I'm scared of blow jobs; help!

The physical act of it is something I like doing for partners, and I genuinely want to do it. But after going to therapy for my eating disorder, I’ve become more conscious of how anxious it makes me.

A SWEETIE, WHOM WE LOVE:

I’m [22F] having a bit of an issue that I didn’t pay attention to when I first noticed it, and now it’s become a full blown (lol) fear that I avoid. I'm too scared to give a blow job! For a bit of background information, I’m recovering from an eating disorder (bulimia), and I don’t have positive associations regarding things in my mouth/throat. 

As someone who didn’t start having sex or any kind of physical relationships until college, the sexual experiences overlapped with my ED. Blow jobs didn’t bother me then! And I was told I was quite good at them at that time (a thing I was unreasonably proud of). The physical act of it is something I like doing for partners, and I genuinely want to do it. But after going to therapy for my eating disorder (about a year ago), I’ve become more conscious of how anxious it makes me. Especially if the date night is more of a “go to dinner first and then back to his place” kind of thing. 

I stopped trying to give them completely after I had a panic attack with a tinder hookup’s dick in my mouth. Another aspect of it that makes me apprehensive is that it’s an “ugly angle.” I know sex is weird and gross regardless, but something about a man maybe possibly seeing me as unattractive in that vulnerable moment? Terrifying. 

I’m not sure how to bring it up with partners if they ask, and I don’t want this to be a hinderance to my sex life. What can I do to get back to being praised for my blow jobs and not be so anxious over this?

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SOPHIA:

First of all, I’m thrilled to bits that you’re in recovery for your eating disorder. It’s a long and arduous process and I cannot commend you enough for where you are. Great job; keep it up!!!!!! You’re perfect and you’ve never done a single thing wrong 💕💕!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now let’s get to blowjobs! Blowjobs are great. I love them, you love them, there’s totally a “weird” sense of pride that people have around giving good ones (not weird at all because most things that please men are seen as good, and a whole lot of guys like blow jobs). They are seen as so “standard” to hooking up that they’ve become casual, something you might engage in with a one-night stand. In fact, something you almost certainly will engage in with a one night stand if one of you has a dick. (Unless you’re the Uber-cool Alison Stevenson).

My point is that I get your preoccupation with beejers!!!! I get your previous pride in being good at them—it feels great to turn people on! But I think you need to give yourself a BREAK!!

Blow jobs are not the end all be all of turning someone on. They’re great!!! Huge BJ advocate here! I think you’ll give many more in your life someday soon!! But creating a sex dynamic with casual hookups where you try to force yourself through a certain act seems like a good recipe for you disliking sex in general rather than just blow jobs. Or if not disliking it, then at least you feeling pressurized. Even if you are the one creating pressure for yourself during sex, that is not how you should feel. That’s not how sex should feel. You shouldn’t have to be stealing yourself or shoring up confidence.

I’m not saying that you’re never going to have to face this and that things are magically going to get better on their own, but I’ll address what I think you should do to get back in the BJ saddle below. For now, if it were me, I would tell a white lie to your partners if they’re casual hook ups or people whom you don’t want to/feel like telling about your eating disorder. I would use having a terrible gag reflex or bad TMJ as your excuse—as someone who has very bad TMJ (and who has also had multiple eating disorders) you’re more than welcome to toss it around as reason you won’t be heading down town.

I’m not AT ALL suggesting that you need to lie, or that you ought to feel shame about your eating disorder. I’m just giving you an idea for a lie if you need it! 🚨You also OF COURSE do not need to give a reason AT ALL!!!! You never need to give a reason for not doing any sexual act ever!!!🚨 But I know that sometimes having an ironclad excuse in your back pocket feels like safety, like you might not get judged. And that can be valuable. So do what you think is right. You do not need to disclose medical or mental health information that you do not feel like disclosing.

My strong recommendation is to wait to try out blowjobs again until you have a partner that you see with some regularity, or at least someone that you trust and care about a lot. Not because of love or monogamy or anything— neither is required!!!!—but just so that you can feel as good as possible going into the situation in case you do end up having anxiety or needing to stop. It might be good to give this person the heads up of what’s going on before you two have sex (again, up to you!) I would say it like this, “So, this is maybe weird to bring up before we have sex buuuut I sometimes get anxious when I go down on people because of an eating disorder that I had. I would like to go down on you, but I also want to give you the heads up that I might need to stop at some point.” Elaborate as much or as little as you’d like. Talking about it beforehand (again not required) might give you clues as to how they’ll handle the situation and will also be not as alarming for the other person if you start to have a panic attack mid-sex. Should someone react poorly during the conversation with you (i.e., asking inappropriate questions, not being as understanding as you’d like)—WHICH I THINK IS INCREDIBLY UNLIKELY!!!—then you can pull the plug before anything even starts. This is why I think you should wait until you have a repeat partner that you have some rapport with. I'm not suggesting that only monogamous, exclusive relationships will bring back your beej game, just find someone you like and trust.

Now, once you get to the actual dick-in-mouth part, may I humbly suggest flavored (edible) lube, your hands and not putting the dick in your mouth as much as simply licking the dick. You don't need to deep throat a guy to prove how great you are in bed.

You don’t even need to be great in bed! Who cares!!!! Sometimes sex is “pretty good”
and not “THE BEST SEX I’VE EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE I FEEL LIKE I SNORTED COCAINE OFF OF GOD’S TITS!!” It’s fine to have pretty good sex. A lot of sex will be pretty good.

As for how you *look* during sex— there’s nothing I can say that is going to magically fix your association of this position with looking bad. I’m going to tell you some things that are very very very true because I’m a brilliant goddess, but this will not fix your problem. You will need to do some work. A therapist will probably be very helpful for working on body image concerns. Here are the things that are true though, whether you believe me or not:

  • There is literally no unflattering angle while your mouth is on someone’s dick. Doesn’t exist.

  • Sex is rife with unflattering angles and no one gives a shit. Have you ever wanted to stop having sex with someone because of an “unflattering angle” at which you saw their body? No.

  • Oddly enough, by the time you get to having sex with someone, there are very few surprises about how turned on they make you. No one is (paradoxically) thinking about attractiveness during sex. They’re trying to make their naughty bits feel good.

  • Additionally, YOU SPECIFICALLY DO NOT LOOK GROSS DURING SEX!!!

  • But even if you did, being turned on overrides the human propensity to find things gross. It’s why you can be turned on by really weird porn and then the second you come you feel weird inside. Brains are doing a lot of work to make sure no one gets turned off.

  • Lastly: so what if your partner thinks you look weird from a certain angle? So what??? What happens then? Carry your anxiety to the end of the line and see what it is that you’re afraid of and try to separate what you feel from what is true. While it’s a common anxiety to have, no one is going to see your body naked and run screaming—no matter the angle.

While, as I said above, I don’t think that time will magically erase this association or the anxiety that comes with it, I do think that time will be your friend in this healing. You don’t owe anyone a blow job. It’s not a requirement of good sex. Be gentle on yourself. Don’t rush the process. You will get there. Having panic attacks to prove that you’re a “chill girl” who gives head is not at all healthy or worth it. Take care of yourself first and dicks last, please. ❤️


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Sophia Benoit writes this very newsletter; she also writes about sex & relationships for GQ, tweets about everything else at @1followernodad, is a researcher for Lights Out With David Spade, and has had bylines in The Guardian, Reductress, Refinery29, Allure, and The Cut. You can reach her or yell at her at 1followernodad@substack.com.