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I have hated oral sex all my life.  This is how I finally fell in love with it.

My more than friend, Marissa, and I was intimately entwined on my bed. The sheets were the color of lesbian lipstick. His big eyes never left mine.

“Can I touch you here?” she asked. “Is it correct?”

“Yes, please,” I said.

Where others took the lead, she took her time. Every touch buzzed with pleasure.

So why did I freeze when she said, “I want to fall on you.”

I must have grimaced ― that blank stare I get when I’m stuck in my head. Noting my discomfort, she apologized. I was mortified by my reaction. What is wrong with me?

I kept revisiting the moment in my head.

Although many women and people with vaginas feel empowered when receiving orals, I have never been one of them. Partly because of childhood abuse that involved forced oral sex, I was never able to focus solely on the pleasure of receiving.

But I was also raised to believe that my vagina was dirty, that men were supposed to dominate women in the bedroom, and that women seeking pleasure through sex were (still) taboo. All of this has made cunnilingus a bad word.

I abandoned this dogma decades ago and have since become kinky, genderqueer, and pansexual. Now I’m comfortable visiting dungeons to let out my inner mistress. But that particular artifact of my past—my bias against the oral—still seethes and at the worst times.

Being queer didn’t inoculate me to live in a patriarchal society, and I still sometimes fall into heteronormative assumptions about pleasure. I figured penetrative sex, which could make me cum fast, hard and in multiples, was all I wanted. And I blamed my aversion to oral sex on my hypersensitive clitoris and self-awareness around my own scent and taste.

But, as I entered my fifties, I became aware that fear was beneath these more superficial anxieties – the fear of losing my power. This changed recently when, for the first time, I asked for oral sex.

A few months after my mortifying reaction to Marissa’s offer, I came across an article about latex underwear that promises safe and pleasurable oral sex. They looked like a major upgrade to the century-old dental dam. Still, I walked past the ad. Just another product made for those head loving goddesses, I thought. But my experience with Marissa had crept into my brain. I felt like I was missing something – like I was letting myself down. A few hours later, I went to the underwear site.

In bold and white, the landing page read “Say yes to privacy.”

I haven’t always been so outspoken about my oral sex anxiety. In the past, when lovers expressed interest in falling on me, I let him do it even if it wasn’t what I wanted. It was a way to show my love, I thought to myself.

“In the past, when lovers expressed interest in falling for me, I let it happen even though it wasn’t what I wanted. It was a way to show my love, I told myself.

There was, for example, the lady sitting on my face. To avoid suffocating him, I had to squat, and within minutes my muscles were tensing and my quadriceps were burning. The kicker watched as our margarita mixture of saliva and vaginal transudate (that’s a fancy word for fluid) seep into his nose. No thanks.

Then I met a man who loved oral sex so much he basically had a doctorate in blowjob (actually it was in math). He parted my lips so tight I felt micro tears. Accustomed to ignoring my discomfort at that moment, I said nothing. His tongue was like an exacto knife, slicing through my ultra-exposed clitoris, but he just took my screams of pain for pleasure.

And who can forget the man who considered cunnilingus compulsory? He responded to my disgust for it with, “It won’t work if you don’t let me fall on you.” Fearing that he would end our relationship on the spot, I spread the eagle. While he was doing his thing, I stood there, embarrassed, waiting for it to be over. The relationship left me feeling used and even more disgusted by the oral than I had been before.

In these meetings, I lost the sense of autonomy because I did not show myself love. So, despite being someone who loves intimacy and is sexually adventurous, I started refusing oral sex altogether.

At first it was stimulating. I felt like I had finally started to own my “no”. I was proud of myself for respecting my boundaries in a culture where women are expected to say yes. But what if I let my fear keep me from having more intimate and enjoyable relationships with people who care about me? Like my partners who don’t have a penis and don’t feel comfortable putting on a strap-on. For them, the spoken word was sometimes their preferred way to get me to the big O, and my anxiety prevented that deeper level of intimacy.

My spouse is one of the most caring, non-coercive people in my life. An example of this is our open marriage. So, after my disappointment with Marissa, I decided that my first foray into the oral world would be with my wife.

With a thrilling click, I purchased the latex underwear. When the discreet-sized box arrived, I hid it in a closet. How could I explain to my spouse that after 10 years together, I wanted him to perform the forbidden act (for me)?

I did not explain. Instead, I led them to our bed, tied a rope harness around their chests, and snuck into our bathroom to open the package. There was a faint scent of vanilla. The dark material felt like an extra light exercise band. He stretched like one, too. They slid smoothly. I paired them with a cropped mesh top and looked at myself in the mirror.

Was I ready for this? The answer came immediately: Yes… Well, I hope so.

I returned to our room, where I walked, whip in hand, to gain confidence.

While I’m in the lead (e.g. the dominant partner in BDSM), it’s common for me to keep certain clothes on. So even though I kept the underwear on while things warmed up, my wife didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary.

Being empowered by light BDSM and remaining intentionally present in my body, I felt something shift inside me. A tension I didn’t even know I was holding released.

But, when their tongue made contact, I felt the usual constriction in my chest.

You are in controlI thought, and after a moment of reconnecting to my body, it was true.

Still, I braced myself for the inevitable overstimulation, but it never came. The layer provided by the underwear allowed the pleasant pressure to pass through but protected my clitoris.

I felt a pleasant feeling of anticipation in my stomach – my body’s way of saying mmhmm — then, a short time later, apogee.

Thereafter, I ran my fingers through my wife’s hair, providing her with aftercare. I caught their eyes and held them. I never thought enjoying oral sex was possible for me. Now I wanted to ask my spouse for a second round.

“The transformation from hate to love of oral sex was not simple or immediate. It took me years to come to terms with my ‘no’ before I could say ‘yes’.”

Painting the picture this way makes it all simple, but the transformation from hate to love for oral sex wasn’t simple or immediate. It took me years to accept my “no” before I could say “yes”. There have been many awkward moments and missed opportunities with many Marissas. I still have moments of doubt.

The magic behind it, however, is this: I had changed my relationship to myself. First, I recognized that my hatred for oral sex was rooted in fear. To understand my fear, I had to demystify it. It involved thinking about a subject that I had sealed long ago in a box marked “don’t even bother” and hidden on a dark shelf in my mind.

I pulled it out, dusted and non-judgmental, revisited every want, need and concern. It is true that during the oral reception, I felt exposed and dissociated. That I put my needs aside to conform to cultural and gender norms. But, moving forward, I had a choice. I could get stuck or write a new story. I could break my old pattern of pleasing others and instead listen to my body telling me how I wanted to be satisfied. And hoo-boy, did I.

Rachael Quisel is a freelance writer specializing in health and fitness. Their short story, “Departure”, was nominated for the 2022 Pushcart Prize. Their short story, “The Clan of Good Cats”, was a finalist in Under the Sun’s 2021 Summer Writing Competition. You can see more of their work at rachaelquisel.com.

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