Yes, The Tongue Is A Sex Organ (And So Is Your Brain)
Yesterday, body-positive hip-hop star Lizzo tweeted a pressing question:
The answer: Absolutely.
What counts as a "sex organ"?
When most people talk about sex organs, they're usually thinking about penises and vaginas—two organs often involved in penetrative sexual intercourse, which is the culturally mainstream definition of "sex"—plus, maybe the clitoris and testicles too.
But that's a pretty narrow classification. In reality, any part of the body that triggers sexual pleasure can be considered a sexual organ. Yes, genitalia (the external body parts located in the pelvic region typically used to assign a biological sex at birth) are definitely sex organs, and so are some internal reproductive and body-specific anatomical features like the vaginal canal and the internal part of the clitoris. But importantly, an organ doesn't need to have a reproductive function (see: the clitoris) nor need to be related to traditional sex assignments to count as a sexual organ.
"Any part of your body can be sexual," the Planned Parenthood website explains. "You might have heard that your brain is your most important sex organ. That's because it controls your sexual response—how your body reacts to arousal, sex, or masturbation. It's also where your sexual fantasies and identities are."
They add, "You can also think of your skin as one big sex organ, with its millions of sensitive nerves. Parts of your body that when touched make you feel aroused are called 'erogenous zones.' Not everyone has the same erogenous zones, but common ones are breasts and nipples, the anus, neck, lips, mouth, tongue, back, fingers and toes, hands, feet, earlobes, and inner thighs. You get the idea: Any part of your body can be considered sexual depending on how it makes you feel."
What is it about the tongue?
According to this more modern and expansive definition, the tongue not only counts as a sex organ, but it's perhaps one of the more underrated sex organs humans have.
You might've heard common wisdom about the tongue being the strongest muscle in the body. While that's not necessarily accurate, the tongue is a pretty remarkable body part: It's, in fact, made up of eight different muscles interlaced together, all of which can perform the same task effectively, thereby allowing the tongue to essentially never tire out. The tongue's all-muscle-no-bone architecture gives it unique flexibility, which can make it particularly good for massaging and stimulating other body parts in an endless variety of specific, rhythmic ways. If you've ever experienced great oral, you know what we're talking about here.
"As an actual sexual pleasuring organ, the tongue is unequaled," licensed psychologist Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D., writes at Psychology Today. "It is by far the most versatile muscle in the body capable of amazing feats of agility, strength, and delicacy. Also, it is often difficult, and in some cases impossible, for women to have orgasms via straightforward, penetrative, vaginal intercourse (i.e., PVI, or typical penile-vaginal thrusting). Similarly, many men find ejaculating much easier during oral stimulation than during PVI. Thus, skillful manipulation of the clitoris or glans with the tongue is often felt as some of the best sexual stimulation possible."
So let's broaden our definition of sex, OK?
Hats off to Lizzo for the reminder that when we expand our understanding of what counts as sex, we gain access to better and more diverse sexual experiences. The next time you're getting intimate with a partner, consider making your tongue one of your star players for a deliciously pleasurable encounter.
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Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.
You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter