How to Do It

My Wife Absolutely Refuses to Let Me Perform Oral Sex

I think I know why.

A man sits up in bed next to his sleeping wife, with neon circles with no bars flashing in the background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Viacheslav Peretiatko/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!

Every Thursday night, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.

Dear How to Do It,

I would like to perform oral sex on my wife. However, she is extremely reluctant. It has been many years since she allowed me to do so. I also know, however, from shared stories about past partners, that she has allowed at least one other past partner to do this. I can’t help but feeling like, in the few times I have performed oral sex on her, I must be bad at it. Is there a way for me to uhhh … practice … on something other than a woman? Some tips on the best procedures for cunnilingus would be helpful.

As far as our sex life is concerned overall, we have sex regularly, and she also performs oral sex on me. In other words, my ulterior motive isn’t meant to have her perform more oral sex on me—though I wouldn’t complain if she did!

—Tongue-Tied

Stoya: Your wife doesn’t want to receive oral sex from you. Full stop. The fact that she’s let you do it in the past? Doesn’t matter. The fact that she’s let other people do it? Doesn’t matter. Somebody get me a clapping-hand emoji.

Rich: One between each word. I agree that there’s no way to force this issue. I do, however, wish that people felt empowered to communicate with clarity.

Stoya: And, really, he’s making it all about himself. Maybe she’s been gassy for a few years and doesn’t want to fart in his face.

Rich: LOL. Maybe this guy is so bad that he’s a lost cause, but it seems like he could have used some guidance in his attempts. I’ve seen lately a few questions like this, of, “How do I give better oral sex?” or ”How do I get my partner to give me better oral sex?” And it’s like: Talk to them? Some people have their reasons not to, but “I’m scared” isn’t gonna cut it here.

Stoya: He’s married to this person. I’m constantly befuddled by people who are married to someone they don’t feel like they can talk to, especially about sex. I don’t understand why people don’t work out the sexual aspect of their relationship before they commit to a legal or religious union.

Rich: I’ve definitely gotten head from randoms that’s been so bad as to be offensive—so much so where it’s like, “I’m not even going to help you out by giving you tips. Forget paying it forward.” But I do feel like it’s useful to tell the person you’re sleeping with regularly what you’re looking for, what feels good, what doesn’t.

Stoya: Communication is the key to everything. I think our writer should very carefully ask his wife why she doesn’t want oral sex from him.

Rich: Agreed.

Stoya: Specifically: “Hey, I have no intention of ever trying to get you to accept it again, but I’d like to know if it’s me, or something else.”

Rich: Right, he should approach humbly. Again, not making it about him, but her. Because that’s whom it is about. She’s the one he’s eager (and failing) to satisfy.

Stoya: In case she isn’t willing to answer, I’d like to give our writer a list of reasons someone might avoid oral sex that have nothing to do with the technique of the giver: the aforementioned gas geyser. Tongues and mouths just aren’t strong enough. Unable to orgasm on their back.

Rich: Trauma, too, right?

Stoya: Yes!

Rich: In a marriage, ideally these things would be discussed, but clearly many of them are sensitive and need to be approached gingerly. All of this is to say, there’s no objectively good way to give head—it’s all a matter of taste, so practicing with some kind of objective ideal in mind would be a waste of time.

Stoya: And without a living person on the other end to give feedback, you’ll never actually learn. I think our writer would do well to focus on the activities his wife does enjoy—and work on better communication surrounding those acts.

More How to Do It

I’m a 35-year-old man who’s started dating a 33-year-old woman recently, and we have the most chemistry I’ve ever experienced with someone I dated. But there’s something else that’s new for me this year that complicates things: I’ve started seeing sex workers. To most of the people in my life and our society, this comes with an incredible amount of stigma. It just doesn’t seem plausible that she’d be accepting of this part of my recent past, let alone my or our future. Our sexual chemistry isn’t terrible, but it isn’t as strong as I’d like, nor as strong as the nonsexual chemistry we have. I believe seeing a sex worker can make me a better partner. Not unlike seeing a therapist, seeing a sex worker allows me to focus on myself for that moment and it alleviates the expectation that my girlfriend be or do things she’s simply not comfortable with or good at. Getting certain sexual needs taken care of elsewhere would allow me to better focus my attention and invest in our relationship. Am I crazy?