Watercolor painting by Achille Devéria depicting cunnilingus

Cunnilingus is an oral sex act performed on a female. It involves the use by a sex partner of the mouth, lips and tongue to stimulate the female's clitoris, vulva, or vagina. A female may receive cunnilingus as part of foreplay before sexual intercourse, during intercourse, or as intercourse.

The term is derived from the Latin words for the vulva (cunnus) and tongue (lingua).



Mihály Zichy "Making Love"

As in all human sexual behavior, both the techniques used in cunnilingus and individual responses to them are varied.[1]

The clitoris is the most sexually sensitive erogenous zone for most women, but may be too sensitive to pleasantly stimulate directly at times, especially in early stages of arousal. Author Shere Hite notes in The Hite Report that most women achieve orgasm easily from clitoral stimulation as part of cunnilingus.[2] Some sex manuals recommend beginning with a gentler, less focused stimulation of the labia and the whole genital area. The tip, blade, or underside of the tongue may be used, as can the nose, chin, teeth and lips. Movements can be slow or fast, regular or erratic, firm or soft, according to the participants' preferences. The tongue can be inserted into the vagina, either stiffened or moving. The performing partner may also hum to produce vibration.

Cunnilingus may be accompanied by the insertion of finger(s) or a sex toy into the vagina, which allows for the simultaneous stimulation of the g-spot, and/or into the anus.[3][4]


Édouard-Henri Avril's depiction of cunnilingus in missionary position

There are several positions for cunnilingus:

  • Missionary – the female lies on her back, with her legs spread, pulled up to her chest, on her partner or raised.
  • Doggy style – the female crouches on all fours, while her partner performs oral sex from behind.
  • Standing – the female stands facing her partner, who is either sitting or on the knees. However, in this position the clitoris is more difficult to reach and stimulate, and the female may have difficulty maintaining her balance when she is reaching orgasm.
  • Sitting  – the female sits on a chair or uses some other support.
  • Mutual stimulation – see 69 position.
  • Face-sitting – the female sits on or above the partner's face. In this position the female has more control over her body movements and can guide her partner or auto-stimulate against the partner's face.

Cultural, spiritual and religious significance

Cunnilingus portrayed at Pompeii


Although not spoken of openly in Western society until recently, cunnilingus is accorded a revered place in Taoism. This is because the aim of Taoism is to achieve immortality, or at least longevity, and the loss of semen, vaginal, and other bodily liquids is believed to bring about a corresponding loss of vitality. Conversely, by either semen retention or ingesting the secretions from the vagina, a male or female can conserve and increase his/her ch'i, or original vital breath. In Taoism:

The Great Medicine of the Three Mountain Peaks is to be found in the body of the woman and is composed of three juices, or essences: one from the woman's mouth, another from her breasts, and the third, the most powerful, from the Grotto of the White Tiger, which is at the Peak of the Purple Mushroom (the mons veneris).

Octavio Paz. Conjunctions and Disjunctions. trans. Helen R. Lane. 1975. (London: Wildwood House, 1969) p. 97.

Édouard-Henri Avril drawing depicting the life of Sappho

According to Philip Rawson (in Paz, p. 97), these half-poetic, half-medicinal metaphors explain the popularity of cunnilingus among people: "The practice was an excellent method of imbibing the precious feminine fluid" (Paz, p. 97). But the Taoist ideal is not just about the male being enriched by female secretions; the female also benefits from her communion with the male, a feature that has led the sinologist, Kristofer Schipper, to denounce the ancient handbooks on the "Art of the Bedroom" as embracing a "kind of glorified male vampirism" that is not truly Taoist at all.[5] Ideally, by mingling the male and female liquids the Taoist aims to reconcile opposites and to recapture the mythical time that existed before the division of the sexes, the primordial time of the original ch'i.


