Fellatio is oral sex performed upon the penis. It may be performed to induce male orgasm and ejaculation of semen, or it may be used as foreplay prior to sexual intercourse.
Related to fellatio, Deep-throating is an act in which a man’s entire erect penis is inserted deep into the mouth of a partner, in such a way as to enter the receiving partner’s throat. It may be difficult for some people to perform, due to the requirement of suppressing the natural gag reflex.
In ancient Greece and modern Japan, fellatio has been referred to as ‘playing the flute’. Also, the Kama Sutra has a chapter on auparishtaka or ‘mouth congress’. The first known use of the term ‘fellatio’ is around 1893. Further English words have been created based on the same Latin root. A person who performs fellatio upon another may be termed a fellator. Because of Latin’s gender based declension, this word may be restricted by some English speakers to describing a male. The equivalent female term is fellatrix.
The receiver of oral sex is in a position of psychological if not physical vulnerability, and thus is potentially weaker. Bringing a person to climax is a form of exerting control over that person’s physiology and emotions.
The third-century Roman emperor Galienus called fellatio ‘lesbiari’ since women of the island of Lesbos were supposed to have been the introducer of the practice to use one’s lips to give sexual pleasure.
The Ancient Indian Kama Sutra, dating from the first century AD, describes oral sex, discussing fellatio in great detail and only briefly mentioning cunnilingus. However, according to the Kama Sutra, fellatio is above all a characteristic of eunuchs – or, according to other translations, of effeminate homosexuals or transwomen similar to the modern Hijra of India – who use their mouths as a substitute for female genitalia.
The Kama Sutra’s author states that it is also practised by so-called unchaste women but mentions widespread traditional concerns about this being a degrading or unclean practice, with known practitioners being evaded as love partners in large parts of the country. He seems to agree with these attitudes to some extent, claiming that a wise man should not engage in that form of intercourse while acknowledging that it can be appropriate in some unspecified cases.
In Tantric yoga, the same emphasis is placed on the retention and absorption of vital liquids and Sanskrit texts describe how semen must not be emitted if the yogi is to avoid falling under the law of time and death.
In Islamic literature, the only form of sex that is always explicitly prohibited within marriage is sex during menstrual cycles. But the exact attitude towards oral sex is a subject of disagreements between modern scholars of Islam. Authorities considering it objectionable do so because of the contact between the supposedly impure fluids emitted during intercourse and the mouth. Others emphasize there is no decisive evidence to forbid it.
As late as 1976, some doctors were advising women in the eighth and ninth months of pregnancy not to swallow semen lest it induce premature labour, even though it is now known to be safe. Fellatio is sometimes practised during pregnancy as a replacement for vaginal sex by couples looking to engage in a sexually pleasurable activity while avoiding the difficulty of vaginal intercourse during the later stages of pregnancy.
Semen ingestion has also had central importance in some cultures around the world. In the Papua New Guinean Baruya culture, there is a secret ritual in which boys give fellatio to young males and drink their semen, in order to re-engender themselves prior to marriage.
Among the Sambia people of Papua New Guinea, beginning at age seven all males regularly submit to oral penetration by adolescents in a six-stage initiation process, as the Sambia believe that regular ingestion of an older boy’s semen is necessary for a prepubescent youth to achieve sexual maturity and masculinity. By the time he enters mid-puberty he in turn participates in passing his semen on to younger males.
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