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I want to give my boyfriend oral sex, but he's embarrassed and won't let me. What should I do?

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Emma1913 asks:

I'm 13 and so is my boyfriend. I know we shouldn't be doing this kind of stuff at this age but just a couple weeks ago we started getting a little more "touchy" and one thing led to another and he started "eating me out".

Well I want to give him a blowjob but he's scared that I won't like "it" because he thinks it's small and he's embarrassed. What should I do? Also, is it normal to start having sexual intercourse at 16 or 17?

Robin Mandell replies:

Hi Emma,

Reading this, I get a strong sense that you expect to be judged for your age and your sexual choices. I have no intension of judging you, and I’ll get back to why in a bit.

First, though, I want to answer your questions.

It's okay that your boyfriend doesn't want oral sex. I know you want to give him that, and maybe you're also wanting to help him not feel embarrassed and bad about himself and not feel worried that you'll judge or criticize his body, but it's also okay--actually preferable--just to take him at his word that he doesn't want you to perform oral sex on him right now. You would want, I imagine, for him to take you at your word and not try to talk you into something you said you didn't want.

One of the most supportive things you can do, as someone who cares about your boyfriend, is to respect his decisions and express support for him.

Since I can't talk to your boyfriend, I can only guess at what is making him feel shy, embarrassed and worried about his penis size. Whether I'm on target or not, this might give you some idea of what might be going on here. I'm mentioning these things not so that you can fix this, but so that you can get a few different perspectives on this. Sometimes it's hard to accept something when we don't understand it.

Some of this may be that he's just not feeling okay about having his penis be part of partnered sexual activities right now, and that's fine. It's pretty common for people of any age, but particularly young people, to feel uncomfortable about their bodies and with having other people see their bodies, either in full or in part. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that the teen years are, for most people, a time of really rapid physical and emotional changes; feeling anxious about someone, even a loved and trusted someone, seeing our bodies, and particularly seeing parts of our bodies we've been taught to keep private, can feel really scary to some folks.

Quite often fears and uncertainties are there to tell us very real things about what we're ready for when. We're often told to push through our fears, to be strong and brave, that things won't be as scary as we think they'll be. Sometimes we're told that being scared is just for children, and part of being a "grown-up" is doing things even though we're scared of them, don't want to do them, etc.

I don't think this is true though, and I don't think it's true when it comes to sex. I think it's only right and fair to trust someone when they talk about what they do and don't want to happen to their bodies. I'd say those feelings of fear and embarrassment are a much clearer indication of whether anyone is ready for or ”should” be engaging in sexual activity of any kind at any age than age itself.

In terms of reassuring him that his body is okay however it is, you can certainly show him this article on penis size if it's something he'd like to look at. Even if he doesn't want to see it, reading it yourself might help you understand some of the reasons your boyfriend is feeling worried.

You might also let him know that many boys his age haven't finished their physical development yet, so, while whatever size his penis is really is okay, it's also possible that his penis is not currently the size it will become for his adult life. It can, I think, be helpful for both of you to remember that your minds and bodies are still being impacted by the changes of puberty. Please understand, I am not trying to dismiss these concerns; just because things are likely going to change doesn't make them any less real or important now.

Sometimes I hear people express worry that it's not fair if one partner is getting "more" sexual activity than the other. What I tell them, and what I'd like to tell you, is that that's okay, if that is what everyone wants. It's not always going to work out that the people in a relationship like exactly the same things. It's also not always going to work out that both partners like giving and receiving the same things sexually; sometimes a person will prefer giving over receiving, or the other way around. They might enjoy giving in some situations or at some times, and receiving in other situations or at other times. Some people might prefer always to be the giving partner, or the receiving one. Sometimes it's not even a matter of liking or not liking something, but of having the physical ability to do it. There's really no one way that all partners interact sexually.

Giving and receiving isn't just about who is doing what to whom. A person who is performing a specific sexual activity, such as oral sex, on another person, may feel great physical and emotional satisfaction from doing so. They may feel perfectly happy in the experience of giving. So just because someone doesn't want us to give something to them sexually, doesn't mean that we have to then feel guilty and decide that we shouldn't receive anything since we're not "giving in return." For more on different ideas of what giving and receiving can look like, take a look at Reciprocity, Reloaded.

I know it can feel a little bit, or maybe a lot, like rejection when a partner tells us they don't want us to do something. It can sting to be said no to. As I talked about above, a partner saying no to something sexual is often more about how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking than about anything we've done or not done. A person saying "no" to one particular thing isn't usually rejecting the entire personhood of their partner. Take a look here for some more thoughts on understanding and handling rejection.

Being able to hear and handle rejection is just a part of interacting with other people, and hearing and accepting no from a partner is just a part of being "ready" for sex. If we're not able to hear a no from a partner, that's a pretty good sign that we're just not ready for the give-and-take that is a partnered sexual relationship, even though that give-and-take looks diferent for different people. Being ready for that give-and-take has little to do with age (though experience that comes with more years can be a factor), and more to do with being ready or willing at any specific time and with any specific person. Understand, I'm not trying to say that you don't want to listen to your partner; this is just one of the very many things to think about when considering sex with another person.

