man go down on me until I was 31.
If that’s not shocking enough (or maybe it’s not shocking at all…what do I know?), I didn’t even know cunnilingus existed until I was in my twenties.
I literally never heard anyone in my life talk about oral sex on a woman until I was in college. And god knows, I never saw it referenced or portrayed in books, TV shows, or movies.
Everything about oral sex was about blow jobs and at my high school, blow jobs were handed out as casually as handshakes and hugs. Though I did not partake (I was a late bloomer), my friends were happy to oblige their boyfriends. They said it was better to get him off without having to have actual sex because they were so afraid that without the cover of clothing, their vaginas would emit an odor that would send every male within 100 miles running and gagging.
In my neck of the woods, in the early ’90s, the trendiest horror story about sex was that vaginas smelled like fish, and men only wanted blow jobs because they couldn’t stand to get near our smelly slits.
…blow jobs were handed out as casually as handshakes and hugs.
Conveniently, this little tactic created a culture in which girls were actually relieved to give out blow jobs and who then eschewed their own experiences of sexual pleasure in order to avoid exposing their boyfriends to the supposed horrors between their legs. (Check out Joe Duncan’s amazing theory on why some men perpetuate the myth of the fishy vagina.)
As you can imagine, growing up in that culture, it never occurred to me that oral sex could go both ways. And once I figured out that it did, I was terrified at the prospect.
Despite the fact that I thought I smelled quite lovely down there, would a guy find it repulsive, as everyone had said?
And even more importantly, I could not imagine having a man’s face in my crotch. It was a mortifying thought. It took me so long just to open to the idea of penis-in-vagina intimacy — but mouths and genitals? Good lord, I couldn’t get past my shame around it.
My musician playboy was the first person to introduce me to this act. We were making out, half-clothed, and eventually, he arranged us into the 69 position. Conveniently, he took off his pants so I could take care of him, but he left mine on.
Honestly, I was a bit relieved. I was 25 and it was the first time I had ever gone down on a man (a fact he did not know but probably surmised by my lack of skill). I was distracted and nervous and having my pants on made me feel more comfortable as he nudged his nose and lips between my legs from time to time while I got him off.
At 31, I fell more deeply in love than I ever had before, and in the safety of that love, I was able to explore things outside of my comfort zone.
One evening, he took off all my clothes, laid me down on his bed, and started trailing kisses down my chest, between my breasts, down my stomach. I suddenly realized what he was doing and my pulse began racing.
All the fears, insecurities, and shame came crashing into me.
My last shower was early that morning. Would I smell bad to him? Would he be disgusted by me?
I knew he didn’t like that I did not wax or shave. Would he make a fuss about that?
He didn’t know at the time that no one had ever done this to me before. I was 31 and felt so embarrassed that I had never experienced oral sex. Would I respond in ways that gave away my inexperience? Would he compare me to his more experienced previous lovers?
And oh my god, what would it feel like? Were angels going to sing? Would I be able to come? Oh shit, how could I let myself go enough to orgasm while his face was right there?
My curiosity eventually overcame my fears and I didn’t stop him when he proceeded further south.
I was 31 and felt so embarrassed that I had never experienced oral sex.
I remember how hard it was to open my legs. They were stiff, pulling toward one another as if there were magnets in my knees. He kept smoothing his hands down my thighs, trying to relax me.
When he began, the sensation was both wonderful, but also overwhelming. The heat and moisture of his tongue made my clitoris feel almost suffocated at times.
And no surprise, I couldn’t find my voice. I was too scared and nervous to ask him to lighten the pressure, move a little to the left, alternate between the flat surface of his tongue and the pokey tip…
So I just laid there, trying to breathe, trying to enjoy it.
He held my hands, at first, so sweetly. I felt lucky that he was supportive and gentle. It seemed like an auspicious start.
Despite feeling so anxious and insecure, I was able to come, though I had to work as hard for it as he was working.
I was overwhelmed, both physically and emotionally, and I wanted nothing more in that moment than for him to crawl back up on the bed and lie down next to me. Kiss me. Hold me.
I was surprised when he stood, said he’d be right back and left the room.
I sat up, hearing the sink in the bathroom go on. I figured he was washing his hands. After a few moments, the water was still running, so I stood, slid on my panties, pulled my shirt back on, and went into the hallway.
The door was open in the bathroom and I could see him bent over the sink, rinsing his mouth out. He began spitting over and over again, rinsing again, then spitting again.
I was horrified. All I could think was that he was disgusted with me, that I had tasted bad, that he couldn’t get me out of his mouth fast enough. Rinse, spit, spit, spit, rinse, spit, spit, spit.
I started crying, my knees shaking beneath me and he suddenly looked up and saw me in the mirror. He ran out, pressing a towel to his mouth and asked what was wrong.
