Is it good to give head?

// 23 January 2009

(I’ve been thinking about the implications of women performing oral sex on men for a while. I began writing this as a feature, but thought it would be more interesting to open it up for discussion as a shorter version here.)

Fellatio is rarely discussed as an expression of female sexual empowerment, but rather as a form of male dominance. Taking a man’s penis in our mouths is traditionally seen as an act of submission; it is assumed we do it against our will. This makes it a feminist issue. Maybe the slang terminology used to describe oral sex is responsible? We “give head,” implying that in doing so we lose something, gaining nothing in return. That the process of blowing is described as a “job” suggests it is hard work, the antithesis of enjoyment; a necessity to survive; an act requiring such effort that the “giver” should receive some form of remuneration. This probably has its genesis in the historical stereotyping of women who fellate. It was an act performed by prostitutes in brothels. It was done in darkened alleys and kept secret by “morally corrupt sluts.” A married woman who was so bold as to take her husbands cock in her mouth was later called a “whore,” but that she would do it was unlikely. Anne Boleyn was said to have “bewitched” Henry VIII with this “whore trick” cultivated during her time in France. It is claimed she blew herself all the way from social mediocrity to the throne (although her transgressions later catapulted her to the gallows).

Likewise, mainstream pornography has defined the “blow-job” as sexually degrading for women. It is a sex act performed by a woman on a man for his pleasure alone. It is a sex act performed by a woman on a man to sate the longing of horny male voyeurs, eager to see their masturbatory fantasies fulfilled in celluloid if not in reality. In 1972 the infamous American porn film Deep Throat was banned in some countries and became the subject of obscenity trials, with Linda Lovelace (pseudonym of Linda Susan Boreman) hitting the headlines for her ability to take an erect penis completely into her mouth and throat. This was a variation on what was commonly understood to constitute a “blow-job” at the time.

Boreman (who became acquainted with anti-porn activist Andrea Dworkin) later claimed that she did not consent to many of the explicit sexual scenes, and that she had been forced to do this at gun-point by her abusive husband. In 1986 she said that “virtually every time someone watches that movie, they’re watching me being raped,” with the 2005 documentary about the film (Inside Deep Throat), exposing the extent to which Boreman had been savagely exploited sexually, physically, emotionally and financially. This has all fed into our perception of oral sex as a tool of masculine control, designed to humiliate women for the excitement of men, but is this argument too reductive? Can fellating a man, in a mutually consenting situation, be liberating for a woman? Is it an empowered female action, rather than the epitome of misogynistic control? And can we just enjoy it?

Err, I’d say yes to all of the above. A woman can enjoy “giving head” and still proudly self-define as a feminist without having betrayed her belief systems. I view the “blow-job” as a form of male surrender, something requiring a mutual degree of trust and self-restraint. I have never considered it to be anything but empowering for a woman when all involved are amenable. There doesn’t have to be an emotional connection between participants for fellatio to be pleasurable, of course, as the power shift can itself be arousing, and I can understand why some women genuinely want to “give head.” In some instances I believe it can be a more intensely intimate experience than coitus, simply because of the rescinding and reclaiming of control involved. It is one of the only times when a man is completely physically vulnerable, allowing his female partner to have autonomous control over his pleasure and orgasm by manipulating his most sensitive organ (the organ that defines his gender and can offer him mortality through reproduction) using one of her most powerful organs; her mouth. Our enjoyment emanates from the realisation that we can easily control a man’s ecstasy.

The mouth can be an aggressive part of our anatomy, and at the same time as offering gratification by mimicking the vagina we know that it could induce severe pain, placing the male receiver completely at the mercy of the female giver (and her back molars). This has a historical precedent. The vagina dentata (latin for toothed vagina) myth was initially coined to discourage men from having sex with “strange women.” This was explored in the 2007 film Teeth, during which the virgin heroine discovers she has a toothed vagina following her attempted rape (the attacker dies, as do subsequent men who try to rape her). Unlike the original myth, the message is not simply to encourage men to take recourse to sexual self-preservation, but is rather a celebration of female sexuality and sexual power. The toothed vagina enables the female protagonist to protect her chastity, with the knowledge of her unique physical attribute making her grow in confidence from a quiet and meek girl, to a headstrong young woman. Does fellatio not work on the same principle? While men may attempt to verbally denigrate women who perform the act by casting aspersions on their sexual behaviour and morality, is this nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to the subconscious realisation that we have taken charge? And therefore, is “giving head” just another feminist step along the road to our complete sexual liberation?

Comments From You

suzy_internetuser // Posted 23 January 2009 at 7:53 am

I love the vagina dentata image! It kind of has kitschy vampire potential, don’t you think? I think feminists can absolutely reclaim it as an expression of sexual empowerment, now that we are all rather more enlightened and know the true location of teeth on a woman’s body. I think the image of a toothy vadge persists because some men still find women’s bodies scary and mysterious – a dark, damp, unknown place to be feared. Horrors!!

Aimee // Posted 23 January 2009 at 8:09 am

… This is one of those subjective things. It depends on how you do it and what the two people involved in it feel about it. It’s not something someone has to do, it’s something someone does for mutual enjoyment… is oral sex on a female not the same thing? I find this article, whilst well written, a little surprising, because personally I never ever saw giving head as an act of giving or of submission… it’s just part of foreplay and I would expect the same kind of reciprocation from my partner. (Obviously not like… that’s me done, now it’s your turn… but you get the point…) I’m surprised that anyone still maintains these attitudes.

JenniferRuth // Posted 23 January 2009 at 9:16 am

Hmmm, well, I don’t think there is anything particularly empowering about any act of sex. It should all be mutually enjoyable. Mutually enjoyable means many different things to different people and you have to work out what that is with your partner rather than thinking “I should be doing this.”

If giving a blow job is “empowering” is a man giving a woman head “emasculating”?

I enjoy giving blow jobs because it makes me happy to give pleasure like that. I know that this is why my boyfriend also likes going down on me. It is a turn on to know that your partner is turned on. However, one of my previous partners hated blow jobs and did not enjoy them (whole long backstory there), so you know what? We didn’t do it. My current partners previous girlfriend hated to give blow jobs, so you know what? They didn’t do it.

There shouldn’t be a set number of rules in sex about what you should be doing or shouldn’t. Lads mags and womens mags often try to impose these rules on us (especially Lads mags, which tries to make out like your girlfriend must be defective is she doesn’t want to take it up the arse). I think that we should be fighting more against that sort of attitude.

Giving head is not a feminist step on the road to sexual liberation. It is just a sexual act. What *does* bring feminist sexual liberation is being honest and open with your partner about what you like and what you don’t and refusing to feel guilty/bad/slutty about it.

Sabre // Posted 23 January 2009 at 11:22 am

Oh Abby I predict this thread is going to get a lot of comments…

I like giving head. My partner is always so appreciative and I like giving him pleasure. He reciprocates and it’s rare for us to have sex without at least 20 minutes of play for me.

Porn cliches are very damaging though. What I notice in porn is that women giving head are shown as less powerful than the man. But then women getting head are also shown as the less powerful (i.e. submissive). We can’t win!

