April 26th, 2013
Recently my advice column for The Telegraph answered a question from a woman who wasn’t sure about receiving oral sex. She’d tried it in the past and hadn’t really enjoyed it and wasn’t sure whether to try it with her new partner – or how to discuss with them she didn’t like it that much.
The question and my reply is here. I also had the following feedback to the column that focused on the importance of oral and if it constituted a relationship ‘deal breaker’.
One person pointed out I hadn’t talked about whether her reluctance to give oral sex related to her desire to give it. While the original question didn’t make reference to this, it was a relevant question that could have been posed to the person with the problem. It also highlights one of the ways we generally focus on oral sex – which is the belief often shared in popular culture/advice giving that if you get it you have to give it. This can be particularly problematic if someone is keen on one but not the other, and some advice that suggests you have to do both even if you dislike one. This might be a more nuanced point for those offering advice/education on relationships to think about further. Why do we see oral as something that has to be given in order to be received? What other ways are there of thinking about pleasure that don’t rehearse a narrative that oral sex is only ‘fair’ if you give and get in return.
More feedback stated that I hadn’t focused much on her asking him how important oral sex was. The letter describes a partner who wants to do it but gives no indication of how much of a desire this is. So it would have been more useful to detail how to have a conversation to identify early on if this is something very important to a partner or not.
A colleague (who wishes to be anonymous) gave me some more detailed pointers around the approach I had taken in my reply. They said:
“Every time I go to read something you’re written, I’ve done so with excitement, and I always have a satisfying experience and can say, “She speaks my words better than I can.” I think this article misses something. I think the article pussyfoots around.
I understand all the loveydovey stuff and the idea of not trying to talk someone into doing it. I think you miss the point that the bottom line is that relationships, long term relationships, disparity of “eager willingness” to participate is a killer, and that needs to be said, without compromise.
The world changes. Oral sex today IS yesterday’s handshake. While oral sex may not have been de rigueur in earlier centuries, it is so today. If a couple are mismatched on the inclusion of erotic oral sex in the bed dance, people who desire it somehow seem to find other partners with whom to share it. That’s common reality, without judgment, but to avoid discussing it simply misses the point that I’m surprised you didn’t include.
Yes, for some people in some places it is important, but it is important to find out this distinction prior to “I do.” Rarely are cock or tit size deal breakers, though they may have been part of the overall process of mate selection. The oral sex trip doesn’t equate with those other factors. For those to whom it matters, it matters, and if that is not addressed early, disaster will occur. Note I say will.
By the way. the word “cocksucker” has changed considerably in its meanings over the past number of decades, from epithet to award. Taboo can work in many ways, as CA Tripp and Jack Morin have written.
I still like equating oral sex with the handshake. When you talk about other options, I think about other directly sexual options, and there is a generally, but not rigid, observable order to the inclusion of other directly sexual options. Thus, in either order, usually first coitus or first oral, followed by anal. I think that anal is the crossover behaviour, that once anal sex is part of the equation or has been discussed/evaluated as not being part of their sexual package, then all other possibilities follow from that. It is my bet, though, that disparity in desire for mutuality of oral sex in a relationship, will behaviourally be a deal breaker.
Ya see, I think that for most couples, the birthday blowjob with attitude is not what most men like, nor do most women want a guy to go down on them with a close-pin on his nose. ( I know it’s a het assumption.) Quid pro quo sex ain’t never gonna work, and in our culture, in this time, I think it is foolhardy to think that it won’t matter. Yes, I’d equate it with the porn/anti-porn couple, it’s that much of a barometer.”
The problem, my reply and the above responses to it may be useful for those who are questioning about oral sex, or who offer therapy or work in psycho/sexual health. Not least to explore some of the values we have about oral. About its changing importance in relationships and popular (Western) culture, about how this may impact in different relationships (particularly lgb ones), and how therapists and educators may internalise values about oral that in turn affect their practice.Tweet