Getting Verbal About Oral Sex

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Perhaps the next best thing to having oral sex is talking about it with somebody you like to orally adore. Sexy talk can be any kind of communication about sex, whether you’re dealing with issues related to oral sex or discussing ways to change up or further eroticize going down on each other. Talking confidently is often what elevates the action to another level. Lovers in healthy relationships engage in sex talks that allow them to avoid or resolve sexual issues and relationship dilemmas, or take sexual experiences to a whole new level. Talking about likes, dislikes, fears, shames, fantasies, and emotional connection helps them to learn about their own and the other’s beliefs, shaping their experiences and evoking greater feelings.

Rolls Off the Tongue

“In some ways, while the most difficult, our conversations about sex are the best ones we have because we try so hard to be effective communicators. This forces us to be more vulnerable in what we reveal and more careful with what we say. Even if we stumble, the extra effort we put into these talks highlights how much we care about each other.” —Rae

Talking about Oral Sex

For some people, talking about oral sex is a fairly easy endeavor. They can unabashedly discuss their desires, needs, feelings, and difficulties. They can also listen to such sharings without squirming. Yet being so sexually expressive and responsive isn’t always easy. Most people aren’t given opportunities to talk about their sexual beliefs, attitudes, and values in a safe space. Many people are not raised with healthy role models when it comes to good communication, let alone savvy sex communication. Making matters all the more difficult are negative reactions lovers can have when the topic of oral sex is touched upon. They’re not only terribly uncomfortable, often becoming physically and emotionally withdrawn, but become critical, judgmental, and even verbally abusive in projecting their discomfort and upset.

It’s important for lovers to share and ask about one’s wants around oral sex, as well as any difficulties in giving or receiving. In having these conversations, lovers need to be mindful about keeping themselves in check, releasing any negative judgments and seeking to be patient with the self and others in overcoming any difficulties. Thankfully, there are rules of engagement that lovers can strive to abide by in making their efforts less stressful.

Fact

A small focus group study investigating what Spanish women think about sex during their “climacteric” years (transition from reproductive to nonreproductive life) found that the nature of the sex education they received impacted some in not being able to accept sexual practices beyond vaginal penetration, e.g., oral sex.

Rules of Engagement

In striving for respectful communication, it’s important to realize that you’re responsible for how you act and react. Take responsibility for your role, and have conversations marked by openness, acceptance, and appreciation; really listen for what’s being said. With affection and compassion, reflect — and take steps — to make sure that it’s understood. You can do this in making sure that the following guidelines steer your efforts:

Have talks when you don’t have to worry about any interruptions or distractions, and when you feel ready to give your undivided attention.

Be sincere in stating your needs, wants, and limits, as this helps to cultivate your partner’s sense of safety.

Respect and support your lover, as this will help her to feel valued.

Stay positive, avoid criticism, and think about what you’re saying both verbally and nonverbally.

Encourage more details with “Tell me more” or “I’m listening.”

Ask open-ended questions so that the response you get isn’t so limited.

Ask to take a break if you need one or ask if you can have some time to think about a matter before responding.

Validate each other’s feelings, e.g., “I didn’t know that you felt that way. Let’s figure out what we can do about that.”

Reflect on what you’re thinking and how that’s making you feel and react.

Thank your partner for sharing, stating that you’re glad that you talked if you feel that way.

Remember, it doesn’t help to change the subject; to dismiss the other’s fears, worries, and desires; or act like a know-it-all. Don’t interrupt, use absolutes like “never,” or use sarcastic, hostile tones. Finally, don’t push your lover to the edge when it comes to oral sex expectations. Instead of getting turned on to your hopes, your lover will tune out. These sex talks can be intense, and you may have to have several of them on the same subject before feeling like you’ve made progress or fully shared and understood one another.

