There’s all kinds of advice out there about how to have better sex, better orgasms, and more intimacy. But for women and people with vulvas, the top piece of advice is almost always to stimulate the clit, via fingers or through oral sex. Oral sex is loved by 90.9% of women, and it’s three times more likely to lead to an orgasm than intercourse.
Yet, do you engage in oral sex or other clit stimulation as often as you engage in intercourse? For most people, the answer is no. There are plenty of reasons why this is the case, but one that has been surprising and enlightening to us at Lorals, is how frequently potential oral receivers turn it down. Many people are nervous or worried about having oral for their first or even their thousandth time.
We’ve reviewed the research and even created some of our own, in order to better understand: Why is it so normal for women to turn down oral sex?
Most women love receiving oral sex.
Of course, most people are likely to turn down activities that don’t feel good or aren’t enjoyable. But that’s definitely not how people feel about oral.
According to a survey conducted by The Bad Girls Bible, 90.9% of women (based on a survey of 1,058) enjoy receiving oral sex. What’s more? 48.6% of respondents say they enjoy receiving anilingus (aka rimming or oral-anal sex) as well. Only 9% of those surveyed said that they do not enjoy receiving oral.
Not only do women love oral, they also love it MORE than other activities. According to a study published by Bettina Arndt, one of Australia's first sex therapists and author of “The Sex Diaries: Why Women Go Off Sex and Other Bedroom Battles,” women rank cunnilingus as the most satisfying intimate activity. 82% of Arndt’s study participants said oral was “very satisfying”; by contrast, 68% said vaginal sex was just “satisfying.”
According to The Bad Girls Bible, the main reason people enjoy oral is due to how the giver makes the receiver feel, mentally and emotionally. People also love oral due to the orgasms they receive, their partner’s oral sex techniques, and their partner’s enjoyment and enthusiasm.
Oral sex is three times more likely to result in orgasm than penetration.
When oral sex is compared to vaginal intercourse, oral almost always comes out on top. According to Arndt’s study, women are over three times more likely to orgasm from oral than from vaginal intercourse. Participants orgasmed 25% of the time during intercourse and 81% of the time during cunnilingus.
Other studies have also found that vaginal intercourse infrequently leads to orgasm. Researchers from the Population Research Institute at the Family Federation of Finland in Helsinki found only 6% of women said that they always had an orgasm during vaginal intercourse. And according to a study that was conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and published in “She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman,” less than one-third of women reach orgasm during vaginal intercourse.
The answer, according to most studies, is foreplay. In one study by The Kinsey Institute, researchers discovered that among women whose partners spent 21 minutes or longer participating in foreplay, 92.3% consistently reached orgasm. That means we jumped from two out of three women not being able to orgasm to nine out of 10 women achieving sexual bliss due to a menu of touching, caressing, clit stimulation, and oral.
Yet research shows that women often turn down oral sex.
According to research published by The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, there is substantial evidence that women are less comfortable receiving oral sex than are men. Women often view oral sex as highly intimate; some consider it more intimate than vaginal intercourse. Some women are not comfortable receiving oral unless they’ve just showered or bathed due to feelings of self-consciousness. Not only does this interfere with their ability to focus on their own pleasure, according to the researchers, but it also led to anticipatory anxiety whenever oral was a possibility. So, not only do women worry about how they smell or taste during oral, they also stress about it beforehand.
After reviewing the research cited by The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Lorals sought to better understand the scope of this hesitation. We conducted a randomized nationwide survey of 200 women and discovered that a whopping 87% of women had turned down oral sex when they wanted to say yes. Here are some of the reasons why:
- 53% of the respondents said they’ve turned down oral because they hadn’t showered recently. Our survey revealed that worries about hygiene or cleanliness is the No. 1 issue that keeps many women from engaging in oral. A woman’s genitals are, in Ian Kerner’s words, “a self-cleaning system—more sanitary than many other parts of the body, including the mouth.” But showering and sex are closely tied for many women; according to Alyssa Dweck, a gynecologist in Westchester County, New York, showering after sex as well is “more important to women” than men.
- 47% have turned oral down because they were menstruating. Despite the fact that 10.3% of women like to receive oral sex on their period, many find period oral intimidating. But having oral sex on your period can have some pretty amazing benefits, including heightened arousal, stronger orgasms, and a deeper connection to your partner. Bonus: Some studies even suggest that orgasms have the potential to relieve menstrual cramps.
44% have turned down oral because they were concerned about their vagina’s scent or taste. All vaginas have a normal and completely natural odor—they’re not meant to smell like flowers. Even so, this is a common hesitation for many women. According to one 2019 survey of 1,000 women, nearly two-thirds (approximately 65%) of participants have felt insecure about their vaginal scent at one time or another.
