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Slick Willy – A Bite-Sized History of Fellatio

Why God gave (most) men backbones longer than their penis

Once upon a time, becoming a rock star was the only way a young male could be assured of getting free blowjobs from females. This, not private jets or yachts or tax havens or leather trousers is the reason so many young men aspired to be Mick Jagger.

Or so it was until Monica Lewinsky got under President Clinton’s desk to do some French polishing, and the Oval Office became the Oral Office. Since then, teenage boys everywhere are practising making speeches, shaking hands with bewildered people in shopping malls and kissing babies

Fellatio is the way to a man’s, well, if not exactly heart, then at least his gratitude. Even if, as many women will tell you, men are not always grateful enough to actually return the favour. The ‘sixty-eight’, or I’ll owe you one’, is apparently a very popular position with straight men. (Come to think of it, it’s a very popular position with me.)

But learn to suppress your gag reflex and you will be invited to all the best parties, even if no one will share your glass.

Most sex surveys show that the favourite sexual practice for straight men is receiving head. This is slightly odd, since it’s not ‘normal’ – it’s passive and it’s perverse. Not to mention lazy. Biblically speaking, oral sex is ‘sodomy’ as it doesn’t make babies. Legally speaking, oral sex of any kind was until very recently technically an offence under the Puritan anti-sodomy laws of many US States.

J. Edgar Hoover kept a list of public figures who were suspected of engaging in ‘oro-genital’ contact because he considered it a sign of subversiveness – and in case he found himself at a loose end of a Saturday night.

To some people a bit of a lick round the family heirlooms can be more shocking than other, more pungent perversities. After a surprisingly frank sex education class for the 1970s, in which we’d been told “what gays do in bed”, including “sucking one another’s penises” (I think our biology teacher had a bizarre view of homosexuality as some kind of mutuality), my best school chum Jim, sputtered: “It’s so, so, so… dirty! I mean, I can understand putting it up someone’s arsehole,” he said shaking his head in disbelief, “but… THAT!

Looking back on it, his remarks made a certain kind of sense. Willies are dirty, bums are dirty, so: a bum + a willy = something still dirty. On the other hand, mouths are supposed to be clean, so a mouth + a willy = angry mummy.

Perhaps it was the ‘now wash your hands’ dirtiness of pee-pees that caused the lad that used to toss me off in the Fifth Year in a darkened deserted Geography classroom every Tuesday afternoon after Games to make an intriguing offer. “I’ll suck it for you next time,” he promised, in response to my increasingly frantic suggestions. “But only,” he added, “if you bring some toothpaste to put on it.” Maybe I just hadn’t yet got the hang of foreskin hygiene. Whatever, to this day I still get an erection every time I brush my teeth.

The idea of what is natural and what is perverse is not always as obvious as a knob in your gob. In Renaissance Florence they encouraged their citizens to denounce one another for crimes against God and Nature anonymously on bits of paper slipped into a ‘sodomy box’ (today, of course, this would be the name of a fashionable restaurant). Tens of thousands of denunciations were made every year. Apparently, most of the population of Florence, male and female, was accused at some time or other. Clearly Renaissance Florence was a little bit like being in today’s US Republican Party.

Some academic who doesn’t get out much has spent years sifting through the records and discovered that there was a hierarchy of sodomy back then. Interestingly, and contrary to the mores that hold sway today (Presidents excepted), it was thought a greater offence and shame to receive a blowjob than to give one – whatever the sex of the participants. Being a suckee rather than a sucker is what really sucked.

Gore Vidal would have agreed. He mocked the fond notion that the sailor receiving a bj from a fag is in control. In fact, Vidal observes, the ‘subservient’ fag literally has the sailor on the tip of his tongue. And this is a very vulnerable position to find yourself in, bearing in mind how sharp the tongues of fags in general – and Gore Vidal’s in particular – can be.

Interestingly, until the Seventies, homosexuals in the US tended to be known as ‘cocksuckers’. Which suggests that a) American women were even less interested in playing the hairy oboe in those days than they are now, and that b) fags were much more popular after closing time than they are today – ‘cocksucker’ being less a term of abuse perhaps than a user’s guide.

The great and incontrovertible truth of oral sex that many find difficult to swallow is that no man, however adamantly hetero he may be, would turn down the opportunity to suck his own penis. Which is, of course, exactly why God placed it where most men can’t reach it with their own mouth. Homosexuality is a sin because it’s a form of cheating. Getting your cock sucked isn’t supposed to be so easy.

In his Infinite Wisdom Our Lord gave every man except Jeff Stryker a penis shorter than his backbone to make sure that men expended an awful lot of energy doing other things to get blow jobs, things that would seem rather daft and pointless otherwise, but without which the world would be a duller place. Things like rock ‘n’ roll, politics, cunnilingus and odd jobs around the home.

If homosexuality hadn’t been discouraged, most of human history would have been nothing more than a man leaning against the wall in the backroom of a gay bar in San Francisco with his leather flies unbuttoned.

This essay was originally published in Attitude, 1998 and collected in Sex Terror: Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture