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Hi! I’ve been dating my girlfriend for almost a year and I love her a lot and I love our sex life. She really enjoys going down on me and I enjoy it, too! I really really want to like going down on her, but I don’t. (I’ve never had sex with anyone else.) When I try to go down on her it feels overwhelming — the smell, the taste, the trouble breathing. I don’t know if I like the smell and taste of her vulva or not. (I feel like I don’t like the smell but I like the taste which doesn’t make sense, and I feel terrible about it.)
I feel like I’m not a good lesbian (and I know that’s silly and ridiculous) for not liking going down on my girlfriend. It doesn’t bother her, but it bothers me. Is the answer to just go down on her until I get accustomed to it? Or are there any other ways I can get used to the smell/taste? What should I do?
Hey girl. Let’s take a deep breath. Okay? Okay.
If everything you say is true, and your girlfriend truly doesn’t care whether you go down on her, there’s an easy solution: don’t. There are lots of ways to be intimate that don’t involve putting your face on someone’s genitals, like using fingers, vibrators, dildos, kink or non-genital stimulation. If you decide you don’t want to give oral sex, you are allowed to set that boundary and still call yourself a lesbian.
It sounds, though, like you want to enjoy going down on your girlfriend and you want to feel more comfortable with it because it’s important to you. So let’s dive in.
I used to work as a professional sex educator and spoke at colleges and universities across the U.S., and I was asked questions about how to make oral sex taste, smell or feel better almost everywhere I went. This seems to be a fairly common concern.
Vulvas are a body part that serve utilitarian functions as well as being sex organs. There’s a persistent stereotype that lesbians have an insatiable lust for the vag. The pussy. The muff. The clam. (Never mind that not all women have vulvas and not all vulvas belong to women.) Don’t get me wrong: most of us enjoy a fun time with a vulva. But we’re also attracted to whole people, not their body parts in isolation. We’re attracted to other women as complex and interesting and sexy human beings, not as owners of genitals.
Deeply desiring and getting sexual satisfaction just from looking at, touching and tasting a vulva does not define being a “good lesbian,” and is not the only source of sexual gratification. What’s more important is making our partners feel good, helping them orgasm or reach sexual release if they want to, and affirming them as sexy and desired. Sometimes oral is all about the receiving partner’s pleasure, even if your neck is sore or tongue is tired or face is sweaty. Going down on a vulva can be hard-ass work!
Let’s talk for a moment about vaginal smell. Vaginas have a scent. It’s a human scent. Like all human scent, it’s organic and smells nothing like an ocean, a beach, a forest, fruit, or even fish. It just smells like vagina, and each vagina smells (and tastes) unique. Some smell or taste more strongly than others. There’s some belief that what you eat can affect the taste — citrus fruit or chlorophyll supplements might make vulvas taste “fresh” — or that smokers or meat-eaters taste worse. Really, though, vaginas just have a totally normal scent. Some people are turned on by it. Some people just feel, “that’s fine.”
If your partner has a really strong, unbearable smell or unusual discharge, there’s a good chance she has a bacterial infection or sexually transmitted infection and should get to a gynecologist, ASAP. Otherwise, your girlfriend smells just how she naturally smells. Since cunnilingus is for her pleasure, as long as it’s a smell you can live with, it’s fine if you don’t like it or want to bottle it and dab it on your temples.
I’m a little concerned you’re having trouble breathing. (Then again, it’s called muff-diving for a reason.) If you’ve been spending a lot of time exploring the labia and vagina so your whole face is right down in there, here’s a tip: most people with vulvas most enjoy direct tongue stimulation of the clitoris during oral sex. Penetrating the vagina with your tongue and licking around the labia can be fun play, but almost all people with vulvas get off mainly via direct and constant clitoral stimulation. If you are latched on, stimulating the clitoris with your mouth, your nose should be above sea level so you can breathe more easily. If there’s hair in your way, squish it down with your free hand.
If your bodies just aren’t lining up in a way that makes breathing accessible, try different positions. Elevate her hips with a pillow or wedge so you have better access to her vulva. Try having her lean back in a chair, sit at the edge of the bed or sit on your face. Or invest in some snorkeling gear. It’s also okay to take a break and switch to another sensation if you need to catch your breath.
You mention that your girlfriend is your first sexual partner and it’s possible that some of the “overwhelming” feeling comes from the nervousness of being newly sexually active combined with unrealistic expectations about sex. I’m guessing that because you love this woman a lot and because she’s your first sex partner, you want to be a rockstar lover. It’s normal to be a little anxious, or to wonder, “Am I doing this right?” when you’re with your first partner or when you’re with any partner for the first time. It’s normal to have your face in your girlfriend’s vulva and feel totally overwhelmed by it.
The best way to get over this is to talk to your girlfriend so you can become more confident when you’re going down on her. Ask her what she likes, and have her show you how she likes to be touched. When you’e going down on her, try different things and ask her which she likes. Try up-and-down movements with your tongue on her clitoris, and then circular movements. Ask her which she prefers. Use different speeds, pressures and rhythms. Try something else. Ask her to give you feedback as you explore what she likes together to let you know when she wants more of something or when she wants you to stay in the same spot. Over time, you’ll figure out precisely what she likes and doesn’t like and you’ll feel more confident.
At the end of all of this, if it turns out cunnilingus just isn’t your thing, that’s okay, too. I promise. No one will take away your gay card. You can still sit at our table. It sounds like your girlfriend is okay with it, too.