As readers who drop in here regularly know, one of the last things I’m prone to do is advocate for specific sex acts of any particular kind. And as far as I’m concerned, this is as it should be; since the central purpose of my writing here is, for the most part, to inform, uphold and enlighten – to offer new and engaging perspectives on the breath-taking wonderment that is our universe-driven sexuality. Decisions about which actual sexual behaviors we choose to engage in are intensely personal and situated within each person’s constellation of likes and dislikes; they are choices shaped by desire, which in turn is shaped by a multitude of factors including how we were raised, how sexually open and adventurous we are, and of course, our mind/body responses to what heats us up and curls our toes.
With all that in mind, if I’m advocating for anything at all, if I’m standing up on my soap box and waxing philosophical, it’s for each of us, as consenting adults, to claim with both hands our right to be sexually empowered and fulfilled. To know what we like and to own our right to have it, so long as our sexual freedoms don’t impinge on the rights and agency of others. If I’d stake my credentials on anything at all, it would be on the need for us all to take charge of our own sexuality and to leverage its radiant power - especially for women - as a source of energy, strength and renewal, so long as we do it in ways that hold sacred each other’s humanity, as well as our own.
That said, people often ask me to weigh in on particular sexual behaviors, and I’m glad to offer whatever elucidation I’m able. Not surprisingly, some topics come up a lot more frequently than others, like, for example, the timeless, ecstasy-producing practice of oral sex.
Whatever one’s sexual orientation, what seems clear to me is this: once they’ve had the experience, there aren’t many people who don’t relish the delicious sensation of being a consenting receiver. Ask most folks who’ve been the recipients of this especially intimate act and they’ll tell you without much fanfare that there’s something relaxing, pleasurable and psychically hypnotic to be found in the warmth of a wet and willing, adventurous lover’s mouth. Given half the chance, devotees of oral sex will wax soaringly poetic, extolling the mind-bending pleasures of skillful, ardent oral embrace and the white-hot rush of desire it engenders their veins.
Still, there are lots of devoted partners who find something less than appealing in the prospect of their mouths in intimate, soulful congress with someone’s genitalia. And while these same devoted partners may be wholly committed to their lovers, the thought of shimmying southward and doing that down there leaves some of these well-meaning partners, quite simply, less than thrilled.
But as a normal human behavior that has its global roots in antiquity, depictions of lovers happily involved in oral sex have been unearthed in ancient artworks of civilizations around the world. Some of these depictions show couples; others illustrate polyamorous acts of group sex. Both men and women are shown as givers and receivers, often appearing exuberantly athletic in their poses, penises happily perched between partners’ puckered lips, faces blissfully buried in assorted sundry vaginas. That they thrived in cultures that were, in many ways freer than our own, wherein expressions of sexuality were part of a healthy, normative embracing of sexual pleasure seems quite clear. Rock carvings and glyphs, and a look at
India’s ancient Kama Sutra, written
between 400 BCE and 200 CE and thought by many to be the most widely read
secular text in the world, all support this view.
So what about now? There are lots of reasons that some folks would rather not orally engage. There’s the matter of contraindicating religious beliefs, of course, the notion that no sexual act is desirable or permissible if it cannot, in itself, result in procreation. In fact, until only very recently, many locales here in the
US retained legal statutes prohibiting so-called “aberrant” behaviors like oral sex, such laws being the residual influence of
old, religious Judeo-Christian doctrine.
Still, for some folks, the sheer, basic mechanics of oral sex can be off-putting. Although an enormous number of partners proclaim a robust and eager exuberance for “going down” on their women, relishing the scent, the taste, the texture of a healthy adult vagina, for others, the sensory stimulation that the vulva affords can be, well… too much of a good thing. An embarrassment of riches, as they say. But the truth is this: A healthy vagina is an efficient and totally self-cleaning structure. Its natural scent is musky, rich with a complexity of pheromones that are the finely-tuned products of evolution, designed to be naturally seductive and attractive to prospective partners.
There are choices to be made about “giving head” to male partners as well, not the least of which are the choices people make about whether or not to swallow - proteins, amino acids, bodily fluids in general… Oh my.
And like toadstools erupting after a slogging summer rain, mythology abounds here, just as it does about so many other aspects of human sexuality. For example, some people erroneously believe that women who swallow the ejaculate of a man of a different race will fall ill from said ejaculate - simply by virtue of the racial difference between them.
Still other folk believe that when a man performs oral sex on a woman, she “naturally” ought to be able to “come” if he simply thrusts and penetrates her vagina with his tongue. Of course, this is nonsense; female sexual response is as perfect now as it has always been, and situated almost exclusively in the head and shaft of the clitoris with its super-proliferation of highly responsive nerve endings – some 8,000 more nerve endings than are found in the average penis.
As with much our lives, there’s a lot to take in here. And then, of course, there’s this: The stratospheric pleasures aligned with oral sex notwithstanding, the possibility of sexually transmitted infection is present in this as well. Barrier methods like condoms can clearly help in prevention, but it’s certainly worth remembering that viruses we can be exposed to in having oral sex have been implicated in causing some cancers of the throat. Likewise, the virus that causes genital herpes, a recurring, blistering, contagious condition that currently has no cure, can be contracted on the mouth as a cold sore in the course of oral-genital contact; infection works the other way around as well.
So what’s a person to do? That is, if you’re a lover of oral sex, either the giving and/or the receiving, and you happen to be in a relationship with someone not so orally inclined? Part of what makes us exquisite as sexual human beings is the near-infinite variety of what succeeds in turning us on. But the truth is that we are all the procurers of our own pleasure, not to be second-placed or left behind, our desires ignored, discounted or unfulfilled by some countervailing other.
So start by talking it through, perhaps, and see where honest, open and heart-felt discourse takes you. It’s your body, just as it always has been. Your pleasure, your life, and most certainly- most especially- it's your choice.
photo credit: <a
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/8113200@N05/1240074823">Khajuraho - 69</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">(license)</a>