Have you ever noticed that when we talk about oral sex in the Christian community, we usually frame it as something he wants and she should give?
In that now infamous Edinburgh sermon that went viral, for instance, Mark Driscoll talked about how a woman should “repent” of not being a proper wife by denying her husband oral sex, and she should get on his knees and service him. (It was seriously gross and spiritually abusive. They played the clip on the Mars Hill podcast.)
As awful as that was, though, it’s pretty typical of how we frame oral sex. Oral sex tends to be seen as something that she usually gives to him. And the big message is that she should get over any hangups she has an embrace this, because he really, really wants it.
Now, personally, I think if it’s something you both want, absolutely go for it!
I think oral sex can be a fun addition to our sex lives–as long as we’re understanding these things when it comes to giving men oral sex:
Caveats for Women Being Asked to Give Oral Sex
- If she truly doesn’t want to do it, she should not feel pressured into it. You’re allowed to have preferences.
- If she’d rather start this way, but have him finish another way–that should be totally okay too.
- Many women are especially triggered by oral sex because of past trauma or abuse or porn. That needs to be understood, and not framed as something she needs to just “get over.”
- Many women have super sensitive gag reflexes or jaw problems that may make this simply very uncomfortable. That should matter. She should not be required to be uncomfortable so that he can get something extra.
To take it one step farther, if you look at the differences between how men and women experience giving oral sex, it’s clear that it’s actually more of an “ask” of women than it is of men–even though we usually are pressuring women to do it rather than men to do it.
One of the things that I often critique is the notion of gender essentialism--that men are always one way and women are always another way. We know that’s not true when it comes to libido (some women can have a higher libido), being visually stimulated (many women are as well), being tempted by porn or using porn, liking foreplay, being emotional, and more. Many authors, though, still rely on unscientific research to make it sound like men and women are completely different.
And yet, isn’t it interesting that when there genuinely is a gender difference based on the ways our bodies are made, people tend to ignore it and treat oral sex like it’s the same whoever is giving it (as Gary Thomas and Deb Fileta did in a recent podcast).
Let’s look at these differences between men and women when it comes to oral sex:
When Women Give Oral Sex:
- It can be physically uncomfortable and cause pain due to the gag reflex and jaw issues
- It can trigger aversion when a man climaxes through this method, since women will have to deal with ejaculate
- It is a common trigger due to trauma based on abuse, assault, or porn
- It is not necessary for his pleasure, since he can reach orgasm in other ways
When Men Give Oral Sex:
- It is minimally physically uncomfortable (there may be some discomfort from how you’re positioned while giving it)
- Her climaxing in this way does not usually produce ejaculate (though some women do)
- It is only in rare cases a trigger for past abuse or trauma
- It may be the most likely, or even the only, way that she can reach orgasm
And it’s that last bit I want to concentrate on:
Oral sex is far less “extra” for women than it is for men
In our survey of 20,000 women that formed the foundation for The Great Sex Rescue, and our follow-up one of men, we found an orgasm gap of roughly 47 points. About 95% of men almost always or always reach orgasm in a sexual encounter, compared with just 48% of women.
And when women do reach orgasm, they are far more likely to do so through other routes than intercourse.
It is not that women cannot reach orgasm through intercourse (and we’ve got lots of tips for how to do that in our orgasm course!); it’s just that it’s often easier for women to reach orgasm through oral sex or manual stimulation.
This isn’t merely a preference–like she’d like oral sex over intercourse sometimes. This is actually a matter of “this works for me but that really doesn’t.”
So when we’re comparing men’s desires for oral sex and women’s desires for oral sex, we’re often comparing apples to oranges.
For men, oral sex is a preference. For women, oral sex is often the most reliable way she can reach orgasm.
Why, then, when we talk about oral sex do we mostly frame it around pressuring her to give it to him, rather than explaining that this may be a good way to help bridge the orgasm gap?
I think it comes down to several factors:
- Men are often more in tune to what they want sexually, and feel more entitled to get it
- Men are seen as having sexual needs that are insatiable, while women’s needs are downplayed
- Women can be very self-conscious about receiving oral sex
We talked at length about the first two elements in The Great Sex Rescue (and I’ve talked a ton about them in this blog too!).
But I want to focus on that last one today: women can often be self-conscious about receiving oral sex.
Women often really don’t like their genitals. We worry that they’re smelly. There’s too much hair. They look funny. It’s hard to find the clitoris (Hint: It’s really not). We worry it’s unsanitary, especially with discharge.
But men have hair too! Men can be smelly and unsanitary. Men have way more discharge when it comes to oral sex than we do. And yet we often think of these things as women’s issues rather than men’s issues.
and again–these are preference issues. Giving oral sex to a man can actually cause jaw issues or the physical gag reflex. Giving oral sex to a woman does not cause any kind of physical discomfort (except maybe your legs or arms cramp up depending on how you’re positioning yourself?)
The only discomfort may be a psychological one–and it’s a psychological one that women have giving too! As women, though, we are often more willing to endure physical discomfort than we are willing to ask someone else to endure anything that may be off-putting.
Ladies, your genitals were beautifully and wonderfully made.
I’m going to talk more about what science is learning about the clitoris in a later blog post this month, but there is nothing ugly about your genitals. Yes, they’re usually hidden, and so we’re not used to seeing them. It’s not “normal.” But it’s okay to ask your husband to get used to your genitals, and it’s okay to become more comfortable with them yourself.
And you were never meant to smell like flowers! And usually, when you wash with water frequently, the smell is actually quite normal and earthy, nothing unpleasant. And you can keep shaved or clipped (or even waxed if you’d prefer) around your labia if you think it would make oral sex more pleasant and easier. (especially to find the clitoris!). If you don’t, there is no hair on the clitoris or the inner lips. He can simply part you with his hands and go to town.
Want to make it even more fun?
Check out Femallay’s vaginal melts!
I talked about these in a post last week, the women’s wellness company Femallay makes amazing vaginal suppositories from the richest botanicals that help moisturize and promote elasticity in the vagina, keeping you all healthy.
They make sex more comfortable–and even more fun!
And they’ve available in so many flavours–blueberry; wild cherry; pineapple; peach; strawberry; chocolate; and more! Or you can get completely unscented/unflavoured if you’d prefer. They even have hemp ones that may help with cramps, too!
If we want sex to be mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both–then that should change how we talk about oral sex.
Sex can’t be intimate if you’re pressuring a woman to do something that she feels is degrading or triggering. Sometimes the act itself is not the problem, but the reason that he wants it is. If he’s got a pornographic style of relating, and just wants to make things “hotter” and use her as an object, then she is right to resist that.
And sex can’t be mutual if it’s something that makes her very physically uncomfortable so that he can have sex.
Finally, sex should be pleasurable for both. We shouldn’t even be talking about her giving him oral sex until we’ve figured out how to make sure that she reaches orgasm reliably.
Her being able to reach orgasm in any way is far more important than him getting to reach orgasm in a particular way.
So I’m all for having more fun in the bedroom and spicing things up and learning new ways to please and tease each other. But when it comes to oral sex, I think the conversation has been very lopsided. It’s time to put it back in the right balance–and I hope this is closer to that balance.
What do you think? Is there enough emphasis on her pleasure? How can we talk about this with the right balance? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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