How To Talk To Your Partner If They Won't Go Down On You

by Emma McGowan
BDG Media, Inc.

We need to talk about oral sex. Specifically, we need to talk about this nonsense DJ Khaled put out into the world about how he refuses to go down on his wife, even though he expects her to get down there on him. In case you missed it, I’m talking about an interview from 2015 that went viral this weekend, in which DJ Khaled not only says "I don't do that,” in regards to going down on his wife but also "There's different rules for men. We the king ... There's some things that y'all might not want to do but it gotta get done, you know what I'm saying? I just can't do what you want me to do. I just can't."

I just… I can’t… Really dude? What year is this? I remember having this conversation with male friends when we are all teenagers and being like nope. But at least those guys had the excuse of being 17 years old. Like, if your wife doesn’t like oral sex, that’s one thing. Plenty of people of all genders (yes, men included) aren’t into receiving oral sex. But simply refusing to go down because you’re the “king” is some vaginaphobic, sexist BS.

But I’ve heard through the grapevine that this isn’t just a problem for DJ Khaled and his wife. Unfortunately, there are many grown-ass humans (and while there are no studies on this, I’m going to guess that they trend toward the straight, cisgender male side of the population…) who refuse to give oral sex to their partners, but expect it to be done to them. So, for people in the “boo refuses to get down” camp, I spoke with some sex educators and therapists about how to have a conversation with a partner who’s not into oral. Here’s what they told me.


Find Out The Reason

"If your partner refuses to do something that is pleasurable to you, ask about it," Sarah Watson, licensed professional counselor and sex therapist, tells Bustle. "Find out what is the emotional reason behind it. If it's not emotional and its just because 'I don't want to,' time to consider what that means for your relationship. Are they only willing to seek out pleasure for themselves? Does this come up in any other area of the relationship? If so, evaluate what that means for you. Maybe it means leaving, couples therapy, or something else."

Rachel Hoffman, LCSW, Sex Therapist at the Long Island Institute of Sex Therapy, agrees. "Ultimately, the conversation needs to take place and you need to be honest if it is something that you want/need to experience an orgasm," Hoffman tells Bustle. "Three quarters of women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm. That is why many women prefer oral sex to penetration. Perhaps you need to educate your partner for them to understand. If a partner is 'not willing' to go down on you and that is how you experience pleasure, then how much do they really care about your pleasure?"


Ask Them If There's Something They're Interested In Trying

"Over a date night you can say to your partner, 'Is there anything you're interested in trying sexually that we haven't tried yet?'" Hoffman says. "They will probably ask you in return. You can say, 'I know you are not particularly interested in oral sex but it really is how I experience the most pleasure. I'm just curious what bothers you about it?' This is a casual way to bring in the topic without attacking your partner."


Do A Worksheet Together

"Another option is to use the Sexapalooza worksheet," Hoffman says. "I have many of my couples fill it out. It helps with conversations about sexuality. You can tell your partner that some of your friends filled it out and that they enjoyed it (as a starting point). The worksheet has a list of language and sexually related actions. You can write the stuff that you enjoy and don't enjoy."


Focus On Your Why

"Why do you want them to go down you?" Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast, tells Bustle. "How does it make you feel? Do you feel loved, sexy, appreciated, connected or fulfilled? Describe how oral sex makes you feel — physically, emotional and relationally."


Offer Compliments Instead Of Complaints

"Tell them exactly what makes them a great lover, so that requests aren’t interpreted as shortcomings," Dr. Jess says. "If you only talk about sex when something is wrong or missing, neither of you will look forward to the conversation. Instead, make sexual communication part of your regular routine so that you can discuss what’s going well, what you want more of, and what you might do to improve."


Be Open To Their Needs And Boundaries

"If they don’t like doing something, they certainly don’t have to do it," Dr. Jess says. "You want your partner to be enthusiastic about all sex acts in which you engage. If, however, their refusal is rooted in sexism and privilege, you may want to reconsider whether or not you’re compatible."


Ask For It

"There is a lot of stigma around oral sex on vulvas, so if one is involved the conversation can be that much harder," Crista Anne, sex educator and member of the Advisory Council of the Effing Foundation for Sex-Positivity, tells Bustle. "Asking for what you want sexually is a skill that is constantly being refined, even as a sexuality professional I can and do stumble around these conversations in my personal life. The best advice I have is to acknowledge the difficulty of the topic to yourself, cut yourself some slack in having it — stumbling on words or feeling embarrassed happens to everyone —and go in knowing that it often gets easier as the conversation goes on. Broaching the topic is often the hardest part."

Not being willing to go down is an early warning sign that your new partner is not very concerned about your pleasure. Depending on the gender dynamics of your relationships, it may also be a sign that they’re holding some deep misogynistic beliefs. Maya Angelou famously said “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” So if your partner shows you who they are by refusing to go down, get out quick — or decide whether it’s worth it to invest some serious emotional labor.