Alexandra Fine, Credentialed Sexologist, M. Psych | Written by Dame
(Public Service Announcement: In an article entitled “Oral Sex Tips,” there’s enormous temptation to resort to puns. However, in the interest of providing important sexual health and wellness information – without causing unnecessary distractions – we pledge to make this article pun-free.)
It seems fair to say that oral sex is most Americans’ first experience with intimate sexual contact. Studies continually show that the majority of teenagers experiment with oral sex before moving on to penetrative sex, either because oral reduces the risk of pregnancy, STDs and STIs, or simply because they think that “oral sex isn’t sex.”
In short, people are likely to have more accumulated experience with oral sex than penetrative sex.
We don’t want to cast aspersions on your personal oral sex techniques and abilities, so we’ll ask the obvious question in a non-threatening way: Why are so many of your sex partners so bad at oral?
- Some are focused more on their own pleasure than their partner’s. They may not even want to “be there” (more specifically, they don’t want to “be down there.”) They think they have “more important” things to do (more specifically, penetration).
- Many just consider oral sex the “opening act,” and don’t give it the attention it deserves. In other words, “oral sex isn’t sex.”
- Or – it could be that no one’s ever explained to them how they could do better.
Let’s address that last possibility. These oral sex tips are designed to help them (no, we didn’t say you) understand why oral is definitely not just an “opening act” – it’s a meaningful and integral part of a great sex life.
General Oral Sex Tips
If that title sounds a bit odd, here’s what it means.
Many of our suggestions will only be helpful for some of the people reading them. For example, “spread the labia to provide better access” doesn’t really apply if your partner doesn’t have a vulva. And “press a finger on your partner’s perineum as you suck their penis” doesn’t do much good if you’re pleasuring someone who doesn’t have a penis.
That’s why we’ve divided our best oral sex tips into three sections. Later, we’ll have more specific suggestions on how to make fellatio and cunnilingus more enjoyable and satisfying. But we’ll start with ways to make oral sex better for everyone, no matter their sexual anatomy.
One last thought: it’s easiest to address these tips directly to the reader – even though we’ve already established that your technique is probably already perfect. Please don’t be offended when we suggest things for you to do; just consider them tips you can share with your partner(s).
1. Want to Be There
There’s no way that oral sex will be enjoyable if you’re simply fulfilling an obligation.
Ice cream is fantastic, but you may not want a delicious scoop or two on a freezing-cold day. Similarly, it’s quite possible that you, or your partner, aren’t in the mood for oral. That’s totally fine. There are lots of other tasty items on the sexual menu. The ice cream – and the oral sex – will still be available tomorrow.
On the other hand, if someone thinks that oral is something they have to do during foreplay just to get to penetrative sex, they obviously won’t give it the attention it deserves, and they certainly won’t enjoy it. Their partner won’t, either; when someone is going down on you, it’s easy to tell when they can’t wait to get it over with.
That’s when a mental reset may be in order. Anyone involved must understand – and believe – that oral sex is sexy. It’s fun. And it’s satisfying – for both parties. Even the “giver” can fully enjoy watching their partner experience immense pleasure, knowing that they’re the one who’s delivering it. As we said, it’s not just an obligation; oral can’t be enjoyable unless both sides actually want to participate.
2. Be Hospitable
Oral sex is sexy. Dirt, odor and bacteria definitely aren’t. If you’ve ever gone down on someone who wasn’t overly concerned with their personal hygiene, you know exactly what we mean.
If you want someone to put their face near (or into) your most intimate body parts, you should at least make them feel welcome. That means being considerate enough to shower or bathe shortly before sexy time, paying particular attention to your genital region. If a partner doesn’t “smell right” down there, you might want to playfully suggest taking your sex play into the shower.
There’s one exception, though. A vagina is supposed to smell like a vagina. In fact, that’s part of the turn-on for many who enjoy cunnilingus. (Fun fact: some sexologists suggest using vaginal juice as perfume, on occasion.) Douches and scented vaginal washes aren’t necessary or even desirable; in fact, douching makes the vagina more susceptible to bacteria and infections.
