Oral sex is one of the many types of sex in which one partner uses his/her lips, mouth, and/or tongue to stimulate the genitals of the other. Though it can be enjoyable, some of its health risks are concerned.

How Often Do People Have Oral Sex?

People often have oral sex as a form of foreplay, or they may even have oral sex as an alternative to sexual intercourse.

According to a survey taken by 754 men and 309 women [1], 11% of the men and 18% of the women admitted that they performed oral sex more than 90% of the time during sexual intercourse. Another study indicates that oral sex is most common in people between the ages of 16 and 24.

What Are The Benefits Of Oral Sex?

While oral sex, like any other type of sex, is an act of intimacy that brings pleasure to both partners involved, it also has some health benefits. Much like masturbation, receiving oral sex frequently and ejaculating from it can lower a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

Are there any risks involved in performing oral sex?

Along with all of the above, oral sex also seems like an ideal method of birth control. However, when compared to sexual intercourse, the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) tends to be greater during oral sex.

The most common STIs that a person may contract while performing oral sex include:

  • Gonorrhea, which is caused by the gonococcus or Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
  • Herpes, which is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
  • Syphilis, which is caused by the Treponema pallidum bacteria.

Any of the above STIs can be transferred by having unprotected oral sex with a person who is already infected with the bacteria or virus that causes them. Although not as common, there is also the risk of contracting chlamydia, genital warts, hepatitis A, B and C, HIV and pubic lice as a result of having unprotected oral sex.

Biggest and most concerning risk: throat cancer

However, the biggest and most concerning risk of having oral sex (or at least unprotected oral sex) is its link to causing throat cancer. Oral sex itself is not responsible for causing throat cancer, but if the person receiving oral sex is infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), the one performing the act may be at risk of developing throat cancer.

According to research, a particular type of HPV can cause certain cancers of the throat, such as oropharyngeal cancer and squamous cell carcinomas (or tonsil cancers). Despite being common, HPV does not always cause cancer, and those who have not been exposed to it during oral sex will not be at a greater risk of developing throat cancer.

How to continue performing oral sex without increasing the risk of throat cancer

The risks of oral sex, including the risk of throat cancer and the transferral of STIs, have a lot to do with how the act is performed and who it is performed on. The danger of contracting an STI is relatively lower during oral sex than it is during anal or vaginal sex unless the person receiving oral sex is infected with a particular STI-causing bacterium or virus.

Limit oral sex to a permanent, trusted partner

The simplest solution to avoid this risk would be to limit oral sex to a permanent, trusted partner who has been tested for STI-causing bacteria or viruses, but it is not the only one.

Barrier protection

Much like anal or vaginal sex, protection is equally important when engaging in oral sex. Oral sex may seem safer, but no sex is safe without protection. The risk of contracting an STI or getting infected with HPV can be lowered with the use of barrier protection. This means that a man receiving oral sex should wear a condom, while a woman receiving oral sex should wear latex or plastic dental dam. Moreover, a man or woman receiving analingus should also wear a dental dam over their anus.

HPV vaccine

In recent years, vaccines have also been developed to protect men and women against high-risk HPV infection. And it has been proven that the vaccine can protect those who have oral sex too. [2]


All in all, there is nothing wrong with having oral sex as long as both partners enjoy it equally. However, just like safe sex is the best sex, it is also important to stay safe when orally pleasuring one’s partner or receiving oral pleasure.


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