Initiating Oral Sex for the First Time

When you are initiating conversations about oral sex with a partner who hasn’t been responsive to such sexual intimacy, request permission: Try “I’ve been thinking about oral sex and our sex life. Can we talk about it?” If she is unresponsive or dismissive, you can still state how this lack of reaction makes you feel and your concerns for how it reflects upon other issues in the relationship. If necessary, suggest that the two of you seek sex counseling or therapy, if simply for having a safe space, with a mediator, in which to air out issues. No matter where you have these sex talks, go into communication with no expectations, including thinking that you’re going to change a partner’s behaviors or attitudes. Your hope should be to simply feel heard, satisfied that you gave the chance at oral intimacy a fair shot.

Whether or not oral sex is ever realized, constructive conversations about this sexual behavior can result in greater understanding and emotional intimacy. Your hopes of being truly heard will be made more successful in making sure that your communication efforts involve:

Listening, as well as paraphrasing and using reinforcement in reflecting what’s being said. (Note: This doesn’t mean that you are necessarily agreeing with your partner, but showing that you understand.)

Being attentive by engaging and asking helpful questions to show you’re into the conversation.

Showing appreciation for what’s being communicated, e.g., “I really appreciate that you’re taking the time to work this out with me … ”

Showing that you value your partner, even when you beg to differ on a matter, e.g., “You know that I care about you a lot, but I’m bothered that you … ”

Using self-disclosure.

Highlighting any positives about the situation.

Encouraging more conversation, e.g., “Keep talking to me.”

Being physically supportive, e.g., holding your partner’s hand.

Owning your statements with “I” instead of other pronouns.

While sex conversations can be some of the hardest had, they’re definitely amongst the most critical. The vulnerability and self-disclosure involved are intense, ultimately bringing lovers closer together and maximizing their pleasuring.

Essential

Throughout sex talks, give encouragement and show appreciation. Accept and enjoy compliments about your abilities as a lover and qualities as a partner when they’re given.

Your Nonverbals

While you’ve been giving a lot of attention to what comes out of your mouth (and your partner’s), you also need to pay attention to the nonverbal messages you’re sending to her when you’re talking about oral sex. So evaluate your efforts revolving around the following:

Your eye contact. Are you having trouble looking your partner directly in the eyes?

Body language. Are you saying that you’re open, or are your arms and/or legs crossed making you appear closed off?

Your facial expressions. Do you look stone cold or are you being expressive in reflecting your internal reactions?

Your volume. Are you getting louder, indicating that you’re nervous or uneasy?

It can be hard to keep your nonverbals in check. And you certainly don’t want such efforts to distract you from what you’re verbally trying to express. But tune into yourself briefly, on occasion, to gauge if you would want to be talking to you right now, if you’re somebody inviting more sharing in your nonverbals, and all of the other benefits that come along with that.

Who’s Doing What?

There are times when one partner will want to take charge and please a lover to no end. Then there are times when sex is more mutually initiated, or, once the ball gets rolling, who is doing what orally will be decided in seconds. Typically, people see the giver as active, while the receiver as passive. At the same time, the giver is supposedly the submissive one, while the receiver is the dominant one. Yet there’s a lot more fluidity in the power dynamic between roles.

In being a giver, you’re very much in charge of the action. You’re the one setting the pace, deciding upon the type of stimulation, and overall steering the pleasuring. For her as a receiver, she’s very much in charge of her reactions. This involves her ability to let go and get out of her head and into the pleasure she’s receiving. It also involves both of you being able to ask for what you want, provide direction when desired, and to give affirmations on a job well done. Unless couples are in a relationship where there’s a major power divide between partners, or they’re having fun engaging in such role-play scenarios, lovers are very much sharing the power dynamic for mutual pleasuring.

Regardless of your pleasure pursuit, the two of you need to be communicating about the kind of sex play you’re after. Who will be the dominant and who will be the submissive needs to be negotiated, as well. Far from being tedious, the sex talk in and of itself can act as a form of foreplay, as you talk about how to make your fantasies a reality, and what it is about the scenario exactly that arouses you.

