Though the application of lips, tongue, and even teeth to someone who has a vulva may appear to be pretty intuitive, the reality is that those with the requisite anatomy often think their partners could do a lot better!

But how does one do that? What kinds of tips or techniques can someone use to bring their cunnilingus skills up to par or, at least, not suck quite so badly?

While there are far too many oral-sex-game-upping suggestions that I could ever pack into just one article, I’ve given the question a lot of thought and reduced them down to four important things to consider when you, shall we say, “put your money where your mouth is.”

But First: Consent and Safety

Before going down on this topic, let's begin by taking a step back to talk about what should always happen before, during, and after anything sexuality-oriented.

The first is, of course, that everything must be consensual! Ask without intimidation or coercion and only go ahead after you receive some form of definite agreement. Consent can also be withdrawn for any reason, again without fear of emotional repercussions.

True, mistakes may happen and sometimes things can be worked out. But it’s much better to try and be thoughtful beforehand rather than apologizing afterward.

Unless you absolutely know your partner’s status when it comes to hepatitis, HIV, or herpes—as well as those other many sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—then practice stringent safe(r) sex practices like barrier protection: dental dams, gloves, and the like.

Read: Give a Dam: Your Guide to Protected Oral Sex

Those out of the way—but I do want to repeat myself that sex is all about staying educated so you absolutely must do that in regards to physical safety, consent, and so much more—let’s get into those four promised ways to improve your cunnilingus skills.

1. Communication, Communication, Communication

Why save the best for last? Communication is so important I felt that getting right into that would be the best course.

The biggest part of being an effective lover, when it comes to any sex act is, you guessed it, talking to each other.

This means listening to what your partner is telling you and not getting defensive when they tell you what they like, what they don’t like, and what you could do better. This is not a competition with a pussy-eating trophy waiting at the end.

Part of this is letting go of the (frankly stupid) myth that there’s some set of universal techniques that work on everyone with a vulva. The reality is what works for one person will completely turn another off. So instead of puffing out your chest and diving right in, set the stage by asking what turns them on…and what doesn’t.

Read: The Dos and Don'ts of Hot Oral Sex

Conversely, you can’t expect someone to get better at oral sex if you don’t tell them what you’re feeling and if you like it or not. So please don’t chastise or dismiss someone’s performance when all you do is lay there and expect them to read your mind. As with consent, cunnilingus is a two-way street when it comes to talking about what’s going down.

I also want to mention that not everyone can orgasm from cunnilingus alone so never be a jerk, and try to push them towards something they can’t do, or may not be able to do this time.

Rather, just let things happen…and if for any reason your partner just can’t get there, don’t get upset that it may have been what you did or didn’t do, or that it was somehow their fault, it’s far better to be kind, supportive, and understanding: the goal, after all, is not for there to be a winner or a loser but that both of you enjoyed the game!

2. Know and Love the Vulva

While the so-called “discovery” of the clitoris has certainly made the sex lives of some of those who have them a lot better, a sad side effect is that when it comes to cunnilingus, far too many people on the giving end see it as the ultimate go-to button and begin by, to quote Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life: “leaping straight for the clitoris like a bull at a gate.”

Read: Holy Clit Batman! 9 Amazing Facts About the Clitoris

For some people, yes, this is a fine way to start—and only do this when you talk to them if it is okay to do just this—but for others, it could be way too much, way too quickly.

Vulvas are truly fascinating; full of all kinds of potentially sexual and sexual attributes, including the inner labia and outer labia, the opening to the urethra, the mons, and, of course, the clit and its hood. If you and your partner are into it, you can always explore the perineum and anus too.

So rather than doing your bull-impression and leaping right to the clit, consider the entirety of the vulva and surrounding area.

A great scenario might be to get things going by talking to your partner about what they like, listening (can’t say that enough), and then offering suggestions for putting your oral skills to work in other places. If they agree, then you could test-fire these sensations, paying attention to their feedback and then integrating the favorable ones into your cunnilingus activities.

3. More Than Just Your Mouth

Just as the vulva isn’t just the clit, those on the giving end are more than just their tongue. As I already touched at the start, there’s also lips (for caressing as well as sucking), nose, beards (though some might find them too painful or scratchy), and teeth.

You also have your fingers and hands, which are not just good for spreading open your cunnilingus workspace: gently caressing with a finger while using your tongue and lips can be effective, as can (also gently) touching the vaginal opening or the anus.

Read: Stroke That: How to Rub Her the Right Way

About that: if your partner enjoys anal stimulation then be sure and keep a keen eye on what finger is used, with gloves being absolutely mandatory, so you don’t risk bringing fecal matter into the vagina, which can lead to all kinds of dangerous infections.

On that same subject, do remember to diligently wash your hands and face before getting down to it. STIs are one danger but so is spreading other risky contaminants.

4. Getting Comfortable

Call it a personal hobby-horse, but something that I think gets far too little attention when it comes to discussions about cunnilingus is comfort. Certainly for the person on the receiving end but equally so for the person who’s giving.

Speaking as a rather (ahem) orally fixated individual, who finds great pleasure in helping my vulva-equipped playmates have a good time, getting a backache, neck cramp, or a tired jaw can chill even the hottest scene--particularly when my arthritis flairs up just as my partner is close to “getting there.”

It may not be sexy, it may not be what givers might want to bring up, but taking a little time to get the pillows just right, asking politely for a recipient to adjust themselves or possibly spread their legs further or anything else that will keep you from aching like crazy, can be the key to having a mutually enjoyable time.

Read: 6 Super Fun (and Super Easy!) Oral Sex Positions

There’s also nothing wrong with taking a break to adjust something or someone if you’re having a challenging time or want to exercise your jaw.

One thing you don’t shouldn’t do, though, is make an issue of it: you getting a neck-ache is never your partner’s fault! Reassurance, too, can be critical as some vulva-equipped persons might see this need to pause as something they are doing wrong when it’s just a matter of getting comfortable so the giver can continue to have fun with them.

It’s All About Mutual Pleasures

Rounding this up: respect the importance of mutual consent, know the health risks and how to play safely, keep those vital lines of communication open, admire the vulva’s inherent beauty and sensuality and not just focus on the clit, and make sure both of you are comfortable.

More than that, remember that cunnilingus is not about giving or getting anything but sharing an arousing sexual experience with another person.

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