Oral sex, also known as 69, lip service, licking out, eating out, going down, giving head, tossing salad, rimming, and... a million other slang terms, simply means using your mouth, lips, or tongue to stimulate another’s genitals or anus. People with a vulva and/or a penis can give and receive oral.
In medical terms, oral is referred to as “cunnilingus” when performed on a person with a vulva, and “fellatio” when performed on a person with a penis. If oral involves the anus, it’s called “anilingus” (or, as it’s sometimes spelled, “analingus”).
Oral sex, whether you choose to do it as a part of foreplay or as the main event, can be mind-blowing — if it’s done right. But, like most intimate acts, oral sex does come with a few risks. Read on to get the down-low on the stats, STI and STD risks, and everything else you need to know before giving or getting head.
Part One: Oral Sex Info for Everyone
Oral Sex Facts and Stats
According to a May 2021 survey conducted by the feminist sex shop Early to Bed, approximately one-third of the 571 US respondents said that they enjoyed giving oral sex more than receiving it; 35 percent of male respondents prefer giving oral compared to 27 percent of female respondents. An encouraging data point that seems to go against popular perception!
The survey also found that 60 percent of respondents think that oral sex feels better than manual stimulation. But the female respondents were split on this question, with 146 votes for manual stimulation and 142 votes for oral. What’s more: according to a recent Lorals survey, 87 percent of women have turned it down when they actually wanted to get down — due to everything from shame about vaginal taste and smell to not wanting their partner's face that close.
Oral Is NOT Just Foreplay
Popular culture has a tendency to relegate oral sex and other non-penetrative sex to the wings as just “extras.” But it’s important to note that for many people — particularly people with vulvas — oral sex is one of the most effective ways to reach orgasm. Cunnilingus is over 3x more likely to get a person with a vulva to orgasm. Imagine being able to boast that you make your partner come every. single. time. Screaming, body-shaking orgasms whenever they want it. Your partner(s) is so satisfied your new nickname is Wonder Tongue. Now that is a flex we can get behind! And in front of. And on top of. And underneath. We’re literally all over it.
Is Oral Sex Safe?
Oral sex still has risks. Sure, you can’t get pregnant from having or giving oral sex alone, but you can acquire or transfer sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) via oral.
You can lower your chances of getting or giving an STI or STD during oral sex by using a condom (penis), dental dam (vagina or anus), or other barrier methods. Lorals is in the process of applying for FDA clearance to become a barrier method ourselves (!!), but in the meantime, Lorals should not be used for this purpose. In addition to using protection, it’s also important to get tested regularly for STDs and HIV — this includes getting regular oral exams.
Communication and Prep Work
When you’re working with another person’s libido and body, there can be a bit of prep work involved. One of the first steps of having a successful oral sex sesh is to start with a conversation. It may seem awkward at first, but talking your way up to sex can be a great way to get you and your partner in the mood.
Here are a few questions to help get those juices flowing:
- What do you like most during oral?
- Is there anything you don’t like during oral?
- What are the best oral orgasms you’ve ever had?
- What made it so hot?
- Can you tell/show me the amount of pressure you enjoy?
- Can you tell me when I do something you like?
You might be surprised at what you learn about your partner and yourself. Starting out with communication might also make it easier to communicate throughout sex — which means you’ll be more comfortable, and in turn, have even better sex. It’s a win-win!
To Shower or Not to Shower, That Is the Question
The thought of how a person (or their partner) may taste or smell has ruined literally hundreds of potential orgasms for many, many people. According to a 2019 survey conducted by Vagisil, approximately 58% of respondents (1,000 were surveyed) said that at one point or another they avoided intimacy because they were worried about how they smelled down there. What’s even worse is that 50% of the respondents admitted to foregoing oral sex altogether due to their vaginal scent.
But, here’s the thing: all vaginas have a scent, all penises have a scent. Body parts are scented; they’re supposed to be! Unless it smells like a rotting fish or a decaying organism, there’s nothing to worry about. Plus, there are several reasons why your smell may change.
Here are five quick reasons that don’t involve infections or cause for concern:
- You recently had sex without a condom
- You ate something fragrant (like garlic)
- You’re on your period
- You just hit the gym
- You’re wearing non-cotton underwear
Certain vaginal or vulva cleansing products can also sometimes upset the body’s natural pH balance, which can lead to unwanted bacterial growth and odors.The vagina is self-cleaning, so warm water and a washcloth are really all that’s needed to keep your vulva clean.
