Wiki

Cunnilingus

By Jayne Renault

Cunnilingus is the act of using one’s mouth and tongue to stimulate the vulva – including the area around the clitoris, labia majora (outer lips), labia minora (inner lips), vaginal vestibule (vaginal opening) – of another person.

This oral sex activity is also known by slang terms and euphemisms such as eating out, eating pussy, going gown, giving head, carpet munching, muffdiving, and DATY (Dining At The Y). The equivalent of performing this act on a penis is called fellatio. The word cunnilingus comes from cunnus, the Latin word for “vulva”, and lingo, which means “to lick”.

The vulva is an erogenous zone rife with innervation and sensitivity that make sensual or sexual touch enjoyable for most people. Consensual oral stimulation of the genitals can therefore be pleasurable for many people. Cunnilingus can be performed as a means of foreplay in order to initiate sexual arousal, to further raise a partner’s arousal levels, to prepare someone for penetrative vaginal sex, to induce orgasm, or for the general enjoyment of both the giving and receiving partners.

Cunnilingus for Clitoral Stimulation

Studies have shown that the majority of people with vulvas cannot orgasm from vaginal penetration stimulation alone and required clitoral stimulation to reach sexual climax. Furthermore, it is known that the clitoris — a female sex organ whose sole purpose is as an erogenous zone — is one of the most sensitive parts of the human body. 

The glans, or the external head, of the clitoris is innervated for receiving and transmitting pleasure sensations. (While it is true the clitoris is highly sensitive and associated with sexual pleasure, the widely cited myth that it features 8000 nerve-endings is based on research conducted on livestock.) These pleasure responses are linked with reproductive functions such as vaginal lubrication for ease of penetration and increased chance of reaching orgasm, which aids in the release of oxytocin, the hormone that encourages interpersonal bonding.

Because performing oral sex on a vulva affords the opportunity for direct, prolonged, and customizable clitoral stimulation, it makes it an effective way for the receiving partner to increase personal lubrication production as well as reach orgasm.

Cunnilingus Techniques

The most effective intensity, speed, and style of stimulation is subjective to each receiving partner’s unique range of body sensitivity, preferences, and pleasure needs. Some may enjoy a lighter tongue stroke while others prefer more pressure. Some may enjoy grinding into their partner’s nose and chin to engage more vulvar surface area while others may prefer more concentrated, acute on their clit. 

Level of sensitivity can vary throughout a single session as well and the style, rhythm, and intensity of stimulation may need to be adjusted for optimal pleasure results. Communication between partners in the way of discussion prior to engaging in sexual activity, verbal check-ins and non-verbal feedback during the act, and feedback after the session are all effective means of determining what is best for a current partner.

To complement the stimulation provided by their mouth and tongue, the partner performing cunnilingus may use their fingers to spread the receiving partner’s labia, to caress or massage the area between their partner’s legs, or to penetrate the vagina (G-spot stimulation) or anus while simultaneously licking or sucking the clitoris. They may also insert their tongue into the vaginal vestibule for shallow penetration or incorporate a sex toy fo additional stimulation.

Cunnilingus Sex Positions

Any position that allows the giving partner’s mouth to reach the receiving partner’s genitals can be appropriate for cunnilingus. Which one works best will depend on preference and ability needs. Some common positions include:

- The receiving partner lies flat on their back with their legs spread. Legs can be stretched out flat or raised to any angle within the receiving partner’s range of motion; knees can be bent and falling out relaxed to either side with feet on the ground or knees pulled in close to the chest.

- The receiving partner gets on all fours or some other variation of a Doggy Style position that allows the giving partner to provide oral stimulation from behind

- The receiving partner bends over a sturdy surface such as a counter, table, or raised mattress and the giving partner can provide oral stimulation from behind

- The receiving partner sits on a chair, sofa, or other raised supporting surface that allows for easy access for the giving partner’s face

- The receiving partner kneels and hovers over the giving partner’s face

- The receiving partner stands while the giving partner kneels in front of or behind them.

- In a 69 position, where mutual oral stimulation occurs between both partners simultaneously

- Facesitting, a form of oral sex and/or breath play where the receiving partner sits on or over the giving partner’s face

Cultural Reception of Cunnilingus

Oral sex is a healthy, normal, and mutually pleasurable sex that can be enjoyed between people of any gender and sexual orientation in relationships where at least one partner has a vulva. It can promote pleasure, increase the likelihood of orgasm, and deepen the intimacy felt between partners.

Historically and culturally to this day, the perspectives on performing cunnilingus are mixed. For some cultures and people, it is still considered taboo, dirty, demeaning, or disempowering for someone (particularly a cis man) to preform oral sex on a vulva, or a partner in general. This perception likely contributes to the insecurity many people feel about receiving cunnillingnus from a partner. 

In other cases, cunnilingus has been incorporated in spiritual practices such as Taoism and early Tantra (see Tantric sex), where peforming oral sex on a vulva is seen as a form of worship, a means of promoting longevity, a mindfulness practice, or a means of deep emotional and spiritual connection that can faciliate a trascendent experience.

Safety and Risks

As with any activity that involves exposure to bodily fluids, there is a certain level of risk associated with performing cunnilingus. While the risk of transmission is typically lower than it is for unprotected penetrative sex activities, it is possible to transmit sexually transmitted infections (STI) between one’s mouth and another’s vulva. 

Regular STI screenings are crucial to managing one’s sexual health and respecting one’s partners, however many medical and testing centers do not offer a throat swab as part of the basic screening process. Ask your STI testing professional to include the throat swab test to ensure a thorough testing. To further reduce the possibility of STI contraction, one can use a dental dam. A dental dam is a piece of latex or polyurethane that can be held in place as a protective barrier between the mouth and vulva while performing cunnilingus on a partner.

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