- 42% have turned down oral because they didn’t feel freshly groomed. According to a study published in JAMA Dermatology, nearly 84% of women (of 3,316) remove their pubic hair via one method or another (scissor, wax, razor, tweezer, etc.)—62% of respondents said that they preferred complete pubic baldness.
23% of respondents said that they turned it down because they used the bathroom too recently. Whether worried about a scrap of wayward toilet paper or potential odor, the nagging anxiety that we might have missed something can still be there…even if we wipe until the TP comes back perfectly white.
- 15% said they turned down oral because it felt too intimate. Some people just aren’t comfortable letting a stranger (or even a long-term partner) lick their genitals—and that’s OK. Having another person’s mouth or teeth on your vulva can make some people feel too vulnerable, especially those who’ve experienced sexual abuse or sexual trauma.
11% said they had turned it down because they’d just exercised. Swamp crotch isn’t just a “dude problem”—many women feel insecure about getting it on after working up a sweat.
- 8% said they turned it down because they’re concerned about the transmission of STIs or other diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), many sexually transmitted diseases can spread through oral sex. So, worrying about it is completely normal and a great way to advocate for your own health. With that being said, using a condom, dental dam, or another barrier method like Lorals can reduce your risk of giving or getting an STD.
Additional reasons included:
- Sensitivity and/or pain. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), approximately three out of four women experience pain during intercourse at some point in their lives. For some, the pain is temporary, whereas, for others, it could be a long-term issue. In addition to pain, some individuals may have an oversensitive clitoris. The solution to an oversensitive clit? Indirect stimulation. According to certified sex educator and award-winning author Gigi Engle, pleasing the vulva via indirect stimulation can be achieved with multiple techniques including grounding, orbiting, and layering.
- Beard burn. Our survey indicated that some women rather not participate in oral if their partner has a beard (because it can be scratchy and uncomfortable). Others, however, prefer their partner to have a beard—so it’s really just a matter of preference.
- Trauma. Sexual trauma and sexual abuse can damage a person’s outlook on sex and intimacy. Many women feel “completely scarred” and refuse to be intimate for years to come. According to Lauren Mould, a psychologist who specializes in helping women who’ve been sexually assaulted, enjoying sex after trauma is difficult but possible. By setting boundaries, communicating with your partner, and even masturbating, a person can work towards regaining control of her body and begin building a healthy relationship with intimacy. Having tools that make you feel more comfortable with partnered sex can also help.
Dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is defined as having a feeling of discomfort or distress when a person’s gender identity if different from their sex assigned at birth. Dysphoria can have a negative impact on one’s sexual experiences. According to Talkspace therapist and sex therapy expert Angie Gunn, exploring your body with “curiosity and desire can be really tough” when your body is incongruent with your identity.
- Rimming. Although 47% of women like rimming, some women are so nervous that their partner is going to veer too far downtown that they avoid oral altogether.
We want a world where everyone is enjoying all the pleasure and orgasms they deserve.
We know that oral sex can be great for women in so many ways, but a lot of us have something holding us back from enjoying oral whenever we want it. At Lorals we believe that people with vulvas shouldn’t have to wait for everything to be absolutely perfect before we can enjoy oral sex any time we want it. We all deserve pleasure, and the ability to explore when we want to.
That’s why we made Lorals Undies for Oral. They’re silky latex undies worn during oral so you can enjoy pleasure without hesitation. They’re ultra-thin and super stretchy, so you can feel everything through them — whether it’s a finger, tongue, or both. We created Lorals so more people can enthusiastically, ecstatically say “Yes!” to oral when they might have previously hesitated. But don’t just take our word for it, here’s what Lorals customers have to say:
- “My partner is trans and feels a lot of insecurity regarding their lower body. Lorals were a wonderful way of slowly giving them the confidence boost they needed.”
- “Once I started using Lorals, I actually haven’t wanted to go without. They smell amazing, look amazing, and feel amazing. I love that we can use the for rimming and anal exploration without worrying about anything.”
- “After having middling experiences with traditional dental dams in the past, I cannot stress enough how much of a game-changer Lorals are. My partner is more relaxed and comfortable, I don't have to concentrate on holding the dam in position at all times, and we can even get into positions that gravity would make too difficult.”
Our goal is to help more people explore and enjoy pleasure as much as they can. So whether you’re using Lorals or not, we hope you get all the oral sex you deserve!
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 certified sex and intimacy educator with 10 years of experience designing and marketing intimate wellness and pleasure products.