Cunnilingus — also known as oral-vulva or oral-vaginal sex — can be an incredibly pleasurable to receive. But it can also be incredibly pleasurable for the giver, too, so long as they feel both comfortable and confident.

Here to build comfort and confidence in your oral sex skills is this cunnilingus crib sheet. Scroll down for everything vulva owners want you to know about going down.

“Put simply, cunnilingus is oral sex performed on a vulva and/or vagina,” explains longtime sex educator Searah Deysach, the owner of Early to Bed, a pleasure-product company in Chicago that ships worldwide.

“It can involve any combination of mouth and tongue on the vulva and/or vagina,” she says.

This means sucking, licking, flicking, nibbling, biting, and more is all on the table.

It’s worth mentioning that, while cunnilingus is the official term of oral-vulvar sex, the act has many colloquial nicknames. These include licking the bean, 3rd base, and eating out, to name just a few.

Ready to go downtown? Here’s how.

How do you get things going?

Just like with penetrative sex, pre-play goes a long way. Why not start with a kiss on the neck or lips, then kiss down their entire body?

You’ll hit major erogenous zones, like the ears, fingers, nipples, navel, lower stomach, and inner thighs.

Queer sex educator Sarah Sloane, an instructor with Good Vibrations and Pleasure Chest, says a good rule of thumb is to take three times longer to get to the actual oral sex as you think you need to.

Does the position matter?

Missionary oral — with the receiving partner on their back — is a cunnilingus fave.

If that’s uncomfortable for your neck, prop a pillow beneath your partner’s hips to lift them. Or, have them scoot their bum to the edge of the bed and kneel in front of them.

Facesitting and 69 (or tilted 69) are also options.

“Just make sure you’re both comfortable so that you can properly enjoy it,” says sex educator Tara Struyk, the co-founder of Kinkly, an online sexual wellness resource.

Clothes or no clothes?

Teasing your partner through their underwear and licking along the seams is hot. And if your partner’s clit is really sensitive, this may even be their preference.

Likely though, you’ll both eventually want their underwear out of the way. And for that? You might ask “can I take these off?” or “Are you ready for me to taste you?”

Once you have consent, go ahead and yank them down.

How do you start, exactly?

Most vulva owners have been socialized to believe their vulvas are dirty and ugly.

Verbally appreciating their body before you dive in can help increase their confidence and comfort level while receiving.

Are they beautiful? Do they smell good? Are you dying to taste them? Let ‘em know.

What do you do with your tongue?

Cunnilingus isn’t a one-size-fits-all game. Experiment with different rhythms, pressures, positions, and motions to find what feels good for your current partner.

“Start with broad, gentle pressure, and then proceed from there,” Struyk suggests.

Some techniques to try:

  • up and down
  • clockwise circles
  • counterclockwise circles
  • side to side
  • pulsating in one spot
  • wrapping your mouth around the clit and lightly sucking

One thing to note: Not everyone enjoys direct stimulation, so you may actually end up somewhere very near — but not directly on — the clitoris itself.

Oh, and start slow.

“It’s easier for someone to ask for more than to have to ask you to back off,” Sloane says.

How do you keep your teeth out of the way?

In reality, your chompers are less of an issue than you might think.

Worried? Lead with your tongue and create a slight casing around your tusks with your lips.

Can you take this into rim job territory?

Of course! So long as your partner gives you the green light.

Just don’t go from back to front — doing so can introduce bacteria from the anus to your partner’s vagina and vulva, which can increase the risk of infection.

What do you do with your hands?

Don’t be shy, you can absolutely eat with your hands — so long as your partner consents to it.

“Why leave them hanging when you could be touching [your partner] somewhere else and stimulate them even more?” Struyk says.

There’s no shortage of options here. You could use them to tweak and tease your partner’s nipples. Or, use them to penetrate your partner’s front or back hole. Or, try using them to hold your partner’s hips in place as they grind against your kisser.

If your partner enjoys intravaginal stimulation, you could use your hands to tap into their clitoris’s full pleasure potential through their G-zone.

To locate their G-spot, insert your fingers about 2 inches into their vagina and apply rhythmic pressure.

Should you try penetration?

Only if your partner communicates that they’d like you to.

Should you make eye contact?

While receiving, some folks will keep their eyes mostly closed and relax into the sensation. Others enjoy the visual of their partner between their legs.

Either way, according to Sloane, nothing’s more intimate than making eye contact with a partner during oral play. Go ahead and look up at your partner from time to time.

Should you make noise?

Moaning against your partner’s body can create a hot, rumbling sensation that feels ah-mazing on their vulva.

Slurping, suctioning, and spitting sounds are also good to go (read: encouraged).

How can you add sex toys into the mix?

Whether you hold them, your partner holds them, or you insert them, Sloane says insertable G-spot vibrators, dildos, and butt plugs can all enhance the experience.

How do you know if your partner likes what you’re doing?

Pay attention to their body language.

Nonverbal cues are still cues. Tune into your partner’s breathing patterns, the way they tilt their hips toward or away from your lips, and what their hands are doing.

Trust, if they like what you’re doing, they’ll let you know.

