Let me clarify, before you read further, that when I say “assholes,” I’m not referring to mean or frustrating people. I’m talking about actual assholes. This is an article about rimming.
I know, I know. Some of you just fainted. Break out the smelling salts and stay with me, because it’s worth talking about.
For many sexually active adults, there comes a time in sexual relationships where the possibility of this particular action is broached. Some people agree that it’s not something they want to do. Some people just ignore the prospect entirely, pretending that they never would think of doing such a thing. Some people (the strongest of stomach, god bless them) dive in with gusto and enthusiasm. Some people, like myself, are put in situations where the only reasonable decision, in truth, the only rational course of action, is to lick some taint.
It’s a fairly common situation, though, especially for those of us who paint ourselves as poster children for sexual liberation. I mean, there are only so many times you can espouse the virtues of reciprocation at cocktail parties before someone will assume that you’re fine with putting your tongue on their ass. I can sputter and make it sound like a request that would be totally unexpected, but it’s not as though 10 minutes into a first date, some man sitting on the other side of the table from me pushed aside the flower arrangement and said “Wow, you seem really interesting. Later tonight I expect you to perform ass-to-mouth.” I can’t pretend I had no hand in the creation of this predicament; I sort of set myself up. But still, even though I’ve never been the gasp-and-clutch-my-pearls type, being faced with that particular task made me blush a little.
For me, the first time it became an issue was with a man I had been sleeping with for only a few weeks. He was attractive and intelligent, a quality human being, sexually compatible with me, and generally, a pleasure to spend time with. I felt comfortable trusting him early, and, when he was “driving,” as it were, I didn’t really worry too much about what he chose to do with my body at any point in time. Which made it all the more shocking when, all of a sudden, during a bout of oral sex, I realized that he was inching slowly, slowly downward, closing in on that particular area that made my body freeze up like a rabbit. A rabbit confronted with a rocket launcher. A rabbit confronted with a slew of rocket launchers, operated by sociopathic dolphins.
Now, I had had partners go down there before. Usually, they flirted with the area briefly, too coy to actually go for it, and I could simply pretend that it was an accident, that for some reason my vagina was a particularly difficult-to-hit target and my ass somehow got in the way. If they stayed down there a little too long, a quietly moaned “What are you doing?” usually sufficed to shake their intentions and intimidate them away from the area.
But in this instance, there was nothing to be questioned. He was going for it. Unequivocally, undoubtedly, with no hesitation and not a lick of shame (no pun intended). My brain was overtaken by a flood of objections. In my head I asked, “Won’t you get diseases? I think this is how people get cholera. And diphtheria. Maybe both at once. Meaning you’ll definitely be in the hospital within 72 hours , and I’ll be watching you puke out your liver in some bleak white room with stupid posters about appropriate hand-washing techniques and as your skin is peeling off of your body and your eyes are melting  you’ll look up at me and say, ‘Curse you Julia. A pox upon you, and your family, and your people’ or something like that, and then I’ll have to live with the knowledge that I unintentionally murdered you. You, this person I’m really interested in, who I could have had a great relationship with, who could potentially have been a husband or the father of my children, dead, because of my filthy disgusting ass diseases. And then, my ass will have killed. And once it’s tasted blood, god knows what will happen.”
I didn’t actually say any of this, though. Because after about a minute of freaking out (oh god oh god I POOP FROM THERE), I realized that the whole thing actually just felt awesome. Like, really, really good. Butterflies flapping up and down my spine good. Electric rivers through all my muscles good. Oh-my-god-I-think-this-is-what-religion-feels-like good. I had never felt anything like this from my body before; it certainly wasn’t the most intense sensation I’ve ever felt, but it was gentle and it was new and it was exhilarating and it was something I didn’t know I wanted.
Cut to a few days later. The same situation, roles reversed. The opportunity to do the same, to give back all the pleasure I’d been given, was right there, just waiting. I just had to do it.
Except I was paralyzed. My muscles stopped moving. My arms began to tremble. My mouth felt like it had been swabbed with paper towel.
What was I afraid of? I could say it was some disease phobia, wave the “cholera” card and call it a day. Which, actually, would be entirely fair. Rimming, or anilingus (as it is referred to by the professionals in Doctor Land) has a fairly wide host of diseases associated with it. The whole hepatitis alphabet, all your standard sexually transmitted diseases, HPV, even conjunctivitis can be transmitted through ass-to-mouth. Most health professionals recommend using dental dams of some sort, which can be fashioned easily from a condom or plastic wrap. I wasn’t doing this, and perhaps should have been. But, honestly and practically speaking, if all areas are washed carefully ahead of time, and you know your partner well enough to know their status on the STD front, you probably won’t catch anything.
Also, just to put this to rest: nobody is going to get cholera. Nobody. Unless you’re putting your tongue in the ass of someone who already has cholera, in which case by that point, you will have probably caught it elsewhere. So that wasn’t it.
No, the truth was, as I sat there, staring at that beautiful human being in front of me, the only thing I could think about was what he had given me only a few days before. I was overcome with memories of how wonderful I felt, the sex that directly followed, the way he stroked my hair afterwards as he held me to his chest and I drifted in and out of sleep. And, bulging under all these memories throbbed those mean reds of inadequacy. Because I was certain, in that very moment, I would never be able to give him what he had given me. It would be like so many other things, almost everything in my life; I would absorb all these beautiful experiences like a selfish, egocentric sponge, and be left incompetent, incapable of giving back what I’d taken in. Because I am selfish and egocentric. So much so that I am afraid of stuttering for even a moment, terrified to risk the possibility of perfection for the pleasure of another person.
But this was the moment something clicked for me. Something incredibly cliché, that I had been told a hundred thousand million times, which I refused to acknowledge for some silly stupid reason.
That desire to run. That was the stutter. While somehow botching the whole thing and failing to reciprocate a beautiful experience would have been bad, it would have been way better than what I wanted to do. The fact that it was more frightening to me, at the time, to be less than perfect, than it was to not try at all — that was wrong. And if I had acted on that fear, it would have been a worse failure than anything else I could have done.
So, I went for it.
It tasted fine. Just like normal skin. It felt okay, too. The best part was the noise. The tiny little moans that started to slip out of him, every time I moved my tongue. I could feel him writhing, starting to push up and down with my movements. Delightful. Perfect. And the next day, no diseases.
This is what I learned. That life is a giant taint, stretched out in a broad expanse of pink and warmth in front of you. You just have to stick your tongue in and go. Eventually you’ll learn it’s not rocket science. And even though life sounds like a disgusting repulsive thing to do with your body and oh-dear-god-why, it’s never as gross as you think it’s going to be.
Actually, maybe that’s where the analogy ends.