Posted on | October 27, 2009 | 4 Comments
I volunteer at Los Angeles-area public schools teaching sex ed to 9th graders. At the end of every class, I hand out index cards to the kids and they write down questions they don’t want to ask out loud. These are your kid’s questions. These are my answers.
Every once in a while, I get a question, like this one, where it seems clear that the teen who wrote it has seen pornography. That doesn’t make the question bad, of course. This question in particular is actually an interesting one with an interesting answer, which is that human beings have a highly sensitive, but highly variable, gag reflex.
The gag reflex: When a bit of food or any solid object (for example, a penis) hangs out for too long in the back of the mouth, making contact with the soft palate, a complex muscular reflex is initiated to push the object forward into the mouth. This protects us from breathing in a piece of food and choking to death. If the object remains in place, the reflex proceeds past the primary gag reaction to vomiting: the body’s last ditch effort to clear an obstruction in that area.
Humans have a particularly sensitive gag reflex and that, as I understand it, is because we can talk. The voicebox or larynx takes up a ton of real estate. A baby starts out with an epiglottis like an animal, but as the pharynx and larynx grow to enable speech, the epiglottis is pushed into a less efficient position, result being that grown humans are much more at hazard of choking to death while eating than animals are.
But the tradeoff is this: We can talk and ask questions like, “Why can’t all girls deep throat?” If I can wonder out loud why every girl in the world can’t take more of my penis more deeply into more of her body cavities, I’m quite happy to accept a wildly increased chance of choking to death on a ham sandwich. Natural selection, you’re the best.
So we as a species have a sensitive gag reflex, but as in every characteristic, there are wide variations in the population. Some people hardly have a gag reflex at all. These men and woman will be able to deep throat, if they care to. Some people have a super-sensitive gag reflex, in which case you might want to decide that it’s amazingly pleasant to get a handjob supplemented by an enthusiastic tongue-bath. Also dwell on the fact that if you end up making kids with the gagging type, she’ll pass on a high-survival-value gag reflex to your children and if that doesn’t make you hard as a rock…
People can train their gag reflexes to calm down, sword swallowers, most obviously. Dentists have a real problem with patients who have an over-active gag reflex and they use various techniques to defeat it, for example distracting their patient with some other activity. If you’re thinking to apply this method to someone who is giving you a blowjob, I might suggest distracting him or her with a handjob (yet another world problem solved by a handjob) or popping into the 69 position. If you can’t distract them with that, you’re doing something wrong.
There are medical devices made, again for dentists, that defeat the reaction, electro-accupuncture bracelets and such. And while I’m all for lovers taking a strong customer service attitude in bed, I don’t think this should extend to fitting yourself with a medical device so that your special gentleman can force-feed his cock past your tonsils.
Which segues neatly into the creepy factor. The gag reflex is muchly psychological. A situation where some guy is artlessly shoving as much of his cock as he can into your mouth would be experienced as gross by a large portion of the population, which would trigger that good-old gag reflex just as readily as the penis hitting the back of the throat. So if you want to get deep-throated, don’t be gross about it.
In class, I didn’t have time to elaborate on pharyngeal anatomy. I did tell the kids that both girls and boys have gag reflexes and that some people have stronger ones that others. If someone can’t do it, or just don’t want to, you have to accept that. Sex is great without. Then I gave them my set speech about how you can’t set expectations about what real relationships are like based on pornography. Porn is fantasy, not reality.
And that’s true too. Porn movies are pleasant fantasies the way that Hollywood movies are pleasant fantasies. You can’t outrun an explosion and not every woman or man you will be with will be able to swallow your entire penis down their throat. But in both cases, it’s fun to think things might be that way.