Thursday, July 18, 2024
HomeArts & CultureSex Ed: Going down doesn’t have to leave you on your knees

Sex Ed: Going down doesn’t have to leave you on your knees

By Katie TothSex Columnist

While in my hometown of Toronto over the holidays, I went to a class at my local sex shop to learn about “Giving Great Head”. Sitting with notepad in hand, I was ready to polish my mojo like no woman had before me.
My jaw dropped as our instructor passed around flavoured condoms and dildos before telling us about herself: “Some people wonder how you end up teaching a blowjob class.”
“Wait!” I wrote to the friend I’d dragged along. “This is a blowjob class?”
I don’t know why, but when I saw the notice for the “women’s-only workshop,” I had anticipated a lesbian or bisexual brouhaha, featuring a sort of Sapphic sage imparting equal-opportunity wisdom to her youthful disciples.
Ah, well. Such are the pitfalls of over-enthusiasm and a meagre attention span.
Maybe this was the perfect time to bone up on my mediocre fellatio skills. Still, I felt suddenly uncomfortable about this new dynamic. Something about the concept of the class seemed almost… well… subservient.
Wait a minute.
Why do I think that?
In many aspects of hetero culture, from romantic films to pornography, a sense of entitlement to sexual pleasure is often associated with the male role in a relationship.
A feminine role, in contrast, is associated with delivering that pleasure to a dominant recipient. Images of women who have sexual power usually involve not giving but withholding the pleasure which they are capable of offering.
Even if we haven’t all been there, most of us know someone who has refused to get his or her partner off until he or she apologizes, does the dishes, or quits smoking.
It’s pretty obvious how lack of sex can be used to assert some power in a relationship. However, this presents a fragile dynamic, since it basically means that the only power we see women having involves them not having sex (or fun).
I guess these norms had convinced me that going down on anyone necessitated a sense of acquiescence. Giving someone pleasure, I now realize, can be just as empowering, if not more so, than withholding it.
It can certainly be more active and involve more control.
The sexual mores of queer women can attest to this. Because queer relationships and sex are not as consistently displayed on mainstream TV, film and advertising (with the exceptions of ratings seasons and attention grabs), the gays don’t always experience the watchful eye of the media in the same way.
The lack of representation and visibility means that queer sexuality does not come with the same cultural baggage. Thus, certain power dynamics inherent or possible in the oral sexual experience can make themselves visible.
Let me give you an example. In dyke culture, power roles seem to be practically reversed from that of hetero norms. Being “on top” for girls is often associated with the power of giving pleasure, of forcing the person underneath you to be incapacitated with orgasm.
I know someone who ties her butch identity to not allowing the other party to give her pleasure: being on the bottom or allowing someone to pleasure her would involve vulnerability as much as it would entitlement. In the lack of orgasm, however, you don’t relinquish control.
Giving a dude head can be an equally powerful act. You are overwhelming your partner with pleasure, and you get to decide how much cock is in your mouth, where and when.  Likewise, for a dude to lay back and enjoy the ride, relinquishing control of the sexual situation, can be an incredible adventure—maybe even a frightening prospect.
Unfortunately, the legacy of sexism shields male power from this moment of vulnerability.
Mainstream porn gives us the money shot—the male orgasm—after he thrusts his cock into the mouth of his deep-throating partner. These images, whether filtered through mainstream pornography or Hollywood comedies, build up certain roles within oral sex that make it hard for a guy to relinquish control, just as they make it hard for a girl to see how much control is possible within the act.
So what did I learn in blowjob school that can counteract these conceptions?
First of all, being aware of the power of what you’re doing can be a great first step to overcoming those feelings of insecurity. Look at his face and you’ll see just how much pleasure you’re able to bring him with your hands and mouth.
Oral sex doesn’t have to be a chore—ask yourself how you could get more out of it.
Also, ask yourself if this is about positions of power, or just about your jaw hurting. You don’t have to just suck through the pain: use your hands more, lick it like a lollipop (thanks, Lil’ Wayne), and give your inner cheeks a break.
Dudes: look at your partner and communicate, even if your shlong is kind of in the way of their mouth. Putting your hand on their head or the back of their neck while they’re going down on you makes some people uncomfortable.
Thrusting, as fun as you may think it seems at the time, can cause people to gag on your cock.
I’m not trying to make you feel insecure about an experience you should let yourself enjoy without hang-ups, but if you’re not sure, you should ask.
Be courteous: someone is being kind enough to suck your junk.
For some, no tip or trick will make them hot about giving head. Oral sex might be a trigger to bad memories that even tying their partner up in all four corners won’t get them past.
If you really, really hate giving blowjobs, that doesn’t make you a bad person. You can compromise or try to think of some alternatives that work for both of you.
But remember that oral is most likely to be got when it’s given. And, if it’s consensual and approached with enthusiasm, it can be a rockin’ time.
If you’re not a fellating fan, consider giving it another go from a different angle this time. Or, as I tasted in class, try adding a chocolate flavoured condom. Who knows what might happen?

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