"I'm very self-conscious about my body, and that extends to receiving oral sex. I like to give blow jobs to my boyfriend, but I worry about smelling and tasting good so I rarely let him reciprocate. I wonder if I never get satisfaction when I let him go downtown (he has to practically beg!) because I can't relax enough to enjoy it. Any advice?"
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First off, the vagina is self-cleaning, as long as it's healthy. I mention that because I want to make sure that it's very clear that all of the myths about the vagina being dirty have more to do with sexism and sex-negativity than anything else. That was a bit different in the past, when women's medical needs weren't really addressed and things like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis went untreated. At the same time, if you ever suspect that your scent has changed, that can be a sign of these or other conditions and it's worth getting checked out by a medical professional.
But assuming that there isn't anything like that going on for you, you definitely have my sympathies. Worries about our bodies and how our partners perceive us is a serious mood-killer. And the irony is that our partners often either don't mind or actively admire exactly those parts of our bodies that we're worrying about!
From what you've written, it sounds like your boyfriend has no problem going down on you. After all, if he's begging for it, it's probably something that he's into. How does he describe your scent or taste? If he's just as enthusiastic about that, maybe that can help you reframe how you feel about it. As the saying goes, we each have our own tastes (sorry for the bad pun, but I couldn't resist).
Try taking a shower before having sex. If you do it together, then it becomes part of the warm-up instead of a chore. While it may not be strictly necessary, if it helps you relax, there's no reason not to. Just don't overdo it with the soap. The vulva (the exterior female sex organs) is covered with sensitive skin and some women find that washing too much can be irritating. And don't get soap inside the vagina — it can be irritating or even set off a yeast infection if you're sensitive.
It might also help if the two of you approach oral sex as a pleasure in itself, rather than worrying about whether you'll have an orgasm from it. Set the bar a little lower for a while and aim for discovering ways that it can feel good for you, even if you don't have an orgasm. Make it a science experiment and have him try different techniques so you can discover how they feel. One great way to do that is for him to do two different things, such as sucking your clitoris or making circles with his tongue for a little bit. Then you decide whether you liked A or B more. It's a fun way to explore new sensations and keep your focus on what you're feeling, rather than worrying about your scent. If he needs some ideas for things to try, Tristan Taormino's Expert Guide to Oral Sex is a great DVD on the topic. Or check out Violet Blue's book Ultimate Guide To Cunnilingus for a fun read.
It could also be helpful if you ask your boyfriend for some positive reinforcement afterwards. After all, you're moving into an edge of your comfort zone and you deserve some hugs for that. When you're ready to move on from the oral experimentation, you'll probably feel better about it if he tells you how much he enjoyed it and that he's glad that the two of you are trying it out. If he goes too far and starts seeming pushy about it, that could backfire, so a light touch is better. But that's a really good way to make sure that you end on a positive note.
I hope that this helps. I know that it can be really hard when exploring out things that feel uncomfortable. It's a good idea to stretch enough to give it a serious try without going so far that it's too much. Take it slowly and remember — you want it to be fun!