So asks Esquire. Now, if I were a sensible person, I’d just say “no” and take the rest of the day off to watch My Little Pony, but I’m clearly not, so now we are going to have to explain a few facts of life to the Esquire person!
For instance, ten of your friends is not a simple random sample. For instance, I just asked four of my vagina-possessing friends, and three of them agreed that blowjobs are much more fun to give than cunnilingus is to receive, because cunnilingus does not result in orgasms for us. (The fourth has never had sex and thus refused to answer.) Does this mean that all people with vaginas hate cunnilingus and can’t orgasm from it (and that a quarter of American vagina-owners are virgins)? Nope. It means that people are different and a couple of your friends is a crap sample– but apparently enough to build an Esquire trend piece around.
People are different. People’s sexualities are different. I love sucking cock; someone else gags. Cunnilingus leaves me cold; it brings someone else to multiple orgasms. That’s okay! I don’t think any sex act is going to “die,” because if there are people who get off on sex with cars, then there are CERTAINLY people who get off on blowing a dude. I also find it an… interesting… omission that the only people who don’t get to opine about whether the blowjob is dead are people with vaginas.
Nevertheless, I do think Esquire Dude has a tiny bit of a point: in American culture, the Sensitive Man Who Makes A Good Partner is someone who likes giving oral more than receiving it. To the point that I feel bad about mentioning to people that neither of my male partners eat me out because they hate the taste and I don’t enjoy it. Because… for some reason people have to engage in a sex act neither of them wants to get the Feminist Stamp of Approval.
My Academic-Feminist Boyfriend Michael Kimmel actually has a really interesting post exploring the possible reasons behind the cultural shift from the Blowjobs Are Where The Money Is model to the I’m A Good Boyfriend, I Eat Ladies Out model:
In fact, sexuality research suggests that what we might call the phenomenology of oral sex–the meaning of the act from the point of view of the actor–is not in the least symmetrical. When straight men describe their experiences with oral sex, they talk about power. This holds whether receiving fellatio: “I feel so powerful when I see her kneeling in front of me,” or performing cunnilingus: “Being able to get her off with my tongue makes me feel so powerful.” Heterosexual men tend to experience the giving and receiving of oral sex as an expression of their power. By contrast, straight women perceive both giving and receiving oral sex from the position of powerlessness–not necessarily because they are forced into these acts, but because “it makes him happy” to receive oral sex and to perform it. So oral sex, like intercourse, allows him to feel “like a man,” regardless of who does what to whom.
First of all, a caveat: this paragraph (and the rest of this post) is about cultural tendencies, not universal truths. People are different, and there are lots of women who perceive oral as a source of power and men who perceive it as a source of powerlessness. The “hegemonic heterosexuality” model of how sex works is how the culture believes sex is supposed to work, but that doesn’t mean that any given person’s bedroom (or, in fact, that the majority of bedrooms) work that way.
That said: according to hegemonic heterosexuality, sex is supposed to be a victory of men over women. He’s supposed to conquer, she’s supposed to surrender. He’s supposed to give, she’s supposed to get. He’s supposed to be active, she’s supposed to be passive. He’s the initiator, she’s the gatekeeper. If he has sex, he has more status, and she has less (since she’s headed closer to the dreaded status of “slut”).
A while ago, fellatio fit that model perfectly: the man had power over the woman because she was sucking him off, and if he didn’t have to return the favor, more power to him. But then women started demanding reciprocation and, worse, expressing their enjoyment of blowjobs! Sex might be about pleasure and not just about a complicated and non-negotiated power game! What now?
Hegemonic heterosexuality, however, is a tricksy beast and quickly overcame this obstacle. You see, while THOSE hegemonically heterosexual men over there don’t like eating girls out, because they are selfish pigs only concerned with their own pleasure, WE like eating girls out. And we get to show how much power we have over women via our ability to give them So Much Pleasure OMG. Hegemonic heterosexuality can propitiate those silly “feminists” and their “mutual pleasure,” and still keep its incredibly sexist and sex-negative view of sex intact.
…Can I just point out that non-negotiated and universalizing power dynamics make for shit sex? We’re only going to have good sex when people can choose to have the sex that gets them off– whether that happens to be oral, grinding, manual, anal, PIV intercourse, BDSM, footjobs, or whatever. It’s one thing to authentically like giving oral more than receiving it: lots of people do. It’s quite another to have “fads” in sex acts that are rooted in misogynistic, misandric, sex-negative conceptions of how sex should be.