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...and he likes me to do to HIM, but won't do to me.

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Jessica asks:

I'm 18 and have been sexually active with my boyfriend for about a year. We've done all sorts of things with each other, including oral sex. However, he refuses to perform oral on me. I've given him blowjobs many times. He says he enjoyed it very much, except he felt bad because he didn't want to reciprocate. He says that if I don't want to give him a blowjob, he would completely understand. But I love giving oral; I don't feel that it's unfair to me if I choose to do it. Even so, I really wish he would go down on me. When I asked him why he doesn't want to, he said he doesn't know. What could be bothering him, and what can I do to convince him that giving me head isn't as scary as it apparently seems to him?

Heather Corinna replies:

In some ways, my answer to this one are going to be similar to an answer I gave earlier today, to a guy asking a very similar question here.

Ultimately, this all really depends on the why of his reticence.

Has he had any previous experience with another partner with cunnilingus? If so, I'd suggest you try and talk about what made that so unpleasant for him, and find out if it was because of something that won't be the case here. For instance, if he went down on a partner with an untreated infection, her taste might have been very unsavory: you can remedy that by both being sure to tend to your sexual health, and also by using a dental dam when you have oral sex (especially since until the two of you get screenings, you both really should be using latex barriers for oral sex). If the emotional dynamic didn't feel good to him, he can tell you why, and you can make a point of letting him know you'll make efforts not to duplicate it.

If that's not why, or he's had no other previous experience with oral sex....

Is it because he feels like he doesn't know what to do, is worried about humiliating himself in some way -- or even just worried about being in the position where it's clear he's not an expert? If that's the case, you can make clear that neither of you should be in a position where you need to feel like you have to be some sort of professional: in fact, that can be a real barrier to intimacy. If we want to get close to someone, in some ways, we have to be willing to make an ass of ourselves sometimes. If he feels like your vulva or oral sex for you is some great, unsolveable mystery, you can assure him that you'll be vocal about what you like, you can start showing him now, with your own hands, what parts of your vulva feel most sensitive to you, and he can read up on your sexual anatomy to be more clued in. Sometimes, some men just feel like compared to their genitals, ours seem incredibly complicated, and so they can feel intimidated: often, some plain old reassurance that we're just different, not great mysteries, and that everyone is allowed a learning curve can do the trick. Sometimes too, letting a partner know that there is no failing you in this way is very comforting: you might point out that in many ways, the mere effort is the key.

If it isn't that...

Has he gotten any weird pressure from male friends not to do it? Sometimes that happens, too, and/or some guys have ideas about masculinity that say giving women head is somehow unmasculine. If that's the case, that's just something else to talk about and get to the bottom of, addressing why those ideas are problematic, especially when one has a female sexual partner. Your genitals or certain sexual activities for you shouldn't be a threat to his masculinity, and if they are, he should examine those ideas some, because they're going to be a problem in more ways than just this one.

And if THAT isn't it...

Does he have a problem with your/female genitals? I know that's an even trickier and more delicate thing to address, as well as likely bringing up some difficult feelings for you, but some men (and even some women, about their own genitals) are just earnestly freaked out by vulvas, or by getting very up-close and personal with them. There is a lot of truly stupid mythology and vulva-hating out and about in our culture and the world, and lo: plenty of people pick up on it and internalize it, many without even knowing when or why they did. Some of that can come from what I brought up up there, masculinity issues or feeling confused and intimidated, but some of it can also come from ignorance or some form of misogyny. If this is the case, again, you're going to need to talk about this, because it's pretty hard to have a mutually beneficial sexual relationship with someone who thinks any part of your body needs to be kept at a distance -- especially a part often so much a part of your sexuality and identity -- or isn't acceptable to get close to in some way.

With any of this, this is probably going to take a few talks, in a context which makes clear that no matter what, he still gets to have a preference and still should only be doing things he wants to do. We don't all like every single sexual activity out there, and there are some people who just don't want to do or like oral sex. And if we're someone who likes HAVING that, with a partner who doesn't, and there's no middle ground, sometimes we simply have to look at the whole picture and decide if that's going to work for us or not. Every now and then, if this is something you really dig, you may find you run into a partner who doesn't and might choose to just not have that person as a sexual partner: it's okay to make that choice, just like it's also okay to decide that a partner has lots of other things to offer that make it worth it for you to just accept that there's one thing you like you can't have with them.

I also think that you might talk with him about how oral sex isn't a quid pro quo: that you don't give him oral to try and earn oral for yourself. I'd talk about what YOU like about giving it: it might open some mental avenues for him he hasn't thought of, and might also take some pressure off in case he has felt like that's why you've been giving him oral sex. Perhaps talk about why he likes doing the other receptive activities he does to you, and talk about what it is that you like about receiving oral sex in general (which, if he really just doesn't want to, might also give him information when it comes to seeking out alternatives).

But no matter what, I'd make sure that none of these discussions exert pressure, for all the obvious reasons: pressuring someone into any kind of sex is never cool, but I probably don't have to tell you that. He needs to know that it really is okay -- no mater what you choose per the relationship eventually -- to have things he just doesn't want to do, but that even if he decides this just isn't for him, it's important to you to understand why, rather than have it be some great unknown.

I've tossed this link out earlier today, but I think it might be helpful to you, too -- and for him -- so here you go: Reciprocity, Reloaded.

Just like I advised the other user earlier today, go ahead and get started talking. Communication all by itself increases closeness and comfort, and no matter what the end result here is, communicating about all of this is only going to be a boon.

written 30 Aug 2007 . updated 03 Jan 2013

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