Advice for a someone who has a sudden urge to get away from oral sex. Is it just too much stimulation, or is it related to trauma?
[Content note – it’s okay, I don’t go into any upsetting detail about anything]
Why is my first reaction when my boyfriend is playing with my clitoris to get away from the feeling? I’m female (17) and have been going out with my partner male (18) for nearly 8 months now. Before this I had been sexually active with 2 other guys. They weren’t very good encounters and it made it quite difficult for me to feel comfortable having sex again. But this has gotten better overtime and with the help of my very loving boyfriend. I’ve never felt any sort of pleasure from masturbating and never do it as I always feel disgusting and wrong when I do it.
But I do desire sex with my boyfriend. When he is giving me oral and is playing with my clit it feels really good, almost like a tickling sensation. However every time I feel this sensation I have a sudden urge to get away from it. Like if someone is tickling your feet suddenly and you jerk away. I thrash and move up and down trying to get away from the sensation and I do not understand why.
Now, I don’t hate the feeling nor do I want to get away from it, but it’s like my body goes into fight or flight mode and just does everything it can to try and get away from the feeling. I hate it as I enjoy oral and it makes it very tough for me to enjoy it. I’m not sure if it’s a case of me being really ticklish or just a subconscious from my previous encounters with partners. Is there anything I can do to try and stop this Urge to get away from taking over?
Thanks for your great question. I’m sorry that your encounters with the other guys wasn’t good. It sounds like that might have been quite difficult for you, so I’m pleased that you are starting to feel more able to comfortable having sex. Learning to feel comfortable having sex, and then possibly enjoying it, is not always easy.
Sadly, this is particularly true for girls because of all of the messages that society tells us about how girls / women should relate to sex. Related to that, a lot of us have had bad sex education and so don’t have a clue when we first have sex. Also, sadly, for the first time people too often don’t take enough care to make sure that their partner is having a good time, or at least not having a bad or a painful time.
It sounds like you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of things. Is it that your body is responding to something that happened in the past? Or is your body responding to something that is happening in the moment. Either way, you’ve done the right thing to pay attention to it and to ask someone about it. I’ll try and help you work out what else you might do.
Is it something subconscious from previous partners?
It is certainly possible for the body to remember previous encounters that weren’t great. When that happens the sympathetic nervous system might step in to keep you safe and to prevent any harm from happening. That’s what would happen if your body was in fight or flight mode. This part of our body, that regulates our nervous system, is good at reacting but it’s not good at explaining. So it’s up to you to think about whether what you are experiencing is a response to trauma, or something else.
Read more about How to Deal with Stress (how the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system works)
If it’s a response to trauma you may also experience some memories of something that happened before. Perhaps some thoughts coming back to you. Maybe try to think about the last time this urge to get away happened, did you have any difficult or unpleasant thoughts? If there are some unresolved thoughts about something non-consensual, or something painful that happened, you might want to speak with a psychosexual therapist about it. A lot of sexual health clinics might be able to refer you to one, or just someone that you could chat to. You could also try your local sexual assault referral centre for advice on who to see.
You can have different kinds of sex
If, for whatever reason, you are having difficult thoughts or memories from oral sex, you might want to take oral sex off the table for a bit and only try doing things that you are definitely into. It’s not great to try to make ourselves enjoy something we don’t enjoy.
That is just good advice generally actually. We get told that oral is the best ever, particularly for women (with vulvas). It’s true that, for a lot of women, oral gives them the kinds of sensations that other kinds of sex can’t give them. But for others it just doesn’t do it for them. We don’t all have to like everything, no matter what the reason is. We are allowed to like what we like and dislike what we don’t. There are loads of different ways of having sex and having different kinds of touch.
Is it to do with something with the body?
The urge to get away from the feeling, this ticklish sensation you are experiencing, could just be something more to do with your boyfriend’s tongue, or mouth, and the head of your clitoris. Just to complicate this a bit though, sex is never just parts of our anatomy. More on that in a sec.
It could be that the way that your boyfriend is touching you is too sensitive for your clitoris. If he wants to get an idea of how sensitive the clitoris is, it’s like the head of his penis (if he has one). The penis and the clitoris have the same kinds of receptors that can lead to sexual arousal, but the clitoris might have as many as 14 times more than the penis (according to this one study).
So you could just very gently whisper into your boyfriend’s ear, “darling, I have many cutaneous corpuscular receptors in the glabrous genital skin, so can you go more gently?” He might need to lick much more gently, or it might need to be a bit firmer but in a different way with a different part of his tongue, or mouth. Maybe he is licking, or sucking, or kissing the clitoris too directly.
As you can see in these drawings, there’s usually skin covering the clitoris, so he could aim more for that bit. He could also try a different area, like the labia (the inner or the outer), or the vagina itself, or the anus. But this is something that you both need to try to be a bit more communicative about (more on that below).
Feel aroused first?
There are some things that might feel like too much sensation when the clitoris is not aroused, than when the clitoris is really aroused. The penis and clitoris are very very similar because they both get hard, and they might feel very very different when they are. So the things that your boyfriend is doing when he’s giving you oral sex might feel very different if your clitoris is in a different state.
