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Lip Service: Cunnilingus for the Clueless

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Like a lot of sex acts, there's not a lot middle ground when it comes to cunnilingus: you either like licking pussy or you don't.

Some of those trepidations aren't due so much to preference as not wanting to look the idiot when a partner is hoping for a good time. Serenading your lover with a cheap harmonica rather than with a Stradivarius, so to speak.

If you don't want to look like you're auditioning for a jug band rather than the Met, there actually are some techniques you can use to increase your confidence. Like a lot of "make yourself dynamite in bed" tricks, these are hardly guaranteed, but they may help you get over your nerves - so maybe you won't blubber your lips like an idiot on your girlfriend's labia when next you go to kiss her between the thighs.

That brings something up that I always like to mention when it comes to sex and techniques, mainly that you can "give" someone an orgasm. The fact is that even the most skilled lover on the planet can't give anyone an orgasm - unless it's his own. You can work with a girlfriend, but in the end it's her mind with the help of your hands, lips, tongue that can result in some really good happy noises. Sex is sharing, a partnership - two people making beautiful music together. Share and share alike makes for the best approach to sex

PREPARE

Aficionados of cunnilingus often think that loving a woman's wine gives them super pussy-licking powers but liking something doesn't mean you're any good at it. You might groove on Bach or Beethoven or Brahms but that doesn't mean you can carry a tune. So even though you think you may know and have tried every little nibble, flicker, kiss, lick, suck, or blow, that doesn't mean you should close this issue with a satisfied smirk on your face. Even a maestro should learn to play more than one tune - and this metaphor draws a curtain on the music and cunnilingus parallel, by the way.

Anyone who wants to give cunnilingus a shot should scope out the territory. While it's absolutely true that every woman is different, there's still a basic similarity among all earth girls: labia majora (big lips, on the outside), labia minora (small lips, on the inside), urethra (near the top), vaginal orifice (pretty much dead center tilting upward), anus (at the bottom) and clitoris (at the very top). If you want to see a picture then just start flicking through these pages - more than likely you'll see what I mean.

Though it's true that the clit has been regretfully ignored - by men, obviously - for a long time, it's very important to realize that a woman is much more than that little man in the boat. The entire genital area can be very sensitive, a delightful erotic playground, for everyone concerned. Before parting those labia and burying your face between her thighs like someone trying to win a pussy-eating contest, take some time to actually look at her -- and where you're going to go.

In defense of the occasional man whose resistance to cunnilingus is fueled by ... well, shall we say "issues of fragrance" ... there is a simple solution. All kinds of things can affect a woman's smell and taste but all of this can pretty much be wiped away by a quick bath or even a few good swipeswith a washcloth. Guys should do the same. Who wants to put their face somewhere nasty - even while doing the nasty?

If your girlfriend is still nervous, keep in mind that a woman's body chemistry, and thus vaginal smell and taste, can definitely be affected by all kinds of things, such as her time of the month, natural-occurring bacteria but also by diet. The same way a man's semen can taste salty to bitter to sweet depending on what he had for dinner the night before, a women's pussy can be different if she ate such things as garlic or even certain vitamins. If there's a problem with smell and taste try suggesting a change in diet – it might be a good way for you both to enjoy your next genital meal as well.

By the way, a little cleanliness goes a long way on both sides of lovemaking. While women have gotten more than their fair share of heartbreak over cleanliness, you guys also have some cleaning up to do as well. Take a guy with a five o'clock shadow, some vigorous movements, a woman's inner thighs or labia and you get a recipe for severe irritation. Think about how you'd feel if a scruffy face foraged around amidst your privates. Not an appealing prospect, is it?

But there are other hygienic factors to consider as well. The rumors are true, that a mouth is much dirtier than a vagina. So before leaping between your lover's thighs keep in mind that your lunch and what remains of it on your teeth could adversely affect her. It's just polite, after all, when you want your lover to be conscientious to you in regards to brushing and washing for you to do the same.

STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN

As part of your looking at where you'll be going, use your fingers (and do I need to say gently?) to see exactly what's where. I don't mean a clinical examination, but rather a loving appreciation. Aside from the spread eagles in magazines and on vids, when's the last time you really took a good, long look at a pussy? They're quite pretty, you know: pinks and reds, tan and even purple sometimes. Georgia O'Keefe thought they were pretty enough to paint and hang on walls - and if you really think she was drawing flowers I have some beachfront property in Kansas you'll just love.

So look before you taste. But still don't just go leaping right after that oh-so-alluring clit. The clit is certainly a big ON button for a lot of women, but it's not the only way to get her motor started. Agreed, every woman's different - just as her pussy is unique - but that's even a greater reason to explore a bit. Does she like to be kissed? Does she like to have her lips touched, played with, and gently pulled? Does she like to have a slim finger eased into her? How about fingers - plural? Many women find a slow finger circling the anus to be fantastic. Others find it a turn off.

How will you know whether your efforts are working? Well - duh - ask! If you're nervous, just ask if there's anything she really likes or doesn't. Sure, it's tough to do, but believe me it's better than trying everything and hoping that something will work. This is, after all, about oral sex - and the best oral tool for pleasing a woman is to simply open your mouth and ask her.

But there's a lot more to communication that just words. Some women are just too shy to tell you what they want. Others may not have enough experience to know what pleases them. It's your job to take your listening skills to a whole new level. Simply listening to the sounds she's making – or not -- can tell a lot about how well you're being received, licking wise. Watch if she makes the sounds, or even moves, like she usually does when she's having a good time. If your girlfriend moves her hips, for instance, when she's happy and you're licking technique is eliciting the same that's a good sign -- and the same for moans, coos, sighs, hisses and other various 'happy' noises. Communication can mean words, but it can also mean body language and sounds.

THE SURGEON GENERAL RECOMMENDS

Prepare by understanding the risks involved. Yes, folks, it's time for the realities of sex in these perilous times. While the verdict is still out on HIV being transmitted through male (or female) to female oral sex, there's still the big bad (and even nastier) hepatitis C. Very easy to catch, hepatitis C can mean anything from a lifetime of living with a nasty, debilitating illness to ending up on a new-liver transplant list.

Not quite as bad, herpes can easily be very easily passed from licker to lickee or vice versa. The especially unfortunate news is that herpes can be transmitted even without a visible cold sore, though when a sore is present the transmission rate is much higher. Herpes may not be fatal but it's definitely not fun. The sores can be painful, especially on the genitals, and the worst news is that is no cure: herpes is a friend, or pain in the ass, for the rest if your life.

Luckily, the usual precautions for hepatitis and herpes will also work against most other Sexually Transmitted Conditions like HIV, gonorrhea, and other nasty bugs. One of the best is the barrier method, using plastic wrap between mouth and vagina. It might look silly, wrapping your partner in clear-cling, but it'll keep any potential microscopic troublemakers away when you're sharing that most intimate of kisses.

The best prevention, though, is information. Use your brain as well as your genitals, or mouth, during sex. In short, be picky about who you go down on. Sex is about trust as well as sharing: how can you have a good time when you don't feel safe with someone? For your own piece of mind, get tested for HIV, hep-C and herpes. If you don't know your partner's health status, then treat them as if they were positive for everything. If you want to know more about sexually transmitted conditions and safer sex, check out San Francisco Sex Information (www.sfsi.org) or Hep-C alert (www.hep-c-alert.org).

This all might sound a bit alarmist, but it's a lot better than living with a lifetime of discomfort, or even not living at all. Play safe, play smart and be around long enough to play a lot.

DIVING IN

Back to between the legs ... after you've taken a good -- but more importantly an appreciative -- look at your partner's pussy, found out all you can about her, and paid attention to what she's saying (spoken or not), then you can get to it.

Cunnilingus is kin to a good French kiss. Think about that for a moment. When you're locked in a passionate embrace, you're not just tongue dancing – there are lips as well as other fun mouth bits involved. The same should be true when licking your lover. You don't want to be a sloppy lapper, but think of what you're doing as giving your girl a real good Frenchie between the legs. Thinking of cunnilingus as a chore or something to 'do' to your girl will do nothing but frustrate her and put you in the doghouse. Like a kiss, cunnilingus should be something you do together to stoke your fires. Start slowly, start playfully, and even laugh a lot.

