We Need to Talk About the Oral Sex Gender Gap
I started having sex when I was 17.
I’m now 23, and can count the number of times guys have gone down on me on two hands (without closing and reopening those hands, I mean. I’m talking fewer than 10 times).
If you asked me to count the number of blow jobs I’ve given in that same time period, I’d have no idea. I’ve lost count.
This isn’t me bragging about my blow job skills or my number of sexual partners (many of those blow jobs were on the same guy. My sex and dating life is pretty shit).
This is me, questioning why it is that I’ve given significantly more oral sex than I received, why I haven’t asked for more, and why it’s seemed totally acceptable for so long.
I’m tired of it. I’m tired of blow jobs being a given, while going down on women is something special. I’m tired of just accepting that idea, of accepting men’s excuses, and of quietly pretending that this isn’t happening.
It’s a small issue in the grand scheme of gender inequality. It’s not as important as the gender pay gap, or rape culture, or honour killings.
But we need to talk about it. Because women’s sexual pleasure matters. It’s important. And maybe, just admitting that an oral sex gender gap exists will get us to start changing things.
Oh, and just think about how much happier the world would be if there were more orgasms. Fixing this one thing could make everything else a little bit better.
Now, to be clear, I’m not just ranting about my lack of oral sex (although yes, former and future partners, I would quite like to receive more, please). This is an issue that young women are dealing with everywhere.
A recent study surveyed 899 Canadian college students (and here, I’d like to note that this whole article is from the perspective of a twenty-something, discussing heterosexual relationships. We don’t currently have any data on oral sex equality for the older generation, which could be enjoying a glorious oral free-for-all. And lesbians are having loads of wonderful oral sex all round.), and found that while 63% of the young men they surveyed had received oral sex as part of their most recent hookup, only 44% of women could say the same.
A mini, very informal, poll of a few of my London-based friends revealed the same kind of thing. Those in heterosexual relationships told me they went down much more frequently than their boyfriends went down on them. The excuses for not going down are wide-ranging.
The ones I’ve heard personally include: ‘It hurts my neck’, ‘you take too long to come’, ‘I don’t know how’, and, of course, the classic ‘can’t we just have sex?’
And these are just the ones I hear when I ask for oral outright – which doesn’t happen often.
Usually the oral sex mismatch isn’t so obvious or openly discussed. It’s the fact that a guy won’t initiate oral without prompting, but will happily signal towards their dick, expecting oral action as a necessary precursor to penetrative stuff.
It’s their lack of enthusiasm. Their general attitude of ‘do I have to?’.
And this is ridiculous, because these same guys fully expect enthusiastic, energetic, mindblowing blow jobs on a regular basis.
Let’s just get real. Men who refuse to regularly go down on women, but expect blow jobs – your excuses are bullshit. Okay, so your neck is a bit sore. Stick a pillow down there to rest us on. Change positions. That’ll help.
We have to put up with the ache of moving our heads back and forth while kneeling or bending over, keeping a rhythm, and using our hands, all while trying to breathe.
Giving someone else sexual pleasure shouldn’t be unpleasant or painful, but it does require a bit of effort, and it’s not easy. As sexual philosopher Samantha Jones once declared: ‘They don’t call it a job for nothing’.
Women are willing to accept a little discomfort to put their partner’s pleasure before their own. Men expect women to do that.
But men are all too often not willing to do the same in return. When a woman is doing it, it’s just a normal part of sex. When men do it, it’s a special effort worthy of high praise.
I’m not sure why this is.
I think a lot of it has to do with the way we talked about sex when we were all growing up.
Young men who went down on women were weak, whipped, ‘bowcats’. Men loudly denied that they’d ever gone down on women. For some reason (ingrained sexism and the objectification of women, I reckon), men were seen as weak if they gave a woman pleasure rather than using women for theirs.
This probably wasn’t helped by the total absence of men going down on women in popular culture.
