Oral sex, sometimes referred to as oral intercourse, is sexual activity involving the stimulation of the genitalia of a person by another person using the mouth (including the lips, tongue, or teeth) or throat. Cunnilingus is oral sex performed on female genitals, while fellatio is oral sex performed on a penis. Anilingus, another form of oral sex, is oral stimulation of a person's anus. Oral stimulation of other parts of the body (as in kissing and licking) is usually not considered oral sex.
Oral sex may be performed as foreplay to incite sexual arousal before other sexual activities (such as vaginal or anal intercourse), or as an erotic and physically intimate act in its own right. Like most forms of sexual activity, oral sex can pose a risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs). However, the transmission risk for oral sex, especially HIV transmission, is significantly lower than for vaginal or anal sex.
Oral sex is often regarded as taboo, but most countries do not have laws which ban the practice. Commonly, people do not regard oral sex as affecting the virginity of either partner, though opinions on the matter vary. People may also have negative feelings or sexual inhibitions about giving or receiving oral sex, or may flatly refuse to engage in the practice.
- 1 Practice
- 2 Health risks and other studies
- 3 Cultural views
- 4 Terminology and slang
- 5 Other animals
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Oral sex may be practiced by people of any sexual orientation.
Facesitting is a form of oral sex in which the receiver sits on the giver's face and pushes into it with his or her genitals. Oral sex can also be performed by both partners at the same time in the so-called "sixty-nine" position. Spitting and/or swallowing of the ejaculatory fluids or giving a pearl necklace may cause different sexual stimulations. Autofellatio is a possible but rare variant; autocunnilingus may also be possible for women with extremely flexible spines.
An act of group sex restricted to one woman giving oral sex to several men is referred to as a gangsuck, blowbang or lineup, all derivatives of the slang term gang bang for group sex. Bukkake and gokkun may also involve oral sex.
Oral sex is commonly used as a means of preserving virginity, especially among heterosexual pairings; this is sometimes termed technical virginity (which additionally includes anal sex, mutual masturbation and other non-penetrative sex acts, but excludes penile-vaginal sex). The concept of "technical virginity" or sexual abstinence through oral sex is popular among teenagers. Additionally, gay males may regard oral sex as a way of maintaining their virginities, with penile-anal penetration defined as resulting in virginity loss, while other gay males may define oral sex as their main form of sexual activity. By contrast, lesbian pairings commonly view oral sex or fingering as resulting in virginity loss, though definitions of virginity loss vary among lesbians as well.
Contraception and safe sex
Oral sex alone cannot result in pregnancy and heterosexual couples may perform oral sex as their method of contraception. For conception to take place, sperm from the penis must enter the uterus and fallopian tubes and fertilize the female's egg. In humans, there is no connection between the gastrointestinal system and the reproductive system,[nb 1] and sperm ingested by the woman would be killed and broken down by acids in her stomach and proteins in the small intestine. The breakdown products are then absorbed as a negligible quantity of nutrients. However, there is a potential risk of pregnancy if semen comes in contact with the vaginal area in some way, such as semen in the ejaculate finding its way onto fingers, hands, or other body parts, which then comes in contact with the vaginal area.
Oral sex is not necessarily an effective method of preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs), although some forms of STIs are believed to be less commonly spread in this way, and oral sex has been recommended as a form of safe sex. In the United States, no barrier methods for use during oral sex have been evaluated as effective by the Food and Drug Administration. However, a barrier protection like a condom for fellatio or dental dam for cunnilingus can offer some protection from contact when practicing oral sex.
Oral sex should be limited to the protected areas. A makeshift dental dam can be made out of a condom or a latex or nitrile glove, but using a real dental dam is seen as preferable; this is because real dental dams cover a larger area, avoid accidents caused by "slipping" outside the covered area, and avoid the risk that makeshift versions may be accidentally damaged or poked with the scissors during the cutting procedure. Plastic wrap may also be used as a barrier during oral sex, but there exists no conclusive scientific research regarding how effective it may or may not be at preventing disease transmission. Certain kinds of plastic wrap are manufactured to be microwaveable and are designed to have pores that open when heated, but there also exists no scientific research on what effect, if any, this has on disease transmission when used during oral sex. Some people complain that the thickness of the plastic dulls sensation.
