When did oral sex become a common part of sex?

Let me begin by acknowledging that my premise may be off, but it’s my understanding that:

  1. it is typical during modern heterosexual sex for oral sex to be used as a part of foreplay, and that fellatio/cunnilingus are occasionally used as a complete sexual encounter.
  2. this wasn’t always the case.

If I’m correct, when and why did this change?

My understanding of history, for example, was that prostitution was far more common (and tolerated) in the 19th century, and part of the appeal was that a prostitue might offer a blowjob, which no married man was likely to get at home. And, since people didn’t groom their public hair until quite recently, cunnilingus was similarly rare.

I’d love to be wrong on this. Did Martha slob on George’s nob, if only on their wedding night? What’s the straight dope?

I think your #2 premise is false. I would guess oral has been around since the dawn of time.

I agree. However, I think OP may be right that the rules of engagement have probably changed substantially. Modern standards of bodily hygiene are very different.

I have a 1910 era “Marriage Manual” that makes no mention of the practice, or even the possibility. I think this was the one my parents and my uncle learned from.

Another, similar book ca. 1949 says,

OTOH, it advises the man to apply such to the woman, or she will “not orgasm and become frustrated.”

And even a 1940’s book, this copy published in 1965, doesn’t use the term “oral sex,” but “genital kisses.”

We should be careful not to conflate medieval-to-20th century Europe with human history. The ancient Greek and Romans used oral sex plenty although they tended to perceive it in terms of slave-like domination. Indians don’t seem to have had much issue with oral sex.

Puritanism/obscurantism, sex-is-only-for-procreation values and lax hygiene were likely factors in making oral sex rare in N. America and Europe in the past 2 millennia. I’m pretty sure greater access & use of bathing and women not being seen as baby factories correlate strongly with the popularity of oral sex.

I think the only thing that changes are the taboos.

Bonobos, gorillas, and other primates engage in oral sex. Based on that, I think it’s a safe bet that the earliest homo sapiens did the same.

I think that the idea of oral sex was just better hidden during the puritanical Victorian era. A quick google shows me that there were depictions of oral sex in Pompeii’s baths, and illustrations in the kamasutra.

Not going to link to them because the two click rule is a bit of a pain, but they’re easy to find.

From graffiti in Pompeii: Theophilus, don’t perform oral sex on girls against the city wall like a dog.

If people figured out that oysters are a thing you can eat, you wouldn’t bet against someone trying oral sex at some point in the last 5 million years and discovering that it’s fun.

I don’t think this is a factor at all. Nice soft hair cushioning the cheeks is a great part of cunny.


Having come of age in the late 1960s, I can assure you that the acceptability of cunnilingus predated the current popularity of trimming/shaving pubic hair by several decades.

I can’t say how common it was earlier in practice, but in the 60s/70s, like all kinds of sexual behavior, it became more openly discussed. While certainly not rare, my impression is in the 70s it wasn’t regarded as such a “standard” part of a sexual encounter as it is now. It might not be something you engaged in the first time you went to bed with someone, but only after a few times.

Read Victorian porn sometime. It’s been around since the dawn of time, just by different names.

Q: Why is pubic hair curly?

A: So it doesn’t poke your eye out.

Growing up in the 60’s and early 70’s, it seems to not so much that it was “not common” as “not commonly talked about”. Partly in those good old days, some men were not really into foreplay as much as wham-bam-thank-you-ma’m. But oral sex by women on men certainly was a thing. I think a few things brought it into the “mainstream” so to speak.

The movie Deep Throat was about oral sex. A few years later, I remember an issue of Penthouse was seized at the Canadian border because it depicted a man, apparently by his head position, appearing to perform oral sex on a woman. The AIDS epidemic made the sexually active population more aware of the risks of intercourse (although, oral sex does not really qualify as a safe activity). And the icing on the cake and cherry on top, so to speak, was Bill Clinton’s escapades with Monica. Women saw it as a acceptable way to avoid having actual intercourse.

“Daddy, what’s this oral sex they talk about on the news?”
“Go ask your mother. She’ll tell you it’s a myth.”

I’m reading a 1970 novel by Irving Wallace, in which oral sex is quite risque and described as “not straight” (i.e., not normative).

Well, fellatio was associated too with homosexual activity, and so “cocksucker” as a crude insult to a man was common well before the 60’s. It’s not like the less prudish had no idea what sorts of things were possible.

Dear Sir - that is trivializing to a point, it feels offensive. :slight_smile:

Here from Vatsayana, 2 nd century are steps 1 for Female to male and male to female, respectively :

  1. “When your lover catches your lingam in her hand and, shaping her lips to an ‘O’, lays them lightly to its tip, moving her head in tiny circles, this first step is called Nimitta.” Nimitta is translated as Touching.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/821181

  1. “With delicate fingertips, pinch the arched lips of her house of love very very slowly together, and kiss them as though you kissed her lower lip; this is Adhara-sphuritam.” This is rendered the Quivering Kiss.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/821181

Yes, sorta, kinda. It wasn’t consider the 'right" way to finish, but it was normal are part of foreplay.

Tru dat. But it was released in 1972, by which point the so-called Sexual Revolution had been going on for several years. What was popular awareness of and participation in oral sex like in 1962?

ETA: That’s only partly a rhetorical question. The answer to the rhetorical part is, of course, “a hell of a lot less.” But how much less? I was eight years old in 1962 and didn’t even know about genital sex at that point, let alone the alternatives, so I don’t have a good fix on the answer.

Who knows not where a wasp does
wear his sting? In his tail.
In his tongue.
Whose tongue?
Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.
What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again,
Good Kate; I am a gentleman.

Taming of the Shrew, Act I scene 2

Conclusion: cunnilingus was common enough in the Elizabethan era for people to get the joke.