When getting ready for an oral session, however, don’t make brushing your teeth the last thing you do before hopping into bed. Brushing or flossing can cause microscopic cuts – making it more possible that you’ll unwittingly gift your partner’s genitals with unwanted bacteria. Brush a couple of hours ahead of time, and then use mints if you need a mouth refresher after that. In fact, mints can be helpful just before oral sex; they get the saliva flowing.
3. Talk Before Touching
Words matter. We know of one somewhat-nerdy couple who were (believe it or not) playing Scrabble, when one partner took some tiles and spelled out “I want to fuck you” on the board. The other partner recoiled; it turned out the word “fuck” was a complete turn-off for them.
There’s an important moral to that story: know what your partner likes to hear before hopping into bed. (Or before giving them a quickie somewhere else; unexpected oral can often be the best oral.) If they don’t like their genitals being referred to as “pussy” or “cock,” or if saying “I want to eat you out” or “I love sucking your balls” is offensive to them, it’s better to know that before you let loose with what you think is some really hot talk. You could end up killing the mood without realizing it.
A general conversation about the subject should be more than sufficient. Knowing how they refer to their genitals, erogenous zones and body, and to sex acts in general, should give you enough information to make sure that you – pardon the expression – don’t step on your own dick.
4. Should We Masturbate First?
This question probably isn’t appropriate for a Tinder hookup or a one-time, consensual encounter after a long night at the bar. It’s more for couples with a little history, or those who hope to have one.
One of the best ways to improve your oral sex prowess, and to satisfy your partner, is to know what they like ahead of time. It can be awkward to ask someone whether they’d prefer you to directly stimulate their clitoris or play over their clitoral hood. It can be difficult to ask if they like someone swirling their tongue over the tip of their penis or playing with their testicles.
The more comfortable way to learn what a partner likes is to watch – and watching them masturbate can provide important hints about the way they like to be pleasured. Similarly, they’ll learn the same about you by watching you. That’s why mutual masturbation can be an extremely enjoyable form of advance scouting ahead of the big oral sex game.
5. Your Mouth Won’t Always Be Full
Communication isn’t just for “before” and “after.” The partner who’s on the receiving end of oral sex can increase their pleasure with some gentle guidance.
Needless to say, if your partner is doing something painful, or something you don’t want them to do, “stop!” doesn’t have to be gentle or tactful. Otherwise, “I really liked it when you were a little slower” or “It feels really good when you go up-and-down instead of side-to-side” will be more likely to preserve a sexy mood than “Don’t do it that way!”
If you’re the one giving oral, you may not find it as easy to talk or maintain eye contact during the action. But even a phrase or sentence (or two) can help your partner get to where they’re going. Praising your partner’s body and genitals, describing what you’re doing or plan to do next, or encouraging your partner to feel good and orgasm, can contribute a mental turn-on that enhances their physical pleasure.
Communication doesn’t have to be verbal, either. Paying attention to your partner’s body language and responses – and their moans, grunts and sighs – can often be the best ways to know whether you’re using a motion that feels good, or if you’re hitting the right spot (no, not the g-spot in this case) with your mouth or tongue.
6. Switch Things Up
There’s a good reason why sex therapists suggest that couples try different positions for penetrative sex. Finding options other than missionary or doggy-style can put new life into a relationship.
Switching things up during oral sex can be even more beneficial, just in different ways. Long strokes, circular motions or quick flicks of the tongue each deliver different sensations. Licking the clitoris will feel very different than sucking it. Deep-throating the penis and rapidly moving up and down the shaft each provide different types of pleasure. And mixing things up during a session, changing the action and the tempo, can take a partner right to the edge of climax – and over it.
Let’s go back to the subject of positions, because oral sex positions can make a big difference. The well-known Kivin method (also called sideways oral) suggests that vulva-havers and their partners position themselves perpendicular to each other, so that clitoral stimulation goes “east-west” instead of “north-south.” It’s said to produce faster orgasms, but even the act of switching things up can also liven things up.
