How To Give A Blow Job Without Triggering Your Gag Reflex, According To A Sex Educator

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In this week's Sex IDK column, Emma McGowan, certified sex educator and writer, answers your questions about giving oral sex if you have a sensitive gag reflex.

Q: I have a very bad gag reflex and it makes me self-conscious giving blow jobs. My boyfriend is very supportive, but is there any remedy for this?

I love this question — for fully selfish reasons. The very first sex question I ever researched was how to give a blow job. The questioners were my two best friends and we were freshmen in high school. I had no idea how to give a blow job, having never given one myself, but I didn’t want my friends to know that I wasn’t as experienced as they thought I was. So I went to the library and researched it!

I can’t remember exactly what I told them, but I’m sure my advice was… Not great. There’s only so much a girl can glean from sex scenes in novels and clinical descriptions of fellatio. But don’t worry — nearly 20 years later, I’m much more qualified to answer your question, both from personal experience and because I’m now a trained sex educator!

First of all, you might not even have a “bad” gag reflex. Are you trying to get his penis all the way down your throat (aka, deep throat) every time you give your boyfriend head? Because that could be the issue in and of itself. Please, please, please don’t feel obligated to deep throat. If it’s something that you think will be pleasurable for you — and deriving pleasure from your partner’s pleasure absolutely counts — then by all means, work on that gag reflex! But blow jobs do not require deep throating, despite what you may have seen in porn. Truly excellent blow jobs can be given and received without a penis going anywhere near the back of the throat.

That said, deep throating isn't the only kind of blow job that can trigger a person’s gag reflex. So let’s take a look at couple other techniques for giving head that won't lead to that icky gagging feeling.

1. Breathe

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If your mouth is full of penis, then you have to breathe through your nose. I know that sounds super obvious, but sometimes we get so focused on the oral sex part of things that we forget about the breathing part. So always make sure that you’re taking deep breaths through your nose when you’re giving head. It will help you stay calm, and also relax your throat so that your gag reflex is less likely to be triggered.

2. Practice On Something Else

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You might be feeling a lot of pressure to get it “right” when you’re actually going down on someone, so why not practice in a low pressure environment? Head to your local sex-positive sex shop (or to Unbound, my favorite online sex shop) and get yourself a dildo. Then, practice! You can test your gag reflex and push it a little further without the fear that you’re going to throw up on your boyfriend’s penis. It might feel a little bit silly to practice on your own, but there's nothing embarrassing about it. Just like any other activity you want to become better at, practice makes perfect when you're giving head.

If dildos are out of reach financially, certain fruits and veggies— like cucumbers, for example, although you might want to start with the Persian ones — can be a good substitute. (Also, don't forget to wash them!)

And if all you want to work on is your gag reflex, and you’re feeling good about the rest of your technique, fingers work in a pinch. Put a (clean!) finger or two into your mouth and see how far you can get until your gag reflex is triggered. Hold your finger at that point for as long as you can. As you get used to the sensation, add in some movement to better simulate a blow job.

3. Use Your Hands

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Sometimes people think that a blow job is just bobbing your head up and down like, “Look, no hands!” But hands are a great part of a blow job! Not only do they help you control how deeply the penis penetrates your mouth, but they also can provide extra stimulation.

Don’t be shy about using a lot of spit — like really get everything lubed up — and stroke your fist in time with your mouth. Focus your mouth on the head of the penis (which has more nerves than the rest of it) and when your mouth needs a break, use just your hands for a while. With all of that spit and sensation, you get a break when you need it and your partner gets a great blow job with a sloppy hand job assist.

4. Switch Up Your Position

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Probably the most common position for blow jobs is the person with a penis on their back, while their partner leans between or on either side of their legs. And while there are a lot of pros to this position — like being more stable and better able to control depth of penetration — it’s not ideal for sensitive gag reflexes. That’s because it puts your throat at an angle, which means your partner’s penis is more likely to hit your throat and trigger you gag reflex. Same goes for giving head on your knees.

Believe it or not, the best blow job angle for not triggering the gag reflex is lying on your back with your head hanging over the edge of a bed. This creates a straight line from your lips down your throat, which makes it less likely that your throat will get poked and your gag reflex triggered. Obviously there are drawbacks to this position — like the fact that all of your blood is going to rush to your head pretty quickly — but if we’re just talking gag reflex, then this is the way to go.

Like all things, practice makes perfect when it comes to giving gag-free blow jobs. If you're into it, go for it! And, bonus: This is one of those times in life when the journey is just as fun as the destination.

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