6 Reasons The Oral Sex Gap Exists — And How To Bridge It

Photo: Olena Yakobchuk / 
couple in bed, nuzzling

Women perform oral sex more often than men do, according to research. This disparity between the genders is known as the oral sex gap.

Why does this gender gap exist? Who is affected by it? Why does it matter?

And, perhaps most important, how can we bridge the oral sex gap?

Plenty of men request oral sex but they are unwilling to return the favor. And women are more willing to perform sexual acts to please their partners, even if the act is not reciprocated.

This is an issue that needs to be resolved if we want to attain pleasure equality.

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What do studies reveal about the oral sex gap?

Numerous studies and informal polls report a disparity when it comes to giving oral sex in heterosexual relationships.

In a study from the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, it was reported that more women (59 percent) than men (52 percent) give oral sex to their partners. Though most participants rated giving oral sex as at least “somewhat pleasurable,” men were significantly more likely than women to report that giving oral sex was very pleasurable (52 percent to 28 percent).

A US study reported that young women are more likely than men to give oral sex. Among older adults, men are more likely than women to report performing oral sex.

Similarly, informal polls confirm that there is an oral sex gender gap — straight women give more oral sex than they receive.

In the UK, sex educator Oloni and podcaster Zeze Millz report a disparity between men and women performing oral sex among Black people. In her book, The Big O, Oloni said that many straight men refuse to perform oral, but still expect oral sex when sleeping with women.

In a discussion with Black American female podcasters, Millz reported that Black men in the UK rarely perform oral sex on women, even though women perform oral on them.

In contrast, Black American men view oral sex on women more favorably than black Britons, who are largely influenced by African and Caribbean cultures.

Sexual behaviors are shaped by cultural attitudes toward sex. This is especially the case among Black people in the UK, where African and Caribbean cultures view oral sex on women unfavorably.

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6 reasons the oral sex gap exists

1. Men expect oral sex far more than women

In my intimacy workshops, I regularly come across men who expect oral sex but are reluctant to perform the act unless it is a special occasion.

Many of the male participants say they perform oral less than they receive as it’s “a woman’s duty to please her man.”

Countless women say that they are expected to perform oral sex, but the chances of the favor being returned are slim at best.

They report men rarely doing so, but those men expected reciprocal oral pleasure every time they had sex.

This sexual expectation gap between the genders contributes to the oral sex gap.

It appears that women are less vocal than men in asking for their needs to be satisfied.

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2. The media normalize women performing oral sex, but not men

The media play a major role in shaping attitudes towards sex.

Pornography and Hollywood films are also more likely to show a woman performing orally than a man going down on a woman.

Women’s magazines regularly discuss oral sex tips that would blow a man’s mind but are silent on techniques to please women.

It’s a message that both young men and women have internalized: that oral sex on a man is normal while performing oral sex on women is shameful, secret, and somehow more sexual or intimate.

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3. Myths about the vagina

There are several myths about female genitalia that discourage men and deter women from oral sex.

The notion that “vaginas smell like fish,” “oral sex is sodomy,” and “oral sex is unhygienic.”

Women are also more likely to fake orgasms.

All these factors contribute to why the oral sex gap exists between heterosexual men and women.  

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4. The belief that oral sex is emasculating

A number of men believe that performing oral sex is a submissive act.

Therefore, they do not want to feel emasculated by performing an act they consider to be weak and emasculating.

Such men do not hold the same view about women performing oral sex on a man.

This double standard and immature belief contribute to why men are less likely to perform oral sex.

RELATED: 5 Ways Men Can Help Women Achieve A Super Orgasm (And Close The Orgasm Gap For Good)

5. Men dislike performing oral sex

Some women believe that men should perform oral freely, joyfully, and enthusiastically, because they actually want to give their female partners pleasure, rather than feeling obligated to.

Truth be told, some straight men hate doing it. It is not that they are selfish, they just do not like performing the act.  

There are also some men who do it just to keep their partner happy.

In contrast, women are more likely to perform oral sex on men even if they do not enjoy the act as they have been socially conditioned to fulfill male desires.

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6. Female insecurities about the vagina

Some women do not like receiving oral sex as they think something is wrong with their vulva/vagina.

So many women are worried about smell, taste and shape. Even when men do want to perform oral sex, many women refuse as they are unable to completely relax and enjoy the moment. 

Another woman reported that she doesn’t orgasm from oral sex because she spends the whole time worrying about “what they think of my pink bits so I can’t completely relax.”

According to the authors of a study on the oral sex gap, “Women indicated that they would not be comfortable receiving oral sex from a partner unless they had just finished showering/bathing, due to feelings of self-consciousness about the way they smelled. This interfered with their ability to focus on their own pleasure and led to feelings of anxiety when receiving oral sex was a possibility.”

These female insecurities can make women asking for oral very difficult. If a woman is uncomfortable with her body or thinks she looks unattractive, she is less likely to accept oral when her man offers.

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How to bridge the oral sex gap

To close the oral sex gap, we need better sex education is needed to debunk myths about female genitalia and women's pleasure. 

Closing the oral sex gap can help us achieve pleasure equality and help women climax. Cunnilingus is an effective way to facilitate female orgasms as it usually involves clitoral stimulation.

Sadly, women are conditioned to feel more shame or anxiety about their genitals — an anxiety that the multi-million dollar feminine hygiene industry exploits. Only when women are taught not to feel ashamed of their genitals can they start to request and receive oral sex as much as men.

For women who do want to receive oral sex, it is important that they vocalize their needs and find a partner who enjoys performing the act.

This can help eradicate some vulva insecurities and allow the woman to completely relax and enjoy receiving oral sex.

Time to learn, men!

Similarly, men should grow up and educate themselves about female genitalia.

The myth of the "bad-smelling" vagina is often perpetuated by immature men who believe women are less deserving of pleasure or those who are unaware that most women do not climax from intercourse alone.

This myth needs to be debunked with pleasure-positive sex education. Straight men can play a role by speaking about the joys of oral sex.

There are a lot of men who love the scent of a woman and enjoy performing oral sex.

And for those guys who don’t like giving oral sex, it’s probably best to keep your mouth shut!

RELATED: 7 Ways Females Can Have More Orgasms During Sex

Habeeb Akande is a sex educator and author of Kunyaza: The Secret to Female Pleasure. Habeeb runs intimacy workshops on sexual well-being and was featured in a BBC documentary exploring female sexual pleasure. He shares more onTwitter @Habeeb_Akande.