Oral sex has become an everyday activity in sex despite the underlying negative beliefs about it. Oral sex involves using your mouth, tongue, or lips to stimulate your playmate’s anus or genitals. Both women and men can stimulate their partner orally.
Oral sex can be understood in many terms that include giving head, blow job, going down, 69, rimming, and more.
Nevertheless, there are official medical terms to describe oral sex, and they include “cunnilingus” for clitoral, vaginal, & vulval stimulation and “fellatio” for penile stimulation. Oro-anal stimulation can be referred to as “anilingus.”
Risks of oral sex
Experts claim that oral sex isn’t a safe practice because it increases the risk of passing or contracting STIs. Since oral sex involves the licking and sucking of the anus and genitals, partners are likely to exchange feces or fluid.
The chances of contracting STI from oral sex is high if:
- you engage in oral sex without proper protection
- you have sores, cuts, or ulcers around your mouth during stimulation
- you give instead of getting oral sex (this increases your chances of exposure to genital fluids)
Most relationships are affected in cases where oral sex isn’t enjoyed between partners. It’s not uncommon for one or both partners to have concerns – or even anxiety – about oral sex. Other partners feel vulnerable or too exposed when getting head from their partner.
These are vital issues to address before initiating oral sex in a romantic relationship.
STIs caused by oral sex
An array of sexually transmitted infections can be linked with oral sex, and some of the most common include the following:
Human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital warts
HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer in women. Nevertheless, the virus causes many other types of cancer, such as vaginal cancer and oral cancer, or other chronic diseases.
The human papillomavirus is prevalent in both males and females. The disease can be transmitted through either oral sex or genital sex.
HPV can also affect both same-sex and heterosexual partners. Some HPV strains can cause genital warts – growth found on the genitals – even though it is rare for the infection to be passed to the lip and mouth through oral sex. There is no cure for genital warts currently, but treatment may be possible with surgery or medications.
In some cases, HPV doesn’t show any sign or symptoms, and the risk of the infection is higher if you have multiple partners. Although contracting the virus does not guarantee cancer; however, studies in the US showed that over 50% of reported oral cancer cases could be traced back to HPV.
Genital warts affect men than women, and it is essential to consult with your doctor if you suspect you have the human papillomavirus.
Another common sexually transmitted infection is herpes, and two types include:
- Genital herpes: itching, pain, and sores on the genitals that can develop into scabs and ulcers
- Oral herpes: cold sore and blisters around the nose or mouth
A person can pass the infection to their partner if they have oral herpes characterized by cold sores. It can be passed orally around the genital area even if you have no history of a cold sore.
You can also contract herpes if your plus-one has herpes blisters. On occassions, people can have the disease and not exhibit any symptoms. The disease can also be transmitted via skin to skin contact.
Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C
These STIs are caused by bacteria or viruses that can be transmitted similarly via contact with body fluids like blood, pre-ejaculatory fluid, semen, or vaginal secretions. Experts believe that oral stimulation can increase your chances of getting infected.
Infection is possible if infected fluids get in contact with cuts, sores, or ulcers. Fluids can contact the anus, genitals, mouth, inflamed cells on the lips, cells in the throat, and the membrane of the eye.
This infection affects the gut and is transmitted through analingus – when there is contact with infected feces. Infection is possible when there is touching and licking an infected anus.
Research has shown that the chances of contracting HIV from an infected person during oral sex are very low. Nonetheless, it is difficult to know since people often engage in anal or vaginal sex simultaneously.
The chances of contracting HIV are higher if there are cold sores in the mouth, penis, vagina, bleeding gums, or other STIs.
Shigella gastroenteritis is described as a bowel infection that can be passed on by contact with infected feces. The infection can spread through contact, particularly during oro-anal or oral sex.
This can be a very chronic condition if left untreated, but a cure is possible with the right treatment. The symptoms associated with syphilis come in three stages: single sores, organ damage, and then death.
Infection is possible through contact during oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Sores may also be seen in the anus, penis, vagina, and around the mouth.
Pubic lice (crabs)
Crabs or pubic lice are tiny insects that feed on blood and can be seen in the genital area. Affected persons may experience itching, and treatment is possible with medications.
Reducing the risk of oral sex
Minimizing the risk of oral infection is to abstain or use protection. You should stay away from oral sex if you think your partner:
- Has an infection in their throat
- Has a sexually transmitted infection
- Is a female and is on her period
- Has inflamed or unhealed piercings in their genitals or mouth
- Has cuts, sores, blisters, ulcers, rashes, or warts around their mouth, genitals, or anus
You should prevent vaginal fluid or semen from getting into your eyes. A condom should be used during penile stimulation. It is recommended that a dam should be used during cunnilingus or analingus.
A dam is a plastic square or a small thin latex that prevents the mouth, lips, or tongue from directly touching the anus or vagina. This can be used to obstruct the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
Discuss with your doctor about running tests if you are active sexually, started a new relationship, or changed partners. You should inform your doctor if you suspect you’ve been exposed to an STI.
Also, ensure your partner gets tested to increase your chances of effective treatment.
Potential STI signs and symptoms
You should consult with your healthcare provider if you’ve engaged in oral sex and didn’t use protection. Medical attention is needed if the following signs and symptoms are noticed:
- Sore throat
- Bleeding between menstrual flows
- Pain around the lower abdomen or the testicles
- Vaginal discharge
- Penile discharge
- Lumps, itches, blisters, or rashes in or around the vagina, genitals, anus, or mouth
- Bleeding or pain during or after sex
- Irritation, burning, or pain while urinating
When hepatitis A, B, and C, it’s best to watch out for the following signs and symptoms:
- Pale feces or dark-colored urine
- Flu-like sickness that includes headaches, fever, and general aches
- Fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting
In the absence of any symptoms, people are advised to see their doctor if:
- Their partners exhibit STI-like symptoms
- You or your partner sleep with other people without protection
- You have recently engaged in sex with someone new without protection
You must get treated for sexually transmitted infections as soon as you can. While some STIs are untreatable, some medications can be taken to reduce symptoms.
Short-term implications may include minor discomfort, while long-term complications can include infertility and other issues. It isn’t unusual for young people to see oral sex as no sex, which can push them to greater physical and emotional risk.