I don’t know about you, but when it comes to sex, I know exactly what turns me all the way on, what completely shuts it down, and what things I’m interested in exploring further… for research. As a woman of a certain age, I’ve had time and opportunity to pinpoint the things I enjoy the most. And at the top of my list? Fellatio. Brains. Giving head. Throat tickling. Knob-slobbing. Going down.

Whatever you want to call it, I most enjoy performing oral sex on men, and I am happy to have discovered that I am certainly not alone. A recent piece on the Thought Catalog blog compiled thoughts coursing through the minds of 50 women while doing the do, and I began to think about what goes through our minds when we do it.

There’s been a persistent myth, especially among African-Americans, that most women don’t enjoy giving head, and that they usually do it out of obligation. I don’t believe that for a second, so I dug a bit deeper to see what women really think about saying “ahhh.”

A 2002 study on changes in sexual behaviors found that over half of teens aged 15-19 had engaged in oral sex, with 54% of female teens reporting they’d given or received oral sex. Researchers say many teens opt for oral sex instead of vaginal intercourse to (technically) remain virgins and minimize the risk of pregnancy and contraction of sexually-transmitted infections.

That may be hard to digest, as many of us don’t want to think about our own children having any kind of sex at 15. But many of us did begin as teens, so this isn’t exactly surprising.

Next, a 2007 study of college students found that 80% of men and women said their partner’s pleasure was their primary reason for doing it. Somewhat surprising to me, the same study found that only about 17% of women performed oral sex primarily for their own pleasure, compared to 27% of men. Finally, a 2010 study conducted by the Kinsey Institute reported that approximately 75% of women ages 20-29 had performed oral sex on a man in the previous year. That number drops down to 59% for women ages 30-39, which might suggest that during an age span when being married or in long-term relationships and raising children are more likely, women’s engagement in oral sex declines.

This all inspired me to conduct my own brief qualitative outreach to see how women think about performing oral sex, and I received some pretty interesting answers from almost 50 women. The most common answers related to feelings of power and control, feeling submissive and obedient, and genuinely enjoying and deriving pleasure from men’s erotic reactions. Some names have been changed to protect identities.

“Everything about oral sex stimulates me, from their sounds, the way they look, to the way their body reacts. I study that each time to improve my skills. To be able to make a grown man nearly speechless just from pleasure wows me.”—Nicole

“I’m in control. I get caught up in the moment, feeling like I’m literally sucking all the power out of him. Nine times out of ten, I’ll probably have an orgasm without penetration.”—Jae

“Giving oral sex is not physically gratifying for me, but it can be emotionally gratifying with the right person”—Ayala

“His legs shake, and then you watch him as he watches you and he is pleading for you to continue, begging you to stop, and thanking you for your mouth. He is so vulnerable with his most private part in your mouth and [under] your control. I will drain, swallow, and go to bed with a smile on my face. It also makes me incredibly wet.”—Diane

“I enjoy giving head because it makes me feel dirty and powerful.”—P.F.

“I love performing fellatio because it allows me to exercise both dominance and submission. I’m serving the man who I’m sucking, but I also have primary control in the situation. I get pleasure from giving the man I’m with pleasure, so it’s a win-win for me.” —Lily

“There are times when [performing oral] is all that I want to do even if there is no intercourse. It pleases me more to know that I am pleasing him in a way at that moment that makes him speechless and powerless.”—Mariah

“I enjoy the appearance of submitting. It actually feels like I’m submitting to him, but not in a way that I usually think of submission. It makes me feel at his mercy to an extent. Being on my knees before him makes me feel powerful, but he still appears in charge.”—Lydia

“Oral sex to me is somewhat of a selfless act.”—D.C.

“I love bringing him to that place where he is beyond all words and can’t control himself. Just knowing that I’ve done this, brought him here, that gives me pleasure.”—Gia

“I appreciate the undercurrent of vulnerability from the man that occurs because you have his most fragile external organ at your mercy; they often have no choice but to submit to powerlessness mid-orgasm.”—Kimberly

“I’m ambivalent about oral sex, but perform it every time my husband and I have sex. I know it arouses him, and I’m lucky enough to have a partner who wants to please me as well. It doesn’t arouse me per se, but it always progresses to my needs.”—Sharon

There were many more responses that mostly echoed the feelings of sincere enjoyment and pleasure from giving head. Here’s the rub: women don’t always feel comfortable making it known that they enjoy and/or that they are really good at it. Charlene writes, “I would love to give head more, but [men] make it seem like they can’t take women seriously who are too good at [performing oral sex].” Christine agrees, saying, “I never let a man know how much I enjoy it, that I enjoy swallowing, or that I love when he cums on my face. Guys always talk about how they won’t ‘wife’ a woman who is into that, so I don’t share it.”  

I continue to find it highly problematic that women feel silenced and restricted in their enjoyment of sexual acts because they’re made to feel they’re not worth marrying or being taken seriously. What’s worse, many of these same men actually enjoy these acts. They just buy into the idea that a “good” woman would never do anything so “dirty.” I want to believe they are a minority, and that in this day and age, most men have let go of those silly ideas.

Ladies, how long are we going to continue to deny ourselves full enjoyment of sex because we encounter partners who dismiss what we like as being dirty or wrong? If you love it, do it, and do it with someone who won’t judge you for your enthusiasm and skill. Most men I know don’t want reluctant head—they want all of the energetic vigor you can offer. Pull out that RiRi Woo lipstick and pucker up!

Feminista Jones is a sex-positive Black feminist, social worker and blogger from New York City. She writes about gender, race, politics, mental health and sexuality at FeministaJones.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FeministaJones.