If You Don’t Love Receiving Oral Sex, Read This

Photographed by Lula Hyers.
In pop culture, receiving oral sex is often portrayed as the ultimate sex act for cis women’s pleasure — just look at Game of Thrones’ infamous Jon Snow-and-Ygritte-in-the-cave scene. But IRL, not all people with vulvas enjoy receiving oral sex. Just like pretty much any sex act you can think of, some people love it, some people hate it, and some people could take it or leave it.
“We’ve been in this moment, for about 15 to 20 years, where oral sex is positioned as the height of pleasure for people with vulvas,” says Lux Alptraum, author of Faking It: The Lies Women Tell About Sex—And The Truths They Reveal. “There’s this idea that this is the best way to receive sexual pleasure, and if you don’t like it, it’s because you’re ashamed. I think we need to take a step back from that, because like all sex acts, it’s not for everybody.”
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Some people may not physically enjoy receiving oral sex, just because they may simply not like the feeling of a tongue or mouth on their vulva. “Everybody’s body is created differently, and if you have a particularly sensitive clitoris, it can actually be really uncomfortable,” Alptraum says. “If the stimulation feels too direct that might not be enjoyable for you.”
If you don’t enjoy receiving oral sex, it’s worth asking yourself whether there's a physical reason, or an emotional or mental reason? If the answer isn’t physical, it’s still totally fine not to enjoy receiving oral sex — whether you experienced trauma around oral sex, or you simply don’t want your partner’s face so close to your vulva. “It is okay to not like it for any reason,” Alptraum says.
However, some people do physically enjoy the sensation of oral sex, but feel too self-conscious to properly enjoy receiving it — and they want to banish that feeling. Some common “blocks” including worrying about what their vulva smells, tastes, or looks like; feeling “selfish” because the sex act is focused on their pleasure; and worrying about taking “too long” to orgasm. If you want to get past this, there are a few steps you can take.
First, talk with your partner. “You might want to talk about it with a therapist if it’s really severe, but it’s something you can just talk to your partner about: say, ‘I’m anxious about this,’” Alptraum says. “Presumably, your partner does not think you smell bad, does not think you’re ugly, does not think any of this. Ideally, your partner loves everything about your body and is happy to put in the time that it takes to give you the pleasure that you want.”
If you feel pressure about “taking too long,” you can also decide to limit oral sex to a short amount of time, and focus on enjoying how it feels, rather than trying to orgasm. “You can block out a time you feel comfortable with” — for example, five minutes — “set a timer, and agree that you’re both comfortable doing this activity for this amount of time,” Alptraum says. “It doesn’t have to end in orgasm, it doesn’t have to have a set goal, but if it’s something that makes you feel good, then you deserve to experience that.” Over time, as you get more comfortable, you can lengthen that set period of time, or do away with time limits entirely.
Keep in mind, too, that “your relationship to oral sex can change over time,” Alptraum says. You might love oral sex when you’re 25 but feel "meh” about it at 30, or vice-versa. “The main thing is being honest and open with your partner and yourself, so the two of you can maximize the pleasure that you are mutually experiencing together,” she says. “Or more than two, depending on the configuration of your sex life.”
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