Why is Oral Sex Problematic?

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  • why is it taking so long?
  • if I don’t orgasm soon my partner will be frustrated and disappointed
  • I haven’t a clue what to do

These are common thoughts which people have around oral sex. Which, when you think of it, are quite strange. Why should something which, by its nature, ought to be relaxed and pleasurable be the cause of so much stress?

The reason, I think, is that, both as giver and receiver, we have an idea of what the experience should be like, and what our part in the experience should be.

We think, as the giver, we should be skilled, and as receiver, we should be orgasmic, because we have a fixed idea that oral sex is about ‘giving’ the receiver an orgasm.

How can we view oral sex differently?

Giving Differently

widen the scope

Because we think that the purpose of oral sex is to give the receiver an orgasm, we tend to focus on the body part we think will induce one. With woman, that’s the glands of the clitoris, with men, it’s the head of the penis. That leads to repetition and the increase of speed and pressure, which tends to create a contest between arousal and anxiety. And anxiety only needs to win once. Then it keeps winning.

The way out of the trap is to broaden the scope. Firstly, and obviously, in terms of the body. I’ve written elsewhere how re-envisioning men’s bodies will lead to much more satisfaction and good communication, but there’s a more general point. If we’re reductive -sex is about orgasm and the best place to bring that about is here – then we’ll miss out on most of what’s pleasurable and connecting about sexual connection with another.

don’t focus on the goal

If we think that the point of oral sex is about the outcome, rather than the experience and the connection, then the Giver will gradually move towards the position of regarding it as a chore, and the Receiver will move towards thinking they have an obligation to orgasm, and do so without “taking too much time”. So neither can just enjoy the experience. Which is ludicrous.

We can’t ignore the role of shame. But for men and women, it appears at opposite ends, as it were. Men are anxious that they might not get, or not sustain an erection. Women are anxious that they might not get aroused enough to orgasm. But because it’s shame, no one says anything. So the other can’t know. But you can know, because I’ve just told you. And knowing this, as the giver, you can be attentive and connecting rather than anxious if your partner doesn’t appear to be that aroused at the start, and loving and giving later on rather than impatient and puzzled.

think of it as being for you

My author friend and Curator of The Sex Lectures, Alison PIlling, has written about men getting off on women getting off. In other words, possibly as an overreaction to grim patriarchy, some men’s focus during sexual activity is whether their partner is experiencing orgasmic pleasure. Superficially, this is admirable, but in reality, it just puts more expectation and pressure on women. And more generally, you can get into this weird thing where each person thinks that they’re doing it for the other. What Ali would say -derived from Betty Martin, whom we both trained with – is that we need to discover our own desire. Applying that to oral sex, when we’re in the Giver position, we’re not anxiously focusing on the goal of our partner’s orgasm, we’re just exploring our own curiosity and interest in the present moment. This takes a load of pressure off everybody.

get more confident

Oral sex, like sex generally, isn’t primarily a skill. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn skills from people like me. Don’t try to learn them from porn films. And be very careful with learning from books, because they tend to perpetuate the stereotypes which created the performance anxiety in the first place.


We think there’s a set way of doing something. There isn’t. There’s only a good way for this person. In this moment. If we don’t think of oral sex primarily as a skill which we should be good at, but as a way of connecting, then learning to ask our partner what they like won’t be seen as trying to fix something we’re getting wrong, but as attending to widening the connection.

Receiving Differently

don’t fret about time

This is a biggie. Once you get the idea that “I’m taking too long”, it’s very difficult to remain relaxed. And if you’re not relaxed, it’s very difficult to orgasm, and you and your partner can then get into the trap of thinking that what’s needed is more pressure and more speed, which can frequently create the maddening sensation of being nearly there, but not quite, like hitting a glass ceiling.

don’t worry about orgasm

It’s great if you have an orgasm, but making the whole experience about that is self defeating. It’s like going through beautiful countryside wearing an eye mask, impatient to get to your destination. Then the train breaks down just before you reach it. Don’t waste your fabulous, unique erotic life with this kind of stupidity.

get out of a performance state, and into an experiencing state

Experiencing oral sex from a loving partner is a wonderful way to get into an erotic trance. Your busy mind becomes quiet, and time seems to slow right down. You become very still on the outside, but inside you are full of sensations and vivid imaginings, like in a dream. Many people receiving feel compelled to re-assure their partner by a running commentary of “Oh God”, “Oh My God” etc, but you don’t need to do this, particularly if you both understand that this state of erotic trance is an internal state, so the lack of external signs doesn’t mean that it’s not ‘working’

The sad thing is that due to the ubiquity of porn, we feel an obligation as receiver to be a bit like a performing seal. But porn isn’t life. Not yet anyway, thankfully.


Don’t try and micromanage the giver. If they’re doing something you really don’t like, then tell them [but try to avoid “I’ve told you a million times not to do that”, which is disheartening]. But outside the bedroom, perhaps when you’re out for a walk, or want to cheer up the diners at the next table, tell them what was great, and what could be different. People respond better to praise than criticism, so “I loved it when you went slow” works much better than “I hate it when you go too fast”. Your partner isn’t telepathic.

But if you adopt this perspective, they don’t have to be.

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