Different positions can help those giving blow jobs, too, and not just because of the novelty. For example, if they lay on their back with their head over the edge of the bed, their mouth and throat are able to open wider. When the penis-haver enters their mouth from above, they’re much less likely to gag and better able to deep throat, if desired.
7. Think Lube and Sex Toys
The lube and toys don’t have to stay in the nightstand just because it’s oral sex time.
Sure, you can just use saliva – if you always have more than enough available when you need it. Most people don’t, and besides, lube is designed to provide sexual lubrication. Saliva isn’t; its primary functions are to help with digestion and oral hygiene. Lube can make things easier and more pleasurable.
Flavored lube might be a sexier treat, but almost all lube is safe to swallow. Just avoid any lubes that contain glycerin, which can increase the chances of developing yeast infections. And don’t use silicone-based lube if you’re using silicone toys.
Speaking of which…vibrators can add a new dimension to oral sex. For example, wearing a vibrating cock ring during fellatio provides new and intense sensations for penis-havers, and there are now vibrators you can wear on your tongue to take cunnilingus to a new level.
Using toys on other erogenous zones while pleasuring your partner orally (and/or being pleasured) can obviously heighten the experience – and will be particularly appreciated by the 70%+ of vulva-havers who prefer simultaneous clitoral and vaginal stimulation. Butt plugs are often a welcome visitor to the party, too.
Finally, we can’t let this subject pass without mentioning the many suction or tongue vibrators on the market. They may not be necessary for those with willing partners – but even willing partners need a break now and then!
8. The Body Has Other Sensitive Spots
Toys aren’t the only way to provide additional stimulation during an oral session. Hands also work. Playing with other sensitive parts of the genital area like the frenulum or the labia, the inner thighs, or even reaching up to the nipples, can elevate a partner’s excitement levels while your tongue is otherwise occupied. A vulva-haver spreading her labia to provide better access to her clitoris is always helpful, too.
Finally, we won’t belabor this one, because it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But oral sex doesn’t have to be limited to penises and vulvas; analingus is oral sex, too. If you’ve never tried rimming with your partner, you might be pleasantly surprised (or sexually excited) at what might happen (as long as they consent, of course). Just remember the cardinal rule: no “double-dipping,” or going back and forth between genitals and butt with toys, tongues or fingers. That’s a sure-fire way to risk infections. Speaking of which, dental dams aren’t a bad idea for any sort of anal play.
Oral Sex Tips for Pleasuring Penis-Havers
Blow jobs aren’t as easy as straight penis owners – at least, those who’ve never actually tried giving one – might think. That won’t come as a surprise if you’re regularly on the “giving” end; you’ve undoubtedly navigated the learning curve over time.
Think you’ve got it nailed? Congrats. Even so, here are some tips that may help you take your technique to the next level.
9. Oral Sex Doesn’t Have to Mean Only the Mouth
Hands can be invaluable during oral sex. Try wrapping your hand around the penis, with your thumb and forefinger forming an “O” that touches your lips, and then letting your hand do most of the work as you go up and down the shaft. That will help your mouth stay in the game for the long haul.
Another approach: you can keep your mouth relatively stationary as you move your hand up and down, twisting your wrist in clockwise circles to provide a different, and exciting, type of stimulation.
And as we’ve mentioned, there are lots of other sensitive areas to explore with your free hand(s) during oral sex.
10. The Tongue is Underrated
Don’t get so focused on the up-and-down motion that you forget about your tongue. While you work, let your tongue go soft and run it along the tip of the penis and the frenulum (where the head and shaft connect). The frenulum, in particular, is loaded with nerve endings – so don’t be surprised when the penis-haver says “Do that again!”
Tongue flicks, and running the tongue along the length of the shaft, shouldn’t be underestimated either.
11. The P-Spot is Available
We’re not suggesting using an anal toy to hit a penis-haver’s prostate during a blow job (although it sounds like fun!) – we’re talking about external prostate stimulation. You do it by pressing or massaging the proper spot on the perineum, which is the area between the penis and anus. That lets you hit the prostate from the outside, and it will intensify the excitement and (ideally) the orgasm that follows. The right spot on the perineum isn’t always easy to find; make the search a fun after-school activity before trying it during oral sex.
