“Tender Buttons” is the name of Gertrude Stein’s 1912 masterpiece, a collection of poems derided as nonsensical by some and praised for breathtaking sensuality by others. Stein would host gatherings in her renowned Paris salon for her favorite ex-pats and other intellectuals, providing an atmosphere rich with thought and pleasure that I hope to replicate across the 5Cs in this advice-style sex column. That said, let’s talk about cunnilingus, and why some unfortunates aren’t getting any.
Dear Tender Buttons,
My boyfriend and I enjoy a wide range of activities in the bedroom, but despite all the times I suck him off, he never reciprocates or returns the favor. When I asked why he was avoiding my fuzzy mimosa, he just shrugged and mumbled “It’s not really my thing.” We’re great in all other areas, and I don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but it’s frustrating that he seems adverse to something that would give me so much pleasure. Even my friend told me he was misogynistic for refusing to eat me out. What gives?
Praying For My Vagina.
Dear Praying For My Vagina,
I sympathize with your boyfriend. Eating a woman out isn’t really my thing either. However, I’m not dating a woman, so I am under no such contractual obligation to satisfy one in the bedroom. Everybody wins!
Yes, it’s frustrating when a partner refuses point blank to perform a sex act of any kind. You were right to ask your boyfriend for an explanation, though his response provokes only more questions. Sometimes a simple “it’s not really my thing” doesn’t cut it. A ban on cunnilingus may seem irrational (what the hell?) and humiliating (what’s wrong with my junk?). Though I could enumerate a myriad of reasons that the bait’s not taking the fish, so to speak, I will only propose one radical hypothesis:
There’s nothing wrong with your boyfriend or your vagina, and you should get over it.
A lot of sex columnists discuss the rule of reciprocity, a dictum reiterated so many times and in so many different incarnations that it is now enshrined in sex column doctrine: “Do unto your partner as you would have your partner do unto you.” In most cases, the rule of reciprocity works great. Partners should enjoy pleasing each other, and a sex act should facilitate the experience of pleasure for both partners.
Unfortunately, people misinterpret the rule to call for the reciprocation of acts rather than pleasures. Sex is not the Code of Hammurabi; there is no mandate for an eye for an eye, a BJ for a BJ, anal for anal. Forgive my heteronormativity, but your boyfriend probably doesn’t request a solid pegging after he finishes boinking you—if he does, kudos to him!—and you are under no obligation to deliver salvation to his prostate. Likewise, if your boyfriend pleases you in other equitable ways (“We’re great in all other areas”), then he is under no obligation to wet his whistle down below.
Rereading your letter, it appears as though he isn’t the only member of this relationship that doesn’t enjoy giving oral sex. You refer to the deed as a “favor,” something a person puts up with begrudgingly under the implicit promise of a future quid pro quo. If both of you gargle Listerine at the mere thought of mouth-to-genital contact, please leave oral sex out of your nightly checklist entirely! The topic is clearly making cracks in an otherwise satisfying relationship.
I do note a certain ominous tone in your letter, as if you and your boyfriend smell a breakup on the horizon. If you really, and I mean really, cannot get off and/or cannot imagine a life without oral sex, break things off citing irreconcilable sex differences. Otherwise, enjoy the other ways your boyfriend fulfills you, and invest in some cunnilingus porn.
As to the charge of misogyny your friend levied: having distaste for oral is only misogynistic if and only if one considers a woman to be the sum total of her genitalia. Let’s make a break from biological determinism, in and out of the bedroom.
Pray no more, Praying For My Vagina.
Got a question for Tender Buttons? TSL wants to hear from you! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave your queries in the office dropbox outside Walker 101. Thank you!