A Beginner’s Guide to Oral Sex, as Told by Oral Sex Fans (and Experts)

Rachel Charlene Lewis
A Beginner’s Guide to Oral Sex, as Told by Oral Sex Fans (and Experts)
Photo: Allison Kahler.

Many of us know that there’s an orgasm gap; one study of 800 college students found that 91 percent of men reported orgasming most of the time during partnered sex—meanwhile only 39 percent of women did. That’s absurd. With lesbian women being much more likely to orgasm during sex (according to a survey of 6,151 people), and the simple fact that tons of women orgasm from clitoral stimulation, it should come as no surprise that many of us are trying to close to orgasm gap by talking more openly about—and encouraging more—oral sex.

Whether you already know that oral sex is your everything, or you’re still trying to figure things out, learning more about oral sex—and how to have good oral sex—really can’t do you wrong.

So why, exactly, do so many women enjoy oral sex?

“The focus is completely on you and your vulva,” explains Gigi Engle, certified sex coach, educator and feminist writer. “Your clitoris FINALLY gets the attention it deserves.” (In case this wasn’t a part of your sex education or personal experiences, it’s worth noting that the clitoris is a really, really amazing body part. It’s offers feelings that differ from what you might feel during vaginal sex.)

While acts beyond oral sex can obviously offer stimulation to the clit, oral sex offers a specific sensation that many people enjoy, according to Engle. “The external clitoris is highly sensitive,” she says. “A tongue can often offer more pleasure (and less friction) than a hand. It can feel wetter, lighter and more pleasurable to take you from plateau to orgasm.”

If you’ve never had oral sex, the concept of someone’s mouth on your vulva might seems strange. But it’s that strange and specific feeling that is what makes oral sex so unique. “To be frank, a tongue or lips on a clitoris feels AMAZING,” Gigi explains. “That’s why we love it, in a nutshell.” (Not sure if you needed proof that tongues are amazing, but now you have it.)

Many women and femmes enjoy oral sex, and for a wide variety of reasons—including (but not limited to) how amazing it feels.

Sarah*, 27 year old bisexual woman, explains, “I love giving and receiving oral sex. It plays a significant role in my sex life.”

“I adore oral sex,” explains Alaina, a 25-year-old queer person. “My fiancée and I were hesitant at first, believe it or not—she’s the first person I’ve ever given oral sex to, and vice versa. I love giving oral sex, and I love receiving it.”

“I like it. I actually like both giving and receiving regardless of gender,” Lynn, a 38-year-old bisexual woman, explains. “Though I will say that in my experience women are better at oral sex than most men.”

Oral sex is complicated, especially because so much of the messaging that we receive about vaginas is so negative.

Unfortunately, for many people, experimenting with oral sex can require that you push past layers and layers of shame, whether culturally based or based on specific negative interactions with sexual partners—no matter how much you, physically, love it.

“Love [oral sex]. Love giving and love receiving. Giving my partner a BJ is at a minimum weekly if not a few times a week thing,” Elizabeth, a 34-year-old bisexual woman, says. “Giving oral is a need for me. Receiving is awesome, but no partners have ever been into giving as much as I am.”

Elizabeth continued, saying, “My first relationship said I tasted gross, and for the six years we were together he couldn’t ever go down on me for more than 30 seconds at a time. Overcoming that shame has been so hard that I still majorly struggle with asking for it.”

Lynn shared similar difficulties with oral sex. “I struggle with how to explain exactly what I want to people when they go down on me. I feel like people (especially men) get really funny about being instructed sometimes,” Lynn says. “Also, I think I have the typical insecurities in terms of how I look and smell to someone who’s that close up with my vagina.”

Across the board, women deal with insecurity when it comes to oral sex, with studies showing that women are more likely to go down on their partners than men are, despite the fact that women tend to enjoy oral sex just as much as men—and orgasm more from oral sex than other forms of sex, especially the heterosexual standard of penis-in-vagina sex.

Too, oral sex can get complicated because of expectations specifically faced by queer women and femmes.

“I struggle a little bit with gender identity stuff, because I’m nonbinary, but my fiancée is extremely understanding and always wants to do things that make me feel good” Alaina explains. “I also think oral sex is a challenge because so many people see it as the be all, end all sex act for women and femmes who are in relationships with other women and femmes, as if having vaginas means that oral is all we do.”

One thing that can help with oral sex struggles is becoming a better communicator with your partner, mostly by getting to know your own body.

Gigi is all about masturbation as a way to get more confident. “Masturbate yourself straight into another universe,” she says. “Get a sex toy. Buy a vibrator. If you have one, you know what it can do for you. Knowing what makes you come as an individual person will better help you develop the language you need to communicate with a partner.”

“Your partner is not a mind reader,” Gigi says. “If you don’t know what you want or how you want to be touched, [they’re] not going to magically know.”

The more you try out different types of oral sex (there’s not just one way to do it!), whether that means trying different oral sex positions or trying oral sex-specific vibrators or other sex toys, the easier it’ll be for you to figure out what works best for your specific body.

If your partner makes you feel ashamed for wanting oral sex? You deserve a better partner.

Gigi keeps it simple. “If they don’t want to do what it takes to give you orgasms…go find someone who does!”

At the end of the day, if you don’t enjoy oral sex, it’s OK.

Not all women enjoy one sex act, just as not all femmes enjoy one sex act, or all queer people enjoy one sex act. That’s OK. “There are a couple of reasons some women don’t like oral sex,” Gigi says. “Maybe tongue and lip stimulation simply isn’t your thing. Perhaps it feels gross to you, too overwhelming, or weird. That’s OK. Not every sex act is for every person.”

But it’s also worth considering the ways that our culture leads us to stress about our vaginas, and how that can make us feel iffy about oral sex.

“It could be that you’ve grown up in such a sex-negative culture that oral sex makes you uncomfortable—being that exposed to your partner, getting something with nothing giving back to them, and focusing on yourself,” Gigi explains. “This is something to consider before completely writing off oral. It might take some personal internal work to get you to a place where you can relax enough to come from oral sex.” If that sounds possible to you, Engle recommends seeking the advice of a sex coach or sex therapist who can help you reach your goals.


*Names have been changed.