Related to the decision to engage in sexual activities with a partner, we hear the word “ready” a lot. With readiness for sex, people tend to look at readiness as something age-related, a tendency I think is narrow-minded. While there is something to this, it's often a lot more about being physically and emotionally ready to do, deal with, or be prepared for certain things.

What does being “ready” for sex look like? Take a look at our Sex Readiness Checklist.

There can sometimes be a big gap between having sexual feelings and wanting sexual experiences and having all the information and emotional tools to engage in partnered sexual activities with safeness and happiness. Should you decide, after reading the information here, that you don't, that's totally okay. I think that sometimes people feel as if once they've started to do sexual things with a partner, there's no going back. you can always, always choose not to engage in any type of sexual activity again for a while (or forever), even if you've already done it.

When we talk about being ready for sex, and feeling good about sex, a good part of that is being prepared, and not being too freaked out by the decisions that come with being sexually active and the work that goes into communicating with a sexual partner.

I'm also wondering about what you said about one thing leading to another. I imagine that's how it felt, but I think it is important to distinguish between letting things happen and intentionally making choices to let them happen. IN other words, while it didn't feel like it, I imagine you chose to have your boyfriend give you oral sex. If you didn't choose that, and it was something you weren't sure if you wanted but you weren't sure how to tell your boyfriend so, that's something very different. Being able to communicate what you do and don't want, and having a partner who is prepared to listen to you (and being prepared to listen to your partner) is a big part of happy, healthy sex, as big a part as who does what to whom.

From the way you're talking in your question, it does sound like this was something you wanted. So, you really can and need to own that as yours, and rather than looking at this as something that just happened, look at it as something that you and your boyfriend chose to do together. From where I sit, that's pretty cool; that you can have an experience that really felt good to you, with someone you care about, and that you now have the knowledge that it feels good and can choose whether you do or do not want to do it again.

We don't get to hear much about sex being something we choose. In movies and books it's portrayed as something that just happens, and when people talk about choosing things, they usually talk about choosing things like birth control and using condoms, and have a very black-and-white approach to the idea of choosing related to sex--that is, that we either choose to do it or choose not to do it. IN reality, there are many different types of sexual activities, different ways of being sexual with ourselves or with a partner, and every single thing we do sexually gets to be a choice. Just to be clear, when it is not a choice, the sex isn't sex any longer, but sexual assault.

Maybe you worded feeling like things "just happened" the way you did because you're afraid of people judging you for wanting that sexual activity, or for enjoying it.

I'm not going to judge you for what you and your boyfriend are doing. If it felt right to both of you, and you both enjoyed it, no one has any business telling you what decisions you can or can't make with your body. I should add here that, legally, depending on where you live, you may not be deemed able to consent to sex. Learning about whether that's an issue you need to be concerned about can be part of that preparedness I talked about earlier. I'm far more concerned about whether you're both enjoying yourselves, that you're both feeling physically and emotionally safe, and that neither one of you is feeling any pressure, either from each other, from yourselves, or from the people around you. When I talk about feeling pressure, I'm referring to things like feeling pressure to do or not do a certain activity, to feel a certain way about any activity,or to do it when it just doesn’t feel right for you.

It can be really easy, especially when it feels like sexual activity "just happened" without our thinking about it, to not actually think about what it is that we want from sex with a partner. The checklist I referred to above is a way to start thinking about whether you and your boyfriend both have what you need right now to be sexual with each other. It may be that your answers are different than his answers, and there's nothing wrong with that. It just means that the person who doesn't want to do something gets to decide whether that thing is done or not.
You both might also find it helpful to take a step back and think about what sexual activities you actually want to do. This list is full of different possibilities for sexual or relationship experiences. The idea is that you can say "yes" (I really want to do that), "no" (I really don't want to do that), or "maybe" (I might want to do that; or I might want to do that, but another time). You can either look at it by yourself, or with your boyfriend.

There are no right or wrong answers with these checklists. They're just tools that can help you figure out what you want.

When you ask if it's normal to start having intercourse at age 16 or 17, I'm not really sure what you're asking. Maybe you're asking whether what you've planned for yourself is okay or normal? If so, I'd say that it's perfectly okay to plan things that way, but to also give yourself a break as that time is many years away for you and a lot can change between now and then. It's hard to plan for something several years in the future.

Some people do have intercourse at that age, and really like it. Other people have intercourse at that age, but find that they don't really like it. Other people choose, for a variety of reasons, to start having intercourse at a younger age or at an older age. Some people never engage in intercourse at all in their lives. Sexual activity is so individual that it's really impossible to make big statements about what people do, or what is normal, or to make decisions on what we perceive other people do

With the question of age, as I mentioned above, there can be legal considerations when two people are engaging in sexual activities together. The laws around this vary a lot. Here’s where you can read more about that.

In short: What you want is okay; what your boyfriend wants is okay. So long as you listen to each other, and both do what feels right to yourselves and to each other, you'll be showing each other, and yourselves, the respect and care everyone deserves.

I hope you’ve found all this helpful, and not too too overwhelming. We’d be more than happy to talk over any of this with you at our message boards.

I’m leving you with a few more links.

written 13 Feb 2013 . updated 28 Jan 2014

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