Depending on your girl, leaping right in is not always the best way to go. Even if things are especially hot and heavy, approaching the clit can sometimes be a bit too intense for her.

Start by gently parting her labia so you know what's where. This is where an appreciative eye comes in: look at her colors, the size of her clit, the shape of those lips. Men so often want to get their dicks in there they never realize how pretty, and sexy, a woman's genitalia can be.

Run your fingers and tongue along the majora and minora, or even gently insert a finger into the vaginal opening and circle the inner muscle. Feel how smooth and hot she is? Some women will start to lubricate very early, while others need a bit more time and/or stimulus. You can also sometimes see the muscles of the vagina contract and release as you touch and lick. It's quite an erotic sight.

After you've used your eyes and fingers to explore the genital contours of your lover, it's time for a kiss. Try licking around, above, or below the clit, applying some gentle pressure and pushing with your tongue rather than lapping in weak, flaccid strokes.

When it comes time to approach the clit, one of the most important things to remember is consistency. An erratic, spasmodic approach will usually get you nothing but a smack across the top of the head. Breaking up your licking into slow and fast 'spurts' is a good idea, if anything to avoid monotony, but if you're jumping all over the place, rate-wise as well as location-wise, you're not going to give your lady a chance to focus enough to orgasm. It's a good idea to develop a comfortable frequency (fast, hard licks for instance) followed by a low period (where you can breathe and rest your tongue). Listen to your partner's responses, sticking with a rhythm that works for both of you.

Like with your dick, stiffness is also important. Few women like to have a warm, soft, slab dragged across their clits. Keep your tongue firm and tight - like a fingertip - as you flick across and around the clit. Moisture usually isn't much of a problem, but there's definitely an art to keeping her clit moist but not too wet. A few strategic swallows can do wonders for a balance between the two.

Speaking of fingers, don't feel that you have to completely depend on tongue power. If you find yourself getting tired, needing a bit of a break, or simply to see where the hell you're licking, pulling away for a bit and using your finger or a sex toy is perfectly okay. Being comfortable and engaged in the experience is key to both of you having a good time. Besides, you don't have to be a cunnilingus purist: licking your lover should be just one of all kinds of things to try and do together. Rather than just licking and licking and licking till you both get bored, try mixing and matching other kinds of sex play. Like men, a lot of women can't orgasm from oral sex - no matter if you're an Olympic-level licker. That doesn't mean they don't enjoy it, it just means that they might need an extra hand, finger, or vibrator to help them peak. This is where we get back to communication. Be flexible and responsive to what you both need to have a good time. Talk, play, and experiment. Find out what works for you, what works for her or what works when.

A WORD ABOUT PATIENCE AND PACING

For folks who might be nervous about their role in 'pleasing' their partner, it's very important to remember that you're just a helper. You can't make someone come: orgasms come from within, not from without. No matter how hard you work or how good you are you can never make someone have an orgasm. You can make it easier for them, add sensations, erotic play, all kinds of other great stuff, but in the end it all comes from between the ears - both yours and hers. So don't tie yourself in knots if something doesn't work, or doesn't work as planned: you're both only responsible for your own comes - the rest is just the wonderful, sexual ride you take together.

Also keep in mind that sex is practice, finding something you both like. It might not come the first time or even the second, but if you take a deep breath and relax, you'll be surprised by how good things can get for everyone involved. Confidence can come from success but it can also coming from realizing the contest was only in your mind. It isn't about winning and losing, pleasing or not, but just having a damned good time.

This is a good time to return to our original musical metaphor. Though learning to play is important, and knowing one end of your instrument from the other, it's even more important to realize the ultimate goal is not to be the best but to feel good about yourself. So take some of these techniques, try them out, and remember that it's not the instrument, or the song (or person) being played but all of them, together, that combines to make beautiful music.

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