The only time a man can be more powerful when getting head is if there is some coercion or force on his part. Otherwise he is vulnerable. But men don’t like to be vulnerable so it’s been falsely constructed as the opposite.

Why is sex about power anyway? It should be about mutual consent and respect, and even love.

Sam // Posted 23 January 2009 at 11:35 am

Does that mean, then, that women receiving head is a submissive act?

I think what your article demonstrates is that oral sex can be construed as dominant or submissive. Whether it is ultimately one of these, or neither, depends on what’s going on in the minds of the people involved.

It is possible to be in a relationship where, when Person A goes down on Person B it is considered a debasing act which puts the other’s pleasure above their own, but when the converse takes place it is understood that Person B is taking charge of Person A’s body through controlling their arousal.

Does this have feminist implications? I think culturally, yes, but personally, no. That is, what one gets up to in the bedroom, provided it’s all consensual, has nothing to do with feminism regardless of the extent to which it might debase, degrade or humiliate the parties involved. But should we, as feminists, reject the socially pervasive idea that oral sex is primarily an which subjugates the giver? Absolutely.

Anne Onne // Posted 23 January 2009 at 11:38 am

I’d say it’s complicated. On one hand, it’s seen by society as the ultimate subjugation. ‘Suck my dick’ is used as an insult, and just like vaginal (or any other form of) rape, rape via forced oral sex is a way of controlling women, implying that they are less than for having sex, that their having sex should not be an expression of their sexuality or for their pleasure, but as a duty to men. It bothers me that girls who don’t want to ‘lose their virginity’ feel pressured into having oral or anal sex to appease their boyfriends, not because they genuinely want to, but only as much as it bothers me that girls are pressured into any kind of sex by boyfriends taught that they are absolutely entitled to sex whenever they want it.

It bothers me that public perception of oral sex is only about fellatio. Women pleasure men. Apparently, ‘eating muff’ is something only lesbians do. Because of course, women just want a good ‘deep-dicking’…What a horrible expression! Dudes, it really ain’t about bruising cervixes. If you think it is, here’s news: you have probably never pleased a woman sexually!

It’s just so irritating that whilst fellatio is mainstream, there’s just no mention of how pleasuring each other should be a two-way thing. Women are ‘supposed’ to have vaginal sex, anal sex and give head, (among other things), and all they’re supposed to want in return is (probably badly performed) PIV (which still probably has the man’s pleasure in mind). That’s my main issue with fellatio, the fact that it’s seen as just another thing for men to demand from women, rather than one of many things people can do to pleasure each other. The sooner we start to see sex as a joy for both parties, and encourage men to ask what women want, and women to be frank, (because let’s face it, society teaches us that men need their fragile egos propped up with lots of fake orgasms!), the better life will be for all. Oh, and whilst we’re at it, we should teach people that there’s more to life than sex, and that nobody owes anyone sex.

I think it’s like every other consensual sex act in that if done right, (and reciprocally*) it has the potential to make a sexual relationship (or a sex encounter, if one prefers) more interesting and more pleasurable for both parties. There’s nothing that says that both parties have to be equally stimulated at all times, and if a woman enjoys it (the act itself, or the thought of making her sex partner weak at the knees, so to speak), then there’s nothing inherently antifeminist about pursuing it. Sex is about mutual pleasure: both parties getting satisfaction out of pleasuring the other (or others) and getting pleasured in turn.

Current society has a lot to answer for, for how oral sex is portrayed, so I see the problems with oral sex as being the same with other sex acts: women may be pressured into them by society, or they may be outright raped. Men are taught to see it as their right, (like all sex obviously is!) and to see having sex with women as an act of domination.

I, too, wondered why some men have this ‘vagina dentata’ fixation about vaginas when they are perfectly willing to put their penis in an orifice everyone knows has teeth…

Interesting take, though. (And not ‘interesting’ in the ‘I don’t know what to say’ way, but the ‘you covered some often neglected points in a thought provoking way’ kind of interesting. Which F-word articles normally are, of course!)

* Of course, you may get someone who likes giving but not recieving. Though I’m sure they’ll have something else they prefer. The point is, sex should be seen as reciprocal, and it really ain’t.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 23 January 2009 at 11:40 am

Dominant beliefs are still that if a woman gives fellatio to a man she is submitting to his sexual power and domination. The common position for a woman to give fellatio is on her knees whilst the man towers over her. I see no empowerment in this particular position because it enables the man to control the woman by forcing her head on to his penis. The man can very easily and often does force the woman’s head so that his penis can be forced into her mouth more easily. If a woman bites the man’s penis she is at great risk of him committing physical violence against her. There was a recent case wherein a woman did precisely that wherein she dared to bite her male partner’s penis because she did not want to engage in this practice. What happened? The woman was charged with assault and the man’s attempted oral rape of the woman was dismissed as irrelevant. Yet another case of male sexual power superceding a woman’s right of sexual autonomy.

How about men giving women oral sex is this empowering to women? Why is the focus always on women sexually servicing men? Linda Boreman did not claim rather she stated she had been forced by her abusive husband to learn how to allow her throat to take in a penis whilst simultaneously not gagging or vomiting. It was not a ‘skill’ Ms. Boreman had but one which men forced her to submit to.

Anne Boleyn was much maligned by misogynist men who sought to sully her reputation. How about we look at Henry VIII’s sexual history? Given he had six wives and innumerable women he used as sexual commodities, his reputation is not pristine either. But the focus is always on women’s sexual reputation never men’s sexual coercion of women, which is justified as men’s natural sexual aggression and domination over women’s sexuality.

As regards fellatio – well lets put it in perspective – the practice itself is not misogynistic but we cannot separate it from how men and women view it. Attempting to portray this practice as ‘women’s sexual empowerment’ does not alter the fact it is a woman sexually servicing a man. This in itself feeds into dominant views women’s sexuality is for men’s sexual pleasure.

Far too many women are forced to give fellatio to men not because they wish to but because it is expected as part of the dominant male heterosexual script. Many men refuse to give women oral sex because women’s bodies are still viewed as dirty and disgusting. So, fellatio and men giving women oral sex cannot be undertaken unless men refuse to use these practices as a way of enforcing male domination and control over women. Finally and most importantly, if a woman does not want a penis in her mouth that must be respected. Claims ‘give it a try’ or ‘you don’t know what it is like until you try it’ are all deliberate attempts by men to coerce women into undertaking a sexual service they do not want to undertake. Such male pressure is used against women to make them feel they are abnormal or ‘prudish’ because so many women supposedly freely engage in this practice. How about we tell men they are abnormal or ‘prudish’ for refusing to give a woman oral sex wherein the focus is on him sexually servicing her rather than fellatio which is used to bolster masculine identity.

Teeth in my view was yet another misogynistic film because of course female sexuality is dangerous and always in need of male control and policing. Why did this film just not have a woman who refused to be men’s sexualised commodities rather than falling back on the misogynistic myth women’s sexual organs have ‘teeth.’ Still if women’s sexual organs did have a defense system then the numbers of men raping and committing sexual violence against women would reduce dramatically!

