At a certain point in their sex lives, many straight men have a critical realization: Vaginas aren't gross. Neither is cunnilingus.
In fact, contrary to stereotypes that most straight men hate going down on ladies, for many men giving oral sex is just as good as getting it. According to data from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, a majority of millennial men reported having performed oral sex on their female partners in the past year — and it wasn't just for reciprocity's sake.
Debby Herbenick, one of the survey's researchers and an associate professor at Indiana University, told Mic that "the vast majority" of young men enjoy cunnilingus quite a lot. "In new, not-yet-published data from a recent college student survey I conducted, 64% said [they enjoyed performing oral sex] 'very much' and 24% said 'somewhat,'" Herbenick said.
Men's reasons for loving a little tongue action are manifold, but they mostly stem from the same fundamental (and not totally shocking) truth: Women like being eaten out, making that in itself a worthwhile pursuit. For many especially enthusiastic men, though, cunnilingus is about way more.
Mic asked millennial men why they enjoy performing oral sex on their female partners, whether they think it's important to having a vibrant sex life and whether they think they're any good at going down.
Here's what they had to say.
Mutual pleasure is the best pleasure.
With age comes maturity, and with maturity comes the knowledge that sex usually just isn't as fun when only one partner gets off. One of the primary reasons men say they love giving oral sex is partly selfish: Making women feel good makes them feel good.
"I only get off if my partner gets off. It's a two-sided coin, and I don't want to have sex to solely get my rocks off. I fully enjoy watching a woman enjoy my skills." — Curtis*, 31
"I think part of it is getting some vicarious pleasure through my partner. Knowing that it's hot for them turns me on, and eventually just the act itself turns me on. I like to imagine what it must feel like." — Alec*, 24
"The best sex is where both partners give and receive, and both partners take control and take a back seat at different points. I feel like mutual oral sex is a big part of that." — Robert*, 23
It makes sex more intimate.
Getting up close and personal with a vagina is an extremely intimate act. That intimacy often translates to the rest of a sexual encounter, which can improve a couple's overall chemistry.
"I love [giving oral sex] because it seems to be one of the most pleasurable things you can do for a woman. To hear and feel her reactions from that incredibly intimate point of contact is both bonding and super sexy, for me." — Logan*, 22
"[Going down on a woman] is awesome. Especially when the sexual, physical and spiritual connection is there, it's like two bodies connecting and expanding into a universe of sensation. It's just all around awesome." — Alan*, 33
Sometimes, oral sex is the only way women get off.
"[Giving oral sex] is a key piece of being an all around good lover. Some women prefer or need penetration to reach orgasm, but I have found that many prefer cunnilingus and clitoral stimulation to get there." — Simon*, 26
"It really turns me on. I love the actual act of it; the smell, the taste, etc. It's also the most reliable way to make a woman orgasm. Most of the women I've been with said they find it hard or impossible to orgasm purely from sex." — Zachary*, 33
Receiving oral sex can make partners more relaxed and open-minded.
That said, not all men are willing to perform oral sex — which means some millennial women who haven't previously had partners who want to go down might view it as an adventurous new act. Tackling this new adventure can make many women more open to trying other new things during a sexual encounter.
"I notice that sex tends to be more fun — wilder, dirtier, rougher — if I kick things off with cunnilingus." — Martin*, 27
"If you get good at going down on a girl, the sex is more intense. They are more relaxed, which is always good if you want to try other things. I don't know a guy who wouldn't want to have lots of sex with a girl that loved to get off. So help her get off!" — Curtis
"I don't 'give to get' but I do think that being able to pleasure your partner better improves both people's pleasure." — Ricky*, 23
It gets her in the mood to get down to business.
Cunnilingus before intercourse can significantly improve both partners' experience because, to put it simply, it's better when it's wetter. (Plus, she'll probably be more inclined to reciprocate, if you're into that sort of thing.)
"In a long-term relationship, the sight of your dad bod, which she has seen literally thousands of times, is not going to be enough foreplay to make penetration enjoyable. Cunnilingus goes a long way in bridging the gap between a man's 'instant on' and woman's need to gradually build up to sex." — Christian*, 26
"Nothing has gotten me laid more than going down first, without any goading or suggestion." — Blake*, 28
"There's a noticeable difference in the quality of sex if the order is rip off clothes and go down. I feel like women get so used to dudes just lying back and expecting head that it becomes routine and a little boring, despite it being inherently new and exciting." — Martin
Being good at going down can improve self-esteem.
We all like being good at things. (Remember how awesome it felt to get a gold star on that fourth-grade math test?) That sentiment also applies to sex: Being told how good you are at giving head is a pretty big ego boost.
"Guys generally worry about their dick size or sex skills, and would probably err on the side of caution that they are less than average at both (though they would probably never publicly admit it). If you become good at [giving head], you generally don't have to worry about lacking in the other departments." — Curtis
"I think it's empowering because I take pleasure in knowing my partner is enjoying herself. It's like, right in this moment, I have you completely. I like knowing I can take someone out of her own head. It makes me more confident in what I'm doing and usually means the rest of whatever we're up to will be great." — Martin
*Names have been changed to allow subjects to speak freely on private matters.