Though female-oriented, long-term, hormonal birth control options are all the rage today, condoms are what are now being advocated, as the US STD rate has recently peaked to unprecedented levels. The good thing about condoms is, they protect against both unwanted pregnancy and STDs. Though most people consider protection when it comes to penetrative sex, few do so when oral sex is concerned. That a serious flaw, as oral sex can lead to STDs just as readily. Socially speaking, we often think of oral sex as no big deal. This was reflected on a recent YouGov survey, which sampled 2,171 US adults about their sexual conduct. One-third admitted to never using a condom or dental dam during oral sex. That’s despite the ever-growing risk of an STD. 14% of respondents say they never used a condom during penetrative sex. Although, researchers didn’t make clear whether these people were in monogamous relationships or not.
The common misunderstanding is that it’s not risky to give or get oral. But according to the director at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, Debbie Herbenick, PhD, they’re dead wrong. Oral sex is the second most common way to receive an STD or HIV, behind unprotected vaginal intercourse, according to Dr. Herbenick. This includes herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, or HPV. A cold sore on someone’s mouth for instance touching the genitals, can just as easily pass HPV as genital-to-genital sex can. For those who give oral sex, receiving an STD that way can lead to head and neck cancers. Some people think you can’t catch an STD if your partner isn’t showing any symptoms. That’s just flat out wrong. Using a condom or dental dam can significantly decrease their risk. The only other way to protect yourself is to get tested periodically. If it’s been over 12 months, be sure to see a doctor or an urologist about screening.