One last question do women experience sexual climax from fellatio? Not to my knowledge so this practice is solely for men’s sexual pleasure. To pre-empt claims such views are anti-male, unless what passes for ‘normal male sexual expression’ is changed radically wherein women’s sexuality becomes autonomous and not an adjunct to men’s sexuality. The practice of fellatio will continue to be used as a method of enforcing men’s sexual domination and control over women’s sexuality and their bodies.

Ruth Moss // Posted 23 January 2009 at 12:10 pm

What Anne Onne said!

(How many times have I thought about making that exact comment I wonder?)

Rachael // Posted 23 January 2009 at 1:09 pm

Totally agree with Anne Onne. I have far too many female friends who actualy see it as “cool” to say that they love giving men oral sex and expect nothing back!! Infuriataing. In fact, in many social circles it is A) totally expected of women (with nothing in return) and B) seen as very “empowering” (??) for women to do.

Personally – I do enjoy giving oral sex to a man ….but I ABSOLUTELY expect pleasure in return. And do you know – I have actually been seen as “awkward” and annoying by some men (and women) for this!!

Oral sex for men is now seen as the essance of cool to men – and the essence of sexual dominance over women. And this is perceived as a POSITIVE thing by all!!!

If only sexual acts could be seen as totally mutual and respectful for both sexes. That’s what I am hoping the future has in store for women. No unecessary connotations of power and control …. just pleasure for all.

Sam // Posted 23 January 2009 at 1:31 pm

Rachael: many people like ‘connotations of power and control’ in sex. Don’t take them away from us!

I quite agree that a cultural norm which presents oral sex (in het relationships) as something which men have the right to ‘receive’ without any expectation of ‘giving’ is harmful. However, this should be distinguished from relationships where one partner has the right to expect this, not on the basis of gender, but due to the power dynamic between the individuals involved.

Lynsey // Posted 23 January 2009 at 1:33 pm

Jennifer Drew, you are wrong when you say that it is solely for men’s pleasure; women CAN get great pleasure from making their partner happy; and many strong women enjoy being submissive in bed. Orgasming during a sexual experience isn’t the be all and end all, how about the warm glow of making your partner (and yourself, because you love them, or just like it) happy?

I also take issue with the fact it’s ‘most commonly done on your knees’ maybe in porn, but I can think of about 25 other ways to do it, some of which are very warm and loving, and some of which are a bit dirty, but what’s wrong with that?

Paulette // Posted 23 January 2009 at 2:26 pm

This topic reminds me of a conversation I had with a male friend where I described a bloke giving me head. He looked apalled and said he can’t give you head. As if those words can’t be applied to a woman because they’re too dominant. In my head, pardon the pun, I prefer to refer to sex acts equally

he went down

she went down

I went down

You went down

he got head

she got head

he gave head

she gave head

God, it’s like practising verbs!

Paulette // Posted 23 January 2009 at 2:27 pm

Also I’ve only ever met one guy who didn’t want to give oral sex – most men are more than willing!

Kim // Posted 23 January 2009 at 3:05 pm

Having never had a sexual male partner, it’s difficult to give a personal opinion, but my girlfriend and I both love oral sex – giving and receiving. She’s very submissive so she takes a submissive position – and I’m very dominant, so I take a dominant one. I think common opinion just assumes that women would only ever take the submissive one – as if it’s the same on a porn site as it is behind closed doors!

Mephit // Posted 23 January 2009 at 3:56 pm

I’d agree with Lynsey re. Jennifer’s post. I rather doubt the most common position for fellatio is kneeling, since it’s not the most comfortable of positions to maintain nor can the man fully relax into the act – and in most relationships, most of the sex does occur in bed. It’s a bit of a different scenario when the man is lying down.

Kevin Ramsey // Posted 23 January 2009 at 4:00 pm

I’m one of those guys who dislikes receiving head, particularly because I dislike being vulnerable, but my girlfriend loves giving it, so I let her. She loves to see me emotionally vulnerable and she feels empowered by it. She also jokes about how if I’ve ticked her off, she might bite me to teach me a lesson. I find it amusing, but fellatio has enhanced our trust. I can see the logic behind the post.

Aimee // Posted 23 January 2009 at 4:02 pm

I’m sorry, I don’t understand this at all. I don’t think i’ve ever seen oral sex as an obligation for a woman to perform, and frankly, I see the only solution for those that have and do, is to let the would be receiver of oral sex know that it’s not acceptable for it to be accepted.

Sabre // Posted 23 January 2009 at 4:06 pm

I actually don’t like the term ‘giving head’ or ‘blow job’, they’re too abstract for one thing. Also they seem to be used mostly for oral sex on men. But cunnilingus sounds so clinical on the other hand and rug munching just sounds gross (personal opinion, it makes me think of getting fluff in my teeth).

Aren’t there any better names that we can use? Suggestions?

Anna // Posted 23 January 2009 at 4:44 pm

‘going down’? I tend to use the term ‘giving head’ for both acts, which has led to a bit of confusion on occasion i.e. ‘he gave me head’ ‘..but he can’t have done, you don’t have a penis.. do you?’

I don’t find it demeaning/degrading at all, personally. In my current relationship it’s just another act of (sexual) love. On the flipside, in my previous relationship it was very much an act of submission, but that was fine because that was what that relationship happened to be about. I guess sex is more what you make of it than the act itself..

lisa // Posted 23 January 2009 at 4:45 pm

The porn camera position for fellatio is always the one that provides most visuals – so the best one for male hetrosexuals is man standing and looking down on woman kneeling below him. If he were lying down, for example, and relaxed he would be looking at … yes the ceiling not really that exciting. He could lift his head or find a pillow or something then he would see more but still not as much. OR there’s the 69 which is popular in pornography as well as in ‘real life’.

There are many different ways to give-receive oral sex -some BDSMish with consent, some not, some very vanilla. The context and relationship make the difference. My experience of hetrosexual men is that if asked/encouraged in the right way they will do anything !! They’re outside their comfort zone though if they lack confidence in their abilities or feel it’s always her the pleasure pillow, and him doing all the work. If there’s never an opportunity for them to take turns some het men get a bit fed up.

Oral sex can also be liberating for younger women who are still uncomfortable with or unsure about PIV although it can only be a compromise if the male is relaxed, cooperative, open-minded and supportive about her exploring her sexuality at her own pace. Not sure why anyone would want a man who wasn’t like this but each to their own I suppose !

Rachel Graves // Posted 23 January 2009 at 4:58 pm

Just to add another voice: I love giving my boyfriend head. Absolutely love it. Not because it gets him off (although that is quite nice & I like the noises he makes), but because the act of doing it really turns me on. He’s the same when it comes to giving me head.

There is a good post here that explains the sort of viewpoint I tend to take on this topic:

Anna // Posted 23 January 2009 at 5:26 pm

Surely it’s more uncomfortable for a guy to be standing and *looking down* at the woman on her knees, as opposed to lying down with his head on a pillow?

emma // Posted 23 January 2009 at 5:48 pm

i can orgasm when giving my boyfriend oral sex…its very strong and powerful..i dont feel degraded or submissive..i dont swallow sperm becuase i dont like the taste or boyfreind has never forced my head on his penis but i have asked him to place his hand on my head while performing oral sex so that he can guide me on the pace. I feel empowered and enjoy this.