A report issued in September 2005 by the National Center for Health Statistics was the basis of an article in the September 26, 2005 issue of Time magazine. The report comes from the results of a computer-administered survey of over 12,000 Americans between the ages of 15 and 44, and states that over half the teenagers questioned have had oral sex. While some headlines have interpreted this as evidence that oral sex among teenagers is "on the rise", this was the first comprehensive study of its kind to examine the matter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated in 2009: "Studies indicate that oral sex is commonly practiced by sexually active male-female and same-gender couples of various ages, including adolescents." Research also indicates that "males are more likely than females to have received oral sex, whereas equal proportions of men and women have given oral sex."
Health risks and other studies
Sexually transmitted infections
Chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis (multiple strains), and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), can be transmitted through oral sex. Any sexual exchange of bodily fluids with a person infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, poses a risk of infection. Risk of STI infection, however, is generally considered significantly lower for oral sex than for vaginal or anal sex, with HIV transmission considered the lowest risk with regard to oral sex.
There is an increased risk of STI transmission if the receiving partner has wounds on his or her genitals, or if the giving partner has wounds or open sores on or in his or her mouth, or bleeding gums. Brushing the teeth, flossing, undergoing dental work soon before or after performing oral sex can also increase the risk of transmission, because all of these activities can cause small scratches in the lining of the mouth. These wounds, even when they are microscopic, increase the chances of contracting STIs that can be transmitted orally under these conditions. Such contact can also lead to more mundane infections from common bacteria and viruses found in, around and secreted from the genital regions. Because of the aforementioned factors, medical sources advise the use of condoms or other effective barrier methods when performing or receiving oral sex with a partner whose STI status is unknown.
Links have been reported between oral sex and oral cancer with human papillomavirus (HPV)-infected people. In 2005, a research study at Malmö University's Faculty of Odontology suggested that performing unprotected oral sex on a person infected with HPV might increase the risk of oral cancer. The study found that 36 percent of the cancer patients had HPV compared to only 1 percent of the healthy control group.
Another study in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests a correlation between oral sex and throat cancer. It is believed that this is due to the transmission of HPV, a virus that has been implicated in the majority of cervical cancers and which has been detected in throat cancer tissue in numerous studies. The study concludes that people who had one to five oral sex partners in their lifetime had approximately a doubled risk of throat cancer compared with those who never engaged in this activity and those with more than five oral sex partners had a 250 percent increased risk.
Fellatio may reduce the risk of miscarriages by inducing immunological tolerance in the woman by exposure to the proteins in her partner's semen, a process known as paternal tolerance. While any exposure to a partner's semen appears to decrease a woman's chances for the various immunological disorders that can occur during pregnancy, immunological tolerance could be most quickly established through the oral introduction and gastrointestinal absorption of semen. Recognizing that some of the studies potentially included the presence of confounding factors, such as the possibility that women who regularly perform fellatio and swallow semen also engage in more frequent intercourse, the researchers also noted that, either way, "the data still overwhelmingly supports the main theory" behind all their studies—that repeated exposure to semen establishes the maternal immunological tolerance necessary for a safe and successful pregnancy.
Cultural views on oral sex range from aversion to high regard. It, especially fellatio, has been considered taboo, or at least discouraged, in many cultures and parts of the world. Laws of some jurisdictions regard oral sex as penetrative sex for the purposes of sexual offenses with regard to the act, but most countries do not have laws which ban the practice itself, in contrast to anal sex or extramarital sex.
In Ancient Rome, fellatio was considered profoundly taboo. Sexual acts were generally seen through the prism of submission and control. This is apparent in the two Latin words for the act: irrumare (to penetrate orally), and fellare (to be penetrated orally). Under this system, it was considered to be abhorrent for a male to perform fellatio, since that would mean that he was penetrated (controlled), whereas receiving fellatio from a woman or another man of lower social status (such as a slave or debtor) was not humiliating. The Romans regarded oral sex as being far more shameful than, for example, anal sex – known practitioners were supposed to have foul breath and were often unwelcome as guests at a dinner table.
