OPINION: Stop beating around the bush

A close-up drawing of a woman’s nude thighs and bush, colored in pink.
(Ella Lehavi • The Student Life)

This Valentine’s Day, some of you may be giving out chocolates or flowers, but I’m giving out condolences — condolences to all the people with vaginas that won’t get eaten out next week. 

I’m not going to beat around the bush (pun intended). Welcome to college! Your classmates are having sex. You might be too. If you are, congratulations. But here’s your first lesson on how to be an adult: sex is about taking and giving pleasure. 

And quite frankly, I’m sick of hearing people on this campus complaining about how their straight, cisgender, male, sexual partners forget to go down on them, or even worse – simply refuse. 

Before I continue, yes, I’m aware that I’m solely blaming straight men for this problem. But in my experience, this issue of completely bypassing the box has been predominantly heteronormative. I’ll be honest, my queer friends just haven’t had the same problem. Forgive me. 

Rather, I’ve found that this epidemic of oral neglect for the vagina is rampant amongst the 5C hook up culture. I’ve been intent to find out why. I’m a serious journalist after all. The arguments I’ve heard are as follows: 

First, disgust. “I could never go down on a girl, what if it smells bad?” “That’s nasty. It bleeds down there.” “Vaginas freak me out. They’re gross, dude.” Now, I’m not saying this in jest. I’m serious. These are real comments I’ve heard on campus of folks ready to projectile vomit all because a life-giving organ was brought up. So, let’s discuss. 

The fear mongering hygiene taboo that the protected, self-cleaning genitalia is somehow filthier than the rest of your body that is readily exposed to the outside debris, odor, and germs on a daily basis is absurd. If there were a genitalia competition for cleanliness, are we really suggesting that the penis —  concerning which, a reported 60% of men wash incorrectly — is the cleaner alternative? 

For decades we’ve taught women they need to chug pineapple juice, spray perfume in their panties and even shoot some strange concoction of water, vinegar, baking soda, and iodine up their vaginal canal in order to “douche” away the stench, yet to suggest anything more than a shower to clean your body would be considered neurotic.

When we grow up, sometimes, we find out secrets. Here’s one. Santa Claus isn’t real. Here’s another. Vaginas don’t smell like fresh petunias and chamomile oil. They smell like skin and the human body because they’re a natural part of it, and just like all natural parts, they can bleed.

Second, fear. I’ve found this is most commonly the underlying emotion behind disgust. The kitty has mystified the masses, and many men simply don’t know how to approach it. And to that, I begin to feel pity. But not that much. 

I used “kitty” for a reason. The vagina is not a dog, and it won’t bite you. For anyone engaging in sexual activity, there had to be a first. Perhaps, it all started with a kiss. 

As an insecure, inexperienced young person, it was likely terrifying to lean into another person and fumble your tongue awkwardly around their lips. Where does it go? Am I too stiff? Too aggressive? Should I do circles around the outside of their lips? No, that’s weird. Is it okay if I put my tongue inside? 

But guess what? Practice made perfect or maybe close. Perhaps, you googled some of the answers and the back of your pillow might have helped too. But it took effort and a willingness to try, because you hoped that someday you might please your partner and that outweighed your embarrassment. That shouldn’t go away just because you’ve gone to fourth base a few times. Embrace your learning curve. The best students are the ones who study. 

Someone might object here that it’s not sex positive to shame others for being afraid or unwilling to do a certain sexual act, including oral sex. And to that, I only ask: is it mutual? If you and your sexual partner have both agreed that you are uncomfortable performing oral sex on the other for whatever reason, that is your business and outside of the scope of this problem. And of course then, the vaginal partner likely wouldn’t be complaining in the first place. 

But specifically for those sexual encounters, where beyond all good reason, it’s permissible and even expected to satisfy the penis and not concern themselves with the vagina, that brings us to the third objection. 

Third, and what I believe to be the true reason behind it all, contempt. You guessed it. This article is highly feminist, and I believe the stench of patriarchy permeates everything, even your bedroom. Sue me. 

Cutting cunnilingus from your sexual routine is inherently patriarchal. It minimizes the vagina as a sexual organ and one worthy of individual attention. Instead, it reinforces the idea that women and everyone with a vagina cannot and should not be sexual creatures who deserve pleasure too. They are treated as a sexual object whose sole purpose is to serve the penis. The other partner’s happiness is an afterthought. In turn, the penis remains at the top of the psychosexual hierarchy.

There’s a reason sex is linguistically distinguished from masturbation. Sex is a collaboration between individuals. Sex is cooperative. Sex isn’t selfish. You shouldn’t be either. 

Averi Sullivan PO ’23 is a passionate vagina rights activist and loves a good hot take. She wants everyone reading this to submit their hot takes to editor@tsl.news. Right now.

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