Oral sex is sexual activity involving the stimulation of the genitalia of a sex partner by the use of the mouth, tongue, teeth or throat. Cunnilingus refers to oral sex performed on females while fellatio refer to oral sex performed on males. Anilingus refers to oral stimulation of a person's anus. Oral stimulation of other parts of the body (as in kissing and licking) is usually not considered oral sex. People may engage in oral sex as part of foreplay before sexual intercourse, during, or as intercourse.
Oral sex may be practiced by people of any sexual orientation.
Facesitting is a form of oral sex in which the receiver sits on the giver's face and pushes into it with his or her genitals.
Oral sex can be performed by both partners at the same time in the so-called "sixty-nine" position. Spitting and/or swallowing of the ejaculatory fluids or giving a pearl necklace may cause different sexual stimulations. Autofellatio is a possible but rare variant; autocunnilingus may also be possible for women with extremely flexible spines.
An act of group sex restricted to one woman giving oral sex to several men is referred to as a gangsuck, blowbang or lineup, all derivatives of the slang expression gang bang for group sex. Bukkake and gokkun may also involve oral sex, though not necessarily.
Among heterosexuals in particular, oral sex is usually viewed as not affecting male or female virginity, due to its non-procreative nature. This is especially the case with female virginity, as oral sex will usually not impact on a female's hymen. Among sexually active heterosexuals, the concept of "technical virginity", which includes oral sex, anal sex, mutual masturbation and other non-penetrative acts, is conceived as resting solely on penile-vaginal penetration. Since the early 1990s, "technical virginity" has been popular among teenagers. Additionally, gay males may consider oral sex to be "technical virginity" in comparison to anal penetration.
Contraception and safe sex
Oral sex alone cannot result in pregnancy and heterosexual couples may perform oral sex as their method of contraception. For conception to take place, sperm from the penis must enter the uterus and fallopian tubes and fertilize the female's egg. In humans, there is no connection between the gastrointestinal system and the reproductive system,[nb 1] and sperm ingested by the woman would be killed and broken down by acids in her stomach and proteins in the small intestine. The breakdown products are then absorbed as a negligible quantity of nutrients. However, there is a potential risk of pregnancy if semen comes in contact with the vaginal area in some way, such as semen in the ejaculate finding its way onto fingers, hands, or other body parts, which then comes in contact with the vaginal area.
Oral sex is not necessarily an effective method of preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs), although some forms of STIs are believed to be less commonly spread in this way, and oral sex has been recommended as a form of safe sex. In the United States, no barrier methods for use during oral sex have been evaluated as effective by the Food and Drug Administration. However, a barrier protection like a condom for fellatio or dental dam for cunnilingus can offer some protection from contact when practicing oral sex. Oral contact should be limited to the protected areas. A makeshift dental dam can be made out of a condom or a latex or nitrile glove. However, using a real dental dam is seen as preferable because real dental dams cover a larger area, avoid accidents caused by "slipping" outside the covered area, and avoid the risk that makeshift versions may be accidentally damaged or poked with the scissors during the cutting procedure. Plastic wrap may also be used as a barrier during oral sex, but there exists no conclusive scientific research regarding how effective it may or may not be at preventing disease transmission. Certain kinds of plastic wrap are manufactured to be microwaveable and are designed to have pores that open when heated, but there also exists no scientific research on what effect, if any, this has on disease transmission when used during oral sex. Some people complain that the thickness of the plastic dulls sensation.
A report issued in September 2005 by the National Center for Health Statistics was the basis of an article in the September 26, 2005, issue of Time magazine. The report comes from the results of a computer-administered survey of over 12,000 Americans between the ages of 15 and 44, and states that over half the teenagers questioned have had oral sex. While some headlines have interpreted this as evidence that oral sex among teenagers is "on the rise", this was the first comprehensive study of its kind to examine the matter.
Health risks and other studies
Sexually transmitted infections
Chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis (multiple strains), and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs)—including HIV—can be transmitted through oral sex. While the exact risk of transmitting HIV through oral sex is unknown, it is generally thought to be lower than other sex practices. The risks from most of these types of infections are generally considered far less than those associated with vaginal or anal sex.
If the receiving partner has wounds or open sores on their genitals, or if the giving partner has wounds or open sores on or in their mouth, or bleeding gums, this poses an increased risk of STI transmission. Brushing the teeth, flossing, undergoing dental work, or eating crunchy foods such as chips relatively soon before or after giving oral sex can also increase the risk of transmission, because all of these activities can cause small scratches in the lining of the mouth. These wounds, even when they are microscopic, increase the chances of contracting STIs that can be transmitted orally under these conditions. Such contact can also lead to more mundane infections from common bacteria and viruses found in, around, and secreted from the genital regions.
