A few weeks ago, Malin James posted this really interesting, nuanced, sneaky-hot piece about her ‘blow job spectrum’, and the way her attitude to sucking cock has evolved and shifted across different men and different experiences. We were chatting about it the following day, and she challenged me to write something on oral sex from a male perspective – and specifically, on how my feelings about going down on women have changed over time.
I have to admit, my first instinct was to challenge the premise of the brief. “They haven’t changed,” I wanted to say. “I’ve always loved giving head.” And it’s at least kind of true. I’ve alluded to this briefly in other posts, but I suffered from fairly bad ‘performance anxiety’ in my first few sexual encounters, which affected both my ability to get hard and my level of confidence when it came to actually fucking someone: being asked to eat them out instead was almost a relief, even if I basically still had no idea what I was doing (at that stage it was a bit like asking me to defuse a bomb, or repair a car engine – I’d give it a go, but any success I had would be both accidental and surprising).
Ultimate outcome aside, penetration and oral involved different challenges. Oral was an activity to which I could apply my brain, rather than having to rely on my body to step up at the right moment – something it often seemed stubbornly unwilling to do. It gave me time to think and relax; to slow things down and enjoy the moment, instead of feeling like everything was happening at 100mph around me. I loved it because it felt unrushed and unpressured, and offered at least the illusion of control over things. It wasn’t threatening in any way; instead there was almost a soothing intimacy to it. Even if I didn’t know how to lick someone ‘properly’, it still seemed like something I couldn’t fuck up too badly; at the very least, a soft tongue felt like an aid, not an impediment!
Around the time I learned to trust my body enough to enjoy penetrative sex as well, I started a relationship with a woman who craved being eaten out like very few people I’ve met since. That had two major impacts: it actually made the sex itself easier for me, because she was very clear about the fact that it wasn’t ultimately her main source of pleasure; and it forced me to up my oral game, just to keep pace with the level and frequency of her demands.
It quickly became a bit of a personal quest to make her squirm and swear and moan as uncontrollably as I could. I learned to vary things like pace and pressure; to take away the stimulation at just the right moment, till she begged me to lick her again; and to read the way her body built up to orgasm, so that I could coax her towards them or dictate their timing with at least a reasonable success rate. Let’s face it, as much as the ability to climax repeatedly over a short period of time benefits women overall, there’s something magical about being the person who induces that staccato series of orgasms just through the steady, implacable rhythm of soft tongue on swollen clit.
In short, I reaped the benefits of a long(ish)-term relationship with someone who simply couldn’t get enough of my tongue. And it was brilliant. Not only did she transformed my view of oral – of its role, purpose and power – she also taught me the inestimable value of listening to one’s partner. Somewhat counter-intuitively, it took 10 months with one woman for me to learn that there was no ‘one way’ of doing things – no magic formula for being good in bed.
Once I’d fully taken that on board, my confidence levels rose dramatically. I no longer worried about doing it right, because I was able to see that ‘right’ varied so much from person to person; instead of blundering around in search of a perfect set of sexual techniques, I focused on understanding what individual partners liked and wanted. Unsurprisingly, sex became a lot more enjoyable for all concerned as a result.
As time has passed I’ve enjoyed giving head more and more, and I think the variety of experience is fairly central to that. It’s maybe a stretch to say that no two women like the same thing – some broad principles do hold true in most cases – but discovering someone’s body with my mouth is still one of the most rewarding (and occasionally surprising) bits of sex with a new partner. Equally, building on that initial discovery, and understanding more and more of what makes her tick, is one of the best things about seeing someone more regularly. And in the same way that I prefer giving presents to receiving them, witnessing – or inducing – pleasure in another person is always so much more rewarding on a mental and emotional level than focusing on my own. My own orgasm rarely changes, I suppose, whereas even after being with someone for a while, I feel like there are always things to discover about how they respond to different types of stimulation.
Of course the response is not always positive, but that’s fine too. I’ve written before about some of my own difficulties with receiving oral, and I’m always very conscious of them when I’m eating someone out for the first time. Above all, I’m aware that there’s a vulnerability and a loneliness to opening oneself up to another person in that way; not everyone enjoys it, and the initial reluctance can’t always be overcome. Generally though, I try to make oral as interactive as possible. I want her fingers in my hair, or her nails digging into my shoulders, because it establishes a connection that extends beyond just the visceral pleasure of my mouth on her cunt.
It’s also worth mentioning that as a man, giving head is not an entirely unselfish activity. There are times when I’m having sex and an orgasm slowly creeps up on me with a sort of irresistible momentum; I reach a point where I know that I’ll have no choice but to close my eyes and give in to it…unless I find a way to slow everything right down. If I want to prolong the fuck, scooting down and spending a few minutes with my face and fingers between my partner’s legs can act as a bit of a palate cleanser; not quite pressing the reset button, but certainly a way of letting water that’s threatening to bubble over return to a gentle simmer.
It’s also, frankly, an ego boost. Like most people I thrive on positive feedback, especially when it comes to sex. Reducing someone to virtual incoherence with my tongue is just about the best way to make myself feel better about life, because it feels like a very clear cause-and-effect. I did that to her; I made her writhe and stiffen in that way; and if I did those things, maybe there’s a bunch of other great stuff I can do as well – in and out of the bedroom. Even at 33, I sometimes need validation like that to shore up my confidence, or to balance out more uncertain or ambiguous experiences.
All of which sort of brings me back to the original question. My attitude towards giving head has changed over the last ~15 years, and that change broadly comes down to one word: control. I’ve had conversations with two different 23 year olds recently about the difference between life at their age and life at mine; in both cases, I came away envying their self-awareness and sophistication – and painfully conscious of how lacking I was in either quality 10 years ago. That bled through to my sex life, and ultimately to the way I gave and enjoyed oral. I was clumsy, shy, and tentative – in control of neither myself nor what I was doing. As a result, I focused only on trying to get specific things ‘right’, rather than understanding – and enjoying – them as part of the wider process of connecting with my partner.
These days I enjoy everything so much more than I used to, because I feel comfortable and secure in who I am. Cunnilingus is a big part of that: it’s now such a natural and easy thing to do, and for sheer catlike satisfaction I don’t think anything will ever beat the feeling of someone coming all over my tongue. It actually gives me the shivers just writing about it, so you can imagine the effect it has in real life – and that’s one thing that I certainly don’t see changing any time soon.