Some time ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about a recent experience she’d had when she was hooking up with a (very slimy) guy. He asked her for head—unexciting. The real excitement was that she was chewing gum. And after she—or rather, he—had finished, the gum had disappeared from her mouth! It lay somewhere in his stuffy Mathey dorm, stuck to his sheets, we guessed—or even better, we hoped it was stuck to other hairy things.


We laughed at the thought of this divine justice. That’s what he gets.


Except, why did we feel this way? Why were we indirectly hoping that this guy would be punished for receiving what my friend had willingly given?


Because he didn’t give anything back. He would go on and brag that he had received the best head ever. Nobody would ever hear of the gum bits in his pubes. But we knew, and that was justice. The more I thought about it, the more I understood that what bothered me most was that I had never even thought to ask my friend if he had given her head. I knew the answer.


The conversation reminded me of a day in sixth grade lunch when my friends and I had stopped playing with our runny mashed potatoes and cartons of chocolate milk to give our undivided attention to the seventh grade girl before us. She had come to impart on us the sacred new knowledge she’d picked up from her time in the back halls of a smelly mall that past weekend. We watched as she deep-throated a banana under the fluorescent cafeteria lights, an image that remains sharp and clear in my memory. If you do this, boys will like you. She said it just like that before taking a bite of the slobbered thing. This was something expected of us, girls, something we should know how to do, something we should excel at. Having been told this at such a young, impressionable age, it framed the way I looked at sex. I was taught to give without anticipating anything in return—without knowing I could receive anything back.


After pondering my friend’s gum tale, I was curious to know if my other girlfriends had similar experiences, and equally interested to know what my male friends made of my hypothesis: As a man, giving head is a favor. As a woman, it’s an expectation.


I set about compiling data. Much like that infamous day in a middle school cafeteria, I was talking about head once again at a college dining hall, my girlfriends gathered before me. They were enthusiastic to speak on the matter—this was something many of them had pondered before. They spoke of shame and of power dynamics. I held the banana now, biting into it as I listened to their experiences.


One girl said the first time she gave head, she was sixteen; the first time she received any, she was nineteen. Another girl spoke of how out of the four men she had given blowjobs to, only one (her current boyfriend) had reciprocated. A third shared how on her third time hooking up with a guy (she had given him head on numerous occasions at that point) he had finally asked her if she wanted some. She was thrilled he had offered (because I never would have asked, she said). But right before he scooted on down there, he had hesitated and, sighing, told her that if he was doing this, it meant he really liked her.


But the saddest of all the testimonies was gum girl’s. Guys don’t give head because they think vaginas are disgusting, she said. I would never let a guy go down on me. She was embarrassed of her body and terrified of being deemed gross by a man.


Once I had collected other female perspectives, I moved on to interviewing my male friends. These conversations were different—more rushed, dryer. Most of them had less to say on the topic, had never considered it, really. One of them even took it as an opportunity to complain that he hadn’t yet received head that semester. I told him I was so sorry.


Most said they had no problem giving head. Interestingly though, there was a hint of pride when they said this, like there was something indisputably noble in their willingness to please a woman. There was no talk of shame.


Finally, after a couple of interviews, I stumbled upon the perfect specimen of the man I was searching for. I can’t concretely describe him because he exists in endless bodies, infinite worlds, and is really a sadly eternal being. The other guys had been polite, said what they knew would sound fair and pleasant to their female interviewer. But here was a man who spoke his mind, unafraid and bold in the face of my voice-recording app. As soon as he opened his mouth on the subject, I knew this was the interview that would ultimately speak for all the rest. Thus, it is transcribed here almost word-for-word. You don’t know this man, but think of your friendly bro next door as you read and you might realize you actually do.


“I just have that natural dog in me,” he begins by saying. “It’s instinctive—a man gotta do whatta man gotta do.”


Upon being asked if he thinks he’s good, he replies: “Ask her, she’ll say I’m a good man. I mean, hit me up if you want it, random reader of this article—ha, just kidding. These services don’t come free.”


I asked about his first experience.


“Yeah, I mean not gonna lie, it was kinda disappointing that first time because I thought that shit would taste like strawberry shortcake, but it tasted like straight battery acid—like, I was heavily disappointed. I thought it would be tasty. I did not like it. It was not tasty. You know, you think it’d taste good cause women are nice and use perfume. Clearly not. [insert any male rapper name] was tripping, man. And I think clearly he needs to put me onto these women because my experiences are pretty subpar. I have to give a low rating.”


Is there a difference between a woman giving head and a man giving head?


“Well,” he says, “I’ve never tried a penis and I don’t plan to—I mean go do your thing, do whatever, not my business—anyway, I don’t really ponder on these philosophical sexual questions every day.”


Does he enjoy it?


“I’m not a munch,” he says. “If she knows how to wipe it down there, then okay. But if she does not eat good, sorry… I do believe in equal rights, though.”


So he’s not a munch. I’m not here to tell you, esteemed reader, what to think. Nor is my goal to generalize. Ponder on these philosophical questions, or don’t.


Because here, the interview finished. But I still haven’t.