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I’m a woman 20, in a relationship with a woman, 23, and I’ve just performed oral for the first time. I’m feeling insecure about how I did/doing it again, and whether or not I’ll be able to pleasure her. I know that may not be reasonable but it is stressing me a bit. I also know she’s more experienced so that’s why she was “better” at it. I think I’m mostly looking for advice? I really want to be able to do for her what she does for me and I’m sort of embarrassed at my lack of experience/confidence/abilities.  (Which those feelings are not caused by her!) Thank you so much ✨

Hey there! 

You just did a new thing for the first time! That can be super scary, intimidating, and exciting, all at once! Go you! 

For real — doing something for the first time is almost always nerve-wracking. When that thing is a sex thing, our internal judgment gets higher and higher and higher. When it comes to sex, we don’t give ourselves space to learn, experiment, or play

Side note to readers: I’ll mostly be using “she” pronouns throughout this article, because that’s how this reader referred to their partner. But, people of any gender can be eaten out! Some people may use other terminology, like “getting head” or even just “cunnilingus.” In writing this article, I mostly stuck with “going down on” or just plain “oral sex.” Regardless, I wrote this article with vulovaginal anatomy in mind, so these tips can apply to all people with vaginas. Some of them even apply to oral sex more broadly. Okay, back to the show.

That’s because in the US, we’re highly focused on performance — academic performance, professional performance, social performance, and yes, sexual performance. When it comes to sex, we assume that we have to get everything right the first time because that’s what media and society have told us. That pressure only increases as we get older because of a false assumption that we become more sexually skilled as we age. 

Take it easy on yourself. This was your first time doing this — of course it wasn’t quite how you thought it would be. How could it? Good sex doesn’t just spontaneously happen.

Do you know how I define being “good” at sex?

  • Active communication with your partners 
  • Willingness to hear and accept a “no” 
  • Engaging in sex as play/bonding time 
  • Reducing our first impression judgments 
  • Seeking pleasure, not orgasms 
  • Accepting that awkward things happen 

On that note, you mentioned that you feel insecure about how you did. Did you and your partner talk through it during or after? Do you trust her to be honest with you about what felt good and what didn’t? Do you feel ready to hear that some things may not have felt great? 

When you’re doing something for the first time ever, trying something with a new partner, or just switching up your normal routine, I encourage active communication. That might mean that before you get started, you tell your partner, “Hey, I want you to tell me exactly what feels good for you. I want you to guide my head if you want me to focus on a different place.” 

You aren’t psychic. Neither you nor your partner should expect you to know the types of things that she is going to like without her telling you. It takes both of you working together to make amazing sex happen! 

It also sounds like you might be dealing with a bit of sexual perfectionism. If you struggle with perfectionism in other parts of your life, it makes sense that you would struggle with it here, too. There are two remedies for sexual perfectionism — communication (re-read those earlier paragraphs!) and a mindset shift. The mindset shift is about moving from “sex is a performance” to “sex is interactive” or “sex is a conversation.” 

Conversational sex means that you’re considering what you are asking for, what the other person is trying to communicate, and how you are interacting together. Great sex feels the way like a really great, engaging conversation — like you’ve truly been heard by another person and that you learned something new about them. 

The tl;dr of this whole section is this: Talk about it. Tell her about the anxiety you’re feeling. Ask her to communicate openly with you. Let her know that she isn’t necessarily doing anything to cause those feelings. 

Everyone’s cunnilingus preferences are different, but here are some basic tips that you can keep on the tip of your tongue for next time. 

1. Don’t go straight for the clit 

Sometimes when we’re anxious, we think to ourselves, “Might as well jump right in!” but when it comes to stimulating the clit, that doesn’t quite work. So, before you jump in face first, pay attention to the rest of your partner’s body. Making out, nipple play, and kissing, biting, and licking inner thighs can all be very arousing. Of course, talk with your partner in advance about what her boundaries are (maybe she doesn’t like nipple play; maybe gentle biting isn’t her thing). 

As things start to heat up, you can move from the hip bones and inner thighs to the vulva. Once you’re there, you still don’t need to hop straight to the clit. Try lightly running your tongue over different zones on the vulva, focusing on the labia minora (the inner lips) and the opening of the vagina (the introitus). Then, once you’ve teased for long enough, you can start to move toward the clit. 

2. Know what’s going on under the hood 

…the clitoral hood, that is. The clitoris is covered by a small fold of skin called the clitoral hood (it’s analogous to the foreskin of a penis). The clitoral hood serves to protect the clit from being overstimulated or hurt — there are so many nerve endings close to the surface, it helps to have a protective layer! 

