Features, Sexy Mac

Bringing Sexy Mac: Let’s talk about oral sex

This week we tackle the patriarchy. Shocker, I know. Disclaimer: the bulk of this column applies exclusively to sexual relationships between penis-havers and vagina-havers, and a lot of the sources I will be using focus exclusively on cis men and cis women. However, I have done my best to tackle this issue in a way that makes it accessible to any reader. Enjoy!

Why is fellatio (oral sex on a penis) typically considered standard practice while cunnilingus (oral sex on a vagina) is relegated to the extra-special bonus category? Like last week’s column, there are many, many answers to this question, and all of them basically boil down to the good ol’ Macalester favorite: patriarchal social norms. A quick Google search about the inequity of oral sex brings up a fascinating array of articles, from feminist op-eds that mirror this article to “totalfratmove.com” and its not-so-shocking misogynistic opinions on the topic. I think the best way to go about tackling this question is to break the content into numeric parts, which will hopefully make the lengthy and complicated answer more digestible.

1.Even people with vaginas often think their genitals are icky or shameful, so of course people without vaginas will absorb this way of thinking as well. (Note: this article will not be addressing gender dysphoric feelings about one’s genitals, which is a different type of discomfort and should not be considered relevant to the feelings I am describing here.)

People with vaginas grow up in a world where their sexuality is shamed and policed. The focus of this sexuality is the genitals, and many young vagina-havers are taught not to touch themselves, not to engage in self-exploration and to indefinitely ignore their sexual feelings.

In the US, most sexual education focuses strictly on biology, and people with vaginas are taught only that their genitals expel bloody “waste” every month, that their vagina will be penetrated by a penis during reproduction, and that a baby will exit their vagina along with a flood of other messy body fluids while giving birth. The clitoris is seldom mentioned, and the anatomical diagrams are often greyscale, internally focused, and exclusively 2D. People with vaginas enter the adult world with a basic understanding of the number of holes “down there” and a perception of the vagina as an entrance and exit for reproductive purposes only.

Many vagina-havers perceive their genitals as messy, wet, smelly, embarrassing and mysterious. The thought of cunnilingus often invokes shame-based anxiety, discomfort and even fear. The act is perceived as incredibly intimate and something that is only to be given freely and never requested.

2.People are conditioned to put more emphasis on the orgasm of the person with the penis, which is deemphasized during cunnilingus and thus disrupts social norms. As last week’s column detailed, the inequality of orgasms is alive and well in our society. Sex is often defined as “complete” only after penile ejaculation has occurred, and vaginal/clitoral orgasms are nice when they happen, but are seldom thought of as the center of the act.

Cunnilingus, which provides no direct stimulation to the penis and direct mouth-to-genital contact with the vagina, exists with the express goal of arousing the vagina-haver, often to orgasm. This breaks social norms of vaginal sexual pleasure as taboo, shameful and deemphasized, which often makes all parties uncomfortable and reluctant to perform or request such an action.

3.People with vaginas, socialized to exist as passive partners during sexual activity, feel uncomfortable requesting cunnilingus if not initiated by the active partner. As a succinct quote from an article on xojane.com puts it: “They don’t come right out and refuse to go down on you. They just never, ever take the initiative to do so … [I don’t request it because] I would never want to like, subject anyone to my [vagina].”

People with penises often have no qualms requesting or expecting oral sex from their partners, and the reasons for this double standard form a circle, with the explanations above in parts one and two.

4.Conceptions of oral sex play a role in why cunnilingus is less likely to occur. Fellatio is often seen as routine foreplay in order to arouse the penis to erection and maintain it there for subsequent penetration. The “goal” of most penis-and-vagina sex is for the penis to enter the vagina, achieve orgasm and ejaculate, signaling the end of intercourse. Fellatio contributes to this goal by being conceptualized as an element of foreplay, a step on the natural progression of sexual activity that will eventually result in achievement of the penetrative goal.

Cunnilingus does not fit into this conceptualization of sexual intercourse. The oral sex givers often see orgasm, rather than increased arousal, as the ultimate goal of cunnilingus, and thus resist performing the activity when they expect an orgasm will be achieved by other means, e.g. penetration. Fellatio is seen as a tool to reach the ultimate goal of penetration, whereas cunnilingus is not seen as a progression toward the goal, and in fact is often seen as a hindrance.

Similar to the conceptualization of fellatio as foreplay vs. cunnilingus as disrpution, oral sex in general is seen as a “less complete” sexual activity than vaginal penetration. Oral sex, despite having “sex” in its moniker, is not seen as “real” sex; the popular juvenile metaphor of sexual activity as a baseball diamond emphasizes this point, as “third base” symbolizes oral sex, and vaginal penetration is considered “home plate”.

Adolescents consider themselves virgins until their genitals penetrate or are penetrated, with oral sex as a convenient alternative for hot-blooded teens who signed abstinence pledges. Until cunnilingus can be re-conceptualized as a type of foreplay and/or all oral sex is considered as real and complete as penetrative sex, the oral sex inequity will continue.

What have we learned today, readers?

The next time someone asks you to perform oral sex on their penis, ask them to perform oral sex on your vagina (if you’re comfortable with that). The next time someone performs oral sex on your penis, ask them if you can perform oral sex on their vagina. If you’re not comfortable with a possible enthusiastic yes, perhaps do some introspection and take all oral sex off the table until further notice.

April 15, 2016

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of
avatar