You might have heard of the wage gap or the gender gap in corporate leadership, but one injustice women face that you don't always hear about is the oral sex gap. There are many reasons men receive over twice as much oral sex as women (according to a study inThe Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality), one of them being men like DJ Khaled who refuse to go down on women yet believe women owe them oral sex. Another reason, though, is that even when they have willing partners, many women feel uneasy about having all the attention on them.
A lot of this uneasiness comes from guilt over taking up space and time, while a lot of it also boils down to body shame. "One of the things that can make it so difficult to receive oral sex is because we’re uncomfortable with or unsure about our bodies/vulvae and, in turn, worried about what our partner is thinking or judging us about," sex educator Anne Hodder-Shipp, ACS, tells Bustle.
Of course, if oral sex isn't your thing, there's no need to have it. But if you'd like to enjoy oral sex but have some emotional blockages, don't give up. Here are some ways to reduce self-consciousness around receiving oral sex.
Look At Your Genitals
"The more familiarity you can develop with your own body, the better you'll feel about sharing your body with a trusted partner," Marin explains.
To get more comfortable with your genitals, Marin recommends looking at them in the mirror and touching them in the shower, after you use the bathroom, and whenever else you have the opportunity.
When you look at your genitals, some uncomfortable feelings might come up. "See if you can sit with those feelings without immediately closing your legs or throwing the mirror across the room," Hodder-Shipp says. "The more you do it, the more comfortable and familiar your body and vulva will become…and you’ll notice that the feeling of self-consciousness will fade and have less power."
Remember Your Partner Wants This
A lot of people are afraid they're being imposing or subjecting their partners to something they don't really want to do by receiving oral sex. But if your partner is choosing to go down on you, it's because they enjoy it.
"It’s important to remember that if someone is voluntarily going down on you, that means they want to be between your legs and they want to give you pleasure," Hodder-Shipp says. "So, any anxieties popping into your head about whether or not they’re having a good time or if they think your vulva looks weird (or whatever) are simply that — fears that feel like truth but aren’t. Trust that if your partner is going down on you, it’s because they want to."
Learn What Vulvas Really Look Like
If you're insecure about your vulva, it may be because the only images you've seen have been from porn, where a disproportionate number of women have small labia and no pubic hair. But if you look different, you're still normal.
"Remember that no two vulvas look exactly alike and there is no scientific or medical definition of a 'normal' vulva shape," Hodder-Shipp says. "The way your vulva is put together is literally how it’s supposed to look; it’s uniquely yours, just like your feet, face, and butt, so there isn’t much point wishing it was different."
To help you understand that vulvas really do come in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures, and colors, Hodder-Shipp recommends to look at the work of artists like Laura Dodsworth or Suzanna Scott or body-pos Instagram accounts like @the.vulva.gallery.
Get Comfortable Receiving Attention In Other Areas
"Oftentimes, the skills and experiences we desire in the bedroom need to be cultivated in lower-pressure environments to begin with," Astroglide's resident sexologist Dr. Jess O'Reilly, tells Bustle.
So, if you struggle with being the center of attention in the bedroom, see if you can put yourself in the spotlight in your everyday life. A few ways to do that are to accept compliments graciously, accept offers for help, and relishing displays of affection from your partner.
Dr. Jess also recommends a "YES and NO activity" where you say "no" to one or two things you usually say "yes" to out of guilt and say "yes" to one or two things you usually say "no" to out of guilt. "Being honest about your boundaries and needs can be empowering and with time these communication skills will begin to arise, naturally translating into greater satisfaction in and out of the bedroom," she says.
And, perhaps most importantly, discuss your discomfort and the steps you're taking to combat it with your partner. Just having the reassurance that they support you and love pleasing you can go a long way.