Oral Sex and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

What is oral sex?

Oral sex is a sexual practice that involves stimulating a person's genital area with the mouth and lips. The terms pertaining to oral sex can vary depending on different factors, such as physical gender of the recipient and the cultural context. The two most common types and terms of oral sex are:

  • Fellatio (a.k.a. "blowjob"), an act of oral stimulation of a penis
  • Cunnilingus, an act of orally stimulating a vagina, including a clitoris and a vaginal opening

Additionally, the term "oral sex" may be applied to using the mouth, tongue, and lips to stimulate another person's anus.

What are the risks of having oral sex?

Man and woman in bed

Even though it is not possible to get pregnant by having oral sex, there is still a risk of getting (or passing on) an STI - sexually transmitted infection. The risk must be considered, given that STIs are easily transmitted via oral sex, because a mouth and genitals are both moist and warm areas, providing near-perfect conditions for various bacteria, and also because STIs are usually transmitted from one individual to another via exchange of bodily fluids, which ordinarily happens during oral sex. However, some STIs are also transmitted through direct skin contact.

There are several ways to substantially decrease the chances of getting an STI. However, nothing provides a 100 percent safety guarantee, except, of course, not having any oral, vaginal, or anal contact at all.

The generally accepted list of orally transmittable STIs includes:

  • Herpes
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia
  • HIV (can be transmitted during oral sex through small cuts and sores in a mouth)

The most effective ways of protecting yourself from STIs from oral sex

 Behavioural methods

  • Avoid sex with strangers or people known for having a history of STIs. Having only one trusted sexual partner massively lowers the odds of getting an STI.
  • Do not participate in sexual activity (including oral sex) with people currently undergoing medical treatment for an STI.
  • Learn more about STIs and ways of self-protection

Mechanical methods

There are several types of products that provide effective protection from STIs, which can be purchased in a drug store, special shop, or online.

The most common and effective are:

  1.  Non-lubricated condoms. Easy to find and to use. Some people find these products off-putting because they either don't like the taste or tactile sensations. However, condoms vary in flavours and thickness, so a satisfying choice of a condom usually resolves the issue.
  2. Plastic wraps and dental dams. These can be described as pieces of thin plastic or latex several inches wide. Designed for application on the vaginal or anal area, or a mouth. This is the most basic barrier method, but the products can be hard to come across in a store. In such circumstances, a condom can be cut into a rectangle and used as a dental dam. They are also available in various flavours.

Symptoms and treatment

CHLAMYDIA

Area of initial infection:

  • Genital area
  • Throat
  • Rectum
  • Urinary Tract

Symptoms: Often none, but when there are symptoms, they usually include:  sore throat, abnormally strong discharge from the penis, vagina, or rectum, burning sensation during urination.

Treatment: Easy to cure with antibiotics.

GONORRHEA

 Area of initial infection:

  • Genital Area
  • Throat
  • Rectum
  • Urinary Tract

Symptoms: Often none, but when there are symptoms, they usually include:  sore throat, abnormally strong discharge from the penis, vagina, or rectum, burning sensation during urination.

Treatment: Easy to cure with antibiotics, but drug-resistant strains of it this infection do exist.

SYPHILIS

Area of initial infection:

  • Throat
  • Lips
  • Mouth
  • Genital Area
  • Rectum
  • Anus

Symptoms: Often none, but visible symptoms typically include small sores in the mouth, penis, vulva or anus. In the second stage, skin rash may appear. Symptoms will end with or without treatment, but the infection will stay in the body and may cause organ damage.

Treatment: Curable with antibiotics.

HERPES SYMPLEX VIRUS (TYPE 1 AND TYPE 2)

Area of initial infection:

  • Lips
  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Genital Area
  • Rectum
  • Anus
  • ButtocksHERPES SYMPLEX VIRUS

Symptoms: Often none, but visible symptoms usually include blisters and sores in the mouth, throat, on the lips, genitals, buttocks and anus.

Treatment: There is no cure for herpes, but medications can sufficiently decrease and shorten outbreaks.

HUMAN PAPILOMAVIRUS

  • Lips
  • Mouth
  • Genital Area
  • Rectum
  • Anus

Symptoms: Often none, but certain strains can cause genital warps - small bumps in the genital area, anus, or in the throat or mouth. In some cases, without treatment, these warps can develop into cancer.

Treatment: There is no cure for HPV, but 90% of people defeat the infection within two years. There are several ways of removing the bumps, including freezing.

HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (HIV)

  • Mouth
  • Genital Area
  • Rectum
  • Anus

Symptoms: Often no initial symptoms, but if they occur, they might remind of flu symptoms. HIV destroys the blood cells needed for dealing with diseases. HIV can develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Treatment: To this day, there is no cure for HIV, but medical treatment can sufficiently help to slow down the virus.