From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Cunnilingus is the act of performing oral sex, using the mouth and tongue to stimulate the female genitals. The clitoris is particularly noted for stimulation as it is often the most sensitive part of the female genitalia. The term comes from an alternative Latin word for the vulva (cunnus) and from the Latin word for tongue (lingua). Some women achieve orgasm easily from clitoral stimulation as part of cunnilingus.
Cultural, spiritual and religious significance
Although not spoken of openly in Western society until recently, cunnilingus is accorded a revered place in Taoism. This is because the aim of Taoism is to achieve immortality, or at least longevity, and the loss of semen, vaginal, and other bodily liquids is believed to bring about a corresponding loss of vitality. Conversely, by either semen retention or ingesting the secretions from the vagina, a male or female can conserve and increase his/her ch'i, or original vital breath. In Taoism:
- "The Great Medicine of the Three Mountain Peaks is to be found in the body of the woman and is composed of three juices, or essences: one from the woman's mouth, another from her breasts, and the third, the most powerful, from the Grotto of the White Tiger, which is at the Peak of the Purple Mushroom (the mons veneris). Octavio Paz in Conjunctions and Disjunctions.
According to Philip Rawson (in Paz, p. 97), these half-poetic, half-medicinal metaphors explain the popularity of cunnilingus among people: "The practice was an excellent method of imbibing the precious feminine fluid" (Paz, p. 97). But the Taoist ideal is not just about the male being enriched by female secretions; the female also benefits from her communion with the male, a feature that has led the sinologist, Kristofer Schipper, to denounce the ancient handbooks on the "Art of the Bedroom" as embracing a "kind of glorified male vampirism" that is not truly Taoist at all. Ideally, by mingling the male and female liquids the Taoist aims to reconcile opposites and to recapture the mythical time that existed before the division of the sexes, the primordial time of the original ch'i.
The religious historian Mircea Eliade speaks of a similar desire to transcend old age and death, and achieve a state of nirvana, in the Hindu practice of Tantric yoga. In Tantric yoga, the same emphasis is placed on the retention and absorption of vital liquids and Sanskrit texts describe how the male semen must not be emitted if the yogi is to avoid falling under law of time and death.
Song of Songs
Verse 7:3 (verse 7:2 in the King James Version of The Song of Solomon) of the Biblical Song of Songs may contain a veiled reference to cunnilingus, although many translators render the key term "navel." An alternate translation could read as follows: "Your vulva is a rounded crater, never lacking mixed wine". (Song of Songs 7:2 שררך אגן הסהר אל יחסר המזג)
The context, moving up from her sandals to her vulva to her belly to her breasts, however, makes the meaning of "vulva" (Heb. shor), as derived from an Aramaic word meaning "secret place", all but conclusive. In many Christian and Jewish traditions the erotic intimacy between the bride and groom described in the Song of Songs is given spiritual significance.