In contrast to historical views on fellatio, cunnilingus is revered as a spiritually fulfilling practice in Chinese Taoism, which regards it as having the ability to enhance longevity. In modern Western culture, oral sex is widely practiced among adolescents and adults.
People give various reasons for their dislike of oral sex. Some state that since it does not result in reproduction, it is therefore unnatural. Others find it less intimate because it is not a face-to-face practice, or believe that it is a humiliating or unclean practice; that it is humiliating or unclean are opinions that are, at least in some cases, connected with the symbolism attached to different parts of the body. Opposite these views, people also believe that oral sex "is one of the most intimate behaviors that a couple can engage in because it requires total trust and vulnerability."
While commonly believed that lesbian sexual practices involve cunnilingus for all women who have sex with women (WSW), some have an aversion to cunnilingus due to not liking the experience or psychological or social factors, such as finding it unclean. Other WSW believe that it is a necessity or largely defines lesbian sexual activity. Lesbian couples are more likely to consider a woman's dislike of cunnilingus as a problem than heterosexual couples are, and it is common for them to seek therapy to overcome inhibitions regarding it.
Terminology and slang
- Giving head – A common American slang term for giving oral sex to either a man or woman is giving head, from the term head job (in contrast to hand job, manual stimulation). A play on the slang term head resulted in the slang term brains, or brain salad surgery, domes or getting domes.
- Plate – A once common British rhyming slang for fellate that arose in the gay slang language of Polari that spread in the 1960s. The term is less common today.
- Cunnilingus is also sometimes referred to as muff diving, eating out or poon-job, a slang term and a cunnilingus variant of blow job, where poon is short for poontang or punani.
- Additionally, in lesbian culture, several common slang terms used are carpet munching, giving lip, lip service or tipping the velvet (a faux-Victorian expression invented by novelist Sarah Waters).
Other slang terms for oral sex include going down on (male or female), licking out and muff diving (female), blow job (male), dome (male or female), sucking off (male), playing the skin flute (male recipient), rolling cigars (male recipient), lolly-gagging (gay male-on-male), gaining knowledge (male recipient) and bust down (male). Forced fellatio is often called Egyptian rape or simply Egyptian; this goes back to the time of the Crusades when Mamluks were alleged to force their Christian captives to do this.
Oral sex has been observed in the animal kingdom among many species. It has been suggested that there is an evolutionary advantage due to the tendency of primates, non-primates and humans to have oral sex. Oral sex, at least fellatio, also exists among the fruit bat, Cynopterus sphinx; it has been observed when the bats are mating. These bat pairs spend more time copulating if the female licks the male than if she does not.
- Explanatory notes
- However, this has happened in bizarre circumstances involving a stabbing.
- Janell L. Carroll (2009). Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity. Cengage Learning. pp. 265–267. ISBN 978-0-495-60274-3. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
- Wayne Weiten; Margaret A. Lloyd; Dana S. Dunn; Elizabeth Yost Hammer (2008). Psychology Applied to Modern Life: Adjustment in the 21st century. Cengage Learning. p. 422. ISBN 978-0-495-55339-7. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
- "What is oral sex?". NHS Choices. NHS. January 15, 2009. Archived from the original on September 20, 2010.
- "Global strategy for the prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections: 2006–2015. Breaking the chain of transmission" (PDF). World Health Organization. 2007. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
- Dianne Hales (2008). An Invitation to Health Brief 2010-2011. Cengage Learning. pp. 269–271. ISBN 978-0495391920. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
- William Alexander; Helaine Bader; Judith H. LaRosa (2011). New Dimensions in Women's Health. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 211. ISBN 978-1449683757. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
- See here and pages 47-49 for views on what constitutes virginity loss and therefore sexual intercourse or other sexual activity; source discusses how gay and lesbian individuals define virginity loss, and how the majority of researchers and heterosexuals define virginity loss/"technical virginity" by whether or not a person has engaged in penile-vaginal sex. Laura M. Carpenter (2005). Virginity Lost: An Intimate Portrait of First Sexual Experiences. NYU Press. pp. 295 pages. ISBN 978-0-8147-1652-6. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
- Bryan Strong; Christine DeVault; Theodore F. Cohen (2010). The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate Relationship in a Changing Society. Cengage Learning. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-534-62425-5. Retrieved October 8, 2011.
