Updated: AUGUST 29, 2023
Reviewed by Dr. Laura McGuire
on August 10, 2023

Fellatio is oral sex performed on a penis. The word comes from the Latin term "fellatus" which means "to suck."

The History of Fellatio

People have practiced and celebrated fellatio in art and texts for thousands of years. There are references to fellatio in works from ancient Egypt, Rome and Peru. However, until recently, fellatio was fairly taboo for heterosexual couples in the Western world. In Medieval England, fellatio was even banned as it didn’t lead to children. In the early 1900s, it fell under the banner of “unnatural acts” in American legal texts. These works suggested the practice was mostly for gay men. In the 1919 book “Sexual Truth Versus Sexual Lies, Misconceptions, and Exaggerations” William Josephus wrote that fellatio was “very common in the less worthy marriages.” In the 1950s, almost every American state outlawed the practice under their anti-sodomy laws.

While fellatio became more common in the 1960s with the era of free love, it was still rarely spoken about in the mainstream until the 1990s. It took until 1994 for many states to overturn anti-sodomy laws. Today, fellatio has become a common form of sexual expression.

“The shift in society's attitudes towards fellatio is largely due to a greater openness and understanding about sexual practices,” explained Angelica Jackson, a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate and sex therapist who founded Denver Couples & Sex Therapy. “The influence of media, education, and increased conversations about sexual health and consent have helped normalize such activities. Moreover, a shift away from traditionally puritanical views towards a more comprehensive understanding of human sexuality has also contributed to this change.”

How Give Fellatio

To perform fellatio, the giving partner uses their mouth to stimulate the receiving partner’s penis. They may suck, lick, or even gently bite the penis. They may also use their mouth to pleasure their partner’s testicles. The oral stimulation of fellatio may bring the receiving partner to orgasm.

People can practice fellatio as foreplay or as a replacement for intercourse. Some people who are abstaining from intercourse may practice fellatio instead to enjoy their partner while preventing pregnancy or preserving their technical virginity. Fellatio can also be a good option when people prefer not to have intercourse, such as when they’re getting to know a new partner, while they're menstruating, or in the last few weeks of pregnancy, when penetrative sex can become uncomfortable.

Fellatio is a relatively formal term. There are many slang terms for fellatio that are more commonly used in conversation including a blow job, or BJ for short, and the gender-neutral term "head." Many less-common synonyms exist as well.

Synonyms and Slang Terms for Fellatio

  • Blow job or BJ or "beej"
  • Giving or getting head
  • Oral sex (although this can refer to pleasuring someone with a vulva as well)
  • Cock sucking or dick sucking
  • Giving a hummer
  • Dome
  • Gobby
  • Giving or getting brain
  • Playing the skin flute
  • Giving or getting a gobby

More About Fellatio

Understanding more about fellatio, including its variations and techniques, can help people enjoy giving and receiving this sex act more. Experimenting with fellatio can be an excellent way to deepen a connection with a partner and spice up sex.

Variations of Fellatio

Trying different variations of fellatio is one way to experiment with this type of oral sex. Common variations include:

  • Autofellatio: Someone performs oral sex on their own penis.
  • Deep-throating: The giving partner takes the receiving partner’s whole penis in their mouth and down their throat.
  • Cock worship: The giving partner celebrates the penis through fellatio, words of affirmation, hand jobs and other positive affirmation.
  • Skull fucking: The receiving partner takes control by grabbing the giving partner’s head and forcing their penis inside their partner’s mouth.
  • Double blowjob: Two giving partners perform fellatio on a shared receiving partner’s penis.
  • Grapefruit blowjob: The giving partner threads a ring of grapefruit onto the receiving partner’s penis, then performs fellatio with the fruit in place.
  • Face-sitting: The receiving partner sits on the giving partner’s face while they perform fellatio.
  • 69: The giving partner receives oral sex (either cunnilingus or fellatio) from the receiving partner while they perform fellatio on them.

How to Give Good Fellatio

As with all sex acts, communicating with a partner can make fellatio better. Discussing likes and dislikes before fellatio starts can guide the giving partner in the right direction. This preliminary discussion is also the perfect time to discuss consent for fellatio and acts associated with it, such as cumming in the giving partner’s mouth.

The best communication is ongoing. The receiving partner might tell the giving partner when they’re doing something right and gently guide them towards techniques that might feel better. Partners can also debrief after fellatio to discuss how the experience felt, what they loved, and anything they might like to try next time.

Understanding the penis can also improve fellatio. The head and frenulum are the most sensitive parts of the penis, so it makes sense to focus on them. Generally blow jobs feel better when the giving partner keeps their tongue soft and loose, although a few tongue flicks can add variety.

Watching someone enjoying performing fellatio can be a real turn-on, while watching someone that seems bored or reluctant can be a turn-off. Giving partners can enhance the experience for the receiving partner by being enthusiastic.

Giving partners can take their fellatio to the next level by using their hands while they pleasure the penis. They might stroke the penis or cup and manipulate the testicles, for example. They can also caress any other part of the body they can reach, such as the stomach, nipples, or legs.

As with intercourse, fellatio is better with lubrication. Spitting on the penis can increase lubrication, but a high-quality lubricant is recommended.

How to Enjoy Fellatio

Fellatio is more enjoyable for the giving partner when the receiving partner is clean. Feeling clean can also help the receiving partner relax and enjoy the experience. Showering or bathing together can be a sensual way to practice good hygiene before fellatio.