Rolls off the Tongue

“The action isn’t always seamless as far as who is doing what, which is the only part of oral sex that was a turn-off. So we developed a signal. If I plan to go down on him, I draw a line down his treasure trail, and vice versa if he plans to go down on me. It’s cute because sometimes there’s a rush to be the first to make the line, while other times, we’ll keep the foreplay going and totally tease each other in wondering who is going to make the line first. It’s fun torture since that usually means that both of us really want to have the other go down!” —Celia

Feedback

In striving to give the best oral sex ever, you need to ask for guidance from your gal. In some cases, your lover may be perfectly content, and honestly not have any guidance to give. In other cases — especially while in the moment and with new lovers — she will share quite willingly. So go ahead and ask about the type of motion preferred (“Do you like it when I move my tongue side to side or in circles?”). Ask what erogenous zones need to be touched more. Encourage her to tell you when to stop action, perhaps because a hot spot can’t handle any more stimulation, and then when to start again.

In getting reactions from a receiver, your attitude should be one of “I want to learn and I long to please.” Ask for information if it’s needed (“Tell me about your ______________ ”) or tell your lover what needs to be done in order for you to maximize your efforts (“Spread your legs even more”). Or share what you’re about to do or the reaction you’re aiming for: “I’m going to make you … . ” Go ahead and ask things like “What do you want me to do right now? Do you want me to go harder? Softer? Faster? Slower?” “What do you need for me to do more than anything?” “Does that excite you?”

In processing your oral sex experience or renewed efforts, ask each other:

“What was that like for you?”

“Was there anything you would’ve liked for me to have done differently?”

“Where could I have given you more (attention, feedback … )?”

“Based on what we just did, what would you like for us to do differently next time?”

Such guidance is almost always well received.

Question

How can you tell when a woman is about to orgasm?You can’t tell when a person is about to orgasm. While there are general sexual responses that most people experience as they approach peaking, there is no sure way to tell if your lover is about to climax. If you’re concerned about your lover’s level of satisfaction, ask!

Keeping Oral Sex Sexy

Sex communication involves a lot more than talking about oral sex. It’s also about those sensual, romantic, or really racy things lovers say as they’re getting it on. Depending on the mood you’re after or what the moment calls for, you can add to the other kind of “aural” sex by being:

Affectionate. Let her know how much she means to you with “I love you” or “I adore being intimate with you.”

Romantic. Woo the giver with “You look gorgeous” or “The way you touch me when I ______________ makes my heart skip a beat.”

Sensual. Ease the receiver with flattery like: “You smell amazing” or “You look so sexy” or “Your taste totally turns me on.” “Your ______________ feels so ______________ against my lips.”

Seductive. Super-charge foreplay with statements like: “Love your ______________ and I can’t wait to ______________.” “I want to taste more of you.” “I can’t wait to feel you on my lips.” “Does it make you hard when I lick you like this?” “Shall I continue?” “Ready for me to ______________ you?”

Dirty. Get raw and invite more XXX-action with lines like: “I want to feel it slide down my throat.” “I want to lick you until it hurts.”

If you’re at a loss for words or don’t feel like talking, keep in mind the power of sound. Moaning, groaning, gasping, screaming, sighing, wailing, whimpering, and crying for joy are all wonderful sounds people make in expressing pleasure and ecstasy. Likewise, moments of silence can allow lovers to enjoy their sex sounds, like heavy breathing, the wetness, and rustling of sheets. Tuning into these sounds during oral sex can enhance sensations even more.

Rolls Off the Tongue

“Having a lover who is good at aural sex can make all of the difference in the world. If somebody is going down on you, you can increase enthusiasm in doing things like talking dirty. If you’re giving, talking sexy gives you the excuse for a breather, while not killing the moment.” —Nate

Talking about Safer Sex

Think oral sex is safer sex? Then you need to think again. As is the case with vaginal-penile and anal intercourse, engaging in cunnilingus poses sexual health risks which everyone needs to think twice about. Lovers need to take care of each other and their sexual and reproductive health in minimizing the risks involved in your oral fixation pursuits. It’s not only the right thing to do, but can make everything even sweeter.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), a.k.a. sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pose some degree of risk any time anybody engages in unprotected oral sex. If one partner’s bodily fluids are infected, he or she runs the risk of infecting another with STDs like HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and nongonoccocal urethritis, if semen (including pre-cum), vaginal fluid, blood, and/or breast milk are exchanged during oral sex or other types of sexual activities.