How do you know if you should keep going?

If your partner is moaning or holding your head in place, chances are they don’t want you to stop. So long as you’re enjoying yourself, keep doing exactly what you’re doing.

“Don’t let their excitement cause you to go faster or harder, because that may actually ruin the feel-good rhythm you’ve established,” Sloane says.

And BTW: If you want to stop, stop! If you’re performing cunnilingus because you think that’s what you “should” be doing, or you’re not into it, your partner will be able to sense it.

Some ways to transition out of oral sex include:

  • “I love tasting you, but my mouth is cramping. Would it be OK if I used a toy on you instead?”
  • “Come here, taste yourself off my lips.”
  • “Do you want to use the air suction toy? I want to be closer to your lips and be able to kiss you.”
  • “You taste so good, baby. But what I’m really craving is…”

How do you know if your partner wants you to do something else?

Whether your partner has climaxed or not, if they’re pulling you back up to their face or pushing you away, they might be done.

Check in on what they’re craving next. A cool-down cuddle session? Penetrative sex? A back massage?

Remember: Just because you gave them head, it doesn’t mean that they owe you head.

What about when it’s all said and done?

All done? Tell your boo how much you enjoyed going down on them.

Also hot: Let them taste themselves on your lips while telling them how much you love their flavor.

Good question!

Pregnancy is not a risk of oral sex. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), however, can be transmitted through oral sex.

Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and even HIV and HPV can all be transmitted during cunnilingus,” Deysach says.

Your plan of action: Talk with your partner about their current STI status before going down on them. If one or more of you is STI-positive or unaware of your current STI status, consider using a dental dam.

“A dental dam is a safer sex aid that creates a barrier between you and your lover,” Deysach says.

If you don’t have access to a dam, you can do the following:

  • Cut a condom like this.
  • Cut a latex glove like this.

“Outside of STDs and STIs, there are no real risks for oral sex as long as you’re practicing safer sex and don’t bite!” she says.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re hoping to go down on someone with a vulva. So let’s get your questions answered, stat.

Wait, what does a vulva look like?

Let’s set the record straight on vulvas: They’re all different!

Some look like tulips, some look like tissue paper sprouting out of a gift bag, and some look like closed clams.

What do vulvas taste like?

“Even the same vagina can taste different day to day,” Sloane explains. “[It’s] based on things like diet, hydration levels, medications, where the person is in their cycle, and more.”

Some flavors you might taste while going down on a vulva:

  • salty
  • umami
  • coppery
  • tangy
  • sweaty
  • syrupy
  • bland

And how about the smell… what do they smell like?

Vulvas may look vaguely like flowers (shoutout to Georgia O’Keeffe), but they smell (*gasp*) like vulvas. Some smell salty or coppery, while others have a musky or leather-like odor.

Unless you’d describe that smell as fishy or foul — or it’s accompanied by unusual discharge or itching — everything is probably fine.

Where is the clit?

The clit sits at the top of where the two inner labia join.

“Trace the seam of the lips toward your partner’s belly button to find the clit,” Sloane says.

You can also use your fingers to spread the lips apart to make the clit more visible.

Keep in mind that the part of the clitoris you can usually see and feel is only the tip of the iceberg. The clitoris itself extends a few inches further back into the body.

Should you really write the alphabet with your tongue?

Nope!

According to Sloane, most people need the exact same touch over and over again in order to orgasm — so licking the alphabet is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.

Should you lick it like an ice cream cone?

Actually, this isn’t a bad idea to start.

“Start like you’re trying to lick all the ice cream in July,” Sloane says.

Think long, soft licks, as opposed to pokey, bird-like pecks.

What do you do if hair gets stuck in your mouth?

This is NBD.

“Awkward sex things happen, and they’re totally not a big deal,” Struyk says.

Pause, fish for the hair, and then get back in there.

How do you know if you’re doing OK?

Ask! It’s that easy. Some phrases to try out:

  • “Do you prefer this [demo A] or this [demo B]?”
  • “Can I keep going?”
  • “Does this pressure feel good?”

Struyk says their body should give you some clues, too. For example, are they moving toward you or away from you?

If your partner is pushing closer, chances are it feels good. If they’re pulling away or clenching their legs, the sensation may be too intense and you may need to back off.

How long should you do it for?

Sloane says that, on average, it takes vulva owners 20 to 45 minutes to climax.

Does that mean you’ll be licking their bean that long? If your partner consents and you’re having a good time, it might.

“Giving someone oral to the point where you’re no longer enjoying it yourself isn’t a great game plan,” Sloane adds. “It’s OK to move onto something else, and then come back.”

Should you insert your tongue into the vagina?

Only if they communicate that they’d enjoy that. Less tongue-thrust, more tongue-touch is usually best.

What if your partner is menstruating?

Everyone has different comfort levels, and fluid-borne STIs can be spread through period blood, so check in with your partner.

Cunnilingus can bring intimate fun into the bedroom. So go ahead, kiss them on their other lips!


Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tried the Whole30 challenge, and eaten, drunk, brushed with, scrubbed with, and bathed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.