Q: I like my body, and really enjoy sex with my husband, but I have this one big hang-up. I want to enjoy getting oral sex—but I can’t. I feel tense and awkward. How can I relax and get pleasure from it?
A: In my private practice, I work with quite a few otherwise sexually well-adjusted women who report feeling anxiety and shame when receiving oral sex.
Why? Let’s face it: In North America we like to believe we are sexually liberated, but we are actually a pretty staid culture. The notion of sex for pleasure only recently replaced the belief that sex was acceptable—but only for procreation. And oral sex is all about pleasure. The rock musical Hair was on to something when the song asked, “Fellatio, cunnilingus…. Why do these words sound so nasty?” Some women feel that if there is an orgasm going on but no penis near her vagina, it makes her a “slut.”
On a psychological level, many women today are still influenced by a sense that “lovemaking” is more acceptable than “hot sex.” Old-fashioned? I think so. But in that woman’s subconscious mind, making love—which is about, well, love—involves connection and mutual pleasure. She feels positive about heart-to-heart sex and reassured that the “hot” aspect is grounded in something meaningful. This helps her have guilt-free sex. But cunnilingus demands she lie on her back for her partner like a “wanton woman.” Receiving oral sex can feel intrusive and leave her feeling vulnerable. She may start to feel distant from her partner, and have a sense of he’s-doing-something-to-me that breaks her emotional connection. Her potential for pleasure competes with feelings of shame, loneliness or guilt, and she thinks, “Good girls don’t have sex just for their own pleasure…. I should stop.” So she does.
In addition, most women over 30 grew up with misinformation about their vulva. Douche commercials and dirty jokes gave the idea that it is “dirty down there” and “smells fishy.” These impressions can linger, even though simple hygiene (showering) and good health (foul odour is rare and usually indicates an infection) ensure cleanliness and a natural musky aroma. Plus, it’s now “in” to be bare, but these women may still worry that their stubble will turn off their man, or that their exposed labia are ugly. The point is, all that worrying gets in the way of a woman’s sexual enjoyment and can prevent her from reaching orgasm through oral sex.
If you see yourself here, and want to become more comfortable with the whole thing, I suggest you start sex in the shower, and include some oral play. Move on to the bed, then ask him to kiss you passionately as you lie down face to face, while he uses his fingers to get you close to orgasm. Then he can move his mouth down your body while leaving one palm on your heart. This way you will feel clean, close and connected. If you begin to feel anxious, indulging in sexual fantasy can help you relax. Then refocus your mind on the wonderful sensations, and accept this gift. Yes, even good girls do it.
Summer 2010 issue of Best Health magazine