I think alot of men dont go down on women because they really dont know what to do and in a world where men are taught they must be experts in this field, when their not it must cause great anxiety.

I work with young people around sexual health and many young women themselves say they dont want a man to go down on them because they think its disgusting and i even had a girl say the other day that she wouldnt use a femidom because it involves “fingering yourself”. However they dont seem to see oral sex performed on a man as disgusting. This same group also knew what a clit was but didnt know what it was i told them “it’s your pleasure centre”. Many young women are still sold the myth that their sexual pleasure comes from the vagina…this is wrong although that is not to say that women can not enjoy vaginal sex i just think that if we want to change things we have to get both men and women to see the clit as the focus for pleasure.

Kate // Posted 23 January 2009 at 10:18 pm

It is a very personal and subjective thing- I personally love giving it but am not so keen on receiving.Sometimes, if I’m being analytical, after reading posts like this, I stop and wonder if I’m betraying women and feminism. This is because I’m so willing to go down on my boyfriend (who I’ve been with for over a year, and love to pieces) and have also enjoyed going down on previous sexual partners (only one of whom I would call ‘serious’), yet rarely consent to being repaid in kind.

Partly, this is due to the fact I don’t get all that much out of it. I only reach orgasm through digital stimulation of my clitoris (I am still questing after the legendary vaginal orgasm!) and out of every sexual act I’ve ever shared, getting licked out is, if not the least enjoyable, the most, you know, meh, whatever. If I were going to describe it, I would say that I get a brief initial burst of excitement and pleasure to feel my darling’s tongue down there, and then. . . nothing. I just get bored after a while, and move onto something else! It could be that none of the handful of men I’ve slept with are any good at it, that I’m filled with a deep-rooted sense of shame and self-disgust regarding my genitalia, that I can’t accept pleasure, or that I only want to ‘serve’ my male lover and not be ‘served’ in return.

I don’t think it’s any of those reasons (particularly the last one, as I see nothing submissive about bringing one’s sex partner to climax using the mouth)- I just think it’s simply that cunnilingus doesn’t turn me on. You can’t rationalise sex and sexual acts- either things flick yor switch or they don’t. Mainstream porn is a feminist issue, but I don’t think its inherently misogynist attitude is solely based on depictions of fellatio- it extends to all kinds of sex. This is what makes this post rather absurd to me, particularly the faintly Carrie Bradshaw-esque title- ‘Is it good to give head?’; isn’t that one step away from ‘is it good to have sex?’ Er, yes, provided you’re not being coerced or exploited, and you’re not coercing or exploiting anyone else, do whatever makes you feel good. Same applies to anything.

annlondon // Posted 24 January 2009 at 12:05 am

i love oral sex.

i refuse to call it “give head”, and i don’t do it neither to give pleasure only, nor as an obligation. i do it because i love it, i love the male member, his shape, i love the taste and everything. is this humiliating? i can’t be bad, it’s sex, and sex is sharing, sharing pleasure, and that’s how i see it. and i believe that seeing oral sex the way i do is neither wrong nor right. it’s good. i enjoy it, and i’m sure my partner does so too.

SCB // Posted 24 January 2009 at 5:57 am

It’s all good indeed as long as I also receive as well

Abbie // Posted 24 January 2009 at 6:01 am

I find it empowering to know that I can arouse my boyfriend so easily with a couple of tricks.

RichInRI // Posted 24 January 2009 at 7:58 am

i’ve always felt that we are two parts of the whole. the best sexual relations i’ve ever had were with women who were enjoying me as much as i was enjoying them. i can’t begin to explain how much i enjoy “giving head” to a woman… and as long as she in enjoying herself i enjoy receiving- but i want to be able to touch her at the same time… the whole experience should be mutual! i believe that a large part of the problem is that there are too many people who need to grind their ax whenever there is someone who will listen. in my opinion, we all just need to forget about those who would complicate the most natural act a man and a woman enjoy together. in closing, i believe the watch word should be “abandon” when we are in the moment.

chas // Posted 24 January 2009 at 11:11 am

A lot of sensible and enlightened comments here, which is great to see. The way British mainstream media represents it, women are expected to supply an endless range of sexual services with no question of their own enjoyment. Women’s magazines are just as guilty of this as men’s magazines – see the various ‘100 ways to please him!’ articles littering Company magazine and Cosmo. The idea that any sexual act should ever be ‘expected’ destroys any idea of a mutually pleasurable exchange between men and women. I like to take my boyfriend in my mouth, and we usually do this as prelude to sex. I don’t like someone coming in my mouth, as I tried it once and found it deeply unpleasant, so we usually use fellatio as a sexy build up to other activities. Interestingly, my partner said he doesn’t like the idea of orgasming in someone’s mouth anyway, as he considered it ‘cheapening’ – that’s just his personal opinion, I know, but worth mentioning as men always seem portrayed as gagging to ejaculate in women’s mouths.

With regards to receiving oral sex, I feel the same as Kate above – it doesn’t do a lot for me, but I don’t mind a short session just for the intimacy it involves. But it just goes to show we’re all different – cunnilingus always seems to be represented as the one thing women crave, and I just don’t!

Personally I feel most comfortable when I can take part in sexual acts without having to be conscious of all the political connotations ruining my fun – although I’m not sure it can ever really achieved when one is a hyper-aware, well-read feminist. I just think stereotypes that any should perform a certain act, or that one gender always desires a certain act, does no one any good, and does an already sexually neurotic society a lot of harm.

So it’s good to see from these comments that there are plenty of girls out there rejecting media dictation of how we should be sexual.

luvmycat // Posted 24 January 2009 at 1:40 pm

I hated giving head when I was younger. I thought it was submissive and degrading. I also grew up hearing (from peers, friends, parents) that sex was bad, dirty, slutty, etc. Good girls don’t…you know what I mean. And watching porn tapes of women being submissive and treated badly didn’t help either. After many years and a few relationships I realised that it wasn’t bad or slutty or anything like that. It was just a sexual act. I was also lucky enough to have lovers who were eager to reciprocate, which made oral sex so pleasurable. I have come across a couple of guys who want oral sex but don’t want to give it. Needless to say I refused to do it. I don’t want to be stuck in a relationship with a selfish lover. I don’t want to end up being the giver ALL the time. To me that isn’t fair or fun.

My best sexual relationship was with a very sensual guy who didn’t even care about intercourse. We would spend ages just kissing and having foreplay (oral sex, etc). It was so nice. We liked the same things so it worked well.

zooeyibz // Posted 24 January 2009 at 3:08 pm

Unless you can unhinge your jaw like a snake (or are blowing a man with a worryingly small penis) giving head to a man is plain uncomfortable. Even as a (mostly) straight woman I would much rather go down on a woman. Aesthetically, it’s a thousand times more appealing than having a cock stuffed in your mouth — and you don’t end up with lockjaw either.

