A Head’s Up on Oral Sex

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At Stony Brook Women’s Health, we provide STD testing for anyone who needs to be screened. Testing and results are completely confidential.

If you are sexually active, it is important that you and your partner(s) use condoms and be tested regularly.

Contracting an STD is possible when giving oral sex.

The following can be transmitted orally with possible manifestations in the mouth or throat:

Oral Sex and STD's

The idea that you cannot contract an STD from giving or receiving oral sex is a common misconception. While the risk may not be as high as it is during sexual intercourse, actively preventing the spread of STDs is important. Read on to learn more about the risks that oral sex carries, and various ways that you can prevent the spread of STDs and STIs.

The History of Fellatio

I won’t bore readers with a definition of oral sex. If you don’t know what the term means, you’re probably too young to read this blog. In this column, we’ll stick to fellatio, where the male is the recipient of a partner’s oral ministrations. The giver of fellatio is politely referred to as “the donor.” For unknown reasons fellatio is colloquially called a “blow job.” Your guess is as good as mine.

Despite what the Puritans may have wished, oral sex has been around for millennia. Its depictions are found in prehistoric cave paintings, on the walls of some Egyptian pyramids, in graphic carvings on Hindu temples, and in scripture like the Kama Sutra. Modern healthcare workers don’t consider it a deviant practice, but rather a normal form of human sexual expression. There is nothing “dirty” or “immoral” about it. However, individual feelings about engaging in oral sex vary greatly. Some who perform fellatio may find it empowering, in the sense that it gives them a feeling of control, or they enjoy pleasing their partner. Others may find the act repugnant. There is no right or wrong here. It is simply a matter of personal taste.

Like abortions, performing oral sex is a matter of individual choice and should always be voluntary. If the intended recipient tries to coerce his partner into giving oral sex, this is a definite no-no. Force hints at underlying problems in the relationship. If a person is being coerced (either physically or verbally) they should head for the hills.


The Facts: STD Transmission and Oral Sex

Many authorities suggest using a condom during oral sex to protect against STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). From a public health standpoint, this is a good idea. However in reality, it occurs less than 5% of the time. This is because many male recipients object to the decreased sensation caused by a latex or vinyl contraceptive barrier. Also, many oral sex performers don’t associate oral sex with STDs as much as they associate them with sexual intercourse. Use of a condom is another instance of personal preference.

But those giving oral sex should understand that, while rare, contracting an STD is a very real possibility. Herpes simplex virus (HSV,) human papilloma virus (HPV,) gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis can all be transmitted orally, and each has a possible manifestation in the mouth or throat. Of course, it all depends on whether or not the recipient is infected. Even when he is, the chance of the “donor” getting infected has been estimated at between five and ten percent. Is it worth taking the risk? Only you can decide that. In an ideal world, we’d all have our partners tested for STDs before engaging in oral sex, and we’d all use condoms, right? Operative phrase: ideal world.

– Written by Dr. Shobin