Oral sex is a sexual activity the involves one person using their mouth, lips, tongue, and/or teeth to stimulate their partner’s genitals. It is an umbrella term that includes cunnilingus, fellatio, and anilingus. It does not include the use of one’s mouth to stimulate other parts of the body. Common slang phrases for oral sex include giving head and going.
People of any gender, sexual orientation, and relationship configuration can participate in oral sex.
The genitals are considered a main erogenous zone made up of sensitive tissue and nerve-endings that make sensual or sexual touch enjoyable for most people. Consensual oral stimulation of the genitals is therefore pleasurable for many people. It can be performed as a means of inciting sexual arousal, to heighten or intensify a partner’s arousal levels, to prepare someone for penetrative sex, to induce orgasm, or for the general enjoyment of both the giving and receiving partners.
Variations of Oral Sex
There are a few variations and several positions in which oral sex can happen. It can be performed in any position that allows the giving partner to reach the receiving partner’s crotch region with their mouth.
Cunnilingus is the sex act of orally stimulating the vulva – including the area around the clitoris, labia majora (outer lips), labia minora (inner lips), vaginal vestibule (vaginal opening) – of another person.
Fellatio, also known as a blow job, is the sex act of orally stimulating the penis and surrounding area, sometimes including the scrotum and perineum, of another person. A blow job can be performed on any penis with or without foreskin. It can also be enacted on a synthetic penis or strap-on dildo.
Anilingus, also known as rimming, is the sex act of orally stimulating the anus and perianal area.
69ing is an oral sex position where partners are positioned face to face, with their bodies one on top of the other, facing in the opposite directions so both are able to orally stimulate the other simultaneously.
Facesitting is the sex act that involves one partner sitting on or hovering over the other partner’s face. This position allows for oral contact and/or stimulation of the sitting partner’s genitals and/or anus. It can also be used as part of edge play known as breath play.
People will vary in the ways and positions in which they enjoy oral sex. Communicating with one’s partner is the best way to determine how one’s preferences align with one’s partner’s.
Communication between partners in the way of discussion prior to engaging in sexual activity, verbal check-ins and non-verbal feedback during the act, and feedback after the session are all effective means of determining what is best for a current partner. Level of sensitivity can vary throughout a single session as well and the style, rhythm, and intensity of stimulation may need to be adjusted for optimal pleasure results.
Cultural Views of Oral Sex
Not everyone enjoys giving or receiving oral sex, which is their prerogative. However, there is still some stigma and taboo around oral sex that can influence people’s preconceived notions of participating in different forms of oral sex.
Some people consider performing oral sex an act of submission (not in the consensual kink way) that compromises one’s self-respect. Others are reticent to ask or permit their partner o perform oral sex on them due to personal insecurities around their genitals and bodies in a sexual context. Confidence in one’s self and body can have a significant effect on the pleasure one feels. If on does not feel safe in that vulnerability with their partner, they may not be able to relax enough to enjoy oral stimulation, whereas oral sex with a respectful partner can enhance that confidence.
Oral sex is a healthy, normal, and mutually pleasurable sex that can be enjoyed by people of any gender and sexual orientation. It can promote pleasure, increase the likelihood of orgasm, and deepen the intimacy felt between partners.
Yes, Oral Sex is Sex
Under a heteronormative framework which pedestalizes penetrative sex, oral sex is sometimes considered to be foreplay rather than real sex. With this notion that oral sex is not real sex, it is common a loophole people use to preserve their “virginity” – by practicing oral sex and abstaining from penetrative sex, they keep the illusion of their virginity intact. It can also performed as as means of enjoying sexual plesure and connection without any risk of pregnancy.
While oral sex is an excellent way to warm some people up for sexual activity that may proceed the oral stimulation, it is not the only reason to participate in it. This attitude discounts the sexual intimacy and connection partners can experience through oral sex, dismisses female pleasure thereby enforcing the orgasm gap (i.e. the observed phenomenon most prevalent in male-female couples where women tend to orgasm much less frequently than their male partners).
Furthermore, the belief that oral sex is not real sex undermines queer identities and queer sexual practices. Oral sex may not involve penetration, but it is considered a form of partner sex.
Oral Sex Health and Safety
As with any activity that involves exposure to bodily fluids, there is a certain level of risk associated with performing oral sex. While the risk of transmission can be lower than it is for unprotected penetrative sex activities with some infections, it is still very possible to transmit sexually transmitted infections (STI) between one’s mouth and another’s genitals.
Regular STI screenings are an important part to managing one’s sexual health and respecting one’s partner(s). However, many medical testing centers do not offer a throat swab as part of the basic STI screening process. Ask your STI testing professional to include the throat swab test to ensure a thorough testing.
To further reduce the possibility of STI contraction, one can use a condom or dental dam while performing oral sex. A condom is a typically latex, polyurethane, or polyisoprene sheath worn over the penis, and a dental dam is a piece of latex or polyurethane that can be held in place over the vulva or anus. Both serve as a protective barrier between the mouth and genitals or anus while performing oral sex on a partner.