Oral Sex: The Do’s and Don’ts
Oral sex ey, the good ole going down, eating out, rim job, 69, blow job, head. Oral sex is medically defined as oral stimulation of the genitals. Culturally though, since we are primarily only taught about penis-in-vagina sex, oral sex tends to be generally recognized as pleasuring a penis. It’s hard to understand all the possibilities for your sexual likes and dislikes when it concerns oral sex because of this assumption and frankly the stigma that oral sex has attached to it. We all have different desires — so when it comes to giving you advice for going down on your partner(s), there is no one-size-fits-all recipe. No two vulvas are the same, no penises are the same, and no two bodies are the same. However, there are some general tips and best practices to know about beforehand.
How to Have Oral Sex Safely
Can You Get STIs From Oral?
Yes, this is absolutely possible. There is a long-standing myth that oral sex doesn’t spread STIs, but it is one of the ways that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are most frequently passed on. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes simplex virus, HPV, and HIV can all be shared through oral sex.
So please do remember to get your regular check-up and emphasize to your partner/s that they get checked as well even if you’re monogamous. Be on the lookout for things like burning when you pee, genital itching, and discharge. Getting tested is always a good idea even when you are not experiencing obvious symptoms.
Practice Good Hygiene.
PSA: Do not feel self-conscious about your body for any reason. Oral sex is sometimes even more intimate than penetrative sex, it involves a consented understanding of a release of control and shared vulnerability. Your vulva/penis is a body part, which means along with it comes natural scent/taste/hair, which is all perfectly normal! Remember that there’s nothing wrong with you or your natural scent, so don’t let anyone shame you into thinking otherwise.
But, it's easy to get in your head about these things, especially when you're with a new partner. So if it's really bugging you and you want to just relax, you won't lose anything by taking a shower. Penis owners can use a little bit of soap when they shower and everyone can use soap to wash their anus. People with vulvas should wash with only water — don’t use anything scented on your vulva or in your vagina — it has natural bacteria that keep it healthy and clean. Most people prefer that the genitals are relatively clean when they go down on their partners, as smegma accumulates, and smell and taste become more intense the longer it's been.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene.
Most people don't necessarily think about their oral hygiene when it concerns oral sex, but it's actually pretty important. Oral health has a direct correlation to the transmission of infections. It's important to consider if you or your partner has any mouth sores or bleeding gums prior to engaging in oral sex.
But before you brush your teeth pre-oral, take note that flossing or brushing your teeth just before or just after oral sex increases the likelihood of STI transmission, especially if people have sensitive gums that bleed easily. A good rule of thumb? Don't engage in oral sex within two hours of brushing or flossing to give your mouth time to recover.
If STIs are a concern, you should consider some barriers during oral sex. For fellatio, you can use a latex or polyurethane condom on the penis or dildo before you start giving your partner head. Sometimes latex doesn’t taste the best, so it can be fun to get a flavored condom for this reason.
If you’re giving cunnilingus or analingus, you can use a dental dam, which is a rectangular-shaped piece of latex that is placed over the vulva or anus before sex. If you can’t find a dental dam (they aren’t always sold at drugstores the way condoms are), you can cut a condom into a dental dam. You cut off the tip and then up the side of the condom before unrolling it. When you unroll the condom, you now have a dental dam. If you’re performing different kinds of oral in one interaction (i.e., going from analingus to cunnilingus), make sure to get a fresh barrier before starting something new.
How to Have Oral Sex
Whether you’re performing fellatio, cunnilingus, or analingus — there are some things to keep in mind about exactly how to have oral sex. The best overall advice is to communicate, build up slowly, find your rhythm, and have consistency.
In regards to fellatio, please do check out our advice joined with other sexperts Becky Crepsley-Fox and Jess Wilde at So Divine on Sheerluxe’s “An Expert Guide To Giving A Good Blow Job.” Fellatio can also be performed on a dildo and can be very sensual for both the giver and receiver. Some lesbians, genderqueer, or trans folks who have a vulva might want to receive oral on their dildo when wearing a strap-on. Pleasure for the receiver in this instance can come from watching their partner perform on the dildo or feeling like the dildo is an extension of their body, which could be very gender-affirming for them.
There’s no one way to give cunnilingus. For people with vulvas, the clitoris is the pleasure center as it contains thousands of nerve endings. The clitoral hood is at the very top of the labia minora (or inner lips) — the clitoral hood exists to protect that area, which can feel like a hard pinpoint when someone gets turned on. The clitoris is very sensitive, and that means even the slightest difference in speed or pressure can take something from feeling really good to incredible. A popular move is the “circular” motion that circles around the clitoris with your tongue. Start with a feathery, light touch. If you want to build up the momentum, switch the motions between a more and a less intense touch. There is also the “side-to-side” lick where you use your tongue horizontally, which works, as well as inserting a finger or two once you see that they're getting aroused and they’re breathing seems heavier.
