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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lip Service, Part 2

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As some of you might recall, earlier this year we received this submission from a reader:

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

This question deserves a two-part answer, and Lip Service, Part 1 focused on performing oral sex on people in possession of a penis. Since last week's article was about vaginas, let's continue the theme and talk about cunnilingus, aka oral sex involving a vulva.

As with fellatio, there are whole books that cover this topic in far more depth than this column ever could. My favorites are Box Lunch: The Layperson's Guide to Cunnilingus by Diana Cage, She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman by Ian Kerner, and The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus by Violet Blue. Tristan Taormino also has an amazing new series of educational DVDs out, including the Expert Guide to Oral Sex: Cunnilingus, for those of you who are visual learners. All of these are available for purchase at the Tool Shed.

Cunnilingus can simultaneously be considered the most pleasurable and the most terrifying of common sex acts-the most pleasurable because for many women oral sex is one thing that consistently makes them come, and the most terrifying because of our collective lack of knowledge about female anatomy. Even women do not often look closely at their own vulvas and are taught that "down there" is a mysterious place.

Eve Ensler famously said in The Vagina Monologues, "You cannot love a vagina unless you love hair. Many people do not love hair." This is especially true today, when complete removal of pubic hair is presented as the norm for, at least, porn stars and celebrities. I don't think it should be the norm for anyone, unless that's their personal aesthetic. So my first cunnilingus tip is: Don't fear hair. Whether you're with a woman who chooses to go naked or go wild, the sensitive bits will still be in the same place. Use your fingers to move hair aside to get at them. Don't pressure your partner to change her grooming habits for you. Some women love the feeling of bareness on the pubes, while others like the silky cushion that hair provides, and still others like to mix it up. Respect your partner's preference.

Speaking of different preferences, each person's vulva is unique. If you had an oral sex technique that worked wonders for one of your partners, don't assume that it will also be a magic ticket with the next one. The clitoris, especially, really varies in sensitivity. For some people, the lightest of flickers with the tongue creates enormous sensation, while for others, firm, hard sucking will get them off. You won't know until you experiment and ask. Start with a delicate approach and communicate! It can be very sexy to have your lover's legs spread open before you and ask her (or command, if she's into being submissive) to show you with her fingers where her most sensitive spots are and how she likes to be touched.

Sometimes people think of oral sex as a warm-up for something else or "just" foreplay. People who give good head think of oral sex as sex and give their full attention to it. Oral sex itself requires its own foreplay; heading straight for the clitoris before someone is aroused often doesn't feel good. The inner labia, the opening of the vagina, the inner thighs, the perineum (bit of skin between the vulva and the anus) and the anus are all sensitive areas that deserve their own licking, stroking and sucking before you move to the clit. As with fellatio, it's good to vary your technique until you sense that your partner is close to orgasm. If there's a certain type of stroke or pressure that's bringing them to the edge, continue that until they come, even if it temporarily puts a crick in your neck.

Finally, don't be afraid to get in there. Going down on someone requires a lot of intimate contact. Most depictions of pussy-eating in porn are terrible, because the main concern of the filmmaker is getting a good shot of the vulva. If the actor was really giving good head, you wouldn't be able to see the vulva at all because the giver's entire face would be buried in it. Tongue, lips, nose, fingers, even delicate use of the teeth can all be involved. Relish all the wonderful tastes, smells, sounds and sensations that you get from being so close to someone.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them tolaura@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 theTool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side.

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