The other day (I have no idea how—it’s the internet), my husband stumbled across the following link in Cosmo. He and I were out on a date, and being the kind of married couple we are, our idea of a good date was to spend about an hour or so mocking the silly editorial. (So thanks, Cosmo writer, you provided entertainment for us on our date). Part of the reason we spent so much time discussing and dissecting the article is because, of course, it is aimed at… women like me—the supposedly mythical species of women who say they like blowjobs. The skepticism that this particular writer displays towards my species is considerable. She seems convinced that women who say they like giving blowjobs are lying.
I’ll go ahead and concede one of her points straight off: I can’t have what most people would label an orgasm by giving head. I can, however, have energy orgasms by giving head, and I can also have orgasms by giving head and jerking myself off, or giving head and getting someone else to jerk me off, or (heaven forbid!) giving head and getting head at the same time… which leads me to my overall point. I don’t think that this particular writer is actually angry that there are women who say they like giving blowjobs. I don’t think that she honestly believes that I am her problem. And I don’t even think that I am her key complaint. I think her main complaint is that in heteronormative sexual encounters, blowjobs are expected and cunnilingus is not. Rather than just accepting her blaming of sluts like me who like sucking cock for this norm, I figured I’d take the time to explore some of the actual reasons that I think that this purportedly pernicious inequity persists. I know most of my own sexual encounters with guys (whether relatively casual or serious) tend to involve me giving him head and only occasionally getting it, so I am clearly contributing to this woman’s problem in multiple ways.
For the rest of this post, I’m going to ruthlessly skip back and forth between my own preferences and what I think are the preferences of women in general. But unless I’m citing actual studies, this is really just my opinion about women’s preferences and experiences. By all means, feel free to comment with your own opinion.
First off, let’s start with actual, real-life preferences. Heterosexuals don’t know this, but women who have sex with women do: the culture at large imagines that lesbian sex involves vast amounts of cunnilingus, and that this is the consummate sexual act among women having sex with other women. But the reality, I think, is simply not so. I have spoken with many other women (admittedly, mostly bisexual women, but these are the vast majority of women who have sex with women); the general agreement is that cunnilingus is lovely, but hands and fingers are usually better. Most women I have spoken to say that they can orgasm from someone licking their pussies, but they can cum more reliably and “better” from having something inside them (it doesn’t have to be a cock or a dildo—in fact hands are often preferred). (And oh man, if you’ve ever tried to tongue-fuck someone, you know that weird sore-strain that you get on the part that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth… yeah, it doesn’t encourage you to make a habit of it. Ow). Contrary to what cultural “wisdom” claimed for many years, the clitoris is actually quite large and extends a long way inside the vagina. Unsurprisingly, many women like to have that entire area stimulated. Now, you can do especially lovely things to some women by going down on them and fingering them at the same time (I’m a big fan of receiving this myself). But the reality is that even among women having sex with other women, cunnilingus is not exactly taken-for-granted the way that most people assume that it would be. So maybe women giving men fellatio isn’t what’s keeping women from getting head themselves.
This begs the question: do most women love getting head? I haven’t done a survey, but I have asked a lot of women (admittedly, they’re mostly sex-obsessed kinky women like me). Their usual answer is, “Sure! It’s great!… Butttttt I usually like other things better.” (By all means, ladies, feel free to voice your own opinion in the comments sections). Now in considering women’s preferences about receiving oral sex, let’s never forget the way that our culture has taught women that their vaginas are awkward and undesirable. And no matter how much we might try to avoid that, even some of the most determined sluts I know are still a bit self-conscious about the way that their vaginas taste, especially since they have no way of knowing how they taste to somebody else. (I’ve never heard a guy spend a lot of time worrying about the way that his dick tastes—maybe they do!—but I haven’t heard them angsting it very much. Women, meanwhile, constantly worry). And so, as a woman, having someone go down on you can feel a little uncomfortable unless you really believe they’re into what they’re doing.
I know for myself the key factor in getting good cunnilingus is always my partner’s enthusiasm. I love being eaten out by someone who’s really into it… But I don’t really like asking for it, because then I’m not sure how enthusiastic the giver really is (which has the negative side effect of making me appear less enthusiastic about it). And while I always appreciate an earnest stubble-free attempt at cunnilingus from a partner, the truth is my body is terribly picky about the head I get. On top of being picky, I have absolutely no idea how to advise someone on how to give me good head. I can’t parse the sensations of tongues and mouths and happy feelings. So when someone does a really fantastic job, I have no idea how to tell the next person how to replicate what the other person did. I just quake and tremble and hope that someone happens to figure it out. I’ve gotten some really fucking fantastic head in my life. It rocks my world! I’m not dissing it. It’s brain-breakingly awesome… sometimes. And yet on the average sexual day, it’s usually not the thing that I’m seeking most. The sex I most frequently want is the kind where my pussy gets stuffed up with… things. And I really don’t require a lot of finesse or technique for that to feel great. Which means that all things considered, I figure it’s much better for everyone if I just prioritize forms of sex other than cunnilingus.