Some people love it when people pull back their clitoral hood and touch the clit directly. Others prefer the indirect sensation that comes with stimulating the clit through the clitoral hood. So, talk to your partner and see if she knows what she prefers. If she’s not sure, then play around and learn together! 

3. Start slowly 

Remember that “don’t go straight for the clit” tip from a minute ago? Well, the principle behind it is basically “take your time.” Once you are hanging out with the clit, know that you don’t (and probably shouldn’t, unless your partner is begging you) start rapidly accelerating your speed. Light, slow stimulation can help bring more blood flow to the area, which can make everything feel more and more intense. You can start to play with speed and pressure from there.

4. Play with pressure 

There are two distinct types of tongue pressure you can use during cunnilingus: broad or pinpoint pressure. Broad pressure comes with using your flattened, wider tongue. Pinpoint pressure happens when you “flex” your tongue so that it’s more pointed and firm. When you’re just starting to go down on someone, I recommend starting with broad pressure and then slowly building up to more pinpoint pressure. Change up your speeds and pressure types all throughout. 

In addition to tongue pressure, you can also use light suction pressure. Rather than just using your tongue, this uses your whole mouth. Use your lips to apply light suction to the clit, still using your tongue to play with it in the meantime. I don’t recommend holding that seal for an extended period of time — use is it strategically. Just remember — when switching from suction pressure to non-suction pressure again, don’t “pop” the seal. Simply relax the muscles in your cheeks and lips and revert to broad tongue pressure. 

5. Where’d the clit go? 

So, the clitoris does this fun thing. When arousal builds, the clitoris becomes erect — you can see and feel it more distinctly. And that continues throughout stimulation until the receiver is close to cumming. Right before orgasm, the clitoris retreats. 

Fun, right? Or confusing. Your pick! 

So, if your partner has been giving you a “please don’t stop” or “keep going” and then the clit disappears, and orgasm is likely nearby (I promise, it’s less likely that you’ve moved that far away from it and didn’t notice). Keep doing what you’re doing. 

6. Don’t be afraid to breathe 

Do you remember back in middle and high school when people were trying to figure out how to make out, and everyone was really fixated on how and if you could breathe? Well, people apply that same worry to going down on someone.

Please keep breathing. Please? 

Here’s the thing: Breathing is literally essential to what you’re doing! Second, using your breath can also be extremely hot. That feeling of anticipating before someone’s tongue touches your skin? That often comes with the feeling of their breath on your skin. 

So, just keep breathing. You’ll be okay. 

 7. Remember the rest of the body 

Just because you’re going down on someone doesn’t mean you have to focus all of your energy on one place. Talk with your partner in advance about how they want to be stimulated otherwise — maybe they want their nipples played with, maybe they want their thighs grabbed or smacked. Maybe they want you to use your fingers inside of them while you go down on them. When you have that conversation, also talk about your own boundaries — are you okay with your hair being pulled, for example? 

8. Slow down to stop 

So, you’ve done the thing! Yay! But just like it can be hard to know what to do with your hands during a photo, sometimes ending a sex act can feel…awkward. Just like you took it slow to start, slow down to finish. Pay attention to your partner’s body and what they’re asking for — they may want you to stop immediately, or they may want some more light touching for a moment (or to continue until they ask you to stop). Ultimately, listen to your own boundaries and follow your partner’s lead here. Then, finish up with some aftercare before moving on to your next adventure. 

9. Bonus — don’t worry about your scent or taste

There is an entire industry dedicated to making you think that if your vulva doesn’t smell like a Hawaiian sunset, you’re not only doing something wrong, but there’s something wrong with you. In 2017, the vaginal hygiene market (which broadly includes things like menstrual products, antifungals, douches, and deodorants) was valued around 35 billion dollars. Cleaners and deodorants — both products that are totally unnecessary — made up around 15% of that. 

Here’s the thing: vaginas are naturally slightly acidic, and that’s how they should taste. So don’t worry about it! You’re the #1 expert in your own body, so if something seems off to you, go to your doctor. Otherwise, trust your partner when they say you taste great. 

And no matter what, I hope you have fun exploring this new thing with your partner. You deserve to play and experiment! So go forth. Don’t stress about being perfect or making orgasms happen — just enjoy the doing

Have your own sex or relationship questions you want answered? Hop (anonymously) into my DMs, and I’ll answer them in the next 6 weeks or so.