Going Down? …I Think I’ll Take the Stairs

A little while ago, I went to a sexual empowerment workshop. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but I left feeling quite shaken and exposed, like a nerve had been touched and I wasn’t sure why.

At the end of the workshop, each of the approximately 40 participants had to announce to the group one thing they were going to change the next time he/she/ze had sex. I’d been prepared for this by friends who’d taken the workshop before, and sat rehearsing my answer in my head as I awaited my turn to speak. But when all attention turned to me, I heard myself saying something I hadn’t planned to say at all: “I’m going to let my partner go down on me.”

“Is that a big deal for you?” asked the woman in charge.

“No,” I said, feeling myself getting flustered. “Yes… No… Yes? Not really. No, it’s fine.”

I’d spoken to and read blogs by women who are uncomfortable receiving oral sex. I could empathize with the awkwardness, the “this is too intimate” feeling, but I could get over it. I was not one of those women.

But as I reflected on what had happened in the workshop, I realized that, of the last eight guys I’d slept with, only one had gone down on me. The following week would mark a whole year since I’d received oral sex, and I hadn’t even missed it.

It’s not that I don’t let them go down on me, it’s just never the right time. I didn’t use the best body wash this morning, I just want to try something else first, the Yankees lost today, there’s something shiny over there that requires my attention. There’s always an excuse. We’ll do it later.

I wouldn’t say receiving oral sex makes me uncomfortable, and even if that was the source of my hang-ups, I’m not one to let personal reservations hold me back, I absolutely love pushing myself beyond my previously established boundaries.

My feelings toward cunnilingus aren’t actively negative. That creeping dread I get whenever I sense a man lowering his head and slipping away from me, down toward my vagina, it’s normal, it’s just because I’m not prepared, it’ll pass, it doesn’t mean anything.

When I think about it, though I haven’t had exceptionally bad experiences with men going down on me, I’ve never had a particularly good experience, either. I think my ambivalence is rooted in not understanding what the big fuss is about.

While I’ve never had sex without giving a blow job, fewer than half of my experiences have included cunnilingus. I don’t see it as a normal part of sex. Therefore, when it happens, I feel this great pressure to really enjoy it because it’s such an exceptional thing.

But I’m still not sure how to enjoy it. I don’t like not knowing what to do with my hands. I don’t like not being able to see each other’s faces. I hate how cold I get. I hate not being in control. I hate just laying there passively. I’m a pragmatist, I always like to feel like I’m working to accomplish something and I guess, despite my efforts, I still struggle to see my own pleasure as a legitimate goal in and of itself. And even if I did, I’m not convinced oral sex will help me achieve that aim.

When receiving oral, my thoughts are so wrapped up in where it’s going and making sure I’m responding correctly. I get so worked up over trying really hard to enjoy it, that I lose the ability to actually enjoy it. And because I’ve never been blown away by oral, I come at it with a certain skepticism that there’s something wrong with me and I’m wasting everyone’s time and effort.

Then the workshop facilitator suggested that sitting on someone’s face while they ate me out might help because it would give me more power. And I nearly fainted. Just hearing those words out loud absolutely mortified me, I think I’d die of embarrassment before actually doing such a thing.

As luck would have it, a week later, I had a totally drunken, random one-night stand with a guy who surprised me by pulling my pussy to his face and eating me out with me on top before I was even able to process what was going on. This is it, I thought, my chance to get over all my hang-ups and fears and inhibitions. And I tried as hard as I could to stay in the moment and just enjoy what was happening. But I looked down and all I could see were the flabby insides of my thighs spilling around his neck and my stomach jiggling with each movement. And I started to cry from sheer frustration and hatred of my body.

It hadn’t occurred to me that my reservations could be rooted in my own self-image issues. If I have such a difficult time loving and accepting my body, how can I want someone else to get so up close and personal? How can I feel comfortable pursuing pleasure for a device I secretly hate?

Switching to a 69 position, which I’ve never been a fan of in the past, actually helped a lot by removing my own imperfections from my line of vision and giving me something to do. I didn’t get anywhere close to orgasm, but I did enjoy it. Kind of.

I think the biggest roadblock in my achieving orgasm or even just unabashed pleasure from oral sex is my inability to be honest with myself or my partners. I’ve never talked about this with anyone before. I hadn’t even recognized it as a problem, had just assumed cunnilingus wasn’t my cup of tea. As they say, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Now that I’m able to acknowledge the fact that I struggle to enjoy oral sex, I can take some of the pressure off myself and try more honestly to let it work for me. It’s a process, and I believe that some day, if I’m patient, I will get there.

Vanessa Baker

Vanessa Baker was born in 1989 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and holds a Bachelor of Journalism with Combined Honours in Human Rights from Carleton University and an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin. Her fiction has appeared in Wordlegs and A Thoroughly Good Blue. Her journalistic interests include music and the arts, feminism and sexuality, and social justice. She also writes and performs slam poetry dealing with gender-realted issues. She currently lives in Dublin.

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  1. 01/06/2013

    […] many, oral sex is the best part of a sexual encounter. But sometimes it can be a bit intimidating. Read about what I was surprised to learn about myself at a sexual empowerment workshop on the Good […]