But as someone who loves to lick pussy and suck cock, I feel compelled to point out that eating pussy is much harder to do well than sucking cock. For starters, dicks are very easy to find; they tend to be pretty conspicuous, especially when hard. They also tend to like remarkably similar types of oral stimulation (handjobs are an entirely different proposition—it’s much easier to give girls awesome handjobs than guys). The main variation between guys seems to be how much teeth they like. But with women, their clitorises are in different places on their bodies, and sometimes they like to hide way the fuck up in multiple layers of hoods and skinfolds and goddess only knows what else. On top of that, they all seem to like completely different types of oral stimulation, so damned if I can figure out how to generalize from one woman to the next what constitutes “good head” any more than “good kissing” seems to generalize from one person to the next. I am cognizant of this dilemma when I have sex with people, so I don’t honestly expect people to be able to give me awesome head, especially since (as I said before) I can’t offer them much useful advice.
In addition to women’s preferences about receiving cunnilingus, we have to consider women’s preferences about giving fellatio. One study that I adore found that women enjoyed giving blowjobs and men enjoyed receiving blowjobs because of the feeling of control and power they experienced from it; these people were, mind you, self-identified vanillas. I think one of the reasons that blowjobs so often feature in heterosexual encounters—particularly casual ones—is that women feel empowered by them. I know I like being in control, and it’s easy for me to feel like I’m in control when giving a blowjob (although of course, it’s an easy power dynamic to switch on). On the other hand, it takes a fair bit of work and imagination on the part of a woman laying on her back with her legs spread and genitalia fully exposed in order to convince herself and the other person that she’s in control. I’ve done it myself, but it takes effort.
I know for me, a major part of my pleasure in sexual encounters is my own feelings of sexual prowess (what? Women like to feel good in bed too? Who knew??), and giving head tends to make me feel good at pleasing my partner. I have never felt secure in my ability to be good at PIV sex (and for the life of me, I’ve never figured out what makes a woman good at PIV sex, but if I ever do figure it out, I’ll make sure to pass the information along). Other than clenching and unclenching my pussy around a guy’s dick and screaming loudly when I cum, I don’t know what’s supposed to make me good at getting fucked. (And notice how easily I slip into the passive voice there). But I have accumulated a fair bit of information about what makes a woman good at giving a blowjob (even if my repertoire of skills has been somewhat ruined by spending too much time sucking dicks that like toothy head). Which means that one of the ways that I can feel satisfied about my own sexual skills in an encounter is by giving head; getting head, meanwhile, does nothing to satisfy those feelings.
So… are women like me who say they like giving blowjobs responsible for the persistent unequal exchange of hetero oral sex in this culture? Probably a little bit. It’s true that I don’t really want to have a lot of sexual encounters which consist solely of me giving men blowjobs; I’d like for my partners to do something for me too. But I find sexual encounters in which, say, I give a guy a blowjob and he fists me, to be entirely satisfactory. I certainly don’t support a sexual culture in which only one person gets things that they find physically gratifying. And guys who don’t give pleasure don’t deserve to get pleasure. If you sleep with them and they do nothing or next-to-nothing for you, don’t sleep with them again. Hey, that was easy. I really don’t think women who say they like giving blowjobs are the problem in that scenario. It seems to me that the men are… so maybe we should fix them instead?
And maybe, just maybe, we learn to have honest conversations with our partners about what we want—what we want to give and what we want to receive. And we try to listen to our partners and our own bodies, and not let an ignorant but sex-obsessed culture tell us what we “really” want.
Dear Cosmo Writer:
Here’s my advice to you: don’t sleep with a guy twice who doesn’t give a shit about your pleasure. They don’t deserve it. And don’t blame me for your sexual dissatisfaction if you don’t follow my advice.
 Yes, there are plenty of guys who regularly give awesome head. But statistics indicate that fellatio is expected in heteronormative encounters while cunnilingus is not.
 I found one recent study on the subject, and it indicated that cunnilingus was probably slightly less common than other types of sexual activities among women having sex with women.