“If you have oral sex, are you really having sex?” This is one of the most common and controversial questions about sex. Many people think that if you are having oral sex, you’re “not really having sex.” But, let’s face it, oral sex is having sex. Considered taboo by some and casual by others, oral sex is an issue that most people don’t know a lot about, and are embarrassed to talk about. But, according to a study conducted by the University of Georgia, a whopping 75 percent of teens had or are having oral sex. That’s a huge number of people who are doing something they don’t really know a lot about. That said, let’s talk about oral sex so you can educate yourself, know the risks of oral sex, and then decide if it’s right for you. The facts: Oral sex is the act of stimulating (kissing, licking, or sucking) sex organs with the mouth and/or tongue. While many people view oral sex as “safe” sex because there is no pregnancy risk, few seem to realize that even though you can’t get pregnant from oral sex, you can get Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) such as herpes, gonorrhea, HIV and AIDS plus many others. Whether you consider oral sex “having sex” or not, when you engage in oral sex, you are putting yourself at risk with the same physical and emotional consequences as vaginal or anal sex. Here is an example of an emotional risk of oral sex. Let’s say you decide to have oral sex with someone you really like. To you, the sex may be a way of expressing how deeply you care for that person, but to your partner (the person receiving the oral sex), it could just be a quick, no-strings-attached way to get sexually satisfied. That person might not even call you again because they thought of you as just a “one-night stand.” The physical risks: Although the risk of infection with oral sex is not as high as vaginal and anal sex, there are still risks. Make yourself aware of them so you and your partner stay safe. Here are some of the physical risks involved with unprotected oral sex. - With either vaginal-oral contact, penile-oral contact, or anal-oral contact, STDs can be passed by having small cuts in the mouth. These cuts are so tiny that you don’t even know you have them most of the time. - During vaginal-oral sex, if the woman receiving the oral sex is menstruating (on her period) the risk for infection is much higher than normal. - During penile-oral sex, if the penis if thrust deeply into the throat, it can cause rips in the throat tissue, and can possibly lead to infection. - If your partner is infected with an STD, and you are giving him/her unprotected oral sex, you run the high risk of contracting an STD. - Vaginal fluid, semen and menstruation fluid can be carriers of the STD, so when you swallow that fluid, it can go into your body and infect you, too. - Many STDs, such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, have no visible symptoms. Someone could be infected with an STD and have no idea and pass that STD to you during unprotected oral sex. If you decide that oral sex is right for you, be smart and be safe. Use a condom during penile-oral sex. It can be a flavored condom or a regular condom (without spermicide, which may taste awful). All the regular rules apply (ie, only use a water-based lubricant, etc.) when using a condom for oral sex. Using protection should also apply when having vaginal- oral and anal oral sex. You have an option of cutting a regular/flavored condom into a square shape and stretching it out so your mouth only touches the condom and not the actual body part, or you can use a dental dam. A dental dam is a rectangular piece of latex that is stretched over the vaginal or anal area so there is no direct contact between the sex organs and the mouth. Dental dams come in different colors and flavors and you can order them online at a lot of different places. Now that you know all the facts, you may want to think twice before giving oral sex to someone just to please them. It’s important to have respect for yourself.