HPV and oral cancer
Links have been reported between oral sex and oral cancer with human papillomavirus (HPV)-infected people. In 2005, a research study at the College of Malmö in Sweden suggested that performing unprotected oral sex on a person infected with HPV may increase the risk of oral cancer. The study found that 36 percent of the cancer patients had HPV compared to only 1 percent of the healthy control group.
Another recent study suggests a correlation between oral sex and head and neck cancer. It is believed that this is due to the transmission of HPV, a virus that has been implicated in the majority of cervical cancers and which has been detected in throat cancer tissue in numerous studies. A The New England Journal of Medicine study concluded that people who had one to five oral sex partners in their lifetime had about twice the risk of throat cancer compared with those who never engaged in this activity and those with more than five oral sex partners had a 250% increased risk.
Fellatio may reduce the risk of miscarriages by inducing immunological tolerance in the woman by exposure to the proteins in her partner's semen, a process known as paternal tolerance. While any exposure to a partner's semen appears to decrease a woman's chances for the various immunological disorders that can occur during pregnancy, immunological tolerance could be most quickly established through the oral introduction and gastrointestinal absorption of semen. Recognizing that some of the studies potentially included the presence of confounding factors, such as the possibility that women who regularly perform fellatio and swallow semen also engage in more frequent intercourse, the researchers also noted that, either way, "the data still overwhelmingly supports the main theory" behind all their studies—that repeated exposure to semen establishes the maternal immunological tolerance necessary for a safe and successful pregnancy.
Cultural attitudes towards oral sex range from disgust to reverence. It has been considered taboo, or at least frowned upon, in many cultures and parts of the world. In Ancient Rome, fellatio was considered profoundly taboo. Sexual acts were generally seen through the prism of submission and control. This is apparent in the two Latin words for the act: irrumare (to penetrate orally), and fellare (to be penetrated orally). Under this system, it was considered to be abhorrent for a male to perform fellatio, since that would mean that he was penetrated (controlled), whereas receiving fellatio from a woman or another man of lower social status (such as a slave or debtor) was not humiliating. The Romans regarded oral sex as being far more shameful than, for example, anal sex – known practitioners were supposed to have foul breath and were often unwelcome as guests at a dinner table. In contrast, in Chinese Taoism, cunnilingus is revered as a spiritually fulfilling practice that is believed to enhance longevity. There is some anthropological evidence for cunnilingus as a widespread activity amongst Australian aboriginals. In modern Western culture, oral sex is widely practiced among adolescents and adults.
People give various reasons for their dislike of oral sex. Some say that since it does not lead to procreation, it is therefore unnatural. Others believe that it is a humiliating or unclean practice (an opinion that is, at least in some cases, connected with the symbolism attached to different parts of the body). This has been more or less the case in Christian and Sub-Saharan African cultures and other modern religions.
The common belief that all women who have sex with women engage in cunnilingus contrasts research on the subject. Some lesbian or bisexual women dislike oral sex because they do not like the experience or due to psychological or social factors, such as finding it unclean. Other lesbian or bisexual women believe it is a necessity or largely defines lesbian sexual activity, asserting that there is a problem if lesbians or other women who have sex with women dislike engaging in oral sex. Often, lesbian couples are likely to define a woman's dislike of oral sex as a problem more than heterosexual couples are, and commonly seek therapy to overcome inhibitions regarding oral sex.
Oral sex has been observed in the animal kingdom among many species. It has been suggested that there is an evolutionary advantage due to the tendency of primates, non-primates and humans to have oral sex.
Terminology and slang
- Giving head – A common slang term for giving oral sex to either a man or woman is "giving head", from the term "head job" (in contrast to "hand job", manual stimulation). A play on the slang term "head" resulted in the slang term "brains", or "brain salad surgery", "domes" or "getting domes."
- Plate – A once common British rhyming slang for "fellate" that arose in the gay slang language of Polari that spread in the 1960s. The term is less common today.[dead link]
- Cunnilingus is also sometimes referred to as "muff diving", "eating out" or "poon-job", a slang term and a cunnilingus variant of "blow job", where "poon" is short for poontang or punani.
- Additionally, in lesbian culture several common slang terms used are "carpet munching", "giving lip", "lip service" or "tipping the velvet" (a faux-"Victorian" expression invented by novelist Sarah Waters).
Other slang terms for oral sex include "going down on" (female and male), "licking out" and "muff diving" (female), "blow job" (male), "dome" (female and male), "sucking off" (male) "playing the skin flute" (male recipient), "rolling cigars" (male recipient), "lolly-gagging" (gay male-on-male), "gaining knowledge" (male recipient) and "bust down" (male). Forced fellatio is often called "Egyptian Rape" or simply "Egyptian". This goes back to the time of the Crusades when Mamluks were alleged to force their Christian captives to do this.
- However, this has happened in bizarre circumstances involving a stabbing.
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