Rose // Posted 24 January 2009 at 3:14 pm

Although I do consider it an enjoyable and enriching shared sexual experience, due to the media surrounding it, I have never ‘gone down’ on a guy within the first six months of a relationship with him. I feel that I need to really know that he respects me, women, sexuality, first.

I think that a 69 is a great way to display mutual adoration – but I need to know that it is really all about adoration.

bryony1 // Posted 24 January 2009 at 3:54 pm

I’ve never enjoyed fellatio, but I don’t enjoy cunnilingus, either. “Different strokes,” I guess you could chuckle.

I think the only equal position, if you like this, is the popular “69,” which I also don’t care for. But when my head’s in a guy’s lap, I feel very vulnerable; my neck is exposed. It’s irrational, unless I’m with a stranger (no more; once, but no more), but it’s how I feel.

Most of all, I think, it’s because I enjoy hugging the person when I have an orgasm, hugging hard, legs wrapped around him or even over his shoulders. A pair of bony legs are no substitute for a torso when you want to squeeze.

Somehow, except for feeling vulnerable during fellatio, I don’t associate any empowerment qualities with this act. Besides, it hurts the corners of my mouth before long.

If I were to associate any other quality with it, it would be the one of dominance by the male as mentioned. I’ve known too many men who don’t want full intercourse, just head.

And as s a friend of mine was trying to keep her boyfriend, who she suspected of wanting to leave her, she regularly gave him head because that became all he wanted. He didn’t return the favor, which she enjoys, or go for full intercourse, which she also enjoys. And he did leave her within a few months. Knowing this reaffirmed my feeling that it’s mostly a male-oriented act.

I gave, from lover to lover, but not because I wanted to. It was never a gift from me, just the fulfillment of an expectation. After my last lover, I swore I’d never do something sexual I didn’t enjoy, ever again. And I won’t.

Sex should be mutually pleasurable. If it’s not, it’s not worth the sweat.

delphyne // Posted 24 January 2009 at 6:47 pm

If men were so physically vulnerable in during fellatio, there wouldn’t be so many cases of oral rape, Abby. Women can and have been choked on penises. Women being choked on penises in pornography is one of it’s most popular forms at the moment – a lot of men enjoy seeing this. Please think about what you are saying because at the moment you sound like you are dismissing a whole lot of women’s experiences. Linda Boreman telling the truth (not “claiming” as you put it – that makes it sound like perhaps it didn’t happen) about her rape on the set of Deep Throat, didn’t create the idea of blow jobs degrading women – men using their penises in women’s mouths as a way of degrading us and hurting us did that. Take it up with them if you want to see a different view of oral sex being created.

In fact what your post sounds like is wishful thinking – “If we believe hard enough that blow-jobs are empowering to women, then they will be”. How come it is almost exclusively acts that are about sexually servicing men or performing as sex objects for them e.g. lipstick, high heels, pole-dancing lessons, blow-jobs, that are seen as “empowering”? The only way women can be “empowered” – which isn’t even real power because real power is having the ability to affect events around one, not being given top marks as a sex object by men – is through meeting male demands to be sexually serviced by women.

It sounds like you are arguing with the feminists who point these things out, rather than the rapists who enjoy either hurting and degrading women with their penises or who get off seeing or hearing about other men doing it. It’s the latter who need to change. The former are not the problem.

Sarah! // Posted 24 January 2009 at 8:12 pm

After being forced to give head … I can see how it can be degrading. But when I’m with my boyfriend, I love to (not every day, mind you – like, once every few weeks – bad jaw, heh.) go down on him. I love making him feel good. And there are times when I try to go deeper, I gag, and we stop and laugh, then I go back to what I was doing. It’s a completely different thing when you’re with someone you love and are doing it. And yes, at some point, I expect him to return the favor. but not right after I went down on him. That turns into boring monotony… and no one wants that in bed.

FilthyGrandeur // Posted 24 January 2009 at 8:47 pm

wonderful post. not only is this well-written, but it’s thoughtful. this is a difficult subject for many women. it is true that giving head is seen as a woman’s subjugation to a man, but as always there’s another side to it. there’s nothing wrong with giving head, and i don’t think me doing so for my partner makes me any less of a feminist. i am glad you were able to put it in perspective.

Amy // Posted 24 January 2009 at 9:19 pm

I really agree with Delphyne, it doesn’t matter who becomes the empowered one from the act – the idea of giving head? Even growing up instinctively in my early teens it was always about the ‘pimp’ status of the guy while he reduces a girl to giving him head.

Maybe we don’t get reduced to objects specifically by head, but misogynists and the porn industry seem to say we do. Arguing it ’empowers’ – a word thrown here, there and everywhere lately, only reflects naivety and like delphyne said, wishful thinking. The same kind of thinking, if we think of ironic female degradation as a joke, it will be. Obviously far from the truth!

You can enjoy in the context of a loving relationship. Although past boyfriends won’t allow me to give them head! Not comfortable and aware it degrades me to an extent.

MariaS // Posted 24 January 2009 at 9:42 pm

Abby said: “Can fellating a man, in a mutually consenting situation, be liberating for a woman? Is it an empowered female action, rather than the epitome of misogynistic control? … is “giving head” just another feminist step along the road to our complete sexual liberation?”

As others have said above, no, fellatio is not a step to feminist liberation, it is just a sexual act. A couple of commenters have said they do feel “empowered” when they perform oral sex on their male partners, and this is an odd word to use in this regard – as if it is not sufficient to simply affirm that you enjoy it. The act in itself, or indeed any other sexual act, is not liberatory. The context of the “mutually consenting situation” is the true liberatory aspect of the question Abby asked, and it is only liberatory because it is the exception not the norm in the sexist and patriarchal culture we live within.

I guess that if you feel positive about fellatio this is because it is something you do willingly, freely, you desire it, you don’t feel coerced. That is simply how sex should be for every human being. The problem is that women’s sexuality has long been controlled – for example, the social taboos against being sexual outside of marriage, and the lack of rights for women within the institution of marriage until very recently (including rape in marriage not being a crime till 1991), or the heteronormative expectation that women only partner with men. Western culture today is not short of sexy images of women – but these images are provided for a presumed heterosexual male gaze, and women’s own views and feelings about sex and sexuality are given little hearing. If we learn to be sexually assertive and feel that we have free will and agency sexually, that our bodies and our sexuality belong to us, and if we have partners who respect that, then that is great, absolutely fucking wonderful actually – but we’ve each got there in spite of and not because of a dominant culture that seeks to disempowers us and deny our free, sexual agency.

In short, oral sex doesn’t give you power or restore power to you. It’s not a solution to the systematic, many-faceted social, political and intimate disempowerment of women that is the overarching problem we face.

If some women do not feel degraded by, and indeed feel positive about, performing fellatio with their sexual partners, that does not negate the experiences of other women who are pressured or forced into it, nor the existence of a wider problem of women and women’s sexuality being commonly regarded/represented as being for the benefit of men. Ariel Levy’s book “Female Chauvinist Pigs” describes, among other things, the pressures placed on young women in American high school culture to perform oral sex and other sex acts, their sense or not of empowerment incidental. Another book that oddly I haven’t see cited at all in any feminist blog discussions around sex and women’s agency is Shere Hite’s groundbreaking report on female sexuality – her 1976 survey of women showed a huge amount of sexual dissatisfaction and unhappiness among women in heterosexual relationships. The 2004 edition seems to be fully available on Google Books:

I’d also argue that we are invisibilising the role of the men here! A reciprocating, respectful partner or an entitled, selfish asshole – surely that’s what makes the difference? What makes it more likely that a man will grow into the former rather than the latter?

