Safety may not be the sexiest topic in the world, but it’s important with oral sex, just as it is with intercourse. Oral sex of course doesn’t carry the risk of pregnancy that intercourse does, which makes it safer in that way, but there is still a risk of passing on disease, especially in situations where you don’t know your partner well or aren’t practicing fidelity. Let’s talk about which diseases can be transmitted via oral sex and which ones can’t, and then what you can do to minimize your risk and still enjoy a great time.
- HIV: Various research studies have demonstrated that HIV probably does not pass through cunnilingus or fellatio, but that it may pass through anilingus. Researchers are still not 100% sure that HIV can’t be transmitted via oral sex, so don’t take it for granted—but the research strongly suggests that it doesn’t. So this is a safer form of sex for HIV positive partners.
- HPV: This disease can definitely be transmitted through oral sex. If you see genital warts on a partner, he or she may well have HPV (or some other problem). If you don’t see warts, that doesn’t mean the partner doesn’t have HPV. HPV is particularly contagious when it’s active, but can be transmitted between partners even when it is dormant in the carrier.
- Gonorrhea: This disease also can be transmitted via oral sex. Carriers often show no symptoms.
- Hepatitis A, B, and C: These may all pass orally, but transmission is more likely via anilingus than other forms of oral sex. Hepatitis B is the most serious.
- Syphilis: This disease can also pass through oral sex. Active infections can cause the appearance of sores.
- Herpes: This disease can be transmitted through oral sex, but is more likely to be transmitted through intercourse. The disease causes small blisters; if you see them, it represents an active infection.
- Chlamydia: There isn’t a lot of research on this one as far as oral sex goes, but limited evidence suggests it can indeed transmit orally. People who have Chlamydia may show few or no symptoms, and the disease may mimic other conditions in women.
- GI Tract Infections: Various bacteria can be transmitted orally which originate as infections in the GI tract. This is far more likely with anilingus than it is with cunnilingus or fellatio, but it is still possible with any form of oral sex since bacteria can migrate around that whole region. These infections may range from mild to serious. Avoid anilingus with any partner who has an active GI tract infection.
Safe Oral Sex Tips
It’s important to observe safety precautions when you have oral sex, just like you would when you have intercourse. The highest risk situations are those with new partners or partners who you don’t know very well. The best way to mitigate this risk is to practice fidelity with your partners, and get to know new partners before you have sex with them so that you can learn more about their health issues (and establish trust).
Short of that, one obvious thing to look for with any new partner is physical condition. If you see any open sores, warts, blisters, lesions, or other unusual symptoms in the genitals of a partner or in that person’s mouth, you should steer clear until the issue is investigated and treated. Just because someone doesn’t have open sores though, that doesn’t mean that person doesn’t carry an STD. Don’t forget to avoid anilingus with partners who have GI tract infections as well.
If you know you have any type of active infection, whether an STD or a GI tract infection, it’s very important to get it checked out and treated so that you don’t pass it on to any partners. You should avoid sex altogether while you have active infections so that you don’t endanger someone else. Infections like Chlamydia are rampant despite being relatively easy to cure in most cases, simply because people don’t get checked out when they think they might have a problem.
Not all infections display symptoms either, so it’s also critical to get checked out if you find out you’ve had sexual contact with a partner in the past who was positive for an STD at the time that you had sex. This is also a good reason to get regularly screened if you have many sexual partners (even if you don’t suspect anything wrong); there is a significant chance you are a carrier for an STD like Chlamydia even if you don’t experience any symptoms. The statistics are way too high to ignore. Observing safe oral sex practices in the future can help you to protect yourself and your partners.
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