The Etiquette of Oral Sex

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The Etiquette of Oral Sex
The ups, downs and in-betweens of oral sex.

If you're giving it, you need to be extremely comfortable with, as biologists say, your partner’s crotch. Conversely, if you're receiving it, you need to be extremely comfortable with your own. The net result can leave one or both partners wanting more, wanting less—or simply wanting to beat their heads against a wall.

"Oral sex is one of the most highly erotic, loving, and satisfying sexual activities you can indulge in," says Dr. Ava Cadell, a sex therapist and the author of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Oral Sex. "It's part and parcel of being a great lover. So if one person wants it and the other doesn't, it can be a dealbreaker in a relationship."

According to the CDC, about 90 percent of men and women have had oral sex at some point in their lives— but that doesn't mean they continue to have it regularly, or even that they liked it in the first place. The reasons why some folks aren't up on going down are a Freudian's, er, wet dream: People fear it's unhygienic.

Or they dislike the taste. Or they worry their technique is bad. Or they simply find the idea of faces being in places swimsuits cover to be generally unpleasant.

You should never do anything that makes you uncomfortable—but you should do what you can to overcome hang-ups that limit not only your own pleasure, but your partner's as well. And almost any hesitation about oral sex can be solved with a simple explanation or a reasonable compromise.

"If it's a question of cleanliness, you can shower with your partner and get clean together," suggests Ian Kerner, author of She Comes First and He Comes Next. "If a guy feels it's distasteful, he needs to know that the vagina is a self-cleaning ecosystem. By the same token, a woman may want to combine oral with manual stimulation to avoid swallowing, and ask her boyfriend not to thrust if she’s afraid of gagging. You just have to work in slow steps."

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