For a concept that seems fringe to many, it is surprising how often auto-fellatio (the technical term for sucking your own dick) pops up in modern culture. It shows up in movies like Clerks (1993) as both a male aspiration and a punchline. An aspiration because it is supposedly a near-mythic holy grail of uncomplicated solo pleasure—thus the old quip: if I could do that, I’d never (need to) leave my house. A punchline because, as male sexuality educator and clinical medical assistant Paul Nelson explains, “you can’t find anyone else to suck your dick so you have to do it yourself.”
It gets thrown around in common speech, like when in 2017 short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci denigrated Steve Bannon to a reporter as “trying to suck his own cock.” It’s a frequent topic of discussion in sex and sexuality columns and talk shows; Dan Savage has been fielding questions about it for years. It even features in fine art, like Kiki Smith’s 1993 New York gallery-featured beeswax sculpture “Mother/Child.”
Why Men Are So Obsessed With Sucking Their Own Dicks
Clearly we are, as a culture, low-key obsessed with the act of sucking our own dicks. But how long, exactly, has the West been fixated on—openly acknowledged and made frequent cultural and conversational use of—auto-fellatio? And why has the concept gained so much traction in our popular imaginations? We recently set out to find answers, scouring historical and cultural records and speaking to a wide range of experts in order to build a brief yet comprehensive history of our cultural relationship to and fascination with “self sucking” (as some who practice or idolize the act call it).
Humans, everyone I spoke to for this piece agreed, have likely been thinking about and attempting auto-fellatio since the dawn of our species.
The assumption often runs that anyone who, historically or in the modern era, thinks about or tries to fellate himself likely did so out of homoerotic urges. For some people throughout history, this has likely been the motive. Al Eingang, a contortionist known as “the King of the Self-Suck” since he started performing auto-fellatio in adult films in the 1980s, tells me that he got started in puberty in part because “I already knew I wanted to suck cock, and mine was right there, waiting to be sucked.” Social pressures against homosexual acts could, writer Jesse Bering argued in Slate eight years back, have historically nudged men towards it as a form of isolated, safe sexual exploration.
But auto-fellatio has never, the experts I’ve spoken to again all agreed, been exclusively or even primarily motivated by homoerotic impulses. Instead, men (regardless of sexuality) have likely stumbled into the act for millennia thanks to a mixture of curiosity, physiology, and, as Eingang puts it, “the creative, adventurous spirit that horniness can bring out in us.” Sex counselor Eric Garrison notes that many men today tell him the thought of sucking their own dicks crossed their minds when, as youths, bending over or stretching and realizing how close their penises were to their mouths. As “people are always looking for ways to make solitary sex better,” says Garrison, some men have likely always taken this fleeting thought and run with it—or at least tried to do so.
Physiological happenstance may also explain, in part, why we don’t talk or think as much about auto-cunnilingus, or women eating themselves out. As Eingang points out, it would take more flexibility for women to achieve this than men. Nelson also credits this disparity to the fact that men tend to be obsessed with our penises and many view them (erroneously) as our only erogenous zones, while many women are not as solely fixated on their vulvas and therefore may not be as primed to entertain the thought or tempted to try it out. Sex therapist Dulcinea Pitagoraargues that society has long suppressed—and still all too often suppress—female sexual pleasure while it worships the male penis. This may have historically suppressed awareness or reports of, or interest in, auto-cunnilingus among women. At least some women have likely attempted this since the dawn of history too, though.
The First Examples of Auto-Fellatio in History
Regardless of how long men have been thinking about, trying, or engaging in auto-fellatio, the first documented depictions of auto-fellatio show up in ancient Egyptian texts from about 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. In one story, the ancient Egyptian god of creation, Atum, produces his children by sucking himself off and spitting out his own semen. Images depict other gods engaging in what appears to be auto-fellatio supposedly to depict their potency, fertility, and self-sustaining powers.
These depictions don’t mean that ancient Egyptians were thinking often, speaking openly about, or engaging in auto-fellatio. Gods did what gods did in accordance with their nature to maintain order in the cosmos. But at least we know that they were familiar with the core concept of self-sucking.
Auto-fellatio doesn’t seem to pop up again until the 100s C.E., in the writings of the Anatolian Greek dream diviner Artemidorus Daldianus. He describes the act as a form of deviance on par with bestiality and necrophilia, and claims that dreaming of kissing the tip of your penis would portend the birth of children, or return of kids who’ve been away from home. Dreaming of sucking it, however, portended the death of one’s children, the loss of the women in one’s life—as Michel Foucault put it in his analysis of Daldianus’s writings, “for one does not need women when one can gratify oneself”—or impending poverty.