I was wailing by then, feeling humiliated that he was so disgusted by me, but double humiliated that I was ugly-crying because of it. I couldn’t quite get out a coherent sentence but gurgled out something about him thinking I was disgusting, that I tasted bad, that he was obviously horrified by the experience he’d just had, and on and on.
He began spitting over and over again, rinsing again, then spitting again.
He took me into the living room, sat me down, put his arms around me, and said he was sorry.
“I wanted to kiss you and I didn’t think you would like all of that in your mouth.”
I didn’t like the way he said “that.” And I didn’t know what to believe.
If he had brushed his teeth, or rinsed once, it would have felt true to me. But the fact that he had spit over and over and over and over again had me doubting his claim.
For another thing, this idea of not swapping post-oral sex juices through kissing has always been strange to me. It bothers me when girlfriends tell me that their lovers wouldn’t kiss them after a blow job because they didn’t want to taste themselves. Huh? If you’re going to blow a wad of semen into someone’s mouth — and maybe even expect them to swallow — you wouldn’t be willing to kiss that someone afterward?
I know everybody has preferences in the bedroom and that’s fine, but I don’t understand one-way intimacy. I don’t understand wanting to put one’s semen wherever one fancies, including into someone else’s mouth, but not having any willingness to encounter that semen after said partner has so graciously accepted it.
I have absolutely no problem with a man going down on me, getting his lips lubed up on my juices, and then kissing me afterward. Frankly, I find it hot. And even if I didn’t, I’d still let him kiss me because if he’s going to put his mouth on me in order to please me, then whatever lingers there is fair game to go into my mouth in a post-orgasm kiss. Two-way intimacy.
I was so mortified in the days that followed this incident that I had to confide in someone and finally brought it up with my sister. She was upset by my partner’s behavior and tried to comfort me by telling me what a dick move it had been — that maybe you subtly brush your teeth, but you don’t stand there spitting again and again.
She didn’t know what else to say, though. Was it a deal-breaker? No. Was it humiliating? Yes. Should we talk about it? Definitely.
I brought it up with my partner the next time I saw him and reiterated how hurt and humiliated I was and that I didn’t understand his feelings about trying to get himself cleaned up before he kissed me. I assured him I didn’t care about that.
Looking back, I wish I had thought to talk about that beforehand. He had had several other partners before me and perhaps they were…let’s say less carnal than I was. Maybe they taught him to Silkwood his mouth after oral sex.
It’s certainly polite to be concerned about that. (Though again, I say, if you’re going to stick your mouth on my nether parts and give me an orgasm, then you have every right to kiss my mouth with everything you got on you. I welcome it.)
In the years that followed, things got better with oral sex, though not substantially. Thankfully, he never, ever left the bed afterward to go wash out his mouth. He would kiss me, cuddle me, make love to me with whatever got all over his face and I loved it.
But I still felt a little insecure when he was down there. I still felt totally vulnerable (and wonder if that will ever change). And I still struggled to tell him what I needed to make it a truly enjoyable experience.
Alas, oral sex has been fraught with struggles for me. I always hear people talk about it with such reverence, as if it is the be-all and end-all experience of female sexual pleasure.
For me, it has not been. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed it when it was offered. And having a totally shameless, wanton, passionate oral sex experience is on my sexual bucket list.
But all in all, I don’t mind that it hasn’t been everything I had once hoped for. I’ve found other joys. Who knew, for instance, that I would come to find handjobs to be one of the most fulfilling outlets of sexual pleasure I have ever experienced?
Life and sex can surprise you.
I always hear people talk about it with such reverence, as if it is the be-all and end-all experience of female sexual pleasure.
But what troubles me about this experience is how much it illustrates the orgasm gap.
How is it that blow jobs were a staple sex act practiced by my peers from the very first moments of our sexual maturation — yet oral sex for women was barely discussed and when it was, it was done so with an attitude of revulsion?
How is it that I never had a man go down on me until I was 31 years old?
How is it that I felt so much shame around the act that I could barely open up my body and certainly couldn’t open up my mouth enough to talk to him about post-oral sex etiquette ahead of time?
I know other women who have gone through similar experiences and it makes me sad. This is such a beautiful gift of pleasure for a woman, but how many of us get to experience it in its fullest sense?
Despite all this, yes, I will try it again someday, with a new lover. I insist.
This time, we’ll have a conversation ahead of time. Talk through etiquette, expectations, needs, desires. I’ll need to talk him through it, step-by-step, in order to make it a truly fulfilling experience. And afterward, yes, I will want him to kiss me.
© Yael Wolfe 2019
My article on cunnilingus has far less traffic than my article on blow jobs. Please help close the orgasm gap by reading and/or sharing this:
How to Make Her Feel Safe When You’re Going Down on Her
Help her open, melt, unfold, and unravel…
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