By Jewel Schloemer.mOral sex

Is it just harmless fun?

Safe?  Safer?

For much of our culture, oral sex is a taboo topic – something too private and personal to discuss openly – but that silence has resulted in a dangerous lack of knowledge. When it comes to our health, ignorance isn’t bliss. In fact, it can be costly and painful. For the sake of our health and safety, we all need to know the risks and then make an informed decision.

What is it?
Oral sex is contact of one person’s mouth or tongue with the genitals of another person.

Is It Sex?
There is widespread confusion about whether oral sex is sex. In one study, one third of college students believed that oral sex was abstinent behavior.4 However, if sexual activity is defined as bodily contact meant to give or derive sexual gratification, then it is clear that oral sex is sex.5 (All students taught in FutureImpact presentations have agreed with this as well.)

Who’s Doing It?
It is suggested that oral sex is becoming common in both middle and high school, even among many who consider themselves virgins. Nearly half of adolescents have had oral sex.1  Many are engaging in oral sex prior to having sexual intercourse. About 51% of 15-24 year-olds had oral sex before they first had sexual intercourse. 2 In a study of senior high students, more than four out of five non-virgins and one out of five virgins had tried oral sex. Teens exposed to drugs and alcohol are particularly likely to try oral sex.3 

Is it Safe?
Another misconception about oral sex is that it’s “safe.” This is a dangerous myth. Although pregnancy is not an issue, a wide variety of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) is. Some are painful; some untreatable; some are deadly.

STIs that put you at risk (amongst others): Syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, human papilloma virus (HPV), and HIV.

Despite widespread misconceptions, oral sex is risky sexual activity that puts participants at risk for a number of STIs.

If you’ve already been sexually active outside a lifelong mutually faithful relationships (as in marriage), talk to your healthcare provided about getting you and your partner tested for STIs. Abstinence from sexual activity – including oral sex – or lifetime faithfulness to one uninfected partner is the only certain way to avoid being infected.


1 Chandra, A., Mosher, W. D., Copen, C., & Sionean, C. (2011). Sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexualidentity in the United States: Data from the 2006-2008
National Survey of Family Growth
: National Center for Health Statistics 36. Retrieved from

2 Barber, B., & Eccles, J. (2003). The joy of romance: Healthy adolescent relationships as an educational agenda. In P. Florsheim (Ed.), Adolescent romantic relations and sexual behavior: Theory, research, and practical implications. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

3Schuster MA, Bell RM, Kanouse DE. The sexual practices of adolescent virgins: Genital sexual activities of high school students who have never had vaginal intercourse. Am J Public Health. 1996;86:1570-1576

4Horan PF, Philiips J, Hagen NE. The meaning of abstinence for college students. Journal of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Education for Adolescents and Children. 1998;2:51-66

5Definition from The Medical Institute 

About Jewel Schloemer

Jewel Schloemer is the director of FutureImpact, the community educational program of Pregnancy Choices, where she has served for 23 years. On her off time, she enjoys kayaking, backpacking, bike riding. Sudoku runs high on the activity list and she is ashamedly hooked on Candy Crush.

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