When we think sexual health, we often just think about the health and well-being of sex organs like the vagina and penis. As we’ve explored in previous posts, you can contract STIs orally as well, and while unprotected oral sex has a significantly lower rate of HIV transmission, it still poses a substantive risk to the person performing the act.
So, other than boycotting oral (as if!) what can we do about it? While breaking out the latex is a great public health option, it might not be the right option for everybody. Here are some tips for keeping it sexy while making it safer, for any gender partner:
Oral Sex on a Person with a Penis
1. Cheeking a Condom: Grab some flavored condoms and a phallic shaped object of your choice, because this one is going to take some practice! Cheeking a condom is the term for putting a condom on using only your mouth. While it’s not the preferred method of putting a condom on for intercourse, as it has a slightly higher risk of breakage, if you have a partner who feels timid about wearing a condom during oral it can help the experience feel more exciting for both of you. To cheek, first put a little lube in the tip of the condom, this will help it feel better for your partner. Hold the condom tip against the roof of your mouth while pinching your lips together, then place the condom on the top of the penis, sucking firmly as you move your mouth down to apply the condom. If you use this technique, make sure you change condoms before switching to penetrative sex. Flavored condoms may irritate the skin on more sensitive parts of your body, and during oral there is a chance that you may create small, invisible tears in the condom.
Using a condom for oral sex with a person with a penis is the safest way you can perform oral. If that is not an option for you, here are some other techniques you can use to reduce your risk.
2. Avoid Micro-Tears in the Mouth: This trick won’t help you with bacterial STIs, but for blood-borne infections like HIV or Hepatitis, you can avoid having any kinds of invisible tears or irritation to the mouth tissue by avoiding brushing, flossing, or using any kind of harsh mouthwash for half an hour before and half an hour after performing oral sex. This works by reducing the number of pathways to potential infection, giving your saliva enzymes more time to break down potential infections in advance.
3. Don’t Let It Sit. There is a relevant phrase used by the Michigan Department of Public Health in their HIV Prevention and Testing courses: Swallow or Spit, Don’t Let it Sit. If your partner is not using a condom, and doesn’t give you a heads up before ejaculating, make a fast decision about what to do with the potentially hazardous semen. Letting it sit in your mouth will give it more time to possibly pass something along to you. If you swallow, your stomach acid will kill anything in it. Rinse with a little water afterwards, and remember to wait half an hour before brushing your teeth!
Oral Sex on a Person with a Vagina
4. Dental Dam or Saran Wrap. Have some sort of barrier between your mouth and the vagina in question for maximum safety. You can buy a pre-purchased dental dam, or unroll a condom, cut the tip off then cut it down the length of the tube to create one. You can also use Saran wrap, as long as it’s not the kind intended for use in the microwave (that has micro perforations in it that negate its sexual health uses). To help it feel good for your partner, put some lube on the side of the dam facing their body, hold it in place with your hands, and do what you do!
Using barrier for oral sex with a person with a vagina is the safest way you can perform oral. If that is not an option for you, here are some other techniques you can use to reduce your risk.
5. Avoid Micro-Tears in the Mouth: Read tip #2 above for this! It’s the same for a person with a vagina.
6. Avoid Fluids: Vaginal fluids are the primary form of transmission for various STIs. Depending on the anatomy of your partner, you can position yourself so your mouth is primarily focused on just the clitoris, avoiding the areas with more fluid. A good way to do this is to lovingly touch your partner, feeling your way around their body. The clitoris is usually located above the vaginal entrance, and is a small, sensitive nub. For some people it may be hiding behind a lot of tissue, so don’t be afraid to ask! Your partner is likely to appreciate your desire to make them feel good. Use your fingers on areas with more vaginal fluids, while keeping your oral attentions focused on the clitoris, and you can reduce your risk!
Oral sex is fun for a lot of people, and a great alternative to full-on intercourse if you’re with a new partner and not ready for penetrative sex yet, or just not in the mood for it. Make sure you are taking care of your health!
While some of these techniques (especially the ones involving barriers) might seem a little intimidating to your partner at first, remember that confidence and enthusiasm are sexy. While someone with a penis might express confusion when you take out a condom for oral, if you pause to give them a smoldering look and a wink, they’ll get the message pretty quickly.
Feeling like you’re taking steps to keep yourself healthy may help you ease your worries enough that you are able to really let go and be enthusiastic and wild. If that’s the case, chances are neither one of you will even notice there’s a barrier in place after a little while!
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