What is oral sex?

Oral sex refers to oral (mouth and tongue) stimulation of the genitals or other areas of the body. Fellatio refers to oral stimulation of the penis; cunnilingus refers to oral stimulation of the vulva (the external part of the vagina). Anilingus refers to oral stimulation of the anal opening also known as “rimming” or anal oral sex.

The penis is the most sensitive at the tip, or glans, including the frenulum (y-shaped area), the underside of the penis where the glans meets the shaft. The bottom ridge of the glans or the corona is also very sensitive.

The part of the vulva that is frequently stimulated during oral sex is called the clitoris. It’s a small, round lump of tissue about the size of a button, just above the vaginal opening, and is highly sensitive to touch because of the large network of nerve endings. The clitoral glans is covered by a hood when not aroused or when highly aroused. Individuals may prefer to be touched on the hood, which partly covers the clitoris, since the clitoris is highly sensitive to the touch. The clitoris extends into two branches on either side of the vaginal opening about 3.5 inches long and fills with blood when highly aroused.

The risks of oral sex

Many experts say oral sex is not safe sex. It may be safer sex than unprotected genital sex in that you won’t get pregnant from oral sex alone, but unprotected oral sex still carries the significant risk of catching or passing on sexually transmissible infections (STIs).

Because oral sex usually involves sucking or licking your partner’s genitals or anus, you’re likely to come into contact with genital fluids or faeces and this puts you at risk of many STIs:

• genital warts
• genital herpes
• chlamydia
• gonorrhoea
• syphilis

Generally, you’re more at risk of catching an STI from oral sex if:

• you give rather than receive oral sex – because you’re more likely to be exposed to genital fluids

• you have cuts, sores or ulcers in your mouth at the time

• you don’t use protection.

Another risk of oral sex is strain on your relationship, particularly if one of you doesn’t enjoy it or has concerns about it. One partner may have anxiety about their oral sexual performance or what their partner will think of them during oral sex. Or oral sex may make one partner feel under the other partner’s control. These are all important issues to resolve before introducing oral sex into your relationship.

How to reduce the risks of oral sex

Like any sex, the best ways to reduce the risks of oral sex are to abstain (not have oral sex) or to use protection.

Avoid oral sex if your partner:

• has an STI

• has sores, cuts, ulcers, blisters, warts or rashes around their genitals, anus or mouth

• has unhealed or inflamed piercings in their mouth or genitals

• has a throat infection

• is a woman and has her period.

You can’t reduce the risks of oral sex by using mouthwash or brushing your teeth – in fact brushing and flossing can cause abrasions on your gums which put you more at risk of contracting an STI. Also avoid getting semen or vaginal fluid in your eyes.


Sex surveys of women report that most achieve orgasm more easily from oral or manual stimulation rather than during penetrative intercourse. Because the tongue is soft, warm and lubricated, a woman may find that this provides such intense stimulation that it becomes the best means for achieving orgasm. Each person is unique. For some women, oral sex will become part of a sexual repertoire. For others, it will become the primary sexual behavior of choice.


Oral sex is using your mouth, lips or tongue to stimulate your partner’s genitals or anus. Both men and women can give and receive oral sex. Unprotected oral sex puts you at risk of many types of sexually transmissible infections (STIs). Oral sex can put strain on your relationship if one partner doesn’t enjoy it or has concerns about it. See your doctor if you are concerned you may have contracted an STI from unprotected oral sex.

Sexually transmissible infections : It’s important to get treatment for an STI as soon as possible. Some STIs can’t be treated but medications may reduce symptoms. Leaving an STI untreated may cause discomfort in the short term, and may harm your health or fertility in the long term.
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