The bottom line: When it comes to showering, that’s more of a judgment call. If you’d want your partner to wash their balls before going down there, you may want to return the favor. But if you’re cool going unwashed, that’s fine too. Ultimately, the pre-wash-up is up to you and your partner.
Part Two: Oral Sex Tips for Pleasing Partners With a Vulva
Have you ever heard the phrase: Women are like diesel trucks, it takes ‘em a bit to warm up? While this phrase sounds kind of stupid when said aloud, it’s true! People with vulvas often require a bit of prep work (i.e. kissing, touching, moaning, etc.) beforehand.
“The best piece of advice here is to start from the outside in,” says Tara Struyk, the co-founder of Kinkly.com and Kinkly Shop. “Clitorises tend to be sensitive — for some people, they're VERY sensitive — but they become less so as a person is more aroused. Start by kissing and licking the inner thighs, around the vulva, the labia, moving toward circling the clit,” Struyk continues. “Decide how quickly to move based on your partner's cues and whether they're digging it. If you do contact the clitoris directly, and not everyone likes that at all, wait until your partner is really turned on and ready for the intensity of that stimulation.”
Another benefit to moving slow and slowly zoning in on the glans clitoris (the part you can see) is that the full structure of the clitoris extends down along the labia, so there can be some extremely pleasurable spots all over that area. Explore with your mouth AND fingers to find the parts your partner enjoys the most.
It’s All About the Technique
Every vulva-owner is different, so be sure to listen to your partner’s feedback. Although cunnilingus focuses on the clitoris, not every person is into that (so don’t assume you know what you’re doing just because you know where it is).
Here’s a quick guide for eating pussy:
- The clit is where it’s at...but wait a minute. OK, yes. The clitoris is filled with nerve endings, but that doesn’t mean you should just dive right in. This isn’t an Olympic swimming pool and you’re not going for the gold (yet). Before you decide to go for your partner’s love button, kiss their neck, belly, inner thighs, and around their vulva. Tickle their nipples with your tongue. Do whatever you have to do to get your partner to feel comfortable, hot, and horny without going all in. The anticipation will definitely pay off in the end. Also, here’s a fun fact: According to research published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, women are more likely to orgasm when deep kissing, manual stimulation, and/or oral sex was added to their romp repertoire.
- Try a little bit of everything. Adding a few moves to your set couldn’t hurt. Try making up and down movements along her inner labia, lightly touching the clit with your tongue, or move your tongue side to side at the clit or along the labia. You could also make circles around the clit or inner labia, lightly suck on the clit or labia or penetrate her with your tongue. The possibilities are endless. Just be sure that they’re OK with whatever it is you choose to do. (Pro tip: A clitoral-sucking vibrator just might blow their mind.)
- Don’t stop, get it-get it. As the song lyrics go, once you’ve got it, don’t stop! Listen to your partner’s vocal and physical cues and go with it (even if you feel like your tongue is going to fall off).
Quick Tips for Cunnilingus
- Don’t forget to warm up! This can include light breathing, soft licking, or gently touching your partner with your fingers.
- Ease into it. If your partner isn’t quite comfortable being completely bare, try out some Lorals. They’re ultra-thin latex panties designed to fully cover the vulva and anus, so your partner can have a bit more coverage while still getting allllll the sensation.
- Rhythm is important. Each individual is different and sometimes your partner may not know what they like. To ensure you’re giving it your all, try a variety of movements for a few minutes at a time and see how they respond. Take note, and repeat!
- Turn it up a notch. Now that you’ve got a good rhythm going (and a few hot moves), try applying more pressure, increasing the speed, or licking down to their anus. The perineum (the bit of skin between the vaginal opening and the anus) can be extremely sensitive and add to the experience. Quick note: once you go back there, do not switch back to their vulva unless they’re wearing something like Lorals. If you swap sans barrier, fecal particles can find their way to the vagina, which causes all kinds of problems.
- Consistency is key. Once you find that spot, pressure, and speed that has them babbling in a language that only they know — don’t change anything. If they say “there. There. THERE!”, you better stay right there doing exactly what you’re doing. Tongue cramps be damned.