The religious historian Mircea Eliade speaks of a similar desire to transcend old age and death, and achieve a state of nirvana, in the Hindu practice of Tantric yoga. In Tantric yoga, the same emphasis is placed on the retention and absorption of vital liquids and Sanskrit texts describe how the male semen must not be emitted if the yogi is to avoid falling under law of time and death.[6]

Song of Songs

Verse 7:3 (verse 7:2 in the King James Version of The Song of Solomon) of the Biblical Song of Songs may contain a veiled reference to cunnilingus, although many translators render the key term "navel."[7] An alternate translation could read as follows: "Your vulva is a rounded crater, never lacking mixed wine"[citation needed]. ( הפות שלך היא מכתש מעוגל, לא חסר יין מעורבב)

The context, moving up from her sandals to her vulva to her belly to her breasts, however, makes the meaning of "vulva" (Heb. shor), as derived from an Aramaic word meaning "secret place", all but conclusive.[8] In many Christian and Jewish traditions the erotic intimacy between the bride and groom described in the Song of Songs is given spiritual significance.

STD, oral cancer, and other risks

Chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis (multiple strains), and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — including HIV — can be transmitted through oral sex.[9] The documented risk of HIV transmission through cunnilingus is considered to be extremely small, and far lower than that associated with fellatio, vaginal or anal sex. There have only ever been 2 documented cases of HIV transmission through cunnilingus.[10][11] If the receiving partner has wounds or open sores on her genitals, or if the giving partner has wounds or open sores on or in his or her mouth, or bleeding gums, this poses an increased risk of STD transmission. Brushing the teeth, flossing, undergoing dental work, or eating crunchy foods such as potato chips relatively soon before or after performing cunnilingus can also increase the risk of disease transmission, because all of these activities can cause small scratches in the lining of the mouth. These wounds, even when they are microscopic, increase the chances of contracting STDs that can be transmitted orally under these conditions. Such contact can also lead to more mundane infections from common bacteria and viruses found in, around, and secreted from the genital regions.

In 2005, a research study at the College of Malmö in Sweden suggested that performing unprotected oral sex on a person infected with HPV might increase the risk of oral cancer. The study found that 36% of the cancer patients had HPV compared to only 1 percent of the healthy control group.[12]

Another recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests a correlation between oral sex and throat cancer. It is believed that this is due to the transmission of human papillomavirus or (HPV) because this virus has been implicated in the majority of cervical cancers. The study concludes that people who had one to five oral sex partners in their lifetime had approximately a doubled risk of throat cancer compared with those who never engaged in this activity, and those with more than five oral-sex partners had a 250% increased risk.[13]

In addition, in rare cases, air being blown into the vagina can be harmful to the receiver, even fatal. Air that is very forcefully blown in and not adequately released could enter the bloodstream through capillaries in the uterine wall, causing an air embolism. It should also be noted that probability of an air embolism developing is elevated, though still relatively low, during pregnancy (in the case of the receiver).


Due to disease risks, many medical professionals advise the use of dental dams when performing or receiving cunnilingus with a partner whose STD status is unknown. In some cases, individuals may make a dental dam out of a condom although this comes with a multitude of risks including accidental holes created by the scissors.[14] Or in the case of home made dental dams out of plastic wrap, many kinds of plastic wraps are manufactured with tiny holes to allow venting during microwaving, which may allow transmission of pathogens.


There are numerous slang terms for cunnilingus, including "DATY" (for "dining at the Y"),[15] "drinking from the furry cup"[16] and "muff-diving".[17] It is also commonly called "eating someone out", "eating pussy" or "licking someone out."[18] Several common slang terms used are "giving lip", "lip service", or "tipping the velvet", an expression that novelist Sarah Waters claims to have "plucked from the relative obscurity of Victorian porn".[19] Older erotic literature refers to it as "gamahuching", with some variation in the spelling.[citation needed]

A person who performs cunnilingus may be referred to as a "cunnilinguist",[20] and the phrase "cunning linguist" is also often used as a pun, implying oral skill of a different sort.[21]

