The weekly “Let’s talk about sex” series will look into a different topic about sex and sexuality in an effort to raise awareness, bring education and be a forum for discussion. To write in and share your opinions and stories, email

Coming from a public school in a liberal state, I often forget how lucky I am to have taken sexual education courses in such a open place. From 6th – 10th grade, every sex ed unit in health class was the most exciting topic for me because it meant learning new ways to understand my body and to know how to protect myself from pregnancy and STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections).

I mention this is because it still shocks me when I hear people say that they don’t understand why people use condoms for oral sex or that they have no idea what a dental dam is.
If you’re one of these people who hasn’t had the chance to learn why protecting yourself during oral sex is important, here’s your chance now so you can make better educated decisions for your sex life in the future.

First things first, STIs CAN be passed from person to person during oral sex, and I’m not just talking about herpes. It’s easy for gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and HPV to be transmitted from the genital area or anus to the mouth and throat during unprotected oral sex.
There’s even a chance HIV could be transmitted if you are giving oral sex, although the likelihood of this isn’t as common as the others.

Some of these STIs, such as HPV or herpes, are transmitted through skin to skin contact, so it’s good to be aware of the fact that condoms or barriers can offer limited protection if partners aren’t careful.

There is a possibility that these may also be passed during mutual masturbation from genitalia or the anus to hands or fingers. In terms of protection for this, gloves are an option used to prevent transmittance.
Another important factor to consider is that not all of your partners may be aware they are infected.

I’ve had people tell me, “I would hope I got to know someone well enough to know if they’re infected,” but the problem with that logic is if neither party has been tested since their last unprotected experience, how can you know for sure either of you are clean?

I make it habit to get tested consistently, even if I use protection. Most STIs do not have visible indicators, and it is not common for noticable symptoms to arise. Most people may not even be aware they have herpes or HPV until they experience a flare-up.

For your own safety and for the safety of your current or future partners, it’s important to routinely have yourself checked.

Now that you know why it’s important to keep yourself protected during oral sex, how do you go about carrying this out?

For penis to mouth oral sex, condoms are the safest route. It’s just important to know that skin to skin contact with the testicle area still allows for transmittance, as stated before.

If the taste of condoms sounds unappealing, most condoms companies sell flavored ones. Flavors vary from mint to banana to even whiskey flavored, and they’re just as effective as non-flavored condoms. Play around with what tastes best to you. If you don’t think you’d mind the taste of plain rubber, there are condoms always provided by RAs in resident bathrooms.

For mouth to anus or vagina oral sex, barriers such as dental dams are generally used. Dental dams are used as a simple stretchy barrier to place over the area of contact. Dental dams are not sold in most stores, but Planned Parenthood clinics can carry them and they can be bought online.

You can also create one by simply cutting the tip off of a condom or a latex glove, then cut down the side and you’ll find yourself with a handy homemade dam.
Now, not everyone decides to have oral sex with protection. All of my partners I’ve given oral or received oral sex from were with people who had been tested recently prior to our sexual engagement.

It’s important to keep yourself aware of what risks are out there in terms of unprotected sex and what precautions to take to lower those risks. In terms of oral sex, get tested regularly, communicate with your partners about getting tested as well (especially if you just recently began a monogamous relationship or participate in a non-monogamous one), and use protection when you’re unsure if either party has an STI.

Don’t let risky behaviors get the best of you. Now that you have the informational tools, take what’s been given to you and see what works the best for you. ◼︎

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