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Who's in Charge?

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Perhaps one of the most popular questions sex advisors get is:
How can I get more oral sex from my lover? Whether man or woman, casually dating or seriously committed, plenty of people wish that their sex partners would show at least a little more passion in giving and/or receiving oral sex. After all, some of the greatest pleasuring and orgasms known can be set off by the feel of a warm, wet mouth or the flick of a tongue.

So why the oral lovin’ hang-ups?

When it comes to oral sex, there are plenty of reasons why people aren’t in the mood, like negative genital perceptions, performance anxiety, fear of gagging, or religious sex guilt. The power dynamics involved in oral exchanges are yet another reason why the idea of going down on somebody elicits powerful emotional reactions, which result in sexual shut down. Much of this is due to larger societal messaging around fellatio (oral sex on a man) and cunnilingus (oral sex on a woman).

Throughout history and globally, a number of cultures have regarded oral sex acts as humiliating in the submission and control elements involved. Ancient Rome thought it repulsive for a male, namely a soldier, to perform fellatio since this meant that he was being controlled in having his mouth penetrated. (Interestingly enough, however, the act of a male receiving oral sex from a female or man of a lower social status, like a slave, was not considered humiliating. This is because, as receiver, he was seen as still being “active” and in control in getting fellatio while the giver was seen as “passive” and submissive in receiving the penis.)

So strong were the sentiments around this that giving fellatio was used as an act of punishment. Roman texts outline cases like that of a potato thief paying for his crime by performing fellatio on the Roman landowner, who has dropped his drawers and commanded “Kneel and take it in your mouth.”

Good thing the times have changed, and with that, largely thanks to sexuality educators, the public is starting to realize that oral sex doesn’t have to be about power, submission and control (though it certainly can be for those turned on by such role play scenarios). To pleasure someone orally is to put that person’s pleasures front and center, possibly maximizing one’s sexual response and bliss. To receive can also be an act of giving in that so many partners enjoy performing oral sex, including seeing a lover’s powerful reactions.

Whether giver or receiver, to engage in oral sex is a most personal experience in that you’re giving your lover V.I.P. access to your most private parts. In either role, you’re relinquishing control for a greater good: better sex life and enhanced bonding. Communicating such perspectives to your lover, and encouraging more conversations around sexual behaviors and pleasuring, may be just what’s needed to invite more oral action into your life!

Dr. Fulbright is the author of The Best Oral Sex Ever guides, available at,, and other bookshops.

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