Most people agree that we maintain virginity as long as we refrain from sexual (vaginal) intercourse. But occasionally we hear people speak of 'technical virginity' [...] Data indicate that 'a very significant proportion of teens ha[ve] had experience with oral sex, even if they haven't had sexual intercourse, and may think of themselves as virgins' [...] Other research, especially research looking into virginity loss, reports that 35% of virgins, defined as people who have never engaged in vaginal intercourse, have nonetheless engaged in one or more other forms of heterosexual sexual activity (e.g., oral sex, anal sex, or mutual masturbation).
- Sonya S. Brady & Bonnie L. Halpern-Felsher (2007). "Adolescents' Reported Consequences of Having Oral Sex Versus Vaginal Sex". Pediatrics. 119 (2): 229–236. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.321.9520. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-1727. PMID 17272611.
- Blank, Hanne (2008). Virgin: The Untouched History. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. p. 253. ISBN 978-1-59691-011-9. Retrieved October 8, 2011.
- Ken Plummer (2002). Modern Homosexualities: Fragments of Lesbian and Gay Experiences. Routledge. pp. 1920–1921. ISBN 978-1134922420. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
The social construction of 'sex' as vaginal intercourse affects how other forms of sexual activity are evaluated as sexually satisfying or arousing; in some cases whether an activity is seen as a sexual act at all. For example, unless a woman has been penetrated by a man's penis she is still technically a virgin even if she has had lots of sexual experience.
- Jayson, Sharon (October 19, 2005). "'Technical virginity' becomes part of teens' equation". USA Today. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- "Oral Sex and HIV Risk" (PDF). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). June 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 10, 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
- Joseph Gross, Michael (2003). Like a Virgin. The Advocate. Here Publishing. pp. 44–45. 0001-8996. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
- Karen Bouris (1995). The first time: what parents and teenage girls should know about "losing your virginity". Conari Press. pp. 133–134. ISBN 978-0-943233-93-2.
- Robert Crooks; Karla Baur (2010). Our Sexuality. Cengage Learning. pp. 286–289. ISBN 978-0495812944. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
Noncoital forms of sexual intimacy, which have been called outercourse, can be a viable form of birth control. Outercourse includes all avenues of sexual intimacy other than penile–vaginal intercourse, including kissing, touching, mutual masturbation, and oral and anal sex.
- Feldmann, J.; Middleman, A. B. (2002). "Adolescent sexuality and sexual behavior". Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 14 (5): 489–493. doi:10.1097/00001703-200210000-00008. PMID 12401976.
- Geffen Testing Center's HIV, Syphilis, and Hepatitis C Information Sheet. Accessed November 4, 2006. Archived October 19, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- University Health Center, University of Georgia, Oral Sex. Accessed November 4, 2006.
- Fulbright, Yvonne K. (2003). The Hot Guide to Safer Sex. Hunter House. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-89793-407-7.
- "HIV/AIDS among Women Who Have Sex With Women". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 17, 2006. Archived from the original on September 6, 2009. Retrieved September 20, 2009.
- "How to Make a Dental Dam Using a Condom", UCSB SexInfoOnline, February 7, 2008.
- "How to Make Your Own Dental Dam From a Condom". Retrieved October 8, 2011.
- "Plastic Wrap and Oral Sex". Retrieved October 8, 2011.
- Lemonick, Michael D., "A Teen Twist on Sex", Time, New York, September 19, 2005.
- "Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance" (PDF). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2008. Retrieved December 6, 2011. Also see Fact Sheet
- Robert J. Pratt (2003). HIV & AIDS: A Foundation for Nursing and Healthcare Practice. CRC Press. p. 306. ISBN 978-0340706398. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
- Marshall Cavendish Corporation (2009–2010). Sex and Society, Volume 1. Marshall Cavendish Corporation. p. 61. ISBN 978-0761479062. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
- D'Souza G, Kreimer AR, Viscidi R, et al. (2007). "Case-control study of human papillomavirus and oropharyngeal cancer". N. Engl. J. Med. 356 (19): 1944–1956. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa065497. PMID 17494927.