In other cases, STDs, like herpes, genital warts, scabies, and lice, may be transmitted simply via skin-to-skin contact. This is regardless of one’s gender or sexual orientation. Confusing to many lovers is the matter of which STDs, like the herpes simplex virus strains, can be transferred from the mouth to the genitals and vice versa during oral sex. Infections, like thrush (yeast infection of the mouth), need to be of concern as well.

Fact

If both partners are infected with HSV-1 (oral herpes) and HSV-2 (genital herpes), they cannot re-infect one another or cause the other more outbreaks, including when one partner has an active sore or is experiencing viral shedding. This is because the body has developed antibodies to both strains of the virus.

Being knowledgeable about the risks of oral sex can only work to your benefit, making you a more empowered lover in all that you do, or choose not to do. With worries about your sexual health aside, you can allow yourself to get fully absorbed in the action. While a lot of what you’re about to read may be hard to swallow (pun intended), you’ll come away more sexually informed and sex savvier for it. It’s hard to find thorough, accurate resources on this topic, so you only stand to heighten your bedroom rock star status in being completely in-the-know.

During oral–anal sex, you run the additional risk of acquiring hepatitis A, lice, scabies, anal herpes, anal warts (HPV), parasitic infections like amebiasis, and/or bacterial infections like e-coli. Kissing, licking, tonguing, or sucking on the anal opening with your lips and/or tongue invites the risk and spread of these harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites, especially when exposed to anal cuts or tears or traces of bloody feces.

Rolls Off the Tongue

“I think I’d be more willing to give and receive oral sex if I felt more fully informed about the risks involved, as well as ways to protect myself. It’s like people are afraid to talk about it because it’s not sexy, which sounds ridiculous when you think of the consequences.” —Marty

Factors That Increase Risk of Infection

In assessing the risk of acquiring an STD or passing one along, especially during unprotected oral sex, consider the following factors:

Active vs. Inactive Infection

While infections can be spread at any time, you want to avoid oral sex, or any kind of sex for that matter, when a partner has an outbreak, especially when either individual has open cuts or sores on or in the mouth or genitals.

Fact

A study of 300 people conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that the risk of throat cancer was nearly nine times greater for people reporting oral sex with more than six partners.

Oral Health

If you’re the lover giving oral sex and have cuts, ulcers, bleeding gums, and sores in or around your mouth and throat, you’re at increased risk of contracting an STD.

Dental Work

Related to your oral health is any recent dental work, including having undergone a root canal, having your wisdom teeth pulled, or getting dentures re-fitted. Going to the dentist for any kind of check-up or brushing or flossing your teeth before oral sexual activity also increases your risk of acquiring an STD. This is because these activities can result in lesions, scrapes, sores, irritations, or tiny cuts on the gums you may not even be aware of.

Fact

With early HIV research largely focusing on the anal sex practices of gay men, the scientific community failed to pay enough attention to the oral transmission of HIV. A presentation of eight HIV cases, given at the seventh Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, suggested that all of these eight cases were oral sex attributable, with all eight HIV-positive individuals having had some type of recent dental work.

Ejaculation

If your lover is performing oral sex on you and you ejaculate into her mouth, this increases her risk of infection. While it has yet to be confirmed, female ejaculation in one’s mouth may also pose a threat.

Question

When suffering from a sore throat and swollen glands, how does a person know if he or she might have an STD versus simply having the start of strep throat or the common cold?There is no way to tell with certainty if you acquired an infection during oral sex or if you’re coming down with strep or a cold since these conditions often share many of the same symptoms, like fever, swollen glands, sore throat, and tonsillitis. Indicators that you may have an oral STD specifically include oral lesions or cold sores, though this is not a hard-and-fast rule. Symptoms may also last longer than your average sore throat or cold. In determining whether or not you have an STD, or a more serious cold, pay a visit to a healthcare professional, who will take a throat culture to determine the cause.

