In the United States, women have historically been inundated with negative messages about their vaginas—though never more so than today. Many makers of feminine pow­ders, douches, creams, jellies, and other scented items try to persuade women that their products will make the vagina smell “better” (see Sex in Real Life, “Feminine Hygiene,” in Chapter 4). For this reason, many women express concern about the cleanliness of their vaginas during cunnilingus. When their partners try to have oral sex with them, fears and anxieties often prevent women from enjoying the sexual experience. This, cou­pled with many women’s lack of familiarity with their own genitals, contributes to many women’s strong discomfort with oral sex.

Many men find cunnilingus to be erotic. They report that the taste of the vaginal se­cretions is arousing to them, and they find the female vulva beautiful and sexy, including its smell and taste. Generally, when we are highly aroused, we are less alert to sensory im­pressions than when we are not stimulated. This means that when we are aroused, the flavor of the vagina or of semen may be more appealing than it would be if we were not aroused. However, for those who do not find the odor and taste of the vagina arousing, taking a bath or shower together before engaging in oral sex is recommended.

Women report that they like oral sex to begin in a slow and gradual way. They dis­like an immediate concentration on the clitoris. Usually the best approach is to begin

kissing a woman’s lips and mouth and then slowly move down her body to her neck and shoulders, to her breasts, stomach, and finally, her vulva. Kiss the outer lips and caress the mons. A persistent rhythmic caressing of the tongue on the clitoris will cause many women to reach orgasm. During cunnilingus, some women enjoy a finger being inserted into their vagina or anus for extra stimulation. In performing cunnilingus with a preg­nant woman, never blow air into her vagina. This can force air into her uterine veins, which can cause a fatal condition known as an air embolism, in which an air bubble travels through the bloodstream and can obstruct the vessel.

Cunnilingus is the most popular sexual behavior for lesbian and bisexual women. In fact, the more oral sex a woman-to-woman couple has, the happier the relationship and the less they fight (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983). Although women in heterosexual re­lationships often worry that their partners may find the vagina unappealing, this is not so in women-to-women relationships. Perhaps this is due to the fact that each is more accepting of the other’s genitals because they are both women. As one woman said: “Gay women are very much into each other’s genitals. . . . Not only accepting, but truly ap­preciative of women’s genitals and bodies. . . . Lesbians are really into women’s bodies, all parts” (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983, p. 238).