The performance of oral sex is an awakening of the senses. It creates a bodily connection between two people, as taste buds and corporeal pleasure intersect through an act of selflessness. While giving doesn’t always lead to personal arousal, it should inspire the mental stimulation of knowing you’re guiding your partner to orgasm(s). If done right, it can serve as a powerful precursor for sexual intercourse and set the mood for a reciprocal exchange of bliss. But with all the sex-negativity plaguing society-at-large, many partners are too ashamed of giving head to actually enjoy it or too self-conscious to openly admit that they take pleasure in performing oral sex. It’s far easier to feed the ego and brag about receiving it than to discuss the joy in giving something that’s purely for your partner’s delight.

Unless you’re in a dimly lit erotica poetry reading or in the company of sexually open friends, it’s rare to hear men and women gushing over giving head. Why are people still ashamed to discuss oral pleasure? For one, performing oral sex still holds a certain level of social stigma that causes many men and women to fear for their reputations.

Superhead. Slut. Hoe.

Those are just a few of the names that confront women who are fearless in expressing their sexuality and unapologetic about enjoying the performance of oral sex. If a woman actually admits that she enjoys giving head, particularly outside the context of a monogamous relationship, she could face degradation and disempowerment instead of affirmation for simply enjoying the performance of pleasure.

On the flipside, men face a different social reality, as loving the taste of a woman’s lady parts can be considered a threat to masculinity. Or worse, if they enjoy performing oral sex on men, it becomes even harder to claim being a “real” man in our heteronormative society.

From a heterosexual relationships perspective, Devin T. Robinson, the author of Love is Not an STD, explains, “Oral sex donates a joy and service you simply can’t do as easily with vaginal sex.” As many women struggle to orgasm through penetrative sex, oral sex often becomes an essential tool for maximum pleasure or an easier gateway for achieving penetrative bliss.

On the flipside, most men achieve orgasm and ejaculation with penetrative sex. Thus, is it really necessary for them to receive head?

Tiffany Y. confesses, “For a person to enjoy giving it they have to really enjoy sex all around. Oral sex is a good sexual act. It’s really intimate to me, and if done right, it will be on your mind all day. I enjoy giving it so much that I get turned on when I do. It gets me excited and I just like to see the guy get so aroused.”

Regardless of gender, the act is rooted in a sort of altruism, as some people are turned on in performing oral and others simply do it for their partner’s pleasure. It requires a certain level of selflessness, as we’re placing our partner’s pleasure as a priority without the immediate need for reciprocation. It’s the giving without necessarily receiving that allows oral sex to straddle our carnal desires and ability to give selflessly.

Perhaps if we reframed the performance oral sex as normal, exciting, and a positive aspect of human sexuality, more people would be comfortable enough to enjoy it and discuss it in public. Public discourse aids sexual health education and decreases the overall shame that’s come to prevent ordinary human beings from embracing their sexual selves. If we’re ever to rid the indignity that comes with openly admitting to enjoying the performance of oral sex, we have to create safe, open spaces for people to be at ease, talk, and express themselves without fear.

Are you comfortable in discussing and performing oral sex? Sound-off!

Arielle Loren is a writer and filmmaker that offers real-life commentary on women’s issues, sexuality, health, and travel. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Corset Magazine, the “go-to magazine for all things sexuality.” Check her out on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @ArielleLoren, and visit her personal site.