It was a classic girls' lunch reminiscent of the OG "Sex and the City" episodes. The iconic gaggle—Miranda, Charlotte, Carrie (and one very noticeably absent Samantha)—recounted sexual escapades and mishaps in an episode of "And Just Like That…," which follows the women through menopause. As Charlotte launches into a story about how mortified she was when her teenage daughter walked in on her about to give Harry a blow job, Miranda interrupts with a flabbergasted face—"You still blow Harry?!" She goes on to say it at least three more times, voicing her genuine confusion that oral sex is still part of the menu in Charlotte's bedroom (well, bathroom in this case).
The early 2000s were met with a rising interest in oral sex as its stigma slowly eroded. Slate wrote that in 1994, only 19 percent of women reported having oral sex in the last year, whereas by 2006, Johns Hopkins University professor Jonathan Zenilman estimated it to be closer to 75 percent or 80 percent. In 2019, a survey from Bespoke Surgical concluded people have oral sex 5.32 times per month and receive it about the same amount. Bisexual people had the most oral sex, averaging closer to seven times per month.
Plus, oral sex isn't just for young people, as the fictional Charlotte noted. A 2019 study published in The Journal of Gerontology Series B revealed older couples who had oral sex reported higher emotional well-being and happiness rates. So, it might be Miranda who needs to get on board, or perhaps it's a sign of her already disintegrating relationship with longtime husband Steve. Regardless, more couples are having oral sex than in decades past, and for longer in their relationship span, thus improving their quality of life.
Rethink the porn-style blow job
Oftentimes, blow jobs in porn are otherworldly—something only a professional could do. This may be part of the problem. Megwyn White, a New York City clinical sexologist and director of education for Satisfyer, said taking a porn break can help both partners reframe oral sex for themselves, refocusing on what they like and not what they have seen.
"I think because we see 'head' so aggressively demonstrated in porn, and there's a lot of choking sometimes involved, we're exposed to these images…so their partner is in some ways programmed to expect that," she said. "They're just a mouth."
Instead, she hopes couples can be more "thoughtful and imaginative" with oral sex. In addition, she thinks porn contributes to the "power differential—he's on top, I'm on bottom, just having to do this to make him happy," she said. In reality, she said, it's not the receiver who has the power, but the giver.
Some couples avoid blow jobs because it's uncomfortable—from deep-throating to swallowing semen, there are parts the giving partner finds uncomfortable or unpleasant.
"Sending the penis into the throat actually activates that fight-or-flight reflex," she said. "That can be very dark…sort of a very aggressive approach."
White said these reservations are all solvable by communicating boundaries and getting more creative. For example, if depth is important to the male partner, an "O-shaped toy with little stimulation nubs inside" can be a sex accessory worth investing in instead.
When you think of a blow job, you might think of the typical up/down, in/out motion, but instead, White said, "I think of it like a grape I'm trying to pop with my tongue…like really hooking into it on all sides and then working with the hands to kind of stretch and connect to [surrounding areas]." These various strategies take the focus off deep-throating and may increase enjoyment for both parties.
As with any sexual act, nobody should be forced or pressured to do something they don't want to do. So, a simple boundary conversation can increase comfort and safety before starting.
Additional boundaries might include the length of time, if it becomes uncomfortable to do for too long, specific details on where semen should or shouldn't end up in the end, and any other details that help both partners enjoy it more. Kate Roberts, CEO of The Body Agency and a global sexual advocate in Washington, D.C., said, "Negotiating ejaculation onto another body part" can take some of the pressure off.
If talking about sex is difficult, or oral sex is the "pink elephant in the room hanging over you," Roberts said, it's time to see a sex therapist together, especially if it's been a while since you've had oral sex.
Get reacquainted with male anatomy to increase oral sex options
Our lack of education about the many possibilities of the male anatomy limits us, White said. First, she said, think of the underside of the penis as the male equivalent of the G-spot, paying special attention to that area.
"Sometimes we think of the penis as just what's hanging there…we forget that the penis is actually extended all the way into the perineal area, back to where the two sitting bones are," she said. "So when you give oral, you have access to all of this tissue, to stimulating it, to connecting with it."
She suggests trying letting go of the penis entirely midway through, as "sometimes it's also about withholding that connection," and by helping your partner breath deeper through the pelvic floor muscles, moving oxygen south. Partners can also pull and "traction" these surrounding tissues to increase stimulation, she said.
Finally, spend some time doing massages, baths or mutual masturbation to reacquaint yourself with your partner's body (with the added benefit that hygiene won't be a barrier to oral sex after said bath, Roberts said).
Dig into issues preventing intimacy
If there are underlying relationship issues, it makes sense oral sex might be the first thing to go. In addition, some couples become pretty efficient at helping their partners achieve orgasms without it, potentially overlooking a desire they have, Roberts explained.
"Many people carry around baggage and self-esteem issues that often rear up in the bedroom," she said. "People in sexless relationships leave or cheat, and it's often due to pure breakdown of communication and they need help to express themselves. Little things like leaving out dirty dishes or the toothpaste can become huge things when you are not being appreciated or being intimate."
Roberts hopes couples experiencing relationship challenges or personal backgrounds limiting their sex lives will seek out relationship therapy or even try a Zoom sex therapy session from home. Oral sex is about as intimate as it gets, even more so than penetrative sex for some couples, Roberts said. So, finding a solution is imperative for many people and may be the secret to Charlotte and her, seemingly, happy marriage to her long-time beau, Harry.