When to Play vs. When to Abstain

If you or your partner have an active STD, it practically goes without saying that it’s best to abstain from sexual activity until the infection is treated or goes back to an inactive status. If the STD is curable, make sure that you refrain from sex until treatment is complete. Be sure both you and your partner are tested and treated. Failure to do so could result in reinfection.

In cases where abstinence is out of the question or where a lover is carrying a lifelong, viral STD, safer sex options, as outlined in the next section, are available. You can further reduce the risk of transmission in having open, honest communication, limiting the number of sexual partners you have, and going for regular sexual and reproductive health check-ups.

All of these points are really important given that many STDs are asymptomatic (without symptoms). A person can be a carrier and never even know she is infected, especially since an infection may lie dormant in her system for months or even years after exposure. Thus, she may not be aware that she poses a threat to others. Take, for example, that two-thirds of the 45 million Americans with genital herpes never have any symptoms. Even when a person looks perfectly healthy, and the sexual exchange appears totally risk-free, make sure that you’re both being attuned to the need to discuss and employ safer sex practices.

Tools for Safer Oral Sex

Being on the birth control pill, or any other hormonal contraceptive, does not protect either of you from STDs, including HIV, during oral sex or other sexual activities.

The only way to protect yourself from STDs, other than abstaining from sexual activity, is to use a male condom, female condom, dental dam, latex gloves, and/or finger cots, depending on your sex acts of choice. No matter what your choice of protection, the key to avoiding infection is to use your prophylactic consistently and correctly. Latex offers the best protection, while polyurethane products are a great second choice for those with latex allergies. In any case, a non–animal-skin barrier should be used.

Here are prime ways to protect yourself and your lover during oral sex on her:

Dental Dams

A dental dam is a thin, square barrier, typically made out of latex, which provides protection against STDs, including HIV, during oral sex on a female and during analingus on any gender. It is placed over the body part you are stimulating on your gal. The Sheer Glyde dam has been approved by the FDA especially for safer sex. Other brands include Glyde Lollyes and Lixx.

Alert

Be sure to avoid using food, Vaseline, massage oils, and oil-based lubes with your prophylactics since such items can break down the latex, compromising the protection you’re getting.

At times hard to find, dental dams can be purchased at select drugstores or at specialty sex shops. Businesses specializing in safer sex supplies also carry dental dams in a variety of sizes. Many of these businesses offer confidential online shopping and shipping services for those longing to make discreet purchases. Certain sexual and reproductive health organizations, like Planned Parenthood, or your local Department of Health or campus student health services may also have them available for free.

If you have trouble finding dental dams, or are in immediate need of protection, there are a couple of around-the-house substitutes at your disposal. You can:

Tear off a sheet of nonmicrowavable (since it’s nonporous) plastic wrap, like Saran Wrap, for a thinner alternative.

Using scissors, carefully cut off the tip of a nonlubed, “dry” latex condom, as well as its elastic band at the open end. You’ll want to then cut across the length of the condom for a stretchable, rectangular barrier.

Trim the fingers (but not the thumb) off of a powder-free latex glove and cut along the side opposite the thumb.

In using a dental dam, make sure you cover her entire vulval or anal opening area, holding the edges firmly with your hands as you feast away. For greater pleasuring for you, consider adding flavored lube to your side. In giving your partner more sensations, add a few dabs of your lover’s favorite silicone- or water-based lube. When you’ve had your fun, be sure to throw away the dental dam since it should never be reused, shared, or reversed (or transferred from the vagina to the anus and vice versa).

Alert

Be cautious in performing oral sex if you have braces. First of all, you don’t want to tear your prophylactic. Second, you don’t want to draw blood. So be gentle, with both of you seeking to avoid sudden, jerky, or unexpected movements.

Latex Surgical Gloves

Whether you want to cover cuts on your hands or fingers, avoid jagged fingernails or hangnails, or simply want a smooth touch, gloves can provide feel-good sensations as you’re delivering oral. Plus, they make for easy cleanup, enabling couples to seamlessly transition into afterplay and cuddling without worrying about mess. Nonlatex polyurethane gloves are available for those with a latex sensitivity or allergy.

