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Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009

Lip Service, Part 1

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I really enjoy your column and have a question. Do you have any suggestions on how to perform oral sex well?

This is a short question that's going to get a long answer-a two-part answer, in fact. Since you didn't specify a particular gender in your question, I'll talk about performing oral sex on men in this column, and discuss oral sex on women in a future column.

I get a lot of questions about oral sex techniques in classes that I teach. In response, I emphasize that there are only two constants in good oral sex: enthusiasm and communication. While some people are disappointed that I don't have a magic bag of tricks to hand them, there isn't one special technique that's going to blow everyone's mind. Something that your ex loved might be irritating to a new partner; each person's body is unique. However, really being into it and showing your partner how excited you are to be going down on him or her goes a long way, as does checking in and asking what feels good and what feels better.

That said, here are some tricks to try the next time you're going down on a guy: lots of lube, using your hands, using sex toys and exploring other areas of the body besides the penis. If you've been in my store, you know that I practically have a shrine to lube there. Wetness and slipperiness are very important to good oral sex. The most readily available type of lube is saliva. Keep yourself hydrated and drink lots of water to avoid dry mouth. Keep a glass of water by your bed (or wherever else you're having sex). You can experiment with sensations caused by hot or cold liquids as well-try swishing a mouthful of hot tea or ice water and then going down on your partner. Popping a mint in your mouth will get your saliva flowing and also lend a tingly sensation to your partner's penis. Flavored lube is also a lot of fun and can provide a longer-lasting supplement to your saliva, which tends to dry out quickly. If you're feeling kind of iffy about the taste of your partner's penis, flavored lube can help you overcome that as well.

Oral sex can be hard work. As Samantha said on "Sex and the City," "They don't call it a job for nothing!" Don't let your mouth do all the heavy labor alone-add your hands or a sex toy into the mix. Your hands allow you to control how far your partner's penis goes into your mouth and avoid gagging. Your hands can also add motion that either complements or contrasts with the motion of your mouth, depending on your speed, grip or direction of motion. If your jaw gets stressed or tired, you can take a break for a minute and let your hands continue the stimulation.

Most people think that sex toys like vibrators are only for women, but they can be used to enhance anyone's sexual experience. Open-ended masturbation sleeves like theDockeror the silicone Stroker can be worked up and down the shaft of the penis with your hands while your mouth stimulates the head. Cock rings with vibrators, like theNeo, are usually used during vaginal intercourse with the vibe positioned at the top of the penis to stimulate the clitoris of a man's partner. During oral sex, the ring can be turned around so that the vibe rests on the testicles and gently stimulates them. A small vibe like the Pink Pearl Bullet can also be used to stimulate the balls, perineum (skin between the testicles and anus) and the opening of the anus while you're using your mouth on his cock. Be careful not to insert the vibe into his butt, though-it can slide right up there and get lost! Some men may enjoy a lubed-up finger inserted into the anus during oral stimulation, along with a massage of the perineum (which can indirectly stimulate the prostate) and gentle cupping, fondling or rolling of the testicles.

While I encourage experimentation, at some point rhythm and sustained technique become key to a good BJ. There are probably one or two "magic strokes" that will get your lover over the top. Try out different pressures and styles and speeds of stimulation during foreplay and warm-up, but stick to consistently delivered, reliable stimulation to bring your partner to orgasm. Remember: Yelling "don't stop" is a clich for a reason.

Finally, I think it's also important to examine our mind-set about giving head and to throw out cultural stereotypes that can inhibit our enjoyment. There is so much disempowering, Cosmo-style advice about fellatio out there that does a disservice to both men and women. Blow jobs are often seen as a submissive or degrading behavior, especially for women, but they don't have to be (unless you find that aspect of it hot!). Performing fellatio puts you in control; you are taking your partner on an erotic ride and have the power to give him incredible pleasure. Seeing a partner respond positively to your actions can really enhance your own sexual confidence and energy.

We also often oversimplify male sexual response. Some customers in the Tool Shed this past week were joking about how easy it is to please their male partners-"Just say you want to have sex with him!" While I laughed along with them at the time, it reminded me of our cultural assumptions that men are always horny, always want to have sex and aren't very discriminating about how it happens. Men are, in fact, complex sexual beings, with some of the same insecurities and emotional ties to sex that women have. Respect that complexity, and bring that respect with you the next time you go downtown.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side.