12. About Deep-Throating and Ejaculation
You don’t have to deep-throat to give a fabulous blow job – and it goes without saying you don’t have to anything you don’t want to do. But if you’re willing (or anxious) to try it, many of those with penises will find it to be one of the highlights of their sex life.
Just be aware that very few people can take an entire penis into their mouth on the first try, no matter how big or small it is. Work your way up to it gradually; you won’t suffocate, but breathing through your nose may help ease the anxiety. More importantly, it will keep your mouth and throat relaxed, lessening your gag reflex.
Then there’s the “Do I let them come in my mouth?” issue. Quite simply, discuss it with your partner before starting. Some penis-havers like it, others don’t care. Equally as important, some receivers like the intimacy while others find it disgusting. Just don’t leave the question hanging in the air until it’s too late to make a joint decision.
Oral Sex Tips for Pleasuring Vulva-Havers
The best advice for other vulva-havers: pay attention to what the receiver likes, and follow their lead.
The best advice for those with penises: the vulva and clitoris are generally much more sensitive than your genitals. Don’t attack them in the same way you might play with yourself. In other words:
13. Start Slow And Lightly
Some vulva-havers are so sensitive that when they masturbate, they don’t even touch their clitoris. They do it through the clitoral hood, they stimulate the labia (pussy lips) instead, or they touch themselves through a blanket.
That should tell you that you need to go slowly instead of diving right in. Start by licking or sucking the nipples, belly and inner thighs, to build anticipation and arousal. Slower is usually better for oral sex with vulva-havers.
Next, use your tongue to tease the area around the clitoris first, eventually flicking over the clit a few times, and pay attention to the response. If everything seems OK, you can slowly build up the contact and pressure over time until you get into a rhythm. If light contact results in flinching or pulling back, licking and teasing the labia might be a safer approach.
14. The Tongue is a Versatile Tool
In fellatio, the tongue is often an afterthought. In cunnilingus, it’s your primary sex toy. That means understanding the different types of contact the tongue can have with a vulva.
The flat of the tongue is ideal for initial teasing or stimulation, because it can cover a large area. Don’t try flapping the tongue around; keep it stationary and move your head instead. That way you can move back and forth over the genital area as the vulva owner’s arousal builds.
That’s when the tip of the tongue can become invaluable. It’s able to provide pinpoint stimulation of your partner’s most sensitive areas, and you don’t have move your entire head to create waves of pleasure.
15. Understand the Anatomy
There’s a reason that people use Mapquest, Waze or Google Maps when they’re headed somewhere new. Otherwise, they’d have no idea of where to go. But you’d be surprised to learn how many of those people (basically, they’re all penis-havers) set out to explore the vulva without knowing where they’re going.
If your general concept of the genitals is “clit on the top, vagina on the bottom” – then before you start the engine to initiate oral sex, familiarize yourself with the anatomy of a vulva-haver. The clitoris, clitoral hood and labia are all within an inch or so or each other, but to their owner, they’re very different parts of the anatomy, and they all feel very different when stimulated.
Study up before expecting to ace the exam – or even better, ask a partner to take you on a guided tour. It could be the most fun you’ve ever had on a tour.
16. Yes, We Know It Can Be Tiring
It takes penis-havers an average of 5-6 minutes to reach orgasm. For vulva-havers, it’s 12-14 minutes. So yes, it takes longer to satisfy the second group than the first. And no, that’s not a reason to call a premature end to a cunnilingus session. You got them all excited, and now you’re going to walk away? Sorry, pal, you’re in this for the duration.
Here’s a tip that may help, though. Even though the common terms are “cock sucking” and “pussy licking,” there’s no rule saying you can’t suck a clitoris. In fact, it’s often the best way to help a vulva owner get over the edge and climax. Cover the clitoral area with your mouth and suck, forming a seal. Continue sucking while you lick the clitoris, and more often than not, you can both finish happy.