Analingus can also be incredibly pleasurable to try. The anus is an erogenous zone, and rife with nerve endings to stimulate. However, the butthole is a muscle, and it will clench up when someone is nervous. So if you’re receiving, try to let go of all your jittery feelings and allow yourself to relax completely when your partner is going down on you. A lot of people have this perception that they don’t need to do any foreplay with rimming, but just like with every other type of sexual experience, you want to warm up. Start by teasing the anus. Make circles with your tongue, lick it like ice cream, and play with the entire booty. Really get your hands on it. Spank it. Shake it! Once your partner is warmed up and ready for more, you can go deeper into the rim job.
The Do’s of Oral Sex
- Use other parts of your face like your nose or chin. This is great in case your mouth and tongue start getting tired. If you’re going down on a vulva, use the tip of your nose to slide right inside or roll around the head of the clit.
- Go slow. If your partner has a penis take between 15 and 30 seconds to slowly slide your mouth from base to tip. And on vulvas, the same concept applies—lick from the top to the bottom of the clit as slowly as possible, then gently breathe some warm air along the wet path you just created. Foreplay matters here too.
- Touch yourself. This doesn't mean you have to 69, but consider giving yourself some pleasure while you're giving it. Fantasize. Touch yourself. Wear a vibrating toy. Do whatever it takes to get yourself turned on and enthusiasm will flow naturally.
- Play with a sex toy. This is a great way to add a new sensation when giving oral sex. For those with vulvas, there are typically two kinds of toys that mimic the pleasure of oral sex: suction vibrators and faux-tongue-like toys. For people with penises, you can tease them with a massage wand.
- Get vocal. Even a long “mhm” works here! Not only is being vocal during sex a turn-on but the sounds may also create small vibrations. These vibrations, hums, and noises can add even more to the feeling of both giving and receiving oral sex.
- More eye contact. This one works equally well with both giving and receiving. This is a good way to connect to your partner even if your mouth is full, and it’s a huge turn-on for your partner to look you in the eye when giving you oral.
- Incorporate lube. You might think of lube as just for penetrative sex, but saliva is not always as reliable as your bedside table miracle-goo on hand. Whether you’re giving or getting head on someone with a penis or a vulva, a good lube is going to make the whole thing way easier and more pleasurable for both parties. Plus, it takes some of the pressure off the giver as well.
- Be creative with positions. Penetrative sex shouldn’t get all the fun body contortions. Mix up your oral game by physically moving around and trying new positions, just like you do in the rest of your sex life.
- Play with temperature. With your partner's permission, play around with ice. Try sucking on an ice cube right before you go down on them. Fill your mouth with crushed-up ice and go to town. This delivers a tingly sensation, and the contrast between the warmth of your mouth and the cool ice can be refreshing.
- Try prostate-play. Did you know you can stimulate a penis-haver's prostate externally without actually inserting any fingers or toys in the booty? Stimulate your partner’s perineum (located between their anus and balls) by gently massaging the area while going down on them.
The Don’ts of Oral Sex
- Don’t forget consent. Not everyone is comfortable with giving/receiving oral sex, so do make sure both parties are enthusiastically consenting to go down.
- Don’t make assumptions. Every vulva and penis is different. What worked for a previous partner may not work for your current partner(s), so don’t make assumptions. Say it with me..com-mun-ic-ation.
- Don’t use your teeth. Yes, this is one of the most important lessons. Never use your teeth while giving oral sex.
- Don’t ignore the rest of the area (or other areas). Remember other erogenous zones exist so touch, stroke, suck or lick as you warm up towards oral or as you do oral for extra stimulation.
- Don’t leave the sweet spot. Once you find the sweet spot or perfect movement they like, keep doing it. I think many people are afraid that repetition gets boring or that they need to switch it up a lot to prove their skill, but that isn’t true. And when in doubt, use suction!
- Don’t eat something spicy right before. The aftertaste of something super spicy will remain in your mouth and believe it or not, it might give them an uncomfortable burning sensation down there.
- Avoid foods that change the smell of your urine. Avoid anything too pungent, like coffee and asparagus, but also anything too garlicky or sugary that can also impact your vagina's natural taste and smell.
- Know when to stop. Overstimulation is a thing for vulvas, rubbing the clit raw may not be what it’s all cracked up to be, while in cases with penises it may take things to the next level.
- Don’t always expect an orgasm. As with any type of sex, some people don’t orgasm from oral and there is nothing wrong with that. While it’s wonderful to want to give your partner pleasure, orgasm shouldn’t be the end goal. Instead, the focus should be on them enjoying themselves.
- Don’t try to gag. If we were to rely on porn as our #1 source of sex tips, we would all be in a lot of trouble. Porn creates fantasies and positions that just don’t really translate well in the real world. Yes, if you can get their penis all the way to the back of your throat without choking, then Bravo! However, when it comes to the gagging for gag-sake, don’t assume that they’re automatically into it―no matter how much he loves porn.