Most people need little convincing to use a condom to prevent Sexual Transmitted Deseases (STDs). Still, Dutch research by Rutgers (2017) tells us that 42% of men and 55% of women don’t use a condom in a one night stand, putting them at risk of contracting an STD. What the research doesn’t show, however, is whether a condom is used in (vaginal or anal) penetrative sex only. What is the risk if you don’t take any precaution when you go down on your partner?
Of all (Dutch) persons, aged 25 or above, about 9 in 10 has had or performed oral sex. In little over half of all sexual encounters, oral sex is performed. An average of three quarters of all people don’t use a condom when they give a blowjob. And there aren’t even any figures on the use of protection with cunnilingus (pussy eating). The current Dutch guidelines hardly give any attention to the risk of getting an STD by oral sex.
Next to that, there is evidence that some people consider oral sex a safe alternative for penetrating the vagina, because it can not lead to unwanted pregnancy. And gay men see it as a safe alternative sometimes for (anal) penetration.
Transmission route and risks
The mucus membrane in the mouth protects us against certain infections. It is believed that it is impossible to contract HIV from saliva or pre-cum. The risk of contracting an STD through oral sex is a lot less than with penetrative sex. That all changes when there are little wounds, gingivitis, or aphthous stomatitis in your mouth. And less risk doesn’t mean ‘no risk’. You run the risk of several infections through oral sex. But unfortunately, not all is known about the way STDs are transferred by oral sex. The current assumptions are:
- By unprotected fellatio (contact between mouth and penis) you run the risk of contracting chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes genitalis or syfilis. When you get semen in your mouth, you also run a risk of contracting HIV.
- By unprotected cunnilingus (contact between the mouth and the vulva) you may get infected with herpes genitalis, syfilis, chlamydia en gonorrhea. When (menstruation) bood comes in your mouth, you could also get HIV.
- By unprotected rimming (oral contact with the anus) you could get syfilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and possible also hepatitis B and HIV.
There is also a risk at contracting HPV by oral sex. HPV can cause genital warts and is associated with cancer of the throat.
What doesn’t help
Some people (still) mistakenly believe that you can prevent an STD by taking a shower. However, that is counterproductive. The soap will alter the acidity of the vagina, causing it to decrease the natural protection. Brushing your teeth or using mouth water also has an opposite effect. It can cause little wounds in your gums, causing an increased risk of infections.
How to reduce the risk?
Oral sex (blow job, eating pussy, rimming) is less risky than penetration (fucking and ass fucking), but it is not without risks. Also, using sex toys together and even manual sex (jerking off, fingering) is not 100% safe. If you want te reduce the risk, consider the following:
- Avoid sperm in your mouth. DO not swallow sperm.
- Avoid blood contact (e.g. menstrual blood)
- Don’t do oral sex if you or your partner have cold sores, ulcers or bleeding gum.
- If you want to play it safe, use a condoom when you give a blowjob and a dental dam for eating pussy or rimming.
- Don’t flush your mouth using mouth water and don’t brush or floss before or after oral sex.