In culture

  • "Ritual public cunnilingus takes place at the present time (1966) nightly -- especially Saturday nights -- across the border from San Diego, California, in Tijuana, Mexico, at a public night club with open access from the street, known to American students and sailors as the Blue Fox, hundreds being urged and shamed into partaking of this ritual communion -- it can hardly be called anything else -- at the tables circling the stage on which the girl strip teasers stand offering themselves."[22]
  • "Hell's Angels are famous for cunnilingus, à la Aleister Crowley, on menstruating women".[23]A Hells Angel whose colors include red wings indicates that he has performed cunnilingus on a woman who was having her period at the time or black wings for performing cunnilingus on a black woman".[24]
  • CunninLynguists are a well known american hip-hop which use the play on words as their title.
  • In Tomorrow Never Dies, James Bond is called a "cunning linguist" over the phone by Moneypenny. The term is a play on words, aided by the fact that Bond was engaged in sexual activity at the time of the call.
  • Similarly Austin Powers In Goldmember featured Austin telling Foxy Cleopatra: "You may be a cunning linguist, but I am a master debater", playing both on cunnilingus and masturbation.
  • Napoleon referred, it would seem, to cunnilingus in letters to Joséphine early in his career. He said, "I kiss your heart, and then a little lower, and then much lower still."[25][26]
  • In The Sopranos episode "Boca", cunnilingus plays a major plot line.
  • In the second episode of the third season of Showtime's The Tudors, Sir Francis Bryan asks Lady (formerly Princess) Mary if she likes games, going on to tell her that there is a new one at court that she may enjoy: cunnilingus.
  • An innuendos reference to it is made in the Cow and Chicken episode "Buffalo Gals" which was one of the reasons for the episode being banned from television in the United States after its first airing.



"His role was to excite the woman by sucking her breasts and cunnilingus".[27]

Tubuai (Austral) Islands

On the island of Ra’ivavae, "in traditional times, public sex followed ... prayers in the sacred temples. ... cunnilingus was practiced".[28]

New Guinea

Cunnilingus as ceremonial public spectacle : A man "threw the woman to the ground and her skirt was removed. ... She was then ordered to stand up with legs apart. The man was forced to squat between them and told to put his mouth to her vulva. After he had done this, a sweet potato would be placed into the woman's vagina and the man was forced to nibble at this until he had completely eaten it. Finally, the man was ordered to lie down on his back, while the woman was made to squat over him, placing her vulva to his mouth. He was told to suck out the fluids, swallowing them."[29]

