Friday, February 5, 2016

Oral Sex, Young People, and Gendered Narratives of Reciprocity

Young people in many countries report gender differences in giving and receiving oral sex, yet examination of young people’s own perspectives on gender dynamics in oral heterosex are relatively rare. 

We explored the constructs and discourses 16- to 18-year-old men and women in England used in their accounts of oral sex during in-depth interviews. Two contrasting constructs were in circulation in the accounts: on one hand, oral sex on men and women was narrated as equivalent, while on the other, oral sex on women was seen as “a bigger deal” than oral sex on men. 

Young men and women used a “give and take” discourse, which constructed the mutual exchange of oral sex as “fair.” Appeals to an ethic of reciprocity in oral sex enabled women to present themselves as demanding equality in their sexual interactions, and men as supporting mutuality. 

However, we show how these ostensibly positive discourses about equality also worked in narratives to obscure women’s constrained agency and work with respect to giving oral sex.

...The notion that oral-vulva contact was more costly was also evident in young women’s accounts, which included two related ideas: first, that it was “easier” for women to give oral sex than for men; and second, that it was easier for men to receive oral sex and, crucially, to enjoy receiving it than it was for women:

I think anything to a girl, the way girls talk about it, is more of a big deal than it would be to a boy. […] I think you’d be more likely to give a blow job because licking out, again, like … girls have a lot of insecurities […] like I said about [pubic] hair and things like that because, ’cause in school boys made such a big deal about things like that. And […] yeah, I think … I think it’s more of a big deal for a girl to, like, be licked out. (Pippa, 16-year-old woman, southwest)

I think all males really like it being done to them but, um, like, it’s … a lot of girls say, like, the same, it’s just … they don’t really like it. They feel uncomfortable.

What are the general concerns about it do you think, when you say people feel uncomfortable?
Um … I don’t know. I think it’s sort of the same thing that you’re not really doing anything; it’s sort of being done to you. I don’t like that, and yeah, I just, I dunno … I guess it’s like, generally an area you’re not very confident, but, well, I’m not. (Becky, 17-year-old woman, north)...
Full article at:

By:  Ruth Lewisab & Cicely Marstonb*
  • a Department of Sociology, University of the Pacific, and Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • b Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 

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