Fellatio can simultaneously be both something that as individuals we enjoy, mutually consenting, in our relationships and sexual adventures, AND something that culturally can be used as a symbol of women’s submission to men, a representation of unequal power relations, and that is sometimes enacted as such within sex by selfish, coercive men.

Additionally, even when we enjoy giving oral sex to men and do it freely, our positive interpretation of our experiences and desires may not be matched by our male partners or other men who may see or hear about our actions and who may interpret our actions and words in different ways: our willingness to give oral sex may to them simply support a pre-existing belief that women’s role is to sexually service men, for example. Our own sense of agency is not sufficient to ensure that how we define our actions is the way that other people will define our actions.

We all agree that sex should be an experience of mutual pleasure for all participants, and that we’d like to see it represented that way – so the problem is, why is that not the dominant message we get about sex from the wider culture? What is needed to change that?

MariaS // Posted 24 January 2009 at 10:03 pm

FilthyGrandeur said, “giving head is seen as a woman’s subjugation to a man but as always there’s another side to it.”.

The question is, *who* sees it that way? To reiterate delphyne’s comment, it’s not feminists that have problematised fellatio and defined it as an act of submission for women and as an act of domination for men, but male supremacist men. If we didn’t come from a male-centric, male-dominated culture, built upon the disempowerment of women, fellatio would not have any political meaning.

Anne Onne // Posted 24 January 2009 at 10:13 pm

Delphyne: I won’t try to speak for Abby, but I didn’t interpret her words (nor do I believe her intention) to have been minimising the extent to which fellatio can be used to subjugate women (just as vaginal sex has been used to subjugate us), but to point out that this will not always be the case, and to question to what extent we decide that the history or societal context and presentation of the act affects whether women participate in it or not. To question how political the personal should be.

I don’t think the act is inherently degrading, but that society has twisted our perception of it so much that it can be hard to get our mindsets (male and female) away from what we see it implying. On a wider societal level, these implications, and the way society views this need to be analysed, and I don’t think Abby was implying that there shouldn’t be critical analysis of how fellatio can be an act of domination. Rather that within our own experiences, and our own choices, how we women reconcile the two sides of the act (our personal feelings about it, and the societal context of it), and whether women should not do something because it has a problematic history. Evidently this question was going to generate lots of comments, and I think that’s probably what Abby was intending, a personal look at how to reconcile the act (or celebrate it) in spite of how it can be used (by rapists, and that’s their fault, not ours) with our beliefs, and whether we need to.

It’s not about absolving rapists of blame, any more than a post about enjoying vaginal sex (especially since it does little for quite a few women) would absolve rapists who vaginally rape women of blame. It’s about asking whether we can see fellatio as more than a tool of oppression, whether it can be enjoyable and whether it can be part of mutual pleasure. Rape is undoubtedly bad, whatever way the victim is raped. But the issue here is that, just like vaginal sex, sometimes women enjoy the act, and actively consent to it. Yes, we can talk theoretically about how a society in which women are oppressed means we can never truly give consent, because there is always an element of pressure, however slight. But when it comes to everyday life, and women who want to have sex, and feel they enjoy something, how far do we let the theory and context affect our judgement of an act we want to do within a consensual sexual framework?

I don’t get the impression that this post was meant to contradict feminist thinking about fellatio flatly, rather to examine another side of it, and ask us to explore how women personally cope with the conflicting desires of our societal programming (and biological desires) and realisation of how much society frames in the light of men’s dominance over women.

In an equal* relationship, where there is not the overt threat of violence against a woman for not complying, or the pressure to perform, and where the man recognises that women are active contributors to sex, not passive receptacles to be filled, placing a sensitive part of one’s anatomy in the proximity of another’s teeth would be an act of trust, maybe even submission in itself. I took the point here to be that so much of society’s view of sex is underlined by the understanding that everything women do is submissive and dominated** and that if we turn the scope around to that of women actively enveloping men, rather than simply being penetrated, that the social idea of women as passive doesn’t have to be the only way to view sex.

* Obviously, people are never entirely free of conditioning, and as a result relationships are never entirely equal, and our desires can stem from harmful messages. Here, the reference is to heterosexual relationships where the man identifies as being pro-feminist or otherwise works to contribute to an equal dynamic and cares about consent. The claim isn’t that fellatio can’t be problematic, but that if a woman feels she has a choice, and that sex is mutually pleasurable and consensual, then fellatio may not be problematic to her in that instance.

** Of course, submission and domination can be important themes in a relationship or sexual encounter without being uncosensual or mired in the patriarchy, but the premise here was mainstream portrayal of fellatio of heterosexual men by women, not the BDSM safe, sane and consensual everyone-gets-what-they-like kind of thing.

delphyne // Posted 25 January 2009 at 1:31 am

Like I said Anne Onn, society’s view of what oral sex means isn’t going to change until the rapes stop, until men stop seeing and more importantly *using* sex, including oral sex, as a means of degrading and dominating women. Once that happens oral sex will just be a neutral sex act that people can individually decide whether they like or dislike and there certainly won’t be any need for this nonsense claiming it is sexually liberating or somehow a feminist good.

Wishful thinking just won’t cut it. Declaring that oral sex is “empowering” won’t help a single woman who has been degraded or hurt by the act or who is having to use the very common tactic of denial to cope with the inequality in her sexual relationship.

What would be a lot more interesting to see would be all these “empowered” (not “powerful” it’s worth noting – funny how so many women shy away from the p-word) women refusing to give their male partners blow-jobs for say a month or two. I think that might bring a whole lot of power dynamics that had previously been invisible into the foreground.

Andieberry // Posted 25 January 2009 at 1:43 am

In my experience the power lies within the premise that both parties are turned on.My regular sexual partner cannot get ‘turned on` unless he feels i am too ,therefore when it comes to fellatio and cunnilingus we adopt the 69 position therefore ensuring that we are both satisfied at the same time.

polly styrene // Posted 25 January 2009 at 11:44 am

Hmm – next time I’m worried that most of the senior positions in my workplace are occupied by men, I’ll just suck one of their dicks, then it won’t matter.

shannon // Posted 25 January 2009 at 6:34 pm

I feel sort of mean for laughing at polly’s comment, but it’s so true! If giving head gave actual power, we’d be on a much different playing field. Now, as one of the women whose experience of getting pleasure by getting pleasure is not often talked about[we end up with I love giving pleasure, not I love recieving pleasure as a sort of nod to feminism and its ideas that women should be participatory in sex- not the person it is ‘done to’.], I have to admit the idea of oral sex being empowering amuses me.

Oral sex lovers were going to do it anyway, and were doing it anyway long before the feminist revolution.

