Oral sex? Non merci. It’s not my thing, and I’m tired of being told I’m broken because of it.
When men try to flirt with me online (and with other women too, for sure), they boast of their oral skills. “I can go down on a woman for hours”, they say. To which I reply: “that’s not gonna help you with me.”
Many of them are genuinely surprised. “I’ve never failed”, they insist. “I’m sure that’s true”, I respond. “Except it won’t work with me.”
I’ve never had a “Are you broken?” response, but I’m pretty sure many of them think that I am, somehow, broken, or frigid, or never had it done “properly”. I’ve had weird looks, questions about my sensitivity and Magic Wand use, or that I’m too stressed and just need to relax.
But trust me, I’ve had plenty of men try. Very skilled, experienced men for whom their oral sex skills are a source of pride and even part of their sexual identity.
Except, it does nothing for me.
My orgasms are definitely clitoral. But for some reason, oral sex is not something that makes me cum. Lack of pressure, maybe, or lack of precision. I mean, it feels nice enough to get your lips and clit sucked on, but in the end I always end up lying there, being mostly bored.
I’ve learned to be okay with it.
Oral sex in context
In A genealogy of the genital kiss, Canadian scholars Alan Hunt and Bruce Curtis look at the development of the discourse around oral sex in the 20th century. Looking at the history of oral sex can help us understand why we focus so much on it today, and why we tell women like me they’re broken.
Characteristically in Western culture, before about the 1920s, authorities considered oral sex deviant. There was no reproductive purpose to oral sex, and therefore it wasn’t considered “proper”, “healthy” sex. (For a refresher on sexuality, health, and pleasure, read my previous piece on the medicalization of pleasure.) But around the 20s, at least as evidenced by sex advice manuals, there begins to be a focus on female pleasure; more precisely, their right to have pleasure during sex.
Therefore, it became the role of the man to “prepare” the woman for pleasurable sexual intercourse (with the procreative purpose still in mind). Experts deemed oral sex a proper way to warm up a woman for intercourse.
There’s still no mention of orgasm though, so there’s that.
In the 60s, another transformation happened: sex (and oral sex) became pleasures in their own right, separated from their reproductive purposes, thanks in part to hormonal birth control. Women acquired the right to have orgasms and receive oral sex because it felt good, not just because it lubed them up for PiV sex.
Of course, nowhere in this discourse do they discuss the value of oral sex for non-heterosexual partners, but that’s another thing entirely.
As I’ve heard it summarized elsewhere, before the 60s women were pressured to not have sex; since the 60s they have been pressured to have it with whomever offers it.
Things have not changed much since the 60s in this matter, except for a moral panic related to youth that Hunt and Curtis write about in their article, but that’s not the point here so I’ll let you read that on your own time.
Sex advice is not universal
One thing that many sex writers (guilty as charged) can forget is that sex advice is not universal. We try to tamper our statements with “if your partner likes it” or “when you know they enjoy that sort of thing”. But that’s usually linked to kinkier, edgier practices.
Oral sex, though? I’ve barely seen its universality questioned anywhere. We assume that all women enjoy it, leading to the issues I’ve described in the introduction, of men being baffled by my lack of enjoyment of their oh-so-generously-given oral sex skills.
For many women, learning to enjoy oral sex is a journey. We’re so often told that our vulvas are dirty, smelly, or gross. How can we not feel uncomfortable when some person sticks their face there?
But I have no shame about my genitals. I am capable of relaxing during sexual activity. I have orgasms in front of my partner all the time, both before and after we’ve had intercourse–sometimes even without intercourse at all.
I’ve done the journey, and the destination was “not for me”.
That doesn’t make me a broken woman. That just makes me a woman with specific desires and sites of physical pleasure, which happen to not include oral sex.