Read more about what happens when the clitoris and the penis get hard.
This means you might want to do different kinds of sex that might be sexually arousing first. To get sexually aroused, we don’t just have to have our genitals touched. You could have a snog, or share a sexy thought, or look at each other in a certain way, or whisper something sexy about cutaneous corpuscular receptors in the glabrous genital skin.
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Shitty sex advice
Before I get to the communication bit, we have to remember that our bodies don’t work like they describe in text books or (most) sex advice books. Our bodies aren’t just our bodies but an assemblage of sensations, feelings, thoughts, fantasies, vibes, past experiences, newness, societal messages. Our bodies are also constantly changing and genitals are a really good example of this because they change a lot.
So we need to be very careful about some of the ‘sexual knowledge’ that we might pick up. For example, like I’ve said before, there’s this idea that everyone is into oral. Not really. Or that to be a good lover you have to be selfless and give the other person an orgasm (or make them orgasm). Nope. Or that we should be persistent and really try to make someone enjoy sex. Again, nope.
For the kinds of sex ed you never got at school, try my Teach Yourself Sex Ed course. It’s great, it’s free, and you can be a proper sex geek after doing it.
There’s so much shitty ‘sex positive’ education that tells people that their bodies work in a particular way. This gives the impression that all we need to be ‘good at sex’ is the correct set of instructions to make someone work. That’s really not how to be good at sex. Anyway, I’ve done an article and a video about how to be good at sex.
A feeling that you’re not used to
You say that you don’t masturbate, that’s fine. Lots of people don’t masturbate. I think it’s just worth remembering that this means that these sensations are something that you’re not really very used to.
Masturbation wouldn’t change the cutaneous corpuscular receptors in the glabrous genital skin, but it might have helped you be more aware of the kinds of touch you need. A lot of people learn that they really just can’t touch the head of their clitoris at all because it is way too sensitive. You, with your boyfriend’s help, are now learning this for the first time. So that might be what’s going on.
Surf the Urge
You say that you are enjoying the oral for a minute and then it starts to get too much. Maybe what you need to do is to slow everything down and really pay attention to what is happening second by second. Perhaps have your hand on his head (with his permission), and just gently push him away if it is feeling like it’s getting a bit much.
Think of there being a green zone (everything okay) and an amber zone (it’s nearly not okay). You want to avoid being in the red zone (where it’s too much).
Whether you are experiencing a flight or fight response, or whether you are experiencing more of a flinching response from receiving too much stimulation too quickly, it’s a good idea to just pause. We should have more pauses during sex because, well frankly, it’s a lot. The sensations, the thoughts, the feelings, the vibes, the chemical response in our brains can be really really overwhelming. There’s a French term for the overwhelm of sex (or other kinds of pleasure) called ‘jouissance’. Sometimes it can just be a bit much.
We also need to let our parasympathetic nervous system do it’s thing. It’s hard to get horny if we are stressed, and if the sympathetic nervous system has taken over. During enjoyable sex the different sides of the nervous system work in tandem, with one responsible for the heavy breathing and the yelping and the other one responsible for sending blood to the genitals and allowing the body to take in all the sensations that are happening. So sometimes we just need to build in pauses to allow for that to happen. Pause, take a big breath out, try to feel heavy on the bed (or wherever), and then see how you feel about carrying on. Which brings us to …
Sounds to me like you need a bit more effective communication between you. If you are flinching, or trying to get away from the sensation, your boyfriend should be paying attention to that. He sounds great, but really the right thing to do is for him to pause and check in with you.
Read this on how to do sex talk and communication
What a lot of shitty sex positive sex education tells us is that you should just keep going with oral. That someone moving and flinching is a sign that they are definitely having an orgasm. For some people, this might be true. Their legs moving sharply or their hips writing and moving upwards might be a sign of intense pleasure. That’s how they show it in the movies. However, that’s not what’s going on for you. So you might need to tell him, if he doesn’t know this already.
So try saying things like
“I love how enthusiastic you are about giving me oral but:
- after a minute it gets too much
- I need it to be much more gentle and slow
- I’m going to keep my hand on your head and tap you if it’s starting to feel a bit too much, or just gently push you away
- I need to do other stuff before I can really enjoy it
- Can you aim for the skin around the clitoris rather than straight for it
- I might need less of a direct focus but more of a broad kind of pressure on the surrounding area
… and I love that I feel okay about asking you this because you are such a great lover and a caring and kind boyfriend.”
It does sound like your boyfriend is being patient and kind with you. As I’ve said in this article I think that there are a few things that you could both think about doing differently. Just like all the good things in relationships are co-created, you are co-creating your sexual experiences too, and that comes from the relationship you have together. So reflect on that.
Pick a number from 0 to 10, with 10 being ‘the best sex I could ever hope for’ and 0 being ‘the worst sex ever’, where are you on that scale? Why not lower? What qualities do you have in the relationship that have got you this high? Think of 10. Then think of 20. Can you imagine how it might feel to be one point higher on that scale?
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© Justin Hancock, 2022
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health.