What's ''69''?

Dear Alice,

What does the term "sixty-nine" refer to?

— Sexually Experienced But Illiterate

Dear Sexually Experienced But Illiterate, 

Sixty-nine, or 69, refers to a group of sex positions where two people simultaneously perform oral sex on each other by aligning themselves so that each person’s mouth is near the other’s genitals. The position gets its name from the way participants are mutually inverted like the numerals 6 and 9 — hence, 69. While many people think of 69 with one partner on their back and the other on top, it can also be done with both partners on their sides. If you’re considering trying it out, keep reading for some information you may find useful. 

First, it’s key to ask your partner before trying this out and keep that communication open. Like with any sexual position, 69 isn’t everyone’s vibe as some people don’t like to give or receive oral sex for a variety of reasons. There are also some variations that you can experiment with. Depending on the anatomy and what parts are pleasurable of you and your partner, the oral sex you can enjoy may be rimming (involving the anus), fellatio (involving the penis), or cunnilingus (involving the vagina). Also, you’re not just limited to oral sex in this position and can throw in some fingering or sex toys to spice it up as well. Talking through what you two enjoy or would like to explore can help ease some of the questions or concerns in trying a new position. 

Second, there are the logistics: 69 can take some coordination and maneuvering to get comfortable. If there’s too much of a height difference, it may not be possible for both of you to be placed in front of each other’s genitals at the same time. Additionally, being on top could get a little tiring for some as you may need to keep yourself propped up. In which case, the side-by-side configuration or use of pillows or cushions may be more comfortable. Another factor to consider is the perception that both of you need to be constantly orally stimulating each other. While it may be exciting to be both receiving and giving pleasure, you may also pull back and just enjoy the sensations. You two can take turns and don’t always need to be doing both simultaneously. 

It may take a while, but you two can find your own rhythm. The trick is to keep experimenting until you figure out what works best for the both of you. As with any sexual encounter, it’s prudent to consider safer sex measures. You can protect yourself and your partner(s) from oral infections during 69 by using a barrier method such as a condom or dental dam. For more information about sexual questions and variety, you may want to check out the Go Ask Alice! Sexual & Reproductive Health archives.  

Last updated May 21, 2021
Originally published Mar 22, 1996

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