Cunnilingus 101

Whether you’re a cunning linguist or illcliterate, there’s always more to learn. Read on for Coral’s oral sex tips!

What is oral sex?

Cunnilingus (oral sex/going down on someone) is a type of sex that is highly pleasurable for most people with vaginas. Although often referred to with a wink and a nudge, cunnilingus is widely popular and is regularly on the menu for about 75% of folks according to some studies.1

Why do women like it?

The “orgasm gap” is real. The data tells us that about 75% of women never reach orgasm from vaginal intercourse alone; in a large survey, a full 91% of men reported that they climaxed during their last sexual encounter, compared with just 64% of women.2 (This gap is considerably lower in bisexual and lesbian encounters.) A woman’s ability to orgasm during penetrative sex will depend on time spent on foreplay and her physical body: if her clitoris is closer to her vaginal opening she will be able to orgasm more easily from penetration alone.

Does she come more easily this way?

Oral sex is the second most reliable way for a woman to have an orgasm (the first is masturbation, natch). When done correctly, cunnilingus is the most effective at making a woman orgasm because it allows for two of the three factors that are necessary for a woman to climax: gentle stimulation and consistent motion. Plus, there is a high amount of lubrication naturally built-in, which can make any sexual encounter 1,000,000 times more enjoyable.

What if she doesn’t like it?

A woman may dislike oral pleasure for a variety of reasons, all of them valid. For one, she may feel self-conscious about the look, smell or taste of her genitals. A lot of this comes from social conditioning and may be alleviated through positive reinforcement from her partner. Saying, “The way you taste is so sexy,” or “You’re so beautiful” while you’re in proximity of her vulva can go a long way.

She may feel pressure to perform to make her partner feel good, and the very act of receiving oral sex can make her orgasm unlikely due to the pressure she feels, resulting in an unproductive spiral. This can be helped by assuring her that the goal of sex isn’t orgasm, it’s pleasure and that you’re there for the journey, not the destination. Ironically, by focusing on pleasure you can increase her chances of orgasm.

Some women simply don’t enjoy the sensation, whether it be that her clit is too sensitive, or she doesn’t enjoy the moisture or a tongue. Good, clear communication should help you understand whether this is the case!

Is it gross to go down on a woman?

While the cultural stereotype is that vulvas are gross, in 2019 we know that to be bogus and that the real power move for any partner of a woman is going down early, eagerly and often. Many lovers of women enjoy the feel, taste and smell of a vulva. It’s not something to be endured, but celebrated and enjoyed!

If you or your partner is concerned with hygiene, feel free to take a shower or a bath before diving in, so to speak, but remember, the vagina is a self-cleaning organ that, when healthy, consistently maintains a pH that doesn’t allow bad bacteria to grow.

If your partner has an STI like herpes you can use a dental dam. They are inexpensive, easy to use, and transmit sensation wonderfully.

What’s that smell?

Vulvas come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and yes, smells and tastes. A person's unique flavor is dictated by their body chemistry and DNA, but generally, healthy vaginas can smell and/or taste sour, metallic, slightly skunky or earthy-sweet (like molasses). If you find you or your partner’s scent is unappetizing, it’s first important to ascertain whether it’s a normal, healthy human scent, or if something actually unhealthy is going on. Taste and smell can be disrupted by a bacteria or pH imbalance or an STI and it’s important to consult a doctor if you smell rotting fish, if she experiences pain during sex or notices a thick, cottage cheese discharge, which can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis or Trichomoniasis.

If it’s a normal scent, maybe stop and ask yourself why you are having that response. Is it something cultural that you can work through or is it better after a bath?

A whole industry has been built around making women feel bad about their natural state like douches, wipes and other “feminine hygiene” products. These can actually make her smell unappealing by disrupting the vagina’s natural pH and self-cleaning powers. And before you go serving her a pint of pineapple juice, you should know there isn’t a proven link between diet and genital smell or taste.

If you really can’t move beyond it, the aforementioned dental dams can totally help. (They often come in flavored options!)

Ok, how do I do it?

Great question! Bringing a woman to orgasm with your mouth comes down to several factors: “persistent stimulation, concentration and relaxation,”3 all of which are the pillars of a great oral sex experience.

  1. Make sure you warm her up. This means focus on her other erogenous zones first, like breasts, hip bones, inner thighs, ears, etc. BEFORE getting your face anywhere near her vulva.
  2. Start gently. Once she is completely aroused (if in doubt, always ask!) start moving towards her clitoris very gently. Start on her labia and vaginal entrance before circling the clit in long, gentle strokes.
  3. Be consistent. When both of you are ready to let her come, focus on the head of the clitoris with gentle, even strokes and maintain consistency until she orgasms. Once you find something that is working (she might be saying “Yes!” or “Don’t stop”) don’t change what you’re doing in the slightest. Even a small change here can make her lose her orgasm and send you both back to the drawing board.

For more in-depth tuition, check out “The most reliable source of orgasm for women” in the Coral app for some concrete, actionable tips for giving better oral pleasure.


1 Ian Kerner, et al. Cunnilingus Miniguide.

2 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior

3 Ian Kerner. She Comes First (2004).

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