It’s something of an open secret that many women don’t enjoy receiving oral sex. It's common to get bogged down with body shame and self consciousness and it can be hard to relax and let go enough to enjoy yourself. I had one partner who was so nervous about smelling bad she insisted on having a shower right before any sexual play. While I wish she’d been more comfortable and confident, that’s actually a great idea. You can’t be too clean when mouths are involved, and a shower can serve as sexy foreplay.

Not only are showers relaxing, they can help you feel confident that you're perfectly fresh for your partner. Why not take a shower together? Soaping each other up is a wonderful way to explore each other's bodies and maybe even talk about areas you like to have touched and ones you would prefer be avoided.

When it comes to cunnilingus itself, the receiver may still be in danger of getting lost in their own head. Many people worry if their partner is enjoying going down on them or they may feel guilty about how long they take to orgasm (or maybe they don’t orgasm from oral sex at all).

Here are a few ways to combat the wandering mind and start enjoying oral:

Focus on Sensation

Try to silence the voices in your head and just concentrate on what you’re feeling. Pinpoint one sensation at a time and focus on it. This is a great way to ground yourself in your body and experience pleasure to its fullest. If you still can’t come from oral, or if it takes a long time, that’s okay too. Just communicate with your partner. Sexual activities don’t need to be goal-oriented or necessarily lead to orgasm. See if you can simply enjoy the sensations and the intimate contact with your partner as it unfolds, without worrying about where it leads.

Be Playful

If you’re nervous about time, try turning oral sex into a game. Set a time limit and when it expires, move on to another activity, rather than continuing and attempting to achieve orgasm. Sometimes knowing a sensation is going to stop soon makes it more pleasurable or intense. Another game you can play with yourself or with a partner is one in which the point is NOT to come. Like a pot of water that won't boil while you're watching it, we sometimes get so focused on trying to come that our orgasm becomes elusive. So reverse things. See if you can hold out and endure everything your partner does to you without coming. You might just find your orgasm sneaking up on you.

Try Giving Up Control

Being "forced" to endure oral sex works on the same principles as the games above. If you and your partner are comfortable with a little light bondage, try having your hands tied and anchored to the bed. This perceived helplessness takes some of your responsibility away. The activity then becomes about letting your partner do what they want to you while you just sit back and enjoy - whether you want to or not. (Read more about the sexiness of getting tied up in our article, Why Bondage Can Be So Much Fun).

Communication and Practice

It’s important to remember that all bodies are different. What works for one person may not work for another. Some women have a very sensitive clitoris and direct stimulation may need to be very gentle. It’s also possible that direct stimulation will never be comfortable. On the other hand, some women require a great deal of stimulation, possibly more than their partner's lips and tongue can provide. It’s essential to communicate with your partner about what you like. The ability to give and receive this kind of feedback gracefully is vital to ensuring that both parties feel comfortable with such vulnerability.

Experiment with Toys

You haven’t "failed" at oral sex if you need assistance from a toy or two. If the goal is shared pleasure and connection, why should it matter how you get there? Some women really enjoy penetration along with oral sex. There are various toys that can help with this and that offer greater depth and flexibility than can be achieved with your fingers. A wand designed for g-spot stimulation is a great companion to oral sex. As for clitoral stimulation, try changing things up a little. Vary the sensations provided by alternating between your tongue and fingers, and a vibrator. (To help you choose the best toy to supplement oral sex, check out 10 Basic Sex Toys You Should Know and Try).

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Use Protection

Worried about STIs? That fear can also make it impossible to relax and enjoy - for both parties. Dental dams get a bad rap, but once you get the hang of them they’re surprisingly simple to use and they can put everyone’s mind at ease. They don't decrease sensation as much as you might think. Just like with condoms, applying some lube between the body and the barrier helps increase sensation. For the person performing oral, a little flavored lube might be welcomed also.

Pro tip: worried about forgetting which side of the dam is which, especially if you take a little break for another activity? Write your name, or "mine," or whatever phrase turns you on, on the side that’s facing you and you’ll know right away if it’s backwards.

If You Don't Like It, Don't Do It

Last but not least, cunnilingus simply isn’t for everyone. If you don’t like giving it - or receiving it - that’s okay. There are many other ways to create intimate connections with a partner, or to reach orgasm if that’s your goal. This is all about pleasure. If you don’t enjoy something, don’t do it.