“The key during oral sex is to provide variety while looking to your partner for feedback,” says Wyatt Fisher, PhD, a licensed psychologist who specializes in marriage counseling. “Ask what feels best. In addition, remember to reassure your partner occasionally that they taste amazing to help them relax and receive,” Fisher continues. “Also, provide occasional eye contact to sustain emotional intimacy and to help them feel connected.”
Positions for Cunnilingus
- Traditional. Have your partner lie on their back (on the bed, floor, sofa, whatever) and gently spread their legs apart. Kneel in between your partner’s legs and go to town.
- Classic 69. Laying on your sides, ask your partner to flip around (so you’re both facing each other’s feet) and straddle your face. This way, your partner can give you head too — if they want.
- Face Sitting. Have your partner straddle your face (facing towards the top of your head) and let them control the moves and the pressure. If this position is too close for comfort, tons of our customers say that Lorals helped them feel more confident in sitting on their partner’s face, and helped them get those sweet orgasms.
- Standing. Ask your partner to stand against a wall or near something supportive (like a chair or railing). Then, kneel down (you can put a pillow down if you’d like) and eat her out.
Part Three: Oral Sex Tips for Pleasing Partners With a Penis
Your partner doesn’t need to be erect for you to please them orally, but you may want to set the mood by gently kissing your partner’s neck and/or nibbling on their earlobe. You can also run your hand up and down their thigh, just barely grazing their penis over their pants before you make the move to their zipper.
Similar to the clitoris, the head of a penis is super-sensitive. So, it’s important to start out slow and increase the speed as you go. You can also test out different tongue, mouth, and head movements to see what gets them going. Rule of thumb: Do not use your teeth (like, ever) unless asked to do so. And, this is probably the most important tip, don’t forget to have fun. Oral isn’t just about licking, sucking, etc. It’s about embracing trust and displaying your affection for your partner (which you can do by moaning, making eye contact, and using your free hand to caress other parts of their body).
“Mix it up,” says Katie Lasson, a clinical sexologist for the UK-based online sex shop, Peaches and Screams. “Don’t just stick their penis in your mouth, go up and down, up and down and think that is all you have to do. Change the rhythm. Change your position. Use your hands. Use your partner’s hands,” Lasson continues. “Roll your tongue around the tip. Roll your tongue up and down the sides.”
Quick Tips for Blow Jobs
- Try out different stroke lengths and speeds. Switching things up can add a little excitement to your book of tricks.
- Keep their hot spots in mind. The head of the penis, the testicles, and the perineum (that’s the section between the testicles and the anus) are all super-important when it comes to giving a top-notch blow job. Try sucking (GENTLY) on their testicles or kissing the inside of their thighs. Stroking or pressing firmly against the perineum has the added benefit of stimulating the prostate, which intensifies the sensations you’re already performing.
- Use your hands. Giving head is an art; don’t forget to use your hands! This way, you’ll be able to control the depth, as well. Wrap your hand around the base of the penis and move your mouth over and down until it touches your hand. Then, move your head in rhythm with your hand. Sometimes, our hands can get dry and feel a bit rough. To make things easier on you and your partner, try using lube to help the movements feel more consistent and fluid. If you’d like to spice things up, consider using an edible lubricant or flavored condom. (Be sure to read the ingredients first!)
- Make some noise. Let your partner know just how much you’re enjoying pleasuring them. Humming, moaning, or groaning during the act is not only audibly pleasurable but can also cause small vibrations against the head and up the shaft.
“The more aroused you are, the better you’ll be at giving a blow job,” says chronic illness advocate and head content creator for BedBible.com, Edwina Caito. “Slide your hand south or, if your partner’s game, get in the 69 position — this way, you’re both being stimulated at the same time,” Caito continues. “This makes performing much easier as your mind is concentrating on how you feel rather than what you're doing.”
Positions for Blow Jobs
- Face Fuck. Lie on your back (on a bed, sofa, or wherever) and ask your partner to straddle you on their knees facing you. They’ll have one knee on either side of your chest (below your armpits), and their penis will be right in front of your mouth. If you’d like to give your partner more control, they can hold your head and control the depth. Just be sure to let them know whether this is OK or not beforehand. (You’ve gotta set boundaries!)