- "New Scientist: "Oral sex can cause throat cancer" - 09 May 2007". Newscientist.com. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
- Meuleman, T.; Baden, N.; Haasnoot, G.W.; Wagner; Dekkers, O.M.; le Cessie, S.; Picavet, C.; van Lith, J.M.M.; Claas, F.H.J. (March 2019). "Oral sex is associated with reduced incidence of recurrent miscarriage". Journal of Reproductive Immunology. doi:10.1016/j.jri.2019.03.005.
- Koelman CA, Coumans AB, Nijman HW, Doxiadis II, Dekker GA, Claas FH (March 2000). "Correlation between oral sex and a low incidence of preeclampsia: a role for soluble HLA in seminal fluid?". Journal of Reproductive Immunology. 46 (2): 155–166. doi:10.1016/S0165-0378(99)00062-5. PMID 10706945.
- Fox, Douglas (February 9, 2002). "Gentle Persuasion". New Scientist. Retrieved June 17, 2007.
- Robertson SA, Bromfield JJ, Tremellen KP (August 2003). "Seminal 'priming' for protection from pre-eclampsia-a unifying hypothesis". Journal of Reproductive Immunology. 59 (2): 253–265. doi:10.1016/S0165-0378(03)00052-4. PMID 12896827.
- "The History of Fellatio" Archived May 24, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, Salon.com, May 22, 2000.
- "Irrumation". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
- Octavio Paz (1969) Conjunctions and Disjunctions; trans. Helen R. Lane. London: Wildwood House; p. 97
- Buschmiller, Rev. Robert. "Oral Sex in Marriage". Presentation Ministries. Archived from the original on February 6, 2017. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
- Pina-Cabral, Joao de (1992). "Tamed Violence: Genital Symbolism is Portuguese popular culture". Man. N.S. 28 (1): 101–120. doi:10.2307/2804438. JSTOR 2804438.
- Belge, Kathy. "Do All Lesbians Like Oral Sex?". About.com. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
- Naomi B. McCormick (1994). Sexual Salvation: Affirming Women's Sexual Rights and Pleasures. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-275-94359-2. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
- Ginny Vida, Karol D. Lightner, Tanya Viger (2010). The New Our Right to Love: A Lesbian Resource Book. Simon and Schuster. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-684-80682-2. Retrieved April 18, 2012.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- Jerry J. J. Bigner; Joseph L. L. Wetchler (2012). Handbook of LGBT-Affirmative Couple and Family Therapy. Routledge. p. 102. ISBN 978-1-136-34032-1. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
- Polari Archived April 22, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- Edwardes, Allen; Masters, Robert E. L. The cradle of erotica, New York: Julian Press, 1963.
- Woods, Stacey Grenrock (October 1, 2004). "Do animals have oral sex?". Esquire.
- Min Tan; Gareth Jones; Guangjian Zhu; Jianping Ye; Tiyu Hong; Shanyi Zhou; Shuyi Zhang; Libiao Zhang (October 28, 2009). Hosken, David (ed.). "Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time". PLoS ONE. 4 (10): e7595. Bibcode:2009PLoSO...4.7595T. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007595. PMC 2762080. PMID 19862320.
- Brooks, Cassandra (October 30, 2009). "A Little Fellatio Goes a long way". ScienceNOW. Archived from the original on April 17, 2010. Retrieved July 24, 2010. Cite journal requires
- Tan, Min; Gareth Jones; Guangjian Zhu; Jianping Ye; Tiyu Hong; Shanyi Zhou; Shuyi Zhang; Libiao Zhang (October 28, 2009). Hosken, David (ed.). "Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time". PLoS ONE. 4 (10): e7595. Bibcode:2009PLoSO...4.7595T. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007595. PMC 2762080. PMID 19862320.
- "Fellatio keeps male fruit bats keen - life - 29 October 2009 - New Scientist". www.newscientist.com. Retrieved October 31, 2009.