How to Go Down on a Woman Safely

Unprotected cunnilingus can transmit STDs too

Oral sex isn't safe sex. Cunnilingus (oral sex on a woman) can put both the giver and the receiver at risk of numerous STDs. Fortunately for anyone who enjoys "going down" on a woman, there are ways to make the act safer.

Safe cunnilingus, also known as oral-vaginal sex, requires more preparation than oral-penile sex (a "blowjob"). Still, the preparation may be well worth it if it allows you to maintain your peace of mind and enjoy sex without impediment.

How to Perform Oral Sex Safely

You will need a dental dam (either purchased or made), and optionally a finger cot or latex gloves. You can make a dental dam by cutting open a condom to make it a square or cutting apart a latex glove.

To perform oral-vaginal sex safely:

  1. Ask the woman who you would like to perform safe oral sex on if she would be interested in having you go down on her. If she says yes, the hardest part is over.
  2. Take your dental dam and use it to cover your partner's vulva. You may also want to put on a latex glove or finger cot. Doing so would allow you to safely use your fingers to stimulate her at the same time.
  3. Some people like to hold the dental dam and move it around. This is particularly easy if you choose to use a latex glove as a dental dam and construct it so that it has built-in handles.
  4. Go down on your partner as usual. Enjoy her body. Have fun. Take your time.

Some people find it pleasurable to put latex-safe lubricant on the side of the dental dam facing the receptive partner. It can be fun to experiment to see if this is something your lover enjoys. However, avoid oil-based lubricants which can degrade latex.

It is also important to pay attention to what you're doing. If you accidentally flip the dental dam over mid-cunnilingus, you may have undone all your good work.

Remember that the dam is only protective if it's covering the potentially infectious area. Some STDs are passed from skin to skin, rather than just through secretions.

If you have been fingering your partner, be sure to wash your hands before touching yourself. Fingering has the potential to transmit certain STDs, including genital herpes. This includes both digital-anal and digital-vaginal sex.

List of Orally Acquired STDs

The CDC has this advice about transmitting STDs through cunnilingus:

  • Oral Herpes: You can transmit oral herpes to your partner's genital. In fact, HSV-1 (the type that causes cold sores) may be even more contagious than HSV-2 (the type associated with genital herpes). In general, performing oral sex on a woman is safer than performing oral sex on a man. However, herpes transmission in both directions is a real risk.
  • HIV: The virus ​can be transmitted from the vagina of an infected woman to the partner performing cunnilingus. There is believed to be a slight risk of transmitting HIV from the mouth to the vagina.
  • Chlamydia: The bacteria can infect both the vagina and the throat. It can be passed from the giver to the receiver and vice versa.
  • Gonorrhea: It isn't well-studied, but it is believed possible to transmit gonorrhea by giving or receiving cunnilingus if the other partner is infected.
  • Syphilis: It can infect the lips and mouth as well as the genitals, and it may be transmitted between the partners during cunnilingus.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): This virus can cause genital warts. It can be transmitted to the giving partner and may be transmitted if the giver has HPV in the throat, although it has not been well-studied.

    A Word From Verywell

    Ultimately, the best way to avoid STDs is to know your status and that of your partner. If you haven't done so yet, ask for your doctor for an STD screen and encourage your partner to do the same.

    If you have multiple partners and are not in a mutually monogamous relationship, continue to use barrier protection for oral, vaginal, and anal sex. This not only includes condoms and dental dams but female condoms as well.

    While there is no such thing as 100-percent safe sex, using condoms and dental dams may provide you the best protection possible short of abstinence.

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