Hi Yana,

My boyfriend refuses to go down on me. As a bisexual woman who has been in long term relationships with women, it’s something I miss. I bring it up and he gets defensive about it. I’m always down to give the blow jobs and don’t believe in not doing so just because he doesn’t go down on me.

He’s tight lipped about why he isn’t interested in it. He makes it seem like we would have to be together for a long time before he does, but it has been over six months — and we live together. Any suggestions?

— Left Bi & Dry

Dear Bi & Dry,

Tight lipped, eh? Sounds like he’s not the only one!

Without much background information, I’m left with a few questions that’ll determine my advice:

1.) What has he done to make it seem like he wants you two to have more relationship history before going down on you? Did he say this outright? Or are his answers vague; he mentions “trust” and “knowing each other better,” but does not offer any idea of what that might look like?

2.) How have you brought it up with him? Is it in a way that warrants his defensive reaction? Or are you approaching this from a perspective that truly wants to understand his aversion to going down?

3.) And then finally: Has he NEVER gone down on you ever in your entire relationship? Or is this a new, sudden, or gradual change?

In my experience, both personal and professional, someone’s resistance to performing oral sex (beyond they simply don’t care for it) is usually about:

1.) Gendered, social sex education that expects women to perform oral sex on men. (Need an example? Let’s play a game and count the number of magazine cover stories this month that feature an article about BJs and compare them to the cover stories run about cunnilingus. Meanwhile, men don’t get the social message that “Being a Good Lover = Providing Oral Sex” pounded into their heads, so some may feel less urgency/“off the hook” about it.

2.) Bad sexual experience with performing oral sex. Whether that be bad as in a traumatic, non-consensual interaction or bad as in having been laughed at by an ex for his muff-diving approach or having not liked the experience of a past cunnilingus it can impact how he feels about it now.

3.) They are terrified. Vaginal pleasure, in particular, gets little FaceTime (get it?) in sex ed classes; in this phallic world, cunnilingus tends to be less intuitive for most people. And men are raised to believe that their gendered role in sex is to be in control, all-knowing, and question-less.

With these forces combined men are often left with little practical knowledge about the how’s and what’s of vaginal pleasure. Oh, right! I almost forgot the expectations of men to be the best at sex if they want to be a Real Men.

So, which one of these possible causes resonates most for your boyfriend?

If he’s fallen into gender roles, perhaps it’s time to normalize that oral sex — for both partners — is a welcome part of many hetero sex lives!

If he’s had bad past experiences, try a gentler approach with the goal of getting to know the details of his past and how you can be careful with the remnants of it here in your present.

If it’s No. 3 and he’s shakin’ in his clit-lickin’ boots, some cunnilingus education via book — The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus, by Violet Blue — or X-rated edu-porn — Tristan Taormino’s Expert Guide to Cunnilingus — or in year life with your body, his mouth, and lots of in-the-moment direction and checking in.

Of course, there could be a fourth reason why he’s avoiding going down: he either thinks that your vagina is gross, you don’t deserve oral sex, or he otherwise feels that his blow jobs are more important than your pleasure. If it’s No. 4 that’s resonating with you, it’s time to dump him.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.