This lines up with the contemporary Roman view that, as Ian Moultonexplains it, receiving oral sex was fine, but performing it was shameful. That doesn’t tell us much about whether people actually performed auto-fellatio. But it does point to the fact that, at least in the elite cultures that wrote history, it would have been seen as an especially shameful act, and so not one likely to receive much contemporary mention or historical attention.
The first real evidence that people had auto-fellatio on their conscious minds seems to show up between about 1000 and 1400 CE, in Christian architecture (of all places) and medieval literature. “Figures appear on a good number of churches, mainly in France, Spain, and Germany,” but often in Englandas well, explains historian Ruth Evans, that sure seem to depict men bending down or flipping their legs over their heads to suck themselves. Most of these carvings have not been extensively studied; no one is even sure if the most famous one of them, from the Cologne City Hall, is genuinely medieval or a very convincing fake installed by a cheeky restorer during repairs to the city after World War II.
But they show up often enough alongside images of anal sex, bestiality, and masturbation to suggest that local churches and writers were using these images as reminders for their parishioners of known but non-procreative and as such immoral acts to avoid.
Popular medieval literature and sketches may also contain coded references to people engaging in auto-fellatio that we just aren’t hip to today. Evans points out that there is an argument that images of boars playing bagpipes, an instrument that some medieval churchmen apparently viewed as sexually tinged, are “an oblique-reference to auto-fellatio.” In one telling scene sketched into the margins of a 15th century text by an English scribe, she notes, a jester to the right of the piping boar “is clasping his chest with one hand and cupping-squeezing his genitals with the other.”
It’s tempting to read into the piping boars, and the grotesque nature of some of the auto-fellatio carvings on churches, and conclude that our medieval ancestors viewed the act like many do today: a sexual practice that would occur to many, yet read as marginal or taboo to most (thanks to the church), and that could be used both to impress and astound (the jester clasping his hart and junk) and to provoke a good laugh (… boars). But it is difficult to know whether that is a fair reading.
However Medieval Europeans might have viewed or referred to auto-fellatio, by the early modern era, non-procreative sex basically disappears from the historical record, notes Moulton. And in the stringently sexually repressed Victorian era, some argue that explorers, scholars, and everyday Europeans gallivanting around the world may have done their damnedest to destroy earlier records of auto-fellatio, leading in part to the paucity of the historical record. But even if auto-fellatio couldn’t bubble into the popular consciousness then the same way it does today, there are some signs that people were still thinking about it—in ways that feel very familiar. In 1902, for instance, a year after the death of Queen Victoria, someone first recorded the bawdy version of the limerick “There Once Was A Man From Nantucket,” the mother lode of self sucking cultural references.
About 25 years later, we finally get the first hard evidence of people performing, rather than just thinking about or referencing, auto-fellatio—in the form of a psychological report on a 33-year-old man suffering from depression. Between 1927 and 1977, psychologists in Europe and America recorded a handful of other cases of people who could suck their own dicks, many of whom did so regularly. Some could only get the glans just past their lips. Others could fornicate with their own throats. The doctors pathologized them all, describing them as generally maladjusted and typically as narcissists and closeted homosexuals. This was part and parcel with psychology’s attacks on “non-normative” sex in that era. It also did quite a bit to add to our modern recognition of the reality of auto-fellatio and our sense that those who pursue it are probably gay or in some way off.
Ironically, this was the same period of time the father of American sexology, Alfred Kinsey, was active. His 1948 report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, argued that a large number of men attempt to suck their own dicks at least once as teens. Eingang, who had a copy of the report in his home growing up, says reading that made him feel okay about his exploits, like he wasn’t so odd. But Kinsey and his collaborators argued that it was incredibly uncommon for people to succeed; auto-fellatio, they argued, was something that only about 0.2 or 0.3 percent of men could achieve. His account and the comments of psychologists likely helped not just to increase the visibility and discussion of auto-fellatio, but to paint it as something that only thin, young men with big dicks could pull off—something, then, to be admired as a sign that one had a socially ideal body.
Nip/Tucknotoriously fed on and perpetuated this conception of an auto-fellator in a 2009 episode, in which a sexy yoga instructor asks for a dick reduction so he can stop spending his days sucking himself off and finally learn to hold down a job and have a relationship—a rare, shocking case.
When Auto-Fellatio Started to Appear in Porn
More than reports and studies, the force that propelled auto-fellatio from the quiet corners of human sexual thought and experience, into pop culture and common conversational knowledge, was porn. In 1975, three years after Deepthroatthrust porn into mainstream consciousness and dialogue in a big way, the film Every Inch A Lady featured a scene in which Vytautas Kerbelis, also know as Vido Aras, but known in the porn world as Dr. Infinity, grew tired of waiting for a madame, stripped nude in her office, stuck a cucumber up his ass, flipped his legs over his head, and sucked himself off. From that point forward, directors started featuring auto-fellatio in mainstream porn for male and female, straight and gay audiences alike.
Though we often forget this today, porn legend (and alleged sexual abuser) Ron Jeremy made his name in the early ‘80s by lightly sucking his own cock, just for a moment here and there. Jeremy and others in the adult industry have described it more as a parlor trick to shock and awe rather than something to arouse audiences—which is strikingly similar to the way that writers and directors use it in shows and movies, and we use it in conversation, now.
As an aside, directors reportedly had to hide the fact that they were using auto-fellatio as a joke from Dr. Infinity. He’d apparently been angling to get into porn since 1973 because he had developed an esoteric philosophy centered around auto-fellatio and wanted to use adult film to sell people on his belief that having sex with yourself puts you in control of your body, emotions, and life, ultimately making you fitter than others. Some on set were apparently afraid of him, as he seemed so zealous and erratic. He later shot a giant reel of himself exercising his talents in parks and public landmarks along the East Coast, before moving to Barcelona in 1982. There, he reportedly endeavored to meet Spanish artist Salvador Dali to hopefully join forces in advancing his philosophy—and worked in the early ‘90s in the erotic nightclub Bagdad. So clearly some people who get into auto-fellatio can be a little off—although Dr. Infinity is in the tiny minority.
In the 1980s, interestingly enough, a Finnish actor named Ior Bock stirred up some interest in his homeland when he released what he claimed was an ancient, but indefinitely old, series of pre-Christian myths and rituals that his family had been safeguarding for generations. He claimed that old Finnish faiths thought it was wrong to spill ejaculate, so people performed ritualistic 69s, men learned to fellate themselves, and women drank their own vaginal fluids, in common fertility rituals. Bock’s theories almost certainly weren’t strictly historical. But it is odd how much they share in common with Dr. Infinity’s ideas. It is unclear if one influenced the other, or if they were drawing on a similar influence. Bock died in 2010 and Dr. Infinity died in 2017.
The rise of the internet in the mid-to-late ‘90s helped to spread the visibility of auto-fellatio porn even further. Eingang recalls getting online back “when the total number of websites was in the thousands” and finding stills of his films floating around early porn-sharing communities already. This proliferation may explain why the mid-‘90s also gave us widespread urban legends about notoriously sexual and “strange” pop cultural figures like Marilyn Manson having their ribs removed to be able to suck their own dicks. (These digital-era legends may have been fed, albeit, by earlier rumors about turn-of-the-century Italian writer Gabriele d’Annunzio, whose poetry was erotically charged.) It would also explain why, at the turn of the millennium, SNLcould get away with a sketch in which Will Ferrell tries to learn yoga so he can suck himself off: Auto-fellatio had finally reached a critical mass of popular awareness and discussion, and also been firmly defined within pop culture as something rare and desirable, yet pathological-to-risible.
How the Internet Made Auto-Fellatio Seem Normal(ish)
The democratization of sexual conversations fostered by the internet also made room for mainstream (but very NSFW) movies like 2006’s Shortbus, which featured what seems to be the first un-simulated act of auto-fellatio outside of porn. However that film showed auto-fellatio in an unusually matter-of-fact style, as one of many flavors of diverse human sexual expression.
Notably, even in the era of digital porn, it is difficult to find auto-cunnilingus. A few videos float around claiming to show it, but all appear to be staged. Eingang believes it is entirely possible for some women to at least make contact between their mouths and their vulvas via contortion—and suspects there is a market of porn consumers eager to watch it. So this content gap is striking, and likely speaks to all the physiological and cultural forces mentioned above that keep cultural depictions and popular discussion of the act far below that of the widely known auto-fellatio.
Yet at the same time the internet was helping to spread and ossify now entrenched views and uses of auto-fellatio, it was also creating communities for people who didn’t just think about or try it once, but really wanted to explore how to do it, see others doing it, or show of their skills. Eingang today runs SoloSuck.com—do I really need to note, NSFW?—which, beyond sharing free and selling premium auto-fellatio content, has been collating related online forums, chat rooms, and advice columns since the dawn of the internet. He links off to dozens of such sites and platforms.
“Even on Craigslist,” notes Garrison, the sex counselor, “you used to be able to find ads for, hey, come watch me do this, or, hey, if you can do this, let me come and watch you.” Porn sites are still brimming with content for those who seek it out, though. And Garrison has found that male webcam performers who can perform auto-fellatio “can make a fortune” on that skill.
It is difficult to know exactly what to make of all the auto-fellatio communities and content online. It may simply reflect that there is more latent interest in, and human capacity for, auto-fellatio than anything in the historical record before the millennium would suggest. (Pitagora, the sex therapist, used to do sex work and always suspected that Kinsey’s estimates were low, based on the number of clients who wanted to show off their skills to her.) The internet may also, through exposure and confidentiality, have sparked more interest in and commitment to pursuing auto-fellatio than ever existed before in human history—especially under the weight of longstanding social taboos.