Finger Cots

Found at your local pharmacy, these singular finger condoms are meant to protect fingers with cuts, allowing you to play with all sorts of parts while feeding your oral appetite.

Fact

Have a new tongue, lip, or mouth piercing? Then you’ll want to avoid oral sexual activity or open mouth kissing for up to six weeks, giving your piercing time to heal. Failure to do so increases your risk of tissue damage and bacterial infection.

Talking about Your Sexual Health

Annually, 19 million Americans acquire an STD, which means that, sooner or later, you may have good reason to talk about your sexual health and safer sex with a sweetie. These discussions aren’t easy, and if you’re the one with an STD, you risk rejection, loss of confidentiality, potential humiliation, and other adverse consequences. Thankfully, there are ways you can prepare yourself for the tough conversation.

Get Informed

Knowledge is power, so become familiar with everything there is to know about STDs and safer sex. Educating yourself allows for greater understanding, ultimately reducing fears and giving you a sense of self and body ownership as you regain a sense of control and the power to cope. This also prepares you to correct any myths or calm any fears your lover may have.

Know Your Body

If you’re infected with a viral STD, note when your outbreaks occur to better understand their timing. This might be when you’re under a great deal of stress or drinking lots of caffeine. This will give you a greater sense of control over the infection and bodily changes, plus have you better able to counter triggers in taking better care of yourself and the best times to be sexually intimate.

Confide in a Professional

If you’re distraught about your sexual health status or the risks involved in being intimate, talk to a mental health counselor.

Move the Conversation Forward Together

In successfully, confidently having sexual health discussions with your partner, be sure that they take place in an emotionally neutral environment and not when you’re feeling horny and wanting to get all over her. Don’t make a big deal out of them. This begins by not sounding anxious, panicky, or stressed rather seeking to sound calm and confident. You may also want to point out that STDs tend to get a bad rap. Oral herpes, genital herpes, shingles, and chicken pox, for example, are all due to having acquired a virus that remains in one’s nervous system permanently. Yet genital herpes is stigmatized much more often than your common cold sore or chicken pox outbreak because it’s related to sex.

Be open-minded and ask that your potential partner do the same. Discuss your levels of comfort with STDs and safer sex, weighing the risks in light of your relationship, values, and what’s important to you in a sexual relationship.

Suggest that you put your heads together in crafting a game plan on how you’ll protect yourselves from here on out, or at least initially. Some lovers may want to weigh the pros and cons of unprotected sex differently when in a long-term relationship, as some may be more willing to take or accept the risks involved in becoming more serious and intimate. In any case, tons of communication, trust, care, and protection are needed.

Talking isn’t easy, but the benefits to your health and relationship are well worth it. Ultimately, you and your lover can feel closer in better knowing each other, and in becoming a team, protecting yourselves from here on out.

Question

What STDs are detectable even if you don’t show any symptoms?Both men and women can be tested for HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Gonorrhea and chlamydia screening involves a urine test or swab of the inside of a female’s cervix or the swab of the inside of the penis. Doctors test for syphilis using a blood sample or swab from a genital sore, if present. Blood samples are drawn to test for HIV and hepatitis. Unfortunately, no good screening test exists for herpes, though blisters or ulcers can be scraped for tissue samples. Women can have a Pap test done to test for an HPV infection. There is no screening test available for men in checking for HPV. Be sure to ask for STD testing specifically, as different doctors have their own agenda during exams and may not test for everything.

Deciding Your Oral Sex Rules

New and different sexual relationships and opportunities require a constant re-evaluation of our sexual health, and just how much we want to or need to protect it. Ultimately, your sexual health comes down to your knowledge, skills, and motivation in protecting yourself. In becoming more informed, you learn more about your choices. You can do what’s best for you given how much you’re willing to roll the dice — or not.

So take the time to assess your levels of risk and decide upon the rules that will guide your oral sex efforts. You may, for example, always require a barrier method when having oral sex with somebody you just met. You may require that a partner get tested before having unprotected oral sex. This is a game where you draft your own guidelines, and hopefully have a partner who is on the same page.

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