Blow jobs, whether implied by a woman slowly kneeling down before a male actor, or actual visuals of a bobbing head, were (and remain) commonplace in films and on TV. Seeing a man giving oral to women on screen feels like a rarity. I still remember being surprised when Simon dipped beneath the covers as Alisha sat back and enjoyed in an episode of Misfits.
Magazines shouted about blow jobs tips that would blow his mind, but stayed eerily silent on clit-licking techniques.
It’s a message that both young men and women have internalised: that blow jobs are a casual, expected thing up for discussion, while going down on women is shameful, secret, and somehow more sexual or intimate. Those ideas carry through today.
In my group of friends, a blow job is something that would be likely to happen the first time you get sexual with someone – either as a precursor to sex or on its own.
Receiving oral, meanwhile, would only happen after sex, usually in a more regular dating or relationship setting. It’s considered more intimate, more relationship-y, the opposite of quick, casual pleasure.
Which is why both single and coupled-up straight women are experiencing oral sex inequality. In relationships, the precedent is set, excuses are accepted, and blow jobs are regularly given. When single, receiving oral doesn’t happen because you don’t get to that ‘intimate’ stage.
And when you consider that around 80% of women find it difficult or impossible to orgasm from penetration alone, the oral sex gap goes a long way to explaining the bigger orgasm gender gap, too. Which is a real issue.
The oral sex gender gap has other worrying effects on our sex lives.
When I started having sex, men’s lack of expressed desire to get up close and personal with my vagina made me worry that there may be something wrong with it.
Sure, they never said anything. But I began to wonder: was my vagina ugly? Did it taste bad? Was I doing something wrong? Was I horribly unattractive?
Those insecurities made me uncomfortable not just asking for oral (what if I was making them do something they really, desperately didn’t want to do because I had a hideous monster vagina?) but receiving it. I couldn’t relax. I worried that my partners weren’t enjoying it the way that I enjoyed giving blow jobs (because they’re fun and it’s enjoyable to give other people pleasure, if you were wondering).
And so I accepted not getting as much oral as I was giving. I didn’t question it. I carried on with the mismatch so I wouldn’t have to deal with oral sex I felt I couldn’t enjoy. What a miserable way to have sex.
Now, I’m realising that it’s time for me to change this situation – personally and in a bigger sense.
I’m not going to accept a total lack of oral from guys who expect to be given oral whenever they fancy it. I’ve started questioning why men aren’t going down. I’ve started outright asking them to do it. And I hope that these conversations will make my sexual partners realise that I shouldn’t have to ask – oral should be given freely, joyfully, and enthusiastically, because they actually want to give me pleasure, rather than feeling obligated to. I want to encourage other women to speak up and talk about this too.
I’m not in any way suggesting you get out a little notebook and keep a tally chart of times you’ve given and received (but if you do, please send me your data. I’d love to get into those stats).
I’m also not saying that if men are horribly opposed to oral, they need to force themselves to do it – although if that’s the case, they shouldn’t expect oral in return. I’d also question what their issue is with vaginas.
What I’m suggesting is that if you feel like you’re not getting the oral sex you deserve, it’s time to talk about it. Firstly with your partners. Raise the conversation, question the inequality, and explain that you really would like them to go down on you more. If they don’t initiate oral, ask for it.
Stop accepting ridiculous excuses. Don’t let yourself worry about stubble, or not having showered in the last few hours, or how your vagina looks. They don’t do the same when it comes to their penises, and you still go down. You’re fine.
But also, please talk to your friends about it. Vent. Let other women know that they’re not alone, and their lack of orgasms isn’t because they’re doing something wrong, or there’s something wrong with their bodies.
We need to admit that the oral sex gender gap is a real thing. We need to stop accepting it as the norm. And we need to bloody well sort this out, because I, for one, am fed up of it.
(This article originally appeared on metro.co.uk and was written by Ellen Scott)