How and Why Some Men Are Able to Do It
The pictures, videos, and how-tos plastered over the digital landscape (some of them literal tomes) have certainly demonstrated that, contrary to popular belief, one doesn’t need to be super skinny or well-endowed to suck his own penis. “We have some fairly heavyset men with average or smaller dicks who are able to deepthroat their cocks,” says Eingang of the community centered on his site. All auto-fellatio really takes for most is time and patience to slowly stretch out, improve your flexibility, find the right position—bending down while seated, bending over while standing, or flipping up one’s legs while laying down—that works for you. Maybe get an assist from a friend or partner to help press down your legs.
A predisposition to flexibility does help speed up the process, as does penile length. Eingang notes that he has a connective tissue disorder that makes him very limber and is longer than the average bear, so he wound up getting his dick in his mouth on accident a number of times when just bending over to tie his shoe while growing up. Younger folks also have an easier time with it, although “we have some men who are older than me who are still going at it with gusto,” says Eingang. And some people may take years to figure out what works for them—or never figure it out. But certainly the internet has made the act feel more accessible.
Some sites (but fewer than you might expect) do caution that the over-eager pursuit of auto-fellatio can lead to injury. You probably won’t break your neck and die like the off screen self-sucker in Clerks. But pulled muscles aren’t uncommon, says Garrison, especially for those who flip their legs over their heads. “I find that people who can bend forward” suffer fewer muscle or neck injuries, he says. He has also encountered a few cases of men biting themselves while trying to make things work, or even transferring herpes from a cold core on their mouths to their penises.
Whatever effect the internet has or hasn’t had on the prevalence of the practice, most sex experts today believe, based on clinical experience with patients, sex surveys, and observation of digital these forums, that almost everyone with a penis at least thinks about auto-fellatio, and many of them try it at least once. More than you might expect manage to make it work. Yet while Pitagora argues that, if not for physiological barriers, auto-fellatio might be as common as other forms of male masturbation, most people who achieve auto-fellatio don’t do it often—or more than once.
“It’s sort of like tickling yourself,” suggests Garrison. “It’s not the same” as oral from a partner. Many men can’t suck enough of their penis to get much sensation. Those who can often only get to bob their heads up and down, which is not entirely satisfying for many even with a partner. And men often learn quickly that the act involves more than they’d suspected: the feeling of something in their throats, the imperative to breathe through their noses, the question of what to do when they’re about to ejaculate. Nelson, the male sexuality educator, suspects that only a few dozen men across the nation learn to auto-fellate and then use it as their main form of masturbation.
Eingang is part of the limited cohort that enjoys auto-fellatio. He and otherswho do it regularly say that it is not a replacement for oral, or other forms of sex, but provides a unique sensation that is heightened by the fact that they can feel and react instantaneously to their own pleasure. Others report enjoying regular auto-fellatio as a kinky fetish—for the taboo of it. Garrison notes that he has met a few women who like to watch it in porn, or ask their partners to perform it, because “they love seeing a man self-pleasure with no boundaries,” willing to discard social norms.
Only a few men, like Dr. Infinity, seem to eschew all other forms of sex for auto-fellatio alone, as the old adages (and psych reports) suggest that most men who can auto-fellate would. Nelson thinks that those guys probably do have issues—or at least have problems finding fulfilling sex with others.
All of this evidence reveals two things: Our cultural obsession with auto-fellatio is the product of long and grinding social and historical forces—centuries of sexual censorship and pathologization. And our beliefs about auto-fellatio, which fuel that fixation, are almost entirely false. It is nowhere near as rare and inherently blissful, nor as pathological or inherently homoerotic as mainstream quips and narratives hold that it is.
Those views are almost certainly the distorted products of the sexual mores that were in place when auto-fellatio started to move out of the shadows in Western culture in the mid-20th century, the framing of psychologists, sex researchers, and pornographers. They are informed by our secrecy and embarrassment around masturbation, our enduring cultural homophobia, and our phallocentric conception of male sexual pleasure, among other wider social-sexual trends that have defined and warped so many other sexual experiences in the modern era.
Stripped of that history, auto-fellatio might actually be just your average niche sexual practice—something not everyone is into, or can do, but that we don’t bat an eye at. A real understanding of the physics involved and the sensations it delivers might lead many people to see it as actually pretty boring, after the initial interest of seeing someone perform it for the first time. I don’t say that to knock auto-fellatio. As Nelson argues, “there’s nothing wrong with it,” and if it is what you are into, “knock yourself out.” In the end, our cultural obsession with auto-fellatio is simply much stranger, more contorted, and seemingly inexplicable than the act itself.