Giving partners can also pleasure themselves while they’re performing fellatio to enhance the experience. They might masturbate by using their hands or sex toys on themselves. Depending on your position, however, the giver may find that their hands are otherwise occupied giving fellatio. This can make hands-free toys, like cock rings, penis vibrators, clitoris vibrators, and butt plugs, a frequent choice for oral sex givers.

Using sex toys on the oral sex receiver can also make it more enjoyable to give fellatio. By partnering up with a sex toy, the giver can add additional sensation for the receiver. Simultaneously, the giver can swap out with the sex toy to give their mouth and hand a break, allowing the giver to continually provide stimulation without tiring their hands and jaw. If the giver is simply done with giving fellatio for the day, the sex toy can be a simple way to help the receiver achieve orgasm while respecting the giver's boundaries.

Providing an alternative method to get the receiver to orgasm can remove any pressure on the giver to continue giving fellatio past the point of comfort - and often-cited frustration by givers of fellatio.

Specific sex toys, like the VeDO Grip, Arcwave Voy, or b Swish BHandy are crafted specifically for fellatio. Their short length allows them to be used on the base and shaft while a partner is still providing oral sex at the tip. The giver uses shorter strokes of the sex toy while simultaneously providing oral sex, but they can seamlessly swap to long strokes of the sex toy without interrupting fellatio when they need to remove their mouth.

How to Deal with Gag Reflex

People with a sensitive gag reflex can find performing fellatio challenging. Repressing this reflex takes practice. Placing a toothbrush near the back of the tongue to trigger the gag reflex, then slowing brushing this part of the tongue for 15 to 30 seconds, is a good training strategy.

Some people may also acclimate their gag reflex by practicing on dildos. Not only does this have a sexual connotation that can be foreplay in itself, it can also be more directly applicable to the activity you're "training" for. If going this route, we recommend selecting a dildo that's made from a soft material (to protect your teeth!) and taste-free (to protect your taste buds!). Your dildo should also have some sort of wide, flared base to ensure it doesn't slip down the throat. Silicone dildos tend to be the most popular dildo material for oral sex. Further adding a condom on top of the dildo can help with the realism and slide of human skin.

Relaxation techniques, such as mindful thinking, and treatments such as acupuncture and acupressure, can also reduce the gag reflex.

Making Fellatio More Enjoyable for the Giver

Changing the taste of fellatio can also make the activity more enjoyable for the giver. A pre-oral shower can go a long way towards removing the daily sweat that all of us experience. Diet and medical conditions can also affect how the skin smells and tastes. Some couples may explore flavored lubes to help mask any tastes. The "flavor" of flavored lubes can vary - all the way from a light hint of flavor to a candy bar's worth of flavoring - so experiment with multiple types of lube to find the level of intensity that makes oral sex enjoyable for you. (Variety packs can help make this easier!)

While some giving partners enjoy swallowing their partner’s cum, it’s not necessary. Giving partners who don’t like the taste or sensation of drinking ejaculate can spit it out if their partner orgasms. Using condoms during fellatio, which can simultaneously make the activity safer, can also be used to ensure the taste of bodily fluid is never exchanged.

Oral Sex Positions

Swapping up oral sex positions may also make fellatio more enjoyable for the giver and receiver. Some fellatio sex positions can place a lot of strain on the neck and back. If that's the case, try swapping to a different position or using sex furniture to reduce the discomfort you're experiencing.

Fellatio and D/s

Traditionally, giving fellatio has been presented in movies and media as a "submissive" act. That can make enjoying fellatio challenging for giving partners who usually take a more dominant role and receiving partners who feel more submissive. Reframing the thinking around fellatio can make the experience more enjoyable. If struggling with this mental switch, givers can remember that they control all of the sensations and have a sensitive part of their partner’s anatomy in their mouth and can do with it whatever they wish. Using restraints on the giving partner can also help flip the dynamic.

Risks and Safety Tips for Fellatio

Most people think of fellatio as a relatively safe sex activity, as there is no risk of pregnancy. While the risk of spreading sexually transmitted infections through fellatio is lower than engaging in vaginal or anal sex, some risk still exists. Some viral and bacterial infections can get passed from one partner to the next through fellatio, including syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV, and the human papillomavirus (HPV), which has links to throat cancer. Pubic lice can also spread to a giving partner’s beard or mustache. Condoms and dental dams place a barrier between the giving and receiving partner which reduces the risks of STIs. The Gardasil vaccine can also reduce the spread of HPV.

Interesting Facts About Fellatio

We’ll leave you with five fascinating facts about fellatio:

  1. While it’s common among humans, fellatio is pretty rare in the animal kingdom. Some animals do practice it, including bonobo monkeys, tigers, cheetahs and some bat species.
  2. In Ancient Rome, noblemen and soldiers could receive fellatio, but it was taboo for them to perform cunnilingus due to their social standing.
  3. Legend says the Egyptian queen Cleopatra performed fellatio on more than 100 Roman nobles during a marathon orgy.
  4. Biologists believe fellatio might have helped humans evolve as people who share sexual pleasure tend to be better mates.
  5. Swallowing semen after fellatio may boost fertility rates and increase the chances of becoming pregnant, as it teaches the body to accept semen rather than viewing it as a foreign body.

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