Asked by you, answered by Ava
Hey Ava, Is oral sex…sex?
Ava’s note: For these purposes, we will be focusing on straight couples. The history of same-sex intimate relationships is too varied and interesting to fit into this article. For more information on the history of homosexuality through the ages, click here.
Like looking into a night sky full of stars, there is no end to this question. So where to start but at the beginning? Blow jobs have been around as long as history, and it was probably practiced before the written word, but we don’t have hard evidence—so to speak!—to prove it.
One of the most important examples of the ancient art of going-down is from the myth of Isis and Osiris from Egypt. Osiris was killed by his brother and cut into pieces. Iris put his body back together but, the penis was missing. An artificial penis was made out of clay, and Iris “blew” life back into Osiris by sucking it. Many women still draw upon this act to ‘revive’ their men.
The Kama Sutra, the ancient religious text of the Hindus, breaks ‘mouth congress’ down into 8 distinct actions including ‘biting’, ‘kissing’, and ‘sucking a mango fruit.’ Similarly, in Chinese Taoism it has been aligned with longevity and the retaining of chi in spiritual practices. In Ancient Rome, however, sex was considered more of a power play between a dominant person and a passive person. Oral sex on a man was a big no-no—especially for two men—because it implied penetration in a way that was considered humiliating, even more so than anal sex.
For the ladies, however, it was much more covert. There are not as many mentions of pleasing women in this way, but the Kama Sutra does give some steamy instructions on how to give ‘the quivering kiss.’ And Taoism held it in high esteem, saying that it was a way to reclaim primordial chi from a time when the sexes were not separated. In Western society, the earliest depiction of cunnilingus actually comes from the Bible.
How beautiful your sandaled feet,
O prince’s daughter!
Your graceful legs are like jewels,
the work of a craftsman’s hands.
Your navel is a rounded goblet
that never lacks blended wine.
Your waist is a mound of wheat
encircled by lilies.
–Song of Solomon 7:1-2
It is interpreted that her ‘blended wine’ that lives in her naval actually comes from between her ‘graceful legs.’ How ironic then, that the idea that oral stimulation began to take a turn down a dark path because of religious beliefs. As Annie Auguste notes in her article, The History of Fellatio,
“As recently as the 19th century, sexual pleasure and any relation that didn’t lead directly to procreation — even within the structure of a traditional marriage — were mortal sins. So fellatio was, and remains to some extent, a taboo.”
Because of this idea that sex is something done for procreation, and oral is outside of a normal sex life, it can be considered a superficial act—a viewpoint comes in most handy if you are worried about your number of sexual partners. While oral sex can be just as intimate as traditional PIV sex, if it is considered separate, it can be a safe place for play without the pressures and emotional connotations of intercourse.
So is oral sex….sex? It can be, but it doesn’t have to be.
It depends on your and your partner, and on the emotional importance you put on the act. If you don’t want it to have the importance in your sexual repertoire as intercourse, then it doesn’t have to. It can free you up to engage and experiment, without putting emotional baggage on the act. As long as you and the person you engage with are aware of the stakes, there is no reason to give it more prominence than a good time had by all.
Likewise, oral can be a gift you give someone. It can be intimate and special, mostly because you can communicate through that act how you feel for a person. Plus, it can be enjoyable for the giver as well, to share in this moment with someone is truly bonding. This makes it sex in the most solid definition—an act to give and receive pleasure with someone you care about.
But do not delude yourself—anything sexual can have consequences, and if your partner considers oral to be sex, then you take that into consideration before you engage in what could have drastically different perceptions for both of you.
Happy mango sucking!
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