Jezebel: Sex à la française

Jezebel: Sex à la française

I had a piece at Jezebel last week about the place of oral sex in French culture – and what Americans might learn from it.

“What is it about Americans and la pipe?” asked my Parisian friend Anne* in between puffs of Marlboro. I stopped and looked at her, perplexed. La pipe is French slang for “fellatio.”

“You’re going to have to be a little more specific,” I said.

Anne, who was born and raised in Paris, went on to ask why it is that so many young Americans don’t consider oral sex to be “real” sex. “It’s like a stop gap measure on the way to intercourse,” she observed, “and people in America don’t think it’s intimate the way we do in France. But it’s so intimate! Parce que c’est” -– and here she switched from French to English so she could use an utterly apt turn of English phrase –- “in your face!”

Anne, who observed this phenomenon during her study abroad at a large Midwestern university a few years ago, was right, of course. In American culture, we don’t count oral sex as “real” sex. The “base” system, which was also the dominant framework when I was a teenager in Australia, privileges vaginal intercourse (I have never understood why Australians use the base system when they don’t even play baseball. Why wouldn’t we come up with our own cricket-based analogy?). In the bases framework, oral sex happens before intercourse, and it’s simply a stop on the way to the main event. It’s foreplay, not sex. And it’s good, but it’s not as good as “stealing home.”

*not her real name. She’s named for a different Brontë sister.

You can read the rest here.


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