Making oral sex safer

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Making oral sex safer

 Over the decades, oral sex has become much more main stream.  What once used to be thought of as a more exotic sexual interlude and barely discussed has become an accepted and normal enjoyment of our sexual experience.  In fact, the National Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle (NATSAL) survey has found that majority of adults between the ages of 18-54 (63-80% depending on the age) have given or received oral sex in the past year.  Only 35% of people ages 55-64 and even less of only19% of people ages 65-74 did the same.

Oral sex is also known by two other names depending on if you are a man or woman.  Fellatio is when a man is receiving oral sex which involves stimulation of a man’s penis by his partner’s mouth.  Cunnilingus is when a woman is receiving oral sex and is oral stimulation of a woman’s vagina, vulva and clitoris by her partner’s lips and tongue. 

There can be certain positive aspects regarding oral sex:

·      It is considered a very effective method of helping women to achieve an orgasm as it directly stimulates the clitoris.

·      For men who are having minor difficulties in achieving an erection, oral sex can help provide more stimulation.

·      A woman cannot get pregnant getting or receiving oral sex.

If a couple is monogamous and healthy, oral sex is usually a perfectly safe type of sex.  But because of the nature of how it is given – the mouth intimately stimulating sexual organs – there is the possibility of health concerns and risks involved.  Keep in mind just because someone appears disease-free on the outside does not mean that they are.  If you do see lesions, growths, or unusual discharge in the genital area, do not give oral sex.  It most likely means they could have a STD and physical contact with them could lead to an infection.

Here are some ways in which oral sex may pose a risk:

·      Oral sex puts you into contact with skin and body fluids – semen, vaginal fluids, blood, urine, feces – any of which could cause disease-causing viruses or bacteria.

·      Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) can be transmitted through oral sex – herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, genital warts (Human papillomavirus, or HPV), intestinal parasites (amebiasis) or hepatitis A or B infection.

·      HPV has been known to cause oral cancer.  HPV is transmitted to the mouth and throat mostly by performing oral sex. The infection reportedly causes about 70 percent of cancers at the back of the throat, base of the tongue or tonsils.

·      HIV can be transferred from giving oral sex to an HIV-infected partner without protection, especially if the HIV-infected partner ejaculates in the mouth. 

·      Having any cuts or sores in the mouth are thought to increase the riskiness of oral sex

Reducing risks

To avoid infecting oneself or your partner with any type of infection, it is advisable for all couples to take precautions in regards when performing or receiving oral sex. 

·      Limit the number of sexual partners.

·      Know your partner’s sexual history – how many sexual encounters have they had with other people.  The more sexual partners they have had, the more you may be putting yourself at risk.

·      Avoid getting any semen in the mouth, either by stopping oral sex before ejaculation or by using a nonspermicidal condom.

·      Generally, giving oral sex to a woman is considered a relatively low risk.  There is the possibility of infection if there is menstrual blood, or if she has an STD in addition to HIV, or if the person performing oral sex has sores or cuts in the mouth. 

·      To cut down on the risk of infection when giving oral sex to a woman, a person can wear an oral barrier such as a dental dam or plastic wrap to make it safer.

·      Using protection such as having a man wear a condom is a way to lower risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.

·      Always discard used barriers and steer clear of fluids.