JenniferRuth // Posted 25 January 2009 at 9:10 pm

Polly – that was absolutely priceless and made my day!

Sabre // Posted 26 January 2009 at 11:02 am

I hate the 69, I’m rubbish at multi-tasking and so is my boyfriend

Kez // Posted 26 January 2009 at 11:06 am

I may be missing something fundamental here, but I honestly don’t get this “sex is empowering” idea. Sex can be many things, good, bad and indifferent. It can bring great enjoyment and satisfaction both in the giving and the receiving of pleasure. But empowering, how? I increasingly find this word to be meaningless. We constantly hear of how “empowering” some women find it to strip off for lads’ magazines and in lap-dancing clubs as if provoking male sexual desire and getting paid to do so is some kind of wonderful achievement which few can manage. Frankly, most heterosexual men are pretty basic creatures in this respect. A woman gyrating in front of them or appearing in all her naked (airbrushed) glory on a magazine page will most likely get them aroused to a greater or lesser extent. It’s not that difficult.

I know that isn’t what’s being discussed here, I’m just ruminating on how “empowering” seems to mean whatever you want it to mean (and justify doing whatever you feel like doing). It has nothing to do, apparently, with actual power (as Polly’s remark above illustrates beautifully!) – it’s more “doing this thing makes me feel good”. As long as everyone’s happy, that’s great. Carry on doing whatever floats your boat, sexually, as long as it’s all consensual. Why dress it up in this cod-psychological language of empowerment?

Cara // Posted 26 January 2009 at 3:25 pm

Another LOL at Polly’s comment. So true.

And yeah, agree with Kez and others re: the ’empowering’ crap.

Give head, take pole dancing classes, wear heels, whatever if you genuinely want to do it and enjoy it – anyone who judges what people personally choose to do can get lost. But don’t pretend it’s ’empowering’ and a step forward for feminism. It isn’t.

Sabre // Posted 26 January 2009 at 4:44 pm

I generally agree with comments about empowerment stated here. I would say that giving head can be empowering for the individual, on a relatively small-ish scale. But the worry is that we shouldn’t forget that shopping, sex, pole/lap dancing, wearing sexy clothes etc. are not empowering in a big way (if at all?), compared to empowerment via better representation of women in business and politics. That’s real power – the power to change things for others (as opposed to sexual power, the only type of power offered readily to women).

Mobot // Posted 26 January 2009 at 5:08 pm

Oh come on, I think it’s really unfair that what could be an interesting debate about semantics (re: ’empowerment’) is being turned into patronising dismissal of a thought provoking article! Ok, I get the point about how any form of sex, when consensual, should not be about empowerment but about mutual pleasure… but surely the use of any sexual act as a means of subjugating women and the propagation of the heterosexist myth that women have sex for men’s benefit means that there is good reason for feminists to take an interest in celebrating and promoting women’s sexualities as they exist in the *real* world as opposed to lads’ mags and so on. So to state that it is potentially empowering for women to enjoy a sexual act traditionally associated with coercion and male sexuality does not *make* it empowering in and of itself but I think the point was to challenge stereotypical notions of female sexual pleasure.

I am a feminist who is often accused of being hyper-sensitive to gender issues… and sometimes I wear heels and lipstick for MY own enjoyment, not to look sexually attractive to men, or because I’m socially expected to- I’m just a bit vain and I like shiny things as much as I like other, stereotypically *masculine* things. I engage in various kinds of sexual acts with my partner and would never do so if I didn’t get my OWN enjoyment out of it (this is reciprocal – I have a better time if I know we’re both having fun – otherwise I’d feel like I was just getting myself off with someone else’s body, which is fine in some contexts but not for me right now!) I find it insulting for anyone to imply that acts which I say make me feel good or powerful actually degrade or disempower me. It’s the job of misogynists, not feminists to make other women feel small.

JenniferRuth // Posted 26 January 2009 at 7:50 pm

Mobot – well, I think it is important to debate the use of the word empowerment. The words we use are important and shouldn’t be dismissed as mere semantics. I thought that Kez hit the nail on the head saying that the word “empowerment” has essentially become meaningless anyway. I have seen it endlessly applied to sexual acts, stripping, posing naked…blah, blah, blah. I guess I just can’t see what is so empowering about sexuality. I prefer sex to be free of power games unless mutually agreed upon.

I wear heels nearly every day and make-up – I like it. But I don’t think that because I enjoy it means that my personal choice exists in a vacuum. My choices have been influenced by this male-dominated world since I was born. So have everyone elses. I don’t think taking a critical look at what we do under a feminist lens necessarily means that you should feel bad about it. But we can’t pretend that we would wear high heels if someone (men) hadn’t decided that women would look sexier tottering around. I love my heels – but would I love them if this world wasn’t dominated by the male gaze? Maybe then I would just think that they were ridiculous. I’m not saying this is fact. All I’m saying is that just because we like something doesn’t mean we can’t look at it critically.

“I find it insulting for anyone to imply that acts which I say make me feel good or powerful actually degrade or disempower me.”

Who said this?

Anna // Posted 26 January 2009 at 9:00 pm

‘Although past boyfriends won’t allow me to give them head! Not comfortable and aware it degrades me to an extent. ‘ – Amy

‘Declaring that oral sex is “empowering” won’t help a single woman who has been degraded or hurt by the act or who is having to use the very common tactic of denial to cope with the inequality in her sexual relationship.’

– Delphyne

I was offended by both of these, too. It is not the act of fellatio that is degrading, and I wouldn’t actually argue that rape is degrading (oral or otherwise). It may, depending on the woman, make you *feel* that way – but that it is inherently so? No.

kez // Posted 26 January 2009 at 9:56 pm

But by that token, Anna, is anything “inherently” degrading? Surely an act is only degrading by the fact that a person feels degraded by it? I don’t know, I’m just speculating. But if rape isn’t inherently degrading, I’m struggling to think of what is. Hmmm, we may be back to semantics again…

Anna // Posted 26 January 2009 at 10:30 pm

Wait. That sounded really, really bad. I mean some rapes go ‘less noticed’ than others in that they have less effect on the victim (i.e. whilst I once woke up to find someone on top of me.. or more than once, actually) after I’d made it clear sex was not to happen, it’s not affected me in the same way as being threatened at knifepoint was. That’s just how it affected me and I am in no way saying one was worse than the other, or women who are raped in the former way suffered any the less. I can’t emphasise that enough, I sounded completely out of line before but that wasn’t my intention.

The intent of rape is almost certainly to dehumanise and degrade but being raped does not degrade you as a person, was what I meant to say. Um. Yeah. I’ll shut up now!

Anna // Posted 26 January 2009 at 11:47 pm

I don’t think rape is in and of itself degrading, other than degrading the person perpetrating the act; but I am well aware how it makes some women feel degraded. I don’t think the women themselves have been degraded by the act.

Amy // Posted 27 January 2009 at 12:56 am

I guess nothing is inherently degrading – why I said: head or specific acts might not mean we’re objects. But in a strong porn culture giving us this message that such and such an act means we are, we kinda have to accept it to a degree. We have to account what the culture we live in thinks of our acts, no matter how much we come to enjoy them.

