Is oral sex natural, and do only people do it?

Is blow job (oral sex) a natural thing? Because normally except human beings, none of the animals on the planet have been captured doing that. Is it just erotic by this porn world?
Heather Corinna replies:

Actually, that's not true about animals. But I'm glad you brought it up, because these are some of my favorite kinds of questions.

We can find groups of animals engaging in almost any kind of behavior we find human beings engaging in.

When it comes to oral sex -- be that with a partner or done by and to the self -- apparently it's a practice which has been observed among goats, chimpanzees (including bonobos, a species in which homosexual and bisexual behavior has also commonly been observed, and a species who also shares around 98% of our own genetic makeup), a few different types of monkeys, hyaenas and sheep, to name a few. People often have the idea that any species other than human beings only engages in sex for the purposes of reproduction, but zoologists know that to be patently false: just like people, many species of animals also engage in sex for pleasure, comfort and/or social bonding. If you're anywhere near New York, the Museum of Sex even has a current exhibit called "The Sex Lives of Animals" all about this topic and this common misunderstanding.

The term "natural" is often a slippery one, especially if you're suggesting that something is only natural if it isn't learned or coached by someone else. For instance, we can safely say language and other forms of communication are natural -- that the instinct to communicate is natural -- and that the development of languages has certainly been organic, but language and communication are also learned behaviors. But if, by natural, you mean that a species has the inclination to do something pretty intuitively, then yes, we can pretty safely presume that oral sex is natural in that way. After all, someone had to think of it or discover it first at some point: it's not like a huge computer screen fell from the sky thousands of years ago with an image of oral sex. For most of human history, as far as we can tell, people have used their genitals, hands and mouths to explore sexual pleasure and the people they are close to.

It's pretty easy to make sense of that if you just observe very small kids, who basically figure the whole world out for a phase in their development by putting pretty much anything they can get their hands on into their mouths. Not only does no one teach them to do that, parents terrified their kids are going to choke to death or poison themselves will usually drive themselves batty trying to get infants and toddlers to STOP doing that. And yet, that inclination and determination to taste the whole world continues in spite of all the poor, tired parents doggedly chasing their kids around telling them not to stick things in their mouths.

In other words, the desire to explore something with our mouths is very easy to observe as an intuitive and natural impulse.

Oral sex certainly occurred long before 20th or 21st century porn, or the advent of anything we identify as pornography. We can find references to oral sex -- and other kinds of sex -- in ancient India, China, Japan, Greece, Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia and other areas. In some areas or periods of human history, oral sex is documented as something taboo or disdainful, in others as something revered and pleasurable, and in others still, without any or a whole lot of value judgment at all. We've got no reason to believe that oral sex is something people have only learned to do via pornography than we do people have only learned about intercourse through pornography, or grooming via modern advertising.

The technical term we currently use for oral sex on penises (blowjobs), fellatio, itself dates back to the late 1800's. The slang term "going down on," is apparently from around the turn of the last century. The term "blowjob" was first recorded in the early 1960's, but dates a little further back than that in common use. The term "giving head" was popularized in the 1950's. Oral sex also isn't just about fellatio for people with penises. Oral sex can be -- and has been for a long, long time -- receptive for people with vulvas too: the technical term we currently use for that, cunnilingus, also dates back to the late 1800's. As well, another form of oral sex, analingus -- sexual stimulation of the anus by the mouth -- is also a practice we can be sure existed before anything close to just recently.

Of course, whether oral sex came about thousands of years ago or yesterday, whether animals do it or not, there have always been and remain personal preferences in the matter, and whether or not you engage in or enjoy oral sex is totally your call.

Just because it isn't some newfangled invention, just because animals do it too, doesn't mean you or anyone else should feel they have to have oral sex if that isn't what you want. As well, even if it didn't come unto the scene until yesterday, and if no one else in the world did it, if it felt good for you to do, it'd be just fine if you chose to do it. So, if you're not asking this out of curiosity, but because you feel like whether it's natural or not should inform your choices, I'd encourage you to just put what you want to do, enjoy doing, and what any partners you have enjoy as well above history or anthropology. Some of my ancestors were meat-eaters (I'm not making a vague reference to oral sex -- I'm talking about being carnivorous, literally), but I prefer not to eat meat myself. What worked for them or felt okay for them doesn't for me. None of my ancestors used the kind of machine I'm answering your question with, but I find it to be an incredibly useful tool, natural or no: that's also just fine. Somebody discovered fire at some point when no one had before, and everyone had decided it couldn't be used because it didn't seem natural or hadn't been done before, we'd be living in a very, very different world than we are now. Point is, natural or manufactured, old or new, you get to decide what does and doesn't work for you, what you are and are not comfortable with, what you do and don't like.

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