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Cunnilingus

Cunnilingus is a sex act commonly enjoyed by many women and men of various ages. Some studies suggest that about 75 percent of adult women and men have given or received cunnilingus, making it a fairly regular part of sex play among couples. However, like the prevalence of fellatio, just because many people have participated in cunnilingus doesn't mean that it is happening frequently during sexual encounters - nor does it speak to the questions, concerns, excitement, curiosity or anxiety that people may have in relation to cunnilingus.

Some women reach orgasm more readily through oral sex, while for others, a host of anxieties interfere with their enjoyment of cunnilingus or they simply don't enjoy it as much as other sexual activities. A woman's concerns about her genital appearance, genital taste and genital odor can get in the way of her ability to relax and enjoy cunnilingus. Even if these concerns don't factor in, some women miss the intimacy of other types of sexual activity that allow for more face-to-face contact and also mutual pleasure.

Whatever the case, cunnlingus is an important part of the sexual repertoire that can help many women experience pleasure in way that is different from intercourse and other types of sexual activity. Confronting concerns and anxieties about cunnilingus, in a woman or her partner, can be the first step to including it in sex, whether again or for the first time, as well as being able to talk about it comfortably together.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to Orally Pleasuring a Woman.

Table of Contents

When a woman is self-conscious about receiving cunnilingus.

Many women aren't comfortable receiving oral sex for a variety of reasons.

For some women, negative thoughts about their genitals interfere with their ability to enjoy cunnilingus. Women may worry about everything from pubic hair and the appearance of their vulvas to issues like genital odor and genital taste. Other women don't have these concerns, but feel anxious that a partner may not really want to perform cunnilingus or gets bored doing it. Still other women simply feel uncomfortable having all of a partner's focus on them, and the pressure to reach orgasm, which - for some women - can feel more intense during cunnilingus than during intercourse.

If a woman and/or her partner want to include cunnilingus as part of their sex play, talking about specific concerns can help. Women can allay their anxieties by asking a partner how he or she feels about performing cunnilingus, and start a conversation to resolve those concerns. It's also helpful for a woman to take steps to have a more positive genital self-image. Some women find that they become more comfortable with their genital appearance by looking at drawings or photographs of a range of vulvas, as well as looking at their own vulvas. A gynecologist can help to diagnose any issues that may be causing problems with odor or can reassure a woman that her odor is completely fine and healthy.

Most important, women and their partners should give themselves some time to ease into cunnilingus. Start with brief sessions, with no pressure to reach orgasm, then switch to other activities.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to Orally Pleasuring a Woman.

When a partner is unwilling to perform cunnilingus.

Many people feel hesitant about performing any type of sexual activity they're not familiar with or that they've had negative experiences with in the past, and cunnilingus is not different. More often than not, partners who are unwilling to perform oral sex worry about their technique and ability to please the other person. In this case, gently discussing the issue and expressing your confidence in a partner can help. Also, take advantage of the many books out there on the subject and have some fun!

Of course, other issues can factor into an unwillingness to perform cunnilingus, too. Some people believe oral sex is immoral or dirty because of messages they received growing up. If a partner is operating under these beliefs, it's important to confront any misperceptions or misunderstandings.

If a partner is concerned about infection during cunnilingus, it may be a valid one, and all couples should discuss their history of testing and treatment for sexually transmissible infections (STI). The use of a dental dam can help to reduce the risk of infection of some but not all STI.

However, if a partner just doesn't like performing cunnilingus, it may be a reality that a couple has to accept, then open up sex to other forms of exploration.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to Orally Pleasuring a Woman.

Cunnilingus and genital taste.

A woman's taste and odor during cunnilingus are issues that many people have questions about—after all, it's not an experience that many people talk openly about and, as a result, many worries and questions go unanswered.

A person's taste, like anything, is very linked to smell. Showering regularly or before you have sex can help with perceptions of taste. However, try not to use douches or other feminine hygiene products, which, paradoxically, only make odor and discharge worse by disrupting the natural bacteria balance of the vagina.

As for making vaginal fluids more pleasant-tasting, every person's body chemistry is different and there is little one can do to change the composition of the fluids. No scientific research supports a link between diet and the flavor profile of vaginal fluids (or semen), though it's certainly possible that diet and taste of fluids are linked. As such, it can't hurt to experiment with cutting out certain foods or bad habits, like drinking and smoking, to see if it makes a difference for you and your partner. Eating a healthy diet and drinking sufficient water certainly never hurt anyone.

Couples also can try using a dental dam with some flavored lubricant, which will appeal to the taste buds—and perhaps improve technique too.

Ultimately, each person has their own taste and smell, just like everything else. Many people love the natural taste and smell of a partner's genitals, which can be incredibly arousing, too.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to Orally Pleasuring a Woman.

Tips for giving great cunnilingus.

What the secret to great cunnilingus? It's not a technique; rather, it's a healthy dose of enthusiasm, acceptance, communication and enjoyment on the part of both partners.

The partner who is performing cunnilingus can help put a woman at ease by being complimentary and positive about her genitals, which many women feel self-conscious about. It also helps to approach cunnilingus—and any sexual activity for that matter—without a schedule. Oral sex may last five minutes, or 20 minutes, and may end in orgasm or transition into another type of sexual activity.

As for techniques, some women respond to direct stimulation of the clitoris, while for others it's too direct or even uncomfortable. Starting out by licking other parts of the vulva, like the labia, and even the inner thighs or abdomen is a good idea until you get a sense of what a woman enjoys. And once you do start stimulating the clitoral glans, don't be afraid to switch to other spots or switch activities entirely.

Some women also like vaginal penetration during oral sex, with one or two fingers or a sex toy. Again, it's all up for grabs, which is why communication and openness is the only cunnilingus absolute. Try not to think of sex as a linear experience of one activity following by another activity and ending in orgasm. Focus on what feels good and exploring pleasure together, and checking in with each other about what does (or doesn't) feel good.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to Orally Pleasuring a Woman.

Why orgasm may be more likely (or more quick) during cunnilingus for some women.

Women who respond to more direct stimulation of the clitoris may find that cunnilingus is the quickest, easiest way to reach orgasm, especially when compared to intercourse. A partner can focus on a woman's clitoris with the lips and tongue much more directly than many intercourse positions.

Many women also enjoy the variety of stimulation during cunnilingus, especially if a partner includes all of her vulva and other parts of her body, too. Longer sessions of intercourse or an absolute focus on thrusting can be desensitizing for some women, or just not pleasurable in the way that oral sex is because of the variety of techniques and sensations that are possible.

Finally, women who respond to oral sex may enjoy the ability to lay back and relish the moment. Cunnilingus can be very relaxing for women who enjoy it, because the focus is off of a partner and on her pleasure only.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to Orally Pleasuring a Woman.

All women do not enjoy cunnilingus.

A woman who doesn't enjoy cunnilingus may feel self-conscious or as if she is inadequate or different for not liking it, especially if a partner enjoys performing it. The truth is, everybody has different likes and dislikes, and cunnilingus isn't pleasurable for all women. That's okay!

Some women prefer the intimacy of other types of sexual activity that allow for more face-to-face contact and shared pleasure. Putting a spotlight on her pleasure can feel awkward or less satisfying than other types of sexual activity, even though she may reach orgasm. In fact, many women who enjoy cunnilingus often prefer other types of sex play such as vaginal penetration or other types of mutual pleasuring.

If it's not a matter of preference and deeper issues are at work, like feelings of shame about the genitals or negative messages about sex, it can be helpful to talk through these concerns with a partner or a sex therapist.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to Orally Pleasuring a Woman.