If asked to name one “fact” about sex that I managed to extract from late-’90s pop culture (specifically American Pie), it would be that all women yearn for oral sex, and men are clueless, intimidated and often disgusted by it. They would never go down on someone unless they were sure it would lead to penetrative sex, and there’s definitely no such thing as a person with a vulva and clitoris who’s not into it.
Except that’s not true. Many women don’t like having oral sex performed on them for different reasons — from the fact that we’re socialized to be ashamed of our bodies to the stigma surrounding women’s pleasure to just not being into it.
“I don’t find it as interesting as penetrative sex,” a 31-year-old woman who asked to remain anonymous told me. “I can have orgasms from oral sex, but I prefer other things, like body-on-body contact.”
For Audra, a digital strategist in the Northeast, it’s about how the act of oral sex can hinder the communication she likes to have. “I feel like when someone is going down on me, I’m not getting any data. I want to be able to see my partner’s face and talk to him or her. It’s important to me to know that the person is present and secure.”
“I simply can’t deal with the sound,” said J. “It seems so magnified in the moment. Additionally, the pressure of knowing that someone is doing something they don’t necessarily want to be doing really stresses me out and almost gives me so much anxiety that I couldn’t orgasm even if I liked oral sex.”
If oral sex isn’t something you enjoy, you might have avoided conversations about the subject, especially if you know people who love to talk about how much they love giving or receiving it.
“I feel like I have to play along when women are all talking about how not enough guys wanna do it and all women love it,” said Audra.
It’s awful feeling like you should like something that you don’t or vice versa. Eventually, you might start to wonder if you’re normal or if you should be trying harder to like the thing you don’t like, particularly an act like oral sex, which is depicted as the key to pleasure for people with a clitoris.
Tara Struyk, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Kinkly, says she often hears from women who don’t like oral sex and are interested in “fixing the issue.”
“I think the problem isn’t so much whether women enjoy or don’t enjoy oral sex, it’s that we often make assumptions about what’s ‘normal.’ There is no ‘normal.’ Everyone has their own unique body, tastes and desires. Oral sex is just one of many things people can do for pleasure. If it isn’t ‘it,’ move on to something else,” she said.
Like it or not, we’ve internalized messages about our bodies and what’s “wrong” with how they look and smell and feel, and that’s especially relevant to our vulvas, vaginas and clitorises, which are more often than not, associated with ugliness and shame. These messages can impact our ability to allow ourselves to feel pleasure and inhibit asking for what we want, but that doesn’t mean we should be pressured into doing things we don’t want to do.
Kenna Cook is a sexual health educator with O.school, an online space (coming this fall) where folks can access individualized information about sex and pleasure. “We’re taught that you have to run the ‘bases’ — kissing, manual penetration, oral sex, etc. — but you don’t have to do anything,” said Cook. “There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t like something.”
Regardless of what you’re into (or not into), communication is always the answer to getting the best sexual experience we can possibly have. “Once I realized it was OK to have likes and dislikes,” said Kate, who lives in the Midwest, “I was able to talk about it with partners.”
Originally published on HelloFlo.