- Jackhammer. This position is similar to what some refer to as the “Pile Driver.” To start, sit down on a firm, yet comfortable surface (a wedge would be perfect). Then, ask your partner to stand over you so that they’re straddling you with their penis right above your head. Lean your head back and using your hands, gently pull their penis into your mouth.
- Rocking Chair. Ask your partner to sit in a chair or on the sofa. Then, grab a pillow and place it on the floor in front of them. Plop your knees on the pillow and go to work.
- Lazy Morning. If you’re a morning sex person, you’ll love this position. When you wake up, ask your partner to lie on their back, scoot down (if you need to), lie on your side, and place your head on their torso while you give them head.
Part Four: Rimming Tips for Pleasing Your Partner
Rimming, or eating ass, may seem like the most badass (and possibly the most intimidating) oral sex act of them all, but even newbies can successfully rim their partner sans embarrassment. Rimming, medically known as anilingus, is the act of performing oral sex on your partner’s anus.
Before you begin, wash up with water or a non-fragrant soap. If you’re extra concerned, you or your partner (whoever is receiving it) can use an enema or a thin barrier like Lorals for added comfort/peace of mind. Lorals have a wide gusset that allows you to tuck them into the butt crack (it’s the best wedgie you’ll ever have, seriously) and go to town without worrying.
Here are a few other reasons to use Lorals during rimming:
- Lorals removes any worry that you’ll accidentally swallow fecal matter.
- With Lorals you can lick up and down from the asshole to the clit and back, over and over again, without worrying about transferring anal bacteria to the vagina.
- Lorals are stretchy enough for tongue and finger penetration (trust us, it’s pretty amazing).
Once you’re ready to go, get comfortable. Oral sex requires trust and a lot of it. Give your partner time to get acclimated to being in this new (and possibly vulnerable) position.
Quick Tips for Rimming
- Start slow. This may be the first time your partner is receiving oral pleasure in this way. Give them a moment to enjoy every single touch and/or lick. You can begin pleasing your partner by kissing their cheeks, caressing their sides, cupping their butt, or even playing with their clit or penis to loosen them up and get them aroused.
- Use your hands. This is a case where it’s ideal to use both your hands and your mouth. For maximum access, gently pull apart their butt cheeks so you can reach their anus easily with your tongue. Combined stimulation is another way to intensify pleasure. This could mean giving your partner a hand job or fingering them. Fingering the anus is also a great way to loosen up those muscles, making it easier to tongue your partner.
- Sensual strokes. Relax your tongue just below your partner’s anus. Slowly move your tongue up and down. You can even position your tongue into a point and use the tip to make circles around their butthole with gradually firmer strokes.
- Really get in there. Rimming is all about getting your face in there, so commit and enjoy! Sloppy, wet, and intense is all part of the experience, and you can always add lube to make it even wetter.
- Penetration. If you and your partner are comfortable, tense your tongue into a point and carefully press directly into their anus — it’ll be a new sensation for both of you.
- Add toys. If you and your partner agreed to use toys or experiment with penetration, now is the time to do so. Remember to go slow and to be gentle. You can use your tongue, a finger, or a vibrating sex toy to stimulate your partner’s anus after it has already been stretched and relaxed.
Positions for Rimming
- Doggy Style. Doggy style is probably the best position for rimming. It’ll give you and your partner control over what’s going down (pressure, movement, etc.). Ask your partner to get on all fours while you kneel behind them.
- Legs in the Air. Ask your partner (the receiver) to lay back on the bed with their legs lifted into the air. Then, kneel down and use your hands to spread their cheeks apart — this way, you can really get up in there.
- Reverse Sit. Ask your partner to sit on your face, but facing away from you. This way, you can ease into anilingus 69 (if you want to).
- Over the Bed. As the name suggests, this position requires your partner to bend over a bed, chair, or the arm of a couch with their feet on the floor. Then you can kneel on a pillow and please them.
So now you've got the full picture, what are you waiting for? Get some Lorals, start talking to your partner, and start going down!
Written by Tabitha Britt, a freelance writer and editor. She's also the founding-editor-in-chief of DO YOU ENDO, the first (and only) no-BS digital magazine for individuals with endometriosis by individuals with endometriosis in the US. You can find her byline in a variety of publications including Insider, Medical News Today, and Kinkly.
Reviewed and Edited by Sarah Brown, a sex and intimacy educator with 10 years of experience designing and marketing intimate wellness and pleasure products.