See also


  1. ^ Oral Sex Etiquette
  2. ^ Hite, Shere (2004). The Hite Report: a Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press. pp. 11. ISBN 1-58322-569-2. 
  3. ^ Human Sexuality in a World of Diversity. Boston: Pearson Allyn and Bacon: Pearson Education. 2005. pp. 124, 226. ISBN 0205406157. 
  4. ^ Masters, W.H.; Johnson, V.E. (1966). Human Sexual Response. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-20429-7.. 
  5. ^ Kristofer Schipper. [1982] 1993. The Taoist Body. trans. Karen C. Duval. Berkeley; Los Angeles; (London: University of California Press). p. 148
  6. ^ Eliade Mircea. [1954] 1973. Yoga, Immortality and Freedom. trans. Willard R. Trask. (Princeton: Princeton University Press). p. 267–268
  7. ^ "[T]he description of the woman's aperture as containing wine implies the man's desire to drink from the sensual bowl. Thus, this may be a subtle and tasteful allusion to the intimacies of sex". Tremper Longman, Song of Songs, B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001, p. 195. See also J S. Exum, "The Poetic Genius of the Song of Songs", in Hagedorn (ed), Perspectives on the Song of Songs, Walter de Gruyter, 2005, p. 90
  8. ^ Cf. the brief discussion in Brown, Francis; Driver, S. R., and Briggs, Charles A. Hebrew & English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902; repr. 1978; p. 1057a. A more complete discussion is found in Frants Buhl's edition of Wilhelm Gesenius' hebräisches und aramäisches Handwörterbuch über das Alte Testament.Göttingen: Springer-Verlag, 1915; repr. 1962; p. 863a.
  9. ^ University Health Center | Sexual Health | Oral Sex
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Oral Sex Linked To Mouth Cancer Risk
  13. ^ Oral sex can cause throat cancer - 09 May 2007 - New Scientist
  14. ^ instructions
  15. ^
  16. ^ drinking from the furry cup - Dictionary of sexual terms
  17. ^ muff_diving at Wiktionary
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Taking Velvet public: author Sarah Waters reflects on the sensation she started by writing Tipping the Velvet, the novel that became a smash U.K. miniseries that's now set to conquer America." The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), 13 May 2003.
  20. ^ Morrison, Blake (2007-11-10). "The pleasure principle". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  21. ^ Urban dictionary
  22. ^ Legman 1966, p. 124
  23. ^ Legman 1968, p. 781
  24. ^ Thompson, Hunter S. (1995). Hell's Angels. New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 64. ISBN 0-345-41008-4. 
  25. ^ Schom, Napoleon Bonaparte, p.51
  26. ^ Dutourd, Jean; Club des ronchons (1992) (in French). Notre amie la femme. Lausanne: L'AGE D'HOMME. p. 46. ISBN 9782825102701. "«Un baiser plus bas, plus bas que le cœur» (7 avril 1796), «Un baiser au cœur, et puis plus bas, bien plus bas» (24 avril 1796)" 
  27. ^ Abraham Kardiner & Ralph Linton : The Individual and His Society. New York : Columbia University Press, 1939. p. 173. cited in Legman 1968, p. 571
  28. ^ Sexology -- French Polynesia C
  29. ^ Ronald R. Berndt : Excess and Restraint : Social Control among a New Guinea Mountain People. University of Chicago Press, 1962. p. 340


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cunnilingus — représenté sur une fresque d un lupanar à Pompéi (IVe siècle av. J.‑C.) Le cunnilingus (également désigné par le terme latin cunnilinctus, de …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cunnilingus — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Para la misma práctica, pero dirigida al pene, véase felación. Cunnilingus. Cunnilingus (del latín cunnus: cuña o vulva , y lingus: lengua ), práctica de sexo oral donde se chupa, frota, lame o mordisquea (con grados …   Wikipedia Español

  • cunnilingus — [ kynilɛ̃gys ] n. m. • cunnilinctus 1967 ; d apr. le lat. cunnus « con » et lingere « lécher » ♦ Didact. Pratique sexuelle qui met la bouche au contact des parties génitales féminines (⇒ buccogénital; fellation; cf. Faire minette). ● cunnilinctus …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • cunnilingus — An act in which the female sexual organ is orally stimulated. Dictionary from West s Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005. cunnilingus An act in which the female sexual organ is orally stimulated …   Law dictionary

  • cunnilingus — (n.) 1887, from L. cunnus vulva (see CUNT (Cf. cunt)) + lingere to lick (see LICK (Cf. lick) (v.)). The Latin properly would mean one who licks a vulva, but it is used in English in reference to the action, not the actor. The verb ought to be… …   Etymology dictionary

  • cunnilingus — (Del lat. cunnilingus). m. Práctica sexual consistente en aplicar la boca a la vulva …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • cunnilingus — cun ni*lin gus n. [NL., fr. L. cunnus vulva + lingere to lick.] Stimulation of the vulva or clitoris of one person by the tongue of another, for the purpose of giving sexual gratification. Syn: cunnilinctus. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cunnilingus — Estimulación oral de los genitales femeninos. Diccionario Mosby Medicina, Enfermería y Ciencias de la Salud, Ediciones Hancourt, S.A. 1999 …   Diccionario médico

  • Cunnilingus — er oralsex udført på en kvinde ved at slikke klitoris og kønslæberne …   Danske encyklopædi

  • Cunnilingus — vgl. Kunnilingus …   Das Wörterbuch medizinischer Fachausdrücke

  • cunnilingus — ► NOUN ▪ stimulation of the female genitals using the tongue or lips. ORIGIN from Latin cunnus vulva + lingere lick …   English terms dictionary

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