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Jewel munching, eating box, licking the bean, cunnilingus… this nickname-able sex act can be H-O-T to give and receive — so long as the giver knows what they’re doing.

That’s where this cunnilingus crib sheet comes in.

Scroll down for everything vulva-havers want you to know about going down.

Before we get down on the going down, let’s set the record straight on vulvas: They’re all different!

Everyone has a smell

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

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

And everyone has a taste

“Even the same vagina can taste different day to day,” says sex educator Sarah Sloane, who’s been coaching sex toy classes at Good Vibrations and Pleasure Chest since 2001.

“[It’s] based on things like diet, hydration levels, medications, where the person is in their cycle, and more.”

Labia come in many colors, shapes, and sizes

Seeing someone’s labia for the first time is like opening a box of assorted chocolate: You never know what you’re going to get.

Some labia hang low and wobble to and fro. Others are short or asymmetrical or curved. There’s no normal labia #lewk.

So does pubic hair

Pubic hair is as varied in style, texture, and length as head hair.

“Some remove the hair completely, some trim it into a shape or design, some do nothing at all,” says Sloane.

Oral sex still has risks

Pregnancy may not be a risk, but many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be spread through oral sex.

Your plan of action: Talk to your partner about their STI status before going down on them and consider using a dental dam.

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

  • Cut a condom like this.
  • Cut a latex glove like this.
  • Use plastic wrap.

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.

Seriously, where is the clit? Why can’t I find it?

It 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,” says Sloane.

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 I really write the alphabet with my tongue?

Nope! According to Sloane, most 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 I 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,” says Sloane.

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

What do I do if hair gets stuck in my mouth?

This is NBD. “Awkward sex things happen, and they’re totally not a big deal,” says sex educator Tara Struyk, co-founder of Kinkly, an online sexual wellness resource.

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

How do I know if I’m 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 I 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 I insert my tongue into the vagina?

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

What if they’re menstruating?

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

Every body is different, so you’ll probably have to test different techniques to find what gets your partner going. Here are some general tips for getting ahead while giving head.

Get in there

If you’re performing cunnilingus because you think that’s what you “should” be doing, or you’re half-assing it, your partner’s going to know.

So, if you want to be there, be fully there.

Most vulva owners have been socialized to believe that they aren’t deserving of pleasure and feel guilty to be the focus during sex.

Being fully present and enthusiastic can help ease some of those worries and allow them to truly enjoy the sex!

Set the pace

Start light and slowly increase the pressure and speed. “It’s easier for someone to ask for more than to have to ask you to back off,” says Sloane.

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

Lock eyes

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.

Make some noise

Moaning against your partner’s body can create a hot, rumbly sensation that feels ah-mazing on their vulva. Slurping, suctioning, and spitting sounds are also good to go (read: encouraged).

Use your hands

Remember what we said about the clitoris extending back into the rest of the body? Using your hands is a great way to tap into its full pleasure potential.

Insert your fingers about two inches into their vagina and locate their G-spot. Or, use them to spread apart your lover’s labia to give your mouth more direct access to their ruby.

Switch things up

While most vulva-owners need direct and constant clitoral stimulation to climax, Struyk says, “If you focus on it too much, you’re likely to make your partner oversensitive — and possibly annoyed.”

Her recommendation? Vary the pressure, pacing, and technique until your partner is close to keep the sensation pleasurable, not pesky.

Ready to go downtown? Here’s how.

How do I get things going?

Just like with penetrative sex, foreplay 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.

Sloane 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 uncomfy for your neck, prop a pillow beneath your partners 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 other options. “Just make sure you’re both comfortable so that you can properly enjoy it,” says Struyk.

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!

For starters, many folks are self-conscious about their vulvas.

While most folks don’t L-O-V-E having their bits gaped at, now’s a good time to offer them a compliment. Are they beautiful? Do they smell good? Are you dying to taste them? Let ‘em know.

Now that you’ve verbally appreciated their body, try out some of these techniques.

What do I do with my 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,” suggests Struyk.

Some techniques to try:

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

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.

How do I keep my 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 I 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/vulva, which can increase the risk of infection.

What do I do with my 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?” says Struyk.

Some options: Use them to tweak and tease your partner’s nipples, to penetrate your partner’s front or back hole, or to hold your partner’s hips in place as they grind against your kisser.

Should I try penetration?

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

How can I 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.

There’s no way of knowing beforehand how long you’ll be down there, whether they’ll orgasm, or what you’ll do after your lick-a-thon. Keep these tips in your back pocket and go with the flow!

How do I know if I 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 do go faster or harder, because that may actually ruin the feel-good rhythm you’ve established,” says Sloane.

Or if they want me to do something else?

Whether your cutie 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 sesh? Penetrative sex? A back massage?

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

What about when it’s all said and done?

All done? Tell your boo know 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.

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.