Hard not to play with semantics. I think it’s best to completely avoid this empowerment bull with regards to anything sexual. For a while women might have been empowered, having the confidence which was limited before to be sexually free. Although since this sexual expression, obviously patriarchy has been turning sexual empowerment around on its head; exploiting our sexual expression for its gain. Basically exploiting it to make women seem inferior. Making note of these subtle changes, and you avoid believing blow jobs are still all power to women.

A society is quick to associate negatives with any type of power women have, this includes sexual power and freedom. While our sexual appetites are a threat, they have been linked to a real longing to be dominated, and thus a supposed inherent inferiority when participating in sex the porn culture has gone bonkers with.

Does this essentially boil down to whether porn culture telling us blow jobs are the ultimate form of submission – and us actually…. feeling this isn’t the case. Is blogger arguing we like blow jobs and wish porn ideas of them degrading us could have nothing to do with them?

Regardless, I don’t think it’s bloody empowering to sit there sucking someones bit of skin. I see it as just that, maybe why I’m ‘meh’ about it. Neither is it disempowering! I was merely saying past boyfriends haven’t liked me giving head. Maybe men see head as a way to degrade us and we don’t. Or some people have this insight and some don’t? If we feel empowered giving a blow job are we woefully ignorant in not seeing ourselves degraded, or are we secretly smug, letting them think what they want to about something we enjoy too?

Dee // Posted 29 January 2009 at 12:38 am

Should fellatio be seen as being more ‘degrading’ than PIV intercourse? A woman is taking a penis inside her physical boundary in both acts. Context is the key in both situations.

joe // Posted 29 January 2009 at 8:39 am

I love giving head to my husband. It’s nice to know he enjoys it and gives me the power to give him an orgasm and ability to control it. The feeling is intense. I think its them(guys) who surrenders themselves to us women to give them pleasure and sexual gratification.

kelly // Posted 29 January 2009 at 9:46 am

Porn is not sex. Anything we learn from porn does not apply elsewhere.

Sex is degrading to *both partners*. It is when we revert to animals and it is supposed to be fun. It is not a tea party with cucumber sandwiches and little doilies.

If someone is being coerced then any act performed is rape. If no one is getting hurt (or is afraid of being hurt), then where is the harm?

I think I have bigger battles to fight against the patriarchy than whether it is okay to put a penis in my mouth.

Sophie // Posted 29 January 2009 at 9:56 am

When I was with men I enjoyed oral sex, though I prefered to go down on them than for them to do so on me. Since I have been sexually active soley with women I still enjoy oral sex and still prefer giving to recieving. I find the act of oral sex to be neither empowering nor an act of submission irrespective of the gender of my partner.

ElizaLee // Posted 2 February 2009 at 6:07 pm

I love “giving head,” though I hate the term. I prefer going down on man; for some reason in my head it’s more of a mutual concept than me “giving” something to him, when really I’m putting him in such a vulnerable position. I love the feeling of power I get when giving him oral pleasure. It actually makes me smile every time I do it, because I have such control over his pleasure and I can control his ecstasy. I would definitely agree to say that it is very empowering for me. I also feel that I need to trust a man in order for him to go down on me; in the same sense that I’m letting him put me in a vulnerable position. In any case, “giving and receiving” are both extremely fun for me. I wouldn’t say I prefer one over the other, but I will go down on a man any time!

mr.he // Posted 3 February 2009 at 8:26 am

Wow, what a great piece of witting and ensuing discussion to stumble upon.

As a man, yes, the realization that a woman’s mouth is FULL of teeth, and her jaw can chew through steak has flashed through my mind when enjoying the ecstasies of a hummer. When a woman is playing my flute, I am completely aware that she is in full control — and when the person in control of me really does want good things for me, well then, I like them being in control and having power over me. If only politicians used their power and influence to make feel me feel that good.

Receiving a BJ in enjoyable in-part because I leave myself completely vulnerable — which is also why I’m very cautious about who I let hum my dinger. If someone is going to blow my whistle, I need to trust them — Like Abby’s paper emphasizes — it’s hugely about trust

I’ve had girlfriends who I know liked the feeling of a hard (or soft) penis in their mouth and also certainly enjoyed the accompanying sensations of power. When someone really enjoys certain sexual acts, they tend not to hide it.

Personally I would love to put a penis in my mouth at some point — though it would have to be the right penis. I love offering up cunnilingus, so why not give penilinctus a shot? I’m pretty good at it teasing a clit with the tip of my tung, and it makes me really happy when I do it. I don’t have a clit of my own so I don’t know how it acctually feels for the receiver. But I actually have a penis, sooooo I’m betting I could offer a man some pretty high quality head — the kind of blow job you think about for a month afterwards every time you wank.


Thanks for writing the paper Abby

trompyx // Posted 4 February 2009 at 4:19 pm

very good post

hottie // Posted 9 February 2009 at 6:49 am

i was involved in sexual relationship that was part-time vanilla and part-time Dom/sub. sucking off my partner could be a friendly gift in the vanilla context (the same as anything he’d do for me) and it could be all about power and submission in the Dom/sub context. no specific sexual act is intrinsically about power exchange – it’s the context you create around it that makes it a power situation or not.

for those saying ‘sex shouldn’t be about power, it should be about love,’ sometimes people love to play with power, with someone they love.

have fun n play safe :)

Jaime // Posted 27 August 2009 at 3:05 am

I think in reality women control sex . That is a fact, no matter how much we guys try to portrait dominance, women can have sex for hours, they do not have the insecurities of a sexual organ size, and can give oral sex to a man untill he melts.

I wish more women demanded to receive oral sex from their men. I like giving oral sex to my GF and I feel it is not a submisive act on my part, but it is empowering to her because she is entittled and she is exercising that right to receive oral sex, to enjoy her body responses, and to dictate to her BF what she likes and how she likes it.

I see sex as a partnership, not a struggle for dominance. It is a dance, and both have the right to dictate and one moment or the other, and both have the responsability to make sure the other one enjopys and feels free to communicate.

But physically, women are sexually 1000 times stronger than men, we guys are fragile ( by concept of erections, loss of erections, quality of erections ) while women are built to last and to have no fears.

C. Gregory // Posted 8 October 2009 at 5:33 am

The most exciting moment in any erotic get-together is in the beginning. The act of cunninlingus is a prelude to exciting sex. This tends to lubricate the sexual organs, thus making the act pleasurable for both sexes. It also increases the libido of the male. I’m not sure about the female. The act of cunninglus to me is a necessary prelude to concinsual sex, a prerequsite to beautiful sex. I would not initiate sex without it!

bryony1 // Posted 26 October 2009 at 2:09 am

A few years ago, I suddenly thought: “I’ll never give head again,” and I never have. I find it boring, gagging, tiresome and I don’t like the man’s “direction” of which way my head should turn or how vulnerable my neck is. And I don’t find any reciprocity, though I must admit I’m not much a fan of reciprocity, either, because most guys don’t know the wheres and the hows of doing it in a pleasing way. Over-salivation is one of the worst feelings. Blahhh! I love sex, but there are some kinds of it you can keep.

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