Women and Oral Sex

"It's a myth that young women aren't hungry for sexual pleasure for themselves," says Felice Newman, author of The Whole Lesbian Sex Book (Cleis Press, 1999). "Once young women feel more empowered to get their sexual needs met, more men are going to have to start going down on their partners, because that's the only way they're going to get any action," she adds.

If you're still waiting for your boyfriend to take the plunge, we've got some advice on how to help things along.

Communicate Your Desires "Sex can be about love and intimacy, and sex can be about fun, but it's not going to be about either if each partner is withholding information," says Newman.

Men are not mind readers, and they're not vibrators, either (you can't just flip a switch and expect them to go faster or slower). Good sex happens when you learn to communicate your desires to your partner. That means telling your partner in a loving way that you'd like him to touch you in a certain way, in a certain place, etc.

Guys don't deserve all the blame for the paucity of cunnilingus (aka "going down"). Many women have outdated notions of what "nice girls" do or are hung up on personal hygiene issues. Two of the biggies are:

1. Do I look normal down there? Men grow up comparing themselves in locker rooms. Women's sex organs, concealed between their legs rather than hanging down between them, aren't on display in the same way. As a result, it's easy to think that your private parts are overly wrinkled, hairy, whatever. One of the best ways to get over this discomfort is to realize that the external genitalia come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Realize that many guys don't even know what a vagina is supposed to look like. Most people, male or female, rarely take the time to inspect their partner's genitalia in detail.

2. Do I smell or taste funny? The odor of a normal, healthy vagina has been unfairly portrayed in moronic jokes. The feminine hygiene industry, which has a vested interest in women thinking that their vaginas should smell like potpourri, doesn't help boost self-esteem in this area, either. The truth is that the vagina is a self-cleaning organ, particularly during sexual arousal, when it secretes a clear fluid (nature's own "lube"). For many men, a woman's natural smell is a very powerful aphrodisiac (it can actually make him even more aroused).

Still squeamish? If you must be squeaky clean to enjoy the moment, take a shower before sex. If time is of the essence, a quick once-over with a warm, soapy washcloth should do the trick. Other creative ideas include keeping a handy wipe or two by the bed; they're not just useful at barbecue restaurants.

Obligatory Buzz Kill While you can't get pregnant during cunnilingus, there is a risk of STDs, including genital herpes and warts. During menstruation, there is an increased risk of transmitting HIV if the woman is HIV positive. A barrier method of protection (such as a dental dam or square piece of latex) is recommended for any sexual encounter, oral or otherwise, to prevent transmission.