Cunnilingus

Even though cunnilingus sounds like the perfect name for a female superhero, it’s the fancy word that is used to describe oral sex performed on a vagina-haver.

But while Cunnilingus is an oral sex technique, it doesn’t mean you can only use your mouth. Lots of people incorporate dildos, vibrators, or other sex toys (as well as their own fingers) while giving or receiving cunnilingus.

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So whether you’re looking for oral sex tips, positions, hacks, or tricks to make cunnilingus even better, we’ve got you covered. Read on for everything you need to know about giving or receiving this type of oral sex.

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What is cunnilingus?

Very simply put, cunnilingus is “the act of performing oral sex stimulation on people or bodies with vulvas,” says sex coach Shelby Sells. The term comes from the Latin words “cunnus,” which means “vulva,” and “lingere,” which means “to lick.”

It’s important to keep in mind most people don’t use “cunnilingus” in casual conversation though—it has more of a sterile, academic feel. You wouldn’t turn to your homegirl at brunch like, “My boyfriend gave me excellent cunnilingus last night. Mimosas for everyone!” Most people refer to it as “eating out” or “going down.”

Related Terms:

    How to give cunnilingus:

    As much as we’d like to tell you there’s a one-size-fits-all approach for giving good cunnilingus, the truth is everyone likes to give and receive pleasure differently, explains erotic educator Taylor Sparks, founder of online intimacy shop Organic Loven.

    A great first step is to literally ask your partner what they like when receiving oral sex. Sells says you can think of pleasure mapping each other as “sexy homework.” Take your time exploring each other’s bodies and playing with various techniques, pressures, and speeds on various erogenous zones to find what feels good.

    If you want a quick rundown of the basics, here are a few key takeaways you’ll want to keep in mind when going down on someone:

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    • Use your mouth, lips, and tongue on the vulva, clitoris, and inside of your partner’s vagina.
    • Try using your tongue to “write” the alphabet on your partner’s exposed, external clitoris.
    • “Starting at the left side of the clitoris, use your tongue to go up one side to the top, down the right side, then all the way down to the opening of the vagina,” suggests Sparks. “Dart the tongue in and out, then back up the left side of the clitoris.”
    • Try taking the clitoris in your mouth and suck gently.

      A good note from international sex educator Kenneth Play, who teaches oral sex in his Sex Hacker Pro series, is to also use the flat of your tongue instead of just the tip. This provides a larger surface area that’s easier to control. “You can stick your tongue out flat and move your tongue, or keep your tongue still and move your head up and down,” suggests Play. “Varying between the two will save your tongue and head muscles from being tired.”

      How to receive cunnilingus:

      While cunnilingus is one of the simplest—yet most explosive—pleasures in the world, you might be a little unsure or uncomfy about receiving it. But let me be clear, if you don’t like oral sex or don’t have an interest in trying it, you don’t have to partake in it. There are plenty of other ways to be intimate if blow jobs or cunnilingus isn’t for you.

      One reason a lot of people are hesitant to receive oral sex is they imagine their genitals look or taste bad. But know that a vagina is, well, a vagina. Whatever yours looks and smells like is perfectly normal. “To lower that discomfort, a shower beforehand can help,” suggests Play.

      “Other than that, keep in mind that some level of nervousness or discomfort when trying new sexual things is normal. Make sure you’re dating someone that would never shame you and is a giving and communicative sexual partner.

      If you decide you do want to experience receiving cunnilingus, Sparks suggests starting with a person you trust and simply expressing your desire. “Ask them to take their time and perhaps even ask you along the way what feels good as they do different techniques,” she suggests.

      Here are a few more tips to receiving oral:

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      • Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and spread open.
      • Concentrate on your breathing, especially if you find your mind wandering.
      • Move your hips against your partner’s mouth to increase or decrease the friction.
      • Communicate what feels good in real-time so your partner can continue to improve.

        Are there any risks involved with cunnilingus?

        While you’re not going to get pregnant from giving or receiving cunnilingus, there’s still a risk of passing along STIs or bacteria such as bacterial vaginosis. “When it comes to oral sex, know your risk tolerance,” says Play. While dental dams might not seem super glamorous, they’re a good way to increase the safety of your oral sex.

        “Prioritizing your sexual health should always come first,” says Sells. “Be sure to talk to your partner about STI testing and history before you get down to business. Handle these conversations with compassion and care, and be on the lookout for anyone that doesn’t respect your personal boundaries.”

        Also, before you reach for the flavored lube, it’s important to note that’s not advised to be used on vagina-havers since some flavored lubricants contain sweeteners, which can potentially trigger yeast infections. The vagina is self-cleaning, so if the taste or odor is off, it’s a sign you probably shouldn’t head south and the vagina-haver should instead visit their doctor.

        What are some cunnilingus variations?

        The best oral sex position is the one you and your partner feel most comfortable in. Luckily, there are plenty of different cunnilingus positions to test out:

        The tabletop, doggy style is where both people are on all fours. and the giver pleasures the receiver from behind. If you’re into giving and receiving at the same time, you could try 69ing, which is where both partners align themselves on top of each other in opposite directions (allowing prime access to each other’s genitals) and simultaneously give each other oral sex.

        You can also incorporate your fingers to stroke the area or insert your fingers (called fingering) into the vagina. In fact, oral and finger stimulation simultaneously is sometimes referred to as a Venus butterfly.

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        Any extra cunnilingus tips or advice?

        If you’re ready to take your skills to the next level, there are quite a few ways to up the ante. Sells suggests playing with the nipples or incorporating toys—such as dildos or vibrators—to increase the sensations. You could also experiment with sensory or temperature play by using blindfolds, restraints, or even ice cubes. (Just make sure to discuss safe words before engaging in any type of sex.)

        And no matter how many times you try, the best skill you can perfect is communication. “Ask the receiving partner what feels good for them instead of assuming,” Sells says.

        “Our sexual pleasure is an integral part of what we do and how we relate to ourselves, and establishing a reciprocal pleasure dynamic with our partners is key to maintaining sexual health and wellbeing.”

        Also, if you want some oral pleasure but don’t have a partner, there are plenty of toys out there that mimic the real thing. This is 2021, my friend. You’re fully entitled to getting your orgasms in—with or without a partner.

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        Updated: October 7, 2021 — 8:55 pm
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